Surviving the Final Six Weeks: It’s Not Over Yet!

No more pencils,
No more books,
No more teachers’ dirty looks

Alice Cooper looked forward to summer break for many reasons, unfortunately some of our own kids do not respond to that long awaited break with the same rock-n-roll angst.

School is almost out for summer, and as an instructional specialist in an elementary school and a mother of two, I am surrounded by excitement, fear, anxiety and burnout all day long during this time of the year.

Just this week, students are coming into school in tears and on edge in response to the smallest things. Teachers are burnt-out, they have given all their energy and time to their students, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the year is not over and the all-important state tests have not even started.

Why are they so emotional?

Many of our children (especially mine) thrive on the structure that school brings that summer just does not have. Monday through Friday, their friends surround them and adults talk with them, listen to them, read to them, and play with them. School also provides, for many of my students, two hot meals a day. Sometimes the stress of knowing just one of those things might go away can bring on anxiety.

My son cannot handle change very well, he relies on a schedule; over the summer, he will wake up and create our ‘To Do’ List every morning and if I veer off that schedule he will call me out on it.

The end of the school year transition can bring many unwanted emotions that can be difficult to deal with. My advice is:

Do Not Ignore It

Acknowledge this time of year as difficult for all of us. Talk about the feelings that it is bringing to your child or student. What we see on the surface of each of our children is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Allow your child to express how they are feeling. When we ask our children to deny their emotions or we belittle their feelings the ‘iceberg’ can flip- beneath the surface becomes visible. In return, we get tantrums, tears, lashing out, or other harmful responses.

I suggest talking to them about the memories they have had from school. Talk to them about what they are looking forward to next year, during the summer break, and set goals. One of my friends creates a Summer Bucket List with her daughters. I actually just printed one off from TheBestIdeasForKids.com, and we have it hanging proudly next to our calendar. https://www.thebestideasforkids.com/?s=summer+bucket+list

Here are a few more tips on finishing the school year strong…

1. Set goals with your student:

This is the time of year that state testing and reading level assessments become the classroom focus, but also a time of year when behaviors in the classroom start to get a little uncharacteristic. Set a goal with them AND help them create a plan of action to help reach that goal.

2. Update the Merch:

I am so guilty about this. My first grader’s binder is torn to pieces, and I have been promising him I would get him a new 3-ring binder. Even his shorts and pants are too short- he has grown so much this year, it is difficult to keep up. The school year is nearing the end, but his supplies and his SWAG do not need to look as defeated as I am feeling which can create a mindset that “the year is over, so who cares.” *It won’t hurt to send a few store bought pencils or Lysol wipes to the classroom teacher either at this time* (I am sure they will provide your child with a little extra love and care that day as well)

3. Lead by Example:

I will be honest, some days after work the couch, a glass of vino, and Netflix are all calling my name. Unfortunately, there is still homework; there are still goals we all want to reach – ABC’s for Henry, Math facts for Charles. If I talk about how excited I am about summer break, then their tenacity and focus gets depleted. Keep first things, first. I have to remember summer will come, but if I keep talking about it, if I keep thinking about it- the anxiety will get to all of us.

4. Routine:

Keep the routine, especially in the morning. At the beginning of the school year, it is easier to start your morning off early, maybe workout, throw lunches together, and eat breakfast together. Toward the end of the year, snoozing a few more times, a few extra minutes won’t hurt, right? WRONG! The moment you start to rush, is the moment your child begins to stress.

The most important thing to remember is to keep calm, talk about the transition and the important emotions that come with it.

** Original text by Aubrey Steinbrink. Aubrey is an Intervention Specialist at an elementary school in North Texas, avid education advocate, and mother to two young boys. Aubrey writes for her own blogs Teachingthetoughstuff.blog & Omnivore2herbivore.blog

In The Face of Tragedy, It Helps to Be Grateful.

 
Less than two weeks ago we experienced another school shooting. In the aftermath of yet another senseless tragedy I found myself feeling what probably most of you feel – scared. More than scared, damn near terrified. No doubt I am not alone in experiencing the tightening anxiety in my chest as I drop my child off at school, holding my breath until I pick him up at which point I can breathe a sigh of relief only until the next day of school rises with the sun.

We can’t escape the dangers of what society has become. We just can’t. Unless you’re willing to become chained to your own home, you will have to embark back into the world and face the risk of god knows what.  This can be scary, if you allow it to be. I know I can’t or won’t allow myself to avoid all potential threats in the pursuit of perceived safety. And I don’t want to walk around life with anxiety gripping me by the neck. I can’t prevent these disasters fully so I decided I need to approach my mindset in another way – with Gratitude.

I find it quite unfortunate that it takes incidents like this to awaken ourselves to the gifts we have been granted in our daily lives. The most basic gift of all – life. I know I am fully guilty of overlooking and dismissing the fact that merely being alive is something to be grateful for every day. As we have been shown all to often in our current culture, life can been taken away when you least expect it.

I wanted to do a little experiment with myself in light of this need to become aware and grateful by practicing mindful gratitude every day for one week. It was my intention to journal this experience each day but life got in the way and the journal did not make. I did however practice this grateful awareness enough to realize how much I struggle with it and how easily I fall back into patterns of grumbling.

On day one I did notice a rise in my mood as I approached the day thanking the universe for my children, their health, and their safety. This heightened attitude carried with me throughout most of the morning, but somewhere around naptime my gratitude seemed to wane as the bedtime protests commenced. I was able to borrow my own mommy advice and “turn my attitude around” by recognizing that though I am not always thrilled by the events of the day I am most certainly grateful that I have these little people in my life to drive me crazy.

Towards the end of the week my gratitude agenda became more and more distant as I got caught back up in the busyness and business of the day, I found myself easily forgetting (again) the fragility of life and focusing instead on the list of lack I so quickly compile. What this showed me is that it takes reminders, daily reminders to myself to not take any single day for granted. More importantly even, not to take anyone for granted. 

Perspective is important. It shouldn’t take tragedy to open our eyes to the gifts given by being alive. Not to say that there aren’t hard days, trying days, challenging days, but as I’ve heard it said before – there is no such thing as a bad day. Each day alive is a day to be grateful for. So, let’s all be grateful. Maybe if there were more of this attitude of gratitude amongst us all, we could turn this world around. We can certainly try.

Work Life Balance: Is There Really Such a Thing?

Work Life Balance. Is there really such a thing as this? Balance, by definition, means “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright or steady”. Upright or steady. Hmmm. I suppose I am upright, I mean I’m not literally falling down. But, steady? Yeah, not so much. My life these days feels more like a balancing act. A juggling act. A mere attempt at keeping all the balls in the air and moving continually to keep them from crashing to the floor. Hardly balance.

I would more accurately describe my life as Work Life conflict. No matter where I am or what I’m doing I feel like I should be somewhere else doing something more. If I’m at work I certainly feel like I should be home with my kids. Helping my 5 year old with reading, playing with my 3 year old, soothing my fussy 6 month old, taking the load of all of this off my husband. I certainly believe in equal partnership between my husband and I, and I am grateful he is such an awesome dad to our kids, but for whatever reason it is so hard for me to shake the idea that I should be there, too. Inevitably when there is a 6:00 pm exhaustion meltdown I think to myself, maybe if I was there to help manage the chaos the night would have gone more smoothly. Except really I know these things happen whether I am there or not. But the mom guilt finds a way… it always finds a way.

And then there’s work. I love my job. Like really love it. Listening, helping, being with other people and their emotions – gives me all the feels. I think I’m doing pretty well most days with keeping my focus on work when I’m at work, but ask me for anything extra and you’ll probably get a big fat nothing. Not because I don’t want to, but because I just don’t have the extra to give. And this is what I’m struggling with right now. My life is filled to the brim, pressing at the seams, and barely contained by the lid holding it all in. In my mind I can easily imagine myself getting to the meeting on time or fitting in an extra call from home. But, think again. At least I’m having to try and do that – Think. Again.

I am (veeerrrrry) slooowwwly learning how to say no to things that I may actually want to do. I know how to say no to something I don’t want to do, but this saying no despite my desire to do it, that’s new. I’ve thought before, if something is important to you then you’ll find a way. Well now while this may be true, you have to consider the cost of doing it. Will getting to the meeting on time mean less sleep than the no sleep I’m already getting, yelling at my kids in the morning because I’m a ball of stress, still showing up late despite my efforts and making people wait? Is that the outcome I was looking for? No. Not at all.

I am having to evaluate and reevaluate my priorities. In truth, just because I want to do it doesn’t mean I can do it WELL. Not at this current point in time. And I do want to do well. In work, in home, in life. So for me – during this season of my life – I am looking to find balance by being more of who I want to be, which seems to mean doing a little less extra. This may be unnerving at times, but if it saves my sanity and gives my family and my work a more focused, calm, and happy me then, and only then, will I call that balance.

			

How to Support Your College Student During Finals

Forward: Welcome Intern Karley Knight back for her continued perspective of a college student giving advice to novice college parents….if you missed her last post find it here with her sharing about the big transition from high school to college.

It’s that time of year again.

 The weather is getting cooler, people are digging out their favorite boots and jeans from the depths of their closets, everything is pumpkin spice flavored, and everyone is already counting down the days until Christmas. But as the leaves change colors and begin to disappear from the trees, so does the mental sanity of college students.

supporting your college student during finals

Finals Week!

Finals week is unique in the world of stress because it entails both a sense of urgency and a perpetual feeling of being unprepared. Even though your student studied for weeks, written copious amounts of colorful notes and highlighted every sentence in the book (because of course every sentence is a possible test question) in most cases the feeling of pure confidence is rare. As a parent who wants to protect their kid from such distress and dislikes seeing them in much turmoil, what are you to do? Sadly, there isn’t much you can do to take away the panic your child is feeling, but just because you can’t eliminate that stress doesn’t mean that you can’t alleviate it a little bit. Here are some suggestions to best support your frazzled college student as they prepare for hell (or finals) week:

Watch Your Communication

Whether you’ve been talking to your student twice a week since they’ve left or once a month, your communication dynamic is about to change. Conversations will now focus on the monstrous tests that loom in their future, how sleep deprived they are, and other things parents don’t want to hear. It is typical for you to want to check in on your child even more during finals season because you know it’s a difficult time for them, but I advise against this. Recognize that your student is probably immersed in studying and involved in study groups, so constantly calling will just add to their distress and distract them from studying.

Now this doesn’t mean that you should ignore them completely, but don’t helicopter them. Whenever your child explains their anxious feelings they aren’t expecting you to solve the problem, instead what they are seeking is comfort and reassurance from their loved ones. When you do talk to your student, make sure your interactions are positive and always end on a good note (“I love you” or “I’m sending you money” [a personal favorite]).

Encourage them to do their Best, not Be the Best

High school and college differ most in environment and grades. It’s easier to expect A’s and excellent academic performance in high school because the classes are much easier compared to what they take in college. In many classes, the score of the final exam has the power to dictate what the final grade of the course is, meaning that even if they ace all of the other assignments a poor final grade could tank the overall course grade. It’s VERY important to assure your student that you are expecting them to do the best they can do and put in as much effort as they can, but remind them that you’re not expecting them to be Einstein. Don’t make your child feel like they would be returning home as a failure if they don’t get a perfect score on their exams. Instead, whenever you’re having those positive conversations with your student, include how you will love them no matter what grade they get and that you believe in them. Fueling their self-esteem will make them feel more confident and competent going into their exams.

supporting your college student during finals

Remind them of the importance of Self-Care

It’s easy for students to get caught up in the hype of finals week and follow the bad examples set by their peers of not getting adequate rest, eating nutritious things, or even neglecting to keep up their personal hygiene (it happens and its gross). But even with less extreme cases, it’ still common for your student to develop bad habits while they’re preparing for finals because they’re too preoccupied with making their final grade a priority instead of taking a step back and taking care of themselves. What they don’t realize is that by neglecting to fulfill their needs and allowing their mind to recharge, their stress will only increase and their studying won’t be as effective. Remind them that while grades are important, it shouldn’t come at the cost of their own destruction. Taking care of your human is more important than taking care of your GPA- no matter what their college adviser says. Here are some basic reminders that I think all college students should be reminded of regarding personal care during finals week:

1. Pizza is not a food group.
2. Energy drinks are not a food group or a substitute for sleep. They’ll ultimately make you feel shaky and sick because you’ve been chugging 5 hour energy drinks (or whatever cheap gasoline-like energy fluid of choice) every day without eating
3. If you’re drinking more than 3 cups of coffee a day then you need to take a serious nap because that is also NOT okay
4. SHOWER. Non-negotiable
5. Indulge in small snacks and sweets every now and then to reward yourself, but don’t make that the only thing you’re eating.
6. Take a run or workout, the endorphins will make you feel better (and I like to think I’m literally running from my problems)

supporting your student during finals

Give them something to look forward to

One of the tools I find very effective in providing some emotional relief during such a taxing time is to give your student something to look forward to. If all they can see in their future is a dark, dreary raincloud of hard tests and potential failure, it can be very discouraging and puts your child at risk for depression. Putting a bright light and promise of greener pastures in their future creates a ‘finish line’ of sorts on finals to remind students that although it may not feel like it, finals season does not last forever. Whether it’s mentioning a fun winter vacation or just promising them that they’ll return home to nice home cooked meals again, getting them exciting about something will do wonders for their motivation. Adding an end date to a hard time makes surviving it much easier. It encourages your child to do well in the present in order to enjoy what they’re looking forward to in the future.

Don’t underestimate the power of a Care Package!

Every now and then my mom will send me a small package of goodies in the mail. Whether its a surprise or not, it never fails to bring me so much joy. Having someone send me a considerate ‘thinking of you’ gift from home makes me feel so supported and revives my spirit. I highly encourage parents to ship their student a box of goodies to send some love their way (if your student attends community college consider just surprising them with something). It can be filled with anything from gift cards, snacks, supplies, or even just a handwritten card. This will provide your student with so much comfort and will be much appreciated.

Check out our Pinterest board for ideas

happy mind happy home pinterest

Every student deals with stress differently and every college structures their finals week differently, so take my advice with a grain of salt. But even though finals week will differ amongst campuses, you can bet that the colder the weather gets, the stronger the student stress. This is an important time for you to reach out to your student and show them your support, I promise it will bring you closer together if you comfort them during this hellish time.

Good luck!

How to Protect Your Kids (when you’re not there to protect them)

I have this ache, a pit in my stomach, a tightening in my throat as if I’m going to throw up or have to swallow hard to hold back…. Something like that. It’s a pain, a fear for my children, of my children feeling pain – their own pain. My pain. I wish I could protect them from it all but, I know I can’t and I hate this.


This school year has been an awakening in many ways. My son entering kindergarten has been more than an entry into tardy bells,  PTA meetings, last minute projects, car pool lines, and site words; it has been an introduction to the possibility of my kid being hurt, feeling hurt and me not being there to protect him. This, for me, is tough.


My kid and I are both used to spending a lot of time together. Up until the end of August 2017 he stayed home with me all but 3 days a week, and when he wasn’t with me he was at an innocent preschool with other innocent preschool kids. No one was mean there. Not that I knew of anyway. And even if there were mean kids, my kid was too young to notice. He was happy and free.

But it seems that something changes once those elementary doors open: more time away, more independence, more maturity (I use this word loosely), less protection, more exposure, more possibility of hurt to incur off my watch. I think the thing that irks me the most is that I don’t know what’s happening. I can’t even guarantee that my kid will tell me if something hurtful does occur. What if he forgets to tell me or doesn’t want to tell me? What if he decides to deal with it on his own?. .  This phrase sounds like curse words to me. I fear for my 5 year old to handle hurt feelings “on his own”. No, I want him to run home and tell me every detail of what happened at recess that day. What made him happy. What made him sad. What made him mad. What made him excited. What made him afraid. I want to hear it all. But, like most other parents I don’t hear much, and that scares me.

I can ask the right questions. I can try. I can be present at pickup and notice when he seems a little “off”. I can be curious and create opportunities for him to share about his day, every day. But, I can’t protect him from experiencing pain, hurt, ridicule, and heartache. Sucks but it’s true. So, I have to focus on the things I can do that will help him develop resilience, confidence, and strength when the inevitable occurs. In this situation where I find myself feeling somewhat helpless and terrified, I have a good cry then I pull up my mom panties and focus on what I can do:

1) Engage, engage, engage.

It would be so much easier if we knew everything that went on while we were away. Better still, if our kids told us themselves. But, this is not always the case. So asking questions that inspire a thoughtful response is key. Think open ended questions such as, “Who did you play with today?” Instead of “Did you play at recess today?” Or “Who was nice today?” versus “Was everyone nice today?” Even if your kid doesn’t have a specific response to these questions it opens the door to get a conversation going instead of being shut down by a one word answer.


2) “What do you think about that?”

This is my favorite. We as adults tend to think we know what’s best, and sometimes we do, but ultimately we want our kids to have the ability to trust themselves to make good choices and problem solve when faced with challenges. When we ask our kids what they think we show them that we not only value what they think but that we trust them to know and decide for themselves. I want my children to have a belief in themselves that they inherently know what is right, even when someone else is telling them it’s wrong. What I want my kid to hear in his own head when faced with this is, “Well I like who I am, so even if you don’t like me, I like me.” Yes! That is the ultimate win right there.

3) Believe in the power of resilience.

This one is hard for me, I have to admit. My fear wants me to believe that one painful moment could lead to a lifetime of suffering. I have to remind myself that there is no life that isn’t touched by some amount of pain, hurt, or sadness. My child will be no different. I cannot predict the future or try to prevent it. I can only do the thing I know to do which is to love my kid by being present; encouraging him; acknowledging his struggle and his accomplishment; listening to him; and reminding him that he has a whole family that’s got his back, so he knows that no matter what he’s faced with, he’s not alone.
 
This parenting thing is hard. Just when I think I’ve got a leg up, I trip and fall over something I didn’t see there before. It’s new road, new terrain. We are not in this alone. Just as we want our kids to know this, we need to know this. Expecting to do it all right and get it all right the first time is an impossible standard to meet. My hope is that by showing my kids that I struggle they will know that I’m here to support them, accept them, and walk with them through their own struggle. Knowing they are not alone is more powerful than any hurtful words said on the playground, that i can know for sure.

			

How Adoption Has Changed My World

It’s hard to describe what the concept and the miracle of adoption means to me and to my family.

Sometimes you stumble upon something that grips your heart and your life. And without seeking it, it becomes you. Other times, your passions in life are because of the things that you pursue, and you work hard to get them. Ironically, adoption is a huge piece of my life both because we stumbled upon it and because we fought hard in seeking it.


This is a broad statement that I believe needs to be spoken at any adoption training, because adoption isn’t all rainbows and glitter. All adoption starts with unspeakably difficult losses for many involved. There isn’t an adoption that doesn’t start in this way, even though there are many happy, redeeming qualities to adoption. To ignore the loss is unwise and unfair. The visual of seeing an orphanage is life altering and not at all glossy coated and or manipulative in the way organizations that seek money portray these places. It is gritty. Every child without parents in any location anywhere in the world carries that loss in their eyes.


Many people will say that infant adoption is an exception to this because the child is so young that they don’t remember the loss. Of course they don’t remember, just like many toddlers won’t remember things that have occurred to them as they grow older. That doesn’t make it less traumatic for them, however. They’ve experienced a loss that should be acknowledged. And at different stages of life, they’ll need to process the loss differently, and they’ll most likely need their adoptive parents to help them flesh all of that out with them. They do not have the genetic makeup of their adoptive parents, and it is healthy for them to express sadness over that.


There are two types of memories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic memories are the kind we usually talk about: we all have memories we talk about from childhood or know someone who has an amazing memory and can tell lots of stories from the past. Intrinsic memories, however, are memories that are locked into the body of a person, into their minds and emotions. For example, as infants begin to learn trust (versus mistrust), they figure out that the world is a safe place and that their parents will take care of them. If an infant hasn’t received that kind of basic love and nurture or has had inconsistency in caregivers, they get stuck in that stage and don’t learn trust as readily. Their bodies and emotions remember, even though their minds won’t recall the details. THAT is intrinsic memory.


I want to share a little bit about how parenting can look a little bit different when keeping attachment in mind. This can cause a little bit of loneliness in parenting unless you seek out other like-minded parents. Having other adoptive parents as friends has been life giving for us.


In everything we do as parents, we keep attachment in the back of our minds. Sometimes it’s in the forefront of our minds. There will never be a day that we say, “Okay, we are done with attachment work.” For us, it doesn’t work like that. Instead, we will forever be teaching our children that we are consistent, we are unconditional, we are forever, and we are an authority in their lives for their good. Depending on the child’s response to various situations they’ve faced, many times the ability to self soothe is less with a child who was adopted (especially with older child adoptions). We will give our kids the time and space to cool down, and we will give them the power and control to get a compromise sometimes when other parents wouldn’t do that.


We might let our kids do regressive things, like keeping a pacifier or a bottle later or rocking them to sleep for way longer than what is typical. We’ve missed those critical moments in their first years of life, you see, so we have to let them regress emotionally to those stages so that they can learn to trust. It looks different sometimes, but it is so much more than worth it, because we know the strength of the bonds we’ve forged by now in this family.


We won’t use physical punishment, and even our time outs will be different, because we won’t physically remove them from our presence. We will instead draw them near to us when they misbehave (using a time in), because we want them to know that even in their worst moments, we aren’t going anywhere. They have nothing to fear; we are forever, and our love doesn’t come and go with bad behavior (although they still will certainly have a consequence for any crime). Sometimes kids who have been through hard times as babies may have some sensory processing issues to work through or anxiety issues, maybe even night terrors.


Much like with anyone, we will give our kids grace as much as we possibly can (especially during vulnerable moments like meltdowns). We will be slow to judge others and just want others to do the same for us as parents. If your kids had the backgrounds our kids had, you’d want to probably do things this way for their benefit as well. I heard a presenter one time talk about how although we are not the biological parents, in so many ways, we do change our children’s biology. They’ve experienced trauma. We change their brains by teaching them to self soothe, by giving them love and receiving it, by teaching them to deal with anxiety, and by parenting with connection in mind in general. Our kids trust us and we trust them because we squat down low and speak in quiet voices (usually), and we make connection priority. We connect before we correct (when we are in our right minds and doing it well.)


So adoption is my passion, and it’s also my husband’s passion. Because without this miracle, we would be childless. We would not have these two little human beings forever in our families.

Our world is wonderful because of them; I know their grandparents would whole-heartedly agree. They laugh, and we experience joy like never before. Their unconditional love toward Mommy and Daddy is the best thing in the world. That love was fought for. Their sibling relationship blossoming has astounded me. We are completely smitten and taken with them, and we believe we were all meant for one another. Somehow on our marriage journey together, adoption both fell into our laps and we had to work hard for it all at the same time. Without our losses (ours being infertility and a miscarriage), we wouldn’t have this magical, blessed thing. We wouldn’t have been motivated to get through the mountains of paperwork and occasionally invasive home study. We can relate to the losses our kids experienced because we experienced a little bit of that ourselves on our journey to them. And we all four know that nothing in the whole world could separate us now. We are a team, and when one of us has a battle, we all fight it together. It is more than I could have ever asked for or imagined. I love my family. Love covers up so much that is wrong or broken in this world.

Adoption can sometimes be seen as second rate. For us, it was the glorious, miraculous story that unfolded despite our plans and after a season of heartbreak. It is not second rate, and we are so thankful that our first plans were thwarted. We are not hanging on to hope that we will now have ‘our own’ children (and what an offensive thing to say to us, so please don’t). These children are our own, don’t you see? This is our family, and we get to live this adventure! We cannot even believe how blessed we are.


Written by Amber Robinson for HappyMindHappyHome.com

The Crazy Busy Life: How to slow down when you can’t slow it down.

Ylkphotography
 Life is truly going by in a hurry lately. I started back to work last week, which of course was bitter sweet, but surprisingly much more sweet than bitter. I’m beyond grateful to be able to stay home most days with my sweet baby #3 and still squeeze in the luxury of human interaction a few work days a week. Not a bad deal. But, none the less adding work into the mix has made my busy life busier.

I’m not one to like being busy. I’d much prefer a lot of boredom than action. Busy tends to equal stress in my experience. But, the thing is I don’t have much choice anymore. Taking care of 5 people, myself included, means there’s a lot going on most of the time. Sitting down is a vacation I embark on at 9:00 at night, 30 minutes before bed. All the rest is just a lot of “doing”.

The funny thing is that I’m actually enjoying  this crazy new lifestyle… For the most part anyway. To be honest I’m surprised by how much I like it. Knowing myself as the introvert that I am, in regular need of quiet down time, I’m perplexed as to why I haven’t imploded with anxiety yet…. what exactly is keeping me sane in the midst of this insane life of taking care of 3 kids, 1 husband, 1 job, 1 self, family, and friendships? That’s the question of the night…

To be honest – I don’t really know. But if I had to take a guess it would be this –

1) Stay in the moment.

It is so incredibly easy to get caught up in what’s NEXT. The next thing on the list, the next task to be done, the next place to go, the next thing to do, the next, the next, the next. There is always something next. When I’m focused on what’s coming next, I find myself uber stressed, irritable, frustrated, angry even. It’s like I’m resentful of everything going on because I just can’t get to a quiet calm place. The “next” is getting in the way of that. Or! If I can be present to the “busy” as it’s happening I find that I do enjoy it more, even when it’s hectic, loud, and hurried.

2) Embrace the interruption.

My day, and night (hello, I have a newborn), is one big interruption. I can’t have even one thought without someone, say a 5 or 3 year old, butting in with a question that could most reasonably be answered by anyone else but, of course mama mama mama is the name of the hour. Every hour. If I get annoyed by this, and believe me I often do, then I’d be setting myself up for a lifetime of frustration. The interruption and disruption isn’t going to stop any time soon, so I may as well accept it. Embrace it. It won’t last forever. The kids will grow and when they do I will definitely miss it.
 
I’ve been surprised that with each addition of a child into our home I’ve found myself chilling out a little more. I still freak out, like a lot, in a different way. I just can’t take myself too seriously. I’m a mess most days. I make bad mom choices, I forget things constantly, and I’m late to pretty much everything. If you knew me before kids, you’d know this would have sent me straight to anxiety hell. But now I’ll just text you a warning ahead of time – I’ll be there but, most likely I won’t be on time. Deal with it.

The lesson that I’m learning is that peace and calm aren’t found by doing less, they’re found by paying attention more to what is happening right here, right now. It all goes by so fast; I know I don’t want to miss it.


Photo credit belongs to YLK Photography

Mothering a Newborn: Tips for the Criminally Exhausted Mommy

5 weeks. 5 weeks of being an official mother of 3. 1 newborn, 1 preschooler, and 1 kindergartener. How do I feel? Probably the most common question I am asked, right before “Are you getting any sleep?” Both of these questions can and should be answered the same: It changes every day.

Today I am tired. Tired from several sleepless nights due to a recent discovery that my newborn is lactose intolerant, which apparently equals to painful feedings, screaming, crying, and incessant toots – those being painful, too. Poor baby. And yes, poor mommy.

Then the morning comes, always too quickly, and my older two children need to be fed, dressed, and out the door before the tardy bell rings. The tardy bell – that’s a whole other story… who knew kindergarten teachers could be so scary! To me, not to my kid. He loves school. I’ve already managed to get in trouble for messing up the car pool line, forgetting my car pool sign, being too early to school, too late, buying the wrong color binder… geez! Get it together, mom! I should have done a little more research on mom expectations before the first day. But, oh well. We will survive. And, we’ll all be okay.
These first weeks of mayhem are reminding me of 1 very important lesson I’ve several times learned and frequently forgotten…

Let go of at least one thing that doesn’t have to be done today.

I find I often want to do a lot of things and accomplish a lot of tasks. Clean the house, fold the laundry, put away the laundry, go to Target (because that’s what all home bound moms live to do) cook dinner, eat dinner, bathe myself, bathe my kids, sit down, sing nighttime songs, read bedtime stories, spend time with my husband, wash my face, brush my teeth, go to sleep, get some sleep! Before waking up and doing it all again.

Seems doable, right? On a “normal” day, sure. But, with a newborn? Not so much. Doing any one of these things can feel like an accomplishment when you’re bartering with a tiny human for food, sleep, and comfort.
 
When I’m approaching that danger zone of “If one more person asks for me for one more thing, I’m going to freak out!” I must ask myself, which of these “must-do’s” can I erase off my list? Better yet, maybe best to just trash the list all together. I’d rather have a little extra calm while wearing a spit up stained t-shirt, feeding my kids pb&j for the 5th day in row (trust me, they love it!) than be frantically squirming back and forth between laundry piles, burnt food on the stove, and kids crying because “mommy keeps yelling at me”.

I mean is that what I want my life to look like?

I think not.

 So, I ask myself, what can go un-done today? What can I let go of? What can I put off until tomorrow. What can I ask for help with? Epiphany! You can ask for help!

Maybe for today it means I let the dust collect a little more. (I reeeaaaallllyyy hate dust, but it will not kill me to see it for one more day). Maybe it means ordering takeout or eating soup for dinner. Maybe it means not making it to the gym, which is a luxury these days anyway. Maybe it means greasy hair (for me and my kids) or maybe it means getting to school after the tardy bell rings. Shocker! Life will go on. And by the way, no kid was ever sent to therapy because his mom got him to school late one day (or a few). It will be okay.

You’ve got to make sure you are okay. Cancel plans. Stay in bed. Forget the dishes. And the laundry. There will be another day, if we are so lucky, to do it all again.

NEW SCHOOL YEAR AHEAD! Preparing Your Child for Change: BEING POSITIVE

Last week I sent my daughter off to a new preschool. All anxiety, trepidation, and fear (on my part) was laid to rest as she went bounding into the room with a smile on her face, ready to take on the new adventure. In that moment I became very aware of two possibilities: either I am a very overactive nervous mommy OR I did a sufficient job preparing her for the change. Maybe both.

In my previous post we talked about preparing your child for the new school year through proactive prepping. Today we will focus on being positive in the face of change and all things new.

Now you might be thinking that in order to be a positive thinking parent you must be a positive thinking person. I am here to tell you, this is not true. You may, however, find that through some practice you will become a more positive person, and who doesn’t want that? I, by nature, am a skeptic. I’ve trained my brain to believe if I consider all the things that could go wrong I will then be able to prepare myself to handle it more successfully. Faulty logic, here. What actually ends up happening is I turn myself into a worrying, stressed, and irritable mess who’s actually less capable of handling the circumstances gracefully. Maybe a little positive, hopeful thinking is a worthwhile alternative to consider… I decided to give it a try.

Being positive doesn’t mean you ignore the negative. It means you include both potential pitfalls and potential successes by addressing them with a solution focused mindset.

Since we are talking about beginning a new school year, let’s take my son for example. He’s turning 5 next week and will be entering elementary school 4 days later. He’ll also be partaking in welcoming a new sibling within this exact time frame. 3 big milestones here!

My son happens to be a bit of a skeptic himself, thinking of what could go wrong before what could go right. Preparing him effectively takes a lot of positivity while still paying careful attention to his concerns. Again, we are not seeking to discount the supposed negatives here. How do I go about this delecate task? Let’s take a look…

How to be a Positive Parent when Facing Change


1). Listen Fully


As I reminded my son this morning that we were going to his kindergarten school to talk with the teacher, I could see the nerves creep up on him. “But why, mommy? I don’t want to. I don’t want you to leave me there. I will be scared.”

First, I needed to remind him what was actually going to take place. “I am not going to leave. I will be there the whole time while you talk to the teacher. We will be there for a little while then we’ll come back home.” (Proactive Prepping in action). “Oh, okay.”, he stated as his nerves soothed a bit.

It is crucial to listen to what your child is telling you, verbally and non verbally, so you can effectively respond. Being positive does not mean discounting the concern through statements such as, “It’s fine. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Don’t worry. Etc.” This causes your child to shut their fears inside where they remain unaddressed. Encourage them to let it out.

2). Validate their feelings.


“Honey, I know going new places and meeting new people can seem scary. It’s all so new! Let’s think of what you might do when you we get there. (More proactive preparing here).

3). Consider the Positives


Help your child consider the good things while validating the supposed ‘not so good ‘. “I bet the teacher will be so nice. And the classrooms – ooh man, I bet there are so many cool toys and crafts in there. You will have so many fun choices! What do you think it will be like?” “I think there will be computers?! And games?! Lots of things to color with?!” “Oh yeah! I bet you’re right! I can’t wait for us to go and check it out together!” This convo sounds like it’s taking a positive turn.

4). Let go….


There comes a time where you may need to release the grip and let your child see for himself that it really is “okay”. If you have a particularly anxious child, seeing is believing. After all your preparations and positivity they may still feel nervous, and that is okay. Having your positive belief that it really is okay will allow them to step forward in trust. There may be tears and little fists gripping your shirt that you have to pry loose with the jaws of life, but they can, and most likely will see for themself that it is okay. Better than okay even.

Monitoring your own anxiety is critical. If you’re child senses that you’re afraid, they will feel afraid. Remind yourself and your child that THIS IS A GOOD THING! You wouldn’t be doing this, on purpose, if it wasn’t.

Change can be daunting, or scary, but there sure are a lot of exciting things to be experienced on the other side. Have fun!