Wednesday, September 3, 2014

3 Tips on Finding Time For Yourself

As a mom-preneur who works full-time and juggles the lives of four children and a husband, finding time for myself is a small challenge. Who am I kidding it's a HUGE challenge. I used to end every day feeling worn out, unproductive and overwhelmed. My to-do list was never ending. And even though I was always busy, I never felt like I accomplished as much as I needed to. I had to make decision to jump off the hamster wheel. I had to start reclaiming my time. You can too.

Here's my  Top 3 Tips for finding some time for YOU!

Tip # 1 Give up on Perfect and Learn to Prioritize

I used to try to everything perfectly. I thought if I could serve perfectly executed gourmet meals to perfectly behaved children in perfectly decorated home, that my life would be well, perfect. I figured that a lot of the pressure I was feeling was coming from within. That all changed when I stopped competing with myself. I had to learn to prioritize. I don't mean just putting your to-do list in order. The first step to prioritizing is too figure out whats really important to you. Then write it down. Is it family time, couple time, growing your business going back to school, keeping in touch with old friends or volunteering for your favorite cause or a school? Whatever tops your list, those are your priorities! For me it's time with my husband and kids, my business, my physical and mental health, and spending time with family and friends. So anything that I'm asked to do that doesn't go towards one of these priorities, I say no. Should I play a game and spend a couple of hours laughing with my family or go to happy hour with co-workers  I barely know because it's expected. For me, it's game time! Because the happy hour although nice, doesn't fit into my priority categories. Your categories will be different and that's perfectly okay. This is about doing what's right for you.  Once you have a clear priority list, you feel much less guilty saying no to obligations or requests that don't fit your list. Protect your time by setting boundaries and keeping them by not answering emails or the telephone or texts during that time. I set aside a certain amount of time each week for my blog, my freelance work, my new company. And I protect it. I set aside time each week for a lunch date with my husband. I protect that. My teenager and I watch Teen Wolf every Monday night. I protect that.

Tip #2 Have a Plan (For EVERYTHING!)

I know this sounds yucky, kind of like have a budget (gasp!). But trust me it works. You don't have to have a full minute by minute plan, (although I kinda do) but a family routine of what time everyone gets up, goes to school, eats meals, goes to bed can save your sanity. Raising children can be a circus, a routine can help insert some structure the chaos. Children function better when they know what's happening next. Adults too for that matter.My trick to having a routine is that I plan almost everything. I use a meal planner and grocery list when I shop. I meal plan for two weeks at a time and I add the meals on my weekly calendar. This can seem like a daunting task at first, however a little extra prep time 2-3 times a month saves me time precious time in that after work rush hour of homework help, dinner, and baseball practice. I don't wonder what I have. I don't need to run to the store for potatoes . Because I have I always have a weeks worth of planned meals and all the ingredients ready. I also do this for packed lunches for hubby and I it saves time, my budget and waistline since i don't have to run out for expensive, unhealthy fast food because I didn't have anything to bring for lunch.
I also have a cleaning plan. I used to work full-time years ago and I never thought I had time for housekeeping and laundry on the weekdays, I waited until the weekend and we did ALL the chores then. Needless to say, I started all my weeks started just as exhausted as I ended them. I never had break and the kids were pouting. Who wants to spend all day Saturday scrubbing floors? This time as I went back into the workforce, I figured there had to be a better way. Now I have a cleaning schedule for instance instead of spending 8 hours on Sunday doing a weeks worth of laundry for 6 people. I put one load in for one person everyday before I leave for work. I put it in the dryer when I get home, then I give it to that kid to fold and put away. Everyone has an assigned laundry day. We all do one of of those "Saturday Chores" dusting, mopping, cleaning a bathroom, during  a specific weekday, so by Saturday afternoon, I have time to play and my house is still clean! I also plan the fun stuff. Every other month or so I go shopping on sites like Groupon or Living Social for local outings in my area. I buy quite a few things at once, museum passes, brunches at a restaurant I've never been to, an art class. This way when that chore free Saturday rolls around or our weekly (okay maybe bi-weekly) date night rolls around we've always got something to do. It took some time to get  plans together that worked for me, but the reward is more time to put towards things I love.

Tip #3 Make Appointments with Yourself and Keep Them

Now that your dinners are all planned and your household is running semi-smoothly. What are you going to do with all that free time on your hands?  If you don't make an appointment with yourself, probably nothing. When you have a business meeting or a school conference or even a date with your spouse, you write it down, or put a reminder in your phone. You keep that appointment because it's important obviously I mean you wrote it PEN. You don't want to disappoint anyone, even if there's other things you could be doing, you keep that appointment. You should do the same for yourself. Figure out the things you enjoy doing that are all about you. for me it was working out, reading, and getting my nails done. But I tend to put these things that I love to aside for other people or events that seem more important. Once I started actually scheduling them on my calendar in PEN, I started keeping those appointments. If I want to read on Tuesday night from 9-10 on Thursday after work, I'm trying that new yoga class I write it down in my calendar and I keep it. Treat an appointment with yourself the same way you do your boss or your doctor. You're just as important.

I hope my tips are helpful in streamlining your schedule and finding some much needed YOU time. What are some ways you make time for yourself?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kid's Academy Company App Reviews

I was selected by Sverve and Kids Academy Apps to Review the following Learning Apps from Preschoolers:

Learn To Read & Write Kid’ Puzzles 

I kept both my four year old niece and my 6 year old ASD son occupied and happy with this app during a busy day full of errands. Although it was more of a review for the 6 year old, he loved it and who couldn't use help with their handwriting. The four year old got the most “learning” use out of the app a she has just started Pre-K, she loved tracing the letters and both kids loved the dog playing in the maze. The graphics are bright and engaging and it may become a favorite for kids and myself.

Preschool & Kindergarten Learning Kids Games Free For Toddlers and Preschool Children 

This app was more appropriate for my younger nieces and nephews. So I let them go at it. They loved catching the fireflies and tracing the numbers and letters. Since they are just starting out in school, this is a great tool for enrichment. I told them it was homework. They liked the fun look of the game and it kept them busy for a full 20 minutes thats ages for a preschooler!

Kids Puzzles preschool math games for girls and boys ∙ Toddlers learn 123 tracing with paint sparkles draw drill 

All three kids fro 3-6 loved this game, they loved to trace the numbers and get medals! I could actually see the form and shape of their numbers getting better as they kept playing. I thought it wouldn't keep them engaged for long but I was wrong. This one is a keeper!

This is a sponsored post but the opinions are 100% mine (and my kids)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Parental Responsibilities

This post is a plea to white moms. The ones I wave to in the carpool line and serve with on the PTA. The ones I casually chat with at school orientation and in the stands at baseball. The one sitting next to me last week at the playground while we discussed affordable aftercare and food allergies. I know all parents have some parental duty that they hate. Many parents don't like diaper duty, or doctor's visits or PTA meetings. But we do it anyway. Most parents dread that nightmare-inducing birds and bees conversation. These are universal parental concerns that cross all class, race and gender divides. However as much, as I'd like to ignore it, there are certain parental responsibilities that are unique to me as the mother of  black boy.

All though our children live in the same neighborhood, have been classmates all their lives and play videogames and Little League together, they're not the same. Their experiences as they grow into young men will be vastly different. There are lessons we'll both try to teach our sons, but my son will always have an extra set of rules that will apply to him exclusively. While I stand in the playground watching my son play on the swings with yours, I realized in addition to teaching my son his ABC's, how to say please and thank you and how to look both ways before crossing the street, I also have to teach him how not to get killed by yours. Does this sound harsh? Are you shocked? Welcome to the world of black motherhood..

When your son starts venturing out on his own, even to the neighborhood store, I'm sure you'll worry. You'll worry about what if he gets lost, what if he gets hit by a car. I will too. As my son zips up the same school approved hoody sweatshirt they both wear, I'll wonder if his makes him look thuggish or threatening. I'll also wonder if some wanna-be in the neighborhood watch will kill my son as he walks home with his iced tea and candy. And so I'm afraid , and I'll teach him to be afraid. R.I.P Trayvon Martin.

When our boys start dating, we'll be nervous, we'll teach him how to be respectful and be a gentlemen and even to practice safe sex. While I'd love to tell him to feel free to date and to love across all  racial barriers, I'll be afraid that as he goes to shake hands  introduce himself to his white girlfriend's policeman father, he'll shoot him down in the street, while her policewoman mother watches from the car. So I'm afraid and I'll have to teach him to be afraid. R.I.P Jeremy Lake.

When our college bound sons are hanging out with their friends and see police approach, I'm sure although you've taught your son to be respectful of law enforcement as have I. Your son will barely notice the officers. Mine will instinctively feel fear and loathing. So I will teach my son to be respectful, to be afraid, to try to be invisible, because his very existence on any given street can be seen as threat. Unarmed and innocent and hands in the air, he could still lose his life. So I'm very afraid and he will be too. R.I.P Mike Brown.

You might read this and wonder "what can I do?" Or I'm not a racist and neither are my kids so this doesn't apply to me. But it does! There's so much you can do! You can talk to your children about race. Please none of that "everybody is equal" or "everyone should be treated the same" generic bullshit. That means nothing to a child, it means nothing to me either. I mean really talk to your kids.On average black families start talking to their kids about race around age 3, for white families age 13. Even then, they are pacified with generic platitudes of just treat everyone fairly, all the while being bombarded in the media with anti brown/black/gay/Jewish sentiment daily. That one MLK Day play they were in at school in the third grade is not the end if the race discussion.Talk to them about history and racism. Explain to them what discrimination is. Ask them questions about racism they may have seen themselves. Ask them how they feel about racism. Tell them what they can do to stop it. Don't tolerate racism from other relatives, many parents have a tendency to sit in uncomfortable silence at the Thanksgiving table while that one relative makes disparaging racist comments. They tell their children to ignore it, this translates to allow it. Teach your kids to stand up for what's right. Talk to them about Trayvon Martin, Jeremy Lake and Mike Brown. This is YOUR parental responsibility. You, my fellow carpool, PTA, soccer mom, yes you! I'm asking you to share the load, to share the responsibility of keeping my sons safe from yours.

Monday, May 19, 2014

I Just Finished Reading: Dads of Disability

Dads of Disability is a collection of essays, poems and stories by and about Dads and how they cope with being a father to a disabled child. These stories were collected and edited by Gary Dietz, also a father to a disabled child.

Author's Synopsis-

This is not a 'how-to' book or a book of '5-ways to do this' or '10-ways to do that.' Rather, this collection uses a storytelling approach to illuminate the emotional lives of these fathers. Dads of Disability will begin or extend the conversation between and amongst fathers, mothers, extended families, care circles, and individuals with disabilities themselves. This book is for fathers and mothers. For friends and support circles. For care professionals. For teachers. For friends trying to understand their neighbor's challenges. For anyone interested in the variety of the emotional lives of fathers whose children experience a disability. "

Each essay or poem gives an in depth look inside the mind and heart of a dad at various crucial and defining moments in his parenthood journey. These are not just feel good Hallmark stories.  These aren't stories of saints in suits swooping in like Superman saving the day without breaking a sweat. No, these are real dads dealing with real life struggles of parenting a disabled child. And while they do sometimes save the day, the men in these stories don't want to be seen as heroes. They just want to be seen as dads.

Every story is brutally honest, such as the story of the man who admits that he considered running away in a time of weakness and despair, but after contemplating the benefits of own childhood with a present, dependable and steadfast father in his life, has no choice but to reconsider.

One father talks about how reluctant he was to consider his wife's observations that "something was wrong". His struggle to overcome denial and walk into acceptance is a journey any parent of a child with disability can appreciate.

Another dad talks about learning, accepting and respecting his son's limits. He learns the hard way that there's a thin line between encouraging and pushing too hard.

Still another dad talks about the anticipation he felt when learning he was of having a son. He reminisces on how he planned to bond and to share father and son activities with his child. His child's severe disabilities changed all of those well-laid plans. This dad had to learn to adjust, accept and appreciate the kind of relationship he can have with son.

The are also stories by women about the dads of these children. One of my personal favorites was by a wife writing with such admiration for the fix-it dad armed only with his tool kit who manages to make all kinds of adaptations for his physically disabled son so that he can enjoy the same experience as other kids his age, even when it may scare his mom to death!

As the father of a severely disabled teenager, Gary Dietz didn't just collect and edit these essays, he has added his own voice to the stories in this book. His passion about the changing roles of fathers, especially of disabled children inspired this crowd sourced and crowd funded labor of love. Visit Gary's blog here.

There are many sites, blogs, support groups for mothers of special needs children. As a mom of one of those children, I can assure you these are definitely needed. Before reading "Dads of Disability" I never realized that Dad's have their own unique feelings and experiences about parenting special needs children. Their voice also deserves to be heard. Reading these stories prompted me to have conversations in my own house about how our journeys and experiences can differ greatly while parenting the same child. The desire for a deeper dialogue is the greatest gift a book like this can give.*

Want to Read "Dads of Disability"? Go here.