Tuesday, October 30, 2018

In the trenches...featuring Kelly

Today I am featuring my good friend Kelly.  She has an incredible story to motherhood and is an incredible woman and mother.  She has several special needs kids and had a difficult childhood herself.  In spite of all her challenges she has risen above it and is so strong.  She is constantly gathering clothing for the homeless and others less fortunate, she and her kids go to the teen shelter and feed the kids there on a regular basis. She has taught me much about advocating for my kids and letting mama bear come out when needed.  I wish you could have been sitting in the same room when we were chatting, I only captured a portion of our conversation, I hope you get a glimpse of how amazing Kelly is.

Tell me about your journey to Motherhood:

I always wanted to be a mom, it was all I ever wanted to be.  It happened much sooner than planned however...lol.  I got pregnant at 16, and then again at 17.  I had two kids before I graduated high school and 3 kids by the age of 21.   It was definitely a challenge, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I found the love of my life when I had three children and told him, "My kids will always come before you."  He replied, "I wouldn't date you if you didn't put them first."  That's how I knew he was a keeper.  He has loved my three oldest as my own from the beginning.

I always knew I wanted to adopt special needs kids, I've always felt drawn to kids with special needs.  Then my 5th child Corey was born.  I could tell something was different about him from infancy.   He didn't talk, didn't make eye contact and didn't display typical behaviors.  He was diagnosed as classically autistic at 22 months.  We were told he would never talk or be able to function in normal society.  I am so proud of him, he will graduate from high school this spring and has a job at a movie theater and is functioning quite well thank you.

My 6th daughter was born at 32 weeks, she was 2 lb 6 oz and  was born blue and had to be resuscitated.  She is considered medically fragile and we have had many scares with her over the years.  She has epilepsy and hypertonia.

Our family didn't feel complete after Paige was born (yah we're crazy after 6 kids we felt like we needed more!).   Ten years ago I got a call from my grandma who lives in the south asking if I would be willing to be a temporary guardian for my cousin's three children.  Naively I said yes and brought three more children home.  Due to trauma during her infancy and early childhood one of those children had to be removed from our home because she was dangerous to all of us.  However the other two have been with us ever since that phone call and are such an important part of our family.  They also both have some trauma and effects from their childhood, my son Bradley has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and many other special needs.

What advice do you have for other moms?
Trust your instincts!  If you feel something is off, trust it!  Nobody knows your child better than you do no matter the letters behind their name or how much college they have had.  Be their advocates, speak up for them and learn how to access services for them if needed.
Being a mom is amazing and awesome, but they do grow up and leave home.  If you don't nurture your relationship with your spouse, you will be left with a dying relationship when the kids leave.  Nurture your marriage!

How do you take care of yourself with all of these challenges you have in motherhood?

I love the subject of self care, it's something I'm super passionate about.  You can't take care of anyone else if you don't care for yourself.  Don't be a martyr, that doesn't benefit anyone.  Be the heroine of your own life and make the choice not to be a victim.  Take time to yourself when you need it. The simple things really do add up to be so important.   Communicate with you spouse what you need.  Get up in the morning, get ready and wear real clothes!

What brings you joy?

Seeing my kids succeed and be happy.  Watching them be kind, good human beings and standing up for what is right.  Editors note:  Kelly does a phenomenal job teaching her kids to be kind, service oriented human....she does this through her actions and involving them in regular service.

Friday, October 19, 2018


It's fall break at our house and we always like to do fall activities during this time.  We had the opportunity to go to Cornbelly's yesterday.  I took my two youngest as my teenagers decided they had more important things to do like lay on the couch and watch football.  

I hadn't ever been to Cornbellys before and it is such a fun place!  So many fun family friend activities to do (my teens would have had fun too!).   We will definitely go back because we only had a couple of hours and you could spend all day there!  The food smelled and was delicious, we need to go back again just to try more of the food!   

My kids favorite activities were the big slide, mini golf, pumpkin bowling, these swings that are sort of like a zip line (there is an actual zip line, but we didn't do that, it does cost a bit extra), the homemade chocolate chip cookies and chocolate milk!

If you need a great family activity, go check out Cornbellys at Thanksgiving Point!

Monday, October 1, 2018

In the trenches...featuring Emily

I am very excited for this weeks spotlight.  I am featuring my niece Emily Dunnigan.  Emily is just ten years younger than I and she is more like a younger sister than a niece.  She is extremely talented and creative.  She was a teacher before she had children and is very gifted with kids.  She has a beautiful family and someone I look up to very much, she is such an awesome mom!  She and her husband Jason have been married for 6 years.

Tell us about your journey to motherhood:

I didn't marry until I was almost 31 years old.  I was afraid that might keep me from having the large family I had always wanted.  Fortunately we were blessed to get pregnant quite easily and had our first baby boy 10 months after we were married.  We now have three children.  Nixon is 5, Olive is 3 and Will is 1.  We've had them quickly, but are so grateful for all of them!

What has surprised you about motherhood?

I was surprised at how hard and exhausting it is!  I thought after being a school teacher and being around kids all of my life I knew what it would be like.  But it's much more tiring than I expected.

I would also go to the zoo, the grocery store, a restaurant and look around and wonder why it was that all these moms had it all together, but I was dying at how hard it was!  I wish we talked more about the reality of how hard it is, we all like to put on the happy face.  I obviously love my kids so much and I'm so grateful for them, but this is the hardest thing I've ever done.

What advice would you give other moms?

I would encourage them to find one or two people they can be real with and talk about how hard it is. Someone who won't judge them for saying their kids are driving them crazy or for their messy house.

Also know that you are enough. You don't have to be perfect in any way to be enough of a mom for your kids.  I know my kids came to me because I'm the best mom for them, nobody else could love them like I do.  I believe that for every mom.

What brings you joy in motherhood?

Watching them learn things and knowing I taught them that.  The other day my son Nixon made a mistake and we were talking through it and he said, "Mom I just want to be like Jesus!"  It made me feel so happy that what we are teaching really is sinking in and he's getting it!

How do you take care of yourself so you have more to give your family?

I teach sewing lessons in my home, and help put on an annual musical at the elementary school I taught at before kids.   I love being creative and doing things that help me keep up my talents really fills me.

Also a few months ago my sister in law invited me to start going to the gym with her every morning. I haven't ever been a gym person before, but I decided to try it.  We go at 5:30 every morning and I have come to love that time to myself and talking with other adults.  It helps me get my day started right.

How do you nurture your marriage with so many little kids?

A few months ago my husband had to travel to NYC for work.  He encouraged me to come with him and even though I didn't know that I wanted to leave my kids, I went.  It was SO fun and so good for us to be just the two of us.  I knew my kids were in good hands and having so much fun and it allowed me to relax and just enjoy being the two of us.  I think we need to do that regularly.

We also try to go on dates, but it's hard to find babysitters etc.  Sometimes we buckle the kids in the car and go on a long drive so we can just talk.  Usually they fall asleep and we can have some good time just being the two of us.

Thank you Emily, you are awesome!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Teachers are amazing!

Tonight we went to Parent Teacher conferences for my middle schooler.   This boy of mine is talented, awesome and super smart.  School isn't necessarily his thing because it requires sitting still for long periods of time and he's a mover and a shaker.  He's also funny and loud and super social.  He can be a bit disruptive in class sometimes due to those things.

Those teachers are so gifted at seeing past the behaviors and seeing him for who he is.  Every single teacher said how much they enjoy him and think he's so great and funny.  One thing that made me happy is they said he's never disrespectful to them even when he's being corrected.  I'm so proud of him, he's such a good kid. They were totally willing to work with him and find ways to motivate him.

Sad to say that sometimes as a mom I need reminders of how awesome my kid is.  It's always nice to hear other adults say good things about my kids and give me that little reminder of what a great kid I have.

Teachers are undervalued and underpaid and deserve to be compensated for shaping our future society.  Thank you times a million for your patience, perspective and talents!

Monday, September 24, 2018

In the trenches featuring Kay

Today I am featuring my Instagram friend Kay West.  We started following each other in the past few months and I have really come to enjoy her content and what light she puts into the world.  Her Instagram account is threetoquesandtiara, go follow her!

Kay and her husband Brad have been married for 20 years. They have two children Isaac and Eden, ages 14 and 15.  Her perspective on life and motherhood is inspiring.  They live in Utah but are Canadian by birth. She has been through so much, yet has such faith and optimism.

Tell me about your journey to motherhood.

I went through years of infertility.  It was painful and so difficult.  However I  know that the children you are meant to have in your family are supposed to be there and they come to you in various ways. I have two children who we adopted from birth.  We also had another little foster daughter who we had from birth until age 1 and then the adoption failed.  It was very difficult to lose her, however I know she is with the family she is supposed to be with.

My daughter has many special needs, some came from her biological moms choices when she was pregnant and some are just because Eden is who she is.  She has Fetal Alcohol syndrome, brain damage, autism, scoliosis and serious allergies.   She was severely bullied by some boys  in 7th grade to the point I had to pull her out and home school her for a couple of years.  She really only has one friend.  We are now trying to integrate her into some mainstream and special needs programs through the schools.

My son is so compassionate and kind, I'm sure a lot of that has to do with his sister.  He looks out for those who don't have friends and is such a nice kid.

What advice would you give to have kids and adults interact with those with special needs?

Sometimes adults make it worse.  Kids are naturally curious and kind, but adults tell them not to stare or walk away.  Let the kids be curious and ask questions in kind ways.  Don't label the kids, just let them become friends without telling them, "That child has autism or down syndrome etc". Just let them love them and be kind.

What advice would you give other moms?

Motherhood was never meant to be picture perfect.  It never goes as planned and that's okay.  It's okay not to have it all together.  Don't worry about perfection.  As long as your kids know they are loved at the end of the day, that's what matters.

How do you keep yourself healthy emotionally through these challenges?

I turn to Heavenly Father even when I don't want to.  My husband is so kind and patient with me and helped me see during a particularly difficult time that I was turning away from God, and if I turned to him it would help me so much.  He was right!

I put my phone away at 9:30 at night and I don't pick it up again until the morning after I've read scriptures and prayed.  I also put my phone away Saturday night and don't do any social media on Sundays.  It's a good time for me to focus on my family and worshipping God without distraction.

What brings your joy as a mom?

Watching them become independent and making good choices.  Watching them learn they are children of God and knowing who they are.

Our family has started a little business/campaign.  It's called Quietly being kind campaign.  My daughter is an artist and draws little creatures/animals.  We have made them into postcards and sell them and a portion of the proceeds goes towards a charity of our choice that benefits special needs kids.  We have an Instagram account and website called quietlybeingkind.com.

How have you kept your marriage strong in the midst of challenges?

Much of it is my husband.  He is kind and sweet and patient. We have learned to work together and trust and support one another.  We don't ever speak ill of each other in front of anyone.  God is our partner in everything we do.

How has motherhood changed you?

I'm more patient for sure.  I understand how to apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ in my life.  He always makes up the difference of my shortcomings!

Thank you Kay, you are truly inspiring!  

Monday, September 17, 2018

In the trenches featuring Marjorie

Today I am featuring a dear friend of mine.  I have learned so much about raising fantastic, responsible, hard working kids from my friend Marjorie.  She has 6 children ages 8-22, 3 boys, 3 girls.   She is a runner and biker and one of the most determined people I've ever met. She also happens to be a Grandma (a VERY young one) to one little cutie.  She and her husband Jason have been married for 23 years.  I have spent so much time with this family that my kids call their kids their "Vegas cousins."   I know them well and you won't find better people anywhere!

What surprised you the most about motherhood?

The sheer exhaustion.  I wasn't expecting that.  I knew it would be hard and I would be tired, but I wasn't expecting it to be so exhausting.

I also was surprised by the fierce love I had for this child.  I felt so strongly about this tiny helpless creature.

What is the best advice you've gotten?  

My mom and dad are amazing powerhouse parents and I have learned much from them.  My dad has been in education for many years and is so good with kids.  He especially loves the "knucklehead" kids .  He taught me that the hardest kids to love need it the most.  As an adult you have to keep your cool.  Also keep your word to your kids, if you promise to do something do it.  To go along with that, choose your words and battles carefully.  If you threaten a consequence you'd better follow through.

What do you remember about your mom growing up and what did you learn from her?

My mom was so patient and kind.  She never complained about my crafting or kitchen messes.  She was so patient in teaching me how to sew and cook and clean and do laundry.  She was so willing to teach me no matter what I wanted to learn.  I never remember her getting impatient with me or frustrated.  She was great about slipping her testimony about spiritual things into everyday situations and she told great stories.

What advice would you give to other moms?

Forget about being perfect!  You're not ever going to be perfect, let it go!  It allows both of you to make mistakes and try again tomorrow.  Let the little things that don't really matter go.  The relationship with you kids is the most important, focus on that.

What is hard for you in motherhood?  

EVERYTHING!!  Watching my kids fight with each other, disrespectful behavior, letting them fail when I know that I could solve it, but I shouldn't

What brings you joy?

Watching my kids laugh and play together and build relationships, watching my kids learn and discover the world, my kids unconditional love for me, big hugs from my teenage boys, seeing therm excel and find things they love to do.

How do you have fun as a family?

We play a lot of card games.  We are very active, we love to play soccer at the park, throw the football, play frisbee golf.   We love the outdoors and love to camp and hike.  I love to be in the kitchen with my kids.  Right now my 16 year old son is learning how to cook and it's been fun hanging out in the kitchen with him.

In 30 years what do you want them to remember about their childhood?

I want them to remember that I loved them no matter what. I want them to know I loved them enough to correct them, that  I loved and served all of God's children no matter their circumstances or appearances.  I want them to remember I played with them, read to them, made time for them and listened to them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The soft place....

Four and a half years ago we moved 400 miles away from our home in Las Vegas where we had lived for 12 years.   My oldest son was 14 and was in the middle of his freshman year of high school.  My others were 12 (7th grade), 8, 6 and 3.   We moved back to the city where my husband and I grew up and where much of our family still lived.  We have a lot of friends here as well.  I naively believed that because of knowing so many people here and being familiar with this city that the move would be smooth and easy.   I'm not sure why I believed that because even going to the grocery store is complicated when you have 5 children!

The reality is, it has not been smooth or easy.  Moving teenagers or kids of any age, (but especially teens in middle and high school) from their dear friends of 12 years is not easy.    It was a challenging time in their lives and has continued to have it's challenges.   We moved to a very established neighborhood where kids have lived their whole life and had been in a friend group since elementary school.   It's tough to break into that social structure. This is not to criticize the people in the neighborhood we live in, they are very warm and friendly, its just the facts of moving when your kids are older.  

It was challenging to go to school and be the new kid, the fact is, it has taken a long while for them to find their people and honestly some still struggle.  It was hard to hear kids talk about social activities and not be invited.  It became very apparent that our home needed to become their "soft place to fall".    The atmosphere at our home needed to be one of positivity and acceptance where they knew they were loved no matter what.  That meant some things had to be put on the back burner because they were less important than my children feeling loved and knowing we were in their corner.  I remember a conversation with my sister.  I was telling her my boys were pushing back against scouting advancements and merit badges.  She wisely said, "Your kids have had a huge life change. What is more important, scouting or your relationship with your boys?"  Of course the relationship was of utmost importance, I just needed a reminder. 

The last four years we have really focused on our home being the place our kids could come and just relax and be themselves.  Since they haven't had tons of social activities outside of school, we have greatly enjoyed having them at home more.  We have listened to their music, watched their movies and laughed at their youtube videos.  We have really learned who they are.  As much as I want them to have friends, I have found as they have found friend groups and go to social things I find I miss having them around.  

Is your home a soft place to fall?  What does that mean to you?  To us it means to drop our agenda of what we think  their lives should look like.  They need to have the power to choose their course.  It means they know they are accepted as they are, no stipulations.  Their worth has nothing to do with their accomplishments or social activities.  Their worth is innate and we value them wherever they are on their path.  This doesn't mean they don't have accountability to help around the house or to let schoolwork go by the wayside, or to not have a job and learn to work...what it means is that we are loving and positive and kind.  We teach and encourage, never put down or discourage them.  

I am grateful for this move.  The lessons I have learned in the last 4.5 years have been life changing.  What can you do today to create a soft place for you children?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

In The Trenches

I am starting a regular feature on the blog and Instagram.  I will be sharing a spotlight on Moms I admire who are "in the trenches of Motherhood.  I will share about real, amazing, women I know personally, some who are dear friends and family and some whom I admire via Instagram.  This feature will happen weekly and I am asking them to share real feelings, experiences, stories and advice.  I know as I get to know these women better through reading their answers I am amazed at their depth, strength, humor and resilience.  They are super women!

I hope this doesn't appear to be self serving, but the first spotlight I am doing is about my motherhood journey.   I figure I should be willing to answer the same questions I am asking these women and you can get to know me a bit better.

Tell us about your motherhood journey:

I have 5 children ages 8-19, 4 boys and a girl.  My Motherhood journey started over 40 years ago.  I have wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember.  I played with dolls until I was 12, I became an aunt at age 8 and absolutely loved my nieces and nephews. I loved babysitting and playing with young children.  I majored in early childhood education because I loved children and found I was really good with them. I married my husband David at age 25 and after a year of marriage we wanted to try for a baby.  We were able to get pregnant fairly quickly, but ended up losing that baby at 7 weeks.  I was surprised at the grief I felt over that loss, I had only known for 2 weeks that I was pregnant but I did grieve.  After the miscarriage it  took us about a year to get pregnant with my oldest son.  We were able to have our older two boys close together and I thought we would have our kids 2 years apart and be good.  However between our 2nd and 3rd sons we dealt with some secondary infertility due to some uterine firbroids that threw our plan for a loop, so we have a 4 year gap.  I was able to have my 3 youngest children fairly close together (with actually another miscarriage thrown in between #4 and 5), and those 5 completed our family.  There are lots of stories with all of those pregnancies, my last three pregnancies were difficult,  but that is for another post.

What has surprised you most about motherhood?

How hard it is!  I thought with my love of children and all of my experience and education that it would be easier for me. The saying, "I was the perfect mother before I had children," certainly applies to me haha.  Motherhood has humbled me and driven me to my knees many many times.  It has exposed my weaknesses (many of which I thought were strengths previously) and has made me realize how much I DON'T know about children. I also think the mental load we as moms carry is exhausting.   I have days I want to run a way for a bit and not deal with it, however that mental load NEVER goes away.  Even when I was on a cruise with my husband for a week away from my kids, that worry and responsibility of being the mom was constant.  Also the letting go of them as they get older is hard for me.

What do you love about motherhood? What brings you joy?

I love really looking into my children's faces.  I love the sparkle and joy in their eyes.  I love to laugh with them, teach them, and experience the world with them through new eyes. I love to read to them.   I love watching them grow into the people they are supposed to become. I LOVE to travel with them.  I love to be in nature and to share my love of the outdoors with them makes me so happy.  When my son texts me a picture of the sunset or my missionary son takes pictures of the beauty around him and emails it to me because he knows I would love it, it brings me great joy.

What is the best advice you have received as a mom?

My mom has always said, "This too shall pass."  I have found that to be mostly true.  Potty training has passed,  zombie mom from newborns has passed, tantrums from toddlers has passed.  However other things have also passed by like sweet baby smiles, chubby toddler bellies and kids learning how to read.  It is good advice to live by, don't let the good pass you by focusing on the challenges.

But there are other things in life and motherhood that may never pass.  There are circumstances that might be difficult that may not pass and we may have to live with for life.  I won't go into detail, but just know that advice doesn't work for everyone and everything.

What is advice you could give a new mom?

Make yourself a priority!  It is not selfish to care for yourself because nobody else will be.  Have daily self care habits that are non-negotiable.  Soak this whole experience in, write things down, take photos, but not too many that you miss the moments because you're always behind the phone.  Put the phone down and laugh and play and read with your babies.  It's hard and it's okay to admit that and acknowledge it.  ASK FOR HELP! Find your tribe. I know the end of the night you are exhausted and want to just be DONE.  But take an extra two minutes with your kids at night and lay by them and talk to them.  Connect with them at all ages and stages.  When your kids invite you into their world, TAKE THE INVITATION!

How do you feed your soul?  What do you do for self care?

Reading scriptures and other inspirational books, podcasts, prayer, temple attendance.  Going to lunch with dear friends (preferable no more than 3-4 at a time so we can REALLY talk).  Getting into nature regularly, walking, belly laughing, good music and good food.

How do you avoid the comparison trap?

Gratitude.  Gratitude is my key to contentment in my life.  A daily practice of gratitude is a game changer for me.  Writing it down, but also saying out loud what I'm grateful for puts my life into perspective.

this is my hilarious 3rd child...I promise I'm not rolling my eyes at him in this photo...but it has been known to happen a few times in his 13 years of life.  He's awesome!

Share a humorous story about motherhood.

My third son is hilarious.  He is probably the most observant child I've ever met.  He is extremely smart and was talking VERY well before age 3.  He also has no filter whatsoever.  He was right around 3 and I took him to the grocery store, just he and I to have some one on one time.  We rounded the corner and he saw a woman who was on our aisle and said very loudly, "MOM WHY DOES SHE HAVE THE BIGGEST BUM IN THE WORLD?"  I mean there was no way she didn't hear it.  I wanted to crawl in a hole!  We quickly left that aisle and I went to the opposite end of the store to shop.  Unfortunately we saw her several more times in the store and he would say, "THERE SHE IS MOM!"  She gave me lots of dirty looks and I just didn't know what to do about it!  It was embarrassing for me, but he was just stating what he observed.  I tried to explain that it wasn't very nice to say that, but he was three and he was just stating a fact that he found to be true in his little mind.  Oh man!  There have been many other stories with this child that are pretty entertaining.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I have no idea....

There are just some days that I throw up my hands and have no idea what to do.  Today is one of those.   I can't go into much detail because I have teenagers and have to respect their privacy.  The issues with kids get more complicated as they get older and they deserve their privacy and not having it blasted all over social media.

Honestly though, I do know what to do.  I know I need to just love them, stay calm, be their soft place and consistent rock in their ever changing world of hormones, friends etc.  There are just days that drain me and make me wish I had toddlers again!

Don't get me wrong, teens can be so much fun.  My teens are good and respectful and helpful most of the time.  But sometimes we have days where it's rough.  Today I think our rough day was because this week has been very stressful and I am completely drained.  So really it's more about me than it is about them.  They weren't acting any differently....they were being normal teenagers.  I was the one who was sort of acting like.....a toddler/teenager!  LOL!

This link leads you to  of my favorite videos about teens.  Testing our limits is exactly what they are supposed to do!  We have to be that steady bar that sets boundaries and limits.   Just writing this blog post helped me process my day!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The mountains are calling....

One of our favorite activities to do in the summer time is to head up to the mountains.  We live in a beautiful state with plenty of options to get into nature.  We are fortunate to have a family cabin we can go to a few times a summer where there is ample fishing, playing in the river and brook and lots of exploring, throwing rocks in the water and getting muddy. 

In my opinion getting outdoors into nature is one of the very best activities families can do to create memories and build relationships.  There is nothing better than soaking up vitamin D, hearing the running water of the river and occasionally seeing deer, moose and bunnies.  Hiking is a great way to set a goal and achieve it and to help our kids do something hard maybe they never imagined they could.  Here is a link to an article about the benefits of nature.  A quote from the article:

"Being outside feels good. Children are free to explore, move about, and make noise; all delightful forms of self-expression that are often restricted indoors. Being in nature enables children to run, jump, hop, skip, climb, roll, and shout, which relaxes, and reduces tension, anxiety, and restlessness.
Researchers have found that outdoor play calms children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Furthermore, nature enhances a sense of peace and often brings out nurturing qualities in children. Many energetic children slow down to dig a hole in sand, watch a ladybug crawl, or spend focused time playing with a stick in a mud puddle."

Even if you don't have a family cabin or live near the mountains there are opportunities to get into nature everywhere.  Exploring new and different places is one of our favorite things to do.  We have done geocaching which is kind of like treasure hunting, that is a fun way to explore and go different places. 

Letting your children explore, take risks, climb, get dirty, learn new motor skills by climbing trees, jumping over streams, building dams in rivers etc is a great way for them to learn and not even realize they are learning new things!

Teaching our kids to enjoy the slow and simple pace of nature and to be present with them is a wonderful way to combat the ever increasing fast paced society we live in.  Learning to enjoy the simplicity that comes when we are in God's creations is a beautiful lesson to teach our children.

"If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive."
Eleonora Duse

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Summertime and the living ain't easy.....

Does the word summer break elicit joy and excitement for you or dread and despair?  😉.   I must say for me, it's a little of both.  I love the slower pace, the lack of homework and the warmer temperatures so we can be outside more. However,  I am by nature an introvert and need my solitary time to stay sane.  So summertime with my kids around ALL.THE.TIME.  makes me a bit crazy honestly.  Even though my kids are getting older, they still are around and want to be fed every second and utter the dreaded words "I'm bored" about every 5 minutes.  In past summers I have had "I'm bored jars" where they draw a paper or popsicle stick out of the jar if they absolutely couldn't find something to do.  It might have a fun idea on what they draw out, or it might have a job.  They didn't know beforehand.  It often curbed their boredom quickly...haha.

I'm not of the opinion that being bored is a bad thing for kids, but my children absolutely think it's a death sentence.   And their whining about it can drive this mama batty.  I feel strongly that I am not their entertainment coordinator and I don't buy into the thought that a memorable summer can only be created by checking things off an elaborate bucket list or paying a lot of money for classes, camps or amusement parks.   My summers growing up consisted of playing in our cul de sac, getting filthy dirty,  riding my purple sparkly banana seat bike to the local swimming club to hang out with friends (no mom in sight) and drinking from hoses when we got thirsty. We had a family vacation, trip to the close by family cabin and maybe one trip to the zoo to round things out.   I think that kind of simple summer is healthy and memorable in it's own right.

Don't get me wrong, I love love playing with my kids.  We love going swimming, on hikes, to the library, cookouts and making s'mores in the backyard.  We love having friends in and out of the house, eating otter pops and neighborhood bikes in the front yard. We have a  few fun adventures planned  like a family reunion, trip to the family cabin, camping,  the zoo, water park and aquarium throughout the summer, but summer is as much time for me to slow down and relax as it is for my kids so if I am feeling the pressure to plan their daily activities that is not relaxing for me.  Believe me they would much rather have YOU playing with them and being present  than any elaborately planned activity.

We have some structure as well.  In our house screens don't go on until after lunch, some summers I have been better an enforcing that than others.  However as I've been reading, doing research and listening to Collin Kartchner (follow him on Instagram, what he is saying is so very important), this summer we absolutely will be having less screen time at our house.

 Here is what our mornings look like. We really like to sleep in, (including me) so we do! Then when we get up and going they will have a couple of household jobs, piano practice, at least 30 minutes of physical activity and 45 minutes of reading must happen before any screens can ever go on.They each will have a summer job list with these things listed that they check off.  Here is a link to a ready made job list you can print out.  I will laminate these and hang them on the wall.  I'm not big on doing worksheets or schoolwork during the summer, their job is playing and being kids.

Another thing we work on during the summer is "life skills".  It looks different for different ages.  For my 8 and 10 year old they will learn to make simple meals by helping to fix lunch regularly.  My 13 year old will learn to do his laundry independently.  My 17 year old will learn about money and a budget and how to change a tire and oil and anything else I feel like I frantically need to shove into this summer because next summer he graduates  from high school and is an adult!  😳.

There are a  few of my thoughts and ideas for summer.  Each family is different so yours will look different from mine.   Don't feel the pressure from Instagram and other social media that you have to plan out every second or do elaborate crafts every day or spend a ton of money.  Go play, have fun, simplify, get out in nature, be present, play play play with your kids, don't forget self care and taking care of yourself, go out and make simple, fun memories!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Get in the pool!

A few summers ago my husband and 5 children were making plans to go to the local water park for a few hours.  I was hemming and hawing over whether to go.  My excuse was that I had so much to do and could really use a few hours of a quiet house to get them done in.  However, my real reason was I did NOT want to put on a swimming suit.  The last few years have played havoc on my body with various health issues, and let's be honest here, a few too many carbs and chocolate indulgences and. not enough working out.   I just didn't want to deal with my own insecurities of going out in public in a swimsuit.   I had decided I wouldn't go with them and said so.  My  6 year old daughter had an obvious look of disappointment on her face about my choice and said to me, "Mom you just have to come, it's so much more fun when you are there.  We love playing with you!"  

I had a change in perspective right there in my kitchen.  My insecurities were petty and minor.  I wasn't going to let them hold me back from making memories and having fun with my kids!  I went with them and we had the best time.  The joy on my kids faces when they watched me scream down the waterslide was something I'll never forget.  Since then I have made a conscious choice each summer to put that swimming suit on and get in the pool!  My kids don't care one bit what I look like in my suit, but they do care that I am in the water playing, laughing and having the best time.

One of my favorite phrases to remember in parenting is to "begin with the end in mind."  In the end I want my children to remember a mom who loved to be with them, who loves laughing and having fun and making the best memories.  They won't remember the number size on my swimming suit or the fact that I don't have a thigh gap, they will remember much more important things.