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Mama Drama: Decrease Packing Pressure

Dear Mama Drama:

Every time we travel, even for a weekend, I find myself stressed and short-tempered by the time we pull out of the driveway. I’m always running around packing everything and the rest of the family is waiting on me to get it done. There are so many details to keep track of that I worry my kids will forget something if they pack themselves, but managing everything takes all the fun out of traveling for me.

~ Travel Weary Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Travel Weary:

I’d be stressed and cranky too if I were doing all the work while everyone stood around and watched. You need an action plan to get the rest of the family involved and taking responsibility for their travel gear.

Have suitcases or bags for each of your children if they are old enough to pull one on their own (age 4 or 5 is a good barometer depending on their strength and stature). This will help in the organization of belongings as well as redistribute responsibility as you pack and transport luggage.

Create a packing list for each child of all the items they’ll need to bring including specific clothing (i.e., 3 t-shirts, 1 dress shirt) toiletries, stuffed animals, books, and games. Give this to your children who can read and have them set out the items on their bedroom floor. This way you can take a quick peek and double check that all items have been accounted for before they go in the bag. For children who are not yet readers (or need a bit more organizational support), read the list aloud as they pull out the necessary items.

Pack together. Packing a suitcase effectively is an important life-long skill you can teach your children. By doing it with them, you’ll save yourself tons of time and frustration down the road. Explain your thinking as you make suggestions of where to put different items such as shoes, underwear, toiletries, etc. Be flexible if they have divergent ideas and problem solve together if you have concerns about whether an item will fit or may be too fragile for that part of the bag. After doing this a few times, you’ll be able to hand off the lists and relax while your children develop the confidence and skills to manage their own belongings.

Make a list of critical items you don’t want to forget. Enlist your family in helping you make sure that list is completed before heading out the door.

Pack ahead of time. Last minute packing makes everyone stressed out. Packing all that you can the night before you leave decreases the pressure to remember everything at the last minute.  Additionally, getting a head start on packing for your little ones who can’t do it themselves lets you just grab their bags and go when you’re ready.

Finally, clearly designate and communicate a time that everyone needs to be ready to leave. Be sure to allow some wiggle room for mishaps, bathroom needs, and other unexpected events.

Moms often have all these lists and skills in their heads, so can easily end up doing all the work and feeling frustrated. Relinquishing control over the details and redistributing responsibility will help traveling become a wonderful rather than wearing endeavor for you.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to Lisa@milehighmamas.com, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

As long as you’re under my roof

I want the serial killer lurking in the woods to know this:

I have left the back door unlocked. I am not armed. My room is at the top of the stairs to the right. I am usually sleeping from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am, but I have kids so these hours greatly vary. If you need to sharpen your axe, look in the garage. There, you’ll find all sorts of tools. Hammer, crowbars, all-things sharp and scary. If you forgot your axe (blush) you can use what you find in the red tool box. There’s always the kitchen knives, too. Don’t let our dog worry you. She’s all bark, no bite.

I’d hate for you to get hurt. I mean, if you’re going to kill me ANYWAY, you should be as safe as possible while you are committing your crime. I am powerless. I really can’t say no because I could be stifling your style, denying your needs, making you look uncool to all your serial killer friends, or forcing you to go elsewhere. Like do your killing in a car or a park? Yuck. That’s dangerous!

And then there are hormonal teenagers. Everyone knows they are crazed sex and alcohol fiends. They may not lurk in the woods with an axe but they are just as wild-eyed and powerless against their urges.

Recently, Good Morning, America ran a story about parents who allow their kids to have sex at home. The justification is that kids will be kids and will do it anyway, so why not make sure they are safe and cozy in their bedrooms?

If this catches on, I can see parenting magazines offering advice. Imagine reading this in the dentist’s waiting room:  A nice decorating touch for a teen’s bedroom? A pretty crystal bowl to display condoms! Make sure you use freshly-scented fabric softener for your teen’s sheets and have decorative soaps in the bathroom. When your teen has a special friend over, it’s customary for you to go on a walk around the block. Give them at least 5 minutes. Arrive home in time to prepare a healthy snack for the still-growing kids. Chocolate milk is always a hit. They need the energy, especially with the big geometry test in the morning.

Parents in the Good Morning, America article cited safety as the reason they allow their teens to have sex in their homes. Safety from what? Being in a car? Then why let them drive the car? Safety is simply an excuse.

I believe the parents who have made this decision are more interested in being their kid’s friend than keeping them safe. Several of the teen girls in the article stated they wouldn’t be comfortable with permission to have sex at home because it eliminates their excuse to not have sex. The ability to blame parents for being strict is actually a refuge for certain teens.

Do teens like being painted as crazed fiends who can’t control themselves when it comes to drinking and sex and general rowdiness? Probably not.

I have high expectations for my kids while understanding they will be confronted by sex. I hope they have high expectations for me, too. That means not being the pal who gets lost when a girlfriend or boyfriend comes over. I am not a roommate, a sorority sister, a peer.

I will be the one who will make sure to keep dialogue open. I will make sure to teach our values and more importantly why we hold particular values. I will always provide arms to hug, shoulders to cry on, and legs to carry them when they can’t move another inch.

I provide the roof.

It’s number one function is shelter.

Who Am I? A Stay-at-home Mom’s Journey to Fulfillment

Who am I?

It used to be such a simple question, with a simple answer.

  • A college student!
  • A graduate!
  • A go-getter career woman making her mark on the world!
  • When I got married, I notched “wife” on my belt and went back to storming the corporate castle. But motherhood – that was a whole different ballgame.

    Becoming a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) yanked me out of the fast lane, and slammed me into the brick wall of reality. It was a brutal transition, and my husband had a front-row seat to the car crash.

    What was I? Unemployed? A diaper-changer? Cook? Maid? I floundered. Some things I chose to give up:

    The Real on Reality TV and How Much is Too Much for a Child’s Birthday Party?

    Invitations, ice cream, cake, punch, games, prizes, goodie bags, decorations…chocolate fountain, swimming pool, submarine, iPhone…hey, you don’t turn 8 every day, right?

    Mama Drama: Preventing Travel Trauma

    Dear Mama Drama:

    We are traveling by plane and car this summer and need some ideas for keeping the kids entertained and having a smooth ride.

    ~ Traveling Mama

    (photo credit)

    Dear Traveling:

    Planning ahead is a great idea as parents and kids can feel stressed and anxious when hunger and boredom set in on the road.

    Have snacks handy. Kids generally need frequent snacks and a hungry traveler is usually a recipe for disaster. Pack easy to eat snacks like crackers, nuts (if you don’t have allergies), dried fruit, and popcorn. When driving you can add in fresh fruit, baby carrots, and sandwiches that can be stored in a cooler.

    Stay hydrated, but skip the sugar. Keep kids sipping on water throughout your travels. Headaches and crankiness are often symptoms of dehydration. It’s easy when traveling to go for fruit juices and sodas. Keep them to a minimum to avoid sugar crashes and other negative side effects.

    Go to the bathroom, often. The speaker at my niece’s graduation this spring quoted his father in sharing a bit of wisdom, “Never pass up a meal or chance to go to the bathroom.” Great advice for kids heading to college, but the bathroom part really caught my attention for traveling with children. Kids will often say they don’t need to go to the bathroom when the opportunity is present, but then need to go five minutes after you’ve left the rest stop or gas station. Have them go in and try at every chance, especially before boarding a plane or when you see that sign reading “Next rest stop 75 miles.” Make a game of it to see who can go the most times if you need to find a way to motivate them.

    Keep their brains busy. While walking through the airport or driving down the highway, I Spy is an easy go to favorite that the whole family can enjoy. My sons also love playing “the truck game” during highway drives. They pick a brand or two of semi-trucks and keep count of them as they pass. Sometimes this gets competitive and others times is just for fun. One summer they made graphs and had the trucks compete to win. My husband’s favorite way to pass the time in airports is “celebrity look-a-like.” We scan the crowd for people who look like famous people. It’s tons of fun!

    Bring books and magazines. As long as they don’t get nausea reading, like me, make sure you bring lots of reading material. Reading is a great way to pass the time, support literacy skills, and escape into a whole new adventure.

    Keep their hands busy. Activity books are also a great way to keep kids occupied. Depending on their ages, pick up coloring books, drawing paper, crossword puzzles, mad libs, sudoko, and word searches. Another fun option is the art box with a clipboard on top and a place to store crayons and pencils underneath. String games such as cat’s cradle and books that teach them other fun tricks are engaging as well. Stress balls to squeeze and fidgets to stretch are also good ideas.

    Find ways to move. At each stop when driving, encourage your kids to run, jump, and burn off some energy. In airports have them stretch, run in place, do jumping jacks, or practice standing yoga balance poses such as tree or eagle.

    Take care of yourself. Now that you’ve done all this planning for the kids, make sure you plan ways to take care of yourself. Think ahead about ways to be relaxed and calm as you travel. Leave plenty of time to get where you’re going so you don’t feel rushed. Get up a few minutes early to stretch, meditate, or go for a short walk. Eat well and stay hydrated. Taking care of yourself will go a long way is setting an example for your children to follow.

    Now you the rest of you seasoned family travelers share your tricks and tips for a smooth ride.

    Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to Lisa@milehighmamas.com, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

    Candy-Coated Sentiments and a Trash to Treasure Moment

    It was a trash to treasure moment – ok, so it wasn’t exactly from the trash, but it was amongst the spread of abandon antiques that had found their way to Nana’s yard sale. With a joyful smile, Nana handed it over to my seven-year-old son to take home, I was not thrilled. A large, heavy item with a glass globe on top…of course he was drawn to it, but could she have checked with me first?

    Well, not if she wanted to get rid of it I guess!

    I hesitantly took the gumball machine home with us, carefully

    Cancer-survivor mom’s mission to help parents with cancer

    Now that she no longer feels like the Sword of Damocles is hanging by a slender thread over her head, mother-of-two Jen Singer can at last get her dream off the drawing board.

    That dream is Parenting With Cancer — the website she wishes had existed when she was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on June 6, 2007.

    Singer would wander around at night in tears fueled by medication, trying not to disturb the family, and

    An explosive start to summer

    You know how a mom’s antennae go up when there’s just too much quiet for too long?

    It was the first day of my children’s summer vacation, but just another work-at-home day for me. I’d been solving registration problems, uninterrupted, for about 45 minutes. Glory be. And then…

    MomMY…!?” Tessa’s last syllable inflected upward in a controlled panic.

    In one leap I got rid of the laptop and headed up the stairs. As I took them two at a time, Reed was saying, “It was an exPLOSion!”

    Holy crap, I was thinking. How bad is this gonna be?

    Tessa had wanted the room brighter so she removed a lampshade from a lamp. Then Reed wanted to see what happens when you put a Lego® on a light bulb.

    Of course you know what happens when you put a Lego® on a light bulb: it melts. And then it smokes and then it frightens children.

    A child who is frightened by both the situation and by the prospect of telling her mom what is happening will try to solve the problem herself. By pouring hand sanitizer on it.

    Hence the fire. And the explosion.

    The flash-fire was out by the time I got to the bedroom, in about 5 seconds. Shards of glass sparkled in a wide disaster zone.

    Remarkably, neither child was hurt and nothing was damaged (besides the shattered light bulb). I picked up the larger shards by hand and carefully vacuumed the rest. And had A Talk with the children about the properties of matter and what can happen when you add heat.

    And how hot one’s bottom could get if they ever do such a thing again.

    How many more days until school starts?

    Image: Kalimist on Wunderground.com

    How do YOU know when your nicely playing children need attention?

    Cancer-survivor mom’s mission to help parents with cancer

    Now that she no longer feels like the Sword of Damocles is hanging by a slender thread over her head, mother-of-two Jen Singer can at last get her dream off the drawing board.

    That dream is Parenting With Cancer — the website she wishes had existed when she was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on June 6, 2007.

    Singer would wander around at night in tears fueled by medication, trying not to disturb the family, and

    Edging Up On 40: What I’ve Learned

    I’m going to turn 40 this year. A few years ago, even a few months ago, I wanted to deny it. I felt like 40 was going over a cliff somehow. A cliff of not being hip (not that I have ever been cool), not being young and free (not that I’ve felt that since having children), too old for my career (I’ve changed professional directions more times than I’ll admit), and no longer respected, because I’d be an “old” person.

    I have since realized that none of those things are true. I am who I am, Yes, I have faults. Yes, I have pieces of my personality I want to tweak, mistakes and words I’d like to take back and moments of my life I’d rather skip over. But all of these things make up who I am today.