Can Everyone Just Calm the Hell Down? – Holiday Edition

Ha. I wanted to type something else in the title of this post, but decided to keep it PG.

I’m a part of quite a few homeschooling/parenting groups on FB. And normally, they’re a great place for support, but every once in awhile, I just want to scream “CAN WE ALL JUST CALM THE #$%@ DOWN?!” There was a huge discussion on one of the groups about whether or not to teach your kids to believe in Santa Claus, and if you decide not to, how to handle conversations with other kids that do.

I, for one, think this conversation is really…unnecessary. And frankly, I have enough unnecessary conversations a day with an inquisitive seven year old who wants to know everything about everything.

Yet somehow…I feel a need to comment (ah, the modern age, where everyone feels entitled to share their opinion regardless of the venue–luckily, this is my blog…hehe). But my comment is really simple. Very, very, very simple.

Don’t be an asshole.

Before anyone throws their arms up in complete and total offense — let me be clear. If you don’t want to teach your kids about Santa — great. That’s fine. The cool (albeit tedious, stressful, and at times, soul crushing) part of parenting is you get to filter what you want to your kids. And on the other hand, if you want to teach your kids that there’s a Santa — great. That’s fine. The cool (albeit tedious, stressful, and at times, soul crushing) part of parenting is you get to filter what you want to your kids.

See what I did there?

But the biggest thing to stress to those young, inquiring minds? Don’t be an asshole. If Jimmy doesn’t believe in Santa, be kind to Jimmy and move on. And if Lola believes in Santa, be kind to Lola and move on. It’s really that simple.

And trust me, folks — this applies to all of you adults reading out there too. Can we stop with these unnecessary conversations? Can we just allow people to live and let live? These Christmas wars always make me wonder if I can actually roll my eyes to the complete other side of my head. They’re pointless. Teach your kids whatever you want — religion, creed, lesson — whatever. It’s your kid. It’s your family.

Let’s just all agree on this one thing: We can all teach kindness and acceptance. It’s not hard. In fact, some pretty powerful people of our past have shown this to be true.

I’ll end with this: it boils down to that good ol’ fashioned golden rule. How do you want people to treat you? How do you want people to treat your kids? Well, there’s your answer. I’m sure none of you answered, “I’d like someone to be a self-righteous indignant prick to Jimmy to make him feel terrible for believing ____________.”

Focus on that, and suddenly, a lot of questions are clear. So, whatever and however you celebrate this holiday season, I hope it’s a wonderful one.

When You’re Contemplating Homeschool…

This is a really difficult blog for me to write. Mostly because I never thought, for a second, that I would ever legitimately consider homeschooling for Z.

Here’s the thing, we will soon be relocating (halfway across the country). And the relocation is inspiring some extra thoughts in me regarding her education. I am finishing my degree in a few months (YAY!!!) and have always looked toward working from home (virtual assisting, proofreading, my Etsy shop..etc). This thought is really exciting and really scary. It takes a lot of motivation and endurance to do something like that, but I very much believe in creating the life you want, not allowing life to create itself. And so, over the past few months, I’ve been slowly building up my knowledge, my items, my ideas to do just that. I can be a dreamer and an idealist sometimes, and I’ve had to be painstakingly honest with myself about what will really be required of me to pull this off–and it’s a lot, but it’s certainly not impossible.

To Homeschool of Not - Questions, Concerns, and Solutions for a Non-Homeschooling Mom

But back to homeschooling, and why I’m considering it. Z hasn’t had a bad school experience at all. She’s had 2 wonderful teachers (and 2 great pre-k teachers before that) that have been inspiring, supportive, and all-around amazing. She’s active, has friends, and has taken to school really well. So, why would I want to change that? Especially since I’ve always been an avid supporter of public schooling (for a long time, I was going to be a teacher…) Well, I think our education system is a really broken one. This is a soapbox issue for me, so I’ll try not to sound too preachy, but bit by bit over the last 10-15 years, America’s education system has whittled away inspired teaching.

And let me ¬†say this — I have no problem with teachers. In fact, I wholeheartedly support and value them. But I think they have been put in a near-impossible position. Their value as educators is now tied to (and almost completely built upon) testing. Mandatory state testing. Every time I read those damn words, it infuriates me. I was so fortunate in my schooling (public education) to have teachers that were able to creatively reach their students. Who could uphold standards without being suffocated by arbitrary testing. Who didn’t have to tailor every piece of their lesson plans toward some testing goal.

And while Z hasn’t reached the age that demands testing yet, I have already seen the ways they start to prepare the students for those tests (beginning in 3rd grade, where we live currently, and where we will be moving). And I don’t like it. I don’t like the amount of homework that a 6 year old has in a week. It’s absurd to me that a 6 year old even has homework (yep, I’m one of those). And when ranking America against other countries, we continue to fail. So, we think…more tests, get to them younger…and it has done nothing but suck every bit of inspired creativity out of education, in my opinion. In fact, I would say my educational standards are closely aligned with Finland. And I need to point out one of my favorite pieces from this article, when a Finnish principal responds to many of America’s leaders and businessman pushing for competition in testing between schools to gain money for their program, he says,” ‘I think, in fact, teachers would tear off their shirts,’ said Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience. ‘If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.'”

And that is really the core of my desire to homeschool. Sure, there are plenty of other things I like or find appealing, but when it comes down to it, that’s the heart of it. I want to teach Zoey how to learn to be a student of life, not a student for a test. I want practical application to be at the heart of her education, not scantrons. I want her life to be inspired by play, wonder, and creativity. And that is something that is just not available to her in America’s current education system.

Alright, there’s my soapbox. ūüôā

Now, for my concerns with homeschooling.

CONCERN #1 – Socialization

Z is an only child (and may or may not stay that way, who knows), so socialization is a BIG concern. Z is a kid that thrives off of people. She quietly observes, but she is energized by people and interaction. So, I’m an outgoing introvert…she is a quiet extrovert. Funny, how that happens.

I know that Z would make new friends, experience new environments, and adapt well to a new school. She has an enormous amount of resiliency with new situations, and I’m confident she’d adjust to a new school just fine. In fact, when I asked her, “Would you ever want to be homeschooled?” She thought about it really hard and asked, “Well how would I make new friends?”

SOLUTION

Homeschool co-ops, outside activities (sports, enrichment classes…etc), and parent groups could all help with that. I’ve already found a couple that are in the area we will be moving to. I’ve also started researching activities, costs, and such. Luckily, I’m pretty good at this research thing, and where we’re moving has great weather nearly year round, which helps even more. Z has already played a few seasons of soccer, is currently in gymnastics, taking piano, and has plenty more interests. So, I think, if I budget well, socialization will not be a concern.

CONCERN #2 – FINANCES

Like I said in the beginning, I’m all about creating a life you want, not waiting for life to happen. I’m an English major (Creative Writing emphasis), and have always wanted to be a writer in one way or another. I have also have extensive knowledge and experience in office work & research, which I plan to use to my advantage.

I also have two Etsy stores that I’ve been working on nearly non-stop the last 2 months to get up and running.

So, why am I thinking about all this now? Well, for one, I’m a planner. But more importantly, I am also well aware that if I want to make money and be able to live the life I want, I have to work tirelessly for it. And the chance to be able to do that not only gives me a better quality of life, but it gives me the opportunity to build a life for Z that I want (and think is necessary).

How am I going to balance homeschooling with working from home? I don’t quite have those nuts and bolts figured out, however this post was incredibly helpful and inspiring to me. Also, this one. It’s not impossible. It just takes some planning.

CONCERN #3 – STANDARDS or AM I ENOUGH?

I’m walking into this idea of homeschooling with the knowledge that it may not work out. It may not be the cup of tea that I’m expecting (and Z is, for that matter). It may not fit Z the way I think it will. And in that case, she may be put back into “normal” schooling.

And this gives me the most anxiety. It’s the question that I’m sure burns inside many moms, parents, homeschooling or not. Am I enough? Will I be able to provide her with everything she needs to know (standards-wise) so that if she does go back into regular schooling, she won’t be behind or overwhelmed? And this can even go down the line. Say, we stick with homeschooling and it really works for us, what about college? Will she be prepared for it? Can I take that sort of pressure on? Will I be able to provide what she needs.

SOLUTION

The answer, I know, is simply yes to all the above questions. I am enough for her. But I am not the only person that will be available to her. We will have a community of people that can teach and guide and invest in her (ya know which also helps with concern #1).

And let’s be honest, one of my strengths is research. I can research til I am blue in the face and still be inspired to research more. I enjoy it. I’m good at it. If I don’t know the answer to something, I know how to find it. Whether it be through a group, a search engine, or a person. I know that I do not have to do this on my own. And frankly, Z is a pretty well-adjusted kid. If I continue to support the things that make her unique and interesting and valuable, I do believe that she can adapt to anything that comes her way. And isn’t that the main reason I wanted to begin this homeschooling journey to begin with?

So, there you have it. My thoughts, concerns, and ideas for homeschooling with Z. We still don’t know if this is the route we will take, but I want to be as educated and aware of all sides of the coin, before landing anywhere.

What would you all suggest? For those that homeschool, did you come from traditional schooling or did you always know that’s how it would be? Any other helpful hints, articles, tips you’d like to leave are greatly appreciated as well!

November 2015 Playlist

So, around this time of year, I primarily listen to Christmas music (yes, I’m one of¬†those), but I’ve been stumbling upon some fantastic tunes lately, so here’s my good ol’ November playlist. Lots of chill, cozy, ready-for-cuddling type of songs. Enjoy!

 

 

“Gather” FREE printable

I’m obsessed with printables, especially around the holidays. Free printables can give you a quick and easy way to up your holiday decor game without paying the price. In the months of November and December, expect (at least) a weekly free printable from yours truly. Just download from the link (under the picture) and print to your heart’s content. (Please, don’t try and sell it…because that’s just icky).

 

Gather Thanksgiving Printable

Download your FREE printable PDF here.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health as a Student

With the end of fall comes finals, winter blues, and darker mornings and nights. While this is part of the routine, it can cause a lot of undue stress, anxiety, and even depression. People mention having the “winter blues” which is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be easy to scoff at that, but as someone that has dealt with anxiety and depression on and off for majority of my life, seasons definitely affect my mood, energy, and overall motivation. And¬†of course that affects how I deal with schoolwork and class load. And if there’s anything I’ve learned since going back to school full-time, mental health is just as important as physical health.

This semester, I’m taking 18 credit hours. And being a mom while doing it can make me feel stretched extremely thin, most of the time. On top of that, I’m an extreme introvert, which means I need a lot of down time and alone time to recharge, and that’s near impossible with my circumstances. I don’t say any of this to wallow or have a pity-party. It’s exactly the opposite, really. I’ve found a few things that help me maintain focus and keep energy positive during the winter months (or any time when I’m struggling). I have to mention that I am no health professional, this all just comes from my own personal experience.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health as a Student

1. Find time to breathe –¬†Whether it’s taking a hot shower, staying up late to watch a show or read a book you really love, or taking a quick walk. Find at least 10 minutes in your day to breathe, cry, scream, or relax.

2. Know thyself. Be aware of your rhythms. I know that I focus much better earlier in the morning and that my focus is total crap in mid-afternoon. I know that I’m super motivated on Sundays, but Fridays are a struggle. I know that late-night cram sessions NEVER work for me, but then if I get to bed early and wake up early, I focus and remember a lot easier. And while I know that I won’t always get my ideal circumstance, the more I know about myself, the easier it will be to set myself up for success.

3. Know when to take a break. It can be really difficult to break away from the work when you have a lot stacked up against you, but you have to be kind to yourself. Whether it’s a 30 sec, 30 minute, or 3 hour break, know when it’s necessary. Sometimes, it will mean skipping a class…if you need to, do it.

4. A good laugh and a hot shower cure a whole lot of stress. Self-explanatory!

5. Know when to buckle down. At some point, you just have to buckle down and get it done. No excuses, no bitching, no complaining.

6. Remember that school is not the end-all, be-all. Life is bigger than a degree. Believe me, I know that it feels like everything hangs in the balance and is crucial to every move you make. Your career, your future, everything can seem extremely overwhelming around this time of year. Just try to remind yourself (even if you have to repeat it out-loud to yourself..) This degree does not define me. And life is happening and is much bigger than any of this.

August Playlist

So, August was INSANE for me. I’m assuming it’s like that for a lot of us. So, this playlist is a little bit of my “helps-me-chill-out” music and a little bit “get-me-motivated-and-in-the-groove” music. I should also mention¬†that I’m a creative writing major, so a lot of the music I put on my playlists helps me write. Enjoy!

 

#16

Dear Zoey,

Today is your first day of 1st grade. And I know it’s cliche to say, but I really have no idea where the time went. These years are flying past me, and I feel like I’m constantly grasping at moments and locking them away, so I don’t forget anything. Today, I don’t have any advice, at least none that I haven’t already written about. Today is more about you, and what I see in you.

You are so bright. And I don’t just mean in the traditional way, I mean it in every way. You radiate. You have such a deep enthusiasm for people and life and knowledge. You also have an incredibly soft and kind heart. It’s one of my favorite things about you, but also one of those things that scares me. I know what it’s like to grow up with that same heart. The one that bleeds for people that hurt or struggle. The heart that wants to fix and help. The heart that wants to open wide for anyone and everyone. These are good things, but they are also things that require boundaries.

I’ve struggled with my boundaries my entire life. Always searching for a balance between give and take. And it’s tough. So, I have one big hope for you this year. I hope you learn how to speak for yourself. I hope you learn that you can (and should) be kind to everyone, but that¬†kindness is not weakness.

You are kind and brave and strong. I am so proud of you and all that you are!

Love you,
Mama

#15

Dear Zoey,

Several months ago, a dear friend of mine texted me out of the blue with a question (I’ll be majorly paraphrasing) that hit me deeply,”If Zoey came to you and told you she felt like she was born in a body that wasn’t her own, what would you tell her?” I immediately assumed, based on the personal story of this friend, she was asking me about gender identity (she might have stated something about it, I can’t really remember). And this was the first time that I came face to face with the gut-wrenching question–if you’re child chose to be honest about his/herself (let me be clear that I don’t believe anyone chooses their sexuality, but there is a choice in living who you really are), and it meant possibly facing a world that didn’t understand him/her and could, quite possibly, be very cruel…what would you do? Would you join in the ridicule? Would you try to convince her otherwise? Would you love her less? Would you abandon her?

The answer actually came really easy for me. I told my friend that I would be there for her and love her. That I would find a therapist that would help guide her in whatever transition she needed to make. If my little girl found that her body was not a place where she felt safe or truthful, I would want her to find the truth. I would love her without any condition or disapproval. I think my friend asked me this because she knew I would show only love and acceptance. At least I hope she did. A few weeks later, my friend made the decision to be truthful and is now a transgendered man. And to see the freedom he now experiences is a really beautiful, incredible thing. Another friend of mine just shared how her beautiful daughter is now her transgendered son. To see a mother embrace, support, and love her beautifully brave child is inspiring, to say the least.

Zo, there will be a lot of things in coming years that you learn and see that might make you uncomfortable. Let me tell you this: they make you uncomfortable because you don’t understand it. I think there’s some sort of instinct that people have which ignorance into fear. Or maybe people create it, I’m not sure. Either way, I will fight every day to show you a world in which acceptance ¬†and love fuels our actions. (Here comes a cliche) Knowledge really has power. Educating yourself on people and their stories is absolutely one of the best things you can do with your life.

While we may not face the same circumstances, it doesn’t mean they are not real for someone else. I will never know what it feels like to walk in the shoes of a transgendered boy or girl and I’m pretty positive I’ll never know what it is to raise one (as long as you’re my one and only), but I do know what it feels like to try and hide pieces of who you are…I think everyone does to a certain degree, and let me tell you this, I never want you to hide or shy away from the incredible human you are. I know what it feeling alone is like. I know what being judged feels like. And that is where I can find common ground. I can say, “This feeling of loneliness or emptiness or condemnation or need to hide feels awful…I would never want someone else to feel this way.” And in one sentence, compassion develops and we break down all the identifying features of a person, able to see that we are all more similar than we know.

It goes back to the basic sentiment…treat people the way you want to be treated. Value and love people for how wonderfully different and similar they are.

Love you cuddlebug,
Mama

10 Tips for a Laid-Back (and insanely fun) Disney World Vacation!

LaidbackDW

It’s no joke when I say that my little family unit is extremely laid-back (E & Z are high energy, but still very laid-back…believe me, it’s possible). We recently came back from a Disney World vacation which was an epic, incredible, magical time. I’m not exaggerating when I say I have been planning and saving for this for¬†years,¬†so to finally be able to do it was a huge reward. Plus, we celebrated Z’s 6th birthday down there which is just an event in itself. Anyway, I saw tons of families that looked…well, they looked miserable. And I just kept thinking, “Why the hell are you spending so much money to come and be miserable?” Some people looked like they were practically being tortured, and that just seemed so….avoidable to me.

So, here are some tips from my laid-back family to yours:

10. If you can save for/afford it, get a dining plan.¬†I did tons of research before our trip, and there was a pretty big debate on whether or not the dining plan was worth it. For me, a person that is constantly thinking and planning, I can easily get overwhelmed with numbers and plans. So, the more “all-inclusive” my vacation is, the better. To just have to worry about the tip, and picking the restaurants, was pure gold for me and my over-thinking brain. And to really maximize our plan, we tried to get the priciest stuff on the menus. Don’t get me wrong, Disney can still be phenomenal without the dining plan, but for me, it’s a little extra luxury that I will always try and attach to our trips.

9. Chill the hell out. I mean this in more ways than one. If you feel your family getting irritable or tired, take a break. Whether it’s getting some lunch, a snack, going through Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean (which usually have a fairly short wait time compared to the rest of the rides), allow yourself to just relax. I can’t tell you how many breakdowns I saw…overly exhausted kids (and parents) trying to push through to try and do everything.¬†It’s not worth it. Every afternoon, we’d go back to our hotel room, rest, go to the pool, take a nap, and head back to the parks at night. Some people might see this as a waste of money since we’re not in the parks every second of our trip, but I would much rather be rested and enjoy myself, then to be exhausted and overly emotional so I end up hating my life by the end of the day.¬†¬†Plus, I saw way too many people being grumpy and know that if they would have just gotten a cat-nap in, they would have been in much better spirits. I feel like I fully maximized my Disney experience because I genuinely¬†enjoyed every second of it.

8.¬†Be kind.¬†This goes along with #9, but you wouldn’t believe how many rude people I saw. At one point, they were closing off access to Cinderella’s castle for a parade, and a lady with a walker was furious and started yelling at the Cast Member and ramming her walker into the rope (no joke). These Cast Members have to deal with extreme weather, tons of people, crazy happenings, while having to maintain an absolute perfect attitude, BE NICE TO THEM. Also, be kind to other guests: move out of the way if you need to stop, teach your kids to be kind and thoughtful of the other people in line (show by example), be thoughtful about where you sit/stand during parades and such. It should go without saying, but just be nice and courteous.

7. Stop trying to do everything.¬†You will NEVER fit in absolutely everything you want to do in one trip…well, unless you get to have a 3 week trip…which would be AH-MAZING! But if you’re like us lowly poor folk, you usually only have 5-10 days (at most) to fit everything in. Again, you will never be able to do it all, so stop trying. When we go back for our second family trip, I definitely want to spend a little more time in Epcot and Animal Kingdom, but we all were so enthralled with Magic Kingdom that we left every other park early to go back to it, and I don’t regret a single second of it. Have something planned, but then go with the flow.

6.¬†Learn the FastPass game. The longest I remember waiting is 15 minutes. At the beginning of June. In Disney World. All because we figured out how to play the FastPass¬†game. And you can reserve passes 30-60 days out (depending on whether you’re staying on property or not), so DO IT. Completely worth it. (Here’s a definition of what FastPasses are).

5. FOOD! Try a pork shank from Gaston’s Tavern or an Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich from Sleepy Hollow Inn (both in Magic Kingdom). Also, we really loved Columbia Harbour House because it had tons of seating (sometimes hard to come by at QS restaurants). I was dying to go to Be Our Guest, but unfortunately couldn’t get in for dinner, but they opened up for breakfast a couple of months before our trip. Let’s just say, they haven’t mastered breakfast, but the atmosphere is incredible, and made this HUGE Beauty and the Beast fan’s heart jump with joy.

4.¬†Find your family’s rhythm.¬†This kind of goes along with #7. In all my pre-trip research, I read things like “Always get to the park at least 2 hours before opening.” And believe me, my family tried, but I quickly found that we just needed to find our own rhythm. I’m an early riser (like up by 6am most days), but E & Z are night owls and need a solid 20 minutes to wake up (and be pleasant…okay, E is almost always pleasant…Z is a different story). Needless to say, we only made it to MK before park opening once, and it was because we had breakfast reservations at Cinderella’s Castle. I will say, walking through the park with no one around is incredible, so I’m glad it happened, but for our family, it’s not necessary every day. To each their own.

3.¬†Get your kids to start a DW savings (if you don’t have kids, you start one).¬†One of my favorite parts of leading up to Disney World was seeing Z so excited about saving. She saved a whopping $41 (I know, it didn’t get her much of anything, but she was 5 at the time, so $40 was a big deal). She shocked me quite a bit with how much focus she placed on saving and then how careful she was with her money once we were down there. It was a big learning experience, and I loved watching her mature in that way.

2.¬†Be flexible.¬†It feels like I’ve said this a few times in different ways, but it’s really one of the key pieces to why my family never fought, we always enjoyed each other, and we got the most of the trip for us. The day we went to Hollywood Studios, it was a Star Wars Weekend, so it was insanely crowded, and we weren’t huge fans of the park to begin with. We were supposed to have lunch at Hollywood & Vine, but realized pretty quickly that we just wanted to go back to MK. So, I called, switched our reservation (and they were gracious enough to not charge me the cancellation fees since we were celebrating Zo’s birthday. Little disclaimer: don’t expect them to do this for you. Just be appreciative if they do)!¬†There were a few other times I needed to have a flexible attitude (Particularly with Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique…sigh…), but by being flexible, we all were just able to enjoy moment to moment.

1.¬†Just buy into it.¬†Disney World is going to be super lame if you don’t just invest in the magical nature of things. Yes, things are over the top…yes, the Cast Members and Characters have to practically be perfect, but just allow it to be magical. E & I were just as much kids during this as Z was. When Z got to meet Princess Jasmine, you better believe E jumped in for a picture with her (I’m still kicking myself for not getting a picture with Belle…) And there was actually a point, while watching the Festival of Fantasy parade that I looked over at Z, and her eyes lit up with pure joy, and I just cried (I’m really glad I had sunglasses on). You will enjoy yourself so much more if you just allow yourself to give in to the experience and take it all in.

What tips do you all have?!

What are “real women” anyway?

RealWomen

Alright, I’m stepping on a soapbox tonight. My Facebook feeds are usually filled with affirming, encouraging, uplifting articles (okay, usually¬†might be a bit of a stretch, but I really do try to surround myself with positive stuff). And let me preface this by saying that I am ALL about people being comfortable in their skin. Whether you’re a size 2 or a size 22. If you feel good about yourself, great. You do you. My big qualm with body acceptance and what’s written about it? The word¬†REAL.¬†I wish I could just erase the word from any conversation about body image because it’s really absurd. Let’s use diverse, interesting, unique, but for the love of anything holy, stop preaching that curvy women are the right or real body type. And it’s hard to say this because I want women of every shape and size to be proud and confident in their skin, but stop doing it by degrading the “socially ideal” body type. They’re still real women, with real body image issues, with insecurities.

By constantly reinforcing this ridiculous notion of what constitutes a “real” body, it is negating the other side of the coin. Essentially we are sending the message that the only way to be real and accepted is to be a thick, curvy girl, which is kind of a contradiction to the intended purpose. So, let’s stop attacking Victoria’s Secret models and start focusing on encouraging, loving, and accepting the skin that we are all in. We are all real, we are all lovely, we are all valuable.