Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to run a successful charity fundraiser online

Ever since the day I decided to raise money for Lisa King I have been swamped with emails from other women asking me my tips on how to run a successful charity fundraiser online. Most of these emails are from women who are trying to raise awareness and money for a friend in need and some are from women who are trying to raise money for themselves.

Every time I read these emails my heart breaks. There is so much sorrow and suffering happening in homes around the world and I try my best to reply according to what I believe will help them the most. As this has become a little time consuming on my part I have decided to write a blog post about it so I can simply send them a link with my advice and tips.

Now, I am not an expert at charity fundraising that is for sure and helping out the King Family was the first and probably the last time I will ever do such an event. I also am a big believer that the only reason we raised so much money for the King family was because of the wonderful, kind people that they are and it had absolutely nothing to do with me. People donated money because of them and I played a very small role in the whole process.

With that in mind I will share with you the steps that I took to make the fundraiser happen. This may come across as blunt and uncaring but if you are going to set out to raise money you need to use wisdom and think about how to best touch the hearts of people so they will donate money.

1. Act immediately: As soon as I heard that Lisa has lost her husband so quickly after losing her son, I did not wait for permission from anyone, I acted immediately and set up a fundraising page. I kind of went with the act now and seek forgiveness later factor. Maybe not the smartest move but I knew many people would be shocked to hear the news of Lisa and would want to do something to help immediately. I gave them an opportunity to do something right away while they were feeling many different emotions.

2. Quickly educate yourself: I immediately started making phone calls to my bank, Paypal and other charity run organisations to seek out the best and easiest way to raise money. I asked a lot of questions about fees involved, permits and permissions to raise money. You do not need a license or permit to raise money for a friend in need here in Australia and you do not need to register as a charity organisation to make it happen. What you do need to be aware of is that most sites that allow you to raise money charge a fee. They take a percentage of the money raised and you often do not get the money transferred into the designated bank account until the end of each month. The money is not immediately available in most cases.

3. Make it visual: In deciding what platform to host the fundraiser for the King family, I decided to go with 'My Cause' instead of Paypal because you can set up a fundraising page and can clearly see how much money is being raised. I wanted to have a visual page (also include a visual image if possible so people can connect to the person or people involved) where people could see how much money was being donated and a chance to be supportive in helping me achieve my fundraising goal. It worked really well and I felt that people loved checking in on how much money we had raised and I even found myself glued to the fundraising page watching the tally raise daily. 'My Cause' does have fees involved and I have to mention that I found the customer service terrible and very insensitive. I may have had words with them!

4. Tell a story: If you are raising money for a friend or family member in need, tell the story of why you are seeking help and what the money is need for. People will want to know why they should donate money and what their money will be used for. Be upfront, be bold and be honest. The more specific the better. Do not be afraid to add emotion to your story. Sad but true - if you can make people cry, people will donate more money and the more tragic the story, the more success you will have.

5. Set a fundraising goal: Set a realistic fundraising goal amount you want to achieve according to the charity needs you have. My first goal I set for the King Family was $10,000. I really felt that with the amount of readers I have on my blog that I surely would be able to raise $10,000 over the time period of a month to help them out to pay for headstones. Imagine my shock when I reached that goal over the first two days! People will also donate more money when they can see what the total amount is and if you have a goal that you want to reach. They will also put in a few extra dollars to round it off etc. to help you reach that goal if you have a visual page for your charity needs. Remember you can change the fundraising goal at anytime. I kept increasing mine as the days went by and my last goal I put in was for $45,000. We came close on the fundraising page and finished at $44,694.

6. Have a variety of choices available to donate: When raising money for charity it is important to remember that not everyone likes to donate money, especially in a public way and not everyone is in a position to do so. When setting up the charity fundraiser for Lisa King I set up a visual fundraising page, a private bank account for anonymous donations and also included a postal address to give people the option of sending gifts. All three choices worked really well and I only ever shared what amount we raised on the fundraising page and kept the other two options private with what was donated and received.

6. Use social media: If you are going to have a successful charity fundraiser online you need to use social media to get the word out. If you have a blog, write a blog post like Deb to help Trish and ask people to share it. If it is a long term fundraiser, set up a separate blog like Bree. I was lucky that I already had a facebook page and twitter account that I could use to spread the message. It is worth the effort to set up a separate facebook page or twitter account to help raise awareness. If you are also going to be holding a facebook auction I highly recommend setting up a separate page. With twitter people can easily retweet your message and spread the word and with facebook people can easily hit the share button and share your message. Do not be afraid to ask people to help share it for you. People love to be involved in helping others and will often spread your fundraiser faster than you possibly could. Also contact your local paper and see if they can do an article for you to help spread your fundraising goal and be careful to share the right links as I find they always get it wrong! When using social media remember to try not to spam people with your charity fundraiser no matter how desperate you feel because nobody likes to feel pressured to donate.

7. Be grateful: Always, always remember to be grateful for any donation that you receive. Hardly anyone really has any spare cash to donate to charity these days and so keep in mind that any donation you receive has come at a great sacrifice to the people who gave it. Most donations you will find will come from women who are often struggling as mother's at home or at work to support their own families but are prepared to go without to help someone else. They donate because the story has touched their hearts and any money donated should be seen and used as special and sacred money.
Continue to share your thanks and appreciation all through the fundraising journey.

I am still amazed, thankful and blown away by the support we received for the King family. My heart was touched by the many sacrifices people made to donate and the amount of support we received to help them. For me now, I made the difficult decision to not support any charity fundraising. I receive at least 5 emails a week from women asking me to support them. I read every heartbreaking story and try to help where I can but I don't share them on my facebook page or blog.  It is too hard for me to decide who to support so I chose to support none. I have received many hate emails over this calling me selfish and many other words I won't mention but I know that these women are often dealing with great stress and don't know where else to turn. I have already seen my readers give so much I simply can't ask them to donate any more. I hope people understand why I have had to come to this decision but I am often happy to help in any other way I can. I hope this blog post will be a good start.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

parenting without power struggles

Parenting without power struggles

Raising happy, resilient kids while staying cool, calm and connected.

Are you as shocked by that last statement as I am? 
Sounds a little unreal doesn't it...staying cool, calm and collected as a parent!

I have a thing about parenting books, which is why I probably will never write one myself, as I am a big believer in trusting your instincts and parenting from the heart. I do however believe they are worth reading when you are starting out as a parent to give you some basic knowledge and techniques on how to discipline, to learn effective strategies and parent with values. 

I was intrigued by the title of this parenting book and how Susan encourages you as a parent to come alongside your children to help them co-operate, rather than coming at them with threats and bribes. By staying calm and being confident as a parent she teaches you to parent from a strong connection with your child and to create a better parent-child harmony in your home. As a mother, psychotherapist and marriage/family therapist she uses her work experience to teach strategies and skills on how to deal with the challenges you will face with your children growing up.

While I appreciate that she has a wealth of knowledge and experience I could not get past the fact that she has only one child. With the many parenting books that I have read over the years I often find a common occurance: most family therapists only have one or two children. I know that is normal in today's society and that I am not the norm with a large family but it seems to me as if their work puts them off having any more. Being too judgemental? Probably. I have no idea why she has one child and really it is none of my business. Just my personal opinion which I am sure some of you will not agree with but while I do not doubt that she has great knowledge to share, the fact that she only has one child kind of put's me off wanting to take her advice. There is something to be said for the experience of a mother with several children in the home and dealing with power struggles. Sure, you have power struggles with one child, but with a large family I find that power struggles are taken to a whole new level!

I also find it is often easier to see what problems are happening in other people's homes, families and lives but harder to see what is happening in our own homes, families and lives and to make changes to improve them. I can give my friends advice and encouragement but to actually do it myself, whole new level of effort and hard work! Anyway, I read her book and put my personal opinions aside and enjoyed what she had to share. 

So after reading her book here are some key points that I really enjoyed:

It is important to be in charge of your children, not in control of them.
Good relationships with your children help create resilience to dangerous, acting out behaviours.
Attachment (connection) to your children makes parenting easier.
A child grows up best when they have a variety of strong and loving attachments to caring adults around them.
It is essential that we sign up to be an important adult to other children.
A child becomes receptive if they feel us coming alongside them rather than at them.
Children open up when they feel we are genuinely interested in finding out who they are.
Kids only tell us their truth if we let them know that we can handle it.
Parents who intervene and give a child whatever they want, do them a disservice.
Children who believe that they can only be happy if events unfold in the way they wish become handicapped adults, unable to cope with disappointment. 
When you ask your child to do something, speak as though you are in charge and then walk away with the assumption that they will do what you asked.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to delight in their unique interests, talents and personalities. 
A child who is destined for success and joy is celebrated for who they are instead of who they could or should be.
When parents encourage a child to pay attention to the call of their heart they give them a profound gift.
By constantly stimulating our children with activities, we are depriving them of the chance to drop into the present moment.
Our children learn their greatest lessons by watching how we live our lives.

I find in my home, my challenging head butting parenting moments changed when I decided to pick my battles. Having a power struggle over every single issue is exhausting, depressing and horrible. Since I started picking my battles or in other words, deciding what issues were the most important to me, the power struggles started to disappear and the contention in our home also disappeared. I now only pick a few issues that I take a stand on as a parent and the rest of the time I am able to be relaxed and work on developing that closer connection and relationship with my children. I am still working on being cool, calm and collected all the time as a parent but I do believe I am trying my best to raise happy kids. 

While this book will not solve all the problems you may have in your home it will give you some strategies and techniques to help improve your relationship with your children and bring a better feeling in your home. Susan does write in a style that is easy to read and she comes at parenting with a loving, caring attitude not one of force. Her book includes real life stories from her work that all parents could relate to. 

She covers such questions as:

How can you get your children to do their homework without meltdowns, threats or bribes?
How can you have a drama-free morning where the kids actually get out the door in time for school?
How can you manage your child's screen time without making them want to hide what they are doing from you?

It is available to purchase from Simon & Schuster Here
Susan has her own website you might like to look at Parenting Without Power Struggles.

So tell me: 
Do you have power struggles in your home? How do you deal with them? 
Do you stay calm and collected?

*I was sent a free copy of this book to review and enjoyed it so I chose to share it on my blog*

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What makes a good blog and blogger?

What makes a good blogger?

I have read a lot of blogs over the past couple of years and have spent a great deal of time analysing what I think makes a good blog and blogger. Obviously, what is a good blog and blogger is going to be diffrerent for everyone but I thought I would share my thoughts on what I love to see in the blog world. 

There are of course some exceptions to my thoughts as there are some blogs that don't use any images at all and are just brilliant writers etc. but generally speaking to me these are the common tips that I have seen good bloggers do.

1. They share their story. They are not afraid to share honestly and openly what has happened to them over their lifetime and believe that what they have to say is worthwhile and will make a difference.

2. They use good images. I love a blog that has great images. Either pictures they have taken themselves or images that are found on the internet for use.

3. They write from the heart. I love to read powerful writing. Writing that makes you laugh or cry, that touches your heart and leaves you feeling like a different person after reading it.

4. They link to other bloggers. I love to see a blogger share some blog love and link to other bloggers. All bloggers love to get traffic to their site and it is a joy to see someone sharing something you have written.

5. They know their worth. When working with companies or brands they know that they have influence and value. They are confident enough to ask for compensation and respect themselves enough to value their words, effort and time.

6. They don't take themselves too seriously. They know that having a blog should be fun and enjoyable. They know that not everyone is going to agree with what they have to say and are prepared to handle comments that may cause them to feel offended.

7. They know their blog voice. A good blogger knows their own voice and style and is consistent. They are not tempted to change and become someone else for the sake of keeping readers or companies happy. You can know they will be reliable with what they share and say.

8. They love their readers. I love to see a blogger who listens to what their readers want. They answer questions, they appreciate that they took the time to stop by and they make them feel important.

9. They have a simple blog design. I love a blog that is easy to navigate and looks simple and inviting. A good blog design helps you feel that the blog is an extension of who they are as a blogger and you feel good every time you visit. 

10. They know content is key. I love a blogger who knows that content is key to having a good blog. They work hard to provide good content that readers will enjoy and are not afraid to put in the time and effort to research if need be. 

11. They mentor other bloggers. I love a blogger who takes the time to help other bloggers progress and better other blogs. They share what they have learned and support the blogging community. 

12. They are teachable. I love to see a blogger acknowledge that they still have more to learn. They are open to new ideas, they admit mistakes and keep moving forward to improve upon what they already know.

13. They have a life besides their blog. A good blogger knows that a blog is an extension of them and their thoughts but is not their whole life. They have real life relationships and live life off their blog as well as on it.

14. They know when to take a break. I love to see a blogger admit they need a break. They value their own mental and emotional health and can step away from their blog to take care of themselves if need be.

15. They are not jealous. I love a blogger who celebrates the success of other bloggers and knows that comparison leads to misery. They understand that we all have different voices, talents and opportunities and is happy to support others in their blog journey.

Naturally, there is a lot more that could be added to this list but these are the top thoughts that stand out to me on what I have seen makes up a good blog and blogger. There are after all so many blogs to get ideas from these days!

What would you add to my list?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

a special friendship: meeting Lisa King

At the beginning of the year one of my blog friends, Lisa King, had a tragedy happen in her family. She lost her son and her husband within months of each other. As a mother, wife and blogger my heart ached for her and I felt the need to help out, to do something, to do anything to lighten her burden and the heartache she was feeling.

So I wrote a blog post and set up a fundraising page to see if I could raise some funds to pay for the two headstones for the grave of her son and husband. I felt that with the amount of readers on my blog I could surely raise enough money to cover the cost of that expense and maybe a little more to pay for groceries over the first month of dealing with her loss.

To my absolute shock we had a fundraising miracle and managed to raise $44,700. It was a beautiful heartbreak for Lisa and for me. Not only did we raise enough money for two gorgeous headstones for her sweet cherub and husband but we were able to help Lisa pay off her house! Incredible!

So you can imagine my delight this month when I was able to meet Lisa in person for the first time. Lisa came over to my home and it was a special meeting. It was so lovely to hug her and to talk about our families and life in general. I felt so thankful that I could meet such an inspiring lady and be involved in helping her in such a small way.

We filled my dining table with cherubs and had lunch together. We watched our children interacting together and had a great time talking. We briefly caught up on each other's lives and I was delighted to also meet Lisa's brother and mother. It was such a joyous moment to have them all in our home and to see them happy. We of course had to get together for some pictures of this special meeting and my cherubs had to get a little crazy in the pictures. Typical!  

We then headed off to church together and sadly said our goodbyes until the next time that we can meet. I am constantly in awe of the strength of Lisa and her determination to keep her life running and functioning for her three boys despite the sorrow and challenges she faces. I feel so blessed to know her and hope that I can have the faith and courage that she has one day. Once again I am so thankful to everyone who donated to help Lisa and her family. I still get teary whenever I think about it. I also highly recommend you check out her blog. It is an inspiring read.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I don't need your validation to be a stay at home mum

Being a stay at home mother is my chosen career choice. I decided this is what I wanted to do many years ago and this year I have been at home for 13 years. Some people struggle to understand this choice I have made and how I can feel content in my life with this role. 

Quite simply, the reason I feel content is because I don't need the validation of others to know it is the right choice for me. As I raise my children I follow my instincts and I follow my heart. I don't need the approval of other's to tell me I am doing a good job and that I should be doing more with my life.

I love being a mother and am thankful I have the opportunity to do so. Being a mother to me is a worthwhile pursuit of my time. Sure, I could join the workforce and have a career in any other industry that I chose and still be a mother...But for me, being a stay at home satisfies me. 

I enjoy being at home and available for my children and I find it still allows me to use my talents I have developed over the years and I am still learning new skills as I parent my children.

I know when I speak to other people and share that I am a stay at home mum, they often dismiss me. I see their eyes kind of glaze over and they want to move on to the next person to have a real conversation. What they don't stop to find out is that....yes, I do have a university degree, yes, I have traveled and explored this wonderful world we live in, yes, I do keep myself up to date on current worldwide issues and yes, I do know how to have an intelligent conversation.

When they find out I have seven children...then they become interested, then they become fascinated and then they want to listen. But you know what...what if I didn't have seven children...what if I had one or two children...would they want to speak to me then?

It makes me sad to often see and hear that being a stay at home mum is still thought of as an easy job, as a waste of time and that people generally think I should be doing so much more with my life. 

Loving and nurturing my children to me is the BEST use of my life and my time. My cherubs mean so much to me and raising happy, healthy, self reliant, motivated children is the best gift that I believe I can give society. 

We need more people who are prepared to work hard, who want to be involved in our communities, who want to help others and who want to focus on the importance of the family. 

I know that what I am doing in my home, each day, by taking care of my children, as much as it is tiring and exhausting and stretches me to my limit, is the right decision for me. I don't need to look to someone else to tell me it is right. I don't need the approval of some group, or some celebrity or some successful business person to tell me it is the right decision, I know it in my heart already.

Now, I am not writing this to be boastful and to say look at me....I am self validated but more to share that you know what...I accept who I am, what I have chosen to do and I want to encourage others to do the same.

Self-validation is recognising that you are okay as a person and with the choices you have made. You recognise that you do not need anything or anyone besides yourself to declare that you are okay as a person. You know you have the ability to do that yourself. I am simply doing that myself. Stating that I have that self validation and don't need the validation of others to help me know my decision is right.

If you are looking for validation from a family member, from a friend or from some other source...let it go. Validation from others may be nice to hear but it will not mean as much as finding and knowing it from within yourself. There is great power in being self validated.

Self validated mothers are powerful, deliberate mothers who parent with purpose. Just like anyone else in a career, I want to be good at what I do. My desire is to be a powerful, deliberate mother and I am thankful I have the chance to put it into practise with my cherubs.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

home inspiration: my dining room

Home inspiration: My dining room

I love dinner time in our house. I love to have all of our family come together around the dinner table to talk about the adventures of the day and I love that in our home we have a separate room where we can do so. As there are so many of us in our family, I have tried to keep our dining room simple but family focused. 

Here is an overview of what the room looks like:

I did not want to have the room looking too bright with the colour scheme and wanted more of a relaxed feel as we have some fun and heated discussions around this table! I also wanted to use this area for extra storage as I don't have very much storage in my kitchen. I am happy with what we have put together and it suits us well for now.

On the right hand side of the dining room I have a kitchen buffet that I picked up on ebay. It is where I store my extra pantry items that have a high turn over. I store large jars of flour, sugar and rice and other items that I use regularly to cook with. Some of them include: desiccated coconut, popcorn, split peas, barley and pasta. I picked up the smaller jars at Woolworths and the larger jars I just picked up at a discount store. Inside the cupboards I store larger trays, pots and tablecloths. I also keep a supply of napkins, paper plates and plastic forks etc for those nights when I am too tired to clean up and everything is just going crazy. I love having that option saved for those motherhood moments!

Probably not a good idea to show where we hang our keys but I love this key holder I picked up in a home store. We have a variety of responsibilities that come with different sets of keys and this is an easy way to hang them so we can quickly grab them and head out the door. 

Now, this is not a very good picture as it is so cloudy here and the lighting is not very good but this is one of my favourite wall hangings in our home. I really wanted a positive happy image of a large family hanging in our home {apart from taking a picture of ourselves}and searched every where to find one. I could not find one anywhere so I created one myself. I found these two pictures in a calendar and decided to put them together to create one family. I was very excited to see that when I put them together it worked out to be an image with seven children in it just like us. I then had them framed and right now it is sitting on top of our buffet instead of hanging else where in our home. I like having it in our dining room. It gives me something positive to look at when the kids are going crazy over dinner!

The glass brick next to the large picture was a gift to us from some friends and is commented on so often in our home. It has our family name on it - Ellis, with the words families are forever across it. Adore it! I like my buffet. Simple and practical.

When Matt and I were first married we purchased this eight seater dining table. It was on sale and a bargain price. It was not the table we really wanted but we could not pass it up. We had one child at the time and our goal was to fill every seat around the table. We were giddy with the excitement and prospect of the journey ahead of filling those seats. 

Well, we filled those seats and added one more. We now have nine seats filled around our table and even though it is not the style I really like in a table, I can't bring myself to part with it. We have had it for years and it has been a joy to see so many of our children move out of high chairs and slowly join us around the table. 

We now all can sit at this table and I often I look around and can't believe how much my cherubs have grown. I was really glad to get rid of those high chairs but every so often I wish we had another cherub in one and miss those messy days with cute baby cherub smiles....anyway...back to reality!

Also included in this room is my extra storage cupboard. I originally wrote about it and showed a picture of it in my blog post, my large family budgeting tips, but now it is looking a little different as I am weaning sugar out of our house. I am using up all of the sugar foods and slowly replacing them with healthier options. I also have another storage cupboard for tinned food but I will show you that another time.

On left hand side of the room I have another simple table that is mainly for decoration and a dumping area for items when I am working around the house during the day. It is like the half way place for me when I am moving items back and forth around the house and by the end of the day it is normally clean. It is a great storage spot for me and I also love this mirror as I can use it to see what is going on in several rooms around the house when I am cooking dinner. It helps me have eyes in the back of my head and one of my secret weapons on watching the kids! Sssshhhh!

This basket is where I store the kids lunch boxes. It took me ages to work out where to keep seven lunch boxes and since coming up with this idea it has been wonderful. It is a lunch box basket that sits under the long side table in our kitchen. After emptying out the kids lunch boxes after school they can be placed in the basket until it is time to load them up with food again. I love that they are still in the kitchen and not spread out in bedrooms. It looks organised and I can just pick up the basket each morning to unload them onto the bench. Love it!

So there you have it, that is our dining room. Not very fancy, but simple and family focused. Pretty much the theme of my whole house actually! I hope you enjoyed having a look. It was fun sharing it with you.

Monday, June 11, 2012

sugar addict and eating sugar free

Much to my shock and horror recently, I discovered I am a sugar addict.

Well, I knew I loved my sweets but it was not until recently that I was able to see just how much I was letting it control my life. I had been struggling every day for the last 6 months with trying to eat healthy meals. I would eat healthy food all during the day and then when it came to night time I would eat something sweet and mess up all of my healthy eating. 

The problem was that this was not happening every so often, it was happening to me every single day. I couldn't control my craving for sugar. My body wanted some type of sugar hit every single day. It would happen before I even knew it happened! I would find myself shocked...What I just ate 5 biscuits! How did that happen! Then I would feel terrible, go run on the treadmill and exhaust myself, go to bed and start the same cycle all over again the next day!

Then one day I could not stand it anymore. After spending 2 days of total healthy eating I was horrified to find myself eating a whole packet of these horrible sugar treats {see below}. Clearly I needed help! So I took a picture of them and shared it on Instagram. This was my caption that went along with it: 

What is it with these! 
I simply can't say NO and then I feel sick every time I eat one. 
Let's change that sentence: What is it with ME!!!

Lucky for me my friend Holly immediately replied: 
Sugar addiction love. Can I send you a book to read?

Here is the book she sent me:

Now, normally when I read a book, I read it very fast. This book, I read very slowly. I took my time, I soaked in the knowledge and found myself searching for the right pearls of wisdom that I personally needed to make a change for the better. I found myself nodding along, seeing clearly why I was struggling and also disappointed with the assurance that I was addicted to sugar. 

I immediately started cutting sugar out of my diet and life. I cleaned out cupboards, I made announcements to my family and committed myself to eat sugar free. Surprisingly, the first week was relatively easy. I found that having knowledge behind me of why it is better not to eat sugar made it so much easier to stick to my sugar free plan. I felt a little more tired but so much better for the decision I made. 

For some reason, day 9 was my hardest day. I struggled through the whole day. I tried to keep myself busy but my body really, really wanted sugar. To deal with it, I made myself a fruit smoothie, with simply berries and milk and went to bed early as I was in one grumpy mood!

During the weeks I felt more in control of my eating. I felt healthier, I looked healthier and I was not finding myself disappointed with my eating habits. Now I am up to week six of eating sugar free. I have to add that sugar free for me means I still eat fruit. I did not go that crazy and chop out all food that naturally contained any type of sugar. 

Along my sugar free journey I did have one day where I tried eating a chocolate chip biscuit to see if there was any difference. To my surprise I found it tasted bland, I did not enjoy it and I really did not miss eating it. Amazing! Now I find I get full quicker, I am in more control and I feel so much happier with no sugar in my life. I have lost over 5kg since starting it and the weight has been slowly, naturally coming off. An added bonus for trying to live a healthier life.

I highly recommend reading this book. Some parts are hard to get through where David is explaining the medical/technical reasons behind why sugar is bad for you but other than that is was a great read. I am so thankful that Holly sent it to me as it has made a huge difference in my life.

Have you ever tried going sugar free?
Is sugar controlling your life?

Friday, June 8, 2012 you have a favourite child?

Over dinner recently one of my cherubs asked me, " you have a favourite child?".

Growing up in a large family I think it is easy to feel left out, unloved at times and forgotten from your parents. Matt and I work really hard at trying to show a healthy amount of love and affection to our children and to make time for them in our busy lives.  I have seen and heard in many families that the baby of the family is often the favourite child as they appear to be loved the most and the most spoilt. Sure our Liberty is loved and spoilt according to my older children but we love all of our other children just as much and I have a soft spot for them all in different ways. 

So to answer the question this is what happened: 

I rested my chin on my hands and replied, "Hmmm....Let me think about that for a minute....Why, yes I think I do. I do have a few favourites in this family. Let me tell you who they are...

Harmony is my favourite because she is so kind and helpful 
Nathan is my favourite to talk to about books and reading
Liahona is my favourite to dance with around the house
Eli is my favourite to give hugs to because he hugs me back
Libby is my favourite because she gives me massages
Sam is my favourite because he makes me laugh because he is so cheeky

{As I was rattling off this list my kids were all smiling as they were enjoying the wonderful things I was saying about them so I then decided to have a little fun}

and Chelsea...well she is just my all time favourite child!"

My kids all then looked at me, their mouths fell open, several of them folded their arms and frowned and then they turned to look at Chelsea who was loving the extra attention and was laughing her head off! Then we were all laughing as they knew I was having fun with them.

I once again explained to them that I love them all so, so much and that I really don't have a favourite child but they are all my favourite for different reasons. They are all different and unique and individual people. I love to do different activities with them and just because I love to do those different activities with them it does not mean any of them are better than anyone else. I love them for who they are and I love them because they are mine. 

Sure I have days where I feel happier towards a certain child because of how they are behaving but behaviour has nothing to do with love. Love is unconditional no matter how they behave. My kids know that no matter what they do or say I will always love them. I might not feel happy with the behaviour that they are showing but I will always love them. Teaching children that difference is a valuable lesson to help them feel better about themselves as well. I believe it really helps their self esteem to know they are loved no matter what. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

toilet train your child in 2 weeks

Since starting a blog I have been asked a lot of questions about parenting and raising children. I am not an expert on all parenting topics but I do have seven children and have had some experience. It is from my experience that I draw upon to share my tips and advice. Every so often I make the time to answer those questions and today I thought I would answer the question often asked of me about toilet training. 

When it comes to toilet training we have had our fair share of challenges and joys. Some of my children simply did not want to be toilet trained and took ages to feel ready to give it a go and some took to it right away. We even toilet trained twin boys at the same time and with the more children we had the better and faster we became at teaching our children all aspects of how to use the toilet.

So what I am going to do is share with you my tips along with a friend of mine named Kathy-Anne Woolley who should totally write a book on this topic. She has a bunch of cherubs herself and trains all of her kids to use the toilet in 2 weeks. Now I need to say from the start that this toilet training method is not for everyone. Some of you are not going to like it and some of you will think we are insane. However, it works for us and we followed it to the letter and had success. I also want to mention that when it comes to toilet training for me personally, it is all about the child, not about me and what I want. It is about when the child is ready to be toilet trained and not about when I want them to be. It also depends on what type of parent you are, how tough you feel you can be and how much mess you think you can stomach.

So here are my tips and the guide I use:

1. If you follow this guide exactly you will have success and if you don't follow this guide you will still have success but it will take you a lot longer. For this guide, it also depends on the personality of the child, some kids are just plain stubborn and some kids have a lot of fears. Also if your child may have any learning difficulties or a weak bladder for example it will take longer. I am not saying this is a fool proof plan but it was worked for me. Some kids are also great during the day at using the toilet but have a lot of trouble at night, so it all depends on your child. You will find out as you go along and can work out a plan that is right for you in the process. This is just what I do, it does not mean you need to do the same. Just sharing an idea.

2. First of all, start training your child when they are about 2 years and 2 months old. Before that (generally speaking here) they will regress and you will have to start it all over again. Around this age there are signs that they are ready.

3. Some of the signs that they are ready to start using the toilet are that they tell you they want to be a big girl or boy and want to try sitting on the toilet. They will hide and tell you to go away when they start to fill their nappies. They will come and tell you they have something in their nappy and want their nappy changed. They may also have a dry nappy when they first wake up in the morning and it is when they are lying in bed after they wake that they will wet their nappy. If they are doing some of these things and are at the age it is time to face the mess and BEGIN.

4. To begin, get yourself the necessary supplies (training pants, wipes, potty etc) and try to clear 2 weeks of your schedule so that you can be at home to focus on toilet training full time. I know that not everyone is able to do this and it is simply not practical to do for many mothers but if you are able to it, it is worth the effort.

5. Using training pants, not undies, will make the process so much easier. Training pants help soak up the wee and the child can 'feel' wet without being upset about making too much mess. They are also better at catching those messy accidents that happen and will mean less cleaning for you in the process.

6. To teach my kids to toilet train I waited until I felt they were ready and then simply took the nappy off, never to put it back on again. I talked to them about using the toilet and that from now on they were a big girl/boy and were no longer going to be using a nappy. I then braced myself for an insane 2 weeks of mess and tears (from both of you!) and just dived into the toilet training full on. It was far messier but far quicker and we had our children trained in 2 weeks and off nappies from then on.

7. Use positive language (even if you are dying from all of the frustration and mess going on!) at all times towards your child through the process. For are a big girl now, big boys don't wear nappies, that was a great try, you are really becoming like mummy now etc. Whatever you feel your child needs to hear to keep encouraging them.

8. If you chose to use a potty, put the potty away from the television or anything that is distracting but in a main room, up against a wall as sometimes a child can feel scared sitting on one in the middle of a room. Some of my children have wanted to use the toilet and some of them loved having a potty. I always tried them with the toilet first and if I could see that they were a little scared I would take them out to get a potty. Here is the hard part - do not give them books or toys etc. while they are on the potty as you want them to recognise the let down motion. I would sit my children on the toilet or potty and read to them books but did not leave them alone to play on the potty or make it a game. The high front made potties are the best as far as making less mess is concerned.

9. For the first 3 days sit them on the potty or toilet every 20 minutes. You say to your child, "(childs name) time to do a wee on potty" and put them on the toilet or potty whether they want to or not. Sometimes it may involve picking them up and carrying them onto the toilet or potty to get them there and remind them it is only going to be for a short time. When they are on the potty you then say to them, "Do a wee" etc and if they don't do anything it is no problem but if they do, praise, praise, praise them. I always would make a big deal of it and smile and clap my hands and yell, "Yay! Well done!" Now for Kathy-Ann in her home whenever her kids did a poo in the potty they made a big deal of it and showed Daddy. Ha ha! Poor Dad :) Then Dad can make a big deal of it as well.

10. If your kids have an accident and don't make it to the potty or toilet I would simply get down on a face to face level and remind them that wee and poo belong in the potty. I would speak a little more seriously and say something like, "Where do the wees/poos go? In the potty, not in your pants." Kids will have accidents, they are learning and it takes time to understand how their bodies function. I would try my hardest not to make my kids feel bad for this and try to remember to be patient. Saying this to them is important to remind them what the goal is and the child has to recongnise a change in your voice. It should be a little deeper and not pleased but not a mean voice telling them off.

11. Put a plastic sheet protector on your child's bed, under the sheet and have some spare ready for if your child wakes up and then has wet the bed. I would try to wake up before my child and kind of hang around their room ready for when they first woke up so I could take them straight to the potty or toilet. First thing in the morning when they are still a little sleepy is a great time to have some success on the toilet or potty. If they have wet the bed I simply remind them where the wee goes as above. I was really surprised with one of my kids that for the first 2 weeks, she never wet the bed once during the night!

12. Don't give them water 2-3 hrs before bed as it will of course increase the chances of them wetting the bed at night. If they thirsty try your best to give them just a sip. Always sit them on potty before bed and remind them constantly where the wee or poo goes. Tell them that if they wake up and need to go to the potty or toilet it is alright to do so. Leave a hall light on or toilet light on over night if you need to.

13. If you need to go out at any time, which I totally try my best to avoid doing in the first 2 weeks, sit your child on a towel or whatever else you want to use in the car seat, take several changes of clothing and take the potty with you. Check where the nearest toilets are before you go out and constantly remind your child to tell you when they need to go to the toilet. Continue to take them to the toilet when you are out, keep on top of the routine and don't stop thinking about it just because you are out. I know this is not practical for many mother's but if you want it to work in 2 weeks, this is what needs to be done.

11. By the 3rd day you can move taking your child to the potty or toilet to every hour or so. By this time hopefully they are more familiar with the experience and are a little more aware of how their body works. You always stay with them in the first week when they are on the potty encouraging them and keeping an eye on how they are going. Sometimes they will tell you to go away and that is alright, just don't go too far. Sometimes they can get scared by the let down feeling and you have to tell them it is alright and that it is alright to push if they need to. Keeping it real here ladies! Don't be afraid to show them or make a face and sound for pushing.

14. I have found that by the end of first week they are practically trained. It is a little full on and an intense guide to follow but it works! By the second week it is normally down to just a few accidents during the day and a few more happening that week at night. It also helps if you have older children (not too old, let's not be silly here!) that your young child can see using the toilet and if you can get the whole family involved in encouraging them you will have more success.

15. I don't really do reward charts or stickers. I have tried it for several of my kids but I found they would get really upset if they did not do anything in the toilet and could not get a sticker. Some women I know use them and it works really well for them. There are a whole bunch other things you can do to make it more fun to toilet train, like get special toilet paper or decorate the toilet but I am very practical in my parenting and normally just dive in as is.

I know not everyone is going to like this and that is fine but I just thought I would share what we do and hopefully it will help out a few other mum's who are struggling to get their kids toilet trained.

Friday, June 1, 2012

running mind games

Well, the unthinkable has happened. I have finished the Couch to 10K running program. I am shocked. I can't believe I made it to the end. When I started it I had a hope in my heart that I would be able to finish and a determination to make it to the end but in my mind I didn't believe I could make it.

One thing I know for sure over the last 10 weeks is that my mind is not made for running. My body on the other hand is keeping up with my running schedule but my mind is running weak. It is holding me back and slowing my progress.

I constantly have to motivate myself and talk myself into running. It makes me mad, it makes me hate myself and makes me feel weak and pathetic. I argue with myself on the treadmill and tell myself to grow up, to suck it up and to put in the training that needs to be done to do this marathon.

I have learned that the thing I love and hate about running is that it shows me just how weak and strong I am at the same time. I know my body has grown stronger for all the km's I am putting in on the treadmill and I am able to run a little faster and longer than when I started. Heck! I can now run 10K without stopping! Incredible!!

But I find it hard to celebrate that fact when I had to mentally and verbally beat myself up just to get there. I hate that I am so weak in my mind. Some days I feel I am being too hard on myself but other days I feel like my mind is going to let me down when it comes to the race day.

I am not in this race to win, I am in this race to better myself. I am not running to be skinny, I am running to be strong. I need more strength in my life and running is helping me achieve that. It is showing me what my mind is really like and it is a shock.

You know, when you feel like you are strong in a certain area and tell yourself you have got this, I have it covered, and then find out you don't. You don't have the mental toughness to get through it and you are disappointed and scared at how negative you can be when it comes down to crunch time. Yeah! That.

I am not having trouble with the pain from running so much any more, I am having trouble with the doubt, the fear and the pressure I place on myself. The doubt that I can do achieve this goal of running a marathon in public and the knowledge that I am not as strong as I thought I was.

Some days when I get on my treadmill I question myself. 

Who am I to be trying to achieve such a goal when I should be putting more time and effort into raising my family? 
Who am I to be pushing my body to run 10K when I don't have the core strength after having seven kids to make the run? 
Who am I to be trying to do this run when my mind, my bladder, my legs, my butt and my whole body is not made for running? 
Who am I to dream this goal?

Then I slap myself around and tell myself, Who am I not to?

I ran another 10K on my treadmill this week. Just to make sure I could still do it. I did not run it much faster, I still battled in my mind the whole run but I did feel stronger physically. I try to remember that I really have started doing this from nothing. From no running and from sitting on my blogger butt to now running 10K.

I don't know if I will ever be able to run without doubting myself and without beating myself up. I am more comfortable with the pain and I still think about those who have suffered so much pain with their cherubs and angels and as I think of those women I run a little faster and push myself a little harder.

I am not writing this to get sympathy. I don't want any of that. I am writing this to share that even if you have a goal and think you are weak, you can still push your way through it one tear and one tantrum at a time until you reach your goal. The real weakness is in giving up. I feel weak and pathetic and a total sob story when it comes to running but one thing I won't allow myself to do is give up.