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School

Moms have a stressful job but the most stressful time of day for today’s busy moms is 8:25 A.M.  A recent study found that 8:25 A.M. was the peak of stress for most moms.

According to MyGloss.com:

The morning rush to get everyone in the house ready, breakfast and lunches prepared and out the door on time to make it to school and work causes the most tension. In a poll of over 2,000 working mothers, over 40% of the respondents said they were stressed out before even getting to their desks at work for the day.

Regardless of whether you work inside or outside the home, morning time requires a colossal amount of energy and patience. Many of us hit the sack late, are up throughout the night caring for young ones, and have barely had an hour’s rest before the sun rises.

So in the face of collapse and determined to love motherhood if it killed me, I created a morning routine that made life easier, more efficient, and more fun– for everyone.

Each new day starts off in the safety, warmth, and comfort of your bed. As your kids wake, you are the destination– not the playroom or kitchen. Your bed becomes the safe haven for a few more minutes of rest, as well as a time that brings you all together to read as a family. Being able to lounge in bed and relax (still in my jammies) for an extra 15 or 20 minutes before the activities of the day separated us meant everything to me.

After book time, everybody gets dressed for the day. This always happens before breakfast. The sooner your kids get dressed on their own, the better– for everybody. Bring little kids into your bathroom and provide them with books or toys while you get dressed and brush your teeth.

The night before, set out small, independent play toys that will occupy the kids while you get yourself your morning coffee. The toys go away when breakfast is ready, not to return until the following morning (making them exclusive and special). Kids thus learn patience, self-sufficiency and confidence from being encouraged to play on their own.

Make them part of the process of making breakfast—pouring their own milk, cereal, etc. Messes are easily cleaned and the pride kids feel from being trusted with these responsibilities is enormous. In return, you are given the opportunity to genuinely praise them for their efforts. Have food and utensils at their height so the kids can easily help themselves.

Breakfast isn’t over until your kids ask if they can be excused. They then clear their dishes.

Train your kids how to prepare their own lunch and praise their efforts. You’d be amazed how much better lunch tastes when kids pack it themselves.

Kids then put their lunches in their backpacks and head off to brush their teeth and hair. Shoes and jackets on, then you’re all out the door.

This may seem like a lot, but these lessons will give your early mornings shape and become a routine on which everyone can depend. I also created a morning checklist to keep everyone on track (sometimes the coffee just doesn’t kick in until noon).

Go here to view and download the checklist for free.

Welcome Parents I love this question.  Our children, like many, have conferences this week so the timing couldn’t be better.

First off, understand that your feelings of nervousness and anxiety are normal. Many moms feel like they are on “review” as much, if not more, than their kids. Dig deep to not take your child’s conference personally, rather, try to view it as a wonderful opportunity to hear from the one person or group of people who have the privilege of spending the entire day with your child—soak it up and enjoy it!  Your child’s teachers are some of your most valuable resources.  Together, you are partners in raising a happy, healthy, and successful child.

Let’s begin with what to bring.  I have a spiral notebook that I bring into every conference.  I have seven kids, so I have seven notebooks.  Bring that notebook to every conference or school meeting that concerns your child throughout the year.  Write your child’s name, grade, and year on the front.  You may have 3 or 4 school years in one notebook, and when that one is full, store it and buy another.  It will become a treasured keepsake of your child’s growth over the years.  Next, before you go, write down any specific questions you have or bring along any examples of your child’s work that you want to discuss.  One quick reminder, do your best to arrive on time.  That can be tough, but being on time sends a message to the teacher that their time is valuable and you respect it. Now, for the two questions you should ask your child’s teachers: 

  1. What are my child’s strengths? 
  2. What are my child’s opportunities for growth and development? 

The minute you ask about your child’s strengths, a positive atmosphere is created.  It’s fun to talk about where your child excels and it is a wonderful way to begin your conference.  I love to watch my child’s teacher sing their praises.  I want to hear the positives: both intellectual strengths as well as social strengths, as both are equally important to me.  As the teacher shares where your child excels, write them down in your notebook.  Ask the teacher to repeat any you might have missed because later you will share that praise with your child.  It’s important for our kids to hear genuine praise, especially from the people who make a difference in their lives.  Your kids will love it and it will motivate them to continue with the positive behaviors.  It is so important to witness the power of affirmation and how valuable it is to build in your child a positive self image.

 

Now it’s time to learn where your child has room to grow.  This question is important because it establishes that your child is human.  We all have areas of opportunity for growth and it is normal and healthy to approach life eager to learn where we can improve.  As the teacher shares the areas, it is your job to empower your child with this information.  Once your child has clarity on what the areas are and where to focus, they will know exactly where to begin to direct their time and energy as they build these skills.  Utilize the conference time with the teacher to hear specific examples so together you can create an action plan for your child’s growth.  Suggest your plan to share this information with your child and request a follow up to review the steps of the plan to motivate progress.  It is important to set weekly check points to touch base to make sure your child is making progress.  It’s in this process of setting goals, working toward them and ultimately achieving them where your child learns their capabilities.  They take ownership of their progress and learn the importance of a strong work ethic, which helps their self-confidence grow along with a host of other virtues.  A productive parent teacher conference is the stimulus for empowering your child to learn, grow and develop.  You and your child’s teacher help fuel that process. Make it a great one!

Fall Leaves Fall is the perfect time to share my thoughts on the importance of traditions and creating an environment for your family that is joyful, happy, and full of love. The beauty of traditions is that they provide memories that capture wonderful moments over and over again. Your kids look forward to them and eagerly await the promise of another year of festive celebrations. Whether it’s your annual decorating of the front door with the pumpkins they’ve made over the years, or the hanging of the bats and black spiders on the dinner table light fixture; traditions create suspense and anticipation of fun to come.

I‘d love to share some of my traditions to inspire you to join in, as well as encourage you to keep up the traditions you’ve started. Some years, I’ve been so beat, I couldn’t imagine pulling my decorations out from the basement, yet after I did, the expressions on the kids’ faces are payment enough for digging deep and following through. You can do it!

I’ve already shared my pumpkin, bat, and spider traditions earlier, so here are a few more. Most years, I decorate the house to be Halloween ready for the kids when they wake up on October 1st. I love the excitement on their faces as they discover it all decked out for the season. This year however, it happened in stages. The point is that it happened. However you do it–just make it happen! Imagine how fun it is for your kids to wake to a house all festive and fun!

I love to bring out all of my Halloween bowls, platters and dish towels to make the month of October one huge celebration. I’ve picked many of them up over the years after the Holiday and on sale–Target is great for that! As the kids bring home their crafts and art projects, I hang them everywhere. The best way to hang them is to laminate them first. I go to a local home school store which laminates for 25 cents a foot; it’s such a steal! I then cut out the creations and put yellow sticky tack on the back and hang them everywhere: on windows, doors, cabinet—honestly wherever the stuff will stick. After the season, I pull them down and save the yellow tack and use it for the next season of creations.

To store the laminated works of art, I staple two poster boards together on three sides and leave the fourth open. I write the name of the season or holiday on both sides and store everything inside. I keep all of the poster board holiday files close at hand in a closet so it doesn’t feel like I’m moving heaven and earth to decorate throughout the year. Sometimes going into the basement to get decorations feels like one step too many. And there you have it, a festive house decorated with your children’s works of art and laminated to be keepsakes forever!

One last tradition I will share with you is to create a holiday book collection. As many of you know, or will learn, I love books. My kids have grown up surrounded by them. My earliest and fondest memories with my kids come from the warmth and comfort of the kids on my lap or snuggled up close to me enjoying a book.  Reading creates that “cozy” that has always been so important for me to nurture as a Mom.

To inspire you to begin your collection or to keep adding to it, here are a few strategies to making it meaningful and memorable for years to come. First, I buy one book (not one for each child—in case you were wondering). I date it, write the town where we live, and then write a note sharing a snapshot of our family’s blessings and current successes and challenges. I always end with a line of gratitude for each other, our faith and our health. I then set it out on the counter after the kids go to bed so it is the first thing that they see when they enter the kitchen in the morning. That book is then passed around all morning long, and then it is added to the coffee table of Halloween books from past years. You can see my top five Halloween books by clicking HERE.

The Halloween books stay out all October long until we usher in November and the Thanksgiving books. After Halloween, I store the books out of sight in the basement until the next year. I love this tradition as much as the kids. And no matter the age, they all reread those books every year. I watched my senior in high school reading one yesterday while having a snack. Reading the books from when they were younger brings back those memories, good, sad, scary and wacky that we can relive each and every year. And that’s the beauty of creating a tradition.

The most important thing about Back to School Night is that your kids know that you are excited to meet their teachers and learn about their school community. You are your child’s most important advocate and Back to School Night provides the first opportunity to create a partnership with your child’s new teacher and staff.

 

Back to School Night kicks off your partnership. It allows you an opportunity to get to know the people who will be spending time with your child. It also provides a glimpse into the curriculum, the teacher’s experience and their philosophies. To make the most out of this evening, start off by introducing yourself.  Shake the teacher’s hand; let them know that you are excited to meet them and appreciate the work they have done to prepare for the year. (ie. “The classroom looks so fun," or “What a neat year you have planned for the kids.”) Be honest with your praise– everybody enjoys sincere recognition.

 

Next, make sure the teacher has a good idea of who your child is, academically and socially—the clearer the picture, the better. Many teachers provide an information sheet for you to complete regarding your child; their strengths, challenges, likes, dislikes, interests, etc. and ask you to turn it in at Back to School Night. If not, take some time before you head out and jot down some notes regarding any information you think the teacher would need as they begin the year instructing your child. Remember, you are your child’s first and most important teacher– share your wealth of information. I promise the teachers will appreciate it and respect you for making the time to partner with them to make it the best year for your child. I have such respect for teachers. Like us, they work hard!

Great question. Like any muscle, the brain can atrophy if not used, and some of those important skills your child spent a year mastering can fade. My approach to keeping my kids intellectually fit is pretty easy going, yet consistent– I encourage them to read, write and play throughout the summer.

 

To begin, make the library one of your first destinations this summer. Take advantage of the summer reading programs that begin at birth and span every age group up thru high school. Most programs encourage kids to set a goal as to the number of books they want to finish before the summer’s end and incentives are given along the way to entice them to achieve their goal. An entire world of learning and adventure opens up to your kids at your local library. We make multiple trips each week– it’s our routine, make it yours, too.

 

Next on the literacy front is writing. This one isn’t as simple, yet very important. My strategy to keep my kids writing is to encourage them to do it daily. Every summer I buy the kids composition or spiral notebooks and they journal each morning. Writing well is a skill, and the only way to develop it is to practice. I want my kids to be confident writers– more so than their loving mother. J Yes, it’s quite possible that your kids may not like their new journal routine, and, they may even complain. I’ve personally heard almost every complaint, yet my response is this, “My job is to keep you healthy, and that includes your intellectual health. I’m confident that you will think of something fun to write about!” To start your kids off, you may want to suggest that their first entry is to make a list of all the things they want to do this summer– places they want to visit, people to play with, etcetera. Make it fun! Then let your kids write whatever comes to mind each morning. At our house, my kids write for about 20 minutes and it’s for their eyes only. They all get into it and it becomes easier and easier for them and you! Start today– you won’t regret it! Also, all ages join in; scribbles, pictures and stickers are all early learning. Your younger kids may want to dictate their entries to you. Great, support them, have fun and watch their love for writing grow!

 

Finally, it is time to play– games that is. Your kids will stay mentally sharp and have fun at the same time.  All it takes is a deck of cards and some board games. Think back to when you were a kid; remember card games like war, gin rummy, hearts, concentration, or spoons? Those are great ones and all require number computation– math.  Board games also sharpen skills like critical thinking, spatial reasoning, strategy, and the list goes on. Our latest family favorite is Qwirkle, and the kids love Risk, Blokus, Connect Four, Yahtzee, Scrabble, etcetera. Keep a game or two out on the kitchen counter or table and start one up after dinner– if you set it up and invite them to play, chances are, you’ll have little trouble getting your kids to join in. Enjoy!