On the side of the hamster cage there is a wheel.
It spins, and goes nowhere.
It makes a lot of noise, all hours of the day and night.
It would go on forever.
Endless movement while never achieving the goal of moving forward.
I have a confession to make. I have often been on that wheel as a parent.
(and I often jump back on it if I am not intentionally watching out for the signs!)
I am guilty of running around in circles, doing unnecessary things just because they are expected of me.
Saying “yes” to things I should be saying, “no… or not now,” to.
Things that keep me busy, moving, running, without moving me any closer to my most important goals.
I can spend much energy on things that are not high priority.
I can find it hard to do the important job of rest, and miss the season of life I am in… because I feel an urgency in my day.
Just a few more laps on that wheel to go!
There are some natural tendencies and some lenses I see life through that have encouraged me to stay on that wheel in the past.
And to jump back on in the present.
Maybe you can relate to some of these things I have found out about myself:
- I like to obey rules.
- I am competitive.
- I have high expectations for me and my family.
- I find success in getting a lot done.
- I want my days to be full of purpose.
- I deeply care about other people.
- I am moved to action easily.
- I have a hard time saying no.
- I feel guilty for not meeting other’s expectations of me.
- I am stubborn. (If I get something stuck in my head to do… I have a hard time changing course!)
- I find it hard to break habits.
With these tendencies, I am a perfect candidate for a wheel runner.
For about the first 10 years of marriage, I ran like a freaking rat…
trying to do everything everyone wanted me to do…
volunteering for everything under the sun…
not getting enough sleep… not getting enough exercise…
not spending much time with close family outside of volunteering opportunities…
and expecting everyone else to be like me.
I expected an almost perfect house, body, kids, and husband;
and pushed my heart, body, soul and family to the limits.
In a religious and community setting, I was surrounded by the philosophy that I was to be a “good wife” and a “good mom”
… and what those voices were telling me… well, it was impossible to do all that they were saying AND focus on the most important things.
But I sincerely tried.
Each person pointed out another area in which I should be doing more.
I needed a cleaner house. I needed to give more money.
I needed to volunteer more. I needed to teach my children more.
I carried guilt as a third leg. Dragging it into most conversations and trying to hide it from the outside world.
My husband saw it. He heard me almost daily apologize for not being a “good enough wife” or a “good enough mom.”
I wouldn’t go to bed until all the dishes were washed and put away because a “good wife” never goes to bed with dishes in the sink.
(an echo in my mind from a college teacher still 20 years later)
My kids saw it. I demanded a lot from them.
Obedience without question.
They often saw an unhappy momma.
Life was overwhelming.
I couldn’t do it all.
I was angry.
I was exhausted.. and then I would feel guilty for feeling angry and exhausted.
Such a vicious wheel!
I needed help.
I needed grace.
I needed permission to say, “No. I cannot do that.”
I needed someone to look me in the eyeballs and say… “GET OFF THAT WHEEL before you CROAK!”
I needed to STOP listening to people who said I wasn’t doing enough… I had a lot of them in my life.
I needed to START listening to people who could help me set a healthy pace of life.
A pace that could last for years… decades.
Those who could help me use my energy and passions efficiently.
Those who could help me turn my tendencies into strengths that worked FOR me… NOT against me.
Those who saw me as an individual with gifts, personality, and a season of life that didn’t always fit into their way of doing things.
With intentional life change, my husband Mike and I have slowly figured out how to stay off that wheel.
Some of you might relate to some of these things.
Some of you might not have had religious influences push you onto that wheel.
But you might have other ones.
Maybe family members.
Maybe a job environment.
Maybe a way of thinking.
Maybe the culture you are surrounded by.
Whatever it is… I am telling you… you have permission to GET OFF THAT WHEEL today!
Take a breather and do some heart searching.
What is controlling your decisions?
Who is influencing your definition of a “good parent” or “good spouse?”
How do you measure your “success” as a parent, spouse, friend, or employee?
Do you allow yourself time to focus on your emotional, physical, and mental health?
Do you allow yourself to say, “No” to things that hinder you from the most important goals in your season of life?
I hope if you are struggling with this… that you give yourself the grace and permission you need.
You will be a better “whatever” when you are able to chose worthy goals, and make baby steps towards them.
You will be a happier spouse, parent, employee… when you see change for the positive.
You will have time to focus on the most important… when you allow yourself to say “No” to those things that aren’t.
I hope you see that by helping yourself… you really are helping those you care about.
And who care about you.
Life is too short… to waste a bunch of energy on that wheel.
Maybe being organized comes easy for you.
Maybe you are a pro at finding and using the latest and newest time management tools.
Maybe it comes natural to you to have a place for everything and everything in its place.
If this is you, than what I am going to say will seem like such a “duh,” post.
… the thought of writing everything down that you do each week is a frightening one.
… you have to remove the layers of appointment reminder cards from your frig because they are a fire hazard.
… you wake up in a panic when the electricity surges off and on, because you don’t remember if you paid your bill last month.
… you get a bill for the doctor’s visit you forgot last week… cause they charged you anyways.
… your library has wanted posters up with your face on it.
I feel your pain. I really do.
For my first 8 or so years of adulthood, I struggled with basic calendar scheduling.
I tried to find ways to keep up with all the info,
break the big projects into doable sized tasks, (bite sized ones!)
and set reminders for all the appointments. (so I could actually go to them!)
The scraps of paper, index cards, and backs of receipts… just weren’t cutting it anymore!
One of the tools that I tried to use to help me be able to do this… was a wall calendar.
Now back in the day, that would have been a good start.
When Mike (my hubby) first tried to get me to use a portable calendar, I was stubborn.
(Mike is one of those time management nerds… and I feel soooooo sorry for him being married to me!)
I thought having a schedule would hinder my “creative” and free spirit!
But after years (I told you I am stubborn!) of coaxing and subtle hints from Mike…
(“oh, look honey… I got you this really pretty planner from work today!”
He worked at Franklin Covey for a few years. Like I said… poor guy!)
… and I got tired of trying to keep it all in my brain
… and saw that Mike was able to relax and be in the moment more by using his planner
… well, I decided to give it a shot!
It has evolved over the past 12 years …
from the wall calendar (which didn’t work so well for being on the go!),
to a Franklin Covey planner (which was a nice way to keep my info with me wherever I went),
to about a year ago I realized I have a personal assistant in my pocket!!!!!!
It’s my smart phone!
I have this wonderful calendar app that sincs with my desk top at home.
Having my phone with me everywhere is the easiest calendar I’ve ever kept up with.
IT’S SO NICE!!!!!
My calendar app helps me plug in my appointments and when I want to accomplish my “to do’s.”
I use it at the doctors, dentist, library, out at the store, and more.
The office staff at these places make comments about how organized I am.
I have literally laughed out loud at them… and then apologized saying “Thank you, I am trying.”
I can set alerts to remind me of a commitment , and then move what I didn’t get done to another day.
One of the other benefits of using the online calendar is that my husband and teens all use the same calendar app.
As they have gotten more obligations outside of the home, it has helped cut back on double booking.
In a life full of “to-do’s,” I have to set aside intentional time to connect with those that I want to know the most.
Life in a house of 8 people tends to be just a little “cray-cray” at times. :)
Having a clear plan for my time and appointments makes it doable, and helps keep the priorities on the forefront.
If you feel overwhelmed with keeping up with your schedule,
I’m encouraging you to take some time to check your pocket.
See if you have an option of a calendar app on your phone.
If you don’t… find a portable calendar you can keep on you.
and then write down ALL of your commitments.
And then CHECK your calendar before you commit to more!
Whatever you choose, give it a fair try.
Habits tend to take a few weeks to build and break.
There is hope. If I can get better at it… anyone can!
How about you? What do you use to stay organized with your time?
Share your organization tips in the comments! I’d love to hear from YOU!
Our youngest son, (currently 10 years old) Christopher, has dealt with life threatening food allergies since he was a toddler.
This past week, he agreed to do an interview with me.
As his parent, it was interesting to hear him talk about how having allergies has affected his life and way of thinking.
These are his thoughts on living with severe allergies as a kid.
Question: Hey, Christopher. Thanks for being willing to talk about this. To start off, what are you allergic to?
I am allergic to soy, coconut, peanuts, nuts, and stuff like dust mites, dogs and cats. Oh, and a lot of plants.
Question: What are some of your favorite things?
I love to sing, play the ukulele, and play video games.
I love to play basketball and dance.
My favorite book series is Big Nate.
My favorite foods are No Bake Cookies (without peanut butter, of course), tacos, and salad.
My favorite restaurant is Red Robin. I like it there because they can make me an allergen -free burger and fries.
And I can even eat the bun there.
Question: What is something that is hard to do because you have allergies?
It is hard for me to do sports sometimes, because my allergies cause my asthma to get stirred up sometimes.
Making it hard for me to breathe well.
But I have gotten better over the past few years, and use my inhaler right before any game or dance. It does help a lot.
I was able to play basketball last fall. That was so much fun.
I don’t eat out at a lot of restaurants.
I usually pack a lunch or a snack if we are going out for awhile.
Question: How often do you think about the fact you have allergies?
It feels really normal to me now.
After this long of having it, I don’t think of it as a strange thing.
It’s just something I have to deal with. It has become routine.
So it feels like I don’t really think about it very much.
Question: Is there anything you have been fearful about dealing with allergies?
When I was a little younger, I used to be scared of peanut butter.
If any of my friends were eating a peanut butter sandwich, I would kind of freak out.
Or if I went in a store that had an aisle of nuts, it would make me scared.
But now, I just stay away from people that are eating it.
I sit across from them, and make sure I don’t touch where they were eating.
Question: Is there anything you have felt badly about with having allergies?
When our family chose to get rid of peanut butter in our house several years ago,
I felt like it was my fault. I felt sad.
I knew that a lot of our family really liked peanut butter.
But now I realize it really isn’t an option for me. I could actually die from it.
So my family has made me realize it’s ok.
Also, I thought that maybe some kids wouldn’t want to be my friend.
Question: What is a kindness someone showed you, going out of their way to make you feel included even with food allergies?
When I played basketball this past winter, my coach was really understanding.
His son also is allergic to nuts so he knows what it feels like.
When it was time to celebrate for the end of the season, he sent an email to all the parents reminding them that there were kids in the class with allergies.
Then he asked my parents what dessert I would like in place of all the things there I couldn’t have.
He brought me my own giant pack of chocolate puddings!
Question: How do you feel when you see a “NO NUTS allowed” sign at places like the theater school you attend?
I like it!
It makes me feel safe, and that people are really trying to look out for kids like me.
Like they are understanding that it is a big deal for kids who are allergic to peanuts and nuts.
Question: What did you feel like the first time you met a kid your age who also was allergic to a lot of the same things you are?
It made me realize I am not the only kid dealing with it.
And that I was not as weird as I felt.
That it was “normal” for other kids too.
Question: What are some of the things you do to stay safe when you are away from the safety of your house?
I carry a backpack that has all the medicines I would need if I were to have an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis. I take it everywhere.
I know how to use my epi pen.
I don’t eat anything without checking the labels.
My parents normally check them, but if I am somewhere without them, I check them.
Even if my friend has checked them.
I like to double check.
I ask people to check the ingredients to everything I eat.
Question: Are there any places you can’t go because of allergies?
I don’t go to any restaurant that has peanuts out in the open or on the floor.
I’ve not been able to go to the football stadium with my grandpa because of peanuts.
I had to leave a seal exhibit one time because I started having a really bad reaction to something in the place.
We never figured out what it was.
If someone asks me if I want to pet their animal, I just say, “no thank you.”
I usually offer for my friends to come to my house and play, more often than going over to theirs.
Especially before we have a chance to talk about my allergies and explain things to them.
I also don’t play in the grass or leaves, like roll around in it.
If we are at a park, I just mostly stay up on the play ground equipment or on the concrete.
Question: How do you feel when you hear about kids reading your book about allergies: James and the Big Battle?
I have a mixture of sad and happy feelings.
Sad because if they have allergies too… well, that makes me sad for them.
But happy, because I want to make them feel like they aren’t alone… that there are a lot of kids that have to deal with them too.
It makes me happy to hear they read the book and liked it!
So there you have it.
From the mouth of a young man who has taken a quite positive approach to a very serious subject.
I hope you’ve been encouraged by this interview like I was.
His encouraging spirit is contagious… and I hope you caught it!
If you haven’t had a chance to check out James and the Big Battle: A Children’s Book about Allergies, you can do so here!
What is something you have dealt with allergy wise?
A fear? A positive experience?
We’d love to hear from YOU!
It is often painted as a time waster.
It is often said that your social media “friends” aren’t really friends.
It is often fasted from, weaned off, and talked badly about.
Some days your social media feed can be filled with controversial topics and opinions,
And the next can be filled with precious pictures of babies, cats, and dogs.
Now, I know there are ways to abuse social media.
I know there are hours to be wasted on social media.
I know you can feel like you have friends that you don’t really have.
We can use a good thing too much.
Or we can use a good thing for a harmful or hateful purpose.
Social media is the same way.
It is just another tool to connect…
and it is up to us to control it.
To use it intentionally.
To make it work for us!
As an person who gets energized by social interaction,
while being a mom who works from home…
being surrounded by my kids 24/7,
Social media has helped me in several ways.
It’s all up to how I use it.
Here are a few things to consider when using social media:
1) What are you using it for?
- Is it a virtual after work party or coffee meet up with friends to chat about your day?
- Share pictures of your kids and accomplishments?
- Is it a way to connect with family that is spread out across the country?
- Is it a way to share business related materials?
- Is it a way to share your religious or political views with friends and family?
- Is it a way to try to convert acquaintances to your religious or political way of thinking?
- Is it a way to find support over common problems, health issues, educational challenges, or interests?
- Is it a way to find like minded moms and dads who share similar goals and child-rearing approaches?
- Is it a way to connect with people without leaving your home?
- Is it a way to plan events? keep up with local opportunities?
- Is it a way to stay connected without a lot of time spent on the phone?
- Is it a way to connect with friends at odd hours of the night and day without having to be on the same schedule?
- Is it a way to read and learn?
- Is it a way to share freebies, deals, and contests with friends?
- Is it a way to connect with your teens?
Knowing HOW you are using specific social media sites will help you make better choices in what you post,
how much time you spend on it,
and who to accept as “friends.”
2) What filters will you use?
I am not talking about a photo filter (though I love those!)
I am talking about what you allow yourself to post.
I like to picture myself at a gathering of my friends that I’ve accepted in my social media world,
and think about talking to them as a group.
- What things would I be comfortable talking to them about?
- What things would be most likely misunderstood?
- What things are no one’s business?
- What things do they really care about?
- What things do more to hurt them than to help them?
- What things are negative and I would regret having said?
I’ve heard employers talking about deciding not to hire people after seeing their social media posts.
We’ve all heard of someone getting in trouble because of a careless tweet or Facebook picture.
By keeping these self imposed filters in my mind as I get on social media sites,
realizing my pictures and posts are not truly private…
well… Helps keep social media working for me… not against.
3) How can you use your social media time to work for you?
- I can talk to a friend while sitting in a dr’s office waiting room.
- I can catch up on my sister’s baby’s pictures while I am sitting in a dentist’s waiting room (instead of watching the waiting room tv!)
- I can wish happy birthday to all of my friends, and let them know I care about them.
- I can find out about special days, accomplishments, births, engagements, graduations, and more…
- of people I have loved and been fortunate to have lived close to at one time or another.
- I can share funny or uplifting stories, videos, and pictures with my friends and family.
- I can plan an event and quickly make an event page to help organize it.
- I can meet new people and learn about their story, and what is important to them.
- I can share positive events with many people quickly.
- I can find support in times of sorrow, without having to call a bunch of people and tell the same story over and over.
- I can find support for unique situations, connect with friends over common interests, and share concern over the miles.
- I can re-connect with friends from childhood, and be a tiny part of their current life… rejoicing in their joys and sharing their sorrows.
- I can connect with my kids and share funny things and thought provoking articles for them to read whenever they want.
I have found that I experience true friendship through many of my Facebook relationships.
I connect with communities of friends who like similar things.
I’ve connected with brand new and old friends around the world that deal with living with allergies, share common lifestyle choices, and interests.
They encourage me, and help me feel understood.
I connect with friends of different religious, lifestyle, and political views.
They also encourage me, and they keep me thinking.
Several of these friends I would rarely get to talk to without a social media outlet.
When I do get to see these friends in person, I have a lot I can talk to them about.
I can ask them about their trip, their dog, their kids, their work, their bargains… etc…
It’s just another way to connect with those I care about.
So yes, though I do agree that social media can be used for negative…
I chose to use it for positive in my life.
I like connecting with many people…
and my season of life doesn’t allow for much travel, or time talking on the phone.
Social media allows me to connect across the miles,
at any time,
with any friend.
And that’s pretty amazing.
It’s not the only way I want to connect,
but it is sure a fun and easy way.
How about you?
Do you have a social media site that you use?
What is a way you have found it to be a positive tool in your life?
Share in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!
Being a parent of a child with any physical issue has its overwhelming moments.
Sometimes it has its overwhelming years.
Watching them deal with frustration, fear, and pain can tear at your heart.
Dealing with life-threatening allergies can be a very emotionally draining and physically exhausting lifestyle.
There are sleepless nights as you lie listening to their breathing, jumping up when they sneeze or cough.
There are trips to the ER on family vacation because of exposure to animals, plants, or food.
There are hours spent in grocery stores reading labels, and trying to understand their mumbo jumbo.
There are choices you must make of where you can eat, sleep, and play… based on pets, food, and cigarette smoke.
There are parties you can’t go to, sports events you can’t attend, and restaurants you can’t visit because of peanuts and other allergens present.
For the past 17 years we have had to pay attention to every meal and snack and drink, 2 of our kids have eaten.
Over the past couple of years, we have been able to let our oldest daughter take more responsibility on her own about what food she eats…
She has allergies to all nuts, and is now showing sensitivity to gluten, avacado, and dairy.
Our youngest is just 10.
He has been dealing with allergies to nuts, peanuts, coconut, soy, and environmental triggers like dust mites, cats and dogs, and many pollens since he was 2.
So yes… it can be very overwhelming and stressful to be a parent of a kid(s) with allergies.
There have been times (after having to deal with unexplained anaphylaxis) that I have been fearful of saying something was “ok” for my son to eat.
I have jumped at every cough and sneeze, in a panic.
I can tell my son’s coughs and sneezed out of a houseful of coughs and sneezes.
My other kids tease me… saying they could be coughing for a long time and I don’t say anything.
But if Chris sneezes… I come running.
It is in those moments that I realize that I live under a certain level of stress that feels “normal.”
I want to share with you a few things I have found to help relieve some of that stress:
1) Find Support
Find another adult that is willing to be a safe person for your child. If you can, find several!
It might be a grandparent, an aunt or a friend.
This person is willing to take the allergies seriously, and be an advocate with you for them.
This person is willing to take the extra steps to keep your child safe when you are not able to be there.
This person is knowledgeable in how to use the medicines necessary to help in case of anaphylaxis.
Having this support in your life, gives you as a parent a mental and emotional break that we all need.
It gives you encouragement that someone else cares enough about your child to be that for them.
2) Educate Yourself and Your Family
One of my biggest stress relievers has been to learn as much as I can about living with allergies.
And then I educate my family and friends. (and anyone who cares to listen!)
Learning when and how to use an “epi-pen.”
Learning to check expiration dates on medicines.
Learning to read labels on food.
Learning to understand what the different medicines do for my child.
Hearing the doctor say, “You did the right thing. Don’t be scared to use the “epi-pen.”
Sharing with close friends and family what to do if our child is experiencing anaphylaxis.
Educating my kids has also been a HUGE stress reliever.
The more they know about what is happening with their own body, they can become a part of their own safe support group!
3) Make Your Home Safe
Another thing we have done to give our bodies and minds a break from the stress that comes from living with allergies,
is to make our home as safe as possible for our children.
This means purchasing doubles of some items.
This means keeping certain foods out of our home completely.
Some foods like nuts and peanut butter are so hard to contain.
Our pediatrician asked us to not even have them in our home when our son was younger.
We enjoyed the stress relief that gave, and still do not have any nuts or peanut butter allowed in our home.
This means cooking with only certain oils, reading labels, and keeping utensils from touching more than one food.
This means making it clear through communication and labeling, what foods ARE and ARE NOT safe for specific children.
This means investing in a good vacuum, and cleaning on a regular basis.
This means purchasing mattress covers, and pillow covers.
This means washing and cleaning anything that comes into our home.
This means not having cats and dogs in our home. :(
By taking these extra measures (which now just feel “normal”), we are able to provide a clean, safe home for our kids.
They are able to relax, lay on the furniture, eat the food, and feel as safe as they can with the allergies they deal with.
4) Focus On What You CAN Do.
By training my mind to see the glass half full, I can relieve my stress.
I focus on all the food we CAN have.
I talk about all the fun we CAN enjoy.
I can meet and hang out with families that GET the allergy world, even if they don’t have any kids with allergies.
I can let my child go over to friends houses that ARE willing to make their home safe for them.
If my language and attitude are positive, it relieves my stress.
5) Plan Ahead.
Because it is not easy for us to safely eat out, it has helped over the years to plan ahead for our meals.
If we are going to be out for the day and need to eat out,
going on-line and finding allergen menus for the restaurant ahead of time, saves us frustration in the moments.
Packing lunches, doing our errands after we just ate, and using our crockpot, has also saved us so much stress!
Talking to the hosts of functions we are attending, ahead of time, has allowed us to attend weddings, graduations, and other events.
Most of our interactions with people concerning allergies have been positive and full understanding.
With 1 out of every 13 kids having some sort of food allergy, it is not as unusual as it used to be!
At our family functions, people have been willing to bring desserts and other food with no nuts!
What an understanding family we have!
As I am writing this post, I am reminded of all the people that have taken time to educate, support, encourage,
and make it possible for us to participate in functions.
To those that show love to our family as we deal daily with the reality of living with life-threatening allergies, I say, “Thank you!”
If you are one of those support people for someone with allergies, YOU ARE AMAZING and IMPORTANT!
Thank you for being a soothing balm to a troubled mom or dad.
Thank you for being peace in the midst of the stress.
Thank you for being LOVE.
If you are a parent of a child with allergies… You are not alone.
Share your story.
The more we share, the more others are aware.
I’d love to hear your story.
Please share in the comments!
Check out our children’s book about allergies: James and the Big Battle
Available in paperback and kindle versions.
Doesn’t the word sound wonderful?
When I hear the word, I think of…
Time where I get to do something I just want to do.
Time where I get to explore.
Time I get to spend on a passion, interest, or hobby.
Time I see as a luxury.
Time I cherish.
Time I can use to bake, read, draw, sing, watch, swing, chat, or nap.
Time I can use for anything I can dream up.
When does this kind of time happen at your home?
For you? For your spouse? For your kids?
I know for our family, if we don’t put it down as an important part of each day, it doesn’t happen.
We can fill our every waking moment with chores, jobs, school, and busy errands.
We can drain our brain, going through the motions of a day, without giving our selves space to have a little bit of time to recharge.
Sitting at play rehearsal recently I listened to moms talk about how crazy their kids’ schedules are.
Between voice lessons, play practices, sports,vacations and camps, their summer is packed.
It is up to us as parents to help protect some time for our kids to play. To invent. To create.
To give them FREE-time!
We are the one who signs them up for all these events.
We give in the pressure to have them be a part of every opportunity that comes their way.
I know I struggle with this.
When really amazing opportunities knock at the door…
Sometimes we get to say, “yes.”
But sometimes we need to say, “no.”
They will be a kid for only a few years.
What kind of years will they have?
We pass on a message of what is most important in our lives by what we allow to control our schedule.
3 Benefits to having free-time in your family’s schedule:
1) Gives more space for creativity
With nothing on the schedule other than the words “FREE-time”
Your creative juices can flow.
You can do something just because you are wanting to.
Free-time is unstructured so that you can get outside the rut, and try something new.
Free-time promotes creativity because you don’t have a task list.
Free-time allows you to “piddle” or “mess around” with crafting or cooking ingredients.
Free-time lets you explore new authors, musicians, and entertainers.
2) Improves your outlook on life.
Knowing you have time set aside to do anything you want,
allows you to get through the long hours of work and school.
You breath easier knowing your life isn’t out of control.
When life is full to the brim, you can feel trapped.
Having a time for you, can feel like a release.
Free-time is when your body can soak in and recharge.
It can add a peacefulness to your day.
Free-time is a mini-vacation in the middle of a busy life.
3) Allows each member to be an individual.
As your children grow into the people they are becoming, their interests are going to vary.
It will be harder and harder to find things that everyone wants to do at the same time.
Giving time in our family’s schedule to pursue their own interests,
not guilting them into liking all the same things,
has allowed them to feel like individuals amidst a family setting.
It’s the time when they start to figure out what they truly like just because THEY like it.
Some days we have longer chunks of free time, and those are some of my favorite days.
In our house, during free-time, you might see people reading, watching, baking, making, resting, and playing.
Some days these times produce delicious food, hand made toys, drawings, and videos.
But some days they don’t.
And that’s ok.
Because it’s FREE-time!
Like anything that you want to actually happen, you have to put it on the schedule and then protect that time!
Your kids deserve a bit of free time.
So do YOU!
How about you?
If you had an afternoon to do anything you wanted, what would it be?
I’d love to hear from you! Share with us in the comments!
Ahhh! Summer break.
Lying around watching tv.
Reading for hours.
Children peacefully finding creative things to do with all their free time.
Cooking their own meals, and then cleaning them up.
Washing their laundry and putting it away.
ahhh… wait… am I dreaming?
What’s that I hear? kids fussing over the use of the computer?
Arguing over who needs to put the toys back into the garage?
What’s that I see? mounds of dishes in the sink?
laundry on the couch? mold on the shower curtain?
What’s that I smell? the kitchen trash overflowing?
the rabbit’s cage needing to be cleaned?
something sour in the fridge?
Oh, yeah. This is more like it.
I used to hate the thought of having a schedule over a vacation.
It felt so limiting. And against my nature of having fun and love of spontaneity.
But over the years I have found that having a schedule when I am home,
actually gives me MORE time for fun and lets me accomplish the things that I love to do!
And one thing I want over these summer months with all my kiddos still in the house,
is to make some good memories with them.
Memories that don’t include unnecessary frustration, bickering, and anger.
Schedules can be as simple as a few words.
I have learned to take just a few minutes in the morning to establish a general schedule for the day.
Sometimes it takes literally one min.
But that one minute sets me up for hours of peace, productivity, and rest.
Our summer schedule often looks like this:
Just having that up on our daily board gives direction and provides a skeleton to hang a good day.
6 Benefits of a summer schedule:
1) less questions
I don’t know about you, but the questions can wear me down.
Writing out a simple schedule and having clear expectations has eliminated many of the daily questions!
What is next? What are we doing today?
What is for supper? When are we going to the library?
When can I use the computer? Who has to do the dishes?
Any sound familiar?
Simply having a routine has helped me not go CRAZY!
LESS questions means MORE sanity! :)
2) less bickering
Mooooooom, I want to use the computer! But (the guilty that shall not be named) said I can’t use it!
Moooooom, she won’t help me clean the bedroom. It’s her stuff all over the floor!
Pretty normal stuff around our house without clear times to use electronics and clear chore expectations.
Computer time and chore assignments have helped eliminate a lot of typical daily bickering over who was supposed to use and do what.
LESS bickering means MORE peace in my home!
3) less summer slump
I hear so much about the loss of academic ground over the summer.
We have worked too hard over the school year to give in to that tradition.
By simply scheduling just a few minutes on days we are home over the summer,
our children can stay current on their math and reading skills.
Through free online programs like Khan Academy they can actually grow in their math skills.
If you haven’t checked out Khan Academy before, I would greatly recommend it. It is free, online, and fun!
Through the local reading program at the library, they are encouraged to read every day over the summer.
Many book stores also run reading programs giving your child a chance to earn a free book.
LESS summer slump means MORE academic progress.
4) less time cleaning
I am going to be honest. Most days, I don’t enjoy cleaning.
I like the way the house is AFTER we clean but…
Some days it feels like it is useless.
Like a boomerang… gonna come right back atcha!
And there are SO many other things I rather be doing!
So the less I think about or actually have to clean… the better!
By establishing our cleaning and chore schedule for the summer, we can knock it out quickly and be DONE with it!
If I know that I have set times to go through and straighten up, then I can resist the urge to constantly ask the kids to clean up.
We enjoy hours of creative mess with the knowledge that there is an end. It’s the best of both worlds.
Less cleaning means MORE time to do what we actually want to be doing.
5) less time repeating myself
With 8 people in our house, I literally could repeat myself all day… and still hear the phrase, “Oh, I didn’t hear you, Mom.”
By having a schedule up on the wall for all to see,
and by giving the kids the responsibility to check it to see what we are doing…
I can eliminate some of the repeating.
Less time repeating myself is MORE sanity! (I think I am repeating myself… but this is something worth repeating!)
6) less time spent on planning
Having a few things throughout the week that are predictable and routine,
I spend way less time “re-inventing the wheel.”
Our “3 B’s” is an easy way to remind the kids to take care of their body, breakfast, and bedroom before starting the rest of their day.
Having days of the week that we normally go to the library, get allergy shots, get groceries, go to play practice, and go bowling have helped me plan less.
Some of these days can be changed around if needed, but to organize all the summer comings and goings, takes a lot of time already.
Less time I have to spend on planning gives me MORE FREE time! (and I LOVE FREE time!)
It’s not long at all till they start flying away.
Just yesterday I had a house full of elementary aged kids building with legos and playing with dolls.
And the day before that I had a house full of toddlers doing those precious toddlery things.
Now, my house is full… of adults, almost adults, and tweens.
We each have only so many days with life and home as it is today.
I want to live this season of life fully~
Minimizing the clutter, work, and mess so I can focus on things we love to do.
I believe a simple schedule has helped me accomplish this.
How about you? Do you find it natural or against your grain to make a schedule?
Have you found another benefit from having a summer schedule?
I’d love to hear from you!
Like many families, our family has been excited about the coming summer months.
School got out last week, and we celebrated with a math book shredding~pizza party!
Here’s a video of our work text shredding party!
As we approach the summer, we can be tempted to fill every free moment with planned activities and outings.
Taking advantage of the change of schedule and the longer days.
As I scroll through the internet, I am reminded of all the fun things there are to do in our area.
I receive emails full of coupons and invitations.
I see really cute and creative crafts and activities.
I start comparing my life to someone else’s.
Pretty soon, if I am not careful, I have a car full of hot, cranky kids begging to stay home.
When thinking of surviving the summer months, the statement Less is MORE is very helpful to guide my over~planning brain :
After 19 summers with kids in my home, I have found we would rather do a few choice outings than many outings just for the sake of it.
Having a talk with my kids helped us pick a few things that everyone would enjoy.
Here’s what we came up with this summer:
Something physical: bowling (We are participating in the kids bowl free program in our area. )
Something academic: library (We are participating in our local reading program.)
Something furthering a passion: Beauty and the Beast summer play, film camp
Something social: weekend visits to local family and friends
Just with these things already on the schedule our summer is full.
After I add in driving time, shopping, sleep, meals, cleaning, doctor and dentist visits, allergy shots, reading, two summer birthdays, people visiting, and practicing for the play…
Well, you see what I mean.
By choosing to do less… we are able to give more to the things we are involved in.
The kids feel confident and have fun in their play because they’ve had time to practice.
They actually read the books they checked out from the library.
We have time to hang out with Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles, and cousins, making memories together.
We have time to visit with friends.
They are learning to bowl better!
I want to make the most out of our summer… by doing a little less than I was tempted to try.
By picking the most important things to us at this time.
And doing them well and with enjoyment.
How about you…
What are some things that are important to your family over the summer?
Maybe you are going on a big trip or want to learn something new. I’d love to hear about it!
At our house, we talk a lot about our relationships.
They are important to us. And with 8 people living under our roof… there are quite a few relationships going on.
It means a lot to us when family takes time to be friends.
Because it does take time.
Relationships work best when both sides are working at them.
When our kids learn to intentionally invest in their siblings and cousins, their aunts and uncles, their parents and grandparents…
they can strive to keep relationships healthy, and reap the benefit of their investments.
Life is short… days fly by… and conversations around the house include dreams of moving out, college, and jobs.
It’s a wake up call to our family that life will not always be like it is today.
With things changing around us all the time, it is important to seize the opportunities we have.
We are not guaranteed tomorrow.
If we want to make friends out of family, it can start today in our home.
As a child, it starts with your siblings and parents.
As a parent, it starts with your partner and your children.
In our house, we remind our kids often that they have choices.
Every day they choose where they will invest their time and energy.
There is no guarantee just because we are family that we will be close.
If they want to be close to their siblings, they will have to work on that just like any other relationship.
Here are 6 boundaries that have set the stage for successful friendships in our home:
1) You don’t have to share.
Yes. You really don’t. If it is yours, you have the right to never loan it out or share half of it.
You also have an opportunity to show your love by choosing to share. But it is really up to you.
Some things we just rather not share. And that is ok.
2) You may not use your words or body to bully or mistreat your family.
Our home will be a safe and encouraging place.
If there is one group of people you should feel accepted and protected by, it is your family.
This home has a NO BULLY tolerance.
It is NOT ok to hurt your family physically or emotionally just because they know you well, you live with them, or it’s “normal.”
Things said are hard to forget.
Even when forgiven.
So make it easy on your friendship with your family… think before you speak.
3) You need to ask to use each other’s property.
And if they say, “No”… that is the answer.
That goes for small and big things. Food and clothing.
Electronics and computers.
Treat each other with respect!
4) If you break or lose it ~ fix or replace it.
Have the same respect you would for any one else’s property outside of our family.
It’s amazing how many times you don’t borrow something when you know you might have to replace it if it is ruined or lost.
You also take better care of it when you do borrow it.
5) Do not expect a family member to do something for you just because you asked.
This was a difficult thing for me to learn. I am a people pleaser.
But over the years, I’ve finally given myself permission to say, “No,” and for my family to say “no” to each other.
When “yes” isn’t expected, it changes the dynamic.
This provides opportunities in our home to serve and show love. And it allowed for us to be honest and show sacrifice.
It makes us appreciate the yes’s more. And keeps us constantly prioritizing our days to fit in the most important stuff.
6) Be aware in shared space
Shared spaces in our home exist in almost every room.
Between 8 people we share 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.
That’s a lot of opportunities to become friends or enemies.
Leave things better than you found them has become one of our house rules.
Thinking of those coming behind us is a way to show kindness.
Practically ~ that means replacing the toilet paper, washing and putting away dishes,
wiping down countertops, putting remotes back, being aware of how loud your music is,
getting your laundry out the dryer, taking out the trash when it is overflowing, etc.
These boundaries have given our kids a start at building strong relationships.
Boundaries have helped them as they’ve gotten older and their need for privacy and space has grown.
But it is a stage.
It is up to them to act.
We’ve done years of rehearsing during those early years.
Showing the end of choices gone bad…
Encouraging choices that lead to happy endings.
We still give some cues from the sides of the stage,
and looks and whispers to remind them of the story they chose.
It’s up to them to build their own relationships. and so far… I am liking what I see.
I see my kids ask each other to borrow things.
I see my kids explain why they can’t do something or don’t want to lend something out.
I see them ask their siblings to not eat the snacks they just bought. And their siblings respect their wishes.
I also see them get upset at a sibling and ask for them to give them some time to cool down.
I see them spend their money to buy their siblings drinks on a trip.
I see them share their special art supplies, their earbuds, and their electronics.
I see them share their clothes with each other and thank them for letting them use them.
I see them choose to spend time with their younger siblings on their day off doing something special.
I see them spending money, time, energy, and effort to grow closer to each other.
These basic boundaries have given them space to build their relationships on love, respect, and kindness.
and as I was reminded on the netflix show Derek recently…
“It’s more important to be kind than clever.” and
“Kindness is like magic.”
We need some “magic” back in our families. I’m not talking about making life easy, all play, and catering to every whim.
I am talking about kindness and respect.
They aren’t outdated.
And not always, but often we get what we give out.
How about you? Do you have a practice or boundary in your home that helps with sibling friendships?
Is there a kindness that you have seen your child do for a family member lately, that encouraged you?
I love to hear from you!
I just wanted to send a thank you to all of you who shared our kid’s book, James and the Big Battle: A Children’s Book about Allergies, this past week with your friends and family.
It was exciting to have over 1,400 new families download the book for FREE! That is worthy of a HaPPy DaNcE!
If you happened to be one of the families that downloaded the book, we’d love for you to take a few minutes and give it a review on Amazon.
Thank you for doing that!
We are wrapping up our school week here at the Burns’ household. Ending a 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 12th grade year!!!!
Lots of testing, math workbook shredding, and cheers going on around here!
Anything exciting going on in your neck of the woods?
We’d love to hear from you!
Hope you have a GREAT week!