Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Striving to Get from Stressed to Blessed

This morning has been a hodge-podge of feelings.  When I woke up this morning and looked in the mirror, I did a double take.  I looked so tired from being up during the night with our 17-month-old that I looked older than my age.  Let's put it this way, there isn't enough coffee in the world to take those "tired-lines" away that were on my face this morning.  Maybe Botox is in my future (never say never).  After getting the older kids off to school this morning, the youngest one finally decided to nap.  Only to be woken up by the workers doing foundation work on my house (completely need a whole new post for this one).  I guess the whole house being shaken didn't do well for her nap.  Anyway, I finally got her happy and watching Yo Gabba Gabba only to have the DirecTV guy show up early (he was supposed to be here yesterday) to upgrade our satellite which took away her TV for the next hour.  The day wasn't going well for her or myself.  Then we decided to look at pictures.  And it was these pictures that changed the way I have seen my whole morning/day/life.

The pictures were from the past eleven years (my husband and I will have been married for eleven years next week) and spanned five houses and three kids.  The pictures that were of my oldest (she is now eight) really made me think.  I cannot believe how fast time really flies.  I know that people say that all of the time, and some may actually stop and think about it.  Some people may not have time to stop and think.  This morning, I made time. 

In the past eight years, we have lived in four different houses, two towns, and had three kids.  Not once have I "slowed down" enough to fully appreciate my life.  I always mean to and even make plans to do it; went so far as to put it on my "to-do" list.  But I never get to "cross it off" because I am too busy and on to the next thing on my list.  Parents (and most adults) seem to be too stressed these days to stop and feel blessed for the life that they have. 

It seems to have become trendy to stress your way through life.  Stress to have kids, stress to have the perfect kids, stress to make your kids perfect, stress to make sure they are in the right play groups, stress to make sure they are in every activity available.  And that is just through kindergarten.  More stress is stacked on the older they get.  Then there is the the parent stress: stress to make sure your house is clean, stress to make sure your cars are big enough to hold all of the kids you stressed about having, stress about jobs never being "enough," stress about not having "enough."  It leads to stopping and asking yourself: "when is enough and is it ok for this to be enough?"

My point is, feel blessed for the children that you have (no matter what their perfections or imperfections are), feel blessed that they are healthy, feel blessed when they scream and cry because they don't want to go to their activity because they want to stay with you (one day they won't), feel blessed that your house is a mess (because it probably means you were spending your time with your kids instead of cleaning), feel blessed that you have a house to be a mess (some people don't), feel blessed to be thinking about your job because at least you have one, feel blessed to have a car (some people need one but don't have one), and most of all, feel blessed to have your life because it's the only one you are going to get and that makes it "enough."

I feel blessed for my "tired-lines" this morning because it means that I have kids that put them there, I am blessed for the foundation of my house being worked on because it means that I have a house, and I feel blessed that the DirecTV guy is upgrading my satellite because that means that I now have HD.....

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Electronics and Kids: Are we introducing too much too soon?

(Disclaimer: I realize that this post may offend some, but believe me when I tell you that is not my intention; this is just my opinion.)

When I was a kid, we didn't have computers or cell phones or iPads.  We had video games, but I wasn't allowed to play them.  When I was a kid we played with toys, real toys, not electronics.  I realize that times are changing, but I think that we, as a nation, are trying to make our kids more like little adults rather than letting them be kids. 

I was in Wal-Mart the other day buying a Barbie for my daughter's birthday; she was turning six years old.  As I was standing there trying to remember which Barbies my two oldest daughters (the oldest one is 8) had already, a woman came strolling down the aisle and made the comment, "I wish I could still buy these things (meaning Barbies, dolls, basically toys) for my daughters.  They want an iPhone and an iPad for Christmas."  I gave her a very understanding smile because I assumed that her kids must be tweens or teenagers or older, and replied "I'll be sad when my kids get too old for these things.  How old are your kids?"  Her reply is what floored me: "They are 8 and 6."  I was speechless because those are the same age as my kids and I couldn't imagine buying them a bunch of electronics for Christmas.  When did kids stop being kids?  Mine are still kids, surely they cannot be the only ones left.

As I left Wal-Mart that day, I did a lot of thinking and a lot of questioning.  Not questioning myself, but questioning others as to what they were giving their kids or what their kids were wanting for Christmas.  The answers that I received were mixed.  Some kids were getting toys (I mean this as "non-electronics and technology"), but a lot were getting the afore mentioned iPhones and iPads.  Now, I do want to go on record as saying that both of my children have netbooks (little laptops) that they play their little girl games on (like Barbie.com and AmericalGirl.com and some educational games; I am not completely in the last century).  However, that being said, I do not think that my 3rd grader or kindergartener needs to have a cell phone to call me on when they are "out playing in the neighborhood."  First of all, my kids are not allowed to roam the neighborhood freely by themselves, have you watched the news?  Second of all, if my kids are at a friends house and they need to call me, they can pick up the phone at the house they are at and call me.  Third, why do my kids even need an iPad? 

To me it seems as if we are exposing our kids to too much of the world too soon because "it's cool."  Let the kids play and use their imagination instead of being glued to a screen; won't that happen soon enough when they grow up and have to go to work?  Take kids to appropriately rated movies and don't let them watch TV that is too old for them.  Shelter them for a little while because there will come a time when you won't be able to anymore.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Teaching Moms not to Bully

I'm not sure how to start this blog post because I know it will offend people and that is not my intention.  My intention is to raise awareness of what we are teaching our kids.  I don't just mean what we tell our kids, but what we teach them by our own actions and our own words.  Recently I was sitting in a restaurant with my grandmother and overheard a conversation at the table behind me.  Usually I don't listen to other people's conversation, but these women were not being exactly quiet.  These women (not high school girls, not college girls, women approximately in their late 20s, early 30s) had their small children with them.  Their conversation consisted of statements such as "did you see so-and-so this morning at the school?  She has put on some weight, and did you see what she was wearing?"  The response elicited another string of catty remarks that went back and forth for the entire lunch.  This conversation was bad enough on its own, but throw in the fact that there were two little girls sitting at the table with them and that made it even worse.  What they were essentially doing was teaching those little girls to judge people by their appearance, and that it is ok to talk about people behind their backs.  Kids (especially girls) have a hard enough time in today's world learning what is good and what isn't with what is shown on TV, even kids' channels such as Disney, and the last thing they need is their mothers and role models showing them that it is ok to be a bully (yes, I said bully).  Those women in that restaurant were bullies.  It's not the form of bully that you hear about where kids are being taunted and pushed to the limit, but anyone who makes someone feel bad about themselves is a bully.  I'm sure that those women don't want those people that they were talking about to know what they were saying, but I'm pretty sure they also probably don't go out of their way to make those people feel good either. 

I'm sure you know women like these.  You either grew up with them, have seen them, have been their victim, or decided to join in with them (meaning you are one of them).  If you are one of them, my goal is not to offend you, it is to make you aware of your actions and what they do to others.  It is to show you what you are teaching your children to do.  I overheard that conversation in that restaurant over a month ago, but the reason that it resurfaced in my mind again was because what they were doing hit close to home this week.

One of my daughters is in kindergarten this year.  This is my child who is full of energy, bubbly, never met a stranger, animated, and the life of the party (descriptions that have been given to her by pre-k teachers and daycare teachers, not just by me).  She was so excited to start kindergarten this year, couldn't wait to be in school like her big sister, couldn't wait to learn to read, and most of all to make new friends (which has always been easy for her).  As the school year has progressed, I have asked her everyday who she played with at recess, but I keep getting the same response, "nobody."  Eventually I asked her why she wasn't playing with anyone, I thought maybe she was choosing, for some reason I couldn't fathom, to play alone.  Then she told me that she wasn't playing with anyone because nobody wanted to play with her.  Every time she asked someone to play with her they told her no because they had other friends and didn't want anyone else to play with them.  I decided to investigate this further and had a talk with the teacher.  The teacher confirmed what I had already figured out: my daughter's class is full of catty little girls.  Little girls who make others cry at lunch because they won't let other ones sit beside them because they don't like them.  Being a mother, this has completely broken my heart. 

I have always taught my daughters to be nice to everyone, and to my knowledge they always have.  No, they are not perfect, but they are good kids.  When I say that I have "taught" my daughters this, it means that not only have I told them this, but I have shown them how to be nice through my own actions.  To the mothers that I overheard that day at lunch and to all the ones who weren't there but are guilty of behaving this way, why would you want your kids to be this way towards others?  How would you feel if your kids were the ones being treated this way?  How do our kids ever stand a chance in this world if we don't teach them compassion and empathy for other people?  Please do yourself and everyone (especially your children) a favor and take a look at how you behave and how your children see you behave; then ask yourself if you would want your kids to behave as you do.  If your answer is no then maybe I am talking to you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Family Time

I know that I have talked a lot lately about saving money as opposed to being a family again, but I feel like this is part of us becoming a family again.  I enjoy finding new ways to save money so that I can be a stay-at-home mom and spend as much time with my kids as possible.  For  years my husband was gone 4 nights a week and I worked.  I felt as if our kids were being neglected (even though in reality they weren't).  I was tired from working and I was seeing our kids on average 2 hours a day (they went to bed soon after I got home from work) and my husband was only home two and a half days a week (one of those days was a work day for me).  For the years that he was traveling, the approximate number of nights that he was gone was 688 nights.  That is 1.9 years.  So having us all together everyday with me staying at home has been a blessing.  A blessing that cannot be taken for granted.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just a Thought for Small Savings with a Big Finish

I've recently had an idea to save money for things like Christmas and back-to-school shopping.  If (for each child) you put $2 a week into an envelope labeled "Back-to-School" and the child's name, you will have about $100 for each child by the time it is time to buy "back-to-school" items.  Saving for Christmas works the same way.  If you place about $5 (for each child) a week (starting the first week of November ending the last week of the following October) into an envelope labeled "Christmas" and the child's name, you will have about $260 per child saved for Christmas. 

I don't know about you, but this is a big deal to me.  Saving just a few dollars a week is not nearly as difficult as trying to come up with it all at once.  Just a few dollars can be spare change from your wallet, from the loose coin jar, from your car, the couch cushions, etc.  Instead of opting to buy the pack of gum and a soda at the gas station, put that money into an envelope for your child.  I also recommend having funds for various other things such as the TF (we loose teeth around here like crazy, last week we got a visit from the TF twice!!) because you never know when  you are going to need some one dollar bills (our child's teeth seem to be pulled around 8:30, 9:00 at night when no one wants to go make change at the gas station on the corner).

Another thing that we have recently started is a savings account for our third grader.  Ok, so her school actually promotes it with the local bank and they have "bank day" once a month at the school so we were strong-armed into doing it.  However, I did the math on this.  If we put $10 a month into a savings account for her from this school year until she graduates high school, she will have accummulated (just with our deposits, no interest) $1,200.  That money will be hers to use to help buy books for college.  We will do that with all of our kids (I make it sound like we have a soccer team, but there are just three even though at times it seems like twice that).

Just some thoughts I had while doing laundry, I hope they help you because everyone could use a few new ideas sometimes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Starting Over

We had everything that most Americans aspire to have: the large fancy house on a hill in the "must live in" neighborhood, nice cars, expensive wardrobe, three beautiful kids, and the nice job to afford all  of the "necessities" of life.  The problem was that we weren't a family unit, not in the way we wanted to be.  We were putting the things that were the least important in front of the most important thing: our family.  We were trying to keep up with the Joneses (who by the way lived next door) and we were running a race that we could never seem to finish because something bigger and better was always there to attain next.  You know what this is like, you are either doing this, would like to do this, or have already achieved and surpassed the status of the Joneses.  As Americans we seem to always be in search of the next best thing and aren't happy with what we already have.  My husband's job was a traveling one where he was gone Sunday through Thursday of each week.  I was, in essence, a single mom 5 days out of the week and we were a family two days of the week.  After 5 years, 3 kids, and 2 houses later, enough was enough.  So we did something that most people don't do:  he quit his job, we sold our expensive house, we sold his expensive car, he got a new job making less money, we moved (and downsized), we bought him an old cheap car to go to work in, and he comes home every night.

We did this one year ago, right after our third child was born.  I don't want to make this sound like it was easy because on some levels it wasn't, but on the ones that count, it was.  When I make dinner now, I can set my husband's place at the table.  He can look at the kids each night and ask them how their day was.  He and I can sit together at night and talk.  He can take the kids to school each morning.  He can hug and kiss us all he wants.  He gets to do all of this seven days a week instead of just two days a week.  We can be a family for the entire week every week instead of cramming a week's worth of family time into two days.

There are some parts that weren't as easy.  We didn't have as much money as we once did so we can't live the lifestyle that we once did, but that doesn't matter to us.  I don't want to go shopping and drop an outrageous amount on a pair of jeans just "because I can."  We have had to learn to live on a tight budget and do things ourselves instead of hiring people to do them for us.  We used to have a maid, a yard man, people that washed our cars, and various other things that sound ridiculous now. 

My purpose of this blog is to show that you don't need a lot of money to live like you want to, all you need is enough.  Money doesn't make you happy, people make you happy.  Hopefully through my writing I can help others get to where they want to be in life because we are getting there, and there is no better feeling in the world.