10 Life skills I want to teach my sons

As a homeschooling mom, I have a long list of things I want my boys to learn. I’m talking about reading, writing, pythagoras’ theorem, the periodic table, singing the alphabet song etc It’s a constantly evolving and growing list. But that’s not what I want to write about today.

Today I want to talk about Life skills. The life skills I want these little people to master. Skills that cannot be taught through a curriculum or a textbook, but from example, conversation and practical lessons. Skills that will prepare them for life more than science experiments and algebra ever will.

10 life skills for my sons

1. Budgeting and Saving : Don’t spend more than you earn. I think this is a big problem with young adults of today where they graduate and start earning a salary that is more money than they’ve ever had before. Suddenly they rent a fancy apartment they can’t really afford while paying off a new over the top car. I want to teach my boys how to save their money and budget for something they really want rather than splurging on the first sparkly thing.

2. Do all things with kindness : Whether dealing with the people you love, or people you’ve just met, treat everyone with kindness. Be polite. You never know what that person is dealing with today – don’t assume, just be kind. Never put someone else down to elevate yourself. If kindness is not reciprocated, you always have the option of walking away knowing you were kind. The world needs more love and positivity. Just be kind.

3. Know how to do practical stuff : Everything from changing a plug, changing a tyre, fixing a leaky tap to repairing a garage door motor. Knowing how to fix things yourself makes life a lot easier in the real world. I want you to at least be able to assess a situation and know whether you can attempt to fix the problem yourself or if you have to call a professional.

4. Feed yourself : I want you to be able to budget your grocery shopping, plan menus and cook for yourself. And cook well. Not just basic food to survive, but good, healthy, delicious meals to nourish and eventually feed your families. I don’t want you to grow up thinking that there are men’s jobs and women’s jobs – just that there are jobs. Also, there is nothing better than a man who can cook.

5. Dress yourself : Own and be able to rock at least one suit. Know how to shop for yourself and look good. Whether its work or casual, even your chill at home weekend wear, it shouldn’t make you look like a slob.

6. Know how to treat a lady : Treat every woman with the same amount of respect you would treat your mother, great Aunt Mildred or a sweet girl you like. I want you to be gentlemen. Old school is super cool. Hold open doors, pull out chairs, be hygienic, look smart, master a good handshake, reach for the cheque. I don’t want you to be walked all over, obviously, but there is something special about a man with impeccable manners who knows how to treat a lady right.

7. Be good with kids : (If you ask my 11 year old what he wants to be when he grows up, his answer is always this : “I want to be a dad, a good husband and a chef.” Those are his priorities. In order. It’s pretty cute.) I want you boys to be involved, loving, hands on dads / uncles / godfathers. Men who are good with kids are the best kind. Know how to soothe an upset baby, change a nappy, make a bottle. Good skills to have.

8. Be honest always : Sometimes telling the truth might be the hardest thing, and sometimes it will hurt, but the truth is the only way. You want people to respect your word and know that you have integrity.

9. Find Passion : One of the best ways to be successful in life is to find something you are passionate about and then do that for a living. You won’t know what you want to do yet, but when you do find something you love, stick with it and make it happen! You don’t have to be a brain surgeon or rocket scientist, if you want to be an artist or a dish washer or a stay at home dad, if it makes you happy, it pays the bills and you are passionate about it – do it.

10. Enjoy Life : You have one life. Live it. Love it. Work hard. Love hard. Cherish the moments. Cherish the people you care most about. Be happy. Be content.

 

Currently…

Currently…

I am joining in my friend Jenna’s blog link up from A Mama Collective today.

Currently

Thinking about : The two blog posts I just smashed out haphazardly, which went straight into my drafts folder unedited, because neither of them are right tonight. Neither of them have the oomph they need to be more “me”, more positive and encouraging. I want to write great content that comes from my heart and resonates with other moms. I don’t want to publish half hearted posts that no one will identify with. So we will reassess those tomorrow then.

Reading :  I just started reading Daughter of the Mountains  by Louise Rankins out loud to my boys. We read a lot! It is some of my favorite times with them. I’m also doing an online Bible Study and reading Am I messing up my kids? by Lysa TerKeust. So educational and inspiring.

Watching : I recently finished watching the second season of Orange is the new black  which was heavy and am suffering through a bit of a series hangover, but my current Netflix obsession is Hart of Dixie. It’s light hearted and silly/funny, perfect series to watch and have a quick escape from reality.

Thankful for : ALLLLLL the things. I’m thankful for the giant steak and fresh broccoli the chefs prepared for our dinner tonight. I’m thankful for the way Mika wanted to dance with me while light raindrops were falling on us this afternoon. I’m thankful for the slightly cooler weather. I’m thankful for black coffee and crisp white linen. I’m thankful for the current Lego / Duplo obsession in our home and how my boys are using their imaginations, building things and playing together so well.

Enjoying : A rare cup of delicious Chai Latte from Woolworths. Such a treat. I brought it in my suitcase from home. It’s only my second cup since I’ve moved here – probably only another 2 cups left in the tin. Sad face. (Not Paleo friendly – oops)

Loving : Having my little family all together every day. I know you will probably get tired of hearing me say this but, it’s just my best thing. I don’t think it will ever get old watching my kids run through every morning shouting “Daddy daddy daddddddyyyyyyy”. I mean, sometimes I still wake up, peek under the covers and check he’s there, thinking “IS THIS REAL LIFE???”

What are you currently watching/reading/loving… ? I’d love to hear it.

On being a YES mom

I am a YES mom.

Well, I try to be a YES mom as often as possible. I can tell you that it is often much easier to be a NO mom. But I have found that often the reasons I say no to my boys, are selfish reasons.  And I don’t want my selfishness to rob my children of their childhood joy.

Being a YES mom

YES

 

Yes. There are boundaries and discipline. And we have rules and schedules and there are always so many things to get done, but is it REALLY the end of the world if we skip Math today and rather cuddle on the couch and watch a movie or play Plants vs Zombies on the Xbox together? Or if we scrap coloring in the alphabet pages to rather lie on the floor and build Lego houses?

I don’t think so.

Just today we went for a walk around the hotel garden. The weather was warm, but there were big grey clouds in the sky. The boys were running around, lizard hunting, chasing each other when they asked me if they could swim. Usually swimming takes a bit of planning because both the little ones swim with PolyOtter Float Suits which I hadn’t brought downstairs. We didn’t have towels or any extra clothes. And it was just starting to lightly rain. Ordinarily I would have said “No” straight away. Because SCHLEP! But I said YES. And well, the whoops of joy alone were worth it. They ripped off their shirts and shoes and jumped into the shallow end of the pool and had the best time playing together. So much laughter, squeals of happiness and splashing. I had the best time watching them enjoy their afternoon, and it felt extra special because they were not expecting me to say yes.

When my 4 year old sits on my lap and puts his plastic dinosaurs into my hand and asks me  “Please play with me , mommy?” I will never regret saying yes. Because dinosaurs are awesome. And when we put music on and dance around like crazy zombies, or play soccer in the long hotel passageways – these are the moments I hope they hold in their heart forever because making memories are what this season of motherhood is all about.

Being a YES mom

Love.

Being a YES mom doesn’t allow my children to walk all over me. But it does allow me to surprise them with spontaneity and spoil them with my time, not things. And then I see how much they love each other, and how happy they are and I know we’re doing this right.

Living in this world where we are all lambasted with piles of ugly, scary news stories, destruction and heart wrenching sadness, I want to empower my children with positivity. Smother them with happy memories. Love them as hard as I can.

Let’s make a movement. Say YES to your littles today.

When your children become friends

children

Friends

Obviously age gaps have never really been an issue for me.  Those who know my story know that I was 18 years old when I met my husband. He was 39, going through his second divorce, had 3 children and had already lived a HUGE life. One I could hardly begin to understand.

Yet I was so drawn to him, so attracted and absorbed by him and his story that I didn’t care about the 21 year age gap. I just wanted to be with him. Age didn’t matter then, and now at 33 and 54, it hasn’t mattered yet. We were meant to be together, we just fit, and the years between us do not define that. I remember people asking me what we could possibly have in common, and surely this was just a fling because, well  “he IS TWENTY ONE YEARS OLDER THAN YOU!” Honestly, it’s been 15 years and we haven’t run out of things to talk about yet, and he makes me laugh every.single.day, so whatevs? The very apparent connection between us has always made people look twice when they meet us. We have often giggled at (mostly middle aged) women staring at us mouths gaping open as we walk past hand in hand.

Fast forward a few years and we now have this houseful of boy children in varying ages. Michael was 8 when we finally fell pregnant with Mason. Everyone commented on how big their age gap would be. How they would never really be friends because Michael wouldn’t be interested in the baby, would be a moody preteen when Mas got big enough to play. And how the little guy was going to just going to annoy his older brother and break his things. I mean… Come on people.

My boys

My boys

Why do people say these things to a mom? Like there isn’t enough to worry about as you’re transitioning from one child to two. I already had so much on my plate during that time, too much to mention in this post, but adding another baby boy to our little family where Michael had only ever known himself to be the centre of everyone’s world was weighing heavily on my heart.

As a child, my sister (5 years younger than me) and brother (7 years younger than me) and I had never been friends. We are now as adults, but never as kids. I’m not sure if that was because I was just awful (totally possible), or if our parents just believed that the gap was too big and never really kindled that relationship. It’s unfortunate because we missed out on special childhood moments I see my boys sharing.

I made a promise to myself that my boys would be friends. That they would love each other, respect each other, and their brotherhood bond would be strong. Because age gaps don’t mean a thing. And you know what? Those 8 years that separate the birth dates of those two boys of mine, have never been an issue. In fact my 11 year old and 4 year old are the very best of friends. They will tell you that themselves.

Love them

Love them

Add in another little brother 2 years later and I was way more chilled. I’d paved the way and the boys were thrilled to have a new brother in their pack. Again the critics warned me to be prepared for Mason to act out and be ugly towards his baby brother because they were close in age and he would be jealous. Apparently you can’t win and everyone has an opinion. Thankfully Mason loved his baby brother from belly to Mom’s arms and has never shown any jealousy towards his baby brother.

Mika has been the baby and up until a few months ago he wasn’t really much fun to play with. Read: destroyer of toys and clinger to mommy. But there has been a shift recently and suddenly they play together all day long. Whether it is growling dinosaurs or racing cars, stacking colors or building Duplo blocks. They play. I’ve also noticed how they’ve made up their own little games and even though Mika only says a few words, they all communicate perfectly. They giggle little secrets. They share their snacks, toys and clothes. They hug and kiss and comfort each other. And if Mika cries after hurting himself, Mason will be the first to run and wrap his arms around his brother and say “Don’t worry Mika, I am still your best fwend.”

Michael is honestly the best big brother that ever was and plays with both of them equally. They adore him. He is “the fun big brother” – often WAY more fun than mom. And it is regularly him who will settle any disagreement between the smaller boys. I totally lucked out or I just wished it so.

Whatever the reason, I glanced over yesterday and saw my three children sitting on the couch, in our hotel room in the middle of Lagos, sharing a roll of sweets and giggling at something I will never understand and I got a little tearful as I thought : Wow. these little humans that I made are my whole heart. They love each other. Really really. They are not only brothers, but they are friends. Best friends. I can’t believe how blessed I really am.

This is honestly my biggest achievement to date. And my heart explodes.

I pray that this relationship, this bond they share only grows and prospers through the years. Because in this scary world we live in everyone deserves to belong to a strong brotherhood of their own.

Being a Mom is HARD.

Being a Mom is hard.

Grace

Being a mom is HARD

All of it. So hard. But we make it so.much.harder on ourselves. Why do we do that? Why do we give everyone else so much grace, empathy and patience, yet we punish ourselves relentlessly?

Last night while the boys were playing after bath, I made myself a cup of coffee as I was finishing straightening my hair and doing my make up for dinner. Then I remembered I hadn’t made Mika’s bedtime bottle (yes he still goes to bed with a bottle. Call the parenting police.) I walked to our little kitchen area and the baby raced past me towards the bedroom to see his daddy. Or so I thought.

He actually ran straight to my desk / dressing table, grabbed my huge mug of really hot black coffee and poured it all over himself.

From the other room, I heard the dreaded “sore cry” scream and knew exactly what he had done.

Oh Shit. Oh No. Oh crap, this is BAD.

These Mother instincts just kick in from some foreign place deep inside and it’s like some super power just takes over. Within half a second I had grabbed him, pulled his hot onesie away from his chest and we were both standing under the cold water in the shower. G hadn’t even had the chance to stand up to get to him in the time that it took me to do that.

I held Mika close and let him cry while I cried. I beat myself up for being such an idiot for leaving the cup in his reach. I was so mad. I felt like THE WORST MOM IN THE WHOLE WORLD. Seriously. The whole world. I can be really ugly to myself.

I apologised a million times to the scared little boy crying in my arms and I prayed that there would be no burn.

Turns out my fast acting superpowers worked and the cold water cooled his bright pink skin right down. By the time we got out, we were both shivering and there wasn’t a mark on his soft skinned little body. He was smiley and cheerful. Forgiving. Phew.

I, on the other hand, was a total mess. My just straightened hair was dripping and bedraggled, my make up was a smudged blurry raccoon eyed mess on my face, my clothes were drenched. My heart was thumping. I was crying.  And I was cross. Mad, in fact, with myself.

Now if my BFF had called me and told me that that had just happened to her baby and she was angry and cursing herself, I would have told her to just STOP. Stop being so utterly ridiculous. Accidents happen. We do our best to protect these little people, but we can’t do it all. I would have been gentle and reassuring with her. I would have told her to stop being so harsh on herself. Yet I am still, 24 hours later, angry at myself for being careless. Still hearing that nagging little voice in my head saying how lucky I was (this time) that he didn’t burn.

The point of this whole post is this. I need to be nicer to myself. I need to give myself the grace and understanding I would give to my friend, my sister, a stranger even. Because I do try my best. Accidents DO happen. Babies get hurt. It happens.

So if you are reading this and are beating yourself up for something you wish you had done differently with your kids today, take heart Momma, and give yourself a little grace. Forgive yourself, like you would forgive your BFF. Tell yourself this “I’m not a perfect Mom, but I AM the perfect mom for MY children.”

Five on Friday

A Quick Five on Friday Post

1. We have been hotel-living in Lagos for 6 weeks. On one hand it has flown, but on the other, it feels like we have been here for ever – in a good way.  We are settled. We have a routine. The days seems to fly by with morning school and afternoons spent swimming, walks around the grounds and ice creams in the garden. Cuddles, giggles, story time and hotel passage races.

2. Mika is changing. Growing up fast. 6 weeks ago he was clingy and needy and getting into everything. Over the last few weeks he has completely chilled out. His vocabulary is growing daily and he can communicate really well now. He is starting to play happily on his own or with me and his brothers. I think it’s because he feels safe, comfortable, content. He is happy here with his daddy and I love that.

3. Michael and Mason are totally loving sharing a room. Mika is in an adjoining room off theirs. Mika goes to sleep at around 6:30pm and the big boys go to bed around 8pm. They each go to bed with a book every night and while Mic reads his required chapters, Mason invariably falls asleep with a pile of books all around him. They sleep well and often Mika only wakes up after 8am and shouts for the big boys to wake up. All I can say is : WHERE HAVE THE BLACKOUT CURTAINS BEEN ALL MY LIFE?

4. Lagos Traffic is crazy. And while I have noticed that most of the roads are in fact in excellent condition and well looked after – it is the rainy season here and there are some areas that are flooded and have GIANT potholes. It can be scary and I am so super grateful to have a driver. I could never ever imagine driving on these roads.

5. Having a full time husband = AWESOME you guys. I’ve been missing out. We get to go for a drink at the pool and dinner in the restaurant every evening once the baby is asleep. We go on a date night every single Friday night. We get to watch our boys doing funny things and share the cuddles every morning when they race into our bedroom. We’re having the most fun. I want to savour this time. I am flourishing :)

image

Have a great weekend!

Some days just suck…

Some days just suck.

Like when someone close to you passes away faster than you can fathom and it makes your heart hurt.

Especially when it’s your husbands mom that dies, and you feel inept because there is no way to make that better, to make his heart hurt less.

And then you can’t fall asleep because your mind is buzzing, wondering if you did the best for that person while they were still alive. So you stay up till 1am reading and watching documentaries so you don’t have to think anymore.

And then your baby randomly wakes up at 1am and vomits all over his cot, and in the process of cleaning him and his bed, he wakes right up and wants to play. And then you sit up with him until he eventually falls asleep again at 6am! Because there is no way you can leave him when he is calling “mommy mommy mommy” so beautifully. It’s his newest word. It makes my heart burst.

And at 6am you roll into bed for what feels like 30 seconds and all of a sudden its 8am and time to get up.

And ordinarily I probably would have growled my way through the whole day today,  getting cross, moaning about unimportant things. Being over tired, snappy and short tempered with my children. Because we all do that. Because some days just suck.

But today I woke up with intention. I woke up and told myself that there was no need to get grumpy. It certainly was not all their fault I was sleep deprived. There was no need to waste today. And it felt good.

Being intentional with my moods and how I behave in front of my children plays a huge role in their behavior and how they react through the day. And of course I’ve always known this, but it’s not always easy to follow through. But making the decision to “make today a good day” before my feet hit the floor in the morning really works for me.

My boys were super well behaved today – we talked about their granny, we cried, we laughed, we remembered, they were loving, cute, funny and I even got to nap with the baby while the bigger two played together quietly after lunch. It was awesome.

This afternoon I looked at the little huddle of boys around me, the way they love each other, learn together, play together, help each other. The way they love me unconditionally, forgive me when I’m grumpy, shouty mom. I cannot believe how much grace they give me as their mom. I want to give that back to them.

Being intentional

Because some days suck

I want to be more intentional with my parenting, my mothering, my teaching these little humans. I want to be more aware of my words and make sure I am nurturing their sensitive hearts right.

I want more days like today. Because some days suck, but I don’t have to…

 

Missing “Me time”

Pinings.

In my post yesterday I wrote about how we have taken this huge step and moved our family to Lagos. I wrote about how happy we all are. And we really really are. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I’m also feeling a little worn out…

One of the biggest adjustments for me so far though is that I have lost any and all “me time”. It seems selfish even typing that out.

Being a stay at home, homeschooling mom to my three boys has always meant that taking a little “me time” every day is essential to the smooth running of our lives. Happy mom = happy children.

Pining

Mine

My boys are bright, busy and demanding. Michael is intelligent and while his curriculum is fulfilling it’s also thought provoking – he asks questions all day long. This means that our learning doesn’t stop, and often a “quick” bible reading can lead to hours of discussion, looking up passages, googling questions, watching documentaries etc. It’s incredible! Mason is learning to read and write and needs me to completely focus on him while his attention span holds. Mika is constantly testing boundaries, climbing, getting into everything and anything he can. He loves listening to our read aloud stories, but he is less tolerant during writing practice or spelling tests. It’s wonderful and gratifying, worthwhile and exhausting and pull-you-hair-out crazy all rolled into one. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

At home in Johannesburg, we lived in a large 5 bedroomed home with so much space, a full time nanny and the freedom to get in my car and get out for a bit – whether that was to do the grocery shopping, workout, meet a friend for coffee or have a pedicure. Me time doesn’t necessarily mean I needed to leave the house though. Escaping to my room to read for half an hour, having an uninterrupted bath or getting some writing done while the boys were being entertained saved my sanity. It makes me a better mom. Living here, we are in a 3 bedroomed hotel suite and while it’s comfortably big enough for us to live in, there is nowhere to hide. We have not had a nanny*. And if I need to go anywhere alone, I need to plan ahead with the driver and work around the baby’s nap schedule. (His 2,5 hour naps are now 1 hour *sob*)

It’s an adjustment for me. A big one. And I know I probably sound like a spoilt princess. But I know that I NEED some quiet time everyday, away from my children in order to give them the best of me. Is that so bad?

So, I’m not pining for the convenience of Woolies down the road, or meeting my sisters for coffee. I’m not pining for the big garden and swimming pool. I’m definitely not pining for the freezing winter temperatures. I’m not pining for you Joburg, I’m pining for that daily quiet hour I got to escape, exhale and just be.

How do other mom’s cope? I feel like I’m being completely selfish and failing as the mother I try to be because I crave this sacred time out. Am I being a princess? We all need a time-out, right? RIGHT?

*We have recently hired a lady to come in a few hours a day to help with the littles while I teach Mic and we will see if it works out. Currently her hours don’t allow me to escape, but hopefully we will get there.

Life begins when you step outside…

Doors and windows…

I feel all out of my depth with this writing challenge already. I think I managed 4 days, and now I am lagging behind badly. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I signed up to do this bootcamp to get myself back to writing every day. To get out of my comfort zone. To get my blog back up and running. So, if I fall behind because life gets a bit crazy and I haven’t had an hour to myself to actually get a decent post going, or if I look at the topics and feel zero inspiration – thats ok. I will do what I can, when I can.

Doors and windows

Happy boys

So, we are living in a hotel in the middle of Ikeja, Lagos. It’s been an incredibly fun ride so far. When we were making the plans to move to Nigeria, G and I discussed the pro’s and con’s at length. There were always so many con’s. But we decided that leaving Johannesburg and moving our life to Nigeria would be completely worth it and it didn’t matter what sacrifices needed to be made, we would make them. Because having our family together was the number one priority. We’ve been living apart from each other for too long. So I packed up our house, gave almost everything away, put the rest into storage, and packed our bags. I was ready.

I was ready to arrive in this strange, bustling city I had only visited once before and make it my new home. Because I don’t do things half measure. I don’t do things with half my heart and a safety net to catch me. I do everything in life with all of me, a kid on my hip and a smile on my face. And that attitude has served me very well in life.

I embraced this adventure, this new door opening into our future. I embraced it hard, and it has embraced me right back. I know it is early days and every day still feels like a holiday. We haven’t really had a chance to miss home yet, and I’m sure that will come. But for now I am just relishing every moment. Lagos is wonderful. The weather is incredible. The city is clean and well kept. There is so much to see, so much to do. The markets are still bustling at 2am when we drive home from date nights. The people here are warm and welcoming. My boys are just the happiest they have ever been. I walked into this thinking that it would be hard, but no matter what, we would make it work. But it has been such a pleasant surprise to find that everything is better. Because we are together.

Traffic in Lagos

Bustling city

Because this door is the one we were supposed to walk through. Because this is our future. This is our home. And I am breathing in every new, exciting moment. Thank you Lagos, we are loving you!

I just couldn’t live without…

For the last few years my husband and I have lived apart. Only seeing each other every few months for a 2 week holiday. Not by choice. But due to circumstances where he has been working and living in Nigeria and I lived in South Africa with our boys. It’s been a tough road. Tough on us, missing each other. Tough on the kids growing up without their daddy. Tough on G missing out on all the special moments. Tough on me trying to run our household and raise our children without being able to physically share the work and have someone to lean on.

Thankfully, our marriage has only grown stronger and stronger as we worked hard at communicating, loving, sharing and continuing to run our family as a team. I am forever grateful that our time apart only brought us closer as husband and wife, as a family. I love how we are always on the same page.

We have spent many hours talking, dreaming and planning this giant move with our children to live in Lagos. It’s been a long time coming and a huge step, one that took a lot of planning, but we have now been here a month.

A month of kissing him goodnight and again good morning. Everyday. A month of date nights and breakfasts in bed,  exploring a new city, grocery shopping, sharing cupboard space.  A month of watching my boys race into our bedroom in the mornings to check that Daddy is really still there. Watching them get to know him in a way there really hasn’t been time for before. A month of watching Michael and his dad laugh together. A month of noticing Mason climb onto his Dad’s lap at every opportunity he finds. A month of Mika grabbing his bottle and climbing onto his daddy’s chest before bedtime. All three of them are eating better, sleeping better, playing better. They are happy. These moments have been incredible.

I just couldn't live without

These moments…

These moments are fast becoming something I just couldn’t live without…  I can’t go back. I need to have my family together. Because these are the moments that make my life.

Together.

 

 

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