Mothering From Your Heart.

I get so tired of the noise.

So tired of the world telling me how I should raise my children and build my family.  It’s exhausting.

Oh?  Your son isn’t potty trained?  You use disposable diapers?  Your kids aren’t playing any sports?  How many play dates do you schedule a week?  Your kids don’t know how to code?  You don’t work?  Aren’t you eating all organic?  You know, those pesticides… (insert shaking head.)  You don’t travel?  You haven’t even taken your kids to Disneyland?  (Insert audible *GASP*)

My head spins with all these expectations.

The world is in confusion.  Can you feel it?  Families are under attack.  Experts weigh in on raising our kids, celebrities voice opinions on marriage, news articles convey the latest trend that- guess what? is proven wrong the next day.  No one seems to know up from down or right from wrong.

Pure confusion.  I’ve had enough of it.

My best mothering moments come when I pull back from the world.  I turn off my screens, take a quiet moment and prayerfully look into my heart.  This is when I feel the quiet, whispering guidance that I desperately seek.

These quiet times have brought great fruit into my life.

I found powerful ways to strengthen my marriage.  I felt the push to cancel an extracurricular activity that was putting too heavy a burden on our family.  We now have more time at home, to just be together.  I found ways to improve a weakness that I’ve been struggling with my entire life.  I created ways to connect with my children one-on-one.

Great fruit.

But you know what?  None of these ideas are in align with the world’s view.  In fact, most are in complete opposition.  And if I hadn’t stepped away, I would have never seen these answers that were just waiting for me.  Like ripe apples, hanging low on the branches.

I know what is best for my family.  And YOU. DO. TOO.

Take time this week to step back.  Prayerfully look into your heart and find the answers you seek.

Let the confusion swirl around you.  You know what’s right.

Love Dawnie

 

Are You Ready For Summer?!?!?

What is your initial reaction to summer?  I have two:

#1: AHHHHHHH!  Yes!  We can finally slow down.  I get the kids home more.  We can sleep in a bit, relax a bit, and just have fun.

#2: AHHHHHHH!  How am I going to do this?  How am I going to entertain and manage all these kids all day, everyday?!?!  I’m going to lose it!!

I tend to fluctuate between the two emotions daily and reaction #2 usually leads to me locked away in the pantry, eating m&ms.  (I have a secret shelf no one under 4 1/2 feet can reach.  It’s a mothering necessity.)

But overall, I really love summer.  The slowness of the days, the outside play- it’s the kind of stuff that childhood is made for.   I want my kids to relish and enjoy their summers in a toes in the sand, popsicle melting on sticky fingers kind of way.

This kind of summer cannot happen in front of a screen.

There isn’t any secret dirt-licking or sprinkler-running or friendship-making.  Just mind-numbing zombieness.

No thanks.

So how can we create a summer that is magical, mostly screen-free AND keep ourselves sane?

Planning, my friend.  Planning.

Luckily for us, there are millions of ideas out there for planning a great summer (search for it on Pinterest.  You’ll be busy for hours.)  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Set up a daily schedule.  Create a general outline to follow everyday.  This way your kids will know what to expect, and you won’t let things like daily reading fall by the wayside.  And importantly, electronic time will be scheduled, with a well-defined time frame.  Print it out and post it on the fridge.
  • Set up a weekly schedule.  A common theme floating around the internet is scheduling a different activity every weekday morning- Make a Craft Monday, LEGO Tuesday, Water Activities Wednesday, Field Trip Thursday, Service Friday.  You could create any sort of theme you want.  I’ve even seen some moms schedule certain days for playing with friends, but keep other days for just family activities.  Create a plan around what YOU want to have happen with your family.  (You better believe I’m going to plan one entire morning for trips to the library.)
  • What if you also set up a weekly theme?  For one whole week, you could take a teddy bear everywhere you go and document his adventures.  The next week could be all about nature.  Go to as many outside places that you can and make a “nature collection”.  Or a LEGO week or a READ-A-THON week or science week or service week.  Once you get thinking, I’ll bet your ideas come quickly.  Cater it to your family.
  • One of my favorite summer activities was planning a mini summer camp with a neighbor friend.  The camp was for one week.  I took Monday and Wednesday, she took Tuesday and Thursday.  On our days, we were responsible for a two hour activity.  They ranged from sponge-ball making and water games to homemade play-dough.  Friday we took big field trip to a nearby park.  IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!  My kids had a blast and I got a bit of a break.  Win-win.
  • Summer Bucket Lists are amazing.  Take one night with your family and have everyone write down 5 things they want to do this summer.  And they don’t all need to be big.  Sometimes the smallest activities are the most memorable.  Our favorites have been watching a sunset in the park, dipping toes in cold creek water and learning how to make amazing milkshakes.

To start your planning, I created a little visual for you (because that’s how my brain works).  Feel free to pull out a piece of paper and jot down your thoughts.

It starts with writing down your most important goals this summer.  Maybe it’s an increased closeness with your family, working on your son’s reading skills or just simply getting your nine year old to finally learn how to ride a bike (yep, that’s one of ours).

The questions then help you analyze last summer and decide how to improve.  And finally… map out all your plans!!!

Artboard 1@2x

One last thing I want to mention.  Do you have any goals just for you?  Summer is not just a time to cater to everyone else’s needs.  It can be a time of growth for you, too.  Be sure to take some time to do something you love.  I am signed up for a bike ride with a great friend and I’m also planning on hiring my oldest daughter as a “mother’s helper” a few times a week so I can read and create on this blog.  What about you?

Bring on summer!

 

Creating A Thriving Life

A few weeks ago, I shared a post about Creating More Happiness In Your Life.  I appreciate the huge response.  It was a topic very close to my heart.

Today I wanted to share a bit more.

In fact, I wanted to create a short series, for the next four Fridays, that will help you not just “be happy” because let’s be real, happiness can come and go with our mood.  I want you to find MORE than happiness, I want you to learn how to thrive.  To be reaching and stretching.  To have happy, fun times, but also find a deeper connection with God, your family and yourself.

To put it simply- be thriving.

There is an incredible theory in the world of psychology, put out by Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, called the Well-Being Theory (Flourish, 2011 Seligman).  He and his colleagues have done decades of research creating and testing this theory.  He argues that in order for a person to thrive, or in other words have “well-being,”  they need four elements in life:

  1. Positive Emotion
  2. Engagement
  3. Meaning
  4. Relationships

A quick definition of each:

  • Positive emotion: The feelings you feel everyday- pleasure, enjoyment, warmth, comfort, etc.
  • Engagement: The psychology world uses the term “flow” to describe this.  Flow is when you’re doing an activity and are so engrossed that time seems to stop and you lose self-consciousness.  Usually it happens when you’re using your best strengths, for example, a pianist deep into the music or a researcher deep into studying.  You usually don’t feel much emotion during flow, but afterwards you may think- “huh, that was fun.”
  • Meaning:  Belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than yourself.
  • Relationships: Positive relationships with other people.

Imagine your life is like a building; held up with four pillars.  Your well-being is the top level.  The pillars represent each element.  If all the pillars are strong and straight, your building is steady.  But… if one of those pillars is leaning or absent, the top will precariously tilt or even fall off.

Well-Being Image@4x

I know what unbalanced pillars feel like.  Do you?  For me, it usually manifests through depression, loneliness or unrest.

At the risk of being too personal, here’s an example from my life. 🙂

I lived in Las Vegas with my family the year after my husband graduated from law school.  He was working full-time and studying for not just one, but two bar exams.  This left me to take care of the children and all their needs, keep up the home, and keep my husband fed and functioning.  For an entire year.  With no breaks.  I was also super pregnant.  During this time, I threw myself into taking care of my family and consequently, isolated myself from others.  The result?  I hit the deepest depression I’ve ever felt.

My “meaning” pillar was completely intact and strong.  I was definitely serving something bigger than myself, but the rest of my building?

My relationship pillar?  Gone.

My engagement pillar?  Nonexistent.  Because let’s be honest- changing diapers and doing dishes do not provide any sort of fulfillment (well… unless you’re a diaper). 🙂

My well-being tipped and tipped until finally, it just fell.

It took years of work for me to dig back out.  I had to rebuild my pillars brick by brick.  Some were painful.  The relationship pillar was the hardest.  Creating friendships and maintaining them is by far, one of my hardest challenges in life.

But I did it.  And boy, it was so worth it.

So my goal is to help you create strong, steady pillars that create a thriving life.  Or at least plant a seed that may one day sprout when needed.  We will work through these elements one by one.

 

Today’s Pillar: Positive Emotion.

Positive emotion is exactly what it sounds like- any feeling that is positive- pleasure, rapture, ecstasy, warmth, comfort, fun, happiness and adventure.  To thrive, we need more positive emotions everyday.

Sounds great, right?

Sounds easy?  Um…..

I’m really good at helping my children create positive emotion.  I make them cookies (pleasure).  I tuck them in and sing them a song (warmth).  I give them time to relax (comfort).  I create activities for them to do (fun and adventure).

But for myself?  Historically, I’ve been terrible at this.

But I’m not terrible anymore.  In fact, I’m getting down right amazing at it.   I fight tooth and nail to keep this pillar strong.  I know that taking care of myself is worth every second of effort.

You’re worth it too.

I want you to create a list of things you can do to “infuse” your life with good feelings.  This list will be totally unique to you.  These things don’t need to be big.  In fact, science has proven that- exercise, journaling, expressing gratitude, volunteering, savoring happy memories, forgiving and meditating- all boost mood.  And those are little things!

Sometimes, this is just a deliciously warm shower all by yourself.  Sometimes it’s praying and studying the scriptures.  Reading.  Taking a walk.  Other times it can be bigger- creating, learning something new, planning a vacation, or just finding something ridiculously fun that you want to do.

Here are a few example from others:

  • I have a friend who needs a nap. Every. Single. Day.  Her body just seems to need more sleep than others.  So she recognized that need and builds it into her everyday.  Her kids know she needs it and have learned to have their own “quiet time” while mom is resting.
  • Another mom loves to travel.  She has four young children (and is pregnant with her fifth), so money and time are short, but she and her husband make a big trip every 6 months. No matter what.  This gives her something to look forward to and plan and save for while she’s in the midst of everyday life.
  • Another mom joined an adult soccer league.  She plays once a week after her kids are in bed.  There is no other purpose in this than simply creating positive emotions!
  • Another woman is a writer.  She writes in her journal everyday.  She wakes up before anyone else and spends 30 minutes writing her thoughts.  It gives her clarity for the remainder of the day.

Your turn.  Pull out a piece of paper and write a list of things that bring you happiness and fun.  Start with small, everyday things you can do, like exercising and praying.  Move to bigger things that you have always wanted to do.

Take this list and post it on your fridge.  Do something everyday that makes you happy.  Don’t wait until you’re pillar is weak and tipping.  Be proactive.  Do something everyday to keep it strong.

You’re assignment this week:  Do something everyday from your list and pay careful attention to how it makes you feel.

P. S.  If you’re wondering how you’ll ever have time to do any of this.  Please read The Fringe Hours.  By Jessica N. Turner.  It is an incredible book about finding time for yourself.  It changed my life.

P.P.S.  Come back next Friday for Pillar #2: Engagement!!

Creating More Happiness In Your Life

Do you ever feel like you aren’t as happy as you should be?  Whether it’s a big, tough debilitating depression or simply an everyday sadness or just wondering why you’re not feeling as happy as you should be.

I know I’ve been there.

I remember one day, a few years ago, as I was entering my home, I caught a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror.  My jaw dropped.  Who was this woman?  Her uncombed hair was piled on top of her head.  A ratty sweater peeked out from beneath a red coat.  She definitely didn’t have a bra on, and her yoga pants didn’t quite make it down to the wool socks piled at her ankles; leaving an inch of skin exposed to the January weather.  Winter boots, hastily tied and an 18 month old on her hip completed the ensemble.

Yikes.

But it was her tired, lifeless eyes that hit me the hardest.  She was not happy.

That day I realized I was tired, overwhelmed and frankly just muddling through the everyday monotony of life.  It was a soul-searching, life-changing moment.

I wanted to fix it.  I wanted to be living and thriving, not just surviving and boy, I wanted to be happy.

This sent me down a three year hole of work and study on depression, positive psychology, grit, resilience, life lists, etc.

I could go on and on about everything I’ve learned, but for now, I want to share one thing you can do TODAY to create more happiness in your life.  This idea comes from a guy nicknamed the “Father of Positive Psychology”, Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman.  He has spent his entire career studying positive psychology and resilience.  (If you’re interested, grab some of his books from the library.  They’ll change your life).

Through all his research, Dr. Seligman has found one practice- one simple thing- that you can do everyday that will improve your depression and increase your happiness.  It worked for everyone he studied.  Even for those who were in such a deep depression they couldn’t see a way out.

It worked for me. It. Changed. My. Life.

The exercise is:  What Went Well.  At the end of everyday, you need to write down three things that went well that day.  And this is the important part-  WHY THEY WENT WELL.

For example:

  • “My son took a much needed nap”  WHY DID THIS HAPPEN? “Because I saw how grumpy he was and I made him rest”
  • “My husband got a new job”  WHY?  “Because my husband has been networking and working really hard to find work.”
  • “I spoke with someone new today”  WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?  “Because I put myself out there and tried.”

I began by putting a blank notebook on my bed.  I divided it into two columns: “What went well” and “Why”.  Every night before I went to bed, I wrote down three things.  Then I left it out on my bedroom floor, so I didn’t forget the next night.

I felt happier AFTER JUST THE FIRST DAY.

Seriously.  It was a palpable difference.  I am now addicted to this practice.  It allows me to focus on the good and relish in the positive.   I won’t go into the science behind why this works for the sake of brevity, but I challenge you to try this.  Now.  Write down three good things that happened today and why they happened.   (I’m a pen and paper kind of girl, but you could easily do this on your phone with an alarm to remind you.)

What do you have to lose?  Let that happiness soak in. 🙂