Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cleaving and Becoming An Adult

There is an awkward stage that every young adult goes through where he goes from being a child to being an adult. It's awkward for both the parents and the child, because there is a combination of still wanting to parent/be parented and yet wanting to make decisions that will impact the future you wish to have.

I knew from an incredibly young age (around 8) that I wanted to be a wife and mother. I never wanted to be anything else. I planned on getting married the day I turned 18 and popping out babies every year or so while my husband worked and I stayed at home. To me, this described the ideal life. My parents were supportive. They knew how important a wife and mother who stays at home can be, and they believed I was following the natural path for the majority of women.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Giving Up Meat

That's one big kohlrabi!

I have this really great husband to whom I can suggest anything reversible, and he's always willing to try. Early fall, I made a rather scary life change suggestion: "What would you think about trying Veganism for awhile?"

We weren't even avoiding meat (not at ALL. We love our local meat), but something had happened that really had changed how I felt about eating it all the time: my father had suffered a heart attack. After doing a lot of reading and research, I started a new running routine and thought that some diet changes could really be helpful in keeping our bodies working well. The diet change was approved, and we went from eating meat nearly every meal to no meat, dairy, or eggs. We were already sugar free and mostly oil and pasta free, so we knew it would be an adventure!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Why I Prioritize A Clean Home Over Playing with My Kids

Before kids, it was easy to keep house. I had way more time to accomplish everything than I needed, most of the time, and even with chronic health issues, I managed to get dishes done, the bed made, and the living room vacuumed. After my first child came, it got a little harder. When the second came along, it got a little more difficult. Then we embraced minimalism, and although that didn't eliminate the need to clean up, it did make things easy again.

But there were times when I noticed my husband seemed a little less relaxed when he got home. He didn't complain, but I could tell that when he came home and things were messy, it added stress to his life. Coming home wasn't a time to let loose and relax - he felt a need to clean up!

I tried to excuse the messy house by saying: "at least I was spending time with the kids. They're pretty important, right?" But even as I said it, it didn't feel right. I was home all day with the kids. And when my husband came home from work, the last thing I should expect from him was to jump right back into work by cleaning house. Everyone tells you that cleaning up isn't as important as spending time with your kids, because life is short. They won't always be this age... Right?

As much as the idea appealed to me, I still didn't feel it was the correct response. The basic problem was that although my children wouldn't be this age forever, they didn't need to be "enjoyed" 24-7. They also would not be the person I would live with the rest of my life - that was their daddy, and he was a priority above them.

So I had to make an attitude adjustment and a few life adjustments. Yes, I still spend time with my children. Yes, I still enjoy them and take pleasure in seeing the stages of life as they go through them. But around 5PM, I focus on supper and preparing the home for my husband to arrive. To see him walk in the door to a clean home and warm supper, watch the weariness of the day being left at the door, that is a wonderful blessing. And my kids don't mind when he's in a better mood, either.

Monday, May 28, 2018

What I Don't Do to Help My Marriage

When it comes to a clean house, my husband and myself, well, we tend to be sticklers. We like our home to be at least tidy at all times. Being minimalists, it isn't too hard, and clean up even after the worst our kids and ourselves can manage, it will rarely take more than ten minutes to straighten things up. This is one of the nice side effects of minimalism.

There is one thing, however, that we don't bother cleaning up: our supper mess. This may seem a little controversial, but we habitually leave the kitchen when we're done with supper and don't bother with it that night. We rarely even clear the table.


Because our kids go to bed and it's adult time. It's not that we hate cleaning - obviously, we don't mind - but being on our feet after we've both had a long day... it feels like drudgery. We've tried one of us cleaning up while the other puts kids to bed. We've tried cleaning up together. We've tried taking turns with the task. No matter what, it just eats up our time - and our moods - in a way that makes our special time alone much less satisfying. So we leave it. The next morning, I get up early and clean up supper mess, which takes about 15 minutes, and I actually enjoy it. We still get the satisfaction of a clean kitchen in the morning, and we don't sacrifice the time together the night before.

It is a common argument that cleaning up doesn't take much effort, it makes your morning brighter, and the fact you're doing it together can be romantic and fun. Maybe it is that way for you, and if so, great! But if it isn't, is it possible you could do things a little differently and be better for it? It does seem counter-intuitive to leave a mess when a clean home relaxes you, but sometimes other things are more important.

Is there a task you do differently than people recommend because it makes sense for your family?

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.