organization, Parenting

When Schedules Collide

With four growing kids, you can imagine how ridiculous our schedules can get. I struggled to try to find a way to keep everyone connected. We used Google Calendar, and I still do. But somehow we ran into some hiccups where my husband wasn’t seeing things on my calendar, a few things mysteriously disappeared…basically just chaos happened. We needed something better!

A friend of mine is a Mary & Martha Consultant. I hadn’t heard of the company until I became friends with her, but their products are awesome! As a super thoughtful gesture, she gifted me a weekly calendar notepad, similar to the one in the picture that I found on Zazzle. It has been a game-changer. I’m positive she had no idea how big of a help that was. Or maybe she actually saw that I was a hot mess and was gently trying to help. Who knows!!Either way, I will forever be buying these things because they have majorly changed things at our house!

On Sunday afternoons or evenings, my husband and I write everything from our calendars (digital calendars, school calendars, activity calendars…everything) on one of these pages. We ask the kids if there’s anything they need to put on there like due dates for projects, spelling tests, activities we didn’t know about, or anything else. Not only do we make sure everything is laid out in one place, it’s a good reminder for us as to what the week actually holds. It’s easy to look at my calendar on my phone and think I’ve got it all. But to actually have to carry it over and write it down? It cements it in my brain and makes it harder to forget. Not impossible, but harder!

When it’s all on the counter in one place, not only can we make a plan to divide and conquer if needed, but the kids see what the week holds. It is SO easy for them to see which nights are jam-packed and which nights are free. We are all on the same page and there’s no surprises. It has made all of our lives so much more streamlined! It’s such an easy thing. I’ve seen notepads like this in the past. I’m pretty sure I’ve even bought them. But I don’t think I fully understood the need for them until there were six of us going in different directions at once. Now? Now I get it!

The most brilliant part of all of this is that we’ve started using the back of the sheet as a grocery list. Whenever somebody uses the last of something, they’re SUPPOSED to write it on the list. My husband and I are good at this but the kids aren’t quite trained…yet. It’s still been super helpful though! We usually place a grocery order on Saturday nights (we are QUITE the interesting couple, I tell you!), so it’s right there in front of us, ready to be entered.

Now, we still forget things here and there, but it’s been such a practical thing that we put in place that has made a huge difference! If you’re starting to feel like a chauffeur that has no idea where they’re going, give it a try. Go back to the basics of a pencil and paper. There’s something about it that just works for us!

Parenting

Choose Your Battles

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever gotten came from my oldest son’s 2-year well-child visit. Our pediatrician at the time very wisely told us that soon we would start having some battles with our son as he began to strive for independence. Her exact words were, “You have to choose your battles. Don’t fight them all. But the ones you choose, you HAVE to win.” This has stuck with me through all of my years of being a parent.

It sounds simple enough, and really the idea of it IS very simple. In reality though, what it means is that you have to pre-think every situation through. When they ask for something or for permission to do something, you have to think it through completely before you give your answer. If you say “no” to playing outside before dinner, are you prepared to stand your ground? Is it important enough for you to go to battle for? If the answer is yes, then carry on. If the answer is no, then don’t say that “no” in the first place.

In that case, you aren’t actually committed to that no. It really doesn’t matter to you, it’s just more convenient if they play inside. But if they start to beg and whine, you don’t care enough to fight the battle. You will most likely give in and then reinforce the fact that fits, whining and begging will get you to change your mind. But the funny thing is, they didn’t! You just never made your mind up in the first place!

I’ve had my fair share of weak moments where I’ve given in or changed my mind, and I can tell you that it makes the next battle even harder. Don’t do it! Save your energy and patience for the battles you care enough to fight for. I’m not saying you should let your kids do whatever they want. I’m not crazy!! I still have stipulations before I say “yes” to things! Whatever reason would tempt you to say “no” in the first place becomes part of the stipulation for getting the “yes”. You want to play outside? Sure, but when I say it’s time to come in for dinner, no complaining and you pick everything up immediately. If they don’t follow those stipulations, there’s a consequence. I’m not letting them walk all over me, but they’re seeing that there’s some give-and-take, even in the yes moments.

Parenting is HARD. There are no perfect days, perfect answers, or perfect situations, no matter how hard you try. As you navigate through though, think your answers through before you give them. Be thoughtful and intentional in your parenting and mean what you say. Your kids will hear “no” less often, but it will mean more and become non-negotiable.

Parenting

“Don’t Stare!” (Spoken By Moms In Stores Everywhere)

Do you ever go out in public and get embarrassed because your kids stare at somebody who looks or acts differently than them? It happens to ALL of us. It can get embarrassing, but really, kids are just curious and trying to figure this world out! It’s not that they’re judging or trying to be rude. Your first reaction may be to tell them not to stare because it’s rude. When we tell them not to stare or look though, it makes them think those differences are taboo or that they should just ignore the person.

Instead of telling them not to stare, tell them to say “Hello!” It teaches them that even though that person might act and look differently than them, they’re still a person and we treat them the same as we would everyone else. It teaches them to be accepting of differences and even teaches them to engage with people who are different than them. Our world needs more of both of those things! It’s a simple change in our daily interactions with our children, but it’s one that can cause a completely different mindset as they’re figuring out this big confusing world!

Parenting

No, I really DON’T want to play…

“Mommy, can you play with me?” It’s like kids have a radar and they know exactly when you need to accomplish something. That’s when they strike and ask you to play. When my oldest was a toddler, I dropped what I was doing every time he asked and subjected myself to playing cars, trucks, trains…whatever he wanted. I. Wanted. To. Poke. My. Eyeballs. Out. Seriously, I love my kids, but I wasn’t great at pretend play when I was a kid, so doing it as a grown-up is rough. I hate it. Maybe that makes me a terrible mom. But if it does, at least I’m an honest one, I guess!

After my oldest got a bit older and started asking me to play things like Ninjago or Transformers or whatever these characters were that I knew nothing about, I couldn’t even pretend anymore. Luckily, by then, our second son was old enough that they could sort of play together. It was more like the oldest was telling the next one what to do and how to play, but they were mostly happy…for a little while. And it was then that I realized it was okay to say “no thanks” when they asked me to play. Not only were they learning independence, they were actually becoming more creative without me stifling their play with my non-creative self! I wasn’t hearing “I’m bored” by my oldest as much anymore. AND I was getting things done during the day, which made me way less stressed and better rested. That meant I was a more patient and understanding mom. It was like all of a sudden, things were falling into place!

I thought back to when I was little and realized my mom and dad rarely played with me. My friends’ parents didn’t sit and play with them all day. That’s not how it worked! Don’t get me wrong, I had wonderful parents that gave me plenty of love and attention. But they did NOT sit and entertain me all day! If I asked them to play a board game or something like that, they often would. However, it was one game and then they went back to whatever it was that they were working on. No endless rounds of CandyLand like I felt like I had to do when I was just starting this mom gig. For some reason, nowadays, moms are made to feel super guilty for not sitting down and entertaining their kids from sun-up to sun-down. You’re made to feel like that’s the way to teach and enrich them and if you don’t, they will be behind. It’s like you’re supposed to leave every single thing you have to do in a day until after bedtime and your kids should have your undivided attention. Guess what. I tried that. It’s awful! I was so tired when my oldest kids were little because I’d be bored to tears playing all day, then they’d go to bed, I’d do a million tasks and then crash before waking up and doing it all again the next day. I don’t think that’s actually supposed to be how this parenting things works, you guys.

As a teacher, I see problems with students who have no attention at home. They don’t have supervision and they sit on screens all day. I’ve blogged about that and got “Amens” from most of the teachers I know. BUT, the kids that are entertained by parents all the livelong day come with their own set of problems! These kids don’t know how to engage with teachers that aren’t sitting right in front of them talking directly to them…you often have to call their name to get their attention before speaking to the class. They don’t know how to initiate play. They often don’t have the same set of play skills that the other kids do (because theirs is more like an adult pretending to be a kid…that’s all they’ve seen). They don’t keep themselves engaged in a task because they’re used to somebody pulling them through it. They don’t know how to wait for attention, help, etc. because they’ve always had attention on-demand. They don’t know how to be bored and live through it! There are SO many skills that kids learn when they have to entertain themselves. Independence depends on it. And let me tell you, kids NEED independence when starting school!

Now before a whole bunch of people jump all over me, I am not saying you should ignore your kids. I’m not saying you should never play with them. What I am saying though, is they need to have a balance. Obviously, they will learn though play with you, so it is a wonderful time to model skills, slip in some practice with colors, shapes, counting, etc. It’s a great bonding experience (even if you’re bored to tears!) and shows them that you care about them and are interested in what they are learning. It can give you great insight as to their strengths and weaknesses. Yes, you need to play with them. But not every time they ask and not all day long. If you are working on a task and they ask, it’s okay to say “no” or “not right now”. It’s okay for them to not be able to play what they wanted. It’s okay for them to not get their way! It’s actually really very healthy. When you do play with them, set some limits for yourself. Play one or two rounds of the game, build with Legos with them for 20 minutes…but set a limit. Then go work on your to-do list. It’s good for kids to see that you have household jobs to do, that you want to sit down and read a book, that you have work to do at home. This is your reality and someday will be their reality, too. Most of all, it’s good for them to see that the world does not revolve around them. Even though they may be your entire world, once they step foot outside of your door, they’re just one piece in whatever world they are a part of (school, daycare, sports teams, etc.). It’s a hard reality to face when the world has always revolved around them. From experience, I know it is a hard reality to get them to accept without them (and their parents) thinking you’re completely against them. When bedtime comes, you’ll be less stressed and have time, patience and energy to give them. You’ll have time to be more than a stressed out mom after bedtime is over. Seriously, everybody wins!!

organization, Parenting

Toys, Toys Everywhere

If you aren’t careful, toys can take over your life. I mean that in the most literal sense possible. It’s never more obvious than after Christmas when you have multiple kids with a lot of people that love them! So. Many. Toys. All over the place and it’s overwhelming to keep up with keeping them picked up and put away. Why?? Well, because they’re new and they don’t have a “home”!

When your kids get new toys, you need to take time with them to figure out where they go. Where do they want to keep them? They need to find a home for each and every toy. It needs to be a place that makes sense to them so that they can easily remember where it is. I know it seems like a tooooooon of work, especially when there’s a bunch of new toys from Christmas or birthdays. But honestly, it’s no more work than having to pick that same toy up every single day! If you have an overabundance of toys, have your kids pick their favorite ones and give them the most prominent “homes”. In our house, this means spots in their bedrooms. Everything else either goes into the playroom or the basement (which honestly is the last stop before being donated!!). If it’s going in the playroom, it goes into a categorized bin (cars & trucks, dolls, puzzles, games, etc.). Usually it gets forgotten about and can be purged later. But every once in awhile, they’ll head in there and play with something that wasn’t originally given prime real estate. Then we know it’s more valued and probably needs to find a new home in their room.

I find that by declaring “homes” for new toys, they tend to actually get played with more because they aren’t ending up in a pile somewhere, shoved in their closet or under the bed (their favorite place to put things when they don’t know where to put them…). If things are out of place or the messiness is starting to take over, which I seriously can’t handle, all I have to do is ask them to put things in their place and they know just what to do. You don’t have to lift a finger! It’s like magic!

Parenting

The Million Reasons Kids Can’t Go To Sleep Yet

Do your kids create quite a struggle at bedtime? After they’re tucked in and the light is out, do they NEED a million things? Drinks, hugs, bathroom, etc? Monsters under the bed? It’s exhausting. It’s defeating. You know they are perfectly fine, but the “Moooooooommy” calls just keep coming. How do you make it end already?!?

I’m not saying we’re perfect over here…far from it, actually. Some nights are rougher than others. But I have learned to end the struggle as soon as possible. Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate. What you have to do first is ask yourself what they’re getting from all of these excuses. Are they trying to keep themselves awake longer? Are they trying to get more time or attention from you? Once you figure out what they’re getting, you can form a plan of action. Your game plan has to totally eliminate what they’re trying to get.

If they continually ask to get a drink and you think it’s to be out of bed to stay awake longer, have a drink there ready for them. Make it something that they can get themselves WITHOUT getting out of bed. Keep a water bottle by their bed. Is that causing nighttime accidents? Fill it mostly with ice and a tiny bit of water. They’ll have their first drink, then tell them they will just have to wait just a little bit for the ice to melt to make more water. I guarantee you they’ll fall asleep waiting! And if not, well they’ll get another little drink and wait for the next one. Soon enough, they’ll be asleep. What you absolutely can NOT do is continue to go in there to encourage them to wait for it to melt because you’re defeating the whole point of eliminating yourself from the equation. Be strong! Don’t go in there. You will thank yourself later.

Are bathroom breaks the excuse? Call their bluff. I dare you! I mean, don’t completely set yourself up for a load of laundry. Have them go to the bathroom before bedtime and make sure they actually GO. Then you can be pretty darn sure it’s a ploy to get out of bed if they’re asking to go 30 minutes later. I can almost bet money that they won’t actually have an accident. Or, if you believe they are trying to get more time with you, eliminate that benefit from the trips to the bathroom altogether. Make sure they are able to go independently and tell them they’re welcome to get up and go by themselves, but they’ll have to get themselves tucked back in when they’re done.

Are monsters the problem? This might be legit. They might actually be scared and not just trying to get your time. BUT, depending on how you approach this, you could totally shoot yourself in the foot. You can get a million great ideas from Pinterest for getting rid of the monsters. Pick one! But I will caution you that whatever route you choose to take, you need to make sure the kid is the one getting rid of the monsters. If it’s monster spray, make them the ones that spray them away, not you. If YOU are the one getting rid of the monsters, then YOU will be the one called to do it every. single. time. That’s what we’re trying to avoid!

Once you figure out what they’re trying to get, you can play the game and come up with a plan. Come up with solutions that take that outcome out of the equation completely. Pretty soon, they’ll quit making those excuses because it doesn’t get them what they want! Later this week, I’ll be talking about some other things that might help if this approach doesn’t cut it or you just can’t stay away. But I do encourage you to try this one first!

Uncategorized

This Fine New Journey

Hello and welcome to my blog! This is a brand-new journey for me, but I’m so excited about it. I’m a 30-something mom of four, a kindergarten teacher, business owner, a wife, sister, daughter, friend…all the hats. I’m sure you all know what that’s like! I’m kind of known by my family, friends and co-workers for saying “It’s fine. It’ll be fine!” The house could be on fire, my kid could be missing, I could have just been told I have to work an extra three unplanned hours, the bus broke down on the field trip and I’m stranded with 60 5-year olds on a highway (that one really happened!)…and I’d still be saying “It’s fine!” with a swipe of my hand, like it’s no big deal. Inside I’d be completely freaking out. Was this healthy? No, I’m sure it wasn’t. I didn’t know how else to deal with it though.

In the past few years, I’ve realized that though I say I’m fine, (and honestly, in the grand scheme of things, it really is fine…people have MUCH bigger things on their plate), things aren’t fine at all! I seemed to have honed in on a knack for finding solutions to problems of all shapes and sizes. Now, that’s not to say that my life is problem-free. Ha! I wish. But I’m not sure if it’s the mom in me, the teacher in me or what…somehow I can take “problems” or minor frustrations and come up with a way to fix them. This can be organization issues, storage space problems, behavior problems with kids, relationship issues, time-management struggles, self-esteem lows. Somehow, I seem to be able to figure out ways to alleviate the stress. Though I still say, “It’s fine!” with a flick of my wrist, in my head, I’m already working on a solution. I’ve figured out how to be “better than fine” in my life. I look forward to sharing some of these solutions with you!