Beat the Back-2-School Blues

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Can you believe it’s back-to-school time already? It seems like we’re just finally settling into our summer routine (and remembering how to slow down and relax) and now it’s time to shift gears again!

Here are a few last minute tips for surviving the change:

Bedtimes – If you’re like me, your family bedtimes may be all out of whack because well, it’s summer and, of course, the Olympics! I’m not sure who decided to put so much awesome stuff on way past even my bedtime, but it’s definitely wreaking some havoc on our nighttime routine!

So, perhaps you haven’t had a chance to start setting bedtimes back 15 minutes earlier each night for the past two weeks to gradually ease your family back into a school schedule. It’s okay — please don’t fret! Just like when daylight savings time hits, you will recover. It may take a week or two, but you will survive this.

Here’s a plan: on the day before the first day of school, try to make sure the kids get plenty of activity (swimming, playing a sport, riding bikes, whatever your kids normally do to get some of that extra energy out). Aim for an early dinner and get the kids into bed early. When they protest that they are not tired, hand them a book to read. When they complain that they are missing the Olympics, reassure them that you are recording it for them or that you’ll catch the highlights in the morning. (I think most of it is recorded anyway, right?)

After a little bit, even if they’re still reading happily, turn the lights out at a reasonable hour. It will be tough, but you will survive this. (Have I mentioned that already? I must need the reminder 🙂 )

Prep – Now that the kids are in bed, try to get as much done as you can before the morning. Pack lunches; get backpacks ready; have clothes all set out; perhaps put an encouraging note in a bag or lunch sack for them to find; and decide on breakfast. Speaking of breakfast…

Get them excited to wake up – Plan a fun breakfast that will motivate them to get moving on this challenging day. Nothing too involved or complicated, but choose a meal that will make them smile.

Keep your expectations low – I used to be a photographer, so having a family picture on the first day of school is really important to me. But I’ve learned (the hard way!) to be flexible. Maybe instead of trying to get the whole family and the dog in the photo, I’ll be happy with an individual shot of each kid or a group shot in the afternoon when they return from school. Have an idea of what you want, but also keep some back-up ideas in mind. Be flexible. (Did I mention that already?)

Restart the day if necessary – Perhaps you decided to completely disregard the tip above and were determined to get that perfect family picture (been there, done that). If that scenario happened to end in a puddle of tears from half the family, all is not lost. Take a deep breath, hug your kids, and suggest that you restart the day. No big deal, right? 🙂

Leave earlier than you think is necessary  – No explanation needed. Everything takes longer than you think!

Plan a little something for the afternoon – It doesn’t need to be a big deal at all, but let the kids know there is something for them to look forward to after school — so they can think about if they need to during the day. Maybe it’s getting them a little treat from the drive-thru on the way home or playing board games first thing before they even have to look at homework or sort through their papers.

Be their calm – When you get to school, try to just smile, hug, and take a few low-pressure pics if it’s important to you. Nothing is a big deal — everything is going to be great. Remind them of the tip above before you head out and that you will see them again oh-so-soon as you slip out the door.

You did it! Now go cry/relax/celebrate 🙂

Marvelous (Summer) Mondays

Mondays and I haven’t always had the best relationship. In fact (if I’m being completely honest), during the school year, I flat out dread them.

But Mondays have a new life during the summer. I’ve decided to take them over and remake them into days that I actually look forward to…and it’s working!

On Mondays during the summer, I try not to schedule anything. No errands or outside items on our agenda. Instead, I am relaxed with waking up times and meal times and reading times. It’s all very go-with-the-flow.

We use Mondays to talk about the week ahead – what we want to work on, what we have going on, and what we want to take on. We pick something from our bucket list. We talk about our goals. We decide what books we want to read.

Then we go swimming. Or eat a popsicle. Or watch a Rangers game. We just relax and enjoy summer.

Mondays have become our day – and I’m loving them!

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How to wake up early (from an anti-morning person)

So, every once in a while, I get real honest with myself…I actually own up to the areas where I’m just flat out falling short. And the more I think about it, the more I realize just how important mornings are – and just how much I struggle with them!

I am the complete opposite of a morning person (I think that’s why God gave me a husband who just loves the mornings and wakes up ready to go around 5am, as unbelievable and slightly nauseating as that may be). I, on the other hand, struggle to open my eyes no matter what time it is…it’s not that I don’t look forward to facing the day (4 kids and a rambunctious dog? Bring it on!)…I just really enjoy my sleep!

mom tipsIf you wonder how my husband wakes up so early, it’s because he falls asleep before everyone else! This pic was taken years ago but it still makes me smile…this little one and I caught daddy passing out way early 🙂

Well, I’ve finally accepted that the mornings are a great opportunity that I am completely missing the boat on – and I’ve committed to waking up early every day this month (except on weekends – because, well, that’s just crossing the line…)

So, how’s it going? Well, honestly it was painful at first. But it is getting easier…and here are my 3 keys to waking up early:

  • Use music as your alarm. Before, we used the blaring alarm on my husband’s phone, and I grimaced and hid under the covers every time its shrill beeping shattered our early morning quiet. That jarring alarm did nothing to ease me into the pain of waking up…so I had an idea. On my iPad, I can set an alarm, and I can choose a song as my “awakening noise” – so that’s what I did! I chose a fun song (right now it’s “Come and Get Your Love” from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”) and I can’t help but smile whenever I start opening my eyes…definitely a much more pleasant way to start the day.
  • Let yourself do something fun first thing. When I first wake up, there is no pressure to workout right away or start writing or even to do a devotional. For the first ten minutes of the day, I can do whatever I want (like play a silly game on my iPad, check in on Facebook, or read a chapter in a book). This helps me ease into that still somewhat painful stage of waking up, and after that gradual phase, I am energized to get purposeful and productive!
  • Place all necessary materials close at hand. Before I go to bed at night, I make sure that all the items I need to use during my morning quiet time are on my nightstand – so there is no excuse that my books or journals or notes are in a different room (which is all the excuse I need in the early morning to put something off until later). Placing these items on a nightstand (or somewhere nearby) can be the little nudge you need to get going!

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Waking up early and taking advantage of some quiet time before the chaos of the morning takes over is one way to help me be calm and centered before I try and tackle the day ahead. It also helps me check off one or two items from the to do list – getting me in a good groove for the remainder of the day.

What are your tricks to waking up early?

How to Harness the Power of an Hour

One thing I’ve learned as a mom is how precious time is — and how quickly it goes by (except, of course, between the hours of 3pm and 5pm!). If I ever get some free time, I want to make the most of it — even though the temptation is great to spend the whole time playing some silly game that the kids have taught me on my iPad!

So, as Super Moms, how do we harness the full power of an hour? Well, here are a few ideas:

  • Get something done: pick a few quick items on your to do list that you need to do (even if you don’t want to do them). Maybe it’s getting that load of laundry going or emptying the dishwasher or calling to schedule a repairman — budget about 5-10 minutes per activity. You could also spend that chunk of time working on part of a goal or project you need to move forward on.
  • Get moving: to be honest, whenever I think about exercising, my chest tightens a little and I will confess to dreading it! But when I’m done, I not only feel good about myself, I also feel more empowered to take on the day! For me, the key is to start small — find some activities that you can do for a total of 15-20 minutes (go for a walk, do a workout video, or check out the 7 app).
  • Get re-energized: okay, remember when I made fun of myself for playing those games on my iPad? Well, now that we’ve gotten a few things done and worked out, I think we’ve earned a little treat. Spend the remainder of your hour relaxing in whatever way you see fit (whether that’s playing a game, reading a book, calling to chat with a friend, or — my new favoriteworking on a page in an adult coloring book).

I’ve learned that I can get a lot done in an hour — so I want to make sure to be productive with my time, but when it’s all said and done, I also want to make sure and take a few moments to relax and enjoy the day!

Summer Schedule (The Reality)

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In my last post, I wrote about how helpful it is to have a summer schedule. And, in theory, it is. But some days (some weeks!), reality hits and despite my best efforts, we can’t get anywhere near a schedule. Here is how I deal with those days:

Let them run with it: Occasionally, the kids will start working on a project (building a crayon village or creating their very own s’mores sauce that actually tasted pretty good), and instead of reigning them in and getting us back on schedule, I just let them continue down the creative avenue they have started to explore. The s’mores sauce experiment turned into an all-out entrepreneurial experience, complete with them creating their own packaging and a logo. This took a lot of time, but that’s what summer is for, right? To turn off the clocks and let their imaginations just go free, without the limits of a schedule and a long to do list. Some days, I’m okay with letting them run with it.

Start implementing chores: Maybe you’ve already gotten the chore thing under control, but if you’re like me, every time we try to start enforcing chores, the busy schedule of life gets in the way, and I just end up doing whatever they haven’t done (which is pretty much everything). The summer is a perfect time to start requiring age-appropriate chores (perhaps with an allowance involved?) — and there’s not a huge rush to get them done. The endless summer days provide plenty of time to complete a basic list of chores. And it gives you a perfect answer every time you hear the phrase: “Mom, I’m bored!”

Make device time work for you: Clearly, kids need limits on their device time, but if you do allow device time in your home, perhaps now’s a great opportunity to find some benefits to it. My boys really enjoy the world-building games, and so I have given them assignments to help make it a learning opportunity as well (let’s create a baseball stadium with two teams and a concession stand). Also, I make the boys play together so that they are forced to improve their teamwork, patience, and brotherly bonding (it’s not always pretty, but I believe it’s bringing them closer together). I know devices are not everyone’s favorite thing, but if you can’t beat it, make it work for you!

Find times in the day for you: When the day feels long and you feel exhausted from changing the third diaper of the afternoon while putting away the laundry and cooking four lunches, you need to make some time for you. Look at your day (preferably in the morning so that you can look forward to it when you are feeling worn out!) and find 2-3 times, maybe 15 minutes each, where you can have some time to yourself. Now, depending on the ages of your children, this may not be actual time BY yourself, but it could be a time when everyone sits in the playroom and plays blocks while you get to read a book — or maybe it’s during naptime when the big kids can read their books and you can work on a project you’ve been meaning to get to. Find a way that is safe and non-stressful for your family, and give yourself some time to relax during the day.

No schedule is perfect, no day will be perfect, no mom is perfect — but if we keep trying and don’t give up, we will find a way that works for us!

Summer Schedule (The Plan)

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By the time May rolls around, I am beyond ready for summer. I am done with packing snacks and water bottles and making sure everyone remembers their backpacks and shoes (yep, somehow we forgot shoes one day). I am ready for those endless days of summer, with no schedule and no to do list and no worries and no stresses…and then it’s June 2 and I wake up to reality.

Summer is definitely a break in some ways (we don’t have to be up and ready by 7:45), but when your children are still up and ready to do something by 7:45 (or way earlier) and those endless summer days stretch (yes, endlessly) before you, it doesn’t take long to realize that if you want to survive summer, you have to have a plan.

I’ve been working on our schedule for awhile now, and I’m happy to say that it’s been working pretty good — and I’m not too proud to admit that we’ve had to make changes after the first couple of days. Essentially, here’s what our summer schedule looks like at the moment:

7am – 7:30am – Everyone wakes up

7:30 – 8:30am – Breakfast, everyone makes their bed, teeth brushed, morning chores (we started a chore plan as well this summer, and so far, each kid has been keeping up with their assigned duties with minimal reminders)

8:30 – 9:30am – Outside playtime (swimming, basketball, running around the playground — anything to use up some of that energy)

10 – 10:30am – Clean up, snack time

11am – Baby takes a nap, “school” time for big kids (I have some summer workbooks for each child and have picked one theme per month to plan learning activities around — for example, June is SPORTS, so I may have them write a story about a basketball team that can’t figure out a way to work together or they might complete a baseball math worksheet)

12/12:30pm – Lunch

1pm – Quiet time/reading (they have to try and read for at least 30 minutes, and if they are done at that point, they can draw or write or lay on the couch quietly — but no devices allowed!)

2pm – Indoor activity time (hide ‘n seek, Twister or other board games, dance party, etc…anything to use up a little more energy)

3pm – Free time! It was SO exciting to see the kids choose to read during this time earlier this week 🙂

4pm – Afternoon chores; once completed: family movie/gaming time; if eating at home: start dinner

5/5:30pm – Dinnertime

6 – 7:30pm – Outdoor evening activities (sports games, swimming, etc…)

8pm – Bedtime routine

9pm – Sit down and take a deep breath — we did it!!!

So, it’s not perfect, and sometimes we have to adjust, but having an idea of what we want to do helps me feel less stressed about the day. It also helps the day not feel so endless while giving us all purpose and direction.

The kids have actually really enjoyed having a schedule and have reminded me once (or twice!) that it was time to move on to one activity or the other at the appropriate time.

I have no doubt we will keep tweaking the schedule throughout the summer, but having a plan has given me a renewed excitement about the next few months… (though I’m sure by August I’ll be pretty excited for school to start again!)

 

Expect the Challenges

 

 

I am not sure when it finally dawned on me that there is a lot of truth to the phrase “it is ALWAYS something”…I think it was early last year when it seemed like we were hit with one challenge after another. It got to the point where I was just waiting for an issue to arise as soon as we had tackled the last one…I found myself anxious, wondering what would be next — and I didn’t feel like I could ever relax because what was the point?

While I still feel like there is always just another challenge waiting around the bend, I am trying to find a better way to anticipate that. On my weekly planner, I actually added a slot for “challenge”…In my mind, that reserves time in our already chaotic schedule for something out of the ordinary to pop up. So even though I don’t know exactly what curve ball is going to be thrown my way, I feel more prepared…I am ready for it (whatever IT may be)!

Writing down my challenges also serves as a good reminder of what we have made it through. Does surviving the rest of the school year seem tough? Well, all I have to do is look back and remember that period of my life last year when I was eight months pregnant (and felt like I was ten months pregnant) and found myself riding in an ambulance with my oldest son who had a fainting spell at school. That was stressful. But we made it through! And that gives me the courage and confidence to know that even though there is always something else coming, that’s just the way life works — and if we made it through before, we can make it through again!

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And at the end of the day, the challenges are all worth it…

Resist the Rush

Even when I’m not in a hurry, I feel it all the time…that sense of urgency, mixed with anxiety. I am always rushed.

Yesterday, when I had the chance to take my mom out for a rare “girls’ day” for lunch and some fun errands, I found myself eating quickly and zooming us from one place to the next. I finally realized what I have known for a long time: feeling rushed is my new normal – and I’m not okay with that. Here are a few tips for how I plan to “resist the rush”:

1 – Practice relaxing. I am going to order myself to spend 15 minutes each day doing nothing but slowing down — whether that means reading a book, taking a power nap, strolling on a casual walk with Ranger, or just sitting still and enjoying some peace and quiet.

2 – Build in extra time. Everything always takes longer than I think it will. From now on, I will start getting ready 15 minutes earlier than I usually would…I find that it normally only takes that little bit of time to keep us from running around to avoid being late.

3 – Find my calm. I know that even though I will try to leave 15 minutes earlier than normal, that won’t always happen. We will be rushed again at some point (most likely sooner rather than later). When that happens, it is up to me to force myself to slow down and enjoy the moment…or to take a deep breath (maybe 3 deep breaths) and fight the urge to feel stressed and anxious.

My thought is that if I can train myself to always be in a hurry, then I should be able to re-train myself to resist the rush…I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

And just to prove to myself that I do know how to relax, here was an image take two summers ago…

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Trying to capture that feeling on a regular basis is the goal!

 

When There’s No Time For You

I think it must be Spring (Break) Fever, because lately it seems like I don’t have any time to do any of the things I want to do. Or need to do. Something always come up; someone always needs something. And I end up feeling really burnt out by the end of the day.

I was talking about (okay, complaining about!) this to my husband last night, and even though I sometimes get irritated with him for trying to “solve” all my problems without just letting me vent, we actually had a pretty good conversation. Based on that talk (and some personal reflection time after everyone went to bed), I came up with a little plan to help me fight the feeling that my time is not my own.

1 – Accept it…My time is not my own right now. Yeah, this one stinks. But every time I remind myself that this is just a season of my life and seasons never last forever, it gives me reassurance that I can do this and it makes me appreciate my current life status even more.

2 – Get it on the calendar…Just because we don’t get to have a lot of time for ourselves right now, it doesn’t mean we get NO time. Put a date on the calendar. Block out an hour. Two hours. Make a deal with your husband, your best friend, your mother or your mother-in-law. You deserve time to yourself to do you what you want – write it on your calendar in pen!

3 – Explain it to the kids…It’s okay for them to realize that as much as you love them and want to do everything for them, you are also a person. You have dreams; you have goals. And I think if they see you going after your own dreams (whether that’s writing a book, starting your own business, or running a marathon), it will give them the courage to follow their own path when the time is right. They may fight and complain, but as much as they want to make you feel guilty, they really have a great time with their daddy or grandma!

4 – Don’t forget to do what you WANT to do during your time…The temptation is strong. If I can just get one load of laundry done or tackle that pile of dishes, there will still be plenty of time for me to do what I want to do. But let me let you in on two little secrets: those things take longer thank you think and don’t worry, there will ALWAYS be another pile of laundry to do. You don’t need to do it now. Use your precious time to do what matters to you. Even if that means reading a book or taking a nap. YOU CHOOSE.

5 – Enjoy it…stop rushing around so much during your “me time” (I’m preaching to myself now). It is going to be the fastest hour of your life, so make sure you slow down, take a few deep breaths, and really enjoy it. Appreciate this time that you have. Get the most out of it. Then, you will feel refreshed…and ready to tackle anything — even the four loads of laundry that piled up while you were out there writing your bestselling novel!

 

My favorite “me” time activities: reading, writing, and exercising!

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4 ways to LOVE: you!

It is a lot of fun to share the love with friends and family, but I think it’s also important to take a little time to show yourself some LOVE as well…here are a few ideas:

Learn something new: one of the best gifts you can give yourself is the opportunity to explore an interest — that may be a hobby that you loved many years ago that you’ve been wanting to get back to or the chance to try something completely new that you’ve always wanted to check out…there’s no guarantee that you’re going to fall in love with this new endeavor, but now you won’t regret never even giving it a shot!

Overlook a “flaw”: we all have those little things we don’t like about ourselves (I’ve got many things, but I am not a big fan of my smile…after a failed attempt at braces, I still feel that my incisors are rather “wolf-like” and I cringe a little whenever I see a picture of my grin)…but this month, why don’t we try and overlook these little flaws that we find in ourselves, and instead, let’s choose to love ourselves! I’m going to try and look at my smile in a new light…my kids will agree that maybe my “fangs” are a little awesome instead of gruesome 🙂 And it’s really not the smile that’s important, it’s what I’m smiling at that makes all the difference…

Visualize a vacation: sometimes it’s hard to get away, but try and take a few minutes to sit back and relax, close your eyes and pretend like your sitting on the beach, listening to the waves, sipping something cool and refreshing…or whatever your idea of perfection is!

Enjoy the day: find a way each day this month to enjoy yourself — whether that’s with a hot chocolate on a cold day or watching your favorite show once the kiddos are in bed or taking the time to read one chapter of your new book at lunch…find the little ways that bring you happiness and fit those treats into your daily routine!

I may be waiting for the clock to strike 3 in carpool line in reality, but in my mind, I’m right here…

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