SUMMERTIME STRUCTURE

We’re midway through summer. How are you surviving? As always, time has flown. I am pretty sure school just ended yesterday!

I think kids are asked to do an awful lot during the school year. It’s not as much the work as it is the lack of anytime for recreation. No wonder the 20 minute kickball recess game is so crucial for my son. I mean, school standards would take days to discuss and that’s not this blog! I will just say with all the work for nearly 10 months, I love the summer break!

I want my kids home. I miss them. When summer arrives, I feel like a weight has been lifted. I admit that it is at least, in part, the lack of homework and strict routine. However, we keep some of a routine in the summer because it just never works to “get back into the routine” the day before.

My son’s summer has been particularly busy because he played All-Star baseball until the tail end of July. He had practice or games night after night, including weekends. This is the first year we sent him to day-camp, too. Okay, I admit that helps. Most of all, it convicts me of the power of scheduling. Hear me out here.

If all summer days are laid-back, perfect! For my household, we have a lunchtime hour. We usually all eat within that timeframe. Same with snacks. And our household errands typically fall in the morning. For my toddler, the mealtimes are crucial. For my older child, he needs to know what to expect as the day progresses. It’s made a world of difference for his plans. He may want to do something specific, but he knows it’ll need to be done after lunch, for example. Call it silly or petty, but it is what works for us.

I also believe in asking for help. Sometimes errands and priorities cannot be done with kids in tow. Sometimes, it’s just easier without them. It’s okay, we’re being honest and real here. However, if you’re like most and money is tight, who has the means to do things without the kids? I suggest ask a parent or friend to do a summertime child-care swap with you. And hey, if you can swing an occasional babysitter, call a college kid home that’s from break who’d love to provide childcare for a summer job.

DO SELF-CARE!

Boundaries means that we are clear – both with ourselves and others – what is okay for us. If you need 20 minutes, take it! (I know, we need more like an hour, right?) I worked literally nonstop the last few weeks because I landed the other half of my dream job—I am a freelance editor. (More on that in another blog) I exhausted myself because I LOVE it but I need to prove I can do it more often than I was. You see-it’s a job I’ve been doing casually for the past 20 year. Now it’s possible to do it full-time. I dove in. I put my head down and worked. When I caught up and had one free night, I sat back, forgetting how much I needed to an evening off! And you know what? One evening meant I rested up and was able to fully give myself to the job the next day. We need that as parents too. Take care of yourself.

HOW AND WHY INCENTIVES IN PARENTING IS BETTER THAN BRIBERY

Bribery and Incentives: Powerful concepts in parenting, am I right?

Before I blog about this, you should know that I’m just like you… I am doing the best that I can as a parent. I succeed, I fail, I cheer them on, I cry, I push for excellence, I hug them when they’re struggling, I ache for them when they are learning a tough lesson but they need to learn it. I am just a learner and grower like you. I do not have the one and only answer. I do, however, learn through experience and want to share something I’ve experienced and read about on bribery or incentives.

Personally, I’ve heard it’s not good to use bribes. I absolutely get that. As my maturity as a mom has progressed, I am better at saying no in those moments or at least to not offering bribes. Let’s face it, we give a considerate and compassionate nod to the other mom dealing with a breakdown in the grocery store. We’ve been there, we understand. No worries lady over in aisle 2, we are not judging. It’ll pass. I’m praying for you!

However, when you’re “this” close to completing an excruciating task and your child decides that right then and there is a good time to have a behavior? Hello bribery! When you can seriously see the gosh darn finish line, a quick bribe of a treat to just finish that last 4 minutes is the solution … or so we thought, think, will believe… (as we silently plead with our child to please, for the sake of sanity, stop and let us finish).

USE INCENTIVES INSTEAD

How about using incentives instead of bribes? Incentives are powerful. They serve as encouragers to certain behaviors in kids. They can motivate to alter behavior and to continue the better behavior.

Here’s how incentives are different from bribes, and how to use them effectively.

An incentive is the conversation ahead is time. It is the clear direction that this event will be taking place and this is what is expected. You and your child talk about – and agree on – the behavior and incentive ahead of time.

These incentives are based on your child’s interests. Is kickball in the backyard for thirty minutes something your child likes? Perhaps suggesting this for completing homework would work. What if your child dislikes grocery shopping but can visit the bookstore afterwards if they cooperate during the former?

Bribes teach children that bad behavior will get them a reward. Incentives help children work toward a goal and celebrate their successes. It isn’t wise to use incentives for everything. That’d be overkill and focusing on a few “need to improve” behaviors would be wiser.

As a side note: I once heard that it isn’t good to teach children they’ll be rewarded for doing things. (Tie your shoes, get a prize!) I agree. Some things just need to be done!! But, I also heard that it is smart to teach them the value of work. Earn stars for clearing the table, stars earn a movie night. Incentives in a different form!

So I go back to my first thought. What is your take on bribes or incentives? Again, as I’ve become a more seasoned parent, I’m much better at persevering through the behavior. But I’m also light years wiser about setting clear standards and boundaries ahead of time.

Incentives are also helpful when there is an adjustment to be made. When plans change or life happens or in this case, work happens, we find incentives help. When my husband travels for work, he often promises an incentive if our kids get sad he has to be away for the weekend. He’ll offer something like one-on-one time or build-a-fort time with daddy when he returns from work. These are nice because it gives the kids something to look forward to. It also helps me to remind them if they get sad. I also offer special mommy and me time to our kids so they can have fun even while daddy is working hard for us. These are healthy forms of incentives.

What are your thoughts on incentives or bribery? I just offered an incentive this past week. I received my copies of my new book! So exciting! My son wanted to take one to school to show his teacher. Because the book does not launch until June 1, (here on my website http://www.thefelicityfoxhouse.com or http://www.bn.com or http://www.amazon.com Search: WHERE THE HOLIDAYS GO FELICITY FOX) I cannot let copies out yet. But, I could let him take a copy to show his wonderful teacher. After all, she wrote a beautiful endorsement for said book and will be receiving an influencer copy from me on June 1. I wanted to allow my son to take a copy in for the day. However, I needed to show him it was a privilege and he’d need to take good care of it. I told him if he could do those things, he could have the book to keep. (He has asked for the copy. I swear he is my biggest “kid” fan!!!!!) You know what? At the end of the day, that incentive paid off. He arrived home with the book in perfect condition.

#Incentives #parenting #wheretheholidaysgo

FINDING TIME TO CONNECT AS A FAMILY

Last week a friend told me that she felt like her life was flying by. (We all feel this way, huh?) She said it is important for her to connect with her teenage daughter. The issue is their schedules are so booked, that she doesn’t have the energy or even moments to really talk. (She is a single parent, struggling to work, keep her home in order, raise a teenager, and keep her sanity!)

Eventually, she realized the school drop off is the one time of day they can truly talk. Her daughter gets out of the car feeling loved and cherished. My friend heads off to work feeling she is winning at parenting.

Life gets completely busy when you’re not a parent. When you ARE a parent, the definition of “busy” changes. I am a mom and wife. For me, I have to do little tasks in between diaper changes, paragraph edits, cooking dinner, and helping with homework. Because of the business I am in, it is imperative that I have excellent customer service. I will return messages within 24 hours! Sometimes, that means I have to stop in my tracks to just do it! I stop the dishes and the laundry and get it done.

Before children, I had designated times to do these things. Talk about juggling.

So how can we find time to connect as a family if we are constantly on the go? Recently, I felt a real connect and surprise, surprise, it was when we disconnected from our electronics. We had a rainy afternoon and my son’s Little League game was cancelled. My husband happens to coach his team. Suddenly, we were free so we went out to dinner.

As we sat down to dinner, we were without electronics. My husband left his phone home. We had my phone with me out of just being safe (if we broke down or anything), but it was in my purse and never touched. My son didn’t have any device. We were just a family.

That dinner was special! We talked. We related. We laughed. We made EYE CONTACT. Our conversations were real. We had funny moments that touched our hearts when our one year old made a funny face when she didn’t like a certain food. How special.

We vowed to unplug. We plan to do this once a week. Maybe some weeks we just can’t if we cannot sit together for dinner, but we all felt the connection and long for it.

Do you see a pattern of connection when you unplug in your family? Are there times each day or week when you can communicate with your family?

In today’s fast-paced world, it can be a challenge to find times to connect. You might try unplugging during a meal. Maybe a game night is the trick. Maybe taking a drive is what it’ll take. You know just taking a simple walk is the key. (Health and connection all in one!)

What works for your family?

SNOW AND COLD? NO PROBLEM! CREATING WINTER FUN WITH CHILDREN

Holy winter weather! I know I’ve been a little quiet here the last little bit of time. I promise it wasn’t for lack of trying. Like most of the country, we were hit with a polar vortex that left us with windchills of -25 and a regular temperature of -5. Honestly, we were in the tropics compared to the middle of the country which was -65 with windchills! Praise God for heat and warm homes and getting us through those ridiculous days.

Yes, I said ridiculous. No one hates winter more than me. This it ironic because I live in New York which is terrible for nearly six months with snow. Snow is worse than the cold, in my opinion.

Despite the weather, the optimist that I am sees the good and finds the means to get through with precious family time. When you have kids who deserve some sort of outlet but the weather just doesn’t permit it, what can you do? What if you didn’t plan ahead and suddenly you’re all snowed in or shivered in and you want to have rich family time and give those little hands some enrichment?

Here are my top five projects I enjoy doing with my kids. Little or no planning ahead of time required. My oldest said he loves them. (My youngest is too young to tell me.)

1) Make cookies. I know, this is a classic. It is a fun experience for my son because he is able to be hands on to help me. I use the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the bag of Nestle chocolate chips.

Here is a link. https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/original-nestle-toll-house-chocolate-chip-cookies

I typically have these products on hand at any given time. Hence, #1 on my list!

2) Play a board game. I have the Wizard of Oz version of Life. (I am a sucker for this classic movie! Ps: I reference it is my first book, WHERE THE HOLIDAYS GO.) It can be any game you’d like. We also played Monopoly but I happen to have that on my iPad. (For the record, I also have Life on my iPad but we did the real version.)

3) I used empty Crystal Lite containers to make cute little “emergency” containers. I learned this from Pinterest but I created my own at Christmas for my son’s teacher and bus driver. At the time, my son wanted me to make him one. I am glad we didn’t at the time because this allowed us to do it during the “stuck-inside week.”

How did I make these? I took the label off an empty Crystal Lite container. You can decorate it or “wallpaper” it, but as you can see from the photo (from the Christmas ones I did), I drew a snowman on them with permanent marker. After I tied a ribbon, I used a simple label to “stamp” them with its contents. In the case of this photo, I did sanitizer and a band-aid and some mints, chocolate, erasers, and paper clips. My son drew Batman and filled with similar things. He keeps it on his desk in his bedroom.

4) We played Hide and Seek.

5) This depends on your child’s interests. My son likes to color but as he gets older, he is more into coloring things to put together to make a 3 dimensional model. He used scotch tape to create a mask! He took paper and manipulated it to cover his head.

Perhaps your child will just make a simpler mask to cover cheek to cheek, or temple to temple. Have them color and decorate the masks!

I will do another post on crafts that require a little (but very little) preparation. This post hopefully helps you when you’re in a pinch and do not have those other products on hand.

HOW I MANAGE THE TASKS AHEAD

I wouldn’t dream of pretending I have everything together. Believe it or not, no one does, not one. If it appears things are hunky Dory, that’s because even if one area is in excellent condition, another area is messy. I mean this literally. We had to have a plumber come today and as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I absolutely love to clean, but, in the master bedroom, we still have a box from Christmas. To be clear, inside the box? A few games, some Super Mario Brothers magnets, an outfit for my son, and nerf gun bullets. Why is the box still there? Well, once I get up everyday, I’m not in the bedroom again until bedtime. I am constantly doing the motherhood thing or running my business. Sure, I dust and vacuum up there, but I haven’t moved the cotton picking box.

I remember visiting a friend once. Her house was epically “busy.” The toys were shoved under furniture, the counters completely full. This, my readers, is how some people’s rooms are in one specific area where “the camera is not facing.” You know what? It’s fine!! No one cares about that stuff. My relationship with my friend didn’t change because her house was cramped. The plumber didn’t care we had one silly box sitting there. We all have our stuff. As long as things are clean and safe, then to each their own.

So my area that lacks when other things seem to be in good shape? It’s the stuff that has to be sorted through. It’s not the dirt or restrooms. It is the areas in my home that I need to purge. You know, the former happy meal toys, the old blocks we got from the Dollar Store that are missing pieces, the mail I need to sort through, the box of tea I can combine into another box, and other odds and ends.

How do I keep other things in order? When you’re a mom, a business owner, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a (favorite) aunt, a friend, how can we possibly manage it all? Well, first of all, I don’t have it all perfect. Again, no one does! Wait, read that again. NO ONE HAS IT ALL TOGETHER.

However, I do work tirelessly to try, oh how I try, to manage things.

MY TOP FIVE RULES

1) I remember to forgive myself if I don’t get things right. This is just one day. Tomorrow is a new day. It doesn’t all have to get done right here, right now. If today doesn’t work out, try again!

2)I’m strategic about what I can accomplish. When I use a planner to get things done, I am specific. Let’s say you want to clean the garage. It wouldn’t be the best choice to write “today I will clean the garage from 9-11.” It would be wise to write something like, “the top shelf of boxes will be sorted through today from 9-11.

3) I focus on the results, not the to-do list. For example, with writing, I don’t say “I’ll write 2,500 words.” I focus more on a certain subject matter to finish. It is easy to write stuff on a to-do list that is already done to check off. Hey, nothing wrong with checking off stuff (even stuff you’ve done before!) but if I want to market my book, I can’t spend an hour brainstorming, I need to actually be writing the script, emailing the letter, contacting the interested parties.

4) I’ve said this repeatedly in my blog posts. I am realistic. How is this different from #2 above? This step is about to what I can do on those more challenging days when I am struggling for time. (You know those days when the housework is behind, the baby is sick, my son has more than usual amounts of homework). I am sure to put something on my list that is conducive to a busier day.

For example, I know I cannot accomplish writing an entire chapter tonight. But, I know I can do 2,500 words so I will focus on that.

5) This is, and always will be, the number one in my life. I will always ask for God’s wisdom and strength and His will for my life, moment by moment. Take yesterday for example. My kids just had a “need my mommy” day. My son was clingy and I played game after game with him. We baked. We did crafts. I will write on this blog about this in my next post. My precious daughter who is only one, spilled a drink on the living room rug. She took things she shouldn’t. Precious little girl is just learning these things. I am non-stop busy with my kids. It was the Lord’s will that I focus on my babies yesterday. I had to accept that would be my only accomplishment yesterday and that, my friends, allowed me to sleep soundly.

THE THINGS I AM AFRAID TO TELL YOU

1) While I feel like I keep myself together as a mom and wife, sometimes I feel defeated. This happens most often if my son is overtired and comes home with a negative, defeated attitude. (This is extraordinarily rare, thank God.)

My daughter is a little over a year and sometimes her teeth hurt and she becomes miserable. After trying and trying to console her, she just needs to suck on an ice toy and we have to take time to regroup. Sometimes, we sit down as a family to do something and without a doubt, something needs to be done and I have to get up to do it. My husband tries hard, but us women see the things men don’t, and therefore, some days the little domestic things are as heavy as a car.

Why I’m afraid to tell you this: my family is my everything. I feel ashamed that my patience wears so thin with the loves of my life.

2) Sometimes I give up on trying to keep everything out of my toddler’s mouth. Here’s the thing… I LOVE to clean. And when I say I love it, I mean that I find it therapeutic. You know how people find satisfaction in those pimple popping videos? I find satisfaction in cleaning. It’s seeing the results!

Because I love to clean, I exhaust myself dusting and mopping and vacuuming. And Clorox wipes? They are my BEST FRIEND! On a daily basis, I’m making sure the floor is clean. Plus, it helps that we do not wear shoes in our house. It is always socks, slippers, or bare feet, so no risk of outdoor debris on our floors.

When my toddler is walking along and sees a needle in a haystack, she’ll find something and put it in her mouth. It never fails. I rush over to clean it out but sometimes, I know what she is seeing is the piece of thread or a speck that is harmless. Come on now, I’d never ever let harm come her way. When I know that floor is spruced up, she is fine.

Why I am afraid to tell you this: I don’t want anyone to think I’d ever let my children face harm.

3) I nap (almost) every day. I should tell you that I have had a chronic sleeping problem since I was a kid. I’ve had sleep studies done, and there is no medical reason why I don’t sleep. (FYI: even without a nap, I still don’t sleep.) No, I don’t take and never have taken medicine to help. Yes, I’ve tried meditation, soft music, lack of screen time around bedtime, exercise at different times, etc. No, I am not anxious or thinking about the world’s problems when I am awake. I just cannot sleep. When my daughter goes down for her morning nap, I sleep too. My naps are only 20 minutes but they make the world a better place for me.

Why do I feel fearful telling you this? I think stay-at-home moms have the reputation of sleeping a lot. People view them as extremely hard working and worthy, but the stereotype is that they sit around and take naps and “it must be nice” to stay home. This stereotyping bothers me and therefore, it is hard for me to admit I do take a short nap whenever possible.

4) Sometimes I sense and see spirits. No, I don’t see ghosts. No, I don’t communicate with them. In varying ways (rainbows, blowing in my ear, shadows, signs, etc.) I know someone is with me. It most often happens when I am alone with my baby girl and we are in the living room. It is clear to me that there is an angel sent from the Lord to protect her and for whatever reason, the Lord has blessed me with the ability to see and sense them. No, I am not afraid, but if it saw them full-on, I would be!

Why am I nervous to tell you this? Opinions on humans connecting with “the other side” before death is a taboo subject. I am extremely spiritual. Jesus is my Lord and Savior and oftentimes, people affiliate the dark side with psychics, mediums, or whatever I see.

Years ago, I was touched by Portia de Rossi’s book, Unbearable Lightness. The core message of the book is to live out the worse possible scenario because once you’ve done that, things can only go up. What if we all confessed a few of our ”taboo” subjects? Let’s be free!

STARTING OFF THE NEW YEAR WITH A REALISTIC MINDSET

Christmas has come and gone. Yet again it seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye. Gosh, as a child, I spent four months excited. It began with September and the start of school. I enjoyed shopping for new folders and pencils and pens and notebooks! How fun! The change in weather left me breathless. I savored the sweatshirt, chilly mornings and evenings. In October I celebrate my birthday just before Halloween. Thanksgiving rolls around and the spirit of Christmas and thanks are in the air. When December 26 arrives, I remember feeling sad. I was not depressed, but disappointed that four months worth of anticipation and joy was gone. In fact, the entire premise of my first book, WHERE THE HOLIDAYS GO is based on this exact thought. What happens when the holidays go? Do the decorations and characters go somewhere?

When the holidays end, and January enters our lives, how do you feel? Some people feel sad because the holidays are over and their family time ends. Others feel let down because they live in a snowy area that doesn’t see sunshine for months and January is so long. Others feel relief to enter January because they have personal things going on (birthdays, celebrations, sports, etc) and some enjoy the challenge of a New Year resolution.

Wherever you fall on this scale, January marks a chance for changes. As the decorations go away, people go back to work, and the four month anticipation slips away, the joy and happiness and motivations you’re looking for are always within your heart! The change of seasons doesn’t have to ignite sadness. On the contrary, it can ignite pure fire in your soul to strive for more!

New Years resolutions are fun but typically a set up for a let-down if they’re too large and not specific. Let’s say you want to lose weight. I mean after the previous holidays, I think most of us could use a system refresher. But, it isn’t advisable to enter the new year with a generic goal.

1) Be specific in New Year goal settings. For example, instead of “I want to lose weight.” Say something like “I want to lose 10 pounds by Valentine’s Day.”

2) Make the goal measurable physically. It is thrilling to mark down a met goal in a notebook. If the goal is to lose 10 pounds, then week by week, mark down the weight loss.

3) Have a strategic plan. It is probably not wise to say “I will go to the gym.” How about “planning” the exact times you’ll go. If you know you won’t have time after work, how about planning to go at X time each morning?

4) Reward yourself for your diligence. Maybe a reward for you means a movie night or a new book. I have found those rewards kept my momentum going!

5) Forgive yourself if you make a mistake. You know, a mistake doesn’t mean the goal has to disappear. Pick up and move on. Try again, and learn from it (what triggered the mistake?) and grow.

I encourage you to keep going and not give up. I also think goals don’t have to be huge to be considered goals. Frankly, littler goals motivate us and make us want to do a little more. Consider if a small goal is better to begin the new year.

Whatever dream you’re striving for, I wish you God’s blessing upon it!