My own permission

This is nothing new.  You’ve heard me say this before: there’s too much.  Once again, I find myself in the position of trying to figure out how to cut back, stop the train, do less, focus on priorities; in a nutshell, I’m too busy.

My weekly schedule is definitely full.  I’ve been around long enough to compare and I know that I do more than many.  I work full time, manage a family of five with my husband, have a large extended family, mostly-regularly attend church and try to be involved, try to read, try to exercise, try to see friends, and try to write.  I’m a do-er of many things and a master of none.  Most of the time I’m just doing enough to scrape by until the next moment.  All of that is what you see from the outside.  Inside, my brain and my soul are even busier.  Constantly thinking about everything that I’m not currently doing, questioning how I am doing things, trying to remember all of the details so we never drop a ball.  I’m rarely just present, and it’s exhausting.  I’ve accepted that it won’t ever stop. But I might possibly, maybe, be getting better at realizing when the stress gauge is getting dangerously high and making changes before, instead of after, everything blows up.

I’ve had some success in the last six months with this blog.  Even though the numbers are modest, I have more followers of my blog and social media space than I imagined I would at this stage.  I’ve had three posts syndicated on other sites.  I got enough positive reinforcement, and truly enjoyed the process, to be excited and want to come back to more writing.  Right now, this just isn’t the best time of my life to keep it going.  Some of you do just as much, and more than me, and still run a very successful and amazing blog.  I have a lot of respect for what you do.  That pace just doesn’t work for me right now.

So, what I’m putting the breaks on is this – my writing.  I’m not happy about it, but I am at peace with the decision.  From your perspective, not much will change.  I haven’t been writing much lately anyway.  But what changes for me is my internal turmoil.  By writing this post, I’m giving myself permission to release the stress.

As I started getting more into blogging this year, I was really happy with the things I was learning and the progress I made.  But for someone like me, who isn’t a full-time writer, blogging takes consistency.  The more you write, the better you become at sharing your voice.  The more you post, the more people read your work and give you feedback to help with continued improvement.  Facebook gets your writing to more people’s newsfeeds.  Followers click on your content more often in Twitter.  More begets more.  Even though I haven’t been writing, I’ve been consistently stressing about the lack of consistency.  Feeling stressed to write, feeling stressed to share content, feeling stressed that I just can’t find the time for any of it.  So with an officially  communicated time-out, I can let all of that go.

You will still see me around every now and again during this hiatus.  If Iuntitled-design-1 have the time and something to say, I’m going to write.  When I see content from other people that I want you to see, I’m going to share it.  I still have too many funny stories happen in my family that will need to be told. Continue to follow me on social media to get notice if I happen to write new posts and to catch little doses of the craziness that is my family.  And one day, I hope to be back here, consistently writing and connecting with all of you once again.

 

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Who Says That, CAT the CAT? (Board book)

Sprout Score

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IMG_20160710_124642546This is the second experience we have had with a Cat the Cat book.  (The other was Who Sleeps, CAT the CAT?)  Both books follow the same design, with the cat, named Cat, speaking to different animals to see what they do.  In this book, Cat finds her (she’s kind of wearing a t-shirt/dress, so I’m guessing Cat is a girl) friends and asks “What’s your sound?”  Cat’s friends all respond with a resounding woof/peep/moo until we meet Bunny, who responds differently than all the rest, leading into a snuggly ending.

Cat the Cat throws me as a reader and therefore confuses my daughters as they listen.  The repetition of the animal having a name that is the same name as their species is, for some reason, hard for me to read smoothly.  It feels awkward and I’m never comfortable with Continue reading

No one is unaffected

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

In the wake of the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers, I have seen this quote popping up throughout social media.  (Usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, though I have also seen that challenged).  For the last 24 hours I have been following the news updates, reading emotional, painful posts from friends and strangers alike, and continually coming back to this quote in my mind. It doesn’t sit right with me.

When taken very literally, yes, I am unaffected.  I am a white, middle-class, heterosexual woman who works as a corporate professional and lives in a country where my religion is practiced freely.  I have not been forced to flee from my home.  I do not live in poverty.  I am not hated for the color of my skin or the sex of the person I married.

But this is where that translation ends.  I may not fall into any of the categories that threaten my immediate safety, but I am affected.  Please understand, I do not for one second think that my emotional outrage is on any level of comparison to those who are living in actual fear and danger.  But those people living in actual fear and danger are my Continue reading

Can we call a bad news time-out?

I know it’s not reality to imagine the world with less bad news.  Even during times when there are fewer media reports of major crises, heartbreaking evil, or severe weather events, I know there are countless instances of bad news happening every minute all over the world.  But right now I feel like there’s a constant barrage of awful on the front page. The deadliest mass shooting in the US at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The Stanford rapist.   The US political race with all of its protests, hatred, and bullying.  The daily reports of death by gunfire in every major city.  The endless story of racial conflict.  The toddler who lost his life to an alligator in Florida.  That’s just to mention a few just stories happening in my own country.  To keep up on current events right now, you almost need a prescription for anxiety meds.

Realistically I understand that this period of time is no worse or better than any other in the past hundred years.  There are different conflicts, different evil, different crises, but there have always been conflicts, evil, and crises.   I understand that as an adult, as a parent, I see the world through different lenses than I did before.  I understand that we know more about everything and we know it instantaneously because of the advent of social media.  I get it.  But I still feel like there is more today than there ever has been.  Reality or not, my heart wants a break.

Can we all just come to an agreement that we acknowledge all the badness that is happening, but we want a tiny break?  Like, maybe an hour where all the news outlets report on the heroes, the silver lining, some light at the end of the tunnel of all these crises.  The examples of people working together and supporting one another.  Individuals putting themselves last so others can come first.  I know that all of that is happening every minute all over the world, too, and I need to hear about it.  I need to know those people, I need to hear those stories.  I need to show the good to my children, so they know that even in a world that feels like it is falling apart at the seams, love is present and love still conquers.  Everyday heroes exist.

Do you agree?  Can you help?  When we post, blog, publish, and report the bad news, let’s also do another one on the positive side.  Share articles that highlight hope.  Tweet about people doing good.  Write stories of light and love.  We will always hear about the awful.  Let’s make news out of the wonderful.

Ben Loves Bear (Board Book)

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IMG_20160424_145951The story in this book follows Ben and Bear as they go through a typical day together.  Ben appears to be a two or three-year-old, big enough to sleep in a big-kid bed, and Bear is his teddy that never leaves this side.  The illustrations are uncomplicated and focused on only those two characters, showing snapshots of the fun they experience throughout the day.

The language is succinct, with an almost calming cadence as you read through the three to five-word sentences. For me, the reader, it is challenging to embellish.  For my toddlers, Continue reading

High-tech convenience is making my life harder

I’m probably somewhere in the middle of the scale of my generation when it comes to using the best/fastest/easiest inventions to make my life better/faster/easier. I refuse to put a DVR player in my minivan, but I do have a cable TV system that I can control with voice commands.  I use an online grocery delivery service, but I won’t buy Lunchables.  I use a coffee mug to drink my coffee instead of disposable cups, but I use K-cups to make that coffee.  I’m as amused and impressed as the next guy when new ideas to improve convenience are marketed to the masses, but I always have a weird twinge of guilt, like I’m cheating by taking the easy way.  I don’t know why that is.

What I do know, though, is that some of the conveniences I regularly enjoy are also finding sneaky ways to make my life harder. Continue reading

Beach Babies (Board Book)

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Beach Babies, Author Puck

This book is a lively bunch of illustrations of babies and their families having fun at the beach.  There is  a snippet of text to start the dialog as you turn the page, but the main appeal of the book is pointing out all of the different babies and the fun they are having.  The children and adults are diverse and dressed in lots of bright colors.

There are two pages at the end with tips for the reader with questions to ask and things to point out on each page. This is a great idea for a board book.  The first few times I read this with my toddlers I skipped over those pages and they were indifferent to the book.  Once I took the time to read and use the tips, it turned this book into a favorite that needs to be read before bed each night.

The most exciting page for my daughters is the one that has some mischievous babies who have taken off their swimsuits.  They point and laugh and say “butt! butt!”  I guess that kind of humor starts earlier than I realized.

Once I took advantage of the reader tips, this book became a lot more enjoyable for me.  We interact, point and ask questions, and it is great reading time for both parent and kids.

Sprout Score: ★★★★★ 

Reader Score: ★★★★

Author: Puck

Illustrator: Violet Lemay

For Ages: Toddlers and Preschoolers

ISBN: 9781938093234

For more about the authors and Beach Babies, go here.

Sprout Score Book Reviews

As a book-loving parent, I spend a lot of time reading, reading, and re-reading children’s books to my family.  Since I have three kids, including twins, there is an ever-present array of books scattered throughout my house. They might have a permanent home on a bookshelf, but spend most of their days in use or scattered across the floor, waiting for the next time.  We make regular trips to the library too, so there is also a library heap that stays stacked in the living room to reduce the chances of getting lost. It may change in content and height, but the library heap is a regular part of our decor.

Though I have three kids, my focus for Sprout Score reviews will be the books my twin daughters are reading.  There are a lot more books rotating through this house for them than my school-age son, simply because his days are filled with other activities and his books take more time to read.  So this blog series will be devoted to books for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

These reviews will not only be a simple synopsis of the story. As a parent, I find it very helpful to hear what other parents, and especially other kids, think about the products/books/activities they see and do every day.  So, each review will contain a Sprout Score and a Reader Rating:

Sprout Score

  1. ★ I won’t sit still to read this book
  2. ★★ I’ll sit but I will be bored
  3. ★★★ I’ll sit and be interested
  4. ★★★★ I really like this.  I’ll point and interact.
  5. ★★★★★ I love this!  Again!  Again!

Reader Rating

  1. ★ I’m bored while I read this out loud.
  2. ★★ I’m indifferent while I read out loud, just another book.
  3. ★★★ Good book, I enjoy reading out loud.
  4. ★★★★ I have fun and feel good about reading this out loud.
  5. ★★★★★ A favorite that I love to read to my kids and will remember.

Since this series is all about sharing, I welcome and encourage you to give your rankings in the comments if you have read the book being reviewed with your kids, too.

Let’s Read!

 

 

 

6 Ways Sleep Training Twins Is Like Caring For Drunk College Roomates

If you have any kids past the age of three, you’ve lived to tell the tales of removing the crib walls and the hours upon hours spent struggling to get your child to stay put in the new big kid bed. There are tears, exhaustion, and screaming, and the toddler might get upset too.  We are living through this right now in our house, with the additional entertainment of living through it with twins.

For a while now, my daughters have been running the show.  They aren’t taking naps and they are awake longer than my first grader every night.  I don’t understand how they are physically capable of being awake for that many hours.  It is slowly starting to shift;  I lived through this once with my son and I know it gets better.  But that doesn’t make it any less maddening.

Managing this process with one child takes patience.  Adding a playmate to the same room ensures a merry-go-round of mayhem.  In between the constant trips back and forth to break up the party, instead of stewing and going crazy, I’ve started to discover the similarities to another time of life.

I think back to my early twenties when nights out didn’t start until 10 pm and the only time I saw the sunrise was because I hadn’t gone to bed yet.  Those days are so very long gone, but the memories of caring for roommates who had one too many drinks are some of the best stories that remain from that time. Strangely enough, nights caring for tipsy roommates share quite a few similarities to nights juggling slap-happy twins:

  • They keep asking for just one more drink.
  • They think it’s hilarious to take off their clothes.
  • The more frustrated you get the more they laugh at you.
  • Hysterical giggling abruptly turns into sobs of despair.
  • The longer they stay awake the greater the chances of dealing with a hazmat situation.
  • Making sure they go to sleep in their own beds eliminates any morning-after drama.

The last few nights are already seeing quicker results, but I’m not ready to believe this is over. Bright summer evenings and warm upstairs bedrooms are just around the corner, and I expect that to bring out the clowns once again.  In the meantime, I am just expecting the worst and enjoying when it’s not, and trying my best to look at the funny side of all of it instead of banging my head into the drywall.  Like all phases, this one will pass, and I can add it to the list of accomplishments I survived and can laugh about later.

 

Dresses, spiders, and laundry; little moments with big lessons

I like to think I am not reinforcing gender stereotypes with my kids.  Even so, I have to constantly remind myself not to say and do the same things I have been subjected to throughout my own lifetime of fighting pink, dresses, and heels. I learned pretty early on that this is a lot harder to do now that I have both a son and two daughters.    Even though I know that I want my kids to be who they are and do what they want, and I feel very strongly about that in my own life and family, I’m realizing it may not always be obvious to my kids.  I also recognize I have to be consistent from now until, oh, forever in how I model this, otherwise it just gets confusing.  Living with me has to be confusing enough as it is, I don’t have to make it worse.

So, even though I do rely on hubby to kill spiders, I somehow have to model that it’s not because I’m a girl, it’s because SPIDERS ARE CREEPY AND EVIL.  And hubby isn’t afraid of that awful squish sound.  Not because he’s a boy, but because our fears are different.  Spiders.  Blech.

So what can I do every day to avoid teaching the wrong lessons?  (the stereotypes, not the spider extermination process)

Well, when Bear and Goose wear dresses and anyone tells them they look beautiful, I have to remember to also tell them they are beautiful when they are wearing mismatched outfits they picked on their own and are dirty and digging in mud.  I have to tell Bean that he is handsome both when he is dressed for church as well as when he is a sweaty mess.  I have to compliment their appearances at a much lower frequency than complimenting other parts of who they are.

When Bean wants to help me cook, wash dishes, or fold laundry, I need to find the patience to let him.  Hubby does all of these things as much or more than me, and is already a great example, so I have to be ok with the six-year-old version of helping.

When my daughters imitate me and throw a purse on their shoulder and wave bye-bye, I can’t say “are you going shopping?”, I have to challenge myself to come up with something other than the easy comment.  So far I have asked if they are going to the library, to work, to the doctor, to play, to the museum, and for some reason I have to think really hard to say something other than shopping.  Why is that?  I don’t go shopping, why would I even say that?  The point is, I’m looking for more creative activities to suggest than what a girl and a purse are stereotypically assumed to be doing.

(Also, just to be snarky, anything that would normally be a “princess” something I choose to use “queen.” If you’re going to aspire to be part of a royal family, at least shoot for the leadership role.)

When it is time to split resources and have one parent outside playing with the kids and one inside being productive, I can’t always default to being the productive one, even if it soothes my overwhelming need to “catch up.” I need to be the parent playing and running around just as much as hubby needs to be the one being productive, because we are equal partners in this circus and our kids need to know that, too.

I recognize these are all small moments in the thousands that go by every day. I’m trying to focus on the little things now before they get older and the little things turn into big things that are hard and confusing. I may get it wrong more often than I get it right, but thankfully I have kids to be the first to point that out. At least that means they know what the right thing is, and they will never ask me to get rid of the spider.