I put up my Christmas Tree Already

I put up my Christmas tree already. In all honesty, I’ve been putting my tree up earlier and earlier over the past few years. My house is already more than halfway decorated; and Amazon has recently made a few stops with presents that will go under our tree for Christmas morning.

I put up my Christmas tree already because the next month and a half will be the busiest time of the year for me as a mom. I am the magic maker and that requires planning, time, and energy. Traditions will unfold. Remnants of Christmas crafts will fill the house, Christmas movies will be playing on the TV, and hot chocolate will be ever flowing.

I put up my Christmas tree already because these years as a mom of littles are fleeting. My boys won’t believe in Santa and magic forever. Eventually the world will corrupt their innocence, and I’ll be left trying to hold onto the fragments of their broken hearts and imaginations.

I put up my Christmas tree already because I want to enjoy these magical moments while I can. I want to stretch them out and etch them into my memory. I want my boys to breathe in this season and not have to rush through.

I put up my Christmas tree already because the way my boys’ eyes light up when those colorful tree lights switch on is nothing short of intoxicating. Their excitement of finding every ornament that they made or received is what this time of the year is all about. Their joy is pure and exactly why the magic exists.

I put up my Christmas tree already because this season is about the little things that mean so much more. It’s about giving, loving, and being selfless. My tree being up earlier gives me the peace of mind to breathe a sigh of relief. I can enjoy the moments that this season brings. I can have less anxiety about one more thing to do in a short period of time.

I put up my Christmas tree already because it makes me happy. Putting up the tree is one item on my list checked off. I feel accomplished having my tree up this early. That feeling allows me to be kinder to myself. It allows grace to shine through when I may have chosen guilt.

I put up my Christmas tree already because it’s so much more than a tree. It’s a symbol of accomplishment and of joy. It’s a symbol of this season. It’s a symbol of time slipping through our fingers like quicksand.

I put up my Christmas tree already; and if you want to… then you should too.

Fairness

Hi, can we stop telling each other to just homeschool our kids if we don’t like how things are? Why have things come to this? Since when do we tell other parents to stop advocating for what we think is best for our children, just because someone else thinks differently? These thoughts are opinions. None of us are right or wrong. There’s a lot of gray when raising children. The answer is NOT to homeschool our children just because we choose not to comply with whatever is being thrown our way.

Our children matter and so do the choices we choose for them. It is not the government’s job to control how we parent our children. It is the government’s job to give the correct funding for a safe and happy school environment. Education is NOT one size fits all. We have come a long way over the years, but lately with all of the political turmoil happening, parents are being told to just accept what is. Umm, how about “NO?!” Children have multiple different learning styles. Some exceed in certain areas and struggle in others. How about children with Special Needs? They need a tailored education plan. This is exactly why we have IEP’s (Individualized Education Plans). All children deserve the right to learn in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). In most cases, this means a school building with teachers who specialize in teaching students of all kinds of learning differences.

Let’s discuss fairness. Fairness is not “Everyone gets the same thing.” Fairness is everyone gets what they need. For example: Jimmy cannot wear a mask because he has Sensory Processing Disorder and it affects his ability to learn. Sarah, has a poor immune system and needs to wear a fitted mask in order to be in school. These are two different scenarios. We should not and cannot force either child to do what does not work for them. That is the definition of “Fair.” Another example: Josiah is non-verbal and is Autistic. He cannot speak for himself without his iPad to help him. The school rules state that NO iPad’s are allowed in school. Should he not be allowed to use his iPad in school? Or should his IEP state that he is allowed to have his iPad in school because he needs it to communicate? The answer is that he should be allowed to have it in school. This is fairness.

This is probably the most “political” I will get in my posts. I try not to focus on negative current events, because it causes unnecessary division. However, when it comes to my children I will always speak up and speak out. A parent’s choice for their children’s education and health (as long as it isn’t harmful to themselves or others) is their right. I wouldn’t want someone else to determine what is best for my children, and I am pretty positive the majority of parents regardless of their political affiliation feel the same. Because we are more alike than we are different. General rules are great, but there are times that they need to be adjusted and/or broken so those who have different needs can get what they need, not what everyone needs… Fairness.

Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Not Affiliated with either party (like myself), the goal of Democracy is the freedom of choice. I do not fit in any particular boxes because my beliefs are different for everything. I am NOT one size fits all. I bet most of us are more complex than we care to admit. I’m more of a mix and match “party.” I also respect other’s different opinions. In fact, I love hearing different opinions. Not because I’ll change my mind, but because other people’s perspectives matter. That is why empathy is so important. I can learn to empathize with others who believe differently if I am able to listen and see life through their lenses.

Children should not be part of tactics to prove one point or another. They are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. They are not pawns or guinea pigs to test theories of any kind. They are living breathing humans who need their parents to fight for them.

For their education.

For their health.

For their lives and freedom.

Many families have two income homes and cannot be home to homeschool their children. As a stay-at-home mother with an extensive Elementary Education background, it was a challenging experience when my now 7 year old was doing Virtual School last school year. Virtual School is not the Least Restrictive Environment for my son. He has Anxiety and other mental health diagnoses that do not allow him to learn effectively while at home. The school day was too long and not effective for his learning style.

Over the past year and a half, children, teenagers, and adults have severely suffered with mental health illnesses. Mostly because of isolation, but also because of division.

Stop letting politics divide us as a nation! Stand up for your fellow man and woman. Fight for everyone’s choice to live the life they deserve.

I will not spew facts. I’m not here to change anyone’s mind about what’s going on in the world. I simply want actual peace and human decency. Blaming one another is not going to save us from anything. It will only dig us deeper into the depths of Hell.

Remember Fairness? It goes along with choices that fit each person best. In the end THAT is what is best for the WHOLE as well. We can agree to disagree.

As a highly educated, loving, and dedicated mother; I get to choose what is best for my children.

Not the government.

Not my social media newsfeed.

Me.

So, friends… please stop telling each other what to do or not to do. Instead, let’s be each other’s support system. We need each other more than we need to fight each other.

I’m no longer Angry; I’m just Grateful

I used to get really pissed off that I was the parent always giving my kids baths, and not my husband.

I used to get really pissed off that I couldn’t even take a shower without one of my children asking me to open a snack even though their father was available to help them.

I used to get really pissed off that my husband could easily leave the house, shower, and make appointments without worrying if someone was going to watch the children.

Then it hit me… I decided to go grocery shopping the other day because my oldest was in school and my neighbors were babysitting my youngest. Something to note, I do not do the grocery shopping in our household. It’s very rare that I go, and if I do it’s with my husband.

Grocery shopping triggers my Anxiety. I can shop for clothes, crafts, and just stroll through stores all day long, but I absolutely HATE grocery shopping. I have felt like this most of my life. When my husband and I were living in our apartment pre-children, he always did the grocery shopping. Maybe it’s something about the temperature change or actually seeing the cost of some of the food items. Honestly, I really don’t know. I just know that it’s not a job I like to do.

In fact, my husband does a lot of the jobs that I either don’t like to do, or the ones that make me uncomfortable. My anger about always being the one giving baths, making doctor appointments, taking the kids to the doctor appointments, and other jobs that I honestly don’t really mind doing; has now turned to gratefulness.

I’m grateful that I have a partner who does the jobs I don’t want to. We balance each other out.

He doesn’t do baths, but I don’t do grocery shopping.

He doesn’t do the doctor appointments, but I don’t gather the trash in trash night.

He doesn’t clean the toilets, but I don’t mow the lawn.

Then there are things we both do. We both do laundry. We both do dishes. We both tidy our home. We both love our kids and each other.

I used to get really pissed off, but now I’m just grateful for the balance that my husband and I have created over time.

I’m no longer angry; I’m just grateful.

My Head was pounding, but my Heart was Whole

There are days when I am so broken from the emotional balance of parenting.

Being both patient and enforcing consequences takes its toll. That toll is even higher when you have a child who has Anxiety with extra emotional meltdowns to follow.

There are many days when I just wish it would be easier for him. I wish it would be easier for me. Finding that balance is not for the faint of heart. It takes time and a lot of trial and error along the way.

But yesterday afternoon I was shown just how effective my patience, love, and caretaking is for my sons; especially my 7 year old.

I had an awful headache yesterday as a result of my head cold/virus that I’ve had for the past week. I fell asleep on the couch watching a movie with my boys. My 7 year old was home from school because he caught the virus and a few infections that ran through the entire house. Thankfully he’s on the mend.

When I woke up from my nap my head was pounding. I mentioned it to my 7 year old and he immediately rubbed my head. 5 minutes later I saw him getting ice from the ice machine. I thought he was getting himself some water because he likes ice with his water.

One minute later he handed me a ziplock bag with ice and then a cup filled with water. My eyes welled with proud tears. My son became my caretaker. For the next 2 hours he played with his 2 year old brother, cleaned the family room while enlisting his 2 year old brother’s help, and made sure they were both using their inside voices.

His good behavior and choices carried on throughout the rest of the day; and my husband and I made sure that he knew how proud we are.

He didn’t argue with me when it was time to take his medicine (which he usually does).

He didn’t fuss about his time being up on his electronics.

He did things like take a shower, put on his pajamas, and clean up his messes without my instructions to do so.

Yesterday was ideal. His empathy came through. It conquered the tough stuff that his brain often focuses on too much.

I know it won’t always be like this, but I was just so damn proud of him. I’m proud that he was happy with himself. I was proud that he was able to focus on the good. He often thrives when it comes to making others happy, especially me.

His heart is so pure and filled with so much love. I hope he finds more and more power in those qualities everyday.

My head was pounding, but my heart was whole.

Words only Hurt when you give them Value

The other day my 7 year old heard a random kid call me a “whale.” My son doesn’t really understand the significance of that word and how I used to hear that word and similar words many years ago. Back then I gave those words value. All he knew is that the tone the boy used wasn’t one he liked. He was upset that anyone would speak ill of me. I’m the one who goes to battle for him; and I suppose he thought it necessary to go to battle for me. I explained to my son that those words don’t mean anything to me. At least they don’t anymore.

I used to be a 105 lb 20 year old with what was considered “the perfect body.” Although I’ve always been confident, I used to allow others’ opinions to validate how beautiful I was. I used to equate my weight with beauty and happiness. My weight has fluctuated throughout my life. Throughout those years I often heard derogatory words in regards to my weight.

Even while sporting “the perfect body” (whatever the Hell that is) I was called a “fat whore” for crossing the street when I had the right of way, by a balding heavyset male driver who didn’t think I actually had the right of way. I let this man’s words cut me like a knife. I thought about this incident for days (OK years) and gave it value.

I have been called a “cow” by my female peers when I was less than 9 years old in my gymnastics class. I was barely 60 lbs at that age and I was outcasted because they decided I wasn’t worthy of their friendship. So, I believed them. I believed I wasn’t worthy and I told my parents I no longer wanted to go to gymnastics class because I let these bullies’ words have value.

I am now the heaviest weight I have ever been in my life. Well, technically I’ve lost 15 lbs since changing my eating habits. However, I’m still not even close to how thin I used to be. I honestly don’t want to be that thin again. I know, shocking; but it’s true. At this point in my life, I’m happy with my healthy changes. I’m happy with my body finally fighting for me the way it’s supposed to. I’m happy with how I look and feel in my skin. I’m happy being ME.

The truth is that I will always have Anxiety and mental health struggles, but I am overall HAPPY. My weight no longer determines my beauty or my happiness. I no longer give value to words that undermine my progress and strength. But, my 7 year old doesn’t understand that yet. It has taken me years of learning to love myself for who I am and the good that I do in this world.

That word hurt my son because he hasn’t had to deal with much hate and hurt in his life. We’ve been shielding him from the hatred this world brings. But we can’t shield him forever. So, I explained as best as I could that sometimes when people are hurting inside, they are mean to others on the outside. I also explained that the word “whale” can mean whatever you want it to. For me, it’s a unique and majestic queen of the ocean.

I’ll take my crown whenever that random kid comes back to call me a “whale” again.

Parenting is Funny

It’s funny how parenting works. Funny as in ironic. We prepare our children for independence, yet we still feel the need to offer help/step-in. It’s this constant push and pull of leading our children to be their own person and also wanting to shield them under our arms forever.

Each new milestone that is met no matter the timeline, is like our reward as parents for beating a parenting level. There are always obstacles, some big and some small. We’re so excited for helping our children reach their goals, but also a little disappointed that that particular level is over. It’s bittersweet.

Lately my toddler has been really interested in puzzles. He knows to look for similarities in the puzzle pieces to find which ones connect. He knows he has to flip the pieces around to find the best fit. He knows these things because I’ve been scaffolding him along the way. He’s been hearing my repetitive advice on which pieces would fit best. He’s been listening and comprehending.

Last night he was able to complete 4, 12 piece puzzles almost entirely on his own. I offered my help to let him know I would help him if he needed me. I noticed by the time he got to the fourth puzzle, he asked for my help less and less. While this is what the ultimate goal is, it’s still heartbreaking as well as prideful to watch your child become more and more independent.

There are instances in my parenting with both of my children that I have to hold back from stepping in to help. It certainly is faster for me to just do certain things, but the lessons my children are learning far outweigh how fast something can be accomplished.

Patience and time are the best parenting tools to foster independence. Children learn best through practice, repetition, and consistency. Including the knowledge of independent thinking.

It’s definitely funny, that as parents our ultimate goal is to create children that will be independent thinkers. Yet we also want them fo listen to us and our household rules. It’s a fine line of explaining when to listen and when it’s OK to question a demand.

That, my friends, is the bittersweet irony of parenting.

Compliance in Children

Compliance.

I heard that word in reference to my son at one of our first trial therapy sessions last year. That word just doesn’t sit right with me. The therapist (who wasn’t a good fit and we haven’t seen since) asked my husband and I “So, you want him to be more compliant and obedient? That’s your end goal?” I hesitated and thought about it for a minute before replying. “No. I don’t want him to be more compliant.”

Compliance is the act of agreeing and doing what you’re told because an authoritative figure tells you to do so. I don’t want my son to be compliant. I want him to question things. I want him to ask “Why?” and make choices that fit the outcome that he wants. I want him to understand that every choice he makes there will be a consequence; some good and some bad. I want him to be the strong-willed boy that he is. Compliance would take that away.

What I really wanted then and now for my son is for him to learn how his choices and actions can effect others. He has so much empathy for others and I want that to be the forefront of his choice making.

The word “compliance” makes my stomach turn and my head woozy. I feel like it’s a jail sentence, a threat. “Be compliant, keep your mouth shut, and only speak when spoken to.” That’s what that word in reference to my son feels like to me. It feels icky and wrong.

My son is creative, brilliant, imaginative, thoughtful, and caring. Compliance doesn’t allow those traits to shine.

Yes, I want him to listen to and follow directions more often, but it’s more than that. I want him to know that as his mom, I want a mutual respect and an open line of communication. When I ask my son to do something, that’s just it… I ask. I don’t demand that he does something.

My son knows that if he helps clean up around the house, is kind, and does follow directions that he gets rewarded with “filling his bucket” (our positive behavior rewards system). While this isn’t quite intrinsic yet, it’s becoming more and more natural for him to help without looking for the reward/ good consequences.

This system may seem like a lot of work when you can just yell, demand, or force your kids to do what you want them to do. However, easier isn’t always better. I’m looking at the bigger picture; the long haul. I want my son to take ownership of his own choices. If I make all the choices for him, he’ll never learn the importance of his actions and behavior in regards to others.

Compliance.

I don’t want him to ever just comply because he’s told to: I want him to know why, ask why, and then choose to make the best choice for his desirable outcome.

Marry the Man who Paints Your Door Red

A couple of weeks ago I picked out a gorgeous red paint for our front door. For years I’ve wanted a red door. I don’t really know why, it just feels adventurous and exciting.

After years of wanting, months of planning, and weeks of beginning, I thought that paint would sit on our entryway steps forever.

Between the kids, my anxiety, and my husband’s crazy work schedule, I didn’t know when it would get done.

I took my kids to visit my parents for a few days and while he did say he was going to do it, my husband followed through and painted our front door red. He had a few hiccups with sanding, but fixed the mistakes and painted another coat.

By the time I came home he was working on the final coat of paint. Knowing that my heart was set on this door and fixing up our house in general to feel more welcoming, he made sure that door got painted.

While, this may not seem like a big deal to many people, it is to me.

At this point in our marriage with little kids, it’s hard to go out on dates and have a stereotypical romance. Most of the time I don’t want that anyway. I want to be heard, loved, and appreciated.

My husband painted our door red because he hears me, he loves me, and he appreciates me. I don’t need a Prince Charming, I just need someone who’s willing to paint my front door red because it makes me happy.

If you want real romance; marry the man who paints your door red.

You Don’t Belong in a Group of Friends…

I’ve read article after article about how women in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s feel like they don’t belong in a group of friends.

I’m here to tell you, you’re right.

You don’t belong in a group of friends. You belong in YOUR group of friends.

Throughout my life, I have always had a large amount of friends from different groups. Each friend and each group served a purpose. They still serve a purpose. That purpose is a reciprocal understanding of love, acceptance, being there for each other when times are difficult, and being able to have fun together.

I didn’t fight to keep friendships that weren’t serving me as a person. I simply dropped those “friends.” If we weren’t serving each other’s souls, then I didn’t have time to waste on them.

On the contrary, my circle is always open. I will chat it up at the park with moms. I will compliment someone in line at the grocery store on their hair. I will tell a random mom that they’re doing a good job!

All of those can lead to friendship. Believe it or not, most of my friendships that I’ve made more recently have formed from my older son’s schools.

He is now 7, and we still spend time with his friends and their parents from preschool.

I’ve also made several friends through volunteering. I’m one of 3 chairpersons for the Kid’s events in our neighborhood, as well as the fundraising representative for the PTA at my older son’s school. I get involved and that allows others to feel comfortable talking to me and coming to me.

Eventually that had lead to amazing friendships.

Also, most of my close friends also have children. That makes a big difference for many reasons. The main reason is because they know that our time is limited.

They know that when we do get a day to hang out, we try to make the most of it.

They also know that if we can all bring our kids together to play, while we all hang, it’s even better! It’s hard for moms to get time away from their kids, so the best mom friends are those that have kids that play with your kids too. I call that a win-win.

Anyway, in order to find your people, you have to be reciprocal in your friendships.

Try to return the text.

Try to schedule play dates.

Try to schedule girl’s nights.

Try to be the friend you want to have, and that will help you attract the same.

Oh, and keep your circle open. You never know who’s waiting for your friendship.

Leading from the Trenches

Leadership doesn’t mean leading from afar. In fact it’s difficult to lead effectively without modeling up close and personal.

As parents we are supposed to lead by example. Our children watch us. They watch our body language and listen to the words we speak in context.

The same constitutes for every area of a professional workplace. Especially a place that also models behavior and learning… school.

In order to believe in something and truly make a difference, we have to live it everyday. We have to be in the trenches. We have to feel and empathize. We have to understand a different perspective than our own.

Every morning that I drop my older son off at school, his Elementary School Principal is helping students out of their cars and welcoming them to school along with several teachers and staff members. She is in the trenches. She is leading by example, and it flows through the entire school.

The teachers are genuinely happy to be teaching.

The children are genuinely happy to be learning.

The parents are genuinely happy to be sending their children to a school filled with love and acceptance.

As a former teacher, I have been through my fair share of Administrators and none of them did what Ms. Conlin does daily. She is present for all special events. By present, I mean she welcomes every child by name. Even during a pandemic with masks and extra guidelines, she makes school feel like the safe place it is supposed to be. She makes school feel like a second home.

In a world that changed dramatically in the course of one year, Ms. Conlin has been a constant for her staff, students, and parents. They look to her for guidance, direction, and true leadership.

So, she leads by example.

She leads with love.

She leads side by side.

She is in the trenches, gladly…

and it shows.