Building Better Bedtime Routines

Building Better Bedtime Routines

Hi, I’m Ashley. And I’m Rachel. Welcome to our series, CapitalMOM Real Life Conversations. This week, we’re going to be talking about bedtime routines—how they’re different for every family, but ultimately how we use this time to connect with our children in different ways. We’ll talk about different age ranges because we have ages from one to nine.

Glimmers & Dimmers in May

So, first is our glimmer and our dimmer. Today, we both have glimmers.

Ashlee’s Recent Glimmer

Mine’s super short and sweet. My three-year-old has had a really hard time staying in his bed—not a crib anymore—and sleeping through the night. I had a really long stretch of not good sleep. It was very interrupted, and I was always taking him back to his bed. I was having to take him back so many times a night that I eventually just gave up and let him sleep in my bed for a little while.

To fix this, my amazing husband has been sleeping on a pad in our hallway for the last three days to catch our son before he comes out of his room. That way, I can get some sleep. Both of us have been happier together because of it. So, thank you, John, and a huge thanks to all the parents that support their partners’ sleep. It makes a big difference.

Rachel’s Recent Glimmer

Mine is going to be short and sweet this week, too. My little one-year-old, who’s almost two in July, has just had an explosion of language recently. It’s the cutest thing ever. I love the one to two-and-a-half-year-old stage where they’re learning so much.

My daughter is very into Elsa in Frozen right now. We started with Moana, but our whole family got sick of it, so we transitioned. So now, she has three Elsa dresses, and she sings all the songs with big arm motions.

The new thing that she does is she’ll come up to us and say, “Question?” I’ll say, “Yes? What’s your question?” She’ll reply, “Snowman?” Like, “Do you want to build a snowman?” from Frozen. And then she starts singing, but she doesn’t know all the words, so she just kind of gets the last word of every line—play, anymore, door. And then she’ll go, “Yay!” and everyone will clap for her. I could just bottle that moment up forever and ever.

Sometimes if I need a little smile, I’ll ask Finley, “Do you have a question?” just to hear it again.

A Variety of Kids’ Bedtime Routines

First, we just want to acknowledge that bedtime routines can vary. All of them can look differently, and all of them can still work beautifully for your family. It just depends on what it is that you want.

But what we try to focus on ourselves is at least just having it be purposeful in how it looks and then trying to make it connecting with each of our kids individually.

Ashlee’s Family Bedtime Routine

I have three kiddos aged three, seven, and nine. So obviously, bedtime looks a little different with each of them. We’re constantly adjusting our routines to try to match the needs of our kiddos and us as parents. But disclaimer: both Rachel and my routines are long.

Basically, starting at a particular time is the best thing that helps for us. Getting started with bedtime is where we get tripped up the most. Wintertime is a little easier for bedtime because it gets darker earlier. But the sun comes out in the summertime, so I never want to go to bed, and the kids don’t want to go to bed. We all end up suffering afterwards, though. Without putting my kids to bed on time, I don’t get a moment to myself. I can’t clean or tidy the house. My husband and I don’t get any time together. So this summer, we’re working to get better with this.

After starting at the same time, we do the normal things like, getting PJs on and brushing teeth. Obviously, I have to brush some of my kiddos’ teeth, but my nine-year-old is doing it on her own now.

Then, I’ll have my nine-year-old start reading on her own, or sometimes she’ll work on mind puzzlers. My seven-year-old saw her do that and kind of started doing it, too. Anything to get them tired and slowing down.

My nine-year-old is the one that doesn’t slow down as easily, so a longer bedtime is helpful. Otherwise, I’m rushing her, and that makes it hard because I don’t feel connected with her when we do that. It’s always when we’re trying to speed up bedtimes that my kids start sharing something really meaningful. That’s when I have to pause and try to create space for anything that they want to share.

When time allows, we’ll go in and read a couple books with her. She’s just started reading chapter books on her own. My husband challenged her to read The Magic Tree House book in one day, and she did. So now she’s like, “Oh, I can do this!” and super into it. We’re really excited about her reading journey.

With Levi, my youngest, we read three books in the rocking chair. He picks them out. And then we hop in bed and sing a song. My husband will even pull out the guitar sometimes before lights out.

After everyone is settled, we try to give an extra quick snuggle or something and tell them we love them before leaving. Levi likes to be snuggled until he falls asleep, though. Usually, I don’t lay with my kids until they fall asleep, but lately he’s been waking up in fits and terrors. I have a hard time not responding when they’re crying, and I can’t tell if it’s a hurt cry or a sad cry or something else. I at least want to let them know that I’m there. So right now, I do lie next to him until he falls asleep, which he does fairly quickly. I’m actually kind of enjoying that right now, especially because I know it won’t last forever.

The other day I asked Levi, “What is it you like about me being here?” And he said, “You make me happy.” So I know that this moment is an important connection and that it won’t be forever but that it is valuable.

For a little while, he didn’t allow John to be there. Rachel and I talked about advice that we read and ways we could help with that issue instead of just saying, “No, stop. You’re going to Dad.” That reaction almost made it worse. We taught our husbands how to respond, framing it as something like, “I know you really want mom right now, but you get me right now. And this is how it’s going to be great!” Fortunately, we’ve passed through that phase.

Rachel’s Family Bedtime Routine

Ashlee’s routine is very similar to mine. Recently, my husband and I have really found our rhythm with the kids’ bedtime. My husband goes with my son every night, and I stay with the girls. We went through trial and error, trying different things. For a while, we would alternate nights. It just didn’t work. So we just stopped trying new things.

Now, we try to go up to bed between 7:30 and 8:00, but this can change depending on when we get home from gymnastics. On nights when we’ve got dinner and baths done on time, we really enjoy our relaxing bedtime routine. It’s pretty much the same thing as Ashlee—teeth, take the hair out, and then reading time.

Reading is very important to me, which is funny because I never liked reading on my own as a kid. So I didn’t think that I would be reading to my kids. But I love it. It happens so organically. We go to the library once a week. We get a big load of books and haul it upstairs. I don’t set a number of books to read with them. I go by time. I usually snuggle up and read to all three of my kids for about 45 minutes.

My one-year-old will sit there and listen to all these stories that are definitely highly above her level. Sometimes I think I’m doing her a disservice by not reading her baby books all the time, but I did the same thing with Brecken, who’s my four-year-old, and she’s now in first grade and excelling in reading at school. I just feel like the kids will rise to that level and that they actually will develop those vocabulary skills earlier. To be clear, I see so many benefits to reading that are more than just vocabulary. It’s stories and getting immersed in your imagination. I’m bad at this. My kids will ask me to tell them stories and I can’t think of anything.

When we’re done with reading time, that’s when my husband takes my son and I stay with the girls. At that point, we read a chapter book or a more challenging book for my oldest. And then I will take my one-year-old with me to co-sleep. I know there’s opinions about co-sleeping, but it works for us so that’s what we do. I’m going to move her to her room very soon when she turns two.

A Friend’s Family Bedtime Routine

One of our best friends, Barbara, and her husband do bedtime a little differently. They each are able to take turns. Obviously, this is dependent on both parents being available in the evening times, which is not always the case. But it works for them, where they trade off evenings with their three kiddos. She puts the baby down first and then spends time with her two older girls.

That way, one of them puts everybody to bed one night, and the other person gets a complete night off. We think this can be a great strategy if you want to prioritize meeting some of your needs individually, all while still having time to connect with your kiddos. I think it’s important to remember that you and your partner are a couple and worth investing time into that relationship.

For Ashlee and I, we just genuinely love that time with our kids too much to give it up. So even though we don’t always have a chance to talk to our husbands in the evening, we still think it’s worthwhile to connect with our kids at bedtime. It’s all about finding a balance.

An Instagram Mom’s Bedtime Routine

A person we follow on Instagram shared that her bedtime routine looks very different. Her kids are, I think, a little bit older than ours. What I love about hers is she does everything in 20 minutes with each kid.

She starts with the youngest, which I think in her case is a six-year-old, and just gives that child 20 minutes of super intentional time. But it’s not reading, which is why for me right now, I don’t feel like I’m at a point where I want to do what she does. Reading for our families is too important currently and they can’t read independently yet.

But I think that when my kids get older and they’re reading on their own, they can do their reading time while I do my one-on-one time with my other kids. I also like that this is kind of a tiered system, where your oldest gets the reward of being up the latest.

I remember when she said that, I thought “Whoa, that’s an hour every night. You’re committing.” But then I remembered that I give my kids an hour or an hour and a half every night already. So it’s very doable.

Besides, this is your window time into their souls. This is when you’re going to get those deep, heartfelt moments that maybe you’re not going to get during the day because you’re busy in a chaotic household with three kids. But bedtime is a special time where they can slow down and connect with your hearts.

Advice for Parents Struggling with Bedtime

Nothing lasts forever in bedtime. So if you’re going through a hard time where your kid is not falling asleep, is coming to your room every night, and you’re exhausted—or if you’re tired and not wanting to do bedtime on bad days—or you have a baby who’s waking up crying wanting to nurse every night, just recognize it’s a season.

Yes, it might be a hard season, but knowing that it’s a season is bittersweet. It’s realizing that this is not going to last forever. Your child is not always going to come to your room. Eventually, he’ll get to the point where he’s a big boy and he doesn’t need to be in your room anymore.

Just recognize that their childhood goes so fast and that the season will pass, and you will get through it. Remember that you’re doing a great job. If you’re trying, you’re doing great. Your bedtime can look however it needs to look. We got your back.

Ashlee Hendricks

Ashlee Hendricks

Real Life Conversations Host

I am a mom to three awesome kids: Ellie, Anna, and Levi. My husband Jon works as a professor at the UNL Business College. While we are not natives to Lincoln (this year marks five years in Nebraska), I did grow up on a dairy farm in southwest Missouri and feel quite at home here. I work as a full-time mom and a part-time nurse at a clinic here in town.

As a family, we are happiest outside and having adventures. We lived in South Carolina before moving here so we’ve had to toughen up quite a bit! We love biking, camping and anything involving water. I have been supported and inspired by so many amazing women and men along my parenting journey. Rachel and I have talked a lot about our shortcomings and wins as moms. I hope as we share some of our story that you’ll find some relatable information that can nurture and inspire you wherever you are on your journey as a parent. We are all in this together!

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson

Real Life Conversations Host

I was born and raised in Lincoln. I am a stay-at-home-mom to three amazing kids named Ellie, Brecken, and Finley. I worked as a PE teacher at Scott Middle School for 8.5 years and turned into a SAHM when my second kiddo was born. I love being home with my kids. It is so fulfilling to me to be home with them through each stage, to care for them and to be a part of the little details and the big moments in their lives.

My husband, John, is a men’s gymnastics coach at the University of Nebraska. Our kids love to go to the gym and play. We love that they now have a relationship with the college athletes. It is really fun. Go Big Red! I am very excited to be chatting about things motherhood here on CapitalMom. I hope you enjoy and are able to relate as we share our motherhood journeys.

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Preparing for a New Family Member

Preparing for a New Family Member

3,591,328—the number of babies born in the U.S. in 2023. Wow! That’s a lot of homes adding a new family member. And what about the 1 in 25 U.S. families who have at least one adopted child? Or the six million U.S. households that have more than three generations living under one roof? How about the 203,770 children that entered foster care in 2021?

Adding a new member to your family can be challenging for everyone. A smooth transition begins with open and honest communication. If you or someone you know is preparing to add a child to their family, here are a few tips to prepare the whole family for the changes.

Tips for Parents & Caregivers

  • Start the conversation early. Be open and honest while being age-appropriate.
  • Spend individual time with each child and try to continue things you did with them before the addition, i.e. watching movies, reading, etc.
    • For older children, consider writing encouraging notes, or getting them a card or a little gift.
  • Model healthy expression of feelings such as, “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. Let’s take a break.” This normalizes a healthy response and feeling big emotions.
  • Communicate the need for safety (physical and emotional) of the new family member.
  • Teach children that crying is one way babies communicate.
    • Normalize that it may be “annoying” or “loud”, but remind them that we all cried when we were babies too! Or give an example, “Remember when you fell and scraped your knee and cried? What happened? You cried and I came to see if you were okay, and we put a band-aid on it. Your crying got you the help and comfort you needed.”
  • Build on each family member’s strengths. For example, if your youngest daughter is great at organizing, have her help organize things in the home ahead of her sibling’s arrival.
  • Encourage family and friends to give all children equal attention. This will avoid current family members feeling forgotten when the new family member is in the home.

Preparing Young Children

Infancy to Age Two

Young children, infancy to around age two, don’t fully comprehend the addition of a new family member, so simple things may help them adjust.

  • Be positive and talk about the baby or new family member in a positive way.
    • Kids are very smart and will seek to emulate your behavior and attitude. If you’re positive, they will feel positive.
  • Look at and read books about babies or changing family dynamics.
  • Do something special when the baby arrives. I still remember getting a “Big Sister” pin at Bryan when my little brother was born.

Toddlers

The toddler age can be a territorial age for children as they feel strongly connected with caregivers.

  • Relate things to a TV show, movie or book they love.
  • “Practice” for a new baby by getting a doll and showing them how to handle it as if it were a real baby.
  • Involve them in preparing.
    • Work on routines that will help everyone. For example, toilet training, moving from a crib to a bed, reinforcing or making adjustments to sleep schedules.
  • Let them spend “special time” with someone important to them ahead of the new member’s arrival.

School-Age Children

School-age children tend to be a bit easier in preparing for a new family member but still need reassurance and help adjusting. Remember to keep open communication and encourage questions and curiosity.

  • Explain what’s going to happen in a way they understand, including the “good” and “bad”.
  • Let them help prepare for the arrival.
  • Practice with a baby doll, or if you have a close family member/friend with an actual baby.
    • Provide positive reinforcement for them by saying things such as “You’re such a great big brother/sister.” or “I can tell you really care about ______.” or “You’re such a great helper!”
  • Let them come to the hospital as soon as possible after the baby is born so they continue to feel like a part of the growing family.

Managing Regression

Children may experience regression, “childish” behaviors, from time to time during this process of adding a new family member. For example, wanting to drink out of a bottle again, bed wetting or having accidents, or using a “baby” voice. When children regress, remember it’s normal and there’s nothing wrong with your child.

Here are a few facts and helpful tips to manage regression:

  • Children’s brains aren’t fully developed yet, so regression is a way they feel loved and cared for.
    • Attention is ATTENTION to a child’s brain. Even when a child “acts up,” they are getting attention which reinforces the idea that someone cares. They don’t understand the depth of what or why they are acting this way, but this is how they are communicating their need for love, affection and reassurance.
  • Regression typically resolves on its own, but if not, use resources to help.
    • Use books, friends, family, religious or cultural support, medical professionals and counselors.
  • Reinforce the positives. Even the smallest positives help build reassurance that they are loved and their needs will be taken care of.
  • Try to increase individual time with the child that’s struggling or be creative in finding ways to include them.

Support Each Other

There are no perfect ways to handle changing family dynamics, but these tips and tricks may make the transition smoother for everyone. Children are innately curious and thrive off love and affection. There is no right or wrong way to adjust your family dynamics as long as supporting each other with open communication and honesty is at the root.

There will be tough times, so give yourself grace. As your family grows, you all may experience some “growing pains”. When you seek to understand and support each other, you’ll all grow together.

Cassie Finkner, MA, LIMHP

Cassie Finkner, MA, LIMHP

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselor, Bryan Counseling Center

Cassie provides individual therapy to adolescents and adults. She specializes in trauma, including PTSD, major mental illness, suicidality, substance use, depression and anxiety. Cassie has been specifically trained in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI), however, utilizes a variety of different treatment modalities based upon the individuals needs to meet their treatment goals. Additional experience includes working with people encountering housing instability, poverty and trauma related to military experiences, including deployments and crisis intervention.

Cassie earned her Master of Arts in Counseling at Doane University (CACREP accredited).

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Getting Out of the House with Kids

Getting Out of the House with Kids

This week, we’re going to talk about getting out of the house with our kids and things to do in our local community. But before we get into that, we just want to say thank you for being here. We recognize that, in this world, there are so many things that you can tune into, so many things that you can listen to and watch, and your time is precious and valuable. The fact that you’re choosing to spend it with us just means so much to us. So, thank you.

Our Recent Glimmer & Dimmer

We’re going to start with our glimmer and dimmer. This week, Rachel has the dimmer and Ashlee has the glimmer.

Rachel’s April Dimmer

Mine’s just kind of boring, and it’s a dimmer. Ashlee and I have had to reschedule recording this video several times because my kids have been sick. It wasn’t just one sickness. Everybody got through the throw-up sickness. And then everybody went through the next sickness. And then the next new sickness.

So, I mean, it was about half of March that we were home sick. It just was not fun at all. We’re finally on the other side of it—except my husband. My husband napped today. When he’s sick, he takes lots of baths. I just feel so bad that everybody has had to get it.

But I think the worst one was the throw-up sickness. My daughter, Ellie, had it first. The next day, we were supposed to go to our family’s cabin like we do every Saturday. Even though my one-and-a-half-year-old was throwing up, I still decided that it would be a good idea to go to the cabin.

Besides, she had paused throwing up that morning. She’d even fallen asleep. I planned to drive to the cabin while she slept. Well, she probably threw up at the cabin seven times.

Then she stopped. I was relieved, only to realize my next kid, Brecken, caught it. Great. On our way home from the cabin, my son threw up all over my car. It smelled horrible. We finally got home around seven that night and everybody needed baths and my car had throw-up in it.

Because my husband was out of town, I called my dear mom. She came over and cleaned the throw-up out of my car while I was upstairs doing bath time. Once I finished with baths, I took a shower while the kids were downstairs watching a movie. While I’m taking my shower, my oldest comes up and says, “Mommy, Brecken threw up all over the stairs!”

My poor mom had just finished cleaning the car, but she comes in with her little green machine and gets to work = on the stairs right away. Bless her heart. She’s a saint.

It’s so real-life mom, though. All moms have towels to put down when the kids are throwing up. Or a spare mattress they can use to sleep next to the kids, just so that we don’t have to clean up our own mattresses. Do you ever hear the faintest little sound and you’re awake with the bowl in your hand ready to catch throw up? Because that was me. I don’t even know how we wake up that quickly. It’s like a super power that I wish I could have for myself in the morning.

Anyway, I’m so glad to be on the other side of those illnesses and seeing my kids laughing, dancing and singing again.

Ashlee’s April Glimmer

Mine’s got some good humor in it, too, OK? I’m seeing this one as a glimmer.

This morning, I had a few things I needed to get done, like respond to text messages. While I’m sitting there on my phone, my three-year-old, Levi, comes up to me and says, “Mom, I want to play with you.”

I respond, “OK, bud, I need to finish this first.” It’s Saturday morning and there are three other people in the house, so I was expecting him to wander around and find someone else to play with while I finished my tasks. Responding to my texts is taking me a little bit longer than I expected, anyway.

But, he actually was persistent. He asked me a few more times, but was really patient when I held firm. All of a sudden, he dashed off down the hallway. He came back and said, “Mom, I just set a two-minute timer for you. And when the timer goes off, then you can play with me.”

I couldn’t believe it. If you saw our last episode, we talked about how I set a timer and give my kids two minutes to wrap up whatever they’re doing before transitioning to another task to help regulate everyone’s big emotions. And he totally did that. He parented me.

It was so awesome that I said, “You bet, bud!” All while thinking, “I’m not sure I’m going to be done with this in two minutes, but I will be because you’re following through with what I’ve been teaching you at home.”

It was a mom win. So, even though I didn’t get to finish what I was doing, it was OK because there was no fighting. There was no angriness. And when the timer went off, we went and played because I wanted to be sure I was enforcing his behavior. Expectations should go both ways.

Why You Should Get Out of the House with Your Kids

Getting out with your kiddos creates community, helps handle our big emotions and mental health, and gives us new experiences and new people. It also helps create a pause, which we’ve talked about before, or a much-needed break from your responsibilities inside the house. Once we step outside, it feels like everything that was inside that was noisy and needed us can wait. When I’m outside, I’m not worried about so much anymore. And I’m way more present with my kids.

Common Struggles That May Prevent You From Leaving the House

There are plenty of struggles when trying to leave your home with littles. We could be tired or the weather could be bad. There are a lot of different reasons that we’ve experienced in our littles’ lives that have made us not want to go out that day. But ultimately, we need that break, too. We need to step out of the house probably just as much as our kids do. we regret it when we don’t.

Household Chores

Some moms see their home as their safe space. I think home should be a safe place for everyone and our kids, but when we’re at home, there’s an endless to-do list. I look around think, “Well, I may as well throw in some laundry” or “I should unload the dishwasher” or do some other chores. Oftentimes, during these tasks, my youngest will say, “Mommy, come sit with me. Mommy, come do this.”

I usually respond with “Just let me finish this one thing.” But sometimes in my mind I wonder, “Is this what I really need to be doing right now? I really should be here sitting with my child. That’s what I want to be doing.”

But we also have houses to maintain. It’s real life. Balancing those responsibilities is really hard. So sometimes just removing yourself from a space with distractions and things that need to get done can help you to focus on your kids.

Strict Schedules

My biggest barrier is currently my kid’s napping routine. Every day at one in the afternoon, I need to be home. From 1:00 to 3:00, my child is sleeping at home. So, when I’m looking at our day, I realize that if we don’t do anything in the morning, that means we’re going to be home from the time we wake up until mid-afternoon. That’s a really long day for me to be sitting in our house. I tend to feel cooped up if I don’t go do things.

So in my current situation, I find it works best for me to go do something in the morning. Here’s our tentative family schedule for the week:

  • Monday: Ashlee and I meet at the library for story time with Miss Diane in the morning. Here, our kids get to pick out books for the week. Then, my daughter goes to school. After school is gymnastics.
  • Tuesday: We usually have a small plan (like grocery shopping) in the morning, and my son goes to preschool in the afternoon.
  • Wednesday: Swim lessons for my son in the morning and gymnastics after my daughter gets out of school.
  • Thursday: Preschool in the afternoon and a standing playdate with Ashlee afterwards.
  • Friday: This is our long day. My daughter’s dance lessons don’t get done until 6:30. My son has nothing planned, so I hope for a nice day outside so that we can keep busy at a park.
  • Saturday: My family goes to our not-so-fancy, homemade cabin built in 1928 on 90 acres in the woods. I grew up going there. My dad’s grandpa built it. It’s only about 25 minutes away, and there’s nothing to do there except be with my kids away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Here, my kids play outside with sticks, we make a fire and it’s wonderful.
  • Sunday: No plan.

Having a routine is good for my kids because my almost seven-year-old knows what’s happening. She can recognize that today is Monday, which means that she has gymnastics after school. I know that not everybody has the same schedule constraints, like Ashlee doesn’t have kids who nap anymore, so she’s a little bit more flexible.

But not having structure can throw you for a loop, too. With all that flexibility in a schedule, it makes it so that sometimes we let the days get away from us a little bit. Ashlee can realize at two in the afternoon that she hasn’t left the house. By then, it’s too late because she needs to go pick up the girls in an hour.

Negative Emotions

Lately, I can feel very overstimulated very quickly, whether it’s noise or the things I have to do. Some of it has been because of hard family circumstances that have eaten up emotional energy that I have. Not having all of that reserved energy can suddenly make hearing three requests at the same time from my kids, or a loud noise, or whatever, really overstimulating.

The world quiets down outside for me, though. The only things that really matter in those moments is being present. So find whatever quiets the negative emotions for you—like being outside or exercising together as a family—and be willing to do the tedious preparation for those activities.

For example, with Rachel’s cabin, every week she thinks, “Ugh, this is so much work to do this. I have to pack up snacks and coats for every kid if it’s cold. We need to remember a toy for our dog and some stuff to play baseball. Then, we spend forever loading up the car. When we get home, I always want to wash my car because the cabin is on a dirt road. The kids need baths before bed. It’s a full day. Do I really want to do this?”

But every single time we get home, we’re so glad we did it.

What You Need to Be Successful Out of the House with Kids

What are your go-tos when you go to get out of the house? What are the things you need to just be successful?

Convenient Destination

This mom on Instagram, @chanwiththeboys, talks about how it doesn’t have to be complicated to leave the house. As a mom, you don’t always have to do kid-centered things, either. It doesn’t always have to be the zoo. It doesn’t have to be things that are intended for kids. If you need to go to Target, go to Target and bring your kids with you.

I did this last week with my son. I bought macaroons and ate them in the store while he played in the toy section. Before we went, I reminded him that we weren’t going to buy any of the toys and he respected that. We had a great time, and I didn’t spend too much.

Minimal Toys

This same Instagram mom took her three boys to a coffee shop. She said the only thing that she brought to entertain them was a tape measure. That’s it. She turned it into a game with her kids. She’d say, “Go measure that table over there!” And they’d all run over, stay busy for 45 seconds and then come back. Then, she’d repeat the process, “OK, go measure that chair.”

Sometimes, we make it so complicated in our minds and think we need to entertain our kids. We want to be present in their lives, but at the same time, we don’t always want to be their entertainers. At the cabin, my kids are so happy with sticks. Other than a baseball, I don’t bring toys.

When you get outside, they might feel bored at first. That’s normal. They’re understimulated. It’s good for your kids to be bored. It forces their minds to think of something to do. You’ve just got to give it some time.

Snacks & Water

I usually need a snack and water, too, obviously. Or we can have a snack right before we leave, and then we can get out the door. At least with these items, I know we’re going to last a little while and be OK for a long time out of the house.

Rachel always has her snack bag. It’s become a little bit of a crutch. We will have just eaten breakfast, and then I’ll go to swimming lessons with my son. On the way he asks, “Can I have a snack bag?” Because he knows if we’re leaving, I have the snack bag. So I don’t know. Gauge that one for what’s going to be best for you and your family.

Change of Clothes

I also grab an extra pair of clothes. Because that way, when we’re out and about and the kids get dirty, I don’t care. I can just shrug it off. It’s fine. They’re clothes. They’re washable. Even my kids are washable, so it doesn’t matter if they get muddy or grassy.

If I have extra clothes, I’m not stressed about them getting back into the car. They can play unrestrained. That’s why I’ll keep an extra set of clothes in the car. Now, obviously, that’s different when I had younger children. My older kids do even better. But younger, you’re going to need a diaper bag.

Favorite Places to Go with Our Kids

Here’s where we love to take our littles for kid-friendly activities in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska:

  • We already mentioned the library.
  • We love a local resource, Macaroni KID, which has family-friendly events that are either free or really, really inexpensive. You can probably find the Macaroni KID equivalent in your area.
  • We also like to go to the zoo or an aquarium if you have annual passes.
  • Another favorite is walking around Scheels. They have a playground, a Ferris wheel and kids meals with a giant ice cream cone for like $5.
  • Similarly, I used to have some mom friends that would meet up over at Chick-fil-A. The kids would have fun in the indoor play area.
  • We can’t forget The Little Red Farm in Palmyra, Nebraska. It’s a cute farm with pigs, chickens and cows. They do story time once or twice a month for kids. After story time, you can feed the chickens. That’s how we met and became friends as moms.

Know that we’re in this with you. We’re working on leaving our homes with our kids more, too. Maybe we’ll see you out there. You don’t need to do motherhood alone. Come join our village exactly as you are.

Ashlee Hendricks

Ashlee Hendricks

Real Life Conversations Host

I am a mom to three awesome kids: Ellie, Anna, and Levi. My husband Jon works as a professor at the UNL Business College. While we are not natives to Lincoln (this year marks five years in Nebraska), I did grow up on a dairy farm in southwest Missouri and feel quite at home here. I work as a full-time mom and a part-time nurse at a clinic here in town.

As a family, we are happiest outside and having adventures. We lived in South Carolina before moving here so we’ve had to toughen up quite a bit! We love biking, camping and anything involving water. I have been supported and inspired by so many amazing women and men along my parenting journey. Rachel and I have talked a lot about our shortcomings and wins as moms. I hope as we share some of our story that you’ll find some relatable information that can nurture and inspire you wherever you are on your journey as a parent. We are all in this together!

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson

Real Life Conversations Host

I was born and raised in Lincoln. I am a stay-at-home-mom to three amazing kids named Ellie, Brecken, and Finley. I worked as a PE teacher at Scott Middle School for 8.5 years and turned into a SAHM when my second kiddo was born. I love being home with my kids. It is so fulfilling to me to be home with them through each stage, to care for them and to be a part of the little details and the big moments in their lives.

My husband, John, is a men’s gymnastics coach at the University of Nebraska. Our kids love to go to the gym and play. We love that they now have a relationship with the college athletes. It is really fun. Go Big Red! I am very excited to be chatting about things motherhood here on CapitalMom. I hope you enjoy and are able to relate as we share our motherhood journeys

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What to Do If Your Kid Lacks Motivation About School

What to Do If Your Kid Lacks Motivation About School

Sometimes it feels like our kids really don’t care about school. Even when they’re smart and underachieving, or especially when they’re failing school, it’s not as simple as not caring about school.

A Shift in Collyns’ Approach to Schoolwork

Collyns, who is in fourth grade, shows no enthusiasm for school and learning. We knew it was important to address the problem head on. Recently, we attended her parent-teacher conference. She is doing fine in most subjects—except math. We wanted to see what her teacher was observing in the classroom.

She has never been an A+ student, but she has always tried her best. Lately, however, she does her work for completion points and doesn’t seem to care if it’s done correctly. She isn’t asking for help at school or at home if she does not understand the problem. She takes some steps to solving the problem, but if she doesn’t know what to do next, she stops and says it’s complete even though it’s not done correctly.

How to Turn Resistance into Positive Motivation

The teacher told us that the important thing to remember is that Collyns is motivated. She’s just motivated to resist us and others when she does not want to do something. The key is to learn how to turn her negative motivation into a positive one. That’s why we worked together with her teacher to address the early signs of motivation problems and discussed how to provide a better learning environment for Collyns.

Timing Is Key

One thing we realized is that we ask our children to do their homework right after school—before we get home and the chaos of practices begin. Collyns always has her homework completed, but neither Mitch nor I check to see if it’s done correctly. This has now changed. One of us will look it over and see if she has done it correctly and help her if she hasn’t.

Build a Support System

Next, she asks her older brother, Cohen, to help her with the homework she does not understand. Cohen didn’t have a problem in math. He continues to excel and gets his homework done correctly most of the time. Fortunately, he understands her math homework and is willing to help her problem solve.

The motivation is to do things her way, not ours. The motivation is to retain power. Her motivation stems from not knowing what to do next. Now that we have a system in place, when she gets stuck, she has an outlet in her brother.

Praise the Process, Not the Result

Lastly, we started praising her hard work, not just her overall grades. Instead of rewarding her grades, our reward comes in the form of verbal encouragement, praise, hugs and other positive attention—again, not focused on grades, but rather on the learning process in general.

We now regularly ask her about what she is learning each day and engage with her when she’s excited to tell us something about school. She seems to be doing better with her math homework and hopefully it will show on tests. I am thankful Cohen is willing and able to help her with her homework. We will continue to praise her for working hard and finding her motivation.

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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Friendship in Motherhood

Friendship in Motherhood

Hi, I’m Rachel and I’m Ashlee. Welcome to our CapitalMOM Real Life Conversations series.

Why We Partnered with CapitalMOM

CapitalMOM approached us at the end of 2023 and asked us to create some content talking about motherhood, our motherhood journeys, and relatable conversations that we’ve experienced—and continue to experience—as moms that you’ve probably experienced as well.

In this, we want to invite you to be a part of this. Please share thoughts or ideas of topics that you would like to hear. And just know that we are in the throes of motherhood. We are in the real life-ness of it all. We’re so happy to be on this journey together and would love to have you be part of our mom tribe.

Get to Know Rachel & Ashlee

Let us introduce ourselves so you get to know us a bit more.

All About Rachel

I’m a mom of three. I have a six-year-old daughter named Ellie, a four-year-old son named Brecken, and a one-year-old named Finley. I grew up in Lincoln.

I went to Hawthorne, Leffler, and East High. I was a dancer, and I even danced in college. My husband is John. He’s a gymnastics coach for the men’s side at the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL). My kids take gymnastics once a week at Go Big Red, and they get to know the UNL gymnasts.

I taught health and PE for nearly nine years before I became a stay-at-home mom. I worked until my firstborn was two and a half, and it was hard. I felt like I was missing so many of her precious years and stages. I finally decided to become a stay-at-home mom when my son, Brecken, was born with a lung injury. And I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since. I love it. I think I love it so much more because I have the perspective of what it was like to be a working mom.

All About Ashlee

I have three kids as well—Ellie (nine), Anna (seven), and Levi (three). We are not from Nebraska originally. We lived in Utah and South Carolina before. My girls were born in South Carolina, but my littlest, Levi, was born in Nebraska.

My husband and I met at the hospital. He thought he was going to be a medical doctor. He decided to be a business doctor instead. But now, he works at UNL at the business college as a professor. I work at an OB/GYN clinic, still utilizing my nursing skills and getting out of the house routinely.

Our Monthly Glimmers & Dimmers

Each month, we’re going to share either a glimmer or a dimmer from something that just happened recently in our lives.

Rachel’s February Glimmer

My daughter Ellie has a lot of passions and always wants to do things. She comes up with new ideas all the time. Sometimes, I can make them happen, but sometimes I just can’t because there are only so many hours in a day.

Last Friday, she came home from school with a book about tea parties. She wanted to have a tea party, make at least three different creations from this book and invite her friends. So, on Saturday afternoon, we made sponge cake and she asked me if I had texted her friends. I hadn’t yet.

On Sunday morning, she asked me again, “Have you texted my friends?” I said no again. But finally I asked Ashlee’s husband, “Is there any way Anna could come over for a tea party today?” And he responded, “Yes!”

So it happened. Anna, our neighbor, my son and another friend were my daughter’s four guests at this adorable little tea party. We set up the living room all fancy. Everybody arrived dressed up. It was the cutest thing ever to see all the little kids at the tea party and making her dream come true over such a short period of time. It felt like such a ray of sunshine seeing them sitting around our dining room table pouring tea.

Ashlee’s February Dimmer

My dimmer happened this morning as I was getting ready. My little guy, who is three, is playing in the tub playing with color-change cars as I’m putting on my makeup. I look over and I see he’s squatting. He looks down and says, “Mom, I just pooped in the bath.”

Oh, the very realness of toddlers and motherhood. I had cleanup duties. Even though I don’t have a dog, I was cleaning up as if I did. I don’t need more chaos with a puppy or another kid right now. I’m just trying to survive now.

How Did Rachel & Ashlee Meet?

Ashlee grew up on a farm and was feeling homesick. So, her family found a cute little place called Little Red Farm just outside of town with a children’s story time. During story time, Ashlee notices that her daughter is playing with another little girl., so she strikes up a conversation with that girl’s mom.

We put ourselves out there a little bit. We started chatting and learned that our husbands, both named John, both worked at UNL. Our oldest daughters were both named Ellie. We lived three minutes away from each other. So then we just asked, “Do you want to be friends?”

Now, after three years of knowing each other, our kids are best friends. Seeing how God orchestrated our friendship is amazing. It’s really rare to find someone who you get along with, your husbands get along, our kids get along and we live close. That doesn’t happen very often, which is why we feel really grateful to have found it in each other.

Hardships in Finding Friends as a Mom

Starting From Scratch

Trying to make friends in a new place is really tough. Sure, it’s exciting with all of the newness and adrenaline. But when Ashlee moved to Nebraska, it was a clean slate—no family, no friends and no safety net. But she knew that having other mothers—other women, not just moms—that supported her and that she felt like she could have something to offer to them was really valuable. Even if you haven’t moved out of state, it can be difficult for moms who lost touch with high school friends and had college friends move back to where they came from.

Exhaustion & Rejection

Meeting new people is almost like dating—friendship dating. There’s a very genuine exhaustion of putting yourself out there and wondering, “Are you going to be my friend? Are we going to jive? Do we have the same parenting styles? Will our husbands get along? Are our kids going to like each other?” With so many unknowns, it can be kind of exciting in some ways, but very tiring.

No Bonding Activities

It’s especially difficult meeting fellow parents when your kids are little. Instead of having sporting events or extracurriculars as the catalyst for bringing everyone together, you’re the one creating all of the experiences. Ashlee’s kids were four and two when they first moved here.

Encouragement for Building Your Mom Tribe

We both have an amazing mom tribe. If we go out of town, we have people to watch our kids and rely on. But we worked so hard to make it happen. Here’s what we did that worked.

Be Vulnerable

You have to put yourself out there to make friends as an adult. Though it’s not easy, no matter what phase of life you’re in, you have to just do it because otherwise it’s not going to happen.

We used to go to a lot of places where we’d see cute moms that we’d like to talk to because they looked like people we’d be friends with. But many times, we’d just say hello and not take it any further than that. Until we met. We were clearly both in need of a mom friend. That interaction inspired both of us to not be afraid to approach people.

If your kids are playing with somebody and that mom looks relatable, go up and introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for their phone number—the really scary part.

Stay Persistent

Just remember that there’s really nothing to lose. You try it. If it doesn’t work out, no problem. If you try it and it does, you might have lasting friendship. Maybe you get three numbers but they don’t respond to you. That’s okay. They might not be in the place to accept new friends yet. But one of those times, it will work out and you’ll feel like you’re in the right place. There’s even a chance that they’re the one to reach out first, and that means a lot when you’re the one doing a lot of reaching out.

Look for the Good in Others

There are just so many good people out there. If moving around has taught me anything, it’s that there are just so many good people out there. Everyone has something to teach you—about others or about yourself. You’ll meet them.

Find Your Ride-or-Die

There are different levels of friendships—topical friendships and deep friendships. You need to have at least one person that will drop everything and be there for you. Someone that’s going to meet you where you are. Someone that picks up the slack when you’re feeling blah.

Encourage More Than One Mother Figure

My daughter, Anna, came to me once and said, “Mom, I have three moms. I have you, Rachel and another mom in our neighborhood.”

I said, “That’s great!” And she respond, “I think you’re my favorite.”

After that, I was a little hurt. But I didn’t need to be. It’s a blessing that she feels comfortable enough with two other adults in my life that she knows she could go to them as if they were her mom. I’m so glad that my daughter has other female figures in her life because I’m just one person with strengths and weaknesses of my own. She’s going to learn things from them that I can’t teach her, and they’re going to give her so much extra love. I will never be sad about that.

You don’t need to do motherhood alone. Come join our village exactly as you are.

Ashlee Hendricks

Ashlee Hendricks

Real Life Conversations Host

I am a mom to three awesome kids: Ellie, Anna, and Levi. My husband Jon works as a professor at the UNL Business College. While we are not natives to Lincoln (this year marks five years in Nebraska), I did grow up on a dairy farm in southwest Missouri and feel quite at home here. I work as a full-time mom and a part-time nurse at a clinic here in town.

As a family, we are happiest outside and having adventures. We lived in South Carolina before moving here so we’ve had to toughen up quite a bit! We love biking, camping and anything involving water. I have been supported and inspired by so many amazing women and men along my parenting journey. Rachel and I have talked a lot about our shortcomings and wins as moms. I hope as we share some of our story that you’ll find some relatable information that can nurture and inspire you wherever you are on your journey as a parent. We are all in this together!

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson

Real Life Conversations Host

I was born and raised in Lincoln. I am a stay-at-home-mom to three amazing kids named Ellie, Brecken, and Finley. I worked as a PE teacher at Scott Middle School for 8.5 years and turned into a SAHM when my second kiddo was born. I love being home with my kids. It is so fulfilling to me to be home with them through each stage, to care for them and to be a part of the little details and the big moments in their lives.
My husband, John, is a men’s gymnastics coach at the University of Nebraska. Our kids love to go to the gym and play. We love that they now have a relationship with the college athletes. It is really fun. Go Big Red! I am very excited to be chatting about things motherhood here on CapitalMom. I hope you enjoy and are able to relate as we share our motherhood journeys.

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Is Your Pre-Teen Ready to Stay Home Alone?

Is Your Pre-Teen Ready to Stay Home Alone?

Whether it’s a snow day home from school, an unexpected business meeting, or a childcare arrangement that fell through, there probably will be times when I’ll need to leave my child home alone. It’s natural for parents to worry when first leaving kids without supervision, but here’s what you can do to prepare your kids for staying home alone.

Is My Child Ready to Stay Home Alone?

Did you know there’s no hard age for leaving your kids home alone in Nebraska? Everyone says it depends on the child and how responsible they are, but it can be hard to know when kids are ready to handle being home alone. It comes down to your judgment about what your child is ready for.

My kids are at that age where it’s questionable. My son is almost 13 and my daughter is almost 10. My brother used to watch me while my parents were away at that age. It was a nightmare for me, and I didn’t want that for my daughter. Granted, Cohen is nothing like my brother, but they still argue and fight.

Every child is different, but I worried that my kids didn’t have the maturity and skills to respond to an emergency if they’re alone. However, my son said he was ready, and my daughter was okay with it.

Practicing Home-Alone Trials

We decided to do some practice runs, or home-alone trials, before we left for the evening. We let them stay home alone for 30 minutes while we ran to the store and were easily reachable.

When we returned, we talked about how it went and the things that we needed to change or skills that Cohen might need to learn for the next time. We discussed a plan for if he needed to get himself and his sister out of the house, which neighbor they should go to first, second and third.

Our Rules for a Successful Home-Alone Routine

Before my husband and I left for a couple hours with friends, we set ground rules:

  1. No opening the front door.
  2. Only let the dog out the back.
  3. No going outside.
  4. No using the stove or oven—they knew what meals and snacks were available, instead.
  5. Don’t tell anyone, including your friends, you are home alone.
  6. Don’t ignore your sister.
  7. Cohen is in charge, but if there’s a problem, call or text me, grandma, and/or 911 in case of an emergency.

We also scheduled a check-in call. We made sure Cohen understood when we were available and when we might not be able to answer a call. We created a list of friends and family he could call or things he could do if they got lonely. We gave them all the electronics.

Finally, we stay consistent. We’re never gone for more than a couple hours. We are never more than 20 minutes away. And they will never be left alone overnight. We set a schedule and stick to it.

My Takeaway: Staying Home Alone Is Empowering My Kids

My son handled it well. Staying home alone was a positive experience for him, giving him a sense of self-confidence and independence. So, cover your bases and relax. With the right preparation and some practice, you and your child will get comfortable with home-alone days in no 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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Eight Years of Sharing Our Family’s Journey with CapitalMOM

Eight Years of Sharing Our Family’s Journey with CapitalMOM

Happenstance. I was mindlessly scrolling through Twitter eight years ago when I came across a tweet seeking ideas for a mom in the Lincoln, Nebraska area. I sent off a direct message, and a month later, my blogging journey began.

Growing Alongside Us

For eight years, I have been blogging for CapitalMOM. Eight years of sharing my family’s story with you, my readers. You have watched as our oldest daughter grew from a freshman into a young woman planning her wedding. You have watched our senior daughter grow from a stubborn, creative little girl to a young woman who is determined and passionate about her beliefs and values. You have watched our freshman son grow from a courageous kid I only wanted to protect from everything into one of the kindest souls with the most infectious smile you will ever meet. You have watched me doubt my parenting, struggle with grief, share joy—or cry—over the new stages of life, teach accountability and inspire our kids to do good in our world.

How My Readers Transformed Me

Thank you doesn’t justify the feelings going through my heart right now. You, my readers, have been part of our family’s story. Before blogging every month, I prayed for my fingers to pen a story that would impact just one of you. However, I believe I was impacted the most. As I continued writing this portion of my story, I changed for the better. Because of you, I am a better mom, wife, friend, teacher and person. No matter the thoughts flowing from my heart to the keyboard, I knew somewhere, somehow one of my readers would be inspired, and this encouraged me to better my writing and my story. We may never cross physical paths. However, I blogged to share our story to inspire you.

My Son’s First Wrestling Win

In my final blog, I want to share a paragraph our son wrote after his first-ever wrestling win. I ran across this letter while cleaning our kitchen this summer. This letter is nearly ten years old, and the message is stronger today than ever.

“This was my first year of wrestling, and I wanted to win a match for my dad. It took a lot of practice and effort, but it was worth it. I was wrestling a Waverly kid, and my dad was trying to take pictures of the first and second periods I was in my stance. The Waverly kid and I got up. I took a shot. I had the Waverly kid on his back during that time. I got back points as the time ran out. I won my match. My dad was so happy. I learned never to give up, even when you think you will lose a match.”

Always Be in Someone’s Corner

The point of sharing this isn’t the last sentence, but the part where my husband was there with the camera. My husband was in our son’s corner that day. And he noticed. I hope you’re always in someone’s corner. Whoever that person may be for you, whatever they may need (love, discipline, encouragement), always, always show up in their corner.

Thank you CapitalMOM and thank you to my readers. You all have a special place in my heart, and know I will always be in your corner because you were in mine for eight years.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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From Little Girl to Young Woman

From Little Girl to Young Woman

As a mother, I’ve experienced the joys and challenges of raising a daughter, watching her transform from a tiny bundle of joy into a remarkable young woman. It’s a journey filled with precious moments and bittersweet transitions, a constant dance between cherishing the past and embracing the future. Life paused me in my busyness this week and gave me much-needed quiet moments with my family.

A Fond Farewell to Childhood

Sometimes, I miss my daughter. I miss her bouncy, tight curls. Now, I see her in front of her mirror, perfectly assembling a low bun or braid. I miss the little girl, but I love the young woman she is becoming.

Sometimes, I miss the many colorful tutus. Now I see her wearing jeans, a button-down farm shirt and OnClouds. I miss the little girl, but I love the young woman she is becoming.

Sometimes, I miss the little girl running to me with a nail polish bottle. Now I see her eyes light up when she has perfectly manicured nails. I miss the little girl, but I love the young woman she is becoming.

Sometimes, I miss her holding her hands wide open for her dad and me to move her, as she was too lazy to crawl. Now, she is my chauffeur. I miss the little girl, but I love the young woman she is becoming.

Sometimes, I miss her stubbornness. Now, I see determination. I see someone passionate about pursuing her goals. I miss the little girl, but I love the young woman she is becoming.

My Journey Towards Letting Go

I texted Addi, “I have decided I do not want you to graduate high school.”

I am a selfish mom. I don’t want that little girl I dearly miss, who is growing into an amazing young woman, to leave home.

I start to cry. I miss the little girl, the one I could protect, the one I laid next to all those nights when she couldn’t sleep, the one who gave the best squishy hugs, the one I showed all of life’s simple wonders to.

I cry because I know I am selfish. I cry because she is graduating high school. I cry because the best is yet to come for her. That is all my husband and I have ever prayed for—that the best life will come after our kids leave our home. We have taught them values, given them experiences and shown them to love life. When the day comes to move out, our hearts will be full.

I cannot guarantee I won’t miss the little girl or the young woman Addi is becoming, but I can guarantee that I am excited about her next chapter. And I will cry because the best is still yet to come.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Keeping Up with the Lingo

Keeping Up with the Lingo

Nothing makes you feel older than listening to preteens speak. From eye rolls, grunts and slamming doors to unexpected hugs, tweens and teens are hard to predict and understand at times. They are talking slang and the meanings have changed just to keep us on our toes. From music to social media, there are many outlets constantly creating new slang terms. But what happens when we can’t translate the actual words they are saying?

Learning New Slang

“Slay”, “Rizz”, “Glizzy” and “Bop”. These are only a few terms my middle schooler uses in his daily vocabulary. Slang words are constantly evolving, and it can be difficult for parents like me to keep up. As a parent, it is important to be aware of the language your children are using to communicate with their peers.

The other day, after watching a YouTube video about slang kids are using these days, I realized that maybe not all moms and dads of preteens know what the heck their kids are saying when they are talking or texting. They speak in code you know? Not that I’m an expert but, unlike most parents who don’t actually work in social media, I do know some things. FYI, fleek is no longer on fleek so keep that phrase out of your mouth.

Slang words can have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. As a parent, it’s important to understand the context in which these words are being used and to have an open and honest conversation with your kids about them. Using slang words can be fun and a way to connect with your kids, but it’s also important to use them appropriately. Using slang words in the wrong context or using them too frequently can come across as inauthentic and may even cause your kids to feel embarrassed or annoyed.

Keeping Communication Open

For me, it’s easy to overreact when I hear Cohen using slang words that I don’t understand or that I perceive as inappropriate. I try to remember that it’s important to remain calm and to have a conversation with him about why he is using the words and what they mean. Jumping to conclusions or punishing him for using slang language may cause him to shut down and may make it harder to communicate in the future. Cohen and I have a pretty open relationship. He still likes me on most days. Though that is not my main concern in parenting, I’d love it if one day we could be friends but for now, I’m his mom. I am still trying to understand preteen slang meaning. This will not only help me communicate with him, but it will also help me keep up with what’s going on in his life.

Communication between us is an ongoing process with a variety of styles and mixed results. And no matter how hard I try, there will be times when my kids feel understandably misunderstood.

My attempts to have ongoing communication with my children is a bumpy ride. The best I can do is offer a safe place for them to tell me their stories and share what’s important to them–even if it’s a video game or anime series that is not in my wheelhouse of solitaire and Hallmark movies.

I am embracing the fact that language is changing, and my children bring creativity and innovation to my daily life.

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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9 Going on 19

9 Going on 19

Makeup, crop tops, skincare routines. My daughter is only nine years old, but she’s growing up faster than I did.

Navigating Tween Years

I was a tomboy growing up. I loved sports, ponytails and nothing pink or frilly. My daughter, however, is completely the opposite.

If it seems as if your tween knows far more at nine than you did, that’s probably because she does. Kids today grow up faster than ever before. Perhaps the greatest irony is that while my kids seem more mature earlier, I’m trying to stay young. 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40. At the rate my tweens are growing up and I’m trying not to, I’ll seem the same age as them in no time.

Self-Image at the In-Between Age

My daughter is at an age when she’s not a kid anymore, but she’s also not a teen yet either. Caring a lot about hair and makeup and how she looks is normal at her age.

In today’s culture when kids—even young kids—are bombarded with images in the media about what’s considered beautiful and cool, it’s hard for them not to be concerned with how they look. Unfortunately, these images in the media are often suggestive and provocative.

Marketing & Media’s Influence on Tween Fashion

Today’s tweens often dress as if they are older. This is due in great part to marketers and manufacturers. Walk into any store targeted at tweens and you may be shocked by the clothing selection. The apparel often mimics adult selections in miniature sizes.

My children also have far more access to the media. As a result, they’re more exposed to celebrity fashion, and they covet what they see. Marketers argue that they’re simply providing what the public wants. But with little else available, are my tweens really being given much choice? During the tween years, my kids are so focused on what others think that they will quickly grab onto the newest trend.

A Mismatch Between Appearance & Maturity

Tweens who dress older and act older sometimes send the message that they can think older. This, however, is far from true. The tween brain lacks the capacity to truly understand the potential consequences of acting older.

I know that by focusing on her appearance and her style, she’s trying to figure out who she is. I try to remind myself that this is normal for her age. It’s a way for her to “try on” different identities or personalities to figure out which feels just right to her. That doesn’t mean that everything she chooses to wear is age appropriate, so I set limits.

How I Empower My Tween to Make Age-Appropriate Choices

Because technology has opened the world wider for my child, it’s up to me to set reasonable expectations about who she is and how much she really knows.

I started voicing my concerns about her outfits and expressed to her that she is beautiful without makeup. I tell her that it’s normal to try on different styles to figure out what feels right, and I want her to express herself within reason.

But I have rules. She’s not allowed to leave the house wearing crop tops and body shorts to school. Instead, I suggested she “play dress up” within the comfort and privacy of our own home but not wear those articles of clothing in public. I explain to her that it’s important to wear clothes that aren’t too revealing because it shows that she respects her body and that others should, too.

I also try to compromise when I can. I took her back-to-school shopping to find new clothes that she thought were cool and I thought were appropriate for her to wear. I am the parent, so I get to decide what clothes I will buy her.

Ultimately, I want to empower her. She might disagree with what I am saying, and that’s okay. I learn a lot when I seek her opinion and listen to everything she’s heard and seen about the topic. Collyns is strong-minded, but she looks to me for support and guidance. I respond with structure, predictability and the guidelines that she needs to navigate the world.

When I treat my children like children, they are more likely to act that way. By allowing my tweens to dress and act their real age, I can ensure that their short childhoods stay sweet.

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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Balancing Parenthood & Friendship

Balancing Parenthood & Friendship

We recently returned from a family vacation. There were eight of us crammed into one car to see Mount Rushmore. It was on that trip when I realized that my kids were cool and fun to hangout with. They’re at a great age where we can sit and enjoy their company. It made me ask myself, “Why can’t my kids be my friends?”

Balancing Parenthood & Friendship

Many parents, myself included, are concerned about being their child’s friend. But my mom is my best friend. However, she wasn’t my best friend until I became an adult. She was a parent first.

With my preteen son, he’s at the age where he needs me to be a parent first, too. I want him to feel comfortable talking to me, but I know if I were to put our friendship first, establishing myself as an authority figure would be difficult. I don’t want him questioning my rules and boundaries. That’s why, for now, I’m his friendly parent. Besides, I know he has friends his own age to listen to him if he’s not comfortable talking with me.

Setting Boundaries for Healthy Parent-Child Relationships

That isn’t to say that we can’t have fun together. We love playing board games and mini golf. I’ve just always believed that the goal of parenting is to create independent adults. If I do this well, I think I’ll also create the kind of adults I enjoy spending time with and would select to be my friends.

I will always be friendly and enjoy hanging out with my son regardless of his age. I’ll show him love, guidance and leadership. I simply want to behave as a parent and lay a solid foundation for a healthy friendship with him when he is an adult.

Though I may live in denial about it, the day will come when my children move out and make their own homes, growing into lives of their own. I know as he gets older that his parenting needs will change, likely requiring less rule-setting. That’s when I can start acting more like a friend.

Embracing My Role as the Uncool Mom

I’m no expert, just a mom lucky enough to have children she likes and wants to be around. For the moment, they want to be around me as well. I can’t imagine a closer bond and a greater gift! So, I will assume my role as strictly a mom throughout their teen years. As that role often involves, I’ll set limits my children probably aren’t going to like. But that’s okay because I’ve never wanted to be a cool parent. I just want my kids to grow into good, responsible people.

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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How to Politely Ghost a Friend

How to Politely Ghost a Friend

I previously shared that I don’t like one of my son’s friends very much. This friend was not very nice to my daughter, and his attitude towards me was mildly irritating. I found this friend annoying because he’s loud, destructive and obviously had never been taught to say please or thank you. It also made me worry that this friend may be a bad influence on Cohen.

Choosing Quality Over Quantity

Less than a year later, Cohen has realized that he doesn’t want to be friends with this boy anymore. When it comes to friends, I believe in the cliché that quality is better than quantity. While it’s cool to have an entourage of people you can share special moments and have crazy adventures with, the truth is that not all friendships are meant to last through thick and thin—especially if one of them is harmful.

Balancing Honesty & Sensitivity in Unhealthy Friendships

Cohen finally started to experience the negative attitude of this person that others warned him about. He wanted to stop hanging out with this person, but I don’t know how to kindly explain to his mother why Cohen is distancing himself from their child.

Over the last couple of weeks, his friend’s mom kept asking if Cohen was available to hang out. I kept making up excuses about why he was busy. I didn’t want to have a conversation or a confrontation, but do I continue to make up excuses until she hopefully realizes that Cohen’s not interested? Or do Cohen and I choose to ghost him and his mother?

In a perfect world, my son would be able to confront anyone, at any time, to tell them how they offended him. In a perfect would, I’d chat with his mother without her getting offended.

In the real world, his parents might be upset and Cohen truly feels that talking to this person wouldn’t improve the situation. He recognizes that their friendship isn’t worth saving. So why waste the time and energy?

Relationships of all kinds can be messy, weird and complicated, so I’m not here to judge what you decide is best if you’re in a similar situation.

How to Kindly Break Up With Friends

During the school year, Cohen has a different friend group and soccer friends. But during the summer, the boy he wants to distance himself from lives in the neighborhood. It’s convenient for them to hang out. Considering all this, here’s how I kindly removed ourselves from the friendship by acting like Casper and ghosting away.

First, Cohen and I had a long conversation about this friend. I told him to remember that he’s never required to be anybody’s friend but that he still needs to be kind to everyone. If a friend is being too demanding without showing up for him when he needs it, he needs to set boundaries. He should never sacrifice his comfort or get stressed out to “prove himself” as a real friend. The trick is finding balance by having a healthy, trusting friendship.

Then, after my conversation with Cohen, we stopped replying to texts, calls and comments. Getting rid of an unhealthy influence will help him to identify similar people in the future. Unfortunately, he’ll most likely have to go through a friendship dump multiple times in his life, but at least he’ll know how to deal with it better the second time around.

Embracing Selective Friendships as Self Care

While we both feel guilty after ghosting him and his mom, the truth is that my son needs friendships, just not all of them. Some friends are there for a certain time, while others will stick around forever. I told him that he can appreciate the good things about the person while freeing himself from the bad things at the same time.

Again, I reminded him to send love and light to the person and let them go. I want Cohen to surround himself with good people who will lift him up and support him. Ghosting can be an act of self-care.

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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