5 Rules for Mental Strength

It is not always easy to be mentally strong. I struggle with this a lot. I’m still working on this one. There are days that I feel fantastic and days that I can barely get out of bed because I feel so badly about myself. I’m sure that many others feel the same.

How does this “being mentally strong” thing work? It’s a little different for everyone, but here are a few ideas:

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Being yourself. This is number one for me. I have fought very hard to be accepted for who I am by my own husband and that’s something nobody should have to do.

People change, and sometimes people can’t accept that. When you are comfortable with yourself, it’s much easier to be strong, because you have more faith in yourself. You know you can get through things. You know that you can tackle what is in front of you.

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Trust yourself. Many of us tend to underestimate ourselves, including me. I’ve made many decisions and second guessed myself, even on picking clothes, shoes and maybe even mascara. This tends to occur when you have low self-confidence.

I’ve learned to trust myself a lot more through therapy-working more to shut down that voice in my mind that says “That’s a bad idea, Wrae. Don’t do it. You can’t pull this off”. When you trust yourself more, you will believe in yourself more. You will make decisions with a lot more confidence, even about the small things.

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Build confidence. As Demi Lovato once said, “What’s wrong with being confident?” First of all, I love Demi. She has an amazing voice, has great style and she’s one of my sobriety role models.

She had a point with that lyric. What is wrong with being confident? I’m not talking about crossing the line and being all-out cocky or anything like that, but knowing what you are capable of and what your limits are.

Everyone has them, physically and emotionally. Don’t feel bad about those limits. For sheer example, I hate spiders, extreme heights, and public speaking.

I had to take public speaking in college and almost had a panic attack once. I was also hugely pregnant with Cameron. My professor wasn’t in the mood to send me into early labor, so he allowed me to give my speech from my seat and things ended a lot better than I had anticipated.

Confidence is good. This also helps with looks and body image- I’m a size 14 now and weigh in at around 170. I do not care to disclose that. I weighed 125 in 2015 before my life imploded and I was a size 4. I have been confident both sizes and weights.

Like every other woman in existence, even the awesome Tess Holliday (my favorite model), I have days where I think I look like crap, but then I remember what my body has been through and will continue to do and move on.

This took a lot of work because, at some points, I didn’t take my 60 lb weight gain well. This confidence can be hard to attain, thanks to social media and Photoshopped images of models. It’s tough to look at, so I tend to look at body-positive models.

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Daily reminders. I remind myself daily to take care of myself- this is a must do. If I don’t take care of myself, who will? I have two chronic illnesses and self-care is a must for both. I also remind myself “One day at a time” because that is how I have set my life up.

I just can’t plan far in the future anymore. Whether it is a phrase, app, or something else that helps, once you set your mind on something daily, it becomes a daily habit to take care of yourself and that leads to and supports mental strength.

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Not caring so much what others think. My mother is 62 and does not care what anyone thinks of her. She has always been like this. She’s small, very feisty, and hilarious. Clearly, these genes have passed on to me.

It took me a very long time to get to the point that I really didn’t care what others think of me, but that’s where I am sitting. It’s not healthy at all to care so much what others think of you, because it will break you down in the end. It erodes your self-esteem when you don’t meet their standards.

Your individuality will fade as you try to be more like others and less like yourself. This isn’t good for anyone.
These tips may be what you need to move forward onto becoming stronger. Take them and consider what else you may need to form more strength within yourself.

Homeschooling: Is It Right for Your Family?

Homeschooling is a topic that has been debated for years. Studies have been done to determine how well those who have completed school in this way have functioned in society emotionally and academically.

Parents choose this for a number of reasons- they may have children with special needs that aren’t reasonably accommodated by the school system near them, bullying, religious, not liking the school system near them, along with other reasons.

A Friendly Story

I happen to have a friend that homeschools. Madonna (yes, everyone, that is her real name, but these days she goes by Dawn) has five kids. FIVE. She’s a stay a home mom and homeschools all five of her kids, which has to earn her some sort of medal.

Her kids vary in age from 15 to 4 and even the youngest is in school. She decided to homeschool after she decided that she didn’t like the school system of the county that she lived in (at one point she lived in a different county than me, and now we live in the same county, but she still homeschools).

Her oldest did attend public school for kindergarten but both she and her daughter absolutely hated it. One of her kids had leukemia a few years later, so her oldest was placed in private school while Dawn cared for the son that had leukemia. I’m happy to say that he’s in remission.

Once he was better, everyone went back to homeschool. Her kids are happy and doing well in school. They have been involved in outside activities so that they are able to meet other kids their age- her oldest daughter was heavily involved in cheerleading until ankle injuries stopped her. In fact, our kids get along pretty well. Our boys are very happy playing video games and riding bikes together and Lily loves her younger girls.

The point of this story is that homeschooling can be great if it is done correctly. Dawn is part of a whole community of families that homeschool. Per Kentucky law, she had to write a letter to the county’s board of education stating her intent to homeschool. She then had to create a curriculum, which she goes by very closely.

Benefits and Drawbacks

This information is from Education Corner

There are many benefits to homeschooling. Some of them include:

  • Strengthening the bond between you and your child.
  • Flexible scheduling for education. For example, Dawn and her kids went to Florida to visit a family friend right after my kids went back to school after Winter Break. There isn’t a strict timeline for their education.
  • The ability to streamline their child’s education to their needs- this can come in handy with special needs.
  • Developing special talents- musical, artistic, or other areas.
  • Parents can touch on controversial topics in their own time and in their own way with their children.

Some of the drawbacks include:

  • My personal struggle- the patience factor. Being around your kids all day and trying to educate them? That’s a lot.
  • Explaining your choice to homeschool to people who don’t understand and/or approve
  • The cost of materials, books, etc.
  • The social factor- trying to find other kids for your child to socialize with, especially if you move around a lot or live in a rural area. This can be easier if, like myself and Dawn, you live in a city.
  • Constantly having to adapt to new teaching methods

What Do I Think?

I’m a very open-minded person. Every parent has the right to choose how to educate their kids. If you want to homeschool, go for it. It’s not my thing and my kids are sitting in a public school as I type. I don’t have the patience to teach my kids. I would entirely lose it.

Public schools aren’t perfect, especially not in Kentucky. I live in Louisville, home of the biggest school district in the state. There’s a lot of changes that our school district could make.

As long as you’re homeschooling the way your state designates, then I’m okay with it. Kids need to be educated to be able to make it on their own as adults, and this can be done in various ways.

Education is the key to the future- kids need the tools we give them to succeed.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling? Leave them in the comments!

Tips for Parenting from Baby to Middle School

Opinions are everywhere.

So are your kid’s toys, the cat’s litter and the contents of your purse.

Or is that just me?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s a weird world that we live in- everyone has something to say. Some of us feel the need to live up to expectations that aren’t exactly healthy.

I am not one of those parents.

I was many moons ago, and there’s a post to tell that story.

The Baby and Toddler Stage.. Take A Deep Breath

Babies are adorable. They’re all soft, cuddly and you just want to hold them forever.

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Avery, my little buddy.

Until that first blowout diaper. I’m here to tell you, it’s one of the many gross things you will witness as a parent. Once you see that diaper, you will want to cry and throw the whole day away. As in hit the restart button and pause right before your baby created that horrible mess.

They sleep about as much as cats, at least for a while. Once they sleep all night, life becomes somewhat decent again. Then comes the solid food stage, in which they insist on smearing everywhere. It makes for great pictures but horrible cleanup. Babies also become mobile, and that’s when the real fun begins. It’s when we stop being able to have nice things.

Toddlers are known to be tiny terrors. They can destroy your home in about 15 seconds or less if given the opportunity. They also have the capacity to be the cutest little people you will ever lay eyes on. “Oh, wait, I have a voice and it gets loud? Wait, hold my sippy cup while I scream because Mom changed the channel.”

My friend Melanie had a hashtag #ReasonsWhyMyToddlerIsCrying while her son Elliott was a toddler and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. My kids threw wild tantrums and I am glad I lived through this phase.. barely. I went through three toddlers in a short amount of time.

How can you survive this phase?

  • Sleep. Try to sleep when the baby sleeps, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Sleep the best you can at night. Try for some sort of schedule if you can, you will thank yourself later. My kids still have a sleep schedule and they’re much older.
  • Breathe. Take lots of deep breaths. Meditate if you need to. It helps keep you calm.
  • Humor. You will need this when your two-year-old has discovered what a Sharpie is.
  • Backup. Backup needs to be a thing from day one. You will need it until your child moves out, or so it seems.
  • Learn about your child. Every child is different and they change over time. This will help greatly when people start giving advice you really don’t need.
  • Self-care. This should be a priority. Forever.

The Preschool Life

This stage is kind of fun. Kids at this age want to learn about everything. They ask a million and two questions before lunch, and they’re learning to express themselves. This might be about the time they learn to dress. That can be a lot of fun- I had a blast with Lily’s outfits. They’re also learning to interact with others outside their family.

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Lily and the snowball

I didn’t think about how expensive preschool was until both boys were in it together. YIKES. It’s not getting any cheaper, so if that’s your thing, you might want to start looking into it when your child is an infant if they aren’t already in daycare.

My kids never went to daycare. Their grandmothers watched them while I worked and finished school then went straight to preschool. Julian had a rough time in preschool, but Cameron and Lily did great. Lily’s road to preschool was not an easy one thanks to her delays. We almost didn’t get her potty trained in time.

Speaking of potty training…

How do you get through this phase?

  • Lots of patience. Potty training does not happen in one day. I do not care what book you read. If you have potty trained a child in one day, please email me. I’d love to know what you did. Julian broke his foot while he was being potty trained and had a cast almost up to his knee. I cannot express how much fun that was. He had a boot on, but it still impeded his speed in getting to the potty. We started late with Lily due to the therapies for her delays and she continued to have accidents well after her fourth birthday. It was not easy. Patience is required in all aspects of parenting but potty training will wear a parent out!
  • Humor. Preschoolers do a lot of funny things. They also say even funnier things.
  • Have a camera. Thanks to smartphones, this is super easy. You will want to take a million pics during this time. They’re always into something. It’s just the question of what.
  • What’s a clean house? If everyone living in it is clean, then the rest is a bonus.
  • Routine is good. Bonus if it actually gets followed daily. We try very hard.
  • Grow an extra set of eyes in the back of your head. Preschoolers are into everything. They want to learn about the world around them and sometimes that means a little bit of adventure. It can also mean doing things they know they probably shouldn’t. Since we can’t really grow eyes in the back of our heads, backup is a good idea.
  • Self- care. These little people take a lot out of us and we need to recharge.

Time for School!

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Thanksgiving 2015

I may joke about it now, but I was sad about sending my kids to school. I cried a little when Lily went to her first day of kindergarten because she’s my youngest and I realized my 5 lb, 12 oz baby wasn’t really a baby anymore. It was a little crushing. She’s now months away from middle school. I may or may not cry at her 5th-grade graduation.

Some kids do not do well with the kindergarten adjustment. Julian was one of those kids. He was diagnosed later that year and that helped somewhat. Kindergarten is a big change- the building, more adults, kids, the routine, and more. Julian is not a fan of big changes, so this was not on his list of fun things to do. He did better in the other years.

Kids in this stage grow so quickly! I sent Cameron to elementary school in 2010 and he finished in 2015 almost as tall as me! They learn a lot, make friends and lots of things in the middle.

How do you get through your baby not being a baby anymore?

  • Let them be who they are. My kids have tried different things to see if they liked them or not, and this is fine. Lily tried playing the trumpet but didn’t like having to play in front of others. Julian ran cross country in 5th grade because he’s always been a fast runner. Cameron loves basketball and plays whenever he can. He won’t try out for a team, (I think) because he’s afraid to mess with his heart (he has SVT and is cleared to play by his cardiologist).
  • Watch them form their own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. You may be surprised at what they have learned from you. Be proud of yourself for teaching them well.
  • Let them make their own friends. Of course, step in if there’s something dangerous going on. Kids like to hang out with who they like, not who Mom picks.
  • Let them solve their own problems as they get older. This isn’t meant for a kindergartner, but fifth graders can figure out some things.
  • Take all the pictures they will allow. Pretty soon, you will hear “Mom. Stop taking pictures. It’s annoying.”
  • Humor. Humor is a parenting requirement.

The Parenting Struggle…The Middle School Edition

If you’ve seen my Instagram page, this is one of my often-used hashtags. Middle school is a struggle, for parents and kids. Kids are trying to figure out who they are, what their bodies are doing, and as parents, we’re just trying to make sure they’re okay and keeping them fed.

If you have boys, the last one can be a challenge. I have two- I don’t know where the food goes but the wrappers are everywhere.

Kids are smarter than we realize. They, for the most part, are more accepting than many adults are. I think it is a combination of not caring and how they are taught. I’ve done my best to teach my kids to accept others for who they are and not what they look like or what their racial makeup is. I’ve been the kid left out because I was biracial and that is damaging. I would never let my kids do that to someone else.

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Julian and the Gorilla

The struggles? There are many- smelly feet, testosterone, explaining racism and other injustices, discussing drugs and alcohol (especially when you are 2 years sober), homework, grades in general and lots more.

This is the age in which kids start learning from their friends and not asking Mom or Dad about everything- Cameron learned about bisexuality from a friend of his. I guess when you’re 14, this is on the list of things you don’t ask Mom about.

How does this phase work?

  • Talk to your child. I cannot stress this enough. I don’t mean sit them down and interrogate them but just casual talk is good. They need to know you are there for them and that you care.
  • Boundaries. Let them know what you will and will not tolerate. We’re parents, not their besties.
  • Let them come to you if they have a problem. No judgment allowed. If you judge, they won’t confide in you.
  • Remind them of the importance of good grades, enforce homework rules, etc.
  • Give them space. They need it.
  • Knock before entering. You will regret this the one time you don’t.
  • Humor. Teens are funny and humor helps in almost all situations.
  • Let them be who they are. They are figuring out who they are. This takes a while.

Parenting is an adventure. It is not meant to be easy. We are, however, meant to have the children that we were given. I didn’t realize this until Julian was diagnosed.

I thought I had completely messed up as a mom and maybe even as a person, but no, I was given Julian to become a stronger person and much better mom. Enjoy the ride- our kids only get one childhood!

Do you have any tips to get through these stages of childhood? Leave a comment!

A Talk With My Mom

My mom and I were talking today (2/6/19) and we were discussing the death of a soap opera actor that she really liked. It’s been suspected that it was due to alcohol and I told her that I had once been close to, if not, actually had alcohol poisoning.

“Why didn’t you tell me it was that bad?”

I didn’t really have an answer.

I had to think for a minute.

“I don’t know. I already had a lot going on. I was so messed up for a while and I didn’t want you to worry more.”

It’s called shame, y’all. It’s a big topic in recovery.

My mom hit me with that “don’t bullshit me” look that I’ve gotten about a thousand times in my life.

“No, seriously, Wrae. You can come to me with things like that.” She actually looked hurt. My mom’s not much for feelings so that must have really bothered her.

The Sunken Place

When you’re in the deep, dark place that is alcoholism, or even binge drinking, there is not space for telling many people how bad things are. This might even include your mom.

There is mainly room for drinking. The feelings you have go away, at least for a while. The alcohol clears out the pain and if you’re lucky, maybe you won’t remember the dumb things you did.

The emotions you’re trying to drown out are usually big. They feel too big to manage, and sometimes the usual coping skills just don’t work. I drank well before my life took a huge left turn, but Jake’s death destroyed me. The grief was too much to take.

There isn’t much talking. You don’t want to talk about why you drink- but telling someone about a wild night of drinking might be fun. It’s so hard to face up to the damage you are doing to yourself and potentially others. That day does come, however. My day came and went two years ago. You can read that story in Two Years of Sobriety

Since that day, I’ve finished therapy and started going to a Yoga 12 Step for Recovery class on Sundays. It’s one of the best things I do all week. I struggle with reaching out for help when I need to talk.

Writing helps a lot and I am able to get my thoughts that way, but I know talking is better sometimes. Honestly, it gets exhausting. When I get done talking about how I feel, I’m drained. I need a nap. I used to leave therapy tired as hell, especially if I had been crying.

All The Feels

I’m still a work in progress. I know I have a lot of people that I can talk to. It’s just a matter of speaking. Doing so requires lots of feelings- shame for even having this to deal with, guilt for having to unload on people who have dealt with my problems for over so many years, and just having to process whatever might be under the surface.

Can you tell this is not my favorite thing to do?

Quote courtesy of Pinterest