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Welcome to the Vomit Party: Surviving the Stomach Bug

It’s officially the worst time of year. Well, okay … minus the whole CHIEFS GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL thing … but other than that … total rubbish. It’s cold, dark, and depressing. Even The Bachelor is awful this season (just come to terms with it already).  What’s worse is that everything in a public setting is just crawling with germs, so even if you try to escape the confines of your home with your offspring, someone is coming home with something. And I’m not talking about $20 worth of stuff from the Target dollar spot.  

sick kidNo matter how many cart wipes I use, or children’s museums I avoid, our family inevitably ends up with the stomach bug at some point during this dreadful time of year. Now, before we go on, it’s important to note that the stomach bug is NOT THE FLU. Please, for all things holy and right, can we stop intermixing the two?! 

Here, take a moment and learn about it:

Norovirus (a.k.a. The stomach bug) 

The Flu (also read about it here)

Unlike the flu, you cannot get a vaccine for norovirus. You’re just left to suffer through it in misery until your body eventually fights it off and you can eat more than a few spoonfuls of chicken broth in a 48-hour period.

Now, if you’re reading this, hoping to find tips on how to avoid getting the norovirus or how to get over it quickly, then I’m sorry to disappoint you. If I had those answers, I would be cashing in on that gold instead of writing about my misery here. What I do have are a few helpful tips to help you survive the inevitable.  

  •  Mentally prepare to be sick yourself.  This might seem like a no brainer, but as soon as you get that dreaded call from daycare that your precious little is praying to the porcelain god, do not waste any time trying to figure out how you can avoid getting it yourself. Chances are that virus is currently laughing his way down to your intestines, just waiting for the right moment to make himself known. Just accept your fate and be ready to take it head on.
  • Cover everything in plastic and/or towels you do not care about. My kids handle illness in completely opposite ways. My sweet daughter is subdued, courteous, and does everything in her power to throw up in the appropriate apparatus. My son, on the other hand, somehow finds the most inconvenient place to get sick and lets ‘er rip. After our recent bout, my husband and I seriously considered lighting the house on fire and walking away. Alas, perhaps a little more prep (and placement of towels) could have helped us avoid the arduous task of cleaning up the aftermath.
  • Buy straight bleach. When the bug has subsided, and you’re ready to come out spray bottles a blazing, just buy the bleach. This is not the time to mess around with non-toxic, flowery smelling pretend cleaner. You know how those Clorox wipes say they clean “99.9%” of bacteria? You know what that 0.01% remaining is? THE NOROVIRUS. Those flimsy wipes ain’t gonna cut it. Trust me, the smell of bleach will be a welcome reprieve from the other scents that have been filling your home the past week.

So you’ve got two choices, my friends. You can choose to stay indoors and avoid public places all winter out of fear, or you can escape your house and go out and enjoy all the indoor fun that KC has to offer knowing that if (haha…when) you happen to bring home the norovirus with you, you’ll be a little more prepared to take it head on. Just tell yourself it’s a pretty cheap (albeit miserable) way to detox.

My Secret to Managing the Family Budget 

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This post is sponsored and written by Commerce Bank.

When you are a new mom, there are few things more satisfying than reaching the end of the month and discovering leftover funds in your checking account.

Yes, babies don’t come free, and it can be a juggling act to pay for the diapers, the daycare and all of the other new expenses. At least it was for me.

That is, until I stumbled across an easier way to budget.  It’s a way to help make sure we cover essential expenses every month — without fearing we might run short.

My secret is a mySpending Card® from Commerce Bank.

A mySpending Card® is a prepaid debit card which you can easily designate for a specific purpose, like paying for diapers or day care. The funds on the card are “walled off” from your other money so you don’t inadvertently spend them on something else.  You can reload it as little or as often as you need.

As your family’s needs change, the card’s purpose can evolve, too. When I was expecting, for example, I would transfer funds each month from my checking account to the mySpending card in order to save up for medical and other expenses associated with having a baby. (Keep in mind that load and spending limits apply.)

Once the baby arrived, I dedicated card funds to diapers and formula, and later, daycare and preschool expenses. Babies, of course, are hard work. You just might want a card for nothing but morning coffee or date nights – no judgement here!

Come to think of it, it would also be a great way to save for a vacation and keep track of your funds once you arrive. Decisions about where to eat out and what souvenirs to buy are a lot easier when you can see your available balance!

As my children get older, I plan to give them a mySpending Card® instead of a cash allowance. That way, I can load their allowance on it each week so they can learn how to budget expenses and save up for big purchases. They may think twice about buying the latest video game or phone accessory when they see how it puts a spring break trip out of reach.

And between you and me, it’s a whole lot easier to transfer funds to a card than to run up to school when my kid “suddenly remembers” a field trip or forgets her lunch money. I’m just sayin’, that may have happened more than once!  If it gets stolen or lost, I can suspend/turn off the card until it is found or replaced.

Plus, there’s no risk of an overdraft. If the card is short of funds, my daughter’s desire for a non-fat frappuccino with extra whipped cream will simply be denied.

The point is, I never dreamed a card could make my life easier. But it has. And there’s no monthly fee.

Now that’s something worth thinking about.

Learn more about the mySpending Card® or watch a video here.

Parent-Teacher Conferences: What should you ask your child’s teacher?

As the holidays are now behind us and we are well underway with second semester with our school-aged children, it’s just about time for round two of Parent-Teacher conferences. As an educator, I often conduct one-sided parent-teacher conferences where parents listen, but don’t have any questions of their own. While it makes for an easy conference, it’s not one that helps me get to know your student better and it doesn’t allow you as the parent to learn any more about your student that the teacher may not address.

I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of helpful tips and questions you could use in your child’s upcoming conference. You don’t have to save these tips for Parent-Teacher Conferences alone; feel free to use them throughout the year to check in on how your child’s doing in school. It’s always a good idea to have an open line of communication with your child’s teacher, even if it is causal and not directly related to a specific situation.

  1. Forget the test scores; ask how your child is as a person in the class.

Tests scores are important yadda, blah, blah, but you know what’s really important? How your child is doing socially in class. How are they doing emotionally? How do they treat other students in class and how do they interact? Are they an includer or excluder? These are the things that are truly important and things that can be missed at home.

  1. Your child’s teacher is on your team; let them know how your child is doing at home to better help you child succeed at school.

Changes in the student’s home life that may affect behavior at school is good for the teacher to know. As an educator, I find it helpful to know if a student is moving to a new home or if their grandparents passed away. These are things that can be very insightful to a teacher. I will occasionally email my daughter’s teacher checking in on her and letting the teacher know we had a rough morning. I have a strong-willed middle child and there are mornings that we have tears and a rough start to our day.  I hate sending my child to school after we’ve had a rough morning, but it happens, and I just want her teacher to know, just in case she’s off a bit at school.

  1. Okay, academics are important. It’s okay to ask about those, too.

Asking questions about whether your student in on grade level in reading and math are important questions, but ask deeper questions like things you can do to help your child become a better reader. Or how you can develop a love for reading in your child. Teachers have a ton of strategies and resources they are happy to share with parents.

  1. Ask how can you support your child at home to help them in the classroom.

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s important to understand what the teacher expects of parents in terms of home support. During 2nd semester conferences, it’s important to acknowledge how the first semester went and any changes that can be made in the routine for 2nd semester. For example, one year one of my daughters struggled terribly with sight word memorization. It was a dreaded time almost every night. A quick conversation with the teacher at conferences offered some new ideas and a fresh outlook on the dreaded time.

  1. Bring a little treat.

This last one is less of a question and more of a suggestion. Teachers sit at parent-teacher conferences for hours at a time, sometimes having difficult conversations with parents. It’s a stress-filled time, and I promise that a little treat like their favorite drink or small snack will mean the world to them.They’ll be so appreciative that you took the time to think of them. They spend hours upon hours a day loving on our children and a little treat is the least we can do. Even a little handwritten note of appreciation is an amazing gesture that the teacher truly appreciates.

The parent-teacher relationship is an integral part of our student’s development. It should be a partnership that fosters our children’s opinions about education. Hopefully, one that affords them a lifelong love of learning. Parent-teacher conferences are one way that we, as parents, can connect with our child’s teacher and we must take advantage of the time we have. So I challenge you, parents and teachers alike, what is one question you like to ask at Parent-Teacher Conferences?

When You No Longer Have a “Job” to Talk About

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two women talkingImagine sitting around the table at a restaurant with a group of either friends or family.  Everyone is discussing their lives- and by lives I mean work (because what you “do” carries so much weight in relation to self-worth in our society). Well, you see, my stock in what our culture views as highly productive tanked in 2014 with the birth of my first baby. I chose to stay home with her and haven’t been back to my career since.

I used to feel like I was on a level playing field when engaging in conversation with fellow workforce people. Often times now, I feel like a second class citizen– someone who gave up on life to “just stay home.” Here’s the thing: I view what I do now as highly productive and valuable. I have never questioned that. What has made me feel like this role is NOT valuable is the complete lack of questions I receive now as compared to my former working life. I have found that quick way to kill a conversation can be sharing that you no longer work.

What do you ask someone who “just is home with her kids” every day? Surely this mom doesn’t do anything worthwhile anymore. She’s given up on that, obviously … no way does she still have hobbies, things she’s passionate about, or groups she’s involved in. She can’t possibly be a writer, a tutor, an entrepreneur, or a volunteer. When she gave up her career, she must have given up her personality and everything that was important to her– so, what is left to ask about?

Oh wait, there is one thing you can ask her. When does she PLAN to go back to her former career? That’s a good one. Insinuating that what she’s doing now is cute and temporary, but surely she’ll return to something worthwhile. Now, before you go thinking that I am a bitter old woman, hear me out: I know that some people legitimately ask about returning to my former job because they know how much I loved it. And I can sense that from them. But that is not always the case, nor is it appreciated. There is no worse feeling than feeling less-than because you no longer have an official title besides “mom.”

So what can you do when you’re around a mom who actually does work 24/7, but that work is unpaid? Ask her anything about herself — because she still matters. 

Silence is Golden: My Experiment with Shutting Up

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Let me start with a disclaimer. The following is true. If you know me, you may be surprised—astonished really—to learn that there are things I think but don’t say. My defense is that I’ve only been developing this skill for about a third of my life, and I am still learning. And I am finding inspiration from lots of places.

When I turned 40, I made an unexpected discovery. I realized that I almost never got myself in trouble with things I didn’t say. Really. Reflection revealed that this idea could have lots of application. At work. With my husband and kids. In my relationships. So I began to experiment with shutting up.

 

Several years have passed and the truth of this endures. There is power in an unexpressed thought.

Of course, I wasn’t the first person to realize that keeping quiet can be a good strategy.

Throughout history, great teachers and gifted thinkers have encouraged people to limit the words they say. The practice of silence often goes hand in hand with spiritual awakening.

In my school counseling practicum class, we recorded and then transcribed our conversations with students. This is a pretty common practice in counselor preparation programs and one that turned out to be illuminating and exhausting. I said so many things that didn’t really mean much. One day, when I was moaning about how long the process took, a classmate gave me this bit of wisdom: “Maybe you should only say things that matter.”

I tried it. And she was right. It worked! Not only was the transcription process easier, shutting up gave me more time to listen and be present with the kiddo sitting in front of me. Interesting, I thought. Where else might this insight be useful?

woman listening

It turns out it works everywhere and with everybody. Being quiet has allowed me to hear more, learn more, and experience empathy more fully.

What’s the secret? I think it boils down to this. When I shut up, I am putting the opinions and needs of others before my own. I am more focused on understanding than being understood. I remember that relationships are more important than being right.

Stillness has been especially helpful as my kids have gotten older. When I am quick to listen and slow to speak, my kids share their hearts and minds more freely with me. It helps me know them in ways beyond the superficial. And I think it sometimes means they listen to what I do say with more interest and attention.

Even with many years of practice behind me, I am by no means an expert at this.  Listening more than speaking is habit that must be cultivated every day. And some days, even if I am trying, I don’t do a very good job. But when I do, I see the results.

I’ll end with another disclaimer: Experimenting with shutting up doesn’t mean that I don’t speak up when it’s important. In fact, I believe my voice is heard more clearly when I use it more selectively.

The Dyslexia Debate

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In early November 2019, the Kansas State Board of Education voted unanimously to approve policies aimed at improving the identification of students with dyslexia. This will provide the students with better services and increase teacher training in the area of dyslexia. Under these recommendations, every accredited school district in Kansas will be required to screen and identify students at risk for dyslexia or demonstrating characteristics of dyslexia in agreement with evidence-based practices by August 2020. Accredited schools will be required to use a structured literacy program as the sole program for teaching literacy skills to all students. Candidates for K-6 teaching licenses, English Language Arts endorsements, reading specialist teaching licenses, and special education teaching licenses will be required to pass an examination of their knowledge of the science of reading by 2024. Schools will provide the necessary professional learning opportunities for their teachers.

Well, it’s about time! As a kindergarten teacher, I am often asked whether I notice signs of dyslexia in a student who struggles. Parents sometimes assume that because a student writes some letters backwards, they are dyslexic. While I’m quick to point out that letter reversal in kindergarten is completely age-appropriate, that’s about all I will say on the subject of dyslexia, because frankly, I can always afford to learn more about it. I am thrilled that teachers will be provided professional learning opportunities on the topic. Dyslexia has become the new buzzword in education, and we need more resources on how to help these kiddos be successful learners.

But on the other hand … as a teacher, we are stretched thin already. We have a classroom full of students we want to help reach their full potential. Every year, there’s a new thing in education that we have to learn and incorporate into our day. And by the time we feel comfortable with that new thing, there’s something else we need to add in – new mandates from the state, new mandates from the school district, etc. And it’s all important, it really is. I’m so in favor of professional development opportunities for teachers to learn more about dyslexia … but I’m just wondering how we will fit it all in.

But on the other hand … not only am I a teacher, but I’m a mom of a dyslexic boy. I get it. I know that struggle. I know that pain. I’ve watched my son try to sound out words, try to understand phonics rules, try to make sense of the jumbled mess of letters on a page. Chapter books overwhelm him. He’s in the fifth grade and prefers graphic novels or early chapter books, simply because the font is bigger or is broken up with pictures and large margins. He wants to read Harry Potter and Percy Jackson like his friends, but we read those to him, so he doesn’t get frustrated and lose the desire to read, which some days seems to be hanging by a thread. And because he struggles with phonics, his spelling is below grade-level, and writing assignments are torture. Homework time in our house is brutal. Everyone cries because it is hard on all of us. My husband and I are both teachers, and we just can’t help him sometimes. It is heartbreaking.

The saving grace has been the help our son has received from his school. We were so incredibly fortunate to get into Children’s Mercy Hospital when he was in kindergarten and begin therapy for anxiety. This led to academic testing (that we were lucky enough to have our insurance cover) in first grade, which gave him the diagnosis of a specified learning disability. This diagnosis allowed us to pursue an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for him, which gave him access to resource teachers who have received specific dyslexia intervention training. The impact they have made is huge. The IEP has allowed him modifications in the classroom and during testing.

We are eternally grateful, and it is not lost on us how lucky we have been throughout this process. Academic testing is incredibly expensive, whether pursued through a private academic firm or a medical facility. Our insurance covered this, but that is not the norm for all families. And if school psychologists are qualified to provide this crucial academic testing, then why don’t they? The answer, as always, goes back to teachers, school counselors, and school psychologists working hard to help ALL students. Our days are packed for eight solid hours, our evenings are packed with papers to grade, plans to make, and professional development to attend.

So, my point? Our kids, parents, and teachers need more help. They deserve more help. Dyslexia is not a learning disability that will eventually go away. People with dyslexia have strategies in place to help them manage it. Our kids need to learn these strategies early, our parents should have access to these strategies, and our teachers need the training and time to help these kids.

Activate Awesome at Urban Air Lenexa

This post is sponsored by Urban Air Lenexa, the area’s newest trampoline and adventure park. Opinions belong to the writer.

Urban AirWe all need to deepen our bench of indoor activities that allow our kids to expel some energy, especially during the colder months. Don’t let the warmer temps fool you, we’re not nearly through the thick of winter. The bulk of our 2019 snow days were in February after all.

Lucky for us, the newly opened Urban Air Lenexa is here to help! Whether you’re looking to book your kiddo’s next birthday party or for something to do on a chilly afternoon, Urban Air has it all. Seriously. Your kids can jump, climb, sky ride, and slide while you sit and relax in a massage chair, grab lunch, or participate in the fun yourself. 

There are over a dozen activity options to choose from that will satisfy a range of ages. The Adventure Hub® includes the Sky Rider coaster, Ropes Course, and Tubes Indoor Playground. The playground has several slides (some pretty fast!), various obstacles, and different climbing features. The Sky Rider and Ropes Course are directly supervised by staff and participants are well secured as they soar above the adventures below. There are also a variety of climbing walls and structures to accommodate climbers are varying heights, ages, and skill — also supervised and secure.

And the trampolines. Wow. So many options. With trampolines on the floor and on the walls, you can jump, run, dunk a basketball, practice your flips, and play dodgeball. Alongside all of the jumping fun, you will also find their Warrior Obstacle Course, the Battle Beam, and Wipeout.

Three levels of daily admission allow participants to spend their time on basic trampolines, deluxe attractions, or ultimate attractions — daily parent passes are just $6.99 for the same level as the child participant. For those who plan to visit regularly (yes, please!), they offer four different Endless Play Memberships that include fantastic perks at each level — no blackout days, member appreciation days, discounted merchandise, weekly events, and free/discounted food. Oh, and you can add a parent pass membership for $3.99/month with purchase of a child membership. 

Urban Air
Did you say birthday party? Urban Air Lenexa has you covered with three 2-hour birthday packages (basic, deluxe, ultimate) and other options (table or party room) that include a digital invitation, paper products and forks, balloons, socks, and more. The website has an extensive birthday
FAQ to help with planning. They handle everything. All you have to do is show up and have a blast, which is all the gift I need when our kids’ birthdays roll around.KC

As we experienced everything with our kids, what I noticed most about the facility was how much fun kids of all ages (as well as adults) were having. Because Urban Air Lenexa has such a wide range of activities, there was something for everyone. We cannot wait to go back!

KCMC Mom Tips:

  • Fill out the waiver online ahead of time to streamline the check-in process.
  • Urban Air socks are required — they’re $3 and you get to keep them. The socks have grippers on the bottom and light up with the black lights, so they’re useful and fun.
  • Make sure you checkout the website so you don’t have anyone disappointed by height requirements, which vary by attraction.
  • There are plenty of cubbies throughout the park for shoes and jacket storage as well as some lockers for rent.
  • There is plenty of seating for adults to observe and relax while the kids play.
  • There are water bottle fillers at the water fountains.
  • There is a full-service café on site — the pizza is delicious!
  • They have free WiFi.

Urban Air has locations in both Lenexa and Overland Park.

How Much Truth Can Your Child Handle?

Mother talking to daughter while cookingMy daughter doesn’t want to have kids because she doesn’t want to eat a baby and poop it out her butt. The stressed-out look on her face inferred her mind had been troubled with this scenario for some time, but I couldn’t help but laugh. I didn’t give all the details at that point (she was five at the time), but I did tell her that babies grow from within your tummy area, and they sometimes come out of your vagina, or in my case – your tummy.

The cutting a baby out also sounded like a bad deal to her, so our conversation led into the opinion that she doesn’t want to have children and that birth control exists. I know children way older than her who still don’t know how babies are born. To me, this is ridiculous. I remain age-appropriately transparent with matters that are biological. My children know about my period, too. I don’t want them to think periods are shameful, or that childbirth isn’t a beautiful, wholesome event.

This all being said, complete honesty and transparency is clearly not always suitable. I’m fortunate to have clients from several different backgrounds, and one is a psychologist who specifically deals with children and family units. I’m also fortunate that although I serve the clients, they end up being invaluable sources of friendship, rewarding work, and advice.

Here is an overview of my psychologist friend’s sage advice. First, balance is key when it comes to parent-child communication. For instance, when communicating about the future, ensuring success for the child and omitting the plausibility of hardship is harmful. But on the other hand, saying the world is full of hardship, mistrust, and hopelessness is equally harmful. Both of these parents actually hold the same goal with their communications–to set their child up to be adequately prepared. Instead, they are making the mistake of coloring an unrealistic world for the child to view.

The next point is parental self-disclosure. We feel as though we know our kids like the back of our hands and want them to know us as well. However, there is a certain distance to achieve to be viewed as a stable figure and show kids that the household is stable by extension. Parts of our history, financial security, marital/relationship security, legal troubles, problems with substances, and negative opinions of another parent or child are all areas to avoid. Again, I believe parents sometimes share these things to better equip their children to journey through life. However, opening up about adult topics before kids are ready can later culminate in the manifestation of anxiety, acting out, or parentification of the child.

In the end, it is comforting to know that we don’t have to strive for perfection, there is no 100% “right way.” My parents have always held the belief that saying swear words around children is wrong, but I openly swear around mine. We communicate differently, but neither is necessarily wrong. In fact, this article says I’m more in the right – take that, mom and dad. I kid, but amidst my swear words, I’m not going to tell the kids I drank too much because I felt depressed, or that the checking account is dangerously low, or that my partner and I had a fight so bad I thought about walking away.

Babies out the bootie are one thing, but I have also stood firm on my rights and privacy as a parent when my kids have inquired how much money I have. I reply that it simply is not their business. As I said above, you do know your children better than anyone. When they ask a question of you on a topic you haven’t covered yet, try to answer with as much information as you deem appropriate, and aim to do no harm.

Groceries Delivered to My Fridge? I’m All In!

This post is sponsored by Walmart InHome, groceries delivered right to your fridge! Opinions belong to the writer.

Grocery shopping has slowly become a detested chore for me. Since I work outside the home, I either have to shop with EVERYONE on the weekends, or I make a run after work one evening, in between activities. Neither of those are my preferred method.

Once stores started offering pick-up services, I was thrilled to try it. Let someone else shop for me, bag my groceries and put them in my car? Sign me up! I’ve really liked using this service for the time saved, but also for the money saved on my grocery bill. I can stick to a list and avoid those impulse purchases when it’s 5 p.m., and I’m hangry.

So when I heard about Walmart’s InHome grocery delivery service that has a person actually put the groceries in your house, I was intrigued. After reading up on the process – how they get in my house, how the delivery is recorded – I decided to give it a try. I scheduled a time for a representative to come to my house to answer my questions and install a smart lock by Level.

Leading up to my install date, I received a number of emails confirming my appointment, which I appreciated. My install was on a Saturday morning (hooray for Saturday appointments!), and everything went very smoothly. The Level Lock is simply deadbolt piece that locks into the hole on the doorframe. My original door lock is still there.

Walmart InHome lock installationMy installer explained exactly how she was going to do everything before she started and I watched the whole process. At one point she needed to carve out a little more space in the latch on the doorframe, but it was a minor fix and the lock was installed in under an hour. She walked me through how the lock works on the app, which is easy. Push a button – locked. Push a button – unlocked. Eventually, the Level Lock will have a stand-alone app, but for now, you have to unlock and lock it through the Walmart InHome app. She walked me through how to place a grocery order, and I was ready to go.

At first I wasn’t sure how much I would really take advantage of InHome. To be completely honest, we do not typically shop at Walmart unless we need to run and grab something quick. My first go was during that hectic week right before Christmas when it felt like every night was packed solid with activities and a massive To-Do list. Knowing we were having friends over Friday after work, I put in a quick order Thursday night for some cheese, crackers, and snacks for the kids. The fact that I didn’t have to run out to the store that night, or worse, try and hit the store on the way home from work, was a huge weight off my shoulders. Ice storm in the forecast? Put your order in the day before so you don’t have to deal with the endless lines of people buying bread and milk.

Sure, the idea of some stranger waltzing into my house when I’m not there is a bit nerve-racking, I admit. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how informed you are throughout the entire process. Prior to delivery Walmart sends you a notification of who is delivering your groceries, complete with a headshot, fun fact about them, and confirmation that they cleared a background check. Strangers, no more! Once they arrive for the actual delivery, you have the option to actually watch them, which can be reassuring if you’re still feeling a bit uneasy about the whole thing. Then when they’re finished, you get another notice letting you know they completed your order with a full receipt letting you know if the shopper needed to sub anything out, which is an option you’re given before placing your order.

I think my favorite part of the entire process, well minus the groceries, is the little note they leave in the fridge confirming that they were there and stocked it for you. They also leave the non-perishable items neatly unpacked on the counter so you can put them where they need to be. If you want something left in the garage, your shopper can do that, too! It’s like having your own personal grocery fairy.

The initial cost for Walmart InHome is $49 for either a door look or a GoControl Smart Garage Door Opener, if you just want someone to access a refrigerator in the garage. After that, you’ll be charged a monthly fee of $19.95, plus the cost of the groceries.

While the monthly fee is a bit more than other delivery services, you are paying for someone to literally bring the groceries into the house and put them away. And frankly, if this service saves my sanity and precious time, I’m all in.

All I Need to Know: Five Years Later

In May 2014, my boys were almost five and seven years old. I was a practicing attorney and life juggler like every other mom, my creative outlet being the fun and introspective blog posts that I was honored to write for the Kansas City Mom Collective (then Kansas City Moms Blog). That month my post was titled, “All I Need to Know.” In it, I wrote about my struggle balancing my dream with my need to be a practical parent who paid bills and monitored conflicts between the basketball and soccer schedules. I was a writer trapped in the body of a lawyer, with ten balls in the air at any given time and constant prayers that I didn’t let the most important ones drop to the ground. I felt trapped professionally and pulled in 20 different directions, all of which demanded my intense focus and dedication. In that blog almost six years ago, I wrote:

I constantly struggle with the desire to give my kids the best life possible, while encouraging them to follow their dreams when I’m not always leading by example. My dream? I want to write; I want to evoke feelings through words. I want to tell people’s stories and tell my own, creating for a living rather than producing. And, I’m trying. I’m doing my best, which means that I’m working a day job, writing on the side, and trying to make sure that my boys are happy and feel loved every minute of every day. Sometimes I fail; sometimes I apologize to them for not being the mom that I wish I could be. And, every time, they forgive me. When I get discouraged and wonder if the pursuit of this dream is worth the effort, I think back to one particular mommy moment. Max’s first grade teacher sent me an email exchange that she had with him during computer lab – a conversation about what he enjoys in school. My son’s response is the only thing that I need to keep this “mommy train” going:

“Dear M.s.,Langan I do like to read and rite beacase I want to be like my mom she is a riter and a reader.”

If my kids are proud of me, that’s all I need to know.

woman typing

It’s now January 2020. My boys are 10 and 13, sports schedules are even more intense, and our conversations about Toy Story are now replaced with talks of puberty and responsible internet usage. A year after writing that blog in 2014, I took a leap of faith and left my lawyer job to write full time.

For three years, I balanced a new freelance and author job with shuttling my boys to practice and thanking my husband for carrying the financial load while my dream was allowed room to grow upward and with newfound direction. I put myself out there. I wrote emails to publishers and dealt with the rejections (some days better than others). I gave myself pep talks and began searching for a literary agent. I put my faith into things that I couldn’t see, a universe and God that I had to believe would guide me toward the path that I was destined to travel. My share of rejections later, the universe connected me with the right people, and I was able to complete two more book manuscripts just as I was offered a new professional position in internal communications. My need to lead a life by example grew stronger as my kiddos grew older, our conversations matured, and our discussions about life and what it’s really all about became more complicated. All of those years ago, my kiddo considered me a writer and I was given a choice — stay true to who I was or continue on a path intended for someone else. To channel Robert Frost, I chose the path intended for me and that has made all the difference.

The parenting lesson that I learned all those years ago remains the most important one that I know today. Leading by example is so much more than teaching social cues, manners, and the treatment of others. Our kids watch how to we lead our lives to gain inspiration for how to lead their own – they watch us stumble and, based on our reactions, learn how to get back up and try again. If we want our kids to follow their passion and live a life true to their talents and gifts, we better make sure we’re doing that ourselves.

My latest book is scheduled for release on February 25, and on the day the Advanced Reader Copies arrived at my house, I rushed to the box waiting for me on the kitchen counter. On it, I found three sweet sticky notes of support, one from my husband and two boys. “Congratulations momma. You did it!”

If my kids are proud of me, that’s all I need to know.

Tiffany’s novel, Good Will, is available for pre-order and you can follow her on Instagram (@readandthreads), Facebook (@TiffanyWKilloren), Goodreads, and Twitter (@tiffanykilloren).

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Tiffany Killoren believes in reinventing yourself. She has been an attorney, Editor-in-Chief of a lifestyle magazine, and storyteller. Her book characters are typically flawed, relatable, and facing one of life’s many crossroads. Tiffany has developed a loyal following and regularly appears on morning talk shows to discuss lifestyle and parenting topics. She lives in a Kansas City suburb with her husband and two young sons and can usually be found latté in-hand typing furiously in the corner of a coffee shop. 

Cooking with Crazy

Raise your hand if you grew up in a house with a feminist mom who was into women’s rights and breaking down stereotypes! The kind of mom that taught you Barbie could have any job and so you could you. Now raise your hand if that mom also forgot to maybe teach you how to cook a simple meal because that’s all her mom did and she is “Not her mother!” Well, I had that mom. And being someone who only knew how to make ramen was a little embarrassing. But my daughter will know how to cook, bake, and grill a steak! 

There is nothing wrong with being a girl who cooks or bakes. I don’t find it degrading to cook my family meals. I don’t think it sets us back hundreds of years. I love being the one who makes meals for my family. I take pride in knowing how each member of my family likes their plates arranged and what condiments are and are not acceptable! At the end of a long day at work, chopping vegetables can be very therapeutic! So, I decided to bring my daughter on board so she could start learning now. Not to ruffle any feathers, my son also helps out a LOT. He is constantly asking questions in the kitchen and knows how to make a variety of meals for himself! 

My daughter is nine going on seventeen! Cooking with someone who is feisty and loud is like being on Survivor — which is why every Sunday night is deemed, “Cooking with Crazy!” She picks out a recipe she wants to try and has to make her own grocery list. I’m trying to teach the life skill of planning ahead and a basic understanding that our house is not a restaurant, so we don’t have all the food on hand. Then she reads and directs in the kitchen and I am her sous-chef. Not only has she learned fractions, but she’s also learning kitchen safety, how to use a variety of cooking utensils, and how to hang out with her mom for an hour! It is my favorite day of the week! 

One of the most important things I’m trying to teach her is how to make mistakes in a safe environment. She’s learned what it feels like to spend 45 mins baking only to discover the end result tastes, “like butt!” She’s read a recipe and tried to tweak it to make it her own! She’s also tried to cook without seeing a picture (gasp!) so she has no idea what it’s supposed to look like and she just has to trust herself. She’s also been able to learn from other great chefs in her life. Both of her grandmas, even that feminist mom who couldn’t be caught dead in a kitchen when I was young, have taken turns cooking with her and sharing tips and tricks.

It’s not always a success. She’s made some dishes even our dog wouldn’t eat! And we once spent 45 minutes making crust and filling for a pie, only for her to realize blackberries were going in it and, “gross, I don’t even like those.” Like I said, cooking with crazy isn’t always the easiest, but the conversations we have are priceless. It’s easy to express the day to day dramatics of 3rd grade when we are focused on cutting and chopping. 

On Sunday nights, that’s where you’ll find me. In the kitchen with the crazy! 

(If you need a place to start, check out: The Everything Kids Cookbook!)

Why I Love (and Hate) Staying Up Late

10:30PM — the night is young. I still have two, maybe three hours. Time to finish tasks I couldn’t complete while chasing our toddler, teaching high school English, or shuffling our preschooler from school to therapy. Time to actually read (skim) my email. Time to catch up on my shows from two weeks ago. Time to do whatever the heck I want.

I’ve found a lot of moms keep similar hours — because I see you guys lurking on social media and sometimes strike up a chat or shoot you a text. Most of us have the same reason for putting off our “zzz’s”: We need time to ourselves. The still of the night, once everyone is in bed, provides space for much-needed decompression and the opportunity to get stuff done, uninterrupted.

Take our holiday cards, for example. A labor of love. Goes like this: I update our address spreadsheet and design/order our card one late night in November. Then, one late night in December, I stuff, address (I print labels at home after doing a mail merge), and affectionately stamp our season’s greetings. I know my husband could help (not sure if he’d want to…) and that toddlers love assisting Mommy with chore-like tasks, but I also know I can accomplish this feat most efficiently by myself at 11PM.

Speaking of the holidays, because I’m now conditioned to staying up late, Christmas Eve night is my time to shine. Whether it’s a kitchen, easel, or indoor trampoline that requires watching two different Youtube videos to figure out assembly, I’m your gal. I don’t feel the same pressure as other panicked parents — I’m used to burning the midnight oil. Give me a “some assembly required” gift that has mere illustrations for instructions, a movie I’ve already seen playing in the background, and a screwdriver, and I’ll give you a fully constructed masterpiece come sunrise.

Since I’m up, sometimes, I go to the grocery store pretty late at night because then I can go alone. Besides the luxury of walking the aisles without any extra hands grabbing more boxes of fruit snacks or a sibling slap-fest in the cart, I now understand why there are grocery stores open 24hrs a day…for the mom who just remembered her daughter has snack this week (because at 10PM on Sunday night she ate the last veggie straw while sitting down to binge watch The Crown). In case you’re wondering, that mom was me.

However, over the last six months or so, my late bedtime has gotten a bit out of control. I fall down the rabbit hole of current events, or binge watch my guilty pleasure (Dylan and Brenda forever!), or get sucked into a parenting article vortex. What was once valuable and productive “me time” has begun to have the reverse effect. See, I’ve come to realize that I’m not actually using the time to decompress. The tasks I planned to do between the hours of 10 PM and midnight get pushed aside for mindless scrolling of social media. And mindless scrolling tends to make my mind race. Rather than being relaxed and ready for sleep, my brain shifts into overdrive right before I need to shut down for the night, which leaves me feeling restless. And, no surprise here, I’ve noticed a gradual uptick in my anxiety. Apparently, the recommended amount of sleep is recommended for a reason.

My husband is usually in bed by 10PM. We often don’t climb into bed at the same time because I stay up so late. In trying to find a pocket of time for me, I’ve taken time away from my marriage. Sounds pretty dramatic, but it’s true. Sure, we’ve been going on more regular date nights, but getting in bed together (romance aside) offers a consistent opportunity to really talk without distraction. Until my husband started pointing this out, I hadn’t realized the trade I was making — it’s important to note my husband has also been getting tired (ha!) of my morning exhaustion.

Self care comes in a lot of forms. And, sometimes, habits we think are helping us may be doing the exact opposite. I won’t be able to shift to a 10PM bedtime completely, nor do I want to, but I’ve been slowly changing my night owl status. Instead of staying up late every night, I’m limiting myself to three nights a week (sometimes four) and aim to be in bed by midnight when I do stay up. You know, we spent a long time establishing a bedtime routine for our kids. Seems about time I establish a new one of my own.

Easy Sensory Bins and Indoor Activities to Keep You Sane this Winter

I am writing this post while it is snowing. It has been snowing all day. It is supposed to keep snowing tomorrow.

If you’re anything like me, you’re stuck at home and indoors when we have winter weather. Cabin fever will set in eventually, and there is a good chance that my five-year-old and two-year-old will mutiny if I don’t keep them busy. To avoid locking myself in the bathroom to hide from their whiney demands, I’ve put together a few cheap, easy, tried-and-true ways to keep them occupied when we can’t go out!

The Shaving Foam Bath

Next time you are at the store, stock up with several cans of shaving foam. This one costs less than $1 a can, smells great, and works like a charm! Strip the kids down, plop them in the shower, and hand them a can or two. Bonus: your bathroom will smell great! You can add food coloring for some extra fun!

A good ol’ bubble bath is always a crowd pleaser for my water-loving munchkins. And, occasionally, we get silly and we eat a popsicle in the tub! Our motto: when in doubt, add water!

 

Ice Scoops

Empty your ice bucket into one side of your sink or a large mixing bowl. On the other side of the sink or around the bowl, set up several small cups or bowls. Give the kiddos tongs and let them go to town. Bonus: use this time to clean out the ice bucket, the freezer, and even the fridge! Like I said above, adding water is a guaranteed way to entertain the kiddos! Just playing in the sink can be a real treat.

 

 

Bake with the Babies

The next time there is a sale on boxed baking mixes, buy one of each! Grab some cans of frosting and some food coloring. Let the kids go wild decorating cakes or cookies!

A favorite activity at our house is making Bread in a Bag. I suggest using butter and eating it when it is still warm!

I haven’t tried Snow Ice Cream yet, but it is snowing while I’m drafting this post, so there’s still time!

No-Fail Sensory Bins

What you’ll need:

  1. A large, durable container. I like this one because it is shallow enough that my toddler can easily reach in to play and because it has clips that help keep the lid on.
  2. Tongs. Pick something like this: easy to use and small enough for little hands.
  3. Measuring cups.
  4. Spoons and other assorted scoops. Like these!
  5. Filler. The easiest, cheapest, and most readily available fillers are 20-lb bags of rice and beans.  You can order these phenomenal water beads or find them in some craft stores.
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Fun themes:

  1. Dino Dig! We bought shoe-box-sized bins like these and filled them with rice, beans, and these fossils for my son’s 4th birthday. The kids got to dig with their friends, and then take their bins home as a party favor!
  2. Get buggy with it! These bugs were colorful and fun! Fill the bin with soil if you have any!
  3. Visit the south pole! Fill the bin with snow and bring it inside for the littles. Or, make a warmer version of snow with corn starch and water!  Add some animal friends and have a blast!
  4. Take a nature walk! Before Thanksgiving, my kiddos and I spent about an hour combing the trails near our house for acorns. We added them to a bin with rice. We sorted acorns with caps and acorns without. It kept us busy for an entire afternoon.

Sensory bin tips:

  1. Pick a place that is easily cleaned, like the tile floor of your kitchen.
  2. Try putting down a tarp to help with messes.
  3. If you don’t have a child-sized vacuum, consider getting one!
  4. Teach sensory bin etiquette. How to keep filling in the bin. No throwing. No eating.
  5. Start with short play time and low expectations.
  6. Supervise! Or, prepare for major clean up.
  7. Be as creative as you want! Or, be resourceful with what you already have in your house!
  8. When in doubt, just type “sensory bin” into your Pinterest search bar! You won’t be disappointed. Neither will your kids!

Saving My Sanity Through Exercise

If you’re like me, you have 1,000 tabs open in your head at all times. You’re either cleaning or cooking or organizing or picking up toys or planning a birthday or taking care of a sick kid or working or remembering to buy a gift for someone or planning a trip or trying to maintain friendships or racking your brain about what NEW recipes your kids will actually eat or trying to stay fit or longing to read a good book or making a mental list of groceries or putting a bandaid on a skinned knee or googling how to be a good parent to your strong-willed child… 

The list goes on. I could think of at least 1,000 things my mind thinks about on a daily basis. 

But the truth is sometimes I just want to scroll my newsfeed on Facebook and/or the ‘Gram and mindlessly laugh at all the memes that are entirely too accurate about motherhood. 

If I’m not careful, though, I can let my mind get stuck in a lot of unhealthy places. 

For example, social media displays a highlight reel of everyone’s lives. Whether it’s seeing that perfect marriage or wanting to buy all new home decor, I can totally get caught in that web. 

Then there’s the web of fashion ideas, workouts, recipes, giveaways, hairstyles, babies, holiday home decor, pillow choices, swimwear, hot new toy items up for grabs, and birthday party ideas. 

Sometimes I start comparing myself to others & I can get trapped in a web of unworthiness. 

But I’m here to tell you–we’ve all been there. And momma, it just ain’t true! 

Do we want our sons & daughters to get stuck in these places? Goodness, no. So, let’s rise up and set a precedent for our future. Instill some self control and self love into our lives to help orchestrate a positive environment in our homes.

Fear is a liar. Sure, there’s a healthy fear, but unreasonable fear brings doubt and loneliness. I know so many stuck in this place. 

exercise equipmentSo how do I get out of that place? How do I save my sanity from all the mixed-up signals that are constantly throwing themselves at me every single minute of every single day? 

Exercise

Now, let me tell you that I am no expert. I am NOT super fit. And I do not claim to know as much as a fitness guru does. But I am going to tell you that it’s true what they say–30 or more minutes of moderate exercise per day does WONDERS for your sanity! On days where I workout, I can feel it deep down in my soul. I am a happier person, better momma & wife, and have such a calmer spirit when I implement this very simple act for my life. 

I recently went through a hiatus of taking several days off exercise, due to kids being sick and a pulled muscle. And let me tell you–I thought I might be depressed because my mind was just all over the place. There’s a special sense of peace and healthy confidence that comes with exercise, and my body was craving that! 

So how do you start? 

There are so many options these days. I, personally, love to workout at home because I have three children and actually going to the gym is just not feasible for our family. I like to stream my workouts early in the morning to get my day started off on the right track. I know that may not work for everyone, but whatever works…do just that. Maybe it’s 10 minutes one week, and 20 minutes the next. Whatever it is, start there. Just start!

There are gyms in nearly every part of town, too! Even if you get outside and walk with your neighbors or go play outside with your kids, that counts! Just get up and get moving! Your body, mind & soul will thank you later. We only get one body. We only get one life. Might as well make the most of it!

Finding Myself Again

finding myself againMaybe I have fallen into the trap of a New Year’s resolution, or maybe I am just truly ready for a change. Either way, it’s time for me to take a leap of faith. I need to find myself again.

Eleven years of marriage and five kids later, I don’t who I am anymore. Some days, I look in a mirror, and I see a complete stranger. Somehow, I always put something or someone before me, and this has to be the time that the commitment is beyond words and more action. I am not giving up on me this time. 

30 days of self-reflection, compassion, letting the past go, and building my self-esteem begin now. Here are a few new aspects I am incorporating into my life to help find myself again. Maybe they can help you start a list, too. 

  1. Write or say a positive affirmation to myself every day. 
  2. Give my time to others and find a way to pour positivity into them.
  3. Make plans with girlfriends and KEEP THEM! 
  4. Continuing to study my Bible. It’s such a peaceful time for me.
  5. Have a weekly dance party with my kids. I know it sounds strange, but I need to brush up on my dance skills, get those extra steps in, and most of all, be silly with my kids!
  6. Accept that I can say “no” to something and not have mom or life guilt!
  7. Admit I need help and not be ashamed to take it. 
  8. Be more present and create meaningful memories.

My biggest hurdle in all this newfound way of life: accountability. Making others in my life stick to what they say is easy, but to be honest, I am unsure of myself. In my mind, I know I can do this, but my heart is second-guessing my new second chance. But that is how fear is. It will creep up on you and make you change your plans. NOT THIS TIME! 

I know there are going to be some hiccups along the way, and I am okay with giving myself some grace. The main goal is to find a better version of myself and not to over-analyze every aspect of my life. Fear, self-doubt, and mom guilt can no longer be in control of my life. I have to see past all that old stuff and concentrate on discovering new positive traits in my life. 

Finding the new you is really more than a 30-day journey; it’s a faith-filled start. I hope this will guide someone else to start their own journey to a new and improved you. 

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