‚ÄėTis the Season

What time of year is most stressful for you?

For many, the holiday season brings stress with it, but my stress starts earlier in the year and peaks around this time — like a roller coaster with the biggest hill at the end.

January usually brings changes at work which require an adjustment — it’s common for me to have to tell myself at some point during the month, “calm down, you’re going to figure this out.” And I do. Just around the time I’m acclimated to the changed there are school activities, events, volunteers needed, vacations to plan, and again it culminates to what feels like a fever pitch, and then school is out, and the stress lowers. Then vacation comes, and the break is welcomed and rest is enjoyed. Recharging is the goal. Then school starts again, there is planning, figuring out logistics, getting used to a new schedule, new teachers, new activities, new places we have to be at new times. Then we adjust, and the stress lowers. Then it picks back up with all the things that come rapid fire starting in October and goes through the end of the year — Halloween, birthday parties, family visiting, getting the photo album together, getting the holiday card written and sent, scheduling holiday parties, making plans with friends, getting the house ready for Christmas, shopping, and the list goes on and on.

I knew I was overly stressed when I received a reminder call of an upcoming appointment. I was certain the person had the wrong date. “I was just there two or three weeks ago.” I rescheduled the appointment pushing it a month out. It was only when I paused to really think about it (the next day) that i realized it had been closer to six weeks since I had gone in, and I was in fact due for an appointment. Where did the time go? I thought.

No one is making me do any of these things. This is my doing. I want my children to have certain experiences (parties, holidays, vacations, etc.). I want to capture the memories and make sure I’m not getting behind (cause that would stress me out even more). But I realize I am close to burn out and desperately need a vacation. Time off is just around the corner so I’m just trying to power through until I get there. My guess is many of us are in the same boat.

How do you handle stress as a parent throughout the year? How do you navigate stress during this time of year?

First Concert

What was the first concert you went to?

Mine was Duran Duran. I went with two friends, and our moms. I wanted to go with just my friends, but there was no way my mom was going to let her then 13 year old daughter go without adult supervision. I wanted to see the band so bad, I didn’t care.

My oldest is a big fan of several YouTube stars. This particular YouTube star (or assemble) came to town and the minute my son heard they were having a show he was begging to go. I, like my mother, was not going to let him go unsupervised. I asked if he had other friends he wanted to go with. “Nah, not really,” he replied, “Dad can take me.” Phew! I thought. Thinking I’d gotten out of something I didn’t necessarily want to do, and a little concerned about the content of the show (was it going to be offensive to females? I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with this particular YouTube star). We agreed he would pay for his ticket and his father would attend.

Of course, plans change and my husband was called out of town for work. I was going to be going to the show after all. My son was very disappointed he had to go with me. Again I was trying to figure out if it was because he was concerned about the show’s content and how I would take it, or if it was because he sees me as the more embarrassing parent. I think it was a little of both. ūüôā

We got to the show early to get our seats. I promised my son I would do my best not to embarrass him. It was an interesting crowd. The star is probably in his mid-late 20s. The fans ranged in age, though skewed younger. They were passionate about their affection for this guy. The show included elements from content on his channel, and did some parent-splaining (where younger people explain things to us old people ūüėĀ) to help us better follow the show. There were moments that made me cringe (body humor/sexual reference that was more immature than insulting), and others that made me respect the star (he and his co-star shared personal stories and encouraged loving yourself as you are, and appreciating the gift of life) — they really used their platform well — both to entertain and inspire.

My son was watching me like a hawk throughout the show and would periodically ask, “Mom, why are you making that face?” I didn’t know I was making a face, but told him I was fine and not to worry about me. If I thought anything was that bad we’d talk about it after the show.

After 90 minutes the show concluded and we headed home. My son was on a high from the show. He talked about the crowd, and the energy, and how much he enjoyed it. I reminded him that he and I have had fun a few times together (maybe I was trying to remind him I’m okay to hang with from time to time — e.g. I’m not that embarrassing). ūüėä “You’re right, Mom, we have had some fun,” he says. And we left it at that. How cool is it that I got to go with my son to his first show?

Have you taken your child to a concert or show? How did you handle it if you weren’t necessarily looking forward the entertainment?

Your Parental Rating

How would you rate yourself as a parent?

It’s not as straightforward as you’d think, right? There are so many different categories that could go into the rating — loving, nurturing, ability to teach/educate your child, how well you handle emotions (your child and your own), your cooking skills, organization skills, ability to provide, ability to get yourself and your child safe, and so much more. If you got a rating for each category what would be your average?

A few days before my youngest graduated from elementary school my husband and I were in the main office and ran into the principal (who is retiring) and the resource teacher. We thanked them for being so good to both of our boys. They clearly cared about helping our boys be successful in school and helping them thrive. “You’re boys are great, ” both commented, “You all are great parents.” I immediately chimed in, “TBD.” Meaning, while it’s always nice to hear others think you are doing well, my husband and I have further to go with our boys before we can fully accept that rating. I think instead my husband and I work to not be complacent, or take for granted the precious time we’ve got with our kids, and our need to stay open and aware of our shortcomings and where we can improve. No parent is perfect, but striving to be the best you can for your kids is as good a goal as any.

How would you rate yourself as a parent? Where do you see opportunity to grow and do better by your child?

March Madness

What does March Madness make you think of?

Basketball right? I would agree with that, up until I a few years ago when I realized March is the month where a culmination of things come together: the first flowers of Spring start to bloom, time change (Spring forward), St. Patrick’s Day, and,¬†the NCAA¬†basketball tournaments.

As a parent, this month always seems to go by in a flash. My boys and I were just admiring the first crocuses and daffodils of the season. Every year it seems these flowers come earlier than¬†we expect. We braced ourselves for losing an hour of the day (and how that always seems to throw off our sleep cycle for a week) when the clock jumped an hour forward last night. The kids are excited about it being St. Patrick’s Day later this week. Always a fun day for our family to wear green, dance, be silly (by doing silly dancing in¬†our house),¬†and hope for good luck. And last, but certainly not least, there is the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball tournaments. It’s not a family affair yet, more of something I like to watch, but my son’s are starting to show some interest¬†in so there is hope it will become one in future years.

Before I know it, March will be over and we’ll be into April¬†with another flurry of events: Easter, Spring Break and dreams of summer will begin.

I’m doing¬†my best to enjoy the ‘madness’ and not let it pass me by. Smell the flowers. Check. Spring forward. Check (I had no choice). ūüôā Dance a silly jig with my kids on St. Patty’s Day. Looking forward to it. And enjoy watching the basketball tournament — Bounce. Bounce. Check.

How are you enjoying March ‘madness’?¬† What family activities make up your March?

 

 

On the Road Again

Do you travel for work?¬† How do you stay connected with your child and spouse while you’re away?

My travel schedule has incurred an uptick in recent years. There are parts of it that I like — meeting new people, seeing new places–and things I don’t–the long hours, being in the unfamiliar and mostly being away from my family.¬† Staying connected via technology has become easier, but staying really connected to what is going on at home while I’m away has not. Trying to sneak in a quick call home during a dinner break or trying to FaceTime after returning to my room after a long day often feels rushed, where I’m only getting the highlights of the day. While we all want to talk to one another, it can also feel like we’re trying to get to what happens after the call finishes: finishing work or relaxing for me; TV or homework for the kids; relaxing or cleaning up for my husband.

When I travel it isn’t easy for my husband or kids. When my husband travels it isn’t easy for my kids or me. When the daily composition of the family changes, even for a few days, interactions differ and that can be the hardest to adjust to. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s much a easier transition now that the kids are older, but there is still a noticeable impact. Almost a void we all try to fill when one of us is away.

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had a long period of time where I didn’t have to travel, but that is changing. I’m trying to gear myself back up for travel mode and mentally prepare my family for it. I know they will be fine, but I still struggle with how to maintain our strong connections while I’m away.¬† I don’t have any good answers, but I’m going to keep working at it, and welcome insights from others who’ve discovered ways to do this while they are away.

How do you stay connected with your child and spouse while you’re away?

 

I Love You

How do you express love for one another in your family?

In our family there are the obvious signs–hugs whenever¬†the kids will¬†let me give them one, and kisses on the check at bedtime–and the less obvious signs–being present with them, listening to them, and trying to teach or help them with something when they are curious or struggling–love comes in many forms.

My oldest is starting to ‘outgrow’ hugs and kisses which is bittersweet. I knew this time would come. My youngest loves hugs, getting kisses on the cheek and saying, “I love you!” In fact, he¬†enjoys saying ‘I love you’¬†so much, we’ve determined he means it sometimes, and other times uses it as a¬†diversionary tactic: to delay having to set the table, or get started on homework. It’s not uncommon for you to ask him to do one of these tasks and hear in response, “Mom, I love you!” or “Dad, I love you!” While it’s very sweet, my husband and I realize what he’s up to. Still I’m amazed that he figured out¬†how to use the phrase to his advantage at such a young age.

Getting the kids to¬†take¬†a bath¬†or shower¬†can be¬†a struggle, particularly for our youngest. He will delay the inevitable¬†as long as he can,¬†then go into the bathroom and take his time getting cleaned and/or getting dressed. After a shower one morning, as I was trying to prompt him to hurry up to dry off and get dressed quickly so we could get out of the house to school and work,¬†he didn’t fuss or simply say, “Okay, Mom.” Instead he said from the other side of the door, “I love you, Mom.” I replied, “I love you too, but we need to hurry!” After several more minutes he emerged, still with a towel around him, but with a big grin on his face. “Urgh! Why aren’t you ready?” I asked. He gestured towards the fogged-up¬†mirror. On it I could see in his handwriting the words: To Mom, I Love You.¬† How could I stay mad? This time his message felt part diversionary tactic, part love letter. Regardless, I treasured his simple message. It’s not everyday your morning gets interrupted by a proclamation of love. It’s one of those moments I’ll remember forever.

When has your child caught you off-guard with their love for you?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

Getting Caught Up in the Moment

Did you play sports growing up? Do you recall getting caught up in the action, whether you were playing or watching your team?

My son’s soccer¬†team was recently invited to watch the local high school play in the state tournament. My son was excited to sit with his teammates and watch the teams play (a special bonus was that¬†their coach was one of the coaches for the high school team playing). The kids quickly got caught up in the action. It was fun to see them interact, cheering on the team, doing the wave (without any care that no one else was doing it) and talking in their own team lingo as they observed the game. They also got caught up in the nastier side of sports, booing and finding ways to take digs at the opposition.

I got caught up in the action as well. It was a very aggressive and physical game. At one point, two players collided, resulting in one (from the team¬†we were cheering for) bleeding from the head. When the referees proceeded not to issue a yellow card for the incident, I too got caught up in the moment. “When are you going to card #10, ref? This is ridiculous!”¬†I yelled. My son was a little taken aback. One, because I had been relatively quiet up until this point, and two, I clearly reacted as though a true injustice had been done and either the ref was blind or incompetent. His reaction brought me out of the moment. I needed that.¬†The ref’s job is hard enough, they didn’t need me yelling at them. I didn’t want my son thinking my behavior was right either. (On a side note, I don’t know how refs do it. I would sink into the ground if people were telling me how terrible I was while I was performing at my job. I don’t envy them, but do respect them, no matter how frustrating it can be when you see a missed call.).

The game was close right up to the end. The team my son was cheering for won in dramatic action. He was in heaven. He and his teammates celebrated and went off to find their coach to congratulate him. It was one of those moments where you recognize it’s special. It doesn’t happen often and you need to just enjoy it. I couldn’t help getting caught up in my son’s moment. It was pure joy.

How do you get caught up in special moments when they happen?

 

 

 

A Change in the Weather

What is your favorite time of year, and what makes it so?

In our house, Fall is right up there.¬† We made a list of our favorite things (kinda of like Oprah’s Favorite Things list, but made up of things you just can’t buy). ūüôā

There are the normal things we look forward to every year:

  • Apple cider
  • The return of college football and going to Red Mill (Red Mill is a burger¬†place that is open all year round. For whatever reason the return of college football reminds us it’s time to go back to Red Mill)
  • The leaves changing color, and
  • Going to the pumpkin patch (we’ll do that here in a few weeks)

And there are those things that are temporary, having to do more with my children’s ages and interests than anything else:

  • Watching my oldest son practicing soccer past sunset with his team
  • Spending more time with other moms during practice¬†— we’ve found the kids don’t seem to miss us if we slip away for a hot beverage or quick meal and get back by the time it’s over
  • Watching and cheering my son and his teammates on at the game (it’s nerve racking for me)
  • Spending time on the playground with my younger son¬†while older brother plays in a game (I’m much calmer here)
  • Decorating a gingerbread Haunted House (again, we’ll do that here in a few weeks…and as much as I’d like to think this will be a long-term tradition, I fear it will only last as long as the boys are interested in doing it).

Time continues to pass. The boys are getting older. We reached a new milestone this season. Our membership expired at the zoo. We’ve had a membership there since the kids were babies. They no longer seem interested in seeing the animals. Other parents warned us this was coming, but it feels a little like a change in the weather…nothing ever really stays the same, and that’s okay.¬†The constant traditions of Fall I look forward to, they will always¬†be there. The ones that are yet-to-be excite me. What¬†activities or temporary traditions will the new seasons bring for my family?¬†We’ll just have to wait and see.

What are your favorite Fall traditions?

Let’s Go Camping

When you think of summer what comes to mind? Playing on a¬†Slip ‘n Slide, spending lots of time in the pool, going swimming in a lake, fishing, making homemade ice cream or something else?

My boys and I have never camped in the summer, but that’s going to change this year. We’ve camped before (see¬†blogs on our camping trips in the past) but also in cooler months. I can remember camping as a kid and it was almost always in the summer months. Memories of bugs, relentless heat, and sweat come to mind. It’s probably why I’ve avoided it up to this point. Instead of doing traditional camping (and by that, I mean getting in the car and driving to a camping site) we’re going to camp in our own backyard. I realize this isn’t a unique idea, but it’s a first for us. Not having to drive anywhere and still being able to use all of your camping gear is appealing. And if the bugs bite, we’ve got a quick escape (either come inside or I can run to the store and pick up some bug spray). I know, I know…what fun is it, if you don’t have all the hardships that can come with a good old fashioned camping trip? Lots, I’d say. My boys are really excited about the backyard campout, and can’t wait to figure out how to convert of backyard so it is more ‘camp-like’ (I can’t wait to see what they come up with).

I’m reminded of my own upbringing and how the simple things: watching (and sometimes catching) lightning bugs, running through the sprinkler, going to a BBQ and just relaxing with people I loved holds a special place in my heart. These things were fun, relaxing, and created a moment that forced me to¬†pause to appreciate how good it felt to be right where I was, without a care in the world.

When have you experienced those moments? How are you and your family enjoying the summer?

 

Counting on a Few Good (Dads) Men

Have you ever struggled to find an appropriate Father’s Day card for your Dad?¬† I have. There seem to be two varieties that exist: cards that imply Dad needs time away golfing, fishing or BBQ’ing; or Dad can’t control his bodily functions and loves the TV remote more than anything else. There is a third variety and it’s the sentimental kind. I usually gravitate towards these, because the other two don’t seem to fit.

My parents celebrated a milestone anniversary this year, and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance. They had most of their original wedding party and friends from high school attend. It was a joy to see so many people who loved my parents and had such fond memories of them.

After the celebration there was an informal reception, where the guests came together and we shared food and stories. I got to hear new stories of them growing up. I learned a lot about my dad that afternoon. He loved to fish–he used to do it almost everyday in the summer with his high school buddies growing up (I had no idea, the only time I saw my dad fish growing up was when he took my sisters and I out to a local lake a handful of times); and he used to be a bit more ‘wild’ than I would have ever guessed. The person I knew was my dad–a man who has always been intentional in his parenting, and actions. As a father, he was more serious than fun (I never saw him do anything even remotely wild), but loving and giving of his time with my sisters and I. I never got the feeling from my dad that he needed (or yearned) for time away from us–though he certainly could have. He was always present. He would push us to be our best, and coach, support, encourage and praise us along the way. He was (and still is) a great dad.

This year I found a card that made me smile. It said, “Dad in Chief” and had a fancy patch that looked similar to a presidential seal with an eagle and stars (the eagle is holding a small remote control in one talon, and spatula in the other, but oh well). My dad is tops in my book. He continues to be¬†a great model¬†of what being a¬†dad is all about.¬†My husband is the same with¬†our sons. He’s present, he’s invested, he cares, and it shows. I love him dearly for it.

I feel very fortunate to have such good men in my life.

How are you honoring your dad today? How are you being the parent you want to be for your child?

Happy Father’s Day!