Thursday, October 27, 2011

Motherhood with Vitality! - Part 1 of 2

I am often asked by people who know me or just see me out and about, how do I have such vitality and joy with my children - and especially with so many children?  I'm happy to share with you what I've learned along my life journey, and I hope it will bless you as well.   In this part 1 I will cover practices to encourage being well-rested; in part 2 I will cover additional practices for being energetic, and for looking energetic!  *smile*



I didn't realize how many habits I've gotten in to over the years until I listed them all in parts 1 and 2 together!  *laugh*  Writing out things like this is such a help to me, too.  *smile*  This is a great reminder for me to maintain doing what the Lord has shown me; and each of these things I'll talk about truly has a profound impact on my every day.  Some of the items I'll share take discipline, and some of them are easy little "mom tips".  *smile*  Some things I do enable good, quality sleep which of course effects energy during the day; and some of the things I do in addition to getting enough rest.  Doing life ON PURPOSE in the area of having energy for my day not only helps me feel my best, but energy and joy are also a gift to my husband and children.

Practices to encourage being well-rested:
  • Adequate quality and quantity at night
  • A weekly schedule
  • Afternoon naps & "play alone times"
  • No false energy
  • Bedroom ready
  • Regular bed times
  • Exercise 
  • Being in shape
  • Ear plugs
  • Spiritual freedom
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Let's begin with practices that can encourage moms to be well-rested.  There are multiple things we can do intentionally to make this more likely to happen.


Adequate night time sleep
It is absolutely crucial that moms, especially homeschooling moms, receive quality and adequate quantity of sleep most every night.  I know this is no small matter, and believe me that I do not say this flippantly - but it really has to be a top priority if we are going to be able to be energetic, alert, creative, patient, peaceful, have something left at the end of our day to offer our hard-working husbands when they arrive home, and have endurance for not only our days but our entire week.  I need 7 1/2 hours of sleep per night ideally.  I protect this with great care.

I am blessed to have a husband that protects my sleep with me as well.  *smile*  If I'm staying up later than is good for me, after a while he will gently ask me, "Are you watching the clock?"  He encourages me to head to bed on time, and he is always understanding if I need to sacrifice something in order to get enough sleep.  Some times I think I'll be able to do something on an evening, such as work on a post together with him, stay up to talk, or watch our weekly date night movie, but when I an just too tired he is always encourages me to go to bed.  We actually quite frequently have "half a date night" at a time, because we're both too tired at the end of the week to watch a whole movie on Friday night.  *chuckle*

If I am going to be able to rise up early in the morning and be productive and ready for the day, I have to get to bed on time.  I know that it is tempting to stay up late and have quiet time to yourself - but if you're like me, your family will pay for your lack of sleep the next day.  It actually is being responsible to get to bed at a regular time, and it is a gift to yourself, your husband, and your children for you to be well-rested.  I'll talk more about how I get enough sleep in the following points of this post.  I'm a much happier person, and I can generally handle life well when I'm well-rested. 


A weekly schedule
It is absolutely crucial that I have a weekly schedule in place for myself and our children so that I do not expect 27-hour days out of myself, instead of my given 24 (which I used to do - and I failed at it every day *chuckle*).  *smile*  I am responsible for discipling our children (with my husband, under his authority and direction), homeschooling, keeping our home clean and orderly, preparing healthy meals, and maintaining my health physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I can only do this successfully when I am proactive about budgeting our time each week; deciding in advance what should happen, when it should happen, and making sure to get all of the most important things in ~ without sacrificing other important things.  Getting a lot done has to be intentional - it will never just start happening one day if you wait long enough.  *hugs*  When I have a schedule in place I can rest better at night and even during the day time, because I know that there is a time set aside for all of the most important things in my life; I don't have to stress about "getting it all done" (generally *wink*)  If you like, you can read more about scheduling in my posts:  why a schedule is valuable, how I manage my time, about scheduling babies, how I go about creating a schedule exactly, schedules for varying family sizes, what to do with weekends, and more.  *smile* 


Afternoon naps & "play-alone time" 
Giving our bodies a rest and re-grouping time is so, so good!  Our children nap through age 5 (watch for a future post on how and why we do this!), and they feel so good and their behavior reflects it in the afternoon for the remainder of the day compared to not having a nap.  Our older children also have an independent quiet activity time during those same 2 hours every day, and I usually have a nap for 30-45 minutes as well.  Even if I don't sleep, my body is restful, my feet are up for a while, and I feel so much better.  

During our 2-hour alone time it's good to have uninterrupted thoughts, and no one disturbing our concentration and activities.  It's a time to work on things that are not practical to work on with toddlers and babies around like during the rest of the day (not that the "littles" are a bother, they're just active and curious and things like sewing needles would be dangerous for them).  The oldest children and I do a whole variety of independent things such as sewing projects or mending, baking, reading or listening to an audio book or message, painting, scrapbooking, drawing, organizational projects, letter writing, photography, or set up the whole play room with Transformers to play with without anyone knocking them down.  *smile*  Everyone is in a separate area.  If an older child is in the family room or kitchen area with me we do not talk to each other during that time.  All is quiet, and we come back together again after this time feeling renewed and refreshed.


 No false energy  
I've always been very guarded against drinking caffeine for it's obvious addictive tendencies, but also because it gives a false sense of being healthfully rested.  Caffeinated coffee, tea, and "energy drinks" - they'll "bite you" in the end, from my experience, and from what I hear others talk about all the time.  If we live day in and day out with out enough rest (commonly because we desire to "have our cake and eat it, too"; staying up late for our own personal time, but still having energy the next day from caffeine to function in our day) we're likely to bring on sickness from not resting our bodies enough.  With caffeine people also experience irritability, increased appetite, and caffeine is a diuretic which eliminates the precious water I was so intentional to drink all morning.  Many (if not most people I know) have migraine headaches and such when their caffeine wears off.  In my opinion it's far better to simply make sure we have good sleep - quantity and quality.  False energy will never serve me like real, genuine energy does.  

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that caffeine is a sin.  *laugh*  I do love my grande white mocha latte, but I always get decaf.  Once in a while, however, I do utilize caffeine, such as needing to get through the Sunday morning church service awake and learn something despite having been up repeatedly Saturday night with a child who has the flu.  I choose to make exceptions when it would benefit me once-in-a-while, but it is not a life style.  I'm actually even very hesitant to have caffeine on any morning because that tends to rob me of my afternoon nap which makes me feel so much better the rest of the day.  When I've had caffeine and then miss my nap as a result, I've tended to wake up scowling, tired, irritable, and not smiling when my husband arrives home for dinner.  And I do not have caffeine at night because then I'm very tempted to stay up and get lots of things done with that false energy, or if I do go to bed I likely cannot fall asleep.  Either way I then begin the next day tired, and often times feeling like I can't do life.  Caffeine just doesn't do good things as a general rule.


Bedroom ready 
Having our bedrooms at optimum sleep-enabling readiness can greatly effect both the quality and the quantity of our rest!  I recently wrote a post called "Sleep Better - How to Make Your Bedroom a Better Place to Re-Charge", which explains how the amount of light, the temperature, the amount of stimulation, and the amount of messiness can hugely effect how well you sleep at night.  I encourage you to read it.  *smile*  And I found the information for that post from a very sweet lady, author and sleep expert, Malia Jacobson, who has recently started a great blog called The Well Rested Family.  It is full of valuable information for adults and children alike - I had never before taken the time to read up on the "science" of sleep, but I am learning so much!  And I highly recommend your checking out her blog!


Regular bed times
I and the children need regular nap times.  I know how much sleep I need for optimum health, and I know how much sleep each child needs for their optimum health - so establishing regular bed times helps make sure we get that amount to help us stay healthy and feel our best.  After all, life is hard enough without adding exhaustion to it!  If I don't get to bed on time, I can't easily get up on time either, which effects everyone in the family.

It's time to be objective.  The facts are, I need 7 1/2 hours of sleep at night for optimum health and energy.  I also need to get up at 5:00 am in order to be ready for my day.  So I simply back up on the clock from there to determine what time I need to, therefore, go to bed, which for me is 9:30 pm.  Now I'm not legalistic about this; sometimes life happens and I have school work I have to finish correcting, or a child needs me and so I get to bed later.  But I strive for, and have self-discipline for getting to bed on time.  I am sometimes tempted to stay up and enjoy that quiet "me time", but if I'm honest, my family pays the price for that when I don't get enough sleep.  I need to be my best to please the Lord, doing my very best with the task He's given me as wife and mother.

The children also need to be in bed on time for their own optimum health and well being!  Their ability to have a great day is effected by their being rested; therefore, my day is also effected by their being rested.  *smile*  I need them to be well-rested!  If I do not do my best to enable them to get enough sleep (to not be over tired, or under tired), then how can I realistically expect cooperation, obedience, smiles, good attitudes, servant's hearts, and accomplished academics from them?


Exercise
It's no secret that when we exercise, our bodies sleep better at night.  I am very busy at home, and rarely sit down; and I even strive to get as much movement in to my day as possible by making that extra trip up the stairs even if it could be avoided.  I hoist up those toddlers and carry them up the stairs, too, and not laboring under it but getting up strong!  *smile*

I have not been able to get out for exercise walks on a regular basis because of several reasons:  I've had pregnancies and newborn babies back-to-back (10, 11, 12, 13 months apart); during pregnancy exercise would make me extremely nauseous for a few days afterwards; and my husband has never been home during daylight hours of the morning when I could go walking (I don't feel safe walking in the dark alone).  I look forward to the day when our children are old enough, and we live in a neighborhood safe enough, for me to leave them at home together for a while I walk.

In the mean time my husband and I purchased a really nice, used elliptical exercise machine off of Craig's List - and we LOVE it.  It's the best exercise I've ever done, giving a full body work out that makes me pour sweat, plus it's in our garage for access whenever I can get to it!  I've had seasons of working out in the mornings, and seasons of working out during the children's nap time, which I've preferred surprisingly enough.  I really can't get up earlier than 5am because I can't get to bed regularly before 9:30 pm.  So - afternoon time it is.  *smile*  I shoot for 5 days a week, and then if I miss a day or so at least I got in 3-4 times.  I haven't been able to get back in to exercising again quite yet since our last 4 babies all were born within 22 months, but soon I will be back in to it.  I so look forward to my body feeling strong again and being my trim self!  And even if the Lord gives us more babies in the interim (we're praying!), we will not be in baby season forever and then it will be the time for getting aggressive with getting in shape more again.


Being in shape
Just to mention here along with exercise that if a mom is pretty over weight, it's unlikely she'll be able to achieve ample energy and vitality.  Weight really burdens us all down, and we need freedom from it.  I fairly recently learned about, purchased, and read Wendy Jeub's book called, Love in a Diet.  Wendy has 16 kids, and she is trim and energetic!  Her book is small and only costs $7.47, but it's packed full with practical tips for every day moms to enable them to lose weight and find that freedom!  I lost 10 lbs. after I read it...then I quit for a while feeling overwhelmingly busy with babies and kids *chuckle*...but now I'm back in and losing that baby weight again, working towards my before-babies trim self.  *smile*


Ear plugs
I had become such a light sleeper with so many babies I was listening for, either on baby monitors in their own bedrooms, or in our nursery room adjacent to our bedroom (our master closet).  And my husband's loud breathing and/or snoring would keep me awake for years.  I didn't want to use ear plugs initially because I was afraid that I'd miss a child's call for me.  But eventually I learned to trust the Lord that He would enable me to know when I was needed, or that Bobby would hear the calls for us, and I tried Mac's silicone ear plugs.  Miraculous!  I've used them for years now and I sleep so well!  And, which is truly amazing to me, I still hear our children if they cry or have coughing due to being sick.  God is faithful.  My husband's breathing/snoring no longer keeps me awake, and I sleep soundly.  So, so nice.  These ear plugs can be found at all the grocery stores I've been to, or they can be ordered online.


Spiritual freedom
I struggled for years with insomnia, but I didn't realize it until about 4 years ago.  And I've been free from this struggle since then.  After hearing dozens of personal testimonies about a great ministry called Be In Health, I finally read pastor Henry Wright's book called A More Excellent Way.  He shares strait from scripture about people's health both physically and emotionally and how it is connected with spiritual issues.  I also attended a class on this material which was hosted by some dear friends of ours who have been involved in the Be In Health ministry for many years.  I've also found freedom from over a dozen other physical and emotional struggles after learning this material.  It is life changing; I highly recommend it.  *smile*


I hope that having a window in to how I enable myself to be energetic and joyful in life has given you some good ideas for your own life as well!  The Lord is so faithful to teach us how we can best serve Him when we ask him.  Now just so it's said, I haven't always felt vivacious and joyful.  *chuckle*  I have had my very difficult times and days just like anyone else.  But those days aren't a life style; enjoying life is my life style.

This information may seen like a lot to think about, but I want to encourage you to take your parenting seriously and take your vitality seriously.  Parenthood is really a career and should be treated even more seriously.  We need to always be learning, studying, growing, implementing what we learn, and working hard.  We can just "get through it", but that's really torturous; or we can embrace where we are and achieve success and vitality in life!

Blessings on your efforts!


You may also be interested in reading:

Recommended resources:
Malia Jacobson's, The Well Rested Family blog
Love in a Diet, Wendy Jeub

16 comments:

  1. Fantastic tips! I really enjoy your well thought out posts packed full of helpful information. They always motivate me to improve in areas I've slacked off in.

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  2. I am so addicted to caffeine! Ugh! I have come to rely on it way too much and I just love the taste of my coffee with Almond Joy creamer (and now is the season for Pumpkin Spice creamer)! It is so bad for me, and I know it contributes to the difficulty I have in dropping weight. I am scared to try to quit! I know I have addictive tendencies--alcoholism and drug use run in my family, so I have been smart enough to stay away from that completely. But I have let it run rampant with caffeine! When I was in college I stopped drinking it for awhile and quickly lost weight, but then I was working a job that required changing shifts. So there were many graveyard shifts where I was downing, it seems, jugs of coffee to stay awake! There were even times I would get off of work at 7 am and have to be back a few hours later at 3pm so I was definitely relying on false energy then. I haven't stopped since (13 years later!)
    I know God has been convicting me on this, but I justify it by the fact that it is not an illegal substance, or even alcohol, and the fact that I now need it to get going in the morning and also during that afternoon slump. I really need to pray for God to give me the strength to quit!
    Anyway, as always, thanks for your posts.
    God bless,

    Jessica

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  3. THE McELROYS TO QUEBEC - Thank you! I'm so pleased! =)

    JESSICA - I totally understand. I have had a lot of difficulty in the past separating from sugar. Did you know that sugar is also a common addiction for people who have alcoholism in their heritage? Consuming enough sugar actually can have effects of alcohol. I was told once that one package of Oreos would be like two low-grade alcoholic drinks. So addicting, yet seems so legal and 'okay', hm? I'm breaking free. =) I'll pray the Lord will give you courage, too. And I highly recommend the book I linked to in this post called A More Excellent Way.

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  4. Thanks for all the ideas and the encouragement to really ENJOY our lovely large families! I have just had baby #11 and had PPD for the very first time. I am just feeling like I'm coming out of it and have a plan to keep my head above the water now.
    I don't want to just survive our precious daughter's first year, I want to be involved in every minute of it and keep up with all the challenges of graduating older teens and have time to enjoy being a Nana too!
    I have less appliances right now and I'm working harder than ever to keep our family running smoothly. And yet, I feel better and more focused than I have ever been before! I'm looking ahead to Christmas and how to make it extra special with limited funds and I'm excited about the future again!
    I shall utilize the tips I've gained from this blog to help keep us all happy, charming individuals! Thanks so much!

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  5. I did not know that about sugar and alcoholism, but now that you have mentioned it, it makes sense. Myself and one of my closest friends have major "sweet teeth", and both of our fathers were alcoholics.

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  6. Did you know that the process to remove caffeine uses formaldehyde?

    I love coffee and it does not affect me negatively. I don't use it as "false energy" at all. (I can fall asleep with a cup in hand.) I just love the way it tastes ;).

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  7. Hi Erica,
    I love this post! I have a question regarding how you get enough rest with a baby waking in the night. Would you still get up at 5:00 a.m. if you have a young baby who is waking to eat at night? I am having a hard time disciplining myself to get up early when I have a baby waking at night which sometimes leaves me feeling exhausted in the mornings. We are working on sleep training though and I probably could go to bed earlier : ). What do you usually do during those times?

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  8. I didn't know about the sugar/alcoholism link. Very interesting. I have alcoholism heritage on my mother's side and I am a huge sugar addict. I'm currently working on "detoxing" from it. It's so difficult, but I am starting to feel better, so I just have to keep going.

    Great post. I'm also working on getting more sleep. I usually get about 6 hours and while that use to be enough, the older I get and the more working out to get in shape I am doing, the more sleep I am finding I need, which in turn results in more patience with my family.

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  9. MAMAMIA - Oh bless you! #11! Praise the LORD! We would so love to be there some day. And I totally understand about the depression; I struggled with it for many years, years ago. *hugs*

    KATE - I do remember that now - gross. *chuckle* But I love coffee, too, although I drink decaf. Especially I love toddy coffee - have you had that? Oh...my...goodness. Great taste without the bitter!

    CLAIRE - When we have a waking newborn at home I do not have my time with the Lord at 5am, I will have that at nap time, as I simply can't stay awake for it in the morning. But I do still get up and shower and everything. There are too many other people relying on me, and I feel very "poor me...I can't do this" when I see myself looking "bed head" all day. *chuckle* I have to be showered and ready - it effects many things, but especially my attitude and being ready emotionally for the day. =) And I do definitely get to bed earlier during that time. Blessings to you! =)

    APRIL - Yep. It is like detoxing from sugar, isn't it. Glad you're experiencing sleeping better with exercise; and going with the flow with life seasons and how much sleep you need compared to in the past. We're all growing and changing all the time.

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  10. Thanks for another great post & I'm going to check out your links too! I gave up my iced coffees for my 30th birthday ~ let me tell you I was so very sick for a week, but it certainly showed me what a problem it had become. Now & again I enjoy a frappe when we're out, but that's all. I had no idea about the link between sugar & alcoholism ~ very scary. I hope you have a wonderful, well rested week.
    Blessings
    Renata:)

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  11. I saw a link to this article on facebook, and clicked on over. : ) I have 3 boys under 3 at the moment, and the getting-to-bed issue is definitely something I struggle with. It's just so hard getting a chance to fold that laundry during the day (for example)! : ) Also, I help my husband with his business and several ministry projects, and our time to work on that tends to be in the evening. But, you have inspired me to work on getting to bed earlier on the nights we can! : )

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  12. I love having a regualar bedtime.....i go to bed early and wake early and it has sooooo many benefits...i feel i can manage the day alot better....i also use ear plugs everynight...they are fab x

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  13. No, never had "toddy." What kind of coffee is it?

    I have really enjoyed reading over your blog. I LOVE your organizing tips. We have just downsized from a 2,600 sq ft home to about 800 (yes, I said 800!). I am OVERWHELMED with what to do with all our stuff. I gave TONS to Goodwill b4 we moved, but we still have so much more to go through. (I feel like we're living in a shoebox ;)).

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  14. KATE - It's toddy coffee. It's purchased as toddy coffee; you'd have to look up online where you could buy it or order it from near you. =)

    It will feel so GOOD to be totally cleaned out and living in your new home with out clutter! =) I'm excited for you! It is a ton of work initially, but I'm sure you'll be glad in the end. And it's so easy to manage just the things that fit comfortably in your home. =) Remember to consider very carefully what you bring INto your home once it's comfortably de-cluttered. ;) Too much Christmas can do that. I consider very carefully what we give as gifts and whether or not we have room for the things I purchase for the family.

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  15. Good tips! Right now I have nausea that is worst at night and it is keeping me awake in quite a bit of pain during the night. I slept in the recliner last night and that helped the nausea but still had little sleep. Do you have any tips for this? I am 9 weeks pregnant and with baby # 1 I had "morning sickness" that was worst at night as well, for about the first 16 weeks. Thank you.

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  16. JULIE - Here's what worked for me with nausea, in a nutshell (I'll post on this sometime, too).
    * 11+g. of protein every 2 hrs., on the clock (tough to do at night, but at least you may sleep a little bit).
    * plenty of water (when it didn't make me sicker).
    * minimal activity during the day (exercising made me more nauseous).
    * Sea Bands (elastic bracelets), purchased at grocery stores (may have to ask them to order, in the pharmacy), Rite Aid, Walgreens, etc.
    * One Vit. B6 together with 1/2 of a Unisom (sleep aid) tablet, taken at night (doesn't work to take this in the morning, don't know why).

    Hope that's helpful. =/ *hugs* Sorry - morning sickness can be SO tough.

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