Smart Media We Watch: Cartoons that Begin with S

When I started this post, I intended to just cover a few shows we watch together and talk about what makes them smart. I ended with the three choices you see below and they all happen to be cartoons that start with an S. Enjoy…

Not everything my kids are tuning into is educational, or even meaningful. I’m ok with that as long as the media they consume is, by and large, a healthy media diet.

With that said, I do like to know what their favorites are and why and I do like to try to influence their tastes. I know that sounds manipulative as fuck but don’t worry, my kids are way smarter than me with complete and total minds of their own.

Sometimes they agree when I say something is or is not trash and sometimes they don’t.

Fortunately, my kids have great taste and that’s what I want to share with you all today. Some of the smart media my kids are watching on television.

Steven Universe

A young boy takes his mother’s place in a group of gemstone-based beings, and must learn to control his powers.

SU

The show follows four main characters – three crystal gems: Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, and a crystal gem/boy hybrid: Steven – as they defend earth from being colonized by the crystal gem home world.

Why my kids watch: I think at the heart of the program is Steven, a relatable and likeable character you want to see win. His bond with the three gems (his other worldly guardians) is endearing and their confusion over earth make for endless fodder)

Pros: There is a lot of creative license in these characters as they experience worldly and other worldly experiences. To that end, the show has brought me and the kids to a lot of discussions revolving around some pretty heavy themes like, gender nonconformity, same gender love, racism, and personal accountability. There is also plenty of characters of color to be found, all with exciting stories of their own.

Cons: Because the gems are not human but they are coded with some human characteristics that might be stereotypical. For example both Amethyst and Garnett read as black women characters and the writers tend to fall back on the ‘strong and sassy black woman’ trope.

Why I watch: At the end of the day it’s a really a great show with great characters and intriguing writing. It has also opened us up to discussions I mentioned above and then some.

Star Vs. The Forces of Evil

Star, 14, is a fun-loving optimist who never wants to have a dull day. She’s fascinated by the world around her and wants to explore as much of it as possible. On Mewni, Star’s parents put pressure on her to be the perfect princess, but on Earth she has freedom to live by her own rules

Star

A Disney Princess in almost every sense of the word, she is a slender, blond, blue-eyed, girl with an adventurous spirit. Usually I wouldn’t be attracted to such a character but Star has a compelling story. Born into a magical legacy, Star is being groomed to follow the traditions and trappings of royal life. To meet these obligations she must endure training. Her parents send her to the relative safety of earth and her guardian Marco.

Why my kids watch: The adventure and the magic. With a book and a wand Star is able to create cute yet deadly magic to protect herself, her friends, earth, and Mewnie from the forces of evil. Whether conjuring stampeding narwhals or a spider with a top hat, her hits are always fun and fatal!

Pros: She is a bad ass character. Fearless, fun, loyal, trustworthy, and flawed in some very typical ways. She does not want to be a princess and she rebels against this in as many different ways as possible. This is so common of every kid who combatting the will of their parents. She is funky and atypical and no matter how hard she tries to forego her responsibilities, in the end, she always does the “right” thing her own way.

Cons: Not a lot of diversity here, although her guardian, 14-year-old Marco, is of LatinX decent, there are really no other characters of color to speak of. The one character that codes as ethnic, (Star’s best friend Ponyhead) is played to some stereotypes.

Why I watch: I like magic and I like strong female characters and I love adventure and this happens to have all of that plus some great writing and plot work. The story is interesting and I am a true fan. Hoping to see them expand to more diverse characters moving forward

Spongebob Square Pants

Whoooooooooo lives in a pineapple under the sea – SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!

Absorbent and yellow and porous is he….

SB

I personally hate this show and I know there are many parents out there who agree but Spongebob aint for me! It’s for the kiddies. By now we all know this sponge who, as the song would suggest, lives in a pineapple under the sea. He has many cohorts including a starfish and a squirrel and none of it makes sense but it’s decades long run proves, I don’t know shit about the popularity of sea sponges.

Why my kids watch: The show has been on for decades. My 16 year-olds still watch and really love this show. I think it’s the nautical nonsense. There is so much tom foolery and malarkey it is literally laughable. Silly songs, silly plots, and ridiculous characters make this cartoon a timeless and enduring classic.

Pros: Spongbob is really altruistic and a loyal friend to the end. As far as fictional characters go, he is gold. He teaches lessons about being oneself and accepting other’s for themselves. Squidward is the absolute worst and yet he still loves him dearly. I think that’s some role model worthy stuff.

Cons: This show is obnoxious and ridiculous and totally just for the kids. My dog barks at the tv constantly whenever it’s on. It’s that annoying to her too.

Why I watch: I really don’t but sometimes the kids leave it on the TV when they go out and I find myself cracking the fuck up at the shenanigans and asking myself, “Why?”


What are your kids watching and loving and learning from?

Smart Media Consumption and My Kids

Long-time Smarties know I’ve got six whole kids! They range in age from 10 months to 16 years. Technology has been a huge part of their lives. They literally can’t comprehend a world before smart phones. They giggle at the inconvenience of telephones with chords and vinyl records. They laughed through the original Ghostbusters and it wasn’t at Bill Murray’s quick wit. It was in response to the “cheesy special effects.” Continue reading “Smart Media Consumption and My Kids”

Talking to my Kids About the Orange Menace

Lets get a few things out-of-the-way, shall we?

This entire blog is op-ed, in this space my voice reigns…supreme. I’m Smart Media Mom and I’m not here for your approval or your clicks. I’m here to be free. I’m here to be unapologetically me! I created this blog so that I can create the kind of smart content I crave and is in scarce supply around the internet. If you don’t agree with me, you are welcome to comment but please remember, keeping it moving costs zero dollars and zero cents.

In my universe Donald J. Trump is an Orange Menace (OM). In my universe white people elected an ego maniacal, white supremacist, who is lining his pockets while filling the white house with other ego maniacal, white supremacists to create, what my husband has called, “the Voltron of corruption.” I’m not arguing this obvious point. History and publications more worthy than mine have proven this fact. If you voted for the OM, please, and I mean this with all due respect, Fuck. Off.

Today I am here in the aftermath to talk to fellow parents, who aren’t seduced by bat shit insanity, to figure out how we talk to our kids about this mess we call American politics!

Hate crimes are up and on the rise.

Don’t believe me, do the research. Start here and here.

Emboldened by OM’s win, people are popping right out of their racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic closets. Proudly announcing themselves, “here!” for the white pride party. Exit polls will tell you, it’s not just the usual suspects like the KKK, alt-right, neo-Nazis, or whatever those kids are calling themselves these days. Nor is it just red-necked yokels with poor educations and even poorer hygiene. No, the hate is coming from suburbanites who shop at Michael’s too.

Unfortunately kids are boarding the hate train as well.

In Minneapolis, middle-school boys leaned out of a school bus to yell, “Grab her by the pussy!” to a man walking with a female colleague. – Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)

I have had multiple conversations with my children throughout this election. I’m no monolith as a parent and my way is exactly that, my way. My way is to talk about it, confrontation can be healthy. I think it’s important to talk to our kids about what is going on. They already have an idea, they are talking about it on the playground, trust me.

The next four years are going to push well past the boundaries of decency. I’ve accepted this inevitability. So, here is how I am talking to my kids about the Orange Menace:

He’s a bully…a quick trip to his twitter page will completely validate this fact. Whether he is threatening to jail or deport (to where idk) protesters who burn the flag or insisting the press refrain from criticism, it is clear his character is devoid of traits like compassion, empathy, diplomacy, grace and from where I’m sitting, he seems to have a love and joy deficiency as well. My kids understand what a bully is, they have been taught both at home and in school how to spot and handle a bully.

When I explained OM in this way, they immediately agreed and then asked why anyone would want a bully as president. Kids are smarter than all of us by the way.

My response, “The fact is bullies don’t always suffer consequences for their behavior, especially when others enable and reinforce the negative. They sometimes even win. It doesn’t make them less of a bully nor more likable, nor worthy of anyone’s respect. Life isn’t always just or fair.” That’s the truth, tell your kids the truth.

Our values and beliefs did not change just because a bully was elected into office. Just as we have always stood up for the most vulnerable among us so we will continue to do just that now. Probably even more diligently than ever before. That’s what the world needs most in my opinion. People willing to fight the bullies of the world.

I am trying to raise kids who will champion the marginalized. This becomes more difficult with every day the OM and his minions transition into office. I imagine it will get worse before it gets better but I refuse to allow hate to be normalized in my home. Despite the fact that millions of people across this nation welcomed that into their homes by voting for this bully in the first place.

Be honest with your kids about racism and all the isms and phobias that are lurking around every corner. Call it out in your community, in the media, in front of them, let them see in real-time what inclusive, inter-sectional activism looks like and I promise they will follow suit.

I wish I could end this on a lighter note but the way my reality is set up I can only ask, how are you talking to your kids post-truth? How do  you explain the Orange Menace?

Motherhood is a superpower

But

Even superheroes make mistakes

And

I’m not infallible or beyond reproach even as I coach my kids through their bad days

I have my own

I

Cry and thrash and I rage, even after turning the other cheek

I speak out of turn and I burn with jealousy at women freer than me

My super powered life comes with super powered strife

Comes with

Pain

Comes with

Misery

There’s beauty in their smiles

Their milestones are also mine and they keep me overjoyed

And

Overwhelmed

And

Over myself. I get, over myself because it isn’t about myself.

Life as a superhero means you live life outside yourself

Means, you put on your tights and your cape and you fly swift and true and strong for those who need you, wherever and whenever they need you to, do whatever they need you to do.

Life

As a superhero means you forgo your humanity to be for them what they need you to be when they need you to be

Theirs

I am theirs.

I am a superpower, a goddamn super powered odyssey lives, in me

Super human, a super powered fantasy

All the extra, all the other, lays down quiet at my feet,

It means nothing, all the other when,

I am mother

I am life and their lives live in me.

 

The Baby Chronicles: Two Pink Lines

The tale that lead us all to this moment is a whopper and I promise to dedicate some time to it but, not today.

We’re having a baby! That’s an epic sentence because we said we weren’t going to do that, for a myriad of reasons but mainly because the very idea of poopy diapers makes me gag.  We’d joke about the nightmare of sleepless nights and shirts full of vomit, like  a couple of veterans who’ve seen things. After our children were all safely tucked into bed, we’d sit up late into the night and sip our beer and wine, enjoying the silence and saying things like, “If we had a baby, we’d be too exhausted to enjoy this time,”

We felt full together, we share our children and the adventure of raising them and we didn’t think we needed any other thing.  Deep down, though, we did wonder if we were wrong about all of that. What if it would be really great to do this, one more time but, together? How would we handle those sleepless nights? What would our baby look like? It was with this sentiment that we just, sort of, let it happen and exactly one month later…two pink lines. Holy guacamole! This is really happening!

We never expected giving it one, single, last try, would result in an actual baby. We left it to fate, understanding that it usually takes many tries, over the course of many weeks, sometimes months, so this one try was a long shot (pun totally intended!). I should have known better, our whole existence as a couple was a long shot to begin with! Which is why, once the shock wore off, we understood exactly how meant to be this was.

Having-a-child_quote

So, let me just get a few things out of the way…I know I’m 39 and my eldest children will both be 15 when they meet this little one. I know for many, many people in the world 39 seems really old. I am also well aware that in reproductive terms I am “no spring chicken,” so stop “just being honest” with me! I give not a single fuck if you think I’m mid-life and your geriatric jokes are not funny. Yes, I see my grey hair and crows feet when I look in the mirror. Yes, I know that by the time this kid is in High School I’ll be in my fifties and I’m well aware of what starting all over again “at this age” really means. Turn all that ageist shit all the way off when talking to me, thanks.

We are happy with this very unexpected journey and we still feel like silly teenagers when we’re together. We are looking at this as the latest and greatest adventure for our family – we’ve been on quite a few already, we have no regrets!

It’s been seven years since I’ve been pregnant, a lot has changed (the good news, no amniocentesis the bad news, lots more lab work) but I am embracing it all and chronicling it here for you to follow along because it’s the 21st century and the only reason anything is real anymore is if it’s on the internet, right?

The first stop along this road…Hyperemesis Gravidarum…despite what that sounds like it is NOT a spell from Harry Potter. It is “persistent severe vomiting leading to weight loss and dehydration, as a condition occurring during pregnancy.” Or as I lovingly refer to it, a first class trip to hell. HG effects .5% – 12% of pregnant women, including The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, so of all the lotteries I could have won, mine is kind of royal! I had pretty bad morning sickness with my first pregnancy but none with my second and certainly nothing like HG. Persistent seems like an understatement really. It seems way too polite. I would describe it as demanding and controlling nausea and vomiting that lasts until you want to die. I spent a week in the hospital, I lost 8lbs and it took me another 2 weeks before I could eat anything not jello and two more weeks before my abdominal muscles stopped feeling like I’d put them through a cheese grater. It was fun.

frabz-Morning-Sickness-Morning-sickness-everywhere-a6c973

For any woman out there who understands what I am saying, nausea pops and Honey Nut Cheerios, have been a lifesaver. I was also prescribed Reglan (Metoclopramide) but my OB/GYN suggested I try to manage the symptoms as best I can without meds, which I have done by eating like a two-year old and sticking to a regimented routine. No processed foods, no fast foods, no junk foods…all natural diet and consistent grazing. I track my calories and take note of foods that really agree with me through an app called, My Fitness Pal. I finally made it to my 12th week and although I am pretty sure I will have “morning sickness” through most of my pregnancy, the nausea and vomiting are NOT persistent and both me and baby are gaining weight again.

Next stop on the road is our first round of genetic testing, pretty standard stuff I’m told, I’ll start reading up this week on all the things I can expect and I’ll be sure to share in our next installment of the baby chronicles!

Where are Women Safe?

I am more than woman, more than mother, more than what is between my legs and I will not be defined nor minimized by it. I keep asking the same question over and over, a question no one can seem to answer definitively. “Where are women safe?” not on college campuses where 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted, where they must carry the weight of sexual assault like a mattress. Where are women safe? Not at home since approximately 4 out of 5 rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.

RAINN: The nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization crunched the numbers

1-in-6 copy

Here’s the math. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)–there is an average of 293,066 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.

There are 525,600 minutes in a non-leap year. That makes 31,536,000 seconds/year. So, 31,536,000 divided by 293,066 comes out to 1 sexual assault every 107 seconds.

One sexual assault every 107 seconds…Where are women safe?

I have two daughters, 14 and 7, they are both at risk. I am raising them in a world where they can at any moment become victims of some kind of sexual harassment or assault. Preparing for this is not possible. There is no real way to explain the risks of just existing in a space without instilling a traumatic amount of fear and paranoia inside of them. On the flip side, you are doing a disservice as a parent and by your children if you don’t speak to them about it.

No amount of wishing the world wasn’t the way it was is going to prevent ugly things from existing. Ideally, my girls and I would be able to go anywhere without ever feeling even an inkling of fear for our bodies or lives. This is the way I want the world to be for all women but reality paints a different picture, a picture in which a woman or girl is victimized every 107 seconds.

Where are women safe? My immediate answer is “With me, at arm’s length or closer,” but that ever agitating “reality” insists I can’t possibly be everywhere, always, forever. So we talk, we tell the truth and we do it compassionately. I am not an expert at sexual or child psychology, I am a mom – I’ve put in my 10,000 hours and then some, I’m an expert at momming. Here’s how I address the dangers of sexual assault with my children.

  1. Sexual assault is not a “girl’s problem” – this isn’t a burden for us to carry, this is a reality for us to be aware of. Our girls are not responsible for anyone else’s behavior but their own. Men and boys are responsible for their own impulses, desires, and behaviors. That’s the first basic lesson I provide my children – we are responsible for our own choices and the consequences.
  2. Nothing you wear, say, own, no place you go, nothing you do justifies unwanted attention. Sexual predators are bullies. Recognize them and stay away. This is a good opportunity to point them out on TV, in video games, current events where applicable (i.e. the Chris Brown assault of Rihanna was a serious teaching moment about violence against women).
  3. I will believe you, I will not shame you, nothing you do, now or in the future, will ever stop me from loving and protecting you. Never be afraid or ashamed of my judgement because I will not judge you. If someone hurts you, touches you, makes your insides feel yucky, even if it’s someone you love and trust, tell me, I will believe you. I trust you implicitly.
  4. The world is a patriarchy and women have to demand respect and equality unapologetically. This is neither fair nor right but until we figure out how to fix it we must face it. There are some men who look at women as objects, there are some women who look at themselves as objects. Expect more for yourself without judging others and don’t allow yourself to be disrespected.
  5. Don’t be afraid to protect yourself, at all times. No means no and if you say it and it isn’t heard then you are within all of your rights to defend yourself with any and every tool/weapon at your disposal.
  6. You don’t have to smile at anyone, at any time of day, no matter who is asking you. You don’t have to shake a hand, give a hug, or kiss unless you want to. You are in charge of your body and everything you do with it until the end of time. The choice is up to you and only you.
  7. Don’t be afraid to speak up, use your words and boldly identify your feelings. “No thank you, I don’t want to,” or “I’m sorry to hurt your feelings but I am not interested”. Hurt feelings aren’t permanent but the shame of being manipulated into doing something you don’t want to do lingers for quite a while.
  8. Be responsible for yourself and responsible for each other. Women (and the brothers, fathers, cousins and guys who respect and love us) absolutely should stick together and look out for each other in the world out there. According to the statistics I mentioned above, no one else is really doing that for us. Be aware, talk to each other, talk about sex and love and trust with each other.
  9. Raise your sons to be responsible for their mother’s, their brothers, their sisters. Teach them to be courageous citizens of the world. Teach them to respect themselves and women and honor the individual above the gender or any other superficial thing.
  10. You are precious, you are valuable, you are worthy, and you matter to me. Your mind, your soul, and your presence is a blessing to the world. Carry yourself through the life carefully but unapologetically.

Where are women safe? Are they safe in your heart, in your home, in your community, where you work, or play? If you are having a hard time confidently answering that question then follow it up with “How can I help ensure women are safe everywhere?” because in the time it took me to write this post more than 68 women were sexually assaulted. Our girls deserve better, we all do.

If you or a loved one has experienced sexual assault you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1.800.656.HOPE(4673) – Free. Confidential. 24/7. You can find more support or learn more at RAINN.

 

feature photo Keep my heart safe by MoonlessNightGirl Deviant Art

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Five Body Positive Building Blocks

I don’t know anyone who has a perfect relationship with their body.  If you do, please tell me how you accomplished it in the comments below, there is much I can learn from you.  If you are like me you have struggled with loving yourself, perhaps still struggle sometimes. But, I know loving myself better will help me raise body positive kids. So, I work at loving myself to ensure my kids don’t have to work as hard to love themselves.

I made a quiet promise to them, a long time ago, NOT to pass down personal body hang-ups. This isn’t always easy but it’s well worth the effort, for everyone’s sake. Recently, my youngest daughter asked if she could make her straight hair curly. When I asked her why she replied “curly hair is prettier.” (ironic, I spent most of my young life trying to coax my curly hair straight). First, I reminded her that while curly hair is pretty, it isn’t prettier than her own, very beautiful, straight hair. Next, I braided her hair so that when she undid the braid her own, usually, pin-straight tresses would have some wave to it. Then I had time to consider positive body image and my kids.

Am I teaching it? Being body positive, in my mind, is being comfortable in your own skin. It’s having a matter-of-fact attitude about our bodies and what they do. Creating this comfort depends on some essential building blocks that constantly reinforce, for the whole family, positive body image. My family’s building blocks focus on:

Each building block is an opportunity for your kids to take ownership of themselves and their bodies. Every teaching moment should encourage a healthier sense of well-being by promoting self-love, either through ritual tasks like grooming, as well as, open and meaningful conversation. My parenting style is centered around teaching my children responsibility (for self and others), accountability, and self-control. These traits will serve them well through their adult lives and life is just easier when you can love and appreciate yourself.

What do you think about it? How do you encourage healthy body image in your home? Do you or your children struggle to stay body positive? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

5 Rules to Survive Blending your Families

I am going to break my blended family down for you, if it had a relationship status it would be “complicated.” Our blended family consists of 5 kids, 6 parents (plus bonus parents, grandparents, in-laws) and spans three states. Our “village” on the best of days, is a dense forest, with sturdy branches and healthy leaves, providing shelter and shade to all our precious “saplings”. Most times it works like an ecosystem in perfect harmony, sometimes it’s more like global warming – disastrous!

When my partner and I decided to merge our families, It was, at times, a painful transition for all. We worried about getting everyone on the same page. How do we figure out the rules and rights of our kids and put them in place? There were no perfect answers, there are no hard and fast rules to parenting. We don’t need any, we just need to do what is best for our family dynamic.

After five years in this beautifully, blended family, we’ve learned some things:

Always Put the Children First:keepcalm_kidsfirst

Rest assured that you and the other adults in your kid’s lives wont always agree. Discussions will turn into disagreements and if left unchecked those disagreements could turn ugly. Stop it! Put your own feelings aside and work to make good decisions for the kids. If you can’t do this you end up in court waiting for a judge to do it for  you. You will also be subjecting your child to a lifetime of having parents that never get along. That’s horrible and sad.

If everyone wants a hand in seeing the kids grow up, everyone must put their egos aside and work together. When everyone gets along it will only benefit your kids. Good friends make great parents. Friends are honest, they remind each other what’s important. It’s always about the kids, they are THE most important thing, the only thing that matters.

Communication is everything:

If you have primary custody of your children, you are responsible for keeping everyone in the loop. It’s up to you to coordinate visitations, vacations, holidays, birthdays, school events and all the other occasions that come up. To get through it, you have to be able to communicate. In the 21st century there are so many ways to do this, there should be no excuses.

Be prepared to:

  • Listen – pay attention to body language, facial expressions, verbal and non-verbal cues. All of it contributes to the conversation. Tune in without thinking about how to reply, just listen. Then, think about it and reply thoughtfully.
  • Empathize – take a walk in someone else’s shoes. Through empathy, we are able to see the other side more clearly, making situations that once proved challenging much easier to resolve.
  • Validate – at the end of the day people want to be understood. Be kind with your words, validate each others feelings, and always keep the lines of communication open.

Make Flexibility your Best Friend:

If you have a complicated, family dynamic flexibility will be your best friend. Sharing custody, no matter how you split it up, requires all of the flexibility you can muster. When a lot of people are involved in your kid’s life any flexiblenumber of things can change at any time.

In a perfect world, the rules, rights, boundaries, and schedules you put down, work, forever, and everyone plays their part without incident. Life is never that perfect though. So you’ll work to build a solid framework and someone will get sick, find a new job or decide to move to a new state. Be ready and willing to adjust when this happens. Plans change and this can be very stressful if you don’t learn to be flexible.

Be a United Front:

Kids smell weakness and they will manipulate you to get their way. We work tirelessly to set up appropriate boundaries that allow our children to safely learn and grow. They work tirelessly to push those boundaries and try to break us. Combining our household meant figuring out what rules would work and which ones were no longer relevant.

The kind of topics we covered:

  • Rules of the house – bedtime, meal time, bath time, media time, appropriate discipline etc.
  • Special needs – schooling, tutoring, therapies etc.
  • Extra curricular activities – how many, who pays, what’s appropriate etc
  • Rights of the kids – cell phone/technology/social media readiness, age appropriate behaviors etc.

Do your research, speak to specialists if necessary and come prepared for team work. If there are any issues the kids might have, address them. Be solution minded and if there are no solutions to be had then and there commit to finding one together. This might be done over dinner or it might be an ongoing process.

Once you’ve agreed on all the rules stick together to apply them across the board. This means if a child breaks the rules in one household the punishment should stand in all households. This will teach your children to respect the boundaries and ensure they wont try to manipulate one parent or guardian against the other to get their way.

In my blended family this is the foundation for “making it work” for us. Every family is different, every family has their own tips and tricks that make it work for them. What would you add to this?  How do you establish the rules and rights in your home?

Tell me in the comments below.

Parenting 101: Self Care

Parenting requires only that we love our children and keep them healthy and safe, that’s really all anyone needs to “get it right”

parenting_self_care

The way to get it wrong is by burning yourself out. I’ve seen it happen to the best of us. There’s no vacation time from parenting, you are in it for days, weeks, years, sometimes sleep deprived, most times running on empty. You search for the exits but there is no escape and then you feel guilty for wanting to escape at all.

Well meaning people love to give new parents advice but most of it is about co-sleeping or breast-feeding. You’ll also hear about “your instincts,” and “knowing exactly what you’ll need to do.” There’s never any advice if your baby is colic and does nothing but cry for 6 months straight. No one tells you what to do when you turn into a zombie who would just as soon eat her crying baby as rock her gently back to sleep.

The first year of life with your child is the best and worst, lots of sleepless nights but so many snuggles. You want to spend every moment watching and loving them as best you can. So much so that it seems nothing else exists, it’s all-consuming and this is where the burn-out begins.

To avoid this burn out here are some self-care tips:

self_care_pin

  1. Get a hobby: I spent a lot of time on bed rest when I was pregnant with my son. It was very frustrating and there is only so much daytime TV that can keep you occupied. My cousin bought me some needles and yarn and I decided to take up knitting. I am really glad I did because I found it to be very therapeutic. Knitting might not be for you but you should find something that is. Scrap booking, jewelry making, baking, or anything that makes you focus on something other than your kids.
  2. Make grown-up time a priority: For the first few months of your baby’s life you will have no time for grown ups. Eventually though they transform from helpless infants into terrible toddlers who will insist on watching Teletubbies or Barney or whatever on loop forever. This will make your mind mush and drive you to the brink of insanity. At this point I recommend you call up grandma, grandpa, or auntie to sit on your kid(s). Then invite some close friends for dinner and drinks. A few rules, refrain from talking, thinking, or bragging about your kids. Take a break, a total break from being a parent.
  3. Pamper yourself: Whether you’re mommy or daddy, you deserve a little pampering. I don’t care if it’s a bubble bath or a haircut and a shave. Whatever makes you feel good, do it often, when you refresh your body you refresh your mind. A strong mind will give you the strength to parent another day
  4. Talk about your frustrations: Every parent wants to drop their kid(s) at grandma’s house and never return at least once during their parenting journey. Any parent who denies this is lying…I don’t care what they say…they are lying. I wish someone would have told me this because when I had these feelings I felt tremendously ashamed and wondered when the total bliss was going to kick in. So I spoke to my pediatrician about these frustrations and he told me they were normal and reminded me that there is no perfect way to parent. The moral of the story is talk to someone you trust and you’ll feel better about it, I promise.
  5. Unplug and have quiet time: I’ve talked about feeding your body and your mind but now I want to talk about feeding your soul. At the end of the day, after your umpteenth meal, or bottle, or episode of Spongebob, when your precious little angel-devil is finally fast asleep, stop and soak up the quiet. Don’t check your email or log into Facebook, don’t call a friend and don’t turn on the TV to veg out just yet. Unplug yourself from the world and just sit in peace and quiet, breath deeply, clear your mind of doubt and be by yourself for a little while.

Self-care requires prioritizing yourself and doing so will help you prioritize everything else. You are important, so put yourself on the list and work just as hard at self-care as you do at caring for your loved ones!

Parenting 101: Quality Time

One of my greatest challenges as a parent is money. I never have enough of it which means I am constantly working or trying to find work. It also means I have to say “no” a lot. “Mom can we go to the movies?” before I can respond I must calculate how much it would cost to take a family of seven to the movies….my entire life savings. So I must respond “No, I’m sorry – we don’t have the money for that this week.”

I hate saying no because my kids are amazing and they deserve all of the fun! I know my reality is the reality of parents all across the country and that is why I’ve decided to dedicate this post to free or low-cost quality time activities. Even if we can’t afford to take our kids to Disney World or the movies every week – we can still afford to give our kids time and attention.  We can always afford to pay attention!

My first bit of advice is to remember that of all the toys, games, and technology your kids may have, their favorite “thing” to play with is you. Even when they are teenagers and pretend that you’re lame, deep down inside, what they most enjoy is interacting with you. Take on quality time with that in mind.

Pictured - family fun in the car
Pictured – family fun in the car
  1. Game night. We love game night – it’s a time to let our hair down and encourage friendly competition. You don’t even need to invest in a bunch of board games to make this happen. Charades is fun and requires absolutely no money, all you need is:
    • Pieces of paper
    • A hat or bowl or container
      • What to do: decide on your categories – person, place, things, movies, TV, cartoons etc.
      • Write down topics in each category on pieces of paper put the paper in the hat, bowl, or container
      • Take turns picking from the hat and acting out the topics
      • If you have children in different age groups like I do, use two different containers and place easier topics in one for the little ones to choose from
  2. Movie night. This is a great opportunity to introduce your kids to all the classic movies you loved as a kid. For example, we just watched Gremlins together over Halloween and the kids loved it. We have a pretty big DVD collection but even if you don’t most cable/satellite companies offer free movies on-demand for you to choose from. You can also choose from TV specials which are plenty during the holiday season. The point isn’t really the movie, so even if you choose cartoons on Disney or Nick, it’s about getting together as a family.
  3. “Date” night. Obviously I don’t mean a romantic evening with your kids, that’s weird. What I mean is a special evening as a family. Set a date – Friday night works great – make a special dinner (you can do this together, my kids love to cook) and get dressed up. Meet in your dining room and share a meal together. You can follow it up with a movie or some games.
  4. Any outdoor activity, weather permitting. If you’ve exhausted all your games, movies, and meals, get outside for a game of soccer, kickball, or tag. If you live near a park, go hiking and explore nature. The point is to get out and play as a family.
  5. Freeze dance. When all else fails, nothing brings a family together like music and dancing. If you aren’t familiar with the rules to freeze dance it goes like this:
    • Turn on the radio to your favorite station or play your favorite record
    • Someone is in charge of the radio (usually my partner – since dancing in front of people embarrasses him)
    • Once the music starts everyone dances their hearts out
    • Once the music stops everyone freezes – the person in charge of the radio watches closely to make sure everyone is still
    • The first one who moves is out and then you start the music again – if no one moves, everyone keeps dancing
    • Keep going until everyone is so tired they need to go to bed!

Fun and family time doesn’t have to cost any money at all. Togetherness is free and you should take advantage of that every chance you get! When your children grow up they wont really remember the dollars and cents you spent but they will carry the memories of quality time you shared for the rest of their lives.