My Positive Daily Three – Testimonial

Friendships come and go through life, some of them constant, and some of them fade in and out.  Some survive severe ups and downs, while others  are pretty steady.  One of my best friends from high school contacted me a couple nights ago.  It was great to hear from her again.  We reconnected and started talking again.  Hearing from her brought back a flood of memories from high school.  Something that stands out now more than ever is that the testimonial I wrote and read for peer counseling class was not really an open acknowledgement of anything.  I did not keep it, but I see now everything that I could have shared, but lacked the courage to testify to back then.  Tonight, I got a phone call from my dad that my mom is in the hospital.  She is not injured and it is not medically related, and to be perfectly honest, I kind of saw it coming.  My mom has been surviving with clinical depression since I can remember, and recently she has not been acting like her usual self.  In her struggles with depression, she has been pretty steady for the most part, but there are times when she lapses into severe episodes.

As a child, I vaguely remember being very young and going to visit her in the hospital during one of the more severe episodes.  I remember being scared and uncomfortable.  I have a very vivid memory of my mom coming home for a visit from the hospital.  She stood up while my Nanni and Grandpa and dad were talking to her, walked into the bathroom and started screaming.  She cried a lot and I do recall times when she talked about taking her life.  Much like Fight Club, we never talked about it, and as kids, I guess we all dealt with it in our own way.  We were pretty young when this all happened.  The doctors eventually helped balance her emotions with medication.  My response to this time in my life was to hide any sadness I felt.  I used to believe that crying was a sign of weakness.  I used to bury my hurt and my sorrow, not talk about the things that made me feel down.  I worked hard not to share my feelings with others.  I turned a lot of that hurt and sorrow into anger.  I had a temper that could tame a wild lion when I was a child.  I clearly remember that when my great aunt died, whom I was very close with, I chose to go to school that day.  I ran off and cried into my pillow, but then I told my Grandpa that I wanted to go to school.  That is how I was dealing with my hurt and sorrow.  I pretended they didn’t exist or I bottled them and turned them into anger.

My mom had been pretty well balanced from the time I was about 5 until about 4 years ago.  Though no one is quite sure, I believe my oldest brother was suffering from severe depression and never sought help.  He may have been messing with drugs again, and was drinking heavily.  Many reached out and tried to help, but he eventually pushed us all away.  He overdosed 4 years ago, and my mom has not recovered yet.  Mental illness is a very real thing, and it affects not only the person suffering from the disease, but everyone around him or her.  People with depression have to wake up and find the strength to say, “Today is worth it,” every day.  They have to put all of their energy into finding the sun in an ominous sky filled with dark clouds.  Those surrounding people suffering from depression have to put great effort into staying positive rather than traveling into the negative vacuum that it is so easy to get caught in.

The first part of my life was a focus on the negative, never the positives of the accomplishments, but the negatives of what was not attained.  This is part of the reason my husband challenged me with the 3 positives a day.  I try my best, but every now and then, I do slip back into a negative spiral.  This is where having him with me in person really helps balance me out.  He is great at pointing out the positive when I am being negative and making me laugh no matter how hard I try to be a sourpuss.  Writing the 3 positives a day has definitely helped me start to focus on the positive in life.  Not only that, but it has helped me interact more positively with my kids and the world around me.

I definitely do not have the answers about mental illness and depression, but I do know that if you are interacting with someone who has depression, it is very important to try your best to be a positive light.   It is definitely not easy, but my hope is that eventually, if I keep shining a positive light, my mom might begin to see a single ray of sunshine in that ominous sky.  Mental illness can be baffling, frustrating and something not a single one of us will ever understand, but empathy and positive perspective can go a very long way.

My perspective has changed dramatically since high school.  I was quite naive.  The world is not full of flowers and butterflies and unicorns that fart rainbows, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find a cluster of flowers along a barren path, or a butterfly landing on our nose in the middle of a rainstorm, or even a unicorn high above us, painted in the untouchable clouds.  It means that we have the power to conduct the soundtrack of our lives while our movie is playing.  We have the choice to play the creepy horror music, the doom music, or Vivaldi’s Spring.  That is the power of perspective and positive thinking.  We can overcome any obstacle that the universe may put in our path.  It may take time and a great deal of courage, but we have the power to play “Eye of the Tiger” and make it to the top of the steps.

I got in my run today, which is my first run this week, but I did it.  It’s been a rough week getting back into routine since our weekend adventure.  I am getting there slowly, though.

My littlest wanted to go to the park when we got home, so I packed a lunch, grabbed a picnic blanket and an extra water, and was totally ready to go.  She decided she just wanted to have a picnic in the backyard instead.  I was totally alright with that, so I switched gears and we had a picnic in the backyard, followed by more outside reading.  This whole scenario was definitely relaxing for me and I thoroughly enjoyed the time with her outside.

I had some down time today, too, which was great because I was able to look up a few campgrounds for our spring break and I think I found one that will work out perfectly for us.  I am very excited because I know the kids have all been itching to go camping, so I was happy to see that it is very doable in an area that we all want to explore.

May you always be a ray of sunshine in a cloudy sky.  Good night!

Positive Daily Three – Toughest Part of Separation

Today was a great day.  I got a run in with my little one.  My time was not anywhere near what I wanted it, but I did make it the distance I wanted to.  I had her bundled up like a little burrito in blankets because the icy wind was relentless today.  She did well on the run and wanted to play at the park today, so we stopped and we played for about 10 minutes, and then she started shivering.  At least we both got to be outside and had some fun together, so it was a win!

My eldest daughter didn’t have to go to school today, so we were able to talk and discuss different things.  I think we are a few steps closer to understanding each other because of the amount of time we were able to spend together today.  We talked about a few white elephants in the room as well, which I think helped her get some things off her chest that had been bugging her.  She has also been doing track and has improved greatly in running.  She outran a yellow belt and orange belt at karate today, which made her karate instructor and I very proud of her.

My son also did an amazing job at karate today.  His instructors believe that he learned and did the moves that they learned today better than anyone else.  He was also very happy because he was picked to go to the leadership luncheon today with his school principal.  He said he was picked because he always tries to help people do the right thing.  I am very proud of him and happy that he wants to help others.

It was a great day for everyone, but both of my little ones broke down when we got home and wanted their Daddy.  I can only imagine that most military spouses have encountered this a few times during deployments or remotes.  These are the hardest moments for me to deal with.  I tried the Daddy doll, but their response was that they wanted the real Daddy.  I managed to get them both upstairs and ready for bed.  I completely threw our bedtime routine out the window tonight.  I held both of them in my lap, had them close their eyes and picture Daddy.  When both of them said they could see their Daddy, we sang our moon song and they could say whatever they wanted to Daddy.  We sang the moon song again after they were done talking.  They didn’t say much, but they were both very calm afterward.  My son went to bed and fell asleep, but my two year old still had lots of questions.

She asked if Daddy was going to come to our house.  I told her that he couldn’t for a little while, but that he was in her heart always.  She proceeded to try to look in her heart to find him.  I had to try to explain that it was his love for her that was in her heart, and her memory and love for him.  She looked at me, confused and said, “He is bigger than me.”  I have to admit, I stifled a chuckle.  I told her that big Daddy was in Turkey, but that his love would be in her heart always.  We talked in circles for a while, but eventually she started to say, “Daddy is in my heart always,” and she smiled.  Then she said, “It is dangerous.”  I said yes, it is dangerous, that is why we can’t be with him.  She talked for a while about this, but then said we needed to send him our light saber so that he could fight the bad guys.  I tried to explain that Daddy wasn’t really fighting anyone, but found this pretty difficult for her to grasp because she kept referring back to “it is dangerous”.  I finally told her that we could send him the light saber when we send him his care package.  This made her very happy.

It is always amazing to me how much love we are all capable of, and it is even more fascinating to see how much love children can show, give and feel, even at a very young age.  Though it is difficult to deal with, and it pulls at my heart strings every time I see them hurting and missing their Dad, it warms my heart to see how much love they have for him.

These times of separation are the most difficult times to be a military family.  The ups and downs spike much more often, the stresses run much higher, and emotions can sometimes become tough to deal with, but as spouses and children, we survive.  Our service becomes making it through these times of separation by holding everything together and finding the strengths we have within us.  Nothing is perfect, and most of the time, it might seem chaotic, but we find the sunshine, no matter how cloudy that day may be, and we keep moving.

Positive Daily Three – Day 8

If there is one thing true about life, it is that we never stop learning and are constantly challenged to analyze ourselves, learn from mistakes and mold ourselves into stronger and better human beings.  I learned another life lesson today.

If you read my rant from yesterday, you could see that I was upset because I believed that I sold the Subaru to a dealership.  This was an assumption based on the name of the company that the buyer put on the title (it had the word Trader in it).  I didn’t ask him, and I didn’t confront him.  I assumed I had been lied to and once again taken advantage of because of my kindness.  I wrote a polite, yet firm email to the buyer today, based on my assumption, questioning his integrity and character.  I have since buried my head in the sand.  That famous saying about what happens when you assume is very true.  I finally did some research and discovered that his company has nothing to do with cars.  I swallowed my pride, and knowing that I would look like an idiot, wrote an apologetic email.  This has made me reanalyze who I am.  I immediately assumed the negative, rather than asking the buyer directly or doing research first.  I immediately believed that being kind to people and trusting people were flaws in my character.  I should have trusted my gut when I didn’t feel right sending him the email.  I should have looked up the company and verified my negativity before I allowed myself to go down a road of self doubt and loss of hope and faith in people.  The positive side of this entire experience is that I now clearly see that I need to improve my character and not immediately make negative assumptions.  I need to take my own advice (the advice that I constantly give my teenage daughter), and verify things before I allow myself to believe them and let that clutter the truth.  I am sure that the first email I sent the buyer gave him feelings of anger and resentment.  I am sure he did not understand why I kept referring to him as a car dealer.  I felt like a big jerk, to say the least, but I hope that he can forgive me.  Though I am embarrassed by my behavior, I am grateful that this all happened as it has shown me another opportunity for my own growth.

I got my run in today which made me feel wonderful after the ups and downs of the morning, and it also helped me focus on the rest of the day.  My youngest daughter and I made it to the park today, but she said she was too cold, so we only got to play her Polar Express skit once, and then she asked to go home where we had hot chocolate and watched the Polar Express.  I won’t ever get tired of this.

My eldest daughter said she felt like she did really well, or at least better than most of the other people in her classes, on her semester finals today.  She is doing very well in school and I am very proud of her.  She is mostly self-motivated now, and is working hard to get to where she wants to be.

My son’s homework today was just learning/memorizing our home address and phone number, and counting to 100.  He did amazing and we’ll go over it again tomorrow to make sure he retained the address and phone number.

My two oldest went to karate tonight and both of them looked really good.  They have been in karate for over a year now with an excellent instructor, and are perfecting their form in preparation to test to go to a higher belt.

Opportunities to grow and learn are with us every day.  Though I wish I hadn’t been such an arrogant idiot, I am glad that the lesson for today was blatant and right in front of my face.  Moments with my children decorate the majority of my positive moments, which is a great feeling.  I look forward to continuing to share my journey with you.  I do have to say that my whole day was a little off today.  I was feeling exhausted, a little lonely (starting to miss my husband), and extremely foolish, but I am glad I have my positive moments to look back on.

 

Positive Daily Three – Day 3

The best thing about finding three positive things a day is that they do not have to be complicated or super deep and powerful moments.  They just have to be three things that make me smile.  Thinking of today, I chose a picture of a heart that I discovered while walking with my children a couple of years ago.  Someone took the time to make a beautiful sculpture of a heart out of the fall leaves that were scattered on the sidewalk.  It was beautiful and the kids loved it.  These are the type of small, simple things that can brighten a day, if we let these small moments be our focus.

Today, I was proud of myself as I made it to day 2 of continuing my running routine.  To add to it, since we were outside, I stopped at the local park with my youngest daughter.  There were no other children there, so I became her playmate.  She let me into her world for 45 minutes to play the Polar Express (her 2-minute version of it) multiple times.  While at times, I did grow bored, I was amazed at her imagination and found it truly special that when I remembered a part she had forgotten, she lit up with happiness that I was actively playing.  It was a wonderful experience that I will cherish.

My eldest daughter and I were able to make it to have our eyebrows threaded today.  Though not an optimal bonding activity, it is something that we can do together, or at least take turns doing while one of us watches the little children.  Small victory, but a victory none the less, in a list of things to do.

I completed putting together 40 songs for myself, my son, and my youngest daughter, and I tasked my husband and eldest daughter with putting together a list of their top 40 favorite songs as well on Google Music.  I am compiling a household list of music for long trips and to play at home as well for background music.  This is a simple project I am doing that should lead to happiness for everyone as there will be a fair and equal balance of everyone’s music that will play.  Small parenting win!

Though these are three very simple things, the fact that I can focus on them instead of the things that may have gone wrong today makes this challenge completely worthwhile already.

Please share three simple positive things that you encountered today.

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

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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