Planning for the Unplanned: A Lesson in Grace

So this started out as a post for Instagram, but it got a little wordy, so I decided to turn it into a blog post.

Last week’s meal plan was an epic fail. It was our first full week of distance learning with both kids, and I spent a majority of every day with one or both of them getting settled and accustomed to their schedules.

As a result, I didn’t stick to the meal plan, or get any writing done. This week, we’re trying it again, day by day. We didn’t starve either. We ate a lot of meals that came from pantry staples: Bean, rice, and cheese bowls, Spaghetti with red sauce and garlic bread (I made a huge batch of meat sauce a few weeks ago and froze portions for later meals- and the big kid had a vegetarian meal). And we had take out once… or twice. It was too hot to turn on the oven for our weekly pizza night, so we opted for delivery. Thanks to coupon codes (I love the Honey browser extension- it searches for coupon codes for me!) and the Dosh App, I was able to save $7 on a pizza and get free delivery! I also had coupons for free and BOGO bowls at Panda Express (Dinner for 4 was $8). I stretched them with some frozen Asian blend veggies, which I stirfried.

Every time I looked at our Meal Planning board, I felt discouraged, but after a few days, I realized that I needed to give myself some grace. I was doing the best I could. Everyone was still eating, we have shelter, clothes, we are all healthy. So I didn’t make Chicken Tetrazinni on Wednesday? Life still marches on. The kids have been working hard on their schooling, and its a hard thing to be accustomed to- learning alone with only little faces on an iPad screen a few times a day. I spend a lot of time helping them. Guiding them through worksheets, getting apps set up, encouraging them when they are upset or frustrated.

So this week:

Sunday night we had leftovers just to clean out the refrigerator and make room for the meal prep I was doing. I start our meal plan weeks on Sunday- It’s easier for me, since Sunday night tends to be quiet, and I can focus on it after the kids are in bed.

Monday was breakfast for dinner. I am absolutely in love with the Dehydrated hashbrowns from Costco. They make having hashbrowns at dinner (or really any time) a cinch.

I scrambled eggs with a little bit of half-and-half, and cooked them up with bacon crumbles, also from Costco, top with a little Mexican cheese blend, served with fruit, the aforementioned hash browns, and a half an avocado, and English muffins.

It was quick, it was easy, it was filling, and it was pretty cheap too.

Last night was supposed to be vegetarian chili, but I didn’t have a chance to get it into the crockpot, so instead the kids had what I like to call “Meal of Snacks”. I take a segmented plate and fill each section with something yummy: Peanut butter sandwich or hot, buttered noodles, goldfish crackers, apple or orange slices, fruit snacks, a juice box, or a glass of milk, cheese stick or cheese slices, and graham crackers for dessert. I had a frozen entree.

This week I’m just focusing on quick, easy meals with stuff that we already have on hand. I did a quick shopping trip to Food4less  Monday and picked up about $40 worth of groceries, which should get us through the next 10 days or so.

We have tons of pantry staples, and I have a lot of baking supplies on hand, so I will definitely be baking a pizza and cookies this week, maybe brownies too? We’ll see how the week goes. It’s already Wednesday, so who knows. And we are supposed to have a heatwave starting tomorrow. Again. I’ll be glad when it’s no longer in the triple digits for a week at a time.

 

I’m not gonna pretend that I’m perfect, I’m not gonna pretend that my life is all sunshine and unicorns.  Shit is hard right now for all of us. I wasn’t trained to be a kindergarten teacher or a 4th-grade special education teacher. Adding the stress of teaching daily to everything else that I am supposed to be doing is hard, and stuff falls to the side. Putting away laundry, sweeping up the living room, running the vacuum, washing my hair… But remembering that we are all in the same boat is what’s keeping me going.

Pushing out all of the “Insta-perfect” of my line of sight has done wonders for my mental health. All of those perfectly cultivated and curated pics can be detrimental to our mental health. There is a lot of comparing of ourselves to these photos we see online of perfect, clean, bright white kitchens and homes. Guess what- They aren’t real. These people have helpers: Housekeepers, nannies, mother’s helpers. They aren’t doing it alone. AND NEITHER SHOULD WE. Reach out to your tribe. You aren’t in this alone. We may be limited in our in-person, face to face contact with our friends and family, but we can still make phone calls, facetime, skype, zoom, email, or even write letters the old fashioned way.

You aren’t alone. I see you. I recognize you. I’m here for you.

Until next time: Wash your paws, wear a mask, flatten the curve.

Exploring Free Play- Fostering Imagination and Growth

As a Gen X parent, I never quite understood why we “had” to fill our kids afternoons and free time with 10,000 activities (sports, club meetings, scouting, etc.). My brother and I didn’t have tons of stuff each day after school. By the time I was in the 5th grade, both my parents worked, and frequently we were left home alone for a few hours after school a couple times a week.

We did our homework, played, read, and did chores. Even before that, there were plenty of times where we were home without structured activities. We still had scouts, soccer (my brother did AYSO for one season and decided it wasn’t for him), Key Club, Choir, JV Football. Many kids in my generation were latchkey kids and filled their afternoons with free and imaginative play.

Free play is an incredible learning tool for kids. It fosters imagination and gives kids opportunities to discover and explore. There are all sorts of toys that encourage free play- dolls, food toys, blocks, legos, to name a few.

My two love Playmobil. Playmobil is a German company that has been around since the 1970’s. They have so many different sets and types of toys- everything from princesses and fairies to knights and safari sets.

A jungle adventure after preschool. Complete with a feast

Recently, my son and daughter started pulling out some of their people as well as some of the animals and created their own adventure. Enter Carl the Mongoose and Mr. Chicken. Carl is a Meerkat, and Mr. Chicken is a Bald Eagle, but the names have stuck.  Other characters include The Birdkeeper and The Man with the Gray Hat, and Cleopatrick (my daughter named her). All of these people are from various sets, Cleo was the only one that sort of resembles her name, as she came from an awesome set of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar.

The animals and their people have all sorts of adventures. They have run a food truck, run a zoo, been on a cruise, gone on safari, hunted for wild animals, opened an iron and gold mine, run an orphanage (we have a lot of little kid Playmobil people), gone to college, gone to preschool, and taken a road trip to the “ocean” in Ohio. We paused the game for a bit to look at the US map to discover there is no ocean in Ohio, but they could go to Lake Erie instead. It was deemed the “Lake Erie ocean beach” adventure.

These adventures give the kids a chance to explore themselves and work on interpersonal relationships, even if it’s as a talking Bald Eagle and his keeper.

Even in these crazy times where nothing is certain, give your kids some time to play and explore. Taking a “brain break” (which is what the big kiddos teacher calls them) throughout the day for some playtime may help your kids more than you think.

Right now we are all home together, trying to scramble into some sort of routine of distance learning, being quiet while we all learn/work, breaks, and trying to play after school is over without making too much noise while grown ups work. It’s tough. It’s crazy. The house is messy, we’re frazzled, and we weren’t “with it” last week to follow our meal plan. But we got through it, and we’re trying again this week.

We’re all learning. And that means we should grant ourselves grace.

Be kind to yourself. Wash your paws, wear a mask, flatten the curve. Have a good week!

 

A Word about Black Friday & Deals

767b680147814d41f35a64dae886c225I know a lot of you are excited about Black Friday shopping. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Because the shops are open, that means that some workers don’t get to have Thanksgiving dinner with their families. They spend the day stocking shelves and preparing the stores for Black Friday. Be kind and give them grace.
  2. Workers are people, not robots. Don’t be rude to them.
  3. Most workers do not want to work on Black Friday, because of the crowds, rush, and mass hysteria that Black Friday has become.

I will be posting some Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday Deals,  and Giving Tuesday. Some of these will be affiliate deals where I can earn a commission (gotta pay the bills somehow), some will be deals I think are great but I earn no commission, and Giving Tuesday deals and offers will be ways you can help local charities.

I won’t be turning the blog into OMG!!11!! BLACK FRIDAY!!11!!, but there will be one or two deals daily, or whenever they land in my email inbox that seems interesting or cool.

 

5 Ways to Maximize Your Routine!

991d001cb11fbb9af4e45d3b104865ea.jpgParents know that kids need a routine- It gives them stability and a sense of security. But, adults need a routine too. Working from home, routine is absolutely needed to keep me productive. I was talking to a lady at the gym today after yoga. She said it must be nice to work from home- all the free time! But really, today was my busiest day this week. After the gym, we had errands, then home to start dinner, school pick up, and prep for tomorrows tie-dye session while Bitty is at preschool.

Here are my 5 Tips for Maximizing your Routine:

Update your calendar: I sit down on Saturday night and go over my calendar for the next week. I take my paper calendars (Yes, I have one next to my bathroom vanity, and one on my desk), and make sure they match with the calendar on my phone. That way I’m not dependant on my phone all the time and everyone in the house can be on the same page.

Take Notes: I keep a spiral-bound notebook and pens in my purse at all times. I make notes about all kinds of stuff: Ideas for blog posts, appointments (Which I later put into my phone), shopping lists, etc. I sometimes use my phones note feature for this too, but there is something about putting pen to paper and writing.

Lay it out: Before bed, I lay out my clothes and the kids clothes for the next day. I also grind the coffee and set up the coffee maker. I put the kid’s lunch bags out of their backpacks and set them on the kitchen counter. It makes the next morning so much easier.

Look Ahead: Before you go to bed, take a look at your next day.  What kinds of activities do you have? Work, school, gym, meetings? I feel more at ease knowing what is on deck for the next day.

Give yourself Grace: You are only human. If you can’t get everything done in one day, it’s cool. Tomorrow is another day (literally). There are so few things in this world that positively need to be done on a specific day (bills and doctor’s appointments are a few things that come to mind). Push your tasks forward to the next day, and make a conscious decision to work on those items or tasks the next day as priority items.  No one is perfect (or insta-perfect).

 

Talk Back: How do you get the most out of your daily routine?

When Life Gets Crazy…

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Oh, God.. I won’t lie. I had this entire post written, hit save, and it disappeared. Further proof that life is totally crazy right now.

I’ve got 3 weeks left of school, then (fingers crossed), I will graduate from college after a 17-year hiatus. So, I’ve got a lot of stress right now, between my regular responsibilities, studying, and getting ready for a huge almost weeklong camping event with my friends and a lot of my family.

I wanted to share some tips for how I keep it together when life is just crazy. These may not all apply to you, but they definitely help me.

Ask for help. I’ve been relying a lot on family, friends, and our respite hours through San Diego Regional Center so I can get out of the house without the kids to get stuff done. I love them, but sometimes shopping without them is just easier. Having a few hours alone to study in the library is nice. It’s hard to study when Legos are being played with right next to you.

Keeping to our schedule. Granted, there have been some changes to accommodate my schooling, but we are trying to get the kids to bed at night on time (sometimes that doesn’t happen), and out the door in the morning for school.  This includes my visits to the YMCA 4-5 times a week. I really believe that exercise helps me maintain a positive attitude and helps me manage my stress. I also have been continuing to meal plan, even though I sometimes forget to post it.

Be Flexible. This is a tough one for some of us (myself included). Sometimes life gets crazy, and you need to go with the flow. Sometimes that means cereal for dinner, sometimes it means going to bed the same time the kids do because everyone is tired.

Give Yourself Grace. Remember that this portion of your life won’t last forever. It won’t always be stressful, busy, or this hard.

Do What is Right for Your Family. This one can be hard, especially since we live in the era of Pinterest worthy, social media one-upmanship. I’m a fucking hot mess and I’ll admit it. As long as my family is loved and cared for- that’s all that matters. And sometimes that means cereal for dinner!

 

Talk Back: What do you do when life gets busy/crazy/unpredictable? 

 

Five Ways to Help a Special Needs Mom

158b3ea47eb4b5467a381bf7aa1d910b.jpgAs much as love and tolerance for others is taught these days, sometimes the first reaction when someone sees a special needs kid in public having issues (read: meltdown or stimming/self soothing) can be to stare wide eyed, make offhand or rude comments, or just bristle at “the weird kid”.

Please remember that the parents are doing the best they can, and that just like your neuro-typical kids, their kids have bad days too. Here are my five tips for how anyone can help a special needs mom.

  1. Offer to Help:  Offer to carry a bag or box they may be struggling with, especially if they are trying to remove their kiddo from public. I remember a few years ago, we were at Chick-Fil-A and Our big guy was done. He was tired, there were 15-20 kids in the little sound-proof kids area, so it was crazy loud in there and he was over stimulated. He just broke down and started crying and was wailing like a banshee. Two moms at the next table helped us pack up our leftovers, got our drinks refilled, and helped us carry everything out to the car, so I could carry both kids out. No shame, no dirty looks. Just compassion for a situation that every mom faces: THE PUBLIC MELTDOWN.
  2. Be a Friend:  It can be very isolating to have a special needs kid, trust me. Text your friend. Offer to get together at a park or some place that her kiddo(s) can play, so you can spend time together. Some special needs parents have hectic schedules with therapy appointments or doctors visits sometimes weekly. Keeping in contact with your friend can really help “normalize” her life.  I so seldom see other moms, that texting and Facebook are two of the ways I am able to keep up friendships.
  3. Starbucks Run: Ok, so it doesn’t have to be Starbucks, but if you know she’s having a rough day, bring her a coffee or a treat. I had someone (and to this day it’s a mystery), send flowers to me after a really rough week.
  4. Expect to hear NO- and be OK with it: As much as you want to see your friend, hang out, go to the movies, get a pedicure, or just gossip over coffee, it can be hard for special needs moms to get away. Not everyone has family that can handle their kiddo, and special needs respite/care can be expensive. Sometimes, even the offer to hang out is better than being left out completely.
  5. Give Your Friend Grace, and Pray for them: Recognize that your friend may have a harder road to hoe that you and your family, and that’s ok. If you aren’t religious, think of them or send them good thoughts, dedicate your meditation or yoga session to them.

Talk Back: I’d love to hear about a time when you helped another person!

Why I am not a “Pinterest Mom”

I am creative. I can bake, cook, sew, paint, craft, do calligraphy, garden, and decorate a home on a budget, however, I am not a “Pinterest Mom”.   I have a Pinterest account, but I use it more as a link repository for stuff that’s cool. I do not make Pinterest worthy stuff.  I don’t take Pinterest worthy photos. And, ya know what? I am more than ok with it.

I know there are a lot of people (not just moms) who pour over Pinterest and try to emulate the stuff they see, thinking that you need 5 craft stations, a candy bar (which is a buffet of nothing but candy), a full themed catered meal, and designer goody bags for an event. I hate to break it to you- Little kids don’t care! A lot of the stuff you see on Pinterest has been done by party professionals- Not your average mom with kids running around, a busy schedule, a house to take care of, errands to run, appointments and rehearsals/practices to shuffle kids to…..

Bitty’s third birthday is today, and yesterday was her birthday party.

Screen Shot 2018-06-10 at 3.14.41 PM.pngAbout a week ago, she saw the purse cakes at Baskin-Robbins. She asked for one, but she doesn’t really like ice cream.

I looked at it for a few minutes and figured I could make her one out of regular cake and frosting.

I am no means a professional baker, and I hate fondant (it tastes so gross to me and the kids). So I used cream cheese frosting, some decorator frosting, sprinkles, and icing roses.

And the handles were made from licorice. She was so happy, and the cake was delicious. My only tip is not to try and frost a cake when it’s 90+ degrees in your kitchen.  The cake was cold, but the white decorator icing did not want to cooperate.  The cake was pink inside, I made a butter cake and added pink gel food coloring to the batter.

Screen Shot 2018-06-10 at 3.13.19 PM.pngIn addition, I also made cupcakes! Henry helped make the cupcakes, and Margaret helped decorate them. I figured the cake wouldn’t be enough for the hungry little faces I was going to feed.

No candy bar- Instead I took a lucite bowl that I had painted with faux stained glass paint and filled it with Ring Pops.

And no goody bags- Bitty picked out these cute little Frozen necklaces to give to all her friends who came to the party.

Oh, and no catered fancy meal! We ordered 2 Giant pizzas.  We had bottles water and Honest Juice Pouches.  And because we has a loose Frozen theme, we also had little red apples (because we all know that Sven eats apples- Margaret told me).

I know that there are people out there who love putting out a perfect party that looks great on Facebook and Instagram, but if that’s not in your heart (or budget), BREATHE… Give Yourself some GRACE. Do what you can, what you love, what is in your heart and what is good for your family.  

And I want to especially thank Christine Boyce from Clicks by Christine for taking some incredible candid shots of the party. Her littlest is BFF’s with Bitty.

 

 

Talk Back: Are you a Pinterest Mom? Why or why not? What is your greatest crafting strength?