Chapter 11: Go Outside

Chapter 11: Go Outside

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

The Project

Go outside. That’s the depth, height, and difficulty level of my activity for The Mom Project. And those two simple words are precisely why I love The Mom Project so much. Why? Because the simple task of spending intentional time with my children – of being present with them – works. It actually works! No extra time, fancy equipment, or expensive outings required. And that really appeals to a busy, budget-aware mom like me.

The Plan

The plan was to go to the local park and do a scavenger hunt. As I drew scavenger hunt maps and started grabbing an extra this and a bonus that to make the experience extra-completely-perfect, I felt my shoulders tightening up. The kids were getting antsy for their lunch and dangerously close to naptime, so I knew I was about to miss my one-and-only window. And as a work-from-home mom, naptime is essential.

I suddenly remembered that the instructions for spending time with my kids were simply: “Go outside.” Go outside. So simple, and yet, as usual, I was trying to over complicate things to the point of discouragement. So we grabbed our less-than-perfect stuff and headed out the door.

Results

We arrived at the small local park armed with our scavenger hunt maps. Once there, we met another family who was eager to join in on the fun. Together, the kids raced around, buckets in hand, searching for various nature items on the list: something purple, something soft, something lovely, etc. After all the items were collected, we huddled in a circle to examine our finds. As I held up each of the spring-fresh discoveries, ranging from flowers to sticks to pinecones, I interjected a few statements about God’s beautiful creation: “Did you know that we can see evidence of God everywhere we look? When we find something LOVELY, it points to its Maker, God.”

It was a fun time. We finished things off by making nature bracelets. I wrapped a strand of packing tape (sticky side out) around each little wrist, and set them off to attach bits of nature to their bracelets. After the excitement of the scavenger hunt, the kids were eager to set back off on the trail in search of more loot. The results were beautiful.

What I Learned

So what did I learn? Turns out, I’m the holdup. I get in my own way. Remember earlier in the day, when I was racing back and forth, packing the perfect items, trying to make the perfect day? Did you catch it? That problem word? Yep, that’s the word… “perfect.” By doing this simple project, I learned that my perfectionistic tendencies trip me up, discourage me, overwhelm me. Friends, I almost canceled the whole trip to the park! I was stressing myself to the max, when all I needed to do was “Go outside.”

My kids just want to spend time with me. The scavenger hunt didn’t need to be sketched in multi-colored markers with 3D relishes. I wasn’t required to do a scavenger hunt AND a treasure hunt AND a nature bracelet AND make a scrapbook of the experience the same day. Through this project, I learned to let less-than-perfect be enough.

This applies to all of life, too. Sometimes it seems as if I live my life waiting for the perfect moment…when all along, the moments are happening right in front of me. I just have to engage.

Extra Tips

If you’re doing this activity with littles, think simple. It doesn’t have to be a Pinterest production. It really can just be a blanket on the ground outside for lunch instead of at the table. After all, who would’ve thought my kids could have fun in the same environment, with the same things they see on a daily basis? (They did.)

Apparently, The Mom Project is all about tweaking my everyday routine, just a tad. It’s about incorporating this purpose, this focus, this worshipful moment into what we’re already doing anyway. It’s about making the everyday mundane special. It really doesn’t take a major schedule overhaul – just focused effort on what’s already going on.

In my perfectionist tendencies, I’d always thought I needed to wait until I could “Martha Stewart” a project with my kids. Turns out, they don’t care what it is or how pretty it is. They just want me to show up. To be there. And to love them well.

It calls to mind our mandate for telling our children about God: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:6-9, NIV) When should I be speaking about the saving, transforming power of Christ’s love in my life? When I have time? Nope. I never really will have that “perfect” time. It happens as we go: in the van, when I lay them down for nap, in the drive-thru, in the carline. Not when I finally have time to do it perfectly.

Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.

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Kelli Pavlovec draws from her experience as a work from home mom to help smart moms get unstuck and find their best self at www.TwoHourMom.com. For a free worksheet on 7 Ways to Pursue Your Life Dreams, Even While You’re a Mom, click here.

 

How To Stop Hanging On To All Your Kid’s Stuff and Still Be a Great Mom at the Same Time

How To Stop Hanging On To All Your Kid’s Stuff and Still Be a Great Mom at the Same Time

Behold, the boxes of guilt…

These are the boxes of drawings, ticket stubs, participation certificates and sportsmanship trophies that have taken over your garage and basement. They are the boxes that have layers of regret as thick as the layers of dust covering the Lucite tops.

Because, you see, these are the boxes a “good mom” would have turned into loving scrapbooks with pictures of your kid’s idyllic childhood and quippy sayings accompanying each photo mounted on acid-free paper for future generations to bask in and enjoy.

But instead, you have mounds of stuff no one has looked at in years, except for the occasional glimpse accompanied by that twinge of guilt.

Now, you just want to pass the boxes along and get them out of the garage, but how do you do that without overloading your kids with clutter?

 Pre-Sort Before Your Kids Get Involved.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to dump a thousand photos, stuffed animals, certificates and miscellany on our kids and say, “Here.” As parents, we have some responsibility to guide our kids through the process.

  1. Not every memory is worth keeping. I’ve kept exactly one picture of me and my first husband. It was when we were in high school on a church youth trip and we were just getting to know each other. I had a huge crush on him and everything at that time was fun and possibilities. I kept that photo because when I see it, it makes me smile. The rest of the photos of just the two of us – gone. And here’s the good news: I don’t miss them at all. This move was not out of anger; those memories are just not happy ones and I moved on a long time ago. I’ve kept a few pictures of us as a family for our kids.

Your kids also don’t need pictures of relatives they met one time when they were three, cousins they don’t know, or family vacations before they were born. You can pre-sort anything you know they don’t care about.

Same goes for picture with people whose names I (and my kids) don’t remember, or pictures that are associated with not great memories.

  1. Now that you’ve had the chance to evaluate the memories, it’s time to choose the best of the best. Do you really need/want 32 pictures of your daughter’s fourth birthday, or would three pictures be enough? Do you need to keep the third-place trophy of your daughter’s homeschool bowling league, or would a picture of the trophy suffice?

Choose the best of the best, and get rid of the rest. We only need one photo to spark a good memory. Let it be the best photo in the bunch.

Schedule a Time With Your Kids to Sort Through The Rest.

Once you’ve presorted, then it’s time to get your kids in on the process. It’s a lot easier to make group decisions after you’ve culled everything you know nobody wants.

  1. Decide. Ask your kids if they want input to the evaluation process. Some kids will want to be sure to have their input, and some could not care less. Either answer is fine, but they need to know that if they don’t participate, they don’t get to complain later on.

And be sure to let your kids know that they will not hurt your feelings if they don’t keep everything. Remember, not every memory has earned the right to be preserved.

Here are some things you’ll want to discuss during the sorting process:

a.) Who is keeping these treasures?

b.) How much space do I want to dedicate to storing photos and memorabilia?

c.) What should happen to certain items if the person keeping them no longer wants                                     them? (For example, maybe Mom would keep the artwork Suzy painted in high                                         school if she eventually decides to get rid of it.)

2. Display. If you’ve been a part of the Clutter Free Academy, you know I have three criteria for                 whether you keep something:

a.) I love it.

b.) I use it.

c.) I would buy it again.

This is great criteria for you and also for guiding your kids when deciding what to keep.

  1. Digitalize. For pics of my pics without the glare, I use PhotoScan by Google. This way, I have a digital record of what I need.
  2. Distribute. Make sure your kids have access to whatever photos they want, whether it’s the actual photos or the folder where the digital copies are.

I want memorabilia guilt to be a thing of your past —not part of your kid’s future. Decluttering before you pass those items down, and then helping them decide what to keep and what to toss ensures they’ll have all of the memories and none of the guilt.

Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.

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Chapter 10: Get the Conversation Started

Chapter 10: Get the Conversation Started

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

The Project:

Making a connection with my three kids who are ages 11 and twins who are 9, is a challenging enterprise. Life with three kids close in age will always be a challenging task. I desire connection with them but homework, errands and the minutiae of a day always seems to corrode time. I pick them up from school and then all of a sudden it is time for pjs and brushing teeth. Dinner is a gamble. Who is done with the day already? Who is grumpy because they don’t like what is on their plate? Who is annoyed at their sibling who is sitting where they wanted to sit. Connection at dinner is a miracle akin to the parting of the red sea… okay maybe not to that level but I mean when it happens I am giddy. The Mom Project suggests thinking beyond dinner and encourages thinking outside of the box I typically try to operate in. I’ve been reminded through the Mom Project that well-intentioned isn’t the same as intentional. Maybe this is obvious to most but I think this is a game-changer for me. Intentional connection requires a bit more than me saying, “How was your day?” and “Don’t forget to eat your veggies!”.

The Plan:

Here’s my reality. The best time to connect with my kids is at bedtime. They always want me to lay down with them and chat or just cuddle. The stress of the day is mostly over and their defenses come down. This is, of course, the time when I am the most ‘done’. It is 8 pm and I am ready to tap out. However, I want to connect when they already want to connect by intentionally creating space for this to occur. My plan is to spend time once a week in each child’s room and just sit and be – maybe we will have a snack, cuddle or just have a tickle fight. Just 15 minutes one-on-one with each child is what I am looking for.

Results:

They love it. And so do I. Connection is honestly what I love most about being a mom (it is certainly not the homework time) and so I started looking forward to my time with each child. Some evenings I could sit with all three kids for just a few minutes each and even that short time was a welcome few moments of connection. Bedtime may take longer, but I also come downstairs from tucking them in with a full heart.

What I learned:

Some nights are better than others to try and do this and so I need to be flexible. I did this project while my husband was out of town and it will be great for us to take turns taking a few extra moments one-on-one with the kids. The most necessary component of this is a willing heart ready to sit and just be, because you can’t rush and you have to be present. I have to be less concerned about what I have to do next and what is still waiting for me to take care of.

Extra Tips: Some days one of my children will need me more than another. When I sense that a particular child needs me I can take extra time to connect with them at bedtime. Also, with a little planning ahead I can include a favorite snack or look up knock-knock jokes ahead of time to share.

Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.

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Bethany Howard lives in Tucker, GA with her husband, three kids, dog and cat. She enjoys words, her children’s laughter and any dinner she doesn’t make. She’s recently developed a passion for dark chocolate covered almonds. She doesn’t aim for perfection because that is unattainable so you just might be comfortable visiting www.bethanyhoward.com where Bethany wades through the ups and downs of life to discover kindling for joy and growth. Click here for a free download on being the best mom you can be for your kids (it’s not what you think it is) and to subscribe to Bethany’s blog.

The Mom Project, Chapter 4: Home, A Safe Place to Land

The Mom Project, Chapter 4: Home, A Safe Place to Land

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

The Project

“I have an idea.” This is one of my favorite lines that my family hears me say right before I introduce a new plan. I’m sure over the years those words have evoked concern to some and excitement to others since my ideas tend to be outside the box and usually require some work. Like the time I said, “Hey Brian, I have an idea. I want to be a surrogate and carry other people’s babies.” That story is for another time, but more recently, about 3 years ago I had the idea to downsize and become a part of the “Tiny Home Movement.” My family was quickly on board. We decided we wanted to have a tiny home so we could have more time for our family (instead of maintenance on our things), to keep our current house as an investment/rental and most importantly to make financial changes so I could work towards being a part time WAHM (Work At Home Mom) so I could have more time and energy for our family. Despite the close quarters with 2 teen girls and the love-hate relationship with a tiny home that has brought, we have loved the “easy-ness” of simplifying our lives and being able to have more time to make memories as a family. As a part of this season of life, I’ve been reading The Mom Project and have loved all the fun and simple ways it gives to connect and make family memories. So now I have an idea! I’m going to share with you how I did one of the projects from the book with our girls. Welcome to our world.

The Plan

Since our girls are both in the phase of wanting to re-decorate their rooms, the project “Add a Few Creature Comforts” is perfect. They both literally have printed out inspirational photos from Pinterest in their rooms of how they want their rooms to look. If only we would be chosen for Fixer Upper, we would all be in heaven! (We only live a couple hours from Chip and Joanna Gaines, so if any of you have a connection, hook me up!) For the project, I am going to take the girls to the store to have them pick something special that will help make their tiny space more of their own and more enjoyable for them. To start off I had to choose the time and the place. Since we live outside of town and the girls go to a charter school, I get to drive into town and pick them up every day from school, so I chose a day that we didn’t have anything scheduled after school. I also chose Hobby Lobby since it is located in between school and our home, has lots of home decor and styles to choose from and I had a gift card! That’s a triple win in my book. I also let the girls know ahead of time what we would be doing since they are at the age that they tend to make plans in their head for their own lives and time and always appreciate a heads up.

Results

I picked the girls up from school and reminded them we were going to the store so they could pick out something for their rooms. They had forgotten, so they both were excited for this after school fun shopping trip. After some time wandering around the store checking out all the options, they both fairly quickly made great decisions. Trinity chose a black storage box and a white wooden organizer. Selah chose a metal organizer and two storage boxes (probably for all her homemade slimes).

What I Learned

I was surprised that both girls chose storage and organizational items! I thought they would choose more “fun” decor pieces like a mirror, wall hanging, pillow or candle. I loved that they chose pretty, yet practical pieces that would help them stay organized and keep their rooms and stuff under control. When given the option to make decisions for themselves, our girls often surprise me with mature decisions. Sometimes we as parents, just don’t give our kids enough opportunities to choose for themselves or we don’t allow them to have the natural consequences of their choices, good or bad.

Extra Tips

To add to the fun and challenge, I gave both of our girls a $15 limit. This meant they had to do the math to figure out the cost of what they wanted (since a lot of decor items were 50% off) and they had to stay within budget. These are everyday life skills that we all need and that I like to throw into the girls lives as much as I can. Also, don’t forget to take pictures when you are making memories. Don’t overdo it though. Make sure you find the balance of being in the moment and taking pictures to help keep that moment forever. Enjoy our pics!

Hope you loved this peek into our tiny world. For more ideas on connecting with your kids, check out “The Mom Project.”

“Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.”

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 Bio: Written by Tiffany Jo Baker, a mom who has birthed 7 children, but only 2 of them were her own. This 3x Surrogate, now Couples Life and Fertility Support Coach, continues to help couples birth their dreams and thrive thru infertility. Are you “Thriving Thru Infertility?” Free Quiz Here.

 

Trading in Comparison and To-Dos for Meaningful Traditions

Trading in Comparison and To-Dos for Meaningful Traditions

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

When I first became a mom over 20 years ago, I had this perfectly reasonable idea that if I could just follow a certain list of things that “good moms” did then surely I would ensure that my kids would turn out OK. The problem was that the hospital must have forgotten to give me a copy of the list because I left with a tiny baby bundle and no clue what I was doing. As a young mom I quickly fell into the comparison trap. I thought that if I could just copy what other successful families were doing then we’d be fine.

So I started looking around, taking notes on all the things “good parents” did. You know the usual: reading to your baby, getting them into the right pre-school, sports teams and activities, sign up to be class parent for every grade, volunteer with the PTO, and so on. But every year that passed the list seemed to get longer and longer. It was becoming hard to keep up.

One area where there seemed to be a never-ending list of to-dos, for example, was birthday celebrations. We have dear friends and family members who have a gift for hospitality. They love throwing parties for every birthday and holiday. And early on I felt pressure to have big parties too, even though it’s not one of my “gifts”. But after having our 4th child we realized that big birthday parties every year for each child was just not in alignment with our values or our budget.

Our focus shifted from checking boxes and trying to do all of the things to considering what we really wanted our kids to remember about their time at home?

After we gave our family permission to trade-in the to-dos for meaningful traditions, our birthday celebrations became small and simple but meaningful. The birthday person gets to choose the meal and dessert of their choice on their special day and they get to use the red “I am special today” plate. Then we go around the table and take turns sharing what we love about the birthday person.

It’s become a sweet, fun and often funny tradition in our home.

As I started to think more about what memories and experiences we wanted to create together as a family I began to look for ways to make our time together special. Little every-day events have become reasons for celebration.

For example, Friday evenings have turned into “Toto’s Fridays” where we head to our favorite pizza place for dinner, usually after our youngest son’s baseball game, and catch up on the week’s events.

Other ideas for family traditions:

  • Family reunions
  • Annual camping trips
  • Donuts or a special treat on the first day of school
  • First day of summer scavenger hunt
  • Family game night Fridays
  • Ice cream sundae Sundays

There are definitely times when we need to check off to-do lists but when it comes to creating family memories each family is wonderfully different. Let’s choose to celebrate our time together by creating meaningful traditions that are in line with our family’s values rather than consume what others are doing and potentially miss out on some special opportunities.

One small win: We have limited time while our kids are at home, creating family traditions can be a great way of celebrating your family’s uniqueness and create memories together. Consider what special or ordinary events you’d like to find ways to celebrate.

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Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.

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Zohary Ross is a life coach, speaker and author of the Aligned Parenting Workbook. She is passionate about equipping and encouraging women to let go of the never-ending hustle for perfection and live with alignment instead. Connect with her at zoharyross.com

Looking for the Positive

Looking for the Positive

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard work of mommy-hood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

The Project

I’m an encourager by nature so it’s not hard for me to look for the positive in my children. But I have discovered a major weakness: undivided attention. From the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning, I am on the go – and on my phone. I check work email while I make coffee, scroll through the day’s headlines while brushing my teeth and message back and forth with friends and colleagues on social media while getting everyone else in the family up and ready for the day. I never sit down.

I can’t count the number of times my 3-year-old has asked me to just look at her. My 8-year-old has figured out that my phone is the way to connect with me. When she wants attention, she asks me to look something up on my phone or offers to show me a YouTube video. She’s even started asking if I’ll read books to her from my phone. It’s hard to look for the positive in my children when I am not making eye contact with them.

Then I started reading The Mom Project, which offers easy ideas for connecting with your kids that benefit the whole family. For our project, we adopted a phone-free Sunday, and I’m here to share the impact it’s made.

The Plan

Just the idea of this project put a pit in the bottom of my stomach. A whole day without a phone? Impossible. What if work needed me? My husband, Brian, suggested we both go phone-free with some lenience. We could be on our phones if the kids were asleep or entertaining themselves but the rest of time, we’d focus on each child individually and together as a family. Throughout the day, we would intentionally look for positive traits and actions to acknowledge and praise.

Results

My older daughter takes equestrian lessons every Sunday. Usually, Dad takes both girls while I stay home to catch up around the house. This time, we decided to divide and conquer. He’d take Lily and instead of sitting in the car while she rode, he would go to the arena and cheer her on. I would stay home with Abby and be fully present. While Brian and Lily were gone, Abby and I made muffins, cleaned the kitchen and played dress-up. At the end of the day, I made dinner while the girls spent time with Dad. Then he led bath time while I tidied up and I got the privilege of  snuggles and reading bedtime stories (from real books with pages, not on my Kindle app).

 

What I Learned

Our girls have different personalities and needs for us to fulfill. The nuances are lost on us when we’re distracted by devices. In making muffins with Abby, I learned how important it is to do things herself. Complimenting her on taking initiative without worrying about the mess she was making with flour EVERYWHERE was hard for me but left her glowing. Her joy melted my anxiety and impatience. Her love for dress-up role-playing allowed me to observe the richness of her internal world. Until Brian fully focused on Lily’s riding, neither of us realized her fear of falling was preventing her progression. Being the dad that he is, Brian set out to solve the problem by teaching Lily to ride a bike that afternoon. After 30 minutes of encouragement and applause for getting up after every fall, Lily was riding up and down the street all by herself.  Abby was jumping up and down on the sidewalk cheering for her big sister, and Lily beamed with pride.

Extra Tips

Looking for the positive is easy when your kids are compliant, but what happens when they aren’t? If you’re going to try this project at home, the first thing you’ll want to do is decide how you’ll handle the situation if your children won’t follow the plan. For instance, Lily wasn’t interested in time with me. At first my feelings were hurt. She always wants my time when I don’t have it to spare. Rejection is tough but instead of pouting, I told Lily I was proud of her for feeling free to speak her mind (she said “no thank you” – at least she used her manners).

 

WIN!

Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win.

*Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.

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This is written by Tonya, a full-time working mom of two spirited girls. For our readers, Tonya is offering a free download of Why You Need a Mommy Dream Team. When she’s not managing the Clutter-Free Academy Facebook group, she writes about overcoming comparison, clutter and compulsion at www.tonyakubo.com.