Holidays with Kids

As we head into the holiday season, I’m reminding myself of how I felt over the summer.

Although it isn’t nearly as long, I do want to enjoy the holidays as much as possible!

I had thought summer break was going to be simple and easy – no problem.  I felt the previous summer was eventful and decided to take it easy – less camps, less traveling, less planning.

No problem. But I still felt anxious.

My heart said that summer was going to be neither simple nor easy, and (as the heart usually is), it was right!

Straight away, there was so much fighting, so much chaos – a real disruption to the peaceful routine I had made.  I found myself overwhelmed.  I had to take so many moments to myself so I wouldn’t lose it!  I took out all my parenting books and re-read them, hoping for some solutions… https://alysonschafer.com/books/

And I learned a few things:

  1. Time off is hard with kids, no matter what you chose to do – expect that it won’t be easy!
  2. On day ONE, have a family meeting – to put together a set of expectations
  3. And ask kids for input into what they want to do – we had a glass jar of ideas that we picked from every day
  4. Ask them to help out – sorting laundry/prepping snacks/grocery shopping
  5. Plan some things just for you – fun with friends, exercise, books you want to read
  6. Check out camps around March to keep some structure – I really like structure.

But above all things, I remember to count my blessings as me and my family are all well, and as much as the kids can drive me crazy, I love them to bits and want to spend as much time as I can with them.

Parenting is not easy, all meaningful pursuits require work – some thought and planning.  But they are worth it.  And we grow stronger and better with each failed attempt and lesson learned.

I hope to implement these lessons learned over the holidays to create a balanced, peaceful and happy holiday. And I wish the same for you!

Happy Holidays,

Gaya

 

 

 

Mom of 4 Lessons

When my cousin Kamadchi said to me she wants to have 4 kids too, my immediate response: “because this all looks so good to you?!”

She cutely giggles, “Yeahhh.. it looks like fun!”  Which of course it is, everywhere we go (including staying at home) is a party – a loud, crazy, messy party.  And just like parties, it takes effort, time, teaching and learning (both for me and the kids).

So I thought I’d try to dig out some things I’ve learned, the concepts that have helped us, and tips for my dear cousin when she someday embarks on this glorious journey called parenthood!

Get back Time by Teaching Independence

It really helps if your kids can do some things for themselves (every little bit helps).  So take the time to teach them how to dress themselves or brush their teeth, allowing them to eat on their own, expecting them to play by themselves. You can start this right from the beginning, when they’re babies. Feed, burp, and change them, then put them down for tummy time. Allow them time to entertain themselves.  This is hard because they are soo darn cute!  But necessary for your long-term happiness and success. If you have more kids, you will naturally have less time to cuddle up with your babies, so this is really just for your first.  When you have older ones, encourage the kids to play together and for the older kids to read and teach thing to the younger ones.

Teamwork makes the Dream Work 

Along with being independent, you can and should recruit help from every member of the family. Kids all want to contribute.  Allow them. We used to have large families to handle farm work etc, this is the advantage of having so many hands.  But nowadays, kids get up first thing in the morning and ask us what they can have/get/do for themselves (ie. watch TV).  Ask them to contribute first!  This is a reasonable request in my opinion.  We’ve assigned certain tasks to a certain person (zone defense!).  In our home, my husband, Naren is the king of the kitchen and laundry (we call him the “home parent”). I am queen of school drop off and pick ups, doctor’s visits and play-dates (we call me the “outdoor parent”).  Leela and Ruben (ages 11 and 9) team up to take out the compost and recycling. Priya (6 years old) is in charge of sweeping and Logi (who’s 3) puts toys and books away. They all can sort and put away clean laundry (even Logi). They all work together to clean their room and bathroom.  And when there’s a lot to handle, we come up with a list and work at it like a team.

Self Care is not Selfish

Being a mom of big family is kind of like running a marathon, one that doesn’t really end ever (except at nap time.)  It really, really helps if you develop good habits to support you.  To have the energy, endurance and strength (both mental and physical) I make sure I get a lot of sleep (8- 9 hours a day), exercise daily, practice mindfulness and yoga once a week, play sports, eat healthy (most of the time) and continue to work on myself.  It doesn’t need to take a lot of time – I do 10 minutes of exercise/yoga/meditation when I’m super busy.  It’s the consistency that’s key, and the act of doing something for yourself.  I remember when Leela was 4 months old and she would cry as I was heading out the door to the gym after spending the entire day with her. I could have easily stayed, and still there are days now where there the sink is full of dishes and my to-do list is a mile long, but I go. Because I know it’s important. And everything and everyone can wait for 10 minutes or (gasp) an hour so I can be the best mom I can be.

Say Yes, Please!

People see me and always offer help (no offense taken).  I say yes, please! My mom (who raised 3 kids and wants me to spend as much time with them as I can) will ask “Gaya do you want me to cook some curries and send them to you?” yes, please! My siblings  and in-laws will ask “Can we have the kids over for a sleepover?” yes, please! “Can I take Ruben for a haircut?” Yes, please!  “Can I bring your order to the table for you?” yes, please and thank you! It’s that easy.  Take the help you can.

Say No, Thank you!

You have to also learn to say no to too many commitments. Everyone needs down time. It’s important to pick a few key goals for yourself and you family and learn to recognize what doesn’t fit. For us, I’ve learned that too many social events on the weekend doesn’t work. Summer time should be dedicated to doing fun things outside. Birthdays can be simple and still fun. Be careful of what you commit to and learn as you go – what contributes to your happiness and what doesn’t. And be comfortable with saying no with whatever doesn’t.

Single Children Families are your Best Friends

When the kids have friends who do not have any siblings, this can be a perfect pairing. Those families need to have play-dates and you can take a little break from time to time. The parents of the single child also feel it’s a break for them.  It’s a perfect win-win-win.

In Summary..

I owe a lot of this figuring out to my husband, Naren who has always encouraged me to have the most out of our life, helps daily in creating a low-stress family life and has been the perfect team-mate. I have also read all of Alyson Shafer’s democratic parenting books that are all amazing resources! She also has a set of videos on the Rogers channel on YouTube:

I’m sure there are more lessons to be learned as the kids get older – issues with technology, school and friends.  This list will have to grow as we grow as a family.

Good luck Kamadchi – there’s a lot of love in having 4 kids, and a lot of fun – and it really is a blessing.

Lot of Love,

Gayacca (big sister)

Keeping Motivated After Day #1

The kids went back to school recently.

Everyone asks about that first day, how it went..   and in my experience day #1 is always great – they’re all excited, have new outfits picked out,  get up and get ready so quickly, and can’t wait to get out the door.

This is a real life conversation with Leela on her first day:

[me going to sit at my desk after breakfast]

LEELA [following me into my room]:

Why aren’t we leaving?

ME:

Leela it’s 7:58 am!

LEELA [realizing she’s an hour early]:

ooohh!!

It’s day #2 and #3 and all the days that follow that are hard.

This made me think of how similar the experience is to a new workout program or diet – there’s a lot of excitement in the beginning, we’re motivated and can’t wait to get going. We commit initially when we’re motivated, but when the excitement fades, it gets hard and we quit. Then we feel bad about our unmet goals and end up swinging back and forth between setting goals, failing and resetting these same goals.

What if we could just keep the motivation going? How can we keep ourselves on-track long-term?

As a personal trainer and fitness-enthusiast for the last decade, I’ve experienced this personally and professionally. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned – my 5 tips for keeping motivation going on any program or goal you have:

1. Find your Why

I think one of the most important things to recognize when we want anything is why we want it. And if you’ve set some goals or have a new plan ask yourself why.

If it’s for better health, ask what will better health do for you?  If it’s to lose weight, ask why is losing weight important to you?

Write down your goal, and more importantly your list of reasons or whys.

2. Review your Why Regularly

The second important key is to write out these whys every night (or at least reading them again),  so you remember the next day why you’re saying no to cake and yes to 6 am workouts (which, let’s just be honest, both suck!)

It’s too easy to forget our reasons and just do what’s easy, convenient and tempting. If you have strong enough whys and review them regularly, you can keep moving towards your goals.

3. Find a Picture

Add a visual component – a picture of what achieving your goal will look like. And keep it somewhere you can see often to remind you of your why and goals.

4. Think Systems and Environment

It isn’t enough to set goals and hope that will-power alone will get you there!  You must set up good systems and environments to make it easy on you, to truly achieve success. This may mean getting rid of all the junk in your house, filling the fridge with healthy food, making the gym more accessible, or creating accountability for yourself with a trainer or gym-buddy.The real key to achieving your goal is to focus on the daily habits that will lead to your success.

5. Reward Yourself

Set small goals/targets towards a bigger goal, and make a list of things you really want (new shoes, a night out, or a trip) and earn each one, at every step of the way.  Setting rewards to earn as you work towards your goal will keep you feeling successful and motivate you to keep going.

6. Expect Hiccups

There will always be something that comes up unexpectedly –  a cold, a sleepless night, people showing up at your house with ice cream and cookies. Expect to get derailed. But don’t give up.  When things are better, start back up again, as soon as you can.

Little bits every day do add up. And consistency and patience are so important.

And what about the kids being motivated to go to school every day?  Should I make them write out their whys too every night?  I’ll tell you what, if I get some why’s from the kids, I’ll definitely post them!

 

Minimalism

Life with 4 kids is chaotic.

And living in a small space makes it even more important to keep things minimal.

I spent a lot of time last year thinking about minimization.

I started with stuff.

My sister was doing “30 days of minimalism”, so I joined her.  On day 1 you get rid of one thing, two on day 2 and so on for 30 days.. the math on this is 465 things.. geez that’s a lot of stuff!  Towards the end, it does get hard, but it starts off slow and easy, and you feel really good – it became addictive.

After that I got inspired by Marie Kondo, and began sparking joy all over our home.  I got so many bins and minimized every area further, starting with clothes, then books and paper.  I went through the entire kitchen and living room, even rearranging furniture to help create better spaces for us to play, work and live.

It also made me think about minimizing in terms of commitments.

What really sparks joy in my life?  And I minimized some time commitments.  I said no, I started to do less.  I read amazing articles by Mark Manson  to help me define my values and goals.

I came up with these life goals:

  1. Creating health (for myself and others)
  2. Building relationships
  3. Meaningful work

I assess everything I do based on these goals.

As a mom, we tend to get into the habit of adding more and more onto our plates.

I feel it’s so important to think about efficiencies and minimizing, for our own happiness and health.

As a fitness trainer I also think about minimization.

How much exercise do we really need? What’s the minimum you need to do to be healthy, fit and strong?

I think we often go all out, quickly burn out, and just give up. But what if we started just one small thing today, two tomorrow, and so on.  Or we had a program that was so easy and minimal you could do it forever?

That’s the ultimate goal for me, to create better habits for a lifetime, for me and others, building relationships and creating meaningful work in the process.