Monday, January 25, 2016

Guide to the Early Years for the Modern Southern Mama

When I was pregnant, I read countless articles and books and blog posts about all of the different trendy parenting styles that were available for my choosing as a modern mama. Attachment parenting, French parenting, Babywise, and so on. It was totally overwhelming, and I knew even then that I had been bred and raised with parenting skills in my nature as a Southern woman. I read the books and watched the videos, but deep down, I felt like it was all boiling down to things that seemed common sense to me. I realized that the way I wanted to raise my child was in the vein of old fashioned Southern families with a dash of modern research. Old fashioned, meaning before Southern meant "redneck/racist/ignorant/crazy" (on the lower income stereotype) or a caricature of the well-bred Southern woman with everything Vera Bradley and monograms (the mid-to-upper income stereotype.) No, I'm referring to the "play all day/do your chores/eat your veggies/because I said so" kind of Southern, with hugs and grandparents and lots of love but taking no crap. Simple and straightforward, natural and loving.

I've drawn up a tentative list of the rules I'm parenting by so far; feel free to add your own in the comments. 

1. Family First
    This is a core tenant of old fashioned southern parenting -- the family name is a blanket of protection, acceptance, and responsibility. It means making your decisions as a parent with the whole family in mind, not just the baby. Asking yourself things like, "how will this affect my marriage?" "how will this affect our family's weekly schedule?" etc. will help keep perspective in the right place. It's easy to get tunnel vision when you have a needy child, but we've definitely seen a difference when we have thought about our family as a whole rather than as pieces. 

2. Love openly and extravagantly
     Kissing and hugging and being intimate as a family are some of my favorite parts of having a little one. I love for her to be able to see how Everett and I show each other love with gifts, quality time, and acts of service (we've figured out our love languages a bit after these past few years). I want her to know that she can always come to us when she needs us, but also just when she needs a hug or wants to connect with someone. 

3. "No" is not a bad word. 
     One thing that I think Southerners get right is clear boundaries. Saying "no" keeps her safe and shows her that I am in control of her world. I give her choices within my boundaries (like red cup or blue cup), but at this point, her decision making process is pretty simple: Do I want this? Yes. Give it to me and I will have it now thank you or I will scream. I'm still on the fence about spanking, but mostly because a pop on the hand doesn't do anything for Everly's behavior in comparison to the utter devastation of time outs. If she can trust me to follow through on my boundaries, she can trust me to follow through on my promises and commitments. 

4. Eat food you can pronounce. 
     Michael Pollan has the rule "If your grandma wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it." The Southern diet has morphed into a crazy fatty sugar situation, but if you go back a couple of decades, southern cuisine maximizes what the land has to offer and is budget friendly, nutritious, and seasonal. Starting from the womb, babies will get a taste for what mama eats. Collards, pinto beans and corn bread are just one example of a cheap and yummy southern meal, but you can also modernize the menu with all sorts of veggies, legumes, fruits, and meats. Just make sure the ingredients sound like food. 

5. Less electricity, more creativity. 
     I desperately wanted to have as few toys with batteries in our house as possible, and for the most part we've succeeded. The few that we do have, however, pale in comparison to the "non-toy" toys that I keep for Everly to play with while I'm working. Here's a list of some of the stuff she plays with: 

    • pompoms
    • cardboard egg carton
    • plastic spoons
    • giant plastic tweezers
    • tupperware
    • pipe cleaners 
    • rice
    • fabric bags
    • toilet paper and paper towel tubes
I love watching her play with the pompoms, sorting them into the segments of the egg carton with the giant tweezers and plastic spoons. Don't get me wrong, Elmo definitely helps me get important work done, but seeing her hypnotized in front of the screen for long periods of time makes me feel uncomfortable. Playtime is so important for her development and creativity, so I just try to let her live her life amongst her toys and craft supplies as much as possible. (Again, I am a TV friendly mom. No judgement.)

6. Involve little ones in chores
     This is a big part of being in a southern family: You help with the functioning of the house starting almost as soon as you have the pointer-thumb grasp mastered. I'm mostly kidding; Everly doesn't do any real chores, but I like to let her think she does. She's in charge of the sock basket: she puts them into the basket one by one, then removes them one by one. My parents built her a learning tower (look it up on Pinterest), and I put her beside the sink with a bowl and spoon to help me by stirring Cheerios while I cook dinner. She loves being involved, and I know where she is and what she's doing. I'm hoping that I can encourage her natural tendencies to organize and put things into containers and get a little helper out of the deal. :) 

7. Don't reinvent the wheel.
     Every single person that you know and all of the people you haven't met were once babies. Everybody. We've all made it this far both because of and in spite of our parents. You don't have to figure out parenting from scratch. Just act like you like your child, and most things will work out ok. 

Disclaimer: Everly is 18 months old. There are so many moms out there that have tons more experience than me. This list is compiled from a combination of personal experience as a southern child growing up, anecdotal info, and observation of my family and those around me. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Have courage (aka get over it and write in your bible already)

Do you ever look at the hashtags like #illustratedfaith and #biblejournaling and say to yourself, "I could never do that because my handwriting isn't pretty enough to decorate my bible"? For a long time, I was nervous to "mess up" my pretty leather bound bible with markers and stickers and paint. I thought I would regret it too much if I were to flip past a page that looked ugly or unfinished. I was confident in my handwriting, but something was still stopping me from unleashing myself creatively into the word of God. 

Creativity, neuroscientists have discovered, is produced when we allow the part of our brain that self regulates and critiques and reins in to shut off, and free the part of our brain that is self expressive and reflexive. My fear of mistakes was keeping me from picking up my pens and drawing out my heart. 

That's when I made this commitment to myself: this is not going to be the only journaling bible I ever use. I plan on working through it until I have no more room, then storing it away for my daughter as I begin again on a second. If it's not perfect, if I don't come to an earth shattering revelation after each meditation, if I allow the paints to bleed, it's ok. I have more chances. 

Since then I've felt more relaxed picking up my art supplies to express my heart, and my art reflects that. Today I'm sharing one of my personal tools, my alphabet practice sheet. I like to pick styles for each thing I do, and these two sheets are a basic representation of the letters that I pull from. You can save these to your computer and print, then trace and copy as much as you like!

Follow me on Instagram (@hardincaroline) and find this photo for a chance to win a set of micron markers for your own journaling bible and hand lettering adventure! 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Journaling Bible Guide

I've been posting a few pictures of my journaling bible that I got for Christmas, and I realized that there aren't a lot of guides for verses that are great for this (and there are so many!). If you aren't familiar with this practice, it's simply a meditative bible study practice in which you creatively journal either with quotes from the verses or your own spirit's musings. I've compiled a list of verses that I have selected for their imagery, their comfort, and their beauty. This is a very gentle list of verses, for when your heart needs to be sweetly awoken to your destiny. 

If you're just getting started, check out some of my favorite tools for working through this list!

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