Family Life

How I Do It All (Hint: I Don’t)

Every once in a while, someone asks me how I do it all... and that's when I try really hard not to laugh, because I totally don't.

One of the number one questions that I get, is how I do it all. It makes me laugh every time I see it, because I really don’t get everything done. No one does! But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get it all done? People look at my life, and they see that I’ve got 6 kids, and I run a business. They’re already stunned at those accomplishments. But then they find out that I also homeschool. That’s when the fainting and shrieking starts… I just don’t know how you do it they say. I could never…. blah blah blah.

Sure you could! The cool part is that there’s nothing magical about what I do, and I really don’t get “everything” done. For days that I have magically accomplished getting school, dinner, and client work done, there’s umpteen other things I wanted to achieve that just never happened. Sometimes it means that the laundry sits unchecked. Sometimes it means that personal projects were put on hold.

Sometimes it means that we picked up pizza, or tacos, or corndogs for dinner. I know some of the sanctimommy’s out there just cringed. I could never feed my kid that you say. And believe me, I’d love to be the ultimate Mrs. Cleaver… just kidding… I can’t vacuum in pearls.

Can't vacuum in pearls, but it IS easier to clean with a baby wrap.

Regardless, like most Moms, I’d love to have a perfectly clean house, with gourmet meals on the table, freshly scrubbed kids that all use their manners all the time, thriving business, amazing wardrobe, and perfectly coiffed hair all the time. But then I wake up.

The fact is, my kids aren’t always clean… and I prefer it that way. Getting dirty is part of childhood… hell it’s part of life. I actually want to get messy with them more often than I do. Sometimes my Type A takes over, and I cringe at the idea of breaking out the scissors and glue, but again these are vital parts of childhood. I’m trying to learn not to let my own issues prevent creativity in my kids. Or learning opportunities for that matter.

My kids aren’t clean, and they’re not always well-behaved… aren’t you relieved? In fact I have had days were I’ve called my Mom to vent about how it’s only 8:15 in the morning, but I’ve already broken up 4 arguments, told the kids to be quiet and eat their breakfast, and told the boys to get their clothes on about a half-dozen times. Sound familiar? That’s right, you’re not the only one who has days like that.

Then there’s school. Yes we school at home, and some days it’s magical. The kids get in there, and we do history together, and read-alouds… and then the older kids do their independent studies (like math), and I sit with the younger kids to work on phonics. But then there are days that one of the younger ones decides that Duplos sound waaaay more fun than sounding out bat, cat, and rat… and the oldest one has a ‘tude about math. (Not that she didn’t come by it honestly.)

So yes. Like every other parent, there are moments I want to duct tape my kids to the wall, and days I feel sheer relief that it’s bedtime. But then we get up the next day and start all over again. We try to look at every day as a fresh beginning around here.

So how do I “appear” to have everything together? It’s easy… number one I put as many systems in place as possible. Sometimes it gets me accused of being OCD, or Type A, but in general my family appreciates the results of the structure… if not the structure itself. So here are some of the systems we use…

Bullet journaling has made my life easier

 #1. I use a bullet journal.

I used to be super obsessed with planners… I tried just about every one that came around. I tried the Erin Condren, and the Happy Planner, and cheap ones from WalMart/Target. I’ve tried just mapping things out in a notebook… I’ve used Google Calendar, iCal, and Cozi. But nothing every really fully clicked, until a friend of mine started bullet journaling.

I’d heard of bullet journaling before, but when it first became a “thing” it was preeeeetty boring. It was very straightforward, and seemed like it was intended for guys or very left-brained people. But then I saw the pictures my friend was posting on Instagram… and her journal was PRETTY! It had headers, and doodles, and pops of color, and it was like a cross between journaling and art journaling. Uhm tell me more!

So I completely went crazy and dove into researching this new wave of pretty bullet journaling.

#2. I make small adjustments.

Once upon a time, I had the psychotic notion to get up 3 hours earlier than I had been. Why? I wanted to cultivate a writing habit, so I wanted to be up before the kids. But instead of being reasonable with myself, I set my alarm for 3 hours earlier than I’d been waking. I’ll let you guess how long that lasted… zzzzzzzz.

The next time I tried that, I started getting up 15 minutes earlier. Once I had that down, I got up 15 minutes earlier than that… much smarter! And it’s been working a lot better for me.

Some days look more like this

#3. I roll with the punches.

Sometimes the baby is just cranky. Or the toddler is clingy. Sometimes you’ve got the migraine from hell. And sometimes…. sometimes your head just isn’t in the game.  I would never say that you should give up when these things happen… if you give up every time there’s a monkey wrench in the works, the evil monkeys win. And we don’t want that to happen. Sometimes you just need to throw them a banana and get back to your day.

Okay that analogy got out of control. Where was I? Oh yes… Sometimes pushing through isn’t in your best interests. Sometimes if you push through, you just wind up with a crappy blog post, a painting that you’re unhappy with, or kids who are mad at Mom.

In fact today, I started off with the biggest plans. I was going to write copy for a landing page… write a welcome email sequence, and start a blog post draft. But my baby was up playing at 5am, and I’m a really light sleeper, so I was up at 5am. (Hint: I’m not usually up at 5am) So I’m tired today, and the baby is cranky because he was up earlier than usual.

I’ve also spent the last 15 minutes with my toddler on one knee, screaming like someone possessed, because we dared wake her up for dinner. So instead of working on the email sequence, and a new blog post, I’ve been working on the finishing touches for this one.

But you know what? That’s okay. My email sequence will wait. But before I know it, my toddler will.be a grown woman, maybe even with kids of her own. And some day, when she tells about the rough day she’s having with my grandkids, I’ll gleefully remind her about her post-nap meltdown.

How to Find Magic in a Sink of Dishes

How to Find Magic in a Sink of Dishes - Have you ever been faced by an exceptionally mundane task? Did you know there's some good that come out of that task? Click to see how even a sink of dishes (or a pile of laundry) can boost your creativity.

When I was very young, I loved to wash the dishes.

I don’t know if it was the novelty, or the bubbles, or the “big-kid” feeling of helping my Mom with the chores. But somewhere along the way, the enchantment faded, and it became boring. (And every Mom loves hearing that word, right?)

Our first dishwasher was a thrill to me, and I loathed any dish that couldn’t fit into the dishwasher. Stock pot? Ugh. Crock pot? Seriously. Cast iron skillet? Whose dumb idea was this? Oh whoops. Sorry Mom.

Every once in a while, our dishwasher would break down, and the kids would have to wash dishes again. By hand. Booooo. But as I got older (or maybe more mature, hehe), I realized that there was something magical that would happen while I was washing… my mind was free to wander. As my hands traced familiar paths with the sudsy washcloth, I could daydream.

I had to start setting a notebook, pen, and towel behind me when I washed dishes, because I’d get some of my best ideas then… snippets of song lyrics, ideas for a story, answers to questions I’d been pondering on. Later on, I’d discover the same thing could happen in the shower, or while I was ironing (yes I love ironing!), or folding laundry. Any simple tasks that allowed me to go on autopilot, were great for brainstorming.

Today’s culture values busyness, and we pride ourselves in not having any downtime. But when our minds are constantly going, there’s not much time to let our subconscious go to work. Those moments of clarity come upon waking up, or when we’re in the shower, because those are the rare moments we’re not busy.

So today, instead of being frustrated at the mountain of laundry… look at it as an opportunity. What can you brainstorm while you fold? Have a pen & paper on hand… you may be surprised at the ideas that will come to mind. 🙂

70+ Ways to be More Creative

70+ Ways to be More Creative | Have you ever felt like you weren't very creative? Or maybe you just want to be MORE creative? Click through to see over 70 ways you can up your creative game!How many times have you heard someone say, “oh I’m not creative… but I wish I was” or “I’m not creative, but my mom/dad/uncle/sister is”?

If you’re anything like me, you’re torn between feeling sorry for them, and wanting to shake them. We’ve put creativity into a tiny, narrow box. If you were to ask someone what creativity is, they’d likely say something like painting, or photography, or writing. Maybe they’d say all 3. But they’re missing out on the big picture… creativity comes in tons of forms… some obvious, and some not so obvious.

For example, if you sit down with your family’s favorite recipes, and you create a menu plan for the next week… you’ve used creative function. Did you put together an outfit and earned you rave compliments? You used creativity! Ever had a child inform you that their teddy bear is a pirate? Or that their pencil is a booger gun? (yes kids are gross!) Or that the box you’ve tried to throw away 6 times is their space shuttle? Creativity!

So those are some of the less obvious ways. But what about the obvious ones?

Spring Flowers

Visual

Photography

  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Wedding
  • Macro
  • Product
  • Stock
  • Underwater
  • Photojournalism

Painting

  • Watercolor
  • Oil
  • Acrylic
  • Pastel
  • Fresco/Mural
  • Gouache
  • Encaustic

Designing

  • Interiors
  • Theater/movie sets
  • Typeface/font
  • Drawing
  • Jewelry
  • Costume
  • Tattoos

Musical

  • Songwriting
  • Singing
  • Music production
  • Sound engineer
  • Album design

Writing

  • Blogs
  • Books
  • Articles
  • Screenplays
  • Poems

CrochetTimeline

Fiber arts

  • Knitting
  • Crocheting
  • Spinning
  • Weaving
  • Textile design
  • Batiking/Hand-dying
  • Basketry
  • Beadwork
  • Sewing
  • Quilting
  • Embroidery
  • Applique

Paper crafting

  • Paper making
  • Card making
  • Stamping
  • Quilling
  • Scrapbooking
  • Paper flowers
  • Decoupage
  • Origami
  • Paper mache

Hands-On/Outside the Box

  • Acting
  • Sculpting
  • Woodworking
  • Pottery
  • Florist
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Puttering on cars
  • Food stylist
  • Hair stylist
  • Nail artist
  • Makeup artist
  • Metalworking/Forging
  • Leatherworking
  • Architect
  • Toy design
  • Glass blowing
  • Teaching

For Type-A people who think they’re not creative

Planning/Directing

  • Animation director
  • Play producer
  • Event planning
  • Wedding planning
  • Film director
  • Museum director

Editing

  • Copy editor
  • Music editor
  • Screenplay editor
  • Book editor
  • Photo editor
  • Video editor

NeonPencilsLarge

As you can see there is a lot that falls under “creativity”. And this is by no means everything, and there are crossovers between these lists. I included the “type-A” list, because there are things that are considered to be non-creative fields that I consider to be very creative. And there are several on the “outside the box” list that fall in this territory as well. My husband is in mechanical maintenance. Grease monkeys aren’t usually considered to be creative, but I think the ability to look at something and understand how it’s all put together, and how to fix it, and how to improve it is extremely creative.

Architecture is considered an extremely left-brained sort of field… it’s very analytical, and required immense precision when drawing up blueprints and schematics. But the ability to dream up a building concept, and put it down on paper in a way that makes sense for builders is extremely creative also! Some of the finest minds of the Renaissance were strong in fields that are considered to “left brained” and fields that are considered “right brained”, because back then, no one sat children down and told them creativity was narrowly defined. No one told young apprentices that if they were a creative type, they couldn’t do anything mathematical or scientific. And no one told scientists that they couldn’t create.

Imagine telling Leonardo, that because he was a brilliant inventor, that he shouldn’t be capable of drawing or painting. It would never happen, because we know that’s ridiculous. But when it comes to our creativity, we put these sorts of restraints on ourselves. Oh I’m not creative… I’m an accountant, lawyer, doctor, etc.

Nonsense! Get out there and explore… you may be surprised what undiscovered talents you have.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to try?

How to Encourage More Imaginative Play

How to Encourage More Imaginative Play | Pablo Picasso famously pointed out that an artist is simply a child that's never grown up. But how do we keep our kids from losing their creative edge? Click through to read more...If you’ve ever watched Alton Brown in any of his TV cooking shows (or read his books/social media/blog), you may probably have heard Alton Brown discuss his love of multi-taskers (and his distaste for “unitaskers”) in cooking implements.

For example (one I harassed my husband about the other day, ha!) those bear claw meat shredders. They’re big, bulky, and do the same thing you could do with 2 forks or a KitchenAid.

A KitchenAid on the other hand is a multi-tasker. It has a beater attachment, whisk attachment, juicer attachment, food processor attachment, various pasta making attachments, and much more.

When it comes to toys I’m a big fan of toys that encourage imaginative play. These are the multi-taskers of the toy world. Imagine for a moment, the humble cardboard box of so many parenting jokes. And in truth, there’s more reality to it than we want to admit. On Christmas morning, half the fun comes from playing with the wrapping paper all over the floor. Mom & Dad may get a new washing machine, but Junior just got a new space ship, a jail for his misbehaving teddy bear, a boat to explore the piratey sea, and fort to hideout from his stinky sisters. At least until his stinky sisters try to take over the box for their own nefarious purposes.

joseph-scrunched

So what kind of toys do I look for to encourage imaginative play?

Toys that encourage physical development (including hand-eye coordination)

  • Gardening tools
  • Wagons/Bikes/Scooters
  • Jump ropes
  • Swings
  • Jungle gym
  • See-saw
  • Jacks
  • Pick-up sticks

Toys that encourage creative/imaginative development

  • Scarves
  • Puppets
  • Musical instruments
  • Dress-up clothes/accessories
  • Play dough
  • Art supplies
  • Stuffed animals/dolls
  • Cars/trucks/animals
  • Marble runs
  • Blocks/Legos/Lincoln logs

Toys that encourage sensory development

  • Sandbox
  • Bubbles
  • Play dough
  • Musical instruments
  • Tangle Jr
  • Finger paints
  • Koosh balls

julian-reading

Toys that encourage intellectual development

  • Puzzles
  • K’nex
  • Pattern blocks
  • Books (okay not technically a toy, but still important!)
  • Bop It/Simon Says
  • Peg board game (like at Cracker Barrel)
  • Blokus board game
  • Just about anything GeoSafari
  • Etch a Sketch

You may have noticed that there’s some definite cross over between some of these. For example, many of the playground equipment items fall under sensory development, as well as physical. Several of the intellectual can also be under creative. And this list is far from comprehensive… you can find a range of ideas by searching for STEM/STEAM toys (Science/Tech/Engineering/(Art)/Math), Melissa & Doug toys, Montessori toys, Waldorf toys, etc.

When I was a kid, humble sheets were turned into forts, castles, pirate ships, clothing, and tepees. Anything was possible! My boys regularly come ask me to turn their blankets into capes, so they can be pirates or superheroes (I’m noticing a generational pirate obsession… arrrrgggh!), and the girls love to be princess or superheroes as well.

 

What was your favorite creative toy when you were a kid? Share it in the comments below!

Don’t Pressure Your Kids to Live Out Your Dreams

Don't Pressure Your Kids to Live Out Your Dreams | I get it, you've got big dreams for your kids... but there's a possibility they don't share those dreams... what to do?

On a 13 on Thursday post, I created a list of 13 ways to build creativity in your children, and decided that it would make for a great series! This is the 3rd post, based on the 3rd item on the list (creating an art box). Click here to see all of them!

It happens to the best of us, but this one is huge. It starts with a dream you had as a child, or young adult… a dream that never came to fruition. And maybe it’s legitimately too late for you to pursue it (can’t be a child prodigy past a certain age), or maybe society has told you that you shouldn’t pursue it (guess how many artists have been told that?!)… but either way, you’ve given up.

But then you had a kid (or 5!)…

And suddenly a spark of hope returns. You couldn’t be a world class athlete/child prodigy/famous singer/dancer in the New York City Ballet… but your kid could! Right?

Maybe.

But if they do, it should be their choice right? 

Lest you think I’m just picking on you, I’m so guilty of this too… I sing. A lot. I’ve sang for charity functions, I’ve sang on the radio, I’ve sang for my church… I even tried to record a demo once, but as it turns out singing with wood dust in the air vents isn’t easy. Note to self: Don’t record when the studio has been under the construction…

Anyway… I sing. So naturally, I assumed that all of my offspring would not only be musically inclined, but incredibly gifted (because your kids are supposed to be even better than you!). Not so much. At least at the moment. While there’s plenty of time for something to develop, one of my children is frequently so off-key I wonder if she’s heard the same song we did. And that may change later… or it may never change. And that’s okay.

But it took time for me to come to that realization… I was super aggravated that I couldn’t get her to sing the tune correctly, or clap on beat, or anything. But the fact is, if that’s not her gifting, her gifting lies elsewhere, and by focusing on that skill set, I’m potentially robbing her of her true greatness, and I don’t want that to be my legacy.

So hang in there… your kids may not be doing the things you wanted to do when you were a kid, but that just means they have their own special place in the world. And you, yes you have the very special honor of helping them find out what that is.

Don’t Put Unnecessary Limitations On Your Children

13-Ways-to-Build-Creativity-Post-1

On a 13 on Thursday post, I created a list of 13 ways to build creativity in your children, and decided that it would make for a great series! So this is the 1st post, based on the first item on the list (not placing unnecessary limitations on your children)… next will be the 2nd item, and so on. Enjoy!

Recently I saw a post about a sustainable plastic wrap alternative, made from beeswax… cool huh? Having never run into this sort of product, I started reading the comments to see if anyone had used it/liked it (they had!)… but then I found a comment that stopped me in my tracks.

People were posting their non-traditional uses for this Bee’s Wrap, and one lady said that her 6 year old son (who has some kind of condition that affects his coordination) uses the wrap to stabilize his knife when he’s helping her cut vegetables for dinner.

Most of the responses were encouraging, but there was one lady who replied in horror that this woman would allow her son to use a knife, because children shouldn’t be in the kitchen helping at that age.

Stop right there. (Generalizations ahead, not applying to all persons… just a very, very, large number.)

Did you know that we have an entire generation that doesn’t know how to balance their own budget, because no one’s ever taught them to manage money?

We have a generation that doesn’t know how to cook, because they’ve grown up on pre-packaged, microwaved, or fast food.

We have a generation that doesn’t know how to make a bed, do laundry, or even hold a civil conversation. 

We have adults, who are ill-prepared for being adults, to the point that books are being written to teach someone how to be an adult. And why? Because we’ve created a culture that enables this mentality. No one loses games…. everyone gets a trophy! Children can’t play in their backyard, without nasty neighbors calling social services to claim neglect. No one’s precious little angels are held accountable in school… blame the teachers! And it goes on and on.

Let’s travel back in time about 200 years…

Children had chores… and they didn’t even get an allowance. Shockingly, they were expected to do chores as a member of the family.

They collected eggs.

They milked cows (or goats).

They helped in the garden.

They sewed. (Psssst… they weren’t using “safety needles”)

Children as young as 6 were learning to knit, and those too young to knit were carding wool.

And you don’t even have to go back 200 years to see this… click here to see a picture of Shirley Temple knitting as a young girl… I have friends who have farms, and children still collect eggs, and milk cows, and such.

So you may be curious what this has to do with creativity…

This woman was shocked that someone would allow their less-able child to learn to cook, when she wouldn’t allow her fully-able children to help her in the kitchen. But that’s not a limitation of the child’s skill… it’s a limitation that she arbitrarily placed on them. 

Can every child help at that age? No… Should they cook unsupervised at that age? No…

But is it true that no child can help at that age? Certainly not. The very best training happens at a young age, and it starts with attitude. Teach them that the worst boundaries they ever encounter, will be the ones they allow to be placed on them.