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Teachable Moments: First Pets

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Teachable Moments | First Pets | Chaos & Kiddos

I grew up in a household full of animals. At any given time, we had rabbits (Funny story: we thought we had two sisters…we did not. We went from 2 rabbits to 26 in a month!), guinea pigs, fish, dogs, cats, hamsters. Even a frog! I even “rescued” a butterfly, who stayed my constant companion for its short life and refused to fly away. Caring for and enjoying animals was a natural part of my childhood and I couldn’t wait to share that with my own children.

Teachable Moments: First Pets - A Boy and His Beloved Dog

Right now, we have a bull dog, Ivy, and a whole slew of fish in a giant tank in the boys’ room (I believe their names range from Blackie, Big Fish, Baby Fish, to the Brothers). The host of lessons and teachable moments with these animals as part of our family are endless. With any animal, the opportunity is there to teach:

1. Responsibility: Teaching your children to be responsible for another life in all its many facets has countless rewards. Not only do they learn to contribute to the care and wellbeing of others, but they also learn to respect what you do as their parent. As they play “mommy” to their pets, they put someone before themselves, they clean, they work hard. It can be a lightbulb moment in communicating family roles and the necessity of everyone’s contribution to the greater good.

2. Care/Empathy: Teaching your children to recognize the needs of another being and to empathize in a way that prompts action and care is an invaluable life lesson. I truly believe that having a heart for others is a learned skill that comes from seeing that same love and devotion in action in the people surrounding you and from being in an environment that demands and challenges you to consider others before yourself. I want my children to have servant hearts. Caring for their pets is a helpful first step in molding that character trait.

With our specific family pets, we can highlight some specific teachable moments.

Teachable Moments: First Pets - A Boy Hugs His Dog

With our dog, Ivy (p.s. That is NOT Ivy…I admit to having only really lame images of her! I will work on that.)
1. Respect for Animals/Awareness for their Natural Cues: We spend a lot of time talking about what Ivy is doing and why, and most importantly, what that means for us. Is she resting and should we leave her be? Is she jumping and wants to play? Did she growl and what does that mean? Teaching children that pets are animals and not toys, and to have a healthy respect and awareness for the natural cues they give us as to whether or not they should be approached gives them the tools to make the best decisions for their safety.
2. Loyalty: Take this one with a grain of salt, since Ivy isn’t loyal to anyone except my husband (see above reference to lame pictures), but that relationship is truly something to behold. Those two are so stinkin’ in love with each other. The sun rises and sets on my husband and that example of true friendship and loyalty is especially important to little boys in my humble opinion. A boy and his dog. Is there anything sweeter?
3. Routine: Need I say more? We are all hoping to maximize every opportunity to teach our children how to follow and appreciate a good routine.
4. Obedience: Yeah, this one pretty much speaks for itself too. Watching the relationship develop between hearing a “command,” acting on it and the resulting positive reinforcement is a great example for any child.
5. Ask Permission: Here’s another safety one. The boys have been taught that because of #1, we must never approach any animal, especially a dog, from behind or without asking the owner first if it is ok if they pet it. Upon receiving permission, they have been taught to put out their hand and let a dog sniff first, and pet second. Respect.

Teachable Moments: First Pets - Family Looking at a Fish Tank

With our fish, of countless aforementioned names (p.s. That is also not me or our fish tank – seriously, who takes a picture of their own fish tank? Not this photog.)
1. Counting: We count our fish in every way possible. By color, by size, by family. Count, count, count. How many fish are eating? How many fish are hiding in the cave? I use every opportunity in that fish tank to get them thinking.
2. Security: They go to sleep at naps and night time with the tank light on. They find an incredible restfulness and sense of security by watching the peaceful underwater environment ebb and flow. It quiets their spirits and develops their imaginations. They feel content and safe knowing their fishies are “watching over them.”
3. Socialization: We talk at length about the personalities of our different fish. We have fish that are friends with each other and are inseparable. We have super shy fish that hide and we speak encouragements to them to help them feel more a part of the group. We have the food stealers and the bottom feeders. The schools and the loners. We are learning, albeit on a much smaller scale, to identify emotions and personality through action.
4. Life and Death: Fish come and go pretty frequently. The boys are still a bit young to understand what’s happening when we flush a fishy, but I’ll continue to talk them through what happened and why, and I’m sure at some point, when they have a better understanding, it will be a teachable moment that it is ok to feel sad and miss someone who leaves, but that we keep on keepin’ on.

Pets aren’t for everyone. And as a mother of multiples, I’ll be the first to say that sometimes you just don’t have the resources to properly care for an animal while you can barely survive the day to day chaos of the kids. That’s perfectly ok. There are a million other just as effective ways to instill these different values and similar activities. If you are a pet owner, or foresee yourself becoming one in the future, keep these helpful tips in mind and use your pet not only as a new family member to love on, but also as a teachable moment for your children as they develop into sturdy, responsible contributing members of society.

Ah!! Look what I found! Ivy, in her cute stage, pre-husband obsession.

Here’s a recent one Somer Anne captured (note the “what the heck do you want?” face and eternal closeness to my husband):
PPS. More Ivy cute with kiddo found! WIN! Although, please take note of amazing kid happy coupled with total bull dog indifference.

 

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Purposeful Parenting

How to Schedule One-On-One Time With Your Child

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Now that I am almost 2 years into living on my own (holy cow?! for real?!), it occurred to me that my twins were never, ever, getting any one-on-one time with me. When I was married, solo time wasn’t especially frequent, but I did make an effort to split them up to make sure they got to go on an errand with Mom or run to the hardware store with Dad every now and again. Now that it’s just me, it’s always the three of us, together wherever we go, all day, every day.

As a mother of multiples, I know full well that individual time with a parent is hugely important to their emotional wellness. They are intrinsically born into a life of sharing and existing in the presence of their siblings. From the moment of conception, they are two.

They are taught early on to be patient and wait their turn purely out of necessity and routine. Decision-making is always a team effort and line leader/who goes first almost always sparks opportunities for frustration. One-on-one time allows them much needed independence, a chance to share and enjoy their individual interests, and develop their own voice.

So I instated Mommy Date Night. Here’s how I did (do) it.

  • Connected with their favorite babysitter. I knew I had to bring in the “big dogs” if I was going to convince one of them to stay behind without a massive meltdown, so I reached out to their very favorite babysitter. I knew she would understand the challenge and would go above and beyond to make sure the one left behind was just as excited to have one-on-one time with her. We set a recurring night and a set price to help my budget. She started to gather ideas for fun projects that would captivate them quickly.
  • Researched local free and/or family-friendly low cost options. We all know life as a single mom does not come with an endless supply of moolah, so I wanted to keep our evenings out as low cost as possible, especially since child care was already involved. I checked with friends and hopped onto city websites to see what was out there. Here are a few ideas I stumbled upon:
    • (The Obvious) Playgrounds
    • Beach/Nature Walks
    • Library
    • Pet Store
    • Pottery Painting (with free studio fee coupons)
    • Milkshakes or Ice Cream
    • Picnics
    • Museums
  • Let them take the lead and make the decisions. This is by far their favorite part. I usually have three available options in hand. I let them select our final destination. They also get to choose every song we listen to in the car. When we take a walk, they pick the direction. When we go to the library, they pick the books. It’s their time, their way. They feel like little princes.
  • Ask lots of questions. I have learned more about my sons in the past 4 weeks of doing our Mommy Dates than I have in the past year. When we’re out and about, we talk. A lot. I’ve actually noticed they chitter chatter much more when it’s just the two of us. They have stuff to say! I ask about their favorite colors, favorite animals, what they want to be when they grow up, what they love most about their family…anything to spark a conversation. We’ve talked about fears, dreams and monsters. They are more grateful and hold my hand tighter and cuddle closer.

I know I originally began these Mommy Dates for them. They needed that one-on-one time desperately. I’m realizing now that I needed it too. Monday nights have become the highlight of my week. Stress immediately dissipates and I bask in the amazingness of my kids. I am being reminded of those unbelievable, most tender moments of being a parent, watching your children explore the world. It is the perfect therapy for the busy working mom.

There is nothing better than hearing your child say “Mommy, you know what? It’s Monday! That means it’s Mommy Date Day. And it’s my turn!” or “Mommy, I love this day. I love my time with you. Thank you, Mommy.”

 

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Purposeful Parenting

The Corporate Captive: An Update on My Transition to Work At Home Life

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I’m about six months into my transition from full time corporate work to a new, full time work at home routine. I’ve been busily focusing my energies on Modern Femme™ Movement and our upcoming May convention (join us!), also expanding my services with The Hampton Roads Creative, which will soon transition to a special new project that I’ll share with you very soon!

I’d love to tell you that this transition has been an easy one and that I’ve got a perfect routine now, am the epitome of self-care and wellness, but…well, that would be a lie. Truth be told, I’ve been facing some pretty big demons during this season of my life. I didn’t even recognize them at first, until the tell tale signs of stress and anxiety reared their ugly heads.

I never realized how much ten years of corporate work impacted how my brain approaches the work day. I never realized how much I intrinsically measured my worth by how many hours I was working each day. Suddenly, with this new found freedom to set my own schedule, I encountered guilt and an unfair expectation that I still needed to fill the hours of 8AM – 5PM with full time work.

Why did I feel guilty? I think there was (is) a part of me that feels like I need to prove or legitimize my decision to leave the steady paycheck of the corporate world. As a single mom, that leap of faith put not just my finances at risk, but the lives of my children. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, and I see now that I’m wearing the guilt of that decision unjustly. I rationalized my transition to full time entrepreneurship by acknowledging that I had way too much work to do and needed those hours to focus my energies on my business. That part was true…but not quite as literally as I began to take it. Suddenly, if I did not work every second of 8AM – 5PM, I felt like I was slacking off, not working hard enough, and that my departure from my corporate job was no longer justified because I now had “free time.” Free time to do laundry, go grocery shopping, clean the house, go to the gym, run errands. Somehow those didn’t qualify as worthy work-related tasks.

I found myself in the same cycle I was in as a corporate captive. The alarm would go off extra early, I’d rush the kids to daycare, work like crazy until 5:15PM, race to get them from daycare and then come home with grumpy kids to plan a later dinner and a soon-to-follow bedtime. Then back to the grind, just for extra measure, to prove I was busy. Prove to whom? Myself?

It wasn’t until Somer (and a few other trusted members of my Modern Femme™ tribe) called me out on my captivity that I realized I wasn’t being fair to myself (or to my kids or boyfriend). I needed to hear that self-care is part of my job as a mom and that grocery shopping, resting, going to the gym, running errands, cleaning, prepping for dinner, laundry…those were all worthy tasks I was completing during the day so that I had more time with my kids at night and on the weekends. Wasn’t that why I made the leap to work from home full time? To remove the burden of the corporate schedule, pressure to perform and anxious accessibility that never let me “turn off” and focus on my family? Wasn’t that decision a life-changing move? And yet, here I was…in the same cycle as I was before. Just sitting in my home office instead of a business one.

That realization prompted me to make some pretty hefty changes. I’d be lying if I said I have this all figured out now and life’s a breeze. Nope. I’m still struggling to wrap my head around this and shed the guilty conscious. But I’m getting better.

I now have a no phone, computer, social media rule after 5PM and on weekends. NONE. Nada. Off. Cold turkey. Let me tell you – that’s not easy. But once you do it, it’s incredibly liberating. You know when I felt true (deserved!) guilt? When I told my kids I was shutting off my phones and they looked at me with shock and excitement that they had me all to themselves. Oh what love and special moments I had been missing out on! They were missing me still! I did not make the decision to dive into my business full time so that my family could continue to struggle for quality time. No. I made that decision so that I could take my life back and freely pour myself into my kids and my passions.

If I’ve learned anything from this transition, it’s to be grateful for the community of women I have had the opportunity to build as my support system in all of these big life changes. Placing those women in a trusted position of accountability has enabled me to recognize errors in judgement and when I’m veering off course. Their gentle nudges back towards that which is most important to me, my family, have been truly invaluable. I’m still a work in progress. But I’m free. And I’m surrounded by people that love me, celebrate my decision to follow my heart and my dreams, and continue to challenge me to hold true to why I made that first leap of faith.

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Purposeful Parenting

Year-End Money Tips for Working Moms and Female Entrepreneurs

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Money Tips for Working Moms

I don’t know about you but the end of the year brings two thoughts…well, three thoughts for me. One, CHRISTMAS!!!!! Two, fresh start on January 1st! And three, holy cow, what’s my money situation? Taxes are coming.

A big, big thank you to Kristen Robinson, SVP of Women and Young Investors at Fidelity Investments for taking the time to develop these year-end money tips for working moms and female entrepreneurs!

Money Tips for Working Moms

2 Tips for Female Business Owners / Entrepreneurs:

Keep Your Future in Mind with the Right Retirement Account for Your Needs

  • Look into the different plans available to business owners, such as a 401(k) for Small Business, a self-employed 401(k), SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA.  You may need to appoint a plan administrator- someone who takes care of administrative responsibilities and ensures the plan is operating according to the Plan Document.  Learn more about these different types of accounts here.  
  • Contribute to your account. The deadline for depositing employer profit-sharing contributions for the current calendar year is generally the business’ tax-filing deadline, plus extensions (for unincorporated businesses, this date is usually April 15 of the following year, plus any extensions).

Business Succession

  • If you own a business, have you considered how best to plan for the future?  If you plan to keep it in the family, consider creating a structure that makes it easier to transfer the business’s assets to other family members, such as a family limited partnership or a family limited liability company.
  • There are many options; your attorney or tax adviser can help you select one that is appropriate for you in light of your specific situation.

4 Tips for Single Moms:

Get Involved in Your Family’s Finances

  • It’s important to have a full picture of the family financial situation. At minimum, know what accounts you have and with whom. That includes banks and investing accounts, life insurance, mortgages, and loans. Having a handle on this information is an important foundation as you plan for the future, and can bring greater peace of mind.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes! Yes! Yes! I am still getting a grip on my finances after the divorce. I realize now how little I knew before and how problematic that can be.)

Money Tips for Working Moms

Save for Retirement

    • Retirement is not a destination but a journey, and it’s never too early – or too late – to start putting away savings for the future.  Along the way, there are myriad opportunities to get off the path—and back on it.  And at virtually any turn in the road, there are possibilities to speed up your progress.
      • Make it a goal to save 15% or more of your income each year. If that’s not reachable today, make sure to make it a priority to carve out what you can. Even smaller amounts will add up over time.
      • Aim to have no more than 50% of your take-home pay go toward your “must-have” expenses.

Try to Save Three to Six Months of Essential Expenses in an Emergency Fund.

Look for Growth Potential from your Investments

  • Knowing your financial personality can help you determine the right mix of stocks, bonds and short-term investments that match how comfortable you are with risk, and have the growth potential to meet your life’s needs, be that when you want to retire or when you want to send kids to college.
  • If you’re not sure where to start, read up online, or reach out to a professional.  There’s never a fee to come into Fidelity to talk to a financial planner, but we do recommend you reevaluate twice a year. Just like you take care of your physical health by visiting the doctor and dentist, think of this as taking care of your financial health, which is vitally important as well.

Protect your Legacy

  • In order to ensure that what you’ve accumulated is distributed to your children, family and causes you care about most, it is important to name beneficiaries and create a will and health care proxy. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to think about the ‘what it’s,’ but it’s important to be prepared for the unknown. Do you really want someone else making these decisions for you?

 

 

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