Update – Added to Our Household

Becoming a caregiver.

I’ve been out of touch for a while. My apologies. I’ve added a chapter to my story and I believe it’s an important one to share more frequently so you’ll be hearing more from our tribe.

My father was the full-time caregiver for my grandfather (his father).  After he passed and much deliberation, my grandfather decided he wanted me to take care of his affairs.  This was a huge task because my hands are quite full with my own nuclear family.  However, in the end it was what he was most comfortable with and made the most sense because his affairs were so closely entwined with my fathers and I was trying to close out his estate/businesses (still haven’t completed this almost two years later).  It’s amazing the work left behind from death.

Fast forward a year (and hopefully that explains my absence as well) and my grandfather was showing severe signs of dementia.  This summer, after many family and close family friends had multiple discussions, it was decided my grandfather would move to Texas and reside with me. My once 6’2″ alpha male grandfather was a mere 150 lbs and completely fragile when he arrived.

The last four months my three girls and I have been adjusting to life as caregivers.  When I initially made up my mind to do this I thought it would be like adding a child to the household. We’ve done that before…nothing out of the ordinary for us. Oh, how wrong I was!  However, it reminded me of something I say to expectant mothers, “you’ll never have a job so hard, but so rewarding”.  Becoming a Caregiver for a loved one is the same.

grandpa

The ONE thing I’m sure of in this adventure is that it was the right decision (despite the multitude of days I’ve collapsed with exhaustion on the bed thinking this is impossible).

Happy Thanksgiving to all! May you focus on all the ways you’re blessed and forget all the reasons you should be stressed.

Naturally Disasterous

I’ve had a rare “opportunity” this week. We survived the great flood of 2016.

To begin, I do not live in a flood zone.  Wednesday I left work as normal and the flash flood hit.   The street my little people were on had already begun flooding so I parked down the  road and waded my way through the knee-deep water and pouring rain to them.  I thought the worst was over when we got back to the car and then to my surprise we pull into our subdivision and it was flooding as well!!  I backed up and went through a back road and safely made it into our garage.  We’ve had a couple of flash floods, but it never made it into our neighborhood.  I guess since we’ve been getting so much rain, there was no where for it to go and so it just began rising…and rising…and rising.

By Saturday, the sun came out and it seemed like the water must go down!  To our frustration it went up.  By now it was up to our garages and front doors, and for a couple of neighbors it was in their homes.  The initial flooding hit so fast that we weren’t able to leave to get sandbags or supplies.  We definitely did not expect it to continuously rise.

flooded Meadow Hill.png

So you ask, what was the “opportunity”?  There are so many I don’t know where to begin.

I met neighbors and saw our neighborhood rally together.  They helped me lift my fridge and deep freeze to put pavers and wood underneath, they helped me move furniture to my second floor, we all used sand from the girls sandbox to make quick sandbags for our garages, we watched each others kids so others could meet family and friends for supplies, we shared food and groceries and stories, we let our kids play together, and so much more.  I loved WHERE we lived before the flood, but now I love my community of neighbors. I don’t have enough words for all the nice things I’d like say and the generosity, civility, and concern  we were shown. Especially after all the negative things you  hear people say and do now, it’s nice to know the good people are out there. I only wish I would have made more of an effort before the flood to get to know their stories. This was a lesson to me to label less and communicate more.

sandbags
sandbox + walmart sacks = diy sandbags

My “noisy motorcycle” neighbor (you know you have nicknames for your neighbors too) ended up being the one who saved us.  Her boyfriend knew some people and was able to get an industrial pump brought in to drain the water.  We all pitched in for gas for the machine, but without her we wouldn’t have had it and the county was unconcerned with helping us.  She got it Saturday and the water immediately started to recede. Then we had another flash flood and the water just went up to where it was previously.  I have no doubt in my mind that it would have been in my home, A/C, etc if it wasn’t for her.  I love my “noisy motorcycle” neighbor now.  We went to thank her and it turns out she’s actually very sweet.  She just has a noisy hobby that as an exhausted mom I found frustrating some late nights.  However, never again! 🙂

My “angry, crabby old guy” neighbor helped dig a trench to release some of the water too.  Then afterwards he walked about a mile and a half to get more supplies and brought the girls back chocolates as well. “Angry, crabby old guy” neighbor is actually a lonely empty nester.  It ends up it was just him and his daughter for a long time, but then she went away to college about a year and a half ago out-of-state. So now it’s just him and his garden. :\ I’ll probably be the “angry, crabby old girl” when my kids go off to college too.  We’ll be taking him cookies and such more often.

Also, I realized how lucky I am to work where I do.  I love my job truly, but occasionally I wonder if I couldn’t be doing more with my life and my degree.  However, throughout this ordeal my coworkers and boss were constantly checking on us and helping me weigh pros and cons (my first flood so it was nice to have some feedback).  They sent over pizzas, drinks and formula for me Saturday when the water was at my front door.  People I only see from 8-5 waded through 4 blocks of water to get to my house just to drop off supplies.  That says a lot about the people I work with and company I work for. I’m forever grateful just for the sheer thoughtfulness.

Lastly, my home is ridiculously clean.  After moving all our furniture upstairs we were at a wait-and-see point. This gave me time to clean under and around everything. lol. Forget spring cleaning — I’ve got a full-on summer shine!  I had to go through all the boxes in the garage to get them out of there when the water was leaking in (thankfully diapers came in handy for keeping the water at bay).  I moved into this house when I was 3 months pregnant and had horrible morning sickness.  To say it was an unorganized and unmotivated move would be an understatement.  I finally feel like we are “moved in”.  It just took a flood to do it!

diapers.png
Diapers — more than one use

I could be a negative Nancy and focus on the bad stuff.  My backyard still has standing, stinky water, the mosquitos are going to be INSANE now, I missed a couple days of work, and Milla missed her last day of PreK.  However, my family is safe, my home is intact, I made some amazing new friends, and we know there is a drainage problem that we can fix before any potential hurricanes. All-in-all, it was a blessing in disguise and Milla didn’t seem too upset about missing school with all her friends and a creek in the front yard. Kids have a way of creating fun where adults can only see predicaments. We could probably all learn a little something from that. 🙂

kids play.png

 

Shame On You!

Mom shaming: When you shame a mom on the Internet, at the school, at playdates, or anywhere for that matter. Anyone can be afflicted with this disease of the heart. It has been seen in mom’s and non-mom’s alike.

This “disease” takes on many different sizes, shapes and forms. I hear more and more people with a lack of understanding or knowledge of other parents’ circumstances, choices or decisions regarding their kid(s) and it seems to be contagious. Instead of being supportive they assume they know and comment negatively. Most of the carriers of mom shaming don’t have the ability to empathize with challenges of other parents, but have no problem telling them how they’re wrong and how they should be doing it or should have done it better. Remember, hindsight is 20/20.

I read this article today and, yeah, the mom was obviously having a rough day.  It was Mother’s Day, her kids were too young to do anything for her, she was single, and she was reading all these wonderful things wonderful husbands were doing for their wonderful mommy wives and she was upset/frustrated or whatever.  Is what it is, but what really got me were the comments.  It wasn’t hang in there it’ll get better, or “Happy Mothers Day” I’m sure your kids appreciate you more than you know, etc.  No, a lot of them were: You need therapy.  Your kids should be taken from you.  What kind of mother are you?  You don’t love your kids and it’s obvious. Your kids are going to grow up with problems because they can tell you don’t like them. Etc.  It just went on and on. I truly couldn’t believe it.

I think I’m a top-notch mom (big grin on my face and happy dancing…okay, maybe not happy dancing but feeling pretty sure of myself as I say this…okay, maybe not sure of myself, but a little sure….), but I have had some bad days.  Here are some prime Mom Shaming opportunities.

  1. I’ve had to rush my daughter to the ER before.  —-  Milla drank the children’s Advil I left on the table while getting her some water. I was SURE  this was going to put her into a coma and they may need to pump her stomach. I measured it quickly and arrived at ER telling them she had 3-4 tablespoons and they laughed and said she’d sleep good after checking her out. :\   Still feel guilty about it though.
  2. I lost my daughter in a McDonald’s playhouse and called the police.  — I was sure some pedophile had stolen my beautiful, little princess and I had every episode of Law and Order SVU running through my mind.  Cici was hiding under the slide the whole time. I was up the playhouse, all around it, questioning parents and generally in a paranoid frenzy.  Cici thought it was hilarious.  We found her when she started uncontrollably giggling. Yep…I never went back to that McDonald’s.  I mean, how could they leave that space under the slide that she could fit in? lol. j/k.  My fault.  No more hide and seek with the kids.  They’re getting too good at it.
  3. My daughter has pooped in an aisle at Party City. — Yes, that’s right. Pooped. Full on blowout.  Cici was looking at Little Mermaid party gifts next to me when she tooted and I was like, “geez sister, peeyoo”.  However, when I looked at her she had deer and headlight eyes and then I saw it running out her pant leg. O.M.G. . Me scooping her up, “Me: Cici where is your PullUp? Cici: On Ellie (her baby doll) at home.”  Can you say MORTIFIED? Disgusted? Gagging?

I can only imagine what the other parents at the ER, McDonald’s, and Party City were thinking. AND, these are just three examples that immediately come to mind. This doesn’t include Milla’s corn starch snow angels in the kitchen, Cici’s injured mouse friend (EEK), or a multitude of others.  Kids are kids, parents are human.  Some of these things are ridiculously funny to look back on, some of them were learning opportunities for them (reviewing stranger danger and why not to hide from mommy) or for me (the lid on everything should always be on tight and up high even if they’re sick for their safety-Advil or my sanity-Cornstarch). Granted, there are exceptions to every rule and you can argue the gray areas.  But most of the stuff I hear isn’t gray area it’s just straight mean — so let’s review some basic human principles:

  1. No one is perfect. Not you, not her, not him, not the President, not anyone.
  2. Venting is a release of built up emotions. I might feel overwhelmed and say “I need a vacation”, but I personally can’t be away from my kids for much time before I’m calling/texting/ready to get back to them.
  3. Just because someone is having a bad day, doesn’t mean they’re a bad parent.
  4. Your way of parenting is not better than their way of parenting.  It’s just different.
  5. Being a parent has ups and downs.  Things will get better, then they might get worse, then better, rinse, repeat. So lend an ear, or a hand, and be supportive of others.

I realize it’s a day and age of reality TV: Kardashians, Dance Moms, Teen Moms, Real Housewives, etc.  It’s a digital age where we are fed the lives of others and expected to have an opinion on it.  However, try to realize being a parent isn’t a reality show.  Being a parent is caring for and loving a little person so much you would do anything for them. REAL parents are constantly trying to improve, do the best, and be the best for their little people.  This life is better than reality TV because it’s REAL–unedited, unreviewed, moment by moment living.  Embrace it, enjoy it, and learn from it because none of us are perfect and so many of us are truly, desperately trying our best.

 

Hollar!

As a single working mom, I truly love Amazon. However, with Prime membership going up and their customer service lagging (it’s an enormous company now) I have a new love affair going with Hollar.com.  It is an American-based retailer that offers items that are constantly changing and have “dollar store” pricing. It emphasizes women’s items, health & beauty aids, school supplies, toys, kitchen items, cell phone accessories and more.

Some reasons I love this company:

1. It’s all $5 or less

All items are only $1, $2, $3, $4, or $5! However, you must have at least $10.00 worth of items in your cart in order to check out.  I just bought a cell phone case for $4, Screen protector for $2, Charger for $1, shopkins for $3 (my daughter is obsessed), and Disney’s Inside Out for $5.

hollar shopkins

2. Name brand items

Hollar.com has name-brand merchandise from party supplies and toys from kids’ favorite characters such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shopkins, Minecraft, and Melissa & Doug; makeup from drugstore brands like Revlon, Maybelline, Almay; plus food, grocery, and cleaning supplies from well-known consumer brands, among other things.

3. Free Shipping on over $25

Hollar offers first time customers  free shipping on their first order, and provides complimentary shipping on all subsequent orders $25 or more.

4. AMAZING Customer Service

I reached out today because they sent me a new customer coupon that was good for 24 hours for 30% off.  However, when I checked out it said my coupon was invalid.  I forwarded the original email they sent me with my order number asking why the coupon was invalid and they responded in under 2 hours and refunded me the 30% off from my order. All I can say is “Wow”!

If you haven’t checked this site out I highly recommend it!

What items have you picked up at Hollar.com?

Let’s Get Real

Life isn’t easy. To be responsible for the livelihood and molding of another person? Shitz hard!

Today I started out at 3:30am, did some laundry and dishes, woke the baby at 4am for breakfast, worked out, then woke the girls at 5am for their breakfast, and then our day was up and running.  By 8am severe migraine – possible dehydration.  Two meetings and two Gatorade’s later feeling a little more useful.  Then the apocalyptic call – I don’t want to babysit your infant anymore.  It’s only noon. Dammitalltohell.

A quick rescheduling of meetings and a call to the boss and I’m off.  Picking up Baby J on the way to picking up Milla to drop her at school during my lunch break (she’s a half day preK kid).  I stop at three places nearby our home to request prices…totally out of our budget.  I hit up Craigslist and schedule a couple of interviews.  A few drive-bys (too scary to even stop) and a couple of interviews later and I think we have a winner.  She’s new to Houston, has a few respectful and sweet kids, lives in a gated community. She gives me a copy of her license and a background check later she’s tentatively hired for a trial week.

Let’s get real.  If you had a big bag full of gold you wouldn’t just drop it off at a strangers house and expect to pick it up later.  That’s what I feel when I drop my kids off.  I’m trusting someone whom is practically a stranger with one of my most priceless possessions!  I would literally kill for my kids.  I love them more than I’ve ever loved anything in my entire life.  I pay more than 1/2 my pay every month to people to care for these little people that I would personally pay just to spend more time with. Truth talk. I’m jealous of SAHMs.

Being a single parent isn’t easy.  It’s extremely difficult.  I do what I do to the best of my ability so that I may give my wonderful little people the life they deserve.  It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s a lot of fun; but it’s ALWAYS a lot of work.  Most days I feel extremely blessed and lucky to have these three beautiful little creatures that cuddle and look up to me.  However days like today are hard.  They make you shed a few tears, ask God why, and then you strum up the courage to say “Okay, I got this”.  There’s a quote by Mae West that comes to mind, “I never said it’d be easy, I said it’d be worth it.”

It’s not easy, but it’s totally worth it. Baby J cheering me on at the computer as we search for a new babysitter. Who can resist those eyes!!??

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How to Protect Against Sex Offenders

After listening to KRBE’s discussion on sex offenders on my way in to work I did a little research and read some of the below statistics on Family Watchdog:

•  60% of abusers are family friends (babysitters, neighbors, or friends of the family)
•  30% of abusers are their own family.
•  And 10% are strangers. -Most people think it is just strangers you have to watch out for, but 90% of abusers are people the victim knows.
•  Not all perpetrators are adults. It is an estimated 23% of abusers are under the age of 18.
•  Absence of one or both parents is a risk factor (Some research found that children living with only one biological parent at twice the risk of sexual victimization)

I decided to do a check of my new neighborhood and had a small heart attack when I saw an address a few houses down from us.  Just a reminder to always keep an eye on your children as you never know who or where the “bad” people could be.  How many times have you heard of someone getting arrested for something horrible and their family and neighbors all saying how wonderful they are?  Unfortunately, you just never know what goes on behind closed doors.  The nice, rich woman down the street could be your biggest threat and the cranky, old guy across the street could be one of your children’s greatest protectors and your second set of eyes.

I want to take this opportunity to urge you to empower your children to say “no” to unwanted touch and teach them that they can come to you with questions and concerns.  Doing this is a critical step to preventing your child from being sexual abused. Here are some things I do:

  • Teach children the names of their body parts so that they have the language to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts.
  • Teach them that some parts of their bodies are private.
    • Let them know that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to touch them to provide care.
    • Tell them that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them OR if someone tries to show them his or her own private parts, they should tell you ASAP.
  • Teach them boundaries and that it’s okay to say “no” to touches that make him or her uncomfortable or scared.
    • Assure your kids that it is okay to get help, even if someone he or she cares about might be upset or embarrassed.
  • Teach your child that these topics do not need to be “secret.” Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse should be kept a secret. Let your child know that if someone is touching him or her or talking to him or her in ways that make him or her uncomfortable or scared, that it should not stay a secret.
    • Abusers rely on the child’s likelihood of not telling an adult.
    • Assure your child that he or she will not get into trouble if he or she tells you this kind of secret.

As you talk to your child about these items, remember to focus on creating a safe zone. Hopefully, they don’t tell you about sexual abuse at the time of the conversation and you are just laying a foundation for future questions or concerns. Also, take a moment to do a sex offender search and read why they are on the list (this is important as not all offensives are alike).  Please remember that these are only the registered offenders that were caught and realize how many are out there that haven’t been.  Our children are our greatest asset and it’s our job to look after them and keep them safe.

If you live in Texas, you can check your zip code here.

If you live in Missouri, you can check your address here.

If you live in Florida, you can check your address here.

If you reside in a state that isn’t listed above, go here.

 

Future Bookworms Unite!

If you’re not a bookworm like me and wondering “why should I be reading to my child”, here are some statistics for your contemplation:

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) children who are read to at home have an advantage over children who are not.  Of those children who are read to 3-4 times in the last week by a family member, 26% recognized all letters of the alphabet compared to 14% of children who were read to less frequently.  In addition, children who are read to frequently are more likely to:

  • count to 20 or higher than those who were not (60% vs. 44%)
  • write their own names (54% vs. 40%)
  • read or pretend to read (77% vs. 57%)

There are so many ways to find physical books, PDFs, as well as ebooks for your little people to read without spending a fortune.  The below all offer easy options to give kids access to a wide variety of reading material — some without spending a cent on gas!

1. Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program

Kids in first through sixth grades can earn a free book by filling out the “Summer Reading Triathlon” reading journal.  After your kids fill it out, bring it to a Barnes & Noble store between May 17 and September 6 to earn a free book from a selected list.  If you have younger children such as mine, they also offer story time on Saturday mornings (varies by location)!  As a side note, the library near me does a summer reading program as well. My girls log their books over the summer and receive a certificate and free book if they reach their goal!    🙂

2. Read Conmigo

Immerse your children in preK-fifth grade bilingual reading by signing up for Read Conmigo.  If you live in California, Florida or Texas, the program will mail you a book every four months and the online resources like bilingual activities and educational tools are available to everyone, regardless of location.

3. Reading is Fundamental

Reading is Fundamental partnered with ustyme to allow free access to 50 classic ebooks including “Goldilocks,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs,”.  Kids can even read along with an adult using the ustyme app to make live video calls.  I plan on trying this with the girls and their Papa soon, but I haven’t tested it yet. Let me know if  you have!

4. Free Kids Books

Download free PDFs from this online library of kids’ books.  With picture books for toddlers, books with pictures and words for bigger kids, and chapter books for young adults (you can even get coloring books).

5. Goodwill

I can’t even tell you how many books we’ve bought from Goodwill. Most of the time I take the girls as a reward and let them pick out two-three a piece and I generally spend about $5.  There’s always a wide range to choose from and they’re rarely more than gently used.  I’ve even found some brand new cookbooks still in the plastic for me for $2!

6. Little Free Library

Little Free Library is trying to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide. There are over 36,000 Little Free Library book exchanges around the world, bringing curbside literacy home and sharing millions of books annually.  There is a listing here of all addresses for these little book exchanges.

Little Free Library

7. Craigslist and Freecycle

If you’re looking for some kids’ books, don’t forget to check out Craigslist and Freecycle. Plenty of people have books they’re not using or their children have outgrown and would be happy to share.  Added benefit: you will be teaching your children about reusing/recycling at the same time.

8. Libraries

Of course, your local public library has plenty of books to borrow for free. This is a great option for families who like to constantly switch up their reading selections (not to mention renting audiobooks and DVDs).  Our library  has a for sale section that we buy from too.  Also note, both our current library and our previous library offered children’s story time in the evening and family night once a month.  Just another way to get your kids interested in books/reading.

9. Amazon Free Books

Amazon has a ton of free kids’ books available for Kindle downloads.  Just search for “children’s books, Kindle edition” and sort the prices “low to high” to see all the freebies.

10. Amazon Prime Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

Amazon Prime members can borrow books for free through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which allows users to borrow one book each calendar month.  The program offers a wide range of kids’ books to pick from, but you’ll need a Kindle (and a Prime membership which I LOVE) to read them.  I did splurge and use my rewards points to buy Cici a Fire Kids Edition (occasionally on sale for $79) for her birthday.  It’s a complete tablet with apps, camera, etc.  In addition,  you get 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited (love this), Kid-Proof Case, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee (already used once) .

11. Project Gutenberg

While mostly for older kids, Project Gutenberg has a wealth of free downloads available.  Type “children” in the search field and classic kids’ books will appear from “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” to “Alice in Wonderland” and many others.

12. Imagination Library

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was created and 1995 and has expanded to send more than 60 million books to kids in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. To see if your area is eligible for free books you can register online to search for a local program. Unfortunately, my area in Texas isn’t available but I did sign up for future mailings just-in-case.

Do you know of any other ways to get free kids’ books?