Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Need a Learning Circle

Life has been good around here lately.  I'm de-junking the house, I'm playing the Bloom game, I'm establishing our Family Systems, I'm dating my husband, I'm working on The Power of Moms, I'm keeping my Mind Organized, I'm getting enough sleep and exercise, and I'm trying to be the kind of mom who's actually there for her children.  (Oh, and I'm trying not to have as many meltdowns...it's getting better.)

But I still need a Learning Circle.  If you haven't heard about these yet, let me be the one to introduce you to the idea (my dear friend Saren's brainchild):

A group of moms meet together once a month--kind of like a book group, except they discuss a fun article related to motherhood.  Next month's article is called, "Am I Destined to Live in a Pigsty?" (It's all about how to strengthen your family relationships while simultaneously doing what needs to be done.)

I thought this photo from our website was a "stock" image, but then I recognized three darling moms from our June Power of Moms Retreat--this is THEIR group from Arizona. 


Learning Circles have been changing the lives of women all over the world (Click HERE for quotes).  We have groups in several countries and all over the United States, but I don't have my own circle!  This blog post is a call for help.

Here's my plan: 

Next month, I'd like to host a Trial Learning Circle for interested moms in my area (near Corona, California).  I'll show you how to get a group started, we'll have a fun discussion (with treats!), and then we'll figure out the details: who would like to be a Learning Circle Leader (it's not hard), who would like to be a "participant," how we could involve more moms, etc.

(Dues to keep the website going are between $10 and $15 a year, depending on the special.  Our prices will most likely be going up next year, so now is a great time to get "grandfathered in.")

One reason I'm so excited about this is because of an email I received from my dear friend Penny, one of our new Learning Circle Leaders.  She did a whole write-up for our site:



Have you ever felt so excited about a book or a product that you just had to figure out a way to get it?  Haven’t you had times when something strikes you so strongly to your inner core that you just HAVE to check it out? 

There are things in our lives that are worth every penny you could put into them! They will be life enhancing and so mind opening that things will never be better in your life at home!

After having been a part of different moms organizations in our state, we found that we had fun getting together, but trying to figure out a topic to discuss and what was a good source, was a constant challenge.  Most of the time we all had our hands full of young mothering issues and couldn’t find the time to put together a lesson of our own with much quality.  We all wanted to learn how to do better at solving our problems and wanted our time spent there to be valuable. 

The Learning Circles program provided on The Power of Moms has monthly lessons for us that are of the caliber of noted authors!  With 12 lessons/yr. coming to you, you have a book on mothering that is more valuable than any mothering book!  Think about it. For $10 annually you get a “books” worth of information along with the added value of the insights the members of your Learning Circle will add.  How could you put a price on that?!  Besides, this book will become your own, as you discuss the articles every month and really benefit from what you learn and then apply in your family

We hope that this hits you strongly to your core!  We know that you will be so grateful for the insights that come from the discussions and this time that is dedicated to helping you “train” yourself for the calling of motherhood!  Where else can you go only one time a month and learn something every time that will help you become the mother you want to be?


Isn't that fabulous?  We didn't even assign her to write it...or pay her to write it.  She is just so excited about taking Learning Circles to the world.  Can you see why I want one so badly?

Please leave a comment or email me if you'd like to meet up in November (early...before Thanksgiving).

Love,
April



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Putting HusbandHero on Hold

About two years ago, my husband and I launched a website called HusbandHero, which is designed to create closer couples by reminding husbands (and wives) how to be romantic...in a clean, "cute" sort of way.

Here's one of the images from our homepage that makes me all teary-eyed.


We've had great fun with the site, and every month, Eric and I have brainstormed ways that couples can show their love for one another.  The process went something like this:

  • I would spend a couple of hours scouring the Internet for great products and racking my brain for romantic ideas that left me feeling giddy
  • Eric would tell me which ideas husbands would actually like (because sometimes I got a little too carried away...)

We also sent out a WonderWife email each month with a quick romantic idea and a Marriage Tip of the Month--usually linking to a great article about how to show your husband you adore him.

Here's why we're putting it hold: 

(1) The admin/tech side of the site has never worked quite right (mainly because we were inexperienced and didn't know what to ask for), and the sign-up portion of the site suddenly stopped working last month.  We've got some great ideas to redesign/fix everything, but in the meantime...

(2) We've been presented with some exciting opportunities that need our full attention.  Things are moving fast (in a fun way!) at The Power of Moms, and I'm pouring my heart and soul into building the organization into what it's meant to be.  My husband was also asked to serve in a new leadership position at church, and between work, church, extra projects, raising our four children, and trying to keep our OWN marriage strong, we have to learn how to more fully focus our lives on the most important things.

Here are our plans for the future:


Once we can get a few more ducks in a row at The Power of Moms, we're planning to start a companion website called "The Power of Families."  That is where Saren and I will combine all the family-strengthening programs and materials we've put together over the years:  The commercial Joy School Company she runs, HusbandHero, Family Volunteering, Family Night Ideas, Family Unity, Family Traditions, Family Systems, "The Power of Dads," and other programs/ideas we've had in the works over at The Power of Moms.


So I'm going to "close up shop" temporarily at HusbandHero (yes, it is a little sad) and get working....

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why I LOVE the Love Languages

I mentioned before that Susan Chapman taught an excellent class about Love Languages at our Power of Moms Retreat.

In one sentence, the love languages tell you how your family members feel most loved--through acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, or physical affection.

Three weeks later, here's how these ideas are changing my family:

(1) My little boy is the "gifts" kind of child.  He presents me with fun rocks, gives me dandelions from the backyard...it's really sweet.  I used to say, "Thanks for the rock!" and then throw it back into the pile when he wasn't looking.  Now, since the Retreat, I CHERISH those gifts, and I let them know how much they mean to me.  It's not just about the rock...it's about the love that went into the giving.

(2) My husband shows love by giving us quality time with him, and now I'm learning to do the same.  Before, when he would get home from work, he'd take a short break on the couch (before heading out to meetings for church), and I would flutter around the kitchen, cleaning up from dinner. 

Now, I sit down next to him, talk with him about our days, and do a little snuggling.  Then the children help me clean up after he leaves, and it only takes a few minutes.  The other day, when I sat down near my husband, he said, "You DO know that I like when you sit by me!"

(3) One of my daughters feels love by words of affirmation, and this morning she was feeling a little down.  She asked if she could check her email (which I closely monitor, and I knew she didn't have any emails in there).  I told her to wait just a second, and then I typed up a quick love email, just for her:

Just so you know how much I love you!
 
1- You are funny.  I like how you make me laugh when you do funny dances.
2- You decorate the bulletin board with fun Halloween decorations.
3- You are a helpful sister.  You treat Spencer with such respect.
4- You always want to make the right decision.  You don't say bad words, you don't lie, you don't cheat...you are a good, good girl
5- You like when I tickle your back at night and sing "Baby Mine"
6- You massage my arms and legs when I am tired at the end of the day
7- You help me water my plants so they don't die again!
8- You are not demanding in any way.  You are grateful for the clothes, money, etc. that I give you.
9- You are a good friend.  I never hear you saying anything unkind about your friends.
10-You are smart!  I am always so impressed at the good work you do at school.
 
LOVE YOU!
 
It was heartwarming to watch her read this email.  Seriously, it took only 3 minutes to type, but it transformed her morning. 
Here's to Love Languages!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Beautiful Mess

As long as I'm in this mode of full disclosure...

My house is often a mess.  



I don't mind telling you because I'm not ashamed of the disorder you'll find in my closet, on my counter, under my bathroom sink, all over the laundry room, and on the shelves of the garage (among other places). 

I don't necessarily LIKE messes, but when you are living in a house, it gets messy. 

It's my beautiful mess.

Some friends and I were talking a few weeks ago, and we figured it would be helpful to women worldwide if every blogger posted a photo of her own beautiful mess.  You know, so we don't feel alone...and so we don't feel sorry for the other moms out there--supposing that they never get to experience the fun of beautiful messes.

Are you wondering if I am insane at this point?

Here's my take on things:
  • It's lovely to have "a place for everything and everything in its place," but it doesn't matter if everything is in it's place all the time.  Model homes look like heaven, at first glance, but there's no LIFE in them.  That's not heaven to me.
  • Working together and keeping a home tidy is essential to building strong relationships, teaching responsibility, and maintaining a healthy standard of living, but if our homes get messy during this process of raising children, that's not a poor reflection on us as parents.  It's natural.
  • Messes are signs of growth and development.  When piano books are stacked all over the piano, that's because we're learning to read music.  When papers get piled up on the counter, that's because we all set our stuff down before heading out to the backyard to play...and then we made tacos together and visited with the neighbors and worked on Algebra and folded the laundry and then headed up to bed for stories.  It'll get clean...but what's the hurry?
  • And finally, there's a difference between "people-live-in-this-house-so-it-doesn't-look-perfect" messes and "Aargghh-I-can-never-find-anything-in-this-pig-sty-why-why-why" messes.  The former, I can handle, but the latter requires some serious, immediate attention.
I didn't always see messes for their beauty.  When I had three preschoolers (while living in a tiny apartment in Boston)  I felt like I couldn't control ANYTHING, so I tried to control each and every mess.  One night, I wanted so badly to have our apartment "perfect," that I was tempted to walk into each bedroom and make the beds while my children were IN them.  I stopped myself in time, but I laugh now that I think back on those days. 

With experience, comes wisdom (at least I like to think so).  The day is over, my children are tucked in their beds, and I am curled up on the couch, gazing lovingly at the remainder of today's beautiful messes.  We've got toy cars all over the train table, too many shoes by the front door, a dishwasher full of clean dishes, a sink full of dirty ones, leftover tacos that need to go in the fridge, at least 64 surfaces that need to be wiped, disinfected, or polished, and crayons on the kitchen table.

Isn't it beautiful?

If you'd like to join me in this "beautiful mess" campaign, write a blog post about YOURS and then come back and link it here.  Won't that make all the moms out there feel great?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Three Ways to Avert a Meltdown

My cute Spencer is now three, and he's growing up beautifully, but when he was two, we had meltdowns just about every day.  Whether we were at the store, church, school, the library, or the park, he never wanted to leave, and he would throw huge tantrums and run away from me.  

I would try to reason with him, I would try to get him excited about our next activity, and I would try to hold his hand and gently lead him to the car, but he wouldn't have any of it.  

Finally, my friend Saren taught me the "barrel hold."  I would carefully scoop Spencer into my arms, hold him on the side so his kicking legs couldn't bruise my shins, and get home ASAP.  One day I had to get a photo because this was such an integral (and frustrating) part of my life--it's important to document the bad and the good.



But today's post isn't about Spencer's meltdowns.  It's about MINE.  For some reason, moms seem to feel better when they know that other moms have meltdowns, so I am going to spell this reality out on my blog:

I have meltdowns.  

I try not to have them often, but sometimes I get so frustrated and tired and upset that I cry...a lot.  One of my recent meltdowns happened while I was on a date with my husband.  We'd arranged a sitter, we ate dinner at a lovely restaurant, and we were looking forward to having a nice evening together.  Instead, I cried all over my husband's shoulder, smeared mascara all over his light blue shirt, and said something like,

"I'm so TIRED!  There is too much to do.  I'm not doing well at anything in my life.  I'm not getting enough sleep.  Why am I even trying to do anything extra with The Power of Moms?  The reason that moms don't do stuff like this is because it makes them insane to juggle so many things, and who am I to try to be a help to other people when I am struggling so much with my own challenges?"

It wasn't a pretty sight, and it went on for quite awhile.  My husband was incredibly patient through the whole thing, and after some comforting discussion and a good night's rest, I was fine (but a little embarrassed about my display the night before).  

Even though it's normal to have meltdowns, it's preferable NOT to have them, right?  I've been working on this pretty seriously for the past six days (since my last meltdown), and I think I've discovered a few ideas to avert future meltdowns.  (I'll have to report on this in a few months to let you know how it's going!)

Method #1: Get enough sleep.  

I know this seems obvious, but how many of us are actually getting enough sleep?  At the Power of Moms Retreat we held in June, we went around the room and each listed one thing that would make the biggest difference in how we felt about our lives, overall.  Nearly everyone said they needed to get to bed earlier. 

This requires more discipline than I expected, but it's working.  I've given myself a bedtime, and if that means I don't get to watch that TV show or finish up that project, then so be it.  My sanity is more important.  I've been helping my children get to bed between 7 and 7:30, and then I'm done by 10.  It's amazing how the world looks beautiful when you're well-rested.

Method #2: Give yourself a break.

As mothers and women, we work long hours, and we do lots of great things.  It's wonderful to have high expectations, but if we start getting grumpy because we're we're overwhelming ourselves with visions of pefection, it's time to give ourselves permission to relax.

I'd love to be a daily blogger.  I think it's a fun way to catalog lessons learned, and every blogging conference will tell you that daily blogging is important to your blog success, but that's not realistic for me right now.  

With my current blog, I'm planning to post once a week, if the stars are aligned, but if I don't get to it, the Internet won't implode.  It's not worth the stress.

I'm applying this same logic to many other areas in my life.  If the counters are crumb-covered until morning, that's all right.  If a load of laundry gets wrinkled sitting in the dryer, that doesn't make me a bad person.  If I can't be a classroom volunteer this year, that doesn't mean I'm a neglectful parent.  If I don't implement a new marketing strategy this week, then we'll just do it next week.  

I'm not trying to set up mediocre goals here, but I have a tendency to want to do everything perfectly--right this minute, and that doesn't make for a mentally healthy mom.

Method #3: Anticipate your "meltdown triggers."

We all have them.  In a college Psychology class, we studied our "stress indicators," and meltdown triggers aren't any different.  There's always some sort of warning sign before we turn into emotional wrecks.  What is it, really, that throws you into that downward spiral?  Is it hormones? Relationship issues? Overscheduling?

A big one for me is deadlines.  I like being a responsible, deadline-meeting kind of girl, but when my first priority is my family, external deadlines create too much stress.  Spencer (as demonstrated in the photo above) doesn't care if I have a meeting tonight or a presentation to make this weekend.  He's more concerned that his line of Hot Wheels is completely straight along the edge of the table, and he wants me to "ooh" and "ahh" right along with him (which I WANT to do).

Now that I know deadlines are a weak point for me, I'm taking steps to reduce the number of deadlines in my life.  For example, I'm not attending the New England Power of Moms Retreat (though I'd LOVE to be there) because traveling is too stressful for my family right now.  I'm also not putting my children in a ton of extracurricular activities or committing myself to scheduled writing deadlines because I know it will only cause more meltdowns.

Maybe it sounds like I'm turning into a pansy, but what I've found is that when I am rested, relaxed, and free of deadlines, I am actually MORE productive.  I move my business forward at a faster rate, I am open to more creative ideas, and I am actually enjoying the process.

If you have meltdowns, try these methods and let me know how it goes, okay?  I've got this vision of a happy, productive, meltdown-free life.  It will be fabulous.  Want to join me?
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