Monday, June 4, 2018

Another Year Later.. Life from Preschool to Elementary School

So, it's been almost a FULL YEAR since I blogged on here.  There have been times I have had ideas for posts and I would tell myself, "I need to blog about this!" but then I'd get sidetracked. Sigh, that has been my life since my kids went from Preschool to Elementary.  It's been a crazy year of my youngest starting Kindergarten, well half-day Kinder, but still it was a HUGE step. And my first born starting 2nd grade.  They were both finally at the same school, yay! One drop off in the morning made things so much easier, and one school to volunteer at, work lunch room duty, etc.

But for some reason, life got hard with kids being in big-kid school. When they were babies, I kept waiting for that 'next stage' in life so it would be easier.  Excited when they would finally start walking, so I didn't have to carry them everywhere.  Or when they were able to brush their own teeth and get dressed.  But I have learned that each stage presents its own challenges.  With school and after-school activities like ballet, piano and homework, dinner sometimes just never happened.  How could I cook dinner when we were gone for back to back ballet from 4-6:00pm one night?  The Crockpot/Instapot became my new friend.

My free time at night when I usually blogged, was filled with other duties.  After the kids went to bed, it was time to pack lunches, get their school stuff ready for the next day, clean dishes, reply to emails (for all the volunteer stuff, organizations I am involved in, Girl Scout troop leader stuff, etc), to where there were some days I didn't even have time to watch any relaxing trash TV.  So my blogging days were soon a distant memory. 

I started missing my old stay-at-home mom days where my kids were in preschool a couple of days a week, and we had all this free time to do crafts, play games, and go to the park, the zoo and we all had A LOT more down time.  Granted there were more temper tantrums and less independent behaviors, but I missed the stress-free running around we were doing every day this year.

So for Mother's Day, my husband bought me the Emily Ley A Simplified Life book.  Ha, I think my husband was trying to hint at something? I definitely needed some organization and loved how it was made for moms to help de-clutter, meal plan, help with finances and 'de-busy' yourself.  I totally recommend it (not endorsed at all by this, just loved the ideas she had).

The main thing I took away from her book was the page on 'Simplifying Your Smartphone.'  With my complaints all year on being too busy, reading her passage that said:

    When our children see us pick up our phone at a stoplight or when we're sitting quietly on the couch checking our phones, they notice that we don't like to be still.  We no longer know how to sit and look around at our  surroundings, taking in the scenery, just thinking, and sometimes just being bored.  When life gets a little quiet, we immediately jump for our devices so we can pump our brains back up to full speed with information and connection.  It's an addictive habit.  We are teaching our children that it's not okay to be still.

Wow, reading that was such an eye opener. I mean, I know all of that stuff, but to hear it out loud really made me stop and realize how important it is to really stop and smell the roses.  So I am going to make a conscious effort to pretend it's 1985, no email, no texts and no immediate stimulation.  Take more nature walks, play games and keep my phone sitting on a table and pretending it's an old wall phone. I will answer it if it rings (not during dinner or special play times), like my mom used to back in the 80's, but when my kids are around, not to use it beyond as a phone.  Nothing needs an immediate answer, so texts can wait, emails can wait.  I want to start the summer off without all the 'busyness'!  Now with the summer, I can't wait to have more time to blog and relax.
Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bullet Journal for Moms

Hey everyone! I apologize for the loooong break in blogging. I don't know why I thought I was super busy as a new mom to infants, but for some reason I had more free time in the evenings to blog.   Now that my kids are older in preschool and 1st grade, my nights are filled with PTA meetings, after school activities, mom nights out, cleaning, laundry and the list goes on. Anyone else feel the same way?

So, in order to try to get organized with all of our family activities, I have tried to jump on the Bullet Journal train. Have you heard of this yet? I love my Erin Condren journal but it's so big that I have a hard time fitting into my purses and totes.  AND I wish it had more space for things like menu planning and to-do lists!  So these past few months I started bullet journaling.

What is a Bullet Journal?

It's basically a blank book that you, yes you, have to draw and make your own calendar, pages, dates, etc.  The original idea came from a guy named Ryder Carrol and you can watch his video on it here.

I watched the video and then went on You tube to watch a bunch of other people's videos and ideas and let me tell ya, there are A LOT!  And I mean fancy drawings and lettering which I just don't have time for.   But I wanted to try something else to help me get better organized, so I decided to give it a shot.

Basically, you get a blank book, and design your own calendars.

I added the week days on the left side of the page, and then I added things I needed to do and keep track of for the week on the right (Menu planning, sleep tracker for my kids, shopping and to-do lists).  I like that everyone that bullet journals will have a different way of organizing their life so we will all have different things listed.   I think these journals would also work well if you have an infant and want to keep track of naps, feedings, etc.  As much as I love my Condren, I needed a few more spaces to fill in things like Menu Planning for the week and better To-Do's as you can see below. I also changed the layout the next week. I think the fun part is trying new ways of designing it, until you feel it fits the way your brain works :)

Ha, not as pretty as others online, but it works for me!

I also have a few pages of extras like our Disney trip a few weeks ago, a list of Books I am reading for my book clubs, camps for the kids, and a Key for what the symbols mean.  So say you have a trip coming up and want to jot down your itinerary, it's nice you have extra pages in between so you can fill it in, then add your calendar weeks.

So, for those that want to begin, here are the basics you will need:

1. Journals
Leuchtturn journal brand is THE go-to brand for bullet journaling.  They are leather hard bound covers and come with 3 bookmark ribbons.  The inside as you can see in the pics above, has little tiny dots across the page so you can draw across the pages easier and do more charts.  I chose a pink color for the cover but there are a ton of color choices:


2. Pens!  I love shopping for colored pens. It reminds me of school supply shopping :)  Here are a few of my faves that won't bleed through the paper.


Calligraphy Markers:

3. Rulers
You can always use a regular ruler to make straight lines, but these come with shapes and fun images to trace!

4. Tabs
I use Post-it Tabs on the sides with the Month printed on them, so I can quickly turn to the page I am looking for. You can also use the ribbons as bookmarks too.

5. Pencil Case
I use small pencil cases to store all of my pens and supplies inside, and I can slip it easily into my purse. It helps to have it handy when I'm out, if I'm waiting in a waiting room or carpool line I can work on my journal.  I prefer zipper pouches, and have even found some good ones at Dollar Tree.

If you like watching ideas on You Tube, one of my faves for inspiration is Amanda Rach Lee:

I'll keep you posted on how it works for me this year. Between my iPhone calendar, Erin Condren and my Bullet Journal, hopefully something will keep me better organized!  
Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday Toy List 2016

It's December 5th and if you're like me, you are frantically shopping for your kids, family, teachers, babysitters, work friends, etc.  Of course my go-to is Amazon and Prime Now.  Why fight the crowds when you can shop from home in your PJ's while sipping your coffee.

And as a play therapist, people are always asking me for toy recommendations.  I am going to post my usual recommendations for imaginative play, since play therapy is anti: electronic, gadget, and media driven toys.  We like to encourage pretend play that is child-driven.  That means, no Disney characters or Super Heroes.  We can have capes, masks, and dolls but they are generic so that the child can act out exactly what they want and use their imagination.

But, as for trendy toys, my girls have their lists and I mean it is a front and back list from top to bottom :)  So far, the hottest toys on their lists are: Hug Time Poppy, American Girl Dolls and accessories (basically the whole catalog), Paw Patrol, Lion Guard toys, Bootsie the Cat (some Furreal thing), a scooter and a doll house. Because the doll house they got 2 years ago apparently isn't big enough (even though it's 4 feet tall!).  And about 40 more things they circled in the catalogs.

This is why I have decided to hold a toy drive for my 6 year old's Girl Scout Troop, to help our area local family shelter.  My kids need a lesson on the spirit of Christmas and too many toys.

So, with that being said, I recommend having a mix of the trendy, 'hot toys' and regular old-fashioned creative toys. If you only have toys from a movie or cartoon, it would greatly limit a child's creativity and self-expression.

It's kind of like having a stack of plain white paper and crayons or markers and seeing the great masterpieces they create!  Versus having a stack of coloring books where your child just sits and fills in pictures with color.  Not going to really make you jump up and say, 'wow, look what you created!'

So, as I have listed on here before, I am going to list a few faves that are good all around creative toys to have that will last a long time.  And no, some are not cheap, but again they will last until your child goes off to college, okay, maybe not, but they will last a super long time.  Happy shopping!

1. Blocks  
Blocks are huge.  EVERY single play therapy session I have, a child will build something with blocks and it almost brings me to tears at times to see how a quiet sheltered child, will all of a sudden create a huge masterpiece of a 'building' out of blocks.  I love seeing what can become of a plain old brown piece of wood!

Here is a good set at a great price (49.99$)Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Solid-Wood Building Blocks With Wooden Storage Tray (60 pcs)

2. Doll Houses
Now, for those moms of boys out there, I know you are a little apprehensive about buying a doll house for your son.  But the super gender neutral ones are great, and there are a lot out there now that are 'green' looking.  And your boys can use different 'characters' to play with in their house, and not dolls.  The less is more philosophy is best for the doll house, that way children can use even more of their imagination!

These are great wooden doll houses:
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Furnished Dollhouse

Hape - All Seasons Wooden Doll House, Furnished (115$ and comes all furnished)

3.  Dress-Up Gear   My 1st Career Gear Assortment Suit (37.99$)
4.  Kitchen Play

What home doesn't have a kitchen?  Children love to act out what they already have at home and kitchens are a huge hit.  Boys are chefs too and love to pretend they are washing dishes, cooking and grilling like their dad.  This one is a good gender neutral color as well and fits in small spaces.
KidKraft Vintage Kitchen - White  (95$)

5.  Doctor Kit 
I know I have blogged about these before, but they are still one of the all time faves of my clients.  Kids LOVE using these doctor kits and my daughter still plays with hers a whole year later. 

6. Art Supplies

This kit is a good starter kit.  For 25$, it comes with paper, markers, crayons and pencils
Crayola Inspiration Art Case: Art Tools, 140 Pieces, Crayons, Colored Pencils, Washable Markers, Paper, Portable Storage

7.  All purpose figures
Safari Ltd People TOOB With 7 Everyday Heroes Figurine Toys, Including Construction Worker, Policeman, Mailman, Pilot, Chef, Fireman, and Veterinarian (14$).

These are good generic people figures for kids to play with and act out.  They can use them in the doll house, with block play or with any type of imaginative play.

8. Animal Figures
These animals have a mix of calm, sweet ones to aggressive types.  It's always good to have a mix, so children can act out 'anger' vs. 'happy' feelings and sometimes they prefer using animals rather than people to act out feelings.
Animals Figure,54 Piece Mini Jungle Animals Toys Set,Zoo World Realistic Wild Vinyl Pastic Animal Learning Resource Party Favors Toys For Boys Kids Toddlers Forest Small Farm Animals Toys Playset  (11$)

So that's a good start if you want to foster that creativity this holiday season!
What are you planning on getting your kids for Christmas/Hanukkah this year?  
Monday, September 26, 2016

The Power of Parents

I have been busy, busy, busy packing and purging for our upcoming move next month to a new house.  As I was going through some of my old counseling notes, I came across a quote from a seminar I attended on 'Parenting' and it really jumped out at me.  I mean, super super powerful.

"What My Mom Thinks About Me,  Is Who I Am"


My brain starting turning it's wheels and with all of the stress of school starting back up this month, the after school activities, the rush of getting out the door every morning, bedtime routines, dinner plans, homework (yes 1st grade homework), piano lessons, Nutcracker auditions....I stopped to think, "what message am I sending my child while doing all of these tasks on a daily basis?"

When we walk out the door on the way to school and my kids forget something and we have to rush back inside to get it, am I conveying the message, "Sometimes we forget things, and it's okay. It's tough to have to remember everything we have to do each day" and give them a hug?  Or I am sighing and asking them to hurry up?  Sending the message that they 'made a mistake' or 'aren't doing something right?'

When they struggle with their reading or math homework, am I conveying, "You are working so hard, you should be so proud of yourself!"??

As a parent, when we get frustrated (and we all do it often ahem), what message are we sending our kids? That we are annoyed with them, they can't figure out things for themselves, frustrated they have disobeyed us, etc?

But we can't always be the super-happy-everything-is-perfect-all-day-long parents. We all have our moments of being tired, stretched to our limits and at times we feel like servants to our kids' demands.  There are some days that if I hear ,"Mom!!" one more time I am going to lose it.

So I am just trying to keep in check how I act and how it affects my kids. I may not be perfect all day long, but I always remember that as a parent:      We get second chances. 

If we snap at our kids or say something we wish we didn't mean, apologize.  Tell them you are sorry and that you were (tired, hungry, frustrated, etc.).  They will learn we all make mistakes, even parents, and it's not the end of the world.  Even if you feel like the day was awful and you want a do-over, at the end of the day tell them how proud you are of them, give a few positive statements on their accomplishments they made, hug them and tell them you love them every day!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Back to School

Can you believe the summer is almost over??  I feel like it just started, and we had all of this free lazy time to do what we wanted and not wake up and rush out of the house.  But now it's time to get ready to go back to school. Whaat?

And if you are like me and procrastinate, then you are just in time for my list of supplies for kids. Here are a few of my favorites:

1) Lunch Boxes.  Gone are the days of the metal pails and thermos containers that you could pick up at any grocery store.  Ha, I still have my old Pigs In Space Muppets lunchbox.  Such a classic and so hard to purge that one.

But now lunch boxes have gone all fancy with Bento boxes and BPA free plastics.  It's seriously ridiculous and expensive, but I have jumped on it and love the PlanetBox brand of stainless steel.

Planet Box:

My favorite is the Rover, but you can click here and look at all the sizes and options.  It holds EVERYTHING!  You know, like that stick of string cheese that you can't find room for anywhere and don't know where to put it?

And I love how you get a choice of background magnets to put in it.

Now the not so fun part, it's 55.99$ and that does NOT include the lunch box bag that it goes inside. You don't have to order the 14$ lunchbox, but it is a large shape and most store-bought zipper lunch bags don't hold it.  But it will last forever and you HAVE to check out this link of tons of ideas of what to put inside for lunches. Right now they are having a Back to School Special, 10% off using code: 3Box10!!

Yumbox:  This is my second favorite and love that it is spill proof. So when I pack baby carrots, I know I can pour in the ranch dressing in the little bowl and it won't spill out of it.  These you can get on Amazon for 29.99$.

2. Backpacks:
This is a somewhat easy one. I just ask my kids what they want on their backpacks and we find them usually on Amazon.  This year my girls wanted Frozen and Paw Patrol.  I also make sure there are cup holders on each side for their water bottles and separate compartments for pens and supplies. Click here for the whole Nickelodeon supply of backpacks.

Here is the one we ordered that comes with a lunchbox and pencils:

And for your Disney kids, here are a few including Lion Guard, Frozen and the new Elena show.

And of course, there is always the classic Pottery Barn Kids backpacks.  The Mackenzie style have adjustable straps, some with rollers, and are made water-resistant.  You can also order in 4 different sizes.

You can also personalize them with your child's name. My favorite, but did not win over my child (maybe I can still order and secretly stash it away), was the unicorn one! Love me some unicorns!

3) Water Bottles:
My favorite ones are the Thermos brand because they keep their water cold all day! Almost as good as Corksicle and Yeti brands for grown-ups.  You can order on Amazon from 12$-17$ depending on which one you choose.  They have about 40 different ones to pick:

4) School Supplies: 
This was my favorite part of back to school. Going shopping for school supplies!! I still remember going to Target and picking everything out. I was obsessed. But alas Amazon has come along and you can now purchase grade packs for everything you need online.  This one below is for 1st and 2nd grade:

But if you are going to Target, right now they are having a special where you get 5$ back if you spend 30$, and a 10$ gift card if you spend 100$.

My favorite supply this year are the smelly crayons from Mr. Sketch! 9.99$ on Amazon :)

5)  Back to School Sign. We ordered this one last year for my Kinder girl and love it! Etsy does such a great job with so many choices.

6)  Books: My favorite "The Night Before" series has them for preschool, kinder, and 1st grade

I also love First Day Jitters for 6.99$ which you can use for ANY grade or age.

7) Planners:  Now this can be for your older student, and it is a MUST for all moms. I used to love my school planners as a kid. (If only it helped me actually earn straight A's, ha!).  But I loved choosing mine each year and would spend hours in the stores trying to find the best one. Hello Container Store 1991!  And yes, I still use my iPhone calendars but also love my paper Erin Condren one.  If you haven't jumped on this brand yet, you are missing out!  Click here and see all of the options, cover choices, etc.

Well, that's it for this year. Now I need to start ordering!