Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Let's Play Series: Summer is HERE!

I'm trying to get my life together (I feel like I'm always saying this!) and I've come up with a summer schedule for my 2 and 3 year old! I wanted a schedule that allows for lots of playtime and exploration in a laid back, no pressure kind of way. I didn't want to be on a specific timeline, so I only chose a few things that require a specific time commitment. The rest of our schedule is on our terms!

This is the first summer that I feel like I'm ready for something structured. My kids are 19 months apart, and my youngest is now about 2.5 and I'm not tied down with needing to breastfeed a baby or rushing home for nap times (car naps are the WORST!!). I'm still pretty rigid with nap times, but they are old enough that we can be a little more flexible and it's not that big of a deal anymore. Last summer, my husband was deployed, so trying to do things by myself all the time with a 1 and 2 year old was truly a struggle some days. So I am READY to embrace a fun, active summer this year!!

As a former preschool teacher, I know it is possible to fit lots of activities into a day that work on many skills. I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself to do lots of learning activities with my kids, and then also feeling disappointed with myself that I haven't done much of those activities after all. I kept thinking that I suck as a mom because I have all this Early Childhood Education knowledge, and I'm not really using it very often on my own kids.

But then one day, I told myself, "ENOUGH!! STOP!!!"

Being a stay-at-home mom is a whole different ballgame from being a teacher in a classroom. I, of all people, should know that. Of course I'm not going to be able to do a million enriching activities at home - I'm busy doing everything else!! My kiddos are going to be *just fine* with doing a few activities here and there. While my husband was overseas for 12 months and I was solo-parenting, my mental health went to a place where I was just surviving. And I was pretty hard on myself. I didn't have very many positive self-thoughts. Survival mode for 12 months was hard, and I find that even 9 months later, I am still coming out of that mode. More on that topic another day! But anyway, I've come to realize that YOU DO NOT have to be amazing at everything, all the time. Life comes in seasons, and sometimes you're just going to feel a little defeated, and that's okay. We are all just doing the best we can in the circumstances we are in!

So, here is our summer schedule, based around what currently works for us!

6:30  Wake up, potty time/diaper change & get dressed, brush teeth, breakfast
7:15  Playtime, mom breakfast & coffee time, tidy kitchen
8:15  Exercise, shower. Kids *hopefully* play or watch tv.
9:30  Snack, Activity/Outing of the day
12:00  Lunch, tidy kitchen, dinner prep if needed
1:00  Nap/Quiet time
3:00  Tv time, snacks, chores
4:00  Outside time (weather permitting)
5:30  iPad time, make dinner
6:00  Dinner
6:30  Clean up time, baths if needed
7:00  Liam bedtime
7:45  Ava bedtime

**NOTE: this schedule does not apply to weekends!!! We like to be a little more spontaneous and ditch a little bit of the structure. But we still make nap times a priority!

I would like to include some comments about some things in our schedule.

First of all, we all know that every day is different. What we want to happen and what actually needs to happen are two totally different things!! So if we aren't exactly on time with each part of the day, we will just roll with it! Sometimes you just gotta say "screw the schedule!!"

My goal is to exercise daily. I will have rest days on the weekend, so I *should* be able to handle 5 days a week. I am usually a sweaty mess after working out, and depending on our day, I might shower immediately after or I might not. Regardless, I will at least need that time to get myself presentable for the day! I'm always more productive after I'm dressed! I ALSO RESERVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE A PAJAMA DAY. :)

With summer being super hot, we might have outside time in the morning, if we don't already have an outdoor activity planned. Our afternoon outside time will probably always involve water! Our backyard is partially shaded in the afternoon, so its the perfect set up for water play!

YES we do screen time - a variety of kids shows and movies and iPad games that are educational. I've decided it will work best to have a designated iPad time. That way, when they are whining for the iPad, I can say, we will have iPad time this afternoon. And also so I can (hopefully) cook dinner in peace!! Tv is the tool I use for my sanity to be able to run upstairs and shower (although most times they follow me anyway) or some cool-down time for the kids and/or me. Because let's be honest, we can't be awesome moms 24/7, and there's nothing wrong with putting on a show for a change of pace. Plus, for me, knowing that I've helped my kids learn a few things and be stimulated in other ways means that screen time has been "earned" for the day. Having 2 toddlers is no joke some days!!

Here's something else that might make you feel better (or surprise you!) - I don't always eat at the same time as my kids - GASP - and here's a few reasons why! My kids have nearly constant requests during mealtime. I'm constantly up and down from the table (I do ask them to wait so they are learning that they don't always get their demands met immediately) and that drives me NUTS when I'm trying to eat! They normally are fast eaters anyway, although occasionally they will spend 30-40 minutes eating and then I can sit and eat! So unless my food is ready to go and I'm feeling like I can hang with them and handle the interruptions, I usually choose to eat after they are done.

I have recently decided to stagger the kids' bedtimes. They have always had the same bedtime, except for when Liam was a young baby. But recently I've been thinking that the kids could really benefit from some time apart during the day. They are used to doing EVERYTHING together, which hasn't been a bad thing - its actually made my life easier in many ways- but now that Ava is headed into her Pre-K year, I feel that she needs some more individual attention. I'm excited to try separate bedtimes and also to see if maybe Ava will sleep in a little...she's such an early riser (usually around 5:45)!!

My kids are horrible at cleaning up toys. I feel like most parents could say the same about their kids! But here's the thing: our kids aren't born knowing what we mean by "clean up". They are overwhelmed by the mess and will probably struggle to stay on-task. The best way I've found to get them to clean up is to tell them a specific task that you want them to do. So, in our house, clean up time sounds like this, "Liam, pick up your cars and put them in this box (show him which box) and Ava, you can pick up all the baby dolls and put them in the crib". Clean up with them and model how to do it! It's a learning activity that will take some time. They are learning how to categorize toys ("pick up all the books/balls/superheroes/barbies/etc") and then thinking about where they should go. It is actually a pretty complicated task for them! Keep it fun; no yelling!! Then it just becomes a negative experience for everyone.  I still get frustrated at times when they don't stay on task, but that's pretty normal considering their ages! Ava drastically improved her clean-up abilities once attending school. I'm making a point to put clean-up time in our schedule because it is something the kids need to work on, and they always play better when they toys have been picked up! It teaches them how to be responsible and how to take care of their things. Something that has helped immensely in my house, is that Ava has learned that if she picks up the toys off of the rug, then we can vacuum! She loves to vacuum run around the room while I vacuum! She also loves to dance to music, and she knows we can only do that if all the toys are put away. So I have a feeling we will also be having a lot of dance parties every night after we clean up. And THAT, to me, is worth spending 15-20 minutes every night, directing and helping the kids pick up their toys. They love the reward of being able to dance with each other and with mommy and daddy!

I also want to add in a daily chore for both of my kids - what are some things your kids do to contribute to your household? I'm still working on this list! I know for sure that one chore will be wiping off the fingerprints on the sliding door! ;)

So anyway, this is my plan for our summer schedule!! Some days I'm sure we will totally ditch it, but I know it will help to keep me more productive and to make sure we aren't just sitting around at the house all summer.

It took me a few weeks to finally find a good balance of fun things to do and not making a list that was too ambitious. This schedule feels just enough of spontaneous AND routine, child-led and parent-led, and a good balance of activities inside the house, outside, and in our community.

I spent some time searching online for events in our area and pieced them into our summer. Most of the things I found are free, and some will cost a few bucks. And a few of our bigger adventures might be +$20, but I chose them because I think the kids will really enjoy them!

I've also added in a theme for each day of the week, and we will rotate through all of these activities! Pinterest is your friend if you are looking for fun things to do with your kids! I have a ton more ideas for crafts and learning activities, but I only listed a handful for now. And I added my daily chore! I hate cleaning bathrooms, and we have 2.5 of them, so I decided to split them into 2 days. I might have to tweak my list as the weeks go on!

Make It Monday/laundry, grocery day
Take a Trip Tuesday/laundry, tidy clutter
What's Cooking Wednesday/bathrooms
Thinking Thursday/bathrooms
Fun Friday/floors

Make It Monday
painting with Qtips
tissue paper on contact paper
paper plate crowns
watercolor coffee filters
paper plate spider web
cutting paper
noodle necklaces
paint 4th of July tshirt

Take A Trip Tuesday
Manhattan/Topeka/Salina zoo 
Discovery Center
Ft. Riley historic sites/museums
Milford Hatchery
Pet store
Children's Museum

What's Cooking Wednesday
dirt and worms cups
mini pizzas
fruit pizza cookies
banana bread
make your own pb&j
peanut butter apple slices

Thinking Thursday
board games (hungry hippos, bingo, memory, counting chickens)
name writing/tracing
counting activities
letter/shape/color recognition activities
building activities
sensory table activities (scooping and measuring sand, dry beans, dry pasta, dry rice)

Fun Friday
splash pad
beach access at the lake
lunch at a restaurant
wash the car
walk to the playground
Dollar Tree
open gym at gymnastics
Library story time

I'm really really really hoping that utilizing this schedule and list of activities will help my household. My kids (and myself) love to get out and about, and we all tend to go a little crazy if we stay in the house too long. I can definitely be a couch dweller and then I end up getting nothing done, so I'm hoping a routine while there is no school will help me!

I would love to hear about your ideas for your summer plans with your family - I'm so ready for a fun summer!!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When Life Throws You Bullsh*t

I feel like this is advice my mom would give to me if she were here.

She loved to garden and rarely cussed, but she had such a goofy sense of humor!

The first time I saw this, I laughed, because I could totally see her saying this to me when I complain about the struggles of military life.

I can't believe it's been 10 years, momma.

10 years that I've managed to go on without you.

One day at a time.

It's been 10 years of figuring out who I am without you, how to carry on, how to adapt.

10 years of discovering a strength I didn't realize that I had.

I am forever changed by you, from the 22 years we had together, and now by the always-increasing years that we are apart.

I look at life a little differently since you left.

I know that tomorrow is never a guarantee for any of us.

I'm a little less hesitant to go for what I truly want. I worry a little less about what others think.

I feel like I've entered a sisterhood of (young) motherless daughters.

But on the other hand, I'm happy to share my stories with others who are hurting, too.

I know what it means to support someone who is truly hurting. I had so many who supported me, and their generosity, no matter how small, will never be forgotten.

Grief is a difficult and complicated thing. 

No matter what kind of loss you suffer, grief never ends.

And everyone's journey through with grief can be different.

So don't compare.

It can be very difficult to navigate life without you.

It's hard to watch others plan weddings with their mothers.

It's hard to watch others celebrate a baby on the way with their mothers.

I missed you so much at Ava's baby shower. 

That day was so hard for me.

I could feel your absence in the room.

I don't know how else to explain it but there was literally a void. Like a physical void.

I knew you weren't there but I kept looking for you, scanning the room as if you were just hidden out of sight in the back.

It's hard to watch others dropping off their babies with grandma.

Or having a day out with their moms.

 Shopping and having lunch.

 It doesn't always upset me though; it's gotten a lot less painful over the last few years.

But on occasion, it will stab like a knife.


I really like the water/wave analogy. I've used that to describe my feelings a few times and it is exactly how it feels for me. And that's rare to be able to put words to feelings of grief.

I saw this while I was browsing online and I love it:

After all, it is what you would want.

Valentine's Day has been changed forever for me. 

It's a day of remembrance, pain and sorrow, but still, it is about love.

My heart will always feel a little heavy on this day.

But I know my momma's life had a purpose that is still being fulfilled with each day that passes.

She touched a lot of lives!

I think of her most when I am outside.

I like to just sit and imagine we are together.

I like to think she is with me, too.

I think we often create stories to help us "justify" or "explain" someone's passing. Especially if passing was sooner than a typical lifespan.

But I have to believe that my mom played a part in watching over my husband when he was deployed to Iraq and was involved in an IED explosion just one month after she died.

She had to have been there when Ava's delivery got complicated and her cord prolapsed. The doctors were even amazed Ava was unharmed. That delivery could have ended very differently.

I know that she was there and brought my husband home to me and protected our baby girl.

Maybe that's why she was called to heaven early; but I guess we will never know for sure.

Happy Valentine's Day, momma.

I'm sure heaven has the most beautiful lilies and roses!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Grief: Oh Hello, It's Me Again

Hey, its me.

It's been awhile since I've been on here.

I was putting Ava to bed tonight, just a few minutes ago, actually. We were laying there in the dark, and she asked to play with my hair. And by "play with my hair", I mean she uses my hair as a slide and all of her stuffed animals take turns going down the slide. It felt nice to have some quiet moments at the end of a busy day; I always love to hear Ava's quiet chatter as she plays with her animal friends. Her speech is emerging more and more every day and I love hearing what is on her mind. We have made a routine of talking about our day and what we are looking forward to tomorrow.

I was looking up at the hair bows hanging on Ava's wall when a giant wave of grief washed over me.

just out of nowhere.

The wave hit me and I almost literally felt like I had been slammed to the ocean floor.

I felt the wave first, and then the thought came to my head second:

my mom is not here to see any of this life that I have now.

When she left us, I was newly engaged and still living at home. I wasn't all wrapped up in this crazy military life yet. No kids. I was still just a kid myself. I mean I was 22, but that is still a very young adult with much life ahead to experience and feel. I was such a different person back then.

My mom faded during her 2 year battle with cancer. It was gradual. There were high highs and low lows, and toward the end, the fading came faster. We were holding on with all our strength. Every once in awhile my mind makes me walk through her final days on earth. I'm typing this with my eyes shut, tears pouring down my face; I can't put the memories into words but i feel them. Oh, how i feel them.

A lot of her final days are still a blur. Not many things stick out in my mind. I do remember a nurse gently telling us that the last thing to go would be her hearing, so even though her eyes are closed and she's not responding, that she can still hear us.

I think that was when it all really sank in for me. Like, oh...she means she's not going to come out of this. Like, this is the end.

And we just sat. And waited. Prayed for a miracle but we knew it was up to God.

The final days are torturous. And sometimes you don't know they are the final days. You don't know when the final hour will be.

I wish my mom was there for my wedding.

I never dreamed I wouldn't get to place her grand babies in her arms.

That I wouldn't get to call her for mothering advice.

Or talk about what I was like as a small child.

I often sit and wonder what my mom would have to say about this life I'm living now. If she'd want to help me decorate all of these houses we live in or tell me how to plant a garden.

In some ways I feel proud of how I've been able to thrive without her by my side, and in other ways, I wonder how much more fulfilled I'd feel if she were here.

I always wonder: what would we talk about??

The mind of a 22 year old is very different from a 32 year old.

It's hard for me to imagine.

I don't get these waves of grief very often. But this time, I thought I would race to the laptop and write them down while I was still feeling them. It's like therapy, I guess.

And I'm sharing because sadly I know more and more people who have lost a parent in the young adult stage of life. And I know that sharing stories and feelings brings a sort of comfort and strength to those who have been there too.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Song That Was Written For Me

I heard this song on the radio for the first time several months ago. I was immediately drawn to it, but I hadn't really taken the time to listen to all of the lyrics.
But when I finally did...I was blown away, and now I love it even more. It's my new obsession! The more I listen to it, the deeper meaning it has for me.
My husband and I met in the summer of 2005. It was a very transitional time for both of us, and this song basically summarizes that summer for us.
We met. We took a chance on each other. We took some risks. It felt a little crazy, a little whirlwind-esque, a little wild. At times I thought, what are we doing?! Is this worth it all? Is this going to last? And you can imagine how those feelings multiplied when he told me shortly after we were together that he wanted to join the Army. What would that mean for us while he was away at Basic Training and AIT? And so soon after we met...the questions were flying.
But we knew. We knew we were each others' forevers. We knew it from 2 weeks in. But just for the sake of being rational, we talked and pushed back the Army idea for another 6 months. We attended different Universities during that waiting period. 
And we still knew.
He joined the Army in the spring of 2006, and that fall he went to Basic and AIT. He came home, and we still knew.
Later that next year, he deployed to Iraq.
He came home in the middle of that deployment and we knew even more; he proposed to me!
When he came home, life was completely different for the both of us. We just knew.
We were married the summer of 2009, and since then we've moved all over and gone through so many things together and added 2 precious miracles to our lives. I never could have imagined that this is where life would have taken us! All because of the "what ifs" of the summer of 2005. This song brings tears to my eyes because it brings back all the intense emotions and fireworks of that summer. I can't even put into words how this song reminds me of how I found my soulmate and the one person who has my back, no matter what. Someone who understands me, who gets my weird and is my "person". He makes me feel safe and protected. No matter where we move, he is home for me. It doesn't matter where we go, how far away from home or how unfamiliar the town, it just doesn't matter. Going through this military life makes me value my marriage so much...its a wild ride and we have to cling to each other all that much more.
You say what if I hurt you, what if I leave you
What if I find somebody else and I don't need you
What if this goes south, what if I mess you up
You say what if I break your heart in two then what
Well I hear you girl, I feel you girl but not so fast
Before you make your mind up I gotta ask
What if I was made for you and you were made for me
What if this is it, what if it's meant to be
What if I ain't one of them fools just playin' some game
What if I just pulled you close, what if I leaned in
And the stars line up and it's our last first kiss
What if one of these days baby I'd go and change your name
What if I loved all these what ifs away
What if the sky falls (sky falls) or the sun stops burnin'
We could worry about them what ifs 'til the world stops turnin'
Or I could kiss you (you should kiss me), what if you liked it (bet I'd like it)
Well we ain't never gonna know unless we try it
What if I was made for you and you were made for me
What if this is it, what if it's meant to be
What if I ain't one of them fools just playin' some game
What if I just pulled you close, what if I leaned in
And the stars line up and it's our last first kiss
What if one of these days baby I'd go and change your name
What if I loved all these what ifs away
Awe yeah
You say what if I hurt you, what if I leave you
What if I find somebody else and I don't need you
What if I was made for you and you were made for me
What if this is it, what if it's meant to be
What if I ain't one of them fools just playin' some game
What if I just pulled you close, what if I leaned in
And the stars line up and it's our last first kiss
What if one of these days baby I'd go and change your name
What if I loved all these what ifs away
Away (away)
What if?
Written by Kane Brown, Matthew John Mcginn, Jordan Mark Schmidt • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc