Making Friends – Stepping out from behind social anxiety

Whew, what a week! With my kiddos both in school for the first time, I’ve been bracing myself for what I knew would be a long season of strengthening our immune systems. This week it hit, right on cue. First my oldest, then myself, followed by Ms. kindergarten – never with enough time for any one person to recover before the next one succumbed to the nastiness, of course. With at least one of my kids attending school every day this week, I still had to drag my aching body out of bed in the mornings and give myself a pep talk just to get through drop off. Getting out the door seemed like a feat, in and of itself, but the thought of facing other people in this state was nearly enough to send me crawling back to bed.

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I wanted so badly to slink out the door late and dodge the steady stream of walkers that buzz down our street every morning. I even contemplated dropping the kids off in the car just to avoid human interaction (even though it would have taken twice as long to get through traffic than it would to walk). But then I looked at my kiddos little faces and was reminded to be brave. If I am expecting them to go out and face the day, whether they are feeling on top of the world or are having an off morning, I need to set the example. I grabbed my jacket and my coffee (my adult security blanket – let’s be real) and stood at the window waiting to time our departure just right so we could walk alongside our new friends.

I am pleased to report that I survived! Not only did I survive, but each day I came home with a little more pep in my step after a brisk walk and nice chat with my fellow walk-to-school mamas. I hate to admit it, but this introvert may be starting realize the value of social interaction, however painfully uncomfortable it may be.

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Here’s the deal. In my last post, I shared that my oldest daughter had been experiencing some social challenges of her own during the first weeks of school. It broke my heart to see her struggling and I wanted so badly to be able to fix it for her – to walk up to the other kids and tell them what an awesome person she is and to insist that they listen when she talks and include her in their games. But I can’t. So I came home and did what any millennial parent would do – Google “how to help my child make friends”. Quite a few articles popped up and as I read through one after another I noticed a recurring theme : “Model being a friend”. I felt a knot in my stomach. I want my daughter to make friends and have positive social interactions, but the last thing I want to do is step into that arena myself. I instantly felt like that little girl on the playground; “What if they don’t like me”? “How do I even start a conversation”? “They already have friends. Why would they want to be friends with me”?

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You see, my daughter and I are very similar, sometimes painfully so. I’ve always been envious of people with overly social children. Why can’t my kids be the ones walking down the street starting conversations with every person they pass so I can just tag along and jump on board their social trains. All at once it hit me that maybe our shared weakness could be a positive thing. A way to grow together instead of an excuse to keep shrinking further and further back. I have the privilege of knowing exactly how she feels. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that. I’m still there. I still feel that. We can talk about our struggles and instead of me pretending that it should come easily, she can know that it’s hard for me too. She can watch as I put myself out there and push my own boundaries and know that it is something that she is capable of as well.

We’ve been walking with our group for a little over a week now and I can already see things opening up for us. My daughter has the opportunity to start the day off with a small group of friends instead of figuring out how to work her way into the larger picture once the bell rings and swarms of students start billowing into the classroom. As for myself, I have really enjoyed getting to know this group of mamas and have been pleasantly surprised by how welcoming they have been and how this little bit of social interaction has boosted my own confidence. For so long I have fed myself the lie that I am an introvert, therefore I do not need social interaction. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are all social creatures who crave love and belonging, maybe on different scales, but in some capacity none the less. For those of us with social anxiety it can feel like a constant battle of having to talk yourself into stepping out every .  single . time . It may get easier with practice or it may not, but I am beginning to recognize that it is a battle worth fighting.  Not just for my daughters sake, but for my own.

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There is a reason we are hardwired for connection. We are stronger together than we are apart. As cheesy as it sounds, it is so incredibly true. No matter where you are in life, whether you are 7 or 37 (I am not 37 by the way, it just sounded better than 30 ;)), there is a constant stream of new challenges to overcome. Challenges that other people all around us are facing too. When we open ourselves up to the world and connect through shared experiences, we gain the collective power to conquer those challenges rather than letting them conquer us.

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What about you? Have you ever had to step out of your own comfort zone to help your child work through a difficult situation? Share with us in the comments below!

 

When Homeschooling Doesn’t Work Out

Let me start out by saying that this is not a post intended to bash homeschooling. I believe homeschooling is a great option for many families and can be done beautifully and successfully. The truth of the matter is, however, homeschooling is not for everyone and that is ok. I want to share our real life struggles with homeschooling and our decision to transition to public school because I feel like there is a void of information regarding the subject and I believe it can be helpful to know that you are not alone if you’ve tried homeschooling and it’s not what you expected or if you are considering homeschooling and wondering if it is right for you.

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When I began contemplating the idea of homeschooling my daughters over 2 years ago, I scoured the internet searching for answers as to whether or not it would be a good fit for our family and what our long term education path might look like. Nobody ever said that it would be easy (thank goodness), but everywhere I looked families were taking control of their children’s education and rocking it. As a former early childhood educator I thought “I can totally do this”! What could be better than spending all day, every day, with my beloved children, tailoring their education to meet their exact needs, and building our family around our values and schedule? Yep. It was a no brainer – I was homeschooling my Kindergartner and I was going to crush it!

As I bet you could have guess, It didn’t quite work out that way. Though it took me a long time to admit it (ahem…right now) homeschooling was A LOT harder than I thought it would be, but not in the ways you might guess. As far as picking curriculum and actually  teaching my kids – that part came fairly naturally to me. Sure, there were late nights on the couch searching for yet another literacy program because the first one was too easy and the second one was too structured… There were times when my oldest daughter’s perfectionist tendencies (that she may or may not have inherited from me) had us butting heads or days when I simply gave up trying to get my youngest to sit still for any type of formal instruction. Overall, however, I felt pretty competent. Whenever I started second guessing whether or not I was doing enough, they would have a major educational breakthrough to reassure me that things were working.

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What ended up being hardest for me, and it took me quite a while to even be aware of this, was balancing the role of mom and teacher. Before homeschooling, I LOVED being a mom. I adored planning fun activities and taking them on outings. Once we started homeschooling, all of my time and attention was poured into planning educational activities. I was drained and had nothing left to give. Before homeschooling I took my kids to weekly story times and play groups but I quickly discovered that, while they do exist, these types of programs are few and far between for school-age children. When we did go out, we often felt out of place.

Another hard realization was that having two kids, close in age and opposite in personality, together ALL THE  TIME  was a recipe for insanity. Siblings bicker. I get that. My kids play nicely together about 50% of the time, but they are also very competitive. When left with zero space to do their own things or be their own people, it began to feel a little suffocating. For all of us. I am very much an introverted person. I love my children but I need time, and space, and quiet – all of which are hard enough to come by as a mom, much less a homeschool mom who is surrounded by kids day and night. When  I don’t have time to process my thoughts or emotions I can become a pretty grumpy person and I was not happy with the Mom I had become.  I chose to homeschool to enjoy my kids more, and simply put, I wasn’t enjoying it at all.

I am not the type of person that likes to admit defeat (who does?), so I kept chugging along convincing myself that I was in some sort of mom-funk and needed to snap myself out of it. I couldn’t dare entertain the thought that maybe I had taken on too much. I was born to be a mom so how could spending 100% of my time on my kids not make me happy?  And even more than that, was my happiness alone, reason enough to think of making a change? After all, my kids were doing great academically – what more could I want?

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Thats when God threw me a bone –  a ticket to bow out gracefully. Right as my oldest daughter’s first grade year was coming to a close and I was really beginning to contemplate whether or not this was going to be a road we could continue down much longer, Lee got a job offer in Seattle. Before we knew it, it was a done deal and we were searching the internet for houses. We were really struggling to find something that would accommodate our budget and our menagerie of pets, but just as things were beginning to feel hopeless we found the perfect rental and just down the street they were building a brand new elementary school! I knew right then that this would be a perfect opportunity for a fresh start!

We spent all summer planning and preparing to send them both to school in the fall. While I knew it was the right time, I still felt anxious as to how the transition would play out. Would my kids settle in easily or stick out as “homeschoolers”? Would public school meet their needs academically? Would it help them grow socially and emotionally or would it steamroll right over their uncalloused hearts?  Not to mention the question of how on earth I was going to cope with sending both of my babies off to school at the very same time.

We are just now wrapping up our first full week of school and while most of those questions and concerns will take time to completely answer, I feel more confident than ever that this is the right choice for them. We’ve had our fair share of struggles this week in terms of navigating the social aspects of a much larger pond, but the lessons my kids are learning, while difficult and sometimes painful, are helping them to grow in ways that I could never have prepared them for on my own. I feel grateful to be a part of this community that seems to be very involved and supportive and can already see that taking this leap of faith will help us all move forward into this next season of life.

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I want to end by saying that I do not at all regret my decision to homeschool. My daughters both excelled academically in that environment and I think getting off to a strong start will make a lasting impact on their learning. I also really enjoyed the privilege of guiding them through some of their earliest and most important educational discoveries. Getting to know their individual learning styles and realizing the importance of following their lead will be beneficial while helping them with homework and advocating for them within the school environment. Further more, I know that if I hadn’t given homeschooling a try I would always look back with a big “what if”.  If you are considering homeschooling, I think it is a great option and worth a try.  Just know that, as with all choices, there are definite pros and cons. Think hard about your personality and your kid’s personalities. If you are the type of person that can easily create your own social network and be “on” all of the time, then homeschooling could be awesome for you. If not, it might be worth considering other options or having a strong support system in place before you jump right in. Every family is different and sometimes you need to try things on for size before you know whether or not its a good fit and that’s ok too. You will be better off knowing than spending the rest of your life wondering.

Resolution Update

Things are crazy right now under our little roof!  I’ll explain more later, but let’s just say that when I started the year off on a resolution spree- wanting to take advantage of a fresh start, make changes and try new things- I had no idea that life was about to throw me a  curve ball, forcing me to take my idea of a ‘fresh start’ to a whole new level!

Despite life being hectic, things have actually been going fairly well on the resolution front! Our progress with reducing waste has been kind of a two steps forward, one step back sort of thing. Slow and steady, but I’ll take it! Shortly after beginning our mission to reduce waste, we also took on the Whole30 challenge as a family. In a lot of ways I feel like these two goals complement each other nicely – If I am going to reduce waste by making things from scratch, I might as well make Whole30 approved versions – but at the same time, the complete overhaul of our diet threw so many new foods and ingredients at me all at once, I couldn’t quite tackle everything (not while keeping my sanity, anyway). I opted for making whole 30 mayo, ranch, ketchup, muffins (yes, I know there is really no such thing as whole 30 compatible muffins), and ghee while allowing myself to purchase other packaged goods like almond flour, coconut milk, and pickles ( I did make hubby find some in a glass jar rather than the plastic container he originally picked up though – baby steps). I also conquered my fear of bringing reusable containers to use at the deli!!!

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I don’t know why, but this was a big one for me. I am not one to rock the boat and I didn’t want to make anyones job harder, but the friendly butcher happily complied and I even got a compliment from the cashier as I checked out. No sideways glances or anything! We haven’t been perfect, but between all of our efforts, we have managed to reduce our waste by at least half!!! At the beginning of the year our trash can was routinely overflowing every week by garbage day, but the past two weeks it has been only half full!!!

I’ve shared a little bit of our whole 30 journey over on Facebook, but haven’t really talked much about it over here. We began the diet a couple of weeks ago, and like our progress with reducing waste it’s been more of a two steps forward, one step back sort of thing. While getting back on track with healthy eating was definitely one of my resolutions for this year, I wasn’t quite planning on going the Whole 30 route until we were at the book store with the girls one weekend and happened to run into Melissa Hartwig, who was there doing a speaking event and book signing! After hearing my sister-in-law rave about her experience doing Whole 30 this past December, I was intrigued and half listed as I helped my kiddos select their books. It sounded interesting and fit overall with the type of whole foods diet I was already wanting to get back on, so I grabbed a copy of her WHOLE30 book as we checked out!

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I poured over the book all weekend and decided to start the program the following Monday. The first day was awful for me! I think it was in part due to my overall lack of sleep the week prior, but between my mombie status and taking away my carbs, I was not a pleasant person to be around! Things did get a little better from there though. I finally got some sleep and ended up making three trips to the grocery store that week to restock on healthy snacks (we are eating 3+ dozen eggs a week and I can never buy enough bananas!!!), which improved my mood, but sadly not my stomach. I don’t typically have a lot of stomach problems, but the first week of Whole30 tied my stomach up in knots (my husband on the other hand, who has terrible acid reflux, noticed a pretty quick and dramatic improvement with his issues). After a week of suffering with heartburn, indigestion, and all sorts of other nasty symptoms, It was pretty easy to declare a ‘cheat day’ when my nieces first birthday rolled around on day 6. We ate chips, sandwiches, cake, you name it, and kept the ball rolling by taking the family out to dinner where we continued to indulge. The next morning Hubby was definitely paying for it, but my stomach felt surprisingly better!

As tempting as it was to carry on my good fortune and throw in the towel for good, I actually was enjoying preparing healthy meals at home and knew that getting back on track was in the best interest for the whole family. The next day was back to reality, and except for one little latte, at the grocery store, we stayed pretty well on track throughout the week and my stomach continued to improve! Overall I think we have decided that doing a true whole30 is not in the cards for us right now. We just have too much going on in our lives at this time to stick to it 100 percent, but I can say that as a lifestyle this is generally something that we will be embracing for the long term. For now we are ok with sticking to whole 30 compliment meals at home while allowing ourselves a little freedom every once in a while when we leave the house or attend get togethers. Perhaps, at some point, we will be able to do a true 30 days of compliant meals to get the full experience but for now, we are eating a lot healthier in general and I am proud of our progress!

 

 

Emily Turnes 7

It’s been nearly a month since my little girl turned 7 so I figured it might be time to finally write a post about all of her birthday fun. This years festivities were a little more low key than usual, but tons of fun none the less! Emily played a big role in planning her own birthday party this year. She insisted upon a Gracie (her cat) themed party and had so much fun designing a cake, coming up with party games, and helping make the decorations. Although I am not always the best at letting go of control, it was truly a joy to watch her take charge and plan a party that was very much her own!

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What’s a party without delicious snacks? This girl had a lot of fun browsing Pintrest for cat themed birthday goodies, but her absolute must-have treat was this fluffy gray kitty cake that she had been imagining and sketching out for months! Although we had to tone it down from her original 2 tier design to fit our smaller crowd, I think she was pretty pleased with the resultimg_3799

 

 

The decorations and party games were were she really made her mark. She decided on Pin The Tail on Gracie (which she helped paint) as well as an a Adopt a Kitty Center and Cat Toy Make Station that she came up with herself!

She also had her heart set on a yarn ball piñata this year, and after the crayon filled piñata incident of her 4th birthday, I felt the need to redeem myself. We originally tried crafting our own paper mache version which was a fun project but ended up being far too fragile to hang up, much less survive more than a round or two of batting practice! We ended up finding a beach ball piñata at the store and were able to transform it to the piñata of her dreams with a little paint and a LOT of yarn.  Between the sturdy cardboard construction and all of the additional materials, this thing ended up being invincible and after many many rounds of swinging at it, the kids finally took to stabbing the bat through the piñata to finally break it open! Lots of fun and loads of giggles!

My little girl had so much fun with all of her little besties and I had a blast watching her in element, lead the group from one activity to the next.

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Happy Birthday Sweet Girl!

 

 

My Monumental Mommy Fail

It’s inauguration day and the heated emotions that had only just begun to cool off are once again fired up as most Americans are either enthusiastically hopeful or anxiously biting their nails. This is not the easiest post to write. I’m not a particularly political person, nor am I accustom to sharing this type of personal information, but in the spirit of being ‘real’ I thought I’d share a major mommy fail of mine recently to help remind us all, including (and perhaps, especially) myself, to be kind and mindful of the words we say.

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My story goes back a couple of months to the week of the election when my first grade daughter came home and announced at our weekly dinner with my in-laws that her classmate’s mom said Hillary Clinton is a “baby killer”!  I was a very much caught off guard in the moment and didn’t know quite how to respond. I could have just brushed it off as “crazy things kids say”,  but after a lot of thought I decided that letting those words simmer in the brain of my daughter, a thinker and worrier, was a bad idea. Later that night I took the time to sit down and discuss what her classmate had said, what he likely had heard, and what it meant. Let me tell you, discussing abortion with my then-6-year-old was not a fun or easy conversation to have! I danced around the subject at first, explaining that Hillary Clinton was not walking around killing babies that are already born (she was specifically concerned about her baby cousin), but rather that one of the rules she wanted to make if she became president was that mommies who were pregnant could decided if they wanted their babies to be born or not. She was not fooled by my tactics and immediately understood that that meant killing them. Without getting into too much detail, we discussed the topic a little further until she came to her own conclusions on the matter, which I applauded and let that be the moral of the conversation; That we are all entitled to form our own opinions based on our own beliefs and reserch. Though it was not a conversation I would have wished to have had, I was proud of the way I had handled it.

Fast forward to this weeks family dinner (why do all of these things have to happen at family dinners?) when we sat around the table lightheartedly discussing the upcoming inauguration. I turned to Sassafras and asked if she knew who the new president was going to be, hoping to be impressed that she was well enough informed to spout off the correct name. She responded confidently with “Donald Trump” and then quickly added “He kills people”! I was MORTIFIED! How could MY daughter just have uttered such a terrible accusation? I went from sitting high and mighty on my throne of how I had handled the situation just a few months prior, to being THAT mom! I can assure you that neither my husband nor myself have ever said those words or anything to imply that that statement is true, but at a whopping 4 years of age we are her only source of information. Where did we go wrong??? After much thought, I have come to a place where I must admit that while we have not gone so far as to make false accusations, there has been an unnecessary amount of negative talk regarding Donald Trump and his policies in our household and especially in front of our children. If Mommy and Daddy think Donald Trump is such a terrible person, than he must be doing terrible things! And when you are a child, your mind goes to the most terrible thing you can think of… killing people. We took the time to correct her and tell her that he has not killed anyone and that he is our new president so whether or not we agree with him, we need to be respectful of him while still standing up for the things we believe in.

I know we are all at varying degrees on the spectrum of where we stand in support or opposition of the new president, but the point I am trying to make, and the one I have learned the hard way, is that negativity only breeds more negativity.  When we focus on the worst qualities of a person or a situation we are at risk of blowing the truth out of proportion. And the worst part about it is, the little ears, the sponges, the future of our country are the ones most negatively impacted by this false information! Let’s all take a moment to think before we speak. Is what we are saying fair? Is what we are saying truthful? Is what we are saying inline with what we claim to stand for?

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Peace!

Taking the Plunge to Minimize Waste

I did it! I managed to remember my reusable bags AND coffee mug all in the same trip! What I’m even more proud of though, is the relatively little amount of packaging on everything inside my bags!

IMG_3902.jpgIMG_3904.jpg Reducing waste has been somewhat of a goal of mine for the past several years. We switched to cloth instead of paper towels in the kitchen (as long as I’m on top of the laundry situation) a few years ago, I finally signed up for milk delivery so we can get milk, orange juice, and cream in reusable glass bottles, and ever since last summer I have been a composting nut. These little changes were a great jumping off point, but the problem is, I never jumped! I was never brave enough to make the lifestyle change required to truly make an impact on the amount of waste we produce.  It wasn’t until my 7 year old watched a video of one persons ‘zero waste challenge’ and was so inspired that she asked if we could try it as a family, that I finally felt the courage to give it a go. Sometimes we just need the idealistic mind of a child to help us believe  we can truly make a difference in the world!

Let me take a minute to say that this post is not at all designed to guilt trip anyone on the amount of waste they produce or even persuade anyone to change their ways. I am in no position to judge, trust me! I simply thought it would be fun to share this major change in our lifestyle and all of our struggles and victories along the way. If it happens to inspire someone to make a change, well then thats just bonus points for all of us! We are at the very beginning of this journey ourselves. Miss 7 initially asked to start the challenge mid December but I knew we would have a very hard time being successful at making such big changes during such chaotic time of year. Also, to be clear, our goal is not to produce ZERO waste. I don’t think that’s very realistic for our modern family of four at this point in our lives. For now, our goal is simply to minimize our waste as much as possible.

Anyway, here we are, two weeks into January, and I am finally seeing progress! Here are a few of the changes we’ve made so far:

  • Quit using fabric softener.  I recently ran out of both fabric softener and dryer sheets. Rather than going out and buying more, I decided to experiment with not using them at all. We have a water softening system so this may not be as easy of a change for everyone, but I have not noticed the slightest difference in any of our clothes!
  • Quit using trash bags. This one was also done on an experimental basis. I was not sure I could handle the mess of no trash bags in the kitchen, but it has not been nearly as bad as I thought. I have really upped my composting game so most of our food waste goes in there. What can’t be composted either goes down the garbage disposal or straight out to the the big garbage can in the garage. Most of our kitchen garbage now consists of packaged food containers and hopefully not for long!
  • Making our Own. This is one of the big ones I am tackling this week! Tomorrow with the kids I plan on making a big batch of apple sauce, some paleo banana muffins, and some homemade larabars. Miss Sassafras has been very concerned that this challenge will mean she can no longer enjoy any of the yummy foods she loves and I want to show both of the kids that we can still have good things to snack on around the house, we just need to be more mindful about how we get them. Also, if you’re thinking we must eat an extraordinarily healthy diet if Larabars and paleo muffins are the treats my kids so desire, don’t be too impressed. Healthy eating is yet another thing we are rededicating ourselves to in the new year, but thats a whole different blog post!
  • Opting for reusable containers. As mentioned above, I managed to use both my cloth bags and ceramic coffee cup when I was doing my shopping today! I also grabbed another set of mesh produce bags, which I’ve heard are great for nuts and goodies in the bulk bins, so my goal for next week is to take a stab at that. If all goes well, I am hoping to gain the courage to bring glass jars for my meats and cheeses. I’ll keep you posted. Wish me luck!

The best part about all of this is that it is actually seems to be saving me money!! I typically do all of my grocery shopping at Target and between their low prices, cartwheel and my Redcard our weekly grocery bill is generally about $120 on a good week. I was blown away to see my bill at $63 at a health food store!! But it totally makes sense!  By avoiding packaged food and choosing to do without many items we once deemed as necessary, I have sooo much less stuff on my list! To be fair, I did have to swing by target to buy cat food, a new cat food container (because I can’t seem to find anything that those little devils can’t break into), and some eye shadow which totaled $30. Still a pretty good savings, if you ask me! I can’t wait until next week to see if this trend continues, but for now, I’ll leave you feeling hopeful!

Hello 2017

 

Yay it’s 2017! Who is with me in celebrating the glorious commencement of a new year? I’d go into how 2017 was a hell of a year, but at this point, I think it’s beginning to sound a little cliche…Needless to say I am doing everything in my power to take full advantage of a fresh start. I have a laundry list of resolutions strapped to my belt and I’m ready to go! First up on my list of resolutions :

– Find Yourself…

Easy right? I don’t really know where I’m going with this, but thats why were here!

As a former Kid’s Activity Blogger, I was pretty involved in the blog scene for several years. There
were many things I loved about it (i.e. having a platform for my introverted self to connect with other people and share my thoughts with the world!) and many things I did not (i.e. the pressure to constantly be coming up with original crafts and activities in a Pintrest word, pressure to make every activity I did with my kids look picture perfect in a Pintrest world, pressure to pretend like every idea I had was a raging success in a Pintrest world). You get the idea…But over all, I miss it! I love writing. It’s always been my go-to method for sorting out my thoughts, so getting back into blogging seemed like a natural jumping off point on my quest to find myself!

img_0305This blog is all about the real me ( plus 3 – Hubby, daughter 1- we’ll call her Gracie Girl, and daughter 2 – we’ll call her Sassafras). No pressure to be perfect or pretend I’m something I’m not. Just a place where I can project the real me and all the hilarities and tragedies of motherhood. And, if I’m being real (and you know I am), I think we could all benefit from opening the window to reality in our picture perfect Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest world!