Monday, 30 September 2013

Surviving morning sicknes

Of all the subjects I've written about since starting this blog - cleaning, cooking, organising - this is one I feel I am qualified to give suggestions on. During my pregnancy with the frog I had hyperemesis, which is extreme morning sickness. I was sick on average every hour, for almost the entire 10 months I was pregnant, leading to my being hospitalised twice. From getting pregnant to giving birth I lost 2 stone in weight (as opposed to the 2 stone you're meant to be putting on). Following the frog's birth I lost a following 3 stone (thanks to breastfeeding and not having an 8lb baby inside me anymore!). This pregnancy has been a lot better and I'm very grateful, but I'm still sick most days. So all that to say, I know what I'm talking about. Here are my top tips:

#1. Don't assume it'll end
For 9 months I had everyone - friends, family, midwives and doctors (even people on the street!) telling me not to worry, that it'll go away at 12 week, 16 week, 20 week... no luck. I was sick until an hour after I had given birth (that came as a shock I can tell you). I spent the whole pregnancy wondering why I wasn't feeling better, thinking maybe I was just being a wimp and wanting to throttle everyone who said "it'll go away soon". I started feeling more able to handle it when I assumed that it was going to last my whole pregnancy. That's what I've done this time around as well, so when I stopped being quite as sick around 16 weeks it came as a lovely surprise.

#2. Work it into your routine
I was always sick after a car journey, so I knew to park at the shops nearest the toilet. My family knew to let me get to a toilet as soon as I got anywhere. It was just something that became part of every day life - I knew I would be sick so made plans. In this pregnancy I don't make plans that involve me going out the house for at least the first few hours if I can help it.

#3. Make it as pleasant as possible for yourself
A strange thing to say, I'll grant you, but there are ways of making the experience slightly less horrific.  For me it was having a clean toilet. My amazing husband who had never cleaned a toilet before in his life started doing it a few times a week so that at least the environment was as nice as possible. Take your phone so when you're sitting there deciding if you need to be sick you can be playing a game/listening to music. Take a blanket (I often get the shivers after a lot of throwing up). When you're out, know where the nearest decent toilet is. It might not make it better but it will make it more survivable. I also didn't want people coming in and asking me if I was okay - no I was not okay and did not want to talk to anyone. I make this clear to everyone - my poor husband had to suffer lots of glares when he'd just let me get on with it, but it's what I needed.

#4. Try suggestions
I was so sick with the frog that I got to the point I wouldn't try anything, because I just thought "what's the point?". People's suggestions really annoyed me, especially when they told me to eat little and often. But sickness changes across your pregnancy, and I think some of those things might have helped later on. Ginger biscuits, watermelon, sickness bands - they're all worth a try. Eating little and often is the only thing that stops the sickness in this pregnancy. Also, don't feel too guilty about what you're eating. Of course babies need nutrients but they are amazingly adaptable. The only thing that didn't make me sick with the frog was feta cheese and pesto, so that's basically all I ate. In this pregnancy early on it was peanut butter and bananas. Just do what you can, and be sure to eat more when you feel able.

#5. My silver lining
I had a lot of anxiety during my pregnancy - I constantly worried that something was wrong with the baby. It would keep me up at night and scare me to death. It is true that sickness is a sign of a healthy pregnancy, so every time I was sick I remembered that meant the baby was okay. I can't tell you how much that helped (to the point that when I would go half a day without being sick I would panic that something was wrong). I've been considerably less anxious in this pregnancy, and I've been considerably less sick. I don't think the two are related, all I know is that I don't need that constant reassurance in this pregnancy, and I'm (thankfully) not getting it.

Morning sickness is debilitating. Often seen as a bit of a humorous side-effect, when it goes on for an extended period it's extremely difficult to live with. But live with it you will. Survive it you will. And after the baby comes, no matter how little sleep you're living on or how teary you are, hold on to the fact that at least you've stopped throwing up. It made all the difference for me in those first, difficult weeks.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Blog Link-up 2
Jessica has some great recipes, but I've most enjoyed her writings on reducing the time spent on the internet.
This whole website is great - they have really good ideas and are not afraid to stand by their ideals, even when challenges come their way. At the moment they're doing a great 'day in the life of' series, which I'm planning on doing here. Keep a look out!
Anyone who has typed 'organising' into pinterest will know about this site. Jen has some incredible ideas and links up with many more blogs. From organising a family binder to a morning routine, Jen has the answers.

Monday, 23 September 2013

When you just don't know

Last night was one of those terrible ones that seem to last for days and days. It was the first night of a wee break away for the three of us, and the frog had been awake since 2am, refusing to go back to sleep. I had taken over after an hour from my tired (and dare I say slightly grumpy?!) husband, and I was soon going the same way.

The thing is, I just didn't know what to do. What should I do? Attachment parenting, gentle parenting, spiritual training? What would my sister, mother or mother-in-law do (all of who's parenting techniques are very different but I respect)? What would Dr Sears or Michelle Duggar do (both of who's books I refer to frequently)?

I then started thinking, maybe I should ask myself: what would Jesus do? And you know what? I had nothing. Not a single helpful thought came into my head from asking that question. I racked my brain for a biblical verse about how to make a stubborn toddler go to sleep.

My fellow mamas - there is no such verse (to my limited knowledge). It does not go Matthew-Mark-Luke-Parenting-John. Oh how I wish there was such a such a book in the bible! How I wish there was some clear guidance that is God-breathed (and therefore, in my mind, undeniable) about all parenting-related matters. Dummies, swaddling, co-sleeping - how wonderful would it be if there was a clear answer for every such matter. I'm afraid there just isn't.

This is not me asking for advice, although I would gladly and humbly take any right now. Nor is it me giving advice - quite the opposite. It is me stating quite clearly that sometimes I just don't know what to do. And when I have 10 different parenting techniques battling inside my head, along with all the voices of well-meaning advice-givers, I don't feel prepared: I feel completely overwhelmed.

All of that advice is great if it works for you. But sometimes, it just won't. The reason for this (I firmly believe), is that no one has ever raised your child before. He is as unique as you are, and that means he'll require a unique parenting technique. God gave me my husband, we conceived the frog out of love. I bore him, gave birth to him and nursed him.* That means that I'm his expert. I know him better than anyone but God, and that to me is a truly comforting thought. So surely with God's help, I can figure him out? Maybe not tonight or in a year, but I will spend my lifetime as a mother trying.

And what will I do tonight if the same happens? I'll probably have a cry, a moan at God that He's not giving me what I want and maybe a complete meltdown about having another when the one I have doesn't sleep. Middle-of-the-night meltdowns are my speciality - please don't think you're the only one who has them (or maybe I am...?!).

What do you do when you just don't know what to do?

*Let me be clear, I know wonderful parents who have adopted, as well as Daddies who are not biologically fathers, who are the very best thing for that child. However your child came to you - whatever pathway God chose for that journey - this all very much still applies.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Meal Planning

Meal planning is one of those things that it seems only super organised people do. You know the ones I mean - who have breakfast, lunch and dinner (all homemade and healthy of course), prepared 3 months in advance. I'm not that person. My schedule changes week on week, and I like to decide what we'll eat based on tastes, effort the meal takes and health issues (e.g. lots of hearty stews when colds are hitting). To do this I have a wonderful resource, the Organised Mum Fridge List. Honestly they should pay me for endorsements because not only do I frequently buy it for friends and family, I tell everyone I know about it! There's a meal planner on one side and a shopping list on the other, and it stays permanently on my fridge. Anytime we're running low I just pop it on the list, knowing it won't be forgotten.
So on Mondays I write our weekly meal plan - to do this I have a list of the recipes I know how to cook (my Mam always said the hardest part of feeding a family is thinking of meals and she's right). I can then check our pantry and freezer to see what we need and then write my shopping list accordingly. I also have a small magnetic whiteboard on my fridge with a list of my freezer inventory - I don't know about you but I have no desire to rake through my much-needed-be-be-defrosted freezer every week. If anything on the plan needs defrosting I'll asterisk it and try to take it out the night before.
Anyway, that's my secret behind meal planning.  It saves so much money at the shops (we rarely throw stuff away) and time at night. It also saves us ordering takeout as much, which I really enjoy and like to keep for special occasions.
How does your family organise meals?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The joy of my life

Looking back on my recent posts, I've done a lot of complaining. Sickness, tiredness and being overwhelmed have all contributed, but let me tell you something - I lead a truly blessed life. So in light of that, I wanted to do a post and share with you just how wonderful the frog is, and how much joy he brings to my everyday:

• He still sleeps with his legs tucked under him, just like he did in the womb and as a newborn (thus the nickname!).
• I told him today we couldn't get the washing out the machine as the basket was upstairs. So off he toddles to his nappy basket, empties them all and brings it to me, a huge smile on his face.
• He'll always give cuddles and kisses, even without being asked.
• He's a master of escape and could climb out of his cot age 6 months.
• If anyone mentions they don't feel well, he'll bring them his blanket.
• After a small fall down the stairs yesterday (me and baby fine), he gave me a pat on the back (literally) and started picking up the laundry I'd dropped.
• If I'm not paying attention to him he'll hold my face with both hands, plant a huge kiss and then try to tell me what he wants
• He has wonderfully ticklish thighs and giggles uncontrollably.

What do your kids do that melt your heart on a daily basis?

Monday, 16 September 2013

My wonderful whiteboard

That's right, I'm about to do a whole post about the wonders of my whiteboard. I have a good-quality one (by that I mean £40, not £100!), magnetic with colourful whiteboard markers. It's in my kitchen (the centre of most houses), and on it goes my cleaning list, reminder list and frog list.

Cleaning List: I got printable magnet paper, which was a brilliant buy. I then put on my 7 chores of each day (see My daily 8 details), so I can tick off as I go along. This is mostly because I love lists and this works for me - I know some people would hate having a list like this around all the time. It just means that I can always see what needs done, especially if I only have 10 minutes. Yes sometimes I get down about all the crosses on the board, and some weeks I don't full it in at all. But mostly, I find it works really well.

Reminder List: In the middle of the board are all of my weekly reminders. They tend to be longer-term things that need doing, and often are the same ones I put up months ago. But I do find it helpful to have them somewhere I see them every day.

Frog List: This isn't an actual list, it's pictures of different activities, like singing, reading, playing etc. I don't know about you but sometimes I just don't know what to do with my frog, or (bad mama moment) I realise he's been playing by himself for the majority of the day. This would leave me feeling guilty and like a bad mother. So I have these pictures (also printed on magnet paper), and when we've done these activities we move them over. I don't aim to get all of them done in a day, they're just suggestions and a visual way to remind myself that I did do fun things with him (for my especially guilt-ridden days). I wanted to use pictures because when Noah's old enough I want to do something similar for chores, so I want him to be used to it. 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Blog link-up

As well as writing this blog, I'm an avid reader of other blogs. So I've decided to sometimes post links to the blogs I've been reading and enjoyed. I haven't read all the posts of all these blogs, so I can't say I agree with everything said. I usually just enjoy their writing, respect their views and find their suggestions helpful. I've had permission from the authors to share their blogs. Just for interest, I use the blog reader Feedly on my iPhone.
 - Beth is the wife of an airline pilot and mother of 3. She survives on God's grace and coffee. I enjoy her realistic approach to handling her hoard.
 - Kelsey is a super-organised mother of two little boys. She has some great ideas about realistically organising your house when you have little ones, as well as maintaining a very strict family budget. She is also very sweet and encouraging!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

My daily 8

Each day, I attempt to get these 7 chores done, plus one alternate weekly chore. I have them noted on my wonderful whiteboard, and tick them off as I go. Now 8 chores might seem overwhelming with small children, and let me assure you it's very rare that I have all 8 ticked off in a single day. But having it on the board in this way makes it much easier to see what I haven't done in a few days. I'm also trying to adapt them so that helpful toddlers can help with each.

#1. Make the Beds
Everything seems so much more pleasant with nicely made beds. Don't get me wrong - I don't have 15 pillows and a throw for each bed - it's what we slept with and an additional blanket. But a great way to start the day.
Frog tip: we have a song we sing while making the beds. I also get him to 'make' his bed, by putting his blanket at one end and his cuddly toy at the other.

#2. Sweep and Hoover
My least done (and most disliked) chore. I just aim to hoover the living room and sweep the kitchen, but I only seem to do it every few days. This is one of those chores I should absolutely do every day, as the frog plays on the floor and a lot of food ends up there. It's pretty gross, there's not doubt. So I'm trying to at least sweep under his highchair after each meal (this was implemented after a fly incident in my house, which involved a lot of obsessive bleach-filled cleaning on my part - so much for natural).
Frog tip: their own little broom!

#3 Pick-ups
I've previously done a post on pick-ups - they really have revolutionised how clean my house stays.
Frog tip: I ask him to pick up tissues, put clothes in the laundry etc; all things that get more and more helpful as my tummy expands!

#4. Laundry
A full load of laundry, or putting clothes away from the day before and putting a new load on. But a few days can go by and wet laundry remains in the washing machine, or dry in the tumble dryer. My tumble dryer has an iron cycle and as long as you take them out as soon as it's finished, even shirts often don't need ironing. Does that make me do it straight away? Nope. A note on the ironing - I don't do it. It fills me with guilt to watch my husband leave for work in a crinkled shirt, but I still don't do it. Any tips for ironing those woeful shirts I'll receive especially gratefully!
Frog tip: little hands are great for hauling clothes in/out the washing machine/tumble dryer. They especially love pushing the buttons - the challenge comes to get them to stop!

#5. Dishwasher
This is the one chore I'm quite good at, mostly because having dirty dishes everywhere is a source of huge discouragement to me. And I do understand this people - I have a DISHWASHER; there should not be any complaints in my house about dirty dishes. Especially as I put everything in there, even those things that I shouldn't (so basically I haven't filled my sink in a month). Along with the dishwasher should come wiping down the sides, but that's not always a daily occurrence. My best tip is to unload it first thing in the morning so you can put all the dishes of the day in as you go along, and then put it on at night.
Frog tip: this one is a challenge.,what with all the dangerous/breakable things that end up in the dishwasher. I try to let the frog help, but with a lot of supervision.

#6. Dinner
I only get a tick if it's something I've made, not something I've bunged in the oven (so pizza doesn't count).
Frog tip: I must say, this is the one area I don't let the frog help at all. If Mr. K doesn't work late he gets in and takes over so I can cook in peace. It's a time for myself I enjoy and would like to continue (although I do appreciate the importance of teaching kids to cook).

#7 Schedule
I try to do this just before bedtime to help me the following day. I look at my diary to remind myself of anything I'm doing and prepare accordingly. That usually means packing the frog's nappy bag and preparing his snacks (by that I mean putting store-bought breadsticks in a tupperware container, not baking them myself - what do you think I am?!). I also check the meal schedule so I know if I need to take anything out of the freezer - this one is a real life-saver.

#8. Weekly Chore
Some days I get 3 or 4 of these done, some days none (some weeks none!).
a) Weekly Schedule: I write the meal planner and shopping list, do the shopping and put it away, coordinate my schedule with my diary, calendar and whiteboard. Unless there's something important on, this is always done on the Monday to set my week up right.
b) Dusting: usually reserved for when we have visitors, I'm not going to lie.
c) Hoover on/upstairs: a job mostly reserved for Mr. K.
d) Clean hob/sink
e) Correspondents: just taking some time to catch up on emails, especially to family abroad
f) Act of Kindness: this is something I try to encourage to frog to help me with, be it making the neighbour cookies (okay, I've done that once and burnt them. Thought that counts?), sending a thoughtful card or offering my time (babysitting etc.). I want it to be a big focus of our week, and is something I need to work harder at achieving.

What chores do you find you have to do daily? Any you avoid like the plague?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Why do I blog?

I've been thinking a lot recently about why I do this blog. Let's start right off by saying this - it's not because I think I have all the answers, it's because I'd like to find some! I have commonly-held dreams of writing that book one day, and want to keep up writing practice. I want to connect with other Christian mamas, share ideas and challenges. And yes, I have a lot to say and like this outlet!

I've been surprised since starting the blog the people who tell me they read it. When I started I didn't think anyone but my constantly-supportive sister would strive to be interested. I've since heard that a dear friend who is travelling the world took time, with shoddy Internet connection, to read my blog whilst between China and Singapore. My ever-helpful house-less housewife, despite not holding any religious affiliations, frequently encourages me about my recent posts. And my sweet cousins from New Zealand, not yet old enough to run their own households, always have lovely comments to make.

What I'm saying is that you never know who is watching. I don't know who reads this blog (but I would love to - please comment!), but it warms my heart to know the people I love, no matter their stage in life, take the time to read about mine.

So, to those I know, thank you for taking the time to read my blog - I would love to hear from you. And if there's anyone out there who is reading who I don't know, I would like to get to know you. If you have a blog of your own I want to read it - please post a link. God offers us so many opportunities to connect to others, and I'm excited that this is becoming one such method!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Why I try not to nag

Do I need a better reason that that? If it's better for my husband to live on our roof than with me when I'm nagging, there's no doubt in my mind nagging is bad. We live in Scotland people - it's cold. I took this on as a personal conviction early in our marriage, and really make an effort to follow it. My husband is a busy man - he works very hard at his job, has plenty responsibilities at church and of course has a pregnant wife and toddler to look after. So understandably, things fall through the cracks. Below are my tips for encouraging your husband when these things happen.

#1. Does he need to do it?
If I was reading this blog, this is the tip I would resent most of all. Fellow mamas, we work hard. We go from sun-up to sun-down and beyond - we clean, we cook, we nurture, we train. Here's something I often forget though - so does my husband. And even more than that, he gets home from work and gets handed a tantrum-throwing toddler because I just need 30 minutes to myself. When does he get his 30 minutes?
Now there are some jobs in my house that are without a doubt my Mr K's (number one job would be taking out the rubbish). I need him to do those things, but what about the other little things? What about one-off things that really, I can do myself? These are especially true when they're things I'm better at. I'd like him to arrange a date and all that goes along with it, but I know I'm better at coordinating schedules, communicating with babysitters and arranging the details, so I should do it. What goes along with this is letting little things go. I've asked him to put dirty laundry in the right basket, and he does almost every time. So why would it help that one-off time for me to nag him about it? It wouldn't, and it would belittle the efforts he had been making up until that point. Let it go and do it for him.

#2. Find HIS way to remind him
When things are forgotten about in house, I know it's exactly that - they're simply forgotten about. It's not a ploy to get out of things and have a lazy night, it's too much to remember. Now I remember things by writing them down - my wonderful whiteboard runs my schedule, along with my diary. I've tried to use these methods to encourage my husband to remember, but that's just not his way. However I've learned that if I send him an email at work, he'll put it right into his work diary and will be reminded of it later. It's not my place to tell him how he should remember things, but to help him in the way that actually aids him the most.

#3. Gentle encouragement
I try to always ask Mr K to do things in a nice way. How much nicer is it to hear "Honey would you mind taking the bins out tonight?" than "as I've already told you, take the bins out". If I need to ask him a second time to do something, I'll always start with "just a gentle reminder...". And it should be noted that when I forget to do things (a frequent occurrence), he reminds me gently as well - in fact it's from him that I learned this.

#4. Tell him what you need
I have a habit of getting more and more upset about something (that Mr K inevitably doesn't even know I'm upset about), until I boil over and yell. Although I feel better that I've gotten my frustration out, when I've calmed down I feel worse and I know he does too. It really is true that husbands are not mind-readers. They don't notice things in the same obsessive way we do (or at least I know I do). So, come up with a plan WITH him. Sit down, tell him the areas you're struggling with. A recent example was the desperate need for sleep when I became pregnant with frog #2. Instead of nagging at him about how tired I was and (quietly) resenting how much sleep he was getting, I told him I needed more help (which he gave without complaint). It saved us a lot of potential issues.

Our husbands are not our children, and we are not in charge of them. Yes they should do the things they say they'll do, but we are not their parents whose job it is to punish and reward. We are their wives, whose job it is to encourage. We are called to "do him good, and not harm, all the days of (our) life" (Proverbs 31). We are called to submit to and respect our husbands (Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:33). I want my husband to have full confidence in me, I want him to call me blessed; and praise me (Proverbs 31). And one way I have chosen to do those things is by not nagging him.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Positive parenting

The last few weeks I've found it difficult to do anything positively. My frog has been especially trying; not listening the way he usually does and throwing some impressive tantrums. My husband's work has been challenging and keeping him away from home more often (and taking his attention when he's home). To top it all I'm still feeling the sickness and tiredness that comes along with pregnancy, as well as the crippling insecurity that visits me during my pregnancies.

So, after hearing me moan you may wonder if I'll get onto this 'positive parenting'. I think it's times like this that we need positive parenting the most! Now I know that 'positive parenting' is an actual named 'method', upon which multiple books have been written and forums created (see here for why I'm not on them!). This is my version of positive parenting - I'm not following anything other than trying to approach being a mama positively. The suggestions I'm going to give come directly from the mistakes I've made in the last few weeks.

#1. Outward signs of inward frustration
You know the ones I'm talking about - the sigh when frustration is building, the door closed a little to hard after a disagreement with your husband, the cleaning done unnecessarily vigorously after a spill. These are all things other people pick up on, but I'm more concerned about what it's doing to my attitude - which is maintaining a bad one.

I notice this most at nights - my son isn't sleeping well and when it's my turn every time I hear that cry from next door I heave a deep sigh and trundle to the frog's room. This encourages me to think that he's doing it on purpose; not that he needs me but that he's trying to bother me. My husband on the other hand (who gets up more than me) goes in without a sigh, and seems to maintain a good attitude a lot longer than I do. Clearly this is an area I need to learn from him.

#2. Assigning adult feelings to our children
At night my son is not trying to keep me awake, he simply does not want to sleep. When he throws food he's not doing it to give me more cleaning, it's just his sign that he's finished. And when he cries to get what he wants it's not manipulation - it's communication. When we start speaking about establishing dominance in the house I get worried: we're raised people here, not dogs.

Should I let my son get his way and be in charge? No of course I shouldn't. I should be training my child in the way he should go. And how I should do this, I still don't know. But what I do know is that my son is not capable of coercion, manipulation or cruelty. I do not believe that children are born with these impulses. I know they are self-centred, but that is not the same as selfish. I feel that when we assign these names to our children we are creating a barrier between their innocent selves and an unconditional parental relationship. In short, we view them negatively.

#3. Accidents as opportunities
I've mentioned before how much my toddler like to help around the house. Because of that I'm trying to create opportunities out of accidental spills (as well as the more intentional ones).  These aren't punishments; they're showing him that actions have consequences. But what I've noticed recently is that unless I sound really upbeat and make it sound like it's going to be fun, he doesn't want to help. Why? Well why would he volunteer to do something I clearly don't want to do? The most important thing I've realised though is that when I stay upbeat, my anger at him dissipates quicker.

#4. Forgiveness
I just mentioned my anger towards my son, and let me tell you it's been a common feeling these last few weeks. There are a few things he does that really push my buttons, like ripping books. When he does these things, even after the appropriate consequences have been implemented and he's forgotten about it, I can't. I've found myself saying stuff afterwards like 'well if you hadn't ripped that page we could read that book'. My son is 15 months - he doesn't understand passive aggressiveness. And ironically enough, it's one thing that really frustrated me as a child. It's made me realise that when these things happen I have to move on and do it very quickly.

The common theme you'll notice with these tips is that they're not parenting techniques or suggestions - they're about MY attitude towards my son. I don't know how to parent positively when I don't feel positive toward my child. So that's my challenge for myself (and maybe the biggest one so far) - maintaining a constantly positive attitude towards my frog. That includes during the tantrums, in the middle of the night and yes, even when he hits me with the phone he wasn't meant to have. Unconditional love comes easily to most parents - unconditional LIKE is the real challenge.