D is for Dance Party! :)

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

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Pencils down. Let’s have a dance party!

Don’t you feel better just hearing that? I know I do!

Turn up the music. Push the coffee table out of the way. It’s time for some fun.

My oldest son has always been just a little too cool for dance parties, but the other kiddos will jump around and be silly with me. Even my “too cool” son hangs out with us and laughs. (with us, not at us – I promise!!) In less than five minutes everyone is happy and laughing and having a blast. Five minutes after that, everyone is getting worn out and is about ready to call it quits. Five minutes after that, everyone is sitting down – or sprawling out – with a big, exhausted smile on their face. The power of the dance party is amazing!

I love a good spontaneous dance party. Now, I’m going to use the power of the dance party for double good.

When things are getting too tense… More accurately, when am getting too tense… When I can’t bear to hear someone sound out one more word… When the toddler and her incessant interruptions are about to drive me insane…

…I’m calling a time out and we’re having a dance party. I’m even going to put a sticky note in our school room so that I don’t forget that a dance party is always and option.

I’m starting to realize that I’m not stressed out because I don’t have the tools to not be stressed out (Wow! That was a lot of negatives. Did you follow that?) I’m stressed out because I don’t put the tools I already have to good use. If I could see an eruption on the horizon, but stop and put everything on hold for a dance party, I’m pretty sure the eruption wouldn’t happen. Nerves would be calmed. Tensions would be eased. Restlessness would be relieved. And, after everyone catches their breath and grabs some water, I think it would be possible to get back to work with a much better outlook and attitude.

So it turns out that “D” isn’t just for dance party; it’s also for deciding to use the tricks and tools I already have to combat, and maybe even prevent, stress.

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C is for Cuddling

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

2014-10-25 07.25.58Did you know that cuddling releases oxytocin? If you don’t know about oxytocin, you should look it up. Our bodies are amazing! Among other things, oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security. Research has shown that oxytocin can decrease anxiety and protect against stress! And cuddling releases oxytocin! It seems to me that means cuddling can reduce stress! Sweet!

It seems so easy.

But it hasn’t been for me.

I’ve been trying to cuddle my kids and my husband more leading up to writing this post. I wanted to offer some anecdotal evidence that cuddling can actually reduce stress.

If you asked me, I’d say I really like to cuddle, so I thought this would be super easy.

The problems isn’t so much with cuddling itself, but sitting there feeling like I’m doing nothing. Moments after I sit down and snuggle in, my mind starts racing with all the things I “should” be doing instead. Then, I cut the snuggle session short and get back to my never ending to do list.

So, I can’t tell you yet if cuddling produces a noticeable difference in stress levels. What I can tell you is that I need to create time to cuddle. Then, once I’ve created that time, I need to be content in my cuddling – just enjoy the moment. Clear my mind. Allow myself freedom from my to-do list long enough to just cuddle and enjoy myself.

So that’s my new goal. Every day, I want to create some time to cuddle. I want to clear my mind and be content in the moment. And, hopefully, my body will use all these wonderful “C” words as an opportunity to release some oxytocin and drown out my stress.

S, T, U – Surrender to the Unexpected

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

expect the unexpected

Surrender to the unexpected.

This is a lesson the control freak in me really needs to learn. It’s a good life lesson in general, but with 5 kids, it’s unavoidable. Something unplanned, unexpected, or inconvenient happens nearly every day. Sometimes multiple times a day.

In my head I’m the kind of person who rolls with the punches. I’m flexible, up for anything, and can easily change plans. I’m spontaneous, unpredictable, and a lot of fun.

In reality I’m not really like that at all.

To keep my household, which includes our homeschool, running smoothly, I have to be fairly organized and on a schedule. I’m not the type to write out a schedule in 15 minute increments, but I have a pretty clear idea about what we need to accomplish and the time frame we need to accomplish it in.

But life often gets in the way. Spills happen. Someone gets a booboo. Art projects take longer than expected. Little boys paint mattresses with toothpaste.

A lot of times these kind of things freak me out. The more I can see our schedule melting into oblivion, the more stressed out I become.

But that’s not how I want to be.

I want to be more like the person I imagine myself to be. I want to surrender to the unexpected, go with the flow, and readjust as needed. Most importantly I want to do that without my stress level going through the roof.

Because the truth of the matter is that all that unplanned, unexpected stuff is what life is made of. If I keep trying to avoid it all, I could be missing out on some of the best life has to offer.

K is for Keeping up Appearances

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

50s familyI recently took dinner to a friend from church. She just had her 5th baby and 5th c-section. She answered the door and she looked FABULOUS. She was dressed cute, had makeup on, her hair was curled…the works.

I complimented her appearance and she said something like, “Well, we had our two week checkup today. I couldn’t take all the kids to the pediatrician looking run-down and haggard.”

I knew exactly what she meant.

Every time I take my family anywhere I put so much pressure on them and myself.

I fix my hair and put on makeup. I frantically try to find something to wear that is cute, clean, somewhat stylish, happens to fit my postpartum body, and also provides easy access for nursing.

As for the kids, I ensure they’re clean and well-dressed before we leave the house. Then, on the way to wherever we’re going, I spend several minutes reviewing appropriate behavior for whatever setting we will be in.

When we get back in the car from wherever we’ve been, I review every detail of their performance that could have been better. I even include my poor husband in the review.

It’s insane. (The above description of my behavior really doesn’t do it justice. That’s the sugar-coated version. I’m really kind of a lunatic.)

Because we have a somewhat large family, people often say ugly things to us in public. Over the years, I’ve worked really hard to try to eliminate everything that strangers can possibly critique or use as ammunition against us when we’re out an about. I guess I figured that if we appeared perfect, they wouldn’t be able to say anything ugly.

But the truth is, it hasn’t worked. Even when my kids are looking pristine and on their very best behavior, people still say ugly things.

So I quit.

Or at least I’m trying to.

I’m really trying to quit putting on a show for everyone. I’m really trying to just be us, for better or for worse. I’m really trying to stop making myself and my family crazy.

I certainly still expect my kids to behave appropriately, but I’m shifting my focus. I’m teaching them to behave appropriately because it’s the right thing to do, not because I’m worried about what some stranger might think or say.

I’m done keeping up appearances for the sake of my family.

…And because I’ve finally realized that I can’t control what other people think, say, or do anyway…no matter how hard I try.

 

 

 

J is for Juggling

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

busy momAdding a new baby to the mix shakes things up. Changes your routine. Makes everything different. This is exactly as it should be as you learn how to be a family with your newest little member.  I recently found this awesome analogy written by a woman who just had her third child.

“Adding a new baby to your family is a bit like adding a ball of fire to your juggling routine. The norm is thrown off balance, management of the unknown ball of fire becomes a big priority, and you find yourself living in chaos as you try to not drop all the balls at once into a fiery heap. Eventually the fire fades, the balls equal out, and a new normal takes over.

Having done this adding game three times in the past four years, I find that even though the initial addition is always difficult to juggle no matter how many times I’ve done it before, the new normal resumes more quickly each time. For that I am thankful.” [Read the rest here.]

I can’t think of a more perfect description.

I definitely feel like I’m juggling these days. But, this time around, my ball of fire isn’t my newborn, it’s my school work.

As I desperately try to wrap up these last two month of graduate school, it really feels like it might all come crashing down and engulf everything in flames at any given moment.

My sweet husband keeps patiently reminding me that the end is just around the corner. Intellectually, I know he’s right, but it still seems so far away.

I’ve ordered my cap and gown, my graduation invitations have arrived, and we’re starting to work on party details. But, somehow, graduation seems farther away then ever. How is that possible?

I is for Immunizations

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

vaccine clipartI don’t think there’s any parenting dilemma that makes me crazier than immunizations.

The pro-vaccine crowd is quick to tell you that if you fail to vaccinate your children in the exact way, in the exact order,  and on the exact timetable they tell you, your child could contract a terrible disease, suffer, and even die.

The anti-vaccine crowd is quick to tell you that if you do vaccinate your children, the effects caused by injecting all those foreign substances and chemical preservatives into your very small child could cause some horrible consequences, causing your child to suffer and even die.

Dammed if you do. Dammed if you don’t.

In the eight years I’ve been a parent, I have never seen a good, balanced article that fairly weighs the pros and cons of each individual vaccine based on facts. All I’ve ever seen or heard is a bunch of fear mongering encapsulated in all or none mentalities. That makes me crazy.

Parenting is hard. There’s an endless supply of information and advice about what you need to do to be a good parent and raise a safe, healthy child. Many times parents will have to make tough choices, sometimes choosing between the lesser of two evils. Parents deserve to be able to make these decisions based on facts, not fear.

This is precisely why no one is capable of having a rational discussion about vaccines. Because regardless of which way a parent leans, they think they’re protecting their child from suffering and death. If you challenge their mindset by asking for supporting facts, even if it’s just because you’re curious or trying to make the decision for yourself, people freak out. They assume that by questioning their decision you’re suggesting that their child should suffer and die. No one can have a logical conversation when they think the alternative choice would cause their child to suffer and die.

Parents deserve better. We should base our parenting choices on facts not fear. And we should be offered information that enables us to do so.

H is for “How Do You Do it?”

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series. 

2014-03-06 15.37.40“How do you do it?” This is one of the most common questions I get asked. People observe my family size and automatically assume that I must be more patient, more organized, or richer than they are. The truth is, I’m not. I’m probably a lot like you. And I haven’t uncovered any secret parenting advice that makes everything magically fall in to place either.

I’m just a mom who loves being a mom (most days) and who is willing to do what it takes to make it work.

Just like you, I take my challenges one day at a time. I prioritize and problem-solve the best way I know how.

Sometimes I even have to swallow my pride and ask for help.

I wish I had some secret parenting advice to share. Then, maybe I could write a best seller and travel and get rich sharing my secret with the world. Then, I wouldn’t need to be patient or organized because I could just hire people to help with whatever tasks I didn’t want to do. But, alas, that’s not the world I live in. And I think I prefer it that way.

When my friends become new mommies they always call and ask me for my secrets. I’m flattered, but I’m afraid I probably leave them disappointed. All I say is,

Never count the dirty diapers or lost hours of sleep. Only count the precious moments like baby smiles and the “wuv you”s uttered by your toddler.

Remember that you and your husband are a team; it’s way too easy to make him the enemy and take things out on him.

And, most importantly, be patient with YOURSELF. You’re just learning how to be a mommy. It takes a lot of hard work and will stretch you in ways you never knew you could bend.