Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Good Read on Praise

Behavior Modification: Praise

I've been meaning to post a link to this for awhile. For the past year or so I've been working extremely hard on cutting out non-stop praise to my child. This has been a hard habit to break. My journey started after reading the book Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. This is one of those books that I will likely need to reread several times and perhaps smack myself with it a few times in order for the concepts to sink in. What I love about this book is that it's not another compilation of parenting techniques and/or methods of coercing a child into right behavior. This book introduces a complete paradigm shift on parenting and the role of a parent in a child's life. I'd highly recommend this for anyone, even if the end result is that a person doesn't agree with anything. This is one of those books that really causes you to think about how you're raising your children and why you're doing it the way that you are. I think the thing that I love is also the thing that makes this book difficult. It's not a step by step how to book on parenting. A person won't read this and know exactly what to do in a given parenting situation. Rather, reading this book will cause a parent to think differently about the situation at hand. It's very challenging and has probably been one of the books that has helped me the most in terms of shifting out of rewards/consequences parenting that is based on behavioral methods.

I think Hippie Housewife made some great points in her blog. I've definitely seen praise in action. As someone who trained and worked in the field of child development, I was taught to deliver a nonstop stream of praise to children. As an infant teacher I would praise a child, "Good job putting the triangle in the hole!" This sounds harmless, but here's what I've come to realize. Prior to the praise the child was hard at work figuring out the shape sorter toy. The little gears were turning in his head and he was intent on exploring the different shapes and shaped holes. Once praise enters the picture, the child has stopped focusing on the shape sorter and is now focusing on me and my reaction. Rather than continuing to work and experiencing the internal joy of figuring things out, the child is now excited by my reaction. It's easy for me to see how an ongoing pattern of such interruptions to a child's activities could cause a child to look to others for rewards as opposed to being satisfied with internal feelings of satisfaction. Another example I can think of is when I worked in a residential care facility where children were brought up on point cards and awarded positive points for "good" behaviors. I can tell you that I saw many of these seemingly "good" children engaged in completely different behaviors when no one was looking. Those children who had been at the facility a long time and had years of this sort of training seemed to lack very basic internal motivation to behave morally. This is a more extreme example, but still the result of constant external motivators nonetheless.

It is very hard though. I catch myself saying to Boo things like, "What a great drawing!" and "Good job building with blocks!" all the time. No, they're not inherently evil things to say, but better responses would focus on what he drew and discussing his drawing with him. "You used a lot of blue in that spot," or in block building "You put two towers on that castle."

I am as always a work in progress as a mother. This is one of those habits that is extremely hard to break, but I will keep trying!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Anyone Else Think This is Terrible?

I was flipping through my Parents' Magazine today. By the way I have no idea how I get it or why. I've never paid for a subscription and I pretty much never agree with much of the content. But every time that it comes in the mail I still flip through it for some reason. Well today in a section about children's sleep I read a snippet about what parents can do if their four year old wants to come in their bed with them during the night. A sleep expert from some hospital (I already threw magazine away or else I'd be more specific) suggested cold turkey as an option, stating that parents could simply lock their bedroom door after putting their little one to bed and let their little one adjust that way. I was horrified when I read this!

Am I being overly sensitive here? I mean, I know many people who do not make the choices we do. Many people are not comfortable co-sleeping with their three year old as we are and prefer for their children to be in their own beds/rooms. But I can't imagine any of them doing this with such little sensitivity. If I locked my bedroom door after putting Boo in bed in a separate room the poor child would cry hysterically at the door and probably fall asleep crying on the floor in front of our door. That breaks my heart. I don't think any child should have to experience that. There are better ways. Granted, other methods are probably not as quick and take more time and effort on the part of the parent, but they're much more respectful of children's feelings. I just don't understand why anyone would think it necessary to let a child be so upset in order to get them in their own bed! This advice fails to respect the fact that this child is a human being. Not to mention, four is an age where fear of the dark is very common. Many children would not only be sad about not being with mom and dad, but would be terrified if left in this position.

I'm so sad that Mothering magazine discontinued their print editions. It was nice to get a parenting magazine in the mail that didn't have such inconsiderate parenting advice.

I'm sorry if I sound self-righteous and judgemental. I try really hard to talk about things that I'm in support of versus things that I'm against so that I can steer clear of being a judgemental jerk on my blog, but this advice really really got to me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Homeschooling - What It Will Mean for Us

The Perversive Effect of Tests, Scores, and Grades

I came across this post in my blog reading today and really enjoyed it. I've read similar posts and articles, but I thought this one was a concise and easy read.

I think there's so many ideas out there about why people homeschool. And truly for many families there's several reasons for choosing homeschooling, not just one reason. One of the fallacies I hear often is that homeschoolers are trying to shelter their children, protect them from the real world, and all that nonsense. Granted, there probably are some families out there for which this is true, but for most homeschoolers this is simply not the case!

Many many homeschoolers have a problem with the way education is run in this country. Kiddos are being pressured to perform constantly and with terrible results. With all of the emphasis on testing and performance one would think we'd be much higher up on the totem pole so to speak as far as our global standing in student performance. But we're not!

As a future homeschooler I have no plans to "do school" at home. Some homeschoolers take this approach and hey, to each his own. But if I wanted to use the school methods I might as well send my kiddo to school! Instead I scoured the available methods and materials available and settled on one that does not focus on testing and performance. Rather the focus is on learning. I can tell you from firsthand experience that a person can test well and perform without learning squat. Just drill me on things that I should know from my years of education (I was one of those "good" students) and my lack of knowledge will likely shock you! It's terrible and I feel terrible that I can't remember basic facts that I feel like I should know. But the reality is that I didn't learn these things. I crammed them into my head as quickly as possible in order to pass certain tests and perform well. The information was never assimilated properly and now I'm left with years sitting at school desks that could have been better spent experiencing life! I'm actually looking forward to homeschooling my own because I'll get a fresh chance to learn with them!

One of the things that we'll be doing different is delaying formal schooling. Some homeschoolers choose to do this. We won't be starting kindergarten at the age of five. Instead, until my child is six or seven we will follow interests. So in the eyes of others, he may be "behind." This is going to be hard for me as I want to prove to the world what a genius my child is and having grown up with the "performance mindset" it's easy for me to fall into the trap of wanting my child to keep up with everyone else. But the reality is, starting a child earlier on concepts doesn't always produce the best results. In fact, there's a growing body of research out there that suggests that children would benefit more from more free play at an early age. This free play is a kind of early learning that develops a child's creative mind and sets the stage for applying the formal concepts that will be introduced during formal education. But the reality is, with all of the emphasis on testing and performance, for many children in the younger grades there's just not time for both!

This will be a learning process for us. I imagine that I will learn many ways not to handle Boo's schooling as well as stumble upon things that work brilliantly. I hope that in the process I can keep an open mind and always be on the lookout for Boo's response to his schooling. As much as possible, I want to support his natural love of learning and be careful to avoid things that put out the spark in his eye so to speak. It's going to be an adventure for sure!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Consequences as Punishment

What's Wrong With Consequences to teach kids lessons?

I really enjoyed this article. This is something I'm working hard on and it doesn't come easily to me. Perhaps it's because so much of my life I've been thinking "I'll never spank and because of that I will have a different style of parenting." I think I've spent so much time feeling wonderful that we are a non-spanking household that it's taken me awhile to realize that punishment is punishment whether it's spanking, time-out, consequences, loss of privileges, etc...So while I entered parenthood firmly set against one style of punishment, others were allowed to sneak in like wolves in sheep's clothing! This has been a frustrating realization for me.

I do have positive discipline tools in my toolbox, but I often neglect to use them in favor of a control-based approach that yields quick results. This has been true the more pregnant I've become and the closer to four years old my child becomes. I think positive discipline is much more of a no-brainer when a child is two or younger. It definitely became more challenging at three and has become very very difficult at nearly four. Either that or it's the pregnancy hormones. Either way, I don't want to allow myself to slip into bad habits that will likely be hard to get out of later on.

Perhaps my personal need to feel in control works against my ability to use positive discipline with my child at times. There's also a certain amount of trust in positive discipline because children aren't as apt to respond with immediate compliance as they are with methods that are fear-based. So it's easy to feel like this isn't "working" in the moment. But I plan to hang in there, even if it feels like it's by a toenail at times. I do believe that the benefits of avoiding punishment will be seen in the long-term as I watch my children turn into young adults and make their way in the world. It's just going to take a whole lot of trust!

Lest anyone be confused, I'm not talking about a style of parenting called permissive parenting.

What's Wrong With Permissive Parenting

I absolutely believe in setting limits, saying no to children when it's necessary, and allowing them to experience some not so pleasant natural consequences of their behaviors. I think positive parenting can feel like a line sometimes. I don't want to fall to one side or I'll be using that controlling, authoritarian parenting style that is associated with all kinds of poor psychological and emotional outcomes for children. (Parenting Styles and its Correlates) I don't want to fall to the other side or I'll be using a permissive parenting style that neglects to guide and teach my children.

I will continue to read books and articles that challenge me to be better and hope that someday the lack of punishment and the use of positive discipline in our household becomes more automatic and natural for us as a family.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yell yell yell

Two blogs in one day? Well, it's been awhile and everyone's asleep and I'm too tired to go put laundry away as I should. I just read this article and thought it was interesting.

Shouting is the New Spanking

I can definitely relate to this post. Yelling is what happens when I'm overtired, overstressed, over fill-in-the-blank. I've personally found that the best way to combat this is not more parenting techniques. I've got quite a few of those at my disposal, not that I couldn't use more or do better with the things I have learned, but usually this is not the problem when I get to yell mode with Boo. Usually I need me time, rest and relaxation, hot tea, you name it. A glass of wine when I'm not

I guess if I wanted to be smart about this, I'd sit down and figure out what my triggers are, when I'm most likely to yell, etc...and develop a plan to back myself off when I feel a yell coming on. Easier said than done. It's a no brainer if hubby is here to take a break, hop in a hot bath, and escape for a bit. It takes a lot more creativity to combat yelling when hubby is at class or otherwise occupied. So perhaps it's a matter of finding creative solutions when the easy option is not available.

I definitely think it's worth the effort to continue to try to do better and be better for my child. But I do feel defeated some days, knowing that no matter how hard I try I won't ever reach that perfect ideal. Ah - such is life. Perfection is an ideal, something to strive for, but never truly in our grasp!

Just In Case Anyone Was Wondering

It's the question many parents have wondered at one time or another. That all important life changing question. Yes, how does one safely remove an object lodged in a child's nose? That's the one you were thinking of, wasn't it?

Well, there you have it. That's what I googled this morning. I had tried the blow it out method to no avail and was afraid of doing something wrong lest I cause the green pea, Boo's object of choice, further up the nose. I love love love my child. But why why why? I *know* in my head that this is a developmentally normal experiment for a 3 year old to try and I'm so glad that Boo has such a curious and inquisitive spirit, but sometimes I wish he would pass on certain experiments. Luckily he told me right away. He was pretty upset that he couldn't get it out. Honestly, I'm a bit glad that he was upset about it. Not enough to feel traumatized forever, but hopefully enough to not try this again.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gardening and I

Gardening and I
Go Together
Like Fish and Pie

At least that's how I feel right now. I love the idea of having a vegetable garden, a useful herb garden, and a flower garden of sorts. The problem is that I currently lack the know how and time to do it all right now. I admit that I've longed to be blessed with the so called "green thumb", but I do have to wonder if anyone is really born with a "green thumb". I kind of wonder if it isn't cultivated over time, slowly as a garden. Wouldn't that be fitting?

When we bought our house last year we closed mid May and moved in at the very beginning of June. By that time some areas of our lovely yard that had clearly at one time been designated as "garden areas" were overgrown with weeds. So we did the best we could last year just trying to keep the weeds at bay. I vowed that this year I would do justice to these areas. Well, here we are during gardening and planting season and I'm a bit clueless. I admit that I won't have the time and/or resources to do everything that I'd like to do.

Project #1 on my list is going to be tomatoes. I grew tomatoes several years in a row and well, once you've had tomatoes from your own garden, there's just no going back! I had such an abundance the first year that I grew tomatoes that I roasted my excess with garlic, pureed, froze in ice cube trays and had a good supply for much of winter. It was lovely - so much better than store bought sauce for pastas and such! The area for this project is a strip of land right by the garage. There's a bit of weediness in the area. I'm trying to figure out the best way to clear it without resorting to the dig it out method. I'm thinking that a tiller would work for this?

Project #2 is our front yard. In my mind I see beautifully landscaped raised bed gardens on either side of the steps in our front yard. The reality? We have neither the time or the budget for that this year. Soooo, I think this is what I've decided. I'm going to throw some landscaping fabric or newspaper down, a bunch of soil on top, mulch over the soil, and call it done for the year. Hopefully that will keep the weeds from taking over. During the year I can buy the retaining wall blocks of my choice a little bit at a time so that by next year I have the supplies I need to do a raised bed garden on either side of our front steps. It sounds good to me. I'm open to ideas and know how on this one!

Project #3 is an area in our backyard that's right by our patio. There were some leafy plants there when we moved in, but not knowing what was what I weedwhacked through everything when I was trying to keep weeds at bay. Now this area is covered with more green leafy stuff that has tiny violet flowers everywhere and a few ferny looking things. I really just want to clear out the area and start fresh so that I know what's what. I'd love to have stuff planted in there this year, but I don't know if that's too ambitious or not. How do I best get rid of the weedy stuff that's there? I don't want to go the dig it out route. I did that one year to get rid of sod to make room for a garden and it took me forever! Can I rent a tiller and till it weeds and all and then plant, put landscape fabric or newspaper around plants, and then mulch? I don't even know what a tiller looks like, let alone how to use one. Is that even the right thing for this kind of job?

Can you tell that I'm really hoping that someone who knows a fair bit about gardening reads this post and imparts beautiful green thumb wisdom to me?

On another note, while I was pulling out some dead weeds or bushes or something out of the Project #3 area today Boo started running his hands through the mud, smearing it around, and pushing the garden hoe around. It made me smile. There's something inside of me that feels like all is right when my little one is exploring dirt with his hands. Could this be some sort of primal instinct left from ancestors who worked the earth in order to eat and live? I don't know. I have to admit that there's something about working through dirt, digging, growing, and eating fresh veggies that just makes me uber happy!

So hopefully we'll have some fun working the dirt together and getting plants in the ground while it's still planting season!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

We'll Pass On The Punishment

In our home we work very hard to never punish our child. WHAT?? Yes, you read that correctly. No punishment ever is my goal, however I'm human and fail very much. But I don't agree with popular opinion that punishment is desirable or necessary in order to raise a "good" child.

I'm not going to go into huge detail because I found a post that covers this topic quite brilliantly. It's a really great read. Even for those who may disagree with my stance, her article brings up a lot of food for thought. The blogger is a christian and goes into the religious aspects of this parenting choice. But she also provides enough explanation that is not religious in nature, so I believe it's a great post for all.

Behavior Modification: Punishment

I think the hardest thing for me is being consistent with this. It is very difficult to break out of the punishment mindset when that's how a person was raised. This is the place I find myself in. I know what I want to do and what I believe and yet fall back on earlier programming when I'm tired and frustrated. It's much easier for me to stick with my big rule of no spanking since I've had this personal rule grounded into my head for years upon years. What's harder for me is the other forms of punishment. Loss of privilege, time out, and shaming are ones for me that can creep in easily if allow them to. I can look back and see that I've made progress, but there's still a lot of room for improvement!

Another thing that I'm finding hard to deal with is other people. It's amazing how many people step up and try to punish my child for me when I'm out somewhere with him. I've seen this at church as well as other places. Nobody is trying to spank my child or anything like that, but I am shocked by how many people feel the need to start shaming my child when he is behaving "inappropriately." Subtle comments meant to punish are very common in our society. "Big boys don't act like that," and "Don't say that to your mommy. I don't like that and that makes your mommy sad," (the latter one while Boo was making a valid attempt to express some anger he was feeling). And I don't say this to come across as high and mighty because I've resorted to similar guilt-inducing statements in the moment. But as a mom it's hard to know how to deal with a well-meaning person when they see it fitting to shame my child. I admit that it's easier for me to jump immediately to a defensive and snippy response than to kindly and calmly inform them that shaming is not something we use with our child.

Since I seem to have gone off a bit on the whole aspect of shaming as a form of punishment, here's an article about the effects of shame on children.

"Good" Children - At What Price? The Secret Cost of Shame

Where I need to continue to grow in my journey is to not resort to punishment and to learn how to assert myself with others so that they are not pushing punitive methods onto my child. Does parenting ever get any easier? Wouldn't it be nice if one day we could actually "arrive" at being the ideal parent?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Special Times with Touch

When Boo was an infant I bought this infant massage book. We rarely got through an entire massage when he was an infant and I wasn't overly consistent with it, but it was always very special when I made time to do this with Boo.

As Boo grew older, massage kind of fell by the wayside and I kind of forgot about this special way of connecting with my little man. Enter pregnancy and third trimester fatigue and irritability. I know I've written a lot of posts lately about this fatigue, struggle to be a loving mom, and associated stress. So pardon me another such post please!

In my brainstorming efforts, massage resurfaced and beckoned to me. I got out my Aromatherapy and Massage for Mother and Baby book and made up a basic pregnancy massage oil. The recipe called for Almond, but I didn't have any almond oil in the house. So I used apricot oil for mine instead. I added my tangerine and lavendar essential oils, which were the suggested ones. I must say that it smells a bit on the heavenly side!

Starting this past weekend and several days since then Boo and I have had special massage times during which I attempt to massage his feet or "footies" as I like to call them in the moment. He's very ticklish on his feet, so sometimes this works and sometimes not. But he's always pretty eager to try. Then he gets very excited to hold his little hands out for a bit of oil and rub it on mommy. He loves to massage my preggo belly for me. This feels great on my stretchmarked belly and we talk to baby while we massage. It's been wonderful to hear Boo talk to his sibling while he rubs my belly and it's such a relaxing time for both of us.

This all made me very curious about massage with children. The book that I have is pretty specific to infants, so I decided to do what I always do when I get curious. I googled. Here's an article that talks about the benefits of massage for children. I thought it was pretty interesting anyways. I guess it's just one more resource that links human touch to positive outcomes.

Here's another one. This isn't specific to massage. But it's about human touch. This is a blog written about skin to skin touch for siblings. It made me cry - not hard to do when you're in your third trimester of pregnancy, but whatever!

Skin to Skin Bonding

Isn't that the sweetest thing you've ever read? I admit that I'm a huge believer in skin to skin bonding. When Boo was a baby I gave up on the baby bathtub - I HATED every single one that I tried. So into the tub with mommy he went. And he LOVED it and so did I. It was so relaxing to settle into the warm water with my little one. He would often nurse during this time when he was an infant. It was much more relaxing to me not trying to hold up a squirming baby in an akward position in a baby bathtub contraption. As he grew he eventually started taking baths on his own. But even now we still enjoy the occasional bath together and it's still a wonderful bonding experience. In fact, last Saturday we had one of those dreaded meltdown moments where nothing seemed to work. I had just arrived home from a pampering session at a salon and was resting on the couch when Boo woke up from nap. He came downstairs and sat on my lap and just cried. And cried. And cried. And cried. I tried everything under the sun. Are you hungry? Still tired? Have a bad dream? You name it.I know that he really really had not wanted me to leave earlier that day and so I suspect that may have had something to do with it. Finally I said, do you want to take a bath with mommy? He cried for another minute, then hopped up and ran to the bathroom and started stripping. Crisis over. We happily reconnected and both of our stress levels plummeted. It will be a bit bittersweet when he outgrows this kind of connecting, so for now I will attempt to delight in these special times.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Loveless Place - Part 1: The Introduction

Once upon a time, before I ever experienced the joy of pregnancy or birthed my own child, I became a mother. Not in the biological sense and not in the legal sense of the word, but in responsibility. I graduated college in 2001 with my BA in Sociology. I wanted to work with children, make a difference, and leave their lives a little better for having known me. I have to laugh at that type of thinking now. It's not terrible to want those things, but how egocentric to think that I alone would be the force that would change a child's life for the better. But this is what I wanted and it's what I set out to do and it's what I believe I failed miserably at.

Enter the Loveless Place as it shall be called. It's a real place with a real name, but I guess I want to tread carefully since this place still exists and operates. Not for protection of a place that I now despise, but because I don't know the rules of blogging and slander when it comes to institutions. As a potential employer, Loveless Place promised me what I was looking for. An opportunity to work with children in a very personal way and be a part of shaping them into better functioning individuals. I immediately applied for a position. The interview went well and I fell for their program hook, line, and sinker.

Really I'm not sure how I got suckered in. The looks of Loveless Place would be enough to turn just about anyone off. The drive into the place, through a gate and guard on duty, showed a cheerless line of buildings. Old. Gray. Cold. The houses in which many of the children lived were much the same. Old, institutional looking, and free of the warmth that is usually found where children are present.

As I previously stated, my interview went well. I passed their psychological exam and sexual predator screening. I completed my fingerprinting and my physical exam. I packed my bags, my parents and I loaded the U-haul, and we were off. Upon arrival, I moved my belongings into one room in a cheerless gray house. I met the inhabitants. They were polite little girls between the ages of 7 and 10. They stood in a perfectly straight line to shake my hand and greet me. Perhaps that should have been my first warning sign. A straight and silent procession of greetings from such little ones as opposed to bombarding me with noise as only a group of little children can.

This was my arrival, the beginning of my artificially induced "motherhood" for lack of a better word. And this is a good stopping place. There will be so much to say that this will be a series of posts. I'm not a great planner when it comes to my blogging, so I don't know how many parts will be necessary until I feel done with this topic. I don't even know at this point everything that I will cover. But I know that there is a lot that is inside of me regarding my experiences that needs to get out. My hope in posting all of this is to take others on my journey, process through my own thoughts and feelings, and move on. I hope to challenge some popular beliefs regarding children and behavior along the way and perhaps explore and/or advocate for alternatives.So I guess we shall see together what this series will become!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mental Energy - Wahoo!

It goes without saying that mental energy is so important to functioning for anyone. In motherhood it can make the difference between Momzilla and functioning somewhere closer to that gentle mother ideal. Well, I have been blessed with some renewed mental energy this week and it feels wonderful. I think I know what made the difference. Yesterday we invited Boo's Grandma over to play with him. She is very playful and he always has a great time when he sees her. Sadly, we're not the greatest at making time for them to be together. Having Boo happy and occupied freed hubby and I up considerably to get some things done. As for hubby, he was stuck doing a paper for school. But I got quite a bit of stuff done upstairs. I still have a ways to go, but I was able to clear a lot of space out of our bedroom by getting laundry put away, packing away some of Boo's outgrown clothing (sniff sniff), clearing some things out of Boo's bedroom to be, and I even set up a small sewing area for me in our bedroom. It's not quite done. I have some sewing stuff thrown in random boxes that needs a spot, but it's getting there. Hurray! So hopefully that means that I'll actually do some sewing!

Seeing Boo's bedroom to be clearer of junk has made me feel so wonderful. It's interesting that I had to drain myself physically in order to feel better mentally. I admit that I wasn't sure about my decision when I got out of bed this morning. During my morning waddle to the bathroom, I wondered if I had overdone it. And let's just be honest. It wasn't even a waddle. I felt like a beginning toddler walker trying not to fall over the whole way there. My lower back was screaming at me, "What were you thinking??!!" BUT as I continued to shuffle around with my achy back, the shuffle became a waddle and the achiness subsided. It was well worth the temporary discomfort because I have just felt so mentally light today, if that makes any sense. I have a feeling that the more things we accomplish towards Boo's bedroom and preparing for baby the closer I will get to a mentally peaceful state.

On another note, I got some majorly cute diapers in the mail today that I ordered for our little one. I'm excited to try them out. Yes, I know it's weird, but once a person tries cloth diapering diapers become exciting for some reason! I mean, they have cute little giraffes on the outside. What's not to love?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Balance during Busyness

Well, I meant to get my blogger award posted this weekend, but hubby has hijacked my computer all weekend. He's running out for an errand, so I'm hoping I have time to complete an entire post while he's gone. In his defense, he's hijacked the computer for a very good reason. He's been working on a paper for school. Poor guy - he's so ready for a break. I am too. It's interesting that he's the one in school, but I'm feeling the stress also. It's one of those things that easily creeps into family life.

Many parenting books talk about balance. Balance is such a great concept, one that I wholeheartedly agree with. But it can be hard. Sometimes we have seasons of life where things are busy busy busy and there's just not much that's optional that can be cut out. I think this is where we find ourselves right now. We made the choice for hubby to go to school, so of course classes and time for schoolwork are not optional. My business is supporting the family and so my work is not optional. Our birthing class takes up time, but while this would be optional for some, when I look at my parenting and birthing priorities, there was no question of us needing to partake in this. This class has been everything I hoped it would. I feel much more confident approaching my home birth as a result of having this set time on a weekly basis to learn about and discuss birth. I also feel encouragement in learning more and more how my body was designed to give birth naturally! Since we have an hour ride to and from class, it's been a great time of togetherness for hubby and I to focus on our birth. With all of the other commitments in our life right now, I'm not sure that we would be intentionally discussing labor and birth if we did not have a set time carved out of our schedule for this. I think we've grown closer as a couple as a result. Church is another commitment we have and should not be optional, but I admit that with everything else going on we've definitely chosen to sleep in a few Sundays out of sheer exhaustion. I was happy that I was up for Mass today and took Boo, who's always so happy to go. Hubby stayed behind and worked on his paper. We do have Boo's parent/tot tumbling class on Saturday mornings and that is definitely not a necessity, but it's a really nice time of family togetherness and physical activity. Boo loves to go and the teacher is really wonderful and seems to have a great understanding of this age group. She's never pushy with doing activities the "right" way (unless it's a safety issue of course), she knows how to be respectful of children's space, and she's very encouraging of his accomplishments.

One of the key pieces of advice that I hear from books when it comes to balance is cutting out the things that are not necessary. Well, I've listed all of our commitments. I think the thing is that the few we've chosen, with the exception of the tumbling class, are very time-consuming and life changing. So while it may not sound like much, I assure you that it feels like very much. Also, being an introvert, I think that I can personally handle fewer commitments than an extrovert could, so I know that this plays into my perceived level of stress a bit. I do feel that until hubby is done with school, this level of busyness is what we're going to be dealing with. So, other than cutting things out, how does one find balance during a season of life that is just busy? Is it a matter of better managing stress? Perhaps I need to focus more on my relaxation exercises. Connecting with friends and family? Perhaps I'm on the right track in intentionally connecting with Boo more often. Taking care of myself? I admit the massage and hair color and cut yesterday felt great. So, as always I'm open to the wisdom of others!