Priorities

When I was fighting post-partum depression after T was born, the psychologist I had all of two sessions with before deciding he was pretty lame told me to do something for myself everyday. It didn’t matter if it was 5 minutes reading a book I wanted to get through or taking the afternoon to get a manicure. Just one thing everyday. I didn’t really take that advice to heart until I read the book A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. It was recommended by a more experienced and wiser mother at church after I reached out for some help with my particularly strong-willed, L. I was pregnant with M at the time and had just moved to Brazil. No patience, no village, no fun.

The book was an indispensable tool for me in prioritization. She prioritizes using the “Five ‘Ps’ of Married Life” that a priest outlined for her. After getting back into my jeans I thought you all might want to know how exactly I find the time with three small children to exercise regularly.

The 5 ‘Ps’ in order of importance:
Prayer
Person
Partner
Parent
Provider

I have organized my day with meals, my kid’s naps, and these things in mind. If I don’t keep my prayer life in order, I often notice that I get frustrated more easily and can’t show my kids how much I love them. If I don’t take care of myself I’m worthless to the rest of my family-and that includes working out. To quote a favorite movie: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” And because I don’t want to shoot my husband…I work out!

But really, in all seriousness, parents these days have a different world and different challenges to parenting than those of only a few decades ago. And in a few more decades, the challenges will be still different. We have all gotten really good at saying “take care of yourself”, but what does that really mean? I can easily see this being taken too far when common places for parenting advice say things like “schedule 10 minutes with each child each day.” That seems a little extreme. I think maybe, more appropriately, the advice should be: unplug and actually BE PRESENT with your child for 10 minutes (at least) each day. Try it. It’s HARD! We’re all so dependent on our electronics and being connected. Can you even make it 5 minutes without checking your phone?

Notice that Parent is the fourth ‘P’. after prayer, taking care of yourself, and nurturing your relationship with your spouse. And Providing is all the way down at the bottom. For me as a stay at home mom, this means providing the cleaning and cooking services that are a part of our daily life. For my husband, this means going to work everyday and bringing home a pay check. I think you can probably see how easily these priorities might get skewed.

I guess I didn’t answer the question yet, though. How exactly, do I exercise regularly? Well, I have carved out the hour from 8:30-9:30 as my work out time. Sometimes M is napping, sometimes she’s in the bouncer watching, and that’s OK. Sometimes T is playing on his own, and sometimes he’s on my back during push-ups and that’s OK, too. My kids will grow up knowing that it’s important for their mommy to take care of herself and they might also learn the importance of keeping active to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Maybe one day my boys will make sure the mothers of their children know that it’s OK and even important to take a break and step away regularly. Maybe M won’t burn out because she will already know how important taking time for herself is by watching her mommy. We all need breaks so we don’t burn out!

How do you prioritize?

LiveExercise & Liebster Award

Some great things happened this week!

First: Check out my interview at LiveExercise!

Second: I got nominated for a Liebster Award!

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A sorority sister from long ago at Imperfect & Fabulous nominated me for the award & I couldn’t be more excited. Like most new(ish) bloggers, I had no idea what a Liebster award was. Luckily, Lauren didn’t know either…so all I had to do was check out her blog post on the topic. I will answer some questions, nominate some bloggers, & ask them some questions of my own…here goes:

  • What blog post are you most proud of?

I put a lot of thought into every one of my posts, but I would have to say that I am most proud of my commentary on a mom’s post on social media gone viral.

  • If you could make one change, big or small, to your day-to-day life what would it be?

I would love to be able to just BE with my kids more. I know that sounds ridiculous as a stay at home mom. I’m always with my kids, right? But when I’m actually able to sit and play with them I want to be fully present instead of thinking about all the million other things I need to do. It’s hard for me to stay focused on the important things sometimes and I would love to get better at that.

  • What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Eating baked goods after my kids are asleep…because then I don’t have to share!

  • What is your favorite part of the day?

When I’m on my way to bed an hour or two after the kids have fallen asleep & I can go into their room to tuck them in and give them kisses while they sleep.

  • Savory or sweet?

This is a tough one. I’m totally a fan of the combo sometimes…but if I had to choose one? Sweet.

My nominees:

Bound
So There.
playing at home
aliterarymom

Casual Contemplations

My Questions:

  1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  2. Who has influenced your writing style the most?
  3. What are you really good at, that others might not know about you?
  4. When do you write most of your posts?
  5. Why do you blog?

It sort of feels like an old school chain letter, but if it brings attention to blogs that deserve it, hey…why not! Here are the rules!

  • You must link back to the person who nominated you.
  • You must answer the questions given to you by your nominator.
  • You must pick 5 bloggers, each with under 200 subscribers, to be nominated for the award.
  • You must come up with 5 questions for your nominees to answer.
  • You must go to their blogs and notify them of the nomination.

LiveExercise

My Mom Jeans Post led to the discovery of this amazing website called LiveExercise. If you have a hard time getting to the gym or running on your own, this is seriously something to check out. In Manaus, I don’t know where to go for dance classes and I don’t know the language well enough to join a gym-nor do I have the time/motivation to actually go regularly. My condo complex has a sala gymnastica, but it doesn’t have A/C. How you could possibly work hard enough to lose weight in a non-air conditioned room on the equator without passing out is beyond me.

With LiveExercise I can work out in the comfort of my own hard tile floored, air-conditioned office. Yes, I need to invest in a super thick mat. Right now I steal the foam tiles from the kid’s play area just to put under my knees or elbows. I don’t want to end up with bleeding elbows (Jenn G.).

Unfortunately, the internet here is kind of awful at times and I only have from 8:30-9:30am to workout. So if the web isn’t working when I can work it, then I have to trek down to the greenhouse my complex calls a gym room. I think I’ve made progress in two months. What do you think? These pictures span 7/20-9/20.

Before Starting LiveExercise July 20, 2013 August 17, 2013 August 24, 2013 August 31, 2013 September 6, 2013 September 19, 2013

I’ve only been working my way through the body weight workout series so far, but they have a TON of options. 10 minute workouts when you don’t have time, cardio, abs, etc. It’s really a family fitness destination. They have literally created shows for everyone from kids (6+) to grandma. Busy moms and dads, and expatriates who are much more comfortable staying at home, are the perfect candidates. Plus, you need almost nothing to get started. And if you have weights and bands already…they have shows for that, too.

Another SUPER cool thing is that you can workout with the trainers live. Because my workout time and bandwidth is so limited, I really can’t workout when the shows are live, but if I did I would be getting shout-outs from the trainers in real time. How motivating is that! I make it a point to comment on a show after I’ve completed it because I get feedback every time. The social media aspect is really fun and creates a close-knit community feeling you wouldn’t get from a gym or classes anyway. I feel like I’ve made friends with my instructor, but we’re thousands of miles away from each other and have never actually met.

Getting a shout out from Jenn G. prompted me to try on my pre-pregnancy jeans yesterday. And they FIT! WOOHOO

Sick Days

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Recently, G and I have been making a huge effort to not allow the boys to watch TV (what am I talking about? we don’t even have the kind of TV you think of when you think of TV here) or movies during the week. Friday nights are movie nights and weekends are fair game, so that means that I’M making a huge effort to not allow the boys to watch movies. This also means that if they’re driving me to the point of pretending I have to pee so I can get a minute alone in a locked bathroom I shouldn’t just throw on some Pixar. It’s tough.

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What’s worse is when the kids (or I) am sick. It’s difficult enough to get these guys to sit still long enough to eat a meal, let alone rest so they’ll get better fast. First L got the flu, then T (while G was on a business trip, no less), then me and M. Once everyone was better, I got a mastitis. A few days of healthy and T got a nasty cold. Now L has it and we’re back to movies while they’re at home all day. We can’t go outside to play…resting activities include trains, Lego’s, books, and Disney. Puzzles, too…and games on my tablet. I guess we do have a few things, but nothing helps them rest more than a movie.

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Any other ideas?

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Português como terceira língua

Recently I learned the Brazillian Portuguese version of “Right?!” Needless to say I’m very excited about this. I think figuring out colloquialisms and slang really mark an understanding of language. Now that’s not to say that I have mastered Português. But being my own proffesora has really paid off. I simply write things down throughout the day that I don’t know how to say or come across in my daily life that I struggle with and then work on it about 5-10 minutes after the kids go to sleep each night. I even have verb conjugations taped to the wall. It’s been a ton more effective than the teacher we hired when we first came to Manaus.

Being in a foreign country and not speaking the language fluently has given me an interesting perspective on things. Coming from a teaching background has also tinged that perspective a little. After sitting through a welcome assembly at Luke’s school that was completely in Portuguese and not understanding a word of it, I can TOTALLY understand why people don’t try and/or give up. After those 4 hours of my life were wasted all I wanted to do was go home and curl up on the couch. I was exhausted and had gleaned NOTHING from the day.

The experience got me thinking about English language learning in the US. Why is that such an obstacle & why does it feel like many parents of students who have a different language as their primary idioma are not trying? It’s a matter of necessity for me to learn Portuguese here. Is it really imperative that immigrants in the US learn English? Should it be required? Are resources available and not being utilized or are they simply not there?

I believe that the language issue for those already in the US will solve itself in a matter of time because the younger people will learn English through exposure, but what about the constant influx of immigrants? Is southern California destined to become more Spanish speaking than English, for example?

How would you solve this problem?

Making Tortillas

Cooking is a source of joy for me. Baking, too. Especially baking. Doing both of these things is an adventure in Manaus. Not only do I have to translate ingredients, but I also have to search far and wide for things that simply are not imported. I’ve become a major fan of baking two ingredient desserts, like cookies & cream bars! One thing we cook with a lot is tortillas. Unfortunately, we can’t just run out to the grocery store and buy some. So I’ve learned how. A skill I have honed and love now. Especially since I am importing a tortilla press. WOOHOO!

The recipe:

Put 4 cups of flour (I use all-purpose, but it could probably be made more nutritious with whole wheat, unbleached, etc…there are only two types of flour here) in a bowl.
Mix in 1/8th a teaspoon of baking powder.
Put 1/2 cup of butter on top (any type of fat, really) and then mix with your hands until it looks like a grainy type sand. This should take about 1-2 minutes.
Dissolve 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (sea salt would probably be delicious) into 1 cup of lukewarm water.
Pour the salt water into the flour/butter mixture and knead with your hands until you can form a ball. If after 2-3 minutes it’s too sticky, add more flour. If it’s not all coming together, add more water.
Put the ball of dough on the counter and put the bowl on top of it.
Wait 20 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 equal(ish) parts and form into balls.
Roll one ball as flat as you possibly can (and hopefully into a circular shape) and put onto a shallow, non-stick pan pre-heated over medium(ish) heat.
Once the bubbles start popping up, flip it.
When the bubbles re-appear, it’s done.
Wrap it up in a towel (or put it in a tortilla warmer) while you’re cooking the rest.

DELICIOUS!

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It’s even more fun when everyone gets dirty ;D

The Whole Universe

I had an epiphany recently.

My world is full of whining, not listening, yelling, and mean faces. I counter these behaviors as well as my patience can hold with calm counting, timeouts, distractions, deep breaths, and prayer. There are moments that I’m not together and yell…but my kids weren’t born with the perfect mother. We’re all still growing into our roles. Motherhood is a journey. I don’t have to be perfect all the time! I do, however, have to keep trying. That’s what good parenting is all about. Seeing what’s not working and fixing it.

My epiphany came at a time when I felt like giving up. I was the frazzled, yelling mother who for the thousandth time was not being listened to for some trivial request like “put your shoes away”. I decided to just let it go and pick L up for a hug before the nap time battle began. He put his hands on my cheeks and turned my face to look at him. While we were standing in the hallway between despair and frustration he said this:

I love you your whole life forever, Mom.

And I realized that I am L’s whole world. He learns nearly everything from me. Yes, he goes off to preschool for a couple hours a day and he has his siblings and Daddy, too, but I teach him A LOT, especially about parenting. As I’m writing this that seems like too much responsibility…but at the time it was a real eye opener. It made me wonder how I could ooze love all the time. Wouldn’t parenting with love at all times be the best? I’m not saying no discipline, just in every moment-even when telling your kiddos to go back to bed for the umpteenth time-parenting with love.

In the jungle