Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: easy parenting tips

Having Fun With Your Kids

Say what? Why is having fun important? Besides providing meals, clothing, shelter, and education plus taking our kids to the dentist, doctor, and school, we should also have fun? Yes!

This post is inspired by our activities over the weekend and my subsequent thoughts. I’m being a little silly because of course, you know that having fun with your children is important. But let’s also be realistic–a lot of parenting is not fun. Even the things kids think are fun, like children’s museums, playgrounds, cartoons, are not fun for the parents–not really anyway. 🙂 You probably wouldn’t choose to go to the pumpkin patch with  face painting and bouncy houses if it weren’t for your kids. That’s all I’m saying.

Katie just before BINGO

But on Saturday and more and more, Katie and I are finding activities that we both enjoy, that we both have fun with, and that we are doing together.

I was thinking about how much parents adore and treasure those little newborn babies up until they can walk and talk and have to be entertained. Then there are a lot of parenting challenges to face every day–potty training, tantrums, 3 meals a day, bath, fights over bedtime, etc. But at 6,  I feel Katie is the most fun ever because now she can participate in activities that I actually enjoy, and we can do them together. Over the weekend, we played…B-I-N-G-O.

We were at a small festival for our community, and one of the activities was Bingo. I might not have encouraged her to play if it wouldn’t have been so hot outside; but because it was, and I wanted a break from the heat, we wandered into the school and found ourselves in a Bingo game with prizes–food prizes, like popcorn, candy, potato chips, cake mixes, and more.  What fun! We laughed; Katie almost cried until she won a game; we smiled; we got excited; we made jokes. We enjoyed ourselves–both of us.

This has happened a few other times this summer, where we were both engaged in what we were doing, and it wasn’t just me the parent watching her the kid doing something.

I encourage you, especially if you are a parent of an elementary school -aged kid or above, to find those activities for your family right now, too. Maybe it’s a mutual game you like to play. Maybe it’s a painting class. Maybe it’s a show on television (we also love to watch Masterchef).

And I know it doesn’t seem possible to love your child any more than you did when he or she first was born. But I swear, I love her more and more every day. I just love her little personality, the way she looks at the world, her hopes and dreams, her creativity, and it makes me excited as a parent, which is what gets us through all the times when we are wondering how we will ever manage to do this parenting gig.

What activities do you enjoy doing with your child?

Share

Keeping Your Sense of Self When You’re a Mother and Wife

contributed article

It’s fair to say, as women, we have drawn the short straw in many respects, and there’s no doubt we have it tough at times. Along with growing, carrying and giving birth to our babies, in most cases, we’re their primary caregiver, too. And as wonderful and special as this is, it does mean that everything else in our lives can be twice as hard as we’re fitting it around our children. One thing many women struggle with after having kids is losing their sense of self or identity. You’re no longer just you, you’re a mother. Your new name is “mom,” and your new role is of a parent and sometimes wife. But just because you are these roles (and as enjoyable as they are), it doesn’t mean you have to totally lose the person you once were. Keeping your own identity is important; here are a few ways you can go about it.

 

Take Care of Your Appearance

As a busy parent, the way you look often falls to the bottom of the list of priorities. In the morning, it’s probably all about getting your little one up and washed, fed and dressed. But you don’t have to give up on yourself entirely, and actually making a small effort with your appearance is one of the best things you can do for your self-esteem. Perfect a super quick makeup routine- some foundation, bronzer, and a sweep of mascara will instantly make you look your best without being too done up. Every now and again, visit the hairdresser. Have a style cut, which is easy to maintain and quick to do in the morning. The trick is to work with your natural texture, for example, instead of shoving it into a ponytail. If your hair is already straight, run it over with the straighteners for just a minute or two. This will make it look tidier, get rid of any frizz or fluffiness, and allow it to sit better. If your hair is curly, you could scrunch through with some mousse; it won’t take long, but you’ll feel much better being well presented. You probably have your comfy “mom uniform” that you wear to run errands and get stuff done around the house; but a few changes here could make all the difference, too. Instead of a tracksuit, for example, a pair of leggings with a jersey skater dress and a long cardigan would look cute but be just as comfortable. If you run into anyone you know or catch sight of yourself in the mirror, you’re likely to be far more confident, too.

Exercise

Keeping fit is useful when you have energetic children to look after! It will allow you to play with them far more easily and generally keep up. You probably don’t have all the time in the world to hit the gym five days a week, but there’s plenty you can do. Go on a power walk with the pram, or take a ball or frisbee to the park and run around with your kids. Instead of driving shorter distances, walk them instead, and go on family bike rides. You’ll maintain your figure and the endorphins will make you feel good.

Maintain a Social Life

You might have hung up your dancing shoes long ago, and a night out with friends these days might not be to a nightclub or bar like it once was. But keeping friends is so important; find activities that you all like to do now that you’re mothers and wives. Whether it’s play dates with the kids, brunch on a weekend, or an afternoon tea, keeping those connections there is so important. There are of course other ways to keep in contact with friends too; you could use a postcard app to send any funny or sweet pictures as a postcard right to their house. You could talk on the phone, video call, or of course, use social media. But having that support and friendship group around you will help you keep a grasp of your own identity.

Go Back To Work

One way you can keep and maintain your identity is through your job or career. As a parent you might not necessarily want to go back full time, when you have children to look after. If that’s the case, how about part time? You could even start a home business or do some freelance stuff online. Either way, maintaining your career interests is a good way to go, and bringing money into the home will make you feel good.

Image source

 

Share

Advice From Grandma: I Am Listening

Grandmas love to spoil grandkids and love to give advice. If some of you follow me on WOW! Women On Writing or Facebook, you know that I’m currently watching Gilmore Girls from episode 1 to the reunion show (exclusively for Netflix, that takes place 10 years later in good ole Stars Hollow). This is the best show for an example of “Grandmas love to give advice” because Emily Gilmore constantly shares her wisdom and her unwanted opinion with Lorelai, her daughter and mother of a teenager/young adult.

Don’t worry–my mom (thankfully) is nothing like Emily Gilmore; but when Katie was first born, she loved to share her advice. And daughters can be stubborn–Why do we not listen more? Most of the time, the advice is solid, comes from the heart, and can be quite true.

In my case, we lived with my mom the first 10 months of KT’s life, so that’s another reason why she often shared her opinion from: “You can’t let that little thing (her grandchild) cry it out” to “I never breastfed you. Why are you killing yourself to do this? Give it up.” So, we didn’t always agree on everything…but here are a couple of solid pieces of advice, where I think she is exactly right AND I want to pass on this wisdom to you.

  1. When I had you, I wish I wouldn’t have worried so much about my house being clean.   I have taken this one to heart. No, we don’t live in a pigsty, but I definitely don’t clean as much as my mom used to when I was  younger. I try to keep things neat as possible; but if my daughter seems like she needs my attention or something fun to do pops up, I will put cleaning aside for another day. The dirt is not going anywhere!
  2. Meals time should not be stressful. My mom did not force me to eat food I did not want to eat. Now some of you might not agree with this philosophy–and you take this stance instead: Kids will eat if they are hungry enough. But I have raised Katie like my mom did me, where food is concerned. Is she the best eater? No. But she does eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, and we are adding to her main dishes all the time. Recently, without complaint we added to her diet: salad, pasta salad, Morning Star veggie patties and turkey (she ate this before but she would complain). As I grew older (once I hit first grade like my daughter is now), I started eating more foods, and now I eat just about anything (within reason). So at mealtime, I give her food I know she will eat. I add foods every once in a while–she must try it and rate it, but  I make sure there is other food on the plate that she will eat. By the way, 9 times out of 10, she tries the new food before eating anything else.
  3. Enjoy every moment because they grow up too fast.  Not exactly original–I know…but it’s good advice. And I try to remind myself of it constantly because already it seems like I blinked and went from breastfeeding to driving her to school for first grade.

What advice do you take from your parents about their grandkids? 

 

Share

Siblings Sharing Spaces: How Can You Make a Joint Room Work?

Contributed Post

When you have a larger family or a smaller home, chances are your children may have to share a room. And while this can be a source of arguments and friction at times, there are actually plenty of good points to it as well. Young children can get scared sleeping alone, so having a sibling in the room with them can allow them to relax and sleep better. As they get older, space will become more of an issue, and you may need to move or extend your home to allow for this. But while they’re little, sharing is a great option. However, there are some things you may need to consider so that it’s a room that works for both children, who will likely have different personalities. Here are some points to bear in mind.

Creating a room to fit two personalities (link to photo)

Decide on The Color

If you’re lucky, you will be able to find a color that both kids love, show them some paint swatches, and see if you can come to a happy compromise. Otherwise, there are other options you could consider. For a really fun feel, why not split the room in half and paint each half in the color of their choice? If you didn’t want to go that bold, you could stick with white or another neutral and then let them choose their own accessories in colors of their choice. Another way is to pre-choose a selection of colors that work well together and allow each to choose from this. That way you know that both will complement, and each child feels as though they have gotten some input.

Show Both Personalities

As well as choosing their own color, there are other decisions they could make too, which would bring in their personality. How about choosing their own bedding or their own soft furnishings and accessories , like prints and art? They could each have a shelf and decide how they want it to be displayed. Doing this helps each child to connect with the room, and enjoy using it, even though they are sharing. If you encourage kids to reach a agreement in some places and let them choose their own styles in others, you will create a bedroom that both will love.

Use The Space Wisely

The reason your children are probably sharing in the first place is that you don’t have a huge home with lots of space. But with two kids (who are known for owning far too much stuff), it can be a struggle making things work in a fairly small room. The key to getting this right is finding the right storage. You can do this by utilizing wall space with shelves, finding the right furniture, and even choosing the right beds. Sites like Cuckooland have tons to choose from. If you go with a bunk, you will save space; or you could choose cabin beds with storage underneath. Instead of two wardrobes, you could buy one larger one and split it in half, which could save on floor space. Tall sets of drawers provide lots of storage without using too much floor space. Use baskets and bins in cupboards and drawer dividers in drawers–it will make the absolute most of the room you have and allow you to stay organized. Have a think about what would work best in the room, and the kind of storage each child will need. Most people will need a bedside table, a set of drawers, and a wardrobe for example.

Divide It Up

If the room is fairly large, there are ways you could create some division to the room. This is especially important as children crave more privacy as they turn into teenagers, and it gives them the feel of their own space. You could use a curtain or a large bookshelf. You could even have a room divider screen fitted. If you’re not in a position to extend or renovate your home, this could be one way to keep both children happy while you’re all under the same roof.

Creating a shared bedroom for siblings can be tricky, but if you allow them to get involved and ensure both of them have a say about how the room looks, it will be a space they both enjoy and can hopefully live harmoniously in for many years to come!

 

Have you had to deal with a shared bedroom dilemma? How did you overcome any difficulties, and what tips would you give to parents in the same position?

Share

Practical Moms Unite: Traveling with Your Child

So the 6-year-old and I went on a trip during spring break, and I’m just now posting about it. No, it’s not because I need to recover–it actually went quite well. But I thought now would be a good time to talk about some practical tips for traveling with your child or children with summer break just around the corner.

First, don’t go to Disneyworld. HA! Just kidding. My friend Camille is planning a huge family trip for her 2 kids and hubby this summer. Did you know you can get someone to help you plan your Disneyworld trip? I don’t mean a travel agent–I mean another mom who likes to figure out where you should eat dinner and what parks you should go to and when! Now, this is practical. If you want more information about this, send me an email, and I’ll put you in contact with Camille. (margolynndill@gmail (dot) com)

KT at Legoland

Anywho, here are my actual practical tips for traveling with a 6-year-old:

  • Don’t overbook your days: If you do, both you and your child will be exhausted and not have fun. In my opinion (since you are reading my blog, you’re gonna hear my opinion), you need one big thing on the trip (like an amusement park) and the rest smaller activities that don’t have a set schedule. Here’s what our itinerary looked like:

Leave St. Louis at 4pm on a Monday night. Drive 2 hours to Columbia, MO. Eat dinner that I packed in the car.

Go to the first hotel  and go swimming that night. (Because this is what kids actually care about –hotels and pools)

On Tuesday, eat breakfast and go swimming. Check out of hotel and drive to Kansas City (2 hours). GO to next hotel and take showers there after check-in. Walk around the Plaza in Kansas City since it is a beautiful day and eat dinner somewhere.  (We didn’t have a specific time we had to be anywhere, so no rushing.) 

On Wednesday, OUR ONE BIG DAY–eat breakfast and go to Legoland. Make the reservation around 10:30 am, so we don’t have to get up early and rush. Eat dinner in the hotel room with food brought from home. Go swimming that night at the hotel pool.

We sat outside here at Crown Center for a while. (photo by Mark Goebel Flickr.com)

On Thursday, eat breakfast, check out of the hotel, and go to Crown Center and Hallmark’s Kaldeioscope, which is free! Eat lunch and drive home. 

  • You need a hotel room with a refrigerator and microwave when traveling with kids. You should also look for hotels that have free breakfasts and indoor swimming pools, so your child can swim regardless of the weather. After a long day at Legoland, being able to eat the food I brought from home and relax in the hotel room, as well as that night just go swimming for an hour, made both of us happy and not so tired or cranky!
  • Schedule activities as much as you can in advance and look for online coupons and deals. We got an amazing deal for Legoland because I had a buy one adult, get one child free Legoland coupon from McDonald’s. We saved $18 on Katie’s admission. We also would’t have been able to get into a session of Kaldeioscope if I hadn’t checked out online first how it all worked. Many children’s activities and events have special deals for people who buy their tickets online in advance. If you are military, you probably already know that you can get all sorts of deals on kids’ admissions to museums and other fun stuff. Check out the Blue Star Family website here.

Remember to ask yourself: What is your big goal (s) for this trip? These were mine:

  1. Take Katie some place for spring break, where she and I can spend quality time together and BOTH have fun.
  2. Don’t exhaust us.
  3. Don’t break the bank.

 

Share

Practical Moms Unite!

Here it is. My new series on the blog–Practical Moms Unite.

Every time you see this symbol, you will know that a Practical Moms Unite post is coming! 🙂

So what is a practical mom (parent, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc, etc)? I’m focusing on practical moms because that is what I know best. But this does not mean I am excluding any of these other most-important roles. Anyway…

The definition of a Practical Parent is:

An adult who cares for a child/teen 17 or younger and who also keeps the big goal in mind. It is a person who tries NOT to allow little, unimportant, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses details get in the way of everyday living. It is remembering what being a parent should mean AND remembering who YOU are as a person (and that is not just a parent).

Let’s break it down a little!

  • What is the big goal? I would guess we all have specific different goals for ourselves and our children. But most of them probably fall somewhere in the range of: We want our children to grow up to be productive members of society as well as being kind, loving and successful people.  For example: if this is the goal, is it really that crucial to get those Troll cupcakes for the 3-year-old birthday party if you can’t afford them?
  • What are little, unimportant, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses details? Anything that causes you great anxiety that does not fall in line with the goal. These are a lot of the unnecessary pressures we put on ourselves as parents, like instead of bringing a bag of cuties and cheese sticks when it’s your turn for the soccer game snack, you spend hours on Pinterest to find a cute idea for soccer snacks and stay up til midnight making them.
  • What should being a parent mean? Again, we all have different definitions, but my guess is most of you will agree that being a parent means loving your child with your whole heart, providing boundaries for them to learn and be successful in, and fulfilling their basic survival needs. Maybe that sounds too simple. There are thousands of children that don’t get those things, so it’s not that simple.
  • What does it mean remembering who you are as a person? This is the problem with social media. We compare ourselves to what everyone else is doing. When you look at your friend list, you can pick out the baker, the crafty one, the smart mom, the athletic one–this might be you, but it might not. SO then why do you expect to parent like all these friends? How many of us have seen a photo of someone doing something on Facebook or Instagram and thought: I should be doing that with my child. But should you? Do you like to bake? If yes, great, then make a birthday cake with your child. If not, then buy it at Walmart. You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be a good parent.

I don’t want to alienate anyone who loves to make crafts or throw themed-parties. If you LOVE that, if you get ENERGY from it, then my point is you should do it. But if you don’t, as a practical parent, don’t beat yourself up over it. Your child doesn’t have to have that to reach the big goal. 

So that’s a little take on Practical Moms Unite.

What’s your big goal as a parent or grandparent?

What do you like to do with your child? or for your child?

 

Share

Put the Parenting Magazines Down and Step Away Carefully

One day, my friend Julie said, “Have you seen the latest issue of (Insert some wonderful parenting magazine here) and their suggestions for back-to-school lunches?”

The funny thing is I had seen that article–I think it must have been a free issue sent to many houses, and I remember thinking: Do people really make these types of entrees for their child’s school lunch? Coconut and raisin pita roll up?  Almond butter and banana sandwich on 12-grain bread? Homemade minestrone soup? And do children eat these dishes? Where have I gone wrong?

Julie brought me back to reality. “My children basically eat cheese and crackers. Or their potato chips.”

Yes, now you are speaking my language.

I’m not sure who writes parenting magazine articles. Their bios state they are a parent of 12 or triplets, or they have adopted children from several different countries around the world, but I’m not sure if I believe them. Or maybe their bios are the only true part of the entire page, because really, who lives their lives like the parents in parenting magazines?

Let’s take a couple of headlines for example:

25 Ways to Make the Holidays Special 

First, no headline of any parenting magazine should ever have more than 5 tips for anything, and even 5 is semi-overwhelming. Do you really need to read a magazine article about how to make the holidays special? Aren’t they special all on their own? Isn’t it magical as a kid to think of the big guy in a red suit coming down the chimney, eating your homemade chocolate chip cookies and drinking your milk, and leaving you presents that you asked for? It’s also special that your entire family gets together and eats a meal, and maybe even plays a game instead of watching Netflix. Driving around and looking at Christmas lights or watching a Christmas movie snuggled under a blanket is special! Trust me. You don’t need a magazine article to tell you how to make this magical time of the year magical. You can figure this out all on  your own with the same things your mom did for you BEFORE there were articles like this at your fingertips or pinned to your Pinterest board.

Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?

Please don’t read an article like this. If you are clicking on this article to see if your child is getting enough sleep, then the answer is probably that your child is not getting enough sleep. Enough said.

How to Play with Your Child

I am all for articles that might introduce new games or even craft ideas (if they are easy) for you and your child. But do you really need an article that tells you HOW to play with your child at an age-appropriate level? No, you really don’t. It will just stress you out. You will be ridden with anxiety after reading this article and wonder constantly if you are playing with your child correctly and stimulating him or her enough to become smart enough to get into the best preschool. And don’t worry, there are articles galore (10 Ways to Tell if Your Preschool is On the Cutting Edge) to help you stress out about this, too.

SO what should you read?

I really feel like Mommy blogs, such as The Tribe Magazine  or Scary Mommy , are much more realistic and helpful. Some of you may be shaking your head. But just like Pinterest and sometimes the Facebook fantasy world we all portray are too much for me, I can’t believe that people live their everyday lives like these writers for parenting magazines portray. I can’t believe that people need articles telling them 12 ways to diaper their child or 13 toys that help your baby reach super intelligence.

So please, do yourself a favor (and the rest of us, too). Step slowly away from the parenting magazines and love your child because you are the only one who knows how to do that the best.

 

Share

3 Ways to Make Your Life Easier as a Parent

We all know life as a parent (single or not) is NOT easy. If you think it is and you are doing a good job, then you should write a book or bottle your mojo because you’ll make a fortune. For the rest of us, and I know I’m not alone, despite what Facebook says, I have thought of 3 very simple ways to make your life easier as a parent.

1. Buy inexpensive trash cans.

I’m serious about this. Let me tell you why. Your bathroom or office trash can will at one point have child puke in it. Do you really want to clean that out? No, no one does. But if you only paid $1 or $2 for this trash can, you can just throw it away, and get another one from your stash in the basement. Because when you were buying your cheap trash can, you were smart enough to buy $10.00 worth, at least. This probably depends on how many kids or pets you have, but $10.00 on cheap trash cans (which means you should have at least 3 in storage and 1 in use) is a safe bet. If you’re wondering: how expensive can a trash can be? You should never wonder things like this in a world where we have celebrities who buy clothes for their babies who spit up and poop everywhere at high-end children’s boutiques. But I did a little online research, and the most expensive trash can I found with a quick search was a Harmony 737 Luxury Waste Basket made in Germany for $1,148. You, of course, would not even allow trash to be thrown in it, let alone your darling’s puke. Trust me, go get yourself a cheapo bathroom can, and make your life easier.

2. Don’t believe anything you read on social media, especially Pinterest.

Pinterest was created by Mrs. Satan. You are lured into her trap if you think it’s one of the best sites ever with all kinds of great ideas. Let me ask you this: before Pinterest, did you care if your child’s Toy Story birthday party had only the snacks with a Woody or Buzz theme? Of course not–sure the creative and talented among us might have made a Toy Story cake ourselves and maybe created some clever decorations or a space game, but that’s it. Nowadays, if your cake, child’s outfit, paperware, decorations, games, snacks, dog’s collar, mailbox, car, bathroom, and anything else DO NOT have a relation to the theme, you are slacking–you should have looked harder on Pinterest. I’m telling you TODAY, I am protesting against Pinterest. I’m sure it is a great site (I don’t want to get sued), but every time I’ve been on there, it makes me feel inferior and like I’m not doing enough for my child. Let me tell you, I love my child. I read with her. I cook her food. I don’t even make her clean the toilets–yet. So I don’t think I need Pinterest or anyone’s Facebook post to make me feel like I’m not doing enough. Stay off. Try it-even for a day, and see how free you feel.

3. Have low expectations

This is my favorite. As parents, we get all these ideas in our head about how an outing or a party or a playdate or a holiday is going to go and what a wonderful childhood memory we are going to create for our child, but then, something happens. For example, your child is 2 years old. I don’t have to say anything else. Or your dog ate something in the yard he shouldn’t. (Again, I don’t have to go into detail.) Or your electricity went out or your mom got sick or the 100,000 other things that can happen to take that perfect image you had of the day and wash it down the drain. Here’s what I do. Let’s take Christmas for example: what is important about Christmas? We are all together, Santa Claus brings some presents, and we don’t starve. Really, this is what’s important. Now, if we make it to the Christmas Eve service with my mom and a party afterwards–fantastic! If we open all the presents and there were no tears because something wasn’t the right color–super! If we eat turkey and stuffing that is cooked correctly–even better. But those are just bonuses. With low expectations, anything that happens above and beyond makes the holiday (outing, birthday, event) great, and you will probably be more relaxed and have fun, too. (Gasp! Can you imagine?)

I’d love to know if you have a tip for us. 🙂 Just put it in the comments below.

Share