Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Middle School Parenting...It Doesn't Get Easier

I thought that as my kids got older, it would get easier.  Now I am learning, it is not easier…just different. I am still tired and stressed, just for different reasons and my heart still explodes with love when I watch them sleep.

My older child, my son, is just starting middle school. In my head, I know that middle is school is full of awkward kids who are maturing a different rates filled with hormones that they do not know what to do with.  I know that my own middle school experience was filled with twists and turns and that the behavior I saw around me was often worse than what I saw in high school. Well, at least in terms of disrespect and fighting.  I know that many schools are pour into one larger school and that friendships change.

However, even knowing this, I did not really know what that would mean as a parent. I thought I would have more time before girls were asking my son to the Halloween dance.  I was not ready for good kids that I know to be suspended for a fight because they couldn’t control their emotions after getting picked on for days. I was not ready for my own son to tell me to, “chill” after I found him sneaking to watch the movie IT. I was not ready for how many answers that I would not have. 

This age comes with a lot of situations where you can give advice, but where you do not necessarily have the solution. It comes with being torn about helping a little too much so that your child will be successful and letting them fall on their face so that they can learn a lesson.

I am trying to keep up with the changing emotions, the changing interest and the enormous amount of food he eats.  I am trying to listen more and judge less.  I am trying not to yell, but to be firm without yelling even when his attitude is out of control. I am also lying awake at night replaying conversations and actions, stressing about whether or not I am making the right choices to help him grow into the amazing young man I know he can be. I am also bursting with love when I see him growing into that person.

This parenting thing may not get easier, but thank goodness the love makes it all worth it!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cute Fall Foods

Sometimes you need a recipe that serves as a snack or dessert and a table decoration.  These fall foods ought to do the trick!

Acorn Oreo Cookie Balls from Where Imagination Grows

Campfire Cake from Hallmark

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Acorns from Six in the Suburbs

Fall Leaves Rice Krispie Treats from Two Sisters 

Pumpkin Patch Brownies from Mom Endeavors

Pumpkin Shaped Cheese Ball from The Country Cook

Bacon Cheddar Beer Bread Footballs from Hungry Happenings

Turkey Cheese Platter from No Biggie

Pinecone Cheese Ball from Chickabug

Popcorn Bags wrapped in Tissue Paper from an Unknown Source

Monday, September 11, 2017

11 Apple Recipes for Fall

This fall I plan to take my kids apple picking.  We have not been but I know when my sister went, they came home with more apples than they could eat. This made me decide to gather a few apple recipes so that I have something to do with my extra apples. If you also plan to go apple picking, or just love apples, you may enjoy these recipes, too!

Caramel Apple Cake from Delish

Skillet Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Apples from Country Living

Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing from All Recipes

Apple Pie Bites from The Blond Cook

Caramel Apple Float from Taste of Home

Southern Fried Apples from All Recipes

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal from Five Heart Home

Caramel Apple Cheese Ball from Delish

Easy Apple Bread from Betty Crocker

Apple Crisp from Chow Hound

Caramel Apple Pork Chops from All Recipes

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

7 Simple Weeknight Dinner Ideas

I do not know about you, but for me, the first weeks of school are hectic and I need my evenings to be a simple as possible.  Although I love a yummy, creative dinner, some nights, I just need simple! If you are looking for Cornish game hens served with seared Brussel sprouts or step-by step directions, this is not the post for you.  However, if you need some ideas other than cereal, maybe I can help out!

Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner? Keep it simple with pancakes and sausage or add omelets. Either way, you can make dinner with only your griddle to clean up and have happy, full kids!

Crock Pot Chicken Fajita Tacos
Throw some chicken breasts with taco seasoning in your crock pot before you head out the door  and by dinner you will have moist shredded chicken.  I like to add peppers and onion in the crock pot, but you do not have to. To stay with our simple theme, keep your fixin's easy. Sour cream, Cheese, shredded lettuce and salsa can be served right out of the container for easy clean up and you can add beans or rice if you have a few extra minutes.

Grilled Cheese
I know this seems like lunch, but use 2-3 types of cheese in your sandwich and add tomato soup and it can feel more hearty.  If you feel the need for additional protein, get fancy, make it a hot ham and cheese!

Chicken and Broccoli
I know this seems less than simple, but hear me out.  You can use chicken tenderloins, frozen broccoli and Kikkoman stir fry sauce to whip up homemade Chinese in no time. To reduce your efforts, Innovasian makes a great sticky rice that you can find in the frozen section of most grocery stores.

Italian Sausage and Peppers
Again, I show my love for a crock pot!  In the morning, put sausage in the crock pot with sliced peppers and onions and cover with your favorite sauce.  Remember that the pepper and onion will add to the flavor so no need for homemade if you do not have any handy.  When you get home, serve with rolls or pasta.  You can add a simple salad if you want to add some freshness.

Buffalo Chicken Wrap, Salad or served over Rice
I know...more crock pot...but 5 minutes in the morning can be so worth it. For this meal, add buffalo sauce and a package of dry ranch dressing to chicken and it will shred into moist goodness by dinner time.  You can make wraps, salad or serve over rice.


Okay, so if you make your grandmother's chicken soup, turn away now as this WILL upset you.  If you are willing to take the simple way out, grab yourself a couple of cans of your favorite canned soup and serve with biscuits or crackers.  Sometimes we just need this level of simple to make it through. :-)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Dear Coach...Thanks for being the Unsung Hero!

Dear Coach,

Thank you! And not, "thank you" like I say to the person that holds open a door for me or thank you to the server at the restaurant. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I may not always show my appreciation, and I am sorry for that, but I want you to know that I see what you do and I know much of what you do goes unseen. I can only guess the number of hours you spend sending emails, creating line ups, rescheduling rain outs, prepping fields, and planning drills. And that's the work we don't see. On top of that, you run practices, get to games early, coach games, deal with our child's emotions after they miss the catch, hit or goal and play clean up for all of the stuff left on the bench.  You deal with parents when their kids don't 'play enough' or when preferred positions are not chosen.  You deal with the ref or ump when unfair calls are made and bite your tongue to set a good example.  You put up with the peanut-gallery of parents yelling from the stands, sometime unknowingly giving direction that differs from the one you gave when you sent our kid onto the field.

More than that, you are not just our child's sport coach, you are our child's mentor and life coach.  They watch you when they win and when they lose.  They see your attitude and how to handle an array of emotions. They receive your patience and also your tough love, when needed.  If our children make teams as they get older and move on it is your foundation that they are jumping from. That is invaluable.

Personally, we have had a lot of physical trials on our team this season, my child included.  I cannot be more grateful for the way you have handled it.  You have been patient with me and my son.  You have encouraged him and helped him to have remain part of the team even though he cannot always give 100%.  More, you have taught our children how to be compassionate to teammates. You have taught them that this sport is bigger than games won or lost, it's even bigger than athletic skills learned.

You have a family and a job and a whole life outside the field.  As a mom who sometimes struggles just to get the uniform clean and my kid to the field on time, I do not know how you squeeze it all in, but I am beyond appreciative that you do.  I am well aware without people like you that the rest of the children would not have a team to be on.

Thank you for stepping up to the plate and for committing to more than you may have meant to when you first volunteered.  Thank you for making such a difference in my child's life.  It is such a blessing to have someone who was a stranger to us not so long ago give such care about my child and our family.  Please know that even if we do not say it enough, there are a team of parents who appreciate you and are forever indebted to your time, skill, support and guidance.

I know your coaching salary check seems to always get lost in the mail, but I hope that you know we know how much you are worth.

Aimee and Parents of athletes everywhere

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tips for Taking Younger Kids to thier Siblings Sporting Events

Having a 9 year old athlete with a 2.5 year-old in tow, I have had to learn a few tips and tricks to make games watchable and tournaments enjoyable.
Let me start by recognizing that certain ages are just going to be tough no matter what you do. For example, a new walker can be tough even if you have all of the tools possible. Hopefully, however, some of these ideas will help for various ages.
Bring a stroller or a wagon  - Even if your child is past the stroller stage, some fields are far and when you are bringing stuff you will want an easy way to transport.  If you have a younger child, this will also give you a place to change diapers and may help them nap.
Invest in a sun shade and chair  - I bought this sun shade at Aldi for $15, but it would have been worth double that.  It gives my daughter a place that she can keep her toys and play. It also shields her from sun and wind.  Having a chair is certainly not a necessity, but it saves me from having her on my lap when it is 90 degrees.

Encourage friendships with the other siblings - I know this seems obvious, but I forgot how well varied ages can play together.  The other siblings were 4 and 5, so I did not encourage my 2 1/2 year-old to play with them at first. Eventually, she did it on her own and had a ball.

If young, bring a portable/ potty training toilet - We started potty training mid-season and quickly were reminded that not all fields have bathrooms and even if they do, they may be pretty far for a little one. We found our best option was to bring her potty training toilet with us along with wipes. We would take her off to the woodline where others could not see when it was the only choice we had.

Put them in sneakers - Some fields have grass all around them and others have mulch near by. After getting sick of picking mulch out of crocs and wiping off flip flopped feet, I instituted that my daughter would wear sneakers to games so that there would be one less thing to upset her.
Keep a bag in the car with the following:
  • Small Toys - We found the small 2-3 inch characters were hit with various ages. We have My Little Ponies, Mickey Clubhouse, Cars and Paw Patrol characters that we found a bunch of at Big Lots. I also added matchbox cars and books to this box. This box had things that would be fine staying in the car regardless of weather and stayed in the car all season. Bonus, I found many of these at the Dollar Tree.
  • Similar toys to the sport you are watching - It is pretty typical for the younger sibling to want to emulate the older one. As a result, our daughter loves playing with a bat and baseball, a soccer ball or a fiddle stick while watching her brother.  
  • Coloring books and Crayons or wipe off-board  - If you are in a season where the crayons will melt in the car, you may want to switch to washable markers or colored pencils. Either way, coloring and drawing are good activities that many kids enjoy and gives them something to do that even older kids may enjoy with them.
  • Non-perishable snacks (replenish as needed) - Even though I do pack fruit and such for longer events, I also like to have some emergency snacks in case our day was too busy to plan well.  Things like veggie straws, granola bars, pretzels and goldfish stay fine in the car in a sealed bag for weeks regardless of weather and help get the little ones through the day.
Obviously, there are other tricks regardless of bringing siblings. Things like frozen water bottles that can help keep items cold and offer cold water once they melt are a good idea even for adults. This post, however, was meant specifically for siblings. Perhaps I will write another post for any parent new to a tournament team.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Please Don't ask Me if I Need Help

I am not writing this post because I think people don't care.  I am writing it for just the opposite reason.  I am writing this because I know people do care, but do not always know how to help.  I am also writing it because I know that many of us suffer from periods of anxiety, depression and just plain being overwhelmed, even if it is not a diagnosed condition. Sometimes, life is just hard and we need help, but in the right way.

When I am feeling overwhelmed, I have a tough time admitting it in more than a humorous way.  I post a funny meme or I make some side comment to my mom about needing 5 minutes to cry in the bathroom with some wine, but rarely do I really vent to many people about how out-of-control I feel at times.

When I do get to my breaking point and I finally share my feelings, I am often at a point that I do not know where to go or what do to next. I often need help, but I am not always sure what it is.  I know that sounds crazy, but as a person who has had post-partum depression and suffers from anxiety issues, I cannot always see clearly.

I am also, like many adults, a person who has a tough time asking for help with things that I should be able to handle.  I do not mind asking my family to watch my kids here and there, and I can even ask a friend to drive my son to school or practice without a problem.  Beyond that, however, it can be tough to admit that I need help with regular adult things, even when I do.

When I am overwhelmed, if you ask me if I need help, I will probably tell you, "no." Sure, part of it will be out of pride, but part of it will be because I literally can't figure out a good way for you to help. So, as someone who loves people who need help, what are you to do? My suggestion is to be specific and tell me what you are going to do. 

If you really want to help, tell me you are going to drop off dinner or that you are going to take a task off my plate. Tell me that you know that I need a night free from driving so you are going to take my son to baseball. Offer to watch my kids for a few hour so that I can clean. Make plans with me for happy hour so that I can relax and do not let me cancel. And, if you are so busy that you cannot physically help, send me a text that says that you love me and you are concerned. Let me know you will pray for me.

As much of a control-freak as I can be, sometimes I need someone else to be in control.  Asking leaves me in control. Telling me allows me to feel responsible for one less thing.

By the way, this is not meant to be selfish or lazy, it is meant to encourage that person who wants to help but feels unneeded. I promise, you are needed, the other person will appreciate your help, they just do not know how to ask. So, when you have a friend who just had a new baby or a death in the family or anything else that may cause stress in their lives, be specific and be firm. 

By the way, this goes two ways. When I can, I promise I will do the same for you. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Cute and Simple Idea for Teacher Appreciation

I am always looking for ideas that will show someone that I appreciate them without busting my own budget. For my daughter that goes to preschool, it can be hard to buy for multiple teachers without breaking the bank. This idea allowed me to give a small token of appreciation to each of the teachers in a creative way.

You could grow your gift by giving them  a more expensive gift card or keep it small by giving a $5 gift card so that they can buy themselves a cup of coffee and a donut.

If you hadn't read my previous post, I am a big dork who loves puns.  I looked up a few and joined them together to come up with this. I hope it helps you in your search for teacher appreciation ideas.

I'd like to give a big "thank you" to all of the teachers out there who give endless hours and patience to our children, not to mention some of their own financial resources. I wish I could buy them all the moon, but since I can't, I hope gift like this shows them that they are appreciated.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Day Light Savings Memes...

...Because sometimes you need to know you are not alone. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Living with a Toddler, My Toddler, My Independant Toddler

My daughter is two. VERY TWO.  She is every meme you have ever seen rolled into one.  I live on the corner of , "mommy, please hold me" and, "I no like that, mommy, leave my lone." You may know this place, it is in Toddlerville which lies just on the edge of Tantrumtown.

I recently saw something that said, I live in a house ruled by a tiny tyrant that I made.     Yup!

Each day starts out new and I am sure that I am going to deal better with her challenges.  I am sure this is the day that she is going to let me help her put her shoes on without a fight.  I hold on to the belief that today she will not pitch a fit about getting dressed. I even, naively, think that she might not create a delay on our way out the door.  I also allow false beliefs about myself such as the thought that I will not yell today.

Although my hopes are quickly dashed, they are dashed by an adorable face joined by a squeaky little voice that seems so excited to see me.  Somehow, this saves my sanity.

During the week, when I am at work, I spend my time wishing that I could spend more time with her.  I hate dropping her off and look forward to picking her up.  
I spend my weekends wondering how stay-at-home-moms do not end up in an insane asylum. Seriously, ladies, you are special people.

Sometimes I wonder how I can think this is so hard. I mean, I have done this before.  I have been through the toddler years, and I got through them with my sanity intact.  I wonder if it is because I am a few years older or because I now have sports, school and other activities going on with my older child. 

I also wonder if it is because my little princess is not like her brother before her. I am convinced that this is most of it. She is so much more strong-willed and independent. At least these are the words my pediatrician says I am supposed to use.  He also says she has moxie. I suppose that is one way to describe a two year old that can bring her mother to tears.

Before you comment, yes we discipline her. Yes, we are consistent. And, yes, we are firm.  but this child, this child is a slow learner.  Well, that's a lie, this child is choosing a tough path just to make sure I know where she stands.  Someday, this child who will undo do what I did just so she can do things her way, will be a leader.  Someday, she will pave new roads.  Someday, my girl will be a strong woman making her way in the world.

In the meantime, I am just going to have to hope I can make it through these years, even if it is with a little more grey and a few more wrinkles.  Thank goodness, God made her so funny and cute so that between falling on the floor screaming and tell me to, "stop talking",  I can enjoy her little laugh and her adorable little dances while she sings Baa Baa Black Sheep and Let it Go.

Oh, and if you were looking for any advice, my apologies. I do not have any today. I do have empathy for you and I can offer you a place to commiserate. We, parents of toddlers, need to stick together.