Got the Holiday Blues?

Tonight I am sitting here with my children as they watch a Christmas movie. Personally, I am so excited to have the enjoyment of the holidays in our house amidst another stay-at-home order in place. But, I also sit here, struggling to write something upbeat and from the heart.

Writing for my blog has been hard because I have felt more struggle and less positivity in my parenting arena lately. I have been writing. I’ve been writing a lot, actually. But not in the realm of non-fiction. My attention has been captured by novel fiction writing. But writing about parenting hasn’t been easy lately because I have been at a loss for how to handle the needs of our children, thus, lacking the ability to share our successes.

Truth is, I’ve been struggling a lot. It is hard working full time while helping our oldest learn from home. I have been quite thankful for daycare for the two younger kiddos, but the cost of it adds to our daily stresses. And our oldest, J, has been having a difficult time with learning and focusing, leaving us with a lot of school work and not a lot of time. There are many days we do his school work well into the evenings, my husband trading off tasks with me so I can work while watching the younger two.

The children have become restless as well. Spending much of this year stuck at home, they are struggling to find excitement in each passing day. And with the shorter days, this is even more difficult. We are running out of ways to keep them entertained, and our children are acting up with no way to control their frustrations.

We thought a good way to combat this would be a vacation for our holidays. However, this dream could only remain a dream, because traveling is off the books, and unsafe. Yet, bombarding them with presents that consist of more toys won’t suffice either.

While this is only a summary of events in our home, and far more complex than just a few paragraphs can encompass, it is our reality. And it’s the reality of many families. Trying to keep children engaged, on their best behavior, and healthy, is a big challenge. School from home and work from home is yet another big challenge. And none of us really know how to navigate this new world we are living in, nor do we know how much will remain the same when we can better treat COVID.

This is a challenge. Our new world is hard. Perhaps harder than it was before. But it isn’t worse, it’s just different, and learning how to navigate the change is our hurdle for this year.

I would like to wish you all the best as we become emerged in the depths of this holiday season. Remember you are not alone, even if at times it may feel like it. We are all trying to figure this out, and we can all relate to one another in one way or another. If you are feeling the blues from the last few months and in this holiday season, this is okay. Just know we will all make it through, together.

In the thick of it

Okay, how many parents feel like you are in the thick of it? Like never before. Yes, you no doubt know the feeling, and you can say first hand this stuff, the stuff we are working through, is some of the hardest!

We knew technology was ever evolving. We’ve talked about how our children would know technology beyond what we could fathom. We thought we would keep it at bay, fearing technology would keep them from productive things in life, and cause negative health impacts. Yet, here we are, running learning from a computer screen, at home.

Our six year old who is now attempting to navigate the first grade, with us dragging him every step of the way, kicking and screaming (and it’s unclear whether the child or the parent is the loudest, most resistant). He is learning to type, take photos, use a touch mouse, and get from one app to another, all with minimal reading and writing skills. He’s a wiz! He can show me how to do something that takes me much longer to figure out, and I know technology.

And yet, he’s still writing by hand, journaling, drawing pictures, working through math problems, and participating. He’s still developing all the skills we thought technology would remove from him. And, best yet, he knows when it’s time to walk away from all the tech and get out and play. A fine balance is happening here.

Now, I’m not one to say this all doesn’t come at a major cost of time, struggle and effort. This child of ours has zero ability to sit still for even five seconds (unless he’s ill). He cannot focus, and must be fighting through a thousand thoughts a second in his mind. I can only imagine what he struggles with internally.

And us? The parents? Well, we are both working full time and attempting to also raise a young toddler and a preschooler. Balance seems to not be our forte. We cannot keep up with anything and constantly feel like we are failing at everything.

For me, working from home adds a completely different level of stress and necessity. I am not sure how I’m managing any of it, and while I find pride in accomplishing even a single task, I turn around and cry because I feel like I am not giving anything my everything. And for someone who feels like things need to be successful and complete, this is not an easy pill to swallow.

None of our children are getting their particular emotional needs met, because we have too many balls in our court at any given time. Our oldest, while getting a bunch of attention from us directing his learning, falls short on feeling complete from the one on one fun time. Because, by the time we are done with his learning, we are scrambling to give the other two any semblance of devoted attention we can. But they feel left out because of the learning shift as well. So now we have a home full of children who are acting out because their emotional cups aren’t filled.

And speaking of emotional cups…My husband and I are so drained. So exhausted. So stressed. So…burnt…out… We aren’t filling our cups or our relationship’s cup. It’s just one exhausting day compounding on the next.

So where’s the light in this storm? Well…let me share. It’s in finding the funny, cute moments. It’s in reminding ourselves to be kind even when we feel like we cannot. It’s in seeing little successes. It’s in making it through another day and realizing we are one more step toward a weekend. It’s in the beautiful moments when our children do miraculous things (like potty training).

It’s in remembering that despite having limited adventures, we get to spend more time as a family than ever before.

Even if that means doing ten million things all at once, diverting our attentions in multiple directions, and trying to pull off a juggling act even the best of performers cannot fathom.

This is real life. This is what it’s like to be in the thick of it.

It is messy, hard, busy, exhausting, unappreciative, ungrateful, overwhelming, tear jerking, beautiful, rewarding, and strengthening.

It is perfectly impossible. And that is exactly where we want to be.

Family Friday: When to not lose your mind

By the end of the week, who else struggles to keep it together as a parent? I know that I struggle, especially since my world has shifted to being at home with the children all the time, work or not.

Today has been a particular challenge for me as our daughter is communicating only through whining and fits, and our oldest is choosing to shout at others and throw tantrums when needing to consider others. Even our youngest has chosen to squeal at his siblings every time they take a toy from him. I have been channeling my inner calm, but it feels as though it is ready to fail.

So at what point do we have to make a choice? Lose our minds, or continue on the path to betterment? Sometimes the choice doesn’t even seem to be our own, as our emotions take the wheel and steer us in whatever direction they feel is appropriate. Here is what I would like you to try today…

Every time you feel the anger or frustration boiling up, getting ready to take you over: Stop. Just stop whatever you are doing, and whatever action you think you need to take. This, of course, is superseded by the necessity of keeping your child safe, so if they are in danger, continue on. If all is safe: Stop.

Now, take a deep breath, and now a few more. While you are doing this think of the best way to approach the situation. Why is your child frustrating you? What could be driving their own emotions? Could your emotions even be feeding theirs? Now, address these things in your mind before addressing them out loud.

Sometimes we are reactive when we shouldn’t be. Perhaps our children are just being children. Maybe they are taking extra long to clean up their messes because children learn through play, and they are playing as they clean. Or maybe they are trying to learn how to work things out among themselves, even if that means crying and getting frustrated with one another. There are a million other maybes, those possible situations, so stop and think about yours.

Now, if the actions warrant your response, you can respond. But, now that you have stopped and taken some nice calming breaths, your response should be calm, without raising your voice, or getting overly frustrated. You should be able to deliver your message clearly and fairly.

I encourage you, on this Family Friday, to implement these steps. In the end, everyone benefits short and long term. You have got this!

Family Friday: Recommitting to Wednesday’s Goals

How is everyone doing with the parenting goals they set on Wednesday? For me, I can say it has been a bit of a challenge, but every time I raise my voice I remind myself to start again. Right then and there. Because I can do better!

Yesterday, on what is typically Self-Care Thursday, the kids and I drove about 240 miles to see my family. My husband could not take the time off work, so is traveling now, after a full shift, to join us late tonight. So, for this, it has been an extra challenge.

A reminder I have been giving myself though, is this is fun for them. It doesn’t matter that traveling is difficult with three young children, especially during COVID. It doesn’t matter that finding entertainment and keeping them happy is not so simple when we are away from our normal amenities at home. It does not matter if I miss my husband and wish he was here to help with all that comes with travel. For them, what matters is that they are on an adventure and finding new ways to enjoy themselves, as well as creating new memories with family.

That is what matters.

And if I yell at J for opening the door fifty times, he will remember the frustration instead of the adventure. Yes, I admit, I have shouted at him several times, because all the kids cry when there are flying bugs…

And if I get frustrated at A for for wanting to sing herself to sleep because she is keeping the others awake, I might be squashing her dreams of becoming a singer…

And if I get frustrated at B for putting dirt in his mouth, then I’ll be getting wrapped up in the wrong attitude. Because, the dirt will likely not hurt him…

Change, real change, can take a month. Sometimes longer. And, honestly, we can always work on improving more and more.

So, my friends, I am still working at this. I am not perfect. And thank goodness, because then I’d have no way to relate or understand others. And, boy, would this life be boring.

Are you still working on your goals? How can I help you to obtain yours?

Family Friday: Let’s do it together mom

Have your children ever asked, begged even, to let them help you?

Our oldest son has been asking for years, it seems, to help us. He has a big interest in helping with food and meal prep. He even loves cracking eggs (though I’m quite resistant to this idea). Our daughter has recently joined in on the trend, but with many different tasks.

Today the kids did not want to come downstairs to get a snack on my schedule (busy mama trying to manage all the things), so I let them know they could get their own snacks when they were ready. This is part of my attempt to ignite some independence. But, not long after they started in on prepping their own snacks I joined them.

J had already washed strawberries when I came downstairs, and had served some to his sister on a paper plate. It was quite sweet, the way he announced to me, “I washed the strawberries for us mama, because I watched you and know how to do it.” I told him he was doing a good job, then asked him if he’d like me to rinse the blueberries he was getting out.

He promptly replied, “no mama, I can get it,” then paused and said, “or we could do it together.” It was a thoughtful statement. I glanced up at the TV, playing Daniel Tiger, and wondered if this prompt was initiated by the current message of the program.

I asked him how he would like to do it together, since it is typically a one person job. He knew exactly how I could help though. He asked me to finish putting the blueberries in the colander so he could rinse them off.

The entire moment was wonderful. And it was initiated by the reminder I gave myself in the morning to say yes and take time. A reminder I should give myself daily.

Today, choose to say yes and do something together. It will initiate a perfect Family Friday moment.

Family Friday: Another sprinkler Friday

Yes, today we spent the evening letting the kids run through the sprinkler again. And why wouldn’t we? The weather is perfect, the family time is ideal. When things align, we go for it!

In the summer the sprinkler can be one of the simplest pleasures for children. And while, as parents, we might initially resist because we may feel pulled to do something else, it is really an enjoyable thing for us too. If you are ready to run through the sprinkler yourself, your kids will think it’s awesome and hilarious. If you choose to sit and watch, your children will enjoy having an audience and will ask you to watch all their new tricks.

Today our two oldest kids were granted the opportunity to spend the day with their grandparents. This meant they were exhausted when we picked them up, but they wanted so badly to play in the sprinkler. Additionally, since our youngest had to spend his day with boring mama, he was so ready to play with his siblings. So we got them changed and set them all loose in the backyard. Our youngest was so excited to play in the water, and kept going despite his shivers. It was adorable!

My hubby and I sat there and watched them galavant through the sprinkling water. We heard countless “watch this” calls, and shouts of excitement. We laughed many times watching all of them enjoy their time.

I encourage you, before your summer runs out, take a little time, regularly. Let the kids be kids, and play in the water. It will make their souls sing, and will create so many lasting memories. Go jump through that sprinkler!

Family Friday: Let’s talk firework safety

On this Family Friday I feel my nursing education and emergency department background shining through. As well as everything I learned from my childhood years of watching my dad as a firefighter and paramedic. Today I want to talk about the important stuff we try to ignore this time of year.

Fire and firework safety is often overlooked in an urgent desire to have fun and celebrate. But all too often skipping these reminders can be detrimental and have lasting effects. So today I put my motherly nursing hat on to share some reminders as you prepare to have a blast this weekend!

1. Children should NEVER light fireworks. Until you are older than 21, sometimes 25, you don’t have the cognitive ability to really think of safety over enjoyment and showing off your “skills” for others. There is no clear understanding of when the firework might fail, or when it might be a slow reactor. Also, special awareness is limited in children and teenagers, with the desire to get much closer than ever necessary.

2. Have your kids stay a safe distance from all fireworks! Do not let them run around on the street. Have them sit in their chairs or at a safe distance for watching. Don’t expect your children will automatically know this either. Talk to them, explain that the beauty can also be dangerous, and fireworks are for watching only.

3. Lead by example – don’t tamper with potentially failed fireworks. If the firework isn’t working the way it should, stay away. Simple as can be. And after quite some time, 10 minutes at least, approach after spraying it down and dunk it in a bucket of water where it can remain for the night.

4. Alcohol and fire do not mix! Obviously I cannot convince the world to not drink alcohol on the 4th of July. But, I encourage a safe limit to avoid inebriation. Also, do not put alcohol near fire. It will lead to further explosions that will result in massive burns.

5. Keep a bucket of water available and a hose on and ready. You can even be extra cautious by spraying down your lawn, plants, brush, house, whatever can lead to fire spread should a firework go wrong.

6. Sparklers are not for young children. They do not understand that fire cannot be touched, and cannot understand it has to be let go when too hot to hold.

7. Mortars are not for neighborhoods, nor for people who don’t have training in pyrotechnics. Yes, I realize this is a point of contention, but it is reality. Many injuries come from the misuse of fireworks. Just as many house fires come from those who shoot off mortars in neighborhoods without the proper equipment.

8. Burns need immediate care. If you get burned and there’s a break in your skin, go be seen by a medical professional.

9. Protect yourself and protect your children. If you are unsure about something, don’t do it. If you feel a sense of hesitancy, listen to it.

10. Have fun. Be safe. Make great memories!

Family Friday: Splash party

There are many forms of Family Friday, from movie night to pizza night. But the great thing about Family Friday is there are 52 each year, which allows for variations. Some may be planned, others may be spontaneous.

This Family Friday I am talking about fun in the hot summer sun (even if the heat doesn’t last, because likely it won’t). And a little time to let the kids have a wild and crazy splash party, because it brings them joy. And when they are happy, well, our parenting souls smile.

Today we had a splash party! We blew up our little pool and let our kids splash, play, have water gun fights, and eat outdoor snacks all day. They loved it!

What an amazing gift to watch your children experience the same amazing times you did as a kid. To just soak up all that summer and childhood has to offer.

I heard several times today, “This is the best day ever!” Anytime a kid says that, you know it’s a good day! And with COVID limiting our outings, we have to make our own exciting adventures at home.

Cheers to a great Family Friday! I do hope you had a wonderful one.

Family Friday: End the school year with a bang

Well, today was the last day of school for our kids here in Washington. Yes, even though we have been home for months, it was a milestone worth celebrating. And just like that, we have a first grader!

J’s school had a reverse parade for all the elementary students. So we loaded up in the car, rolled down our windows and drove through the school parking lot at snail’s pace to wave to the faculty. The masked teachers waved and shouted, surrounded by balloons and bubbles. It was fun and yet, so surreal.

I think with offering education at home we can forget to take time to celebrate these milestones. So today I’m offering the reminder to have a little family happy dance.

This year we celebrate our children moving forward. But we also celebrate navigating the unknown, learning how to homeschool while managing our own career stresses. We shared our vulnerabilities in navigating a pandemic, then a revolutionary movement. And we grew as families all over our nation.

Remember an all too famous quote, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. Thanks to Kelle Clarkson we can even sing this quote and dance along. But this is so true! We are stronger than we have ever been.

This Family Friday, make time to celebrate all your successes, big and small. Give your kiddos a high five and hug, because they have learned how to embrace change well. You have all done a great job!

Family Friday: Make funny faces

I think some of the best memories come from making funny faces with our kids. They are so expressive! And they love to be silly.

Sometimes we just need to have little moments to bring enjoyment and happiness into our lives. Moments don’t need to be grand or take a lot of planning or time. They just need to be genuine. And making silly faces at each other is a good way to strike up an entertaining moment where you can also connect with your child or children.

Have you noticed how people will engage in conversation on social media regarding a kiddo making silly faces? How about those baby GIFs that make us all laugh? It is because we all enjoy the silly moments and the expressions that bring joy. So why not incorporate it into your days with your kiddos?

This week, try to have some silly face contests. Or moments of making funny faces at each other. You will create some good memories and connect with your kids. No matter how silly, you will feel great. In fact, the sillier the better!