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Family Far Away: 7 Tips to Stay in Touch

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Last week I lamented and vented with Family Far Away: The Tough Stuff. This week it’s time for the good news! All is not lost thanks to today’s technology and there are a number of great ways to stay connected with long-distance family and friends. Turn that frown upside down and heal that “miss you” heart with these seven tips to staying in touch!

Family Far Away: 7 Tips to Stay in Touch


1. Social Media – Facebook and Instagram
The 24/7 real time access to every detail of our lives through social media has its very good and very bad points, but a major win at the top of the list of good points is that family far away get to live vicariously through our images, updates and video shares. Relationships that would have otherwise been extremely difficult to keep alive get a new lease on life by following and interacting with each other on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. I’m so thankful my family can see what the kids are up to on a daily basis.

2. Video Chat – Skype and FaceTime
Voice recognition via frequent phone calls was the best way to keep in touch and develop a relationship in the past. Technology has taken that so much further with things like Skype, FaceTime (and Google Hangouts!). My kids know their grandparents voice, but even more importantly, they know their faces. They love to video chat, share silly faces, sing together and even see the family pets each week. Plus, the video feature keeps their attention better and they stay much more engaged than they would on the phone.

3. Pen Pal Care Packages
Even with all this new technology, there is still something so special and exciting about receiving “real mail.” Sending little care packages back and forth with pictures, treats and cards can be a fantastic way to keep in touch with family and friends far away. Checking the mail is the highlight of my boys’ day and if there’s something for them?! Immediate chaos ensues with how excited they are.

4. Write a Book Together
My mom actually came up with this idea forever ago. What a neat way to create together, build something truly special and share a project over time. The grandparent (or other family far away member) starts the book and sets up the beginning story line, drawing pictures, introducing characters, etc. Then you ship it to the child and they continue the story at the “left off” point! (This of course can create great hilarity for a child with an awesome imagination and sense of humor.) The child leaves off at some point and ships it back. And so on and so forth. You can even self-publish it when you’re done and have official copies!

5. Recordable Books – Hallmark
Here is another great voice recognition and fun learning opportunity when keeping in touch with family members far away. It can also serve as a wonderful source of comfort on a bad day. Both sides of the family send our boys recordable books. They record them reading the story and then the boys get to listen to it. They love hearing familiar voices and of course love reading a new book! There’s nothing better than starting the story and hearing “Hey! That’s Gramma!”

Family Far Away: 7 Tips to Stay in Touch

6. Picture Magnets – Sticky9
I adore Instagram. But one step better? Sticky9 (formerly Stickygram). They do the awesome. You can take your Instagram photos and turn them into magnets. WIN!!! This has been such a big hit in our home. The boys get such a kick out of seeing themselves stuck to the fridge. It’s also great for family far away. Having pictures up as reference to ask “Who is that? You’re right! That’s Gramma! We love our Gramma!” is another great face recognition game that will make in-person visits that much better.

7. Shared Online Picture Gallery – PASS
All of the photographs I take of the boys get uploaded to an online gallery. All family and friends have the link, and anytime they want to see the latest and greatest, they can go straight to the gallery and see what’s new. They can download high resolution files, share to social media and even order prints to ship to their homes. Plus, I know my images are safe in the cloud, so I get the peace of mind that my memories are backed up. I upload the digital files of their school pictures, any fun pictures I take for blog posts, and normal day-to-day stuff. They can follow our lives visually and wallpaper their homes with pictures of the boys if they so choose.

Family Far Away: 7 Tips to Stay in Touch
How do you stay in touch with far away family?

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52 Comments

52 Comments

  1. Mrs. AOK

    July 19, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    First off, kudos on the new digs 😉
    My family and I live faraway from our extended family, we have for years. It is hard for us at times. What is even more tough is at times it feels as though… out of sight, out of mind takes place.
    I really enjoy when we get together for a Skype.
    I totally prefer Skype over SM. I don’t do FB and my IG is more geared towards blogging.
    We’ve done the recorded books and my kids LOVED them.
    Writing a book together, now, that, is AWESOME!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂
    XOXO

    • Katy Blevins

      July 19, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      I totally get the “out of sight, out of mind” thing. We are challenged with that too, especially when life gets super hectic. I love how excited the boys get when they FaceTime or Skype with anyone. It’s always hilarious and makes that relationship “real.” Ya know? XOXO

  2. Sadia

    July 21, 2014 at 12:03 am

    It’s so important to stay connected with family (at least positive, supportive family!). I’m in the odd position of being the distant parent, since my girls are visiting my ex-husband and his girlfriend. We speak on the phone every day, occasionally videochat, and they receive care packages from me at least once a week.

    When my then-husband was deployed, I came to realize that communication requires two… if he wasn’t willing to look at the photos I sent, there wasn’t much I could do about it!!

    • Katy Blevins

      July 21, 2014 at 9:53 am

      You are absolutely right. It is a two way street for sure. I’m sure having the girls far away right now is not easy for you. So glad you get to use technology to stay in touch!

  3. Lauren Tamm

    August 26, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Great ideas, especially for military families who are almost always away from family! We use both Google hangouts and Skype. We’ve actually done several virtual baby showers, birthdays and holidays over the internet. Google hangouts offers multiple people to participate for FREE!!

    • Katy Blevins

      September 1, 2014 at 8:01 am

      Lauren! That is an absolutely fabulous idea! I never even thought of hosting holidays, baby showers and birthdays online. I am so going to do that with my family!!!

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Purposeful Parenting

How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child’s Cues

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How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child's Cues - Infographic

Duh, duh, duh….the dreaded meltdown. With one kid, this can bring the strongest mommy to her knees. With multiples, well…the word “epic” takes on a completely new meaning. In the worst possible way.

My system certainly isn’t perfect, and my kids give new meaning to the word tantrum (I have one that goes “no bones, limp baby, immovable and impossible to catch” and one that goes “cement block that weighs a bazillion pounds and can’t be bended, lifted and/or manipulated in any fashion,” with both adding crazy decibel, ear-splitting screams to boot). At some point in the insanity, I learned to anticipate the meltdown.
My husband and I can spot a meltdown coming from a mile away. We’ll give the other that “It’s time to go. Stat. Grab the kids and sprint. NOW. Forget your shoes! Leave them! Run!” look and as the rest of the human race looks on in bewildered dismay, we quickly head for the hills before things get ugly. I think we have our exit down to about 46 seconds these days (58 if I get to grab my shoes).
On a day-to-day basis, I’ve developed a couple of tricks that stave off most meltdowns. IF I’m paying attention. This is where the understanding your child’s cues part comes in to play. You have to catch the cue before it’s too late. “Practice makes perfect” is the phrase of the day here. Or is “trial through fire” more resonant? In any event, here are my go to lifesavers:

1. Mini Baby Blanket with Attachment Loop – Cold is the enemy. Nothing brings on the whine, which brings on the frustration, which brings on the ultimate refusal to act like a normal human being like frigid weather. I was lugging around blankets to tuck the kids in to their car seats (Remember to avoid bulky coats when strapping kiddos in!) and they were getting tossed, dropped, forgotten, you name it. Then I realized my mother-in-law had given us these super cute sensory blankets with a loop that could attach to a stroller and the light bulb went off. I strapped both blankets to the side of each car seat (they are small and hang to the side if unused, so unobtrusive and the loop is short and sweet, so no wrapping around anything else) and they’re always there when I need them. The link above is one of many Etsy shops that make these small wonders, and ours are even sports themed, so the husband is happy.
2. Baby Sign Language – I admit to being one of those people that eye-rolled the idea of baby sign language when I was pregnant. Never gave it a second thought until my kids starting screaming for reasons that I couldn’t seem to identify. A friend suggested I take a jab at it, and purely out of desperation, I did, still with a bit of attitude and skepticism. And then the boys started signing back. HALLELUJAH! We did only the basics – “More, All Done, Hungry, Please, Thank You” – and that opened up whole new worlds for us in communication. Not only were they excited to sign and overjoyed that I knew what the heck was going on, but I was immensely relieved and didn’t feel like Failure Parent of the Century. Big win. I eat my humble pie proudly. I was an idiot to think this was lame.
3. Snacks at the Ready – Baby Cooler – If cold is the enemy, hunger is the Antichrist. I’d say a good 50% of the time, the boys’ tantrums stem from being hungry. We’re usually in transition to our next meal when the tank slips below E. Low fuel = channeling Satan. And the perfect timing for this special little stream of insanity was pick up from day care. The kids were tired and spent and ready for dinner. Like, 5 minutes before I got there. The first words I heard daily were “Mommy! I need my milk! Hungry!” They were whining, crying, going all sorts of Apocalyptic on me because the last thing they wanted was to be strapped into their car seats for the ride home. They wanted to be teleported straight to the dinner table. I got tired of this daily warfare, especially at the end of my own long day at work, so I started packing snacks and milk in this convenient little cooler (which as an aside, a friend gave me with the promise that it would be one of the most handy baby items I received – she was right). It gets stashed in the community kitchen at work and I grab it on my way out the door each evening. Every morning, I repack and head off knowing that I’ve crossed one tantrum off the list for that day. Yay me.Insert random cuteness here…I mean seriously, people, how can these children have meltdowns that rival the End of Days?

Photos Courtesy of Somer Anne Photography

Moral of the story? A little organization and forethought can go a long way. Considering WHY my kids were throwing tantrums and then exploring what I could do to prevent them before they started has saved me a million tears. Like I said, it’s not a perfect system. But every little bit helps.

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Purposeful Parenting

How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child’s Cues

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How to Speak the Right Language | Understanding Your Children's Cues
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Every day I pick up my children from day care to hear “They are such great kids! They had a blast today and are some of the best listeners we’ve ever had. They’re so well-behaved!” Yay, Mama win! And then we go home and they act like total demon-infested, hell-raising psychos and won’t listen to a word I say. Weekends can be brutal and I sometimes find myself praising Jesus that I decided to keep working and not stay-at-home.

What was I doing wrong? Who were these little hellions and where were those
sweet kids from day care?
Purposeful Parenting - How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child's Cues Purposeful Parenting - How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child's Cues

Best Thing I Ever Did: I went to pick the kids up one day and they were enjoying themselves, so I decided to just sit and watch for a bit and let them play. Funny thing happened. I started listening to how the day care teachers communicated with my children and how they responded. And the light bulb went off. I don’t know how to speak the language my kids understand.

I started listening harder. And then I came back the next day and did it again. Now, every time I drop off or pick up, I listen. How are they talking to my kids? What are they saying? How are the kids responding? And then I mimick it at home.

Major win!!! My kids are starting to see an extension of their daily routine back into the home and it’s making sense. I say certain words they’re used to hearing and like magic, they listen. Not every time (which I suspect also happens at day care), but the majority of time. Major improvement. We are starting to speak the same language.

Sometimes I forget (or refuse to admit) that I am not my children’s primary care provider. For those of us that work outside the home, most often our kids spend the majority of their time somewhere other than with us. Sometimes, being reminded of that hurts. A lot. But truth is, they develop routines, cues and references that we’re not familiar with. We need to learn the language they are used to hearing every day so that we can communicate our needs in a way they understand. I need to speak my children’s language.

Phrase Adjustments that Worked for Me: 

  • “Walk away please” instead of “No!” or “Don’t Touch!” 
  • “Are you using your listening ears?” instead of “Listen to me!”
  • “I’m going to go to work for awhile, but Mommies always come back!” instead of “Say bye to Mommy. I have to go to work.” 

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Emily Speaks

11 Alternatives to Self Harm: Emily Speaks

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Alternatives to Self Harm | Emily Speaks | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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If you’re just connecting with the Emily Speaks series, be sure to check out her first post, Cyber Bullying and Self-Harm, to catch up. Today, Emily will be sharing 11 alternatives to self harm to help those hurting to make healthier choices to cope with emotional struggles. 

11 Alternatives to Self-Harm: Emily Speaks


I know it can be hard not to self-harm if you’re being bullied, but you need to try to think of other ways to deal with the pain. Cutting leaves angry scars on your body. You should try to deal with your hurt in other ways. Here are 11 good examples that will hopefully help you out a little bit.

1. Try talking to somebody about what’s going on so that you can get it out of your system.

2. Go outside where nobody is around and just scream as loud as you can for as long as you want.


3. Take a rubber band and keep it on your wrist so whenever you feel like cutting you can just take that rubber band and snap it on your wrist (softly – not to where it harms you).


4. Get an old teddy bear or stuffed animal that you don’t want and take your anger out on that.


5. Go on a jog or go out and ride your bike or long board or whatever you have and just ride around to calm yourself down.


6. Go hang out with your friend(s) and get your mind off things that would make you want to cut or do anything else to harm yourself.

7. Sleep it out and take a long nap and see how you’re feeling when you wake up.


8. Go hang out with your family and just relax.


9. Listen to some music.


10. Read a book.


11. Get an art journal and draw out your feelings. You can paint, draw pictures, even just scribble hard.

These are some of the ways that I stop myself from cutting, because I do still think about it when things get rough. When that happens, I try to do these instead and it helps. It does! You need to do anything that would take your mind off of any bad thoughts you are having and make you want to hurt yourself. This might not be the best list of ideas, but if you take a chance and try them out, they might end up working for you. You’re not only helping yourself, but you’re helping everyone else around you by making a better choice to not self-harm. 

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