If you've ever flown, you've heard the airline safety demonstration about putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others if the cabin pressure were to drop in the plane. Fortunately, I've never had to make the decision between myself or my child getting an oxygen mask first, but I think my instinct (like many parents) would be to help my child first. When I think about it intellectually, I understand that hypoxia, or a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the brain, can cause many issues including confusion to the point of being unable to help others or even yourself. In the moment, though, it's hard to think intellectually, and that's why flight attendants remind us every time we fly!
In the same way that prioritizing our own oxygen supply is critical for saving the lives of those around us in a hypothetical plane crash, it is necessary to prioritize caring for yourself so that you can better care for your loved ones. Self-care can mean different things to different people from a massage to an hour alone to reading a book. Self-care can sometimes feel like an indulgence that we shouldn't desire when, in fact, it's something we should not ignore.
In his article, Dr. Matthew Glowiak from Southern New Hampshire University said, "In a society in which people are expected to work long hours and pass on vacation days, there is an underlying belief that we must always be productive – which can ultimately take away from opportunities for self-care. But by taking some time out to engage in self-care, you may relieve the pressures of everyday life and reset yourself to get back to a healthy point where productivity is once again maximized."
As I was researching for this post, something so obvious began to emerge from my own experience. These days when I hear the word mask, I don't think of oxygen masks on a plane, but instead I think of the homemade cloth masks that I've made over the past several months to help protect my family and those around us from the COVID-19 pandemic. Very early on in the first lock down, I purchased a basic sewing machine. I had to have my 7th grader teach me how to use it since he'd recently taken Family and Consumer Sciences in school. I remember scavenging for old t-shirts and scrap fabric that I could use to make masks. This was back when you couldn't find pre-made cloth masks and the disposable ones had all been bought up. Because of my lack of sewing skills, it took me hours to make just one mask, but I made enough for my whole family (in the event that we'd actually leave the house!)
Over time and with practice, my sewing skills and access to fabric and thread improved enough that I was able to begin making more masks. I made masks for my husband, two sons, some friends, and then more for the kids. I was wearing and washing, wearing and washing the three masks I had (two made for me by a friend and one that I'd made myself.) I bought fabric to make myself more, but whenever I got the sewing machine out, I ended up making masks for other people and put my own masks at the bottom of the priority list.
Only today when I was thinking about the parallels between putting on your own oxygen mask first and the importance of self-care did it hit me that I need to make myself some masks! I'm the one in the family that spends the most time away from the house due to my job, but yet, everyone else has more masks than me. Once I have enough masks, I will feel more secure, less frustrated and spend less time laundering my small supply of masks.
There are selfish people in this world, but many of us think of others before ourselves. It's time to begin looking at self-care as a way to help others. Perimeter Health Care in Georgia explains on their website that, "Self-care encourages you to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself so that you can transmit the good feelings to others. You cannot give to others what you don't have yourself."
Consider these easy ways to care for yourself:
Even though the metaphor of oxygen masks meant actual masks in my life, it can mean anything in yours. Choose at least one way to care for yourself this week because if you continue to give to others without caring for yourself, the less you are going to have to give. Put your mask on first!
Glowiak, Matthew. “What Is Self-Care and Why Is It Important For You?” Southern New Hampshire University, 14 Apr. 2020, www.snhu.edu/about-us/newsroom/2020/04/what-is-self-care.
Coffey, Helen. “Hypoxia Definition - Why Adults SHOULD Do Their Oxygen Mask BEFORE a Child's on a Flight.” Express.co.uk, Express.co.uk, 24 Jan. 2017, www.express.co.uk/travel/articles/758140/hypoxia-definition-flight-mask.
“The Importance of Self-Care.” Perimeter Healthcare, 2020, www.perimeterhealthcare.com/about/news/the-importance-of-self-care/.
The definition of a hobby is, "an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation." Hobbies can range from photography to gardening to playing an instrument to needlepoint to starting a blog. Most of us have at least one, and if you don't - well, you should!
You probably fill several roles - employee, parent, child, volunteer and the list goes on and on. In a previous post I wrote about the busy badge many people have awarded themselves that sometimes provides an excuse not to engage in a hobby. In the last twenty years, there has been a decline in adult participation in hobbies, and I don't think it's any coincidence that in that time frame the popularity of social media has increased exponentially. Today, we waste much more time scrolling than it would take to learn a new skill.
You may think that being engaged with your career is more important than a hobby, but science suggests the two are not mutually exclusive. A study in the Journal of Occupational Health and Organizational Psychology studied hundreds of employees and found those with a hobby outside of work were more creative in work-related projects, had a better attitude, and were less likely to suffer from burnout.
What about the time and attention your kids deserve? Not to worry, your hobbies don't need to wait - just involve the kids in some of them. Licensed and Independent Clinical Social Worker, Alison Ratner Mayer, explains that hobbies are a wonderful way to bond with your child. "There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. "
Hobbies can actually improve productivity! In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parksinson, a British historian wrote an article in The Economist that began with the sentence, "It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Today we refer to this as Parkinson's Law. The more time you have available to get something done, the longer it takes to complete. Having a hobby gives you something to do at either a set time (like get to your bowling league) or something to look forward to (like getting out your sewing machine.) You still have other responsibilities, but because you have a hobby to get to, you aren't as likely to stretch those tasks out.
"...work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."
A Psychology Today article explains that in addition to all of the benefits we've already talked about, hobbies can help you create new social connections, make you more interesting and help you cope with stress. Research has shown that those who spent leisure time engaging in a hobby displayed lower blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, and body mass index. They also had lower levels of depression. An article from Verywell Mind, a mental health resource partner of the Cleveland Clinic, states that part of the reason for this may be that "hobbies provide a slice of work-free and responsibility-free time in your schedule. This can be especially welcome for people who feel overwhelmed by all that they have to do and need to recharge their batteries by doing something they enjoy."
After all of the reasons I've shared so far, I think you probably agree hobbies are a good thing, but what I have struggled with is how to keep them fun so they provide all of the great benefits we've discussed. One reason I have failed to carve out time for hobbies in the past is when they were inconvenient. I like to sew, but I had all of my sewing stuff in a hard to reach spot, and anytime I wanted to sew, I'd have to nearly do a back-bend to get everything out. I recently up-cycled an old metal cart that I've had since I got married in 2002! It used to hold laundry supplies between an old washer and dryer, and then spent years in the garage holding spray paint. After some scrubbing, it became eligible for my new sewing supplies cart. It tucks nicely under my counter in my craft area and is light weight so I can move it around easily. Now because I don't dread getting everything set up to sew, I'm much more likely to do it!
I struggled to continue with some hobbies when they turned into more of a requirement than an outlet. This blog is a great example. I started this as a hobby and for fun. I like to write, I like to organize and become more productive, so this made sense. Soon, I felt like it was taking too much of my time, and it started to feel like work because my standards were to high. I finally gave myself permission not to be the absolute best blogger or side-hustler and reminded myself that it was a hobby and hobbies are supposed to be FUN! Once I started looking at it through that lens, it again became enjoyable.
Lastly, I used to feel like hobbies were selfish. A couple years ago, I changed my mind about that when my husband and I joined a bowling league. Now we have a shared hobby (complete with our own bowling balls and shoes!) We even go on bowling dates (as my kids call them) to practice. It's only a few hours every other week, but it's a shared experience and guaranteed time together. I also like to play the piano, and this is one that I've been able to share with my kids through teaching them to play. It gives me a lot of joy to be able to share something I enjoy with them.
What about you - do you have a hobby that you want to make more fun? Try making it more convenient, lowering your standards a bit, or sharing it with someone in your family! Hobbies are an important outlet and you owe it to yourself to have one - and to enjoy it!
“Definition of Hobby.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, 2020, www.dictionary.com/browse/hobby?s=t.
Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash
Kurtz, Jaime. “Six Reasons to Get a Hobby.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 15 Sept. 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happy-trails/201509/six-reasons-get-hobby.
Eschleman, Kevin J., et al. “Benefiting from Creative Activity: The Positive Relationships between Creative Activity, Recovery Experiences, and Performance‐Related Outcomes.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 17 Apr. 2014, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/joop.12064.
Parkinson, C Northcorte. “Parkinson's Law.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 1955, www.economist.com/news/1955/11/19/parkinsons-law.
Elizabeth Scott, MS. “The Importance of Hobbies for Stress Relief.” Verywell Mind, 14 Sept. 2020, www.verywellmind.com/the-importance-of-hobbies-for-stress-relief-3144574.
Mayer, Alison Ratner. “The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child.” Child Therapy Boston, 16 July 2017, childtherapyinboston.com/2017/07/16/the-benefits-of-sharing-a-hobby-with-your-child/.
Photo by Darling Arias on Unsplash
We woke up early on the first day of the 2020-2021 school year only to learn that our home internet was out! Since we were all planning to spend the day learning and working online, we had a few moments of panic. Luckily the internet came back on before long and held steady the rest of the day!
I had planned every detail of virtual learning at our house, but there was still something out of my control. It's good to be reminded that no matter how well we plan, the unexpected still happens. I think this school year may teach us all that lesson many times over! Because there is so much in life that we cannot control, it is helpful to be organized because that gives us the capacity to handle the unexpected when it comes our way.
Whether your kids are doing virtual learning at home full-time or their school has a hybrid approach where just part of the week is e-learning, being a parent of a school-aged child this school year is going to be a challenge! I am trying to use organization to help make the experience as smooth as possible, and I thought I'd share some of my ideas with you.
Challenge # 1: Not enough workspace
We are excited to have my older son's best friend and his younger sister joining us for virtual learning. It gives our kids some socialization and makes their school day much more fun! But we had to get creative to fit everybody in our home and still keep distance between them.
We live in an 1800 square foot, nearly 150 year old house with no spare bedroom or office. On days when I work from home to help supervise the school day, there are six people to fit into the space! We decided that we wanted everyone on the same floor, so we are not using bedrooms as classrooms. Because of that, not every kid has enough room to have all of their books and supplies next to them at all times. We solved that problem with a set of plastic drawers labelled with each kid's name. The drawers are on wheels so if I want to get rid of the school look, I can roll them into the laundry room!
We decided that since most of the school day will be spent on Google Meets with headphones on, it didn't really matter if kids were in the same room because they rarely have to talk out loud during live class. We set the two older kids up in the kitchen and the younger two in the living room in a configuration so no one gets in anyone else's videos!
My husband works in our bedroom on a slim table that we set in front of a window, and when I'm working from home, I work in my craft area. Even though it's a little crowded, I made everyone their own nameplate for their space to define it as theirs. I got acrylic frames for photo booth pictures for less than a dollar, then used scrapbook paper and some markers to make every "desk" a little special. At the end of the day, the kitchen kids have to put everything in their drawer so my family can eat dinner at the same table, but it works!
Challenge #2: Confusing schedule
We have two different schedules with different break times for the elementary and the middle school, and then there are alternating days for certain classes - it gets confusing fast! I got two white boards and two inexpensive easels (check the photo frame section for these) to display the schedule. I used different colors to help the kids easily find their next class. For the schedules that alternate, there is a magnet that indicates what day it is. We have one white board in each room to keep kids on track.
I also created a printable daily schedule that lists each class time, class, and code for the live video session as well as check boxes for other daily requirements. These were great for the first week while everyone was getting used to their schedules. After the second week, we probably won't need these anymore and can just maintain a list of codes for the videos.
One thing I love about virtual learning is how much extra physical activity the kids are getting because they can go outside and play, go on a bike ride, or just get some sunshine during breaks. But it's important for them to stay on schedule, so setting timers is a great way to help kids manage their time and get back to their seats in time for the next session.
Challenge #3: Tech Issues
I work in IT for my day job, so I am used to tech issues! The biggest lesson here is to teach your child how to fix issues rather than fixing them all yourself. It's amazing how even young children can learn to troubleshoot an issue when you take the time to show them how. Before school starts, go through their device with them and explain the basics. Don't assume they know how to open a new tab on a web browser or even turn down the volume. Chances are you may have to show them a few times, but if you take the time at the beginning to teach them how to help themselves, you won't be needed as much later on.
We've already run into broken links, unknown passwords, and pictures and videos that wouldn't display. Teachers have been very honest that this is all new to everyone, so don't feel bad about asking them for help or letting them know when something isn't going quite right - but be nice!! Taking a photo of exactly what you are seeing on your kid's device may be more helpful than trying to explain it in words.
Slow or overloaded internet will surely be a problem at some point. If that happens, try limiting video to only when it's needed. Most teachers have a recording if something goes wrong and you can't participate live. You may have to roll with it!
"Chances are you may have to show them a few times, but if you take the time at the beginning to teach them how to help themselves, you won't be needed as much later on."
Challenge #4: I have to work!
Many of us are working parents, and work doesn't just stop when school starts. We are in unprecedented times, and employers are trying to make accommodations but still stay in business. There are some who can't work from home because of the nature of their job. This is where we have to stick together and help each other out! I'm fortunate because my husband works from home, but I am trying to be very aware that he has a full time job and as willing as he is to be a teacher as well, I need to pitch in where I can. I occasionally work from home to give him a break, and I also review schedules for the next day and make lists, monitor homework assignments, etc. the night before so the days are smoother.
No matter what kind of job you have or how high up you are in an organization, all employees are just people and many of them are parents dealing with virtual school. Even those who don't have kids themselves, have a child or teacher in their lives and can understand the challenges of juggling work and school responsibilities. Several times a week on conference calls, I hear someone's child in the background or someone on the call has to excuse themselves to help with a school issue. It doesn't bother me a bit - I get it! We are all trying to do our best, and no one can deny that our kids' education is important.
To help stay focused at work when you are at home with school-aged kids, set them up with everything they need before you start your workday. Designate your own workspace and clearly communicate when kids are allowed to enter that space and at what times they need to be quiet. You may consider a sign or visual reminder of these things for younger children. Schedule your breaks around the kids' breaks so you can check homework, answer questions, and enjoy seeing their faces in the middle of they day. You may need to talk to your boss about working an alternate schedule. If there are hours that you need to dedicate to school, is it possible you could work some in the early morning or late evening to make up for that time?
None of us know how long we will be dealing with virtual school, so I encourage you to identify your top challenges and come up with strategies to address them. Organize yourself in other areas of your life to give you more room in your day to deal with the challenges at hand.
Have a great school year!
We are living in a historic time, and many of us are battling conflicting emotions that change multiple times a day. We are in a situation we’ve never been in before nor has anyone ever been! It’s a struggle to sort out the truth from the rhetoric, and a true balancing act between staying informed and becoming obsessed. Our physical and our mental health seem like they are somethings being pitted against each other, and it's been difficult to lead a "regular" life over the past several months.
For me, part of my "regular" life for the past 3 years has been this blog, but I soon realized that it had been months since my last blog post. When stay-at-home orders first hit, I was just busy with my day job in IT, so I skipped a couple of weeks. Then I became envious of those I saw posting on social media about how they were embracing the “pause” in daily life. My work life had not paused, and in fact I was working more hours with more stress than ever, and I still had to be a good boss, a supportive wife, an attentive parent, and even a teacher! The only thing I felt that I could allow myself to “pause” was my blog - so I stopped writing.
About a month after my last blog post, I realized that not ONE person had noticed I hadn’t written or posted on social media, so I became discouraged wondering why I should even start up again. I began to use any pockets of time that I could find to do other things I enjoyed like reading, working in the yard, learning to sew, going on walks with my husband, and spending bonus time with my kids.
I came to love being quarantined with my family. I liked not having to share them with anyone and how having more forced time together took away the guilt of alone time. I began to feel like time was slowing down - it was almost like freezing time that I wrote about a couple years ago. Even though my day job went from crazy busy to sort of normal and back to frantic several times over the past 3 months, I had the ability to work from home during much of that time which was just plain good for my soul. I became more productive and more balanced. I recognize that my family was very fortunate to avoid layoffs and have a comfortable home in which to ride out the quarantine time, and I felt guilty about being in that position when many others weren’t.
Even when I wanted to write, I didn’t know what to say. Believe me, I had - and still have - lots of feelings about the pandemic, the economy, racism, protests, politics, etc. But all of those topics can be very divisive, and I didn’t want to compound the issues by posting my opinions during such tumultuous times. Then I felt more guilt for not sharing my heartfelt thoughts.
"I want to teach them to acknowledge and learn from the past, see others' viewpoints, and develop empathy and understanding."
I see things through the lens of a parent, so as events continued to unfold over the past few months, I knew I had to explain them to my sons truthfully and in a way not to scare them but to educate and guide them. I want to instill in them that threats to health and safety exist and that it’s not just about their chances of getting sick, but it’s about respecting and protecting their family, friends, and community. I want to instill in them that all human life has the same value and, though injustice exists, it’s our personal responsibility to treat others kindly, respectfully, and equally. I want to teach them by example that we have to speak up when we see or hear something that is not right, and getting angry isn’t wrong as long as we control that anger and funnel it in a productive way. I want to teach them to acknowledge and learn from the past, see others’ viewpoints, and develop empathy and understanding.
All of the heaviness of this spring weighed me down, and it became easier and easier to put off getting back to my blog. I even thought about stopping all together, but a couple of weeks ago my high school best friend launched a new small business on Facebook (please check 4 Designs by Tara!) I immediately wanted to help her be successful - and that’s when I remembered the energy I get from helping others achieve their goals. THAT’S why I do this, because my passion is helping others succeed through identifying their goals and organizing themselves and their homes in a way that makes them productive. So, I’m back - I’m done feeling guilty, insecure, lazy, and ashamed. I’m back to chasing my passion which is helping you achieve yours!
I look forward to reconnecting with all of you!
I’m launching the next session of Achieve!, the group goal setting and accountability group for women, in mid-September with a 6 week session. If you have a goal you need help achieving or even need help determining what your goal is, this small group, virtual program may be just what you need. Learn more about the program here. If you decide to sign up, use coupon code: EARLYBIRD by 8/15/20 for your first week free!
Many around the world are hunkered down at home to help slow the spread of COIVD-19. I think this is the perfect time to get some projects done at home! During times of uncertainty, it's easy to become anxious and overwhelmed about the things we can't control. Small, achievable projects can give us a way to keep our minds off of the sometimes scary reality and also regain some control in our lives. Many of you may be off work or working from home for the next 14 days, so read on for 14 organizing projects you can get done in one day or less!
1. Switch your wardrobe from Winter to Spring
At least the timing is about right for putting away winter clothes and getting out your Spring/Summer wardrobe. Make sure to donate winter items you didn't wear this year and try on the Spring/Summer items to make sure they fit. Don't waste space with things that no longer fit or you no longer love! For more ideas read, The Seasonal Switch post!
2. Clean out and organize your medicine cabinet
This is a great time to think about what medicines in your cabinet may be out of date and determine which ones you are out of. Make sure to clean the shelves and any organizing containers thoroughly. You may be able to use items from around the house to combine like items. Find some low-cost organizing ideas in the post, 5 Dollar Store Ideas for Your Medicine Cabinet.
3. Organize your junk drawer
Everybody has one and without occasional attention, the junk drawer can get out of control! You may store some essentials in this drawer like batteries, flashlights, and hand sanitizer, so make sure you add any items you need to replenish to your shopping list. Read more in 7 Steps to the Junk Drawer of Your Dreams.
A Hungary-based biologist PhD, currently working in the R&D field. In line with his burning enthusiasm for productivity, Csaba Vadadi-Fulop launched his blog www.productivity95.com where he blogs about productivity and personal development.
About 6 years ago, I decided to be my kindergartner son's secret admirer, and I covertly gave him gifts and notes for the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. When little treats started showing up around our house, my son did have a bit of concern that our home had been breached by this admirer! On Valentine’s morning, I revealed that it was indeed me, his mommy, who was his secret admirer. I've done some version of this for both of my kids every Valentine's Day since, and I was even able to pull off the surprise most years.
Now that my youngest is in 2nd grade, I think this year will be the first where neither kid has any doubt that their admirer is their mom, but I don't care, I'm still going all out! If you want to do something similar for your kids (or friend or significant other) here are the basics:
- Decide how many days you are going to give gifts. I usually choose 7 days, but it may be fun to do it longer (and don't feel bad if you can only make it happen a couple of days!)
- Purchase or make small gifts for each day. I hit up the dollar store or dollar bins for little trinkets. Some examples of items I've purchased are balloons, stickers, mini toys, notebooks, small stuffed animals, candy, snacks, books, and Valentine's socks. I've also made handmade cards, written little poems, drawn pictures or made cookies. I like to include a note with something I love about the kids along with each day’s surprise.
- Decide on a 'reveal' gift. I usually pick something a little larger for the day I announce that it is indeed me, their mama, who has been showering them with gifts. This year they are getting a larger piece of candy and a t-shirt. I got them t-shirts last year, and I was just noticing this week how often my youngest wears that Hogwarts tee from last Valentine's Day, so I decided on a repeat!
- Plan out how the gifts will be delivered. You could go as easy as setting items on the kitchen table at night before you go bed, leaving them at your back door, hiding them in the house, or you could really throw your kids off your trail by mailing them! This year, I put each day's item in an envelope marked with their name and the date it should be opened and put all of those envelopes inside a giant bubble mailer, and one evening, I'll bring it in as if it were dropped off at our house. I'm excited at the anticipation it will bring when they open the package see all the envelopes! I did not include the 'reveal' gift in this envelope, but instead got a very glittery gift bag to give each kid before school on Valentine’s Day including a card explaining that I'm their not-so-secret admirer.
- Enjoy! It’s a lot of fun to make someone else’s day, especially if it’s someone you love!
- Keep for everyday use
- Keep as a keepsake
- Give away to someone we know
For me and my sons, it works best if I'm in the room with them, holding up each item, but if you have older kids, they may be able to do this process on their own. Since there are 5 options, we use 5 containers - a combination of trash bags, boxes and storage bins. To be very thorough, have your smallest child crawl under the bed or to the back of the closet to make sure you get everything! I have found that option 2, keep as a keepsake, has helped reduce the time it takes to make a decision. Kids are sure about the things they want to keep and get rid of, but there are some items in between. Rather than force them to decide one way or the other, we keep a box of keepsakes in the basement. Occasionally (but not as often as we should) we go through those keepsakes and purge further. I also throw in the option of giving away to someone we know because it's easier to get rid of a beloved toy if they know it's going to their younger cousin who will like it (and they may get to play with it at their house, too!)
Just like I make my kids go through this process, I like to do it myself on my clothes, coats, jewelry, and shoes. It works out well since this time of year usually aligns with when I do my clothing seasonal switch. I also like to go through things like CDs, movies, craft supplies, and kitchen gadgets. If you want to do some in-depth work on your kitchen, check out my video series, 7 Days to an Orderly Kitchen!
I have a hard time getting rid of things that prove my kids are growing up - like kids' movies and music, games for younger kids, coloring books, and even little spoons and cups. This is where giving to someone I know comes in handy for me. I can much more easily part with a Sonic the Hedgehog activity book, a plastic Spiderman plate and silverware set, or Veggie Tales DVDs when I know my nephews (and now niece!) or a friend's child will enjoy them.
On my last day of Thanksgiving vacation, I'm planning a fun filled day of purging! So family and friends (you know who you are,) prepare yourself for being offered a bunch of stuff we no longer need! I remember receiving lots of hand-me-down clothes and toys from others who had older kids, and even if I didn't keep everything, I always appreciated free stuff and knowing that someone else thought enough of us to pass down things they used to love. Happy pre-holiday purging to all!
"Be the things you loved most about the the people who are gone."
I have two Grandpas and one Grandma who are in heaven. I don't know if there's anyway that they can look down on this world or not, but it's comforting to think that they might be. I hope that if that's the case, they'd be proud to see their granddaughter living out the lessons they taught me. One of my grandfathers died when I was only 9, but I have vivid memories and lessons learned from him just like I do my other grandpa who died when I was almost 30. I've chosen three qualities from each of my grandparents that I want to display in my own life, and I'll start with my Grandma Lena who I had a very special bond with.
- Unconditional Love - She loved her family fiercely and constantly - no matter what. This gave me a foundation for loving myself and others. I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do that would keep Grandma from loving me, and I strive to give that kind of love to my own family.
- Pride for family - She was so proud of her family that she often nearly wept with pride when one of her grandchildren did even the simplest of things. Now, as a parent, I understand! I tear up like her quite a bit when I'm feeling proud of my own family, and rather than feel ashamed, I am glad that I have this tendency like she did because her open expression of pride in me gave me a self-confidence that has followed me into adulthood.
- Love for learning - She could beat me at Scrabble well into her 90s and she was always learning new words (and sometimes making them up!) She liked jokes and puzzles and all sorts of games, especially ones that required skill and thinking. She often told me about how much she enjoyed school as a girl in the 1920's and early 1930's and how she adored her teachers. She also liked to read and keep up on current events. She stayed sharp and witty until the end - even on the last day I spent with her. She taught me never to be ashamed of intellect and that using my brain was fun. This may be why the only games on my phone are chess and number puzzles...
- Fun and Adventure - He loved to travel, and liked to take a different route every time he went somewhere. I was born when he was almost 71 years old, but even at that age, he played tag with me, taught me how to 'pump' on the swing in his back yard, and played games with me. He was always singing and playing his harmonica or ukulele. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to spend more time doing things that were fun to me - that included giving piano lessons and writing this blog and going on trips with my family.
- Kindness - He was the kindest man I've ever known. As I said, I was only 9 when he died, but his kindness made a huge impression on me. He treated me, even as a young girl, with respect. Maybe that's why I've always talked to my kids more like they were adults than kids - I liked to be talked to and treated that way. Grandpa had a gentle spirit and was the kind of person you wanted to be around. That's probably why he was a good salesman and business owner. I've recently discovered a little streak of sales in myself (I sell organizing supplies if you didn't know) and hearing my parents say I had a little of Grandpa Ralph in me made me beam!
- Loving Marriage - My Grandpa was what I'd call madly in love with my Grandma. From the time he was 18 and she was 13, he knew she was the one. They didn't get married until he was 23 and she was 18, so they were married for 57 years before he passed away. I've heard all sorts of funny stories how crazy he was about her, and it showed even when they were grandparents like when he called her 'Babe' or left her love notes. It's wonderful to have seen a relationship that didn't get stale with age and know that's possible in a marriage.
- Hard Work - He could build, make or fix anything. He built houses from the ground up, remodeled houses, did woodworking and gardened. He had various jobs (including being a barber), but he was always working on his own side projects, too. He valued hard work and didn't like to sit around. I got the chance to go on fishing trips with him and my Grandma and cousins in Minnesota, and we had so much fun, but he expected us to do our share. I know I could do better and be more consistent as a parent, but I hope he'd be proud of how I'm trying to raise my kids with a respect for hard work.
- Creativity - He was always doing a project, and it could be intricate like cutting hearts out of a shelf he made for me, or big like building on to a house. He could plan things out, measure precisely, and see the finished product in his head before it was finished. When I was around 16 or so, he asked me to give him piano lessons. He had a keyboard, and I'd go to his house once a week and teach him piano. At first I thought he just wanted to help me get some spending money, but he actually learned and practiced! Just the other day, I was teaching a piano lesson and pulled out a book of scales and saw his name written inside. I may not be able to build things with my hands, but being creative is something I love to do, especially with music. It's too easy to put that aside and do all the other things life requires, so I'm going to have to make the time!
- Love of God - My Grandpa was a lay preacher the second half of his life. He wasn't ordained or didn't go to seminary. He was the first to admit he wasn't educated in theology, but he had passion and a strong faith. He grew up in Eastern Kentucky and had a wonderful accent and the kind of preaching voice that you couldn't help but pay attention to. He had a well used Bible that was always nearby when I'd visit. When he prayed, I always felt like God was right there. He instilled a reverence and a faith in me and inspired many because he didn't pretend that he was perfect, and I think that's why he knew God so well. He was the kind of man you name children after - that's why his is my youngest son's middle name. I always chuckle when I have to break out the full first, middle and last name because I think, 'Grandpa would laugh at how often I say his name!'
I've told myself so many things about my weight - some are lies and some are truths, but I've lost track of which are which. I’m speaking as a 37 year-old woman with no medical or psychological training – just my own experience and observations. I’ve found that my weight is intertwined with so many aspects of my life which is why losing it is not as easy as simply eating less and moving more.
"I've told myself so many things about my weight - some are lies and some are truths, but I've lost track of which are which."
Weight and Relationships
I am blessed to have children who tell me I’m beautiful even when I don’t feel that way and a husband who has never made me feel ugly because of my weight. My closest friends and family love me unconditionally, so I know that changes in my appearance won't make the people who matter to me love me more or less. This makes ME the only person I need to impress, and it’s hard for me to do things for myself. I find it easier to help someone else meet their goals than to take the steps that I need to take to get where I want to go. I feel selfish when I try to eat differently than my family or take the time to exercise because in my mind, that takes something away from them. My relationship with myself needs to rise up and take precedence so I can be my best self.
Though I have confidence in my close relationships, it is very easy to compare myself to others. When I start comparing, I feel bad about myself, but I often turn to excuses. “If I was a stay at home mom like her, I’d have time to exercise and would be just as fit.” “If I had as much money as her, I could afford to buy healthier foods, too.” "If my job were as easy as hers, my stress level would be less, and it would be easier to lose weight.” Instead of all of these, “If I had…then I would be” statements, I should be looking at the women I’m comparing myself to and learning from them. I know not all skinny girls have it all together. I should learn how they manage to get and stay healthy in spite of the struggles of their lives.
I know, intellectually, that my weight does impact my health and that losing even just a little weight will improve my overall health and well-being. According to the CDC, being obese can increase chances of all sorts of health problems including high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, mental illness, and body pain. With all of these risks, you’d think that I’d really focus on decreasing my weight. Instead, I continue to rationalize why MY weight problem isn’t all that bad.
I’ve always had good blood pressure – like, it’s my pride and joy. No matter how much I’ve weighed my blood pressure has always been normal and usually below normal. It was like my barometer of health, and I’d rationalize that even though I was overweight, since my blood pressure was good, it wasn’t really impacting my health. Earlier this year at a routine doctor appointment, my blood pressure was high. I freaked out because this threw my healthy-though-fat theory out the window. I've since worked to get it back in the normal range, but it will take constant attention to keep it that way.
Weight and Age
Between kids, I lost 25 pounds and kept it off for two years (until I got pregnant again.) I read and followed the South Beach Diet to the letter. I thrived with a strict program with rules and quick results. I’ve tried to follow the same program several times since and failed. Has my body chemistry changed now that I’m getting older and it’s just no use? A New York Times article says, “Although it is possible to lose weight at any age, several factors make it harder to lose weight with age.” That’s kind of depressing…The one good thing about the passage of time, though, is the improvements in technology. A FitBit will surely do the trick or an app to track my calories, right? Though these are great tools, they don’t do the work for us. I’m living proof - I’m at the same weight I was before I tried those things.
The older I get, the easier it is to tell myself that there’s no one left to impress. I’ve got a family who loves me, a career, and many great friends. I’m nearing 40 and maybe my body has just found its happy place, and I need to accept it. It’s easy to tell myself my body is different now and it’s not my fault that the weight is clinging to me (in all the wrong places, I might add.) But then I think – I’m not even FORTY, I’ve got many, many years ahead of me – hopefully, I’m not even half done. Do I want to live the last half of my life not meeting my potential? I’m older, but I’m wiser and I have more resources and experience than ever. I certainly know what doesn’t work, so why not use that to my advantage? I want to make the rest my best!
Here’s a hot topic and one that we all like to argue about – stress. What causes it, can we will our way around it, what does it do to our minds and bodies, how should we deal with it? Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” We’ve all been there, but we can all think of someone in our lives who’s been there more or longer or in a more extreme way than we have. I know others who cope in a much healthier way than I do even when they have much more stress. Who am I to blame stress on every negative thing in my life? I am blessed in so many ways, and I let the few negatives in my life outweigh all of those positive things. I’m stressing about what stress is doing to me. I am in no way denying stress can cause all sorts of physical and mental problems. I’m coming to realize that focusing on the problem instead of the solution is only exacerbating the problem. Case in point, when my blood pressure went up, I became my son’s science fair project, “Can Yoga Decrease Blood Pressure?” I did yoga for 15 minutes a day and my blood pressure did decrease. Was it the yoga in and of itself, or was it that I slowed down, took time for myself, had some physical activity, focused on what I didn’t want for my body, and probably ate a little better? Not sure exactly why it worked, but it did. You’d think I’d have kept it up after the project ended, wouldn’t you? But, no, I saw even just 15 minutes a day as disruptive to my schedule. So I stayed in the same stressful state – it gave me something to blame.
"I'm stressing about what stress is doing to me."
Weight and Sleep
Research says that dieters who cut back on sleep over a 14-day period, lost 55% less weight from fat, even though their calories stayed equal. A sleepy morning increases your chances of taking in more calories, losing impulse control to avoid junk food, and skipping exercise. The answer to this seems so simple - sleep more. Why is this so hard for me? Under the guise of productivity, I stay up too late. Sleep was one of my areas of focus for this year, but I’ve failed miserably! I’m constantly tired, hitting the snooze button multiple times a morning, but yet I stay up late to get things done or just watch TV. I rationalize the need for late night TV as down time after a stressful day. I know that many experts suggest early morning exercise to jump start a healthy day. I will never be able to accommodate that if I continue to go to bed so late! I need to take my own advice and set (and stick to) a bedtime for myself like I set for my kids.
Weight and Priorities
My kids and family are my top priority, and I often use this as an excuse not to take care of myself. My go-to quip when making light the fact I’m overweight is, “Well I love to eat, and I hate to exercise.” I realized recently that at least half of that statement is a lie. It turns out I don’t hate being physically active, but what I do hate is exercising when I feel like I’m neglecting another responsibility. Spending time with my kids, cleaning my house, working, staying caught up with the paperwork of life always take precedence over exercise for me. I need to make exercise a priority, and by re-framing what my responsibilities really are – setting a good example for my kids and helping them be healthy - I can give myself permission to take care of myself.
"...by re-framing what my responsibilities really are - setting a good example for my kids and helping them be healthy - I can give myself permission to take care of myself."
Weight and Organization
I truly believe that being organized can help me get to and maintain a healthy weight. The times I’ve been successful with a healthy lifestyle are the times I had a realistic plan, I monitored my progress toward that plan, and had systems in place to help me be successful. I’ve tried many different diets over the years, and have found it difficult to stick to them. I need something that is realistic in the long term, can be measured so I can see progress, and can have “shortcuts” set up to help me stick to it. As I said before, I love food, so depriving myself long term is just not going to work. I need to measure things – weight, calories, miles, minutes, steps – so I can see forward progress. I need it to be easy to maintain. Standard meals or snacks, specific days or times that I do activities, a chart or an app to keep track of it all. This sounds like the building blocks of success to me!
Another way that being organized helps with weight loss is meal planning. Going to the store with a plan and a list helps prevent buying on impulse. Having a list of meals posted on the fridge helps me not to just run to McDonald’s. Keeping a detailed calendar is going to be critical for making time for exercise. Either a shared digital calendar or a family calendar on a white board in a central location can allow the entire family to know what to expect. If you know what is coming up for the next day, you can plan ahead and set out the supplies you will need for exercising or cooking a meal or packing a lunch the night before.
"Neither self-loathing or burying my head in the sand will work - only acceptance and continual improvement will really make me healthier and happier."
“Calculate Your Body Mass Index.” National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm.
“Healthy Weight.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 June 2015, www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/index.html.
Weintraub, Karen. “Is It Harder to Lose Weight When You're Older?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 31 Mar. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/well/live/is-it-harder-to-lose-weight-when-youre-older.html.
“Stress.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/stress?s=t.
“Sleep More, Weigh Less.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/diet/sleep-and-weight-loss#1.
Photo by Gesina Kunkel on Unsplash
Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash
Refresh your wardrobe and get a haircut
Kids usually get a few new outfits and shoes because they’ve grown out of the clothes from the previous school year. We go through their entire wardrobe and get rid of things that are too small or they won’t wear to avoid any fashion arguments! This time of year is also a great time to refresh your own wardrobe. Go through your closet and donate items you haven’t worn in the past several months, items that don’t fit, or ones you just don’t like. Make a list of what items you need to “fill in the blanks” of your wardrobe. Watch for sales and treat yourself! We get our kids a haircut prior to the first day so they look fresh and clean. Make an appointment for yourself, too. This could be the one time per year that you spend a little extra or try a new style.
"I always loved the beginning of the school year as a kid - new clothes and shoes, freshly sharpened pencils, blank notebooks, locker organizers - kind of my dream come true!"
Just today, our family discussed what fair bedtimes are for the kids when school starts and what time they need to get up to have plenty of time in the mornings before school. This will be a big change from our summer routine where the kids’ bedtimes go out the window – and so does mine. I find myself staying up way too late on a regular basis, but still having to get up at the same time to go to work. By the end of the summer I’m exhausted and sleeping in late on the weekends to try to catch up. When school starts, the kids will each have a set bedtime and wakeup time. I plan to create my own, reasonable bedtime as well as a wakeup time that doesn’t involve the snooze button!
When school is in session, I make more of an effort to feed my kids a healthy breakfast to give them a good start to their day. It’s so easy for us as busy adults to skip breakfast or scarf down something on the go. When school starts, it’s a great opportunity to plan your morning to include a healthy breakfast at the table with your family. Many days my kids pack their lunches, and we have various options that are easy to pack and are fairly healthy. Packing a lunch for myself alongside the kids will help me not only to save money on eating out, but help to control my portion size and the nutritional value of what I eat for lunch.
Kids literally start the school year with a blank slate, and they have the opportunity to take new classes from new teachers. It’s a great time of year for us to forgive ourselves for failed attempts in the past and make new resolutions and plans for new habits. Is it time for us to take a class, read a book, attend a webinar about something new?
My kids have gym class at least once a week, and recess every day. They also participate in sports during the school year. I need to follow suit and be more active. I can use the time they spend at sports practices to be active myself, and why not enjoy a “recess” during the day and take a quick walk?
With all the commitments kids have these days, they have to learn to manage their time, plan ahead and just plain remember what all they need to do! We are in the process of finalizing what the daily routine will be and then will create a checklist to keep track of it all. I will print out a grid with the items that need completed down the left-hand side with the days of the week across the top. The paper will go in a page protector and be displayed on the fridge with a magnetic clip. The kids will use a dry erase marker to mark off their daily accomplishments. This makes it reusable, but also easy to change if we add or take away a responsibility. It’s great to pair one of your own responsibilities to your kids’ – for example, when they practice piano, you wash dishes or when they do homework, you read. Consider planning your day the night before with specific timebound tasks. Always overestimate how long it will take you to do things so that you don’t get frustrated!
During the school year, our kids don’t have any screen time from Monday to Thursday (unless homework requires it.) We started this a couple of years ago, and it’s amazing – attitudes are much improved and since there is no expectation of screen time, we don’t hear whining or complaining. This means my husband and I don’t turn on the TV until after the kids are in bed, and sometimes we don’t even turn it on at all. It’s my goal to use the time I normally would watch TV to do other things – read, play board games, talk to my husband, take bubble baths, take a walk, etc.
One of the best parts of the first day of school for me was always seeing my friends that I hadn’t seen much over the summer. We would catch up and tell each other what we did over the vacation. We looked forward to eating lunch together and playing at recess together. As adults, why don’t we designate the start of the school year as a time to plan some lunch dates and fun activities with old friends?
"I wanted to provide my kids the kind of summer memories I had as a child, and I was not measuring up to my own expectations."
Here was a snapshot of our evenings this week. It was a blast!
Scouts for oldest and Dad, 1.5 mile nature scavenger hunt for youngest and Mom. My son has been talking about the hawk we saw up close all week! I loved seeing him get excited about finding things on our list and especially enjoyed watching him chase a butterfly.
Video shoot of both boys making trick shots into a hamper (appropriately called the Slam Dunk Hamper,) This was a fun way to involve the kids in my Clever Container Organizing Products business,
The entire family walked/rode scooters to the park and played HORSE and played a game of 2 on 2. I'm just about as good as I was when I played eighth grade basketball - I'll leave it at that!
Dad had to work late, so Mom took both boys to the State Park for a picnic, a hike, and FISHING! Even though we didn't catch anything, both boys loved it, and I felt like Super Mom while baiting their hooks.
Mom and kids went to a concert (Toby Mac - it was awesome!)
Dad took kids to a movie during the afternoon, and then the whole family went back to the State Park for a picnic and more fishing in the evening. Still no fish for the kids, but they want to try again soon.
After church, Mom and youngest went to the beach while Dad and oldest got groceries (thank goodness - our cupboards were BARE!) and then we all watched TV in the evening. The beach makes me TIRED!
This week was so much fun, but a little tiring and the housework definitely got pushed to the back burner! I learned a few things:
- We don't have to spend much money to have fun
- Being outside together is fun
- Being active is rewarding (I'm meeting my step goals!)
- It's fun to check things off the kids' summer lists - letting kids pick some of the things we do makes them more engaged.
- Brand new experiences make great memories.
- I think a night or two "off" would probably be ideal so we don't get tired and my house doesn't turn into a disaster zone.
- Less screen time equals better attitudes for everyone!
At work and at home, it's impossible for us to do it all, though I'm guilty of trying to do it anyway. I used have a hard time with the group project concept. I felt like it would just be easier to do it all myself. At least that way, I knew it would get done. Doing it myself meant that I knew the progress of the project and the barriers to getting it completed so I could figure out ways to overcome the barriers and meet the deadline. This mentality causes stress, burnout, and ultimately leads to lower quality work and delayed results. Why is it then, that it's so hard to relinquish a little control and trust others to help me?
"Though this 'I can do it' attitude may help me become more well-rounded, save a little money, and keep things interesting, it can also severely impact my productivity and can create frustration both for me and my family!"
A great example of how finding the right person to do the job produced fantastic and quick results was when I wanted to create a logo for my blog. I had an idea in my head, but I thought it would be too difficult for me to articulate that to someone else, so I tried to do it myself. I tried and tried to bring my vision to life, but without the proper tools or expertise in graphic design, I just couldn't produce something I was happy with. I considered hiring someone, but I talked myself out of that by rationalizing that I was saving money by doing it myself and I could remain authentic to my own creative plans for my logo. Well, what happened is that I didn't launch my blog because I didn't have what I felt was the perfect logo, and I became more and more frustrated and wasted a LOT of time.
I finally got over myself and hired someone to design my logo. But, even then, I tried to maintain control over the process giving her very specific instructions about what I wanted, what colors I liked, etc. It wasn't until I gave the designer greater creative space that I got exactly what I had been dreaming of! I finally got down to the core of what I wanted to accomplish - a clean logo in soothing colors that showed you could be creative and have beauty while still being orderly. The graphic designer quickly created several mock ups for me. I chose the one I liked best, asked for a couple of tweaks, and tada -I had a beautiful logo that I love as if I created it myself. I think that I actually love it even more because I didn't create it!
I now am much more inclined to hire work done or ask for help and suggestions. The old saying, "time is money" is so true. I could spend ten times as long doing something that would be a lower quality than if I hired the right person for the job. I could use that time in a different way to produce real results. I'm a big believer in frugality, so of course I don't hire someone to do everything for me! I pick and choose what I can afford, what meets the biggest and most urgent need, and what I don't want to or don't have the capacity to learn how to do myself. There are some things that are just fun to dabble in and the difference in the end result of me doing it versus a professional wouldn't be that noticeable, but then there are all the other things where an expert is definitely the right choice.
This concept also applies to situations at home or work where we would should delegate a task to someone who is best equipped to do it. Best equipped can mean they are an expert or they have the capacity to become an expert or simply that they have time to do the task. When we delegate, though, we have to learn to accept the results may not be exactly as if we had done the task ourselves. I have my kids do certain chores at home, and maybe the cleaning isn't quite as thorough as I would have done it, but it's done and I was able to complete other tasks instead.
I also try to remember that it's all about choice. By choosing to do something myself (or learn how to do something on my own), I am also choosing not to spend that time on something else. To get and keep my life in order, I have to learn to choose to spend my time wisely so that there is time for the things I'm good at, time for the things I enjoy doing, time for the things I am required to do, and most importantly, time for the people I love.
- Talk as a family while planning your trip to decide on top things you want to see. Make sure everyone has at least one thing they are really excited about. Anticipating the trip is a big part of the fun! Don’t worry about not doing or seeing EVERYTHING.
- Look into options for discounts as you're planning. For example, we purchased a Costco membership and used their vacation services to get a deep discount. Make a list of restaurants where kids eat free. Be aware that some attractions offer discounts in the late afternoon. Consider a city pass or bundle deal for multiple attractions. Look for Groupons in the city you're visiting, and research free attractions. If you want to fly one way and drive the other, there's no additional charge to drop off rental car at different location as long as it is airport to airport. (Verify this with your rental car company.)
- If you're going to a major theme park, skip the line passes are SOO worth it!
- Even though most things can be accessed via an app on your phone, I always take screenshots of any electronic boarding passes or tickets so that if I have poor cell reception and no WiFi, I can still access them. I like to have contingency plans, so I usually also take paper backups and store them in plastic page protectors (read about the binder system for more info on this!) I usually have several: airline (or other type of travel), hotel, rental car, attractions, ID documents for kids, empty one for receipts and postcards. Keep all of the page protectors in a folder and carry in a backpack when you visit attractions.
- Maximize time at your vacation spot by arriving early the first day and leaving late the last day. Ask about early check-in/late check-out at the hotel - you can usually get extra time in the room for no extra cost. If that's not an option, ask the hotel if they have baggage storage for pre-check-in or post-check-out.
- Don't assume your hotel has the amenities you want - pool, microwave, refrigerator, guest laundry, continental breakfast, etc. Even if you book on a travel site, you can still call the hotel directly after you've booked to request bed size, a cot, etc. or verify amenities. You can also ask for an upgrade when you arrive at the hotel. It's often cheaper to upgrade onsite than it would be to book that way.
- Give yourself at least one day before and one day after vacation off from work to pack and unpack and recuperate!
- Tidy up your house before leaving so it’s that way when you get home. If you can afford it, have a house cleaner come while you are gone – great to come home to clean house!
- Have someone water the plants, feed the animals, and get mail while you're gone and maybe even pick you up some bread and milk for when you return. If you're gone longer than a week, hire someone to mow the yard. Less stress when you get home!
- Plan to get carry out the day before vacation. Don’t have delusions you’re going to cook the night before you leave!
- Pack clothes that can be reworn. Consider using packing cubes or vacuum bags to save space. Take one nice outfit for a nice dinner out. Pack hangers for all the clothes that you normally hang up at home.
- Get a travel size bottle of Febreze - spray things that are moderately stinky and hang over shower curtain rod overnight.
- Take very little jewelry and leave expensive stuff at home. I buy a cheap wedding ring set with a giant cubic zirconia before a trip - something flashier than I'd ever wear in "real life" but I don't worry about losing.
- Take plenty of snacks. If it's a road trip, pack a cooler for drinks and perishable foods, and pack a bag or tote for other food. If you're travelling by air, pack a few snacks in carry-ons and other snacks in a hard plastic container in a suitcase (so nothing gets smashed.) Open bags of snacks, remove extra air, and fasten with a chip clip before you leave. This will allow you fit more in your container and keep your snacks fresh. Take at least 2 plastic cups per traveler and a sharpie marker. Label cups so each person has one for drinks and one for snacks. Use the sharpie to label water bottles throughout the trip. Include some hand sanitizer and baby wipes for cleaning hands before and after snack time. Take plenty of plastic shopping bags for trash. Pack a small insulated bag that folds flat that you can take into attractions for cold snacks/lunches. Take some microwave popcorn for a movie night at the hotel.
- Take trash bag(s) for laundry (I've figured out a formula that works for our family - 1 for every 2 people for every 4 days.)
- Make sure to pack a backpack and/or fanny pack for taking to attractions.
- Take more sunscreen than you think you’ll need – it goes fast! A sunscreen stick for the face is nice and easy.
- Don't forget: books and/or magazines, sunglasses, a journal, small blanket for car or plane, neck pillow,
- Pack all medicine together (pack small amounts of vitamins, antacids, cough drops, etc. in small ziplocks. Take a small bottle of pain reliever that can be carried in a backpack. If you have kids that take liquid medicine, don't forget medicine cups)
- If you have kids who need tear free shampoo, take one more travel size bottle than you think you’ll need. Kids tend to take lots of baths on vacation.
- If you're picky about soap, take your favorite bar and plan to leave it at the hotel. If you prefer body wash, you can get a travel size body poof for about $0.50 - just leave the used poof at the hotel when you leave.
- Take a swimsuit cover-up – hotel towels don’t cover up enough for a walk through the hotel!
- Bring only makeup and hair necessities, take a medium sized curling iron (can be used to straighten or curl) and use the hairdryer at hotel. Use a heat resistant bag to pack your hot curling iron without damaging your luggage.
- Pack a collapsible bag that you can fill with souvenirs if you buy more than you can fit in your suitcase. Just a note from experience: apple butter is considered a liquid and WILL be confiscated if you try to pack it in a carry on!
- Don't take a regular camera if your phone's camera is adequate.
Getting there and back
If you're flying:
- Download airline app and enable push notifications or sign up for text notifications.
- Get to airport nice and early. It's better to eat a meal there and use the airport's WiFi to watch a movie than worry about missing your flight.
- Plan at least 2 hour layovers if changing planes. If you do happen to miss a connecting flight due to a weather delay, the airline doesn’t normally pay for hotel, but if you look pitiful enough and are polite, they will. (This happened to us after an epic run through the airport and JUST missing our connecting flight.)
- Chewing gum will help with ear pressure on flights.
- If you have a young child, don't forget about a car seat. Some airlines allow you to check a car seat for free. If you don't take your own, some taxi and rental car companies have car seats for rent.
If you're driving
- Plan a couple of stops on the way to your destination that include an attraction or a special restaurant to break up the trip.
- Store your snacks and drinks in an easy to access area (not the trunk!)
- Don't forget music - CDs or a playlist on your iPod.
- Let the kids pack their own activity bags, and include more than just electronics - coloring book, dot to dots, puzzle books, drawing paper, books, toys, etc. If you do plan to watch movies during travel. make sure you have them downloaded so they can be watched without WiFi.
- If you have boys, pack an empty laundry detergent container for bathroom emergencies.
- Show kids pressure points on their wrists for motion sickness before leaving, and remind them to look out the window if they feel yucky.
Once you've arrived
- Text/email family when you arrive (and return) so they know you’re safe.
- Unpack completely at the hotel if you're staying longer than 2 nights, and pick up each morning. Hang up clothes on the hangers you packed, and consider using wrinkle release spray or the hotel's iron if needed.
- Take a small bin to corral toiletries on the bathroom vanity.
- Public transportation is fun – use taxis, buses, trains, trolleys, etc. Look into day or weekend passes, but if you pay cash, you may need exact change. Look for free trips (example sometimes hotels and attractions have deals for free taxi or shuttle rides.) Car rental is nice, but if you're in big city, you may not need it the whole time. Plan your itinerary so all attractions that you need a vehicle for are scheduled close together.
- Eat at local restaurants as much as possible. Try new or local foods (we discovered our love of chicken and waffles while in Atlanta!) Plan at least one breakfast away from free hotel breakfast! Consider sharing meals when possible.
- Be sure to check booth/tables each time you leave a restaurant for bags/souvenirs and check seats on public transportation to make sure you don't leave a jacket or purse.
- Take a picture of where you park and of the license plate and car if it's a rental.
- Carry a backpack to attractions. Take in food and water if allowed, include hand sanitizer, sunscreen, power pack for your phone, tickets, a few plastic shopping bags for wet clothes or trash, and ponchos or a small umbrella if you're going to be outdoors and the weather is questionable.
- Take extra outfits, shoes/flip flops, and plastic shopping bags for kids anywhere they may get wet. You never know when there's going to be a splash pad!
- Look through pictures each night and delete the ones that are no good or are duplicates, and upload to Google Photos (or your preferred cloud photo storage.) Send the link to family so they can see what you are doing each day.
- Plan a low-key day mid-vacation, build in time to swim at hotel and rest a few times during the vacation. Rent a movie on the hotel room TV and have pizza delivered for a really relaxing night!
- A 15 minute walk is very doable to get places! The more you walk, the more you can eat and not feel guilty! If you walk a lot, to avoid chafing, use deodorant or vaseline on any area that may rub.
- Book a hotel with guest laundry facilities. Take travel-sized laundry detergent and cash for change, and do all of the laundry the night before leaving. Fold laundry before putting in the suitcase keeping each family member's clothing together. It's very nice not to have a ton of laundry to do when you get home! If doing laundry at the hotel isn't an option, pack all dirty laundry in one suitcase on the way home.
I hope some of these tips will help your next family vacation be a little more organized! Consider making your own list of travel dos and don'ts. My list has helped me not to forget things, plan for the unexpected, and have a better plan so I can relax and have fun! If you have more tips, please share in the comments.
On a serious note, I'm so blessed to be my father's daughter. He and my mom have been married for 42 years and my dad has been the best example of hard work, good morals, and generosity that I could have asked for. He was an involved parent attending countless piano recitals and school activities, driving our family on summer road trips, moving me in and out of my college dorm room, walking me down the aisle at my wedding, providing advice on car purchases, and helping with lots of repair projects! He's now a devoted Grandpa and setting the same examples for his grandchildren.
Top 10 organizing tips from my dad:
1. Label your board games
You know when you're playing a game that has questions on cards and someone starts suddenly knowing all of the answers and you realize someone put the cards back on the wrong end of the box last time you played. Well, my dad has a simple fix for that! Simply put a piece of masking tape on whichever end you designate the front. To make it even clearer, write "FRONT" on it.
2. Keep track of dates of purchase and maintenance on your owner's manuals
For large purchases, most of us keep the owner's manuals. My dad has always written the date of purchase and noted and maintenance and the date on the cover. You could also staple the receipt to the manual. Not only is it interesting to see how long things last (he had the manual from his record player from the 1970-something), but it's helpful when dealing with warranties, or knowing the timing of preventative maintenance.
3. Hang a tennis ball on a rope from your garage ceiling
My dad has a nice garage and he maximizes the space in front of where the cars park with built in cabinets and hooks on the walls. To keep my mom from pulling the vehicles in too far (and likely also to make sure the vehicles were in far enough not to get caught in the closing garage door), he long ago installed a hanging tennis ball. You pull the car up until the tennis ball just taps your windshield, so you know you are parked in the perfect spot.
4. Customize your belongings to fit your space
The bathroom I used growing up has an area that juts out just past the tub (which my dad did on purpose when he built the house, of course, for plumbing access.) The problem is the only rugs that would fit in the space were too small to really do any good. No problem, Dad to the rescue! He cut a notch in the rug so it fits perfectly against the wall and a side benefit is that it can't slip around either. This applies to so many things in my parents' house beside rugs. My dad coined the phase that my brother and I still jokingly use, "You know what a guy could do..." Whenever he said this, you knew he had a great idea!
"You know what a guy could do..."
5. Don't let sentiment cause clutter
My dad is somewhat of a minimalist. He doesn't care for a coffee table in the middle of the room or many knick knacks sitting around. My dad had a decent sized record collection, some of which he'd had since he was a teenager. They were stored in a wooden cabinet with sliding doors. Several years ago, he wanted to use the record cabinet for another storage purpose (in the garage on that wall in front of the vehicles - thank you hanging tennis ball for keeping it safe!) In order to use it for garage storage, he got rid of the records. I remember feeling sentimental about him getting rid of them and they weren't even mine. He didn't let sentiment cause any unnecessary clutter. I'm grateful that my husband and brother got several of the records for their own collections!
6. Research and analyze which is cheaper and better - fixing/refurbishing or buying new
This one may only apply if you have the ability to fix things yourself. If you know my dad, you know he can fix just about anything! There are times that most people would have just gotten a new (insert whatever is broken in your house) but my dad did the research to fix it. For instance, he put a brand new bottom in the bathtubs instead of replacing them. It was cheaper and less work in the long run than tearing out the old one and installing a new one. There are times though, were you've fixed as much as you can fix, and it's just time to buy new.
7. Label generously
My dad has been making labels as long as I can remember! His go to is masking tape and a sharpie. Putting labels on things helps to identify them (the reason spices of similar colors are labelled in my mom's spice cabinet) and helps us remember where things go (this is why I label my clear bins in my refrigerator - I certainly don't want my raw meat to ever go in the bin where my yogurt is supposed to go!) I have to admit, I did think my dad took it a little far when I saw that he had labelled the tape dispenser, "TAPE."
8. Take notes and keep things you want to reference later in a central location
My dad takes notes and records things he wants to remember later. Even if you have a good memory, you can't remember everything! Dad has his own system for reference in an Excel spreadsheet with many, many tabs, where I use Evernote to keep track of things I want to refer to later. Your system doesn't have to work for everyone - just for yourself!
9. Do things the right way the first time.
I say this to my kids often, "Do it right the first time." Often there's a shortcut or an easy way out, and if that can qualify as "the right way," by all means, take that path of least resistance. But too often, the easy way is not the right way, and then you end up having to redo the task or fix a mistake later on. Sometimes tasks take my dad longer than I would expect, but it's done right and it lasts! Several years ago, I had some issues with the caulk around my bathroom tub and my dad fixed it for us (yep, I'm lucky, I know!) It took a lot longer than I anticipated, but because he used the right materials, fixed his mistakes while the caulk was still wet, smoothed it with the correct tool, and waited the appropriate amount of time for it to dry - it looked great, served its correct purpose, and has lasted a long time.
10. Use your talents to help others
As I said earlier, my dad can fix just about anything and everybody knows it! This was demonstrated yesterday when my almost-4-year-old nephew picked up a toy that wouldn't work and bypassed everyone to go straight to my dad and say, "Grandpa this is broken, will you fix it?" Being good at something does usually mean you get asked to help people do that thing, and sometimes that can feel like a burden. Though I can't read his mind, it doesn't seem like he minds when he's asked to help with someone else's project. I think he looks at it as an opportunity to solve a puzzle while helping someone out. He's certainly helped me out more than I could ever thank or repay him for. I think because I saw my dad using what he was good at to help his family and others since I was a little girl, it seems natural to me to share my talents, too. I also think that we improve our skills, become faster and more productive at things when we do them more often - practice makes perfect, right? If we can improve our skills and become more efficient at them while helping someone out, it's a win-win!
My dad has taught me much more than these 10 things (some of them I've written about before) but these are some that I thought you might like to try out. I'm so fortunate to have a dad who has been present my entire life, and it was really fun to think of some of the things he's taught me. I challenge you to make a list of some specific things someone important in your life has taught you - and share it with them! Happy Father's Day, Dad - I love you!
Sometimes I get annoyed. OK, maybe it's more than sometimes... I realized this when my kids began asking me daily, "Did anyone annoy you today, Mom?" Yuck! I really don't like it when my kids make my true self so apparent to me. They are reflecting what I'm presenting to the world.
When I'm asked the common, get-to-know-you, ice-breaker question., "What’s your biggest pet peeve?", my quick answer is - incompetence!
I began to wonder, had society simply lowered its expectations of service and knowledge (read the post, Why Can’t Things Be Easier?) Or was it because people were so distracted by all the inputs in life that they couldn’t focus on any one task long enough to master it? Or was it because helicopter parenting and the everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality had stopped us from being challenged or encouraged to do our best work? Wow, I was getting cynical, and it bothered me. How could I change my attitude and my pet peeve?
"How could I change my attitude and my pet peeve?"
A few months ago, I had what many would describe as a very frustrating experience at a doctor's office, but instead of being angry and spewing the story of incompetence to anyone who would listen, I felt calm and had no negative feelings toward the person who made the mistake. I looked back and wondered, had I really grown that much as a person that I could overlook the issue, or was there some other reason? I rehashed the events in my mind....
I had the forethought to call our regular pharmacy (which was near our home, a 30 minute drive from the doctor's office) from the clinic's parking lot to make sure they had the medicine in stock. It's a good thing I called, because they did not have it, and they referred us to another pharmacy in their chain near our doctor's office. We drove there and traipsed through the store to the back where the pharmacy counter was and stood in line only to be told that they didn't have the medication either. They referred us to yet another pharmacy where we repeated the process and heard from that pharmacist, "Sorry, none here." By this time I was beginning to wonder what was going on that no pharmacy in town had this not-very-exotic medication.
I called the pharmacy at the clinic where our doctor's office was located (why didn't I just go there in the first place, you ask? Well, I was certainly asking myself the same question at this point!) They said they had it! My son was still in a lot of pain as we retraced our steps back to where we started from. As soon as I showed the pharmacist that piece of paper, she immediately knew what the issue was. The nurse practitioner had checked the box on the prescription pad that said NO substitutions allowed, so since all of pharmacies stocked only the generic, they couldn't fill the prescription as it was written.
We went upstairs to the doctor's office, and I asked to see the nurse practitioner to get a new prescription. After just a few minutes she raced out from the back waving the new prescription. She immediately said she was so sorry that she'd made the mistake and admitted that she didn't often write physical prescriptions any more and had simply checked the wrong box. She empathized with me and my son saying she could only imagine what we'd gone through trying to get the medicine to make him feel better and she was so sorry she'd caused him extra time in pain. I found myself assuring HER that it was OK and telling HER not to worry.
We quickly got the prescription filled and immediately gave him a dose. As we drove home and he finally fell asleep after getting some relief, I realized that I didn't get angry or label the nurse practitioner as incompetent because she had taken her time and treated us with kindness during our appointment, then when presented with her mistake, she quickly apologized, took responsibility, empathized, did what was necessary to correct the situation, and apologized again. I would recommend this nurse practitioner in a heartbeat because of how she handled the situation.
"Expect the best until proven wrong."
I’m choosing to change my pet peeve, so you’re going to have to REALLY mess up before I label you incompetent from now on! You may wonder what re-framing how I look at incompetence has to do with a life in order - to me it has everything to do with it! Before I can improve myself, become more efficient and focused on my priorities, I have to quit wasting my energy fretting about or ruminating on things I can't control, and I must change my mindset to focus less on the negative. I now try to live by the motto, “expect the best until proven wrong.”
I have two boys, so I save everything that's in decent shape from the older one for the younger boy. Since they are 4 years apart, that means I have tote after tote labelled by size. Currently I have totes for size 6, size 7, and two totes for size 8 (as the clothes get bigger it takes more room to store the same amount), an 8/10, a 10/12, a 12/14, a 16/18, one for my oldest boy's out of season clothes that still fit, one for my out of season items that fit, my too small tote, and my husband's out of season - oh and then there's one for boots (or sandals depending on the season), one for hats/ gloves, one for coats/jackets, and one for kids' shoes that my youngest hasn't grown into yet! That's a lot of totes! And it never fails that the one I want is on the bottom of the stack, so I have to do an intricate redesign of the towers of totes to get to it.
Yesterday was the day I decided to tackle this season's switch, and even though I think I've come up with a pretty good new system, there's no denying, it's still a lot of work! Here's the new way I'm doing things and how I am organizing the totes of clothes so that when, in a couple weeks I find some T-shirt or pair of sweats that somehow escaped the switch , it'll be a cinch to store it because I'll be able to identify which bin it should go in AND access it easily.
Step 1 - Sort the new season's clothes
Don't start with what's currently in your closet or drawers - if you do that you may end up sleeping in a tent for two weeks. That's what happened to my then-6-year-old last year when I switched his summer clothes to fall/winter clothes. I started by sorting through the clothes in his drawers, deciding what would be too small next year and what I could save. Then I didn't have anywhere to store the clothes for the next summer because the storage bins were full of the fall/winter clothes that I hadn't gotten out yet. So, I dumped the fall/winter clothes on the bed, filled the emptied bins with the summer clothes, and took them to the basement. When it was bedtime, I was OVER clothes sorting, and since his bed was a mound of long pants, sweaters and long johns, I tried to make it fun and let him sleep in a tent on his floor that night. Well, one night turned many nights, and I actually lost track of how long he'd been sleeping in a tent until one night he said, "Mom, when can I sleep in my bed again? I've been sleeping in this tent since the night we watched the nun movie!" He was talking about Sister Act, which we'd watched a full two weeks earlier!
So to avoid tent sleeping due to a clothes infested bed, start with the new season's clothes. I store our out of season duds in the basement, so I started with one family member (my youngest because I felt bad about the tent incident.) I brought up several bins that contained sizes he may fit in this summer (if only there was truly a universal sizing system so I didn't have to have him try on sizes 6 through 8!) I pulled everything out of each bin and put aside anything that was visibly too small or out of season (if I were better at planning I would have had my kids so they'd be the same sizes during the same seasons...) and made a giant pile of what I needed for him to try on. I did this only one bin at a time because, if you have boys you know that trying on clothes is something they can only endure for a very short amount of time. We tried everything on and decided if it fit and if he liked it enough not to whine about wearing it. We made three piles: it fits, it's too small or he won't wear it, and it's too big. When we were done with each bin, we put all the items that fit into the laundry room clothes sorter, the too small items into a bag for my nephew (so my sister-in-law can store those at HER house!), and the too big pile back into the tote it came from. We repeated with all of his bins (after some breaks in between each one.)
You can repeat this process for each member of the family:
- Get out ALL totes that contain clothes for the upcoming season
- Before trying anything on, sort out items that visibly won't fit or you don't like
- Try on everything else, and create three piles:
- will never fit again (for kids these would be too small, for adults it is clothes that are for a weight that you realistically won't be again within a year or two) OR clothes you don't like. If it's something you know you won't wear because it's not flattering or it's a color you don't care for - donate it! Don't waste precious closet space to store something you won't wear.
- will fit in the future (for kids these would be too big, for us adults, this could be the clothes that are within a few pounds of our current weight)
- Put items that fit into the laundry
- Put will never fit again/don't like clothes into a donate box
- Put will fit in the future clothes back in a tote.
Step 2 - Sort the previous season's clothes
While the new season's clothes are in the laundry, go through the clothes that are currently in your closet and drawers. Use the same general strategy as you did with the upcoming season's clothes with a couple of tweaks.
- Take items directly from your drawer or closet and make a decision on each item (in other words, don't take them all out and make a giant pile.) This allows you to do a little at a time and not risk the tent- sleeping -for-two-weeks fate.
- Create three piles:
- will never fit again (for kids these would be too small, for adults it is clothes that are for a weight that you realistically won't be again within a year or two) OR clothes you don't like.
- will fit in the future (for kids these would be too big, for us adults, this could be the clothes that are within a few pounds of our current weight)
- If you can make a decision without trying it on (since you likely recently wore most of these items) just put it into the appropriate pile. But if there is any doubt, try it on!
- Put items that fit or will fit in the future into the empty bins created when you emptied the upcoming season's clothes. You may consider creating one bin for "will fit in the future" and another for "fits now" or you could put them all together since you'll have to sort them next season anyway.
- Put will never fit again/don't like clothes into a donate box
- Label the tote clearly on multiple sides. If it's kids' clothes, mark the size and gender, but if it's adults' clothes, just mark it with the name (and if you separated by fits and will fit in the future, indicate that as well.) Label it on multiple sides so that no matter which direction the tote is stored, you can see the label. Colored duct tape and a sharpie make easy and cheap labels that can be removed so your totes can be reused.
Step 3 - Store out of season clothes
This is the biggest thing I'm excited about! I am going to bite the bullet and do something I've been thinking about for several years...I'm buying shelves for my totes! (I know big step, right?) When totes are on shelves that means you don't have to play that game like the one you played as a kid where a square was filled with tiles and there's one blank space and you have to move tiles around to get them in a certain order. I've ordered the shelves and can hardly wait til they arrive (don't worry, I'll let you know on Facebook when they do!) Mine will go in my basement for the out of season clothes, but these could easily work in a garage or pole barn for anything you store in totes.
- Make sure to put the tote containing the size of your oldest child in the most accessible spot because, as they grow out of things, you will want to be able to add to that bin without a lot of hassle!
- Keep a trash bag with handles hanging in the laundry room so you can toss too small kids' clothes for giveaway in it right after they come out of the dryer.
Step 4 - Put away new season's clothes
After you've washed all the new season's clothes, put them away in your closet or drawers. Use this as an opportunity to purchase new (or re-purpose other items as) closet and drawer accessories to keep you organized. Some of my favorites for the closet are the hangers that allow you to hang multiple items and then collapse to save closet rod space, belt hangers or a purse hanger which takes advantage of vertical space, a scarf hanger which take advantage of the depth of your closet without hogging closet rod space, a cami hanger which can handle multiple sleeveless tops in the space it takes to hang one hanger, fabric totes where you can store items like t-shirts, hats, athletic clothes, stacking bins for closet shelves, hanging shoe holders, or shoes shelves. In your drawers, use clear plastic shoe boxes or wire inboxes intended for a desk to divide large drawers, or criss-cross organizers for socks and underwear.
I hope these 4 steps will help your "seasonal switch" go much smoother this year. If you are lucky enough to have huge closets, you may not even need to go through this difficult process (I'm jealous!) but for most of us, we have to store at least part of our clothing in a different location when they are out of season. If you have multiple kids and are saving their clothes for a younger sibling - kudos to you for saving all that money! Take it from a mom who's done it the hard way for way too many years and try some of these tips.
Throughout the day, different people and experiences pop into my head. I usually just let it pass and do nothing about it, but occasionally, I take the time to shoot that person a text or an email letting them know I was thinking of them and why. Most of the time I get a kind response of appreciation, and very often I get the response, "I needed that today." You don't have to be physically with a person to spread some kindness!
One day while I was eating lunch out, I had a young server who had several tattoos. I commented on one that was visible just by saying I liked it and asked what made him choose it. His whole demeanor changed. I think he was surprised to be asked (maybe me being in a business suit on my lunch hour asking about his tattoo caught him off guard) but he opened up and told me why he got the tattoo, what it meant to him, and showed me another one and shared a personal story about it. After this experience I've started asking others who have visible tattoos about them. I don't have tattoos myself, but figure if someone cares enough about something to have it tattooed, it may be something they'd like to share and it may make them happy to do so. Just from saying, "I like your tattoo, what does it mean?" I've heard about the impact of parents who have passed on, faith journeys, and just some funny stories.
"Saying kind things doesn't only improve the mood of those you're complementing, it also helps your own mood."
Since hearing Achor speak, I started a new dinnertime routine with my family. Each night we go around the table taking turns saying three specific things we were grateful for that day. They can be as small as, "I'm grateful for these great hamburgers that Dad grilled" or "I'm grateful for going on a walk in the sunshine today." The research shows that after 21 days of recording specific gratitude, our brains actually start perceiving the world differently because we are looking for things to be grateful for, so those things are at the forefront and the negatives - which still exist - are in the background. I'm eager to look back after we've done this for a few weeks at what made us feel gratitude and notice our happiness increasing! Once we become happier, we improve in many ways - health, productivity and our influence on others all benefit. Achor did a popular TED talk you may want to check out called "The Happy Secret to Better Work." I've heard many productivity experts talk about gratitude journals and have had a hard time keeping one for myself, but adding my family in the mix has helped me make this a part of my day that I look forward to!
I'm hoping to instill the habits of gratitude and kindness in my kids. I often just repeat the word, "kindness" to them when I hear them arguing. If their arguing gets out of hand, we have a little mantra they have to repeat while looking at each other, "you're my brother, and I love you." (and then I make them hug, or sometimes kiss depending on how loud and ugly the arguing was!) This exercise usually makes them laugh but I hope just by saying the words out loud will remind them to be kind to one another.
- say the nice things you think out loud (or in an email or a text)
- when you feel down or stressed, look for ways to improve someone else's mood
- record your gratitude in the small, positive things that happen in your day
Sometimes we may wonder if keeping up with all of the traditions is worth it. There is a difference between true traditions - things we do to create meaning that can be passed down from generation to generation - and just keeping up appearances. In this digital age full of social networks, posting what we decide is the ideal picture of our lives is an easy trap to fall into, and if this is the reason you keep up with a tradition then, NO, it's not worth it. But if creating and maintaining traditions brings joy to you and your family or provides precious memories and opportunities for your children to carry them with them into adulthood - then YES, keep it up!
There are so many reasons I think traditions are powerful and allow us creative opportunities to show our love to our past and to our future:
We have hosted a kids' Halloween costume party since our oldest was about 3 years old. I have pictures of both of my kids and their friends and their friends parents in all sorts of fun costumes. We often talk about things like "that time we stuck our hands into a bucket with cold spaghetti and thought it was guts!"
Traditions help us mark the passage of time
From the time I started school, my mom took a first day of school picture in front of the refrigerator. She could tell how much we'd grown by how close we were to the line between the fridge and the freezer. She has a first and a last day of school picture of my brother and me for every school year. When my kids started school, I did the same thing, but instead of the refrigerator, I use the back door. It's fun to see how much the kids have grown each year.
Traditions simplify decisions
What are we going to do for the holidays? That's not a question you have to ask yourself if you have a tradition. At our house, we have an annual Labor Day party on the Sunday before Labor Day. It's always in the backyard, we always grill, we always ask guests to bring a dish to share and their own lawnchairs, we always have glow sticks, we always have a campfire, and we always have smores. There are so many fewer decisions when you have a tradition.
There are many competing traditions around Christmas and Easter. My family chooses to participate in both the fun and the religious traditions (ex. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and the story of Christ's birth, death and resurrection.) We use traditions to communicate meaning. One of those traditions is one that we did just this morning, resurrection rolls. Every Easter morning, we make these rolls and talk about the Biblical meaning of Easter. Today, my kids helped explain the meaning in this video
As a child, every Christmas morning was spent at home. After stockings and before gifts, we would read the story of Jesus' birth from the book of Luke chapter 2. When I got married, we began spending Christmas mornings at our new home and our kids have always had Christmas morning at their home. Each year, we read from Luke chapter 2 after stockings and before gifts. We also read the same passage when we go to my parents house before opening gifts. My kids know that this is what I did as a kid, and I expect this is one tradition that they will carry on.
Traditions allow our families to be unique
One of my favorite traditions that I believe is pretty unique to our family is that we eat Christmas breakfast at a truck stop each year. This started the first year my husband and I lived in our current house. There was a truck stop in town, and it was the only thing open on Christmas morning so that's where we ate. It was good, and the waitress was so nice that we left her a big tip. After we left we said, "Let's make this a tradition." Well, a few weeks later, that truck stop burnt down....we didn't let that stop us, we just found a different truck stop. We've done this ever since. There have been different truck stops, and we've turned down Christmas meal invitations to keep up our tradition. It's been neat to see the kids get excited about leaving the waitress a nice tip!
We made up a really silly and fun tradition last Cinco de Mayo. The kids wanted to see the Tron remake and it just worked out that we had some time on May 5. My oldest and I stopped by the store and picked up some chips, salsa, and queso. We went home and announced the new Cinco de Mayo tradition was eating our snacks and watching Tron. The kids loved the movie and just the other day, they mentioned how we'll watch it again on Cinco de Mayo this year!
- 1 can crescent rolls
- 8 large marshmellows
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 4 Tbps (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
- Preheat oven as directed on crescent roll package
- Microwave butter (or margarine) in a microwave safe bowl in increments of 10 seconds until completely melted
- Mix sugar and cinnamon in separate bowl
- Open and separate crescent rolls, place on ungreased cookie sheet (these represent the tomb)
- Coat a marshmellow (represents Jesus' body) in melted butter (represents oil) and then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture (represents spices)
- Place marshmellow on a crescent roll
- Roll the crescent roll around the marshmellow and make sure there are no holes (represents Jesus' body being placed in the tomb and sealed)
- Repeat with all marshmellows
- Bake as directed on the crescent roll package
- Cut open to reveal an empty center (represents the empty tomb)
1. Motivation - What do I want to be known for?
2. Mentors - Whom can I learn from?
3. Milestones - What are three subprojects I can complete?
4. Monitor - What positive things are happening that I can acknowledge?
5. Modify - What one change can I make to keep moving forward?
This is heavy stuff! Thankfully, there were more exercises in the book to help me work through all of this. One of the activities that helped me the most was figuring out how I spent my time. As I've mentioned before, time is one of my weaknesses, so I needed to figure out if I was proving what I wanted to be known for by how I was spending my time.
- Was I being present with my kids?
- How much time was I working on staying "on top of things" at home and at work?
- How often was I actually helping someone else achieve a goal?
The real difference maker was when I answered the next couple of questions in the exercise. The first was: "What do I wish were different?" You may have heard the saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." Insane may be a bit of an overstatement, but if I want things to be different, I'm going to have to change. I think we could all make a long list of what we'd like to be different in our lives, but what are we doing to make that happen? If you're like me, I've gotten to this point before - I know what I want things to be like and then make a giant plan of all the things I'm going to change to make it happen. And then I fail because that amount of change all at once is overwhelming.
That's why the second question this section asked was really valuable to me: "Do I really need to make changes now? Should and can I wait?" Yes, I definitely need to make some changes, but which of them are critical or should be done first? It takes time to form new habits - longer than you'd think. Gretchen Rubin, author of many books including Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives, wrote about this in her blog post, "Stop Expecting to Change Your Habit in 21 Days." Give yourself time and space to make a change and really master it before adding more change.
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
I will add some more changes soon - once the family time on weeknights is a real habit. In the meantime, I'm trying to keep my short list of what I want to be known for front of mind as I make decisions or even speak - is what I'm about to do or say going to cause others to "know me" for being kind or helping them achieve their goals; is how I'm choosing to spend my time helping me stay on top of my responsibilities? If the answer is no, I need to rethink my actions!
How about you - have you thought about what you want to be known for and what that really means in your daily life? I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments. If Get Momentum sounds like a book you'd like to read, you can earn entries for the giveaway by visiting the Facebook page and/or simply like and comment on this post below before Wednesday, March 21, 2018 at 9 p.m. to get an entry!
- Don't expect more from myself than I expect of others.
- Set boundaries, and stick to them.
Today, I want to elaborate on the first point. I had an AHA! moment when I talked to my coach about all I was dealing with. She repeated everything I had listed on my responsibility list and asked me if I would expect someone else to handle all of those things in the manner I had explained that I wanted them done. I immediately said, "No." When she said if that was true, then I couldn't expect that of myself, I felt kind of stupid. I mean, that made a lot of intellectual sense, and even though I wanted to insert a "but" and follow it some logical reasoning - I couldn't. She was right, just plain right.
Realizing, and then internalizing that lower self-expectation didn't mean I wasn't good at my job, good at being a mom or a wife or a friend or a homemaker or any of the other roles I was in - it was FREEING! I could be a "regular person" and didn't have to keep up the superwoman facade. I deserved the same respect and grace that I gave to others, and I was really the only one who could give that to myself. As easy as it is to complain about how others treat us or what they expect of us - as I've often told my kids, "you're in charge of you." I needed to realize that applied to me as well!
"Done is better than perfect."
- Dishes - as long as they don't stink and there isn't an ant infestation, I choose family time over dishes. We use a lot more paper plates and plastic silverware than we used to. I made a set of family coasters (tutorial here) to help limit the number of glasses in our house. I'm ok with running the dishwasher when it's not completely full, and I taught the kids how to empty the dishwasher.
- Clutter - during the work/school week, I don't freak out about clutter anymore. We clean up on the weekends, and since I just decided to be ok with that, life during the week is actually less stressful. I do prefer a clutter-free house and have developed a few easy strategies to manage it. I have a paper inbox for all paper that comes into our house - this is the #1 best thing I ever did! We have extra toy bins that are hidden away under the stairs, so as long as toys are in that general vicinity - well, out of sight, out of mind. I gave up on shoes being put away (honestly, I was the main culprit!) Instead, we have a rug near the door, and as long as the mountain of shoes stays on the rug, I'm happy with that.
- Laundry - I'd love to say that I did laundry on a very nice schedule or folded and put away everything as soon as it came out of the dryer, but I'm going to be honest - I don't! To lower my own expectations, I decided not to worry about doing laundry during the week unless it was absolutely necessary. I bought enough undergarments for the whole family so that we have at least enough for about 10 days just in case we miss a laundry day! A few laundry "hacks" I've implemented are: I bought a bin for PJs that I'm going to re-wear, so instead of throwing them on the floor, I throw them in a bin on a shelf in my closet. I DO re-wear pajamas for a few days, and I also re-wear pants and jackets several times. I usually wash a shirt after one wearing, but hey, if it passes the sniff test... I also installed a hook in my bathroom so if I don't feel like hanging work clothes up or putting them in the hamper when I get home (which I worked hard to develop a habit of doing), at least they aren't on the floor. We (I say we because my husband is just as good, probably better, at laundry than I am ) no longer put the kids' clean clothes away - we fold them and put them on the stairs, and they have to "do the stairs" daily. Laundry is still one of the most difficult parts of keeping up my household. I'm going to do a whole post soon on this topic!
- Flowers/Garden - we used to plant a garden every year, and though I love fresh green beans and zucchini, I don't like weeding, and the garden would inevitably turn into either a bed of weeds or a big competition about who did more work in the garden. Last year, we decided it wasn't worth it and didn't even plant one. I planted one zucchini plant, and we just bought fresh veggies from the grocery store or roadside stands. When I'm retired, I think a garden will be fun, but until I have more time during daylight hours, I don't think it's realistic for me! I also finally accepted that I'm never going to be great at keeping flowers alive. There are a few types that I can handle, so instead of browsing in the lawn and garden section and trying new things every year, I stick to my wave petunias, and a few begonias and some others that I don't even know the names of. If something I plant in a pot dies, I just dump it out and put the pot in the garage for the season. No one is driving by my house saying, "where's her potted plant?"
- Schedule - I'm still learning how to better estimate how long things take - time is hard for me! I now make myself OVERestimate how long things take so I don't overbook myself. I'm done with the days of putting 20 things on my to do list only to get through half. Instead, I'm making my to do list based on how many hours are in the day, how many meetings or appointments I have, and how long the really important things are going to take. I'm trying to set more realistic timelines for tasks and projects. I always ask others, "what do you think is a feasible timeline to have this completed?" yet for myself I would set these crazy aggressive timelines. My people-pleasing nature makes it hard for me to be realistic sometimes. I'm learning that I'd rather overestimate how long it takes and get it done early rather than underestimate and either kill myself to get it done or disappoint when it's impossible to complete on time.
- Parenting/Family Time - I was fortunate to have amazing parents, and I want to be the same for my kids. I choose not to spend as much time on other things so I can spend more time with my family (and be less stressed doing it!) Deciding on my family as a priority over a clean house or a packed schedule doesn't mean that I don't get to have my own interests, hobbies, and friends or that I don't get to spend some time alone. I think by having outside interests, it shows kids what being a well-rounded adult is like. Even so, I feel pretty strongly that the the old adage about quality over quantity time is only partly true. I guess this is where I've lowered my own expectations - I focus on quantity and don't worry so much about quality. Being home nightly for dinner and bedtime, spending some parts of weekends at home all together, and attending school and sporting events - those are quantity goals. The quality part comes in the consistency and just "happens." It's impossible to create quality without some quantity. We may eat a speed dinner before cub scouts; I might have to sing a lightening fast song and say only a short prayer before lights out because of an evening commitment; or I might fall asleep on the couch while the kids watch a movie in the same room - but I was there, and it's still communicating that being WITH the family is important to me - because it is. Even though I'd love to, I don't have to be the PTA president to be involved at their school, I don't have to give them expensive gifts to show them what they mean to me - I can simply choose them, have routines and traditions in our home, listen, be present, and show affection. I'm certainly not perfect, but I'm learning the balance ...I may say "I love you" too much, but I'll risk that!
Keeping expectations for myself at bay is a constant struggle, but it's a struggle worth having. Feeling accomplished and satisfied with my less-than-perfect life is so worth it! Do you agree that lowering self-expectation is a good idea, a way to survive and thrive in this fast paced world we live in? Or do you disagree and feel that we should expect more of ourselves? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
The idea, if you’re curious, was to split up the house cleaning chores among family members so we would all agree on who does what and make a chart of the chores. Sarah’s family and my family had the same cleaning lady who recently had to take some time off. Instead of trying to find another cleaner who would most certainly not meet the expectations set by Miss Sherri (as my kids call her), we decided to try it ourselves for a while.
We did split up the chores, and after I printed out a nice little chart, I presented it to my family angrily, “Here’s your chart -JUST LIKE SARAH'S!” It got me thinking, though...this could be a stroke of genius...what if Sarah and I colluded and had each other tell the other’s family our “ideas?” Would we both suddenly get what we want? Or is it possible that Sarah’s family wouldn’t hold me in such high esteem, and she’d still have trouble convincing her family? Or does Sarah have a magic ability as a wife and mother that I don’t possess, and her family already thinks her ideas are amazing even when they come straight from her mouth??
So, in the end, I guess Sarah’s fantastic ideas are just one more thing I envy, but I made it work for me by teaching my 11 year old to clean toilets and my 6 year old to dust!
First of all - parenting win, right? My son was happy, and he wanted to live this time in his life on repeat. Not in a Groundhog Day movie kind of way, but in a way that he could still have new experiences, make new friends, and go new places, but the core of his life would stay the same. I knew EXACTLY what he was talking about. I’ve felt this way so many times during my life - as a young child, a teenager, and as an adult. We’ve probably all said it, “I wish could freeze this moment”, “I wish the kids would stay this age forever,” “I never want to grow up,” “ I want to live this day over and over again.”
Before I threw myself a party for being an awesome parent that helped to create a happy life for my kids, I had to also realize that my son was sad. He said out loud what most adults wouldn't admit. The future is scary, and even though we know we have to move forward, sometimes we just don’t want to. Sometimes we are literally so happy that it makes us sad! Sad to think of the future which may not be as happy, sad that we will miss the things we have today when they are gone. This sounds like such a good problem to have, and seems inconsiderate to even talk about because not everyone feels as happy as we do a. But if he and I have both felt this way, maybe others do too, and it’s worth exploring.
"The future is scary, and even though we know we have to move forward, sometimes we just don’t want to."
Up until this point in my parenting journey, I had felt like I’d done a pretty good job, but right when we were having this conversation was when I realized I was totally winging it! THIS is why I want to freeze time, so I can protect my kids from fear or sadness. Since I know that’s not possible, I tried to say something wise that my son might be able to quote in the future: Since it’s scientifically impossible to freeze time, we should freeze the happy moments in our minds, by taking pictures and videos, writing down memories, and talking about our happiness with those who make us happy. We should also look for opportunities to turn sad and scary moments into happy moments for others so they want to freeze those moments, too. We can do this in person, though giving to organizations that can create change, or through prayer.
I’ve learned over the years that there’s a happy medium between wishing away time and wanting to freeze it. I love now, but it’s not all I have. I have the past that I can think on fondly and remember what I’ve learned from it, but I also have the future that I can dream about and look forward to.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject and tips you have for appreciating the past, present and future. Leave a comment below!
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!
My Life In Laughter