Taking Family Vacations

Taking Family Vacations

The kids are out of school, and we’ve banked up just enough vacation time for this exact moment. After a few years of travel being limited, it’s time for a summer trip!

Do you recall that one summer vacation or that one family trip as a child that was etched into your mind as one of your best memories ever? Every year as a kid my family would always go on a family vacation. It usually centered around Nebraska Football but nonetheless, it was a family vacation. I knew I wanted my children to make the same kind of memories. So, when my husband and I started a family, I knew family vacations were a must.

In the early years, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together so our vacations were shoestring budget worthy – but we made memories. We began small with a weekend getaway over spring break to Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. It was perfect for a young family and consisted of a free visit to Cabela’s, which was kind of like a zoo.

As the kids got older, the vacations changed. We saved enough money…well that is with the help of the grandparents, to make a trip to Disney World. Like they say, “It’s the most magical place on earth,” and it truly was special.

Then COVID-19 grounded us for a while but last fall we finally brought back family vacations. We made it to Estes Park, Colorado for a week which included hiking, shopping, horseback riding and a quick trip to the Denver Broncos Stadium.

This last month we went to Branson, Missouri. And when I say we, there were eight of us. This vacation was extra special, not only did my parents come but my brother and niece joined us. This trip was filled with mini golf, a ropes course, roller coasters, the Titanic Museum and our all-time favorite Wonder Works.

Now here’s the thing. Our vacations aren’t perfect. There is always chaos. At any given moment, someone needed an attitude adjustment. We spilled stuff. The photos didn’t turn out great. We forgot to pack important things. We were crammed into one car for what seemed like forever. We got lost. We were hot and sweaty – or freezing. But all those things made the memories!

Between the numerous amounts of putt-putting, sitting around the pool, horseback riding, trying to spot a bear or a moose around the edge of the mountains, and talking about life – those are the little things and the big things everyone will remember.

On top of the memories and bonds that are built, it’s healthy to get out of the normal routine of life. Life at home is filled with responsibilities. Between our jobs, errands to run and responsibilities to be kept, vacations are filled with joy and are usually worry-free. They allow us time to breathe fresher air, see bigger cities, ride down a river and learn a little history. They also give us the opportunity to explore together. They provide the backdrop for shared memories between grandparents, parents and kids, which cultivates a closer family bond. Vacations provide opportunities to learn about the world we live in, cultures different from our own, and the benefits of being open-minded.

If you have been putting your vacation off, take a moment to think of the importance of family vacations so you can regenerate and reconnect with your loved ones.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Mothering in Tough Economic Times

Mothering in Tough Economic Times

With gas prices, grocery prices, rent/property taxes skyrocketing, how are you managing? I sit here thinking about how things will be six months from now and it scares me to no end. Everything is so expensive, and it just keeps going up!

Motherhood is tough. It’s tough even in the best of times but throw in this current economic climate and moms need ways to cope.

Despite the uncertainty and turbulence of life as we’ve known it right now, I hope you are enjoying the longer stretches of daylight and warmer weather as I am. Taking time to notice things with our five senses is a great way to slow down and come back to ourselves when we are caught up in emotions and anxiety.

Yes, our tanking economy yields plenty of opportunities for mothers to break down, not a lot can be done about that. But what is important is that we have the resilience to snap back.

How I’m Saving Money

Some things I am currently doing to help are the little things that save us money.

With gas prices skyrocketing, I honestly have been getting gas when it’s half or fuller. I do it at 6 a.m. at Sam’s Club before work and I pump it super slow. I track my mileage and check my tire pressure often. I use an app for money back at the pump and I continue to get the oil changed on time.

When it comes to food, a big thing I’ve been doing is buying meats in bulk and snack items when on sale. I meal plan before shopping then buy only what we need or what we will use if it’s cheaper. However, since it is summer, I have become the pantry police and must cut my kid’s snacking habits. Also, I just planted our garden and plan to can some goods in the fall. I will be ready for an apocalypse if need be. When it comes to fruits, I freeze what I can to keep my kids from eating them all in one sitting. Lastly, I highly recommend investing in a deep freeze if you don’t already have one. When we do buy in bulk everything fits in there.

When it comes to other bills, I do the laundry and run the dishwasher at night, we close vents off in rooms we don’t use especially during the day. Also, I check the exhaust vents and ducts inside and outside. This saves on time, and electricity and the appliances last longer. We invested in blackout thermal curtains. The difference has been huge for us in the summer and winter months on heating and air.

Staying Resilient During Tough Times

Mothers rarely get a break, and we’re hard on ourselves. Add economic hardship to the mix, and it can be easy to spiral downward to a very dark place. When you have resilience, you can stop that spiral and even reverse it.

Our children count on us to teach them the life skills they’re going to need and resilience in uncertain times is one of the most important.

My goal is to provide a happy, healthy home for them. I shouldn’t feel bad that I can’t buy them the newest iPhone. The importance of the basics has never been clearer.

The most important lesson to keep firmly in mind – and that I share with my kids and repeat to myself – is the hard times won’t last forever. They never do because change is life’s only constant. It’s that knowledge that lies at the heart of resilience itself.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Getting Ready for Middle School

Getting Ready for Middle School

Middle school. Just saying the words brings me thoughts of puberty and pimples. Of insecurity and awkwardness, including bad hair and braces. Really, middle school years, I believe may be the most challenging and confusing time in one’s life.

However, the idea of changing schools for middle school is new to me. I went to a private school that was Kindergarten through 8th grade, so I never had to transition to middle school. Recently, Cohen and I had information night at his new middle school. We took a tour, met some of the staff, asked questions, and learned about expectations and procedures. He had so many questions that I tried to answer but again I didn’t go to middle school, so this is new to the both of us. Cohen says he is ready, but I am not.

Since he is my oldest, this is uncharted territory for all of us. Right now, he’s excited about meeting new people, having new experiences and gaining more independence. It will be a new adventure and I am looking forward to watching him grow. I will admit, though, that I am also more than a little scared. I’ve heard lots of stories about kids making bad choices, giving in to peer pressure, using social media for inappropriateness and trying to do grown-up things far too soon. I’m sure he’s aware of these things as well.

Part of me wants to think he is too smart and too good to fall into those traps. But then there is the real me, that refuses to be a naive parent who is blind to the truth.

Yes, I have taught him basic values and morals, but now, more than ever is the time to help him apply it all. I believe middle school is the ideal time to mentor him in how to practically work out the character qualities that he learned as a boy. He is so sweet, loving, kind and innocent – and I don’t want that to change.

Because he is our first child, it may seem like the other parents are giving freedoms and privileges that I will not; I may be stricter, but I hope to stand my ground and not feel pressured to do the same. I know my son better than anyone, and I can make the call when the time is right to do these so-called more grown-up things.

And perhaps my greatest job during these years is to study my son and determine just where he is on that spectrum of growth and development, mentally and physically, and parent him accordingly. Not according to a number (grade or age). I do not want to parent him according to what his friends are doing. I want to do the very best thing for him, in the stage he is currently in.

For me, hitting the middle school years is like getting to half-time of an important game: I may be ahead now, but the game’s not over. I need to towel-off, get a big drink of water and then gear up for the second half. This is something that I want to finish strong.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Is it a Tantrum or a Meltdown, and How can I Best Respond?

Is it a Tantrum or a Meltdown, and How can I Best Respond?

My daughter turned eight over the weekend. We had a small slumber party with her closest friends. But the day before the party, I threatened to cancel it altogether.

It’s not just toddlers that have tantrums, even older kids can lose their cool. This happens to Collyns at least once or twice a week.

She has strong feelings that take over her entire body. This happens when she is angry, hurt or frustrated. Sometimes for no reason, sometimes over homework, most of the time when it comes to cleaning up her messes. Usually, I try to ignore the tantrum but that rarely works. Then it’s timeout in her room which makes the tantrum louder and more destructive. So now we are trying something different.

Tantrums Vs. Meltdowns

After doing a little research, I found out that tantrums and meltdowns are different and handling them requires different approaches. They are both overwhelming for her and us as parents. I then reached out to her pediatrician, and she made me realize that learning how to deal with her anger without choosing destructive responses is critical. And understanding the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown helps us properly guide her through these intense times. As parents, our support and guidance matter greatly.

The doctor said that Collyns is most likely having a tantrum. She explained that “tantrums are a normal reaction or outburst to feeling anger or frustration, a cry for attention or an inability to communicate, within a child’s scope of awareness and control, and goal-oriented.”

The reason she said Collyns was having a tantrum and not a meltdown is because meltdowns are most common among children with sensory processing disorders, autism or other medical issues who are easily overstimulated or lack the ability to cope with emotional triggers such as fear or anxiety. Meltdowns are an instinctive survival reaction to being overstimulated or feeling distressed, and are not goal-oriented, meaning they are not affected by a reward system. Meltdowns are long-lasting; and children may never grow out of them like they do tantrums.

The doctor then continued to explain that once the reactive part of her brain has been triggered, the reasoning part of the brain is temporarily ‘offline’. So, explaining or rationalizing with her doesn’t work – the conflict is just likely to escalate. Which it does 99% of the time! So, in short, we have been dealing with her tantrums all wrong.

Learning to Deal With Tantrums

Being alone when she’s very upset doesn’t teach her what she needs to learn either. So, instead of sending her off into her room to calm down when she starts to lose it, we now stay with her and try to just restore a sense of safety. We found that if she feels safe, she can have a big cry, show you all those tears and fears she’s been stuffing down, and let them go. That helps her be more emotionally regulated in general. When having a tantrum, she needs to borrow my strength and calm. I remind myself to keep breathing, not to take anything she says or does personally, and of how much I love her.

Collyns is most certainly over-reacting. She stores up her feelings and waits for a safe place to discharge them and releases. She has a big “backpack” of pent-up emotion that needs to be released; she reacts to provocations that seem slight to me by having big meltdowns. So, while I may not see the reason for such a big reaction, I now see it as a chance to help her work through some feelings that she hasn’t been able to manage.

So now when she loses it, I try to stay calm, comfort her, and realize it’s the perfect time to turn a tantrum into a learning experience.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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The Birds and the Bees

The Birds and the Bees

The dreaded question, “where do babies come from?” Cohen starts middle school next year and I think it’s time to have the talk.

Yes, the “TALK” talk.

The talk that no parent looks forward to, but all parents know it’s critical.

Having “The Talk”

There is no perfect or single best time for “the talk.” In fact, I think it should be a series of conversations you have with your child.

Too many parents wait for the “right” time to come along for the talk, only to find that it never does—and then they don’t have the talk at all.

My parents never sat me down and talked about sex. And I realized that if parents don’t teach their kids about personal health and sex, someone else will.

So, take a deep breath and don’t let that uncertainty hold you back. The truth is that there isn’t one “correct” way to teach your kids about sex and you can chart your own course.

I wanted my kids to learn about their wonderful, incredible, perfectly-made little bodies from the people who love and value them more than anyone else on this planet—me.

We just told Cohen about Santa. I mean, #LetThemBeLittle, right? And now, it’s time for the sex talk.

He’s already had the puberty talk in school, I gave him a heads-up of what was coming and told him to write down any questions he had, and we could discuss. And to my surprise he did. He and his father chatted while playing video games and I was okay with that.

Answering Questions

So here we go. After talking with some friends who’ve already had the “talk”. I gave up on the idea of presenting the subject in one big talk – I didn’t want to overwhelm him with more bewildering and even distasteful information than he could process at once. Instead, I bought ice cream, made sure Collyns, his little sister, was gone for the evening and we began. We had a gentle conversation that I think will continue over several months or perhaps even years. I wanted to keep our explanations as simple and specific to the discussion as we could.

The hardest part, of course, was staying composed. We tried to respond to his initial question without turning red or acting as though some momentous exchange was about to take place; we didn’t want to suggest that sex is linked to feelings of shame. We remained calm and spoke naturally. We didn’t want this important message to make Cohen feel nervous or uncomfortable because we wanted this to be an ongoing conversation. It’s something we can talk about.

When we arrived at the point of giving a technical description of “the Act,” we said something simple like, “Look, I know this sounds gross to you now, but – trust me – it will seem different when you’re older.” We tried to be straightforward and honest, so we could get through it.

Pause, ready? Here we go.

“When a man and a woman decide they want to have a baby, the man’s penis goes inside the woman’s vagina, and sperm comes out of the man’s penis. Sometimes the sperm joins with one of the tiny eggs inside the woman’s body, and that makes the egg begin growing into a baby. This happens in the special place women have called a uterus.”

An Ongoing Conversation

Once we made it through this, Cohen looked both dumbfounded and suspicious, especially since it probably dawned on him that his parents have done this thing at least twice. He suddenly changed the subject, and said, “I got it.” We ended the conversation with letting him know that we are both here to answer any questions and that we loved him. We let him leave. We knew he heard us and needed time to let it all sink in.

So, the “talk” may be over but hopefully, there will be an ongoing conversation. And when he gets a little older and starts noticing girls, the “talk” will continue. But for now, I can breathe again.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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My Child’s Friend

My Child’s Friend

If it hasn’t happened already, it probably will at some point: the moment you don’t like one of your child’s friends. What do you do?

I remember when I was growing up and my mom didn’t love me spending time with one of the girls in our neighborhood. She didn’t forbid me from being with her but didn’t encourage our get-togethers, either.

Eventually, I realized this friend wasn’t the right fit for me for several reasons, and the relationship fizzled. Years later, I wondered: How did my mom know?

Questioning Friendships

Recently, my son had a friend over. This friend was not very nice to my daughter and his attitude towards me made me question my feelings towards him. Granted it was a mild irritation. I found this friend annoying because he’s loud, destructive and the fact that he’s obviously never been taught to say please or thank you. It also made me worry that this friend may be a bad influence on Cohen.

A friend of mine recently said, “As long as my kids live in my house, I choose their friends.” And I don’t disagree. What I’m saying is this: There are a couple of things that a parent should and shouldn’t do when it comes to a child’s friends.

I choose not to verbally tell Cohen my feelings about his friend. I did not forbid him from hanging out with that friend. If I would say this out loud, Cohen is likely to blab, announcing publicly, “My parents say I’m not allowed to play with you!” This would make me seem mean and could cause conflict with the other child’s parents. It’s also possible that forbidding the friendship could make that friend seem more attractive to Cohen.

Forbidding Cohen seems a little bit overstepping. Unless he is in immediate, physical danger, trying to dictate who he can or can’t be friends with strips him of an important piece of autonomy (what’s more personal than our relationships?) and gets in the way of him learning to navigate the social world. If Cohen continues the friendship, even without my support, it creates a rift between us.

So, I decided that I needed to get to know the other child better and figure out what Cohen finds appealing about this friend. Most people have some likable qualities and discovering these might help me put my irritations in perspective. I try to keep in mind that children are constantly growing and changing, so the behaviors that annoyed me before may fade away as the friend matures.

Modeling Good Social Skills

Cohen doesn’t have a lot of close friends at his school, maybe just a handful. So, I’ve found that laying compliments on thick for my son’s friends who are well-mannered, responsible and kind, tends to be a successful tactic. This is part of those subliminal messages I’m sending to his brain, so he’ll start to feel that emotional reward deep inside his brain when he’s hanging around the “good” kids (the ones I like) and will eventually – God-willing – start to be turned off by the other kids. Instead of discouraging playdates with the kid I don’t like, I went out of my way to set up playdates with his friends that I do like. The goal here is to help Cohen nourish those positive friendships.

You don’t necessarily have to love everyone who your child chooses to befriend, but by being a gracious host, you support your child and model good social skills. A side benefit is that you can keep an eye on things if you have concerns about the friend’s behavior. For example, if things start to get heated, you can diffuse tensions by asking, “Who wants a snack?” or “How about going outside?”

If there’s something that the other child does that annoys you, it may help to explain your rules. Different families have different ways of doing things, and it’s not fair to be angry at a child for failing to respect your rules when you haven’t said anything, so he doesn’t even know what those rules are. Fuming silently will cause your resentment to build and won’t change what the child does.

Listening To Your Gut

Lastly, I listen to my kids and my gut. I ask questions about their friends. Moms can pick up on the very slightest detail being off if we’ll just listen. Cohen is such a sweetheart and has a good head on his shoulders, he needs to discover what friends work in his life. However, I set boundaries at our home to keep him safe, until he’s mature enough to loosen the reigns a bit and to make sure he’s showing kindness. He is smart enough to know that this friend has good qualities and bad qualities and likely knows better than to let those bad qualities rub off on him.

Ultimately, my goal is for my kids to make wise choices in their friendships.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Is She Trying?

Is She Trying?

School is supposed to be a fun time where children learn new and exciting things about themselves and the world around them. But sometimes children can lack motivation in school and not give it their best effort. As parents, all we want is to see our children succeed in life and that starts with school.

2 – Approaches district expectations.

That’s what I saw on most of my daughter’s report card. But this wasn’t a surprise. At parent/teacher conferences, I knew she was struggling. When I met with her 2nd grade teacher, we talked about a plan and identified the areas where she was not applying herself.

So, I wonder, is she trying? Does she care?

Setting Achievable Goals

Do you remember when you were in school, how overwhelmed you would feel with a big project or test? Maybe Collyns might be feeling too overwhelmed to do any schoolwork. So, we decided to help her by setting achievable goals that she can hit. Breaking something big into smaller milestones is a tool she has enjoyed and will use her whole life. Smaller goals make her feel accomplished and inspire her to continue working to keep this feeling up.

We started small. We decided she needed extra help in reading. She now works with a para and has a fluency folder – which is a 1-minute read at home every night, over the course of the week. She gets books from the library that she seems to enjoy reading. But to be truthful, she still hates it. She also has a hard time with reading comprehension. She tends to rush through her tests and guess on the questions rather than look for text evidence. She again despises these tests and wants them over with and so she doesn’t seem to care. During these tests, her teacher reminds her to slow down and focus and the task on hand.

Working Together at Home

At home, we also work on her spelling words. She likes using a dry-erase board to work on her list instead of pencil and paper. At night we work on 5 words from her 15-word list, so she isn’t overwhelmed with the entire list every night. Then the night before her test we work on the words she questioned during the week.

We continue to help her with math. Even though every night seems to be a fight she tries and eventually finishes the problems. She seems to understand the lesson that they are working on but must be reminded. Recently, I started to set a timer for 5 minutes. She must see how much math homework she can do correctly in the time. Most of the time she gets it done and looks at me and says, “that didn’t take as long as I thought it would.” She continues to gain confidence in her work. If she is overwhelmed, we take a break. I don’t make her do all her work in one setting if she becomes frustrated.

How you represent school and learning in your house is how your child is going to view school overall. So, if you are yelling or disciplining your child for doing bad on a test or report card, they may start to resent school and stop trying!

We’ve all done it. Used the threat of taking away something our child loves in order to try and motivate them. ‘If you don’t start doing your homework in the next 10 minutes, there will be no iPad after dinner.’

I’ve learned that doesn’t help motivate Collyns. It makes her angrier. If she starts her homework with a bad attitude, it will take her twice as long and it will most likely end with me yelling and her in tears. She will continue to hate school and feel less confident and continue to not try either at home or in class.

Staying Positive

This is not how I want her to see school. Instead, I remind myself every night to remain positive, talk about what she is doing well and see why she thinks she is not doing well in other subjects. I try not to talk down to her, but instead be the positive force she needs in her life. Fingers crossed, some of these strategies will pay off for the spring semester.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Listening to Your Body – Living with Endometriosis

Listening to Your Body – Living with Endometriosis

Imagine being a senior in high school excited for your senior prom then hearing the words, “You might not be able to have kids.” That was me. Obviously, as an 18-year-old I wasn’t thinking about my future children right then but as previously mentioned, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, all I wanted to do was be a mom. So here I was in high school and hit with the thought that my dream may never come true.

Getting Diagnosed

Throughout my senior year, I would have this sporadic pain in my stomach. It was so debilitating I had to stay home from school. It would come and go, and I didn’t think it wasn’t associated with my cycle. I saw multiple doctors, but no one could diagnose my pain. Luckily, my mom believed me and fought for her child. We eventually saw a gynecologist in hopes she could figure it out. After several tests with no results, the gynecologist didn’t think the pain had anything to do with my ovaries or lady parts and the ultrasound didn’t show anything. I was sent home with the response “come back next time you have this pain.” But since the pain would come and go and I had no indication of when it was coming it took several more months for anything to be diagnosed.

People say it all the time — “listen to your body.” Some people feel really in tune with their bodies, others feel like they’re completely disconnected. Sometimes the phrase feels like it’s lost its meaning altogether. Especially when doctors keep telling you nothing is wrong.

The next time I had the pain we went back to the gynecologist, still with no conclusive reason. The doctor scheduled me for a laparoscopy. Through this procedure, she eventually diagnosed me with endometriosis. My first reaction was, “I’m not crazy – there’s really something wrong here!” My next response was to learn as much as I possibly could about the disease and its treatment.

Endometriosis is a chronic and painful disease that occurs when the endometrium (tissue that originates from the lining of your uterus) starts growing outside of your uterus, where it doesn’t belong. The endometrial tissue that grows outside of your uterus is called a lesion or an implant. These lesions are fueled by a sex hormone called estrogen. When estrogen levels rise, these lesions (patches of endometrial tissue) can grow. Later in the menstrual cycle, they may break down and shed. This can cause pain throughout the month.

Through this procedure, the doctor saw that the lesions were so severe they had to open me up through a bigger incision and remove my left ovary and fallopian tube. The lesions were encapsulating both and they couldn’t be saved. Not only that, but the doctor also didn’t want the lesions to come back so they prescribed a hormone treatment that put my body into menopause for a year.

Here I was, spring semester of my senior year going through menopause. On the plus side, I wouldn’t have a period for the next year. However, with menopause came hot flashes, mood swings and other symptoms. Try explaining that to your friends. The doctors also said conceiving a child may be difficult, but we’ll have to wait and see.

After a year of menopause, I was put on birth control to regulate and somewhat control my periods. I didn’t have any problems. I was in college and felt like my normal self again. Fast forward several years, the good news, my periods are back to normal, and I didn’t have any problems conceiving. We are blessed with 2 beautiful children.

Managing My Endometriosis

But here I sit at the age of 35 with this sporadic, debilitating pain in my lower abdomen again. After seeing the gynecologist and doing an ultrasound, once again there was nothing suggesting why there is pain. So, the doctor gave me my options: 1) exploratory surgery 2) hysterectomy 3) deal with the pain every so often.

Right now, I am dealing with the pain. The doctors and I agreed that a hysterectomy was probably in my future but wanted to wait until I was closer to 40. So, I started to keep a pain journal. I’ve found this to be very important both in managing my own illness – I was able to see, for instance, a link between my caffeine and alcohol consumption and pain – and in helping doctors to see patterns that can guide treatment. People, doctors and friends alike also take you more seriously when you’re able to demonstrate exactly what you’re experiencing and when you felt it. I made a chart based on a 28-day cycle and kept track of things I ate or drank that might be potential triggers, when I had discomfort, and what seemed to make me feel better.

I sought out the support of other women with endometriosis. No one can really understand until they’ve been through it themselves. In the meantime, I keep looking after myself! A diagnosis of endometriosis may feel like the end of the world, especially at first, but I continue to find that it’s not!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Let’s Talk About Santa

Let’s Talk About Santa

The holidays are fast approaching, and with them, a question that has haunted me each of the past few Christmases: Will this be the year my kids stop believing in Santa? If they ask, how do I tell them the truth? And how do I tell them the true meaning of Santa? The holidays are a magical time of year, but for parents, the Santa issue can pose a real dilemma.

The Questions Have Already Started

My son is 10 and in 5th grade. For the last two years, he has questioned the realness of Santa. And of course, there are those kids who try and spoil it for everyone and make him wonder. Even though I know it’s natural, I’m not ready for my wide-eyed, innocent, trusting baby to be a logical, thoughtful, questioning human. I don’t want the days of his implicit trust in me to be a thing of the past.

I know the magic of being a kid can only last so long. But this year, I am trying to hold on for one more moment. But inevitably, I will have to tell him that Santa Claus is not really one single, human with a big belly, a white beard, flying reindeer, and an arsenal of magical tools without which Christmas would not happen. On the plus side, I might not have to do elf on a shelf anymore.

My son continues to ask me if Santa is real and my response, “If Santa weren’t real, who bought you these gifts?” He never assumes it’s me because he thinks that I’m cheap. Plus, he knows I would never create the mess the elves make so it can’t be mom or dad.

But this made me realize that maybe we shouldn’t be telling our kids about Santa from the beginning. If I could do it all over again, I would have been honest about Santa. It may sound strange, but I truly think it’s possible to believe in Santa without believing he’s real.

One Way to Keep the Magic Alive

I would have explained to them that, no, Santa isn’t a real person like me and you. He doesn’t really live at the North Pole with a bunch of cute little elves and reindeer, and he doesn’t really fly around the world in one night jumping down chimneys and delivering gifts. But I’d also tell them that this is a magical story that a lot of people love to pretend is real when it’s Christmas time. However, this idea of Santa may be the way I break the news to Cohen.

Another mom shared this letter, and if Cohen asks again this year, I believe this is how I will respond, maybe not in a letter but with similar words.

Dear (Child),

You asked a really good question. “Are Mom and Dad really Santa?” We know that you want to know the answer and we had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. We are not Santa. There is no one single Santa.

We are the people who fill your stocking and choose the presents under the tree—just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them and you will probably do for your kids someday.

This could never make any of us Santa, though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive. He lives in our hearts—not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they can’t see or touch. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe in yourself, in your family, in your friends and in God.

You’ll need to be able to believe in things you can’t measure or hold in your hands.

Now you know the secret of how he gets down all of those chimneys on Christmas Eve. He has help from all of the people whose hearts he has filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Mommy and Daddy take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible. So no, we are not Santa. Santa is love and magic and happiness. We are on his team and now you are, too.

Letting Our Kids Make Their Own Story

So, whether your kids are on the cusp of seeking out the truth about Santa, or whether you’ve got a few more years of childlike innocence to capitalize on, hold this mom’s words in your heart. You can empower your kids to spread love, joy and peace, and the true meaning of Santa.

When it comes down to it, the most important thing isn’t whether Santa is real or not; it’s all about the space you create around the story. Ultimately, the way you deal with Santa in your home is a very personal choice and something you have to decide for yourself.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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When is the Right Time to Give a Kid a Cell Phone?

When is the Right Time to Give a Kid a Cell Phone?

At what age should your child be allowed to get a cell phone? Talk about a loaded question, especially if you’re a parent arguing this point with your child who is upset that they are the only kid in school without a phone. Nowadays, the internet told me that the average age kids get a phone is between 12 and 13. With that in mind, parents are the best judge of whether their children are ready for a cell phone, and the lessons they teach about that readiness can begin at a young age.

When Is the Right Time to Get Your Child a Phone?

Just last week, I had eight of Cohen’s soccer buddies over and many of them had phones, some even had nicer phones than me. I was so surprised. And now, it’s the top item on Cohen’s Christmas list.

Allowing your children to have a cell phone is an extremely personal decision for every parent and family. Almost every expert, non-expert, friend and family member has an opinion on the subject and of course they are happy to share it with you.

Thanks to the well-publicized use of cell phones for safety reasons and school emergencies, parents understandably want their children to have access to the life-saving devices. And I’ll admit, recently, there have been a couple instances where it would have been beneficial for my 10-year-old son to have a phone. Practice ended early and he had to wait for me to pick him up.

Determine The Function the Phone Serves

Not only is a phone on the top of his wish list but, of course, he wants a smartphone. He wants all the bells and whistles like his friends have. BUT does a cell phone or smartphone meet a need, not just for your child but for you and the family as well? I got a phone when I started driving but then again that was 20 years ago and a different time.

When I do go back to work, my son will be home alone for an hour or two after school and a phone would be nice. But for now, he can call me on the Ring doorbell, our Alexa, or through the kid’s Facebook Messenger App. All of these have worked for us so far but then again, he has to be home to use these devices.

My husband and I have discussed at length that Cohen may get a prepaid cell phone that can text and call so we both can stay in touch. He may not necessarily need a smartphone with apps and internet access. I fully expect pushback on this! Many prepaid cell phones are pretty cool these days—they look cool, they take pictures, play music—and have other different features but it’s not a smartphone.

Bottom Line: His first phone probably just needs to be able to text and call.

Set Some Ground Rules

This is still a conversation that continues in our household. My husband of course said, “You can’t just hand the kid a cell phone or smartphone and say, “Have fun! Make good choices!”

His General Rule: It’s much easier to start out strict and loosen up as Cohen proves he is responsible than it is to start out loose and then try to reign him in. Make phone ownership healthy for him and in return, easy on yourself.

I admit that I am probably on my phone way too much at home. I am trying to be in the present but my phone is always next to me and on and I know my children see that. Modeling appropriate cell phone use, limiting access, implementing parental control settings, and teaching Cohen about the dangers of cyberbullying will also take place as soon as that phone is in Cohen’s possession.

So yes, come Christmas, Cohen will most likely be getting a phone. But with the phone comes a cell phone contract that stipulates appropriate phone use, grades, chores, behavior, etc., all laid out with all the consequences. Sign on the dotted line.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Is There a Right Time to Have a Baby?

Is There a Right Time to Have a Baby?

Is there really a “right time” to get pregnant? As it turns out, everyone you ask will likely give you a different answer. It’s a question just about every person considers once they enter adulthood. The answer will not only be different for different people but may change during your life.

When a couple gets married, they are almost always faced with the inevitable pester from friends and family: So when are you having kids? The older you are, the more pressing the question seems to be. Ticktock, ticktock.

There’s No Right Age to Have Kids

It may be that in your twenties, having kids later feels right… but once you’re in your mid-30s, you still aren’t sure. Or you may decide at 30 that now is the right time. Of course, the optimal time for a woman to get pregnant is when she’s ready—physically, emotionally, mentally and financially—and this time varies greatly from woman to woman. For my husband and me, we jumped at having kids right away. We were in our mid-twenties and still newlyweds. Every couple’s first year of marriage can be exciting for many reasons – whether they decide to travel to a far-flung destination together or buy their first home, but for us, we knew we wanted kids.

Neither my husband nor I were well established in our careers – we still aren’t. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and my husband is still in school. We had little money and neither of us knew what we were doing. I know that nobody really knows what they are doing when it comes to having kids but I question how we survived. Were we really ready and the answer was no, but would I change it? No.

Surviving the First Few Years of Parenthood

I look back on those early years and think, “How did we do it?” Those first several years are rough. We’d been together for 5 years but only married 1 before we had Cohen. We were so young that most of our friends were still going out, but we were now raising a family. Unfortunately, we lost track of some friends because of how different our lives were at that time.

Now we are in our thirties and our oldest is 10 and youngest is 7. Most of our close friends are having babies. They ask for advice and the baby stage seems like such a long time ago. My children are almost old enough to babysit. It feels like we are again in different stages of our lives. But now I understand what my friends are going through and can make a better effort to help and stay in touch.

However, since we are the “young” parents we will continue to be in different stages of our lives compared to most of our friends. But, when we are in our early fifties, our children will be grown and out of the house. Fingers crossed we’ll have more money and be able to travel. And it’s weird to think but we could be grandparents.

When You Have Kids Is Your Choice

All in all, experts and moms agree that there’s really no right answer to the question of “when is the best age to get pregnant?” Biologically, the answer is probably the early 20s, but innumerable factors must be considered, many of which differ by individual. Your best plan of action is to do what feels right for you—whatever that may be.

If you and your spouse want to have a baby right after getting married, go for it. Don’t worry about what people will think, it’s up to you and your other half. There’s no right or wrong time to have a baby and you’ll never be 100% ready. Being married for longer doesn’t make you better or more ready to be parents, or stronger as a couple. If it’s what you both want then do it. Anyone who is currently pregnant, get ready for the most emotional, stressful, uncertain and amazing ride of your life. Every day is different but every day is so amazing. Just enjoy it.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Creating a Morning Routine

Creating a Morning Routine

I’m a huge fan of routine, and so are my kids. I’m not the most organized of moms, and I’m certainly not a very organized housewife. However, I do believe that my kids need routine, and so do I. Their routine is good for me. During the summer, our routine went out the window. So now that school is upon us, it’s a great time to start getting back into our groove. I’m sharing my routine in hopes of helping other working moms get the most out of their routine on school days.

If you’re a working mom, your morning routine can either help you start off your day on the right foot, or it can be an obstacle that you must overcome. It can be a struggle each and every day. My tips and tricks will hopefully help you create a smoother morning routine. And the school year is the perfect time to get a fresh start in how you schedule your day and manage your time.

How to Get Started

Remember how last year you said you’d start adjusting bedtimes before the night before school started? Well, during the summer months, we decided to keep the kid’s bedtime routine the same. They rarely stayed up late, and they continued to get up at the same time. This made for an easier adjustment for heading back to school. Small adjustments are what I can handle with everything I have going on.

During the school year, I have to get us ready and out of the house by 8 a.m. for drop off at school. Without a routine, getting two young kids – ages 10 and 7, my hubby and the dog out of the house feels like I’m herding cats. Can you relate, mamas?

Granted, the first few weeks of school this year, I’m still working from home, so I’ll share how that makes things a bit different. For starters, I’m not an early bird. I’ll sleep in as late as I possibly can while still being on time. However, many moms I know wake up early. That way, they get in a power hour before anyone else is up. It makes a huge difference in how productive they are, and it allows them to be available later in the day to help with school work. Since I’m not an early riser, one of the things that helps in our house is to use the night before. We do as much the night before so that the morning is simply smoother.

Tips for Your Morning Routine

Lay out clothes night before. Each night both of our kids lay out what they’ll wear the next day, and I can provide input if necessary (e.g., look nicer for picture day or if it’s going to be 100 degrees, no long sleeve shirts, etc.) If I have morning meetings or a presentation, I also choose what I’ll wear the night before for the next day. I want to avoid this stress in the morning.

Put stuff out and together. For example, the lunch boxes go on the counter with containers ready. That way, if you need extra help from your significant other if something comes up, you don’t have to explain where things are or what to use. Some moms I know prep sandwiches, although I don’t do that. I don’t generally cut up fruit until the morning because it can get mushy, but even washing and drying fruit the night before will shave off time in the morning.

Put items that need to go with you by the door or always in the same place. This goes for water bottles, backpacks, folders, car keys, masks, etc. Have a consistent home for these items so you’re not looking for them in the morning and wasting precious time. Who has an extra 10 minutes to look for car keys or kids’ shoes? This goes for your stuff, that of your significant other and your kids.

Have breakfast options in mind. We try hard to not have breakfast be the same all the time, and yet, this can be one of the hardest meals of the day creatively speaking. We generally give the kids some options when they wake up so that we can get breakfast going. Have breakfast-on-the-go options. Let’s face it—you’ll have days, especially in the first few weeks of school, when you’re running late. Whatever the reason, I recognize that sometimes our kids will be eating breakfast in the car. Sometimes we’ll have bagels that are easily mobile.

Be Flexible & Relax

See how you’re feeling and make any adjustments to set yourself up for success for the day. For example, if you’re tired, give yourself more time and be gentle with yourself. If you’re stressed, it might be time for some deep breaths. It takes only a few moments of your day and makes a big impact. I do this before I even get out of bed as I’m turning off my alarm.

If you’re feeling stressed or want to feel more grounded, consider meditating. I’m talking minutes here, not hours. Or you can extend it for however long you like. Make sure you don’t throw off your schedule, though. If you have the time, get in that workout. I usually get in some exercise a few times a week. In the warmer months, I work out early since I usually head outside for my exercise.

Decide what you want from your morning routine. Consider what you want your morning routine to include and generally look like. If you do better when you have a few minutes alone, plan your wake-up time with this in mind. Want a moment of yoga or meditation? Perhaps you want a few minutes to enjoy your coffee before you get everything going. Only you know what you need.

Hopefully, these tips will help decrease stress and start the day off with more smiles for all! Now the afternoon routine is a completely different battle especially with all the after-school activities the kids are involved in. That takes a daily calendar on the fridge, a hope and prayer to get us to our bedtime routine on time.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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