Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

6 Happiness Strategies for a More Creative and Interesting Life

Friday, March 17th, 2017

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I invited my parents over for dinner one evening and my mom asked what our family had been up to that week. I shared a bit about a show that we caught at the local theater, how we attended an art gallery event for a friend, the adventure of taking our kids out (with success) to try a new cuisine they hadn’t before, and a documentary on design that we caught together.

My mom said something that really struck me.

She said, “Your family has such an interesting life. You know that?”

This is not a brag session at all because there are many, many moments in our life that are very uninteresting and basic. I have moments where I rant about having to run my children everywhere, where I find my focus is far too centered on my my health situation, I’ve often thought too much about what other people think of me, there are times where I fixate too much on keeping the perfect home, I’ve had periods where I have invested too much time on Facebook, there are moments where I am unkind and judgy to others, and MANY times where I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other like everyone else.

Those moments don’t necessarily make for an interesting conversation, but they do make us human.

At times, I had thought the only thing that made me interesting was blogging. Blogging is certainly interesting when you are doing it as a profession and has brought interesting people and moments in my life, but I don’t think that makes me very interesting anymore. It’s just an interesting way to make money.

The thing is, as my kids get older I feel like they need me in different ways, but not in necessarily those needy toddler ways that gave me purpose. As they transitioned to middle school, I found that I needed interesting things in my life to fill my cup so that I could survive these days at home alone without boredom.  I began to seek a more interesting life than the one I had before and it has been through this that I am finding happiness and my people.

I hesitated to write these words to you today because I am far from anyone’s life coach.

I’m often a mess.

That said, I also wished for a mentor mom as I transitioned into this new role that can, at times, feel a little lonely. Building a new creative life for yourself really enables you to attract others to you because you bring something new to the table.

It makes conversations fun, it can make you feel young, and it makes you feel valued by others because you have your own things.

I don’t need to tell you it, but one day these incredible kids are hopefully going to be out there carving their own life paths. If our entire identities are just caring for them, what will we do with ourselves when they are gone? What will be our new identity?

Cue the foundation of interesting life moments you have been working on and the transition to the next chapter might feel a tad less bumpy.

Here are six happiness strategies I’m doing to live a more creative and interesting life…

food-pantry

Find an Interesting Volunteer Opportunity

Volunteering can be an incredible way to add interesting moments to your life. I started by volunteering in our school system and connected my love of reading with reading to kids who struggle with this skill. This year, I have found my place working at our church food pantry weekly, doing the behind-the-scenes work of getting the food sorted and organized for people to shop. I also am putting in my application to mentor refugee youth because I love welcoming people to our town and know they would have so much to teach me.

Volunteer Match is a great site to visit to find unique volunteering opportunities that you may not have even known existed. I never even knew about the mentor program for refugees until I went on their website. For example, some of the listings in our town include crafting with hospice patients, being a museum tour guide, working the gardens of a local museum,  becoming a crisis counselor, being a small business mentor, or caring for animals at the shelter.

Can you imagine how different your life might look if you invested in one of these things?

Not only are you helping a local cause, but you also just might be putting your foot in the door for a potential job opportunity someday.

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Read Interesting Books

What a boring life I would be leading if I didn’t have such a variety of books in my book stack. Since most of you are regulars here, I know that most of you are also embracing a good stack of books in your life too. If you need a fresh one, check out the books section for ideas!

For many years, I got stuck in one or two genres of books and I wouldn’t branch outside of my comfort zone. My reading and life felt a lot more interesting though when I began to read books that were outside of my comfort zone, particularly nonfiction reading. Reading helped me understand and show compassion for people and parts of the world that I would have never known about.

Three good starter books that really helped challenge and shape me are Just Mercy, Hillbilly Elegyand Evicted

Interesting books have certainly lead to interesting conversations and created empathy in me for things I don’t always understand. If you are looking to branch out your reading this year, consider taking our MomAdvice Reading Challenge or joining our online book club!

Online Weaving Class take an  online weaving class!

Find an Interesting Class to Take

Some of the most interesting people I know take classes and embrace new hobbies in their life regularly. Your interesting class may only be interesting to you, but that does not matter one bit. This is a great time to do the things you have always talked about especially since online coursework, in particular, can be done on your own schedule.

This year I got myself a loom and found a great course on Etsy to start teaching myself to weave. I’m also taking a food photography course through Craftsy to help me to expand my food photography skills. I regularly ask for things like this for Christmas so I have a gift that can keep on giving.

I don’t always take just creative courses though, I’m trying to branch out into other terrains. Next week I’m starting a free course through our local library and college to learn about civics so that I can understand the way our government works and understand the world of politics better. I don’t want to be a person who sits and watches the news, I want to be the person that goes out and learns WHY things are happening and what my particular role could be to change them.

Now I realize that these things may be only interesting to me, but I couldn’t be more excited to learn more.

For free learning, check your library and see what they have to offer and to connect quickly with locals. This month, for example, our library is offering a papercrafting class, a brunch & book discussion, a gardening class, a genealogy course, and a musical concert. They also have a great center where people can learn technology skills to benefit their business.

If you prefer learning online, YouTube is a great free resource where you can start learning a new skill and it won’t even cost you a penny. Granted, many are teaser courses to get you to sign up for more, but even teaser courses can teach you a lot.

Rising Tide Society

Join an Interesting Organization

My early days of motherhood survival were often spent seated in a circle as we shared a cup of coffee with a side of whine. For a couple of years after, I floundered and didn’t know where I fit in. I still went to playgroups, clinging to coffee, but feeling a bit of place. I didn’t want to start over again and have to find a new group, but I’m finding that this girl thrives in clubs and organizations. I am meant to be in organized activities and it feeds that social part of me.

I discovered we have a local chapter of Rising Tide Society and I’m hopping into my first meeting next week. I love and am inspired by other creatives so I’m excited to see if this will fill that mom’s group void I’ve been missing.

Some people enjoy finding ways to assist charity through group formats like Junior League. Others can find their people in business and networking groups through their city. Churches can also offer great opportunities to become involved in helping the community and it’s members. Interesting groups, of course, bring interesting people into your life and often build new skillsets.

Embrace Something Interesting That Fosters Conversations

I love to have fun things to bring to conversations and some of my favorite parts of the day are good conversations I’ve had just with my own little family. My best conversations are when I read or listen to something interesting that I can share with others.

theSkimm

I subscribe to theSkimm and love it so much that I am a Skimmbassador which gives me access to a community of Skimm-loving folks that can talk politics and life in respectful ways. This 5-minute nonpartisan newsletter is something that I read daily so I have a clear idea of what is happening in the world each day. I read it over the morning coffee and I start the day feeling informed.

You might be surprised to know that many blog writers aren’t actually blog readers. It’s a challenge to keep up with fresh content and read blogs, but I try to keep up with what everyone is creating as best that I can and share the nuggets with you each week. These are often posts that help to fuel great conversations with others.

We try to watch a documentary each week that gives us a chance to learn about a topic or a part of the world that we know little about. Many of these are watched together as a family and we have great discussions about them after. Many evenings though are spent after the kids are gone to bed with a glass of wine in hand and a documentary ready to go for our evening.

When my eyes are feeling too tired to read, I find  I get so much out of these instead.

Source: Grant Beachy Photography

Seek Interesting People

I’m not saying to give up on your old friends, but we all evolve as human beings and, as I have aged, I am looking for different things in my friendships. Broadening your circle can sometimes bring new and interesting experiences to your life.

For example, we started a record collection and spend many weekends shuffling through stacks at antique stores or sharing a stack of our music with friends on their record players. A bit hipster, perhaps, but music has always been such a big part of my life, and I find sharing that hobby with others is a fun one.

Board games are also a fun thing to collect and share with people. Perfectly portable and pairs well with wine, it’s a party in a box. We love discovering new games through Tabletop (and figuring out these crazy complex ones we purchased!). A few that we have found to be easy to share are Ticket to Ride, Really Bad Art, Pandemic, and our friends recently taught us Settlers of Catan and we loved it!

We try to seek out our town’s local events, gallery showings, festivals, theater performances, concerts, and town celebrations because they add variation to our week and give us the chance to connect with really interesting people. Living in a smaller town, you would think we wouldn’t have much, but I’m finding that it is RICH with stuff to do and it is rare that we can’t find a local event happening to make our days in Indiana a bit more interesting.

Amy Clark-web-23

I hope you find something new to connect with today and that it brings a bit of happiness in your life too.

This stage has been a tricky one to figure out, but what a privilege it is to grow older and find that you are still learning and growing!

What do you find feeds your happiness at this stage in your life?

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

The Truth About Disney’s Beauty & the Beast

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

I’m so thankful that Mary screened this movie for our readers and could give us her perspective on the highly anticipated Beauty & the Beast film. I ask the commentary today be kind and respectful, as always! 

Before I walked into the theater to watch an early screening of Beauty and the Beast last week, a man in a suit took my cell phone and put it in a brown paper bag. He frowned and reminded me that phones were not allowed in the theater for our special preview. Before I handed it over I took one last look at the screen to make sure my oldest daughter’s school or my youngest daughter’s babysitter hadn’t called. Satisfied I wasn’t missing anything vital, I stepped into the dark theater and found my seat.

Giddy to see the live-action version of my absolute favorite Disney movie, I had no idea that my phone was blowing up with concerns and controversy about the very film I was watching.

After retrieving my phone I immediately checked all the places I might have messages and was surprised to find notifications in nearly every one of them. As I listened to and read messages, I learned that Disney had announced that the new movie featured scenes with a gay character – and the world reacted strongly.

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I’ve read lots of rants but few reviews because, well, this is a movie that has not been released yet. Since I have actually seen the film in question, I thought I’d share with you the truth about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

You might be wondering how to weigh my opinion or what perspective I have about this topic. That’s a fair question, so I’ll start with those facts.

• I am a Bible-believing, Jesus-following Christian.
• I am more conservative than some, more liberal than others; an objective evaluation might label me moderate.
• My husband and I have two daughters, ages three and nine. I am careful about what media they consume, sticking exclusively to programs and materials rated PG or G.
• I love Disney movies, though I’m not a Disney super-fan by any means. I do, however, unabashedly adore Beauty and the Beast, and I could probably recite most the of the 1991 movie and sing every word of the songs for you at any given time.

Now that you understand where I’m coming from, I’d love to answer your questions! Keep in mind that this post will include SPOILERS for the movie, but I’m assuming that if you are interested in this film, you’re familiar with the story.

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

Does the new movie include a gay character?

Maybe. Lefou, played brilliantly by Josh Gad, is a silly character. He’s over the top in his adoration of Gaston and cracks jokes throughout the movie. Is it behavior based in hero worship? Is it a romantic crush? I think you could take it either way. To me, it seemed like hero worship and extreme devotion, just like it was in the animated version. Yes, he is exuberant in his affection for Gaston, but no more than in the cartoon and no more than the adoring sidekick typically is in this kind of story.

In the Gaston song, where Lefou sings verse after verse about how no one can compare to Gaston, he has a short scene with three villagers. The men are standing at the bar, and Lefou sings to and/or near them about Gaston, eventually physically turning their heads. I interpreted that as him making sure they paid attention to the main event (Gaston), and nothing more.

Later on when the villagers attack the Beast’s castle, those same three men are caught by the wardrobe. Her defense is to throw clothing at them, leaving them wearing dresses and wigs (and possibly make-up, but I don’t remember for sure). Two of the men are embarrassed, while one lights up with a grin. As he runs away after his friends, the wardrobe sings, “Be free!”

In the final scene all the characters are seen dancing in the castle’s ballroom. The focus is on Belle and the Beast-turned-back-to-prince, but we also see Mr. and Mrs. Potts, Mr. and Mrs. Cogworth, Lumiere and Plumette, and other couples dance. The style of dance involves a lot of turning and twirling and some switching of partners, and Lefou ends up dancing with the villager who didn’t mind wearing a dress. They both look surprised but happy.

Each of those three scenes are only a few seconds long and take place in full, fast-moving acts that include stunning (even overwhelming) visual details and spirited, full-volume songs.

Will my kids notice the implications that a character is gay?

It depends on your kids. But if they’re early elementary or younger, I doubt it. As I mentioned, the scenes that imply Lefou or the villager might be gay are brief and, in my opinion, subtle. Nothing is explicit or spelled-out, and if your kids haven’t been introduced to homosexuality before, they probably won’t think about it now.

Obviously I don’t know your kids, how observant they are or what they’ve already been exposed to. I can’t guarantee they won’t ask any questions. But I am confident that when my girls (ages 3 and 9) watch this movie, they will not notice any character’s sexuality.

Should I take my kids to see this movie?

Maybe. (I know, you’re loving my definitive answers, aren’t you?!)

I can’t wait for my girls to watch the new Beauty and the Beast, but I won’t be taking them to see it in the theater. My oldest is sensitive to intense scenes, and the wolves and the attacking villagers would scare her on the big screen. My youngest is only three, and I’m afraid those same scenes would be too much for her in the theater as well. When we’re at home I can distract them, remind them that it’s make-believe, or simply hit fast-forward.

Nothing is gory or graphic in this movie, by the way. My kids are just sensitive. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t hesitate to take them to this the day it opens.

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

Should I go see this movie?

I think so. It’s fantastic! I shared a full review of the movie on my blog, but the short answer is that this version is incredible and I’m already plotting ways to see it in the theater again. The music, the costumes, the acting – it’s all beautiful, and I was delighted by every part of it.

If you’re concerned about a character being written as gay, this might not be the movie for you. I personally was not offended by any of the characters. But even if you believe differently about homosexuality than I do, I believe you could still love this movie. Nothing about it was in your face with any kind of agenda; honestly, Zootopia was more political than this. And as with many things, you often find what you’re looking for. If you watch Beauty and the Beast for the wonder, the magic, the truth that beauty lies within and girls should be allowed to read books and dishes should be allowed to dance and sing, then that is what you’ll find. And you will be as enchanted as I was.

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

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3-Ingredient Cloud Dough With WeeSchool (FREE- Limited Time!)

Monday, March 6th, 2017

3-ingredient cloud dough recipe from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with WeeSchool. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! We need this exact call to action language early in the post: Download the WeeSchool App here by June 1 and you can register for free, lifetime access to all premium WeeSchoool content and features.

Although much of the mothering I have done for my kids has felt instinctual, I found many challenges and had a lot of anxiety about them meeting certain milestones. My son, for example, had a significant delay in speech and sensory issues in his early years. I had no idea to help him and relied upon a community program that provided at-home guidance to help teach me how to help him overcome these hurdles.

I, honestly, have no idea what our life would have looked like if we had not had early intervention, and I attribute much of his academic success to these programs that intervened and helped guide us.

Now my kids are getting older, but I still recognize the importance and need for early intervention for other families. That is why I am SO incredibly and genuinely excited to share with you about a new app called WeeSchool that you must download ASAP.

It is, truly, like having a family educator right at your disposal to help guide you to help your child succeed.

WeeSchool App Milestones Month by Month

As you can see, this app gives you a quick at-a-glance look at what key milestones your child should be reaching each month. Play Plans are provided that help guide your child to reach those milestones.  These allow you to play smarter with your child with a list of recommended activities, toys, books and music.

In fact, it is the first-ever curriculum for babies from birth to age 3 that can help you learn how to play smart with your baby.

This helps you to not only track the milestones, but to support you and your baby in the process. WeeSchool wants to enrich your daily routines by creating activities you can do with your child, providing guidance on practical toys to support milestones, and even books on the different milestones you are working toward with your baby.

WeeSchool App Journal

Imagine going to the pediatrician with your child’s milestones marked and even a photo to document those moments to share with your family and friends. I can’t imagine how reassuring it would have been to come armed like this for my doctor. Could we have flagged our son and gotten him help sooner if we had something like this? I, truly, believe we could! This is a transformative tool for new parents.

Get a FREE Membership to WeeSchool Today!!

I am so excited that WeeSchool is offering our readers a free premium membership! Parents can sign up until June 1, 2017 to become a Charter Member and receive lifetime access to all Premium WeeSchool content and features!

 

3-Ingredient Cloud Dough from MomAdvice.com 3-Ingredient Cloud Dough from MomAdvice.com 3-Ingredient Cloud Dough from MomAdvice.com

If there was one thing I learned from our early childhood intervention classes that we did with our son, it was the power in creating from things you already have. In honor of today’s partnership with WeeSchool, I wanted to share with you this easy 3-ingredient Cloud Dough recipe that you can make for your kids! This fluffy dough is a great sensory activity for kids and is so fun to play with that even adults want to get on the action.

Sensory stimulation is so important to a child’s neurological development, and playing with this simple and safe flour mixture offers a pleasant (even therapeutic) sensory experience. Playing with cloud dough also encourages fine-motor development as your wee one explores and creates using tiny hands, delighting in the tactile wonderfulness of this unique medium.

Pair this with items from your kitchen drawers like measuring cups, spoons, ice cream scoops, silicone cupcake molds, or cookie cutters.

We are using Tempera Powder Paint to create the vivid hue in this dough because it blends so easily into this recipe. If you are worried about your child ingesting it, feel free to leave the color out of this one!

3-Ingredient Cloud Dough from MomAdvice.com

3-Ingredient Cloud Dough
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 cups
 
Ingredients
  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • A spoonful or two of Powdered Tempera Paint (order online or check a teacher's supplies store/craft store)
  • Large Plastic Container with Lid for Storage
Instructions
  1. Measure flour directly into container.
  2. Add a spoonful or two of powdered tempera paint and mix well with a wooden or metal spoon.
  3. Add vegetable oil and mix well until it is fully incorporated.
  4. Store in an airtight lidded container for up to one month.

3-ingredient-cloud-dough-recipe

 

 I hope you can take a moment to download this amazing app and mix up a little cloud dough to keep your kiddos busy! Download the WeeSchool App here by June 1 and you can register for free, lifetime access to all Premium WeeSchool content and features.

This post was created in partnership with WeeSchool. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

 

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I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

Monday, January 16th, 2017

I have Hidden Figures in my book stack right now and I can’t wait to catch the film now with my daughter after reading this review from Mary today!

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

The first time I saw a preview for Hidden Figures, the movie based on true events in the lives of three African-American women working at NASA in the early sixties, I cried. And I don’t just mean a tear or two slipped down my face. No, I sobbed. LIKE A BABY.

The same thing happened the next five times I saw a preview, too. Clearly this was a story that moved me, and I couldn’t wait to see it. Even more, I couldn’t wait to take my nine-year-old daughter to see it.

I’ll admit, when I showed her the preview a couple months ago, she did not understand what the movie was about or why I wanted her to be excited. And, though, we talked about it a little before seeing the movie last weekend, she still went into it with a lot of questions.

Questions like, “What is NASA? Are they the best at making space ships?” and “Why are they calling her a computer when she’s a person?” and “What is that?” (It was a typewriter. A TYPEWRITER, you guys!)

But her biggest and most frequent question was simply, “Why are they being so mean?”

Over the past year we’ve had quite a few discussions about racism and civil rights, both in our country’s history and in current events. I’ve tried desperately to keep up with my daughter’s compassionate, curious nature as she asks questions that I don’t always know how to answer but know are crucial to helping her grow into a kind, educated person who makes a positive difference in her world. We’ve read some books and watched some videos, and I just knew this movie – thankfully rated PG – would allow us to take our conversations to a deeper level as we learned, together, about a previously unknown part of our nation’s story.

I’m so happy to say that I was right. (Let’s face it; I’m always happy to say I’m right – but even more than usual this time!) Hidden Figures was an outstanding movie.

I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

The writing and acting were fantastic, with realistic dialogue that included both humorous banter between friends and family and sharp, nuanced conversation between races and genders. (And the wardrobe was gorgeous. It’s possible that, in addition to her more serious observations, my daughter also noted how pretty their clothes were!) It was funny and heartwarming throughout, but also intense and heartbreaking.

Unsurprisingly, I also cried LIKE A BABY more than once.

I cried when the women were talked down to and disrespected purely for their gender and the color of their skin, when their lives were made unnecessarily difficult and yet they just kept on going. I cried when I leaned down to explain to my daughter the significance of a white woman calling a black woman by her first name while the black woman called the white woman Mrs. with her last name. I cried when the characters didn’t GET IT, and I cried when they did. I grinned so big when people simply treated others like humans, and I shook my head and said, “No freaking way!” when they treated others like less-than-humans.

But you know what? I didn’t cry one time in the car was we drove home after the movie – or as I answered question after question after question at bedtime that night. I didn’t cry when my girl asked, again, “But why did they have to be so mean? Why would they do that?” Because those conversations are exactly what I hoped for when I decided to take her to this film. Even though we don’t have answers for all of those questions, the fact that she’s asking them and we’re discussing them is a big deal.

The most important takeaway for my daughter (and for me) was absolutely an eye-opening education about these women, about the racism and sexism they faced, and an appreciation for the way they fought against those challenges. We also talked about our own racist tendencies, prejudice that we hate and want to deny but must acknowledge exists.

And aside from the global implications of this movie and its themes, I’m also hopeful that my daughter learned – from a source other than her parents – that she can do hard things. I hope she can apply what she saw to her own life and acknowledge that life is hard, but just like the women working at NASA fifty years ago, she can do hard things.

I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

On our ride home following the movie, I asked my daughter a few questions so I could share her perspective with you. Here they are, along with her answers:

Me: I’m going to ask you some questions about the movie, so I can write a blog post about it.

Her: Cool! I’m being interviewed! Wait, do you have a secret camera recording this?

Me: No. … Moving on … What did you think about the movie?

Her: It was good! I liked it a LOT. (*sings* I don’t like it. I love it!)

Me: What was your favorite part?

I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

Her: They were so smart! And they fought for the right to be equal. And that one guy was really nice when she told him how far away her (colored women’s) bathroom was. I liked it when they said funny things, too. Oh, and John Glenn.

Me: Why did you like John Glenn?

Her: Well, he was really cute, but I guess that’s not the point. (KILL ME NOW, FELLOW MOMS. Although, she wasn’t wrong.) I mean, maybe it’s part of the point…

Me: Was there anything you didn’t like about the movie?

Her: I didn’t like how mean they were! And it was kind of scary. I mean, the going to space part. (Like mother, like daughter.) And the kissing parts.

Me: Are you glad we went to see it?

Her: Yes!!!

So, there you have it. My daughter and I both highly recommend seeing Hidden Figures – and taking a young person along with you!

  I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

MOVIE SYNOPSIS from 20th Century Fox, via IMDB.com: As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the unbelievably true life stories of three of these women, known as “human computers”, we follow these women as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history’s greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.

 Have you seen Hidden Figures yet? What did you think?

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I Hope You Brought a Second Piece of Luggage

Friday, November 11th, 2016

America

Our son is preparing for high school this year and, in our district, that means choosing a field of interest he might want to explore at college and selecting what option might fit his needs best. It was quite the process because it was really important to us that we pick the right thing for him. We went to hours and hours of meetings, we poured over the information that was sent home and spent lots of time talking to parents about how it all worked and their experience with the school. After all that time vested this year, we were relieved to find a school that would fit his needs perfectly. We can’t wait for this next chapter with him!

For me, the election season was like that. I never go into voting lightly and this year, I believe, was my most informed voter decision that I had ever made. I took unbiased quizzes to try to figure out what issues aligned with me most, I watched each of the debates, I spent hours reading articles from both sides of the coin, and I talked endlessly with my husband about what we were looking for in this presidential election. I was very vested when I placed my vote, as I know many of you were, and the person that I thought would do a good job did not win.

I expected what I saw on social media, but it’s been an awful scroll from both sides.

I hope you will humor me for a moment and envision the voting process a little differently than maybe the way you did before. I want you to imagine that when each person went to vote they carried behind them their luggage of issues. Maybe you came with an overnight sack of a couple of things that were important to you and placed your vote or you just had a week’s worth of stuff that was easier to roll and to manage while you were voting.

Others though were backing up moving vans of issues and trying to haul that in with them when they voted. That van was loaded, heavy, and packed to the brim.

When we got home, maybe your overnight bag was easy to unpack and you felt good about the outcome of the day. Even if it didn’t go your way, you felt good about unpacking and moving on to the next chapter.   You went about making your coffee, feeling good, and you gazed out your window and saw your neighbor with all this stuff just strewn all over the lawn.

It was a mess over there.

They looked overwhelmed and they were just sitting in the middle of it looking bewildered at how they were ever going to put all this crap away.

What is your knee jerk reaction to this view?

Do you roll your eyes and tell them to declutter? You laugh and head to your computer to make a hilarious meme on hoarding- your friends are going to LOVE this!

Do you head into the house and message them a helpful article that outlines why they should have hired a moving service? They should have known this was going to happen. You always saw it coming and had shared with them lots of articles before they moved about outsourcing this. I guess they did not read them.

Do you yell out the window, “Get up and put it away! You look emotional and you need to get over it and make your lawn look like mine!”

Do you put your coffee down, get your coat on, and tell them you want to help? You’re overwhelmed with their mess, but you know it might lighten the load if you did something. You know you are good at praying, listening, and organizing. You know they are hurting and and you are good at many of these things. You can’t do the unpacking, but wouldn’t it be nice to tell them that you are their friend.

What I worry about is that some of us may have forgotten a second piece of luggage in baggage claim. It was the bag with the empathy in it that helps you see your neighbor with love. Some people unpacked those bags and used them, but I fear that others of us forgot them. That second piece of luggage was really important for both sides to be able to work together. That second piece was the key to helping unpack the first one.

I’ll admit, this family still has some stuff on their lawn so I apologize for the view. We are hoping the view will change, but we haven’t gotten everything put away yet. We will get there, but we are trying to distribute that second piece of luggage to our friends while still unpacking our own. It wasn’t a moving truck size, but it wasn’t an overnight bag.

The silver lining to this story is that I know that we ALL want this country to succeed and this is the common theme that I am choosing to focus on.  I love our people and our country. I am praying that the transition is a good and hopeful one. We need it!

If you are feeling in the dumps right now, I hope that this will be an enjoyable scroll as I highlight the good in the world.

Good In Action

3 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Our Kids

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

3 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Our Kids from MomAdvice.com

We’ve been practicing a lot of basic math facts at our house this month. My older daughter has lost that loving feeling for math (a subject she’s run hot and cold on throughout elementary school), despite my repeated declarations that math is everywhere! and yes, she really WILL use this in real life! And somehow, between second and third grade, she’s apparently forgotten all the subtraction facts she memorized last year.

So it’s been pop quizzes over dinner, practice tests after karate, and flashcards in the car for us. Because I’ve read what feels like a million articles about the importance of emphasizing STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) with our kids — and especially our girls. It’s why I’ve enrolled my daughter in science and robotics classes the past few summers and why we have engineering blocks and doll sets stacked up in her room.

But it’s also why we play dress-up and pretend at our house (and why she also goes to theater camp every summer). I’m no researcher or education professional, but as far as I can tell, having the ability to think creatively is just as important to school (and life) success as memorizing facts.

As I watched my daughter try to figure out another math problem on the worksheet her teacher sent home one night, I realized she was so frustrated and confused that she wasn’t even using common sense. In a bit of a fit, I grabbed her most recent timed test and flipped it over. I drew a tic tac toe board, a carton of eggs, and a hand. “That’s nine!” I exclaimed. “And twelve! And FIVE! You KNOW five!”

My daughter had gotten so worked up, her brain had frozen. She had stopped using common sense or thinking creatively — two things that are crucial for solving any problem! (And, to be fair, I had neglected to help her with math up to this point because she is being taught in a totally different way than I was taught three decades ago. Whether or not I like this “new math,” I respect her teacher and was afraid of confusing my daughter even more with my lack of understanding of the strategies she’s being taught.)

Since that homework session, I’ve bought flash cards and begun reviewing math facts with my daughter on a regular basis. I’ve taken time to read the worksheets she brings home, in an effort to understand the way her teacher approaches math. But I’ve also looked for opportunities to encourage problem solving, to think outside the box, to help my daughter use common sense to figure out something new. It’s reminded me of the importance of creativity and the things we can do to encourage it in our kids.

As I said before, I am no expert. I have not conducted research. I’m merely a mom who’s connected a few dots for what her two kids need as they learn and grow. Perhaps creative thinking isn’t the missing piece for your kids. But if it is, here are a few easy, fun ways you can encourage it:

3 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Our Kids from MomAdvice.com

3 Ways to Encourage Creativity in Our Kids

Play dress-up. I’m a girl mom, so you will probably not be surprised to learn that we have princess dresses and a Minnie Mouse costume in our house. But we also have costumes that turn my girls into firefighters, chefs, doctors and veterinarians. Not to mention the animal hats and clown noses floating around in the toy box. And, really, anything laying around can be used for dressing up.

My girls’ current obsession is running around the house, rescuing each other, while wearing capes. Or putting on Dad’s hat or Mom’s shoes and pretending to be a grown-up.

When I first began encouraging my oldest daughter to play dress-up, it was solely a girl power, “you can be anything you want to be” thing. But eventually I realized the additional value of this playtime activity. Simply by asking a few pointed questions, I can set my girls on a journey of learning and perspective-shifting.

“What would a doctor want for snack?”
“How would a princess pick up her toys?”
“Do you think a firefighter would like to wear these shoes or those shoes?”

Thinking outside the box, developing empathy for others, learning about different types of people (not just different careers, although that’s a place to start): all of these can be outcomes of a simple costume party.

Play pretend. Last night, my two-year-old left the dinner table (we were mostly finished and just talking for a minute). She walked over to her play kitchen and then came back, saying, “I need the pink screwdriver.” I stared blankly at her for a moment before realizing what we were doing. I mimed handing her a tool and said, “Here you go!” She thanked me and ran back to her toys.

She has a giant basket of toy food and toy dishes in that kitchen, but she wanted to play mechanic. She actually has a play toolkit in our basement, but she’d rather use make-believe tools for her projects.

And so, just like the days when her sister would lay under our dining room table and pretend to “work on the car,” I play along. When she hands me a plate of that play food and tells me it’s hot, I put it up to my mouth and act like I burned my tongue. I take tiny sips and big gulps of the “tea” she serves me, and I make up scary spiders I need to be saved from so “Super Adrienne” has a reason to run to my rescue.

I sometimes think about that scene in Hook, the Robin Williams movie about a grown-up Peter Pan, when Peter and the Lost Boys get into a pretend food fight. No, I don’t think that pretending her imaginary pink screwdriver is real will make it appear in my daughter’s hands. But I do think that when we pretend we expand our minds and our world so that more is possible than would ever be in real life.

That’s fun — and it also helps us think creatively later when we’re trying to solve problems that seem impossible.

Don’t forget to say, “Yes, and…” Using the most basic rule of improv, whenever I can I try to say, “Yes, and…” when my girls play dress-up or pretend. By extending the pretend game or story, I encourage their imaginations to run wild and their brains to keep growing. [You can read more about this strategy here.]

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not always game for imaginary friends or pretend games. For the past several days my oldest daughter has been carrying on a game of “balloon ball,” a highly competitive [made-up] sport of which she is, reportedly, the world champion. I love seeing her creativity and confidence, but OH MY WORD am I ever tired of listening to her drone on with the play-by-play of this pretend game!

So, even though I love pretend and dress-up and all things imaginary, I have my limits, too. So I say yes when I can, and then I pull out the flashcards or a basket of books when I can’t stand it anymore.

How do you encourage creativity in your kids?

Brain Food: Trail Mix Energy Bites

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com

I’m partnering today with Workman Publishing to chat a little more about our family’s genuine love for the new Big Fat Notebooks series, perfect for your middle school child, and to share a fun brain food snack to pair with these fun books!

Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com

Last month I shared with you my car organizing strategies (I can’t believe it still looks REALLY good, you guys!! Miracles DO happen!) and how we have incorporated these books into our car time as a great activity to make the most of those moments. Just like I love to take in a good audiobook or a podcast while I am driving, I love that this pocket of time is perfect for some fun learning on the way for my kids. Why not make the most of all those wasted minutes?

Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com

I know I have said it before, but these books are F-U-N. I am actually going to include these in our holiday gift guide because I think they make an incredible gift for any kid. As you can see, they are adorably illustrated and even the font choice makes it not feel like a textbook, but more like a Diary of a Wimpy Kid escape.

Do you remember that show, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Since my daughter has been asking me questions about the things she has been learning from this book and reciting trivia on different subjects, I can tell you that I am, indeed, NOT.

Hey, I can’t be good at everything!

There are five books in this fun series and each is the only book you need for each main subject taught in middle school: Math, Science, American History, English Language Arts, and World History. Did I mention that they meet  Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and state history standards?

Yup, pretty awesome stuff.

You can find these fantastic books at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndiebound, or Workman.

Here are 4 fun free Big Fat Notebooks worksheets to get you started! 

Thinking Like a Scientist

How to Take Great Notes

Displaying Data

Ancient Egypt Timeline

Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com

In honor of fueling our brains, I wanted to create a brain food treat that the whole family will enjoy and requires ZERO baking. Holla!  I am a big fan of energy bites and this little bite is filled with a protein-rich trail mix that is bound together with peanut butter, oatmeal, and quinoa.

I loved these plain, but I thought they could benefit from a little crunch so I toasted up quinoa in a skillet (watch out, it pops!!) and rolled these trail mix bites into the toasty quinoa for a crunchy coating that reminds me of sesame seeds or even rice cereal.

What Makes These Trail Mix Bites Good Fuel for Your Brain?

Nuts and seeds contain omega-3 essential fatty acids, a major building block of brain cells that are critical for a good memory and stable mood (AKA, they fight the HANGRY!). They are also rich in B complex vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. It takes all these important nutrients to help keep your brain functioning well.

Quinoa is our binding agent and our crispy coating and it also contains vital nutrients for your noggin. Quinoa is so easy to prepare in a rice cooker (this tutorial should help!) and happens to be one of my favorite gluten-free indulgences. Quinoa, pronounced (KEEN-wah) is a very nutritious gluten-free seed that originates from the Andean region of South America. It also is a fantastic source of protein, contains all eight amino acids, is a good source of dietary fiber, contains B Vitamins, and iron. All such good stuff to help your brain!

I hope you can share this delicious brain food (both the treat AND the incredible Big Fat Notebooks with your kids. They truly make learning fun and I’m so happy our family got to share about these with you!

Trail Mix Energy Bites from MomAdvice.com

Trail Mix Energy Bites
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Fuel your brain with these delicious energy bites that provide vital nutrients and vitamins. Packed with quinoa, these gluten-free treats are satisfying and filling!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (check the post above for cooking directions or follow packaging)
  • 1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • ½ cup almonds
  • ½ cup pistachios
  • ½ cup dry roasted peanuts
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
Instructions
  1. In a dry skillet, heat it to medium heat and toast the uncooked quinoa for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the energy bite to look golden. Be careful, quinoa does pop!
  2. In a large bowl mix together all the other ingredients until they are incorporated well.
  3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and then begin scooping & rolling the balls (I like a cookie dough scooper for this).
  4. Roll each ball into the toasted quinoa, coating all sides evenly. Place on the parchment lined cookie sheet and repeat until all of the batter has been used.
  5. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Remove and then place them in an airtight container for snacking.

 Recipe Adapted from The Baker Mama

 This post was sponsored by Workman Publishing and Big Fat Notebooks. All thoughts and opinions are my own! Be sure to follow the Workman Blog for more great ideas!

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

This post was sponsored by Bayer. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

If we are only doing science with our kids when the science fair rolls around, I feel like we are missing the boat. Every day is an opportunity to teach something about science with our kids through simple routine moments throughout our day. From baking bread to why their bath tub toys float to how swinging at the park really works…that’s all science (and pretty amazing!).

Simple daily activities are a great way to incorporate science into our daily routines and most parents have a desire for that. In fact, in Bayer’s recent back-to-school survey, nearly all (95%) parents surveyed agree that it would be helpful to have tips for turning simple activities into science learning opportunities for their children, which is why Bayer decided to create a program to address this need.

So many of these teaching moments are overlooked in our house so I am excited to partner with Bayer as they work to improve science literacy in kids through their award-winning program, Making Science Make Sense (MSMS). In this program, Bayer creates hands-on lessons to kids to seriously think about science and fostering the seeds of science in our kids even when they are small. It inspired our family to take a science challenge of our own and gave us a TRULY fun moment with our daughter while teaching her a really important science lesson in the process.

I honestly don’t know who was more excited- my daughter or my husband.

Who doesn’t love a crazy chemical reaction?

If you don’t want to take on our experiment, you can tackle so many easy and fun experiments through the MSMS science library exploring topics like what happens when water boils, where the light from sun comes, and why do oil and water not mix. Not only are these fun things to talk through together, they could also definitely round out a homeschool curriculum.

Since we have middle school kids, we have found it takes a lot to wow them so I wanted to create some science fun that they had never seen before. Grab your safety glasses and dive into a fun science experiment with us as we make Elephant Toothpaste and learn a heck of a lot of science in the process.

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste

 

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed:

1 Cookie Sheet

1 Empty 2-liter container

1 Tablespoon of Dry Yeast

3 Tablespoons Warm Water

Small Cup For Mixing

Liquid Dish Soap

1/2 cup 20-volume hydrogen peroxide liquid (20-volume is a 6% solution and not available at drugstores so make sure you get the type we are linking to)

Food Coloring

Rubber Gloves

Funnel

Safety Goggles (we bought these and they fit perfectly)

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

 Directions for Making Elephant Toothpaste

 Please note: We advise parents do the pouring of the hydrogen peroxide as it can irritate the skin and eyes.

1. In a clean 2-liter bottle add 8 drops of food coloring. We picked blue to look like toothpaste!

2. Next have an adult add the hydrogen peroxide to the mixture. A funnel really helps with this step!

2. Add one tablespoon of your liquid dish soap to the bottle. Have your child swish the bottle gently.

3. In a separate cup, mix together the dry yeast and warm water. Mix, mix, mix for 30 seconds.

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

4. Place the funnel on top and then pour the yeast mixture into the bottle.

5. Watch in amazement as this starts foaming and overflowing from the bottle. Be sure to put your gloved hands around the bottle to feel the heat that the bottle is giving off.

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

Doesn’t that look like toothpaste? We were all amazed at this chemical reaction.

What’s the Science Behind This Elephant Toothpaste?

Each foam bubble is filled with oxygen. The yeast acts as a catalyst to remove the oxygen from the hydrogen peroxide. Since we did this process so fast, it created lots of bubbles quickly.

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

 

We also created an Exothermic Reaction which means you created heat with this reaction. How cool is that? We thought that part was almost as amazing as the foam that we created!

How to Make Elephant Toothpaste from MomAdvice.com

She was absolutely miserable.

Clearly.

Science is awful.

Just look at that face!

Just kidding, she was in science heaven in our backyard lab.

Although experiments are grand, I hope the takeaway is that we have the opportunity to share science with our kids every single day. I hope this idea and the many, many ideas from Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense give you lots of chances to talk about science each and every day.

Do you have any tips on how to share science at home with your children? What hurdles do you experience in encouraging STEM learning beyond the classroom? I would love to hear them!

This post was sponsored by Bayer. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

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

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

how-to-consume-more-books-5

(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.

ehlers-danlos-syndrome-causes

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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