Chp. 21: When Are We Going to Get There?

Chp. 21: When Are We Going to Get There?

The Project

I’m usually in the car for at least three hours a day and that’s only if I don’t have any appointments for myself or the kids or a playdate to attend. I try to keep things simple but sometimes we’re just in the car for a long time and there’s nothing I can do about it. In Kathi Lipp’s book, “The Mom Project,” she talks about using time in the car as an opportunity to bond with your kids. Since this is something I had already been doing, I was intrigued to read about her ideas on listening to audio books together. It’s not something I’d ever done with my kids. Sounds simple enough, I thought. So I took Kathi’s list of suggestions on where to begin and I headed to the library.

The Plan

Since my kids already love going to the library, I knew this part of the experiment was going to be easy. It was going to be picking out what we listened to as a family that was going to be the hard part. My children are 9, 6, and 4 so finding something they would all agree on and enjoy had me stumped.

Results

My plan was to take all three kids to the library but well, life happened, and before I knew it, the oldest was too tired and the youngest was having a tantrum so I took my middle child, Hannah. I told her we were headed to the library which got her super excited. We had some books to return so it was perfect timing. Hannah ran inside and assumed her usual position at the audio booth where she started playing Toca Boca. I tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Come on honey, we’re going to take a look at some audio books.”

“Huh? What are those?” She asked.

“Well, they’re books but they’re on a CD so I can just pop them into my CD player in the car kind of like I do when I play movies for you guys. Instead of a movie coming on though, you’ll just hear words through the speaker.”

I could tell Hannah was confused. I walked us over to the librarian’s desk and told her what we were looking for. She pointed us in the right direction and I looked at my list from the “Mom Project” on some suggestions Kathi gave on what good books were out there for the entire family. Laura Ingalls Wilder was mentioned in her book as “one of the best little kids books” so that’s what I picked out. She described the “Little House” series being “simple enough for little kids to understand but rich enough in detail that it would hold the attention of older kids and adults.”

When we got back in the car, I popped in the CD and right when I was beginning to tell Hannah what we were going to listen to, she quickly went, “Shhh! Mom, I want to hear this.” Well, then. I guess that settles that. This audio book thing was going to be my new best friend. I didn’t hear a peep from her the entire 20 minute ride home. When we got back in the car the next morning to head to school, I heard Hannah say to her brother, “Dylan, mom got this cool thing from the library and it’s a story.”

I quickly turned on the car and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s CD started talking to us. The entire car was quiet. Our drive to school is less than five minutes and I almost felt guilty having to turn off the CD to tell the kids to have a good day and I’d see them after school. “Can we listen to this when you pick us up?” Dylan asked. I giggled. “Sure, honey. I’ll make sure I have it playing when I pick you up.”

What I Learned

I’ve always felt a pang of guilt for not having children who devour books like other children do. My kids would much rather make a craft than read a book. What I learned from doing this experiment with them, was that reading books isn’t the only way to get them more immersed in literature. Sometimes thinking outside the box and finding new ways to get them interested in reading is just what a kids need. I have a feeling audio books in the car might be our new thing.

Extra Tips

If you’re not familiar with the content in an audio book, you might get some recommendations from the librarian about what’s age appropriate for your kids. For example, in the Laura Ingalls Wilder CD I rented, there was a part in the story about a dog passing away. I wished I had thought to ask someone about this before playing it for my kids. Since my son is extra sensitive to animals, it came as a surprise to all of us when we were listening. Luckily, I was able to see my son’s face in the rearview mirror and I was able to debrief with him for a minute about what he’d just heard.

Kathi talks about turning the CD off to have a discussion with your kids if there’s something they don’t understand. This was a great moment for me to do just that. My recommendation would be to make sure what your kids are hearing is something you are prepared to talk about with them. Had I known about this piece in the book, I may have fast forwarded through that part.

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This post was written by parenting journalist Meagan Ruffing, mom to three children, one with special needs. Meagan’s passion is to reach other moms who are overwhelmed and to help them find more control in their lives. For a free set of “Overwhelmed to In Control” worksheets, visit www.meaganruffing.com.

 

Choosing to Be Intentional About What Parts of Being A Mom We Choose to Embrace

Choosing to Be Intentional About What Parts of Being A Mom We Choose to Embrace

I made a promise to my daughter the day she was born.

As I gazed into my baby girl’s eyes for the very first time, I silently assured her:

I’m going to meet your every need.

In that sacred moment, it felt right to make such a vow. She was so tiny, and I was overwhelmed by a protective instinct so strong, I felt like a combination of Wonder Woman and the Incredible Hulk.

But if I could go back twenty-seven years and whisper a few words to my new mom self, here’s what I’d say:

No you won’t.

You won’t even come close.

Trying Hard

We went home from the hospital the day after Annemarie was born, and oh, how I tried to honor my promise: I’m going to meet your every need.

When she was bored, I tried to be Fun Mom.

When she was sad, I tried to be Nurturing Mom.

When she broke things, I tried to be Fix-It-Fast Mom.

When she couldn’t find things, I tried to be Organized Mom.

If she needed it, I tried hard to be it.

I did a wonderful job of meeting her every need.

But then she turned two days old, and everything went haywire.

Feeling Overwhelmed

The second day after we got home from the hospital, Annemarie was fussy. I fed her. I burped her. I changed her.

Nothing worked.

I tried singing to her, but that only seemed to make her cry harder.

Finally, exhausted, I handed her over to my mother, expecting (and secretly hoping) that there would be no change.

But the transformation was both instantaneous and dramatic.

Not only did Annemarie stop crying, but as her Nana began to sing, she started to smile.

“It’s just gas,” I said, stunned and a little hurt that my child had calmed right down with someone other than me.

Now, I would love to tell you that this was the moment I recognized that my promise I’m going to meet your every need was unrealistic, foolish, and impossible to fulfill.

Unfortunately, I took it as a challenge.

And I determined to try all the harder to be the one to meet my daughter’s every need.

For the next quarter-of-a-century, I muddled through motherhood, constantly overwhelmed by self-inflicted feelings of colossal failure.

Comparing Myself

Flash forward 25 years to Annemarie’s Bachelor of Fine Arts Solo Exhibition. She’s drawn large portraits of the twenty key people in her life, each one titled with a single word that defines their connection to her.

I quickly scan the gallery walls for my portrait so I can see what label she gave me. But before I can find mine, I see Aunt Karen’s:

Nurturer

It takes all my willpower not to run to the restroom and burst into tears.

I didn’t get Nurturer.

Which means I didn’t meet my daughter’s need for nurturing.

I tried, by golly, I tried.

But I didn’t even come close.

I’m just not made out of nurturing stuff.

I’m made out of …

I find my portrait and read my label.

… evidently, I’m made out of Writer stuff.

Whatever that even means.

Clearly, Aunt Karen succeeded where I failed.

Gaining Perspective

But what if that’s okay?

The unexpected thought crashes my pity party.

What if she didn’t need me to meet her every need?

I look at my daughter, laughing with guests who are here for her grand opening. She’s all grown up into someone I am so proud to know, let alone share genes with.

What if she just needed me to be me?

I look at the titles of the other portraits:

MentorPhilosopherListenerChallenger …

And suddenly, I am overwhelmed with gratitude toward Aunt Karen and and all the other people who have poured into to my daughter’s life, meeting needs that I never could.

The truth begins to settle into my heart:

She really didn’t need me to meet her every need.

Accepting the Truth

So if you’re a mom who feels like she’s constantly falling short? letting her kids down? never even coming close to meeting all their needs?

Lean in close, and let me whisper this truth to you:

That’s okay.

They don’t need you to meet their every need.

They just need you to be you.

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Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes and speaks from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.” Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life and Overwhelmed.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (23), also opposite personalities.
Cheri blogs about perfectionism, people-pleasing, highly sensitive people, and hope at www.cherigregory.com.

 

 

 

The Mom Project: Have a Game Night

The Mom Project: Have a Game Night

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

My husband and I have four boys. One of our two sons still living at home has autism and is mentally handicapped. It is difficult to find time to consistently connect with the boys in a fun and meaningful way, especially since we have various therapists coming into our home a few evenings a week. The days seem to blur into weeks, and before I know it, I haven’t really connected with either one. I go to bed thinking the next day will be different, but somehow, something always comes up. Unless I am intentional about connecting with them, it won’t happen. I wanted to share with you a simple, yet profound, book I’ve been reading called The Mom Project. This book shares lots of different ways for me as their mom to connect with them and to make some fun memories along the way. I chronicled one of my favorite projects from the book here today. For our project, we chose to have a game night.

The Plan

All three of us chose to play Monopoly. At first I was a little nervous about how this was going to unfold. I didn’t know if my special needs son would totally understand how to play, but I wanted to try. I wanted to make it fun for all of us and to make memories that would last and even make us want to play again really soon. However, I needed to be open minded about how we were going to actually play the game within our limits.

Results

Having a 15-year-old special needs son and a 9-year-old typical child created a unique challenge in connecting with them in this way. I found that adaptability was key. I had to get over my need to play by the rules and to be flexible enough to make up some rules as we went. I somewhat tailored the game to each boy, and they were both on board and engaged. I randomly handed out Monopoly real estate cards, and of course, whoever landed on the property had to pay rent, an easy amount for each of them to remember.

Both boys thoroughly enjoyed seeing Mom suffer as she had to go to jail and couldn’t be set free until she rolled doubles. Lots of laughter and lots of talking. We just made it a fun evening all around by having dessert before dinner, and dinner was pizza from one of their favorite restaurants. The more I got excited about the evening, the more they got excited.

I’m sure we’ll be playing again soon. I’d say Monopoly money was worth more than anything I could ever buy them.

What I Learned

Throughout this project, I learned to let go of my preconceived ideas of how the night should go. I invited them to participate in making up some rules with me, and I also realized they responded in kind to my excitement. I let the anticipation of game night build in their minds a few days beforehand, and I even taunted them with a little friendly competition. They are boys after all.

Extra Tips

If you are going to play a game with your children who are different ages or at different stages in their development, take a little time to plan ahead. Give them an opportunity to have some input in how they would like to play the game (within reason, of course), and watch their faces light up as they engage in the game they’ve helped create. A couple days before you play the game, start building up the excitement whenever and however you can.

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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Julie and her husband have four boys, and she adores the title “Boy Mom.” She is also a special needs mom, helping navigate the world for her 15-year-old son with autism. Her four boys keep life busy and loud. Most days she wouldn’t want it any other way. You can connect with Julie on her blog at Stuff of Heaven.

 

How to Kick Self-Criticism to the Curb

How to Kick Self-Criticism to the Curb

Of all the things that make parenting challenging, the perpetual self-criticism is the worst. We lose sight of the fact that the most important thing our kids need from us is to feel loved.

We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up for not being “perfect” parents. Take the time my 17 year old son texted me a picture of himself being embraced by another mom after winning the championship wrestling match at the regional tournament. Through a miscommunication, my husband and I both left the match early. I awarded myself “Worst Mother Ever” for that one.

We unknowingly teach self-criticism – because this is how we talk to ourselves.

I’m replacing self-criticism with self-compassion, and making sure my kids hear the message.

You may think, “Sounds lovely. I can’t be trusted though. If I’m not tough on myself, I won’t change (get it done, do my best, etc.).” We fear that if we weren’t constantly berating ourselves, we’d be complete slackers. (Cue your favorite fantasy of irresponsible motherhood here).

Self-Criticism Hurts
I think of self-criticism like the bigger of two siblings, pummeling the other on the living room floor. Self-criticism regularly tries to take me down, landing a few good punches by the time I realize what’s going on and shut it down.

Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?!

This meaner version of ourselves has good intentions:

  • Keep us safe
  • Protect us from making mistakes
  • Make sure we retain our status and get enough love
  • Avoid disapproval from others

Unfortunately, the toxic methods of self-criticism – shame, name-calling, constant comparison, devaluing our needs and accomplishments – bring out the worst in us.

Research by Drs. Kristin Neff, Ricks Warren and Elke Smeets found self-critical people are more prone to avoidance, fearfulness, feelings of inferiority, depression, procrastination, and body dissatisfaction.

The Truth About Self-Compassion
We fear we’ll become self-indulgent sloths if we practice self-compassion. The opposite is true. Self-compassionate people are:

  • More successful in pursuing goals
  • More resilient when goals aren’t met
  • More motivated to change, try harder and avoid repeating mistakes

Change requires desire, awareness, and a plan. Self-compassion takes practice. Ask a trusted friend to point out when you use self-criticism.

4 Ways to Foster Self-Compassion
1. Notice when you slip into self-criticism
2. Stop!
3. Speak to yourself the way you would to a dear friend
4. Make a plan to deal with your concerns

When we think of people who make us feel loved and give us courage, compassion is what we’re most drawn to. Think of Jesus responding to the woman caught in adultery.

Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”
“No one, Master.”
“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” – John 8: 10, 11 (The Message)


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Warren, R., Smeets, E. & Neff, K. D. (2016). Self-criticism and self-compassion: Risk
and resilience for psychopathology. Current Psychiatry, 15(12), 18-32.

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Kimberly Gonsalves is a life and leadership coach, speaker and co-creator of Solving The Mystery of Parenting Teens. She encourages and equips women to thrive by letting go of what doesn’t work and instead build healthier habits and more respectful relationships, so they can bring their best to their most important leadership roles, and have more fun doing it. Read her in-depth series on self compassion, or connect with her on Facebook.

The Mom Project Chapter 13: Shower Your Kids With Grace

The Mom Project Chapter 13: Shower Your Kids With Grace

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:

My daughter Anya has crossed that mysterious threshold, called middle school. I refer to it as the tween twilight zone. I had taken for granted the innocence of elementary school, the fairy forts being built in the backyard and listening to the endless stories of her class fishing with bamboo sticks in the creek. I was completely unprepared for sixth grade and the change it would bring to our home! Anya on the other hand is living her best tween life with one small exception…missing homework. I am certain my daughter completes her homework, because I have the unfortunate experience of wracking my brain trying to help her figure out what the slope of xy is if y is -4! Did I mention my strong disdain for algebra? Oh, and we haven’t even reached algebra this is pre-algebra! Since, she excelled in math in fifth grade she was placed in pre-algebra two levels higher than the average sixth grade math course, which has caused somewhat of a rift in our relationship!

Some of our discord is my fault. I have a new- found obsession with the online grading system that allows me to check the status of homework and grades at any time of the day…which I do…multiple times. I don’t check because I’m in training to be a tiger mom. I check because first, I’m perplexed that work is missing and second, I’m concerned. I never had issues with her handing in homework. I’m fully aware that Anya is responsible for her grades, but my momma heart can’t help to be a bit worried.

I decided to lower my blood pressure and put a stop to my new found unhealthy habit of visiting RemWeb. It was working, until one evening when she asked me to check if her math test was recorded. I eagerly agreed, after all my resistance was wearing weak! I put in the password, pulled up pre-algebra and there it was…a D, and to make matters worse, the overall grade was a D-. If she didn’t understand the material that’s one thing, but just not handing work in, well that’s another.

My eyes scanned the grades and it was apparent that she was in real trouble and partly because of missing work! I was ready to lay down the hammer, then I saw her eyes filling up with tears. I knew that anything I said in the heat of frustration would only result in a big blow out. Instead I gave her a goodnight kiss decided it was time to dive into the, “Mom Project.” I needed help!

The project, “Shower Your Kids with Grace,” immediately caught my attention. It was time to try a different angle, one that was completely opposite of what I felt like doing, which was dropping the gauntlet. After reading the project, I knew the best lesson wasn’t going to be a lecture, but a good dose of grace.

The next morning, I let Anya sleep in for a bit and woke her up with her favorite homemade waffle breakfast with whip cream and blackberries. She looked at me quizzically and cautiously. I told her we were taking the day off and having a mother daughter day in Washington, DC. She loves photography, so I planned a relaxing day of visiting her favorite spots to let her take photos. It would be a day free of grades, judgment or blame. We hopped on the metro and began the day in our Nation’s Capital. Watching Anya so care free, doing cart wheels on the National Mall, practicing her photography skills at the Botanical Gardens, and grabbing a sweet treat at Georgetown Cupcakes was a perfect way to shower her with the grace she needed.

While hanging out at the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden, Anya said, “Thanks, mom. This has been the best day,” and she opened up about some feelings and even fears that I had no idea about. After our excursion, without my prompting Anya asked me to drop her at school at 7:30 am to get tutoring in pre-algebra. She handed in the missing work and pulled her grade up to a C. I have no doubt that day of grace made a difference for the both of us.

I learned that a little bit of grace goes a long way. This project made me think of my too many to count colossal screw ups and the grace upon grace Jesus so graciously gave me. Jesus has loved me unconditionally through every stage and I had to make sure that I was showing that same grace and love to Anya as she goes through her many stages, even the twilight teen years.

If you want to try this project, find ways to incorporate simple and spontaneous grace in your family’s life to create a home that emphasizes your love for them in all circumstances. Maybe show up at school to take them out to an impromptu lunch, give them a free pass on chores for an evening, or simply don’t dole out a much-deserved consequence as a way of showing grace. Sewing grace into the fabric of our homes create kids that know how to accept grace, but also freely give it to others as well. Who couldn’t stand a little more grace in their day?

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 Chere Williams, a passionate single mother who encourages women to make God their partner in their single parenting journey through her blog, “A Single Christian Mom’s Advice on Making Life Easier” Read an excerpt of her upcoming e-book,  “15 Tips on Avoiding Single Mom Burnout.” Click here for a free download.

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.

 

Join the You Don't Have to Try So Hard Book Club

We'll be conducting the book club through Kathi's Private Facebook Group, Clutter Free Academy. Join the book club to get access to the private facebook group. You'll receive an email with instructions once you submit this form. 

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