February 19, 2018
Maaaaan, I'm procrastinating over the Winter Olympics today, and the laundry (I am on top of it, though). So, time to do some blogging. What are my best tips to improve your focus on what's important? (E.g. making some money on a day that's fit for it.) (Because I'm home alone today, kids are at school and daycare, so ample space and time to work. )
Maybe I should have called this post "Seven ways to fail in focussing as a WAHM" but to be honest, I don't like that kind of phrasing. I'm a radical optimist, prone to manifesting my dream life, so why focus on your faults! Let's improve what's good as well as what could be better.
1) Make a plan. So that when it is time for a certain activity (such as work), you know how to start and get on with it. Identify the top three actions you can take to work on a project or, more inspiring, to reach a goal. Then state when you will do them, how you will do them, where and with whom. Plan and execute. Note: I plan everything in my calendar but not specifically enough. So this morning it said "work on newsletter" and I had no idea where to start. For me, this has to be far more specific like "merge lists in Mailchimp" or "write article on xyz for newsletter 123".
2) On goals: have them! Even when you think your days are all the same (feeding, taxiing and bathing the kids, working and cooking and crashing in front of Netflix for yourself, except for weekends), set goals on all dimensions of your life. I love Samantha Ettus' model of the Pie Life, dividing your life into Career, Children, Health, Relationship, Community, Friends and Hobbies. Set goals with a date by which you want to reach them. Divide them into actionable steps. Align your actions with your intention, as they say. Pinpoint the one small step you can take immediately, today, and one for tomorrow and the day after.
3) Move. Go outside, breath in fresh air and reset your mind. This is one of the reasons I want a dog in a few years time, actually. Moving keeps your heart pumping, and combined with being outside this freshens up your thinking and motivation to, once inside again, eat the frog of the day.
4) Make lists. When you're stuck in a rut, get out pen and paper (or your smartphone, but when you use paper for your worries, you can let go of them physically later on). List your to do's, your worries, your goals, your dreams, your 'o yes there's that's, your meal plan for the coming weeks, upcoming events and birthdays, whatever floats your boat. Then go plan for it. Open your agenda (this I do prefer digital, e.g. Google Calendar, so its accessible on the go, and I can share it with my husband). See when you can fix whatever you put on your lists. And especially plan some things to look forward to! Then burn or otherwise release the lists with nagging negativity on them.
5) Set a timer. Then force yourself to do something you deem 'productive' for say, 20 minutes. Afterwards, have some tea and chocolate or equivalent. Repeat until you feel accomplished.
6) Cook. Start dinner or plan meals and make a grocery list if you can't access your furnace at this time. Do something worthwhile that has to be done anyway, and make it count towards your evening. Put some extra care in it so that your family can enjoy your procrastination later in the day.
7) Forgive yourself. Even if this happens every monday. Just get back on the bandwagon and move on. Watch Frozen and sing Let it goooo on the top of your lungs. Different context, same feeling and your kids won't mind. Then sing and dance on the rest of your favourite songs, and don't forget the Hokeypokey. Forgive yourself and start over. Do your best. That's what it's all about.
Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don't care what they're going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway
February 18, 2018
A rare moment of quiet around here, while two of my boys are napping and my husband is taking the car to the carwash center with the older two. So... what to do.... napping myself, laundry (always an option) or... since I'm finally in the mood for it, some 'content creation'. I'm always a little envious on how easy it looks to blog a few times per week for e.g. Laura Vanderkam and Crystal Paine, and my buddy Ilsabeth just released her newsletter. Regular blogging is not a part of my daily rhythm yet, and that would have to change because... well, I think I can share nuggets of experiental 'wisdom' through blogs and other free content, to give you some inspiration!
Our three eldest were having a sleepover with my parents the other night. My husband and I were having visions of sleeping in like a thirsty couple walking in the desert. Ring ring, did the phone, and our gardener proposed to come do some work from 7:30 in the morning, with some input needed from us. We had an enormously productive morning in return. Without three kids running around, climbing the curtains and such, you can get a lot done, be it 'just laundry' and some other housekeeping. And it was nice to talk to eachother in relative quiet. Our fourth son is such an easygoing babe! He just sleeps, drinks, cuddles, plays with his tinkling toys and well, goes to sleep again. So he did not impact our peaceful puttering around the house very much. I consider myself extremely fortunate with relaxed babys and fit grandparents who can take three kids for sleepovers. Do you have that kind of option with family or friends nearby?
We are watching the winter Olympics as well. Speed skating, in which the Dutch typically excell, is planned conveniently around lunch time, so we do succumb to watching TV while eating, but hey, it's sports and with that, educational, right? What is your stance in the ethereal screen time for kids-discussion?
Furthermore, it was spring break last week, so, among other outings, my mom and I took the three eldest by train to 's Hertogenbosch, which is a city nearby. Not their first time going by train but still a great adventure because the trip involved two types of trains and switching trains halfway. And some yelling from a mommy who is a little bit afraid of hights, which is a problem when you try to take a stroller (with a nearly two year old in it) down an escalator. Yes, I know that is forbidden, but the elevator was out of use and the stairs were being painted. We were trying to catch a train and taking him out of the stroller was not a time saving alternative. Fortunately someone from the railway service assisted us in going down the escalator. My heart was pounding in my chest. Never more are we going on a bear hunt.
For Valentine's Day I got a huge flower arrangement from my husband. I love flowers, so I'm thoroughly enjoying them standing on our dinner table. The bouquet includes seven fat roses, five glamourous red ones and two luscious pink. It's a gorgeous center piece. I surprised my hubs with some chocolate hearts (which I ate most of) and a Chromecast for our bedroom TV (which I installed and used, so far). Great gift, don't you think? But it is nice to have another special day (next to our meeting and wedding anniversary, both in august) to celebrate love and show appreciation to eachother. We both know we are loved. We are having dinner together (without the kids, I mean) next friday. I'm looking forward to that, as you can imagine. I think it's the first time since our fourth son was born four months ago. Our new nanny started two weeks ago, it's super to have someone reliable again who is skilled in taking care of four kids under five, next to ourselves. What do your formal childcare arrangements look like?
Okay, that's it for today, the babe is waking up. I want to be an especially present mom for him since he will very probably be my last. I'm done with being pregnant. Yes, time to get my body back!
Have a good end to your weekend, a good week ahead of you!
October 17, 2017
First of all, if you're reading this and you just had a baby, congratulations! I wish you plenty of moments to cuddle and smother him or her with kisses. And as you know when you have older kids, time flies by very very fast.
I'm a mom of four little ones, the eldest is four and the youngest is two (and a half, by the time this post is finished) weeks old, so I've had some practice but those are notes to self as well.
1) Take your time to cuddle and kiss
Newborns are so very, very precious. They also seem to grow on love, they need you close to survive. They need cuddles :)
You have a chance to do this while breastfeeding, but also when you are bottle-feeding, take a moment to really be and (after a few weeks) interact with your baby. They say those little "smiles" are not real smiles, but they do seem to happen when your baby is happy. When feeding, sing songs, tell a story, offer playdough, or get help/Netflix to entertain/watch your other children.
Another way to have close contact is to wear your baby in a sling or baby carrier. This keeps his head nice and close to your heart and you will have your hands free to... help your other kids, do some things around the house or on your computer, e.g. write a blog (guess where my little boy is now).
2) Do not mind the mess, throw your perfectionism out the window
Everything will take two or three times as long with a new baby. Accept it. Enjoy it! It gives you time to interact with Precious and/or your other kiddos. It also gives you plenty, numerous, shiploads of opportunities to practice your preferred parenting style. Ahem. So, take your time, try not to yell (or do so outside and NOT while carrying the baby 'cause it will make him cry), and cuddle some more.
Also, try to encourage your older kids to do more chores independently. Don't mind a little more mess, but do try to train them to clean it up for themselves. Just half an hour ago I taught my almost 3-year-old how to clean up after an "accident". He deemed these hectic newborn days a good time to potty-train and remove his diaper a few times a day. But hey, try not to stress about such blessed circumstances :)
3) Take gifts and accept help
When someone asks what kind of gift you would like, be practical. Also, ask for help if you could use it. It does take a village to raise a child. Three of my gift suggestions would be:
4) Go to bed as early as possible
As in, right after your kids! This requires some organization of evening and morning routines beforehand, such as a meal planning strategy.... which focuses on minimizing the amount of dishes and pans used. Pizza at least once a week, for example. No, I did not have a meal planning strategy before I had multiple kids.
Our tiny boy now takes his longest sleep of the day after his feeding at 8 pm. I should consider myself so lucky with his timing, and also try to sleep as much as possible within that window... But then we tend to do housework, and watch some TV, or have some adult conversation as a couple. Set priorities, sleep is one of them!
5) Try to implement rhythm and routines
Maybe not as much for your newborn, but for yourself and the other kids (especially toddlers) it's nice to know where you are in your day. So get really handy at feeding with one hand so you can have meals together at regular times. Furthermore, we try to make the 8 pm feeding a serious bedtime ritual for the newborn, as a signal to him and his brothers that the day has come to an end. Then we act as if it is 8 pm sharp and watch the evening news on demand together, just like I remember my parents doing when I was young(er). Only they were more strict. My sister and I were in bed by 7:55 pm and they watched the news at 8 pm live. They drank coffee, I drink tea (sans caffeine). Nice ritual though.
6) Finally, about playdough
When trying to get the entertaining playdough out of its pots do not use the pinky you will use later on to let your newborn suck on. It will get under your nails, and although it's supposed to be non-poisonous, I reckon one has to be used to solids for ones stomach to enjoy it. This also goes for the poop diapers on your older kids. Wash your hands a little more often. Try to minimize trips to the ER; this newborn phase is better enjoyed at home.
What are your top tips to mentally survive the newborn phase?
September 23, 2017
So...we moved into our new house two weeks ago :)
Exciting and very hectic times for all of us, but especially for the boys. Hubs and I know what we got ourselves into, knew what the new house looks like, what we expected from the new school / day care et cetera. But for the kids, it rocked their world.
How on earth do you explain the concept of moving to a four-year-old (who seems to like change, just like his mom, but who will miss his best friend as well), a two-year-old (who DISlikes change vehemently), and a one-year-old who isn't verbal in the first place...
Thus, I put some thought into the process, wrote down what I would like and gathered some tips from the all-knowing World Wide Web which I think are important.
1) PUT ON YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK FIRST... AGAIN :)
Moving is stressful for everyone and you have to be fit to a) do it and b) take care of your little ones at the same time. You will feel more tired and your children will require more attention, patience and cuddles from you. So start by executing radical self-care and mark it in red on your calendar around the moving day (and a few weeks / months after).
2) ANNOUNCE THE MOVE TO THE KIDS - NOT TOO EARLY, NOT TOO LATE
And take your kids' character into account :)
As I mentioned, our eldest seemed to be looking forward to the move and asked questions. He generally likes to know things well in advance. However, our two-year-old thinks of worrisome things ahead of time, he fusses about them, will not sleep the few nights before, will have more tantrums, et cetera. For him, it's indeed important to know that "everyone is moving, so he doesn't feel as if he'll be left behind". When you talk, don't just tell the kids what will be different. "Make sure you explain that the important things will stay the same, including the fact that everything in the house, especially what's in the child's room, will come with you."
3) VISIT THE NEW HOUSE BEFORE THE MOVE
Fortunately we did this five or six times, because it is a newly built house: some heavy machinery was involved and our boys love that :) So they have seen their new rooms with and without a roof, windows and flooring. I think it helped both the enthusiastic four-year-old, who was making plans on blue walls and such, as well as the two-year-old who got a little more familiar with the building and surroundings.
4) SAY YOUR GOODBYES
It's good to acknowledge the things you and the kids will say goodbye to. It's healthy for children to express their sadness and it will make their adjustment easier.
5) ASK THEM TO HELP PACK THEIR OWN THINGS...
Well, actually I wasn't planning on this, but it did make sense. It reassured them that all their toys and treasures were coming with us. They even packed each other at one point. It gave them a sense of ownership and control. And it was a very good idea to mark a special box for each of the boys and ask them to fill it with things they love, plus a few items for them to have during the actual move and settling in time when most of their things were not accessible. We made sure to have some familiar books for pre-bed story time at hand as well.
6) PACK THE CHILDREN’S ROOMS AND THE KITCHEN LAST AND UNPACK FIRST
The day before the move we brought our boys to their new school / day care in our new town. That night, we brought them to their grandparents (my parents) who live nearby. We all had dinner together and they spent two nights at my parents’. Most overnight stays up to now have been a real party for all of them, and they will be safe and out of the way during moving day. So after we dropped them off in the evening, we were able to pack their rooms and make sure their things were loaded in the front of the truck, to be unloaded first on moving day.
Making their rooms in order was a first priority. But because they were away for another night, my husband and I were able to take shorter breaks, have some time as a couple on our first evening, sleep in a tiny little bit (7am instead of 6am with kids), and continue to unpack the next day. Also, we had our groceries delivered that morning. Next I unpacked the kitchen, so the kids would know they could get food or water or ask for something to eat whenever they wanted.
This planning turned out well, primarily because we were able to take the kids home to a house which wasn't as big a mess as it was on moving day, their rooms showed the items they love, and the kitchen was basically arranged so food and glasses for water were accessible. We knew what was for dinner the first days they were home (pizza, pasta, soup, nothing difficult) and there were snacks (and chocolate for mommy). Phew!
It would have been great if we had put together a part of their playroom as well, so they would have had a nice place to go to while the rest of the house was still being dominated by unpacked boxes, but this did not happen. The boys enjoyed unpacking as well, but now the playroom is one big mess of toys thrown out of boxes but not put away. Also, we don’t have enough cupboards to put it all away. The sliding doors between living room and playroom now generously keep the mess out of sight when the kids aren't around.
7) TAKE PLENTY OF BREAKS
Also, see #1. During the breaks, you can have intentional attention for your kids, your partner, or yourself, and maybe, kind of, do the things you normally would have done on that day and at that time, to keep things as consistent as possible. Such as eating, and maybe napping (I was 34 weeks pregnant on moving day), or checking in with work.
8) STICK TO THE SCHEDULE
Right after moving in the kids, we tried to get back to our "normal" rhythm a.s.a.p. The more predictability, the more quickly your child will adjust, according to ahaparenting.com However, two weeks in and still not there. Our two-year-old will nap TWICE at day care (two days a week) and refuses to nap at home. This has something to do with fear of the unfamiliar, I guess, since he also wants his nightlight turned on during the night. So, bummer for my pregnant and tired self (less downtime in the afternoon), but we'll give him time to adjust, of course. We still try to maintain most of the old routines, especially with a new baby brother coming in a few weeks. We consistently have dinner and most breakfasts as a family and read a bedtime story in the bedroom of our eldest son. But I find this the hardest part of moving. I do my best to be more available, but I also crave me time, work time (just a little bit...) and SLEEP!!!
9) DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE EMOTIONAL ENERGY INVOLVED WITH MOVING HOUSE
Not for yourself, and especially not for the kids. Changing house, garden, neighborhood, day care, school and nanny is an awful lot to take in for our boys. And although I can reason about it, for me too. It's about time I stop taking clothes out of boxes :) but I have to get used to moving through the house efficiently (kitchen - waste bins - kitchen - toilet - pantry for extra toilet paper - kitchen to start cooking - where did I put those knives.... and so on). Also, there is a lot of ambiguity and comparison going on in my head: I love the bathroom in the new house but am getting frustrated the light fixture is not in place yet, I love our new garden but the view from our old bedroom was nicer... Not for naught that moving is considered the third most stressful thing that you can go through (after death and divorce).
10) GO EXPLORE AND MAKE IT FUN!
While the weather is still mild, with autumn just starting to creep in, we take a lot of walks around our new neighborhood. This helps the kids to get a sense of where they are. And it is helpful to do fun things as a family. We sought out a lot of playgrounds in the area. There are no less than six within five minutes walking! We also visited grandma and grandpa a lot those first weeks (and will continue to see them a lot, with the new baby due soon). We live a lot closer to them now. We tried pizza delivery (kids tried the doorbell first, so we wouldn't miss the delivery boy ringing, which they found very rewarding). We went to the little shopping center quite a few times to get some groceries and to get to know our way around. My husband and I are trying to get involved with school / day care and getting to know other parents around. Greeting and chatting with total strangers like crazy :). But hey, we're building a new village!
If you have a move planned, good luck! Want to chat about it? Click here for an online meeting. Have tips to share? Please leave a comment!