PRO TIP: buy your kid the little fancy clear crystal plastic cups at Dollar Tree to use as rinse cups in the bathroom. Tooth brushing battles will just disappear. (A buck for a package of 5 of these gems...best $ ever spent). 😃 #momwin #dollartreefinds
Since school started I've lost traction with my household helpers. We made a lot of progress this summer with learning new skills like laundry, cleaning the floor, cooking simple meals. I'm pretty sure the labor was harder on me than them. I like my house a certain way, but for most of the summer things looked like this:
But it was worth it, because: life skills. However now that we're back in session and busy with homework and school year activities I've fallen back on the 'it's easier to do it myself' attitude. Especially after the girls are in school all day I'd rather them spend these afternoons enjoying the sunshine in the backyard instead of doing chores. But at the same time....life skills.
How do you keep a balance at your place? The girls do excel at some chores without being asked: taking their dirty laundry to the dirty pile (except for socks....how is it that everyone in my home feels that the place is more beautiful with dirty socks lying all around??), separating recycling from trash, picking up their toys, the big girl babysits the little girl whenever I ask. They're also really good at pitching in when I ask but you know I'd rather not have to ask.
This chart is a good guide for chore suggestions; however, the after school time is so precious. I'm wondering if I need to be thinking weekend chore warriors instead of focusing on daily tasks. I'd love any suggestions. Please use the comments field below. My girls will def thank you for it. ;-) #raisethemup #lifeskills #raisinghelpers
Remember the good ol' days when Halloween costumes were simple, homemade, and didn't have to be Pinterest-worthy? (Like Eden's Underdog ensemble shown here). Sigh. Me too. We were talking all about simple, FREE, environmentally-friendly costume options today on Western Mass News. If your kid hasn't insisted they need a heavily-marketed store option yet, you can check out our ideas in this clip. #halloweencountdown #diycostumes
Leave it to Northampton to provide my girls with the perfect first time march experience. I'm so glad I decided to take my girls to the Join the Voices event today. It was a beautiful, peaceful demonstration of folks made up of all walks of life.
There were women, men, children and dogs of all shapes, sizes, and ages. We were all there for our own reasons -- we were holding signs about the president, women's rights, climate change, healthcare, LGBTQ support, and government spending. There was lots encouragement, laughing, hugs, and spontaneous singing.
I'm so proud of my Western Mass community for coming together in this loving display of voice and unity. There was no anger, no overwhelming chanting, certainly no violence. The street was lined with folks waving and clapping and holding their own signs. It was a group of maybe 1,000 Americans exerting their right to peaceably assemble. We walked from Sheldon Park down Route 9 to Pulaski Park where the march ended with hundreds of voices lifted up in "This Land is Your Land."
We made a family day of it with my sister and three of my nephews joining the march. The sun was shining strong and the thermometer hit 52 degrees....in January. It was a perfect day. Who knows what the next four years will bring? But the one thing I'm sure of is that my America is pretty great just the way she is. #unitedwestand #dividedwefall
I hope some of you will be able to join me two weeks from today on October 25 when I present "Simplify Your Life" in Agawam on behalf of the Agawam Family & Community Program.
We'll be discussing ways to make the most of our time, money and energy. I'm excited to share my best ideas on decluttering our homes and schedules to to find more family time and focus on what really matters.
There will be two sessions:
Agawam Congregational Church
745 Main St.
*FREE childcare during the morning session. Ms . Erin is amazing and your kids will have a blast.*
Please park behind the building and use rear entrance.
Agawam Senior Center Dining Room
954 Main St.
(NO childcare offered at evening session).
Please park behind the building and use rear entrance.
A few other points:
It is FREE to attend.
You do NOT have to be an Agawam resident to join us.
FREE coffee, tea, and treats are provided at both sessions.
We always have an awesome group of parents of all ages and stages -- please know you will feel welcome!
I could also use some advice: anyone willing to share what aspects of their life could use a simple overhaul? Are you overcommitted? Could your expenses use some chopping? Is your home too cluttered?
I know what I want to talk about -- the ideas that have helped me commit to a simpler life over the past few years; however, I'd love some suggestions from you amazing peeps. What would help you? Where can you use some encouragement?
Please ask/share away using the comments section below. Hope to see you on October 25!
Has anyone noticed this amazing mural that popped up recently in Springfield? It can be found on the side of the Imperial Grocery at 1072 State Street.
The mural was installed as part of the new You're The Mom public awareness campaign -- an initiative that recognizes the fact that moms are the number one influence on how well kids eat. According to You're The Mom:
"In the growing fight against childhood obesity (among many other areas!), moms are on the front lines—they’re arguably the single greatest influencers on their family’s health. But with so much to juggle, many moms take the path of least resistance when dinner rolls around. Making sure their children eat healthy becomes a chore, and fast food is an easy option. An upcoming public art installation in downtown Springfield is part of a new campaign to help moms make small changes in what they feed their kids and reverse the obesity epidemic."
This mural features Natalie Parrish, 30, a life-long Springfield resident. She is mom to seven-year-old Trenton Johnson who attends Sabis International Charter School in the city. Parrish knows a thing or two about the urge to seek quick meals -- in addition to caring for her son, she not only works full-time as a personal care assistant, she is also pursuing a BA in Healthcare Administration with a full course load, and is active in her church.
"It's a struggle to prepare meals that are healthy and affordable," Parrish said.
She said she encourages her son to make small changes to be healthier, for example, to eat the apples in his fast food meal instead of the french fries. She also tries to frequent the mobile farmers market in her neighborhood and tries to incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into every meal.
Parrish said she also tries to cook with more of an international flavor instead of relying on quick packaged meals and she is always encouraging her son to actually eat what she makes.
"He's picky," she said. "Of course he likes fast food -- all kids do -- but I encourage him to eat the meal I cook because there is nothing better he can do than put healthy food in his body."
Other simple and healthy swaps recommended by You're The Mom:
Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages
Boost movement and physical activity
Fuel up on fruits and vegetables
Natalie Parrish of Springfield meeting Marka27, the artist who painted her mural.
Parrish was overcome when she got her first glimpse of the mural, which was painted by Victor "Marka27" Quinonez of Brooklyn, NY. (Check out more of his work at Marka27.com -- so beautiful!)
"I struggled with image issues when I was younger so this is overwhelming," she said. "I hope this mural inspires people to be great."
A second mural will be installed this weekend -- July 9 & 10 -- at 461 Main Street in Springfield. Stop by if you have a chance -- it's fascinating to watch!
You're The Mom is being piloted in Springfield through the summer, and a national launch is planned for next year. You can find out more at yourethemom.org, or on their Facebook page. The campaign is being launched by ChildObesity180 at Tufts University Friedman School with assistance from community organizations including Partners for a Healthier Community, Square One, and Springfield Food Policy Council. The campaign includes a digital resource hub at YoureTheMom and public art installations portraying real local moms, as well as billboards, radio spots, bus advertisements, and social media.
And of course Parrish credits her own mom for helping her be the best mom she can be.
"My mom inspires me. She is my A1-Day 1. I have the tools necessary to be a good mom because of my mom. Communities are stronger when moms are stronger."
We've got MCAS in the house this week and someone is freaking out! Not me. Or my husband. But the kid! UGH! I seriously can't talk about MCAS anymore. I understand that the teachers and administrators have to prepare the kids for the tests but I kind of wish they didn't tell them the test dates. Like, when I "surprise" Eden with a trip to the dentist. "Oh! My bad. We're not actually headed to the library. I just remembered we've got a dentist appointment today. We'll hit the library right after!"
The morning announcement at school could just be be like, "Whoppee! We get to do MCAS today! Aren't we lucky?! It's MCAS Day! It's MCAS Day! What a great surprise!"
I'm not taking sides on the standardized test debate here. I'm just saying -- the mood can get a little stressful in the home if you have a worrier for a kid and it's test time. And, since we moms are only as happy as our unhappiest child....a few tips to lighten the mood:
This article from the US Department of Educationsuggests emphasizing to your child that the tests are not so much evaluating how much your child knows, but rather how she is taught: "The results of some tests tell schools that they need to strengthen courses or change teaching methods. Still other tests compare students by schools, school districts or cities."
Adventures in Widsom suggests keeping your own opinions of standardized testing to yourself and modeling positivity: "Finally, remember that kids often look to us to see how they should respond to things. If you’re anxious about the test then they will feel anxious about the test too. Talk with them about the importance of always doing their best work and let them know that you believe in them and their ability to do well."
This piece from the National Education Association has some unique suggestions for how teachers try to help their students relax on test dates. One suggestion I think would work for my girl -- let them bring a small stuffed animal or other "lovey" to keep in their backpack on test day. Just knowing there is a comfort item near can help allay worries.
Emphasize that they just need to do their best. That they already know everything they need to know for the standardized tests. Their job is to relax and answer the questions the best they can.
Reassure them that the test is not timed and that they will have as much time as they need to complete it. They have no reason to feel rushed.
If your child is feeling especially overwhelmed due to test week, consider letting them sit out their regularly scheduled enrichment class or sports practice and let them use that time for free play.
Plan a quiet week or weekend if possible around the test dates with plenty of downtime. We found a marathon arts and crafts session at home this weekend coupled with a trip to the movies to be a great distraction. Many schools will forgo homework on testing nights. Use this an an opportunity to do something fun as a family that evening to blow off some steam.
Let them talk about their concerns. Listen. Give positive feedback. Even if it's over and over and over again.
In her book on simplifying your life, The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work, Christine Carter, PhD, has many great suggestions on how to scale back your commitments, implement new habits, and rework all of your drudgery-filled "must-dos" into only "want-to-dos." She teaches us how to make changes to create our Sweet Spot to carve out the life we want, not the one we feel chained to.
In the book's introduction she discusses the fact that even though we have created many technological advances that make our daily lives easier, those automated processes have also made it easier for us to think we should be working more, not less:
"Life today is a pressure cooker. Even the most talented -- and privileged -- people are struggling to "balance" relentless work with family commitments, to manage a constant flood of information and emails, to cope with extraordinary stress levels.
"Most people have actually lost time for pleasure compared to our ancestors a hundred year ago -- despite the fact that in the olden days, they had to hand-wash their laundry."
"This common sense is so widely ignored that overwork -- and the problems with health, happiness, and productivity that it brings -- is epidemic. At the same time that our lives have gotten easier in many ways -- with devices to wash the dishes, learn just about anything, have our groceries delivered -- it has also gotten easier to work more."
Although she is speaking here of employment -- working for money -- many of us today are overworked with other types of commitments as well: community work, kids' scheduled activities, social events. So, how to fight the epidemic? Carter suggests:
Implement daily unplugged times: no computer, phones, or screens of any time to give your self (and your device) time to recharge
Scale back on commitments: try to make a list of your top five priorities in life and only commit to activities that support these priorities. For example, maintaining your own health, spending more time as a family, helping to feed the hungry, and a professional goal -- and then align your calendar with commitments that help you spend time on these goals.
Take recess: if you make time for what you love or need (even if this is just a nap) you give yourself a chance to recharge. If you spend even a small amount of time focusing on what you want to do you actually will be more productive while tackling your must-dos.
Accept your routines -- so what if you like to eat the same thing for breakfast everyday. Or you like to wear one type of outfit. Or take the same vacation every year. Accept these routines and enjoy them and it will free up more time in your life instead of feeling like you should be doing things the way someone else is doing them.
These are just a few easy-to-implement ways you can begin to find your sweet spot in life. Small changes add up to big changes.
Valerie Smart is a average mom trying to raise average kids. She is passionate about unplugged parenting and providing her girls with an old-fashioned childhood full of outdoor play, unstructured time, creative pursuits, and making family time a priority. She is attempting to swim against the tide of hyper competitive parenting that has become the norm today. Comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for visiting!