Our Virtual Schooling Experience at a Preschool Level

IMG_3125At the beginning of February Colton had his first official day of preschool…6 weeks later he went for the last day of his first quarter. In those short 6 weeks Colton flourished. He grew up so much, was so excited for each school day (seriously- non-school days were a definite struggle for him), and his development really took off.

Let me start with this, we would have tried to put Colton in a preschool program regardless of any issues he may or may not have had. Colton is a very high energy kid and I wanted him to be “exposed” to a classroom setting of some sort before he was thrust into Kindergarten. Colton has had a speech delay, not in a nonverbal sense, but in an understanding words delay. So, after completing the testing, he was enrolled in our “district” preschool program.

So, Colton LOVED preschool. He would come home with the biggest smile, he was learning so much, he made quite a few friends, experienced significant changes in his speech, and, most importantly, he had something that was “just Colton”. It’s been “Colton and Andrew” was so long and as many of us know, we need things that are just for us as well. That was preschool for Colton. He thrived.

When Coronavirus really started to spike and we started to see the changes coming down for places closing, I got a little worried about school. Afterall, Colton was in preschool and, while it was through the district and for a speech delay, I didn’t know how “important” it would be considered in the grand scheme of things. There are children with much larger needs and problems, my kid just needed a little shove/help from someone who wasn’t mom/dad/understood him as he was.

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His teachers have been absolutely incredible throughout this entire process. They very quickly emailed all of us parents, letting us know that they were working the problem and trying to figure out what they were going to do to continue working. The “district” did not foresee the preschool continuing on when they made the google classroom plan, so the teachers quickly workshopped a different platform that, actually ended up being a much better option for the younger kids.

They created incredible Digital Learning Plans that made it really easy for parents to incorporate into the day to day lives of children and they were very calm and patient throughout the entirety of the 2 ½ months of this digital learning. They recognized that they only saw the students for a limited time a day, that many had older (or younger) siblings at home that needed their own care, that this is a very different time right now. They’ve been great.

And, I’ll be honest, Digital Learning hasn’t been all that bad. Sure, I’ve ranted and raved about it at times when the focus level was low, or Andrew wasn’t letting Colton get things done, or when things got frustrating with technology, BUT on the whole it hasn’t been bad. It also hasn’t been school though either.

I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, more of my concern with Colton in so far as preschool was concerned was introducing him to a classroom setting, a teacher, a different place that he had to listen, behave, and learn. I wanted to have a little “soft” introduction to the idea of school before Kindergarten hit and he was in it “for real”.

This wasn’t it. Sure, he had weekly video chats with his two teachers (one speech, one preschool), and we had countless activities that his teachers would give feedback with (mostly positive stuff that you would expect), but it wasn’t the classroom. It was mommy’s desk with little brother screaming/playing/running in the background, and daddy working at his desk on the other side of the room. It was chaotic and it became a family affair, rather than the Colton show.

Overall Colton has really excelled in this new wave of schooling. He has adjusted remarkably well and has slid back in terms of speech or education, but he knows it hasn’t been at school. He’s been bummed about not being able to ride his little school bus, see his friends, or play on the playground. Every morning he wakes up asking if today is the day he will go back to school.

And, with about two weeks left in the “school” year (I used quotes as the teaching stopped a week or so before the proper end of the school year), he checked out. He was done. No interest in any of the activities or meetings whatsoever. It became akin to pulling teeth to have him sit down and focus on the work that he needed to do for any longer than 10 minutes. I think he just had enough with the situation, with not being able to do these things in person, and having to share all of that with little brother. (And, in all honesty I was surprised it took him as long as it did to get fed up)

And for me? Well, I have an entirely newfound respect for preschool teachers.

I’ve always respected teachers (hell I want to be one), BUT you forget how much stuff you aren’t born knowing. You forget how much you had to learn and while there are some things that parents can teach (and I have been teaching those things), in Colton’s case, he needed that shove from an outside source.

Anyways, all this to say, Digital Learning has not been a breeze, but we’ve honestly had it easy. I don’t work at the moment, we have access to a computer, to the internet, to the materials that are needed to do the various activities. And we only have one child in preschool. It’s been much harder for many others that I know, talk to, and follow. Nor has it necessarily been a positive experience for our kids. Here’s to hoping we have a few workable solutions for the 2020-2021 school year.

How We Are Staying Sane in This Time at Home…And How You Can Too

Ok, so this is now our new normal…kids at home, off school (though not entirely), working from home, husbands working from home, parks, playgrounds and other spots not accessible…it’s a lot of “at home time”. Now, I’m a homebody and introvert as it is, so this isn’t necessarily a huge deal for me, but I recognize that for some people it can be quite jarring. Throw in kids being home from school, but not able to go do anything and then have to do homeschooling, along with trying to work from home or just keep the house clean and the laundry done…it’s a lot. So, how do we stay sane?

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I’ve both worked from home and been a stay at home parent (doing both of those for about 3 years) and have come up with a couple of things that helped me. I also have found a few resources that helped out with educational purposes (for our age/grade level), boredom, and just general resources to have and today I’m going to share it all with you in the hopes that it can be helpful to someone else.

Tip #1: Get dressed. This is probably one of those things that I just preach about all the time. I’m a firm believer in how you look/carry/take care of yourself plays a direct role on your outlook and productivity. So, every morning get up and get dressed. I don’t care if that is putting on leggings and a sweater, your comfiest jeans, or dressing to the nines with heals and a smart outfit, just get dressed in something OTHER THAN your sleeping clothes. While it may seem like we don’t have a lot to do during this time, getting dressed will have a huge affect on your mood and outlook. Start doing this and you’ll feel less like just a bump on a log.

Tip #2: Get Active. We can’t do a lot right now. In our area all of the parks, hiking spots, and outdoor activities have been largely closed off as an extra precaution. That doesn’t mean that we can’t move our bodies. We are still able to go for a walk in our neighborhood (which we are doing as long as the weather holds out for us), we can do indoor at home workouts (which we do), and we can have spontaneous dance parties (which we also do…a lot). Being active, getting your body moving and your heart rate up, releases those feel good endorphins in your brain and helps you stay uplifted.

Tip #3: Eat Properly. I think this is the one that I probably struggle with the most (especially right now), but what we put in our bodies plays such a role, similar to what we wear. This is not the time to just eat junk food, pig out because we are bored, or snack all day long. It’s tough because we are at home all day and have easy access to whatever we would like in our kitchen, but avoid it. Eat as you would if you were not home and you will feel infinitely better. Personally, I find that if I am eating a lot of junk or crap food, I not only want to eat more of it (seriously who ONLY eats the recommended portion of chips?!), but I also end up feeling even more like a bump on a long afterwards. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy options (I’m still working on this) and leave the junk food for special moments that you really need them.

Tip #4: Set a Flexible Routine. This one applies more to those of us with kids (specifically preschool/elementary school aged), but I find that a flexible routine really helps when it feels like everything has been upended. What I mean when I say flexible is that I try to be understanding when the boys have had enough of an activity. Let me give you an idea…Our days breakdown like this:

9AM : Everyone is up, dressed, fed/eating

9:30AM-12:OOAM: Indoor Playtime and School Work. The boys will play throughout the house and I will try and squeeze in worksheets, coloring, reading, etc. to continue to stimulate the brain activity and learning that Colton at least has gotten with school.

12PM: Lunch

12:30PM-2:00PM: Outdoor Play. It’s been much warmer and more spring like the past couple days to in between lunch and naptime we will run outside and play. I’ll take a book out there and read as well.

2PM-3:15/30PM: Andrew Nap Time. Colton and I will spend about 10-15 minutes reading a book and then he will get a little online educational screen time. If he has done a lot of “schooling” already then he can have some screen TV time. This is also when I get on the computer and do some writing if needed OR I’ll do a bit more reading. Overall it’s quiet time across the board in our home.

3:30PM-4:00PM: Afternoon Snack. We didn’t used to do an afternoon snack, but since school has started up it’s been instituted.

4:00PM-6:00PM: Walk/Bike Ride/ Outdoor time. Again, trying to soak up the weather when we get it, this is just another extension of playtime. If the weather is bad we will do some indoor activity or snuggle up for a movie.

6:30PM: Dinner

Post Dinner the boys have playtime in their rooms until it is time to clean up and get ready for bed. This is important as it gives my husband and I a chance to catch up and have some time together as well as a little quiet just in general.

Now, I just use blocks of time within the day. I found that I prefer planning in these types of increments (that’s a whole separate post), BUT it gives for flexibility. If Colton is really struggling to focus at times, I can let him do what he likes, and we will come back to that particular activity later. However, it’s also not just a free for all in our day. The boys know when they are going to get to do something within the day (i.e. Colton knows that we will do “school” in the morning, but he can play the computer school in the afternoon). This obviously changes based on what your school is actively doing about online learning, but for us this works. They get a chance to both learn school subjects that they need to, but they also get some real world learning too.

***For educational needs we are using a couple of different resources. First off we have a workbook that we brought with us for preschool aged children that works through prewriting skills, shapes, letters, numbers, and other necessary skills. We do a couple of work pages out of that along with the other resources listed below.

I print out math worksheets from k5learning.com. Most of these are geared towards K-5th Grade (as the web address would imply), but there are a couple that can be adjusted to the preschool age level as well. I have printed a couple of letter worksheets from this site as well.

Scholastic has a site that breaks down a daily guide HERE. They supply a book, a movie, and then some fun interactive games that include both and stimulate brains. We’ve only done one or two days through this, but Colton has really enjoyed the entire process. It brings some of the things that his teachers are working on in the classroom into our home (the little quiz about first, next, last was a big thing).

Abcmouse.com This has been a big one for us. We used this prior to the closure, and both of our kids absolutely love it. Colton has learned so much through the site and Andrew has loved watching them read the books to him. It makes me feel a little bit better for them having screen time since they are learning something (beyond just the Paw Patrol theme song and missions).

Youtube has some great educational options to choose from as well so you can turn that screen time into something too AND many zoo’s are doing Facebook Lives or Videos talking about their animals while the zoo’s are closed (Cincinnati has been a great option). I have also printed off the Discovery K12 homeschool sites preschool “syllabus” or learning guide just to make sure I touch on all the different options for what the kids need to be learning.

There are so many more out there that I haven’t even touched on. We are in a unique situation with only having one in school and it being preschool, so it’s pretty easy to work with. I know a lot of elementary schools (and upper level) are doing an online learning program and may have different requirements. My only suggestion would be that if it falls into their rules and parameters that you work with your kids. If they are really struggling to focus and they can take a little break, let them.

Tip #5: Keep in Touch. I came across this on Social Media and thought it was a great idea. If you are an extrovert, or someone that just needs adult contact beyond your significant other or roommate, or parents, then video chat with friends! Technology is a great thing and we have such an opportunity right now with the ability to very easily have face to face conversations over our phones. Set up “phone dates” with your friends and chat with them over the phone or through video. It may not be exactly what you picture, but it’s better than absolutely nothing.

Tip #6: Keep Your Brain Engaged. Another big one just in overall terms of feeling “productive”. Here’s the gist of what I am going to say…don’t spend all of your time binge watching Netflix, or scrolling Social Media, or watching YouTube. Look, I’ve got nothing against a good binge watch, wasting away a few hours watching a show that is just that addicting. I’ve done it many a time and will probably do it quite a bit over the next bit of time. BUT don’t let that be the only thing that you do. If you are spending that much time looking at a screen, letting your mind lull, it’ll start to play out in other areas of your life. Take this time to get your brain engaged in something you love or something you’ve always wanted to do. I know that I plan on catching up on a lot of reading, which serves as both a brain engaging activity AND a means of escapism. I also plan on doing a fair amount of writing (even though my posting schedule is drastically changing- more on that soon). There are so many options to keep your brain engaged, pick up a book (need ideas? HERE is a link to my goodreads where you can look at what I’ve been picking up), start a blog (this blog post by Helene In Between is a great guide if you are lost in that process, but want to do it), learn a new skill, take an online class (here’s a good option to search classes, but there are SO MANY free college courses out there and sites like SkillShare that charge a monthly subscription, but give you such a broad scope of tailored classes). All those things that you’ve been saying of I don’t have the time for this? NOW you do. So, use that time. Engaging your brain will make you feel productive, it’ll make you feel like yourself, and have you feeling positive about staying home all day.

Ultimately my tips can be summed up into ways of making this time at home, this abrupt change, into something positive. Keeping our spirits up and our outlooks positive is about the ONLY WAY we are going to get through this with our sanity. As always, caffeine is our friend (except when it disrupts our sleep), music is a great way to bring a smile all around, and checking in on friends and family is a must. Do you have any tips to add?

A Week in My Life – 2020

I did a “Week in our Life” post a little under a year ago when we were still somewhat fresh in Germany and still living in the hotel (HERE). A lot has changed since then, but some things have still stayed the same and I figured it would be fun to update on what our weeks look like. Since it’s wintertime still here, walks are pretty much nil, but if the weather is nice we will head down to our little town park or the boys will run around the back yard. Come summer I plan on taking full advantage of all the pools and parks there are here.

One of the biggest changes we have seen is our oldest, Colton, starting school. He goes to a preschool program within our Elementary school three days a week for a few hours, so that’s been a big change. We also have a house now, so I putz around the house quite a bit and we have a bit more of a social life (ha-ha) with playdates and such. Let’s just talk about what our week looks like.

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What does life look like when we aren’t castle or country hopping???

Mondays:

I kick off our week on Mondays and it is full of tidying, errands, and making sure our week gets off on the right foot. I start the morning off (after my morning routine, HERE) with a clean/fresh kitchen. Colton goes to school on Mondays in the middle of the day, so I take the time when he is gone to run to the grocery store and do any other small errands I may have. I am still trying to leave Monday’s relatively empty in terms of writing/computer work, so I’ll spend naptime either reading or doing any random chores I need to.

Tuesdays:

Tuesday is one of our busiest days of the week. It starts bright and early with playgroup for the boys (also known as Mom’s Social Hour while the kids run and play ha-ha), then Colton is off to school again for a few hours. While he is at school we will run over to the library, handle any on base errands that we may need to run. Then it’s back home for lunch, a living room and dining room tidy and an afternoon of writing.

Wednesdays:

Wednesdays are a bit slower, a kind of nice breathing point in the middle of the week. We only have playgroup in the morning, and then we spend a day at home. I start by handling a tidy of our master while the boys will play in the house or backyard. Naptime is spent writing for me and Colton does some of his learning activities (we do ABC Mouse and a couple workbooks).

Thursdays:

Thursday is spent with friends for the most part. I tidy up the boys room and organize their toys (again). We will host playdates, or I’ll have coffee with friends at the house while the boys play. Colton does go to school, so Andrew gets a little quiet time to help tidy (which he loves to do). My naptime tasks depend on the actual day. If I am having friends over for a coffee, I try to schedule that during naptime so we get some quiet time to talk without interruption, but if that is not the case, then I’ll spend my afternoon finishing up any computer tasks I haven’t completed yet as well as clearing out my inbox before the weekend.

Fridays:

Fridays are a mixed bag. Sometimes we will head to an indoor playground, have playdates for the kids, head into the city for a little walk around, it just depends on the day, how the kids are, and the weather. Often times I will do laundry on Fridays just to keep our weekends clear. Fridays may also be a travel day depending on if we have a long weekend. It may also just be a quiet day at home playing with their toys. I try to keep Friday open not only because of long weekends, but also because I think it’s essential and nice for the kids to have the downtime. Colton has especially needed it since starting school. I’ll do a quick tidy through of the office/library as well, usually first thing in the morning, and spend naptime reading.

Saturdays and Sundays:

Weekends are all about exploring and spending time together as a family.

And that’s pretty much all there is to my weeks. I know, I know, so exciting. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but each day ends up being quite full between the cleaning and the boys and then the writing/blogging keeps my brain functioning beyond the Toddler conversations. What’s your favorite part of the week?

A Little Judgement Chat

Here is something that has been kind of frustrating me lately. This may seem like something coming out of left field with me and maybe it is a little bit, but I’m also starting to get a little tired of holding my tongue. I’m not going to be going all gung-ho into certain topics, but I do want to share a little bit more of the things that weigh on my heart. I want to say a little bit more about things that I see. I want to try and use my voice for a little bit more if I can/when I think it is appropriate. This is one of those times as I have not only experienced this, but have seen it in action firsthand.

Here’s the deal…we all judge. Say whatever you want, we all have judged someone or something at one point in our lives. Whether we pass judgement simply in our mind or to our significant others, or actually speak your commentary out loud it really doesn’t matter. As much as I try not to, I have definitely passed judgement. Look, it’s human nature (similar to comparison, but that’s a whole other conversation).

We talk and judge about looks, actions, relationships, speech, just about anything. Whether it is perceived or real, everything we do/say or don’t is judged.

The problem that comes with passing judgement is that we don’t know what someone else is going through. Even if they give us their life story, if they are a public persona, if they are private, we quite simply don’t know the full story. We may think that someone looks unkempt and make our own remarks on that, but they could be dealing with things that we could never imagine.

Another problem with judgement: it doesn’t give either person a chance to even begin to understand. Look struggling doesn’t discriminate on any level. You could appear to live a lavish, privileged life, and be dealing with an extreme amount of depression. Yes, you are in a privileged position, but you still struggle. Someone can recognize their privilege and yet still have down days. We cannot understand someone and whatever issues they may or may not be experiencing if we judge them before they can even open their mouths.

Judgement isn’t just external either, we are prone to a lot of internal judgement which can sometimes be even more damaging. There are a lot of instances where we feel certain assumed/perceived  judgements or roles that are placed on us. We feel as if we may not be living up to a role, doing things with smiles on our faces. Some of this can come from judgements we have in the past thought or expressed, or heard someone else express.

And this judgement is what prevents a lot of people from talking about problems. It prevents a lot of people from opening up about whatever they are dealing with. And when someone feels like they can’t share what is going on it festers inside them until they can’t handle anymore, and we get an explosion of some sort. Often times we then wonder, “what happened?”. “How did this happen?”. “Why didn’t they say anything?”.

It’s a vicious circle and it’s one that only we, as individuals, can break. If each person opens with a little more kindness, a little more of an open mind, and a little less judgement or unsolicited advice (again, a whole other topic), then maybe others will feel a little bit better to share. It only takes one person to start a change in this cycle. One person. Will you be that person?

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!