As my loyal readers are already aware, my daughters' affinity for blueberries sparked a series in which I highlight our favorite children's books, dubbed Blueberry Books. But what about us poor, exhausted parents confused by a culture that labels us as monsters for giving our toddlers a time-out, therefore humiliating them (???), and assumes we are neglectful if our children aren't playing at least two different sports before they enter Kindergarten? What about us? Well, the parenting fog and fears I experience regularly, as I wrote about in "The 'L' Word", are the reason I decided to begin a new series about parenting books I believe are worth sharing, called Blueberry Martini Books!
***Disclaimer: I am not condoning alcohol as a healthy coping mechanism. But, if I'm being honest, I will admit I indulge on occasion with a nightcap when all other avenues of stress relief have failed me. But I am usually too drowsy by the second or third sip to stay awake and enjoy the few, fleeting moments of adult time. The title of this series is intended to be very tongue in cheek. Please. Don't take me too seriously.
Brenna, author of Coach Mom, is a fit, composed mother of five (four boys, and the youngest, a girl) and wife of a Pastor. Little did I know she is just a regular mom, unorganized and tardy by nature, who was blessed with the birth of five children in nine years. "I have a hard time even remembering to close cabinet doors after I open them," she shared. While Brenna began to explain the difficulties in running such a large household, I sat with bated breath, anxious to hear her secrets! Though I took great tidbits from her speaking engagement, her book really lays it all out! I was hooked from the intro:
Many moms can claim only to be survivors in their homes when they have young children. Our hurried culture only compounds the chaos and feelings of defeat. Through prayerful trial and error, I've found some answers. This book explores seven key principles, or strategies, for developing your family into a smoothly functioning team, on which every member has a role and plays an important part.
Although I loved sports as a child and teenager, I did not possess a killer, super-competitive instinct. I was a little concerned I wouldn't relate to all the sports references in the "7 Strategies for Organizing Your Family into an All-Star Team". I quickly resolved it as a harmless analogy. Despite Coach Mom conjuring up the horrors of the locker room and endless sprints, I didn't break a sweat. However, it did leave me feeling hydrated.
You want to do more than survive. You want to make the most of this season with little ones; you want to be as effective and intentional as you can be, creating a warm and peaceful home, nurturing your children, and growing in your marriage and other meaningful relationships. I want to propose to you, the mom, that you are the coach of your home team. You set the pace and tone, you cheer others toward their goals as you reach your own, and you give the pep talk at the end of a hard day when a team member is discouraged. You can move your team toward victory in every area of life by organizing your family into an all-star team.
Re|Engage series, our change in strategy by choosing to live in God's image when it comes to our marriage was life altering! Now to focus on my role as a God-honoring mother. With each of Brenna's seven strategies for running a more amicable household she offers seven practical and specific applications as a sort of "from runway to reality" concept. Coach Mom allows me to take brilliant ideas and evangelical scriptures and execute them in my menial and even daunting tasks as a mother of two small children- much like I would take an abstract, unattainable designer top and pair it with leggings from JCPenney, wedges from Target, and a sweater from Old Navy. (Ok, so I wouldn't really wear that top and you won't find a knock off of these gold Balenciaga leggings at JCP. But you get my drift.)
I find it's hard to live a life of love when I'm already running behind schedule and can't find my car keys...or when I'm overwhelmed with my home and feel I'm the only one working to keep it going...or when I'm frazzled and can't find time to pray...or when I'm running from one self-imposed crisis to the next, feeling the guilt of over commitment and not following through with jobs, leaving them half done...or when company is coming and a panic attack is beginning as I look at the disorder in my house. Yes, home management is definitely a spiritual issue.
My husband works 24 hours on, 48 hours off at the fire station. Sometimes he needs to play catch up after a rigorous, sleepless night. Other times, he has to suck it up and push through family functions, birthday parties, and/or vacations despite sleep deprivation and insomnia. As a loving wife, friend, and partner I have put major focus on giving him every opportunity to rest as possible. Decades of tones going off (the alarm noise that signals the firefighters need to spring into action) dulling his fight or flight response and the loss of sleep at least every third night will, in fact, cut years off the end of his life. I want to do all I can to reverse that. He's already nine years older than me.
The result? Our home is chaotic. We have no schedule. I can't ever plan social events ahead of time. Even if/when I do, there's always the normal risk one of the girls will catch a cold and we will be unable to attend. But also there is a risk that Daddy will need to rest and we have to reschedule...for yet another day when we have no way of knowing what that day will look like either. Thus, I have no regular cleaning calendar for the house, no daily activity schedule for the girls, and all my friends (and especially new acquaintances) think I'm flighty, or worse, that I don't like them. In reality, I just don't know what we're doing for the next two days until he comes home from the station. And never mind people planning fun weekend events. I don't know what weekends are because all the normal "9 to 5ers" make it too congested for us to want to venture out. That will all change when both girls are in school though...over two years from now.
After living in a state of disarray for several years now, I have had enough. Despite his crazy schedule, we need to at least function at a level of managed chaos. In the past five years, I gave birth to two children, we had our first home on the market twice (both times each baby was not even a year old), built a custom home from scratch, and moved twice. I'd like my head to stop spinning now.
So, I recently opened my heart and denied my own pride to accept that I cannot master my life on my own. In Coach Mom, Brenna explains the importance of motivating, respecting, praising your players by giving them a voice and offering a choice, emphasizing and encouraging family dinners, dealing with disobedience (swiftly and without anger). And that's only the first strategy!
One of the most eye-opening sections was the one entitled,
"Getting Back to the Family Dinner":
Which of the following do you think is most important in child development?
- The family dinner
- Story time
Catherine Snow, professor of education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, studied 65 families over an eight-year period. She found that dinnertime was of more value to child development than playtime, school, and story time.
(You know I wanted it to be #4 sooo badly! Eh. Back to the kitchen I go.)
Brenna breaks through scheduling roadblocks and time-management pitfalls, helps you bust through clutter and distractions with the simplest of suggestions, such as keeping the area around your kitchen sink clean during busy periods of the day. "Family life revolves around the kitchen sink- period...When my sink is clear, my mind seems to be clearer too. It's a simple strategy, but it delivers a punch." Furthermore, she goes into detail on big issues, like how to organize your home and your finances, and even smaller topics, as in simplifying children's birthday parties and lunch box solutions. It's one of those books that is nice to have on hand as a quick reference. I find myself re-reading parts of it from time to time, leaning on it like that one girlfriend with all the great advice she wishes she could offer you but she's too busy trying to get a handle on her own family.
The following pieces of scripture, offered in Coach Mom, are my favorite:
Of course the efforts I make to live in His image will never make me perfect. Even after reading Coach Mom several times, our family isn't an All-Star team. But
Until then, I am applying helpful things I learn and applying them to our home, our family...via me. Since we all know the common phrase, "When mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy," then I'm sure we can all agree, "When mama doesn't have it together, no one has it together." The following are some clear and easy pointers I took from Coach Mom and use on a regular basis:
- Instead of "clean up your room," say, "put away seven things."
- Instead of "clean up the play room," say, "pick up seven things as fast as you can", or "everyone pick up anything with red or yellow on it."
- Children get nothing they cry for.
- When my strong-willed preschoolers are throwing fits, I have to take a deep breath and pray for my own self-control. I try to say, "I am sorry you are upset that [whatever the issue is], but throwing a fit in the family room is unacceptable. You may move to your bedroom and close the door until you are finished."
- When children freely confess their faults, they should not be punished; this rewards their honesty. Teach your children to say, "I was wrong," after they disobey.
- Regular date nights. (We aim for once a month.)
- If you leave here (birthday party, Chuckee Cheese, friend's house) with a *happy heart* (no fussing, whining, melting down) and quickly obey, you can have a reward (we use ice cream or pudding after dinner)
In a world overrun by pop culture, I'll never forget a few things I've heard...
|Read more here|
In this article, "Renee Zellweger Compares Motherhood to 'Slavery'", we can find a little comfort and validation as mothers as stated, "The single 40-year-old star hasn't ruled out having her own kids but admits she was exhausted after tending to her needy niece and nephew for a single evening.
She explains, 'My brother has two children now, so I've been playing Aunt Renee. They're two and four. It's chaos. Moms out there, kudos to you. The cool thing about being an aunt is like, I can leave. No offence to my big brother Drew, but that is slavery. I dare you to take a shower. You can't do anything unless they let you. It's a dictatorship. They're little dictators in their crib.'"
I saw Renee tell this same story to David Letterman. She told him she didn't know what to do with them, especially after not being allowed to shower. So, she strapped them in the car and drove around Connecticut for four hours. They took the scenic route.
Lastly, I leave you with one more portion from Coach Mom, "It's important that mothers of little ones continue to grow and be challenged mentally. Stay-at-home-moms especially must be intentional about personal growth, since most of the daily hours are spent dealing with the monotonous tasks of cleaning, changing diapers, feeding babies, carpooling, and folding clothes. All too often, I see a fresh, living spring full of hope become a stagnant cesspool that threatens to dry up completely if a conscious choice is not made to move ahead and focus on the beautiful terrain down the way."
So, what now?
A chore chart!
Click here to see my discipline strategies for my children!
Click here to see my discipline strategies for my children!
Thank you for stopping by!