Making Your House the “Fun” House

Kids make friends. It’s a part of growing up. Things get interesting when they want to start having friends over. That’s when you have to talk to the other child’s parents and make arrangements and stock up on food and patience.

Depending on your kid’s noise level, you may want to grab a set of earbuds. Speaking of those, if there’s a bunch of kids coming, it might be a good time for a podcast or Netflix (with a break or two, of course).

Game

Ingredients For Fun

Most of us want to make our hones a nice place for our kids’ friends to come to so maybe they’ll come back. Right?

To do this, start with thinking back to your favorite hangouts. Which friend had a home that you loved hanging out at?

In my case, this would be a tie between Ashley’s and our other (now former) friend Stacy’s homes. Ashley’s apartment was very close to a mall and a new grocery store so we often walked to both. We stayed up late on sleepovers and her parents were somewhat laid back. Ashley’s mom is like a second mom to me- I love her.

Stacy lived with her grandfather and he basically let her (and us) do whatever we wanted. Lots of freedom.

This doesn’t mean to not set rules, because the 1990s and now are way different times. It might help if you give the kids space to have fun but maybe peek in every so often to make sure no disasters are occurring. Make rules with your child and enforce them.

Pizza pic

Food is a necessity. Kids eat a lot- but you can feed them for cheap. It’s amazing what you can do with some popcorn, bread, peanut butter and jelly. I’ve done this and not a complaint was heard.

Do you need an activity? Maybe not like you did when your child had playdates in their younger years. Sometimes kids are good with unstructured play or hanging out- this is good. If they’re content playing video games or playing in makeup and watching tutorials, let them be. If there is something in particular, like cooking or sports- related, this is also great. I think it depends on the kid.

Let The Fun Unfold

Kids will have fun with their friends and hopefully, they prefer your home. This cuts down on anxiety about what’s happening without you being there.

Platypus

Every house and family is different. Rules will also vary. We are pretty open around here- just don’t tear up the house or be mean to my cats. Pantry’s open. I do appreciate manners, however. I still get weirded out when a kid calls me “Mrs. Sanders”.

Who’s that? My MIL isn’t that anymore- well, not legally. (My inlaws are divorced, but she kept the last name.)

Open the door and let the fun roll in.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Pexels

Information courtesy of Kars 4 Kids

What are your rules for your children having friends over?

Parenting Without a Manual: What Am I Doing?

Parenting is an extreme sport – only there’s no training, it’s never-ending and even when you get injured or sick, there’s no time off. As of writing this post, I’ve been sick for four days. The laundry piled up, along with the dishes. Not much got cooked, but nobody starved. I guess it’s a good thing these kids are somewhat self-sufficient because otherwise, the house might have crumbled. This isn’t saying my husband doesn’t do anything- he’s at work most of the day.

We’re All in This Together

There are a lot of “sancti-mommies” out there, you might even know a couple. These are the moms that think they are better moms than everyone else and don’t mind making you feel like crap about your parenting.

They believe their kids are perfect (most of the time, they’re your worst nightmare) and if you don’t think the same way they do, well, you are not welcome in their circle. Think of it as the mom version of “Mean Girls”.

What those moms forget is that we’re all in this together. Every parent wants their child to be happy, healthy and to have a good life. How they get there is a bit different for everyone. Most of the time, we could use tips from other parents to figure things out. It helps to get other opinions and get resources from others. You feel less alone in the huge world of parenting.

There’s a lot to think about these days, from prenatal care, childbirth, bottle vs. breastfeeding, and it only gets more intense as your child grows. What should you look for in a preschool? Should you hold your child back a year from kindergarten because of their July birthday? (This is a thing, and some parents are doing it.) What about going online?

A lot of my friends are parents, and we try to help each other out. The ages of our kids are very spread out- some have babies and toddlers and a few have kids older than mine.

I even have my small tribe of autism parents. If you have a child with special needs, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of finding support in other parents. This circle of friends can be so important- they can celebrate and cry with you.

Where is My Handbook?

We all know parenting does not come with a manual. There are a lot of parenting books- thanks to Julian, I’ve read quite a few. Most of those were on explosive children, autism, and other similar topics. I don’t read nearly as much on this topic now, but with him going into puberty, I think it might be time.

As of yet, I have not found one specific book on how to raise a child, start to finish, birth to 18. If you find one, please send me an email or leave a comment, because I’d love to read it!

I don’t know all the answers- I wish I did. I’ve had to do some unpleasant things as a parent- explain why we had to put Tiger to sleep, explain death, racism, bullying, divorce, watch Julian get his arm X-rayed and listen to his screaming, learn about and deal with Cameron’s SVT (please read 5 Facts About SVT if you want to learn more about this) and a lot more.

I’ve also done some great things as a parent- watching my kids walk and talk for the first time, dropped Julian off at a friend’s house and for the first time didn’t freak out about it, watched them stare at the Atlantic Ocean, along with so many other things.

But yet, still no handbook. Where is this handbook? How do you parent when you don’t know all the answers? I simply roll out of bed and hope for the best. I can only hope I am doing my best as a mom because one day I’ll be out of time to teach my kids how to be decent people. They will be on their own. I’ll still be able to guide them as adults, but their choices will be on them. There’s a lot of doubt involved, which I try to dodge as much as possible. It makes me incredibly anxious.

I do struggle with not having answers. Cameron, by far, has been my easiest kid to raise. Julian and Lily have been a bit more of a challenge- I still don’t know what is going on with Lily.

I finally got an evaluation scheduled for her and I am counting the days until it is completed. I don’t know how to help her- I can’t help her if I don’t know what is going on. Hopefully, this evaluation points us in the right direction and things will get a bit easier with her. The issues have been going on for a while and I know it’s hard on her.

The Teenage Chapter

As Cameron puts it, being the mom of two preteens and one teenager is “a whole struggle”. I didn’t think these kids could eat so much food! I know there’s three of them, but wow. We have joked that Cameron’s getting a job the minute he turns 15 because we might have to take out a second mortgage just for groceries. He is already 5’4″ and weighs around 130 lbs, and he’s not close to being done growing yet.

My boys’ room stinks of feet. Lily’s bedroom floor is covered in clothes, shoes and who knows what else. I’m afraid to look, honestly, because I might get lost.

The attitudes around this house are ever-changing, depending on who says what to who. I don’t know who told my boys that their room is a wrestling ring, but I tell them at least twice a day that it’s not one.

How do kids work? How does this teenage thing work? How do I adjust my brain to the fact that my babies aren’t babies anymore? *sigh*

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

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Not Just the 3 of Us

Why it’s Okay to be the Not So Fun Parent

Where’s the Fun?

Parenting is not fun 100% all the time. Any parent that says this is lying. I love my kids dearly, but there are days in which this parenting thing entirely sucks. Either two or all three kids are fighting (their longtime favorite is the front seat of my car), someone is sick or injured, or if I’m really lucky, both. I even nicknamed the fighting between Julian and Lily “The Petty Olympics” because they constantly go for who can bring up the pettiest thing and get on my nerves the most.

Other days, my house is a magical place in which dinner is done on time and nobody fights. This is great.

Most of the time, I’m home with the three ring circus, as the kids are jokingly called. Even when I worked, much of the after-school childcare has been my arena. I’m permanently on call while the kids are at school if anything goes down (and it has- I’ve picked up each kid at least once). This leads me to be the enforcer. The not-so-fun parent.

Someone’s gotta do it, right?

This is not to say Matthew is not a good dad, because he is. He simply works a schedule that brings him home around 7 PM and it’s been this way for many years. Many dinners have been burnt in the process of the kids not tearing the house apart, having a meltdown, or fighting. Fighting is a common theme at my house.

Mom is a Meanie

If I had a dollar for everytime that Lily told me I am “the meanest mommy ever” I would never have to work again.

She’s 10. She has no idea what’s coming for her in the future.

It used to hurt my feelings that my kids thought I was mean and they didn’t like me…but no longer. I had a chat with my mom, the queen of mean moms. She reminded me that it’s not really my job for these kids to like me but for me to raise them to be decent people.

Good point, Mom.

Now quit buying my kids recorders.

One of our biggest challenges as parents is to do what my mom said- raise our kids to be decent people. They need to learn manners, to fight fairly, talk appropriately, and many other lessons. This may mean not being the fun parent all the time.

Sigh.

I’ve had to let the kids learn to squash their sibling fights on their own (unless things get super bad) because it got draining on all of us. Being the not so fun parent means having to enforce the rules, all the discipline stuff (big bummer), making sure your kids don’t hurt others and teaching them how the world works, especially when they mess up.

I do worry that I’m a bit too hard on the kids. When we’re out in public, I do tend to crack down a lot on their behavior before it even looks bad. One of the last times Julian had to get a haircut, he was so angry he walked out as soon as he was done. He got my evil mom glare as he walked out. I took a deep breath, apologized to the hairdresser and gave her a really nice tip. He was mad that he had to get two inches off the top, not just one.

Matthew tends to be a bit more laid back in general so someone’s got to be be a bit heavier with things. If I wasn’t, I’m pretty sure this house would be a crap show in an hour. This also fits my semi Type A personality. It’s okay to be the enforcer. Kids need structure, rules and guidance. My kids gets that from both Matthew and I. They know that I have basically zero tolerance for certain things but being kids, they will still attempt to push buttons. It’s what kids do.

The biggest payoff, not that I was looking for one, is hearing how well-mannered my kids are when they are with other people. My friend Madonna has five kids. She kept my boys overnight recently and when she brought them back, she told me “Your boys are so good! You should be proud of them. They were so nice and have good manners.”

I thanked her. I guess the not fun mom thing does pay off. She told me her kids are loud and wild no matter where they go, but she and her hubby are working on this. I figured that while my sons are less than mannered sometimes with me, I have taught them something while they have been rolling their eyes and sighing at me.

The lesson here is: your kid might be annoyed at you while you’re teaching them manners and other things but it does pay off.

If you’re the “not so fun” parent, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s okay to be a bit harder on your kids, especially in the age of super disrespectful kids. I’ve seen videos of kids that shocked me- my mom wouldn’t have tolerated any of that for a second. Kids aren’t robots, they do have thoughts and feelings- but it is good to instill things like respect and good behavior in your kids.

Parenting is a tough job- try to make the mental load a little lighter. Try to have a bit of fun in the midst of the seriousness. I certainly do.

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Not Just the 3 of Us

What You Need to Know About Teenage Dating

Teenage dating.

Yuck.

We have all been there- but these days it’s probably a bit different from when we were teens. There are cell phones and tricky little things called apps. As of now, my boys still don’t have cell phones. They are bugging me quite a bit, but I still don’t see the point, so they remain phone-less.

I’m 35. Matthew and I started dating 20 years ago. I’m actually writing this post on our 13th wedding anniversary, September 10, 2018. If you do the math, we were 15 when we started dating. If you keep going with the math, we were 22 when we got married and Cameron was 8 months old. We had to *gasp* call each other’s houses to talk to each other and there wasn’t Facebook Messenger, although that would have been great.

Welcome To The Future

Now, there’s Snapchat, Instagram and other apps that I don’t even know about yet. There’s something else that’s always been there but nobody really talked about a whole lot until recently- consent.

I’m all about consent. I’m not a very touchy-feely person, so if you try to hug me and I don’t know you very well, I’m most likely going to step back. I might break your hand if you even think about touching my hair. I have extremely curly hair, and you’d be amazed at how people have tried to touch it. That’s a whole different post.

Sexual consent? That’s a necessity. It’s a deal-breaker. If a person is drunk or otherwise unable to say “yes” or “no”, then step back and call it a night. “No” means “no”. That’s it. This goes for all three kids, and I don’t care who they date. Everyone deserves that much respect and I can only hope they get that back. Yeah, it sucks to get into the moment and have to stop, but it beats a charge. It also beats going to jail, really angry parents and other consequences. Also, Mom’s not bailing anyone out for this kind of stuff.

The Path To Respect

I think this starts with talking to your kids. Most teens just want to be accepted and liked, and sometimes this can push them into doing things they might not be quite ready for. Each kid has their own comfort zone and going out of it can be a bit scary. Some kids have issues with saying no.

Having a strong parent-teen relationship can help things. I know teens aren’t the best at talking sometimes, but checking in can really help. It can be super hard to discuss sexual things- for both you and your child, but it’s completely necessary. If your child feels they can talk to you, they will come to you a lot more than if you are harsher or close-minded. This can also increase the risk of making bad decisions.

Another way to keep a teen from making a mistake with consent is by teaching them healthy boundaries. If they have those boundaries, they will be less likely to push them with someone they care about. Ask your teen what their thoughts are on respecting others’ boundaries. Help them think through what happens if they don’t respect others’ boundaries- teens have issues seeing the consequences of his actions.

Learn your state’s laws on consent. My mom got a crash course in this when I was a freshman in high school. When I was 14, I dated a 17-year-old that turned 18 before I turned 15. For two months, my mom kept a VERY close eye on us, thanks to Kentucky’s laws on underage dating. (For the record, she absolutely couldn’t stand this kid for many reasons.) Knowing these laws can be very beneficial.

Knowledge is Power

Kids need to know more these days about dating. They’re growing faster than we did, almost as fast as we can blink. There are other things they need to know about besides respect and consent:

What is a healthy relationship?

Discuss with your child what makes a relationship healthy. This is important so that they know what to look for in their own.

Discuss what abuse looks like. Some people begin having patterns of being abusive or being abused in their teens. Stalking should also be discussed.

The difference between lust, infatuation and love. These are three very different things and kids may not be able to see the difference. They do need to learn the difference so that they can form healthy relationships.

Discuss sex and relationships realistically. This means the pros and cons of sex, birth control (if that’s your thing), and so on. Include consent in this discussion. Also discuss expectations and boundaries that you expect your child to go within dating- curfews, restrictions, etc. Of course, let your teen have input.

If needed, discuss sexual orientation and any questions about it. If your child needs to discuss their sexual orientation, be supportive as possible and seek outside assistance if needed. Please see my post LGBTQ Kids: A Guide if you need help on this topic.

Here’s to our kids dating, looking cute and making good choices.

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

Information courtesy of Respecting Physical Boundaries

Talking to Teens about Relationships

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Not Just the 3 of Us

Adjusting to a New World

Many parents, myself included, envision parenting as this wonderful adventure in which kids develop at the pace they should, play instruments and/or sports, learn to drive, go to prom and all that great stuff.

But what happens when those things are altered because of a special needs diagnosis?

Cry a little

The Big Change

Some parents find out about their child’s diagnosis before or right after birth, in cases of Spinal Bifida, Cerebral Palsy and Down’s Syndrome. I know parents of kids with these diagnoses, and it has been life changing for these families. All of them have other kids without any special needs.

The adjustment is hard. I cried my way through Lily’s evaluation for First Steps the day before her first birthday, even though I knew something was not going right. I knew she needed more help than what I could give her. That story can be found in Special Needs Round Two . When her diagnosis of global delays was given, I was even more devastated. The blame game began. It took a lot of talking with Lily’s speech therapist, Denise, to realize that it wasn’t my fault that she was developmentally delayed. We are in the process of getting Lily re-evaluated. At ten, she is still showing signs of issues that we thought she had grown out of. Cross your fingers for us- we may need it.

In Julian’s case, it’s been a tougher road. His psychiatric nurse practitioner, Ann, once said that we have adjusted wonderfully as a family to Julian’s needs. I almost hugged her. I explained to her that it has not been easy and it remains a somewhat rugged path. My question is: Why not adjust? Julian is wired differently and that’s okay. If we didn’t adjust, he would feel badly about himself and I couldn’t bear the thought of this. It would also cause so much chaos for him that he doesn’t need or deserve. It would do the same for the rest of us. Why do that?

He needs the ability to feel okay about who he is, quirks and all. We’ve enjoyed watching him grow and finally develop a sense of humor. Every kid needs that, with or without a diagnosis. In a home with medical issues, this is a necessity.

I have made many mistakes in raising Julian (and his siblings). Even after reading up, trying many different things, therapy for both of us, getting Matthew on board and lots of burnt dinners in the process, things remain interesting. Julian is now 12 and puberty is kicking in.

Learning that your child has a medical and/or physical special needs diagnosis is complex. Some parents grieve the life they feel their child “should have had”. This is a rough one for me, as I’ve never done this. I can see this happening with kids with severe medical problems. A high school friend of mine has a child with spinal bifida and she lives a full life. Instead of being devastated and staying in a hole as some might, Shelly and her kids go out and do all kinds of neat things. Ryan is eight, and she is one of the coolest kids ever. She’s a tiny fighter. Some parents, like myself, are devastated and are not sure where to go next. Some fall into the “research pattern” and find all kinds of information to know exactly what to do.

This can be a great thing- I have read up a lot on Julian’s diagnoses and it didn’t hurt to work with kids with similar issues. (It did physically hurt some days, but that’s another story. I learned a lot from that job.) Some parents, sadly, go into denial. This can be damaging to everyone involved, and I highly recommend seeing a therapist, church member, or another trusted person. If it’s your partner, this can get really bad quickly, and I definitely know the pain of where it can go. Please do what you can to change that path. Talking can help. Easing your partner into information, appointments, and other things can help. Just don’t force them, because that can make things worse.

I recommend reading up, asking questions, and getting all the help from the medical community you can. The more information you have, the more empowered you feel to help your child. Julian’s been very lucky- he has had a great team from day one, because I wouldn’t let him have anything less. I’m a proud mama shark.

Never give up

It’s okay to feel different things- don’t let anyone make you feel different. Julian was diagnosed almost seven years ago, and some days I still feel overwhelmed. As of writing this post, I’m about to battle it out with his school over his IEP because it’s currently not being followed. Some days are better than others. Some days are absolutely great, some are so bad that you want to devour a liter of Cherry Coke, a bag of salt and vinegar chips and call it a day. (Okay, maybe that’s just me. I didn’t do all of that, but I considered it.) If you’re overwhelmed, write it out. Get someone to help you sort out your feelings.

Making The Best of Things

Daily life also changes. Depending on the diagnosis, your child may need assistance with everything, or nothing at all. This can become time-consuming and require an overhaul of your routine as you knew it. Food may need to be altered due to sensory issues- I live in a house with two kids with sensory issues, and I gave up on those battles years ago. Julian won’t eat french fries if he can see the potato skins or if they aren’t super warm. Lily won’t eat anything that resembles soup, any pasta that isn’t spaghetti, mainly because it looks different. Julian actually had a meltdown once over the shape of pasta my father in law used for dinner. These changes can be irritating to make, but they are necessary for the world our kids live in. I’ve learned to look inside Julian’s mind a bit, probably because of my work, and try to see the world as he does. It can get hard, but it’s worth it. Explaining this to others can get even harder, even your partner.

Small steps

It takes time to adjust- it won’t happen overnight. It takes time to learn how your child’s machines work, or how to get the wheelchair to fit in your van. Give yourself space to make those mistakes. I completely screwed up Julian’s 12th birthday party by inviting too many people, which cause him to shut down at the end, but I’m pretty sure he still likes me. He used to get mad at me when I would hold onto him with a death grip in parking lots and large stores, but he had a bad record of eloping. It was terrifying to have to run after a very fast 5 year old, especially in a parking lot. He was seven before I let him walk more than a foot or two away from me. (I never used a leash because I hate those things.)

If you’ve got a kid who takes things literally, you have to change how you talk to them. For example, I once told Julian to drop the jar of jelly he was holding after he was told not to eat anything. I was making dinner and he didn’t need to eat so soon before.

He dropped the jar.

Major mom fail.

Thankfully, the jar was plastic. That would have been an awful mess otherwise. Matthew and I have had to re-think things before we say them, because Julian thinks differently, and so does Lily, to an extent. We are still trying to figure out her thought patterns. She doesn’t quite think on a 10-year-old level, so we have to tread carefully.

Super parent

Final Thoughts and Tips:

If you have to buy things to keep your house, kid and car safe, do it. You’ll thank yourself later.

It really does take a village. I have friends that have kids with all kinds of physical/ developmental disabilities. A few have kids with autism, and they have been so helpful when I’ve needed them.

Being a parent of a special needs kid will make you a different person. I’ve fought for Julian since day one. Lily’s issues haven’t required so much of a fight, but I would do the same for her. It makes you tougher and less likely to take people’s crap.

Breathe and find something that makes you laugh. Comedy will get you through anything.

Get a binder and organize all of your kid’s paperwork. Julian and Lily have their own binders.

You are not alone, and get help if you need it. Take time for you, because your kids need Mom at her best. If you’re tired, sad and cranky, that’s not your best.

If you have other kids, let them be involved in adjustments. It’s not easy to be the sibling of a special needs kid. My kids have been pretty good about Julian, but it can get hard for us as parents. Cameron and Lily have a post about this in The Siblings’ Turn

Allow your child to live their best life. If they can do it- let them. My friend Laura Leigh’s son, Levi, is seven. He is in a wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy, and he is an awesome kid. He smiles for days, gives his younger sister Presley wheelchair rides and loves school. I let Julian run cross country in the fifth grade and he loved it. We have a rule that his diagnoses aren’t excuses for not behaving. He does have bad days, but he doesn’t get to say, “I’ve got autism, so I get to act like that”, “I forgot my ADHD meds, that’s why I’m like this today”.

Most of all, love and accept your child the way they are. It might sound weird that I wrote that, but it is saddening that many parents don’t. Acceptance and love matters- it’s everything.

Quotes courtesy of Pinterest

Recommended Reading: The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius

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