Dealing with Setbacks

Setbacks happen, unfortunately. And when you have a million things going on, like me, and have pretty much every minute planned out, when those setbacks happen, they can really throw your schedule out of whack.

My setback happened in the form of a whopper of a headache, combined with some tummy issues, that had me in bed pretty much all day Friday. I felt like I could not function. Thankfully my mom was able to help with the kids, and I was able to get the rest I needed. But when you’re not up for doing anything but sleep, it’s hard to get homework done or work from home. It’s also hard to run errands or keep appointments. And it’s definitely hard to actually go to work. So I called out from work and rescheduled everything else.

Saturday was better, thankfully. I was able to go to work. But I was definitely running a bit slower than usual, and it took more concentration to focus. For someone who is used to running at peak efficiency and getting things crossed off the to do list quickly, having to take breaks to sit is a bit of a downer. I decided to cancel plans I had made for Sunday so I could rest a little more and not get my friends sick.

And that brings me to today. I’m getting better but still not a hundred percent. Hopefully another low key day will help.

So why am I bringing this up? Well, I wanted to be real. Sometimes I try so hard to be superwoman that I think I can make myself come across as invincible. But setbacks do happen, and they are often out of our control. I am certainly not immune. It’s also a reminder to be flexible. I could have tried to push through it on Friday – likely with disastrous consequences. I could have tried to salvage at least part of the day and tried to do something. But I decided to give my body the rest it needed, knowing I would figure the rest out later.

And then comes the most important part: it’s easy to get wrapped up in the to do list. I know I do it often enough. It’s easy to get consumed with everything you want and need to do, to worry about everyone counting on you and all your responsibilities. But here’s the thing: without your body, you won’t be able to do anything on your to do list. You won’t be able to fulfill any responsibilities or help anyone. So sometimes, when your body is working hard to get your attention, give it what it needs. The to do list can wait. Your body won’t. So take care of it!

I know I could do a better job of this. Maybe this incident was just getting sick, but it may have also served as a bit of a wake-up call, a reminder to take better care of myself. I’ve been doing better at giving myself little downtime breaks once in a while, but maybe it’s not enough. Perhaps during my low key day I can do a little thinking on what to do about that…

Keep Going

There’s a reason that I make goals instead of resolutions on New Year’s. The reason is that with resolutions, if you slip up, you’re inclined to give up – “oh well, guess I didn’t keep it, better luck next year.” But with goals, you’re not expected to be perfect right away. Goals are something you strive for, work toward, and continue trying to reach, despite setbacks.

Overall I’ve been making great progress toward my cleaning goal (though once grad school starts tomorrow, I expect that progress to slow, unfortunately). I haven’t really made any progress in my financial goal (though I did just get another very-part-time library job, so that may help). I have been doing some serious soul-searching regarding my businesses, with some possible decisions, though I keep going back and forth. But my biggest hang-up are the goals that involve my kids.

I started right in on the daily holidays. We “celebrated” some quirky holidays, and the kids seemed interested. Then I ran into a tough day, which I didn’t know how to celebrate, and things went downhill. What I’ve learned in this process is that I was treating it too much like an item on my to do list. This was supposed to be fun, but instead I was just acting like “ok, what can we do to celebrate this day so we can say we celebrated it.” Instead, I’m going to do a bit more planning (we plan ahead for big holidays, why not the little ones?) and get the kids involved in the planning, too. This will make it less of a checklist item and more of a fun family activity.

With regards to the other kids’ goals, progress has been slow. I’ve been trying to encourage my kids to be more self-sufficient (having them get their own breakfast, for example), but there’s a long way to go. I know I’ve seen articles and such that discuss age-appropriate chores for kids, but I’m going to have to do some searching to dig them up (if anyone has any, please let me know!). I do want to give them chores, but I admit that one of my hesitations has been the current condition of our house. As that gets better, hopefully the responsibilities issue will become easier. Only time will tell.

I’m still remaining positive for the year, and I’m still confident that I am moving in the right direction. Things never go as quickly as I would like them to, but I can honestly say I can see the progress I’ve made thus far in the house, and it is encouraging. May the progress continue!

What are your goals for the year? How are they coming along?

A Year of Preparation

Happy New Year! We have a brand-spanking-new year ahead of us, full of possibilities. What will your year hold?

I have decided that this is my year to tie up loose ends and get things in motion for my year of new beginnings in 2021. This will be my year of preparation, of transition, of setting up my future. That being said, here are my goals for this year:

  1. Establish new routines and habits with my kids. This will include:
    1. Having more fun together. To this end I have started celebrating every day with my kids. I’m taking all the little national and quirky holidays and finding a way to incorporate at least one every day. So far we’ve celebrated Science Fiction Day and Cream Puff Day, Drinking Straw Day and Chocolate Covered Cherry Day, and Spaghetti Day. So far the celebrating hasn’t been very exciting, my son Avery has already started to ask what the holiday is each day, so I’ll take that as a promising step!
    2. Creating responsibility charts for each child and determining appropriate chores for each of them. My kids are capable of more than they think they are, but they have gotten into a habit of expecting me (or Nana) to do everything for them. Everything I have read has indicated that having responsibilities and chores is good for kids, so that, combined with the simple fact that I don’t want to do everything for them, is pushing me to finally set up some responsibility charts.
    3. Establishing expectations and a system of positive consequences so there’s less yelling and more good behavior. They’re kids, so I don’t expect perfection, but Avery, especially, has struggled with ongoing challenging behavior. I’m hoping the responsibilities will help, but in addition I need to figure out a way to get him motivated to behave better. Not rewards, necessarily, but a way to see positive consequences for good behavior. The plan for this goal is definitely a work in progress.
  2. Clean and organize my house! This has been on my goals list for a while now, but this year I’m making it happen. I’ve already started, and, while progress has not been quick, it has been steady. I’m planning to keep it up so my home is comfortable, livable, and enjoyable. I expect it to take a while! Hopefully by the time the year is coming to a close I can say I’ve finally checked this one off.
  3. Finish grad school. I am halfway through my coursework, and, if all goes according to plan, I will be graduating in December. At the same time, my part-time library job is giving me valuable experience, putting me in a good position to find a full-time job after graduation.
  4. Get my finances in order. I unfortunately have considerable debt, and grad school has only been adding to it. So this year my goal is to pay off as much as possible, then consolidate the rest to get it paid off in a timely manner. (My long-term goal, if I’m being very ambitious, is to be completely debt-free by the time I’m 50 – just in time for Avery to start college!)
  5. Figure out my businesses. I have decided that this year I will be making some big decisions about my businesses. It is very possible – likely, even, that I will close one or both of my businesses this year. But more on that as I do more soul-searching and determine what exactly it is I want. I’m not good at letting things go!

Like I said: lots of odds and ends to get myself and my kids in a good position for a fresh start next year. This is going to be a full, busy year, but I truly believe I am in the right mindset to make it happen.

Here’s to a great year!

What are some of your goals this year? How do you plan to reach them?

Another Year Over, A New One Just Begun…

Well, it’s a new year. 2018 had its share of ups and downs, with perhaps more downs than ups (my last grandparent passed away, I got a divorce, the Avery camp behavior fiasco), and yet reflecting back I think the year as a whole was a positive, productive one. Life, I believe, is moving in the right direction, and I have high hopes that 2019 will continue the upward trajectory.

So what will 2019 bring? Well, grad school starts in a couple of weeks. Time with my kids, of course. A cleaner, more organized house? Business boosts and more money juggling? As always, it’s time to make those resolutions — I prefer to call them goals — for the year. Here’s what I’ve got:

  • Establish new routines and habits for myself and my kids that accomplish a few important things:
    • More quality time together
    • Growth as individuals — and more self-reliance
    • Productivity
    • Better time management
  • Begin and make progress in my Masters Degree. If I’m able to meet my expectations for workload, I should have half of my degree complete by the end of the year (taking 2 classes per semester, including summer session).
  • Continue to grow as an Educational Services Representative with Usborne Books & More, helping more schools and sharing a love of reading with more kids. (For those familiar with UBAM’s procedures, I want to have active relationships with 7 listed schools and/or libraries).
  • Finish organizing my house so every item has a home, and the result is an efficient — but fully functional and practical — environment for myself and my kids.

I would like to be in a better place financially by the end of the year, as well, but between grad school, businesses, and life, I have no idea what a practical goal would be. So we’ll just leave the money bit as a vague “do as well financially as possible.”

And I think that about covers it. I already have plans in place to work on the main goals indicated above, as well as some smaller goals (progress on my websites, for example), so I should be off to a good start. My goals are ambitious, but if I can stay focused for the most part, I think they’re achievable. I guess we’ll find out in about a year!

For now, I’m finding that staying up until midnight and waking up at 5 am are not really a good mix (life with kids — gotta love it!), so I shall sign off. Here’s to a great year! What are your goals?

Looking Up

When I last wrote, life was looking pretty bleak. I’m happy to say that, although October has been a month of ups and downs and more than its fair share of craziness, things overall are moving in the right direction. Though I am still exhausted! (But are we really surprised there?)

Emily

Though far from perfect, Emily’s behavior doesn’t seem *quite* as bad as it was. Yes, she still has moments of brattiness, but that is usually when she’s tired. Most days at school she’s OK. And she seems to be more affectionate these days, which I’m definitely fine with. Extra hugs and snuggles? OK!

My primary concern these days with Emily is back to the potty-training situation. *sigh* She had been doing well, but she’s starting to be stubborn again, not wanting to go. I’ve learned to stop asking her if she has to go most of the time, and instead just tell her she’s going. Even then she’ll fight me a bit, but she usually goes. If I take a more laid-back approach, we end up with accidents — several accidents. There have been days lately with 4-5 accidents. Of course that means more dirty clothes — right when my washing machine decides to conk out on me. Great. But we’re working through it.

Avery

My dear, sweet boy is making an appearance more often these days. Though not perfect, his behavior at school has been considerably better these past couple of weeks. I can’t say exactly what has caused the improvement, though his teacher and I have both been making efforts in this area. I am pleased to say that at Avery’s parent-teacher conference, his teacher did not dwell on the challenges that Avery has presented, but rather discussed some ideas she had to help him. She put a chart in place to encourage Avery’s positive behavior, with the reward being free reading time (he loves to read). She also brought in a big bin of her own son’s books (that he had outgrown), just for Avery. She offered a small bean bag to keep Avery’s hands busy. And asked his opinion on other things that might help him. I was told the literacy specialist was going to be testing him to see where he stood in the reading curriculum, so they would be able to best structure his days for success. And Avery said he’s been doing some kind of other testing, too. I was glad that at least a few of the people at his school were working to help him.

At home, I’ve made a few changes, as well. The most notable change is taking away screen time in the morning. Avery had gotten into the habit of turning on the TV or some device with video games first thing in the morning. Even if I limited how much, he still seemed overactive afterward, less willing or able to settle down and get ready for school. So I decided to try taking away all screen time in the morning. My theory was that the screen time was overstimulating his brain, making him need that constant activity and stimulation. Since he already had some difficulty with transitions, this did not set him up for success at school, where he needed to be calmer and more open to lower levels of stimulation. It seems to be working. Most days I notice a difference at home. And his behavior at school since I implemented this has been much better, as well. (Though it did correspond to the changes made by his teacher, as well, so it’s hard to say which had a greater impact. I’m sure both played a part.)

In any case, we’re moving in the right direction. Now I have to work on creating more definitive chores and responsibilities, both for Avery and Emily. They have both gotten into an entitled mentality, expecting things to be done for them. And I want to make sure they gain a greater sense of self-responsibility, realizing how their behavior affects others and how they can become more self-sufficient. We’ll get there.

Me

On a personal note, this has been a busy, crazy month. Emily’s birthday, a book fair, vendor events, trying to clean house….oh, and getting legally divorced. All positive activities, but I am left feeling a bit burned out — moving into the busiest time of the year! I’m starting to slip once again into that “I don’t feel like doing anything” mode. But this time I am doing what I can to nip that in the bud.

Over the last couple of months, my schedule has been all topsy turvy, dealing with last-minute, urgent activities, rather than setting me up for success with more gradual progress. And I think that has contributed greatly to the tired, burned-out feeling I’ve been experiencing. So first on the to do list is to get back into a routine, to schedule times when I will work on urgent items, and times to make progress on my more long-term goals. 

What I have found to be the biggest discouragement is looking around, feeling like nothing is getting done. So, while I do need to build in times to relax, I also need to push myself at times to make some kind of progress. The less I allow myself to do, the less I feel like doing. It’s a vicious cycle. For a while now I’ve realized that I work best on a deadline. So I’ve set a few in place, to encourage me to handle business items, household items, and other such things. Early registration also starts on Tuesday for grad school, so I have to figure that out soon, too.

Life is certainly not getting easier, but it is moving in the right direction, and overall I’m feeling more positive. November will be busy with events and holiday prep, but I’m hoping December will be a bit more relaxed so I can enjoy the holiday season with my kids. Christmas shopping is probably about two thirds complete. Bills are being paid. Goals are in place. With a little bit (OK, a lot) of effort, I know I’ll get there.

In a Funk

Sometimes when life gets particularly crazy and overwhelming, the only thing to do is write it out. For me, at least, writing it all out makes me have to think about everything more objectively, to process it all, and to find ways to simplify it — and that, in turn, gets me in the frame of mind to do something about it. So let’s give it a shot.

Emily

My sweet, independent, easy child is not so easy anymore. On a positive note, she’s finally potty trained! She started accepting the potty the Monday before school started. And, while she still has the occasional accident, she’s doing pretty well — even overnight! So that’s good news.

In the not-so-good news, however, is her increased brattiness. She’s more prone to tantrums these days, especially if someone does something she doesn’t like. And her tantrums can involve whining, arguing, yelling, and even pushing and/or hitting. I’m sure a lot of it is her age. She’s testing her limits, asserting her will, and in general making sure everyone knows she’s not happy. But it can be very difficult to deal with, especially with everything else on my plate! And her teacher has already commented on it, asking if I had anything that worked at home to help. *sigh*

Avery

Emily’s behavior seems mild compared to Avery’s. With Avery, I have to deal with defiance, lack of respect, constant arguing and/or whining and complaining, bossiness, bad attitude, and the occasional impulse that negatively affects others. And it’s affecting school. I have already gotten multiple calls and reports home about his behavior. Thus far nothing seems to be working.

We’ve been seeing a family counselor, and she believes that we need to put into place a positive reinforcement system in an attempt to encourage him to behave better. She’s also pushing me to request a PPT through his school — a meeting with staff members at his school to get him formally evaluated and to discuss challenges and how to address concerns. I will be stopping in to his school one day this week to meet with the behavior specialist and sit in on his classroom, and I’m hoping to discuss setting up a PPT at that time.

I’m hoping those steps will help, but honestly to me it feels like there’s something else going on. I don’t know if he just truly doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks or wants, or if he is intentionally (even if it’s subconsciously) defying everyone. Either way I wish I knew how to address it. I’ve taken a pile of books out from the library, but finding the time and energy to read them will be a challenge.

I did notice Saturday that there were two occasions when moving away from a busy, action-packed environment to a more subdued, calm environment led to him acting better. I don’t know if it was coincidence or if there’s something there. At this point I have so many theories and thoughts running through my brain it’s hard to determine what’s connected and what’s just me grasping at straws!

Me

All of the drama involving the kids has made me feel like a bad mom lately. I feel like I’m turning into the kind of mom I don’t want to be: one who yells all the time, is constantly worn out and frustrated, and wants to be far, far away from her kids. I love my kids; I truly do. But most of the time lately I just want to be alone. And I hate feeling like that.

I’m sure part of it is my just being tired and overwhelmed in other areas of my life, too. I feel like I don’t have much of a handle on anything these days. And that is not like me! I like having a plan, a routine, a course of action that I actually follow through with. But lately I feel like I’m just floating along, doing the bare minimum to get by on a day-to-day basis. I have no motivation to do much of anything. My energy and desire to tackle my to do list have gone down the toilet. Is it because of the kids? Is it because of the condition of my house? Is it because with school starting (and Emily starting school) my daily schedule is all topsy turvy? Is it just because I need a vacation from it all? I don’t know. Probably all of the above. And it sucks big time.

As I’ve done in the past, I’m trying to take a deep breath and figure out a game plan. I’m trying to make new routines and habits, to come up with a schedule that will work. I’ve got a POD sitting in my driveway, ready to fill with boxes and miscellaneous stuff from my house as I attempt to tackle the clutter. I’ve got that pile of parenting books ready to read. I’ve got ideas and projects and activities that I want to try. But it all seems so much harder this time around. I just feel so tired.

I’m trying to draw on resources that have worked in the past: planning things out, listening to motivational audiobooks, pushing myself. I’m probably going to go back and re-read a bunch of A Life You Want posts — that sometimes works, too. But it feels different this time; probably because I’m at such a loss over what to do with Avery. I feel helpless and hopeless.

But I’m not giving up. I refuse to give up.

Avery and I are going to be putting together a positive behavior chart tonight. And the kids and I are going to work on clearing out boxes and clutter this afternoon. Maybe seeing some progress in the house will make me feel a little better overall. It’s worth a shot anyway.

I need to get myself out of this funk. But for that to truly happen, something needs to go well. Let’s hope this week is better than the last. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me!

What a Week

This past week had to be the most stressful week I’ve experienced in a long time. Nothing extreme happened. There were no disasters or crises. Nobody got hurt. No property got damaged. So why was it so stressful? Avery was at a new camp.

If you have never had a child with a behavioral issue attending a camp where no one knew him, after having been essentially kicked out of two camps previously, consider yourself lucky. The anxiety, the nerve-wracking tension that each phone call brings, the reluctant hopefulness that day brings — it was a rollercoaster of emotions and nerves.

As I mentioned last time, I cut most sugar out of Avery’s diet. No sweet cereals, no sweet snacks, no 100% juice. The first day on the diet was a success. The second day was decent, too. The third day was his first day at the new camp. Trigger the anxiety. I had no idea how he was going to do. When I started his diet some said his behavior could actually get worse, as he body “detoxed” from the sugar. But he seemed to be taking it in stride. Was I lucky? Or was I just on borrowed time? I was a nervous wreck. But the first day at camp seemed to go OK. The man in charge lumped Avery in with the other young campers when he said he had some trouble listening. I breathed a hopeful sigh of relief.

Then Tuesday hit. On top of difficulties at home in the morning, this second day at camp was horrible, reminiscent of the very difficult days Avery had experienced elsewhere. Great. Were we back to square one?

The third day, following the bad behavior on Tuesday, was even more nerve-wracking than the previous two days. Would he get kicked out? Would they make him sit out activities, say he couldn’t come back? But Wednesday was OK. Some trouble not listening, a couple of small issues, nothing major. Small sigh of relief.

Thursday: not good again. But they said he could come back…

Friday morning I broke down. Avery was already acting up at home. What was he going to be like at camp? I was fortunate that they had put up with him already, that they had said he could keep going. But would they live to regret that decision? Would Avery make the last day of camp miserable for everyone? The stress got the better of me, and I broke down and cried.

And, while I had gone into a separate room so he wouldn’t see me, Avery came in and saw me anyway. As difficult as it had been, I think seeing me break down like that affected him more than the yelling and talking and punishments and pleas had. Because after that, he was OK. And his day at camp was OK. Not great, but OK.

I was relieved when camp was over. I was able to breathe a little deeper. I was able to stop worrying every second of the day. Of course I still don’t know what to expect from Avery each day, but I think we’re making some progress. I have definitely seen a difference since taking him off most sugar (and if I hadn’t before, all it took was giving him a cookie dough pop yesterday to quickly show me the difference!). He’s getting used to less-sweet drinks and snacks. And, as he continues to progress, we can move on to more changes, to improve his diet overall and get him to a better place.

While the next couple of weeks will certainly be busy, I’m hopeful they will be a bit more peaceful. We’ll be gearing up for a new school year — and Emily will be starting preschool! There are projects to finish up, places to go, things to do. But it’s all good stuff. And as long as we keep moving in the right direction, I’m going to stay positive. We can do this!