Raising Readers

It’s no secret that I am a massive reader. I devour books the way people devour food. I spend most of my time reading and it is my dream that my kids read books as well. I don’t expect them to read like I do, but I would hope that they turn into little bookworms in their own ways. I’ve noticed over the past year, they both have been turning to books more and more and it is something that I’ve gotten comments on in the past when others see that.

First, the importance of reading.

Reading has such an impact on our lives in ways that we don’t even realize. Reading is a form education and escapism, a way of gaining new insight and knowledge on a vast amount of topics from a vast amount of voices. As human beings we read in some form every single day, whether that is reading a book, a news article, a blog post (are you reading this post?), or even a caption on social media. And with those words, knowledge is conveyed to us. Knowledge about the person who wrote them, knowledge from the words themselves, knowledge in our reaction and understanding of them.

Basically, reading is important beyond just being able to actually read signs, directions, and other things. Even if the only reading you do is reading directions, or Instagram captions, it still has an effect on your life.

Of course, I prefer to read books. For me personally reading is a form of education and escapism. I learn from everything that I read (even just the light and fluffy novel, even if I’ve just learned that I don’t like what I just read, there is always something to be gained) and I truly love to just curl up with a good book in the afternoon and read till the late evening.

Anyways, all that aside now, let’s talk about how my little boys are starting to turn into little readers. Now, they are too young to actually be able to read the words on the pages (that’s coming though), but they love to a)be read to and b) flip through the books they have themselves and tell us what is on the pages. We’ve started to slowly introduce the longer chapter books to Colton (our older son, a few months shy of 4 years old), starting with Winnie the Pooh.

One of the top reasons why I think they are starting to get much more interested in books is that they see Mommy reading. Kids watch the adults that are around them, especially parents, for cues. They pay attention to what we do and what we say and they model some of their behaviors off of ours. For some reason, when I am sitting and reading a book, the boys are reasonably well behaved (allowing me to actually read the book) and often times they will pick up a book and sit with it as well.

Another reason I think they are starting to get more into it, is that if they want to read, we will stop everything and read. Everything stops if they want to pick up a book and read it. We will read whatever, whenever and always give it our full attention.

There are two reasons in regards to buying books that I think has helped. The first being that if we are out and about at the library or at a store that carries books, the boys can each pick one book out for themselves. We will usually always buy them a book if they want it (as long as we don’t already have it at home, at which point I will usually see if they want a different book). This may not have always worked our in our personal favor (those noisy sound books are obnoxious), but it still encourages them to continue reading and shows them how great books can be. The second reason is they have full control over the books that they want (again as long as we don’t already have it). If it is age appropriate, then they can pick the book that they want. I find that just by simply encouraging them to read what they want, makes them more likely to pick a book up. I’m sure this will play a much larger role later on in their lives when they are actually reading. At the present though, it means we have a lot of Paw Patrol and Dinosaur books in our home.

Honestly, what it comes down to is just offering books to your children. Showing them that reading is enjoyable and allowing them to explore books and reading in their own little ways. If they are given the freedom to read what and when they want (aside from bedtime, but that’s going to be a later battle I feel like- Colton is already trying that), it encourages them to want to read.

Making the Most of Long Weekends

It’s happened…Europe has turned us into weekend travelers. I think we’ve traveled 90% of the “long” (3-4 days off, Fri-Mon, Thurs-Sun) weekends. It’s so easy here to hop into the car and just go somewhere new, spend a couple of days and return home. As easy as it is to do, it can seem daunting. There is always so much to do and so much to see that doing it in such a short period of time can seem…overwhelming. I like to think that we’ve got a fairly good system down for how we tackle long weekends and am going to share some of the tips that we’ve picked up over the past months of living here.

Tip#1: Narrow your travel list down to places that are 4-day places (with a realistic total of 2 ½ days of sight seeing) and places where maybe you want to spend a little more time at. This is where people can get stuck the most, because, honestly who wants to feel rushed when traveling? There is also SO MUCH to see and do here that that in itself is overwhelming. Here’s the thing (in my opinion/our perspective)- we are going to be here for three years. We will have numerous long weekends to travel (as opposed to a week or longer) and numerous places to go. If there are spaces that we want to see, but don’t have as much “sight seeing” to do, those are places we can go to on a long weekend. Our first long weekend was to Berlin. Totally doable on a 4 day weekend (in my opinion), our second was to The Netherlands. Both of those fit the 4 day mold fairly perfectly (although there are a couple of spots in The Netherlands I’d like to see one day) as there were sights to see, but we could go, go, go to all those sights.

Tip #2: Pick your top 5. When we decide to go on a long weekend trip we will pick our top 5 before we even leave the house. What are the things that we have to do? What do we absolutely not want to miss if we could not come back here? This lets us narrow down our list of spots to see (so less overwhelming) and when we head back home, we feel like we hit everything we wanted to. 5 is the perfect number and totally doable over a roughly 2 ½ day time period.

**I recognize I keep saying 2 ½ day, that’s what I’ve calculated out as actual sight seeing time on a 4 day weekend. You typically spend a day or so traveling to and from your destination, and then sleep and eating). **

Tip #3: Be ruthless in your packing. (Seems ridiculous to even include this tip) When we have long weekends, I take the bare minimum of what we will need. I grab 4 outfits for each of us, toiletries (that we already have pre packed and travel sized in a suitcase at any given time), and one book (the most important part haha). I pack the day before a trip so being able to just grab and go for a long weekend is super helpful. There have also been a couple weekends where we have literally decided the week before that we wanted to go, so it’s a much faster option to just grab a few outfits and pack the medium suitcase for all of us. Also, it’s a long weekend, you don’t need a lot (I’m talking to all of us women- we tend to overpack).

Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to be flexible. Here’s the thing, travel is all about flexibility. Sometimes you don’t get to everything, sometimes you’re priorities change with having little ones with you. Sometimes the weather impedes. Life happens. It’s more important to enjoy your time and do what you can than stress everything else. Just roll with the punches as they fly. I know that seems different from what I’ve said above, but honestly keep your spirits up and just go with it.

I think, above all, it is important to know what kind of a traveler you are. If you are a go, go, go traveler, long weekends are probably a breeze for you. For reference- we are typically go, go, go travelers, especially on long weekends. We like to see as much as we can with whatever time we have and aren’t keen on sitting around. Our kids have just kind of folded into that mold, being up for whatever we are up for. They nap/eat/live life on the go when we travel and they love being able to see all sorts of different things.

Once you know what kind of traveler you are, and what kind of traveler those with you are, it is easier to figure out what long weekends look for you.

What tips do you have to make the most out of a Long Weekend of travel?

Morning Routine 2019

Morning’s are my golden time. The house is quiet, clean, and so tranquil. I use my mornings to soak in that quiet peace, warm my body and mind up to the day and prepare myself for another productive day. I find that if I have a good fresh start to my day, then my day goes much smoother than if I am feel a bit frazzled.

I’ve done a morning routine before, and while the basics are the same, there are some differences and I now have two very active children, one who is most definitely a morning bird (I get excited when he sleeps to 7:30am).

6AM
My alarm goes off at 6 AM every weekday morning and I try to sit up as soon as I turn it off. At some point I would like to put my phone (which also serves as my alarm clock) across the room so it gets me all the way up, but for now this is what works for me. Also, I find that if I sit up right after I shut my alarm off, I am more likely to actually get up and get on with my morning than if I stay laying down.

Once I’m up, I’ll go handle all my bathroom stuff, brush my teeth, wash off my face with some water and then I’ll change into my workout clothes.

6:15AM

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This is typically about the time that I will start my Yoga Flow. I do yoga almost everyday (weekends are always up in the air with what I do and don’t do) and I find that it is a key part of my morning routine. I feel better throughout the day, feel clearer, and it just really shakes off any feelings I have had from the day before or overnight. It is also the one time that my mind is completely clear and empty. It’s just my soul pushing my body and my breathe.

On occasion Andrew will wake up around 6:15-6:30AM. If this is the case, I’ll stop what I’m doing, grab him some water and then he will either join me and do some yoga (which is interesting) or he will play nearby with his toys. He’s fairly easygoing and quiet first thing in the morning, so I’m usually able to get a decent yoga flow done before he starts chatting and wanting me to get more involved with his play.

6:45-7:00AM

Yoga is usually anywhere from 20-50 minutes depending on what I do/how I am feeling and when the kids wake up. Once I’m done I’ll usually jump in for a quick shower and then get ready for the day.

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For me, getting ready usually takes a total of about an hour – from after I get out of the shower until I am ready to walk out of our room onto the next task. It entails hair, makeup, and getting dressed. I don’t do anything super fancy for day to day, but I still like to put myself together in some form. I’ve talked about it before, but when I feel good about myself and I feel like I’ve made an effort, then I am more likely to be productive throughout the day.

8:00AM

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This is usually the time that I am kind of pushing my limits of what I can do vs. when the kids will need me. This is also normally the time that I go back and forth about getting up even earlier so I can just get a few more minutes haha. I try and take the last bit of time before I need to do breakfast and get on with the day to do a little journaling. Once I finish yoga, I try to keep the playlist of music I use going throughout the rest of the morning- it keeps my head clear. Then once I sit down to do a little journal, I will let my mind come back and I will write out whatever I’m feeling, thinking, needing to get out. I try to just write until I can’t write anymore. I find that gives me a completely clear mind to truly start the day with.

8:30AM

Time for breakfast on the table, boys up and dressed, and get on with the day!

And that’s my morning routine! Not super exciting or different, but I find that it really sets me up for a successful day. If I had to pull one thing from my morning routine that I find really just is key, it would be Yoga. What is one thing from your morning that is key for you?

I See You

I see you. You, the mom putting out the picture of happiness. Radiating happiness. The mom that everyone thinks has her sh*t together. The mom who seemingly does it all. Mrs. Cleaver, caring for her husband, children, and home.

The mom who is the look of happy perfection and yet is crying out inside.

I see you. You, the mom crying silently in the car on the way home. The mom crying to herself, exhausted from being the one thread that holds everything together. The mom who gives until she has nothing left to give because she has no other choice.

The mom who wants so desperately to be there for everyone else, to be that happy bubbly person that she knows she is, but loses sight of her own needs in the process.

I see you. I see you because I am you.

It’s a hard thing to share. I’m the kind of person who loves to be that “light in the darkness”. I love to live a life full of happiness, who doesn’t? I love to lift others help, help them find those little positive moments, to be that person who is there for them when they need it. I don’t like to focus on the hard times, or talk about how the past month was a tough one, when I am now feeling better and things are looking up. I don’t want to bring those times up (aside from the random in the moment posting about them), because I don’t want to return to them. I don’t want to bring that back into my headspace, but if we don’t then we won’t learn for the next time. If we don’t share, others won’t know. I think it is equally important to share when times are good and when times are…well not so good.

Life is full of ups and downs for everyone and it is important to remember that even the people who look like they have their sh*t together still have their hard days too.

I also feel a lot of guilt when talking about what “hard times” looks like to me. I know that I am incredibly blessed to be able to stay home with my children, to have a roof over my head, to have food on my table, to not have to overly stress about our budget (although we do have one), to not have to worry about every little thing. I recognize that I am incredibly blessed to be able to travel with my family, show our kids the world beyond our town. I’m blessed to have a loving and caring husband (or partner if that’s your case), who will help our whenever and however he can.

I know that I am incredibly blessed in this life (although that doesn’t negate the hard work that I put in and have put in), but that doesn’t mean that I do not have hard times. Hard times look different to everyone, just like anything else in life. It is important not to downplay or minimize someone else’s hart times just because they look different than ours.

In August, my hard times specifically related to being mentally over exhausted. Our July and August have been non stop on the “doing things”, “people” and “noise” fronts and I just couldn’t catch a break to have an hour or two to myself. We talk about self-care (something I will be talking about this month) and how important it is, but sometimes we forget. I preach it, but wasn’t getting a chance to take my own advice. It’s a season of life and this past month has taught me a couple of things.

Also, in this time period, my husband’s work picked up quite a bit, he was in and out a little bit more (and had a long trip at the start of the month) and our boys reacted to that. Andrew became extremely clingy (to be expected), freaking out if I disappeared from his site for more than a minute. Again, a season of life and something that we are working on with him.

I say all this now, share all this now, because I’ve been really bad at sharing it in the moment. I hit a patch of about a week when I just retreated. Outwardly I was still that same person, but when we weren’t around others I hid inside. I carried on as best I could, but often times would end up crying at night, from being so tired, so worn thin. Feeling like the worn thread holding a piece of rope together.

I didn’t share in the moment for two reasons, both of which have been stated here. I don’t like feeling like this- no one does. I don’t want to bring myself down even more and bring others down. I also felt that guild and shame. I didn’t want to put my “not so important” problems above others who have what I would consider “real problems” (which, as I’ve stated above is utterly ridiculous). I retreated so far that I really just didn’t want to talk at all.

I don’t know what actually pulled me out to be honest. I cried. A lot. I wrote in my journal. A lot. I tried to “unpack” the things that were really bothering me. What was really getting me into this low spot. And, if I really think about it, it was probably a combination of things that just happened at the same time and reminded me of the good things. Then, I focused on those good things and over the process of a couple days started to feel better.

So, what’s the point of this whole post? It’s basically just me saying I see you. I see you, in the happy times, in the hard times and all the times in between. I see you and I want to help you. Tell me, talk to me; talk it out, write it out, cry it out, whatever you need to do.

Breaking Bad Habits

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those bad habits; the one’s that creep in when you are at a low point, or stressed, or too busy to really pay attention. Maybe it’s food, maybe it’s stress, maybe it’s your thoughts, whatever it is, they are the habits that can be hardest to break (and keep broken).

I’ve definitely succumbed to some bad habits lately. My food has not been the best between vacationing and the busy day to day that our month has been. My thinking has definitely hit some low points that have been hard to dig out of. My sleeping and exercising, hell my phone use, it’s kind of all started to add up to a whole lot of…bad habits and mess. I’ve been feeling like I need to…get my s*it back together and the best place to start that is…by breaking all those bad habits I’ve let back into my life.

I know I can’t be alone in this whole “life is hard, bad habits abound, I want to pull myself back together” phase, so I figured I would share a few blog posts on how I get myself out of a vicious funk and back on to my track. I’m going to do a post dedicated on breaking bad habits, getting organized (to include my routines which are new with a new house J), incorporating some self-care for busy schedules, and a look see into my rest of the year plans/goals. A little re center in time for Autumn to strike, right? I figured with school starting up for many of us (students and parents alike), now’s as good a time as any to…get our s*it back together.

So, how do we do this? We start with breaking the bad habits. Depending on what these habits are will dictate what your steps are. Let’s start by talking about our bad habits…

For me, the biggest bad habit that has really come back is my eating. I’ll admit I’ve been frequenting the junk food (chips and popcorn especially) and over the past two months I’ve probably had more soda than I’ve had collectively in the past year. It’s been a mess. I’m not going to go on and on about food, but basically it plays such a vital role in both our physical and mental wellbeing. When we are not nourishing our body properly, we can’t be expected to be at our best.

The second biggest bad habit that I’ve let really back in is my thoughts. We’ve had a…month. It hasn’t been BAD, nothing has really gone truly wrong, it was just harder than we expected coming back from vacation and jumping straight back into life. I don’t really want to talk about it, or complain about it (because it could have been much worse), but I’ll simply say that it was a little tougher than expected. And to be honest, at some points I reveled in that negativity a little too much. I constantly waged a battle with how I was feeling, and what I was actually thinking and wanting to feel. Perspective can be a b*tch basically. I hate to admit how many days I let those negative thoughts win and became a do nothing for the day. I’ll talk more about all of this (and our month) later.

So, we’ve figured out what our bad habits are (hopefully you’ve acknowledged yours in the comments). This is the most important. Once we pinpoint what the bad habits are, we can pinpoint where they come from and how to break them.

The next step is to figure out what kind of habit breaker are you, cold turkey or slowly back away. These are both fairly straightforward, cold turkey being stopping completely and slowly backing away meaning slowly cutting back on whatever those habits are.

For me, and like many others, I bounce back and forth. If it’s a food habit, I have to cut cold turkey, but most other things I ease out of slowly. In fact, most of the times if I have a bad food habit and cut it out, everything else seems to right itself in time (see how much of a role food plays?).

So, starting yesterday, Sunday August 25, 2019 the only junk food that is in my house is pre popped popcorn and any home baked goods that I choose to make. For me, if I don’t see it, I don’t want it. If it’s in my house, chances are it’ll get eaten. Now, you may be thinking that that is a random date to start making changes on, and it is in a way. Because you don’t want to wait for the start of a new month, or the start of a new year, or any other start. JUST START.

That’s the third step. Once you know what to do, do it! Don’t wait for any timeline, because when that timeline comes around chance are, you won’t do it. If you are in the mindset now of breaking those bad habits (and chances are if you’re thinking about this or reading this, then you are), then now is the time to start. Starting is easy!

If it’s a food thing, get rid of whatever. If it’s a thought thing, start tracking what you are grateful for every day. If it’s a stress thing, implement stress relieving techniques (my favorite is yoga or any form of exercise). Start journaling, write down the process, your thoughts, your feelings.

The final step to breaking a bad habit is to stick with it. Let’s be honest, the first week is easy. You are riding on that “I’ve got this” high and you feel great. The second week is relatively easy, you’ve still got that feeling going. It’s the third week. The third week those habits start to try and creep back in. DON’T LET THEM. If you make it through the third week without those bad habits, it only takes through the end of the fourth week before they are broken. Stick with it! Don’t get to week three and cave in to whatever it is. Stay strong and remember that you are strong enough to get through anything. Breaking those bad habits won’t break you and you’ll feel better on the other side.

So, what bad habit are you ready to break?

Travel/Hiking/Getting Out With Kids

I’ve been getting a couple of questions, getting some comments, and hearing remarks from other families about how great it is when you have kids that are “easy” travelers, love to be outside, don’t mind walking/hiking. Most of these are in a tone of surprise, some have further questions, and I have heard a couple people say that they wouldn’t travel as much because they do have kids.

Let me say this, in the grand scheme of things traveling with kids is easy.

That’s putting it lightly. It’s obviously not “easy” and it is a little bit more complicated than if it was just you or you and your significant other, but it is definitely not as hard as people seem to think it is. Kids are not a reason not to travel. Let me say that again- kids are not a reason not to travel. In fact, they are a really good reason to travel.

This is going to be a post in two parts, the first talking about how we started and managed to travel/hike/get out with our two boys and the second will touch on the good reason about traveling with your kids.

When we had Colton we did a fair amount of day trips, getting out on the weekend and exploring our area. We did two long distance trips a year, one to see family and the other to a new location every year (both of which we drove to). We also did one long haul flight when he was a little over a year and a half.

Honestly, there has been no special secret to traveling with him, or with Andrew. We’ve just done it.

Has he had meltdowns? Yes, in fact he had the worst meltdown in a Dunkin Donuts in Berlin. Did it suck? Yes. Did people stare? Eh kind of (as much as they ever have in any other circumstance). Did it end? Yes. Did we quickly finish our food and head out, yes. It wasn’t an end to the trip, it didn’t change our enjoyment of the trip overall and it definitely didn’t change our minds to traveling in the future.

Yes, on the whole we have relatively easy going, up for anything kids, BUT I’ve found that kids are willing to go along on a good amount of things if you are wiling to take them. We do a variety of things on our vacations, some things with the kids in mind (Tiergarten in Berlin), some things with Mom and Dad involved (Mozart’s Birthplace in Salzburg). We make sure that we combine things throughout the day of kid friendly and mom/dad. We make sure that meals are as close to the same time when we are out as when we are home.

I’ve also found, specifically when it comes to hiking, being active, and being outside (also just being away from screens), kids follow their parents lead. Lately Colton, currently 3 ½ years old, has taking to walking almost 90% of our hikes. We recently did a “light/mild” hike through some Castle Ruins. We ended up walking almost 2 ½ miles that day and he walked almost all of that.

We’ve had some really long days while traveling. Walking, riding various forms of public transport, and while we’ve had moments of meltdowns (to be expected either way), they’ve both adapted really well to this sort of go, go, go. If anything I think they enjoy it, seeing all sorts of different, new things. They nap when they need to whether that is in a little umbrella stroller or on our shoulders and are generally really good on the fly.

Our weekly walks (once or twice a week) go about 1 ¾ mile and he walks all of it without being asked to be carried. Even Andrew at 2 years old is walking a good amount of these walks we do. We have always been outdoorsy, always chosen to walk a lot, hike, be outside as much as possible and I think that is a lot of why our kids are that way as well.

Basically what I’m saying (if this makes any sense), is to just go with it. Get out, experience the world, have a positive mindset about it and your kids will follow that. They model their behavior off of you as their guide, so if you are open to these new experiences, so are they.

Quickly I want to touch on WHY traveling is so good and important for our children. The first is that it teaches them a level of independence. Of learning how to handle new environments, new places, and new experiences. It also shows them that there are other places in our world. The world is a wide and wonderous place full of different people, cultures, and traditions. I think it is incredibly important to teach and show our children as many of these as possible. Our children should know more than what they grow up in, they should know of the world and if you can do that for them in some way, that is invaluable towards their future and their lives. I can touch on this in a separate post if you’d like.

And that is how/why we travel with our kids. Ultimately it comes down to just doing it. If you are wondering how to travel with your kids, more practical tips/or things that we take with us, let me know below and I’ll talk about that in another post!

Introverted Like Me

Fun fact: I’m an introvert.

Now, if you’re wondering, “But Mia, how is that possible?” “You’re always talking and sharing and seem so outgoing”. (You’re probably not wondering any of those things, but just in case…)

Fun fact #2: Introversion and Extroversion is not how you interact, BUT how you recharge. What feeds you. There is more to it than just that, such as how you prefer conversations, large groups, small groups, what your conversation consists of, etc, BUT the basics of it is how you recharge.

I HAVE to have that solo time. I recharge in the peace and quiet on my own. If I am  around people and crowds for too long I become stressed and irritable and if I don’t get that chance for quiet I get downright angry (and honestly-mean).

Here’s the thing- I can be a very social person. I do enjoy meeting people, talking to people, hanging out with friends, and even enjoy our very loud playgroup time. BUT these situations exhaust me by the time they are done. Once it is done and I can get a little piece of quiet in my own home to recharge my batteries, I feel better. That is introversion in a way that you may not recognize.

Another aspect of introversion is your friendships and conversations. I will get into this more in a post coming up, but a lot of time introverts have small friend groups, preferring one on one or two conversation  than a large group of people. I honestly have never been one to have a “large group” of friends and, aside from a random high school moment (because who doesn’t have one of those), I’ve never cared about being popular and talking to every single person.

I say all of this because there is so much pressure in our society today to always be outgoing, to talk to every single person, to have a large group (or following) to back you up. . It is something that our society recognizes as success and that if this is not you, you are not (or will not) be successful.

I tried to be the outgoing person, talking to everyone, calling everyone a friend, constantly trying to do things and it just wasn’t working for me. So, I changed what I was trying to do to meet everyone else’s expectations, to what would actually work for me. You know what happened? I was happier, had better friendships (that were actually real friendships), and felt more like myself.

You don’t need to always be getting out, talking to every person around trying to make lasting friendships from everyone (unless that is what you want and what works for you).

You do need to make sure that you are doing what works for you.

And, if you are anything like me, that means maybe a little social- attending playgroup, story time and the like for the kids, coffee with a friend or two for myself- and a little rest and recharge at home.