Posted in Encouragement, Expectations, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Self Care, Special Needs, WAHM

7 Signs that you’re doing Too Much (and what to do about it)

So, how DO you know if you are doing too much? Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the line is between “I got this!” and “I’m going to have a mental breakdown.”

I am the Queen of “Doing Too Much.”

I have four sons, two of which are 3 and under, and two with special needs.

I have a husband and a house to care for.
11539035_10102113386324218_888264570455143371_oI also love to help people, volunteer, get together with friends, host parties, mentor college girls, and sew, read, write, and cook. Until very recently, I was a work at home mom (adjunct professor).

However, in the past six months, I have experienced major burnout and have had to cut back on non-essentials–and even some essentials–in order to regain some mental sanity, emotional peace, and physical health in my life.

If you’re flirting with that line, here are 7 signs you can look for to determine whether or not you are doing TOO MUCH in your life right now:

1. You start to forget things

We all forget things, especially as we get older…and especially when we add 1-2-3-4 (or more!) kids to the mix. For me, the tipping point was when I was was using my calendar to write down activities and appointments… and I was still forgetting them.

My brain was so full that it could not store any more information. I literally felt like I was losing my mind.

2. Little tasks feel overwhelming

For me, it’s the little things that put me over the edge. When my boys tell me that all their pants are in the laundry, something inside me just boils over. I am furious with myself–usually because we are already in a rush to get out the door, but mostly because I haven’t kept up with the laundry.

But on the jam-packed days, when I was juggling therapy appointments, grading papers, and evening volunteering, the sight of an overflowing laundry basket was just too much to tackle.
IMG_37813. You yell all the time

Our pastor once said during a sermon, “There’s always anger in hurry.” The truth of that statement has played out time and time again in my life.

When I’m too busy, I am constantly in this panicked state of “HURRY UP!” Doing too much caused me to slip into the habit of hurried anger.

4. You don’t have time to be kind

My “hurry up!” attitude was causing me to be unkind to my children on a regular basis. But even more than that, I was too exhausted and busy to be the loving person I wanted to be.

I love to cook for others, but my schedule was so full that I found myself saying “I just can’t” when I wanted to take a meal to a mom with a new baby, or have friends over for dinner.

5. You don’t have time to take care of yourself

In the blur of my busyness, I struggled to take care of myself on a basic level–remembering to drink water, brush my teeth twice a day,  wash my face in the evening, eat regular, healthy snacks.

Forget exercising and scheduling doctor’s appointments for myself!

6. You can’t rest when you’re tired

Well, to amend #6 a bit–I wouldn’t rest when I was tired because I had too much to do! The papers HAD to be graded. The laundry HAD to be washed (remember? no pants!). Dinner HAD to be made. Homework HAD to be supervised.
IMG_4854And if I wanted to spend very-needed time with my husband or friends, or fulfill my volunteering obligations (“I told them I would do it and I will!”), then there really was no time to rest or even go to bed at a decent hour.

7. You don’t have time to do the things that make you feel like “you”

Doing things for myself, like sewing, blogging, shopping, or reading always felt like a guilty luxury, one that I probably shouldn’t indulge in because, really, there was no time for that. But when I didn’t take time to do the things that brought me joy, I felt myself slipping into depression.

I was a big, hot mess. Something had to give.

In the past few months, I have taken several very important steps to regain my sanity, health, and happiness–because, do you know what? It really matters that I am a happy and healthy person.

Here are the steps I took when I felt like I was going to lose my ever-lovin’ mind.

1. Admit it

Saying the words, “I’m doing too much” can be life-changing.

2. Reduce (if you can)

Some seasons of life are just overwhelming, like when you have a new baby, or a family member has a health crisis and you are the primary caregiver. Sometimes you can’t reduce–you just have to ride it out (or see #3 below).

But sometimes, you can and should say “no”. It isn’t easy, but it’s needed. Last summer, I stepped down from an volunteer position that I loved. I didn’t want to, but I needed to let something go.

3. Ask for help

When I was in grad school, I had two college girls watch my twins and clean my house. It felt like a huge, guilty luxury but I really needed that help while I finished my master’s degree.

Lately, asking for help has looked like like enrolling my 3 year old in preschool last fall, teaching my older boys to load and unload the dishwasher, and coordinating with  my husband on busy grading weeks to let him know that I just couldn’t “do it all” when I had 50 papers to grade.
IMG_4619I hate asking for help (I think we all do) But admitting that I can’t do it all by myself lifts such a burden, even if I feel guilty at the time.

4. Ask yourself: Is this activity/responsibility helping me to be or become the best version of myself?

Recently, I’ve had to cut back even more, especially as Benji, my son with Autism, has started weekly therapy.

The stress of balancing marriage, four kids, house work, 4 appointments a week, and grading was starting to affect my mental, emotional, and physical health. So, I made the choice to stop teaching online so that I could focus more on being the type of mother that I wanted to be, instead of a yelling, stressed, “hurry-up,” angry, half-version of myself.

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my resignation, and the other day, I asked my husband, “So, how has it been? Different?”

He nodded, “Yeah, it’s been better. You don’t seem as overwhelmed by little things. I mean, you weren’t bad before but…I can tell a difference. You’re getting better.”
DoingTooMuchI hate saying no to things I really want to do in my life, but at this unique season of small children with big needs, recognizing my own limitations has put me on the better path, one that leads to less stress and more rest.

Even more so, I’ve had the time do focus on the things that make me happy–like reading, blogging, making meals for people,  visiting with friends, and actually resting when I’m tired.

I’m getting better. I feel like I am becoming more “me.”

PS. When you can’t do it all, ask for help
Why you need to say “yes” more often
I quit my job (because I can’t do it all)

What is the “sign” that you are doing too much?
What are you actively doing (or not doing) in order to become the best version of yourself?

Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Expectations, goals, Humor, I hate exercising, Mom Confessions, Self Care, Uncategorized

How to {Accidentally} Exercise Every Day

I hate exercising.

I know some women love it. It’s like an escape to them…from their kids, house, stress, life. I admire these women; they inspire and baffle me.

Personally if I want to escape, it’s in a good book or netflix series curled under a squishy afghan with a glass of milk and a slice of chocolate cake.

That, my friends, is my definition of “escape.”

I am a really busy person. I have four kids. I have a house to take care of. I have meals to prepare. I have a mountain range of laundry to cross every week. Oh, and I also work 30+ hours a week from home as an online professor and freelance editor.

I have 6-8 exercise DVDs that I attempt to do every 9.5 months. Usually by the time I get half way through, one of my children is crying or pooping somewhere inappropriate.

So, what’s a busy mom to do? I decided that instead of trying to squeeze exercise in, I should take a backwards approach. I decided to look back at my day or week and see where I have accidentally exercised.

The Accidental Exercise Plan is simple. All you need is some creativity and a good memory (though once you add more than two children to your life, the later is hard to come by).

The only equipment required for the Accidental Exercise Plan is a house and children.

And the exercises are simple–you are probably doing them all every day! You just need to recognize them so you can give yourself a pat on the back at the end the day.

Tell me more, you say? Well, let’s begin! I’ve broken the Accidental Exercise Program down into Legs, Arms, Abs, and Cardio.

Legs:

The Basement Laundry Room
Do you have a basement laundry room? Lucky you! Don’t curse the cold concrete floors, the swinging lightbulb, and the spiders that freak the living daylights out of you! Thank your lucky stars that you get to “do stairs” every day!

Yes, every time you run up, run down, lug up, lug down, you are exercising, my dear. So do your laundry with PRIDE! Your thighs are thanking you.

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Work out gear

The Two Year Old
Do you have a two year old? Then you also have a personal trainer! The two year old will help you run every day. To take advantage of your two year old’s expertise, take him to a grocery store, Target, or any department store. Turn around for 1.2 seconds then turn back around. Your child will be 100 yards away and will be urging you to begin your Accidental Exercising for the day. Run, mama, run!
Mengs_51-1716401590-OArms:

Dinnertime Bicep Burn
It’s 6:00 at your house. That means dinner time prep. It also means Accidental Exercising! Don’t distract your clinging, crying baby with toys, wooden spoons, pot lids, goldfish, and a kitten! Hold that baby on your hip while you stir that pot!

Do you feel that burn? Ahh…your biceps are thanking you.

BONUS Workout: Have twins. Then you can do this:

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Why, yes! These ARE my work-out clothes!

Abs:

Midnight Maneuver
This Accidental Exercise technique takes some skill but most moms are already completing this move with dexterity.
First, pass out from exhaustion in your bed while your baby is curled up beside you.
Next, wake up. Realize that it is only 8:45pm and you are an adult who promised herself that she would have an grown-up conversation with her husband that night.
Next, hoist your baby over your stomach, cradling her body with your arms. Do not wake your baby!
Carefully sit up without using your arms or elbows to help you. Flail your legs if necessary–no one is watching.
Place your baby carefully in bed.
Pat yourself on the back for getting your baby to sleep AND doing a crazy-hard sit-up.
Repeat as necessary throughout the night.

The Squishy Belly Laugh
Did you know that laughing burns 1.3 calories per minute? To take advantage of the Squishy Belly Laugh Accidental Exercise, pull up your shirt so your belly is exposed. Let your baby squish all that postpartum goodness while you blow raspberries. Your baby will laugh. You will too…WHILE YOU BURN CALORIES!! WIN WIN!

Cardio:
They say the point of cardio is to elevate the heart rate to strengthen the heart muscles. Here are a few ways to integrate an elevated heart rate into your Accidental Exercise regimen.

The Crash
Go about your day as normal. Hum. Sing. Be happy and joyful and unassuming. CRASH!!! In the moments after The Crash (usually from your child’s bedroom), your heartbeat will elevate. If you hear the “bad cry,” RUN (bonus exercise!!!) to your child’s room. Your heart rate will continue to elevate until the crash and the “bad cry” are resolved.

“Cardio” accomplished.

The Daredevil
Is your child a daredevil? Lucky you! You get to experience Accidental Exercise cardio more than most!  To take advantage of your daredevil, look for ways to be scared out of your pants: jungle gyms, parking lots, bunk beds, knives in your dishwasher, etc.

Caution: a side effect of The Daredevil is gray hair.

Of course, you could always accidentally exercise by doing this too…

IMG_7917-2594339590-O
Lift and Kiss. Repeat as many times as desired.

So fellow mamas, if you are like me, let go of your guilt. Let the dust collect on those Jillian Michael’s DVDs. Plan some quality “escape” time in your day, because you know what?
IMG_2405
You already (accidentally) exercised today.

Do you Accidentally Exercise??? Share your tips below!!!

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you, make you laugh, or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂 

 

 

Posted in childhood dreams, Christianity, Expectations, goals, life, Mom Confessions, Self Care, Uncategorized, WAHM, Writing

I’m [NOT] writing a book: Saying No When you want to say Yes

I had this post all planned out a few weeks ago, the post where I would announce, “I’M WRITING A BOOK!”

But this is not that post.

The truth is, I want to write a book, but I’m not. At least not right now.

I’ve had an idea for a book for the better part of a year. Six weeks ago opened my file of notes and asked myself, “Why not now?
IMG_4878
I asked for feedback from friends.
 And they gave it: We love this idea!
I wrote a rough draft of a proposal.
I set up a meeting with a former professor who has published a few books.
I emailed another professor-friend who gave me encouragement and a sample of her last book proposal.
I listened to a podcast on how to write a proposal.
I got more great feedback and encouragement from friends and mentors.

I was thrilled, excited, ready to leap, and terrified all at the same time.

But I couldn’t jump.

Through all these weeks of excitement I was praying, asking God for his wisdom about my plans: Show me if this is the right time.

I got so much confirmation that this is a Good Thing, a Good Idea, a Good Plan. If I chose to go forward, it would be Right.

But as I tried to take care of my children, grade papers, spend time with my husband and the girls I mentor, blog, and move forward with the book, I realized I was being stretched so thin that I was starting to snap.
IMG_4993

I wasn’t loving the Little Things faithfully in all my plans for the Big.

I realized that I don’t have the time, energy or enough of me to do all the Good Things I want to do in my life right now.

So, despite all the whirlwind of excitement, the confirmations and support, and all the planning I put in, I know the answer to my prayers is this: Pull back. Not yet. Focus on what is going on around you right now. Be faithful.
IMG_5028

I tend to be very future-focused; I find a lot of passion and excitement in making plans and setting goals. I can see the big picture, way in the future. It’s a lot harder to put my binoculars down, stop gazing on dreams, and focus on steps that I need to take to actually make my goals a reality.

But what I really need right now is everyday faithfulness: taking care of my daily responsibilities, building relationships with my family and friends, learning more about blogging, building my audience, and writing regularly.

Writing the book right now could have been a Good Thing but it is not the Best Thing, both for my family and where I am right now as a writer.

There are so many big things in my life that I want to say “Yes” to, but sometimes, saying “No” is the best way to ultimately reach my goals.
IMG_4619
Sometimes the best “Yes” is “Not Yet.”

Have you had to say “No” to a Good Thing in your life?
How do you know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”?

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! :

Posted in Autism, Benji's Story, boys, Expectations, kids, Mom Confessions, Uncategorized

You are exactly the right mother for your child (and why you should believe it)

 “You are exactly the mother that your child needs.”

Since I became a mother, this phrase has grated on my nerves because I have struggled to see myself as the “right” mother for my children. If I hadn’t ushered them into the world (I was there, I promise!) I would really wonder if they were mine.

They don’t look like me (God bless those strong Daddy-genes!).
They don’t act like me.
Most days, they don’t want to do the activities I want to do (see FB post from 2011 below, when my twins were 4).
Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 7.54.24 AM
Even deeper than activities, looks, and actions though is that, in my struggle to connect with my sons, particularly my twins, I constantly came up short.

I felt like we were two magnets, pressed together at opposite poles, something invisible keeping us apart.

When we got Benji’s Autism diagnosis, the felt disconnect made more sense, but it was replaced with a rush of “I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this?” insecurity. Many days, I feel a profound hopelessness, my bag of parenting empty as I keep trying to connect with a little boy whose brain works differently than mine.

Benji and I don’t have a lot of things in common. I’m not an “activity person.”Even physical connection is hard sometimes.

My connection with Benji is especially tenuous because I am a words person.
I thrive on language. But Benji struggles to communicate.
Talking exhausts and frustrates him…and many times, because it is so difficult for him to share daily events, tell me about his feelings, and sometimes even make sense, I get frustrated too.

My strengths don’t translate to his needs.

The other day, Benji had a meltdown at school. His primary teacher wasn’t around when it happened so I had to piece together what happened. Our conversation went a little like this.

“Benji, what happened at school?”
“I was really angry.”
“What made you upset?”
“I was upset because I was angry.”
“I understand. But what made you angry in the first place?”
“I was just really upset.”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“Mom, did you know that the fire Pokemon can shoot fireballs?”
“I did not know that. But I don’t want to talk about Pokemon right now. Tell me what happened at school when you got angry.”
Pause. “I didn’t want to play the game.”
“Ok. What were you doing when…wait! Come back in here! We aren’t done talking!”
“Hey check out this Lego rocket I built! Pretty cool, huh?”
“Very cool. So, why didn’t you want to play the game?”
“Because I threw the cards.”
“Ok, so why did you throw the cards?”
“Because I was really so mad!”

And so we went on. For twenty minutes I probed, pushed, use different word combinations, asked different questions, pulled him back to the topic, and finally, finally realized that he got upset because he didn’t understand the directions.

“So, when you didn’t understand the directions, did you ask your teacher to explain them again?”
Pause. “No, I did not.”
Ah! A lightbulb! “Honey, I understand why you got upset. Sometimes I get angry too when–”
“Like Anger! Graaaaaaahhhhh!” he screamed. He loves Inside Out. “I went down the Anger Path!”
“It’s true. But when you feel confused, you don’t have to go down the Anger Path. Instead, you can ask your teacher to repeat the directions. You can ask for help.”
“Can I go play now?”
“Did you hear what I said? You can ask for help. I want you to try that the next time you feel frustrated…”
And he was gone. Like most of our conversations, I wasn’t sure if this one stuck.

But the next day, he came home from school and said:
“Hey Mom! I did what you said. I was confused and I started to go down the Anger Path. But instead, I asked her to say the directions again. And I went down the Joy Path!”
“Benji! I am so proud of you!”
“One Anger orb, three joy orbs.”
“So you were still a little frustrated.”
“Yeah, but I asked for help and I was happy!”
“Good! Good!

It was very Good. I was amazed, actually. It is not often that I see a tangible result of a conversation we have, especially so immediately.

I was relating this conversation to my mom on the phone a few days ago and she said, “See, Brittany? You are exactly the right mother for him!”

All of my old insecurity, doubt and failures rushed upon me when she said that jarring phrase.

But before I could protest, she went on. “Remember when you  were a little girl? Oh, how you made me laugh when you said, “Mom, I like to think!”
And you still do. You are creative and you thought about the way you think and the way Benji thinks. You knew the words to help him communicate and find his words. And see? It worked. He did it.”

I thought my strengths didn’t translate to his needs, but I’ve realized that my strengths are not just in words or communicating. They are in rolling around in another person’s thoughts, in seeing the perspective of another mind and soul, and in really thinking through the heart of the matter.

It’s one reason why I was a stellar English Major. But all those “English skills” are now helping me parent my little boy.

A little bit of faith has crept into my insecure soul, faith that God knew what he was doing when he put me and Benji together.

Right Mother
photo by Sabrena Deal

Being the right mother for your children doesn’t mean that it will be easy. It just means that you–with all your talents, skills, personal history, and strengths–are the right person for the job.

Posted in Autism, boys, Expectations, Family Fun, Mom Confessions, Uncategorized

Stupid Expectations and No Perspective

I like to write these lovely, thoughtful blog posts about my experiences and the perspective I gain from them about my kids, my life, myself.

I got nothin’ today.

Mostly, I just feel really irritated right now.

I do it to  myself, I know I do. I make plans and I build up these little day dreams–expectations–in my mind of how my plans will turn out, the fun we will have, the memories we will make.
And 9/10 it never works out (I would say 10/10 but I am trying to fight my own pessimism right now).

I signed our family up for The Compassion Experience a few weeks ago. It is an interactive walking exhibit where you hear the story of a child from a developing country–their home life, their school, their families, their struggles, hopes and dreams. The stories are based on real people.

I was excited to share this experience with the boys and was hoping that it would open their world up a little bit to the lives of children around the world and also help them to gain compassion for others and gratefulness for what they have.

Good Lord. Right there ^^ Those were my expectations. When will I learn?

We arrived in time for our preregistered time slot. I don’t know why I even bothered to register because the line was almost out the door. We had to wait a long time.

Waiting and my boys do not work well together. They were falling all over each other and trying to use the barricades straps like a sling shot. Benji was determined to unhook the ropes.

Then–

“I do want to do this!”
“It will be fun! You get to wear ear phones–”
“No! I do not want to wear ear phones. I hate ear phones!”
“I know this is new. Can we try something new?”
“No!”
“Let’s try.”
“No! NO NO NO!
“Ok, buddy. If you don’t want to wear the earphones, you don’t have to. I’ll tell you what the story says.”

^^This is life with an 8 year old with sensory issues.

By the time we got to the front of the line, he wanted to wear the earphones. Lots of angst for nothing. That is the story of my life.
We had to wait some more.
More trying to unhook ropes.
Benji asked at least 10 time if if was our turn yet.
The earphones kept slipping off Silas’ head.
I was holding Eli in the wrap, while he flirted with the college girls and tried to eat the cord from my ear phones.

Finally we went in.

You are supposed to push play on your personal ipod and listen to each section in a assigned room of the exhibit.
Benji flung curtains aside and rushed through room after room. We had to chase him down and pull him back to room 1.
In room two, he started touching everything and holding up things he found around room.

“What’s this?”
“Put it down. This is look-only”
“What’s this?”
“Stop touching! STOP!”

Meanwhile, Silas’ earphones continue to fall off every 12 seconds.

We finally reach the end. Thank God. We had to get out of there.

There were 3 more exhibits.

I realized another one of my expectations was to visit all the exhibits and have a discussion with boys, comparing the lives of all the children and then talking about our own home, family and school.

Micah and Benji were pumped up.

“Can we do Jonathan?”
“I wanna do another one! Please? Please please?”

Aaron and I were maxed out. It had been 40 minutes of pure stress.
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We said no.

Our children were understanding and walked calmly to the car.  The boys pitched a fit. Benji started to run away and I ended up holding on to the sleeve of his coat (he pulled his arm out of his sleeve so I couldn’t hold his hand) in order to deliver him to the car safely.

“What did you guys think?”
“It was AWESOME!”
“Well, great! What did you learn?”
“Kiwi lived in China!”
“It was actually the Philippines.”
“Would you like to live in a bamboo house?”
“No.”

The end.

On the way home, we stopped to wash all the salt and dirt of the car at a car wash. The boys begged to try the “New Car Wash” on Wards Road.

We gave in.

This car wash is like the Disney World of car washes. It had lights, graphics, colored soaps, smells, huge brushes.

Benji was in sensory heaven.

“This is the BEST DAY EVER!”

#FirstWorldDelights

All I could do was shake my head, my eyes wide and my mouth shut as we drove home, comparing the Compassion Experiences, which was a huge, fat fail, and the psychedelic car wash, which was a huge hit.

This is my life.

So, the moral of the story is, don’t build up expectations, especially if your kids have unpredictable sensory issues, who hate to try new things, or who are really too small to wear earphones.

We’re planning our next family outing to the Car Wash. At least everyone was strapped down, we didn’t have to wait, and there were no ear phones involved.