Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

How to Raise an Uncommon Kid Today

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

I am so happy to have the amazing Sami Cone sharing with us today tips to help us raise uncommon kids! She is one of my dearest friends in the blogging community and I know we can learn so much from her! 

How to raise an uncommon kid today

Everyone knows raising kids isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we still hope to see change, improvement and potential in our parenting…and hope to see it quickly! The problem comes when we expect change in our children without first turning the mirror of change on ourselves as parents.

Before we can ever hope to raise uncommon kids, we must first be uncommon ourselves. (Click to Tweet)

The biggest issue I come across in parenting is that we somehow expect our kids to care about people and issues they know nothing about on the other side of the world, while not showing them how to love and care about the people right under their roof.

In my book, Raising Uncommon Kids, I share twelve characteristics that we need to embody as families before we can expect our kids to truly become compassionate. But how can we put these principles into practice? After all, speaking in theoretical terms only gets so far with our kids.

For our kids to care about others:

  • They need to know there are others to care about.
  • They need to understand the world doesn’t revolve around them.
  • They need to believe they can make a difference not just in the world, but in their neighborhood and most importantly inside their own homes.

Your kids may say they feel loved and I’d bet they’d even admit they love you and their siblings, but do they show it? Before we can be compassionate towards others, we need to practice within the fours walls of our home.

Actions speak louder than words, so let’s start today by learning 5 practical steps anyone can take to raise uncommon kids.

5 things you can do TODAY to start raising uncommon kids

1. Create a family mission statement. Once you do, display it prominently in your home where every member of your family can not only see it, but refer back to it often.

2. Re-design your home. Go through each room of your house and have each family member call out the thing they like most about that space, whether tangible or intangible. Strive to make everyone’s voice heard and represented in some way.

3. Parents switch roles with kids for a day. Want to help your kids experience what it’s really like to be you? Switch roles with them for a day. While children are typically thrilled at the prospect of ordering around their parents, the tides typically turn once they discover the new balance of work and play. Even if you don’t do this for an entire day, make sure to save time to celebrate the switching back of roles and debrief what everyone experienced.

4. Let your children deal with their mistakes. Don’t be so quick to clean up all your children’s messes for them. Think about it. It’s better to help your kids process their flubs while they’re living with you in their school years than to raise them in a bubble and then send them off to college without a hint of what the world will throw at them.

5. Encourage your kids to do one of their sibling’s chores one day. Explain how a simple act of kindness can break the battle cycle siblings often find themselves in.

Being uncommon isn’t quick or easy, but it is worthwhile. Knowing that you’re living life on your own terms not only allows your family’s heart to be full, but more importantly, fills you with the freedom for that love to overflow to others in need. When you model compassion in your own home, your kids will begin to understand what that could look like outside the walls of your home.

So what are you waiting for? Start raising uncommon kids today!

 

Life is What Happens To You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

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(I like this skirt because it hides that knee brace right now)

I knew something was wrong over the holidays, but didn’t want to admit it to anyone. As I wrote the addresses of our loved ones on the envelopes, my hand would lose grip of the pen, cramp up, and spasm. What should have been a simple task done with joy became something that had to be split up over a week that resulted in embarrassingly scrawled envelopes that I resented. I also resented Tiny Prints for sending no back-up envelopes so I could throw out the really bad ones. I left our return address off, for the first time, because I didn’t want to see those cards again. Feliz Navidad.

A week later as I headed to the grocery store, I put my car into park, and my foot curled in and would not sit flat in its shoe. A painful cramping left me sitting in my car for twenty minutes so I could walk around and get the family groceries. As if I didn’t dread the task of grocery shopping enough, now I could barely make it through the aisles, dragging around this foot and worrying that it would happen again while I was trying to check out or while I was driving.

Then the pain started in my hands in such a debilitating way that I could not even type, shoot a camera, knit, flip a book page without pain, or do any of my usual routines that are expected of me as a mom.  Pain shot through my fingers so badly that I sobbed and called my Dad like a little girl again, hysterically sitting in a corner of our bedroom sobbing and wondering why this was happening again when I was doing all the right things with my health.

So You Like Being a Hypochondriac

I was in denial that this was coming back. In college, after a routine dental procedure that went bad (as all procedures with me do), my parents had a battery of tests ran on me that included the usual blood work and more serious tests like a spinal tap for Lyme and MS. Everything came back normal, but I was anything but a normal college student when it came to my health. Muscle cramps, spasms, and numbness plagued me, particularly when I was overworked or tired…and I was constantly tired.  I later saw a rheumatologist who gave me the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and treated it with antidepressants that aided in muscle relaxation, but I knew that I had never really been satisfied with that diagnosis.

I could go on and on about all the weird and quirky things in my medical history like being a klutz and chronically tired child covered in self-created bruises from walking into things. Every medical surgery that never went as expected. Weird scarring on my body from things that never healed correctly. A shocking placental abruption with the birth of my child that was like a really bad crime scene in our home. Menstrual bleeding that made me finally seek relief through an ablation procedure (that also went badly).  Poor recovery from every routine procedure and struggles with anesthesia. Reacting to all medications. Dental issues and excessive gum bleeding.  A recent hearing loss that lasted for months and months and months that threw off my balance.  The snap, crackle, and popping of bones shifting each time I would go up the stairs and worries that something was going to pop out with all the sound effects. The stomach issues that plagued me my entire life. Old lady back pain that had me seeking relief at the chiropractor. Constant dislocations of random joints that left me rocking a brace on some joint on my body almost weekly at my gym classes.

I headed to the doctor with my hypochondriac list again and the routine tests were all performed along with an EMG to rule out radial tunnel syndrome.  The follow-up visit revealed that, other than a few minor things, all was normal.

Of course.

“How are your hands and fingers today?”

“Well, they are feeling a little better, but now my knee. My knee is out and it hurts really bad too.”

We had double booked our doctor for the morning and my son sat on the examining table for his routine ADHD follow-up. I requested that while we were here, he take a peek at the poor circulation in his hands. As the doctor began to examine him, Ethan said the magical question that started the ball rolling on the real answers.

“Are you going to ask him about our flexibility, mom?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I wonder if he has EDS. I have a friend that was diagnosed and it sounds like us.”

eds-test

The doctor started giving us The Beighton Score test and we, of course, could do all of this and more. You should see us at parties or just a fun night at our dinner table showing off with our bendy fingers.  After we passed this test with flying colors,  he pulled my son’s skin on his neck and watched it stretch to an unnatural amount.

“Look at the stretch in his skin.”

“Oh, I think mine is like that too,” and I pulled out skin farther than Ethan’s.

We finally have our answer.

We had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Oh, and my kid had scoliosis and Raynaud’s syndrome.

And the other one, she should be looked at too since she is bruising all the time and run down.

My head was spinning as I clutched a million handouts, appointments were made, tests duplicated for the specialist, x-rays done…in two hours I felt like our entire life had changed.

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What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome? And How Quickly Can We Get Over This?

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders, caused by various defects in the synthesis of collagen. EDS is known to affect men and women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

There are six distinct types of EDS currently identified. All share joint laxity, soft skin, easy bruising, and some systemic manifestations. Each type is thought to involve a unique defect in connective tissue, although not all of the genes responsible for causing EDS have been found.

These six types are defined according to the signs and symptoms that are manifested, in a set of major and minor diagnostic criteria for each type. Each type of EDS is a distinct disorder that “runs true” in a family.

Different subtypes of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome are associated with a variety of genetic causes, some of which are inherited and passed on from parent to child. If you have the most common varieties of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, there’s a 50 percent chance that you’ll pass on the gene to each of your children. Thus, the demonstration made by my crew means that we will all need a diagnosis to see if we all have it.

To receive a formal diagnosis of what type we all have and the treatment required for that type, we have to seek the help of a specialist and one of the leading people in this field just so happens to be rocking a practice in our town. Her research on EDS and how it relates to our GI system really helped to explain why I have had so much relief from removing gluten from my diet, as all of this is connected to our connective tissue. Instinctively, I had been doing many of the recommendations to seek relief for my numerous issues, never knowing how much I had been helping my body. It is probably why I have been doing so well for so long.

Dr. Collins counseled our doctor on the new regime we should follow until we could see her.  It involves a really ungodly amount of supplements that should help with joint pain and digestion. You can see her recommendations for diet and supplements that have worked so successfully for many of her patients, diminishing symptoms with this disorder.

Unfortunately, we can’t get over it. It’s something that we will be dealing with our whole lives and that was devastating to me especially in the middle of a bunch of injuires.

ehlers-danlos-syndrome-diagnosis

We Have Answers And I’m Sad & Still in Pain

I would have loved to skip out of that office with prescriptions for us all and immediate healing to my body. That doesn’t happen though and it takes some time to figure out exactly what will work for me and for our kids.

I have wept more tears than I can count for the pain that I have been in this week and hearing that we have this is heartbreaking for us all.  I told my mom yesterday, as she came to be with her weepy daughter, that  I could handle all of it if I wasn’t in so much pain with my knees, hands, and fingers. If it would have come when I felt strong and fit, I would have done the whole pull myself up by my bootstraps routine and just killed it like I always do, but right now I feel really broken.

I’m heartbroken our kids may have this and I feel like a crappy mom for passing down such crappy genes.

I’m sad how this has impacted my workout routine of hitting my dance class each week. It was the one class that brought me inexplicable joy and I know that it is the worst thing I can do for my joints right now. I miss the routines and love I get from each of those ladies in that dance crew. They have become like a family to me and I hate not being there.

I can’t knit to curb the stress because of hand pain and the need to brace things to help relieve it.

I’m heartbroken to see my husband so sad and feeling helpless about what is happening to us all. To be honest, that hurts almost worse than the pain.

debbie-downer

Silver Lining? Maybe Someday!

I am not in that silver lining stage and I cringe when people try to put a positive spin on this. My body and heart are in terrible pain right now. I guess the silver lining is that it could always be worse and there is always someone suffering and struggling with something bigger than something this minor.

As the four of us curled up on the couch together on Friday night, all on a single couch, I wrapped my two in my arms as tight as I could and alternately kissed each of their heads while we watched an episode of Shark Tank and chatting about if we would invest in people’s inventions. It was a simple moment, but we all needed it and craved it in this mess, the comfort that can only be found with one another. This situation is another team building exercise together and I’m glad I have this team and these people.

I’m also thankful we have an incredible village who are letting me be the weepy mess that I am and still want to be with me in spite of being the Debbie Downer of friends right now.

I’m ready to take the next steps towards healing.

In the meantime, the site may suffer, my workload will need to be lightened until I can get the hand pain under control, and I’m sharing this to buy some grace if things feel off here or if I don’t respond to your emails.  I’m not myself right now, but I’m thankful we finally have an answer.

If you want to learn more about EDS check out the Ehlers-Danlos Foundation page!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dora Band-Aids for a Hurting World

Monday, December 21st, 2015

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When my daughter was small, I remember that each and every hurt required some type of medical treatment. We had a constant rotation of ice packs and tiny bandages, often for nonexistent wounds. It was as though the act of putting that Dora Band-Aid on her superficially scraped up knee was enough to close the floodgates of tears and make the world right again. She needed me to see her hurt, to echo how awful it was to be hurt, and then to show my efforts to repair it.

Last week I discovered that a family I had been working with, through a volunteer opportunity I am involved with, had fallen on some particularly hard times and had been living without things that I would consider basic human needs.  The gas in the home had been shut off, the stove was not in working order, medical needs couldn’t be addressed through their insurance, and there was not even a washer to care for their family’s clothing.

When you have a platform like this to work from, you can often make swift work and can create fast resolutions to problems, simply because of the large circle that comes with this type of job. In a matter of 24 hours, I found I could meet all of these basic needs for this family between our family’s resources and many, many generous givers that I reached out to who helped me close the gap through material and financial donations. If there is one thing I feel proud of, it is is the company I keep.

As I shared those gifts with this family this weekend  I had a flashback of being that mom sharing a Dora Band-Aid again- I was so unequipped. This wound was so beyond the reach of the tiny offering that I had.  I could see so very clearly that there were many other needs that were there and I knew that the gift I offered, while appreciated, was just a small bandage on a problem bigger than I could fill. 

I left my humble bandage for this wound, I echoed the hurt, and I hugged those people and gave what I could.

Those bandages though, those are mine to give out and sometimes I have a whole box at my disposal and sometimes I just have a couple to share that I can sprinkle around. This box is mine to do with what I choose, and yet,  I was surprised at some of the commentary that came from what others said about those bandages.

“Did they deserve them?”

“Were they working?”

“Why had they fallen on hard times in the first place?”

“So many people working the system….”

You have probably heard a few of these before, am I right?

Here’s the thing.

My family?

We worked the system. 

My husband lost his job for a year and we became part of the system that people refer to with that shake of their head.  We found ourselves unable to make ends meet, unable to find employment, and the seeker of any government gift that we could qualify for. My husband and I went without health insurance (a gamble that kept me up every night), we placed our son on a healthcare plan funded by the state, and we eagerly waited for those unemployment checks so we could do things like get groceries and pay our mortgage.

What helped us get through those times were those tiny bandages that so many giving and kind people shared with us. They knew they couldn’t heal the gaping wound we had…it would have been impossible!  Yet, they were happy to share the smaller bandages that made each of those dreary days in my life better.

They brought us meals, they watched our baby, they gave us gift cards to have nights out, they even bought a pizza for the volunteers who later had to move us out of our very own home that we could no longer afford.

I could not even have purchased that pizza for them as a thank you.

Our debt situation?

Well, we needed a full-body cast at that point, not a tiny bandage.

But those bandages made such a difference and I still reflect on the generosity of the people that got us through such a depressing time in my life. 

And now, I’m the lucky one who has a box of tiny bandages to help those in need.

The bandages are often the smallest gifts, but not only are they my gifts to give, but it is their gift to do what they need to do with it. I don’t worry about if that bandage is going to someone working hard enough or if they are deserving of my tiny bandages.

I know God will figure all of that out.

He has a way of sorting things out for me. 

I only hope that other people are sprinkling them in some of the same spots that I am so we can close the gap on those hurts in the world together. When cobbled together, incredible things happen like the small Christmas miracle I got to witness this weekend as we met these basic needs for a family I love.

As we close out another year here at MomAdvice, I hope you will find a way to share your gifts with others, whether they are big or small. Just as I did with my daughter,  I am acknowledging these hurts in the world today, I echo your hurts because I think about them too and pray for resolutions, and I share a tiny bandage with those of you who are hurting.

I am also hoping you are one of the lucky ones holding a box and you won’t forget to share a few Dora Band-Aids of your own, even if the wounds seem too big for such small offerings.

They all matter.

And so do you.

xoxo

Circle With Disney: The Only Cyber Deal a Parent Needs

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Protect Your Kids

Sometimes it is difficult to share here and keep a sense of privacy  around certain issues that we have in our family. We have been dealing with a personal struggle with our kids and creating a good balance of online time and offline time with them. Our biggest struggle though has been protecting them from the internet and potentially harmful content as well as monitoring the amount of time they are spending on their devices.

There are a few things that I became aware of over the past couple of years about my loss of control as a parent.

One was that one of my children was getting up in the middle of the night to play online games while we were sleeping because we were monitoring the amount of technology hours they were allowed online. We found out that this child had been getting up at 3 in the morning every day, slipping on their uniform, playing Minecraft until I needed to wake them up, and then pretending to read in their room, absolutely wowing me that I did not have to pull them out of bed. Of course, the routine started to slip when they became an absolute disaster at school and emotional mess when they came home. We checked our internet logs to discover what was happening and realized it had been a routine for quite awhile before we realized they had been doing it.

The second was that one of our children left open their Google searches on our computer and a peek at their open search history yielded a serious discussion we needed to have about sex and the potential that their search could yield pornography or put them at risk of child predators. We should have had the talk sooner- it felt like a parenting fail to see what they were looking for.

The third were some unsavory jokes at our dinner table that apparently had been found on YouTube skits. 

Clearly, we had lost our control.

The Only Cyber Deal a Parent Needs

We started locking down the internet in as many ways as possible. No one could get on during certain hours, their Kindles had every parental restriction we could set, and we blocked any potential sites that we could that might pop up in their searches. We became police monitors of their behavior as best as we could, but still situations arose where we felt we lost control. My husband did hours and hours of research on what we could do to make this better, but we couldn’t find anything that fit our family’s needs. These blockers for our kids created blockers for me all day trying to do my job and I didn’t know how to reset the blockers my husband enabled. Potential monitoring systems would not work with our router so this is the crappy “block you from everything,”  solution that we had come up with for now.

Until THIS.  It’s called Circle. The company reached out to me to help spread the word about their service for the holidays. Honestly, I almost cried when I watched the video because this is what we needed.  THIS is what our family has been waiting for. THIS is the answer to our issues and I am so excited to show it to you today. I am over the moon excited that we are implementing this system in our home to help protect our kids and I can’t encourage you enough to consider the same system especially if you are having these struggles too.

I received a beta unit this week and would love to walk you through it. Even though I am a blogger, I can admit that I am not very tech savvy.  Watch the video to see how easy it was to set up for our family!

Every family needs this in their home.

Don’t believe me? Here is another video clip of it in action! 

Best part…

It’s only $99 FLAT (meaning no monthly fees!!)

Are you tired of letting the Internet dictate what your family is exposed to? Not Anymore! With Circle, you are the boss!

Here are 4 Awesome things you can EASILY do with Circle:

1. Set appropriate filters for EACH DEVICE. Use the pre-designed ones or customize your own.

iOS Screen 4

2. Track where your family is spending their time online. iOS Screen 3

3. Give your devices a BED TIME! iOS Screen 2

4. PAUSE the internet! Yes. you. can. iOS Screen 1

If you are still not convinced, read what these Circle customers are saying about it:

“As the father of four kids from elementary through college age, I am not exaggerating when I say Circle is EXACTLY the device I have been looking for to control the internet in my house. Circle truly is peace of mind in a little white box.” – Wayne Stocks

“Circle has literally changed our lives and how our family spends time on the internet. My worries of what my children could be exposed to online has changed overnight by the use of Circle. I can pause the internet anytime making getting chores or homework done much easier these days.” -Terra Nyce

“Circle makes it easy for me to protect my kids online, monitor usage across all our home’s devices, and create conversations with the entire family. It’s rare that something is simple and effective, but Circle is both.” — Michael Lukaszewski

We are so excited to finally have control again. Get control of the Internet and give your family this gift of Circle on Cyber Monday.

*This post contains an affiliate link, but I only promote things I believe will add value to your life.

How to Make a Homeless Care Package (Free Printable Supplies List)

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Note: From November 2012, this is one of the articles I’m most proud of on Mom Advice, and I’m SO happy that it’s also one of the most pinned, making me proud of YOU. I’m republishing it for our November Focus on Giving M Challenge with the hopes it will see a whole new group of people who will be inspired to give!

One thing that you may not know about our family is that we are really passionate about caring for the homeless. Creating a homeless care package can be one fantastic way that your entire family can be involved in caring for the homeless. Today we want to provide a checklist of supplies for the homeless, a local resources sheet you can print out (if you are in our area), and some tips for involving the whole family in this project.

This month Walmart let me choose a project that I was passionate about for the holidays and showcase how families could recreate it in their own homes. As I always disclose, I am compensated for my writing, BUT instead of accepting the compensation, we invested what I would have earned along with the gift card budget Walmart gave me to give back to the homeless in our community. 

These homeless care packages can be prepared for your local homeless shelters or kept tucked away in the trunk of your car for those you may see on the street looking for your help. I love feeling armed in these situations and these kits are a simple way to show how much you care.

I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t tell you that my husband inspires me every day with his giving heart. Last winter, he was coming home late from work because he would see people in need and run to stores to get them supplies and gift cards.

That is his heart.

That is why I love him.

If there is one thing I firmly believe in, it is that giving should be a family affair. We have to lead our children by our example. I want my children to remember that what made our family special is that we always gave with our whole hearts.  

My kids assisted in every aspect of this project. My son came with me and did the number crunching on a good old-fashioned calculator, my daughter helped sort and organize all of the items we bought, and both kids helped fill the bags with all of the necessary items.

Here Are My 3 Essential Elements to a Great Homeless Care Package

Feed Their Needs- One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone who is homeless is personal hygiene items and food to nourish their bodies. Begin by picking up items that will satisfy this area in their life first. Simple items like shampoo, a razor, deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, a bar of soap, and tissues are great items to keep on hand.

Food like granola bars, crackers with peanut butter, trail mixes, dried fruits, and a bottle of water are also great items to tuck into your bags. If you have the funds, small denominator gift cards (we did $5 Walmart gift cards) can also be great to give so that they can pick up a meal or item(s) they might need.

Provide Warmth- We live in Indiana and the winters here are brutal. I can’t imagine how cold it would be to stand on the streets without the proper items I need for warmth. Add items like thermal boot socks, gloves, scarves, and hats to your gift bags. Items like these may seem out of your financial reach, but I found all of these at the dollar store and the sets of gloves were a mere $.50 each.

Feed Their Souls- I am sure it goes without saying, but feeding someone’s soul is just as important as feeding their needs. You can feed their souls in a variety of ways depending on your families beliefs and resources. We created a local resources list (available for local residents to download) that they can tap into for further resources in our town. A note that lets them know that they are on your prayer list, a note of encouragement by your children, or a scripture that you find comforting can also be excellent additions.

God has been so good to us, but 10 years ago we were in a very different place than where we are now.  My husband was unemployed for almost an entire year, our financial situation was a house of cards, and my heart was in a bad place. Although I don’t like to admit it, I wondered what my purpose on this earth even was. I never have forgotten that dark place and it is why we still try to be so careful with the resources we have been given and why I have such a tender place in my heart for those who are struggling.

Being careful though doesn’t mean that you can’t be a giver. There are fantastic ways to give, both big and small, around the holidays. Be sure to check our list of ten painless ways to give back to charities to help you get started.  I call these smaller ways to give the, “scraps of life giving.”  I have talked a lot about that with my partnership with Pure Charity as well! 

We want to help you give back to your community! Here are some resources to do just that!

Grab our Free Homeless Supply Checklist for your your care packages. Don’t just click on the picture, head to this link to grab a full-size PDF version!

Grab our Local Resources List for your care packages (if you don’t live in Michiana, you can use this as a template for your own sheet)!  Don’t just click on the picture, head to this link to grab a full-size PDF version!

 

How do you give back in your community? How do you teach your kids to be givers?

 

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. For this project, all compensation was invested in aiding our area homeless.  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

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What We Have Learned From Adopting a Shelter Cat

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

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Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Fresh Step® litter.

I had never had a cat growing up, but when we were newly married the only type of animal that we were allowed to have in our apartment was a cat. We naively headed to a pet store and purchased our first cat who lived with us through the birth of our two children and a move that brought us from Massachusetts to Indiana. When she passed away, my home felt empty and I found myself incredibly lonely. I never realized how much she filled my days and how much I would miss her daily presence in my life.

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com our first family selfie with Lulu

This time, I was a little older and a little wiser than my newly married self. I knew that there were many cats available at the shelter that needed a home and I wanted to get our next animal from there to support a great local shelter. We knew that kittens went quickly while the older cats tended to stay longer so we picked out our sweet Lulu who was still a young lady at three, but had been at the shelter for awhile. What a hard selection it was though as we browsed pages and pages of cats looking for a home to call their own. Lulu captured our hearts thanks to her sweet disposition with kids, her sassy tuxedo, and her adorable name (I happened to play a Lulu in a high school play).

On July 15, 2013  we brought her home with us and I immediately moved into crazy cat lady loving territory. I have never loved an animal more than I love this cat.

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

Lulu has brought so much joy to my life and to our kid’s lives that we all fight over who gets to hang out with her.  She follows me from room to room like a puppy when it is just us two and enjoys the pets and snuggles from our kids when they get home, waiting by the door patiently for their arrival.  We celebrate her birthday every year on Halloween like the crazy cat lovers we are and sing her the birthday song, much to her disappointment. The torture!

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

What Are the Benefits of Adopting a Shelter Cat?

There are so many benefits to adopting a shelter cat and today I want to share a few important reasons with you about what a special gift it is to give one a place in your home:

You Are Saving a Life- There are over  2.7 million animals who are euthanized each year because there are too many pets and far too few families to adopt. This number could be dramatically reduced if more families adopted instead of buying animals. Not only that, but by adopting an animal you also free up space for another animal to take their place and find a forever home.

You Can Take Advantage of Adopting an Adult Animal- Kittens are so fun, but can be a lot of work. Lucky for you, you can skip the toddler stage and jump right into adorable calm and companionship. We found an adult cat fits perfectly in our family and adds so much to our household.  With adult cats their sweet dispositions are already established and you can move right into world’s best couch companion without the crazy! 

You Support the Work of a Great Non-Profit- When you adopt a pet from our shelter, you assist a not-for-profit organization, but you also send a message to others who will be asking you for years to come where you obtained your adorable pet. There are so many incredible volunteers who spend countless hours caring for these animals as they await their forever homes. Nothing makes me happier than to honor the hard work of these volunteers by adopting a pet and supporting great companies like Fresh Steps®  who help support organizations like these.

Why You Should Adopt a Shelter Cat from MomAdvice.com

How Fresh Step® Helps Shelter Cats Through Their Million Meow Mission

Fresh Steps has a Million Meow Mission that strives to help all cats experience a loving home. Whether it is through caregiving, volunteering, or financial donations, they consider every act of kindness to a cat in need a true gift.

Although I was aware of the program, I wasn’t aware of the work they did to support fospice care. I am not sure if you have even heard of the term, “fospice care,” but it is one mission in particular that is so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes.  Fospice care is when a family foster cares for a cat that is terminally ill and gives a shelter cat a loving home where they can spend their final days with a family. It certainly takes a special family to do this and Bosley was  one strong cat who overcame the odds and spent a beautiful year with one family who opened their home to make it a place of sanctuary for Bosley in his final days.

Watch this video about Bosley and the family who got to be his family during these last peaceful moments. How can you not want to support a mission like that?

This year, Fresh Step® continues its commitment to shelter cats by offering enhanced opportunities for its Paw Points loyalty members to get involved. Members can:

    • Enter their Paw Points Code to show support for shelter cats and receive a Million Meow Mission badge to share on social media
    • Donate Paw Points to support shelters and receive a $2-off Fresh Step® coupon and a Million Meow Mission badge to share on social media
    • Share their Adoption Story with the community. For more information on the Million Meow Mission and to get involved, please visit their website.

 

We hope you can join us in supporting this great cause through your purchase of Fresh Step® Litter. Now that we know their mission to assist others, it makes our purchase feel even more special!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Fresh Step® litter.

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3 Ways to Take the Hassle Out of Packing School Lunches {& Free Printable!}

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

This is a post from our diy/craft contributor, MJ.

Mom Advice lunch time printable- free download!

For the first time ever, I’m packing lunches for three kids – which means three drinks, three sandwiches, three treats, and three sets of complaints! Like any parent, I strive to pack healthy and tasty meals that the kids can enjoy in the middle of their days, but oftentimes my best attempts fall short of their hopeful stomachs.

So now that our trial and error efforts have failed, and I’ve talked it over with my children, we’re proud to recommend these three ideas that have helped turn our lunchtime fails into lunches that leave only the crumbs behind.

1. Ask your children what they want and give them the tools to make good decisions.

Before we head upstairs for bedtime, I ask each child what they’d like for lunch. Sometimes we have what they want, sometimes they ask for food they shouldn’t have, and sometimes they have NO ideas. To avoid the headache, I created this Lunchbox Helper!

DOWNLOAD THE FREE LUNCHBOX HELPER PRINTABLE!

Lunch box helper printable

Food choices are separated (roughly) by food groups, and my children are able to make smart choices for themselves (eg: see that fruits and vegetables should be a part of every meal!). It’s also come in very handy for grocery prep. My children can add their own ideas to the sheet and mark off what they’d like to pack for lunches and snacks, and we can know in advance what we need to have in our pantry!

3 Ways to Take the Hassle our of School Lunches

2. Organize ingredients in a place they can pack for themselves!

Lunchbox Helper lets your children see and select what they want to eat, but let’s take it to the next level and have them pack their own meals. In our home, we have all the good stuff on the lower shelves where small hands can reach exactly what they need. In the pantry and in the refrigerator, all the fruits, veggies, grains and goodies are at child height.

I love how Amy organized her space so that an entire lunch can be gathered up from the space of a few drawers. No confusion means less work and less hassle for everyone!

School Lunch Ideas

3. No matter how the food tastes, send them off with your love notes.

When my oldest started in full-day Kindergarten, I sent her off with a note in her lunchbox. As she mentioned that she sometimes didn’t know what to talk about at the lunch table, I started adding a joke to those notes. Over the years, these evolved into illustrated notes with the drawing sometimes being much funnier than the corny joke!

Through a wonderful partnership with The Land of Nod, my illustrated jokes are now reaching hundreds of lunchboxes! Just a few months ago, my Lunchtime LOL Notes went on sale as a full pack of 180 jokes for every day of the school year. It’s been such a treat to hear how parents and children alike are enjoying these notes and turning any menu into a time for giggles.

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I’d love to hear your ideas! What works for packing lunches in your family? Any great foods to suggest?

XOXO, MJ

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

With my son’s blessing & permission, we are sharing our story of what is like to have & be the parent of a child with ADD in this continuing series. To read Part One of our diagnosis story, click here.  Part 2 continued the diagnosis and treatment process!  Today we tackle working with the schools! We welcome your comments and hope our story helps other families facing the same challenges.

I think one of the biggest challenges for me as a parent wasn’t just the treatment process, but more the stigma and worry about what having a label like ADD can do.  Before we dealt with this, I had always thought of this as kids being crazy (and probably indulging in too much sugar), but ADD/ADHD can be so different for each kid. Maybe you had an idea for that label too? It isn’t always necessarily hyper kids- I don’t think I would have identified my child as that. In each child, it looks a little differently with similar characteristic traits.

Today I want to talk about how we tried to set Ethan up for success at school.  I already told you, this kid is SMART (he gets it from his daddy!), but we needed to get certain tools and people in place to help him be the star that we know he is!

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

Start Talking Early

We knew that Ethan was struggling at school and we felt like we needed to let our teacher know that we were working really hard to improve things for him and hopefully for her too! I set up a meeting with the principal and his teacher and tearfully explained that we were working with our doctor and were in the process of figuring things out and asked for a little patience until we had some answers. They both were genuinely kind and sympathetic as we were floundering to figure out how to help Ethan.  Looping them in early bought us a little grace during the diagnosis process because they knew we were trying very hard to make things better for all the parties involved.

Once we had a diagnosis, we were able to begin making the accommodations necessary through our public school system and our principal explained how we could get a 504 for Ethan in place once we had this paperwork. Depending on your needs, you may need an IEP or a 504.  If you are trying to figure out what you need, I love this table that breaks down what each of these means on Understood (a great resource for parents!). At times, with speech services we needed an IEP. When speech was dropped, we just needed the 504. It depends on what type of accommodations your family needs to determine which type of paperwork is filed.

What The Heck is a 504?

Once we had the official paperwork from the testing with our diagnosis, we put a plan in place for Ethan.  We set up a meeting with the principal, his teacher, and with someone who could set up something called a 504 plan for him. A 504 is basically a blueprint or plan for how a child will have access to learning at school that is written together.  It provides services and changes to the learning environment to meet the needs of the child as adequately as other students and is provided at no cost to you.

Here is the thing… I did not want to ask for special favors or inconvenience our teacher, but I knew that there were things that really needed to happen so that Ethan could perform successfully at school. It pained me to ask for “favors” (I am a big people pleaser and hate being a bother to people), but I knew this could help him so much!

Our 504 has pretty much remained the same since elementary school with a few tweaks here and there for his accommodations.

We Need To Be In the Loop- Our biggest issue was that we felt in the dark about what needed to happen during the day and if the teacher needed something from us. We asked that Ethan write in his agenda daily what needed to happen and requested the teacher initial to verify everything so we weren’t missing important papers and deadlines anymore. We also asked that any further communication that she wanted to do with us also was on the agenda so we could be sure not to miss anything.

We Need Access to Quiet Spaces Sometimes- Some classrooms are rowdier than others. He had a hard time focusing when there was a lot going on and we wanted to be sure that he could take advantage of a quieter room if he needed it. This is something we only have cashed in on once, but it’s nice to have in place.

We Asked for A Little Grace on Late Papers- This is never to be abused, but sometimes our disorganization has caused us to be late on assignments. We just asked for grace, particularly transitioning into our new school routines since having zeros for late assignments could really lower his grades.

We Need Extra Time At the End of the Day- This was particularly important as we headed into middle school so that he had enough time to get his books and papers gathered and organized before getting on the bus. That extra 5-10 minutes made an enormous difference in our organizational level and our grades. I think this was the best thing we asked for!

Where Does the 504 Go?

For us, one of our biggest transitions was going from an elementary school setting to a middle school setting. Although we had communicated with his teachers that he had ADD, we did not know that we need to communicate with the middle school that he had a 504 from elementary school and that we wanted to make sure everything was set with it moving forward into our new school. If there is one thing we learned through this process, we learned that we need to check in every year about this and make sure that it is communicated with his teachers. The first year of middle school taught us a lot about making requests known as we were struggling to even pass because the accommodations weren’t there.

What ends up being the difference in the grades if the 504 is not addressed?

We went from barely pulling C’s to High Principal’s Honor Roll!

That’s an incredible difference for a child and for their family.

It’s also an incredible difference in my child’s confidence about himself.

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

How Can I Continue Making His Day Better?

Not only do we have the 504 in place for Ethan, but we take advantage of anything that the school offers that can continue improving those grades and helping him feel confident.

Confidence is such an important thing for a kid.

When our middle school offered free tutoring, we took advantage of that so he could stay after school and tackle that homework with help. We found that he was more productive in that environment than he was riding the bus trying to work on his homework when he got home.

We also looked into ways that he could burn off energy in a positive way. We were lucky enough to have gotten the scoop on cross country in middle school from another mom and this helped Ethan burn off some energy and be a part of a team that really fit with his personality.  I love that his coach focuses on each child doing their own personal best and that he has managed to find fun ways to encourage my child to run with a system of great rewards that Ethan finds motivating. We also love that running is an activity he can always do when he needs to burn off a little steam at home. What a great gift!

I wrote a special note to his coach to thank him for all he does to encourage our son because it has meant so much to us and to Ethan. His positive influence has been a big gift to our family.

How Can I Set My Kid Up for Success?

Success at school starts at home. I can do all of these incredible things for him through the people he interacts with at school, but if I am disorganized at home, those repercussions follow Ethan and make his day hard. It’s a team mentality and I struggle each year as the new school year starts. I can barely keep myself organized most days, let alone stay on top of someone else’s stuff too!

As a parent, I have to make sure that I communicate with his teachers from day one, I have to make sure the appropriate paperwork is filed on his 504, and I have to be the one to stay on top of everything with his homework and projects.

Being organized at home is important because it can be the difference between a good day and a bad day for my son.

As he gets older though, I am trying to push a little more back to him. Someday he will be an adult and he won’t have a mom setting everything up for him in his workplace and in his home. I want to raise a self-sufficient child so I have to do my part to help him do that. Sometimes he will do great with it, sometimes he won’t.

We don’t expect perfection, we are proud of him for trying and doing the best he can.

We certainly aren’t perfect either.

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

The Nagging Mom Transformation

I needed to work on my nagging as much as Ethan needed to work on better habits.

In the morning, the routine was the same:

Do you have your papers?

Did you get your agenda signed?

Did you do your homework?

Do you have your gym clothes?

(said in a nagging mom voice)

I started utilizing a checklist that I would sit by his backpack to go through and would just remind him to check his checklist in the morning instead of the daily nag. I turned off my own distractions and just focused on a good breakfast and building that kid up at the bus stop. I made more time for hugs and less time for Facebook-checking. I tried to tell him one thing I was proud of him each day. All of this has become such a part of my routine that I don’t think about it anymore.

I don’t think this makes me an amazing mom and I don’t say this to brag, I just say this because part of the transformation of this diagnosis is the transforming I had to do on myself.  I had to see the psychologist so I knew how to respond to my child better. I have to invest the time monthly in check-ups and making sure his medical needs are addressed. I have to communicate with the school staff so they know I care. I have to make room in our schedule for activities that make my son feel confident.

It has all been worth it.

Every.

Single.

Moment.

I hope that sharing this story offers some encouragement to you. As a blogger, there is a difficult balance that we have to deal with when sharing about our families. I shared this because I felt so very alone in this process and I know our story can help others.

If you are working through this with your child, I want you to know that you are not alone and that you are a good mom.

The process of discovery, diagnosis, and treatment can be transformative for a family.

Your process might look different than mine or you might explore other avenues than we did. Each family must figure out what works best for them.

I have found I was a much harsher judge of other moms before this experience. Now I just look at all of our different paths (with all those winding turns) and say, “I am so proud of you for doing what’s best for you!”

If there is anything I have learned from this experience it is that it takes a village.

I am so thankful for mine.

xoxo

Maximize Your Morning Hours

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Maximize Your Morning Hours from MomAdvice.com

I was forced into being a morning person thanks to my kids. In my younger days, I would stay up late watching mindless television, and would sleep in until the last possible moment. There is nothing like an early bus schedule to take a girl out of her cushy routines, is there? Although I never desired to be a morning person, it’s incredible how much better I feel and how productive I can be with those extra morning hours. I am actually pretty thankful that early mornings are now a part of my routine and I even try to maintain the schedule as best as I can during the summer months.

Here is what I know…

If I can become a morning person, ANYONE can!

Today I wanted to share a few tricks that have helped me in creating an ideal morning for my family and I’d love to chat with you about your ideas too! 

Utilize Your Evening Hours to Get a Good Start

Getting up earlier can mean that I am a little less productive in the evening since I am usually pretty worn down after a full day! I try to make a couple of things top priority though to help save my sanity in the morning. The first is that I always set my coffeemaker the night before and program it for my morning brew (this is the inexpensive pot that I use now), I always make sure that the dishes are done and that the dishwasher is run, I always try to get all the paperwork signed and in the backpacks, and I always try to lay out my gym clothes the night before so I can hit the gym first thing in the morning!

These small habits in the evening help us start on good footing the next morning.

Set a Million Alarms

I have a hard time staying on track with the multiple schedules going on during our mornings. Maybe that is just me?  I set an alarm on my phone to make sure each kid is up and then I set an alarm 5-10 minutes before we have to head out the door to have them get their shoes on and grab their gear. Although it doesn’t apply to my morning routines, I set alarms to remind myself when I need to head out the door to the gym, when the buses are returning, and even an alarm to remind me that I can take a break for the day from work and read for an hour.

My poor cat is so annoyed by my alarm system that she cries every single time one goes off.

I won’t lie.

I sometimes want to cry too. I love the reminder though to keep things on track so we don’t miss our morning buses or oversleep!

Maximize Your Morning Hours from MomAdvice.com

Turn Off the Distractors

I know everyone struggles with getting distracted and the quickest way for my morning to get off track is to turn on my phone or computer. I decided to add the Facebook Kills News Feed extension to help me not cheat and peek at Facebook during the day when I need to be productive.

I also make deals with myself about when I am allowed to peek at my phone. Each day the deal is something that I need to accomplish from household chores to an article for a client to finishing a book. Once I fulfill that daily contract with myself, I can cruise the FB newsfeed and catch up on all I am missing out on.

Email also has been of my biggest distractors so now I check it once in the morning, once midday, and once before the kids get home from school. I noticed that each time my phone made a ding, I ran to it like my cat when I shake the treat bag at her. It lead to lots of interruptions, a half-present mom, and a lot of anxiety when I wasn’t dealing with whatever I had opened. If I can’t sit down at my desk and deal with it with a proper response, I just don’t open it! Not only has it made my mornings smoother, but it has made my entire life run more smoothly.

Maximize Your Morning Hours from MomAdvice.com

Make the Morning Household Chores Bearable

I am big on maximizing my time and I know that you are too. I have discovered that podcasts and audiobooks make wonderful companions in the morning while I am getting things done around the house. Three of my favorite podcasts right now for making the most of my mornings are the The Lively Show, Magic Lessons, & Elise Gets Crafty. Thanks to the Overcast app that I downloaded, I also am listening to them at a quicker speed which helps me consume a little bit more while I am tackling that laundry and tidying the house. Not only am I proud that I am being productive in my home, but I’m learning so much about living with intention in the process.

Maximize Your Morning Hours from MomAdvice.com

Make Room For You

I may be one of the rare ones in the world because I rarely feel guilty about making time for myself. I know when I can fill my cup up, I have more to give to everyone else. I am not sure if that is because I have such a supportive spouse who has always encouraged that or if I just have always been thinking about myself. Oh, who are we kidding? It’s probably both! My ideal morning involves a good Bible study on She Reads Truth, a cup of HOT coffee, a little journaling (right now I am doing this journal with my husband) and then I head to the gym where I do classes I really love and that make me happy.

Our mornings aren’t always perfect, but starting with good intentions, smart planning, and a little self-care reward help me start my day on the right foot!

Do you have any tips or tricks for a great morning routine? I’d love to hear them as we explore this topic this month in our m challenge series!

*this post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love!

 

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Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

With my son’s blessing & permission, we are sharing our story of what is like to have & be the parent of a child with ADD in this continuing series. To read Part One of our diagnosis story, click here. We welcome your comments and hope our story helps other families facing the same challenges.

Testing day could not come quickly enough, but it first required a session with the psychologist to explain our concerns. We didn’t just talk about his inability to follow through on tasks and disorganization (although that was frustrating). Our biggest concern was the emotional outbursts and anger that we were dealing with. We knew we weren’t handling these situations well and were concerned that not only were we dealing with a possible ADD diagnosis, but that maybe something emotionally was wrong too.

I remember that the doctor said that often by treating the ADD that these emotional outbursts lessen because the child is not so frustrated.  I certainly didn’t want to pin my hopes on that, but wouldn’t it be incredible if we were able to help both elements of our struggles as parents?

He said he would get us scheduled with some weekly visits for the anger issues though so we could get that under control.

Good, we needed it!

Testing, Testing

Testing day had finally arrived. We had lots of questionnaires to fill out and even ones to pass on to our teacher to share about how our son performed in the classroom.

Testing can be done in a variety of ways (every family needs to explore those options with their own doctor/psychologist)  and the psychologist we chose diagnosed through an IQ test. I remember nervously dropping him off with a big snack and a kiss for the morning.

Once the test results were done, we got to come back in and chat with the psychologist about the diagnosis.

What did the results show us? He was incredibly smart (you don’t have to tell us that!), but his memory/processing/sequencing (I apologize that I don’t remember the specific category) was extremely low. Since those numbers don’t correlate, he had every characteristic listed on every ADD site we ever visited, and the questionnaire filled out by us and by his teachers supported this theory, the psychologist said that he felt confident that our son had ADD.

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

He has ADD, Now What?

Hallelujah! We have an answer!  In my mind, someone gives us a prescription and we go along on our merry way and live happily ever after.

It wasn’t like that though.

The psychologist gave us the paperwork and we had to set up an appointment with our physician and then the doctor had to outline the treatment and then we had to go back to the psychologist.

Of course, we haven’t even touched the anger issues so we need to set up appointments for that.

Oh, and loop in our teacher and the school system.

Instead of relief, it felt like a million more pounds of stuff I needed to do.

First, we contacted our doctor and he had a complete physical that gave us information about where we were starting at (particularly his height & weight) and then she recommended a medication that we could try, letting me know that we could start a small dose and then increase the dosage based on what we needed. Since I know nothing about medication or dosage, I left this piece of the puzzle in the doctor’s hands.

She assured me she would keep a close eye on things since I would be seeing her once a month now.

WAIT, HOLD UP. I have to go to the doctor with my kid every month for this?

Granted, I know other moms who have had a much harder time with their kids and medical issues so this feels really ridiculous for me to feel like this is a burden, but the idea of going to the doctor monthly for physicals and having to have a handwritten prescription every month that I could not just get filled annually, but have to bring in a physical prescription every four weeks seemed like a lot to deal with on top of our counseling appointments.

It goes without saying, but the cost of all of these tests, medications, and physicals were also unexpected.

Pass the wine!  But just the boxed stuff because BILLS.

Treatment Begins

This is probably the hardest part of our journey and this journey can look so differently for so many families.

This was the part of the journey that Ethan wanted me to share specifically with you.

The struggles with figuring out the right medication and the right dosage for our child were extremely difficult as were the side effects that he experienced. Remember how I said I left the medication piece of the puzzle up to our doctor to figure out? We had no idea that the dosage was too high for our son because we had no idea what an appropriate dosage would be.

Although it is typical to experience side effects from medication as your body adjusts to it, our child did not even resemble my child anymore.

He could not sleep at night.

He barely ate.

He seemed like a robot.

After the first day in school on his medication though, he told me something though that nearly brought me to my knees.

“I finally feel smart.”

This beautifully bright boy had never felt smart until now and that just about broke me.

I was still riddled with the guilt of yelling at him and feeling like I failed him as a mom. What if I would have caught this sooner? What if I could have helped him feel smart years ago?  The guilt and the part I played in this story really bothered me.

We headed to our weekly therapy appointments to deal with anger.

Guess who sat out in the waiting room?

The kid with the anger management issues.

Guess who went to therapy?

My husband and I!

Oh, that made me so mad…

I wonder where he got those anger issues from.

As the doctor had suggested though, Ethan wasn’t angry anymore. We didn’t experience emotional outbursts, but we wanted to be prepared if they started back up again. My husband and I headed to anger management class and my son sat out in the waiting room reading his book, unaware how cool we were going to be after all this training.

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 2)

nancy lary studios

Go With Your Gut

Even though Ethan felt really smart, I did not love the side effects of this medication he was on. I went along with the the plan despite my misgivings.  I regret that I did not speak up sooner for him and for our family.

After a year of living with a zombie, we ended up needing to switch doctors and I got a referral into one of the best doctors in our town. He immediately put him on the lowest dosage available and also selected a pill that would have very few side effects. Instead of changing my kid, it would just act as a little aid to help him tap into those smarts that he already possessed. I started to see my boy again and I knew we were on a better path.

What I learned from that experience was that I may not be a doctor, but I need to always be an advocate for his treatment.  If I’m not comfortable with how things are going, I need to speak up about it.

Since he is growing like a weed now and doing so well with this pill, we don’t have to meet with our doctor monthly, but we still have several meetings a month where our doctor talks to him about school and learning to tune in to the things that he experiences with his medication and learning how to utilize those cues as life skills if he doesn’t want to continue a medication later in life.  This is a conversation that the two of them have and I chime in as needed. It’s a good place to be in when you have such a great dialogue with your physician.

Now that we got through our biggest hurdles, we still had to address how we handled everything at school. Next week I’ll share what it has been like going to bat for Ethan in the school system and what I have learned from this experience together!