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.

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!

Motherhood and You

Motherhood is all consuming, a never-ending cycle of care, but don’t let it consume you. Don’t simply become “mom”, don’t lose yourself, who you are, in caring for your children. Don’t cling to them as they start to grow up and grow away. Being a mom may be the most important hat you wear, or title you receive, (however you want to think of that), but it is not solely who/what you are.

All too often, starting almost immediately after birth, we become consumed by being a mom. By taking care of a little human being that depends solely on us for EVERYTHING (daunting, so daunting), by trying to be everything for this little being, and all too often we lose who we are in the process. We become so wrapped up in that “mom” role that we don’t take care of ourselves (a post for another day), we don’t take care of our significant other, we don’t take care of our friendships.

These things start to fall to the wayside, and it isn’t until we are a couple years in (or longer for some) that we realize that we don’t know who we are anymore. We have become a mom, the greatest blessing of all, but we’ve lost who we are in the process.

This is a normal thing that just about everyone experiences to varying levels. That isn’t to say that we can’t get back to who we are, or avoid this entirely, I’m just saying that this is a normal thing to go through. In fact, even the most prepared parents (the ones who swear that parenthood won’t change them) go through a level of this. It’s a natural instinct when we have a child that our world changes to revolve around this baby and it’s a very sweet time in our lives (postpartum depression/anxiety/and other issues aside). That doesn’t mean that it lasts forever. Our children will grow, they will mature, they will become independent and need us as parents less and less. That change is why it is important not to lose who you are when you become a parent.

How do we handle this? How do we allow motherhood/parenthood to take over our lives, and still maintain who we are?

Little things. What do you like to do in your free time? What did you like to do before you became a parent to relax?

Did you like to exercise? Find a gym that has childcare. Have your significant other take over the parenting duties for a few hours while you hit up a workout.

Did you like to read, write, watch TV, YouTube, etc.? Great! Naptime and after Bedtime are great opportunities to do these! (In fact, I squeeze a lot of my reading time during naptime and after the kids go to bed).

Did you like to shop or explore new areas? Perfect, you can do that with baby OR if you want baby free time, have your significant other or family watch the baby while you get a little break.

The main takeaway from this is not to have time away from your child, although that is needed too, but to find time within your day to do what works for YOU. What makes YOU happy. So much of motherhood is spent tending to others (and not just your own children, being a mom turns you into everyone’s mom) and it is easy to lose ourselves in that. So so easy to be swept away taking care of everyone and everything else.

If that is what fills you up and makes you happy, perfect! Do more of that. BUT don’t forget to take a little breath for yourself.

Big things. Find time for you and your significant other to have a little time together at the very least once a month. Take care of that relationship or it will fall to the wayside. Check in with each other throughout the day, send that sweet little text. Have a moment while the baby is napping. Hire a babysitter when baby is a little older to get much needed date nights in (no matter what those actually look like).

Everyone says that one day your children will go up and leave and then what will be left is you and your significant other. This is true, but what is more important is the example that you are setting for your children. From the get-go, our children learn from us. They see what a stable relationship and family looks like from us, so water your own marriage and your children will see how to water their own (when that time comes).

Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page as situations arise so that you can be a cohesive unit. Parenthood can help your marriage thrive and grow into new heights, or it can fall to the wayside. More than likely it will ebb and flow between both (again, completely natural), but the continual watering will help everything stay on a balance to continue to go towards success and happiness.

Ultimately, motherhood is a phase of life. For those of us who are mom’s (in any form) it is an all-encompassing blessing. It never ends and takes a lot of who we are. BUT it doesn’t have to be solely who we are. We were somebody before we were “mom” and while being mom takes precedence, don’t say goodbye to who you are. She is still there, and she should be able to shine as well.

A Little Post About Friendship Groups/Tribes/Villages/Whatever You Want To Call It

I originally titled this blog post “I Don’t Have a Group, and That’s OK” and while that is the overall narrative of my post I felt like it did a disservice to the friendships that I am forming and do have, the people that I would consider a friend “group”…so I adjusted it J

How many times have you heard “Find Your Tribe” or, “My Mom Group”, or really anything along the lines of find your people? I’m betting it’s a lot. Our society is hyper focused on grouping people together. It’s nothing new, it’s always been something that we’ve done whether it be in a positive or negative light. Since social media has become such a large part of our lives it has become even more prominent. You’ve got your followers, your circle of people in your corner of the internet. You find “influencers” talking about how great their tribe is. You find salesman talking about how you can join their team, so great to be part of a team, yada yada yada.

They speak about these teams/groups/villages/whatever you want to call them as if they need to be large numbers. As if you need to surround yourself with many people, all who have your back and all that you would call your friend.

But do you really need that large amount? Do you really need them all to be local?

***Let me say this first- I do believe that it takes a village at times. I do believe that having friends nearby, in your area is essential. I believe that you should always have one or two people in your area that you can count on. If anything, just for your sanity. ***

I don’t think so. I personally don’t want to have a large friend group. I have a select amount of friends (and I don’t say that in a snobbish way AT ALL) that I talk to quite a bit. These are people that I would call in a pinch, that I can tell anything to, that I can count on at any point in time. It is a very SMALL amount. I don’t consider it a group as we are all different and my friendships with each person are different (but the same), but they are my friends. I cherish their friendships and hold them close.

That’s not to say I am not a friendly person. I’ll say hello and have a conversation with almost anyone. I’m talking about friendship, true friendship- that is what I limit. To me, and I think to most people, it doesn’t matter if you know 50 people, if you can’t talk to them, confide in them, trust them, then it doesn’t help.

That may be a harsh way of putting things, but in this I am blunt. Maybe that’s because I’ve people assume that I am not friendly or don’t have a lot of friends. Maybe it’s because I constantly see people bending over backwards to make (and call) everyone they meet friends. I find that that popularity contest that we all felt in Highschool is still VERY prevalent in adulthood.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it is better to focus on quality rather than quantity. That’s what I do and what I would encourage you to do as well.

A Week In Our Life

Good morning! We’ve semi settled into our lives here in Germany and, while we don’t have a house as of yet, we do have a bit of a routine to our weeks. I didn’t want to do a morning or evening (or even Day In The Life) routine as it is bound to change when we get a house and I can do much more before the boys wake up, but I did want to share a little insight into what our week looks like.

We try to get out of the hotel at least 3-4 mornings during the week. The weekends are spent outside the hotel as well, either exploring somewhere new or running errands that need done. I find that the biggest thing for our boys right now is being out and about. In the hotel they don’t really have access to all of their toys, are limited to what activities they can do, how loud they can be, etc. and tend to get stir crazy really quickly. Thankfully the community here has quite a few options, and we have found places to go. I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible for you 🙂

One of the things that we keep in mind is that 4 day weekends typically (but by no means always) fall on a Friday-Monday schedule. When I was trying to break our week down, I purposefully kept Friday-Monday open with MY schedule (of writing and chores) so that I don’t feel so cramped when we go travelling on long weekends. It seems a little crazy (and maybe it is) as what I do can be so flexible, but in my mind if I have my own schedule for getting things done, it makes everything a little smoother. And then everything actually gets done. Some of our long weekends fall on a Thursday-Sunday or Saturday-Tuesday and we just adjust and make it work.

Our Basic Layout is: M/F unscheduled time, T/W Playgroup, Th Library. Read on for the specifics J

Monday:

IMG_6250Monday’s are fairly wide open, we usually head out for a walk to our little park down the road and spend about an hour or two walking/playing/soaking up some sunshine. When it is raining/snowing/can’t head outside, we will hop in the car and head over to some of the stores to walk around. Basically Monday morning is an unscheduled morning that we try to spend out and about. During the boys afternoon nap I’ll tidy and do some reading.IMG_2870

 

 

Tuesday:

Tuesday mornings are spent at playgroup. The boys have LOVED going to playgroup since the first day we went and I love that they get a chance to play with a whole bunch of toys (that we didn’t even have in our actual home), play with other kids, and run/scream as much as

 

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they want. It’s a great way to burn some energy of AND help them develop in ways that they haven’t been able to before now. It’s also nice for me to be able to get to talk to other adults and just relax for a minute. During the boys afternoon nap I generally work on writing and blogging things. I check emails, write or schedule blog posts, review my stats, etc. I basically consider it a “working afternoon”

 

 

 

Wednesday:

Another playgroup morning. After playgroup we will usually run to the grocery store or shopping store to pick up anything that we need. We also typically get lunch out and just have a little mid week treat. During naptime I have another “working afternoon”.

Thursday:

Thursday mornings might be my favorite morning of the whole week. It is storytime/library morning. It’s a little bit of a later start than Tuesday and Wednesday, and it involves soaking up books. What more could you ask for? Colton is starting to really get into books and reading and will finally sit still for story time, so this has become a fun morning for him. It’s a good balance to the two previous mornings of running around with loads of energy. Andrew is a bit more hit and miss with story time (just due to his age and the fact that he’d rather be running right now, he will get there eventually J), but he loves the coloring after the stories. We also usually pick out some books to take home and read, both for the boys and myself. During naptime I usually handle anything that I hadn’t gotten to on Tuesday or Wednesday. This is also when I just do some personal/life admin, journal, handle any paperwork that needs to be handled, etc. I am hopeful that once we get a house and I start working on my actual podcast, that this will be a podcast recording day.

Friday:

Friday is the only weekday that we stay at the hotel. We will try and head down for the community breakfast in the mornings, or I’ll make something special in our room, and then we come back up for a morning of snuggles and cartoons. I find that we do need to have one day where we aren’t doing anything to just relax and not be going all the time. It helps the boys and myself. If the weather is nice, we may head out for a walk, but on the whole we just try to take it easy. This follows during naptime as I will do a little tidying/life admin and then read.

So that is a little bit about what our weeks look like! This is something that won’t really change when we get a house, like my morning/evening routines will change. I still am struggling a little bit with having the newfound free time that I have, but I am slowly starting to get used to the idea of filling what I fill and being able to have a little freedom with the rest. When we get a house and I am able to actually have a full SAHM routine, I’ll talk about how my day is structured/mornings and such in more detail.

 

 

 

 

1st Quarter 2019- Favorite Things

Good morning! It is April!! I can’t believe that we are already a quarter of the way through 2019, boggles my mind. I like to think of the year in quarters, in both evaluating my own goals, looking at business/blogging posts and such, as well as in just a general sense. I feel like tracking every month is a bit much for me, but I can’t not check in with myself and others at all, so quarterly is my happy place. I do an overview for what my intentions are for the year, how I’m achcieving (or not achieving) what I want, how my writing and posting are going, as well as how my reading is doing. I look atour family finances, what we’ve done as a family, our activities, etc.

This morning I am going to talk about some of my favorite things from the First Quarter of the year. This ranges far and wide from food and drinks to clothing and accessories, to movies, music, and TV Shows. I will try and include a variety of items and things that I talk about from quarter to quarter.

Clothing/Accessories:

IMG_0265.jpgIf you follow me on Social Media you know that I’ve been pretty much living in sweaters over the past couple of weeks. We are starting to get to that middle ground where it isn’t quite spring yet and winter still has it’s moments. I really like sweaters in general, but especially on those days where it may be a bit chilly when you leave in the morning, but warms up as the day goes on. I’ve been loving this particular sweater as it includes one of my intentions for this year and is the perfect warmth/lightness ratio.

Of course, we cannot forget the new slipper socks that I’ve fallen in love with. The coziest slippers I’ve worn (aside from my Uggs), these have been pretty much on my feet during the day when we are in the apartment. I can’t find the exact pair that I have, but THESE cabin socks are also a really good option!

IMG_9585I also picked up a new handbag of sorts. I’ll be talking about this more in my travel favorites, but I’ve been eyeing a new backpack/handbag for our little short travels. I wanted something that felt more…not diaper bag and all of my nicer bags are packed away in a shipping container with the rest of our household goods. Enter this Michael Kors backpack. It’s been a back/shoulder saver and I really love it!

Multi Media (Music/TV/Podcasts/Movies):

IMG_6705.PNGMusic is such an important part of our days and lives. I use it to calm down, to get pepped up, to have dance parties with our boys. We listen to just about anything, although lately I’ve been gravitating to Alternative and Classical. I’ve been really loving listening to Charlie Cunningham of late. Something about his music is just really calming and comforting right now. I’ve also been loving Billie Ellish, The 1975, and Imaginary Future. If you know of any good Alternative artists, please comment them down below because I would love for some new music to listen to!
IMG_6706As for TV, I quite honestly don’t even know what my favorite is anymore. In January A Discovery of Witches came out on Sundance Now and Shudder and I binged those 8 episodes about 3 times before we left the states. I am OBSESSED with the trilogy and am equally OBSESSED with the TV Show. It was really well done in terms of Book to TV adaptations. They are going to be doing a series 2 and 3, so I’m looking forward to those as well as to getting the first one on DVD whenever that can happen.

The only movies we’ve watched lately are animated ones on Netflix for the boys and with those I can’t think of one truly memorable one…

Books:

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I’ve decided to make books it’s own category because reading is such a big part of me and who I am. I didn’t just want to lump it in with something else. So, it gets its own time JLet’s see, I’ve done a lot of reading over the past couple of months, but a few standout favorites are Us Against You by Frederik Backman, Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield, and Educated by Tara Westover. I also really enjoyed An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekannen. I’m looking forward to the reading plans I have for the next few months, more non fiction and memoirs alongside my standard adult fiction and mystery/thriller selections.

Food/Drink:

Let me start by saying the food here is absolutely delicious. I don’t think I’ve had something that was bad yet! I’m not going to touch on all of the food that I’ve been eating (stay tuned for the potential of a later post), but rather talk about some of the snacks that I’ve really liked over the past few months. This is going to probably be the most unhealthiest couple paragraphs you will ever read from me, but I figured why not share the yummy stuff.

First off, for travel I LOVE Kind Bars. These are healthy, filling options and even my picky toddler will eat a bar or two. IMG_6707.jpgOnce we got here, we feasted on the local candy options- which have been plentiful. I’ve been loving the Milka Oreo Bars, and the Cadbury chocolate eggs. We also found a chocolate mint filled stick, Choceur Mint Deluxe Chocolate Sticks, that we’ve absolutely loved.

As for drinks, we are just going to keep up the unhealthy options and I am going to talk about a soda. Now, I try to only drink soda a couple times a month, but I’ve had this particular soda a couple of times already and have loved it! I still love my regular Coca-Cola, but this one is just as good. It’s a mix soda that goes by many names, Mezzo Mix, Spezzi, Cola mix just to name a few. It’s basically Coca Cola mixed with Orange Fanta (or rather just Orange Soda) and it is delicious.

Now that all that crap food talk is over…

Beauty:

I don’t know if I will always have a beauty category because, let’s be real for a minute, beauty is only partially my thing. I know enough to put myself together and to keep my skin clear and not much more than that. I’m also forever behind the curve so there’s that too. My favorite this month is the perfect example of that…I’ve been loving the Too Faced Chocolate Bar eye shadow palette. It has the perfect amount of colors and the shadows are the creamiest. There have only been maybe one or two shadows that I’ve had an issue with in the palette, so I’m pretty pleased with it.

Other Random Bits:

I am going to share a couple of other travel and kid related favorites here in the Other category. The first being car seat carriers for travel. These carriers saved both our car seats and our sanity of trying to transport car seats from the car to the check in gate to baggage claim back to the check in gate. The next item I am going to talk about are the Vtech laptop computers. These have been great for our boys to a)sit calmly for a little while at the same time and b) be learning in a developmentally appropriate way. They don’t get a lot of time on them, but they’ve been so great for our older son to work on mastering his words and letters.

IMG_9313.jpgAnd finally, since I can’t seem to get through a post without mentioning mugs, I picked up a couple mugs over the first quarter of the year, and I’ve been loving this floral find that I got in a little tea shop. It is the perfect size and has the perfect hand hold. The floral design is minimal enough for my tastes and perfect for the spring weather ahead (and the cold winter days we just dealt with).

That’s all I’ve got for my 1st Quarter Favorites! What are some of the things that you are loving and have been loving lately?