Archive for the ‘Parenting & Marriage’ Category

6 Ways to Date Your Husband in the Summer

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

6 Ways to Date Your Husband in the Summer

The other night my husband called me around nine o’clock. In lieu of hello, he said, “Go outside,” as soon as I picked up the phone. He was on the interstate, driving past our exit, and amazed by the brilliant sunset painting the sky. A truck driver who works nights, he doesn’t get to Netflix and chill with me after the kids are in bed, and finding ways to connect — or just veg out together (quality time love language for the win!) — is a challenge.

But on that night, we stared at the same sky for a few moments, oohing and aahing over the orange and pink stripes that I saw from the front porch and he saw from the front seat.

No matter what shift you or your husband work, connecting in a meaningful way with any regularity can be difficult. And while I’d like to say it’s easier in summer, because we’re all maxing and relaxing to some old-school hip hop, sipping grown-up drinks and holding hands while the kids play nicely in the pool, that’s not really the case, is it?

Summer might be more flexible or laid back in some ways, but it’s still real life. And no matter what the season, real life can get in the way of our desire, our intention, our plans to connect with the one we love most. So, just like I found a few fun (realistic) ways to date your husband in the fall, I’ve put together a list of fun, easy ways to date your husband in the summer.

Side note: In my effort to be original and helpful to you, I did some research on summertime date night ideas. And while I am sure some of us would love filling an inflatable baby pool with pillows for a comfy night of stargazing or adding candlelight (or glow sticks) and the word “strip” to board games for a grown-up night at home, I decided to keep it a little more simple this time.

(And, let’s be honest- every time. Because seriously.)

Tips for Dating Your Husband in the Summer

6 Ways to Date Your Husband in the Summer

1. Sip and sit under the stars. After you get the kids to bed, grab your hubby and a cold drink and slip outside. Drink some lemonade (or whatever your beverage of choice is), lean back and watch whatever show nature has for you. Sunset or stars, clear sky or clouds, it doesn’t really matter. Taking a quiet moment to relax and connect is the point.

(Bonus point? This date is free.)

2. Netflix a new show. Or Hulu or Amazon Prime. Or wherever you can find a show or miniseries or movie trilogy to watch while snuggled up with your favorite person (and maybe a bowl of popcorn to share). My husband and I just caught up on the show we’ve been watching on Netflix and now, while we’re in mourning a little bit, we’re also on the hunt for a new show. For us it’s not just about vegging out to something entertaining; it’s about sharing an interest and getting so caught up in a fictional group of people we can’t stop talking about them when the show’s over.

(Side note: If you have any suggestions for a new show, I’m all ears. In the past we’ve watched Friday Night Lights, White Collar, NCIS, Castle, Blue Bloods and Psych.)

3. Catch an outdoor show. No, not the sunset again (although that’s always an added bonus, isn’t it?!). I’m talking about attending an outdoor concert or play, or maybe watching a movie at the drive-in. Even though the bugs and the humidity and the beating sun get on my nerves like nobody’s business, something about summer nights takes me back to the days when my husband and I were dating. Back when he would willingly do things like attend Shakespeare in the Park, and I would do anything outdoors without griping about feeling sweaty. So, this summer, I’m checking the city’s calendar of events for our next date night!

4. Stay inside. If you’d rather not sweat on your big date, try something indoors instead. You can always do the typical dinner and a movie (it’s our default, especially when a new superhero movie is out!), but why not mix things up this summer? Try karaoke and drinks or a museum and frozen yogurt, or pretend to be a tourist and hit up your town’s coolest attractions!

5. Go back to school. Take a class together! Learn to cook a new dish or paint some pottery. As long as you can both keep your sense of humor and focus on the time together (and not getting it right the first time), you’ll have a great time — and maybe even learn something new!

6. Ride the ferris wheel. Or pet a prize-winning pig or spend all your quarters to win a giant stuffed animal. I’m talking about going to a fair or a carnival, of course! Even if your state fair isn’t the best state fair in the state (a little musical reference, if you will), summer is the perfect time to get lost for a bit wandering through the lights and noise and aromas of a traveling fair — and to share a funnel cake, of course!

What’s YOUR favorite way to date your husband in the summer?

 

Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Make a memory for your kids (and you!) with this fun summer activity!

Make an easy summer time capsule- a great activity for the whole family!

This year has flown by for our family and it’s hard to believe summer is so quickly upon us. Each year I’m more desperate to hang on to our summer and our memories together. My kids are hitting the teen stages and I treasure each moment with them so much more as they get older than I had ever imagined.

I want to share with you a fun summer time capsule ornament that your children can hang on the holiday tree or can be the launching point of a fun family mealtime together this summer. Have you ever had your kids create a time capsule? I am telling you, it is so much fun and gives you a glimpse, as a parent, into what is important in their lives.

How to Make A Summer Time Capsule

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

Supplies Needed

Directions

1. Tell your child at the beginning of the summer to begin gathering small items that represent their fun-filled summer! To get them brainstorming, consider gathering a representation of their favorite crafts, board games, building activities (puzzles or building blocks), beach finds (pretty sand or shells), or items found on nature walks. Tell them you want this capsule to really showcase what they were passionate about that summer so they can create a really important collection for their capsule.

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

2. Have your child jot down 5 things that they love about summer. Guide them with a gentle writing prompt to explain why they have included these items in their capsule to represent them.

For example, “I love seeing my mom cry when I take all of her money in Monopoly.” Of course, that would be YOUR child, not MY child (*ahem*).

Don’t forget to have them include the date somewhere on this sheet so you can keep track of the years!

3. Fill an ornament with their trinkets and the facts about their summer. Snap shut at the seams. If you are concerned about longtime storage, you can secure with a little hot glue along the seams.

4. Use permanent marker to write your child’s name and the date somewhere on the ornament.

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

In our family, we are all about board games, building blocks, finding seashells at the beach, and my daughter has developed a strong love for finger knitting this year. I love this representation of who she is at nine!

Don’t let the time capsule fun end at summer. We incorporated this same time capsule idea in our NYE celebrating as a family, but selected a few things that represented our favorite moments of the year. Over a celebration dinner, we each twisted open our capsules to share our favorite moments together. I remember that night well because I learned so much about my kids and some of the things they included surprised me. I guarantee you will learn a lot during the big time capsule reveal and make some beautiful memories.

For a summer capsule, this same idea would be fun for a family s’more night or as a fun ending to a sundae party together. Celebrate the end of summer in a new way and remember to get your kids thinking now because beautiful collections that represent them take time!

I hope you enjoy this fun craft together and please be sure to let us know if this becomes a part of your own family traditions as it has become such an integral part of ours!

Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids from MomAdvice.com.

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

 

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How to Make Bubble Snakes

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

These Indiana girls couldn’t be happier that summer is around the corner and today we wanted to show you how to make bubble snakes with our homemade diy bubble recipe. If you haven’t tried our bubble recipe, you are in for the best bubbles ever this year. This fun activity is brought to you in partnership with Tum-E Yummies today.

Have you made your own bubbles or a bubble snake before? If you haven’t, you are going to be amazed at the difference in this solution versus what you buy at the store and the staying power of your bubble snake. Not only are making bubbles and bubble snakes fun, but they are also a lesson in science.

According to Steve Spangler Science, “Bubbles form because of the surface tension of water. Hydrogen atoms in one water molecule are attracted to oxygen atoms in other water molecules. They like each other so much, they cling together. When you blow air through your Bubble Snake maker, you are creating hundreds of tiny bubbles. As the air wiggles through the fabric, bubbles are continuously being made. The bubbles attach to each other when they come out of the fabric. It’s all thanks to the same hydrogen bonds that make bubbles possible!”

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really understand the science behind bubble making. I love a bit of science with our crafts. Let’s get mixing!

How to Make Bubble Snakes

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed

Dishwashing liquid soap

Glycerin (we found this behind the pharmacist’s counter at our local superstore. Can also sometimes be found in the first aid supplies section)

Pitcher (we love the kind with a plunger to mix the bubbles)

Liquid Food Coloring

1 plastic bottle

Box Cutter

An old sock or a washcloth (secured with a rubberband) Bubble tray or a disposable plate or bowl

DIY Bubbles Recipe from MomAdvice.com

1. Mix up your homemade bubble solution in your pitcher (recipe below). We halved our recipe to fit in this two quart pitcher, but you can definitely mix up a full gallon too. Set aside.

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

2. Today, we are using a Tum-E Yummies container for the base of the craft, so let your kids drink their favorite flavor to get the container ready to be used! If your kids haven’t tried these, they are fruit flavored waters that come in five flavors (Very Berry Blue, Greentastic Apple, Fruitabulous Punch, Orange-arific, and Sour-sational Raspberry). Each of these have 100% daily value vitamin C, B6, B12 and only 50 calories and 13g of sugar. You can be assured, you will need all those vitamins for the bubble blowing that will be happening once we are done creating this craft!

3. Take a box cutter and carefully remove the bottom of the container. Once this is removed, secure a sock or a washcloth (secured with a rubber band) over the newly opened end.

4. Take your liquid food coloring and create a stripe of each color (red, yellow, green, and blue) across the bottom of the sock or washcloth. The more you add to the bottom, the more vibrant the colors.

5. Dip the rainbow end into the bubble solution. Be sure to get a good soak of bubbles on it to create your snake.

6. Blow on the other end of the container to blow out that colorful bubble snake. Be sure to stress to your kids to not suck in their breath (who wants to swallow bubbles? yuck!).

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

 

How fun is that? I guarantee amazing bubble snakes with our diy recipe! While you are at it, be sure to purchase some big wands for this fun project. You really won’t believe how big these bubbles are or how long they hold their shape before popping.

How to Make Bubble Snakes from MomAdvice.com

A huge thank you to Tum-E Yummies for partnering with me to create this fun summer activity idea. You can find these flavored waters in many convenience stores, grocery stores, and drugstores. My kids really did love this fun twist on water and I know they will make a fun addition to our pool bags this summer after a long day of swimming!

DIY Bubble Recipe
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Keep these items on hand to make bubbles all summer long. You won't believe the size or the staying power of this amazing solution.
Ingredients
  • 1 gallon water
  • ⅔ cup dishwashing soap
  • 2-3 tbsp. glycerin
Instructions
  1. Mix all these ingredients in a container. DONE!

For more fun family ideas, follow Tum-E Yummies on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!

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7 Promises I’m Making to My Kids This Summer

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

7 Promises I'm Making to My Kids This Summer

For the past several summers I’ve created a bucket list for my family. I’ve scoured local event calendars, scrolled through Pinterest, and subscribed to all the summer fun newsletters I can find. I’ve juggled schedules and friend groups and work projects and vacation days, and I’ve been DETERMINED to make each summer THE BEST ONE EVER.

Some summers have been more successful than others, but every summer ended with me realizing that bucket lists are not my friend. I love lists, and I function better in general with a list. But my summer bucket lists always end up feeling like goals or assignments, and I end up stressing out – and stressing out my family – to cross things off that list.

So this summer I’m taking a different approach. And instead of a whole bucket list of ALL THE THINGS TO DO, I’m making some simple promises to my kids.

7 Promises I’m Making to My Kids This Summer

1. I won’t sign up for every library program, since I know full well we won’t make it to 90% of them. Actually, this is a promise to the library, too.

2. I will take you to the library to get more books, even if you haven’t read the ones we already have checked out. Because, really? What does it matter if we have a giant stack of books at home? We love books in our house! And the library is fun. And I am not going to squash that with an arbitrary rule about not checking out new books until we finish the old ones. (Especially since a rule like that makes me a big, old hypocrite. Ahem.)

3. We will eat popsicles and drink lemonade. They may or may not be homemade. Here’s the thing: If we chop up some lemons and drop them into the came-from-a-mix pitcher of lemonade, IT WILL STILL BE DELICIOUS AND REFRESHING. And if I save my sanity by buying popsicles rather than making them and losing my mind when I try to get them out of the popsicle trays? We all win.

4. I won’t plan elaborate science experiments or field trips for every free day of the summer. I’m not saying we won’t go anywhere or do anything. We might do a science experiment or a craft project. We might go on a field trip or a road trip. But I’m not about to tell you about it weeks in advance and spend hours on details that will go directly down the toilet the minute my plans meet reality. Nope. Not gonna do it!

5. I will take you to the pool. And I will wear a swimsuit (and a smile) when I do it. We’re in a weird place right now, trying to sell our house and move. So I’m not sure if we’ll be going to the city pool (if we’re still in our current house) or the neighborhood pool (if we’ve moved into the new house). But we will go to SOME POOL, SOMEWHERE. And I will not let them hear me complain or see my grimace about the heat, the sweat, the sun or the swimsuit I’m wearing.

6. When I’m not working, I will close the computer and put down my phone. Because I work part-time from home, I have a lot of choices when it comes to summertime childcare. (And I promise that even when I’m stressed or frustrated or WHATEVER by my summertime childcare options, I am always aware of the privilege it is to have choices. And I’m grateful.) While it’s important that I decide between theater camp or a robotics class, between daycare or a babysitter, the most important choice I make each summer is what I will make most important. How will I prioritize? How will I balance? How will I make sure my kids know they are more important than work and chores and lists and rules?

That’s not to say my work isn’t important. That’s also not to say it’s not important for my kids to see me working. But it IS important to me that when I’m not working, I’m not working. When I’m with my kids, when it’s playtime, I’m with my kids for playtime. I’ve never been good at this, so I figure now is a good time to try again.

7. We will have fun, and we will like it. And speaking of playtime…we will have some of that! I will let go and laugh. I will relax and be refreshed. I will enjoy my kids and myself and this season and this life. I will have fun, with my kids, and we will like it!

At least once this summer.

What promises are you making this summer?

 

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Using Meaningful Places to Celebrate Your Marriage

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Using Places to Celebrate Your Marriage

My husband and I are in the process of selling our first home and buying a new one. It’s not the first place we lived together; we actually lived in five different apartments in the first four years we were married. But it is the first home we owned and the only home our kids have known.

We’ve painted every single wall in this tiny house, and we’ve replaced the flooring in every room but one. We’ve sunk thousands of dollars into what we not-so-fondly call our money pit, and we are beyond relieved to finally sell our “starter home” after 13 years. But it’s not just 1,000 square feet of wood and plaster and whatever crawl spaces are made of (spiders and mud?). And it’s more than four walls and a roof over our head and a mortgage payment each month.

It’s where we have laughed and yelled and cried and cussed and prayed and loved and worked and lived. It’s where we have hosted countless parties and showers and small groups and barbecues and holiday celebrations. It’s where we have hurt each other and spoken so harshly, so regrettably, and it’s where we have healed and grown stronger and closer than ever. It’s where we’ve taken turns rocking our babies to sleep when the baths and the stories and the bottles don’t do the trick, and it’s where we’ve taken turns rocking each other to sleep when the world and the pain it brings us has been too much to bear.

Much as we have lamented the years we’ve been stuck in our little house, we also can’t deny its comfort over seasons of change. Jobs, friends, churches, family dynamics, opinions, even the culture and climate of our world: these things have all changed drastically and multiple times over the past baker’s dozen years. But our home, well, it’s stayed right here, waiting for us day after day.

I’m super excited about our new house and the changes this move will bring, but I’m glad to have a few more weeks before we leave this place for the last time. Of course I’m grateful for the chance to pack and pick out appliances and figure out how to get our mail forwarded to our new address. But mostly I’m thankful for the chance to give our old home a proper goodbye.

All this reminiscing has me thinking about the way places play such an important part in our relationships and our memories — and our lives, really. I think about how certain streets or states or benches or bridges remind me of moments and people and events that have mattered to me. And I think that our marriages can really benefit from this idea of place. Here’s how:

First, think about the places that have been significant to you and your husband. Answer as many of these questions as you’d like.

  1. Where did you meet?
  2. Where did you go on your first date?
  3. Where did you first fall in love?
  4. Where did you first kiss?
  5. Where did you break up?
  6. Where did you get back together?
  7. Where did you meet each other’s families?
  8. Where did you get engaged?
  9. Where did you get married?
  10. Where did you first live together?
  11. Where did you bring your babies?
  12. Where did you have that fight?
  13. Where did you make up?
  14. Where did you go to counseling?
  15. Where did you go out with friends?
  16. Where did you celebrate a job offer?
  17. Where did you comfort each other after a loss?
  18. Where did you dream or plan or brainstorm?
  19. Where did you finish that project?
  20. Where did you make a big decision?
  21. Where did you go to church?
  22. Where did you cheer for the team?
  23. Where did you tell him you’re pregnant?
  24. Where did you have fun?
  25. Where did you laugh together?
  26. Where did you cry together?
  27. Where did you join something together?
  28. Where did you quit together?
  29. Where did you feel free?
  30. Where did you remember why you fell in love?

Second, find a way to honor your marriage by celebrating these places.

  • Create a scavenger hunt of your most significant places and literally walk down memory lane.
  • Take photos of each important place and put them in a scrapbook, photo album or frame.
  • Choose 12 of the most meaningful places to revisit over the next year.
  • Plan a date in a place you have gone on a date before. Talk about everything that’s changed since the first time around.
  • Take turns visiting special places to you as individuals and sharing their significance with each other.

Those are just a few ideas, but once you start thinking about all of your places, the possibilities are endless. Perhaps one of these ideas will spark your own creativity as you use the idea of place to improve your marriage! I know that, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m determined to work PLACES into my next date night (which just happens to be near my anniversary: a perfect time for reminiscing and celebrating!).

What’s an important place for you and your husband?

 

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4 Things Potty Training Reminded Me About Life

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

What Potty Training Reminded Me About Life

Even though she just turned two in January, we’ve been attempting to potty train my youngest daughter. She’s been fascinated by all things potty-related for months now, and the other kids that her babysitter watches are either potty trained or in the process. So when the babysitter asked for Pull-Ups, it only made sense.

Except – UGH. Potty training is kind of the worst. (I mean, not the literal WORST. I’m not clueless, you guys. But it’s up there on my list of Bad Things I Don’t Like At All right now.)

This lovely stage has its positives, of course, just like any stage in life. Seeing my toddler beam when she has a potty success is pretty awesome, and so is hearing her chant, “Mommy proud of me. Daddy proud of me. Sissy proud of me. Grandpa proud of me. Who else proud of me?” And as I talked about the torture that is potty training with some friends today, I realized that this annoying parenting project has reminded me a few things — things that are true about life in general, not just for parents and not just about potty training.

It’s reminded me of truths that are encouraging no matter what challenging season you’re facing, so I thought I’d share them with you today.

4 Things Potty Training Reminded Me About Life

1. A sense of humor goes a long way. I don’t care how old you are or how mature you fancy yourself, the truth is that poop is funny. And so are naked toddlers, potty dances, and all the many ways we beg and bribe our kids to just use the darned toilet.

But bathroom matters aren’t the only awkward or difficult things we can laugh about. When my husband and I can laugh together, we are automatically closer and less likely to argue (or more likely to resolve those arguments quickly). And sometimes when my oldest daughter drives me to the point of pulling out my hair, the only thing to break the tension is a joke or a funny face.

Sometimes life is hard and challenging and serious. It is. But other times we make things harder than they have to be, and a little humor can go a long way toward helping us get through a rough time.

2. Your kids are not the enemy. Just like I have to remind myself that my husband and I are on the same team, rather than fighting against each other, I occasionally need to remember that my children are not actually plotting against me. Yes, they often foil my efforts at organization, timeliness, cleanliness, being well-rested or having family fun time, but they are not the enemy.

Remembering that the people I’m dealing with – whether it’s my husband, my children, my co-workers, my friends or my extended family – are not out to get me is a game changer for me. When I step out of the role of victim and realize that, “Hey, they aren’t even THINKING about me, much less planning my demise!” I can see things much more clearly. And that’s the truth, you know? In most cases people are not sitting around, coming up with ways to ruin our days or our lives. They’re not making lists of ideas for irritating us or insulting us. They’re just living their lives — their lives that sometimes don’t look the way we want them to and might even affect us in less than ideal ways.

My daughter — brace yourselves for some TMI [too much information] here — is partially potty trained. She’s all over using the toilet for one bathroom function, but refuses to use it for the other one. [Is that too vague? Should I use the terms “number one” and “number two”? Oh my word, who thought it would be a good idea to use potty training as a metaphor for life???]

ANYWAY. The point is that, so far, she has not cooperated for the most disgusting of her potty business, and it’s made me so upset. But she’s not trying to hurt me. She’s not doing it to inconvenience me or gross me out. She’s just trying to learn how to be a person, and sometimes being a person (especially a little person who potties in the right way in the right place) is hard. She’s not the enemy, and we are in this battle together.

3. Everybody (and nobody) has the answer. Oh my, have I been reminded of this one! I knew I was feeling desperate about this potty training business when I resorted to asking for advice on Facebook. (I KNOW. Why would I ever do that?!) All the answers I received were actually kind, but WOW were they diverse! Everybody had an idea or an opinion or some insight, but at the end of the day, I’ve come to realize that absolutely nobody has the exact answer for my family.

Which is so true about every single situation we face. This world is not lacking for opinions. And crowd-sourcing is a great way to learn those ideas and beliefs, as well as to find some new ideas and suggestions that might help you out. But the truth is that nobody knows exactly what you need — so the best thing to look for are those friends who say, “I don’t know how to fix this, but I will sit here with you.” I love those kinds of friends, don’t you?

4. This season won’t last forever. It won’t. Just like our physical therapist assured me that my oldest daughter would learn to walk and that she wouldn’t crawl into her kindergarten class (she didn’t), I know my youngest won’t graduate from high school wearing training pants. And I know that someday I might even long for these days when she needed me so much — but let’s be honest; right now I’m just grateful this phase of lifting her onto the toilet every 20 minutes is temporary!

Side note: Tonight I pulled out the book I ordered to read with my older daughter. The one about the birds and the bees, you guys. CLEARLY the season of potty dances and pigtails did not last forever!!!

And this is one of the most encouraging lessons I have learned as an adult:

Our lives are made of seasons, and they do not last forever.

Each season has its beauty and its gifts, but some of those seasons are hard or frustrating or depressing or challenging or disappointing — or sometimes all of the above! But no matter how dark the days are, we can find a glimmer of hope by remembering that this season won’t last forever.

You might be a million miles away from the potty training stage of life. You might not have kids at home, or perhaps you have kids with special needs who will never be potty trained. Changing diapers might seem like the smallest of irritations compared to the challenge you’re facing today. I know. Maybe your tough situation is one I can’t even imagine, much less list out in a blog post.

Even so, I hope you are encouraged to remember at least one of these truths that I’ve learned from – of all things – potty training. This won’t last forever. You can do this. And when you do? When you make it through to the other side, when you see the sun again and begin finding the humor again? Go ahead and do the potty dance. It really does work for celebrating all sorts of success and survival!

 

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Do When Date Nights Aren’t Possible

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

What to Do When Date Nights are Impossible | MomAdvice.com

“And, whatever you do, make sure you have regular date nights with your spouse.”

Has anyone else ever read an article or listened to a speaker or even chatted with a friend or mentor, heard everyone’s favorite marriage advice (“Go on dates! Regularly!”), and just rolled your eyes? Or felt defeated or depressed, because clearly you will never have a healthy relationship without those magical date nights? Or wondered where everyone else is finding the extra money, time and energy it takes to make Date Night happen?

Yeah, me too.

Last week my husband and I sat down with our marriage counselor. When he asked what we wanted to talk about, I hesitated. What I really wanted to talk about was not feeling connected enough to my husband over the last several weeks, a particularly busy season in our lives. But I didn’t. Because I knew we’d just circle around the fact that we don’t schedule enough date nights and how date nights are important and blah-blah-blah DATE NIGHTS.

Sigh.

Don’t get me wrong. Our counselor is great (evidenced by our now infrequent visits with him), and I’m all for date nights. But I don’t think they are the only solution for every marital bump in the road; I don’t think they are a magical formula for preventing divorce or relationship stress. And I know without a doubt that they are not nearly as simple to schedule as the world of marriage advice-givers would have us believe.

[Side note: I realize that I have, in the past, been one of those marriage advice-givers touting the benefits of date nights. Here, here and here for starters. That’s because it’s a good idea and I believe in it. I just know it’s not always feasible. So there. And yes, maybe I’ll go on a date by myself now. “Hypocrite, party of one…”]

ANYWAY. The truth is that we all know spending time together is crucial for relationship success. And regular date nights are clearly a fun way to do this and the thing we all aim for. But sometimes, date nights just aren’t an option.

Sometimes you can’t afford a babysitter.
Sometimes you can’t find a babysitter.
Sometimes you’re tired. Or sick. Or busy.
Sometimes your kids are sick.
Sometimes you have to work. Or he does.

Sometimes the thought of finding a babysitter, making a reservation, looking up movie times, digging out a pair of shoes that are going to make your feet hurt, or even just finding a shirt that isn’t stained or stretched out and still fits IS JUST TOO MUCH.

So what then? What do we do when date nights just aren’t possible? Do we give up? Collapse on opposite sides of the couch with one eye on Facebook and another on the clock because bedtime can’t come soon enough? Do we give up on leaving the house together and take turns hanging out with friends? Separately?

No way! I mean, yes, sure, occasionally we might do all of those things. But, for the love, we cannot give up completely on the idea of date nights with our husbands. We simply need to redefine “date night” and make those sweet times of connection work for us.

If you’re finding it hard to “go on regular date nights,” here are a few things you can try instead.

 

Movie Night: Rent a movie and curl up on the couch to watch. (Or save a few episodes of “your show” – the one you only watch together, no matter how many episodes are backed up on the DVR or waiting on Netflix.)

Do Lunch: Meet for lunch or go out for breakfast or grab coffee – anything away from the norm (and the kids and the house and the to-do lists) is a chance to connect with your spouse! It doesn’t have to be on a Friday or Saturday night.

Play Games: Break out the Monopoly board or challenge him to a few lightning rounds of Words with Friends.

Get Cooking: Feed the kids some mac and cheese, put them to bed, and then head back to the kitchen – for fun, this time. Try a new recipe together. Pick out a few ingredients and play Chopped at home. Make a copycat version of your favorite restaurant meal.

Ask Questions: Buy a stack of conversation starter cards or look for lists of “get to know you” questions online. Take a personality test and read each others’ results.

Go to Bed Early: Don’t make me elaborate here. You know what I mean.

The point is that we need to connect with our spouses. But if we aren’t able to dress up and go somewhere that requires reservations or tickets or a long drive or whatever it is that makes this whole plan feel impossible, we can still connect. Date night can be whatever you make it – whenever, wherever, whatever!

What do YOU do when date nights feel impossible?

 

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3 Ways to Find More Joy This Year

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

3 Steps to Finding More Joy (4)

No matter how many posts and articles I read (or write) about not making New Year’s resolutions and setting realistic goals and starting a new diet (or organizational system or meal plan or reading challenge) on any day other than Monday, I can’t help but start the first day of the first week of the first month of the new year with some degree of expectation.

When I woke up yesterday, I literally began the day with a smile on my face. And, as anyone who’s ever witnessed my reluctant rising can tell you, this night owl does NOT usually wake up happy! But it was a big day, the first “real” day in the new year! A day full of so much opportunity, a day destined for fresh starts and productivity and greatness.

Except, as it turned out, it was just another day.

Another MONDAY at that.

I had to remind my older daughter 17 times to brush her hair and her teeth – and to put her empty banana peel in the trash can, please and thank you. I had to change my toddler’s diaper and convince her that wearing her coat was a good idea, given the 20-degree air blowing around outside. I put on my sunglasses as we walked out the door, only to take them off again when I realized it was actually quite cloudy. And as I backed out of the driveway, I noticed that the recycling truck had knocked over our trash can, spilling bags of garbage all over the street and yard.

It was just another day. Another day we have chores and arguments and projects and appointments, another day with clouds and trash and cat hair and dirty dishes.

But you know what? It was also another day full of beauty and hope and joy. It was another opportunity to choose my outlook, to determine my attitude, to make a difference – even if it’s just for me, even if it’s just for a moment.

See, I believe that we can find joy – true joy! the kind that can’t be stolen by cloudy skies or spilled garbage (literal or figurative) – every single day of the year. I believe it’s possible and even necessary for our mental health and our relationships and our productivity and success. And I believe that just a few simple steps can help us find a whole lot more of this crucial, beautiful joy this year.

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3 Steps to Finding More Joy in 2016

1. SAVOR YOUR MOMENTS.

My friend Sara said once that moments are her favorite things. Not Oreos or the fifth Harry Potter book or the color purple or spicy queso, but moments. Much as I love all those other things, I’d have to agree. After all, capturing and savoring moments is why I used to scrapbook years ago – and why I love Facebook now. It’s why forgetting my camera is reason for turning the car around, no matter how far from home I’ve driven.

And it’s why I’ve been known to tear up at random times when I look around and realize this – THIS! – is beautiful. This life, this family, this conversation, this laughter. Even when it’s loud or messy or awkward or weird, a moment sometimes strikes me as so beautiful that I can’t contain my ridiculous tears.

Every day – the regular days, the cloudy days, the hardest days – has sweet moments. Even on days that come with banana peels and mountains of laundry and overdue bills, we can find something to savor.So when you’re struggling to find a silver lining or a glass half full of anything, look for those moments: your favorite song on the radio, the first sip of that cold tea or hot coffee, baby giggles or a side hug from a tween, rain showers or sunsets, an encouraging text message or inspiring quote posted on Facebook at just the right time.

Find those moments – and then savor them. Take a mental picture, close your eyes and bask in the joy for a few seconds, and save it for the next “just another day.”

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2. EXPRESS YOUR GRATITUDE.

I know, I know, this is nothing new! When she writes about how listing out the things we’re thankful for can be truly life-changing, Ann Voskamp boils it down to this: “Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful.” Just like that – even when it’s hard to find something to be thankful for.

Sara, my friend I mentioned earlier (and, as it happens, my co-author in a book about joy), suffered from an extremely painful, debilitating disease. And yet, throughout her life, she learned to choose joy anyway. She wrote about that after spending another Thanksgiving holiday alone:

“I’m not in the least bit bothered to be here alone on the holiday of gratitude, because it’s the same as any other day. I am simply grateful. I appreciate my life because it’s the one God has given to me, and I don’t want to waste a moment of it wishing for anything else.”

She was simply grateful – every day, good or bad, no matter what. Wow! Personally, I’m still working on making that kind of gratitude such an ingrained habit. But I believe we can take strides toward this in 2016.

Perhaps for you it will help to keep a written journal of your thankfulness. Or maybe, like me, you need to commit to verbally thanking someone each and every day. I try to send my husband a text message every night before bed (he works nights), thanking him for something – even on days we argue, even on days we don’t see eye to eye. The habit of gratitude that leads to an attitude of joy is something I’m pursuing big time this year.

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3. MAKE YOUR CHOICE.

Sara’s and my book is called, Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. It was named after Sara’s mantra and mission: choose joy. That’s what she named her blog, and it’s what she painted on a wall in her condo. When she shared a picture of that painting, she pointed out that the biggest word, the most important part wasn’t JOY; it was CHOOSE.

If we’re going to make this year different than the last one, we have to make a choice. We have to choose to pursue joy, just like we will commit to health and love and hard work and fun. We must make a choice. We must draw a line in the sand, step over it and never look back. No matter what 2016 brings us, it will bring us moments of joy and opportunities for gratitude.

Let’s choose to find them and savor them – and to enjoy the beautiful picture they create!

Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver was released by the Hachette Book Group in 2016. It is a must-have for those searching for meaning and beauty in a world full of tragedy. Sara’s words breathe with vitality and life, and her stories will inspire smiles, tears, and the desire to choose joy. To learn more about CHOOSE JOY, visit TheChooseJoyBook.com.