Thursday, April 9, 2020

Guest Blog Post: School at Home...Tips for NOT Going Crazy

Suddenly parents are at home with their kids and it's not vacation. Whether you made the choice yourself to homeschool, or you are crisis homeschooling the new circumstances you are in can feel overwhelming. Take a look at some helpful tips by Michelle T., veteran public school teacher and homeschool mom.

Start Off Slowly
Get a routine started, without falling into the trap of trying  to get it all done right from the beginning. That just leads to tears, frustration and power struggles. A simple structure (but not rigid) will help keep the crazy away. Add things in a little bit at a time. 

Make a List
I have found that having a checklist for each of us to accomplish helps to keep the routine going and keeps us focused. Check tasks off the list to give clarity for knowing when you’re done. This helps keep everyone calmer and minimizes push back. Our list includes school things to do, but also a job section.

Helping Around the House 
Pick some basic things your kids can do around the house- dishes, vacuuming, washing mirrors, taking garbage out, laundry- and take the time to TEACH them how you’d like them done. Those younger, messy humans are now there all the time too!  I’ve avoided calling the jobs “chores” and instead call it “Helping Out”. This promotes our philosophy that we are all contributing members of this household, caring for each other in the ways we can. No one should be someone else’s servant- including the parents
Extra hint:  Any child in our house who says the word “bored” is immediately assigned a small job.
It only took each kid 3 times.  I haven’t heard the word bored in YEARS! My kids even warn their friends.

Here’s a couple checklists I’ve made.  I don’t have something in each row every day.  Some things I alternate. 

The  first checklist I used for littles, when I needed to keep track of what we were doing,
and so they could see when they would be done for the day.  
The second checklist shows what I might include the first, or even second week,
as we’re getting things started. 

You won’t all get it done all at once.
You can please some of the people all of the time,
and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

Photo Credit: DarkWorkX on Pixabay

For directions on how to make a chart like the ones above please leave a comment below and Michelle will email you. Questions? Need more ideas and tips? Let me know in your comment!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Thought for Today: Note to Moms

Today, I am writing to Moms and specifically to my faithful Homeschool Mamas out there. One of my passions is encouraging moms so I want to share some thoughts I've had during this surreal time of what I am calling The Shutdown. It's the invisible snowstorm that has kept us home. In my family, we are working through a variety of emotions and challenges related to not seeing our friends and not escaping to all the fun places we love. For me personally, I am missing my own friends and my favorite coffee shops. The other day when I was thinking of how I am going to handle this strange circumstance we are in right now, a picture came to mind. I saw a lighthouse. I was praying for my Homeschool Mama friends and I was trying to picture how to actually pray for them during this time. And there it was:
A Lighthouse
She was standing,
Above the waves,
She was shining,
At the edge of a stormy bluff,
She was calling,
There above the waves at the edge of the stormy bluff.
She was bringing
Through the foaming sea
Around the rocks
Under her warm,

Moms: You are strong. You are beautiful. You are brave. You are the warmth and safety your family needs. You can do this! Keep praying. Keep standing tall. Keep shining your light to those around you to give them peace.
Photo from Unsplash by: Chris Meads

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Favorite Things: Winter 2019-2020

It's winter. Again. Still. This winter has been full of change for our family. We moved and have been falling more in love with our new house every day. Even with so much that feels new, winter itself feels very very old this time of year. Here are a few new favorite things that are helping to elevate my mood.

For Christmas, a close friend of mine gave me this hot cocoa from Carretta's Craft Foods at the Downtown Public Market. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of hot cocoa. I love coffee and cocoa always seems way too sweet. But, since it was a gift I thought I would try it. OH my goodness! This is like no other cocoa. On endless cold days this blend of cacao, cayenne, and cinnamon puts me in the mood to savor winter just a little bit more. If you are in the Rochester area, you can only find this at the market. #carretta_craft_foods.

There is always a story. From kids to shower curtains, life is full of stories everywhere you look. So, here is the story of the shower curtain that makes me happy every time I see it. The first time I saw this particular shower curtain was at my sister's apartment. She had it as a living room curtain and I just loved the sweet birds and the flowers' vibrant colors. Fast forward three years. I was garage sale shopping with my kids and at one lady's house I came upon a box of linens that spoke to me. Yes, spoke to me with all the colors I love. There to my surprise was the curtain from my sister's apartment! In our new house, the green linoleum and counters that weren't my favorite now look so much nicer, since somehow they coordinate perfectly with the shower curtain I bought three months before I ever saw our new house. I love it when God brings together even the smallest details of life!

The shower curtain wasn't the only thing in that box of linens I bought. I found a quilt that I loved as well. When I said the box of linens spoke to me, I wasn't joking. Colors do evoke emotions. I realized this when I saw the box of linens as well as certain pics on Pinterest when I was searching for the perfect paint colors for our new house. This blanket was the inspiration for our downstairs color scheme. Not bad for a $5 purchase!
Last year, one of our favorite outings was Mendon Ponds Park to feed the birds. My kids were completely amazed with the chickadees, cardinals and even a downy woodpecker that swooped down and ate from our hands. Our new bird feeder is just starting to attract birds and the sight of our new friends coming for a visit has really brightened our cold wintry days.
Did you know there is a book that is a continuation of the Anne of Green Gable series? I never knew until I received this book for Christmas. How fun to read about Anne and Gilbert during their middle aged years through the eyes of their neighbors who love and respect them just like we do as readers

These are just a few of my favorite things this winter. It's the little things that make life a little sunnier, a little warmer, a little sweeter. What are your favorite things that are helping to lift your spirits this winter? Leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Thought for Today: Taking Time for Yourself

By the end of this summer I was starting to feel a little guilty for sitting on the beach yet another time. My kids and I loved every second of relaxing by the water reading, playing in the sand, swimming, strolling along the shore looking for sea glass, snacking on Cheetos our favorite beachy snack. But we weren't really doing anything, maybe this time at the beach was just too much sitting around? Then September HIT! Our homeschooling kicked off. Soccer kicked off. Homeschool co-ops kicked off. Dance kicked off. Music lessons kicked off. My roles as teacher and leader kicked off. Swimming kicked off. Our mid-week activities at church kicked off. OK! We weren't just vegging at the beach. We were recharging. As a mother of three I was restoring and healing the frayed edges of my own inner self. God was restoring my soul through the ebb and flow of the tide. I needed to gaze at beauty, feel the sand in my toes, swim in the cold refreshing water, and see my kids unwind while I did the same. 

We all need time to become new again. You can run fast for a time, maybe even a long time, but there will come a point when exhaustion will hit. Everything we need to do will still be there. The dishes aren't going anywhere. Don't worry, the toys won't mind waiting a little longer to be picked up. The laundry will patiently sit right where you left it.
It's ok to take time to rest. We were created to work and do and care for others and celebrate life but we can't do the work well or enjoy the things we love most if we never take time to breathe. When life gets crazy and tiring for me I feel so much better if I take a couple of hours to relax. After that, I can find the energy I need to tackle the next thing on my list. Life is better with breaks!
What does taking a break look like for you? Post a few ideas to encourage others!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

On the Other Side of the Wall: Walking the Tightrope of Care-giving

 As the older generation in a family begins to show real signs of aging, there is an invisible tightrope that appears. The glorious goal is to maintain balance. How can everyone get along, get on the same page, or get prepared for the inevitable difficulties that come the older we all get? Can we keep our balance as we help the elderly cross from one side to the other?
   My girls love watching Tales of Avonlea; a spin off TV series from the Anne of Green Gables movies. Each episode is woven around family life in a rural town on Prince Edward Island at the turn of the twentieth century. One word comes up repeatedly: duty. Doing ones's duty was a top value in everyday life way back in the early 1900's. There was a common idea of a required duty to one's family. One thing is for sure: if you are noticing your parents struggling as they age and especially as one of them shows signs of dementia you will start to wrestle with this idea of duty. What is your duty? Or even more simply put: what should you do? Are there tasks you are required to perform? Since our instructions for doing our duty are not exactly coming from a central community pulpit, we are on our own to determine what we feel our required actions are. The tricky part is that your perception of duty will be different from someone else's idea. How will you get across the tightrope together if you are tip-toeing with arms outstretched and someone else is on a unicycle?
   There is a slight difference between being required to take action and being responsible for taking action. The heart of these two words is the origin of the action. If I am doing what is required of me someone else is initiating my sense of duty. They are requiring it of me. However, if I am responsible  then I am the one taking that onto myself or I am initiating my own sense of responsibility. In parenting, I feel strongly what my responsibility is to my children. I am their mother. I do whatever is necessary to care for them. Everything I do is of my own volition. Nobody is telling me what I should do. Switch that now to looking after aging parents or grandparents. What do I feel responsible for? What do other family members feel responsible for?
Different Perspectives
   The day my grandmother came to live with us there were multiple perspectives on how she should be cared for with advanced Alzheimer's Disease. Our family lived the closest to my grandparents and saw on a weekly basis the difficulties they were facing. My mother was the only family member with experience in the medical field. Since my parents, especially my mother, possessed the strongest feelings of duty and responsibility for their parents, they were the ones to take the first steps onto the care-giving tightrope. Not everyone else thought caring for Grandma in our home was the best idea. They were definitely not offering up their own homes or time to help out. The tightrope was too risky, too impossible for them.
   One aspect was missing in the whole scenario of how to help Grandma as her Alzheimer's progressed. Communication was not a part of the equation between my parents and extended family. At one point I remember a family discussion at Christmas when the subject was brought up about how my grandparents were going to manage. I voiced my concern for Grandpa and how he was handling life while managing Grandma on his own. I was a teenager and adults in the room were surprised I cared. Maybe they didn't care so much themselves. They were busy. That was one of the only conversations we had with our extended family surrounding Grandma's care.
Slow Down and Talk it Out
   If you are planning on caring for someone in your home you cannot avoid huge problems with your extended family if you do not slow down and take time to talk it out with them. You can't just move forward, bring Grandma home with you, and expect everybody else to be on board and ready to help you in any way possible. Nobody likes to be cornered or pressured into care-giving. Sit down and explain what you think would be best for your parents. Listen to what other people think. Ask up front how much help everyone is willing to pitch in. If nobody wants to help, then you know you are on your own going into your life with Alzheimer's. Don't get angry at your extended family for not helping when they thought Grandma should go into a nursing home from day one.
Your Safety Net
   Life with Alzheimer's is beyond hard. It pushes you to a cliff and pokes you in the back to see if maybe you might just fall over the edge. Care-giving is the the tightrope from the edge of  your loved one's life extending to their death. If you step onto that tightrope, get the support you need. Your sense of duty and your feelings of responsibility won't be a strong enough safety net for you as the days extend into months and very possibly years. When you feel yourself slipping you don't want to look down expecting people to catch you when they never signed up for that in the first place. Your anger and disappointment won't make anyone more dutiful or responsible. Who will be your safety net? Make up your team. You need fill-in care-givers, cheerleaders, good listeners, and more. Or, take your chances and see who will catch you when you fall.
Photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash

Friday, July 5, 2019

Favorite Things: Spring 2019

Here are a few of my favorite things from Spring and also Summer thus far!

Nike Running Jacket
In April I ran a half marathon (13.1 miles). This was a big goal for me because it meant training in the COLD of winter. On race day it was a balmy 37F with rain. What to wear? When you are running longer than 5 miles what you wear is a big deal. The Woman's Nike Sportswear Woven Jacket was perfect! Since there is a mesh panel in the middle it breathes well, keeping you dry and ventilated. Kohl's is the only place I've been able to find this particular jacket.

Running Cap
Another lifesaver for the 13.1 was my running cap. I found this at Walmart on sale for about $5! Functional gear doesn't have to be expensive.

Better Than Before 
I am on a Gretchin Rubin kick. Her books and podcast Happier are insightful yet fun. Better Than Before is all about habits; how we make and why we break them. Self analysis is at the core of this book and most of Rubin's other books as well. Want to understand yourself better and work better with your strengths and weaknesses? Read this book!

Bike Rack
One of my greatest achievements from the past 5 years is teaching each one of my kids how to ride a bike. So much sweat and many tears but we made it! Now I need to get us riding. Our Thule bike rack is making it easier for me to get the bikes ready for new adventures.

My favorite Spring flower is the peony. The peonies in my garden are transplants from my grandmother's garden and are over eighty years old. I love feeling connected to the past and my grandmother's favorite things, too. That feeling never gets old, especially in the Springtime.


The charms from Lasting Impressions are inspirational and can be customized. Finding the perfect thing to commemorate a special day can sometimes be tricky. I looked and looked on Etsy until I came across this shop and requested my own custom charms.

Watermelon Salsa
On a hot summer day my secret recipe for watermelon salsa is a favorite for family picnics. Nope, not gonna share it!

Taughannock Falls
If you live in Upstate NY or happen to be visiting from far away, Taughannock Falls is a fun and picturesque place to check out. Our family hiked 3/4 of a mile up small waterfalls to the tall cascade tucked into the gorge. The kids loved every second! After our hike we ate lunch and then took a swim in Cayuga Lake. What a perfect family day!

What are some of your favorite things this time of year? I'd love to hear from you! Post a comment!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

On the Other Side of the Wall: Daily Life with Alzheimer's

   The day Grandma came to live with us we were not prepared for what life would be like with her and Alzheimer's Disease in our house day in and day out. There was no timeline to go by. We had no idea how long she would be with us. There was just the realization that Grandpa was no longer able to care for her on his own. We had the space at home and my mom's nursing experience to lean on. My parents just sort of jumped into the care-giving pond with one thing to keep them afloat: it was the right thing to do. They had no idea how Alzheimer's would change us. They certainly had very little idea of what life would be like every day at home with Alzheimer's Disease roaming around.
   All of the daily annoyances with Grandma around make me cringe even now years later. Grandpa tolerated these frustrations on his own for years. He didn't think us kids could handle the constant irritations. He was right. It drove us crazy hearing Grandma muttering all day long her usual line of questions like "Where am I?", "Nat is that you?", "When is Nat coming?", "Where's my key?". She was essentially lost all day every day, trying to find her way home to Nat, my grandfather. After several months she became more settled at our house but those first few months the constant questions were terribly annoying.
   It was a challenge trying to communicate with Grandma. She had been hard of hearing while my Dad was growing up so her hearing was questionable now that she was in her eighties. We tried writing directions on cards. SIT DOWN. BE QUIET. She needed a break from all the pacing and questioning and so did we. We had to speak loudly and clearly to get her to understand. The understanding would last for a few minutes and then she was back to asking where she was.
Giving Directions
   Since she was essentially lost all the time we had to give her directions for everything. We thought early on that she could go to the bathroom on her own. But she needed directions on how to get there every time. When she came out of the bathroom her stockings would be down at her ankles. So one of us had to take her to the bathroom and then give her directions on how to pull her clothes back on when she was finished. Getting dressed, going to the bathroom, showering, staying in bed at night, eating, sitting down, putting on her shoes all required directions.
   Our old farmhouse dating back to the 1860's had some unusual qualities that became safety issues for Grandma. Since the house was large, it was not always obvious if a "safety rule" had been forgotten. Her bedroom suite complete with a bathroom and sitting room was on the second floor at the top of a steep staircase. There was an additional staircase in the floor of the sitting room which was very dangerous if left open. We were not perfect at keeping all of our safety measures in play but we did our best to remember to close the stairway, keep shoes put away, and doors closed. Eventually, we were forced to lock Grandma in her living space with a latch on the outside of the door. If she was upstairs she had to be locked in to keep her from wandering and falling down the stairs.
   My mom came up with a menu for Grandma that stayed consistent for nearly the whole time she lived with us. Since it was the same meal plan every day, it was easy to know what to prepare. This is super helpful if multiple family members are sharing the load of care-giving. All of her foods were soft or blended up to omit any choking hazards. Serving Grandma her meals upstairs allowed us to eat our own meals in peace and as a family.
Daily Survival
   Care-giving in your home is challenging but Alzheimer's Disease brings with it a whole truck load of daily challenges that are unique. Taking time to analyze what the every day issues are for your family will help. There is no prognosis to measure the time Alzheimer's will be in your home so how are you going to survive living daily with Alzheimer's ?