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How You Can Thrive This Holiday Season

I was at the end my proverbial rope.

It was the middle of December and I could not wait until it was January.

In fact, I was so stressed that I wanted to sleep for the next eleven days, but I knew that couldn’t happen. Apparently it would have been frowned upon by my husband and child. And potentially my mother, mother-in-law…well, you get the picture.

The holidays are full of joy for most, hard for those who may be spending them without a loved one, and stressful for all. The holiday season really begins in the middle of October, planning and preparing for Halloween, and lasts all the way through the New Year. If you don’t plan it well, instead of it being a joyful and fun time of year, it can be stressful and full of regret.

The holidays are full of joy for most and stressful for all. Click To Tweet

I finally got smart (well, smarter than I was at least) and decided to plan out our time. Starting in November, we have family birthdays, my best friends birthday, Thanksgiving, my birthday, my husband’s birthday,  Christmas parties (and holiday parties, not to be confused with Christmas parties), and New Year’s. And of course finding a time to meet with Santa (the kids, not me…maybe).

 
Instead of spending two months in pure chaos, I decided I was going to thrive this year.
Instead of spending two months in pure chaos, I decided I was going to thrive this year. Click To Tweet

Here is how you can thrive this holiday season:

Planning Traditions and Parties

First thing you need to do is pull up your calendar. I did this a couple of weeks ago and decided to make appointments for myself and our family. That is how I get everything else done, so why change a proven method? You will need to do the same.

First let’s start with Traditions…

Does your family have traditions? When I hear the word traditions I used to think it had to be something elaborate. Traditions are the things we do every year around specific events.

Since we got married and had kids, there are several things we have done each year that I had not really considered traditions, until last year. These are things we love to do and always cram them in. This year, I made a long list of the things we have done in the past and decided on a few we would do this year:

Baking for our neighbors

We don’t see our neighbors often and this is a fun way we can interact with them. My husband loves to make toffee and caramels while I love to make cookies. We have our oldest daughter help with the cookies, until she gets bored, but she loves handing the goodies to our neighbors!

Decorating sugar cookies

This one is for the kids. I like to make the cut out cookies and then give the kids everything they might need, or want, to decorate the cookies. We usually give these to family members (because grimy little fingers).

Santa

Yep, we go see Santa. In fact, this year we will be going on December 9th if anyone wants to come with us!

Walk Down Christmas Tree Lane (or the likes)

We have two awesome neighborhoods in our town that decorate their houses for the holidays. We grab coffee and hot chocolate, bundle up, and make an evening of it. It is so much fun to see the creativity and all the beautiful lights.

Action: Make a list of your favorite traditions and put them in your calendar.

Now let’s talk about Parties…

Parties, parties, and more parties seem to fill up the months of November and December. I make sure to know in advance when birthday parties or dinners are happening. My people are extremely important to me and I want to make sure they know it!

We have a couple of good friends who have Christmas parties. I make sure to find out the dates so we don’t plan something when they are happening.

My husband’s birthday is 4 days before Christmas so I always make sure to make his birthday a big deal and separate from any Christmas activities.

And of course my birthday, which I would celebrate all month long if I could, but apparently I have to share with my husband and Jesus.

Action: Between the traditions that are important to you and your family, and holiday parties, make sure you put them on the calendar. This gives you the opportunity to make sure you do not have too many events going on in a two week span, but ensures you give yourself some down time.

Learn to Say No

Boundaries are important even during the holiday season. You will be invited to events and others will place expectations on you that are unreasonable. I’m going to say this in the easiest way to be understood as possible…

Just. Say. No.

This season is busy and stressful enough. Often I wonder how I get through it. I learned this gem last year. If it doesn’t fit into my priorities, or if it adds to my stress, then I say no. You must know what your priorities are and be able to say no when it is going to cause undue stress on you.

Action: Know your priorities in advance so you can say no.

Don’t Wait to Buy or Make Presents

One year we waited until Christmas eve eve to buy my in-laws their gift. This was not intentional, as we knew what we were going to buy, but couldn’t find it. The day before we were to be at their house we went on hunt to find it. And we did, by 9 pm.

Make your list NOW of everyone that you want to bless by giving a gift to. If you are going to make it, plan a time now to make those items. If you are going shopping, plan a time for when you are going to go shopping.

With a little bit of forethought and planning, you won’t be scrambling to get gifts for your loved ones.

Action: Plan out your gifts now and get going!

In Conclusion…

The holidays can be stressful, but they don’t have to be. Put in the effort on the front end to plan out the next month. Your blood pressure and family will thank you.

Here’s to the Journey!

Stephanie_small (1)

3 Steps to a Smooth(er) Morning with Kids

Mornings at our house used to be chaotic. Some mornings still are.

You too?

Then you are in the right place.

My husband and I both work full time. Luckily, I have a great husband who helps out with everything around the house. Even though we both get things ready in the morning, there was a time it was extremely chaotic. It was ok when we just had one child. Then we had a second child and the chaos magnified. I’m not sure how adding one little person to the mix could do that, but it did.

In the mornings we would:

-Unintentionally be short with each other.

-Lash out at our 4 year old for not “moving fast enough.”

-Rush out the door with not a minute to spare.

Every morning was a nightmare. I would feel stress for at least the next half hour after leaving the house, even though that part of the day was done. Needless to say, it was not a good way to start the day.

One morning on the way to work, I was thinking about this dilemma. What made the mornings chaotic and how could we solve the problem? In short, everything which had to get done!

Mornings used to be chaotic. Then we implemented these 3 steps. Click To Tweet

3 Steps to a Smoother Morning (2)

Photo Credit: cuppycake fiend via Compfight cc

I talked to my husband about this later in the night, after the kids were in bed and we could think. We came up with three ideas to make our mornings easier.  Here are 3 steps you can take for a smoother morning with kids:

1. Prep everything you can the night before.

Think about what does not have to be accomplished in the morning.

Did you write those things down?

Those are the items you can prep the night before. The main excuse I get for this step is “I’m too tired.” I understand that. The last thing I want to do after the kids go to bed is prep for the next day. I would rather plop down and watch tv, write, or go to bed.

However, by spending 15 minutes prepping for the next day, I save myself from having a huge headache in the morning

Items I prep the night before:

-The kid’s lunches

-Our lunches

-Set out clothes

-If it is Sunday, I pack bags for preschool and the sitters for the week

Although prepping is not my favorite thing to do, it sure helps in the morning.

2. Make sure you are completely ready before the kids get up.

I like sleep. A lot.

When I went back to work after having our second daughter, I realized simply being up before the kids were up was not going to cut it. I was going to have to be completely ready before their little eyes opened up.

For me, this meant showered, make up on, hair done, dressed, coffee drank, and my daily reading.

Does my morning always turn out like this? Nope. Some days the girls decide they are going to get up 5 minutes after I do…at 5:30 am. Thankfully this is not the norm.

When I am completely ready, I can then focus on their needs once they are awake.

3. Have set “jobs” each morning.

The prep you have done the night before makes finalizing lunches and other items much less complicated. However, there are still numerous things that have to be taken care of in the morning.

Breakfast has to be made and lunches need to be finalized. The preschooler needs to be poked and prodded to get dressed, eat breakfast, get her hair done and brush her teeth. The baby needs to eat breakfast and *most* of the time we get her dressed before taking her to the sitters.

There is still a lot that has to be done to get the kids, and us, out the door on time. We figured out early on there are certain parts of our morning routine that we like over others. And thankfully we each like doing what the other would rather not.

The hubs loves to make breakfast, which means he takes care of all of the food in the morning, including finishing up lunches. I usually handle corralling the kids and getting them to the breakfast table and then finish up getting the preschooler ready.

This doesn’t mean this is the way it always is, but it allows us to each have something to own in the morning. This also means we don’t get in each other’s way or assume the other person is going to take care of that one thing neither of us want to do.

In Conclusion…

Ensuring mornings are a little less chaotic and a little smooth(er) with kids can be achieved. It takes some planning in the beginning, but once you find your groove, the process of each morning is much smoother. Are mornings still chaotic for us sometimes? Yes. When they are more chaotic than normal, odds are we skipped one of these steps.

What can you do to make your mornings smooth(er) with kids?

Here’s to the Journey!

Stephanie_small (1)

P.S.- Continue the conversation on Facebook! I would love to hear how I can help you on your journey. To receive up to date content, sign up to receive my free 7 Steps to a Prioritized Life on the home page and posts will be delivered right to your inbox.  If Facebook isn’t your favorite social media site, you can connect with me on TwitterPinterest, and LinkedIn.

3 Areas to Prepare Beforehand to Make the Most of Your Vacation

Vacation.

It is now the middle of summer and you most likely have either gone on a vacation or are planning on going on your summer vacation soon. The excitement of getting away from it all can often be overshadowed by all that has to be accomplished before you leave.

There are different types of vacations that we take. It’s different when it’s just you going somewhere and when it’s you and your kids and your entire family. When I go on vacation with my husband, we stay up late and sleep in and lay out on lounge chairs with a drink in hand. Vacationing with kids is the same as being at home except they are more tired because they miss naps. And they get up at 5:45 am instead of their usual 6:30 wake up time. Although it can be exhausting, it is also a lot of fun.

3 Areas to Prepare to make the most of vacation (2)

I love to vacation. We have been in a stressful season of our family life, with one thing happening after another. Luckily, I have a great partner in this life who is my rock and together we navigate as obstacles arise. I couldn’t be more thankful for him.

To vacation means to vacate your life. Unless you are able to take a long vacation, often this isn’t possible. You still think about your job or something at home or if people are going to come look at the house you are selling. At the same time, you so desperately need a break from your life.

How can you ensure you have the best vacation possible? Make the most of your vacation. Here are 3 areas to prepare beforehand to make the most of your vacation.

1. Work

Before you leave work for your vacation, try to wrap up as many loose ends as possible. Make the phone calls you have been putting off and return emails. Tell your boss where you are at with different projects. Hand off any assignments to co-workers who might be overseeing your projects while you are gone. Write down any pending items you need to take care of when you return. You won’t worry as much if you know it’s being taken care of or if you have a plan to take care of it when you return.

2. Home

The best thing we do in preparing for vacation is hiring a house sitter. It is usually our neighbors son (who happens to be an old co-worker) who watches our house and dogs. The first time he watched the house and dogs I kept asking my husband to check in with him to make sure everything was ok. Now that he has done it so many times I don’t have to worry about it. I know it is being taken care of by a reliable college student. Having a house sitter lined up ensures items at home are being tended to.

3. Plan

Know what there is to do.

If you are going on a vacation to a location you go often, then you know what there is to do. If it’s a new town or a different part of town that you are staying, do some research beforehand to see how you can spend your time. If you happen to know someone who lives in the town you are visiting you might be able to get some insider information from a local on things to do and places to go. With kids, we do a day of planned activity (like the zoo or theme park) and then a low key day (like the beach) so we can ensure they get a nap in their beds. This helps for all of our sanity.

And While You are on Vacation

Be all there.

It can be easy to focus on the things back home or get sucked into social media. You will only have that one vacation at this age in your life with your family. My girls will only be this exact age once. Focus on the time you have to spend with them. Give each other grace while living in close quarters while also lacking sleep. If it’s just you and your spouse, I’m sure you are getting plenty of rest without the kids. Make lasting memories with your family. The hustle and bustle of life and responsibility will return soon enough. Embrace the time together.

Responsibility will return soon enough. Embrace the time together. Click To Tweet

In conclusion…

Vacations can be stressful. I’m in the thick of an awesome vacation with my husband, kids, my parents, sister, bro-in-law, and niece. There are 9 people living together in extremely close quarters. Since vacations can be stressful, get rid of as much stress as possible before you leave home and embrace all that your vacation has to offer.

How do you prepare when going on vacation? Let me know what I missed!

Here’s to the Journey!

Stephanie_small (1)

Single Parenting: 7 Things I Learned Being a Single Parent for a Week

My husband was out of town for 108 hours and 15 minutes (but really, who was counting?) and he came through the door not a minute too soon. We have a 3 year old who is going on 16 and a 10 month old. Luckily, they both sleep through the night.

First of all, mad props to all of the single parents out there who have to do it all.

By themsleves.

Without much, or any help. Being a parent is hard work when you have a spouse to do it with, let alone having to do it all on your own.

By the end of the week, I wanted to lay in the fetal position crying until my husband got home. But I stayed strong, for the littles.

In the midst of my chaotic week, this quote from C.S. Lewis popped into my Facebook news feed.

CS Lewis quote

This helped put the day into perspective, but it was still a struggle!

Here are 7 things I learned being a single parent for a week:

  1. Prep, prep, and more prep.

On a normal week, we prep everything on Sunday, or as much as we can. We did this together as we normally do since my husband was not leaving until Monday morning. Each night, I found that to get out the door on time, I had to prep as much as I could the night before.

The one night I didn’t prep? I yelled at the 3 year old to hurry up. Drop off was quick. We were rushed. And I was a little late to work.

After that morning, you better believe I prepped for the next day even though I was exhausted.

  1. Practice Grace: Kids never listen when you need them to.

It is as though kids have this sixth sense. When you really need them to pay attention, when you really need them to do that one thing without objecting or putting up a fight…they do just that.

And I wasn’t kind one morning.

I apologized immediately (because you aren’t a good parent if you cannot admit when you are wrong) and remembered she is three. Three and she can dress herself and put her shoes on and get her own cereal for goodness sake.

After the 1st day (yep, you read that right), I realized I needed to slow my mind down and speak kindly to my girl.

  1. Plan extra time.

To get anything done.

Think it will take you 5 minutes? Wrong. Halfway through the week I realized that I need to give myself three times the amount of time I thought it would take. Then, when we were done with the task or out the door early, I felt accomplished.

  1. Exercise.

Just kidding. That didn’t happen.

All about survival people.

  1. Lower expectations.

This was both in terms of what I thought I could accomplish during the week and expectations of my kids. I decided half way through the week that if the kids were clean, fed, and safe, I was calling it a success.

  1. Be Consistent.

I tried to keep everything as consistent as possible. Morning and bed time routine the same, which seemed to help. It provided stability. Kids seem to thrive on a schedule and stability.

This includes consistency in disciplining too. My threenager decided to throw a fit over something every night. It would have been easy for me to change expectations of her (which are age appropriate).

  1. Lean on your Community.

I was lucky enough to have the support of my parents and friends during the week. This relieved some of the stress a couple of the evenings. I was thankful for the meals that were provided, even if the three year old threw a fit and wouldn’t eat.

In Conclusion…

Parenting is hard. Being a single parent is even harder. When all is said and done, it is about raising these little people to be loving, kind, and courageous.

What is one of your biggest parenting challenges?

Here’s to the Journey!

Stephanie_small (1)

No One Told Me Raising Kids Would Be Like This

Raising kids is no joke.

There is the feeding them. The playing with them. The disciplining them. The bathing them (I hate this one for some reason). And the constant “Mom, look at me.”

To which I respond “Trust me, I am always looking at you.”

They tend to suck the life right out of me.

And they also give me life.

Watching my baby crawl and giggle brings a smile to my face and a warmth in my soul. Seeing life through my three year old’s eyes has brought new life to me. When she experienced Christmas morning for the first time, her joy was contagious. She has a way of asking questions that gives me pause.

I worry about my kids. Wondering if I am doing all I can to provide for them emotionally, mentally, and physically. I wonder if I give them enough of my time. Working full time means everything has to get done at night and on the weekend. The mom guilt is especially strong when a child is sick or I ask my husband to take them to the doctor.

What I Want for My Children

I want to protect them from the world, yet let them experience life to the fullest.

I want them to have a full childhood and not grow up to fast.

I want them to learn how to work hard.

I want them to be critical thinkers.

I want them to understand there are always consequences, good or bad, to their actions.

I want them to understand healthy boundaries.

I want them to know their dreams are worth pursuing.

I want them to live a purposeful life.

Satisfaction In the Chaos

Raising kids is a lifelong venture. You hope for the best for your kids, pray for them, and know there are so many factors playing into how they will turn out.

And you pray you don’t screw them up.

It is in the midst of exhaustion, when I pause in my day, I see a glimpse of who my kids are becoming. And it brings a deep sense of satisfaction.

It is in the midst of exhaustion, when I pause in my day, I see a glimpse of who my kids are becoming. Click To Tweet

When my big girl grabs my hand while sitting on the couch, looks up at me with her big brown eyes and says “I love you mommy”, all becomes still. All becomes right in the world.

 

When was the last time you paused and felt deep satisfaction in your life? Share below!

Here’s to the Journey!

Stephanie_small (1)