Monday, January 18, 2021

8 Approaches for Reaching and Surpassing Your 2021 Mama Goals

It's a new year! And I'm happy to be back and ready to make my 2021 goals not only a reality, but a happy reality. I want to run a few victory laps. 

But, it's difficult to do when you're a mom. 

2020 was a hard year during which many doors had closed and I wanted 2021 to be different. This is why I had gathered up resources to help my bring my goals and dreams for 2021 to fruition. 

 

1. Hour by Hour

 

There are so many cliches that come to mind about parenting such as "they're only little once," and "the days are long, but the years are short." All true, which only makes these sayings more cringeworthy. 

And yet, why do we as moms, and parents in general, sometimes find ourselves craving a stressful minute to just be over, for bedtime to start, or a babysitter to get here? It's because being "on" 24-7 is hard as a new parent and I bet it gets more stressful with age as the kids get older.

The hour by hour tracking system budgets each hour like a currency in a budget. Each hour was made for something. This way no longer does a day just slide out from underneath a tired caregiver, but the day can be tracked and documented. Each hour needs to work. 

I found this approach to be helpful when going for better habits like better communication with my kids.

I also found this approach to be useful when breaking down schedules that were weather dependent. For example, if it was going to rain around 3pm, the objective for a weekend was to complete a walk and take the kids to a playground before 2:30.


2. Try Something New

 

Being a new mom often has days that just blend together in which the new and all important responsibilities dance around in a 24-hour cycle around the different squares of the calendar. To combat this boredom from repetitive responsibilities, I enjoy adding something different to the mix to make each week stand out a little. 

Ruts still happen, but they are much fewer than they were before. My first choice would be to go out into a new place in nature. While that only happens weather permitting, my second choice is to find a nice audio-book or a good movie to watch. My favorite morsels of creative entertainment have been "Mexican Gothic" by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Bridgerton, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. 

Trying something new gives new life to the most standard and mundane tasks.

Yes, having a beautiful and well-kept home is a wonderful thing if you are summoned by the divine for this endeavor, but some days, it's just hard. This helps so much. Maybe this tip is only for extroverts, but maybe it's for everyone a bit. (Side note: I prescribe to the opinion that  extroversion or introversion is not "how social you are," but how much you prefer to interact with your environment.) 


3. Mom Report Card

 

This one is for all of the habit trackers out there, myself included. In the business world, I prefer ground truth data over feelings and Deming principles over "going with the flow." As moms or parents or caretakers, we have to make our own flow or the day makes us. 

This is a great approach to crushing goals because they are about honesty. First, goals should be realistic. If you created a lofty goal and its demoralizing watching it be further and further out of reach, replace it with something more realistic. Next, it's important to document wins and setbacks. Both are natural and a part of life. 

 

4. Make it a Game

 

This one is great for competitive parents out there. Yes, competition between parents is toxic and not the foundation to true friendship, but competition between you and your past self is fair game and fun. The old you did not have the same experience and mindset that you have now. Your old personal record is about to be crushed over and over. 

You can make either completing your smaller goals a game or you can make the journey to get to the goal a game. Take for example a clean kitchen floor. You can either do it super fast, on time, and mark that task done, OR you can give yourself point for every square foot of space that you clean.  

My personal favorite is a throwback to mall arcades. I write a to-do-list where every distinct task has its own number, then I designate how many complete tasks correspond to prizes and what the prizes are. While this sounds a tad like treating yourself, it is, but there are also ways to do this while also being fiscally conservative by either buying things that you will need later earlier (e.g. tooth paste, you will hopefully always need toothpaste), or paying down a debt, or adding to a savings account. 


5. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

 

I love the approach to happiness as the approach to the happiness of the whole family. And that's why I love the Maslow's hierarchy of needs approach. It's easy to follow, it just goes from the ground up. Every great building is built on good solid ground or a solid foundation. 

This is often second nature, but we sometimes forget to continue moving up the hierarchy of needs. 

As a disclaimer, I have seen people thrive while not having some of the basic needs met. There are always exceptions, but for me and many people I know, and modern psychology would side with building up. 

For me, I cannot excuse crafting while my home is dirty. I once came across the partial hoax, partially doctored message "from a Singer manual"--debunked here. It emphasized having all other affairs in order before undertaking sewing. This meant nothing in the physical or mental space was to be a bother. While the origin of the story was a hoax, the author of the linked blog follows through with exerts of the original doctored work with its good message preserved. 

 

6. Mind, Body, Heart, Soul

 

Okay, this one goes to all of those past studious students who would study in the library until finals, live there, then spend summers outside to make up for lost rays of sunshine. N

No. Extremes don't work in a family structure. You cannot, not bathe your kids, or not prepare bottles and pump. You cannot ignore the emotional needs of your children while making sure they can get a partial football scholarship. You can't ignore these important aspects of your life, because if you ignore them, no one else will take care of them. 

 I chose mind, body, heart and soul because those are the various areas of my family life and my focus. 

It's my focus for 2021 to care about all of these areas instead of just the mind and heart. Those were the 2020 objectives, but this year is going to be different. 

 

7. Continuous Improvement


One of my favorite words of all time is Kaizen, meaning change for the better. We have goals because we want to improve our lives in some way. 

This approach is perfect if you have BIG goals. You can break them down and try to reach small milestones without looking at the big goal all at once. 

Chances are that if you break down your big goals into small tasks or baby steps, and commit even one full minute to it everyday, you will move forward with enough focus if you have the necessary resources.

A big goal for 2021 is to write more and live more fully. As a result I have monthly goals for how often I write. My BIG goal is to write a book by the end of 2021. We will see how that unfolds. 

 

8. Accountability 

A lot of people say they want something, they tell everyone, and then they never do it. That happens a lot and in order to avoid this, you have to be accountable to yourself or others. Talk to those who want to see you succeed. Truly succeed. 

Maybe figure out a way to be accountability buddies or to give yourself consequences for not meeting certain goals. This sounds harsh but could be a great motivator. 

Did you not complete that one work email that you really wanted to? I guess that ice cream can wait, ice cream is for closers. 

What I like about this approach is that you can have flexibility when you need to. Being accountable to yourself also means not abusing your energy. All of your being is accountable to all of your being. And that is truly beautiful.

URSTYLE Link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2826113

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Favorite Planner Things

I don't know where I would be if it wasn't for planners. Planners are beautiful visual aids that make my goals and dreams come true through calendars, checklists, and notes. Yes, I have uncompleted resolutions of yesteryear too, but we will not talk about those just yet.


 URSTYLE Link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2824598


I love digital calendars. Sharing events on digital calendars is convenient and my life would be much harder without them, BUT there is something beautiful and irreplaceable about a physical planner because I love seeing my week come alive on each page. I also love being able to write things down to remember them better.

But they can be fairly expensive. So I have a round up of items that to jump start your planner journey from Michael's


 

While the planner community is full of nice bespoke agendas, templates, and accessories, I wanted to take the time and talk about planner things from Michaels. Why Michaels? Well, because it is an accessible store and it had pulled me though some hard times through crafts. 

The truth is that when I first started with my planned journey, as much as I wanted to go all over the internet, it was much more comfortable to go to the physical store and look at everything in its physical form without worrying about actual size or quality. 

Another reason to use a one stop shop like Michael’s is that I get to see if I like a product at a lower price point before jumping headfirst into some consumables I will never use up. 

I enjoy aesthetically dressing up my planner so that I know what I have to look forward to and also keep track of my year. Yes, 2020 has probably been the worst year for planner companies, but I hope 2021 is much better and at the very least here are a few ways you can jot down your COVID-19 shot appointment dates. 

Planner Shell

The planner shell is necessary. There are I believe three common sizes, A5, standard, and pocket, as well as some others.

While for a shell almost anything goes, I would say that I prefer those that meet my need to write as much as I can. I typically go for the A5 and the standard size.

 

Small Letter or Symbol Stamps

These are great for tracking your habits, chores, drinking 8 glasses, spending or not spending, etc. if your kind of goals revolve around numbers or day to day consistency, I highly recommend stamps that fit snugly into a page. And yes, stickers might work as well, but I often find that they are too big for this purpose. 

Big Stamps

Big stamps are for big events! If you have consistent events like vacations, flights, play dates, birthdays, seminars, or outings, I highly suggest a fun, big and visual stamp. 

Ink Pads

You can’t have stamps without ink pads, there are many different kinds and it’s important that your matches your basic needs like not bleeding through thin agenda pages or not being easy to wash away. 

Pens

I love pens and the finer and more vibrant in color the better. I think multiple colors are a great way to communicate different details such as making time in orange or location in green. This way, if you are scanning your pages for certain information, you can ignore the colors that aren’t important that moment. 

Highlighters

I use my highlighters to designate that something is done. It’s a great way to mark up pages without obstructing the original text.

Filler Pages

Filler pages are needed. There are some yearly start ones like a calendar at a glance and detail pages for each week. There are also habit tracked pages, mela planning, budgeting, drawing, etc.

Washi Tape

Washi tape is not a requirement, but it is SO PRETY and it’s easy to feel festive or seasonal by decorating your pages. 

Stickers 

Stickers are another great way to decorate or label a planner. If you were an overachiever in school you might want to reward yourself with a set of stickers for days that go really well! Or just because you as an adult deserve them to brighten your day. 


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Five Reasons Why Sunday Night is the Loneliest Time for Working Moms--and What to Do About It

After a beautiful day of fun, accidents, messes, cuddles, and all around love, Sunday night is the LONELIEST TIME FOR WORKING MOMS.

URSTYLE link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2823227

 

Let's be clear, I wouldn't have it any other way, but knowing that you are about to wear so many hats during the week is hard for several reasons. 

1. It's Hard Filling Your Own Bucket While Momming

Let's face it, little kids need constant attention and focus on anything else for too long is either impossible or dangerous. And even while not watching them, I am making sure I order medicine, have enough diapers, and make calls to set up a doctor's appointment. These caregiver tasks don't end. Then, once the kids fall asleep, it's hard addressing my own tasks that I neglected for a while. Showers, planning out my week, writing a to do list, stretching, those things take time and are very hard to do within the small window between the kids' bedtime and my bedtime. It's just a space of alone time in my planner.

2. You Still Have Hopes and Dreams for Meaningful Social Interactions

I don't want to be melodramatic, but I still have things that I would like to complete in life like save the planet a little more, advance my career, travel, etc. And it is my non-parent friends that unabashedly talk about these things and I find a lot of common ideas, but not a lot of common free time to get into deep conversations on a regular basis. We end up bonding over our weekend projects instead through pictures and limited texting (please see number one about focus).

3. Getting Mentally Ready for the Week

I'm getting ready to juggle, my partner and I or our care giver team need to huddle up and know the game plan or someone will fumble a proverbial ball. One or two fumbles will not ruin a week, but little mishaps here and there add up until I'm are ready to count down to Friday.

I also have to switch personalities. No one wants to hear how potty training my child is going besides maybe another parent at work. I'm not saying you have to fake a stan level of interest in a sport or a movie, but it's time to put the "mom plus" personality away for the week because it does distract from the team dynamic at work. And also--people are shallow and generally don't value accidents involving bodily fluids. 

4. Then Sometimes, It's the Work You Have to Start Before Monday Ever Comes

There are a billion little tasks that need to get done as part of being a functioning person in society. These include regular doctors appointments, car service appointments, health and beauty appointments (self-care), and regular home repairs. Whether big or small, these errands and responsibilities carve away from the work week.

As a result, I want to get ahead before I can get behind. I also prefer to read important documents without kids crying and giggling in the background. Nights are perfect for first read overs, edits, and first email drafts.

5. Back to Number Two

It takes time to save the world, or to learn a new skill that can set you apart when you're back behind that computer. It's hard feeling like another weekend has passed and you are no where near where you wanted to be, and that's okay. I just feel empty compared to that energy boost I feel when I finish a big home or hobby project. 

 

What to Do About It

 

I bet you can already tell that I love numbers, so here are some suggestions without much order:

1. Do one minute of a hobby or home project. Be honest with yourself, you weren't going to install those solar panels yourself anyway. And you would have taken some time and thought about your choices before committing to a big project like this in the first place.

2. Learn to ignore anything that is not urgent. I am behind on Christmas cards and Christmas presents. It was just 2020 outside, I know people who did "everything right" and their stuff still arrived late and they are behind too. 

3. If your primary love language is quality time or words of affirmation, try out converting it to something that fits current COVID guidance. Words of affirmation can be completed on social media or over mail with cards. Quality time might be possible through refined coordination with friends and family about watching movies and shows at similar times or seeing each other while socially distancing. 

4. Instead of staying up late to work, focus twice as hard when you are at work and you can make every minute work a bit extra. 

5. Fill your bucket without apologizing. And figure out a way to fill your bucket faster and deplete is slower during the day. Sleep, hygiene, beauty, what ever it is. It is worth it. And the biggest investment that you can make is in yourself. This might be meal planning to include a decadent dessert after kids' bedtime.   

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Baby Bottles Revisited: What I Learned From My Babies

Bottles. Bottles. Bottles.
I feel like my little ones have taught me more than any site. So I wanted to update the initial article I wrote about our experience with bottles.




 
source: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2804223

1. The Perfect Bottle Changes with Age

 
What you might like in a bottle as a caregiver, might not be the same thing that a baby likes in a bottle. 

And over time, their taste in bottles outweigh yours.
 
While babies may develop long-lasting tastes from their newborn stage, I find that many things change in regards to their taste in this staple baby product. 
 
The biggest change that I have seen has been going from a caregiver holding a bottle to a baby holding a bottle unassisted. This is huge and it puts all of the control into the baby's hands. 
 
Some babies might hold just about any bottle very well, but I have found that smooth silicone bottles were very hard for my baby to hold. 
 
The Comotomo bottle comes to mind here. My youngest now drinks out of it using the sippy cup pieces sold separately that include handles. While I loved how easy it was to clean it and how "modern" it looked,my little one liked the extra attachments and the BIG BOY sippy cup.
 
His favorite is still the Kiinde system bottle that is easy to hold. And I am of course the bad guy because we are heading out of our breastfeeding stage.
 

2. Bottles are Hard

 
Y'all. I'm getting so close to just using sippy cups. I can feel those extra minutes slipping into my morning routine. 
 
While lots of bottles available these days are easy to clean and don't include too many parts, bottles are still less convenient than sippy cups. Yes, they are against Montessori best practices, but sippy cups also help keep my home and my kids cleaner and drier than cups.
 
Back to bottles. The most complicated thing about bottles is using powder formula that goes into the bottle. The powder formula typically comes with a measuring spoon, but it only fits some bottles perfectly to avoid spillage. 
 
While the Mixie has helped my first son, I cannot use this bottle with my youngest for reasons...

3. Some Babies are Chuggers

One fun thing that I learned is that some babies are very aggressive chuggers and "cutting them off" with a bottle of smaller volume might be a good practice. (We have had multiple spit-ups from drinking too much too fast and even a few more extensive events.)

4. There are Things Babies Look for in Bottles 

If my baby had a chance to design his own bottle it would be easy to grip, light-weight, and would double up as a teething toy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Gingerbread Man Christmas Tree Ornaments with Customized Tags


 

 One tradition that we started in our home was making Christmas tree ornament gifts "from our children." Our firs baby's first Christmas ornament "gifts" were handprints and footprints in red and green. This was nearly a hassle free project and I was hooked. The next project was a bit more elaborate, and nearly from scratch. 

These were a lot of effort to make, but were worth the result. I had completed the gingerbread man outline and I had let my toddler decide on the decorations that I had glued on using hot glue. 

Below are the instructions used to create these ornaments.

 

 I also wanted to make sure that the tags were customized. A tag die and a small tag hole punch were used to create the shape out of heavy scrap-booking paper. I then used small Recollections stamps to write the giver and recipients. 

 
 Finally, I added some fun to the tags by using my child's favorite stamp. 
 
 
 



An Honest Usborne Book Review


I first came across Usborne books when one of my friends asked if I would go to an Usborne book party that she was a virtual host for.

Before that, most books companies that I was aware of were the big publishing houses that filled big book stores, used bookstores, and school book fairs alike. 

I do not need an excuse to buy children's books because we read books throughout the day. I quickly picked out some books that were interactive and accessible for my child at the time. 

I received the books and we have enjoyed many evenings touching textured pages and lifting flaps.

URSTYLE Link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2775628

The books vary in subject, targeted age range, and quality. The prices reflect this. 

The touchy-feely book that I own is an amazing quality with thick pages. The illustrations that accessible to babies who may not be able to see in full colors. And I appreciate that it was made for babies instead of the adults.

I want to be very honest when I say that the illustrations are not unique works of art exactly. The artwork is made to stand up to repeated wear and tear though. And that is most important to me right now. This might be a skewed view since I did not get any thematically intricate books like a fairy tale.

The drawback to these books is that they do thrive in an MLM structure. The MLM business structure makes me wary. And I will tell you why. Usborne books are everywhere online, in big box stores, and at virtual MLM parties. I feel like all of these platforms compete with one another and I genuinely feel like the "book people" should get a fraction of all generic online sales since they are the ones doing the majority of detailed marketing. 

Even as I write this, there is a list of books that I want to get and I also have a "maybe" future list depending on what my kids get into as they get older. 

All that said, I have heard some concerns and a bit of conflict from independent authors and illustrators who find that these books can overwhelm regional small business fairs to the point that it is harder for local authors to compete at the very events that were essentially designed for them. So knowing this, I hope that anyone reading this article spends additional effort sleuthing online for local authors and independent authors in addition to these wonderful books.

In particular, I think it is important to shop for books where illustrations jump of the pages, especially in this day and age where parents are discouraged from taking their children to museums. I think that illustrators are amazing and it is important to seek books that support illustrators. Also, I feel it is important to ensure that my bookshelf includes books with characters that look like my child as well as characters who that do not look like my child. 


Being a Better Parent While Doing Less the Right Way

We are in our own little bubble right now. We are socially distancing, wearing masks, and keeping our public outings to a livable minimum. 

With all of that in mind, I definitely feel like my little ones are not getting the proper socialization that they deserve to develop good communication skills, manners, and self-esteem. 

I found myself in the same shoes of other parents who claimed that their older children have regressed in their development due to the observation and then mimicry of their little sibling demanding everything and getting everything within reason. 

Just the other day my child demanded that I should get something for him from the fridge. Mind you, he does not have any issues with opening, finding, and getting what he wants. He just knows that his brother gets all that he needs just by babbling. And here my toddler was using full sentences with his whole heart. Surely, he was going to get some string cheese. 

No. 

No he was not. 

A long time ago, reading "Montessori from the Start" Taught me that it is easier to be a servant to a child than a teacher and parent. While I will give him all of the love in his own love language, I will try my best to do less.

And that is not a bad thing when done right. 

Regardless of parenting style, what we know, deep down, is that we are preparing our children to live in a time, place, and culture without us. This might be 5 feet away when they have their first playground altercation, or 500 miles away when they more away from home, or this might be the ever so depressing "without us" that I don't want to think about. 

The more they start learning useful and practical life skills, the easier the parents' lives will become and the more the child can learn more and increasingly complicated skills. 

Right now my pet peeve is potty training, but honestly, if I can get my child to learn his morning routine and the cues involved with everything except that, my life would be so much easier. So that is my goal for now and this coming year. I want to enable my child to do more self-care and eating tasks without my supervision. 

My ideal would be to build confidence over time in my child so that one day, when he can work with very hot foods, my husband and I can sleep in and to wake up to complete and delicious breakfast breakfast. A Mama can dream right?

 


Monday, November 9, 2020

The Story of Mothers in Little Fires Everywhere

 

First Impressions of Little Fires Everywhere

URSTYLE Link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2758979

Reading "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng was a beautiful experience and I wanted to dive into it from a parenting perspective. 

Please be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead.

While intertwined relationships between teenagers is the main focus, and Shaker Heights, a setting that can be a character, attempts to steal the spotlight where possible, the book is fundamentally about motherhood. About parenthood. About that nuance of human cycles and conversely unprecedented futures that comes with each new generation. 

This book would have wound up in a recommended school book report list had it been written a hundred years ago. I have heard a book reviewer say that the sentence structures could be better. I understand the sentiment, but I often find that a signature of the author features the author's weaknesses just as much as strengths. For example, while I highly enjoy Edith Wharton's work, I cannot, for the life of me, imagine a map or directions of any location within some of her key works. And that is okay. I prefer her descriptions of human nature under specific circumstances to the most riveting land survey.

Celeste Ng's characters escape from the page as fleshed out people without divulging every single tidbit of life history. The interactions are full and while authentic to their time, place, and culture, are universal enough that a few changes in slang and peripheral details would be enough to transfer this story in time and geography.  

Parenting in Little Fires Everywhere

So back to parenting in "Little Fires Everywhere." While it is impossible to outright name each mother within this book a bad parent exactly, there are little red flags here and there that often resemble the red flags in real life. And I loved that. Not only is parenting a teenager one of the most difficult aspects of parenting, but also being a human being while parenting is a challenge not too small.

Even the most perfect parents carry red flags with them and make mistakes. And that's okay. 

Elena Richardson and Mia Warren are portrayed as complimentary forces in parenting. 

Elena Richardson

Elena Richardson had pursued preparing the space for the child and had followed this course to completion as part of the philosophy she adopted from her planned Shaker Heights setting. She had let her career, while impressive, stagnate compared to those of her peers. 

She had come back to Shaker following schooling, ready to start the next chapter of her life. And while this preparation is elaborate, all of this preparation goes against "following the child," a key Montessori motto.

The main takeaways from Elena's parenting style is that there is not much flexibility. There is not a lot of room for mistakes because the preparation had eliminated as many opportunities for mistakes as possible. 

One heartbreaking moment is realizing that while Elena has written the plan for her own children in stone regardless of how well it works out for them, she is more than willing to help other parents realize plans for their children that work for them. For example, she was more than willing to help a friend get her daughter into an all-girls school that was better for her education. Now it is not clear if this option is better just on paper or genuinely better for the child in real life, but it is already a red flag that Elena does not entertain even a glimmer of an idea like that for Izzy until the plot rolls out through the book. And then, it is much too late.

Mia Warren

By contrast Mia Warren provided and prepared many spaces showing her child the different ways to live in one country and how unique the landscapes, people, and even the sky can be. The comfort provided seemed very essential, instead of absolute. The complete lack of "following the child" is a stark contrast to Elena Richardson's methods and while it would be considered quirky to say the least by the current interpretation of the Montessori method, I can see a fierce follow the child aspect. Key examples include Mia using a sling when her child did not want to be put down, taking on jobs that allowed her to be close to her child, and letting her child mold oneself in the short term without judgement. 

Mia's frequent moves take away any long-term environment from her child and give her child additional challenges in life. Her child is not able to establish long-term relationships, develop a support system other than her mother, or develop traditionally rewarded academic and extracurricular activities for college admissions. 

One heartbreaking, yet completely glossed over point in the book, is the fact that we know that Pearl had the writing abilities to get into a prestigious university. After all, her essay had helped someone else get in. But it is doubtful that Pearl's application would have reflected the grades and involvement typically associated with stellar applications. After all, it is 2020 and parents have gotten into trouble for forging their children's extracurricular involvement. We know this matters, and we know it is hard to build this consistency in new places. 

Both Mothers are Goals and Both are Cautionary Tales

I wanted to provide a comfortable home for my children to thrive in. I also had seen what multiple moves do to a child's academic progress as a tutor and from my own experience. And yet, I want to show the world to my children that I was lucky enough to experience. Yes, consistently developing a know-how in academics or sports is important, but there is so much of the world to experience that is far more personally rewarding.

Mia's life is enviable despite it being opposite to the suburban living ideal. And as a parent in 2020, it's easy to see why. Pre-COVID, it was not surprising to see school shooting events in the news. Surely, doing remote schooling while traveling sounded a lot better than looming fears and sporadic school drills. Even the most prestigious suburb- or any setting that can be its own character- does not guarantee safety from school shooters or other violence.

 



 

 

The Great Outdoors with Toddlers

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