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Parenting

    Organization, Parenting

    A Simple Summer Schedule

    I had a lot of ideas of how I wanted this summer to be as the school year was winding down. I also knew that it would be a summer of transition due to the fact that we had just bought a house. In the first couple of weeks of summer, I could see which ideas of mine would work, which would not and got a basic idea of what our weeks would look like.

    Don’t get me wrong, I was really excited to have all three of my kids home with me, but also, the thought of many, many long hot days ahead of me was a bit overwhelming. Because here in Texas, once July hits, basically the only thing one can do outside is swim. And even packing up and going in the car somewhere is sometimes unappealing due to the fact that going out in the heat is a requirement.

    So one of the first things I did was make up a summer schedule. It is not incredibly detailed but it sets out blocks of time for specific activities each day. That way, if we don’t have predetermined activities already, we can loosely follow schedule and feel like a productive day was had by all (mostly). When I first introduced this, my child who attaches most to routines insisted we follow the schedule exactly. But eventually, she relaxed a bit and now there is not a big commotion if we don’t fit in something during the day.

    To make our schedule, I wrote down the activities I wanted to happen each day and fit them in. We’re not perfect at this. Some days we follow the schedule exactly, some days we are out of the house all day so the schedule doesn’t really apply, and some days we just throw the schedule out the window and hang out in our pajamas all day. And we are swimming probably at least four out of five days during the week these days. But just knowing the schedule is there gives me piece of mind. It took me about fifteen minutes to make this schedule. Sometimes, it is better for me to finish a project, then worry about making it cute (though I love me some cute things).

    My next post is going to be all about our quiet time. This part of the day is critical for me. As a mostly introverted person, this time is so needed for me to recharge and check a couple things off my own to do list so that I feel refreshed and reenergized to focus on my kiddos for the rest of the day. So stay tuned!

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    Collective Thoughts, Organization, Parenting

    Making Spaces In My Everyday Life

    Well, it has been a long time! Much longer than I planned, but sometimes you just have to prioritize and many other things took a higher priority. We bought a house, moved and have been unpacking and organizing. We’ve been working on getting our home and “new” life organized. I started teaching online in the early morning hours about six months ago and it took several months to feel like it was a “natural” part of my day. But I am there now and it feels great!

    I’ve been so grateful that these transitions happened over the summer. It has been so nice to not really have any other obligations except for getting my home, family and life in order. Me being the perfectionist I am though, sometimes it is overwhelming when I can’t have everything I want it right away. It gives me some anxiety if I start thinking of things as one whole, but I often feel like if everything isn’t working, then nothing is working.

    With this fresh start of a new home and, let’s be honest, the realization that all of my decorating and organizing projects and visions will not occur in one weekend, I’ve taken a new approach. I’m working on making “spaces” in my everyday life. I try to compartmentalize my day, my projects, my goals, so that everything is more manageable, not one huge project starting me in the face. Here are a few ways I’m working on that:

    • Finishing smaller projects more quickly than large ones. It is satisfying to walk into a room and have even one small spot that feels “finished” instead of a whole house of “unfinished”. This little “space” of finished gives me patience in the other “unfinished” spaces. This one in our master bedroom just makes me smile and it gives me encouragement to keep working on the neverending project list.
    • Creating a daily schedule. I was excited for summer, but I’ll be honest, three months of long, hot days seemed a little…stressful when I first started to think about them. So I wrote out a simple summer schedule that has made these summer days go by relatively smoothly and enjoyably. The schedule is especially helpful for the days we have nothing planned and the “space” seems overwhelming. Smaller spaces of designated time help our days so much. Now, if they could just reopen our pool that they just closed for ten days, that would be great.
    • Quiet time. This has been a game changer for me. Everyday we have two hours of quiet time. My baby naps and my older two play together. I tried to have them play separately for an hour and then together for an hour, but that was not happening. So now, they play together for the full two hours. It’s not always quiet but it gives me the time during the “space” and time I need desperately each day to recharge and collect my thoughts.

    I hope to write more about each of these “spaces” in my life and others over the coming weeks. It has really changed my mindset and made my days feel lighter, more free and less overwhelming when there always seems to be something to do.

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    Motherhood, Parenting

    Walking With Your Child Through Their Struggles

    Yesterday, while at a lunch playdate with some friends, my two and half year old came up to me after being away playing for awhile. He tugged on my arm and said, “Mommy, that boy push me”. I said, “Oh no, I’m so sorry! Tell him, ‘Please don’t push me, that’s not nice'”. And he ran off as happy as could be. Later, I couldn’t find him in the playplace for awhile, until I found him in a corner of a tunnel protectively holding his cars he had brought while another little boy was trying to grab them. He was just sitting there saying, “Stop, don’t do that!”. Just sitting there.

    I didn’t think much of it until later, when all of a sudden I realized the significance of that moment in time and I almost started to cry. Eighteen months ago, this day seemed far away. When he was about sixteen months old, he started to go through a hitting and pushing phase. It was random and didn’t seem to be a reaction to anything, just something he started doing. It’s a common phase that toddlers go through, but that doesn’t mean it is not a hard phase.

    This affected me as a mother in a significant way. No matter how much I snuggled him, hugged him, spoke kindly to him or reacted after each instance, nothing changed. It made socializing with other moms and kids so hard. I sometimes avoided going to playdates because I knew I wouldn’t be able to be too far away from him.  I struggled with how to respond. I struggled with feeling judged by those around me. Honestly, I probably had a harder time with this phase than my little boy did.

    Finally, I had to make a decision. I knew that he was not an aggressive little boy. I knew that he was simply trying to communicate and interact with others, and he just wasn’t able to in the way he wanted. But others didn’t know that. I eventually had to choose to walk with him through his struggle. I had to stop paying attention to those around me that gave judgmental and sometimes hurtful comments or stares to me or to my child. The thing is, I understood where they were coming from too. It’s a mama bear thing. But my little boy was also not even two. It would be different if he was eight or even four or five.

    Instead, I had to choose to focus on him and walk with him through this phase of his life. It didn’t mean I didn’t tell him no, or put him in timeout, or respond when he hit or pushed someone. But it was loving and always followed with me telling him I loved him and that he was a good boy. I gave him love. I played with him at the park. Every time I put him down to sleep I whispered in his ear that he was a good, sweet boy.

    This went on for several months. I started to see slow declines in his hitting and pushing and it was so encouraging. He was a bit slow to talk and the more he was able to communicate, the instances decreased more and more. Now they are almost nonexistent (except for the occasional target- his little sister who doesn’t know how to wrestle yet) –almost eighteen months later.  It took eighteen months. But he and I, we worked together, I walked with him and loved him through it and we made it!

    So back to my experience yesterday. While he has been doing great for several months now, this was the first time I heard him communicate so clearly with me and I could see and hear that he got it. So fulfilling as a mom.

    It also got me thinking about all I have ahead of me. This little trial was probably very small compared to some of the struggles and trials my kids will go through as they grow up. I’m so grateful for this experience because it gave me a chance to see what it means to walk with my child through a struggle, to love them through it, not shame them and both of us come out better on the other side.

    So if you find yourself in the middle of a struggle with your child, walk with them through it, love them, build them up ad you will find yourself, and probably them, better on the other side.

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    Parenting

    Simple Tips For A Successful Road Trip With The Kids

    Today was our first day of “Fall Break” or is it “Thanksgiving Break”? Whatever it is, it’s a break and we are ready for it! It was so nice this morning to wake up and not have to immediately start fixing breakfast, packing lunches and repeating the phrase “Have your brushed your teeth and hair?” twelve times. My kids played together, we read books, we decorated for Christmas a little bit and we did not turn on the TV once. No one even asked. That was a bit of a parenting win there, we all love to be around each other!

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    We are getting ready to go on a short road trip for Thanksgiving. Although my packing situation won’t look like the one above, I love a good road trip. I love the freedom from most responsibilities, time with family, inevitable good food, several hours of conversation with Brian while my kids are secured and watching a movie with headphones, and general relaxation. And let me tell you, the first road trip we took with a minivan, bliss I tell you. We survived 40+ hours of driving on a roadtrip in August so this week’s total of less than 10 will be a piece of cake, right?  I in no way claim to be a parenting expert, but over the years I have picked up a few tips to make roadtrips a little more likely to be successful (and repeated) with small children:

    In the car:

    Pack a lot of snacks: Like a lot more than you need. And pack a mix of healthy snacks and treats. I think back to a road trip Brian and I went on in our first year of marriage and I distinctly remember buying Oreos, Ruffles and onion dip and Gatorade. I feel a little sick to my stomach just thinking about it. A mix of healthy and not-so-healthy makes for a well-balanced, appetizing trip. Plus, for some reason, your children who eat about three bites of any given meal, with suddenly become ravenous bottomless pits on a road trip, guaranteed.

    A few “new” activities: I always try to pack a few simple “new” activities for the car ride. I also try to keep it simple so it doesn’t look like a tornado went through our car after we arrive at our destination. Stickers and a pad of paper, a couple of new Hot Wheels Cars, a notebook and pencil, books, etc.

    Movies: This one is self-explanatory, right? I try to break up the movie watching with aforementioned activities, but sometimes you do what you have to do!

    A handheld vacuum: I know this sounds ridiculous, but I bring a handheld vacuum (think Dustbuster) on roadtrips and it is so nice (for me) to be able to vacuum the car quickly either at a pit stop, before the next leg of the journey, or before the trip home. It’s a little like cleaning your house before you leave on vacation or doing laundry before coming home, I guess.

    For your destination:

    “Kid proof” Activities: Being in a new or unfamiliar environment can be rough on kids, whether it’s a house that isn’t “kid/baby-proofed” or they struggle sleeping in a bed that is not their own, I try to bring a few activities/items for my kids that are familiar and/or deters them from touching all the things they shouldn’t touch. For bedtime, I be sure to bring their favorite blankets/stuffed animals, sound machines, pajamas, etc to make it feel familiar. Then I pack a few activities or toys that they love to keep them occupied during downtime. Cars for my little boy, coloring books and stickers for my daughter. Since it is Thanksgiving, I’m bringing these activity pages I picked up at Target last year (and forgot to use them).

    tday activity sheets

    I’m also bringing the supplies to make gumdrop turkeys, an activity Brian did growing up at Thanksgiving. Being prepared with a few extra things significantly lowers my blood pressure and anxiety that something will get broken.

    Travel medicine bag: A few weeks ago I posted on Instagram about how I always bring a small medicine bag with me when we travel, no matter how short the trip. Several years ago when I only had one baby and she woke up in the middle of the night with a burning fever while we were on a trip and I had nothing to take care of her. Ever since, I bring a small bag with a thermometer, children’s and infant’s fever reducer, nose drops and a syringe and a few Band Aids thrown in for good measure. It’s saved me (and others) several times while traveling!

    travel medicine bag

    Those are just a few things outside of the typical items brought on a trip (clothes, toiletries, you know). By bringing along these few items, the driving portion of the trip goes smoothly, so long as you plan for the inevitable diaper emergency, and the stay is comfortable and familiar.

    Happy traveling!

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    Learning, Parenting

    A Membership For Discovery

    One of my favorite parenting tips is to buy memberships to a couple of places in your area. I love having built in places to take my kids at anytime. Not only is it great for a planned day out, but it also can save the day, as it has a time or two for me. Last summer, the air conditioning wasn’t working in our house. Last summer. In Texas. We took refuge at the museum a few times during those uncomfortable weeks. Did I mention we had just moved and I was seven months pregnant, too? It was fun times.

    But really. a membership is a great way to encourage learning and exploration in your kids. Now, when we read a books with animals in it, my son points out all the animals he remembers seeing at the zoo. The museum is a place my kids ask for regularly. It’s a bit of an investment up front, but it pays for itself in just a couple of visits and then you are the beneficiaries every time!

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    Last week, we got to go check out some of the new additions to the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas. We have had a membership there a couple of times and it is such a fun place to take the family. Because when you have small children, everything takes about ten times longer than normal, going to a place like the Perot is great, because you can go ten times and still not see everything. Naturally, we always end up at the Children’s Museum first, spend an hour or so there, and have enough time to check out maybe one of the remaining four floors. All the more reason to keep going back. My assistant (toddler) photographer requested this photo.

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    We got to visit their new Birds of Paradise exhibit, which was so neat. It took me back to when we were newlyweds and we would get the Planet Earth DVDs from Netflix in the mail. For some reason, I remember the birds of paradise episode more than the others. Ah, the good old days.

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    After we explored the exhibit, we of course made a stop at the Children’s Museum. It is not huge, but we have spent hours there before and the kids could have kept on going. Any place that gets my kids using their imaginations, playing and socializing is a win in my book!

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    After tearing them away from their beloved Children’s area, we saw the Asteroids movie in 3D in the theater. It was probably an interesting movie, but my two year old decided he wasn’t a fan of giant rocks hurtling through space, so we didn’t watch much of it. I’ve seen movies there before though and they are fantastic. Just be honest with your expectations when taking young kids to things like that.

    Something I think is so neat about this museum (and any good museum for kids) is the different interactive features and how learning and information is incorporated. Case in point, I can never forget sitting on a bench and looking down to see the fact about how many bugs you eat on average in a year. It was way more than I ever would have hoped.

    Just writing about it makes me want to go back again. I can’t recommend memberships enough to a few places in your area. If you’re in the DFW area, head over to my Facebook page later today where I’m giving away a 4-pack of tickets to the Perot Museum of Nature & Science!

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    Parenting

    What If It Were Me?

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    Having three kids at different ages, with a wide range of emotions and needs is an interesting thing. I often feel like everyday, I am on the parenting stage and one misstep in my parenting could cause repercussions for years to come. Exaggerating of course, but don’t we often feel that way? When it comes to handling tantrums, the demands of toddlers and preschoolers, big emotions, there are hundreds of parenting books, internet articles and words of advice on how to handle them.

    So here’s another post about that. But this is not the “perfect” answer and I can’t promise it will give you magical results that result in no tantrums, perfectly reasonable toddlers or totally chill preschoolers. In fact, none of that may change. But hopefully, this approach will at least give some relief to the constant feeling of, “Am I doing this all wrong?” And I have to remind myself daily to try and take this approach and I consider myself successful if I remember it more than half of the time!

    Lately, one question has helped me respond to my children (and let’s be honest, anyone else I interact with) with more love, patience and empathy. That question is: “What if it were me?”

    We have to remember that all the feelings that babies, toddlers, and preschoolers feel are all legitimate emotions and usually their behavior is a result of those emotions. Because when someone opens your applesauce when you wanted to do it, that is a legit reason to be upset. For a three year old. In adult experience, that’s like someone taking your parking spot at the mall, am I right?

    So when I ask myself, “What if it were me?” before I respond to one of my kids, it makes me pause for a moment and think about how I would want someone to respond to me in that situation. If I couldn’t find my favorite necklace would I want someone to say, “I’ve told you a million times to put that thing back where it goes!” or would I want them to say, “Well, where was the last time you saw it? I’ll help you look for it.”

    When one of my kids has a problem at school, or the gym daycare, I have been trying to be better at being slower to talk and quicker to listen.

    Having children has made me rethink my reactions to just about everything. Driving in the car and someone cuts me off? How do I react? Cashier at the grocery store isn’t the nice to me? What do I say back to them? What will my children learn from me about interacting with others?

    For now, I can teach them as I interact with them.  I can slow down, count to four as Daniel Tiger would say, react with love and empathy and think, “What if it were me?”

     

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    Motherhood, Parenting

    Choosing Formula Over Stress

    You know the saying, “There is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one”? For me, formula has been one way I could be a good mother.

    My first baby had a seven day hospital stay after her birth. In that time, she was fed from a tube with formula and then milk that I pumped once it was available. When she came home, we tried our best for a few weeks, but ultimately switched over to formula when she was about two months old.

    Along came my second baby and nursing lasted a bit longer, around five or six months. At that point, nursing was starting to cause a lot of stress for me. My baby would get distracted by my toddler, my toddler would wreak havoc while I was trying to nurse and going out in public with the possibility of having to feed my baby raised my blood pressure a little too much.

    With my third baby, it was the same. We lasted about five months. Now my baby was distracted by two older siblings, two active children who had a hard time occupying themselves, and double the stress of going out in public, finding a spot to nurse, occupy the older two, or have all four of us sit in the car while the baby ate. It started to be too much for me.

    And here’s the part that caused the most guilt for me. I did not enjoy nursing. It was not a bonding experience for me. I did it because I knew it was “the best thing for my baby.” The guilt of wanting to stop and not enjoying it was so heavy for me.

    Fortunately, I had an amazing support system (doctors, husband, parents, etc) who did not make me feel guilty at all, they encouraged me and made me feel confident.

    When I chose to switch to formula each of the three times it was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I felt free and relaxed. Feeding time became a time I looked forward to and did become a bonding experience for me and my babies.

    I know and understand that breastfeeding might be the most natural and nutritionally specific for babies, but for me formula was such a blessing. My three healthy and happy babies are proof.

    So I am here to say, your feelings are important too when it comes to how you feed your baby. Mommy instinct includes not just the needs of your baby, but your needs as well. Be confident in your feelings and choices. However you feed your baby, you are doing an awesome job! Your baby is happy, healthy and thriving!

    In terms of price point, between breastfeeding and formula clearly breastfeeding wins by a landslide, hands down. Ha. But if you find yourself in the position of needing or wanting formula, might I suggest Costco? With my second baby I discovered Kirkland brand formula. So. much. money. saved. Here’s a funny story to illustrate my love for Costco formula:

    Earlier this year, I went to Costco to purchase our next few cans of formula. I was so disappointed when I got there to find out that the formula was being “deleted” from their merchandise. The nice employee didn’t know if it would come back in a few months or if it was gone for good. So I did the only natural thing a person who swears by the stuff  would do. I called three different Costco stores to find out where they still had it in stock and drove to the closest one (twenty minutes away) to buy twelve cans. Proof:

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    It lasted us a few months and then, thankfully, the brought my beloved Costco formula back and all is right in the world. Only one more month of formula, hooray!

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