Look To the Western Sky

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

Tag: single parent (page 1 of 2)

Motherhood: How Can We Be a Good Parent and Yet Be Fulfilled as a Woman?

Today I welcome Wendy Brown-Baez, author of Catch a Dreamwho is on a blog tour with  WOW! Women On Writing! She has written this wonderful guest post below on motherhood and also being an adult with feelings, desires, and passions. What she says below is what I feel like I struggle with constantly and somewhat the same message that Brene Brown had in her latest book: Braving the Wilderness. Please read and comment, and then look at the information after the post about Wendy’s book!  On June 3, I will post my review (which I have been working on during the pre-summer reading challenge!) so stay-tuned.

by Wendy Brown-Baez

In Catch a Dream, Lily struggles with balancing motherhood with her own desires, although not at first. As she travels with her best friend and their children, she describes their lifestyle like this: “People ask why we don’t put the children in school while praising their intelligence, their savoir-fare, their knowledge of their world, their innocence and wildness…They are loved, so we don’t feel that they lack for anything.”

Later, she admits: “Jonah never knew his father and has been yearning for one.” The profound link between Levi and Jonah is a thread through-out the obstacles between Levi and Lily in the book. Jonah’s anger at their separation is the start of his rebellion and soon he visits Levi behind her back.

At what point do we stop and consider if our choices for ourselves are the right ones for our children? I think this is the crux of parenting. My parents wanted me to go on to college, but I was a wild child; I wanted to experience life, and school had stifled my creative spirit. As a parent, I wanted my child to be free and to explore the world, but all he ever wanted was the security of the middle class lifestyle I left behind.

Relationships are both exhilarating and painful, and it is normal to go through misunderstanding and hurt as well as passion and exulted joy. Children feel the repercussions in our behavior and moods. It’s hard to be cheerful when our hearts are breaking. It’s just as hard to be steady when our hearts are rejoicing! It is not easy to wait until our kids are grown to follow our hearts, so we take a step forward. Sometimes it leads to forging a new family, and sometimes it is heart-breaking.

There was an incident in Israel that I don’t write about in the book. A rock was thrown at my son’s head. We had to go to the hospital for stitches and x-rays, and I describe it in a poem as “the longest hours of my life.” A few days later, we walked past the rock-thrower, a young Arabic boy. This was during the uprising, so tensions were high, but I scolded him, instinctually fierce: “Don’t you ever do that to my son again!”  I think of my audacity in defending my child. It never crossed my mind that my life might be in danger.

On the other hand, there were plenty of times when I trusted my son to make good choices while I was occupied with my own thoughts, dreams, creative projects, and love affairs—and wish I had been more present. Was Lily a good parent? She tried to be. Do we ever stop evaluating ourselves or second-guessing ourselves as parents? Probably not.

Catch a Dream:  (ABOUT THE BOOK): A woman’s healing journey begins in a country embroiled in relentless turmoil. In Israel, the first Intifada has just begun. Palestinian frustration for a homeland erupts in strikes, demonstrations and suicide bombings, and Israel responds with tear gas, arrests, and house demolitions. Lily Ambrosia and Rainbow Dove arrive in Haifa with their children on a pilgrimage to sow seeds of peace. Lily’s fascination with Jewish culture inspires her to dream she can plant roots in the Holy Land. She falls in love with the land itself, with its people, and with Levi, a charming enigma, dangerous but irresistible. Eventually she is fully immersed in Israeli life, earning her way as a nanny, hanging out in cafes with friends, and attending Yom Kippur in the synagogue. Her son rebels against the lifestyle she has chosen, and war with Syria looms on the horizon. Will she be able to stay? What does she have to give up and what will she be able to keep?

BIO: Wendy has facilitated writing workshops since 1994 including at Cornerstone’s support groups, the Women & Spirituality conference at MSU Mankato, Celebrate Yourself women’s retreats, All About the Journey healing center, The Aliveness Project, Unity Minneapolis, El Colegio High School and Jacob’s Well women’s retreat. Wendy received 2008 and 2009 McKnight grants through COMPAS Community Art Program to teach writing workshops for youth in crisis. The project at SafeZone and Face to Face Academy developed into an art installation
showcasing their recorded writings. When it was noted that students’ reading scores improved, she was hired as Face to Face’s writing instructor.

In 2012 she was awarded a MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant to teach writing workshops in twelve nonprofit arts and human service organizations. She continues to teach at Pathways: a healing center, in MN prisons, and in community spaces such as public libraries, yoga studios, churches, and cafes.Wendy has taught memoir at MCTC continuing ed and through Minneapolis community ed.

In addition, Wendy has managed shelters for the homeless and visited incarcerated teens. She is trained as a hospice volunteer and as a facilitator of Monologue Life Stories. Wendy studied alternative healing, ceremony, and spiritual traditions with Earthwalks for Health and lived in Mexico and Israel. She has collected wisdom teachings from these diverse cultures, as well as written memoirs of her adventures.

You can find Wendy Brown-Baez at:

Website: www.wendybrownbaez.com

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How Hard It Is To Be Still

Lately, more than one person has said to me: “You have trouble being still. You are never still.”

My initial reaction to this statement is always millions of unspoken thoughts of how impossible it is to be still. Try living my life and see if you can be still. As a single parent, I ask myself: when am I supposed to be still? Maybe you can relate. If you’re a parent, a working parent, a parent of multiple children, a caregiver for elderly parents, or any combination of these roles, you know how hard it is to be still. There is always a to-do list, and it is always impossibly long. You’re always being pulled in multiple directions, and sometimes, those directions are physically and mentally exhausting.

For me, I must add to the trouble of being still the desire to be involved in activities (I’ve always been a joiner), my fear of life being too short and missing out on anything, ambitious goals, and my avoidance of tough, emotional issues—and that equals being too busy, never being still, and feeling completely overwhelmed.

But it’s catching up to me. I’m exhausted. And my loved ones would not be telling me that it’s important to relax and be still if they didn’t see the negative effects of my current lifestyle.

This is a blog post that’s difficult to write because at this point, it has no ending. I’m not writing this because I have a magical answer for how to be still. I try to meditate. I say no to some requests for my time. I prioritize tasks. But this problem for me goes beyond that busy calendar–this problem is because I am uncomfortable with myself, and that is the root. How do I get comfortable spending time with this person underneath all the labels and responsibilities, tasks and to-do lists, flaws and quirks and joys, and be still with her?

If I can figure that out, then I think I can be still.  It’s similar to the saying: Being comfortable in your own skin. If you are constantly moving and exhausted, you don’t have to worry about any of that because you don’t have time for it.

How about you?  Are you still?

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Spending Quality Time With Your Little Ones

(contributed article)

Whether you’re a single parent or not, life with kids is busy and hectic, but also full of fun and adventure, too. It’s crucial that you’re in a great routine with your little ones, so that they feel happy and secure, and they know what to expect. However, sometimes the routine can overtake the fun stuff; and spontaneity can get pushed aside, replaced with homework, dinner time, and bedtime. Therefore, when it comes to the weekends or school holidays, it’s time to step away from the rut and make an effort to enjoy more quality time with your children as they grow up, which will happen way too fast. There is definitely no harm in mixing things up a little and making some great memories together.

During the free time with your little one, it’s your chance to teach and educate them about all the stuff they don’t learn at school. Perhaps it’s about getting outside and appreciating the environment more or a trip to where you grew up, so they can learn more about their family history. Whatever you choose to do, it will be time well spent. Therefore, it’s worth thinking about how best to spend your free time, writing a list of places you’d like to visit and things you want to do and going over in your mind the values you want to instill in your kids. Sometimes, getting it all down on paper and writing a to-do list can help you implement activities and make them happen. The following are some tips for busy parents who want to focus more on spending quality free time with their kids.

Time Management

As previously mentioned, it’s tough to juggle life and all the things that kids bring with them; but with a little planning, your time can be divided up successfully. If you co-parent with an ex-partner and had the best law firm for divorce, you’ll already have figured out the exact times and dates you’ll have with your kids, well in advance. This is great for your plan; you can utilize a large monthly calendar and start popping down the things you’re going to do, how much it may (or may not) cost, and any details needed to make each fun activity work out. Whatever your parenting situation may be, you can still utilize a plan like this,  which while having fun, will also help you think about those needs kids have, such as napping and healthy choices for meals. 

Appreciate The Little Things

Kids might not remember the exact zoo, park, or fun fair you took them to, but they’ll remember how they felt at the time and specific things you’ve done or said to them. Therefore, make sure that you’re praising them for great behavior, noticing the little things they do and say, and take loads of photos! Even on an average morning, when everyone’s trying to eat breakfast and get ready for school, make it a moment to remember and take a picture. Your kids know how much you love them, so give them plenty more memories to take into their future and show their kids.

How do you like to spend time with your kids or grandkids? Do you have a list of stuff you want to do this spring and summer?

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So You Are Single On Valentine’s Day? Show Yourself Some Love!

Don’t miss this amazing article by Julie Morris who has guest blogged on here before! If you are alone this Valentine’s Day, then here are some awesome ways to celebrate you! This is one of the best posts I’ve ever seen on being single on Valentine’s Day! Enjoy! 

Show Yourself Some Love

by Julie Morris

Nearly half of the country’s population doesn’t plan on celebrating Valentine’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation. And, while some of those reticent romantics have significant others, many Valentine’s Day holdouts will be spending the holiday solo. For those folks, February 14 might mark an opportunity to offer themselves some tender loving care to boost their mood and bolster their mental and emotional health year-round.

Be Your Own Date

Here are some suggested solo activities that don’t involve romantic dinners or red roses:

  • Spend the evening browsing the racks at off-price stores like Marshalls or T.J. Maxx, which will be less crowded since they aren’t exactly prime spots for the average Valentine’s Day outing. Plus, at least one retailer’s research found snagging a bargain can actually raise shoppers’ heart rates. So you don’t even need a hot date to get your pulse pounding.
  • Settle in for an extended reading session. Rather than reading magazines or blogs, bury yourself in a book for a while. Reading books, in particular, boosts brain power and can protect people from cognitive decay later in life. Reading also has mental and emotional benefits. According to research cited by Reader’s Digest, reading books, especially fiction, increases empathy and emotional intelligence. And honing these social skills can lead to more frequent and more positive interactions with others, which can lower stress levels.
  • Sign up for an exercise class that’s usually packed. If that barre or kickboxing class always fills up faster than you can save a spot, Valentine’s Day might mean a few regulars will skip the sweat session in favor of an indulgent dinner date. Working out will elevate your heart rate and lift your spirits by increasing your output of endorphins and other natural mood-boosting brain chemicals.
  • Volunteer your time. Studies show donating your time can decrease your stress levels and risk of depression while boosting your sense of purpose, fulfillment, and self-confidence. It will also help put your own problems into perspective and connect with your community.

 

Treat Yourself

U.S. consumers are expected to shell out an average $143.56 this Valentine’s Day on jewelry, an evening out, flowers, candy, and clothes. So, if you won’t be spending any cash on a significant other, maybe you can splurge on something for yourself. Here are a few ideas:

  • As a single person, you might not be giving or receiving roses this Valentine’s Day. So why not use the sweet savings to give yourself some indoor plants that will help add some greenery to your environment until winter winds down completely? Plants can help purify the air in your home and also add to oxygen levels. Studies have also shown plants propagate productivity and boost concentration and mood while lowering our stress levels. Check out these tips from Redfin on how to optimize your home for stress-free living.
  • Invest in a yoga mat or other tools to encourage mindfulness practices. For example, you could download a meditation app or enroll in a set of online classes to help you develop a daily meditation habit. Or order a set of pocket guides with titles including “How to Sit,” “How to Eat,” and “How to Love” by Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.
  • Purchase a gratitude journal. Try recording three things you are grateful for and three things you were able to accomplish each day. If you have a hard time sticking to the happiness-boosting habit, consider downloading a free app that offers inspiration and advice for maintaining a journal.

So celebrate yourself on Valentine’s Day with some activities and small splurges that will warm your heart.

Julie Morris is a life and career coach. She thrives on helping others live their best lives. It’s easy for her to relate to clients who feel run over by life because she’s been there. After years in a successful (but unfulfilling) career in finance, Julie busted out of the corner office that had become her prison.

Today, she is fulfilled by helping busy professionals like her past self get the clarity they need in order to live inspired lives that fill more than just their bank accounts. When Julie isn’t working with clients, she enjoys writing and is currently working on her first book. She also loves spending time outdoors and getting lost in a good book. To contact Julie and find out more, please visit her website at http://juliemorris.org/.

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5 Best Kept Secrets About Parenting

Today, I am honored to have Erica Johnson blogging for me. She is the main editor for Inner Parents and a very proud mother of two who’s passionate about the latest parenting tips & baby products. She wants to share with us (practical parents) the 5 best kept secrets about parenting. So, here’s Erica:

5 Best-Kept Secrets About Parenting

by Erica Johnson

Everyone has parenting secrets they’re willing to share. You’d think that between your family, your workout crew, your co-workers, and your social network that by the time you become a parent, you would know all there is to know. Years later, you may realize that there are some best-kept parenting secrets everyone keeps to themselves — or maybe it’s that you have to discover your own. Here are five good ones.

Secret One: Breastfeeding is Easier Than You Think

Not every mom can breastfeed, and not every mom wants to; but if breastfeeding is your choice, you discover pretty quickly what a lifesaver it is. Despite a steep learning curve, it’s ultimately a snap. Breast milk is always the right temperature. You don’t have to wash bottles. You never need to make a trip to the convenience store at three AM–it’s always right there.

Secret Two: Time Flies

Sometime during your child’s first year, you’ll swear that you will never have time to read a book, paint your nails, or even take a private pee until your child has graduated. The secret here is that when your child really has graduated, you’ll wish you could trade a few of those books or nail sessions for just one more hour of your grown kid being a little one again.

Secret Three: Kids’ Books Are Awesome

One of the most delightful treats of parenting is re-reading those books you loved — and discovering new ones. From the hauntingly evocative illustrations of Chris Van Allsburg to the glorious world of Harry Potter, children’s books are amazing, and it’s great to have a good excuse to browse that section of the bookstore.

Secret Four: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

New parents worry about Disney princesses. (Is Snow White a good role model?) They worry about birthday parties. They worry about cloth or disposable. Want to know a secret? These issues aren’t that important. What’s more important to your child are the hours you played with them, taught them, went places with them. Odds are, your child will remember that day you both built houses out of orange peels and rocks in the yard better than they remember the expensive birthday party you threw.

Secret Five: Let Go and Let Grow

One secret about parenting is that your whole job is to make yourself irrelevant. (We don’t want an adult child who still needs parenting!) To do that, we have to let our kids fail. That doesn’t mean giving them the car keys when they’re eight, but it does mean that we give kids age-appropriate control: we let them do their own homework, choose their own clothes, get that weird haircut. It’s tempting to step in and fix things, but don’t. A child who experiences age-appropriate natural consequences becomes an adult who’s prepared to take responsibility.

 

Thank you, Erica, for this thoughtful post! If you are interested in reading more parenting articles, check out Inner Parent at the link above. Or follow Erica on social media: Twitter    or     Pinterest

 

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Gambling On Granola: An Inspiring Memoir About Being a Single Mom and Starting a Business

I am happy to tell you about a great book that WOW! Women On Writing is currently hosting as a blog tour. I am a stop on the blog tour, and so below you will find out some information about the memoir, Gambling on Granola. But before you read this info below, I want to highlight a couple points that will be important to many of my practical parent and single parent readers out there.

Everyone of us who is a parent has this desire to make our children’s lives better than our own. We want to give them opportunities and experiences that we didn’t have. We want to love them fiercely and teach them to be great people. This desire led Fiona to create a company called Fiona’s Natural Foods, and her story shows us that determination, perseverance, love, and a fighting spirit can make anything possible.

Her website states that “Fiona took her mother’s recipe from the 1960’s, updated it, and created new flavors and ingredient combinations.  She hoped her new concoctions would be just the solution she had been seeking. “

​”The eponymous Fiona’s Natural Foods became a burgeoning regional natural foods brand, selling granola, quinoa cereal and energy bars to dozens of natural grocers — including Whole Foods and Natural Grocers By Vitamin Cottage — throughout Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Utah.” –Daily Camera, Boulder, Colorado

I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of Gambling On Granola. For those of you who have read some of my personal posts over the last two years, you know that I am also a single mom with a full-time job, a desire to be a successful writer with a part-time freelance editing business. I understand Fiona’s drive and fight, and I hope if you check out her book, you will be inspired by her also.

  About the Book:

In Gambling on Granola: Unexpected Gifts on the Path of Entrepreneurship by Fiona Simon, Simon shares a tale that is uplifting and inspiring but also raw and honest. This is a business memoir but also a love story―the love for her daughter, of a journey in uncharted waters, of the products and company she created, and of the continued challenge to follow her dream.

We see her growth and healing over fifteen years, as mistakes, weaknesses, and naiveté, evolve into resilience, resolve, and inspiration. For Fiona, it started out as all new businesses do―with an idea. But her world quickly became more complex as she established her company, developed new product lines, forged personal relationships in a competitive environment, grew her business, and held onto her deepest values―all while raising her daughter, Natalie, as a single mom.

Praise:

“Fiona’s story is both personal and transformative. She lays bare the hopes and anxieties, challenges, betrayals and lessons learned in creating her own business. From the mountaintops of a solar observatory where she was raised, to the struggles and triumphs, her story is like a path of granola crumbs leading the reader to understand how to succeed at any enterprise.”
– Jeff Kline, M.A. Ed., Chairman, Hispanic Communications Network, Washington, DC.

“Fiona Simon is an engaging storyteller and her narrative moves right along. It should inspire and motivate anyone who needs to remember the importance of persistence, belief in oneself, and vision in pursuing a goal. Her granola is good and so is her book.”
– Bob McCormick, Publisher, Editor, Author

Paperback: 200 pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (January 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1938288920
ISBN-13: 978-1938288920

About the Author:

Fiona Maria Simon is a former journalist, travel writer, editor, and communications director of the Boulder, Colorado, Chamber of Commerce. She is passionate about developing healthy food products, writing, traveling the world, and inspiring and empowering others with her story. Lured by the adventures of entrepreneurship, she launched her own organic granola company and led it to success despite having no business background and simultaneously juggling the demands of being a single mom. Her book is a story of challenges, hardships, and triumphs, both personal and professional.

Find Fiona Online:

Website: http://www.fionamariasimon.com 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gambling-Granola-Unexpected-Gifts-Entrepreneurship/dp/1938288920/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1494595882&sr=1-1&keywords=books+about+entrepreneurship

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34552773-gamblingon-granola?from_search=true 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fionamariasimon/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FionaMSimon

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Overcoming Your Financial Slump: A Single Parent’s Guide

(contributed article)

Even though this article was written for a single parent in mind, I don’t think it’s bad advice for anyone to follow…

The wonderful thing about being a single parent is that you don’t have a partner to argue with over your family finances and spending; you are in full control of all of your own money. This can be a bit of a hindrance sometimes, though, especially as you may have to make your money stretch even further. There’s always an extra cost popping up, and this can often set you back a few steps. Over time you may find you have taken so many steps back that you’re on the edge and close to falling flat. Your little girl wants ballet lessons and your boy is pleading to let him go to karate. It can be an uphill struggle for single parents, as we want to give our children everything we can, but we have to remain realistic.

Whether you have overspent at Christmas ,are racking up credit card debts, or need to find a better paying job, you can get yourself out of your financial slump. There are a few nifty ways you can boost your money, without making too many changes to your family life. Stay positive and try not to  let the little things get you down. Be grateful for your health and beautiful family, and let’s look at how to get out of your uphill financial struggle.

The Daily Squeeze

You might believe you’re living a frugal life and cutting costs where necessary, but are you doing the best you can? Are you still swinging by the local coffee shop for your morning caramel latte? Your caffeine addiction could be setting you back over a hundred dollars a month, so try and be mindful when buying food and drink when you’re out and about. Most of the time, you will save money if you cook and eat at home instead of in a restaurant.

Consider cooking bulk meals to save money on food, too. You can cut down on food waste by preparing meals that freeze well, and you might find that your groceries go much further. Try not to buy unnecessary items when you’re out shopping, too, especially if you find yourself buying sugary snacks or the food item that you just sampled in the grocery aisle. Kids grow out of clothes far too quickly, so chat with local moms and head to a nearby secondhand store to pick up any essentials you might need. Be completely aware of every penny you’re spending, and you will soon be able to start saving a small stash and pay off those bills.

Help Is At Hand

If you’ve found yourself in a tricky situation when it comes to credit cards and debts, you might feel daunted at the thought of paying it all off. Look into some reputable debt consolidation companies, who can help you to organize and eliminate your debt. These companies will give you a helping hand in managing all of your debt. If you have multiple credit cards and bills, to pay off they will be able to merge it into one larger loan. By amalgamating everything together, you will be able to come up with an action plan to pay it back each month.

You can get yourself out of the slump you’re experiencing–just find the correct help and alter your lifestyle for a short time. There will always be someone who can advise you, so try to remain positive and don’t ignore the problem. Prevention is better than cure, so get one step ahead with your financial planning this year and you will finally find your feet again.

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Turning a Mean-Spirited Comment Into a Glass-Half Full Moment

Recently, someone said to me, “You’ve got it made. What are you complaining about?” I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of why that comment was made or what I was “complaining about”; but I’m sure just from reading that dialogue, you can understand this person was not being kind. This person was trying to say that I was selfish, self-absorbed, and ungrateful.

It’s stuck with me. I take things people say to me to heart; I’ve been accused more than once of being over-sensitive. For a while now, I looked inside myself to see if I was truly being selfish. So, with all this introspection and being a writer, I’ve been wanting to blog about this topic for some time; but I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say about it or how I wanted to approach a blog post based on this particular mean-spirited comment.

And then today in the shower, it hit me. (Many writers and artists can attest to the fact that great ideas come in the shower!) I can turn this comment, which was meant to be an insult, into something positive. I can look at my life and see all the ways I am lucky and all the ways that I truly do have it made. I can control my reaction to this comment and what I want other people to read about it. And so that’s what I am doing.

I do have it made because

  • I am lucky enough to have an amazing 7-year-old daughter who brings joy, love, and energy into my home every single day. My life would be boring and meaningless without her.
  • Both of my parents are still alive and involved in my daughter’s life on a daily basis.
  • I have a full-time job with benefits, using my college degree, which is paid off; and I work from home, which is a huge benefit as a single parent.
  • I am able to run 2 to 3 times a week because I am able-bodied.
  • I can shelter, feed, and clothe myself and my daughter.
  • I have enough money to do fun things, like go on small trips or go to Six Flags with Katie.
  • I am a writer–I am lucky enough to get to write and people read it. (This is a true blessing.)
  • I have friends and family who love me, care about me, want to be in my life, and invite me to do fun things.
  • I have a dog to keep me company and to keep me walking, even on days when I don’t feel like getting outside.
  • I live in a country, where I have many freedoms and opportunities.

So that’s right, I do have it made.

Yes, of course,  I have struggles. Who doesn’t? But I’m not going to allow myself to be weighed down by them or by negative comments because life is too short and too precious to not see the glass as half full.

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4 Tips For Kids’ Birthday Parties (Practical Parenting)

KT turned 7 yesterday, so it has been a week of celebrating, including a kids’ birthday party. She has been planning her birthday party since January, changing her mind constantly on theme and activities. To be honest, I didn’t listen too carefully to what she was saying because I know this about her–she often changes her mind, as kids that age do, because their world is changing: they finish one grade, go through their summer, and start school again with different friends, interests, and favorites. Also, let’s be totally honest here, I don’t love kids’ birthday parties. Last week’s party was a result of love for my daughter and a wish to give her what she wanted for her birthday, creating a positive memory she will have for a lifetime.

So, we came up with a theme after doing an Internet search for popular birthday party ideas and themes. We decided on a pet adoption party–no worries, I’m not totally crazy–the pets were not real. Whose parents would have sent their kids to a REAL pet adoption party? KT’s friends each adopted a small, adorable, brightly colored stuffed dog, which I found on Amazon here.

When you read the following tips below, remember, I try to be practical. I was trying to do this party on a budget. I don’t have a huge house, and I don’t love to throw birthday parties. (You’re wondering if the kids even got to have fun, aren’t you? 🙂 )

Here are the 4 tips:

  1.  Kids’ birthday party invitations are ridiculous. You receive 8 to 10 invitations in a pack, and they are small and expensive. So, this year, I ordered a set of 36 dog notecards for $9.99 and used Word to create what goes on the inside of the invitation. I copied that information four times on one page and printed it. Katie and I cut out the four squares of info per page and glued them in each notecard to create the invitation. In my opinion, these were cuter and easier to read than most party invitations, and of course, way cheaper than $4 to $5 for only 8 to 10 invitations.
  2. Who to invite? This is always a challenge with KT’s school friends. We have family friends with kids whom we definitely invite. But what about her school friends? Because I don’t have a huge house and because her birthday is in late October (so who knows what the weather will be), we have decided each year to invite only the girls from her class. It’s important to be inclusive, but you can’t invite so many kids that there will be no room for them to have fun, and you won’t be able to afford the treats!
  3. My friend gave me some of the best advice: “Basic stuff is what kids like most. Play. Pinatas. Balloons.” She also said, “The important thing is that KT has fun and enjoys her party.” This told me–get into the mindset of my child. I didn’t need fancy activities or decorations or even snacks. For activities, KT and I planned some cute things to do with the dogs: fill out an adoption certificate, which I printed free from some website; dog houses, which were paper bags that kids decorated with markers; and collars/leashes, which we made out of pipe cleaners. We did an obstacle course with the dogs, decorated a cookie (not dog themed at all), and played pass the hot doggie (potato) to “Who Let the Dogs Out?” It took about 10 minutes to come up with all of this, and the kids had fun–even though it was INSIDE (Did I mention the weather was awful that day?). We sang happy birthday, ate cake and treats, and  opened presents.  I tried to make the treats kid-friendly and not too sugary (besides the cookie, cake, and ice cream, of course): grapes, pretzels, cheese sticks, crackers, Gogurt.  After all of this, the two hours (which is PLENTY LONG) was almost up, so kids did a little balloon play until parents came.
  4. You must ask for help. As a single parent and only child with elderly parents, I had to ask for help. KT’s godmother and her daughters who usually help were going to be out of town, so I asked some of my best friends, who have kids, and my cousins to help me, and they did. I definitely could NOT have done the party without them. I had 5 adult helpers, with 3 that I had specific jobs for, and I needed this many, especially because…you guessed it…we could not be outside. I had some snacks and adult beverages for them and thanked them profusely during the party and after.

KT had an amazing time, and I’m happy that I could throw this party for her. It’s fun to see her classmates and little friends with her, and all in all, the party was a success. If you have tips that have worked for you, please let us know in the comments. Let’s help each other throw practical, fun parties for our kids!

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It’s Time to Put You First

contributed article

Do you ever catch yourself thinking that life would be better if you could take time for yourself a little more? But it’s hard, and caregivers have the hardest time with this. Most people, both parents and adults without children just yet, need to feel needed.  It’s part of life to want to feel useful and vital to someone other than yourself. The ability to help and be compassionate to those who come into your life is one that most people treasure. The trouble with being needed all the time is that it can be extremely difficult to find time for yourself. By the time you’ve tended the needs of family, friends, children, work, and your home, there is very little time in the day that is left to have a moment to remember that you are important, too.

The idea that you must sometimes put yourself first is a difficult one to wrap your head around, especially if you are not used to finding time for your own needs. If you don’t take care of yourself, though, how can you expect to be there for anyone else? People need strong, happy individuals supporting them, and those who don’t take the time to look after their own needs often succumb to stress, depression, and sometimes, addiction.

If you find yourself being trapped in that cycle, where you feel like there is a lack of control over your life, then you need to start putting yourself before others. Stress and depression can lead to other physical manifestations of illness, and taking the time to rectify this is important. Checking into places like Compass Recovery for those who find themselves in the midst of an addiction as a way out of their stress is an important first step. It is not selfish to look after yourself or put yourself before other people, especially in the cases where you have spent so long looking after other people you’ve forgotten how to be you again.

Finally realizing that you matter enough to be important in your own life can set you on a path to freedom. Often, being relied on by so many other people can leave you feeling trapped. Their need of you can be suffocating and debilitating, and the feelings of guilt that you end up left with if you don’t help out on demand are consuming. The freedom you can feel by simply saying no and allowing yourself to be the priority in your own life is immense. The weight on your shoulders of unwavering obligation can lift, and you can start to see life a little clearer and a little lighter. You can still be there for people and put yourself first.

Start small, with evenings to yourself. A cup of tea in peace and quiet and enjoying the time you spend with your own company can be a refreshing change from being wanted and tugged at all the time. Finding a balance is never easy, but it’s one you have to seek if you feel pulled in different directions. Finding you is good for your health, and your health matters.

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