5 Tips to Make Traveling With Kids Less Stressful

Traveling with kids could be an Olympic sport.  If you’ve ever tried to calculate how many diapers to bring for a week’s timespan, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Fortunately, we are done with diapers and our kids travel much smoother now, but there are some things I like to do before and when we travel to make our trip as stress-free as possible. Traveling with kids

  1. Car trash can.  I have a plastic cereal container (similar to this) that I use a trash can for our van.  I simply line it with a grocery bag and put the lid back on.  Not complicated at all and the trash gets contained.  Before I placed this in our car though, I went over how to use it with my kids.  I know it sounds simple, but I also knew that if I didn’t go over that with them, they’d still leave sticker wrappers and scraps beside or in their seats and the car trash can would just become another thing in our car.  It also doubles as a barf bucket in case anyone were to get sick.  So far, we haven’t had to use it for this (knock on wood), but I know it’s ready and available if need be.  I’d just take the grocery bag of trash out of it, hand the kid the container without the lid, and wash it out as soon as we could stop.  I know it’s gross to think about, but it’s a lot grosser to think about NOT having that barf bucket if you are ever in a sick situation.
  2. Outfits in Ziploc bags.  I absolutely love this tip.  When we went to Disney World, we flew and decided to only pay for 2 checked suitcases between the 5 of us.  One thing that made this so much easier was putting all of my kids clothes in 1 suitcase and putting each day’s outfit for them in gallon sized Ziploc bags.  My kids could easily pull out a baggie, take their own clothes out, and get dressed.  There was no having to match outfits in the mornings or getting one kid’s clothes mixed up with another’s.  All of the dirty clothes went back into the suitcase unbagged and clean clothes were kept nice and fresh in their Ziploc bags.  At the end of the trip, I could easily keep the empty bags in the suitcase and reuse those bags for the next trip as to not waste bags.  Side tip: You could also keep a Ziploc outfit in your vehicle for emergencies.  Another side tip…  We keep wipes in the van at all times too for easy clean up.

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    This is 3 kids’ worth of clothes packed into 1 kids’ suitcase for our week long trip to Disney.  All of their outfits are in gallon Ziploc bags, (kid 1’s are all on the left, kid 2’s are in the middle, and kid 3’s are on the right.) Light jackets are on top and shoes are tucked underneath.  PJ’s and undies are in the top zippered compartment. 
  3. Kids’ Travel Packs. Often times before a trip, we’ll give each of our kids a small bag that they can bring fun stuff in.  We tell them that this stuff has to occupy them in the car or on the plane (depending on our method of travel) and that they are responsible for these items.  If we’re in the car, all items must be back in the bag once we arrive at our destination.  If we are on a plane, the items in the bag have to be appropriate for air travel.  We allow them each to pack a snack or gum in these bags as well.  It makes them excited to travel and helps to occupy them on long trips.

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    Adia’s travel pack is on her back in this photo.  We were delayed for about an hour before we could get on our flight and she just grabbed her kindle and was completely content waiting.
  4. No drinks in the van.  I know this seems harsh, but if we happen to go on a long trip, we’ll stop for a meal and they get plenty to drink.  If the trip isn’t long (less than 5 hours), I know my kids can go without drinks for that period of time.  Drinks cause them to have to pee, and with 3 kids, that could mean stopping multiple times at various points of our trip, meaning MORE travel time.  Occasionally, I will allow them to bring a small bottle of water.  We choose water because none of my kids guzzle it and therefore won’t likely need to stop every 30 minutes to use the bathroom.  If I allowed my youngest or my middle child to bring juice or milk, it’d be gone before leaving the driveway and we’d be stopping to use the bathroom 3 times in an hour.  I  promise they are not deprived and we provide our kids with plenty of foods and drinks, and if they need to use the bathroom, we always stop as soon as we can.  😉
  5. Clean up before you get up.  Even if we are just driving to school, I always have my kids clean up anything surrounding them in the car.  If I don’t, our van will collect food scraps, tubes of chapstick, toys, cups, papers, etc. faster than you can say, “mom van.”  I always tell my kids to clean up before they get up and I check that they do it.  This keeps our van so much cleaner each day and it has become part of our expectation and therefore, part of our routine.

 

 

Tea Parties

Before I ever had children, I imagined myself as a “boy mom.”  I don’t know why, but for some reason, I just always thought that if I was blessed enough to have children of my own, I’d have a house full of boys.  So, when I had two girls back to back (only 15 months apart in age), I was immersed in all things girl.  Though I never felt anything but immense love and gratitude for my daughters, there were moments when I felt a little too glittery and pink and floofy as I was quickly surrounded by dress up clothes and dolls.  My daughters (especially my oldest) love entering a room with a twirl and leaving nothing but glitter behind, which made this “non-cutesy” mom have a whole new perspective on appreciating my daughters for exactly who God created them to be.  I had to embrace the feather boas and adore the princess dresses as I watched their sweet imaginations blossom.  I never want my daughters to feel like they are better than anyone else or entitled, but I do want them to always feel like they are beautifully and wonderfully made, just like all of the other unique women God created so intricately.

Since my daughters love to dress up and feel fancy, I decided to start doing tea parties with them from time to time.  Tea parties are supposed to be fun, but they also have so much potential if we just look at them as an opportunity to help our daughters grow into strong, graceful women.  It also gives me the chance to soak up their innocence and embrace this sweet age.

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At our tea parties, we talk about the following:

  1. Women in our family: those who came before them and the ones who surround them now.  This is one of my favorite things to talk with them about and one of their very favorite things to hear about.  I tell them about my “Memom,” (my grandmother) who said, “ESTA!” when she’d sneeze and who loved UK basketball more than anyone I’d ever known.  I also tell them about how she served others, even in her times of grief and struggle.  I tell them about their great aunt Lori, who passed at the age of 36 and how the tea set we use came from her.  I tell them about her hilarious laugh and how she always made others feel special.  We talk about their aunts and grandmothers and they ask me to retell the same stories to them over and over again as we find inspiration in the grit and grace that came before us and still surrounds us today.
  2. Table manners and kindness.  We practice how to be polite at the table, how to look people in the eye when we have discussions, how to say, “Thank you,” and, “Please.” We also set the expectation so that our discussion with each other is always encouraging and uplifting with everyone at the tea party.
  3. Serving others.  Tea parties are a great opportunity to talk with them about how it brings me joy to get to serve them their tea and treats and I ask them to serve each other.  We talk about how doing so is not only kind to the others at the table, but how it makes us feel when we serve.

Here’s how we set up tea parties in our home to make them more than a party and less of a hassle.

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  1. The food is stuff I already have in my pantry.  I shop at Aldi and I purchase a few things that could double as something “fancy.”  Below are some items I’ve used before for our parties, but I’m sure you could use anything.  You could also use this as a time to get picky eaters to try something “new and fancy” you’ve been wanting  them to try.
    • Dried fruit (we love dried mango)
    • Fresh fruit
    • Toast with different type of jam
    • Cheese (I have ever taken string cheese and cut it into small pieces)
    • Salami slices
    • Muffins (I often buy the Garden Lite Muffins from Costco, which are full of veggies.  They are frozen and thaw quickly with the help of a microwave.)
    • Nuts
    • Pirouettes (these just seem soooo fancy to my girls)
  2. I make a small pot of tea, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.  I typically use decaf or a low caf green tea.
  3. Instead of using sugar for them to mix, I usually use sweetened liquid coffee creamer for them to pour.  It’s already sweet and it’s less of a mess, and they also love to pour things.
  4. The girls get to dress up.  Sometimes, they’ll ask me to fix their hair fancy or to paint their nails.  If time permits, I honestly love to do both because it’s extra time I get to spend with them.  But if dressing up isn’t your thing, then it’s not your thing.  On Christmas Eve morning, we do a tea party and we do it in our PJ’s.
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Fancied Up Tea Party
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Christmas Eve PJ Tea Party

Kid Chore/Responsibility Chart

Do you ever remember doing chores as a kid?  Or do you ever remember feeling like taking a shower was a punishment from Satan himself?  How dare your parents require you to bathe.  You swam today, dangit.  Didn’t your parents know that chlorine kills all the germs and that evenings were for playing, TGIF, and not putting the dishes away?  Then, it happened.  You grew up.  You got a job, a home, and kids of your own and all of a sudden, you realized why your parents not only needed a little help (sorry, Mom), but that they were really trying to instill in you the importance of taking care of your home, each other, and learning important skills you would one day need when you didn’t have Mom or Dad there to hound you to do it all.

But what if the evenings don’t have to come with nagging?  What if the activities leading up to bed put more ownership and responsibility on your kids and less stress on you after a busy day?  Well, it isn’t a perfect world, so I can’t guarantee your evenings will be stress free with a magical system, but I can tell you that coming up with a system has helped all of us in this house tremendously.  We aren’t perfect, and I still struggle inwardly when I look down the hallway and see my child playing with slime instead of brushing her hair, but I can tell you that I don’t yell at her for it anymore.  Instead, I let her fail.  She doesn’t beat her timer and then she’s a little down on herself.  That’s when we have a calm discussion – after the timer has gone off.  I go over her chart with her and I ask her to reflect on her behaviors.  It goes something like this:

Me: “Adia, I noticed you couldn’t circle your clock tonight.  What happened?”

Adia: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Let’s look at the behaviors you said you were going to try to commit to.  Were you silent?”

Adia: “Yes, but I played and it got me distracted, so I couldn’t beat my timer.”

Me: “How does that make you feel?”

Adia: “Sad.  I really wanted to beat my timer.”

Me: “What will you do next time so you can be happy when the timer goes off?”

Adia: “I’ll work harder during my chores so I can play later.”

I want my kids to see that their behaviors directly impact their success.  It’s a reflective habit that I want to help instill in them now, even with something as small as being efficient with a nightly routine.

The following were key for us:

  1. Know what your children are capable of.  They are capable of way more than what you’d think.  There are some things I KNOW they are capable of doing at these ages because I’ve modeled it for them, watched them do it correctly, and have given them praise for doing so.  For the things they have tried and haven’t done quite successfully yet, I still praise them for their effort and tell them we’ll keep working on some of those things together.  For example, Isla can’t vacuum on her own quite yet.  It’s still a little heavy for her and she struggles to work it correctly, so for now, we model it for her and let her have some tries each time we get it out.  For a list of some ideas to model with your kids, check out this link.
  2. Create a system that supports a no nagging policy.  When I made the chart below, I made it WITH Adia.  Prior to doing this, I set timers for my kids and they had a list of responsibilities to complete and check off, but they often times were not completing all of their responsibilities or we were constantly on them, which made it way more stressful for both us and them.  We decided to set a goal statement like this: “I will go from beating my night time timer on some nights to beating my night time timer every night.”  Then, we talked about behaviors that would help her meet her goal.  She named the behaviors below and we both agreed.  I told her when I gave her this chart that I would not give her any reminders (other than verbal time like, “10 minutes left”) and that I would not yell or raise my voice at all. I will be honest and say that this isn’t always easy, but it’s important.  I don’t want my kids to associate learning and hard work with feelings of inadequacy.

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*****Level 1 prizes are things such as stickers, glitter pens, glitter glue, fun pencils, etc.  Level 2 prizes are things like Dum Dum Suckers, a piece of gum, mints, small candies, etc.  Level 3 prizes are bath bombs, nail polish, my old makeup, lip glosses.  Star prizes are bigger things, but not necessarily expensive things.  They’re also things we often times do anyways, but it makes the kids feel pretty special to know they “earned” it…  stuff like making muffins with Mom, or Chick Fil a with Dad, or a spa day with me where I paint their nails and let them take bubble baths.  *****

3. Follow through.  If you show them that you value this process by reflecting on how they did with them each week and giving them the rewards they earn, AND you keep up with your end of the deal (no nagging, no reminders, etc.), they will learn to prioritize and value the system too.  Goals will be achieved when a successful system is in place.  If you have a goal that you aren’t achieving, whether it is with your kids or a personal goal of your own, you have to reflect on the system you’ve put in place.  If there isn’t a system, it likely won’t take off.  Systems require specific behaviors to take place, so we have to be willing to reflect on our actions.  For me, I view this responsibility chart as an opportunity to teach my kids about goal setting, learning from our mistakes, and trying to help them develop a growth mindset.  I don’t ever want them to feel like they aren’t good enough, but I do want them to celebrate their growth and always strive to keep growing.

Recently, I shared some about this on Instagram, which allowed some great questions to come my way.  I’ve decided to answer lots of those questions below.

Q: How old were they when they started their night time chores?

A: They have had night time chores for a couple of years and right now, they are 6 and 8, but we have only done it with this system for about the past 4-5 months.

Q: Does your son have any chores?

A: Our son is 3, and he does have some chores, but not like the girls.  He puts his dishes in the sink, trash from his meals in the trash can, carries his laundry upstairs, picks up his toys, etc. but he isn’t quite mature enough to do certain things on his own.

Q: How long do you set their timers?

A: Since part of the girls’ night time responsibilities includes showering, we set their timers for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the volume of what they need to complete.

Q: Where did you come up with this?

A: I’m an educator, so I’ve done a ton with students with behavior charts, goal setting, and relationship building.  A lot of this comes from my teacher brain, trial and error, and some training on the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which is a great book all about how to achieve the goals you set.

Q: What if they beat the timer and the chores are not done well?

A: Prior to ever giving them this list, we modeled the chores for them, we did them together, and then we had them demonstrate the chore or responsibility for us.  I can’t expect them to do something to mastery if I’ve never taught them and allowed them to demonstrate their abilities to me (Hi there, Educator Mom).  For this reason, I know how to respond.  I know my daughter struggles to make her top bunk bed.  It’s hard to do.  Her level of ability (though not perfect at all) is ok.  I know she puts forth effort and I know how hard it is for me to make her bed, so I don’t expect it to look pristine.  However, I know she can clean off the kitchen table well.  There have been a couple of times when we’ve noticed that she didn’t clean it well or there were several crumbs left behind (even though we saw her wiping it off).  When she didn’t perform the task well, if the timer has not gone off and she tells us, “I beat my timer,” if we check and see that something is not done well or not completed, we will ask her to try again.  If she tries again successfully before the timer goes off, she can circle her timer on her chart.  If she doesn’t, or if we don’t notice until we check after the timer has gone off, we’ll ask her to clean it again and tell her she can’t circle her timer that night.

Q: What are their night time routines/chores?

A: Initially, we just made them a pictorial chart that we tucked inside of a page protector.  They would circle their chores as they did them with an Expo marker.  Eventually, it became so routine that they had them all memorized.  Our issue was just time and efficiency.  Here are their chores/routine:

  • Pick up all toys
  • Clean up their dishes after dinner
  • Clean the kitchen island and table
  • Help fold and put away all of their own laundry (including some of their bathroom towels)
  • Brush and floss teeth
  • Brush hair
  • Shower (every other night, but pretty much every night in the summer)
  • Put lotion on and get dressed
  • Clean the bathroom sink
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Occasionally added: cleaning out ears, clipping nails, sweeping the kitchen floor, putting away dishes from the dishwasher, etc.

Multiply

It’s been so long since I’ve written on my blog that I feel almost as if I need to introduce myself again.  Instead of doing that, I’ll just say that I’m still here.  Today, I had a bit of a come to Jesus moment with myself while I was reading out of the Jesus Storybook Bible with my little 3 year old.

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I was reading the story about Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a little boy’s lunch.  I’ve read or heard this story about 5,000 times and I’ve known the moral of the message for a long time.  Basically, there wasn’t enough to feed the enormous crowd, so Jesus (being Jesus) took a little boy’s measly lunch and was able to multiply it for the masses to have plenty.  So, when it seems like we won’t have enough or when it seems as though we don’t know how we’re going to make it, God can provide.  He can take a little and make it much.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like a little.  I don’t mean that I feel like I have little, I mean I. Feel. Little.  I feel like all I have to offer are a couple of little fish.  I feel spread too thin as a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister in law, an aunt, a co-worker, a team player, a church goer, a blogger.  I feel too small to make an impact and I often times feel like the offering I have is just a small drop of water on a forest fire.   For a more realistic picture, it’s like I’m only folding 1 of Micah’s white t-shirts in a heap of laundry the height of Mt. Everest.  (Yes, laundry is a very, very real visual for me.)  So sometimes, I hear this voice that tells me things like, “Why are you trying?  You can’t do it.”  Or, “Do you even know if that’s making any type of difference anyways?  Just stop.”

Today, while I was reading that Bible story, the fish and the bread weren’t representative of my finances or my belongings.  The bread and the fish were me and what I have to give.  I felt like God was speaking straight to me on those illustrated little pages with the dimpled hands of my 3 year old pointing to the “fishies.”  Those little hands were pointing out that God can take me (a very small fish in a very huge sea), and multiply my impact.  He doesn’t want me to stop trying.  He wants me to give whatever I have – even if it feels small – and trust that He will multiply it, to spread it, to feed anyone who needs feeding.  I’m one 7 billionth of the world, but even if my words can somehow impact one of the other 7 billion people on this planet, then my words aren’t wasted and they were worth speaking (or typing… or writing…)

Basically, I stopped writing on here for a while because I got caught up in the lie that my story is old news and that my words probably don’t amount to much anyways.  I said I didn’t have time, but the truth is that I didn’t make it a priority, although I have felt for a long while like God was calling me to write (even though I often tell Him that I’m not a gifted writer, or that I am in no shape to be giving someone else any type of spiritual guidance….). However, just like the little boy who came out of the crowd with the lunch his mom had packed him, I can be bold enough to do the same and trust that God will somehow multiply my measly little offering.

In the same way, what do you have to give?  How are you going to let God multiply your impact? I’m going to start writing again and pray that whatever I have to say will somehow be in the view of someone who could benefit from this little fishy.  To you, your offering may seem small or insignificant, but God put you here for a purpose.  He can take your basket of fish (or in my case, my Tupperware of deli meat), and feed a crowd.  I’m taking a spiritual leap and trusting Him to spread my offering as far as it will go.

Mommy is a Surrogate

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If you have a family of your own and you’ve ever contemplated becoming a surrogate, then you’ve probably wondered how you might address this topic with your children.  For me, it was much simpler than what I had expected and I’d love to share some quick pointers or insights on what that was like for us and our kids.  Before I go any further, keep in mind that at the time I was embarking on this journey, my youngest was not quite 2, my middle child was 4, and my oldest was not quite 6.  The way you approach this with your children might look and sound different depending on their ages and your circumstances.  For us, I was carrying for my sister in law who had battled cancer and couldn’t carry her own.  My children saw her go through that battle and they were excited that their mommy was helping her have a family and that they would get a baby cousin.

  1. They accepted the news better than anyone else we told.  Many adults have preconceived notions of how things are “supposed” to work or what they would consider to be “normal.”  To many of us, we define “normal” as how we were brought up or raised.  Children are so moldable and they look to us for a model of how to live.  When we told our kids about this, we simply told them that Aunt Amanda’s belly was broken.  Aunt Amanda and Uncle Reid wanted a baby, but Aunt Amanda couldn’t carry the baby in her broken belly.  Sometimes, when a mommy’s belly is broken, a doctor will take a cell from the mommy and a cell from the daddy to create something called an embryo, which is the beginning of life for a baby.  Since Aunt Amanda’s belly was broken, the doctor was going to put the embryo in Mommy’s belly so Mommy could carry the baby safely for Aunt Amanda and Uncle Reid.  When the baby is done growing, the doctor will take out the baby and give him or her to the mommy and daddy.  My oldest two definitely understood.
  2. If you are uneasy, talk to a psychiatrist or a psychologist.  This was part of the process for us that we couldn’t avoid even if we wanted.  The fertility clinic we went through required all of us to talk to a psychiatrist and a psychologist.  During those sessions, we asked about how we should share this information with our kids.  They were very helpful and reassured us that the kids would likely take it much better than the adults.  They told us that the only reason kids sometimes have issues with surrogacy is because they may fear that you will meet someone else who wants a baby and decide you will give that person one of your children.  She said that thought could be easily prevented as long as we front load our conversation by explaining that they belong to me and my husband and that we will never ever ever give them away.  The baby in my belly was not mine to keep and was made with the cells of two different people, so the baby belongs to them.  My daughters never questioned this at all, but we did make sure we explained this to them ahead of time.
  3. Use children’s books.  We purchased two different books and we used both to help explain what surrogacy is, the process, and the “why” to our kids.  Our kids still pull the books out for us to read them with them from time to time.  When we first told them about surrogacy, we read the Kangaroo one with them and had Aunt Amanda there with us as we all read it together.  (I will link the books we used at the bottom of this post.)  Please excuse my middle child not wanting to share the book in the video below.  She was a full on threenager at this time…  Ha ha!
  4. Turn this into a very visible lesson on serving those we love.  Unfortunately, my sister in law was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a very young age.  Due to this, she couldn’t carry her baby.  I volunteered to carry for her, and my husband and I explained to our children how this was an opportunity for us to help people we love and care about be able to have a family as well as an opportunity to give a person a chance at life with incredible and loving parents.  We talked about how sometimes, serving others requires sacrifice and an understanding that there are things far more important than our comforts.  We talked about trusting God to bless us through this process and take care of us.  As they continue to grow, I’m going to talk with them a lot more about obedience.  I felt called to do this, but with a calling often comes what feels like a risk.  But truly, I felt like there was more of a risk for me if I wasn’t obedient.  What if I didn’t do this and they never got to have a family and Adalyn never got to have a life?  What if I didn’t do this and I felt like I could have helped and chose not to help?  Living with that seemed harder than the risks associated with following through and embarking on this process.  FullSizeRender 2
  5. Be honest about the process.  We never said the baby got in my belly through magic, or that everything would be easy.  We told them about the sickness I would feel.  We told them I would be on medicines that would sometimes make me feel a little out of control of my emotions.  We told them Daddy would be giving Mommy shots and we let them watch a few times.  They also watched my husband rub my hips after my shots and they tried helping out with that a few times too.  When they asked me if it hurt, I told them it did, but that it was worth it for their little cousin and for their aunt and uncle.  I told them I’d do the same thing for them if I’d had to and that when you really love someone, sometimes you choose to take the boo boos for them.

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    The rectangles on my belly were Estrogen patches.  The heating pad was providing some relief from the many knots and bruises I had from Progesterone injections. This was also around the time I was giving myself shots of Lupron in my stomach.
  6. Include them in the conversations, the pregnancy, and meeting the new baby.  My oldest went to a couple of doctor’s appointments with me, which led to some deeper conversations with her during the car rides home.  It was a great opportunity for us to talk and for us to learn from each other. As my belly grew by the day, they would wrap their little arms around my belly and hug me.  They talked to the baby, they felt her move, they gave my belly kisses.  We all loved her from day one and we all had the mindset that while the baby in my belly wasn’t ours, she was still ours to love and our responsibility to make sure she was taken care of.  IMG_1786  IMG_2002All 3 enjoyed celebrating the whole time with us – from finding out the pregnancy took, to seeing the pictures from the first ultrasound, to finding out the baby was a girl.
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    The girls loved finding out their little cousin was a girl!

    My parents brought the kids to the hospital the day after Adalyn was born. The kids brought little presents for Adalyn and enjoyed getting to hold her in their sweet little arms.  They love visiting with Adalyn and we look at her pictures and videos all the time.  We are especially thankful for FaceTime since Aunt Amanda and Uncle Reid live a few hours away.

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    Adalyn with her mommy and her big cousins.

To hear a little more about their response to the surrogacy, watch the YouTube video below.  My husband and I did another video about his response to the surrogacy, (click here for that video) where we had some comments from people asking about how our kids responded to the surrogacy.  I asked my daughters if they wanted to do a video, and they jumped off of the couch excited to get started!  So, this video is definitely not the best quality, but it will give you the skinny.  Feel free to share and ask us any other questions you can think of.

Children’s Books:

Sophia’s Broken Crayons by Crystal Falk

The Kangaroo Pouch by Sarah Phillips Pellet

Accomplishments vs. Relationships

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We’ve all seen the minivans with “My Child is an Honor Student,” listened to others talk about how their kid was a reader before Kindergarten, seen pictures of the neighbor’s kid winning beauty pageants, and watched our coworker’s child score the winning shot at the basketball game.  All of these things are good things and they truly are something to be excited about.  I just wonder, as parents, how much we focus on the accomplishments rather than the relationships.

We even do it to ourselves.  We’re always seeking more.  Whether we want to climb the corporate ladder or gain more “likes” on a social media post, we strive to keep accomplishing.  But when we prioritize accomplishments over relationships, I think we miss the point.

Think about it…  Who do you want to be around?  Do you want to be around someone who has more jewels in their crown, or do you want to be around someone who will listen when you’re struggling?  Would you prefer to work with someone who is always trying to surpass you, or someone who is working alongside of you?  Do you want to marry the guy who makes 6 figures and comes home and props his feet up, or the one who works hard all day making half of what he is worth, but who will give all of the kids baths, feed them dinner, and sing them to sleep while you have some much needed time out with your friends?

When you talk to your kids, is the focus on accomplishments, or is it on how to have great relationships with others?  We sign reading logs, we pay for tutors, we do all the lessons – swim, cheer, football, all of it and there’s nothing wrong with those things.  In fact, I encourage so many of them and there’s a lot to learn when we focus on these types of skills.  Determination, perseverance, grit, goal setting, reflection, and so much more all can come out of these types of intense focus.  It’s good for us and it’s good for our character.  But while we’re doing all of that, let’s also talk about how to listen.  Let’s talk about empathy.  Let’s talk about putting the needs of others before our own comforts and enjoyment.  Let’s talk about giving up our turn so someone else can have an extra turn. Let’s talk about conflict.  Let’s talk about how we respond when something doesn’t seem fair.

Let’s remember that accomplishments should never require us to sacrifice relationships.

I’ve taught a ton of kids.  I’ll never forget their faces and I could definitely write a book on all of the hilarious things they have said and done.  Some of the most impactful kids I have ever taught were not the kids on the honor roll…  They were the kids who worked well with others, who loved to play and pretend and be themselves with whoever wanted to join.  They were the kids who weren’t afraid to share their ideas, but were glad to change their way of attacking a problem or conducting a project when they heard a better idea.  I’ve taught kids who would give up their spot in line at special events so the students with special needs could see better, be closer, or get the treat first.  There aren’t a lot of bumper stickers for this kind of kid, but this kid will be happy and fulfilled.

Sometimes, I catch myself wondering what my kids will be like when they grow up.  I wonder what kind of job they will have, if and who they will marry.  I wonder if one of them will be a musician, or if one might be a runner or an engineer or a writer.  I have to retrain myself to think a bit differently.  I also want to focus more on what kinds of acts of love they might show towards others.  Instead of wondering if one of my girls will look like me, or become a teacher like me, or play the piano like me, I wonder if they might adopt a foster child that needs a home, or if they might be someone’s date to Jesus Prom. I wonder if my son will rub his wife’s shoulders when she has a hard day.  I wonder if he’ll help the elderly lady put groceries in her car and be able to make friends with the coworker twice his age.  I wonder if my kids will know how to work well with others and if they’ll put others before themselves.  I wonder if they’ll smile at the shy kid when they pass him in the hallway.  I wonder if they’ll choose the kid in gym who never gets chosen.  Instead of wondering so much about the accomplishments they might achieve, I want to wonder more about the character they will have and how their lives might impact the world around them.

What do you want to accomplish?  Goal set and do it.  But more importantly, what kind of relationships do you want to have and how will you leave a legacy for all who know you?

 

 

Strong Women Stories

I’m lucky.  I have been surrounded by some pretty strong women my whole life.  I want to start a movement where we showcase the strong women in our lives.  I’ll show you what I mean…

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My memom, grandfather, and my dad when he was a baby.  1950’s.

This is my “Memom.”  I know it’s not a typical name for a grandmother, but she wasn’t a typical grandmother either.  She was a mother of 5 kids, my dad being the oldest of the 5.  When my grandfather was 40, he passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack, leaving my memom alone to raise 5 children, ranging from ages 5 to 17.  Not long after he passed, my memom invited anyone she knew who had experienced a loss in their family over for Thanksgiving.  She was a widow herself, yet she served each of the families who came to her home and every family left with a pie.  I didn’t know that story about her until after she had passed.  My other grandmother had lost her 18 year old daughter and was one of the women who left that Thanksgiving with a pie on her lap from my memom.  A piece of my memom lives on.  I bet that life wasn’t easy for my memom, but it didn’t keep her from rolling up her sleeves and serving others.  I’m thankful I come from people like her.  She was strong, even when she must have felt weak.

So, who is a strong woman in your life?  Let’s start sharing their stories.  Join my challenge!  Here’s how:

  1. Post a picture on Instagram of a strong woman in your life.  Tell us what makes her strong.
  2. Tag me on instagram using rachel.removetheveil
  3. Use the hashtag #strongwomenstories
  4. Follow me on Instagram.
  5. Search  the hashtag “strongwomenstories” and get ready to be inspired.