Daily Routines to Beat the Chaos: recognizing the importance of the mundane in parenting

Change is good. I love change. Sometimes I think I like it too much – I’m always pushing forward to the next thing, reaching for more personal growth, bigger and better ways to do things, changes of scenery… It’s a quality in me I embrace and enjoy and I think it helps me find my place in the world.

 

I remember my parents continually reminding me to “slow down!” even while I was just carrying out basic tasks! In my pursuit of my wildest dreams, I do everything a little too quickly. I wash dishes too quickly, I pick things up too quickly, I drink water too quickly… I mean goodness gracious. Until recently I haven’t realized how I have let this become a bit more of a problem in my life.

 

Clearly always looking for new things to do and ways to make those new things better, you can imagine I over-commit. Oh yes. And I set unrealistic expectations. Consistently. Both for myself and for others.

 

I starting noticing daily patterns taking a negative turn in my life – I started waking up grumpy, struggling through the day to remain patient and be the Mom I knew I wanted to be on a daily basis. I was just plain tired. I had begun all these new things in life but felt void of direction.

 

I’d put tired kids to bed, (hardly without a fight!) and walk back out to a cluttered living room, a sink of dirty dishes, a floor begging to be swept, piles of laundry to be folded and put away, and a sky-high stack of tasks I wanted to and needed to accomplish for work. How motivating, right? Looking at all that chaos made me want to quit before I even started.

 

I knew the problem – I didn’t have any routines in place throughout the day that included allowing time for the basic completion of tasks. Simple, right? I was forgetting to allow time for coaching my children through basic routines in self-care; making sure they were mastering the skills of teeth brushing without assistance, zipping up outerwear, learning how to button a shirt without help, or teaching them responsibility within the family unit such as helping to set the table or clear it after a meal… these basic tasks that I wasn’t slowing down long enough to walk and talk through were causing enormous chaos in our day to day life. I was trying to do it all myself, and I just couldn’t! No one knew what was going on when. Beginning new tasks or mandating a clean-up time for the kids was a huge fight because it wasn’t built in, so it was continually coming as a surprise. 

 

I knew the answer was re-establishing routines – but I was caught up in how much there was to do, I wasn’t allowing the time to simply do it! Sounds totally ridiculous as I type this out right now. But it’s true! Even the most basic of tasks weren’t happening when they should be happening. We felt as though we were always being rushed about and even worse, constantly behind and out of control.

 

This new phase of life we were finding ourselves in was coming with a lot of really great changes! But nothing felt familiar anymore. I knew I had to take steps to recreate some structure so we could enjoy this new phase of life and not waste it.

 

My Action Steps

 

I was tired of feeling like a big fat failure at the end of each day. It was perpetuating the cycles of other negative emotions and actions in my own personal life. So I took action, and here are the basic action steps I took to create some structural change.

 

  • I sat down to write down everything I was currently committed to and sorted them by priority. I must admit, as I started to do this, I started thinking I should purge from my life even my part time job, make drastic changes and it would all work out, clean everything out to make space for parenting alone. Because that is a job enough in itself! (true!!) But something inside me said, “Give it all one last valiant effort, Susan.” So with a sigh, and the knowledge that I’d have to brace and make some big changes, I started out making amendments with my work, my relationships, etc.
  • I cut back drastically on the volume of tasks within my commitments. Not necessarily what I was committed to, but the scale to which I was committed to that thing. I worked through what the perfect amount of workload would look like within each commitment, an amount with which I could thrive instead of just survive, and took action to make sure that was put into place. Wow, what an amazing difference! I readjusted my workload, committing to a fewer number of the tasks that killed my joy without getting rid of them altogether (because they are still important) and I allotted more time to do the things that would continue to bring me greater joy. I wanted to be able to do these tasks even better and more thoroughly. Well, it’s working, for the record! I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my overall feeling of direction and motivation to tackle my workload with gusto!
  • My next action step was to write down what my ideal day with the kids would look like. I included even the most menial of tasks to be sure that the day was structured out perfectly. I imagined us (as I imagine all “perfect parenthood days”) complete with the kids and me riding on the back of a unicorn through a field of thorn-less roses, laughing, hair blowing in the breeze. No sibling rivalry or impatient fluster. And definitely no whining! Realizing that level of euphoric parenting was unrealistic, I embraced the knowledge that challenges in parenting happen and that they are productive and necessary for growth. But I wrote out that ideal schedule and decided to give it a try. In my mind, at the end of each day, the house would be a lot cleaner, we would all be happier, and I’d be more motivated to move on to new tasks efficient because the menial tasks had a place – built into a structured daily routine. Taking a “coaching” approach to parenting is a BIG priority to me. Taking the time to teach through the menial and the mundane gives my children confidence and character – successful tools that will help them be responsible adults, vital contributors to culture.
  • So I typed it up. This idyllic schedule, painfully basic. And that was just the way it needed to be. And something amazing started happening as I began to follow it. Each time I glanced at it I was reminded to slow down! I mean physically slow down! To breathe and work through life’s basic daily tasks. To talk through them with my kids. At the bottom of the routine I wrote “Slow down, mama, and teach as you go.” There’s something innately spiritual in doing simple things with intention. Our children will benefit from it as we will.

 

This routine is nothing fancy or mind-blowingly awesome, but it’s basic and I think it helps bring all of us chaos-crazed parents back to where we need to be. Allowing time for basic tasks, for intentional parenting in the moment, and so much more. And honestly, it’s essential to raising healthy kids. We know that. It’s been studied before! These are not new thoughts by any means! But I hope you’ll bear with me as I share my experience here, and glean inspiration where you would!

 

Settling into daily routines during the day with my kids also helps me also be much more effective as a work-at-home mom. I feel significantly less behind at the end of the day and give myself a whole lot more credit for what I am able to accomplish each day. When the kids go to bed, the mess isn’t as crippling, and my focus is more tuned in as I sit down to work. I’m more productive.

 

So basic routines – essential to family wellness? Yes, I definitely think so. I hope I never underestimate the value of basic and menial routines ever again. They’re essential to success.

 

Need to re-discover some structure in own life as a parent? My printable daily routine is available for you to download! Adjust as needed, every family will be different! But I hope it’s a helpful catalyst for productive change!

 

 

 

 

 

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Five Tips and Activities to Engage Your Kids and Lower Stress at the Same Time

Crazy right? Sometimes when we are stressed out the only thing we can think about is how we need to just get away for a while.

It would be fabulous if we could all get away for some “me time” by ourselves each day, but as you know, if you’re a parent especially, that just does not always happen. Yes, we all do need to get away sometimes and breathe a little, read a book in peace, or grocery shop without a fight. For sure! But if I dwell on how I don’t get enough alone time, odds are, I won’t be a very happy mother! And it can create a downward spiral of unhealthy thinking. Can you relate?!

This morning in Yoga I looked down and realized I had a gigantic smear of baby food on my pants. Great. I easily pushed the thought aside. It didn’t matter. Actually, it made me smile. My life is so about my kids so much of the time, I don’t even notice things like that anymore. Yoga was my “me-time” today, obviously, but I love that even there, in that quiet kid-less space, the daily mess of motherhood is present… and I actually love that. I embrace that. It’s who I am! And I love my kids enormously.

But that in mind, I definitely need creative outlets for myself. I think it’s important for my kids to see me doing things that I enjoy. It’s important for them to see me working out, creatively using my talents, visiting friends or what have you. That being said, I’m hoping to encourage you with ways that you can take care of yourself too while still rocking this motherhood thing.

 

Five Ways to Include Your Kids In Your Self-care Routine

  1. Make them a real priority. This may seem like a strange tip to offer as number one on this list, but seriously… when we truly unplug and get out of our own head long enough to play one more round of hide and seek or build one more lego masterpiece, we are investing in what really makes our little ones happy – time with us. This makes for happier lives all around- less whining, less drama, and consequently less chronically stressed out parents! Am I right? Makes sense to me. And I see this truth in our home, for sure!

 

  1. Show them how it’s done! I want my kids to learn what healthy self-care really looks like. To develop healthy attitudes and become successful adults someday who can handle anything life throws at them. My parents were good at this. I have clear memories of them doing things they enjoyed and including me in those things. I think it’s so important to teach your kids team spirit when it comes to working together as a family unit. Everyone in the family has valid needs and important responsibilities, and everyone needs to know that they are loved and cared for so that the family unit runs as smoothly as possible. It’s good for kids to be shown needs outside of themselves, even if they don’t understand the whole aspect of self care yet. My gym has childcare so I bring my kids with. We make it a fun family outing, pack snacks to enjoy together afterward, and I make a habit of conversing with them about what they enjoyed in kids gym and and how it made them feel. Now eventually my son who is three has now learned to ask me in return, “How was your workout mom?” So I like to think I’m encouraging good communication skills as well, through all of this! A win-win!

  1. Do creative projects together. I feel great when working on creative projects. It’s a huge part of maintaining “me”, if you know what I mean! If I’m playing around with a new recipe or working on a DIY decoration for my home, I obviously would prefer to do it alone. But if I always waited to do it when I was alone, I would hardly ever get to any of these projects, am I right? So sometimes I improvise. I’ll pull up a stool and my kids will join me, and I just have to remind them to follow my directions so we can work together effectively. I’m not about to let having littles at home limit me and my creativity! Since we moved into this apartment more than two years ago, I’ve wanted to get some of my own art up on the walls. Finally this last week, I set everything up and had my son create some art alongside me. (Better late than never, right?) I created some stencils of dinosaurs and had my sweet boy create his own wall art for his room. The results turned out fantastic and he was so proud of his work! I also gulped, let go of perfectionism, and let him help me create a large canvas painting for the living room. I had an old painting I’d found at Goodwill a few years back, and just painted over it with a solid color, and we added our own design inspired by…well… my three year old! And the results totally impressed me, and he was so proud to have contributed! He couldn’t wait to show it off. Processed with MOLDIV

 

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4. Strap in and GO! For the days when I just need to pull out the quiet box of arts and crafts supplies –  complete with glue and glitter –  for my older boy and get some peace and quiet for twenty minutes, I strap my little baby girl into my Tula baby carrier (Can’t live without my Tula!) and hand her a teether. I can then usually pace the floor and fit in reading almost an entire chapter of a book, listen to a sermon or podcast, phone a friend for a few minutes, even catch up on emails. Watch yourself, however, that you set yourself a time limit so you can come back to life in an appropriate amount of time. Hence, the final point, point five…

 

5. I’ll be honest, this doesn’t always work, but it definitely has worked for me often enough  times to make number five on this list… Set a timer! I have an adorable little old school timer that sticks to my fridge and I use it for everything from baking cookies to letting kids know how many minutes until bedtime, and my personal favorite… quiet time. I will set the timer for however many minutes I need, usually no more than 20 or 30, and I will take that time to do a little tidying, wash the dishes, do a little yoga, or even pay a few bills. Not exactly glamorous, but to me, staying on top of life in general clearly helps reduce and lower stress, am I right?

 

If you take away one thing from this post, I would encourage you to readjust your expectations of what it might take to lower stress, especially if you’re a mother of little ones. The answer is probably so much more simple, straightforward, and more pleasant than you think. Maybe consider lowering your expectation a little so that you don’t become discontented or discouraged if you feel you aren’t getting “adequate” you-time on a daily or weekly basis. What is “adequate”, even!? I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to that, it’s probably different for each of us! But I’m finding what works for me, what keeps everyone’s best interests in mind, and helps me not lose myself in this wonderful, amazing journey that is motherhood.

We all can’t wait for that one big break, or even that next vacation… we have to find ways to engage our kids and lower stress right now in this moment so we can continue being an attentive engaging parent. What does this look like practically for you? I bet you have some pretty creative ideas. Leave a comment and let me know!

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Long Term Skin Care Solutions for Truly Radiant Skin (and how we healed our skin for good)

 

Nowadays it’s not uncommon for me to be seen going about my entire week with nothing but a touch of mascara… and lipstick. I am extremely happy with my skin and never feel ashamed of it anymore. I don’t experience oily days and dry days, I don’t have an oily T-zone, or any such thing … and I used to have ALL of those worries!

I get quite a few comments and questions about how I keep my skin so healthy and clear! So I’d like to share with you that it has not always been this way, and what I did about it!

Healing my skin has been part of this journey, this road to better health. You never used to be able to see me leaving my room without makeup, namely, foundation. I was very aware that I had breakouts and deep pores that I needed to do my best to cover up. Not to mention, I spent quite a few dollars on just trying new brands, wasting half (or more) of each bottle, trying to find the right formula for my skin. Not too drying, not to heavy… sigh. I am SO thankful that is all behind me.

I used to pick at my breakouts as well. I know, so bad! Then consequently I’ve had to heal from that scarring as well. The good news is, I am and I have! So let me tell you how.

I can’t actually tell you 100% that it was ONE thing that cured my skin issues. This is because I cleaned up my entire life kind of all at once back in 2013. My skincare, my food, my environment and lifestyle (well, it’s all an ongoing journey!), but since I improved in all of those areas at the same time, you’ll have to leave room for your telling your own story in your own way. But here’s a little snapshot of mine!

My Skincare Plan

  • I cleaned up my diet. The first thing for me was giving up dairy. I have proven that, for my skin anyways, I will get a breakout very shortly after consuming dairy. It’s a fact. Dairy isn’t great on my gut anyways, so I just cut that out completely. That was step one for me. Gluten: This is still somewhat controversial, and I’m not 100 percent sure that gluten directly causes me to breakout, but I DO know for sure that it causes some inflammation and an overall upset body. It has definitely contributed to clearer skin, and a drastic decrease in dandruff. Yes, that’s right… dandruff. Crazy, right!? I experience an itchy scalp if I eat too many grains. I’f I’m piling on the fuits and vegetables and cutting grains with gluten, particularly, I notice a drastic improvement in scalp health. My solution: I just went whole foods vegan. Problem solved. Ha! I laugh, but in all seriousness, it’s true! That was totally the answer for me. A whole foods plant based vegan diet ensures I am getting quality nutrition, TONS of fresh fruits and vegetables, and nearly none of the processed foods. For me this really has been problem solved. However that’s not why I chose this lifestyle, it just happens to be yet another fabulous perk!! Cutting out oils for me has also been huge. Really huge. (Note: I mean processed oils and adding straight up oils to foods, I do not mean healthy fats like avocados, nuts and seeds- those are fabulous in appropriate quantities.)
  • I use ONE skin care product. Thats it. And it’s seriously the best ever… haha and it is in fact called Best Skin Ever (BSE.)  –  Seabuckthorn Best Skin Ever by Living Libations. Nadine is absolutely stunning and perfectly inspiring. This organic skin care product is absolutely heaven bottled up and prepared for the face. I have been using best skin ever for just about three years now. And now we use it all over our bodies – it’s rich and luxurious and the only product we need. It’s the ONE product that sits on our bathroom counter and we use it for cleansing, moisturizing, post shaving, or even while shaving, and it’s gentle enough to apply to my sweet baby’s skin as well. Yes, it even takes care of diaper rash!! Nadine from Living Libations uses very pure, organic essential oils in her blends. They truly work wonders. The essential oils in the BSE have polished away both my and my husbands acne scars. We have thrown out all our unused bottles of ineffective skin care products away – good riddance.
  • Stop using soap and cleansers! Most skin care products alter the delicate PH balance of your skin. I haven’t used a soap based cleanser on my face is years now, and it’s been the best thing that has ever happened to me.
  • Clean up the Air. I make a habit of using and diffusing essential oils in my home to keep the air clean and pure, this makes a big difference in the quality of air that we breathe in –  this is especially important to me becuase we have rented several places and oils are a great way to get toxins and allergens out of the environment even before we move in! Living Libations also sells very pure, high quality essential oils, and Nadine is an absolute wealth of knowledge. Check them out.
  • Hormone Balance. This is another big one for me, my hormones were a big fat MESS growing up, and not balanced until I started taking control of my health in recent years! There is lots of fantastic information out there about balancing your hormones naturally. Reducing stress, avoiding hormonal birth control (boy, have I got a story about THAT!), and getting all your nutrients in. Nutrients like magnesium and selenium I make sure I get enough of. These aren’t major like calcium and vitamin D (also sooo important!), so they can be overlooked. I use this Magnesium Balm made locally, it’s absolutely fabulous. Magnesium can benefit people on multiple levels, and balancing hormones is just one of those ways. My favorite ways to get enough selenium is through eating Brazil nuts once in a while, and portobello mushrooms! Love me some portobello burgers! Mmm!

If all of this sounds like a lot, keep in mind that Ive done these things over a three year period. That’s why I titled this post “long term skin care solutions” because it takes time! Best Skin Ever excellerated the process greatly, but it takes years to heal from acne scarring. There’s really no overnight solution.

My Daily Face Care Routine

  1. I use this Norwex body care cloth in my daily routine, it exfoliates, removes makeup… this thing is amazing.
  2. Add my BSE, (video tutorial instructions on Living Libations website)
  3. Carry on with my day!

Seriously, that is it. This has been my routine for almost three years and it’s been so healing, time saving, and healthy for both skin, mind, and confidence.

I got my husband and friend on board too…

My husband has a history of acne and when I met him he was alternating a few different drug store brands of medicated skin care products. When I started working as a consultant for a major skin care brand, he tried the products and had no success with those either. Then BSE entered the scene. I started my lifestyle of cleaner slower living, tried the Oil Cleansing Method, with a little success, had a bad run in with coconut oil (my skin does not fancy coconut oil), and then one day reading an article about actress Shailene Woodley she said she swears by this product by Living Libations and it transformed her skin. So I was sold! I had to try it. And it has been our skin’s savior. I’m here to attest to it’s magical powers of lowering my stress level too, because its the only product I ever need to use –  no line up of bottles step one, two three. Just one bottle, one easy routine.

A good friend of mine started using BSE this summer as well, and she’s been totally shocked by the results. She’s got the before and afte photos to prove it. She loves that it’s so easy and admits that she was very skeptical going into trying it, but she’s SO glad she did, and it has given her so much more confidence. When she does get a breakout, it’s tackled by the BSE in record time. She’s a huge fan as well. The reviews on Living Libations site speak for themselves, people all over the world are showing their adoration. That’s what originally sold me on it. So you don’t have to just take my word for it.

Clear skin really does begin on the inside. Clean up your mind and clean up your gut. Clean up your home and environment as well. Essential oils are a great way to do all of this, and obviously I’m an advocate for truly clean eating and getting back a whole foods plant based diet.

I am a huge advocate for tackling skin issues with food, first, but BSE is so incredibly wonderful that even if your diet and lifestyle aren’t perfect, BSE is there to give you grace. It’s literally the most amazing thing. I would NEVER promote this if I didn’t believe in it. I’ve been using it for SO long now, and results just keep improving with each year. Unlike many brands or products that will work for a little while and then seem to not all of a sudden… I don’t know if there’s any science behind that, but doesn’t that always seem to happen!? Consequently, I stand behind this enough to write about it, it’s my story! And I realize that I took some pretty extreme steps in my journey to get to this place, so what does your baby step number one look like?

Share in the comments below your favorite natural skin care routine, or your road to better skin! I’d love to hear other’s stories of success and what’s worked for you!

I am an affiliate for Living Libations because their products have transformed the health of my skin and healed it from years of product overuse. So follow this link below and check them out! Living Libations Best Skin Ever

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