Sleep Help for Kids and How Sleepytime Club Changed My Life

Sleep is something which all of us need and most of us do not spend enough time doing.  We all have reasons why we do not make sleep a priority, but when it comes to our growing children, we really need to make sure that they have good sleeping habits so that they value sleep and know that it is something they need to remain happy and healthy.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

“Children who are sleep deficient might be overly active and have problems paying attention. They also might misbehave, and their school performance can suffer.

Sleep-deficient children may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation.”

Sleep for everyone is important, but sleep for our children is imperative and in our hands.  We need to be sure that they are sleeping enough.  This is something that I have been struggling with for a long time.

As a military family, we finally had a decent bedtime routine with my son, but then chaos ensued as I gave birth to my youngest daughter, we received orders to PCS (move) from Eglin Air Force Base (Ft. Walton Beach, FL) to Nellis Air Force Base (Las Vegas, NV) and my husband deployed 4 months after we arrived in Las Vegas.  My bedtime routine with them fell apart and I started allowing them to develop bad habits.  My son would wander into my bed while my husband was deployed, and I did not force him to return to his bed, mostly out of sheer exhaustion.  My youngest daughter was still an infant, and her sleeping habits at the time were much better than my son’s.  When my husband returned, we were able to put together a more consistent bedtime routine, which I thought was working well.  This new routine allowed the kids to sleep in their own beds for about 4 – 5 hours, but then they would come into our room for the rest of the night.  We’ve been living with this, but lately, my youngest daughter started preventing me from working.

I know that I am responsible for the sleeping habit of them wandering into my room to snuggle in the middle of the night, and I was in need of finding something that would help them stay in their own beds and sleep through the night.  My youngest daughter started cutting the time she spent in her own bed down to just 3 or 4 hours, which began to intrude upon the time I spend working, and the private time in the evening that my husband and I share.  I had done the crying it out thing with my son, and it did work, but with 2 kids sharing a room, it is nearly impossible to do without disturbing either his or her sleep.  The problem has never really been getting them to go to sleep, it is getting them to stay asleep and remain in their own beds.

As time passed, I read several articles I came across on Twitter.  I found an article that was worth a retweet.  It was an article about Personal Care Instructions.  I found it to be very creative and well thought out.  I loved how it made you really think about what you need to do to take care of yourself and ensure your health and well-being.  I followed the Sleepytime Club more closely after I read this article, hoping that I would come across information that might help me.  Their content was pure and original, different from most of the things I have read regarding sleep and kids.  I started communicating with Brook Packard, creator and owner of Sleepytime Club.  Brook offered me a free Sleepytime Bedtime Kit, Heart, available here.  I accepted her offer.

I will admit that I am a huge skeptic when it comes to sleep programs because for me, most of them do not deliver the results I hope for.  I am someone that will give something my best, though.  I read through all of the material, including downloading the free Bedtime Blueprint and Sleepytime Club’s Eat to Sleep All-Stars.  These are both great resources to help you create a solid and healthy bedtime routine.

I downloaded the Sleepytime Club Heart bedtime kit to my Kindle Fire.  I have the Kindle Fire 7″, the newer version, which comes with the blue light shade.  I turn this feature on and set the ambience to very dim and utilize the candlelight glow.  This makes the bedtime kit easy to transport, blue light free, and allows us to play the album directly from the Kindle.  There may be other devices out there that have employed the blue light shade, but I am unaware of them.  The instructions say to print the book out, but this is one direction that we did deviate from and it did not impede the effectiveness of the bedtime kit.

We set up our electronics off time at 4pm, so we read books, play board games, do puzzles, play instruments, color, or find some other quiet or creative activities to do.  We eat dinner between 5pm and 5:30pm, aiming for 5:15pm.  At 6:15pm, the kids take a bath, change into their pajamas, and brush their teeth.  By 6:45pm, we get together on the couch and read a few books.  We call this our calm down time.  At 7pm, my husband, the two little kids, and I move into their bedroom.  We go through the bedtime kit, taking turns reading and singing, and each of us will focus on one child so that they each still receive individual attention.  After we finish the kit, we turn on the album and leave the room.

The first two nights, my son slept in his bed all night and my daughter did not come into our room until almost 4am.  This was a huge achievement for us.  On the third night, my toddling 22 month old stayed in her bed all night.  This bedtime kit has been a dream for my family.  It is so simple and easy to do, it has blown my mind.  The response of my 4-year-old and almost 2-year-old has completely awed me.  My evenings have become more free to get in personal time, time with my husband, and work.  There are still times when my son wakes up because he has to go to the bathroom, or my daughter wakes up thirsty, but for the most part, within just 2 weeks of using this bedtime kit and having a solid bedtime routine, our lives have changed.

The bedtime kits come with:

  • Original illustrated storybook
  • Fresh and simple bedtime activities
  • Mother Goose Rhyme with corresponding coloring page
  • Two Lullaby recordings plus written lyrics for easy sing along
  • Calming, connecting “Put the Day to Bed” ritual
  • Digital album to leave behind as you turn the lights out

The “Put the Day to Bed” ritual is my husband’s favorite part of the kit.  He thinks that it is truly the key in helping them sleep through the night.  I love everything that the kit has to offer.  My son has already started reciting some of the poems and singing some of the songs.  As we go through our routine every night, it occurs to me that this will be something that can be steady in our youngest children’s lives, no matter how much chaos may ensue because of moves and environmental changes.  This routine has the potential to become their safety blanket during travel for vacations, moves to new places, and disturbances in the normal household environment or routines.  This is a well thought out, creative, and beautiful set of lullabies, story, poems, meaningful interactions, and a peaceful and calming album with a voice that is gentle and eases children to sleep.

I did receive this bedtime kit for free, and some of the links in this blog are affiliate links, but I am extremely sincere in saying that these kits will help you if your child is having difficulty staying asleep or getting to sleep.  I did not expect the results that have occurred.  I am extremely happy and delighted that I connected with Sleepytime Club and Brook Packard.  This is an easy to follow program that will help parents that have kids with sleeping trouble or problems.  There are several kits available here and the option to join the club and receive bedtime kits monthly here.  

Brook was an early childhood music specialist and teacher who survived as a horrid sleeper for many years.  She has attended several lectures and spoken with several medical doctors about sleep and different approaches to it.  She stated that several sleep experts have said that sleep is a mystery, but I think that she has started to unravel that enigma with her work.  The Snuggle Up Song, Sleepytime Song, Put the Day to Bed meditations and sometimes the interactive touching poem are all her original work and are a part of each bedtime kit.  She taps into public domain poems, stories and adapted folk tales to complete the bedtime kits.  She is definitely doing something right, and I highly suggest trying at least one kit to see if it works as well for you as it did for my family.

We will be leaving on vacation in a couple of weeks, so I will revisit this post to let you all know how my kids handled vacation with the Sleepytime Bedtime Kit as a familiar, calming part of their interrupted lives.

Post-Vacation Update

I always like to start packing in advance when I am getting ready to go on a vacation.  I have everything organized, lists written so that I can cross things off, food prep (snacks, lunch and breakfast) listed out and done as early as possible.  Doing this helps me remember everything I need.  This particular time, I had my kindle already packed and forgot we had one more night to put the kids to bed. Well, my kindle had the bedtime kit on it, and guess what I forgot to repack.  That’s right, we left the house and began a 34 hour car drive without the bedtime kit.  

We arrived in New Jersey late and spent the evening with family.  Our bedtime routine was completely off.  I read books and sang our old bedtime songs, but the kids, though tired, were not going to sleep.  My mother-in-law volunteered to cuddle with them the first night, and eventually they did fall asleep.  I contacted the Sleeptime Club the next day and they were extremely understanding of my situation.  They sent me the Stars and Heart bedtime kits through email, and I was able to download them onto my daughter’s kindle.  The second night in New Jersey, we used the Stars bedtime kit, and it was a success.  I read through the kit with my almost two and four year-old and was able to leave the album playing and they fell asleep.

Once again, the bedtime kits offered by Sleepytime Club worked as a safety blanket and the consistent routine the kit provides has created a learned behavior in my children.  When we begin going through the kit, they know that it is time to go to bed.  These kits travel easily, bring comfort in unfamiliar settings, and serve as queues for the kids to know that it is time to rest, even if the rest of your daily routine is unfamiliar to them because of vacation.  These kits saved me from having to go to bed at the same time as my kids so I could get them to sleep.  They provided me with the freedom to visit with my family uninterrupted.  

As expected, because we were not in familiar surroundings during our time in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, my almost two year-old did not stay in the strange new bed all night, and ended up wandering into the room my husband and I were staying in after about 6 hours of sleep.  I anticipated this would happen, and am absolutely grateful Sleepytime Club responded timely and was able to get me the bedtime kits so quickly.  It was nice to be able to enjoy my evenings, even while on vacation.  The kit also calmed my children down enough that for the road trip back, we were able to get them to sleep much earlier, while they sat in their car seats.  This result shocked me once again and I continue to be amazed and awed by how my children respond to these lovely, calming bedtime kits.

In summary, I highly recommend that if you do not have a bedtime routine, or you have a bedtime routine that is not working with the results you want, you should definitely try one bedtime kit from Sleepytime Club.  Download the free information they provide you with at the links above, and read through the instructions.  The success these kits have had with my children was completely unexpected and has left me forever grateful to Brook Packard and the Sleepytime Club.  

Intellectual Wellness Activity

Setting goals is a major part of intellectual wellness because it is an effective way to challenge your intellect and creativity in discovering the best course of action to take in order to achieve your goals.

The following is a written blog of the above video with instructions on the activity.

There are several ideals to intellectual wellness, but we will be putting our energy into a single aspect today. Dr. Hill Hetler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, and creator of the Six Dimensions of Wellness, describes one of the ideals of wellness, stating:

“It is better to stretch and challenge our minds with intellectual and creative pursuits than to become self-satisfied and unproductive”

In other words, set goals for yourself so that you will remain dynamic in your pursuit of excellence, and be a productive contributor to the human race. We all have an idea of who we want to be and what we want to accomplish. The most successful way to attain our goals is to write them down and pursue them with diligence and tenacity. Dr. Gail Matthews, a professor of psychology at Dominican University, conducted a study in which 5 different groups of people were assessed on their success rate with their goal. Groups 1 and 2 wrote down their goals, Group 3 wrote down their goals and steps to achieving their goals, Group 4 did the same as group 3, but also shared their list of commitments to achieving their goal with a friend, and Group 5 did the same as Group 4, but also sent a weekly progress report to a friend. The most successful group was Group 5.

As Dr. Gail Matthews states,

“My study provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals”.

Today, we are all going to start a journey to achieving our goals. I have put together an activity that will follow the results of Matthews’ research. My hope is that all of us will hold each other accountable by challenging each other to fulfill the commitments and goals we write down today.

Things you will need for this project:

Magnets or tacks
Transparent Jar
Magnet or Tack Board
Masking tape

Sit down in a quiet area and think about a goal you want to achieve. The goal can be for anything; health, education, business, career-oriented, family-oriented, something you are ready and willing to commit to. Make sure this goal is reasonable and can be accomplished. This goal should be your big goal, a long-term goal that will require sub-goals in order to achieve it.

Write this goal down in big letters. You will need to do this twice; one for your goal jar and one for your goal board. Next, write down the things you will need to do in order to accomplish this goal. Look at your list; these should be your short-term goals. Take each item and write it on a separate piece of paper, leaving space to list out the steps you will need to take in order to achieve it. Taking one short-term goal at a time, list out the steps required to accomplish it. These are your commitments.

Take one of your long-term goals and rubberband or tape it to the outside of your goal jar. Take the second piece of paper with your long-term goal and stick it to your magnet board (this can even be your refrigerator) or to your tack board. Place it in the center.

Fold up each of your short-term goals, taping them shut with masking tape. If your short-term goals need to be completed in a specific order, use numbered magnets, or place a number on each folded piece of paper. Tape a magnet to the top of each short-term goal. Place all of your goals in the jar. If you need to complete them in order, pull out your number 1 short-term goal. If you can complete the goals at random, put all of your short-term goals into the jar and select one at random. Place the short-term goal with your commitments on your board. This is now the goal you will focus on.

The final piece of this activity is accountability. This portion of the activity produced the most successful results in Dr. Gail Matthews’ study. Select a friend, a group, or a family member that you can update on your accomplishments. Select someone that will challenge you and follow up with you. You can use social media, email, phone calls, or face-to-face. If you do not feel comfortable sharing your goals with friends or family, I will make myself available to you. You can private message me on Facebook or Twitter, post comments on this blog post, post updates on my Facebook page, or email me. I would love to hear how you are doing and be part of your accountability process. I want all of us to succeed and avoid the ‘what ifs’. It is time to make our dreams realities, and we can all help each other with that. I look forward to seeing your progress as we continue along this journey together.

Resources:

Gardner, Sarah. “Study Focuses on Strategies for Achieving Goals, Resolutions.” Dominican University of California. Dominican University of California, 2015. Web. 17 April 2016. http://www.dominican.edu/dominicannews/study-highlights-strategies-for-achieving-goals

Hettler, Bill, MD. “The Six Dimensions of Wellness Model.” NationalWellness.org. National Wellness Institute, Inc, 1976. Web. 17April 2016. http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.nationalwellness.org/resource/resmgr/docs/sixdimensionsfactsheet.pdf

Super Parent to the Rescue

Stan Lee, co-creator of many of the famous Marvel superheroes, defines a super hero as

…a person who does heroic deeds and has the ability to do them in a way that a normal person couldn’t.

Using this definition of a superhero, I wanted to point out to all parents out there that in some ways, we truly are superheroes.  I am aware that super heroes are fictional, but our abilities and capabilities are enhanced when we become parents, and we adapt and evolve in ways that we could not otherwise.  From surviving debilitating sleep deprivation to finding hidden energy when we think we have hit our limit, to finding humor and laughter even after an extremely exhausting and frustrating day, we have a super strength and super will that most humans do not possess.

First, let’s look at stay at home moms and dads.  This is a unique job that requires being on call and available twenty four hours a day and seven days a week.  Breakfast and lunch are meals that are no longer blocked off for you, but rather, quick bites here and there as you wrangle, feed, clothe, settle disagreements, wipe up tears, do laundry, clean up messes, change diapers, and still find time to go on an outing/adventure, read, take naps, run errands, play taxi, and possibly squeeze in a workout, work or maybe relax for about twenty minutes if you’re lucky.  Breaks are never guaranteed, and sleep, especially within the first twenty-four months or your child’s life is sporadic and also not guaranteed.

The first super power parents possess is the ability to function on far less hours of sleep for an extended period of time, than most humans will experience.  According to the Silentnight survey,

Over 60% of parents with babies aged less than 24 months get no more than three-and-a-quarter hours sleep each night. …parents lose an average of six months’ sleep during the first 24 months of their child’s life.

I like to call this power Super Energy.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults aged 16 – 64 years of age should get between 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night.  The majority of parents, both working and stay at home, average only 1/3 the amount of sleep most people are supposed to get the first two years of their child’s life.  This is on a consistent, daily basis, and is not done by choice, but rather, because of being needed.  We are able to find energy to keep going, and hold it together so that we can be there for our children.  We find that secret energy buried deep within our core and pull it out to make it Super Energy, even when we feel we’ve used it all up.

Let’s take a look at working moms and dads.  Their days begin very early in the morning, preparing everything that will be needed for the day care, or the nanny.  Next is feeding and clothing the children as they wake up, and then transporting them to daycare or waiting for the nanny to arrive.  Drive to work, put in a long day with all the stresses of being at work.  On the drive home, unwind and relax, trying their best to leave work at work, and arrive as a rejuvenated mom or dad.  Get home and hug and kiss the kids and significant other, jump into playing, cooking dinner, talking about everyone’s day, and cleaning.  Find some time to relax, unwind and get in some necessary alone time.

The second superhero power that all parents, both working and stay at home, have is Super Metamorphosis.  The ability to change your character multiple times a day, from employee to mommy or daddy, teacher, nurse, explorer, the “bad guy”, play mate, story teller, comforter, defender, police officer, and so many more, is done most of the time without being seen we are so sneaky and powerful.  We wear so many hats throughout the day, sometimes we don’t even realize how many times we had to morph.

Stan Lee also commented that,

The problem with telling superhero stories is that it naturally follows that you need a supervillain.

So, if we are to be superheroes, we have to stand against a supervillain.  A supervillian many of us cringe at the thought of.  It is a supervillian that could come out of the shadows with no prompting at all.  It is a supervillian that will attack in public, at home, in the quietest or loudest of places.  It is the most unpredictable supervillian, and its name is Tantrum.  This supervillian emerges when it is hungry, tired, and sometimes just when it isn’t getting its way or what it wants.  Its supervillian power is its ability to scream louder, kick and slap harder, and cause a scene worse than a banshee.  We don’t always win the battles, but we do our best to be consistent and persistent so that we will win the war.

Superheroes and supervillians are fictional characters, and it is good to remember that when you are having a bad day or feel like you are failing as a parent.  We have been placed into extraordinary circumstances under conditions most people won’t willingly enter into, and we should be proud when we put in maximum effort and do our best to ensure the well being of our children.  We are not superheroes, and we will all have rough days, but know that you are not alone.  On days when the supervillian has surfaced multiple times and you are frustrated and exhausted, just remember that tomorrow will be a new day and you will wake up and find the superhero in you again.

References:

Lee, Stan. “Stan Lee on what is a superhero.” Web blog post. OUPblog. Oxford University Press, 17 November 2013. Web. 4 April 2016. http://blog.oup.com/2013/11/stan-lee-on-what-is-a-superhero/

Nordqvist, Christian. “New Parents Have 6 Months Sleep Deficit During First 24 Months Of Baby’s Life.” Web blog post. MNT. Medical News Today, 25 July 2010. Web. 4 April 2016. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/195821.php

“How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”. Web blog post. National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation, unknown. Web. 4 April 2016. https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

Virtual School Experience

In the summer of 2015, we gained custody of my 13-year-old stepdaughter.  At the time we needed to enroll her in school, we had to make fast decisions, and due to Nevada’s low national ranking (50th), we decided to try out a virtual school, Connections Academy.  I was anxious about trying this type of program, but we wanted to make sure she had the best opportunity available to her.  We knew there would be a lack of socialization, so we sought out extracurricular programs that she would be interested in.  She continued her involvement with the Civil Air Patrol in North Las Vegas, joined the Girl Scouts, and takes Karate twice a week.  She also became a member of the Youth Center at Nellis Air Force Base, where she typically tries to go on Friday evenings to hang out with other kids in her age group.

The thing that made me appreciative for online school is that there are teachers that grade her work and do all of the teaching.  I am there to assist her when she asks for help.  The lessons are set up ahead of time and she moves through them at her own pace, but the teachers will notify her and I if she does begin to fall behind.  I can look at her grade book every day and see where she might be struggling and address those opportunities with additional explanations or assistance so that she can grasp the concept and move forward more confident.  She attends live lessons four days a week for science, math, language arts and social studies.  She can email or call her teachers if she ever has additional questions or doesn’t understand something.

We struggled for the first couple of months with learning the system and acclimating to this new style of school.  At first, her grades suffered, but we sat down and discussed expectations, capabilities, needs and methods of learning, note taking and what study techniques worked best for her.  This style of schooling is more difficult than being in a traditional school because it requires self-motivation, technical skill, and parental involvement, especially during the transitional period.  When she understood how to be successful and found the confidence and pride in herself, her grades climbed, and she finished last semester as a straight A student.  

The fear of lack of socialization has dwindled in me.  The beauty of the online virtual school is that though the interaction is not face to face, the students do interact in a virtual classroom setting when they attend live lessons.  My daughter has begun formulating relationships through video chatting with friends she has made and texting/instant messaging.  She has created some friendships through Girl Scouts, karate and the Youth Center as well.  Definitely look into your community recreation centers for all kinds of affordable youth programs and ways to socialize your children if you do consider or ultimately put them in online school.

An additional luxury to online school is that your child can do school anywhere that there is a wi-fi connection, so it opens up the ability to travel off-season, make it to appointments without loss of learning, and establish flexibility for her schedule.  We are also comforted by the thought that should we receive military orders to another base, the transition for her to another school will not be as stressful.

When we first started, I was skeptical about the success of going to an online school, but now that we have both adjusted and both understand our roles and the expectations for each other, the amount of time I have to spend working as a Learning Coach has lessened significantly, and she has taken a more independent and productive role in her own education.  The peace of mind, knowing and being able to see the effort that my daughter puts forth into school on a daily basis, and being able to step in and reassess her education when we see she is struggling is an amazing asset of having her in an online school.  My opinion regarding online schools has greatly changed, and I felt I should share this in the event that one of you might be considering it.  

Finding Blue in a Gray Sky

Life is a series of moments we string together that produce memories of experiences.  The most important thing is to create experiences that will be positive, especially during times when children experience disruption, change of routine or complete removal from what they understand to be their normal life.

My husband is an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) Technician for the US Air Force, and with that comes deployments and TDY (Temporary Duty) Assignments.  We were extremely fortunate because the first four years of our marriage and first three years of my son’s life, my husband was assigned to the EOD Naval Training School as an instructor.  This made his deployment unlikely, and he actually never received orders to deploy while we were in Florida.  I knew the day would arrive, however, when that would end, but I knew when I married him that his deployments and TDYs would become a natural part of my life and our family’s life.

In September 2014, we left the only home my 3 year old son and 3 month old daughter had known and moved to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Mid-January 2015, my husband deployed to Kuwait for six months.  The hardest part of him leaving was watching him say goodbye to the kids.  It tore me up inside because I could see how much he was going to miss holding them.  I was definitely going to miss him, and I have to admit that I was anxious and scared because this would be my first time alone with both children for that length of time in a town that was fairly new to me.  Modern, non-wartime deployments do make it much easier to survive these times, but they are still difficult.

With the modern conveniences of wi-fi, we were able to connect with my husband almost every day on Google Hangouts.  He could see the changes in the kids daily, and was able to spend some time with them every day.  We could also message each other whenever we needed to.  Though this is nothing compared to having a person with you, it definitely makes the time away from him slightly easier.

Las Vegas1With my husband gone, I decided that I wanted to do my best to make the time pass quickly and keep my children engaged, doing positive things, during this time of disruption in their lives.  It was especially difficult for my son because he had never experienced Daddy being gone for longer than a few days.  His potty accidents increased and he regressed slightly with feeding himself and staying in his own bed the whole night.  These were things that I accepted and helped him through.  In time, we got into a routine with storytimes at the library and the museums in our area.  I made friends with one of the moms from storytime, and was thankful that I had an adult to communicate with almost daily.  It helped too that our sons played well together and enjoyed being with one another.  Finding other moms to spend time with definitely helped me stay sane.  I wanted something more to keep my children and I from dwelling on the fact that we were missing Daddy.

UtahOne of my friends from Florida came out to Park City and invited us up for however long we wanted to stay.  At first, I was overwhelmed with the thought of traveling with two small children by myself, but I decided there was not a reason in the world that it was not possible.  After a successful, fun and memorable trip, I decided that even though I was exhausted and it was not easy to pack up both kids and travel, it was worth every drip of sweat.  I made the decision that for every month that my husband was gone, we would travel somewhere and make it a fun adventure.  This kept my son excited and passed the time by faster because it gave us something to look forward to.  Not only that, but I was able to show my son and daughter the tallest trees in the world, the mighty redwoods, and the Golden Gate Bridge.  We went to Sea World, and the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park.  We spent time with family and they became excellent car travelers.

CaliforniaWe traveled to San Diego a couple of times to visit my parents, siblings and Grandmother, went one more time to Park City for a mini reunion of a few friends from Florida, and traveled to San Francisco to visit my uncles and aunts.  They were fun trips that helped us cope with my husband being gone.  We also explored the city we lived in.  We visited state parks, museums and National Parks.  I tried to make sure we did something fun nearly every day.  This helped my son’s stress level decrease, and he got back on track.  We learned a great deal about Las Vegas that we didn’t know.  I showed them the Valley of Fire, Red Rock Canyon, and the Colorado River.  In July, we picked up my oldest daughter and went to Zion National Park for the day.  Then it was only a couple of weeks before Daddy got back.

Las Vegas2Looking back, I do remember being tired, but I treasure the expressions my son and daughters had when we explored new places, visited with family and friends, and learned new things about the world.  Anytime there is a change in the household that throws the ‘norm’ of your child(ren)’s world off kilter, try doing something new.  It doesn’t have to be a long trip, just something to bring discovery, wonder, and happiness back to the forefront.  It can be something as simple as a new community park that they haven’t been to.  This worked wonders for my family.  We still missed my husband terribly, and not every day was anywhere near perfect, but we took the time we were dealt to be torn apart and made an adventure of it.  Every family has to endure trying times, and during those times, as parents, we need to be there for our children and help them find the good and the positive side of things no matter how difficult it may be.  Everything we did would have been much more enjoyable with Daddy by our sides, but now we can be his tour guide when we take him to all the wonderful places we have been.

Every day we are given is a gift.  Find the blue sky in every day, no matter how gray it may be.  A positive attitude is the best way to live life, and giving your children that positive start, even when things might be tough, will give them the ability to face any situation knowing that nothing is impossible and there is good to be found in every situation.

Unplugging and Being in the Moment

In today’s world, we are a culture of documentation.  We try to capture every moment, update our status with what is going on in our lives and let the world know our thoughts on happenings.  As I scroll through pages of social media, I wonder to myself if we have forgotten to be fully in the moment because we stand on the opposite side of it with our phones or cameras and work so hard to record it.  As we strive to capture that second, time slips through our fingers.  Abba summed it up nicely in their song, “Slipping Through My Fingers:”

I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what’s in her mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
She keeps on growing

Time is fleeting, and we cannot stop it.  It helps us heal, it allows us to grow, and it is a precious gift that none of us can exchange or bargain with.  I look at my children and am amazed at how they have grown and changed and will continue to do so.  Looking at the earliest pictures I have of them, it is difficult to fathom that so much has evolved in so little time.  I have been guilty of missing moments because I have allowed myself to get sucked into the social media abyss, but I have challenged myself to save social media and my phone for my children’s down times or naps, and after they have gone to sleep.  I have always known there is nothing on my phone that is more important or precious than this time I have been granted to spend with my family, but I would pick up my phone every now and then and let it steal moments away from me when it wasn’t important or necessary.  I am putting a stop to that.

It is important that we recognize that our children will mimic, and to some extent, become us in the future.  We instill in them our habits, our responses, our words and our actions.  Unplugging from everything and just being with them every moment that I can without unnecessary distractions will teach them to be respectful of those in front of them, to spend time with their loved ones and teach them that nothing is more important than the people you are with in each and every moment. 

I am saddened to see so many people sitting together and not being with each other.  We have become a society of being everywhere except in the space we occupy.  We have forgotten to speak to each other and interact with each other without our phones in hand.  We have buried ourselves in a virtual world and are no longer aware of the actual world.  We miss opportunities to cross paths with people who may have arrived in that moment with us for a reason.  Parents, we must help our children live in the moment and save the virtual world for times when there is truly nothing going on in our day.

We should not let time slip through our fingers.  We need to grasp it and take our children on adventures and show them the world.  There is always a need for a little down time, and these are the moments when we can plug back into that virtual world we are a part of, but we need to start making a difference and helping our children to live moments to the fullest.  They will not be able to do that if their attention is fully consumed by something that is not tangible.  Times are changing, and technology has become a part of every moment of our days, but it is necessary to ingrain awareness of surroundings, courtesy for others, and passion for life and tangible experiences into our children, or they will be lost to a world where reality and truth are becoming a thing of the past.  

My cousin, Tracy Smith Hamilton, changed my life with something she wrote in her blog as she battled cancer.  She wrote, “My lesson to learn is to pick up Charlie every day, do something fun every day, and be kind to people every day.”  We have been granted the time we have and nothing more.  Don’t let it slip by you.  It will pass by, but let it pass by while you hold the ones you love, are kind and courteous to the people you cross paths with and are doing something that is fun and memorable with someone you care about.  To sum it up simply, I will borrow a quote by Bessie AndersonStanley, who wrote, 

“Live well, Laugh often, Love much.”

Passing time is not something any of us can control, but we can manage how it is spent.  Join me in unplugging while you are with your children and other people.  Enjoy the space you occupy and see what wonders, people, events and things the universe has to offer you in the passing moments.  Be an example to your children of what it means to live life to the fullest and to be in every moment.

Wonder of Rainbows

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, I wanted to make a free coloring and e-book for children available.  Dr. Seuss was responsible for assisting our children in many ways, and the one that I will always be grateful for was his ability to create wonder and awaken their imagination.  I am starting a series in which I will take things that my children find interesting, or are curious about and explain them in a simple way using books that I write and illustrate for them to color.  

The first book is about how rainbows are formed.  It is the story of a water droplet that wants to help make a rainbow.  Join Brooks on his fun journey where he will meet other droplets and discover what a rainbow is and how he might be able to be a part of one.  This is a fun story that takes some of the science behind a rainbow and turns it into a story I hope your children will enjoy.


Making a Rainbow

Children’s coloring and story book about how rainbows are made. This is a free e-book that can be printed out or downloaded onto a desktop or tablet to be read at any time. This is a fun way to learn about rainbows and a little bit of science. Teachers, feel free to download this book as well. The angles of the characters looking at the rainbow and the the angles at which the sun is hitting the suspended droplets are accurate (between 40 – 45 degrees). Enjoy and happy creating and learning!

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Importance of Alone Time as a Parent

My feet are hitting the pavement in rhythmic time as my strides carry me through my run.  This is my alone time, my time to meditate and be creative.  I reflect on my day and think about creative solutions to problems I have encountered, I pull from my memories of parenting and imagine a variety of articles I could share on this site.  I breathe in a little freedom as my legs pull me further into a time when all that exists in my world is me, the pavement, and a playlist of my music in the background.  At times, I used to feel guilty about delegating my responsibilities as a mom to others and taking this time for myself, but I have discovered how very important this time can be.  This time varies in length for me from day to day, sometimes it’s only 20 minutes, sometimes it could be an hour, but this time has contributed greatly to me becoming a better wife and mother.

Whether we are working moms or dads, stay at home moms or dads, or single moms or dads, we all seem to feel a little guilty, for the same and different reasons, when it comes to taking time for ourselves.  As a stay at home mom, I used to feel super guilty about wanting to take alone time to do something I enjoy because I felt like it was my duty to take care of the kids all the time.  Whatever the reason for our guilt, it is important to know that you should not feel guilty about wanting and needing a little time to yourself.

According to Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter, a psychologist and author,

Spending time with yourself benefits everyone because by having a happier and healthier mindset, you’re in a better frame of mind to take care of the people who are important to you.

She lists several reasons why alone time is very important, but as a parent, I think the most important reasons are:

Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind.

Frustration, anger and stress can build up inside of us if we don’t take time to refresh our state of mind and be in our own thoughts, uninterrupted. This is the time that we can breathe in some peace and quiet in our own way to prevent an explosion of anger and frustration towards the ones we love. I have been victim to this build up and explosion and have not been proud of the words that have come out of my mouth or the harshness that coated those words. I am not perfect by any means, and have had moments I wish I could redo as a parent and a wife, but I have learned from these mistakes and have found how truly healthy it is to unwind your mind and be in your own world with no distractions, even if it is just for a few minutes, so that the unseen pressure of constant motion is relieved and the brain is revitalized.

Solitude gives you an opportunity to discover yourself and find your own voice.

It is easy to get trapped in the role of being a parent and forget your own thoughts, feelings, needs and wants. Being a parent requires sacrifice, but it is important to remember to nurture yourself and respond to your needs as well. Reflection on your actions and decisions without interruption or outside input leads to discovering things you’d like to improve on, and things you are happy with, so that you can determine who you are and what you need to do to make sure you stay on the path that will lead to being the best you possible. This, in turn, will illuminate your relationships with everyone you love because you will have a healthier self image and be a stronger, more confident you.

Solitude helps you work through problems more effectively.

When you make the time to step into yourself and be in your own head, away from everything else going on in your life, and solely in the moment, your brain calms and you can look at problems in new light. One of the toughest things as a parent is reading book after book, article after article, asking other parents about a situation you are dealing with concerning your child, and all of the advise is failing. These are the moments where alone time has helped me become more imaginative, utilizing all of the information I have received, but then pulling in everything I know about my child and adapting the advice and information into a platform that is much more effective for his or her personality. Without alone time to really get creative with different situations and problems I encounter, I keep reacting the same way, and it just creates a cycle of frustration for both me and my child.

Find something you enjoy doing and let it be your escape so that you can have the alone time you need to be a healthier, happier, more confident you. For me, running has become my escape pod into the world of my mind. I get not only exercise, but the opportunity to delve into my mistakes, my accomplishments, unresolved problems, and the imagination portal in my brain. I have learned that it is not selfish to spend some time alone so that you can become a more efficient, productive, happier and healthier you. If anything, the time spent alone, without interruptions, is a great benefit to your children and all of your relationships because it allows you to remain balanced and continue walking down your path, instead of losing your way and stumbling repeatedly. Make alone time a priority in your life, even if you start small, taking just 5 minutes a day to unplug and be alone in your thoughts without distractions so that you can reconnect with yourself and get to know your joy, anger, sadness, disgust and fear better.

References:
Carter, Sherrie Bourg, Psy.D. “6 Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone.” Standard Blog. Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 31 Jan 2012. Web. 22. Feb. 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201201/6-reasons-you-should-spend-more-time-alone

Carter, Sherrie Bourg, Psy.D. “Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Stealing a Little Time for Yourself.” Standard Blog. Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 01 Feb 2012. Web. 22. Feb. 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201202/why-you-shouldnt-feel-guilty-about-stealing-little-time-yourself

Holding Together a Blended Family

Essential Mommy Guide: The Blended Family

Being a step-parent is not an easy task, and in order to have a working bond and good relationship with your step-child(ren), it requires a never ending commitment to open communication with your spouse, flexibility with expectations, understanding of what a blended family is, and acceptance that there will be differences between full time and part time children.

 I met my daughter when she was five years old.  She was adorable, sweet, imaginative, active, and completely won me over.  My husband and I had been dating long distance about nine months.  He had told me that he had a daughter from a previous marriage, but explained that until we were both certain that the relationship would move forward, he did not want me to meet his daughter.  I found this to be an incredibly mature decision that required a great deal of logic, empathy, compassion and love for his daughter.  His daughter and I connected quickly and played for hours, slowly bonding and getting to know one another.  

In my opinion, it is very important when you are entering into a romantic relationship and the person you are dating is a parent, that you realize you are not just dating him or her, you are also dating his or her child.  I don’t mean you are dating the child in a romantic way, but rather, you are making sure that not only could you be this person’s spouse, but you could also be your spouse’s child’s parent.  It is important to note for yourself if you have a bond with the child and if you are willing to make the commitment to develop that bond with the child.  

One thing that my husband and I do well, most of the time (no one is perfect), is communicate.  When it comes to blending a family, communication is key, especially when the family begins to expand with new children.  Communicating concerns, issues and feelings with your partner regarding balancing attention, time and experiences with each child is at the core of having a functional blended family.  The reason we are able to communicate freely is because we dedicate at least one night a month to just being with each other.  We ensure that for at least one night he and I do something together on our own.  This at least once a month date has helped us to keep a healthy, dynamic and loving relationship.  It allows us to set aside time to focus on our relationship and build it even stronger.

James H. Bray, PhD, of the Baylor College of Medicine stated, “These parents formed a solid, committed partnership so they could not only nurture their marriage, but effectively raise their children.  They didn’t get stuck in unrealistic expectations of what family should be like.”  (http://www.apa.org/monitor/dec05/stepfamily.aspx)   Every family is different, and no one can write a book on parenting that will be effective for every situation.  Developing a blended family really requires rolling with it and learning to accept that when a child is not spending the majority of their time with you, he or she will not be able to meet the expectations you may have for children that do live with you full time.  Nothing is perfect in life, but if you work at the things you are not so good at, you get better at them.

For me, the hardest part about being part of a blended family was hearing my daughter refer to her step-dad as daddy.  This was hard for me to swallow because my husband is an amazing father.  I came to his defense and actually allowed myself to get upset by it.  As I matured further and came to understand the full dynamics of a blended family, I realized that even though my husband was an amazing father, she knew two fathers because she could not be with us all the time and, in fact, she spent the majority of time outside of our household.  It is important as a step-parent to remove yourself from the situation, look at the whole picture, and allow yourself to evolve and become open to the child’s perspective.  I realized that I couldn’t look at my daughter’s life from my eyes, but rather, I had to start seeing the environment we provided for her from her eyes.  This is extremely important when you are raising a child and have missed out on some key time in his or her life.  Starting to look at the world through her eyes made me realize adults create barriers with the words step-parent.  The reality is, blended families create three to four parents for a child, and two households with separate rules, ideals, expectations and lifestyles.    Communication, empathy, listening and understanding are all key in ensuring that expectations are realistic and that the blended family is mixed well and no one feels isolated or left out.

When I spoke to my daughter about the hardest adjustments for her living in a blended household, it wasn’t when I came into her life and dated and eventually married her dad, but it was when her first sibling in our household was born.  After nine years of being an only child in our household, she remembers becoming jealous when her brother was born.  In a child’s eyes, they don’t clue into the sleep you deprived yourself of so that you could play a board game with them, or the work you put off so that you could play with them.  They remember when you had to hold the baby and couldn’t give them attention.  There is really no remedy that I could find for this.  When parents have a new infant, the infant is helpless and requires the majority of attention from the parents.  My husband and I both communicated with our daughter and tried to explain that we would give her as much time and attention as we could, but that babies needed the attention and assistance so that they could thrive.  As she grew older, she grasped an understanding, but the only thing we could do was communicate with her.  It is important to know that you will not be able to fix all negative feelings, but if you communicate the whys, children mature and begin to understand that you were doing the best you could for them at the time.

Another important thing about being in a blended family is knowing that it is okay that as a step-parent the bond you have with your biological child(ren) is different than the bond you have with the child(ren) you chose to marry as yours.  When you are with a child from birth, you know everything about them and have been a familiar and loving encounter from the first moment he or she came into the world.  When you choose to become a parent in a child’s life and have not had the privilege of the intimacy from birth, there is a piece of that relationship that is missing, so it will be a different bond.  It is substantial to note that you both chose each other, though, and you continue to choose each other every day.  

In summary, do not expect perfection, but rather, keep your mind and heart open to the child you are essentially adopting into your life, and ride the waves wherever they may take you.  Make communication with your spouse and all children a priority, and learn that you will make mistakes, but that you can take those mistakes, evolve into a better person and parent because of them, and allow yourself to grow into the parent you want to be for all of your children.