Category: Parenting

Back to School Prep: Homeschool vs. Traditional School

Back To School Prep

When our oldest daughter was wrestling with some emotional struggles half way through third grade, my husband and I decided that homeschooling might be a better fit for her. We finished out the year at home and happily witnessed a jump in her self-confidence and enjoyment in learning. Yes! We knew we made the right choice for her.

But what about her little sister? Kids’ personalities and needs at different stages are so unique, and choices about their education have to be unique, too. We’ve found that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for any family. As a social butterfly with a teacher she adores and a need to have some space from her overshadowing big sister, public school is where our middle kid is headed for first grade.

This untypical situation leaves us with a back-to-school prep season unlike any we’ve experienced before. Some things have stayed the same: the thrill of starting something new, an eagerness to get back to routine, wanting to pull my hair out from nonstop sibling bickering and “I’m bored” complaints. But the school year preparations – those are very different.

Where The Dough Goes

We’ve spent more money on books than clothes for our homeschooler. We’re just not as concerned about switching out her faded, well-loved summer grubs for a shiny new look. Instead, most of the back-to-school budget goes towards carefully chosen curriculum that fits our daughter’s interests, subject level and learning style. We’ll fill in the wardrobe gaps as needed with the changing seasons (and probably pay less doing it), but for now, her grass-stained knees are welcomed in class.  Our younger daughter, however, will look a little more polished come September.

Home school curriculum  sara hm school4

It should be noted that there’s a wide variety of teaching methods and philosophies when it comes to homeschooling. Many parents choose to piece together their own unit studies or lessons using mostly free resources (libraries and the internet are godsends), field trips, projects and more.  That has been my own approach in the past, but this year I’m hoping to scale back my lesson-planning time and embrace a little more structure. So while our family’s back-to-school budget needs to accommodate curriculum supplies, many homeschooling parents spend next to nothing this time of year.

Supply Checklists

Pencils and erasers can be found on both of our kids’ lists this year, but that’s about where the similarity ends.  Instead of traditional items like crayons, folders and tissues, our homeschooled fourth grader will get a re-stash of craft and science experiment supplies, along with copy paper for the printer.  No need for a new backpack and lunchbox, but a magnifying glass and some graduated cylinders? Yes, please!

Planning and Organizing

This is where the biggest difference lies. There’s not much to it with a traditional student: make sure their hair is neat, fill their backpacks and then get them to the bus stop on time (although that is admittedly a challenge in itself). But as part of the legal requirements of homeschooling, every student needs a plan of instruction for the year. That means that the bulk of my back to school prep isn’t revolved around spending, but planning. What does my kid need and want to learn this year? How will I teach each subject? Should we join local classes or meet-ups? What field trips should we plan? All of these questions and more run are on my mind while I piece together a yearly plan and a daily/weekly routine that works for everyone.

 sara hm school sara hm school1

I also look back on the past year to make note of what worked and what didn’t, and then make changes accordingly. For example, this year we’re setting up a dedicated workspace for those times when my daughter needs a retreat from her two-year-old, wanna-be-rockstar brother to give an assignment her full focus. We’re also going to try a four-day schedule, leaving a full weekday open for field trips, projects, cooking and other hands-on fun.

sarah hm school3 sara hm school2

Just like a teacher spends time setting up their classroom in the days before their students walk in, I’ll be working on getting everything organized to make the transition out of summer vacation as smooth as possible. A little effort now will make a big difference in our daily routines. As a work-at-home mom and teach-at-home mom, organization is essential.

Despite the work involved, I’m excited to get the ball rolling! Homeschooling is just one of those things in life that isn’t always a walk in the park, but ultimately worth every bit of time and effort it takes. I’m looking forward to a fun year of learning for all of my kids!

 

Sara HVM EditSarah Coppola is a wife, mom of three, Hudson Valley native and adventure-seeker. She founded Family Friendly Hudson Valley to discover and share all the great stuff for families found in our own backyard.

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9 Truths I Learned Baby’s First Year

9 Truths I Learned My Daughter's First Year

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I became a mom. I felt pretty prepared because I have always had kids in my home. I have fostered children and I have watched and loved kids as my own for years. I was not ready for the realism of being a full time parent of two. Let me share with you some of the things I have learned from my baby’s first year.

DON’T BUY EXPENSIVE TOYS

Yes new is great and in your new parent excitement you will buy that ridiculously priced contraption. Then once it is setup at home, you will find out the hard way that your baby hates it! Oh, and baby will only use it for three months. There are usually floor displays so you can try it before you buy it. Put your baby in it. Let them explore it. Take the time to examine it. My husband and I realized this after oohing and ahhing over a Jumperoo. We put our daughter in it and she freaked out as if she was going to seriously have a heart attack if we left her in it. We found out she prefers to wander freely. Her favorite toys are the walk behind and ride on toys we were given by family and friends.

Baby's 1st Birthday

THE RULES ARE ALWAYS CHANGING

What works the first few nights to soothe your baby will not work three nights later, nor will it work in another week. Babies are the rule makers. No matter how much you think you are going to set the rules and they are going to be on your schedule it very rarely works that way. Surrender right now! The moment that little bundle of frustrating joy is born it owns you! You will no longer have control over what time you wake up or go to sleep. You will no longer be out of the door on time and you most certainly will never be able to think the same again.

I CAN TUNE ANYTHING OUT

First time parents are typically on high alert for any little sound baby makes. During those early months my husband could hear the rustle of our baby’s crib sheets two rooms away. But as our baby grows we are learning to filter out the unnecessary noise. While on a call with a business associate, I was able to tune out an episode of Dinosaur Train playing on the TV, my baby screaming at her brother, her brother screaming back, and my husband getting the dog to bark on command while the washer and dryer were doing their jobs. My associate actually asked me to call her back because she was getting a headache from all the “background noise” in my home. When on the phone with non-parents go to a room as far away from the noise as possible. Folks without kids cannot tune out the commotion of your daily life the same way you can.

Skylers 1st fam

MY MARRIAGE CAN WITHSTAND ANYTHING

Just before the birth of my daughter, my family endured a lot of big changes. The week before she was born, my husband was seriously injured when a drunk driver hit him. Then within a month, we unexpectedly gained full custody of my stepson. Together we were struggling to adjust to full time parenthood with a newborn and a four year old. Neither of us were able to work. He was trying to heal from his injuries, and I was still healing from pregnancy on bed rest and child birth. I started to feel like a single parent of two while my husband was limited physically in what he could do to help. This all took a huge toll on us as a couple. Somehow, we made it through. Talk, Talk, Talk especially during the times you do not want to. Becoming a new parent is life changing in its self and when life adds those extra struggles, the situation feels almost impossible.

I AM INVINCIBLE

After becoming a mom, I completely fell apart. I struggled with the lack of sleep, the lack of help and lack of knowledge. However, I found an inner strength I never knew I had. Suddenly, I was able to feed a newborn with one arm while making a bowl of cereal for a toddler. I learned to multitask like a boss. I was able to keep a floundering family together and I was able to become me again.

On those really tough days, give yourself credit for even the small things you accomplish each day. Eventually you will start to see the bigger things you accomplish. When feeling like you cannot possibly take one more thing thrown at you, look in the mirror and tell yourself “you got this.” Be your own cheerleader because there will be times when others just do not understand what you are dealing with. You will overcome!

skylers 1st moments

I TREASURE EVEN THE TINY MOMENTS

During the struggles of this first year as a mom,  it has been the tiny moments that kept me going. A simple brush of my husband’s hand across mine reminds me that the man I married is still in there somewhere. Seeing my baby sleeping on her daddy’s chest reminds me of why I fell in love with him. Hearing my baby’s first giggle refreshes my weary soul. Watching my two children play together reminds me how blessed I truly am. When life is at its toughest keep looking for those tiny moments until you find a glimpse of joy. The tiniest moment can be the glue you need to mend that broken heart or those frayed emotions.

HUGS ARE SOOTHING

When children are hurt,  or scared, unsure or happy they look for a hug. We can do the same! Hugs can be comforting and assure us we are safe. I personally have always enjoyed a good hug from a special cousin. I’ve even driven to her job just to get a hug. This last year I learned to accept hugs from others who could see me struggling but had no words to console me. HUG! It is that simple. Sometimes we just need to feel a little human connection. A hug is the simplest way to connect. Did I mention HUG!?

IT IS OK TO CRY

We are born with the natural ability to cry and yet we are taught that it is not OK to do it as we grow up. During some of my toughest moments the only thing that made me feel better was crying. Sometimes tears would just roll down my face without me realizing it. There is no shame in crying. It is like cleaning our emotional chalkboard of stress. Crying can lead to sleeping and sleeping equals silence. I am not just talking about babies. Sometimes all we really need is a good cry and a nap.

skylers 1st

I AM NEVER ALONE

It is strange but when you become a new mom it feels like you are suddenly alone and nobody understands what you are going through. The reality is once you have children you will never be alone again! Even though I wasn’t really alone, there were still times I felt like I was drowning in loneliness. Don’t be afraid to invite friends and family to visit. Get out of the house and find community events to enjoy.

In this past year, I had to find what worked for me and my family to survive the curve balls thrown at us. We made it! Our struggles have given us a new understanding of our relationships with each other and our friends. If you are struggling too, just know that you will overcome the first year, and the second year, and the third year and so on!

deb editDebra is a first time mom to her beautiful rainbow baby Skyler, a wife, a blogger and an ordained minister. She enjoys crafting and creating educational fun for her step sons and decorating her home. Find Debra at Crossing New Bridges on Facebook and on Twitter.

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When There Is No Space For Mom

No Space for a Mom

Before I dive right into my blog topic for today, I just want to say a big THANK YOU to my contributors that have helped me get through summer this far! Thank you Jennifer, Debbie, Amber, Gloria and Diedre! Without each of you I wouldn’t have had the extra time to spend with my kids and work on my blog. I am taking some workshops and training courses to learn how to convert this blog into a business! As exciting as that sounds it isn’t easy to fit it all into my day of being a mom. It is especially difficult when there is no space for me.

I thought working from home is  a dream come true. Until I started actually working from home… and the kids are here. Having the kids home while I’m trying to works is even harder than actually going to work. Yes, it saves me in day care. Yes, it saves me from schlepping and we can keep our own schedule. But at what price? My sanity. My sanity is the price.

Without a break from the care taking and the constant demands of sandwiches and laundry a mom could go insane. I am literally one person taking care of three other humans. I am all there is. I don’t have a mom close by that can help me take the kids to the park, or a sister two towns over who can take my kids to the movies one day. I have a husband who works a lot and two kids who demand a lot. That’s it. We see extended family once a year when I pack up the kids and drive home by myself. My life as a mom is so overwhelming.

I try to find space for myself in the small parts of the day not occupied by my kids and husband. I get up earlier than everyone else so I can sit outside and listen to the birds and drink my coffee. But I am usually interrupted with a screeching howl of, “MAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHM.”

I try to exercise to get the good energy flowing. But then I have to stop short because the kids are fighting over the TV.

I try to get to the gym so the kids can be the daycare providers problem and I can zone out on the treadmill and watch TV. But no one wants to cooperate to get out the door.

I try to read a book while the kids are quiet. But then I have to stop every other paragraph to make a snack, or change a channel, or end a dispute.

I try to enjoy a good home cooked meal. I miss connecting with my kitchen. I used to pour a glass of wine, light some candles, turn on the music and whip up a meal with fresh ingredients. Now I am tied to the toaster oven reheating frozen chicken nuggets.

I wake up early to get some blog writing done in those “fringe hours.” But suddenly one child is awake and crying. It is like I have an alarm button on the bottom of my feet that alerts I am upright and ready to accept their commands.

I attempt a moms night out and get a text from hubby we are out of over night underwear. I have to leave my friends early to go to the store and bring them home.

Nearly every day it is a struggle to find a space for just me. I can’t finish a sentence, a phone call a blog post or even check Facebook from my phone without a constant barrage of noise. My kids are almost six years old and I still don’t get to take a shower every day. It feels like every moment in my day is interrupted.

But then, in the moment just before I crack. Just as my tears start to well a little arm goes around my shoulders and a tiny voice says, “I love you mama.” The tension eases away. My jaw starts to release and the tears calm. “I love you too sweet heart.” This is the space where I belong. Right here in the comfort of little arms snuggling me tight. I belong right here in the little hearts who think I am the safest place on earth.

There is no space for me to exist any more without my beautiful, wonderful children. I am learning to let that space be big enough.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

 

 

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The Hilarious Things My Kids Say

Kids can be the most unintentionally hilarious people. They might make an observation that is 100% true, but no adult would ever say out loud. Or, they mispronounce a word that alters what they’re trying to say. Or, it could just be a word they cannot completely remember how to say, and the version that comes out is off just enough to be adorable.

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One of my older girls is five and doesn’t pronounce the word ‘pattern’ correctly. She pronounces it ‘patter-in.’ She is starting Kindergarten and  I should correct her, but I love that little reminder that she’s still so young and not just my grown up girl going off to school on her own.

Both of my older girls still routinely say ‘lellow’ instead of ‘yellow’ as well. I feel like it doesn’t hurt anything, and most words they’ve learned I make sure they can say correctly, but yellow and pattern I just can’t bring myself to correct. I’m sure in no time they will have grown out of mispronouncing those words and my sweet, little girls will talk to me like older girls; with no reminders of the toddlers they used to be.

My husband was singing ‘Mambo #5’ the other day and the girls wanted to learn it. My oldest was trying to sing back the words and kept saying ‘everyone in the clubhouse go ride’ instead of ‘everybody in the club say come on let’s ride’ because of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show. I mean, that’s adorable, and even though we corrected her a few times, I still think it’s hilarious and awesome that she’s putting Mickey’s Clubhouse in the song.

Just like my girls my son has his hilarious moments too. He has the best mispronunciation. He’s turning 3 this summer and has an amazing vocabulary, but struggles with fire truck. In fact, for a few months he couldn’t say ‘truck’ at all without it coming out as ‘f*ck’.

fire truck 1

‘Mommy! Fire F*ck!’

Now, I know it’s a bad word, and I shouldn’t encourage him to say it, but I can’t correct it. It’s hilarious! He’s already started to grow out of it and says fire engine about half the time now.  Usually he says the ‘tr’ in truck, but for those months he mispronounced it I would simply smile when were out.

Sometimes I can get too caught up in being busy and getting things done and I forget my kids are just little. They don’t have the same patience as me, or view of time, or ability to wait when they ask for something. So when my older kids say they ‘have a loose toothes’ or ‘their teeths came out’ it helps remind me that they’re not adults yet, They are still kids and I need to enjoy them now, before they totally grow up on me. I will never get these moments back.

When my son is being crazy and literally bouncing off the walls because he’s a 2 year old boy, and then he says ‘Look! A big f*ck!’ when we drive by a semi-truck, it makes me laugh when I might not have otherwise. Eventually these will just be stories that I tell about my kids when they were little, but for right now they are my everyday life. I’m going to enjoy it and if I happen to take the back road by the fire station instead of the main road to go to the grocery store, that’s just my wanting to share a laugh with my kids.

Comment below to share some of the hilarious things your kids say. 

Jennifer at Sweet DiscordJennifer is a stay at home mom with two sets of twins. She copes with having four kids ages 5 and 3 with wine, desserts and cooking. But at the end of the day she wouldn’t trade her crazy life for anything. You can read more from Jennifer at Sweet Discord.

 

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Things No One Tells You About Motherhood

Things They Don't Tell New Mothers

Once people knew I was pregnant the stories of motherhood began flying my way. I was told I was going to fall head over heels in love my baby (and I totally have). Everything that my baby does will be adorable (I somewhat agree). I was told to take all the medications that were offered at delivery time (I never got any medications as we went directly into delivery upon arriving at the hospital). How I would love the cuddles, giggles, the milestones, cute outfits, tiredness and body changes. What I was not told about was the realism of motherhood.

Once I had my daughter I was not ready for what was about to happen. The true experience of motherhood was nothing like what I had been told. I do not want you, my awesome blog reader, to go blindly into motherhood without knowing the untold stories of motherhood.

Tiredness. Yes, I have experienced it in the past and I was told about tiredness. I would gladly take tiredness. However, since the beginning of my pregnancy I have been EXHAUSTED! My body went through 9 months of growing a baby while on bedrest. You would think I would have gotten a lot of sleep. My husband naively asked why I was so tired all the time. My response was you grow a human for 9 months, have it ripped from inside you and as your body is trying to heal you become a 24 hour vending machine. Walking away…grumble, grumble, ask my why I’m tired…grumble, grumble…

Childbirth is not as painful as the horror stories you hear.  I had my daughter without medication. Before it sounds like I am bragging, let me say she was a fast delivery where there was no time for mediation. The worse part was the “ring of fire” as her head pushed out. This is coming from a woman who has multiple health issues and takes numerous pain control medications.

The Heartburn never goes away! My heartburn was so bad that I had to see a specialist who scheduled me for surgery to remove my gall bladder. I had excruciating heartburn that caused me to double over in pain. The only way I got the slightest relief was by having to make myself throw up. This was horrible in itself. I was told that gallstones were a common issue for women after childbirth. Even after having my gallbladder removed I am still on prescribed medications for the heartburn.

Stretch marks everywhere. I have stretch marks on places I never thought possible. My toes and feet swelled three times their size during weeks 36-38 and then swelled more after giving birth. It hurt to walk for weeks. I now have stretch marks on my toes and feet. I also have stretch marks on the back of my neck, armpits, butt, hips, and arms, stomach….EVERYWHERE!

Time alone ceases to exist. You no longer have time to read that book you just got into. You now read The Very Hungry caterpillar a bajillion times. No more quiet refreshing showers, now you have to find ways to drag in some baby contraption to hold the child and toys to keep her happy while you quickly shower before she screams uncontrollably. (P.s. keep the shower door ajar so she can see you for a longer shower). Gone are the days of peeing in peace (have you read my Mommy Potty Chaos Post?). Ironically as I write this I am in the dentist’s waiting room using my “alone time” to finish this post.

Overwhelmed is the new normal. I used to juggle a million things very successfully. Now I can’t seem to get through one morning without losing my composure. I was once told I come off as unfazed…where is that person now? Balancing household bills and squeezing out money for baby needs, housework that never is caught up, friends are put on the back burner, finding time to buy groceries. Now the baby needs more attention, other child needs attention, your needs don’t count. Don’t forget the husband needs attention and by the way your legs would embarrass Chewbacca, a fact that my husband let me know by buying hair remover cream “so it can work while you do other things.”

I was never told these things could become part of my daily routine! I think that as our babies grow the sting of the events we deal with are covered with fluffy cute loveable moments. We forget the pregnancy struggles and how hard it was to walk, breathe, and function. We forget the “ring of fire” during birth. As sleep patterns form we forget the length of exhaustion. We also forget those unimaginable monster mommy moments we dealt with.

I do promise that when a naïve young woman asks what motherhood is like, I will share the horrid untold stories of motherhood. I will not sugar coat a thing. It will either make her stronger in knowledge of what is to come or make her think twice about becoming a mother.

Ooh, yeah the dentist is calling. I wonder if I ask nicely they will sedate me so that I can also get some sleep while I am here?

deb editDebra is a first time mom to her beautiful rainbow baby Skyler, a wife, a blogger and an ordained minister. She enjoys crafting and creating educational fun for her step sons and decorating her home. Find Debra at Crossing New Bridges on Facebook and on Twitter.

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The Type of Friend You Become After Having Kids

I've Become The Friend That . . .

I love being a mom. I love being a friend. At times, it’s tough doing both, especially when you are raising toddlers. They are loud, unpredictable, clumsy & messy. It’s amazing how much motherhood changes you, especially concerning the dynamic you have with your friends. Here’s what I noticed about the friend I’ve become after having kids:

 

I’M NOW THE FRIEND THAT:

Texts more than talks. I remember when I had an infant that slept the majority of the day. I still called my long distance friends and talked for hours. Then as she got older, it became more difficult when my daughter started to get into things. Now that my daughters are 4 & 2, it seems as if they have radar on me. If mommy is on the phone, that must be the time to squeal, fight and scream. Communicating is so much easier texting than talking.

 

Yells mid-conversation. This goes back to the previous point. If my friend is lucky enough to have more than a 5 minute conversation with me, she’s bound to hear me yell mid-conversation. At one point, I can hear the uncomfortable silence in my single friend’s voice, and in the next few minutes, she’s asking me if I need to go. Even though I tell her the wailing she’s hearing is unreasonable, the conversation usually ends. A few minutes later, my child is happy and no signs of discomfort arise. My friends with kids either laugh or tell me they just did the same thing 10 minutes ago.

 

Finishes eating before everyone else. I’ve noticed that I’m the first one done when my girlfriends and I go out to eat. Even though I’m out without the kids, I’m eating like I’m running a marathon race because that’s what I’m used to at home. If I want to finish a meal without interruption, it’s got to happen fast. It’s hard to get out of the habit.

 

Always has a sanitizing item in their purse. Kids are unpredictable. So are their messes. I’m the mom that has something to sanitize with in my purse either in the form of a Boogie wipe, regular wipe, hand sanitizer or sanitizing hand wipe. I’ve started keeping these items in my purse even when the kids aren’t with me. It comes in handy when I’ve spilled some coffee or bits of lunch on myself.

 

Shops online. Before kids, I loved to browse for hours in the mall. I tried everything on, and took back what I changed my mind about once I got home. Now when my friends ask where I’ve purchased something, more than likely I’ve purchased it online. Don’t get me wrong, I love a shopping trip, but shopping with kids limits the amount of time I have to try things on. I also have to keep them still and semi quiet in the dressing room, so it’s much easier to just buy online.

 

Can’t take a group picture because my phone is full of pictures of my kids. No matter how many pictures I download or delete I just can’t get enough of my kids; their messy faces, pouts, smiles, nakedness and beauty.

 

The nice thing about true friends is that they stick around no matter how you evolve as a mom. They understand that motherhood makes you a little absent-minded at times, but they charge it to your head and not your heart. They also realize that it doesn’t change the quality of your friendship, perhaps just the quantity of time you spend together.

What have you noticed about the friend you’ve become after having kids? 

Diedre Jason photoDiedre Anthony is a full time school counselor, mother and wife.  In her blog Are Those Your Kids? , she focuses on her experiences of raising her biracial girls in an interracial marriage.  Her posts are filled with helpful tips about raising children, diversity, curly hair as well as entertaining stories, and anecdotes.  Several of her posts have been published by the Huffington Post .
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Friday Favorites – Favorite Activities This Week!

School is officially out for summer and we are just humming away at play time. We are only at day 5 but so far my kids wake up ready to play. Whether it is outside on the swings, or dressing up in our toy room they are eager to get their day started. We are also working on keeping our skills current during the summer months. I don’t want to make anything formal and make it feel like school is still in session, so I have found a few fun activities that we just incorporate into our daily routine.

FREE PRINTABLES

We are absolutely loving this free Goldfish cracker alphabet printable from Totschooling.net! The last few mornings I have left the letters stacked up next to a bowl full of the kids favorite snack crackers just inviting them to play. They get really excited to line up the crackers on the letters and they move the letters around to create words, or practice spelling their names. This is also really great for toddlers just learning letter recognition. Sit them at the table to enjoy while you tidy up, finish a phone call or just relax for a minute.

gold fish crackers

ART SUPPLIES

A few months ago we made our own water color paints in ice cube trays. I forgot all about them until this morning when my kids pulled them out. I wondered why things were suddenly very quiet… too quiet. They made their way into the art bin and pulled out the paints and paper, filled up their little cups with water and started painting. I find that making art supplies accessible for my creative kids makes it easier for them to grab when inspiration hits.

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WATER PLAY

It hasn’t been terribly hot since our vacation started, but my kids don’t really care. The just want to run through the sprinklers or fill up the water table. I recently introduced them to the beauty of water balloons on their last day of school. They were so excited to finally give them a try. I previously banned water balloons from our yard, but now they are old enough to pick up all the pieces.

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BOOKS ON CD

My kids absolutely love music and stories. I purchased a bunch of half priced Barefoot books from a friend going out of business. I put them aside to bring out through the year. Each day my kids grab a new book and pop in a CD. They listen to it as back ground while coloring, or read along with the book. It keeps them busy and gives me a whole lot of quiet.

odysseus

PRACTICING SCISSOR SKILLS

My kids have terrible scissor skills. I don’t want to add more work to our day, but they need to practice a little through the summer. We are making collages by cutting pictures out of magazines and gluing to a page. Sounds super simple, but it really helps work those fine motor skills. We like to warm up by squishing some play dough first. The only down side to this project is we had a Scotch tape shortage by day 3 because we ran out of glue sticks by day 1.

magazines

PRACTICING WRITING SKILLS

My kids also need to practice their hand writing skills. I dread this because I usually get frustrated. My girls have ZERO focus on writing. No matter how little they need to write, or how fun the project is one of us ends up in tears. Thankfully, a fellow mom and occupational therapist gave me some great tips to keep my kids focused. She suggested using a yoga ball so the kids can wiggle while they work and offering crunchy snacks while they work. I’ve also gathered up some local pals to exchange letters with this summer. Hopefully all of that will be motivation enough for them to keep practicing.

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These are our favorite things so far! We plan to enjoy so much more during our summer break. Ten days from now it could all fall apart, but for now I am really enjoying keeping busy with the kids!

What are your summer plans?

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

 

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Closing our Eyes to Sandy Hook

Turning Our Backs on Sandy Hook

This week I am taking a break from sharing my favorite things to share with you my thoughts on gun violence. I don’t even have enough words to put together to express my feelings over the tragic loss of lives in Orlando. It has taken me this long to find the words you are about to read. I have been a weeping mess of sadness trying to make sense of my own feelings about this. My heart is aching while my kids are at school and I am a hugging machine when they are home. I have no idea what I should be doing to make things different. Then I saw this:

 

Stacey Wehrman Feeley

June 15 at 8:10pm

“I took this picture because initially I thought it was funny. I was going to send it to my husband to show what our mischievous little three-year-old was up to. However, the moment she told me what she was doing I broke down. She was practicing for a lock-down drill at her preschool and what you should do if you are stuck in a bathroom. At that moment all innocence of what I thought my three-year-old possessed was gone.

Politicians – take a look. This is your child, your children, your grandchildren, your great grandchildren and future generations to come. They will live their lives and grow up in this world based on your decisions. They are barely 3 and they will hide in bathroom stalls standing on top of toilet seats. I do not know what will be harder for them? Trying to remain quiet for an extended amount of time or trying to keep their balance without letting a foot slip below the stall door?”

 ‪#‎dosomething ‪#‎prayfororlando ‪#‎wecandobetterMoms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

Photo credit: Stacey Wherman Feely. Her daughter drilling active shooter drills at home.

This photo was taken by Stacey Wherman Feeley, mother of this beautiful 3-year old girl and it is going viral. As it should! This is what we need to see every single day- the conditions in which we are forcing our children to grow up in. What Can I DO to help? This is the question every single person living and breathing in America should be asking right now. Every teacher. Every parent. Every nurse, doctor and lawyer. WHAT CAN WE DO TO MAKE A CHANGE? HOW CAN WE KEEP OUR CHILDREN SAFE AT SCHOOL?

I may be the Whatever Mom learning to keep my cool and let things go, but this is something that gets me really hot under the collar. The gun issue sickens me. Instead of tightening up safety measures we are teaching our vulnerable children to:

Hide.

Live in fear.

To think about staying alive during the school day.

Parents are on pins and needles leaving their kids at school, at day camp and dropping them off at the mall just hoping today isn’t the day someone decides they have the right to use a military grade weapon to kill and maim innocent people- of which could be their child.

My heart has been in pieces since Sandy Hook just thinking and worrying about my kids. And your kids. For the last few years I have listened to my friends talk about the active shooter drills in their kids’ schools. Their kids are coming home with anxiety about going to school and getting killed.

In the picture above a 3-year old is poised on top of the toilet practicing her balance and keeping quiet. THIS IS HOW WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN TO BE SAFE? How can we expect a child not yet developmentally capable of sitting still and keeping their emotions under control to fend for their own lives like this? They aren’t going to stay quiet long enough for a gunman to think, “Well, no one in there” and walk away.

Teaching our children to behave like sitting ducks just waiting to be plucked is teaching them to tolerate and accept violence as just a part of everyday life. Doesn’t that sound broken to anyone else? Doesn’t that sound like we have failed our children in some way? “Gee kids we’d really like schools to be a safe place for you to go to every day, but it just doesn’t look like it’s happening any time soon. And to the kid being abused at home and already living in fear every day we sure wish we could give you a secure place to let down your guard and find some solace in your day. Unfortunately none of us can agree on what that looks like. So for now just hang tight in the bathroom stalls and try not to make any noticeable sounds with your wiggly bodies and your loud personalities. We’ll just hope for the best.”

I don’t know about you, but I am mad. I am mad at our flawed system. I am mad at people who think mass murder is a justifiable act. I am mad there isn’t enough help for folks living with mental illness. I am mad at the people pointing fingers and blaming. And I am mad at myself. Sandy Hook happened four years ago and I have done nothing to be a part of the change I want for my kids. There have been how many more shootings since then? Sure, I signed a few petitions online and completed a few acts of random kindness to celebrate the lives of the kids who were murdered. How long can we close our eyes on what we learned from Sandy Hook? Another senseless shooting happens and I’m suddenly awake to how broken our system is. But what have I DONE to make change happen for MY OWN CHILDREN? Nothing. Until now.

Now, with a fire in my belly, I am calling every single representative, tweeting and a sharing on Facebook. I am texting #DisarmHate and hash tagging #wecandobetter like my fingers are on fire and the keys are going to put them out. I am educating myself on ways to close the loopholes in our gun laws. I am answering every call to action. I can’t stop until something changes for the better. It isn’t enough to teach our 3-year old children to suck it up and deal with the way the world is today. There has to be more.

Let it begin with me and you. Share this post. Sign up to follow your senators who are fighting for change. Follow groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and answer their calls to action. Please help me find a way to keep guns out of the hands of folks who just want to use them to hurt our children.

For more information on what you can do to combat gun violence in America read Senator Chris Murphy’s words here.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

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What’s In Your Mouth?

Things in Kids Mouths

I’m constantly amazed at what my children put in their mouths. And their ears. And their nose.  My 2 year old daughter likes to put her big sisters Shopkins in her mouth. Granted some of them look like ice cream people, but really. And she keeps doing it. It’s not like they’re flavored. Why?

When my older two were little they would chew on their cribs. Not just a little.  In some parts they went through the varnish and down to the wood. I remember one time I went in and one of them had brown flecks of wood stain all over her mouth.

I don’t understand what makes kids want to do this, other than when they’re teething. It can’t taste good. It’s not like they’re hungry when they’re doing it.

The same girl who tried eating her crib also fed her brother raw pork fat once. I had trimmed a roast but hadn’t put the fat directly into the garbage, so it was on the cutting board. Apparently my son told his sister he was hungry, and being the resourceful 5 year old she is, she grabbed him some food. When I saw him and asked what he was eating, he said meat. GAG.

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A stray raisin that I missed when I swept the floor is fair game if I can’t snatch it out of their hand. My son actually asked if what he was holding was an old raisin, and when I said I think so, he popped it in his mouth. I have to tell at least one child per day to take something out of their mouth. Food, toys, rocks; really the possibilities are endless.

One of my older girls also went through a phase of chewing on her hair. I wouldn’t have cared really, except the section she chewed on would get all matted and if she had just finished eating her hair would get extra gross.

However, the all-time winner in this game of what-terrible-thing-can-I-put-in-my-mouth is my son, who decided he was going to eat our Christmas lights. Christmas lights you say? Yes, glass Christmas lights.

Some good friends of ours have Christmas lights on their patio for when they sit out at night, and I liked the idea so much I wanted to recreate it at our house. So I got some of our old Christmas lights and hooks to hang them up. Unfortunately, two strands didn’t completely light up, and they sat outside on a table waiting for me to come back and fix them.

Along comes my son. He’s playing with his twin sister nicely in the backyard, but I happen to glance outside and it looks like he has something in his mouth. Now, I can’t tell you why my brain went to the lights, but somehow I just KNEW what this crazy kid of mine had done. Sure enough, I ran outside and asked him to open his mouth. He ran away from me like all good kids who are trouble do. I get him and tell him to spit it out. Out comes 2 pieces of glass and then he hands me the chomped on light bulb. Whyyyyyyyy?

Luckily, he wasn’t hurt and somehow it didn’t cut his mouth, but I’m constantly wondering how humans have survived so long with the amount of potentially dangerous things they do to themselves as children.

Hopefully things will start calming down, but I have a feeling my Shopkin chewing daughter will follow in the footsteps of the hair chewing daughter. Plus it seems my son is a human goat, so it might be a long while yet.

Is there something I can even do for all this chewing? A friend of mine told me about necklaces that I could get that are specifically made for kids that like to chew on stuff, so those might be an option. Has anyone ever heard of something like that or tried it?

Jennifer at Sweet DiscordJennifer is a stay at home mom with two sets of twins. She copes with having four kids ages 5 and 3 with wine, desserts and cooking. But at the end of the day she wouldn’t trade her crazy life for anything. You can read more from Jennifer at Sweet Discord.

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All Moms Could Use a Little Help

 

Ways to Help A Struggling Mom

Every Sunday at church I am greeted with different showings of love from my fellow sisters. From a casual hello by a rushed mom, arms overflowing with stuff, trying to get her kids seated to hugs from a mom already settled. Each week questions fly about how my daughter is sleeping, what is she eating and friends ooh and ahhh over her and request to hold her. Week after week since my daughter’s birth this has been the usual way I start my Sunday morning.

That is until one Sunday when a sister came over and sat right next to me. She looked me directly in the eyes and asked, “How are you doing?” That simple, innocent question threw me completely off balance. I was not prepared to answer.

How am I? You mean you don’t want to know about my daughter? Wait…. am I falling apart? Can you see me struggling to keep my head above water?

I struggled to hold back the tears and and to compose myself before I showed how frazzled and lost I felt. That simple phrase made me feel like I mattered. I was not just my daughter’s mother in that moment but me, just me. I existed. I was noticed!

This made me think about how many times a mom walks into a room and all eyes look directly at her children. How many times do we not see her? I mean REALLY see her. Why does this happen?  I honestly believe we often get excited to see a cute little outfit, or little a cherub face and get caught up in the awe factor.

It isn’t often enough that somebody offers to help a mom, or asks her if she needs an ear or a hug. It seems like a little thing but in that moment a mom wouldn’t feel so alone. For that moment, her burdens would be shared and lightened.

Not all struggling moms look as if they are struggling. I know I personally hide my struggles very well. So why not offer a gesture of kindness to any fellow mom? Here are some suggested ways to offer help:

  • Call her and ask to stop by for coffee.
  • Offer to watch her kids for a few hours so she can enjoy a few hours alone or with her spouse.
  • Cook dinner for her at your house.
  • Join her at the park and chat while the kids play.
  • Send her an old fashion handwritten letter telling her you have been thinking of her.

We all walk around balancing our own emotional teeter-totters. Most moms (especially new moms) are precariously balancing in their own corners hoping nothing else is added to topple them over. I can say from experience that the simplest gesture makes a world of difference. Next time you see a fellow mom, who may or may not look like she is struggling, ask her how she is doing. Or Can I get you anything? Or how can I help you in this moment? I promise you she will be relieved beyond your understanding.

Who knows the next time your own emotional teeter-totter is feeling unsteady, that mom you helped just might have the ability to balance you before toppling over. She might even become your next close friend.

 

 

deb editDebra is a first time mom to her beautiful rainbow baby Skyler, a wife, a blogger and an ordained minister. She enjoys crafting and creating educational fun for her step sons and decorating her home. Find Debra at Crossing New Bridges on Facebook and on Twitter.

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