Saturday, May 28, 2011

When I Sleep

I've been a little hesitant to write this blog post (for a variety of reasons), but so many people have been asking me where I find time to work on The Power of Moms while I'm taking care of my family and trying to get in 8 hours of sleep, so I thought I could share some strategies that work for me.  (Please add your thoughts in the comments section!  I would love to read them.)

I have about 10 minutes before my children will need me downstairs, so I'll make this quick:

My goal is to be present and happy with my family members, get 8 hours of sleep in each 24-hour period, and work efficiently and effectively on meaningful projects when I can. 

(1) I don't watch TV (except for an occasional show on Netflix once or twice a week).  The average American watches more than 30 hours of TV each week, so if you cut it out, you can get a lot more done (and a lot more sleep).

(2) My bedtimes vary, but here are a few scenarios to get in my eight hours of sleep:
  • Some nights I go to bed around 10 pm and get up at 4:30 am, then I take an hour and a half nap during the day.
  • When I have a huge, pressing project, I go to bed at 7:30, get up at 11:30, work until 3:30, go back to bed until 6:30, and then take a one-hour nap that day. I like having four uninterrupted hours to work.
  • I try not to stay up too late, but maybe once a week, I'll work from 8 pm until midnight, then get up at 6 am, and take a two-hour nap that day.
(3) All my housework is done with my family.  I don't cook, clean, do laundry, fold laundry, organize, etc. when my children are sleeping.  When they get tucked into bed, I'm either spending time with my husband, sleeping, reading/relaxing, or working.

(4) I do the Mind Organization for Moms program every single day.  That way, when 15 minutes pop up, I'm able to focus on the most essential tasks (or forget the tasks for awhile and spend time with my kiddos).

(5) M.O.M. has also helped me fall asleep quickly.  When I get into bed, I am asleep within about five minutes.

(6) My situation is a little unique because my husband is actually busier than I am, so his momentum keeps me going.  I know that not everyone has a spouse who shares their same drive, so you have to make your schedule work with your spouse's needs.  If my husband wants "down time" together, then I take that opportunity.  Nothing that happens in my office is more important than him or my children.

(7) I'm excited about what I do (I honestly feel like being a mom and working with Saren and our board on The Power of Moms is the dreamiest of all jobs in the whole entire world).  That gets me up in the morning/middle of the night.  My work is not something I dread.  It's my playtime.

(8) If I'm having a tough week (hormone-wise or stress-wise), then I make early bedtimes a higher priority.  This week, I was "recovering" from the Retreat and prepping for some pretty big projects, so I felt more tired than usual.  For the past three nights, I've gone to bed at 9:30, gotten up at 5:30, and then taken a 90-minute nap each day. 

(9) Whenever I feel grumpy, I simplify my day and get to sleep ASAP.

(10) I probably need to say that my children typically sleep from about 8 pm until 5:45 am.  We start the bedtime routine around 6:30 so it's totally quiet by 8.  My three "older" children are a huge help with Spencer, so if I'm needing more rest, they're more than happy to get him breakfast, turn on a little cartoon for him, and help keep him quiet for me.  My children also do all their own lunch-packing, school prep, etc.  I just help brush their hair, have family scripture study with them, and then take them to school.  My husband helps out in the mornings a lot, too.  We consider ourselves to be on the same team, so we do what we can to make life easier for each other.  (This is something I never take for granted because I know it's not the norm.)

Okay, maybe that was more than you wanted to know?  Or maybe I didn't answer your most pressing questions?  Please let me know what ideas you have or what I left out.

Sleep is a beautiful thing.  But so is family.  And so is working on exciting projects.  My goal is to have the best of all three.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our May Park City Retreat

I'm in "catch-up mode" after being away from my home for a few days for our Retreat, but I had to take a moment to post a couple of things I received through my email this morning.

First, our darling photographer, Rebecca Walters, sent us some photos that depict the Retreat experience beautifully:




  








Aren't those amazing?  For some reason, when I try to write about my experiences at our Power of Moms Retreats, I'm at a loss for words.  All I can think to say is "Light.  Beauty.  Inspiration.  Nobility.  Renewed purpose.  Magic."  When you get that many mothers in one room, who are truly dedicated to making their homes and families great, there is a unique energy that you have to feel in order to understand.

I need to get back to my little Spencer, so I'll close with this letter we got from one of our sweet attendees:

Saren and April,

I just had to thank you for a wonderful weekend. The retreat was exactly what I needed to fill my bucket. Saturday truly was a feast and I've come away feeling so empowered and, well, really the best way I can describe the change I have already started to feel because of all I've learned is....."Momfidence"! Yes! Momfidence! 


I know I'm not perfect and I don't know why I didn't get all these concepts and things before, but somehow in your presentations and stories, I "got it". 

I believe last night as I returned home to my children and today as well, I AM trying to be a Deliberate Mother, and I enjoy it! 

After Fridays Mind Organization presentation, I found myself a little frustrated that my hubby and I hadn't booked 1 more night in a hotel to really talk about things and have more of a vacation away from it all. Then after Saturdays "feast", something magical happened. I found I couldn't wait to get back to the parking lot where my sweet husband was and then to get home an d see my boys. 

Upon arriving home, I found myself relishing every minute with them. The old me would have rushed in the house to see what messes awaited me that I had to get to, swiftly unpacked, etc. I sat on the porch and listened to each of them tell me of their adventures over the weekend and kept looking at all of them and thinking what an enormous blessing and privilege it was to be their mother. 

I had the best time on the hour drive home telling my husband all I learned. He was excited--we both are about this fresh new start we feel in our marriage and our parenting. We feel more of a team than ever. He even took me in his arms last night and asked me tenderly what I needed to thrive! I seriously think I've never been so attracted to him, lol. 

Well, I know you must be receiving hundreds of e-mails but I did want to thank you for how this retreat has changed my life. I am amazed at how much more patience I have with my children because I have become tuned to my inner voice which has in turn given me more control over my outer voice. I am already seeing more peace, contentment and just deliberate joy, love and strength in our home. 


I guess I never fully realized just how much my attitude and how I approached my job as Mom really set the tone and mood and overall effect and feeling in the home. I am doing my best and it is enough and I have Momfidence! Thank you so much. I love you both and appreciate all you are doing to be a resource in my favorite job!


I am so grateful for the chance I have to help with these Retreats.  Saren and I try to make it perfectly clear that we are not the ones who deserve the thanking.  Anything we're able to do is because of the power of God.  We're just filled with appreciation to Him for letting us be a part of this work.


Have a wonderful day!

April

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Future as a Professional Dancer

I know it must seem a little cryptic as I talk about what's "really" been going on around here, but I promise I'll get to it (this post is a start). To most people, it wouldn't be that big of a deal,  but for me, it's been monumental. 

Basically, I feel like I've finally learned some key components to feeling genuinely happy about life.  I didn't even cry during my most difficult days this month (my husband was deeply impressed).

I feel optimistic, excited, comfortable with my weaknesses, yet motivated to be better.  I feel a greater desire to draw close to the Lord, and I hear His voice more often.  I'm dancing around my house and singing while I work (I haven't noticed myself singing for a couple of months).  My relationships with my husband and children are stronger, and I know that even though life isn't easy, it's an incredible experience.

Below, I've included a post that will be published on DeseretNews.com next Tuesday (and The Power of Moms sometime around there, as well).  It details my future as a professional dancer (not really . . ..  You'll see).  This blog is part of my "dance," so sometimes I'll post often, and sometimes I won't, but it's fun to write, and I appreciate you being here with me.

Love,
April




Dance Through Motherhood


 

Rarely does a story stick with me for 10 years, but this one (told to me by my friend Pam) has: One day, a boy walked into a room where an older man wearing head phones was dancing like crazy.  It was almost embarrassing to watch as he waved his arms, bounced his knees, and wiggled his body with incredible enthusiasm. The boy noticed a second set of head phones in the room, and since this man was obviously enjoying himself, the boy put the head phones on his own ears and tried to replicate what the older man was doing.

He shook his arms, bounced his knees, and attempted to wiggle his body exactly like this man, but after a few minutes, the boy got tired (and a little disgusted), threw the head phones onto the ground, and stomped out the door.  What was the problem?

He hadn’t turned on the music. 

Can you relate?

I often look around and see "perfect" mothers dancing it up, but when I try to recreate their "dance," I end up frustrated and exhausted, just like the boy with the head phones. 

If you're like me, you desperately need to dance.  There's something inside you that's itching to love your work, love your life, and spend your time doing what you were meant to do. 

Does that work with motherhood?  Yes it does--and since learning to dance and teaching others to dance is one of my main purposes in life, let's begin.

Part 1: Create your dance floor.

There's a reason why your Senior Prom wasn't held in the midst of a crowded warehouse.  You've got to have space to dance.  I've spent the past three weeks creating that space in my life, and for me, it involved de-junking my house (and creating a new system to keep it de-junked), spending some serious time doing Mind Organization for Moms, and building reliable (but not unattainable) systems into my life so the everyday routines and responsibilities aren't such a drain on my dancing energy.  For more on that, you can join our Mind Organization for Moms community, and I'll tell you all about it.   

Part of this dance-floor creation also involved letting go of unrealistic expectations I'd set for myself.  Anna Quindlen, in her book Being Perfect, describes it as "carrying a backpack filled with bricks every single day" (p. 11).  Let's unite here and unanimously agree to set these bricks down.

I'm not the type of person who ever wants to settle for mediocrity, but honestly, some things aren't worth stressing over (Saren has a great article on that HERE). 

Tonight, we've invited a family to our home, and the mother is a concert violinist.  My husband arranged for her to bring her violin so she could show our children how she plays it.  He also arranged for me to play a duet with her (me on the piano), and he'd like to videotape it for our children. 

I have been a mess all morning.  I'm not a concert pianist.  I've practiced this piece more than 50 times in the past month, but I keep stumbling over the last two pages.  I've rehearsed dozens of explanations in my head that I can use when I mess up.   I've even considered purposely draining the battery on the video camera so my embarrassment can't be recorded. 

But then I realized that it doesn't matter if I don't play as well as I'd like.  I'll enjoy the experience, smile when I make a mistake (or 40), and even let my husband videotape the experience so my children can know it's okay not to be perfect. 


"The perfect mother (the toughest of all the ideals to imagine!) makes other women feel like failures simply by showing up and showing off" (Quindlen, p.35).  We can help each other so much more by showing our imperfections (and how we try to improve them), than by trying to show everyone how perfect we are.  And letting go of this desire to be perfect at everything is giving me space to dance.

Part 2: Hear the music.
Head phones aren't necessary to hear the music of motherhood, but an open heart is.  Too many voices are out there screaming that women are oppressed by motherhood or that the life of a mom is boring, mundane, and only suitable for the uneducated woman who doesn't know any better.  That's simply not true.  It's just that the women who feel that way are trying to do the "head phone dance" without hearing the rhythm and melody that compels a woman to live and mother deliberately.

Our goal at The Power of Moms is to broadcast the music.  I think of the website as a radio station, playing songs meant to strengthen the hearts and homes of women who want to have an incredible motherhood experience. 

Reading and listening to resources from The Power of Moms, inspiring blogs, websites, books, movies, and other places, helps me hear the music every day--because I need it every day.  I also connect to God each morning and ask Him to help me hear what I need to hear.

The music isn't that hard to find, but just like a radio, you've got to be tuned in to hear it.


Part 3: Develop your core.
"Someday, sometime, you will be sitting somewhere.  A berm over-looking a pond in Vermont.  The lip of the Grand Canyon at sunset.  A seat on the subway.  And something bad will have happened: You will have lost someone you loved, or failed at something at which you badly wanted to succeed.

"And sitting there, you will fall into the center of yourself.  You will look for some core to sustain you.  And if you have been perfect all your life and have managed to meet all the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, chances are excellent that there will be a black hole where that core ought to be" (Quindlen, p. 47-48).

I meet far too many women who say that the moment their last child starts first grade or leaves for college, they look around their empty house and say, "Now what?"  If our cores are not being nurtured from the start, there won't be anything left when we finally have the time to do something with it. 

I have to invest some time every day developing the person inside the mom, but that doesn't mean simply imitating what everyone else is doing because "
nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great, ever came out of imitations.  What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself."  (Quindlen, p.15)

I like to write.  I like to organize.  I like to study and learn and then teach others the ideas that have inspired me.  I like the energy that comes from gathering large groups of like-minded people together.  I like to help mothers change their thinking.  I like to do things that leave others feeling surprised and delighted.  That is how I take care of my core.

Anna Quindlen suggests this: "look, every day, at the choices you are making, and when you ask yourself why you are making them, find this answer: Because they are what I want, or wish for.  Because they reflect who and what I am."

Certainly, not every part of my life will be fun, but it will have purpose.  I clean bathrooms because I want a beautiful home.  I get up at 5:37 with my three-year-old because I want him to feel loved and cherished.  However, there are a thousand things I simply don't do because they don't reflect who I am.  I only post a blog when I have something specific to say--even though daily blogging is a "rule."  I don't sign my children up for lots of activities because it leaves me stressed and anxious, and I don't think that's the kind of mom they want to live with. 

When we live beautiful lives, reflective of who we are at our cores, we give the world a powerful gift.

Part 4: Dance with everything you've got.
Trying to conform to this image of what is perfect "requires a kind of lockstep.  Look at the word; imagine it in your mind's eye, the forced march of the fearful, the physical opposite of the skip and the jump.  Doesn't it sound like something to avoid at all costs?" (Quindlen, p. 35).

I've been in this lockstep for too long.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles, books, programs, and breath-taking ideas inside me right now.  And as I looked closely at the cause of my recent angst, I could see that the pain of not dancing is driving me insane. 

I don't know the "right" way to blog or the "right" way to build a website that's destined to gather and strengthen deliberate mothers all over the world.  However, I know that I am much more valuable to myself, my family, and the world when I listen closely to the music and let myself dance. 

George Eliot said, "It is never too late to be what you might have been."

I'm starting again today.



QUESTION: What does it mean for you to "dance"?

CHALLENGE: Start today with Step 1 and begin creating space in your life that will enable you to live the deliberate live you've imagined.







Photo courtesy of Franciscus51 at Flickr.com  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The FIRST Power of Moms T-Shirts!

I have honestly been dreaming about wearing a Power of Moms T-shirt for years.  We've been working with a friend's company to put together an order, but the details haven't quite worked out yet, and I started to get a little ancy.

So yesterday I bought a couple of white shirts and some iron-on transfer paper and made my own.  They're not professionally designed, by any means, but they are mine, and they represent something that's a huge part of my life.  Once I finished the ironing, I was so excited that I made a video so you could share in the excitement (but I'm feeling a little silly about this, so I'm not sure how long this post will stay up).

 

I made this second shirt, too, which I'm equally excited about, but I didn't think it was necessary to record a second video.  (And I could edit/rotate the photo, but it's late, and I've got to get ready for the Power of Moms Retreat this weekend . . . yes, I am definitely going to take the t-shirts with me!  Would it be distracting if I wore them while I was presenting?)


If you are also dying to wear a t-shirt like this, I put the images up on our website HERE.  I'm sure we'll have a wide variety of design options soon, but if you make one of these, you can say that you had one of the VERY FIRST Power of Moms t-shirts.  Your children would be so proud.  Yay!

Goodnight!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Favorite Organizing Books

My sister was asking me about my favorite organizing books this week, so I thought I'd put them up here on my blog (and ask for your suggestions, as well).  Honestly, I'm dying to write about all the "real" stuff going on in my life (because I'm learning and growing more than ever before, and I'd like to share it), but our Power of Moms Retreat is this weekend, and I have too much to do between now and then, so for now, here are some thoughts on organizing . . .).

I really, really, really like organizing.  My life is never as organized as I'd like (because I'd like to have everything perfectly clean and beautiful and orderly at all times), but when you are trying to raise a happy family and you don't want to spend your entire life being a cranky perfectionist, you've got to let some things slide.

My motto is, "Clean enough to be healthy, messy enough to be happy."

That being said, our whole family functions better when things are organized.  Here are the books that have helped me attain a level of organization that enables me to "cook on all burners," as my mom would say.

#1: It's Here . . . Somewhere

I read this book more than 10 years ago, and I still think of it every day.  It shows you how to take a cluttered house and turn it into a simplified haven in a few weeks' time.  I love it.




#2: Getting Things Done

This is an obvious one, since I based my whole Mind Organization for Moms program on it, but really, David Allen does for your mind what book #1 does for your house.  That cluttered mess in your brain becomes a simplified haven.  Brilliant. 




#3 Sink Reflections

I heard about this one years ago, but I didn't read it until last month, and I am kicking myself for waiting so long.  It shows you how to create simple household routines that basically keep the house clean without ever having a big "cleaning day."  I've been teaching the steps to my children, and they're all pitching in.  Now, when we're together on Saturdays, we can spend the day playing because the house is already clean.

The "Fly Lady" has also taught me to take more breaks during the day and spend time doing things that I enjoy.  I LOVE this book. 




#4 Organizing from the Inside Out and Never Check Email in the Morning

These are two books by one of my heroes, Julie Morgenstern.  She has such a pleasant writing style, and she's helped me learn to organize with my family's habits (and not to force my family to develop new habits just so I can organize the way I like).

For example, I used to make the whole family put their laundry in my closet--right into our laundry sorter.  Well, one of my children kept leaving piles of clothes behind the children's bathroom door.  I kept getting mad and saying, "They belong in the laundry sorter!  Why do you keep shoving them behind the door?"

After reading Organizing from the Inside Out, I decided to try something new.  I put a narrow hamper behind the children's bathroom door, and now there aren't any piles of clothes on the floor (and my children are in charge of bringing down/sorting their own laundry).  Case solved.

Never Check Email in the Morning is a brilliant book, as well.  Morgenstern shows you how to make a time map, spend your best energy on the most important, creative projects, and not get distracted by email, Facebook, etc.



So those are my top picks.  Anyone else have a great organizing book to add?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Our Day with KSL and "The Book"

I've spent the past two weeks getting on top of my life.  I'll need to do a post later about what that process looked like for me (because it worked, and I'm feeling wonderful now), but I've been thinking, organizing, establishing new routines, creating better habits, and learning to focus the few hours I have to do "extra" stuff each week.  

As I pull myself out of that process and back into the real world, I wanted to post a few things about The Power of Moms.

This photo, below, is Amanda Wilkinson, Saren, and me at Amanda's home a few weeks ago.  Studio 5, a TV show in Utah, did a spot on Learning Circles (video is at the bottom of the page), and Saren and I had the privilege of being there for the interview and meeting Amanda and her incredible group.  It was a "payday" for us to see an actual Learning Circle in progress (that we didn't lead or organize ourselves).  They are a strong, dedicated, amazing group of women.


Later that day, we also met with Catherine Arveseth and Allyson Reynolds, dear friends and Power of Moms authors who are helping us do some of the final editing on this book we're dying to get published soon (I've linked to their blogs on my sidebar). 


I had only known Catherine through email and her blog, so it was a thrill to meet her in person, and Allyson and I have only met a handful of times, but she's one of my dearest friends, so our lunchtime discussion and book brainstorm session was seriously heaven.


I have about 30 minutes before Spencer wakes up and about 30 things to do, so I'll close with this two-minute clip from Studio 5 that aired yesterday.  Although I'm stretched to my limits and working during odd hours of the day and night, I must say that the associations and opportunities that are available to me through this organization are worth every ounce of effort.


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