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Swimming Pool Safety Tips

Summer time is here. You can smell the barbecue, see the beautiful landscape with lush trees, and one of our children’s personal favorites- swimming pool season. With so many things closed at the moment, there is a strong likelihood that many will take advantage of personal pools this season, or try to find a spot that is open to the public for a refreshing swim. As a mother with four children who once owned an in ground pool, and now lives in a home with an above ground pool, I have learned the importance of water safety. Accidents can happen, and unfortunately they have happened to many loving parents. My heart aches thinking about this, and even with safety measures in place I know that something can happen in the blink of an eye. This is a guide to provide some tips on water safety that I have picked up along the way in all my years of pool ownership. Many of these are also great tips to follow when in a public pool.

  • If moving to a house with a pool, make sure there is a safety fence around the parameter of the pool. Preferably a fence that has a separate entrance gate from the rest of the yard. If there is not a safety fence- request one be put in place or have this on the top of your maintenance list when moving in. A privacy fence with a separate gate will allow you to lock off access to the pool from the rest of the yard and decreasing the chances that a child gain access when it is not pool time.
  • Have a consistent pool time routine with your children. Do not break from the routine. Our children have known for the past few years that swimsuits go on inside, we step outside to the back porch area and they then place their water safety equipment on. From there, dad or myself get the ladder and bring it over to the pool. We then begin pool time. Our children have learned from my constant communication that the pool, while fun and enjoyable, can also be dangerous and they are absolutely not allowed to touch it without our supervision.
  • If you have an above ground pool, or a movable ladder in your pool, do not leave the ladder in or near the pool once pool time is over. Take the time, even if it seems like more work, to place the ladder far from the pool and chain it elsewhere or place it somewhere that the children cannot drag it to the pool to try and get in. This is an added precaution that can give you some peace of mind when your children are outside playing. Out of sight, out of mind- my motto with the pool ladder.
  • Some pools do not require ladders as they may be smaller or lower to the ground. This is one reason that I always recommend taking the time to throw a cover back on the pool when you are finished swimming. In the beginning this seemed like an added hassle to always drag the ladder away and cover the pool each time (sometimes multiple times a day) but with these steps in place you will decrease the risk of an incident happening. The added time is worth it for additional safety. Even if your pool is small and your child can stand in it I still recommend having some sort of cover or moving the pool when not in use.
  • No distractions when it is pool time. If my husband and I are both out in the pool with the children I will take a moment to snap a few pictures while everyone is swimming and then the phone goes down. I am fully engaged during pool time because it only takes seconds for an incident to happen and I want to be ready to help one of my children should something happen. If you are the only parent on duty, whether in your pool or in a public pool, always be fully engaged. I do not recommend bringing reading material or anything pool side that can lead to distraction.
  • When at the pool with other adults and their children, make sure at least one adult is designated to watch the children play in the pool. An adult that is not drinking alcohol or possibly impaired. When with a large group of children I would recommend focusing on your children regardless as larger groups can increase the risk of pool accidents and no one knowing that a child is in danger or drowning.
  • If your child can not swim, or is still new to swimming, make sure they always have a flotation device when being in or around the pool.
  • If you are able to afford it- swim lessons are a great investment. There are a variety of swim classes and lessons available, I recommend doing further research to find the right class for your child.

These are a few of my priority water safety tips that I have picked up along the way, are there any other tips that you have for water safety? Share them with us! I hope you have an enjoyable, and safe swim season! As always, do not forget the sunscreen!

June Dayton Dozen: Guide to Family-Friendly Events {2020}

Editor’s Note: In light of COVID-19, many venues have not updated their June event dates and information. This guide is accurate as possible as of the publish date.

1. Free Cinema Under the Stars

June 4 – 7

The Mall at Fairfield Commons and The Arts District create safe, socially distant Free Cinema under the Stars for all ages to enjoy.

2. Summer Arts Festival

June 10 – 14; June 17 – 20; June 25 – 28

Springfield Arts Council presents the annual admission-free Summer Arts Festival each June and July in Veterans Park, downtown Springfield.

3. SICSA Animal Adventure Camps

June 15-19; June 22 – 26

Animal lovers will learn how they can make a difference for homeless pets through fun, hands-on activities, projects, and volunteering. Ideal for ages 5-17.

4. 2020 Opening Day at Troy Aquatic Park

June 15

Troy Aquatic Park will open on Monday, June 15th and will close for the season on Sunday, August 16th.

5. Sewing Beyond the Basics – Summer Camp – 2 day

June 16

This 2-day camp focuses on projects beyond the beginner stuff. We are making some fun projects to keep your child engaged in sewing while having fun!

6. Vintage Market Days Dayton-Cincinnati

June 19 – 21

An upscale vintage market with 100 vendors, live music and food trucks.

5. 4 Paws Virtual 5K

June 20

Virtual 5K! Walk or run with your dogs to support 4 Paws for Ability from anywhere!

6. A Taste At The Crossroads

June 23

All You Can Eat food samples from many area restaurants and catering companies and live music under the tents at this fun-filled family event.

7. Kids Can Quilt Summer Camp – Lap Quilt – 3 day camp

June 24 – 26

This 3-day camp will teach your child how to create a fun 1/2 triangle quilt!

8. Annual 5k-9 Run, Walk and Wag

June 27

Help support the Humane Society of Greater Dayton and Miamisburg’s Canal Run Dog Park by participating in the 1 mile, 2 mile or 5k in Community Park.

9. Bark in the Burg at Community Park

June 27

Bring your dog on a leash and give him something exciting to bark about this year!

10. Rail Festival at Carillon Park

June 27 – 28

Dayton History and Carillon Park Rail & Steam Society are proud to present the Annual Rail Festival at Carillon Park.

11. Darke County Food Truck Rally & Competition

June 27

This event will feature 40 food trucks competing for prizes, dozens of craft vendors, live music, car & motorcycle cruise-in, petting zoo, pony rides & more.

12. Independence Day Family Fun Weekend Youngs Dairy

June 29 – 30

Young’s is open regular hours through the holiday! Take advantage of a special Family Value wristband good for all day, unlimited family fun at Young’s Jersey Dairy!

Raising Rainbow Babies {Navigating Motherhood after Loss}

“It is understood that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of any storm. When a rainbow appears, it does not mean the storm never happened or that we are not still dealing with its aftermath. It means that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover, but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy, and hope.”

– Author Unknown

The term ‘rainbow baby’ is used to describe babies born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of an infant. This is a term that has become so normal for me now, but one that seven years ago, I knew nothing about. It wasn’t until we lost our first baby shortly after birth that I learned about this precious term. I spent the next two years waiting and yearning for that colorful ray of light to brighten our dark days.

My heart won’t ever forget the day I met my little man face to face; he came out crying the sweetest and loudest little cry I’ve ever heard. I remember being in shock and awe of this precious miracle that was now ours. For most, I’m sure this sounds like any normal birth, but for us, it was so different. This was truly our dream come true, this was the day we welcomed our first ‘rainbow baby!’

rainbow babies

Fast forward three years from that exact month and my heart felt an all too familiar pain as we had a miscarriage. Another little life lost; this one left me feeling like a broken version of myself. I fought every day to get out of bed and continue being the best Mama I could to our little man. Again, I craved that happy ending and I longed for our story to be redeemed in some way.

While I know not every storm ends with a rainbow, I so desperately wanted ours to.

A year and a half ago, we found out that we were expecting again. Cue all the nerves and anxious thoughts. When you’ve experienced pregnancy and infant loss firsthand, it changes you. As much as I wanted to celebrate right away, it almost as if I felt like I was holding my breath. The innocence of motherhood and blissful joy that most feel just wasn’t there. (And definitely not for lack of trying!) Every OB appointment seemed to bring both sighs of relief and new fears to the surface. Those long nine months tested every part of me. I counted kicks like a crazy person, asked to hear the heartbeat any chance I could, and stared so intently at that ultrasound screen every appointment; still not fully convinced that something wouldn’t go wrong.

Somehow we made it through, and in that split moment, all of the worrying and anxious thoughts became just a blur. We welcomed our second rainbow baby; the sweetest little light and ball of joy you will ever meet! All at once, my world seemed a whole lot brighter, and that heaviness my empty arms had previously felt, was lifted by the eight pounds of perfect baby girl that now filled them.

Pregnancy and motherhood after loss are so different for everyone, but for me, it is almost as if I am living with ‘widened eyes’.

Hear me out. I feel like I have seen the bigger picture. I’ve lived out the opposite side of this journey, and it has made me SO much more grateful for what I have now; for my real-life double rainbow!

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about our two girls that we lost, and just like every other Mama out there, my heart longs to have all of my babies here with me. Having experienced their losses though, it is almost as if they each left me with a gift; that gift of knowledge and those widened eyes. There were so many days back then that I wished for exactly what I have now, and that is such perspective for me! Especially on those rough parenting days.

If you too are raising rainbow babies, I just want to let you know that while it certainly comes with its own sets of challenges and grief waves, it is also such a joyful journey. And if you are the Mama who is sitting there with empty arms, or having experienced the same losses I shared about earlier, I just want to first off give you a virtual hug. We are the 1 in 4 statistic you see floating around, but more than that, we are a whole community of Moms who will forever be connected because of the deep losses we’ve experienced. Keep your eyes focused on the light, I promise it is there and it is so so worth it!

A Lesson in Charity

Right now our kids may not be in school, but they are continuing their learning in nontraditional ways, including life skills. They are learning how to learn online, entertain themselves for hours using creativity, and learning patience with each other and their new world. Part of the irony of the COVID-19 pandemic is that while we are physically separated, our kids are learning that we are actually all part of one world with similar experiences. My husband and I wanted to expand this “one world” learning for our children by giving to charity.

We are very fortunate that through all of this change, our salaries are not likely to change. We appreciate what the stimulus package is trying to do, and we also realize that there are many people much less fortunate than us. To drive this lesson home to our children, we made them a proposal.

Each child was given a budget portioned from the part of our stimulus check that comes from having dependent children to give to charity.

charity

They were assigned to research a charity they would like to send their portion to. They will have to present that charity to us with reasons why they chose that one. If the kids do “A” work, their “report card” will come in the form of a check written from us to their chosen charity.

As a family, we have watched several of the benefit concerts that have streamed on TV. Each concert has highlighted a variety of charities that are working in some capacity to ease the burden of this pandemic. Given this charitable opportunity, our kids are now watching these shows through a different lens. They are asking different and deeper questions about the work behind the scenes. They have been more self-reflective about our situation. They have shown empathy in ways we have not seen before.

As a teacher, it has been difficult to accept that students around the world aren’t getting the type of education we have been trained to deliver. However, in this world crisis, perhaps it is just as important to remember that life lessons can be just as important and can impact our youth in immeasurable ways. At least, that is what I am hoping for my kids in this learning opportunity.

DMC Quarantine Favorites

The past few months have felt a little (or a lot) like Groundhog’s Day. With some form of social distancing in effect for the foreseeable future, we compiled a list of things our contributors have been enjoying to pass the time. (I’ve highlighted a few of my personal choices).

If you’re feeling a little like every day is a repeat of the previous day, check out our quarantine picks and discover some new entertainment!

quarantine

TV Shows

  • Tiger King – a DMC favorite across the board. As one contributor put it, “I can’t stop – it’s a train wreck!”
  • Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist – such a fun, unique show about a woman who gains the ability to hear the thoughts of others – in song!
  • Little Fires Everywhere
  • Schitt’s Creek
  • Forensic Files

Podcasts

App

  • Hoopla – if you’re missing the library as much as I am, Hoopla connects to your library card and gives you instant access to a wide variety of audiobooks, e-books, music, and movies.
  • Instagram
  • Shutterfly
  • Tik-Tok
  • Duo
  • Marco Polo
  • Fetch Rewards

Read

  • Anything by Elin Hilderbrand – a DMC favorite author. You really can’t go wrong with any of her titles!
  • Hillbilly Elegy
  • Get Out Of Your Head by Jennie Allen
  • Fancy Nancy– my daughter has recently discovered this adorable series and is crazy over the French obsessed and fabulous Nancy!
  • Pete the Cat – another popular child choice

Recipe

Take Out Orders

Crafting/Hobbies

  • Gardening
  • Hand lettering
  • Creating chalk art
  • Puzzles, puzzles … so many puzzles!
  • Neighborhood walks and bike rides
  • Hikes – Dayton is home to many great hiking trails. Be sure to check social media pages before heading out to see what is currently open.
  • Flying kites

There you have it – a few things that are helping us get through this quarantine time. Do you have any favorites to add to the list?

Curing the Dreaded “I’m Bored” Complaints

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Whether working from home (show of hands from those that have had a video conference interrupted by a child), trying to get a week’s worth of laundry folded or simply trying to finish our morning cup of coffee before it gets cold, us moms are often trying to find ways to keep our kids busy. In a time when our kids are home more than ever, this is especially important. And if you’re anything like me, you’re starting to draw a blank on new and creative ways to keep them occupied.

Between working from home, schools being closed, summer camps canceled and enough rain this spring to float an ark – I’ve heard the “I’m bored” more often than not lately. 

bored

So I’m tapping into my creative side, browsing Pinterest, borrowing ideas from friends and doing my best to occupy at least a few minutes of my kids’ time.

Here is a list of ideas I’ve used or am going to use. Some of these may require a few minutes of parental preparation. A few of them may require supplies to be purchased or gathered. Please share with us ideas you have used or let us know if you try one of these!

Lego Challenge – Task your kids with a specific Lego build. I’ve seen lots of daily challenges out there. This gives them a specific goal but still allows them to be creative. It can be as simple as build a tower for younger kids or as complex as a city landscape with a bridge for older kids.

Painting – I always have washable kids’ paint on hand and pulling those out is always fun. One activity we did recently was banner painting outside. I took a roll of paper and tore off long strips and taped it down to our deck outside. I used paper plates as a palate and added a rainbow of colors. And let them create away. My oldest created a fun GIRL POWER banner while my middle one created a pretty landscape! They worked on it for quite a while! Another activity that is less messy is paint with water. There are a number of paint with water books out there. You simply need a cup of water and a paintbrush or even a Qtip to create a beautiful masterpiece.

Sidewalk Challenge – Use sidewalk chalk to create a challenge on your driveway or sidewalk. The longer the better. Have the kids time each other. A bonus to this is watching your neighbors participate in it as well when they take their daily walks! Another version of this is a bicycle challenge. Draw wavy lines or circles, etc. for kids to drive on with their bikes!

Card Games – If you haven’t yet, now is a great time to introduce your kids to card games. If you remember from childhood, a good game of war can go on for a while. My niece recently taught us how to play a game called garbage. It’s fun and bonus – helps reinforce counting for younger ones.

Board Games – We’ve recently introduced more board games to our kids and we are having so much fun. The best part is – once we’ve taught them and played as a family, they are capable of playing them with each other without help. Besides old familiar favorites like Monopoly Junior or Candy Land, there are a lot of other games out there that encourage strategic thinking. A few to check out are Rush Hour Traffic Jam or Cat Crimes Brain Games.

Play-Doh – Now this one comes with a warning – avoid carpeted areas at all costs! Set up a table on the kitchen floor or use a dollar store table cover as a dropcloth. Give them butter knives, forks, cookie cutters, etc. to help them create!

Snowball Fight – Gather up cotton balls or other soft balls and let the kids throw to their hearts’ content. Bonus: if the weather is nice, give them some cardboard and have them create forts to hide behind!

Colored Pasta Creations – Color some pasta noodles ahead of time and give them to your kiddos with some string and some paper and glue and let them create away! Younger kids will love to make necklaces. Older kids will enjoy the challenge of creating a picture with different colors and shapes of pasta.

Perler Beads – We recently started using these this year. I ordered a big tub and some templates off of Amazon. It’s pretty fun. Our girls make a couple different designs and when they’re done, I use the iron to melt them. My nephews recently made each of us a lightsaber and mailed them to us. This was a big hit!

Diamond Painting – This is a new trend popular with adults and (older) kids alike. Kind of like a paint by number but with tiny jewels. There are many options out there including large landscapes, Disney characters and even small bookmarks if you’d like to start small and see how your family enjoys it.

Forts – This is a tried and true favorite! Pull all the blankets out of the closet and use your table and chairs and couches, etc. then build a fort! Give the kids some snacks, books, or toys and let them hideaway!

Paper Airplanes – Flying paper airplanes is a lot of fun in and of itself. Use some painter’s tape and put distance lines down for some fun flying contests.

bored

Gratitude and Grace {How I’m Saving My Sanity During Quarantine}

As I write this post, my family has officially been quarantining due to COVID-19 for one month. It’s been one month full of togetherness, disappointment, stress, messes, and generally just losing my sanity as a person and as a mother. This past month wasn’t one that I would choose to go back and relive any time soon.

All things considered, though, I think I’ve managed to maintain my sanity fairly well despite the difficulties we’ve faced in the last month. That’s not to say it’s been perfect. There was one night in particular when I was so stressed out and fed up with my husband that I had an outburst that would have made my teenage self proud. I proceeded to shout irrational things and literally stomped up the stairs (ironically, the same stairs that I stomped up as a teen, since we live in the house where I grew up) and went to cry in the shower. It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows in the Estess house, trust me.

On the whole, though, we’re doing okay.

grace

There are two practices that I’ve been trying to implement in my daily life, now more than ever before, and I think these two things have truly been the key to my sanity. I figured I would let you all in on my little secret weapons, in hopes that these same ideas will help you maintain some sanity, too.

At the top of the list is the idea of grace.

The idea of giving yourself grace is fairly cliche. We say it a lot, sure. Often, I think, we use it in the context of advice to our friends. If a friend is having a rough time, I’m the first to remind her to show herself some grace and be kind to herself. I’ve been the recipient of that same advice frequently, too. But how often do we show ourselves the same grace that we advise others to show to themselves?

My mantra in the last few weeks has simply been:

“Show yourself the same grace that you would tell a friend to show herself.”

It’s amazingly simple, but I swear that it works. Kids destroyed the living room and I’m too wiped out from the day to deal with it? “Show yourself the same grace that you would tell a friend to show herself.” Would I allow a friend to beat herself up over a messy living room? Heck, no. Why shouldn’t I show myself the same respect?

The other key to maintaining my sanity recently has been to focus on daily gratitude.

If you know me at all, you may know that I’m a huge Rachel Hollis fan girl. My pal Rach always talks about the idea of starting every day off by focusing on five things that you are grateful for in your life that day. This idea is so important because it sets you up to frame the day ahead with a grateful mind. I will be the first to admit that lately, it’s been harder than normal to find the good in some days. By forcing myself to look for it, even when I have to look hard, I am re-framing the narrative of my current situation.

Why yes, it is hard. Yes, I would much rather my daughter be in school, upcoming events not be canceled, and I’d kill to just return to life as it looked a few months ago. But, despite it all, there is something to be grateful for each and every day. Focusing my mind on those things really does help, even when I hate to admit it.

So, there you have it. Grace and gratitude, the keys to my sanity. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s certainly helping. Give these ideas a try (even if it feels too cheesy for words) and let me know what you think.

Marie Kondo vs. Packrat: Quarantine Edition

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When the Marie Kondo ship sailed in, I never jumped on board. I meant to. Oh, how I love the idea of getting rid of all the clutter. Some days I’d look at the junk-filled corners of each room in my house and just cringe.

And yet, at every opportunity in which I found time to declutter, there was always an excuse: I don’t have the energy for this. We might need some of this later. This is such a wonderful memory. And the excuses went on and on. I’d lament at what an organizational failure I was and feel the twang of guilt when pics of simplistic, clean living spaces popped up on Instagram and Facebook.

And now that we’re over a month into our stay-at-home orders, I finally feel useful – even vindicated. All of the things my husband swore we’d never need again have actually been put to use.

Step aside, Marie, because this packrat can finally shine!

packrat

When music classes needed to be improvised here at home, an old recorder that I should have thrown away years ago was suddenly needed. It may never have given me joy in the past, but it sure is handy now (incidentally, cotton balls stuffed in my ears have become pretty handy, too).

Likewise, another person might have sold or donated an old dance costume from prior years. Me? I’m glad now that I’ve left it hanging on the back of my daughter’s closet to collect dust and generally be an eyesore. Because when we took it out and performed our own ballet recital, complete with roses thrown on “stage” and much laughter, it made a memory that we will both remember.

But what really made me glad that I never took Marie’s advice was when I realized there’d be no party for my sweet girl, and I wanted to salvage her birthday. We decorated with unused Frozen decor from parties of the past. A forgotten Anna play-doh figurine made the perfect cake topper. And that pile of extra party plates suddenly seemed a perfect way to make my sad, homemade cake more festive. Old toys that probably should have been donated even became props for several birthday activities and games throughout the day.

When I look back at her birthday – and our entire quarantine duration – holding on to some of these things actually saved the day.

Our world will slowly get bigger than these four walls again, and when it does, I will still purge quite a few things that we just don’t need (even if I think I may need it someday).

But, man, it feels good that one of my bad habits finally paid off.

An Outdoor Space Your Littles (And You!) Will Love

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As we gear up for warmer months, our family is looking forward to more time outdoors. While it’s fun to adventure, I have found that our little people actually prefer hanging out home a lot of the time. With this in mind, here are a few ideas for creating an outdoor space your entire family can love.

Let me start by saying, I realize that not everyone has a naturally great outdoor space, whether that is due to size constraints or not having a yard at all. However, any space, even a small one, has something wonderful to offer. Instead of thinking of all the amenities you wish your space had, start with what it does have.

outdoor space

For example, if you have a small patio space, measure it out so you know what can fit. Can you use available wall space as well? If so, factor that great vertical space in! (Vertical space can hold planters or baskets). If you are lucky enough to have a large outdoor space, start by deciding what activities you think your family will get the most use out of.

Once you have your outdoor space figured out, set your budget.

Don’t be too disappointed if your budget is smaller than you would like; that happens to most of us 😉 Just be willing to get creative and put in that “sweatquity” as my husband refers to it. Try to be realistic with time and budget constraints. If you are working as a spouse team or family on this, sit down and decide which projects matter to each of you. Then get started!

A seating area is a must.

Opt for Adirondack chairs around a firepit, a swing on the patio, a picnic table in the backyard, or even just a large, comfy picnic blanket if your space doesn’t allow for the other options. Goodness, I think I would love all of these at once, but the key is to have an area where you can preferably share a meal.

Next up, set the scene with outdoor lighting.

For my birthday a number of years back, I asked for the string of Edison bulbs that comes out at Costco each year. They are durable and gorgeous. Right now, ours are strung from the house to the garage, which spans over our outdoor dining table. The kids feel like it is a fun magical touch. I feel like it is, and also that it adds a special something to date nights “in.” Sometimes, the only time we get sans kids is escaping for a backyard date.

Add in a yard game or two.

This sweet little project was a surprise for our girls. We have just a few paver stepping stones as a walkway to our hose. On one of the stones, I painted a large white tic-tac-toe board, filling the entire stone. Then, I selected some rocks from outside and painted five with flowers and five with leaves. Ladybugs and bumblebees would be adorable as well. Another variation of this if you don’t have a rock space would be to use a wood slice as your board base. If you have a large outdoor space, consider games like cornhole or even a basketball hoop. (Someday, I would like to add those into our space). We also purchased a large checkers game so we can play it at the table without the pieces blowing away. Keeping chalk and bubbles accessible for kids is a great idea, too.

Consider a garden or at least some plants.

Kids enjoy growing their own veggies and flowers. We built our own little raised garden boxes this year. They are the perfect height for the girls, functional and handsome, plus as an added bonus, we can move them when we relocate in a few years. (This might be something only military families tend to think about.) Give the kids jobs to do, like helping pick and plant seeds, and water their plants as they begin to sprout.

I hope your family enjoys getting ready to spend time in your new spaces together. Our kids have enjoyed climbing the neighborhood trees and running under our lights while their dad grills dinner. And I adore everything about our outdoor space. One last thing, don’t forget to stock your bug spray and sunscreen basket! Happy outdooring!

My Pandemic Hats

I usually don’t wear hats.

I’ve got wild curly hair that no hat is able to tame. I make an exception at the beach and wear my infamous beach hat to block the sun from my aging, wrinkled face.

I’ve been wearing a lot of hats lately.

Figurative hats that is.

hats

I am a mom, full-time minister, sister, daughter, wife and friend… These hats are ones that I wore each and every day until the pandemic.

This crazy pandemic has unloaded a whole new set of “hats” that I now find myself wearing.

The teacher hat: I said that I would NEVER home school my kids, and yet here I am wearing this hat every morning for a few hours while we follow our weekly choice board and I exhaust all of the FREE materials from Teachers Pay Teachers. I actually enjoy this new hat.

The landscaper hat: Covered in poison ivy, this may be the hat that I need to give back. Given the time that we have had over the past month, due to not running around and our schedules being cleared, we have got our yard looking the best it has looked in 8 years.

The tree trimmer assistant hat: Along with this hat came a borrowed chain saw. We have cut every last tree down that we needed to cut.

The chef hat: I don’t mind to cook but this pandemic has made me try new recipes and enjoy a few new techniques.

The barber hat: After the first few weeks of the pandemic, I decided to give my hair a little trim, which led to a scissor cut for my littles and then a full-on trimmer cut for them a few weeks later. This is a one-time hat that I have officially decided to retire from wearing.

The domestic engineer hat: I have cleaned the fridge, cleaned the oven (the house still smells burnt), cleaned the washing machine, cleaned each room and have done all of the above twice.

The S’more maker hat: We have made fires to burn trees and branches and brush from the yard, and I have made S’mores for my family at every opportunity

The gardener hat: This is the hat I have enjoyed the most, taking the time to start my seedlings in the greenhouse on my porch and planning my container gardening to set up in the next week or two

And there are many more: Netflix-binger hat, knitter hat, official coffee-drinker hat, official bed-maker hat, too (didn’t know people actually MADE their beds each day).

Being completely honest, some of these hats will be put on a shelf and not worn again after this pandemic is over. I may even burn some of the new hats.

There are other hats that I had never tried on before this pandemic, and I will admit, I’m so glad that I had the time to try them out. Some of these pandemic hats will be ones that I wear in life after the pandemic.

What new hats have you tried on for the first time, or worn more during this pandemic?

Hats off to you!

The Great Cellphone Debate

At what age do you get your child a cellphone? By what age are they allowed to have social media? How can we be sure they’re safe in this technology-driven world?

These are just a few of the questions my husband and I asked ourselves before deciding whether or not our daughter should have a cellphone.

cellphone

With every pro, we jotted down there was an even scarier con. Technology can bring so much good; connecting with friends, chatting with out-of-state family, and being able to document our lives. But there are also some scary things happening in the world, some of which take place on these handheld devices, and for me, that was enough to say NO!

It’s a difficult world to navigate when it comes to our children and I needed to find the balance. One of our many jobs as parents is to protect while allowing them to explore.

But how much freedom is too much freedom?

The whole worldwide web at her fingertips scared me. We spoke with her extensively about the responsibility she had. This opened up an important dialogue about being alert and staying safe. After quite a few of these discussions, we finally allowed it.

Parenting isn’t easy, folks! One thing I’ve learned over the years is that communication is key.

If you’re on the fence about all of this, here are a few things we speak with our daughter about to ensure her safety while using her cellphone:

  1. Social Media: Our daughter has come to us many times about friends having x,y, and z social media apps. While we sometimes feel like she might be missing out, we also feel like protecting her innocence is more important. Here’s where communication comes in! We could’ve given a flat out no. Instead, we took the time to explain our concerns and why we aren’t comfortable with the use of those apps just yet. We steered away from saying “we don’t trust you” and kept it honest in that we don’t trust others and want to be sure she’s better equipped.
  2. Games: The way our phones are set up, we’re able to approve all apps she wants to download. This gives us the opportunity to read, test, or discuss what they are and if we think they’re age-appropriate. Apps that contain a lot of outside chatting are off the board as well as anything that may seem too mature. Again, we discuss our concerns with her. Who, what, where, when, and why are our go-to fillers. In this big, crazy world, we have to be on high alert. We aren’t shutting all the doors. Just the ones we feel are too much at this time.
  3. Personal Information: It’s so important to talk about this topic. Under no circumstance do we give strangers our personal information! Don’t assume they know this. It might seem like common sense to us, but they might not understand the harm this could bring. Be honest and open to a certain extent. Safety is the goal!
  4. Trust: This has been something we’ve consistently tried to practice and praise. Everything is built on trust. We’re trusting her to be mature with her cellphone and letting us know when something doesn’t feel right. She’s trusting us to keep her best interest at heart. Together we’re working to give her more freedom as she continues to grow into herself.

I hope this has helped in some way. We’re learning as we go and adapting where we need to. At the end of the day, it’s whatever you and your family are comfortable with.

Do your children have cellphones? Let us know in the comments why or why not?

Time for a Heart to Heart! {Celebrating Mother’s Day This Year}

Mother’s Day is often a time of celebration but it can also be a time of grief and heartache. Especially with the season we’re all currently finding ourselves in. Unable to see loved ones, to hug them, to touch them, to just be near one another. Sometimes we experience great big feelings all at the same time. Love, joy, sadness, and anger. It weighs differently on all of us because of our experiences, our situations, and even our losses.

Mother's Day

When my mom passed away a few years ago I had to figure out how to live in a world without her. This was uncharted territory for me and I had no guide. Nothing I could say or do was going to bring her back and that stung for a very long time. I felt guilty when my children showered me with love and excitement because a part of me still felt that void.

How could I celebrate when she wasn’t here anymore?

Over the years, I learned that I would need to make room for the sadness to live alongside the joy. Because pushing it away seemed unfair to both her and me. I needed to accept that I could celebrate and mourn at the same time.

I’m saying this because I know we’re all going through something right now.

Despite the varying degrees and levels, our heartaches are real. Whether it be a difficult loss, in whatever form that may be, and feeling as though your entire world has been turned upside down. I hear you and I see you, friend. There’s no way for me to know exactly what you’re struggling with but I need you to know that you’re amazing. You’re strong. And you’re worthy to be celebrated no matter what stage of life you’re in.

Sometimes our expectations don’t always match our reality, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be celebrated for our accomplishments, our milestones, and our victories. Big, small, and everything in between.

Today and every day, I encourage you to take the moments you need to get through the days but never sell yourself short. It takes amazing courage to brave whatever circumstances you’re in and I hope you’ll give yourself the same grace and love you give to so many around you.

This Mother’s Day may look and feel different but that’s okay!

Mold it into whatever you need it to be. Cozy and safe, loud and joyful, or quiet and reflective. However you choose to spend the day, know that you’re allowed to feel all of those feelings, no matter what they are! And open your heart to the love you so deserve!

From my heart to yours,

Happy Mother’s Day!

Since Our World Has Changed…

The past month has felt like a year. I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right? I’m having a hard time remembering a world before, even though I know there was a bright, colorful one. I can’t seem to recall a day where I didn’t obsessively check Governor DeWine’s Twitter feed (something I never thought I’d say). I wake up every morning with a pit in my stomach over our bleak new reality.

Our lives have changed dramatically in a short time period. To be real, this hasn’t been a time of massive productivity or inspiring creativity for me, and that’s okay. I’m simply surviving day to day the best I can. I did think it worthwhile to compile a list of all the ways in which life has changed for me.

Since our world has changed…

world

I’ve cried. A lot. Like basically daily.

I’ve had to go on blood pressure medication thanks to a Teladoc appointment and some scary high at-home readings.

I’ve felt the bittersweet pang of being an essential employee. There is relief to still have a stable income but immense anxiety that I can’t just stay home and keep my family safe.

I’ve worried about my grandparents. I’ve worried about my parents. I’ve worried about my kids. I’ve worried about my husband. I’ve worried about my in-laws. I’ve worried about my siblings. I’ve worried about my neighbor. I’ve worried about that one person I met that one time years ago. I’ve worried about small businesses. I’ve worried about local restaurants. I’ve worried about doctors and nurses. I’ve worried about my favorite grocery cashier.  I’ve worried about my hairstylist. I’ve just plain worried.

I’ve found I no longer have the attention span to read a leisurely book or watch a guilty pleasure TV show. I can’t turn my brain off long enough to relax and enjoy something mindless.

I wake up every single day expecting that it is the day I start showing symptoms. Or my husband does. Or one of our kids.

I religiously take our temperatures every morning. I feel my daughter’s forehead while she is still asleep. I press my cheek to my son’s every morning to make sure he doesn’t feel hot.

I feel a literal weight on my shoulders that cannot ease.

I’m understanding that I don’t have the best or healthiest coping mechanisms for extreme stress.

But… if I look hard enough (and believe me, I have to look really, REALLY hard) I’m able to see some good, too:

I’ve realized my kids don’t need a lot to be happy. They don’t need fancy play dates or extravagant trips. They just want to be around us.

I’ve felt rejuvenated by some time outside and a little fresh air, two things I’ve most definitely taken for granted until now.

I’ve happily supported local restaurants that I desperately want to succeed.

I’ve shown up to work, despite the fear, because I know that people are relying on me.

I’ve laughed at a lot of really clever Internet memes.

I’ve talked on the phone to my grandparents frequently, and I’m so looking forward to the day I can safely give them hugs again.

I’ve felt the comfort of my sweet babies falling asleep pressed against my chest. Everything feels right in the world for those few peaceful moments.

Yes, the bad still outweighs the good. But I’m trying to see the silver lining. I’m digging deep and making it a point to seek it out; otherwise, I won’t survive with my sanity intact. If you’re in a similar place, I urge you to do the same.  Purposefully look for a little bit of good in each day, even if you don’t want to or think you can’t find it. Since our world has changed, I haven’t felt like myself at all, but reminding myself that there still is good gives me hope. I think we could all use a little bit of that right now.

Is This Alcoholism?

Husband, you drink too much.

You aren’t a mean drunk, and you don’t slur your speech, or act out of control.

I would never ever fear for myself or our kids.

But you drink too much.

The giant empty liquor bottle that was supposed to last a little while lasted only a few days. It taunts me as it sits empty on the counter, left behind from last night. I glare at it as I pour my coffee early in the morning with a baby on my hip, already knowing that when I basically drag you out of bed in an hour or two, you will tell me that you don’t know why you don’t feel great. I know why. If you were honest with yourself, you probably do, too.

A beer or two (or three) in the afternoon after work, and another with dinner and at least two large liquor drinks before I go to bed alone. Everyday.

alcoholism

Is this alcoholism?

I thought alcoholics stumbled and passed out and threw up. I thought they went to bars and risked driving drunk and were easily recognizable. But maybe they’re more disguised than that? Maybe they are more recognizable by the giant liquor store purchases that happen a few times a month instead of a few times a year. Or by the always present glass of booze in Dad’s hand no matter what the activity is in the evening because you do still participate in our kids’ lives; it’s just always with one hand because the other is clutching your drink. Or by the number of empty alcoholic drink containers I’m always embarrassed to have in our recycling. I’ve always been grateful our recycling company comes early, hoping that not too many of our neighbors noticed.

Husband, you drink too much.

I don’t know where to go from here. I’ve talked to you about it and you recognize what I’m saying and change for a day or two. Sometimes even a week. It never lasts, though.

I don’t want our kids thinking this is normal. Is this normal? I don’t think so.

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