Category Archives: Being a Mom

What is Happening Now?

How did I get here?

is something that comes to me out of the blue. It calls me to examine the past.

Where am I going?

is something that I ask myself frequently. It calls me to plan for the future.

What is happening now?

is the question I should be asking. It calls me to be in the present.

We can spend our whole lives looking to the past and the future. It’s good to occasionally reflect on our choices, our actions, our experiences in the past. It’s also good to plan for our future choices, actions and experiences.

But we can’t live there.

It can be difficult not to get lost in what could have been or what could be. It’s even more difficult for most of us to be present in what is.

I dare you to try.

Right here, right now… is beautiful. If you truly look, you can see it.

You may not be exactly where you want to be right now. You may not even be close. But all you have is this moment in time. And if you don’t let yourself be present in it, you will lose it.

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Find what matters to you. And hold on to it with all that you have.

I lived in the past and the future for too long. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, my daughters were five and nine.

It goes too fast. The time we are given is too short. Before I know it my daughters will be fifteen and nineteen. If I close my eyes to the present, I will miss it. And I will never be able to get it back.

So what if the dishes don’t always get washed? So what if my yard doesn’t look perfect? So what? 

There will always be more that I could have done. It will still be there when I get to it. Right now, in the present, are my daughter’s childhoods.

So the questions I will be asking myself is, what is happening now?

My eyes are open. And it’s beautiful.

Clearance Toy Shopping

I truly hate paying full price for items at the store. It’s not just because I’m on a limited, very tight budget (though that’s certainly part of it). It’s because I discovered the magic of clearance shopping and I know how cheaply I could be paying.

By all means, I’m not going to get in-depth with clearance “hunting” here (and, yes, “hunting” is quite applicable here. Clearance shopping is definitely a sport!). This video by TheKrazyCouponLady gives a really nice overview of Target clearance shopping and how to read their clearance labels. In my opinion, Target seems to have the best clearance sales for toys, though you can sometimes find good clearance at Wal-Mart.

For this entry I will be focusing on clearance shopping for toys (though I may cover other clearance shopping, such as kid and adult clothing, etc. if there is any interest).

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge planner. I thrive on planning ahead and it’s one reason why clearance shopping really works for me.

I don’t know about other parents but it seems like my daughters always get invited to birthday parties a day or two before they take place (or it might just be that the invite sits in their backpack for a week before I eventually see it…) We go to A LOT of children’s birthday parties a year and, let’s be honest, buying presents for even a few friends a year can really add up.

After I discovered the thrill of clearance shopping (getting a good deal is actually VERY thrilling!) I created a “Party Present Stash.” When I find a really good deal on toys, I’ll buy several (sometimes setting a few aside for my daughter’s own “Present Stash,” which I will get to a moment). Since I have two daughters, the majority of their friends are girls and so I purchase mostly toys that they like, since it’s quite likely their friends will as well. I’ll also pick up a few toys that I know are popular with their boy friends (not to be confused with boyfriends! Note the space in between the two words! 😛)

When we get a birthday invite I can open up my “Party Present Stash” and have a nice selection of (cheap!) presents to choose from. It also works out well with my schedule, since I don’t have to find time to go to a store and shop. I store these items in the top of my closet, in several bags so you can’t see what they are.

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Squinkies seem to be a popular toy with most girls

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And at these prices, why not??

I also pick up toys on clearance that I know my daughters like but that I really don’t want to pay full price for. Since I like to plan, I’ll stock up my “Present Stash” for them with items for their birthdays, the holidays and even to be used as rewards. It does mean that you need to plan ahead but it’s worth it! I was mostly finished with my Christmas/Holiday shopping before Halloween and completely finished by Thanksgiving!

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Toys such as these make good little presents or rewards. The Monster High designer tape (or whatever it is) could be used in birthday party goodie bags.

 As I’m sure you can guess, I can save A LOT of money, buying toys this way. I do still occasionally purchase toys at full price but I mostly reserve that for “must-have” items (such as any new Monster High characters, which if you know anything about MH, can be quite difficult to find so you buy them when you see them.) Target currently has many toys on 30-70% clearance. Today I picked up all of the toys shown above for $40.98! All of the toys I purchased were 70% off.

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In case you are interested, here’s the breakdown:

Squinkies Carousel Dispenser ——-$5.98 (original price $19.99)
Monster High Designer Tape ——– 2 x $0.88 (original price $2.99 EACH)
Squinkies Mansion Playset ———– $14.98 (original price $49.99)
Mini Lalaloopsy Pet Parade Train — $4.48 (original price $14.99)
Squinkies Princess Crown ————- 2 x $2.96 (original price $9.89 EACH)
Squinkies Scepter Dispenser ——— 2 x $2.96 (original price $9.89 EACH)
Mini Lalaloopsy doll ———————- $1.94 (original price $6.49)

Total Paid: $40.98               Total Original Price: $137!!!

I hope this inspires you to clearance shop too! It may take a little bit of extra time and planning but it  can save you a lot of money and you’ll never be without a birthday present again!

P.S. Please don’t share these pictures with my kids (or yours!). The real magic of clearance shopping is that when a child opens their present they’re none the wiser…

 

The Importance of Routine

It’s the last day of August and my oldest daughter has been back to school since Wednesday. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem “right” to be going back to school when it’s still August! August is a designated Summer month. And school and Summer shouldn’t really intersect in my opinion!

None the less, it is what it is and we are very much attempting to get back into some semblance of a routine. Getting my oldest daughter to the bus on time, my youngest to daycare and (starting on the 4th) myself to school in the morning is a challenge.

We aren’t “morning people” (do those really exist??). On school days my children would likely sleep until noon if I didn’t drag them out of bed (why isn’t this true for weekends?!). If I don’t plan my mornings I wouldn’t have any chance of ever getting out the door remotely on time. Even with planning, there are mornings when the alarm clock somehow doesn’t go off and everyone ends up frantically getting ready, rushing to be late (such as the 2nd day of this school year! Oops!)

I’ve discussed how I deal with keeping my family on schedule as stress-free as possible before. I continue to schedule everything, prep the night before and meal plan. As my children have gotten older I’ve included them more in my routine making.

This school year I gave them both checklists for their morning and evening routines. I found some magnetic dry erase boards in the dollar section of Target (LOVE Target) and modified them by putting the markers on attached strings, so they wouldn’t get lost. I had each child help me come up with their list of tasks, which we separated into morning and evening. Since they take medicine in the morning and evening, we put that task in the middle so it only had to be written down once.

By the way… the checklist on the right… the task in the middle is “take your medicine”. I know. It’s really hard to decipher and I’m not so good at drawing a medicine spoon or bottle.

For my oldest daughter, Z, (8 years old) I wrote out her tasks. For my youngest daughter, E, (4 years old) I drew pictures to represent her tasks since she cannot yet read and I wanted both my children to independently be able to read and complete their tasks. Their checklists are hung on the side of our refrigerator (a central area in our house) at their height levels so they are easily assessable to them.

Being able to check off a completed task honestly feels pretty awesome and it helps guide them in what they need to get done without me having to constantly tell them. Instead, they can look at their checklist and see what needs to be completed. If they get distracted (which happens with children, especially those with ADHD) I can redirect them by reminding them that they need to look to see what needs to be checked off.

So far, this has worked quite well and has given them some responsibility over their morning and evening routines. It also doubles as a reminder to me what they need to be doing!

That hot pink marker will jolt you awake in the morning! Or make you add “change marker color” to your list…

Of course, I decided to run with the checklist idea and made myself one as well. My checklist is hung on the opposite side of the fridge and is something I see every time I walk into the kitchen. Having tasks written down really helps keep me organized. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with all that needs to be done, I can clearly see my tasks and focus on completing them rather than figuring out what they are.

Also, checking off tasks really does feel AH-MAZING!

This is only the beginning. Of my organization, planning, scheduling and routines. Of the school year. Of the rest of my life. So if this morning doesn’t go well, I can take a deep breath and realize I can try to have it go better tomorrow.

My Life is Hectic! (Here’s How I Deal)

My semester at school just started up on January 23rd and, despite being thrilled to be back, the change in schedule (and routine) has really thrown me for a loop.

This semester I have classes five days a week and I’m at the school until just after noon each day. Compared to my three-day school weeks I’ve been used to the last few semesters, I can certainly feel a difference. Going from a month vacation off from school to being at school every weekday is more difficult that I had imagined.

To keep myself (and my family) on schedule and as stress-free as possible, I employ a few methods to organize our week:

First, schedule. Schedule, schedule, schedule.

Since getting a smart phone a year ago, I’ve stopped using a paper agenda and instead have been using Google Calendar to keep track of my days.

Google Calendar is great for many reasons.

I can view, add and edit my calendar via my phone, as well as on any computer connected to the internet. When I enter an event, I can set a reminder to alert me 15 minutes (or other specified time) before the event.

I can invite someone to my event by entering their email. This is handy for event’s that a family member or friend should be aware of, for example, a Father-Daughter Dance.

I can also share my entire calendar with another Google Calendar user. My partner and I have both shared our calendars with one another. All of my events show up on his calendar coded in a different color then his (and vice versa).

This is helpful with kids, as he can see all of the activities and appointments they have scheduled, without my needing to individually invite him to each one.

I use Google Calendar in the same manner I used my paper agenda.

I write down all of the events that are static (class schedules, dance lessons, swim lessons, etc) and fill in any appointments or other events as I become aware of them. I also block off times for myself to work on homework, when class assignments are due, when I need to pick a child up early, etc.

I even use the calendar to remind me of things that need to be done, such as “Clean cat litter” or “Call to make appointment” so I don’t forget.

Second, I get as much I can done the night before.

We pick out clothes the night before in our house because mornings are hectic enough without worrying what you’re going to wear. And having two daughters only makes that trickier.

Each of my daughters picks out what they want to wear before going to bed each night. Before I go to bed, I do the same.

The rule is that what you pick out, is what you wear. When I started this, I said the rule upfront to both of my daughters. After a week, picking out our clothes the night before started to become part of our daily night-time routine. And it saves SO much time and drama in the morning.

Of course, you might end up with this. But remember, what you pick out is what you wear!

Anything else that can be anticipated needing to be done for the morning is also done the night before.

School lunches are packed and ready to go. Notes, permission slips and the like are signed and filed away into backpacks.

Homework is always completed the night before and everything needed for school is packed into backpacks as well. This includes me, as I’ve likely been guilty of forgetting items needed for school more times than my daughter.

Third, planning.

Yes, I know it seems like it could be categorized under schedule. But, trust me, planning isn’t quite the same thing (though they are intertwined).

The number one planning item is meals. After a long day at school/work/activities the last thing anyone wants to do is come up with what to have for dinner. I try to plan out two weeks of meals at a time.

I know some people plan out day by day, labeling X meal for Y day, but I can’t see doing it that way. What if I’m not in the mood for what’s planned? It’d very quickly throw the whole plan off.

Instead I plan out two weeks of main courses that I can then pick and choose from as I wish. Most of the time this is nothing more than a post it note and a list of meals.

This is an older meal plan. Back from when I still typed and printed them.

The one exception is Wednesday, which is our family’s busiest day of the week. On these days I try to plan an easy crockpot meal that I can quickly throw in the crockpot in the morning and come home to a wonderful smelling kitchen in the evening.

One of my favorite sites for crockpot recipes is A Year of Slow Cooking, which has some amazing (and easy!) crockpot recipes. I’ll likely go into further depth on my love of crockpot cooking in later posts.

Four, Breathe.

Being busy, being a student, being a mom and trying to be it all can be overwhelming. When everything starts to seem like too much, just take a break. Take a moment. Look at the sky. Count to 10. Take some deep breaths.

Take care of YOU.

It’s not going to be perfect. Ever. But sometimes all we need is a brief interruption of our steady swimming to stay afloat to realize that our heads our still above water and we can breathe.

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Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive how-to of juggling busy family life and stress (I didn’t even begin to cover procrastination).

But it’s a start. A change of any type will come with some added difficulty in the beginning but, with time and persistence, a new routine can be formed.

I know the next few months for me are going to be hectic and trying, filled with difficult courses and my self-imposed pressure to keep my high GPA (and that’s just my school stuff!). My goal throughout it all is to go easier on myself and enjoy the process as much as the outcome. Because it’s the journey that teaches us and inspires growth, not the destination.

My Kids Are Me (& Not Just The Best Parts)

Let me start with this. I love my kids. I really, really do.

But sometimes (and by sometimes I mean a lot of the time) they act like, well, kids (On a good day. Wild sugar-hyper monkeys might apply better). And not just kids, but MY kids and my partner’s kids.

And that means that they act like my partner and I did when we were kids.

Tantrums. Throwing anything they can reach. Screaming. Yelling. Kicking. Becoming temporarily deaf (You know, I really do like to say your name 50 times in hopes of getting you to look at me or respond). Changing their mind 59 times about what pair of shoes they want to wear (No! Not those ones! The other other sparkley ones!). Remembering that they have to bring that toy with them when we’re heading out the door, 10 minutes late. (And, oh yeah, where is that toy mom? I need it!) Claiming they absolutely don’t have to use the bathroom when I ask before a trip (and then 5 minutes in, it’s an emergency! I have to pee nowww!) Melting down because they weren’t the one who got to open the door (I don’t want to open it NOW! You already opened it! And closed it!).

Of course, obviously worse than we ever were. Because we were misunderstood and it obviously was our parents that caused us to act like that and, so, it was our parents fault we acted that way.

My kids? Well, it’s not their parent’s fault they act that way.

Because I’m their mom. And B is their dad. And there is NO way that we’ve in any way caused them to act like that.

Except… I guess genetics may play into it a bit (probably like 1%).

And they do spend time with OUR parents… yes! That must be it!

Here are my two little monkeys {Z, left; E, right} at Halloween time. Though they like to wear costumes year-round.

I hope it’s quite clear that I write all this in jest (love you Grama, Nana & Papa!). It wasn’t our parents “faults” for how B and I acted as kids anymore so than it is B and I’s “fault” for how our kids act. They act like…kids.

And while they may drive me near-crazy on a daily basis with some difficult to keep your cool and stay calm moments, I view my kids as the biggest lessons of my life.

Patience. How to stay calm. What’s really important. And how to deal with tiny people who often think, behave, react and/or embody many parts of B and myself.

And all of our flaws. Only, I don’t view those same flaws in my children as such. Instead I see personality, loyalty, creativity and a million other amazing attributes.

Truly they are amazing little people who, with a lot of love, learning, support, patience and hope, will grow into amazing people.

Hey, their parent’s did.

#ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear

Across the country (and even over seas!) young mothers are uniting in a discussion on a common topic – their experiences as a young parent. The hash tag #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear was started by blogger and former teen mom, Natasha Vianna about her frustration with comments made to young mothers. You can read more about how and why #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear started in Natasha’s blog post at the PushBack.

Clearly Natasha struck a chord with other current and former young moms, who have utilized the hash tag and shared their own frustrations and experiences. As a former young mom, I too joined in on the discussion. I was 19 years old when my first daughter was born and by 23 I had two daughters. The stares I received and the comments people have felt the need to share with me have, at times, been appalling.

Shortly after leaving my abusive, dead-beat boyfriend I was at my postpartum check up. My beautiful 6-week old daughter was sleeping in her car seat, as I sat in the waiting room filling out papers.  Two middle-age ladies who were sitting near by “whispered” to one other about how I was, “Just another one of those girls.”  It sadly wasn’t the first nor the last negative comment I have heard.

You’re doing a good job… for a young parent (& why is that surprising?)

Why didn’t you marry your [abusive] baby’s father?

Your life held such potential [it still does]

Really? You have two kids?

Its irresponsible of you to want your own identity and interests

 How unfair that teens are having babies when there are couples who are unable to conceive [no correlation]

I was fortunate to connect with a young mom group in my area at that time called MELD. Once a week several other young moms, myself and our children would meet. For the first hour we shared dinner with one another and our children. Afterwards our kids would be watched by volunteers and the remaining time would be split between sharing and education. As we shared our experiences with one another, there seemed to be an endless supply of rude, appalling things we were being told.  Though I have graduated from the group, I still keep in contact with most of the moms. I have also made amazing, supportive friendships with many young parents online.

Despite assumptions and stereotypes placed on young mothers, we are succeeding. I’ve completed a college degree and am working on a second one to become a social worker (working with young parents and their children). I’m a member of my school’s honor society and my GPA is a 3.549. My young mom friends have also graduated high school and gone to college.

As Katie of A Girl Like Me blogs: “We’re not all on welfare, and we’re not all party animals or sluts or druggies like the girls who give the rest of us a bad name. We love and take care of our kids just as much as ‘normal’ aged mothers do. We’re still intelligent and productive members of society. We grow up with our kids, and I feel like we learn more life lessons that way. The young moms I know are some of the wisest people in my life.”

Natasha Vianna blogs that, “Hearing the success stories of young moms can sometimes anger people even more. If we’re not falling into the ‘stereotype’ and have made something of our lives, we are told we are still a bad example! We are told we are promoting the concept of becoming a teen mom. When we fail, we get the ‘I told you so!”

The stereotyping and judgments placed on young parents is appalling and damaging to their success and the success of their children. General assumptions, such as the ones shared on #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear can be truly damaging. We are empowered by speaking out and sharing our experiences as young moms. I encourage all young moms, current and former, to join in the  conversation on twitter #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear

Regaining My Voice & Perspective

I lost my voice. For almost four days there was no talking from me, save for scribbled down notes, text messages and vague resemblances of whispering. Today, I’m beginning to regain use of my voice. I can talk, though not in the same voice I used prior, but none the less I can talk.

Not being able to talk and thus effectively communicate for the past few days was frustrating, not only for myself but for those around me. I found that my lack of speaking led way to a great deal of miscommunication and confusion. Apparently while the hand jive is (in my opinion!) an awesome component of dance and ’50’s culture, it’s not an equally awesome manner of communicating. Along with mistaken communication there was also a great deal of intentional miscommunication, mainly on the part of my lovely daughters:

What mom? We can have 3 pieces of candy?!?

*I shake my head no*

Yes? You said yes?

*I shake my head no again* and quickly write N-O in big letters on a piece of paper, which is ignored as they each eat their 3 pieces of candy I “said they could have”…

I’m also baffled by the thought of how other’s who have lost their voice prior to the age of technology handled communication. With the  assistance of the internet/my smart phone, I was still able to communicate. I was able to email a professor to let her know I couldn’t attend class, text message information that needed to be relayed to my partner and even post an update on facebook letting people I know (many who live near me and who I see daily) what had happened, so they wouldn’t try to call to contact me.

Having regained limited vocal ability today (and just in time to video record a mock counseling interview for school this morning!) I realize how many abilities are taken for granted on a daily basis. Talking. The ability to walk. The ability to read. The ability to hear.

Flickr: Snoshuu

Today I am taking the opportunity to pause and reflect on how fortunate I am for all the abilities I do have, instead on focusing on any I may be lacking in.