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Purposeful Parenting

Family Far Away: The Tough Stuff



Family Far Away | The Tough Stuff | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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I’ve lived far away from most of my family for a very long time. It’s never been easy, but I didn’t realize how challenging it can be to live somewhere with twins without the support of your family nearby. As my own family grows, we’ve been blessed with fantastic friends who have stepped in as our “right here family,” but I am still saddened that my kids aren’t growing up with their grandparents, aunts and uncles nearby. I grew up with all of my gigantic family close at hand, so family dinners, holidays and weekly meet ups were a constant, very happy part of my childhood. Here’s the tough stuff about having family far away:
Family Far Away: The Tough Stuff

1. Holidays: We celebrate most holidays as our tiny family unit of the husband, myself, the kiddos and our pets. And being in a blended family, sometimes we are even down one kid and our tiny family gets even tinier. The holidays are our favorite time of year, but they are also a constant reminder that our extended family is far away. I miss having huge Thanksgiving dinners at the long dining room table at my grandparents, stuffed end to end with laughter, food and memories. Opening presents at home on Christmas morning and then continuing on to celebrate with family later in the day was always a highlight. Even simple things, like Easter egg hunts, fireworks or parades are joyful memories from my childhood that I wish my children got to experience with their grandparents like I did.

2. Kids grow fast: I blinked and my niece is 5 years old. Seriously. I barely know who she is. This makes me sad. I also watch my own boys growing so rapidly, changing daily it seems and just know my parents will be shocked the next time they see them. I also know they’ll feel like they missed out. Life moves so quickly. I have great respect for our military service men and women who go on deployments. It must be excruciating to miss parts of your children’s youth and I’m so grateful they willingly sacrifice such an important part of themselves to protect our country.

Family Far Away: The Tough Stuff

3. No direct support system: Having twins…well, this blog isn’t called Chaos & Kiddos for nothing. Twins are more work, more tears, more exhaustion, more everything than I could have ever imagined. We’re surviving it, and of course, while we wouldn’t trade our lives for the world, there are moments of utter darkness and overwhelming fear. Those moments when just having family available to be there would be a relief and the energy spark to dig back in and keep on going. Sure, we pick up the phone, but it isn’t the same as the grandma who comes over every week, helps with the kids, does laundry, gives you a date night, gives you a hug and tells you that you’re a great parent. I wish we had those.

4. Child care: See #3. Over 50% of my salary goes to day care and babysitters. As a growing family of five, that money isn’t just hanging out there on trees for the plucking. We work hard to provide for our family and making ends meet is harder some months than others. Having family available to babysit on a whim, and actually asking to babysit, WOW! That would be amazing. The boys are getting older, so babysitters are easier now, but when they were little, we couldn’t just leave them with “any” babysitter. Their care was so overwhelming, we had 1 person who really could handle it solo. My mom got to do full time care for my niece when she was little and my sister was at work and I admit, I’m a bit jealous.

Family Far Away: The Tough Stuff

5. Visits are short and expensive: We’d love to have an endless supply of money and vacation time, but it just isn’t so. And with twins, flying not only gives me nightmares, but it’s also out of the budget. Likewise, a lot of our family have children and our parents are on tight budgets, so flying (and even driving) to visit us isn’t easy either. We live in a tourist area, so hotel prices can be a punch to the gut and our small home just can’t support extra people. We end up really seeing family once in a blue moon for very short lengths.

6. Emergency backup: When things go the kind of wrong that you never hope for and an emergency befalls, it can be incredibly difficult to not have family close that can come to your immediate aid. Likewise, it can be hard to hear about challenging situations back home with my family that I simply can’t help with because I’m so far away. You can feel pretty helpless in these moments when the people you really need close are just not able to be there.

If you have family far away, what has been the hardest part for you?

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Purposeful Parenting

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



How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please refer to my Legal Policies and Terms of Use. The opinions here are entirely my own. 
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



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



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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