Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why Mother's Day Out Makes Me a Better Mom

Things have changed in our world today. We know longer live right down the road from family. Growing up, I was surrounded by family. I had family at every corner of the small Louisiana town we lived in. We actually lived farther away than most of the family and it took us a whole whopping 7 minutes at most to get to my grandparents house. But now, our closest family members on my side are 9 hours away and on the hubby's side, the closest is 10 hours.

I love living in Nashville and I have never looked at living away as an issue. But when we had our daughter, all of a sudden, I could see where family could come in handy, especially when you have a husband who travels for a living. There are days where I was struggling a lot that first year and could have used someone to just come and sit with Abbey Grace so maybe I could take a shower and wash my 5 day old dirty hair. Or maybe, go grocery shopping alone!

Last Spring, in the midst of running my business, the hubs being gone on the road for a tour, and having my toddling 1 year old, I reached a breaking point. I decided maybe I should look into this Mother's Day Out thing. Maybe it could be what I was needing.

I googled Mother's Day Out in Nashville and there were a gazillion! I found two close to me and inquired about price and days of the week. As soon as I hung up, I cried and cried. I am a stay at home mom. How could I not handle my daughter? This is what I have always wanted. Why do I feel like I need a break from her? What kind of mom am I? And now I am going to pay someone to watch her when that is my job? Also, I knew the comments I had made about my friend who took her kids to daycare on her day off so she could clean the house...Why would she not want to spend time with them? That was April 2012.

I decided not too because I should be able to do this. I should be able to take care of the house, work at the hospital a couple days a month, run my cloth diaper business, and run my CPR business, all why maintaining my sanity and being the best mom ever. Also, I hated to cost us more money. I was up for the challenge...

Then summer happened. Summer is one of the busiest times of year for my husbands work. Concerts are in full swing and there are some long weeks of traveling in there. I realized not only was I not super mom, I was struggling with the most basic things. I was so stressed with everything that I wasn't enjoying the things I should. I wasn't taking our girl to the park or the zoo. We weren't having playdates. Each day, I hated the mom I was. I needed a break. I needed something. I needed help.

So I called the Mother's Day Out programs again. I toured two of them and they were both awesome. Our girl loved both and wasn't shy and went right in and played with toys and even jumped in and played cars with one group in the gym. I got in the car and cried but knew we had to give it a shot. I chose the one that felt right for us and two weeks later she started "school."

What is Mother's Day Out (MDO)?
They are mostly run by churches (at least in our area). The children have free playtime, do crafts, outside play/gym play, learn letters, numbers, shapes, take naps, and eat with their friends. They are typically between 3-6 hours and some offer before and after care so you can extend the day. They are usually 2-5 days a week.

The program we chose is from 8:45-2:15. We also started with 2 days a week and now we are at 3. Let me tell you, these have become the most precious and sanity-saving 5 hours of my day. All of a sudden I had 10 hours a week without having to stop a toddler from climbing on something or putting something in her mouth. Someone commented to me, "well what do you get out of it, you can't work during that time..." (I'm a nurse in my other life and that requires 12 hour shifts usually.) Well, no, nice person trying to ruin my day, I can't work a normal shift at the hospital but I can clean my house (I know...I ate my words), go grocery shopping without a crying baby,  go to doctors appointments, teach a CPR class, get my hair cut, take a much needed nap, blog, and clean my house. Now I don't do that all in one day but I can spread it out.

As far as our little girl goes, she loves every second of it. I never knew how social she was because we aren't around other children except for the occasional birthday party. She loved her friends, getting to color, getting to run and play in the playhouse with her friends. I never realized how much children need social interaction with children their own age.

So when mommy picks her up from "school" as we call it, she is so happy to babble away at what she did that day or show me the craft she made. And now, I am not stressed about my huge to do list. I have knocked a few things off and can take time to have a tea party or hide under a fort or play baby dolls. I might have missed 15 hours with her but now, the time I have with her is better spent and I am better because I am less stressed.

So, if you are on the fence and feeling guilty about being a SAHM and needing help, don't. You will be a better mom for it. I am so thankful for the program she is in! Knowing my sweet girl is having a blast while I do the mundane (and sometimes fun) things that are required by adult life, I don't feel guilty for not paying attention to her.

I'm learning that mommy guilt is there for any decision you make. Do what is best for you and your family right now.

What is your favorite part of having alone time?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Go Vote for The REAL Awards

You might remember my post about nominating a healthcare worker for The Real Awards back in November. Well now it is time to vote! And voting ends tomorrow so hop to it!

Read through all the inspirational entries here then vote for the one that you feel deserves it the most.

The categories are:

Newborn and Mother Care
Pediatric Care
Chronic Disease Care
Hospice Care
Emergency Care
Veteran Care
At-Home Care
General Healthcare Worker

We take time to vote for singers on a show so take time to click over and vote for a deserving healthcare worker!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

January- Organize Me

Why Organize Me first?

I chose Organize Me as my January project because I have a whole lot to work on. Now, this is not going to all be taken care of in January. Everything I will list below is going to be an ongoing project. The only person you can change is yourself and I feel like some days I don't even know who I am or what I'm doing. I have to control the things I can control so I have time for the things I want to do.

I know I am messy, lazy, sloppy, unorganized, overweight, negative, and a top notch procrastinator. I also know that I don't want to be any of those things.

So my Organize Me month consists of these projects:

1. Set a Schedule - Gain Time

I have fought this one for so long but now that AG is almost 2, I see she needs this structure. Now, it's me, it won't be a super strict schedule but more of a guideline. I also seem to get so much more done when it is written down and then I get to mark it off. It's like it proves I did it :) I have never wanted to have a set schedule because I have always believed it would leave no time for fun things. But now I see, I don't use the time I have wisely and some days I get nothing done because I didn't plan for this or that. Or I made plans and forgot and now we are late and I'm stressed and AG gets stressed and then things are fun. So I will:

  • Make a Schedule for our family, cleaning, blog, and work. 
  • Tools I am using include an awesome packet of lists, calendars, and fun, cute papers from List Lab on Etsy. She emailed me with the download information within 30 minutes of the purchase. You can get editable ones where you can type on them but they are a little bit more money then I had budgeted for this. Plus, I love any excuse to buy fun colored pens so it was a win/win for me! From now until January 15, 2013 you can get 15% off when you use this promo code: NEWYR15
List Lab Bundle I bought

(I bought this bundle because it includes Home, Blog, and Business. Although technically I am not devoting an entire month to my Blog and Business until April, I have started using those sheets as well, just not as strict.)

2. Declutter - Gain Space and Time (in our home and in my mind)

I lose stuff in clutter. I get frustrated with clutter. The hubby gets super frustrated with my clutter. I get so tired just looking at it and I put it off and off. But I'm going to do it NOW.
  • This one kind of goes hand in hand with "Get Organized." As Flylady says, "You can't organize clutter." So to help me tackle things one day at time I ordered this super cute and helpful Declutter Calendar. It is also a download and sold by C3L Designs on Etsy. She was super fast as well and I had it within the hour of ordering. It has check marks next to each item. It also isn't dated so you can use it year after year. And you can skip around. Choose items for the amount of time you have for that day. 

3. Be Healthy - Lose Weight, Increase Engergy, Gain Freedom, Gain Confidence

This always seems to be one for most people. For me, I am at an all time high (without a baby inside). I am not leaving this one as a simple, "lose weight" resolution. These are the steps I am taking:
  • The hubs and I just started a Biggest Loser style competition between the two of us. We weighed in on midnight at New Year's. We are doing it from that moment until April 1st. We are using the Largest Loser iPhone app. So far it is working great. It is $2.99 but that's a small fee for weight lost motivation.  You enter your starting weight and then each week you weigh in and it calculates your percentage lost. It doesn't show your weight so it is good for groups who what to keep it private. 
    • To make it more fun we are coming up with what the loser will have to do or what the winner gets. But no money will be spent. Examples of what I am thinking: When I win, I will get a massage (back, feet, whichever body part I chose) every day I ask for 2 weeks. And he will have to dust and do the laundry. 
  • We are both doing a Weight Watchers eating style plus whatever other methods we choose (no carbs, low carbs, no alcohol, etc.) 
  • I am also starting jogging/running. I have to admit I haven't actually started yet. It is so cold. I will get on the ball for this one. I have always admired runners. For a very brief time right before I got pregnant I had started jogging. I loved it. I felt so free. As added motivation for this one, I have a goal to run my first 5k in May. Hopefully with my best friend who is a runner. This makes it extra fun because I get girl time out of it. I have two runs in mind and as soon as we have the dates set I am signing up. 
    • To do this I am using the Couch to 5k Plan. I'm starting slow and building up. 
4. Improve Self-Esteem - Be happy with me, Teach my baby girl to be happy with herself
  • I have never had consistent good self-esteem. I would have small periods where I was ok with me but never where I was really happy with me. Why work on it now? Because I have a daughter who is watching every move I make and taking in every word I say. I have to change this about myself so I can teach her how to love herself. 
  • For this I am reading Beth Moore's book, So Long, Insecurity. I read it a few years ago but didn't follow through on things. I am reading it with a friend and we are going to discuss it together and hold one another accountable. 

5. Find Me - Be a better me, a better wife, a better mom, a better friend

This one is a broad one. I know I can't be the only mom who became a SAHM (and who loves it) yet feels they have lost their identity. I feel like once I had our sweet girl, everything in my life changed and only a few things in my husband's life changed. I am not upset with him over that (well, not most days :)). But if you carried your child inside of you, you had body changes. If you breastfed, you had a kid stuck to your boob most of the day, especially if you had a slow eater like mine who only napped when she was eating. Now that she is a toddler, that's a whole new set of changes. I know what she likes but what do I like any more. To answer those questions:

  • I am going to read at least 12 books this year. Reading is a fun escape and opens your mind to new ideas.
  • Starting to jog is part of this. It will be me time.
  • Volunteer. I love volunteering. I really feel almost guilty about how much I love it. Yet I never do it. For some reason I have so much trouble committing to a schedule that I can't call somewhere and set a date to come. So setting a monthly schedule will allow me to do this.
  • Take a self defense class. I hate feeling helpless. I also think this would help with my confidence and self-esteem. 
6. Be Thankful - Appreciate the Now and all I have
  • Gretchen Rubin has a one sentence gratitude journal but I just bought cute tiny notebooks with quotes on them from Target. I like the small pages because it makes me feel like I am writing more. 
  • Each day I reflect back on a good point of the day in general and I have added my own thing: Write a sentence about something AG did that made me smile. I'm realizing that each day is so precious and so much clouds our minds that we forget things so quickly. So this way, I can go back and read about the day and see what she was doing then too. 
  • Good Morning America is offering Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home and her Gratitude Journal as a bundle and it is 60% off!! Go get it!

To keep track of all my goals and track my progress, I am using a free app I found for the iPhone called  Goal Master. It allows you to track daily, weekly, monthly, and years goals. You can have a mixture of counters, check boxes, or targets to meet. You simply tap it once you have met the goal and it keeps a tally. It also has a bar graph that shows you the percentage of times you have met your goals. It's a fun way to look back and see your progress. 

I can't believe I have forgot to ask questions the past few days so please, leave comments and let me know what your resolutions are, are you doing a happiness project, do you have a theme of the year?

What are your goals for 2013?

If you are just joining in, you can catch up on my plan and theme if you would like. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Theme of the Year: NOW

Yesterday I introduced you to a little bit of my Happiness Project and why I am doing it. I also introduced you to my theme of the year: NOW.

I was inspired while I was reading Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home, she talks about a theme of the year. A word that represents something you want to change, appreciate, etc. Do you ever have moments where your mind is speaking so loudly that you can't even concentrate on what you are doing? While I was in the middle of reading this I kept hearing, And so I decided at that moment, NOW, was my theme for this year.

I believe the reason that this word came to me so fast is because it is so truly needed in my life. I do believe God speaks to us in small subtle ways and great big ways. I believe He has been putting signs in  my life about this for an incredibly long time.

The first sign: A song

Do you ever hear a song on every time you turn on the radio and it annoys you because it is like it is talking to you? There is a country song, You're Gonna Miss This by Trace Atkins. It talks about how this girl just keeps wishing for each phase of life to go past: get out of high school, get a bigger house, the kids to grow up, and so on. The chorus is:

You're gonna miss thisYou're gonna want this backYou're gonna wish these daysHadn't gone by so fast

These are some good timesSo take a good look aroundYou may not know it nowBut you're gonna miss this


It is an older song so the fact that every single time I was in the car and listening to country (I'm a channel surfer) was a bit ironic. After the 3rd time in one day, I found myself crying. It hit me that this song was ME. I was ALWAYS rushing through life. I was that girl in high school wishing it by, I was the wife who wouldn't let her husband by a kayak, I was the mom who wasn't taking time to watch her little girl grow each day.

During AG's first year, I decided to start a business. I was a SAHM and I wanted to help with money so why not start a business. I opened a cloth diaper store at the end of October 2011. She wasn't even crawling yet. I thought I could do it all. Then she started crawling, then walking, then running. And the business was actually growing. Then I learned two things about myself; first, I am not that passionate about cloth diapers and second, I don't like all the little details of a retail store. We had invested a large amount to us and I could just quit. I tried and tried but I had already made some big mistakes and the business didn't make it. I felt like such a failure the first few months (it's still closing and almost done.) I then looked at the debt I got us in and immediately started thinking about going back to work. I was just jumping from one thing to the next.

I love being a mommy. I am so blessed to be a SAHM. But some days I need a little more stimulation. I still feel guilty for saying that. In August, we put her in a Mother's Day Out program and I am so incredibly thankful for that. Since then, I can now pick up days at my old job and teach CPR classes while she is there. It's a win/win :)

Back to signs.

The second sign: A quote

"Bloom where you are planted." 

( I couldn't find where this quote originally came from. If you know, please let me know!)

So often I have said I can't do things because of where I live or I don't have this talent or I'm not that good and made excuse after excuse. This quote has always been one I think of from time to time but I would think of it almost everyday for the past few months. It started with this blog. I kept saying I can't blog, I don't have anything interesting to say, until one day, I couldn't ignore the calling to do it any longer.

I believe that this quote not only refers to the physical place you live but also the time and circumstances of your life at a time. I am so guilty of making these make believe adventures once AG is grown up where I can do help people. But I can do it now, with my toddler or while she is at Mother's Day Out (MDO). I can do things here in Nashville, while I have a toddler.

Good ol' Gretchen also helped show a sign in this one too. In Happier at Home, she talks about finding your own "Calcutta." When I read this my heart was heavy because I am so guilty of thinking of all the big trips I can take to help other when there are so many hurting right here in my town.

And Shayne Moore's book, Global Soccer Mom, also helped me see that I can "Blood where [I'm] planted" by discussing how we can do so much to help others by advocating. This wasn't a new fact to me but it help revive this.

The third sign: A conversation

It happened while I was riding with my brother-in-law and we were discussing work and family.  I said something about maybe when AG is older I can do this or that. He said, "She could be your only one. You want to enjoy her childhood and these phases because there might not be others." I have no idea why he said this. He and my sister-in-law have 4 children so it's not like he was talking from experience. But it hit so deep. Was I taking AG's childhood for granted? Was I wishing away the only baby phase I would personally experience?

My heart stopped and I looked in the review mirror into her baby mirror. She was 20 months at the time, about to be 21 months. Where had the past 20 months gone. Yes, the first 13 were devoted to breastfeeding. Then I started the business. Now I had this toddler who was starting to communicate. She was no longer a baby. Her baby phase was completely gone. I don't want to wonder what I have missed.

And then I think we all got a reminder after the events at Sandy Hook. (My thoughts and prayers are still with those families.)

I will also use this word to help me with the goals I have for this year (organization, procrastinate less, be less messy) and do the things I can now, not later. I will clean up the spilt milk now, not in 5 minutes...

But for the big picture of the year, my theme is NOW. I will appreciate the Now. I will live in the now. I will still look forward to things in the future but that won't be my focus.

Today, NOW, this moment that will never ever be back or repeated. My life is happening NOW.

Family business plug: My brother-in-law owns his own business and it is an amazing popcorn company called Catoctin Popcorn Company. (When I say that they make amazing popcorn, I am not just saying that because I am family. I mean it. Their Chocolate Carmel Popcorn kicks any rivals behind. And AG l-o-v-e-s their White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years Resolutions - My Happiness Project

Happy New Year!!! I cannot believe it is 2013! That's just so crazy!

I used to always make New Year's Resolutions but I quit a few years back because I would always fail by February or only make it until March at the longest. I hated the feeling of failing so I just quit making them all together. But this year I am making resolutions in a different way. I am doing a Happiness Project for 2013.

What is a Happiness Project? It is a project to get happier ;)

How do you do it? Gretchen's Happiness Project website has the best info but in short, you choose things to work on with a main goal broken up into smaller measurable resolutions.

I will be modeling a combination of both of Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project and Happier at Home project. Plus I will be adding my own spin. That's the beauty of them. It's about making YOU happier so you choose the things that matter to you and the schedule that fits your life.

If you haven't read her books, you totally should!! I LOVE them!!

Why am I doing a Happiness Project?

To become happier. I use to be a relatively positive person. I always saw the glass as half full. I loved turning lemons into lemonade and helping people see the best in a situation. Then life got the best of me and brought out the worst.  I started focusing so much on the negative that I couldn't see anything good in any situation. I have begun focusing so much on the regret of an event or a chance I missed that I am missing the good times happening in my life now.

I have spent more "blue" days in the past few years than happy days when in all reality my life is so much better than it used to be. It is just that I am focusing on the wrong things. I am not appreciating the amazing things in my life and I want to change that. I am the only person I can change and I must start now.

As a mom, I don't want to look back and realized I didn't appreciate AG's childhood. I also realize I am being a model for her. So if she sees mommy sad more than happy then that is going to affect her. (Now I am not talking about depression. That is totally different and if you suffer from depression, please seek medical attention and monitor your depression symptoms.) We have an amazing life and I don't want our daughter to grow up seeing things negatively. That is something I have a good bit of control over, at least in her younger years.

When I told my husband he asked if I really think it will make me happier, which is similar to the response Gretchen got from her husband. Personally, all I can think is what will it hurt? I think it will. The items on my list are things that I feel are the most important changes I need to make.

I was also inspired in Happier at Home to have a single word that represents your theme of the year. The word came to me immediately while I was still reading the chapter. Low and behold her last chapter of the book would be all about my word. My word of the year is NOW. As a procrastinator and a relatively negative person, I always put things off and make excuses as to why I can't do something. I also don't do things because something could change in the future. Example: my husband wanted kayaks a few years ago. I told him no because one day we would have children and we couldn't take them out in a kayak. So we never got them. Does that even make since? There will be a whole post on this tomorrow.

Gretchen uses this formula to determine what to add to her list: (taken straight from her book, The Happiness Project)

1. What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, and energizing?
2. What makes you feel bad? What are sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in your life?
3. Is there any way in which you don't feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change your job, your city, your family situation or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations of yourself? Does your life reflect your values?
4. Do you have sources of an atmosphere of growth? In what elements of your life do you find progress, learning, challenge, improvement, and increased mastery?

So here goes my Happiness Project and the details:

My Happiness Project is for 5 months. Why 5 months? Because I turn 30 in five months. I am tackling the big things I need to address and want to change before then.

Here is my teaser list. Check back during the first week of each month to get the details of my plan and then follow along. I am working on each subject for a month and caring it over into the next month.

January: Organize Me and My Family (more to come later this week)

February: My Sweet Girl -AG

March: My Hubby

April: My Business and Blog

May: Family and Friends

There will be some overlapping as with any aspect of life. I am also going to be participating in Gretchen Rubin's 21 Day Challenge which begins on January 14. Learn more here.

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