Monday, May 21, 2018

The Thought that Changed My Marriage

I remember how frustrated I felt, early in our marriage, as I told my husband: "I feel like ice cream. Nothing else appeals to me. Don't you understand what it feels like to crave something?" My husband, looking a little apologetic, admitted he had no clue. He said sometimes he wanted a specific food, but the idea of wanting something to the exclusion of anything else felt nonsensical. All he knew was hungry and not hungry.

This was a frustration in our marriage more than once until, one day, as I was washing dishes, it occurred to me that there was something my husband felt the same way about - we just hadn't thought to draw the parallel. Excited, I declared: "Cravings are like sex!"

He was a little skeptical until I explained it to him like this: "When you start thinking about sex, it's hard to think about anything else, right? You can't stop thinking about it, and it's hard to concentrate. You could go for a run or try to read a book, and that might work for awhile, but those things aren't going to take care of that desire; only sex will! That's what it's like when I'm craving something."

All of the sudden, he understood, and he's been very empathetic of my cravings ever since. We've shared this story with other couples, because we see the benefit not only for the wife but also for the husband - being able to explain his desire for sex to his wife. The cravings of men and women aren't things we can simply ignore or forget about - they are a very present frustration - and, thankfully, easily taken care of.

Have you struggled to explain your cravings to your spouse? Does this help you to understand or explain cravings yourself? How else might you draw a parallel?

Monday, May 14, 2018

10 Books to Read Before You're a Spouse & Parent

There are countless marriage and parenting books, and although I certainly can't cover all of them, there are some I think are especially important to start you off on the right foot when it comes to being a supportive spouse and parenting with joy.

1. Intended for Pleasure

I've mentioned this book before as one I consider incredibly important to create a healthy, balanced sexual relationship between a husband and wife. It helps you know how to prepare for the wedding night, how to talk about sex with your spouse, how to deal with typical problems that come up, and the science of sex and how it works. It can hopefully foster a practical start to one of the more complicated areas of marriage to navigate.

2. Essentialism

I believe this book is also important as you begin marriage, because it helps you set up guidelines for decision making - particularly when it comes to deciding what will fill your schedule. When coming into marriage, I cannot think of anything more precious than time, and this book can help you recognize where you might be spending time that you shouldn't and how you can refocus on what really matters to you.

3. One Thousand Gifts

When it comes to being a parent and helpmate, it's hard, sometimes, not to get bogged down by the things that are burdens to you. This book really helps me to daily focus on what about my husband and children brings me joy. When I focus on those things, life is better.

4. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

This is a good one to read before you are trying to have kids, as it touches not only on the act of giving birth but also talks about what kind of prenatal care is most important. There are many people in the world who don't understand what normal birth looks like, and this book can open your eyes - even if you don't end up having the kind of birth this book describes.

5. Hands Free Life

This is a great reminder that screens have become the new eye-focus for the majority of people in the world. Why is it important to look away? What impact does it have on relationships when we have conversations without looking one another in the face? When a phone in always in a person's hand? How do our children feel when they are talking to a laptop or a phone instead of their parents? It asks smart questions and challenges in all the right ways.

6. Einstein Never Used Flashcards

This book talks about the excess of education that happens around babies and toddlers. Ever noticed how hard it is to find toys that aren't designed to teach something? Learning will happen naturally as a child grows, and parents will instinctively instruct in what the child needs and wants to learn. A child that is asking to learn will learn better and faster. A fabulous reminder that over-teaching not only doesn't help later, it can do harm.

7. Friends, Partners, and Lovers

This is a great resource for those not yet married, newly married, and married for decades. It talks about the three ways spouses relate to one another, how each of those are important, and what you can do to focus on those, make them better, and improve your marriage.

8. Why You Act the Way You Do

We have all heard something along the lines of: "we don't get along. I'm a melancholy and she's a sanguine." This book outlines the four major personality types, how they combine, how they clash, and how you can work with them. It's wonderful not only for personal growth, but also for understanding and being compassionate with other types of personalities.

9-10. For Men Only/For Women Only

These books discuss the things about the opposite gender that are sometimes hard to bring up or explain with the opposite sex. It tells the hard truth about what the genders struggle with and how best those of the opposite sex can be supportive and compassionate. Worth picking up even if you already feel like you understand what your future spouse or child will be dealing with.

What books would you recommend? Have your read all these books? Did you find them helpful as you related with your spouse or children?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Parenting During Crises: Same or Different?

My husband and I were recently involved in a vehicular accident. We were both injured - on the way to the hospital where my father was prepping for a quadruple bypass after a heart attack. We had dropped the kids off with my in laws, so thankfully they weren't involved in the accident. We got home about six hours later than we had planned, me in a cast and my husband with a head wound. The children had been put to bed without knowing if we would be back. And for the next week, we traveled to and from the hospital - an hour away - to be with my father during his recovery.

This kind of thing takes a great toll on children. You could almost hear them asking question. Why does Mommy keep leaving? Why are they so upset? Why are these people I don't know well taking care of me? Why can't I nurse before bed? When will things be normal?

We explained to our daughter, 2 1/2, what had happened as best we could. She seemed to understand that we had crashed, and that that meant we didn't have the car anymore, and it had hurt Mommy and Daddy. She also seemed to understand that Grandpa was sick, and this made Mommy sad. Our six month old couldn't understand, of course.

Children are resilient, and our daughter handled the situation as well as could be expected. We could tell how stressed she was, and we spent as much time with her as we could. Our son, although also stressed, seemed less bothered and was able to acclimate to his temporary home and "parents" as well as could be expected. I was extremely grateful he was eating solids (and that I have a steady milk supply), since that meant he didn't have to go with us to the hospital every day and miss his naps.

How did our daughter react to the stress? She acted out. She rebelled against routine. She did those things children always do when they want to be reassured. But instead of sticking to her routines and being all the more steady in our expectations, we felt pressured into "taking it easy" and "letting it go".

That was exactly the wrong thing to do. She didn't need us to be relaxed and let her do whatever. She needed something normal amidst all the craziness. She needed to know that bedtime would be the same and that the expectations for her behaviour were the same. Instead, we and those watching her tried to make things easier for ourselves. And I definitely regret it.

Hindsight is 20/20, and as we look back on the situation, we wish we had done things differently. Unfortunately, we can't change the past, but we can do better in the future, and hopefully this can also help you in the midst of your own crises. Yes, your child is upset and stressed, and you want to make it as easy as possible for her, but she doesn't need you to change; she needs you to be the same.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Baby Needs to Cry

Ever since I've been a mother, I've had a difficult time accepting the idea that some babies need to cry themselves to sleep. Couldn't you rock them? Nurse them? Hold them? Sleep with them? Swaddle them? So many options! Surely there must be something the parents are missing.

Then I had a baby to needs to cry himself to sleep. For nearly every nap and bedtime.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Books that Changed My Life

Anyone who spends any amount of time reading will have read at least one book that really impacted them - perhaps because it was a book that changed their way of thinking or because it touched on something that was important to them. I have been an avid reader since I was incredibly young, and I have gone through stages of reading different types of books. Right now, I read almost exclusively non fiction where I hardly ever read it before college. I go through phases where I'll focus on a particular topic or author and really dive in, immersing myself, and hopefully coming out of that more knowledgeable.

Some books have certainly been more impactful than others. The Boxcar Children books were huge for me, when I was eight or so; now not so much. But back then, I certainly wouldn't have been at all interested in books about climate responsibility or the nature of disease. Some really important books didn't do much for me (like Frankenstein) - probably because they weren't new thoughts - and some insignificant books really shaped my world view because I read them at the right time.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Zero Waste - How and Why

I find myself becoming more hippie every day. It was never a goal of mine, partially because there are aspects of the hippie lifestyle that I don't condone, but the granola, tree-hugging, natural-living life appeals to me greatly. This is true for several reasons. First, I am a steward of the earth, and I feel that responsibility strongly. Secondly, I love the art of keeping home, and that involves living more slowly, simply, and naturally - at least it does for me. Lastly, I believe it to be healthier and more beneficial for my family. First I adopted the practice of using natural cleaners and hygiene products, then minimalism, then my family went paper free. It seemed natural that a zero waste lifestyle would follow.

What is a zero waste lifestyle? Put simply, it is the practice of eliminating single-use products from your life and trying to limit your waste to infinitely recyclable or compostable items. For us, this meant getting a compost bin for our home, buying local products we can put in our own containers, and limiting the other things we buy to things in glass, metal, or paper packaging. I find it to be a fun process, and we're getting to know our area better as a result.

Because we're doing a no-spend, right now, we've decided to only purchase on a replacement basis, which is what most zero-wasters do anyway. We did make an exception for the composting bin. We've found a local place to get meat and dairy, another to get grains, and we're still looking for options for produce. I'm working through my list of things to replace items like shampoo and tinfoil. I'm deciding what we'll give up instead of finding an alternative or trying to make ourselves.

To me it's an exciting process. I think my husband finds it stressful, right now, though that will hopefully become less as we become used to the new routines. We've been doing it for a couple weeks, and in the past week have only take out one bag of trash. That's pretty good, considering we don't have our compost bin, yet, and are still getting through single-use products we had before this new venture started. I look forward to seeing how it simplifies and betters our home.

If you're interested in more information, you can check out this website. It includes links to videos, if you would prefer that kind of information.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Adventures in Napping

I am a mother of two.

It's crazy to think about, really. Just three months ago, I was chasing a toddler. Now I'm chasing that same toddler with a chunky, three month old baby in my arms. And I love it. My daughter dotes on her little brother, always wanting to be close to him, letting me know when he's crying (as though I can't hear it), and constantly chattering to him while he stares at her, taking in every word. It's incredibly precious.

One thing I wasn't exactly prepared for, after having a new baby, was the numerous regressions that took place in my toddler after her brother was born. I was prepared for jealousy. Didn't happen. I was prepared for aggression. Didn't happen. What did happen were three different regressions, one of which I didn't know could happen: eating, sleeping, and pottying.