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.

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Save Your Marriage!

It’s been almost 16 years of marriage for us and I can honestly say that I love my husband more now than I ever have before. I look forward to our getaways and our time together. He’s not a huge romantic-and-big-gestures kind of guy, but he’s kind, thoughtful, hard-working and SO patient. I see marriages around me struggling or falling apart, and it makes me sad. Sad that they don’t have what I have. Everyone deserves to love and be loved unconditionally and treated well. I will tell you that there’s nothing spectacular about our marriage. We make mistakes, we drive each other nuts sometimes, there are a million things that each of us would handle differently with the kids, I’m sure. But at the end of the day, we are truly each other’s best friend and we would do anything to keep from hurting the other. How did we get lucky enough to find this? We didn’t. We CHOSE it.

See, sometimes I hear people wondering if they ended up with the right person. I hear people thinking about how their life might be different or better if they were with somebody else. In my mind, those marriages are doomed. If you even have a tiny bit of wonder in your mind, it tells me you didn’t actually make up your mind in the first place. I don’t believe in love at first sight. I don’t believe in a soul mate. I believe you choose the person you’re going to marry and you decide to make it work…or you don’t.

There’s no perfect person. There’s no perfect relationship. However, there IS mutual respect, love, compassion, teamwork, trust and fun. I think these are the keys to marriage.
If you’re doubting your marriage, figure out which one of those keys is the problem. Focus on it together and strengthen it. Just like you would do at the gym. If your arms are weak, you focus on them. If your endurance isn’t where it should be, you work on it. You know darn well sitting on the couch and waiting for it to improve won’t do a thing.

So how do you target each of those things? Some are easier than others. If respect is the problem, it’s probably time for a serious discussion. If you don’t have respect, it’s going to be awfully hard to work on the other things. Some outside help might be your best bet. I think trust might be part of the outside help, too. Usually something big has happened to damage that. It’s best to go to somebody who has experience. The rest, I totally think can be worked on together.

If you find yourself not feeling in love, you need to make a conscious effort and decision to fall back in love. Go on a trip or simply take a weekend and leave the kids with a trusted friend. Stay in a hotel so all distractions are gone. Find a new experience to do together. It might be awkward and feel forced, but keep doing it. Soon enough it will start to get easier and feel more natural. This would help if the fun factor is missing, too. If you’re not feeling compassion toward your spouse, I encourage you to make a list of all of the things both of you do in a day. Really try to think about what their day must be like. It might help you realize that they have a lot on their plate. This also a great thing to do if the teamwork piece is missing. Once you see it all in black and white, it’s hard to deny that one person isn’t doing their part. Don’t do it to rub it in their face or show them you’re right and they’re wrong. Do it so you can decide together what might be able to switch from one person’s list to another.

Do what you have to do to strengthen the part of your marriage that is showing weakness. Don’t ignore it and assume it will get better. It probably won’t. Love isn’t a magic thing. It is a choice that you have to continually choose as long as you want the relationship to last.

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

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!

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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!