Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A TV Mother To Admire

There are many, many tv shows to choose from. Many, many tv "family shows" with tv mothers. But I have not seen a single one that was really worth admiring until I found the Donna Reed Show. This little gem of a sit-com stands heads and shoulders above the crowd of all other family shows, in my opinion. To me, there's the Donna Reed Show and everything else. It's that good.

In this show, Donna plays a very devoted and very loving housewife and mother. She is unashamedly respectful to her husband and that alone is awesome to watch. She is loving yet disciplinary to her children and runs her home with efficiency and grace. She displays a generous heart that's too big for her body. She's kind to neighbors, hospitable to guests, generous to the down-hearted, yet she's given a real enough quality that demonstrates her weak sides, too. She's not "perfect". She's just admirable in a way that any loving wife and mother can relate to and admire. I find the graceful way that she approaches life quite inspiring. Now if they'd also made them a Christian family, it would be nearly perfect.

I also enjoy her old fashioned 1950's house and decor. I love her little letter desk by the stairs where she conducts all her business like opening mail, writing letters, paying bills and taking/making phone calls. I love the cheery back patio where they sometimes have meals or a glass of lemonade.

This show is a just a pleasure to watch and really the only show I can think of that I recommend whole-heartedly to anyone. Especially mothers. Things I don't like are the way they portray the siblings sometimes with the typical "sibling rivalry". But even this aspect is mild and often overturned when they are shown devoted to one another or making each other laugh.

I just wish I'd known about this great show when I was a young mother raising my kids. It would have had a much better influence on me than I Love Lucy! :-) The Lucy's are funny and I still enjoy them for their comic relief, but as for admirable wives and mothers, Lucy doesn't make the cut.

No, for my money, if you're going to watch a family sitcom, Donna is the one to watch.

Have any of you watched the Donna Reed Show? Where I live, it is on a station called ME TV in the morning. The series is also available for purchase on Amazon. I've bought three seasons. Does Donna inspire you, too? I'd love to hear your comments!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When Your Home is Chaotic

I crave peace like water. So as my kids were growing up, I had to set limits so that our home would not be chaotic. After all, mom lives here too! :-) My goal for my home was happy, peaceful, ordered and normal. Not museum-like. Just flowing and somewhat organized. But a home is only as peaceful and orderly as its inhabitants. That means a self-disciplined wife/mother who is willing to train her children. 

Some key elements to kicking out the chaos: 

Regulate your sleep. 
If you don't get enough sleep, you're setting yourself up for failure and trouble. If you've got infants, it is a trying time because you're losing sleep in the middle of the night.  Work out a plan so that you get at least 8 hours of sleep per 24 hours. Whether that means taking a nap during the day with the kids or getting to bed earlier each night. Don't rely on stimulants for energy. 

Plan your meals.
Pick out 7 breakfasts, snacks, lunches & dinners that are reasonably healthy, quick to prepare and economical. Use your crockpot at least once or twice each week.  

Train your children.
If you're not training your children to obey, your home is undoubtedly chaotic. Children need to know the rules and rules are nothing if they're not enforced. Read To Train Up a Child and No Greater Joy Volume I, II and III. They are worth their weight in gold for the advice and stories they offer. Untrained children are the biggest cause of chaos in a household. Moms, start with yourselves. If you yourself are undisciplined, get your act together. Start slow and work on one thing at a time so you don't get overwhelmed. But DO get yourself together. Cause your children be thankful and obey you. Speak in a normal tone of voice and try very hard to never yell. Spank kids for deliberate  disobedience and calmly insist on their compliance with an unwavering resolve. Be joyful. Do not ever think that the arm of discipline can outreach the arm of love. Love must be firmly rooted, established and flowing in order for training and discipline to be at all effective. Love on those kids and make sure they know and feel loved. Then if they're out of control in any area, slowly begin bringing them into line.

Go outside.
I know it's a challenge when you have a lot of little children, but whenever possible, try to go outside at least once a day. If you live in a cold, snowy climate, then the activity of getting snow boots, coats, hats, scarves and mittens on is a GOOD replacement for what is often meaningless playtime or tv time. It is healthy to get fresh air and sunshine, play in the snow, and run around. They will expel much of their burgeoning energy which will mean good naps and peaceful play indoors. I used to work at a preschool and I had TEN 3 year olds in my class that I had to take outside to the playground everyday.  We went out even in the cold weather and stayed inside only when it was raining or stormy. I had to help each one on with their coats, shoes, mittens, gloves and hats to go out and then again help them off with their things when we came in. Twice a day!

Have a playpen set up in your living area at all times. And use it!
If you have babies, a playpen is an absolute necessity. I used mine anytime I couldn't be in the same room or right there with my baby. It's extremely useful for when mom has to use the bathroom, answer the door, be on the phone, tend to cooking or any time you need to leave the child or the room. If they aren't used to being in a playpen, you need to slowly work up to it. Use it when you're in the room and don't go anywhere yet. Play with them while they're in it. Make it fun. Don't take them out when they cry or you'll be training them that crying is the way to get out! Instead, only take them out after they are playing happily for a bit. Once you've established this as a normal part of life, then you can use it anytime.  

A Sample Schedule 
(These time frames are approximate due to variances with number of kids, their ages and other varying circumstances.)

Morning

  • 6-8am WAKE Wake up, wash your face, brush your hair and get dressed. (Shower at night.) Put a little makeup on if you wear it. You'll feel and look pulled together. All this only takes 5 minutes or less! If you hear your baby crying, remember they will survive until you get there so don't turn it into a 5 alarm fire. When mine were babies, they just made happy morning noises while they waited in their crib.  Wake up the children and bring them into the kitchen with you to help get breakfast underway, feed pets, unload the dishwasher, etc. 
  • 7-9am EAT Breakfast and kitchen clean up. Have your children help with all the kitchen clean up after meals. NEVER send them off to play when you are working. They are your helpers! Give them meaningful work. They can wipe the table, brush the crumbs, put dishes away (I kept plates and cups in lower cupboards when mine were small so they could put them away easily.)
  • 9am WORK Get them dressed for the day. Teaching kids to get dressed by themselves, fold and put away clothes, tidy their rooms, brush their teeth and comb their hair — hear me now — these things ARE THEIR MORNING PLAY TIME.  This is the activity. If it takes an hour, so be it. They are learning FAR, FAR more than they will ever learn from playing with brightly colored plastic or watching Sesame Street. Make this *the* activity of the morning. As the older ones grow more proficient and finish before you're done with the youngers, you can give them tasks to do while you're finishing up. Empty the dryer, put things away, dust the baseboards, sweep a floor. Teach them that morning time is work time. Where is Daddy? Daddy's WORKING right now and so are we! It's fun, it's happy, it's productive and it's training little ones in life. If you homeschool, you could do some homeschooling projects after the morning work.
  • 10:30-11am GO OUTSIDE if possible. After all the mouths are fed, dishes washed, clothes put on, teeth are brushed, beds are made, rooms are tidied, and homeschooling is done, it's fun time! Time to get on coats (if it's cold) and shoes and go outside to play or take a walk. Walk to a nearby tot lot, playground or field and let them romp and run. Bring a ball, a kite, a magnifying glass (to observe tiny critters you may find), whirly gigs and have some fun. 
  • 11-12am EAT Come home, take off coats & put them all away. Time to line up at the sink and take turns washing hands. I would always beam with a compliment when I saw my children standing patiently to wait their turn for anything. They are learning such good manners! Everyone's washed up and it's time to either sit nicely at the table, or help fix lunch. I did both when mine were little. Sometimes they helped with lunch, sometimes they didn't. But they can NOT run wild. Give them options for what to do while you're prepping lunch. Color at the table, read a book quietly, string wooden beads, etc. Lunch was always simple, like a PB & J sandwich, a veggie, fruit and milk. 
Afternoon

  • 1-3pm NAP Every day after lunch, it's time to lay down for a nap. Train them how to stay in bed until you get them up. Try not to let them sleep more than 90 minutes no matter how tempting it is. I know the elation of having a quiet house when you've got little ones and you just want to let it go on and on. You can do so much when they are not underfoot! I know how that feels. :-) But getting them up after 90 min or so will ensure they sleep when it is bedtime! So wake them up after that nap.
  • 3-4pm STRUCTURED PLAY After nap, have a little snack (a graham cracker with a smear of peanut or almond butter, fruit or veggie sticks with ranch dip, pita bits with hummus, etc). Then have a structured playtime. It can be whatever you choose, but make sure you give them ONLY 2 (or 3 at the most) options. "Okay my darlings, now you can either play with your toys or make a sofa fort." Keep it in line with their interests. If you have girls, they might like to play with their dolls, etc. But have a timer set and let this time last for about 1 hour. Alternately, you could do some homeschooling during this time, too. While they are playing or doing some worksheets, you can get a little laundry and housecleaning in. Then sit and do something you enjoy - reading, handiwork, craft, music, etc. After playtime, clean up the mess, change any diapers and get ready to go out again.
  • 4-5pm GO OUTSIDE if possible. You might think you've already done this and therefore don't need to repeat it. But this activity is so needful for young kids. They need the energy release, the fresh air and the unstructured play area. Outside they can RUN, JUMP, ROMP AND ROLL! If there isn't something interesting to do outside, then you'll have to fix that. If you have a back yard, get some slides, swings, a sand box, jump rope, hoola hoop, etc. so they have things to do. Maybe a little table with benches for those interested in doing something at the table (giving mom a place to sit also). Try to keep them out for the full hour if you possibly can.  If you're confident they will play safely in your backyard, you can put the baby in the playpen (or down for a short afternoon nap) and work on getting dinner plans going.
  • 5-6 HOUSEWORK  Houses don't clean themselves. Make a simple list of work that needs to be done each day and do it now. Give each child some work to do, tailored for their ages.  They can also follow you in your work as you show them how to do it. But either way, have the kids WORKING when you are working. They may not last as long as you and that's okay. A 2 year old can give you 5, maybe 10 minutes of work. A 3 year old can give 10-15 minutes. And so on as they get older. Tell them what they can do when their job is finished. Expect and enforce their obedience in all matters. This cannot be stressed enough. For a non-chaotic home, the kids must be caused to be obedient.
Evening
  • 6-7 EAT Start dinner if you haven't already got it going in the crockpot. Have the kids help with setting the table or any other work there is to do. Greet daddy when he comes home with a reasonable amount of fanfare and excitement. Teach them to appreciate all he does while he's away by talking about it and him in high esteem. 
  • 7-8 BEDTIME ROUTINE  Get baths and jammies going. Have a plan of action and announce how it will go. Have the kids go potty before getting into the tub. Get the older kids (2-8) in the bathtub. Always stay in the bathroom when the kids are in the tub. NEVER LEAVE THEM. So that means if you have an infant, they're safely tucked away in a playpen, crib or bouncy seat. You have a phone nearby so you don't leave the room to answer it. If not, let it ring. The phone is for YOUR convenience, not the caller's. Have some bubbles and a few bath boats and toys. Have safe bathtub rules and cause them to be obeyed.  (No BIG splashing, slower movements when moving around in the tub, no standing up, no getting out until it's time.) Announce when it's time to shampoo and wash up. No whining, no sass allowed. Smile and be happy. You've got a family to take care of and you're doing a GREAT job!
  • 8pm PUT KIDS TO BED  I always put my kids to bed by 8pm so that I would have enough time to be a wife sans kids to my husband. We would brush teeth, get jammies on, read them a story, sing a lullabye say a bedtime prayer and tuck them in. No getting up! 
  • 8-10pm HUSBAND & WIFE TIME  It's important when you've got little ones to carve out some time in the day just for yourself and also with your husband. This is your free time so use it however you wish. 
Managing Errands
For your weekly tasks, such as shopping, you have some options. Choose whichever one suits you best. Some mothers grocery shop at night when the kids are in bed. The stores are emptier and she can think better without all the kids in tow. Some moms train all her kids how to behave when they are out and she enlists their help when she shops. Insert your errand runs into a the times allotted to play or outside time. It's important not to interrupt meals or nap times for errands. 

Activities Outside the Home
I am not a proponent for activities and classes outside the home when you have younger kids. For me, it just seems like a mother and her children should be home most of the time in order for all the children's basic needs to be met. I think occasional, non-recurring activities and get togethers are normal part of life. But when you have regular clubs, or classes etc, it is going to tax a new mother beyond her capabilities and it sets her up for a chaotic home. 

Adjusting As They Grow Up
As children grow older, they are naturally moving further and further into autonomy and away from home. It's a gradual process. So when they are 12 or so, it's nice to have a couple of activities they can look forward to each month. This is the stage when outings should become more common. A good base in home life until then will establish many, many things. Good behavior, discipline, good attitudes, etc. They should have a handle on life by that time. 

And of course all of your housekeeping, meal, nap and bedtime routines will evolve and change and adapt to life with older kids as well. Do your best to make the transition slowly and sure-footedly. Keep planning your meals, keep your bed times early and your household orderly. Our whole house shuts down by 9pm even though we have teens. Teens actually need a LOT of sleep because they are growing and transforming from kid to adult. All those teen hormones, you know. :) So they get at least 8-10 hours of sleep every night. 

I hope these ideas will help you smooth out the bumps in your housekeeping and homemaking. It's a daily process and much of it is routine, so make sure you don't "lose" yourself in it all. Make sure your interests do not suffocate underneath the mound of children, cleaning, cooking and wife-ing! Keep your sense of humor and motivate your children with your OWN zest for living. Be fascinated with the world around you. Keep learning new things and share them with your kids. 

It all goes by fast! People used to tell me that and I'd wonder why they said that. At times it felt so very S L O W to me! After all, time moves at the same pace whether you're just beginning your parenting/homemaking journey or you're near the end of it. But I guess when you're near the end of a journey looking back, it just SEEMS like it went by so fast. Theory of relativity, doncha know!

You can do it. Make your home a place of creativity, peace, joy, order and love and you will find that you have a life that is sweet indeed to look back on one day. Get rid of clutter, too many toys. Set limits. Write out a master plan for how you would like to design your best life and home and pray that God would help you do it. 

May God bless you in your journey!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Girls Night Out Vs. Mr. Mom

A few months ago I watched the new movie, "Mom's Night Out" with my husband. There were definitely some comedic moments I enjoyed, but I actually thought the main point of the story was a bit pathetic...embarrassing...disconcerting. Why? This movie was made to represent modern mothers and how things really are at home for her. The mom in the movie with younger children clearly loved her husband and children. But her life was depicted as stressful, chaotic, disorganized, and at times, a little depressing. (She curls up in a ball at one point in numb disillusionment and despair.) There's no doubt about the fact that she was completely overwhelmed and for valid reasons.

But here's the thing: no one is asking why. What is the root cause for the sad state of affairs that this modern generation of mothers is experiencing and this movie represents? Why these moms needed a night out is the main point of the movie. Nothing wrong with a break from the routine and the kids and the dishes and all. But that wasn't what was happening.  For these moms, they were barely hanging on. Their home life was not abusive and I don't think they were living in the ghettos. They just had chaotic stress and mayhem. Kids are represented as little whirling cyclones with nonstop energy and needs. The mom of young ones did not know the first thing about bringing any order or peace to her home. In a nutshell she didn't know what she was doing. And this movie was simply depicting that this is the reality for most modern mothers today. So much so, that most mothers could relate to that overwhelmed mother.

Okay let's just take a step back from "Mom's Night Out" and contrast it with another movie.

It was made in 1983 (32 years ago) called "Mr. Mom" starring Michael Keaton and Teri Garr. This movie depicts a housewife and mother of young children also. Three very young children.

The movie opens as the mother (Teri Garr) is waking up with an alarm. Love it. She promptly gets up, goes to the bathroom and pins her hair back. Next she gives her face a peppy splash of water and  smiles in the mirror.

Observation: This woman is happy and content. She is the confident manager of her home. AND let's take note of one of the secrets to her success - she's the first to wake up. ("She riseth also while it is yet night" Proverbs 31).

Next we see her wake up her husband with a kiss and softly tell him his shower is ready. Perhaps she ran the water so it would be hot when he stepped in? How cool is that? Then she pads into her sons room, stepping carefully over the mess and toys (realistic touch there), feeds their fish, and cheerfully wakes each boy up. She smiles into her baby's crib and greets him good morning. (The baby has a bottle that he was probably put to bed with which was a not a good trend of that time, but it's insignificant. We're focusing on the main point depicted - a happy, well ordered home.)

She then buzzes merrily, contentedly and confidently around her kitchen as her family eats a nutritious breakfast at the table. Her husband tells a clean joke to his boys during breakfast and then has to go to work. The wife stops what she's doing and walks him to the door, kisses him goodbye and watches him leave.

Observation: Everyone eating together is illustrated as a normal part of life. (Proverbs 31..."and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens"). She doesn't neglect her husband while taking care of her housework and the kids. She makes him feel loved and special.

Later, she gets herself and her kids all dolled up and greets her husband at the door as he comes home from work. She heard he'd been layed off work and wanted to cheer him up. She had a meal all set on the table (KFC) for a special dinner. (Proverbs 31 "She is like the merchants 'ships;
she bringeth her food from afar",) She diffuses her husband's annoyance and provocation to a bet to see who could get a job first.

Observation: Her gesture was offered to make sure her husband knew how much she supports and loves him. Her meals were planned in advance. She is not easily provoked. She asserts she doesn't bet, lets him know it's silly, but remains pretty refined and elegant. She does not let her feathers get ruffled at her husband's playful attempt to rile her. Very classy.

Next while she clears the table, she mentions to her husband that she put out the word for getting a job to help out while he's layoff. (Proverbs 31 "She considereth a field, and buyeth it:with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.")

Observation: She's not plopping on the couch after a meal. She calmly and routinely clears the table because she knows that the kitchen is her "office". She keeps it prepared for the next meal by cleaning up right after each meal. This was considered commonplace homemaking 101. Notice that her children are not running around creating mayhem and foolishness. Dinner is over and it is implied that they are off getting ready for bed or otherwise happily occupied.

So, per the title of the movie, now comes the fun part. She gets hired as an ad exec and as she's leaving for her first day of work she goes over "the list". Everything her husband needs to know to run the household smoothly while she's away. She knows everything about her children and has somewhat of a schedule for them, their naps, the needs, etc.

The comic part of the movie is when the husband tries to do his wife's job, which is completely foreign to him. Hilariously funny stuff. The chaos that ensues as he takes on the kids and the house reminded me of the chaos depicted in Mom's Night Out. Only in the latter, it was the mom wreaking the chaos. (This is what raised red flags for me in Mom's Night Out. They depicted household chaos as normal for today's mom to have a disorderly household and be overwhelmed by motherhood and homemaking. Overwhelmed by God's design. But 30 years ago, this was not the case.)

Throughout the rest of the Mr. Mom, we are introduced to his wife's friends who were also moms who come along and cheer on the fumbling husband who's "doing it wrong".  After a few months of housekeeping and homemaking, he grows accustomed to the chaos and lets himself go. He gets depressed (a man's natural domain is out fighting the dragons not playing house) but then he pulls himself up by the bootstraps and dives into the challenge with renewed vigor. He starts little remodeling projects, gets the routine down and does really well. Even learns to do a little cooking. (Disclaimer: there are some inappropriate parts to this movie, per the era. I'm not condoning those, but again, just focusing on the main point of the movie.)

Okay, so the husband in Mr. Mom who was thrown into a "mom" role, figures it all out fairly quickly. Contrast that to the sea of mothers today who are fumbling the ball. They are not keeping their homes. They are spending more time on Facebook and twitter than they are on housekeeping, meal planning and child training. They are raising self-willed-tyrants-in-the-making and it's all a big joke in Mom's Night Out. It's funny. Supposedly. Well, call me a Debbie Downer, but I think it's sad. Tragic even.

Please note: I'm focusing on the mothering/homemaking issues here and nothing else so please bear that in mind. Both are movies and not real life so there are obvious concessions made for the sake of comedy, story flow, etc. But the point is — they were both made to reflect the current status quo of mothering and homemaking.

The end of Mr. Mom eludes to the wife considering working part time which reflected the Feminist movement of that era. Mom's Night Out depicts stay home moms, reflecting an attempt at returning to homemaking roots of this era (a very good thing!). The reason I am contrasting them is because I feel that moms today need to retrieve something. They need to go back to the roots. They need to learn homemaking skills as they were once taught, known and lived many years ago. Homemaking and mothering require a multitude of skills. It's an art, a science, a joy and a challenge all rolled up into one.

I'm not disparaging a mom's bad days. We all have them. But in the old days, they were not the norm, but rather the exception. Today's wife and mother is unacquainted with child training. They are over-acquainted with arm chair and tv psychobabble though. They are are familiar with most all the trends in parenting. Time outs. And giving lengthy, bordering-on-whiny explanations to their little ones. Justifications for every little decision they make and indulging in emotional rants is not completely off limits. They are unfamiliar with running their household with confidence and with a firm but loving hand.

What can be done? Perhaps proficient successful mothers should give seminars and Godly parenting and homemaking classes? I know there are some reeeeaaallly good homemakers out there reading this and you may not be "perfect" but you've got a handle on things. Your home is loving, orderly, peaceful, vibrant, and somewhat (or very) organized. You have a plan and you are managing your home. I think those who are running smooth and happy homes should consider sharing that knowledge with a generation of mothers who are desperate in the local community.

Chime in! What do you think? Do you think that today's SAHM have more in common with the mother or the father in "Mr. Mom"? What do you think of the idea of giving classes on mothering, home management and housekeeping?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Brand New Year

Baby New Year is here - 2015! We have already been so busy this year! Our teens just finished competing in a 4 day state wide Speech and Debate tournament. My husband arranged his work schedule so he could be with us. The temperatures and weather were icy and freezing every morning so it was a bit of a treacherous trek to get to and from the tournament each day. But the Lord kept us safe and we made it without incident every day. Truly praising the Lord for that because there were a lot of accidents both in and out of vehicles. Some of the people at the tournament were slipping and falling on the ice just walking around.

So my honey bear not only drove us there and back each day in his 4 wheel drive truck, but he stayed and helped judge the rounds all day every day with me! We actually won prizes at the awards ceremony last night for being among the four people who judged the most rounds (33 between us!).

We were so proud of our kids for their hard work and efforts. They broke in the first set of outrounds but didn't make it to semi-finals. However they handled it with such grace and dignity! I am bursting with respect and love for them. They are winners in my book for that! I think they will do much better by the next tournament as they hone their speaking skills and refine their contentions.

We hosted a tournament family of 3 from out of town during the tournament also, which made things run a little tighter than they would have been on the home front, but I'm glad we could help. We gave them our older son's room (all cleaned out and ready for their luggage and stuff), a couch in the living room and the main bathroom all to themselves.

Our sons doubled up in my younger son's room and my older slept in a sleeping bag on the floor and they never complained once. In the wee hours of 5am each day, they came into my husband's and my room and we watched the news and took turns getting ready in the master bathroom. It felt very much the same as when we stay in a hotel since we were all together in one room trying to get ready and share a bathroom. I liked it because it is one of those things that ends up bonding us closer. :) I love my family!

Next I am going to try have a game night party for my younger son whose birthday is this month.

I thought life was busy when they were little and now I'm feeling like that was a cake walk compared to the business of their teen years. Or maybe it's just that I'm older and slower? Or a combination of both? I don't know. What I do know is that I love them more every day and they are worth every effort I can give. :-)

I've got some definite plans and goals I want to reach this year — fitness goals, travel plans, anniversary hopes, tournament wins, and more. Each one I leave in the Lord's hands for his direction and guidance with. But I am excited for the new year. I LOVE new beginnings!

How about you? Are you excited about the new year? Do you like new beginnings or are you more of a status quo type? I love hearing what's on your heart.