5 Tips That Will Save Your Sanity

posted in: Parenting | 0

five tips that will save your sanity - betsy's photography - bphotoart.comWhile our goal may be to keep life stress-free, you know as well as I do that that just doesn’t happen. Somehow, things always manage to complicate life, and sometimes we just want to throw in the towel.

My own search for sanity hasn’t been completely successful, but then again, I doubt it ever will be. Instead of trying to eliminate stress, I’ve found that it’s better to find activities that are relaxing — find a way to relieve stress when it comes into my busy life.  Read on for Five Tips that will Save Your Sanity!

Breathe.

Have you noticed that when you take short, quick, breaths, your body gets more tense? Well, the opposite is true too. When you’re feeling stressed, managing your breathing is an easy and effective way to relax your body and mind.

Instead of just breathing from your chest, take deeper breaths — your stomach should expand as you use your diaphragm to fill your lungs completely. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale…

Breathing slowly and deliberately will make your body relax and will clear your mind, allowing you to regain your sanity!

Exercise.

This is one of the best ways to relieve stress, anger, or frustration! By exercising, you can relieve pent-up energy and direct it towards something more beneficial (we all know it’s not good to internalize things, right?).

Plus, you’ll feel better and have more energy to do the things you love!

Of course, exercise also has the added benefit of being good for your health and maintaining weight — but think of those as “bonuses” :).

Be Flexible.

Some of the most common sources of stress could be avoided if we are willing to compromise.

Of course, there’s a time and a place to stand your ground, but sometimes there is room to give. A little flexibility can go a long way towards maintaining sanity.

Schedule “You” Time.

Yes, it’s important to help others, but you also need to help yourself. By dedicating time to your needs, you’ll be more refreshed and better prepared when it comes time to help others.

Try to spend some time each day doing something for you — it could be a getting a manicure, reading a book, or even painting a picture.

Spend some time doing what you love so that you will be able to enjoy doing things for others.

Get Enough Sleep.

Not surprisingly, sleep is important. If you’re like me, when you get too little sleep, things seem to be more frustrating and exasperating. In turn, this makes life more stressful.

While I’m not saying you need to go to bed when the kids do, it probably will make life a little less stressful if you make an effort to get to bed by your bedtime. Well, what if it’s just one of those days? Try getting a nap in, and if that doesn’t help, you can revert to your normal pick-me-up (e.g. coffee, tea, or chocolate) for the day.

So, there you have it! Five easy tips for maintaining your sanity and keeping your life as stress-free as possible! Of course, these are just suggestions; I’m sure you can think of additional activities and methods to reduce stress and keep calm. Just remember, a healthy lifestyle starts with a healthy mind. It is worth your time to unwind and relax — as you begin to focus on saving your sanity, chances are, you just might find yourself starting each day with more energy and excitement!

Thankfulness + Gratitude Journal

posted in: Parenting | 0

bphotoart-gratitude-thankfulness-journalSometimes it’s hard to stay positive. This life is full of heartbreak and troubles.  Something that has helped our family lately?  A gratitude journal.  Also known as a thankfulness journal.  I got the idea from a good friend who has gone through a lot.  She mentioned that this simple act of writing down five things a day that she is thankful for has helped her realize how much good there is in her life.

Starting a thankfulness journal is a step towards a change in perspective.  It helps you focus on the good.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit

Being thankful, being grateful, about the things in your life …these small things can help cultivate a happy heart. Happiness is a choice, and the more you work on cultivating it, the more it permeates your life.

When I started my gratitude and thankfulness journal, my son, Toby, was really interested — and wanted his own thankfulness journal too.  So I found another notebook lying around the house and gave it to him.  He was thrilled.

Since Toby is just learning to read and write, his thankfulness journal looks a little different than mine.  I usually write the date for him (he’s started tracing it after I write it), and then he draws a picture on that page.  After that, we talk about his drawing, and depending on the complexity of the subject, I’ll write some notes about (porcupine and and obstacle course) it or have Toby write the words (i.e. race car, or airplane).  For him, it’s more of a focusing tool, a way to spend time drawing each day and thinking about what he is doing rather than just scribbling out a tornado (like he does sometimes with his school journal).

Some of Toby's drawings, including a bird on the left page and race car on the right page.
Some of Toby’s drawings, including a bird on the left page and race car on the right page.
Toby showing his drawing of a fishing boat on the left, and a playground in the rain on the right.
Toby showing his drawing of a fishing boat on the left, and a playground in the rain on the right.

My thankfulness journal is just words.  I end up using about a third of one page daily, by the time I write all five things I’m grateful and thankful for.  every item on my list is numbered, one through five, each day.  And I always start with “I am thankful” or “I am grateful” …just the simple act of writing those words hammers home what I am deciding to be happy about.

 

Some days, it's tough to find five "worthwhile" things to be thankful for. Other days, it is tough to stop at just five.
Some days, it’s tough to find five “worthwhile” things to be thankful for. Other days, it is tough to stop at just five.

The most consistent time for me to do my journal is right before bed, when the house is quiet and I have time to reflect on the day.  It helps me to find good, to see how I am blessed — even when I have a rough day.  Even if I can’t come up with something entirely original, I’ve never skimped on my daily list.

What have I listed?

It varies depending on the day.

Some days I’ve been thankful for the fact both boys took a nap, or that I got to take a nap myself.  Other days I’ve been grateful for miracles, both big and small.  Like a relative’s recovery from surgery complications, or that my son inexplicably found a precious earring that I had lost half a year earlier. I’ve focused on finding reasons to be thankful about my life — my husband, my boys, my pets, my home.

Toby with his thankfulness journal -- showing his drawing of a toy
Toby with his thankfulness journal — showing his drawing of a toy

There is so much in my life that I have — and all too often, I take it for granted.

This thankfulness and gratitude journal has been a way for me to change that. The best part of this method of journaling? It’s brief, succinct.  Anyone can find five minutes a day to write down five quick items.  Because in all honesty, it doesn’t take much longer than that.

Toby writing in his thankfulness journal.
Toby writing in his thankfulness journal.

And one thing I like about this journaling concept?  It focuses on the positive.  The only journals I previously knew about were ones where you chronicled daily life.  And what tends to come to the forefront?  The negative.  I don’t want to focus my life on the negative.  I don’t want to leave a written legacy that focuses on things in life that drag me down.  I want to focus on the positive. I want my written legacy to be inspiring and motivating.

And that’s why I keep this journal.  Because my days seem to go better when I make time for it.

Do you journal?  What do you write about?  Would you consider starting a thankfulness journal?  Would your kids do this with you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Don’t Lose Your Pictures

posted in: Notes | 1

Don't Lose Your PicturesLast year, my child accidentally did a factory reset on my phone. And he wiped the micro SD card clean too. At first I was furious. He should know better than to mess with Mommy’s phone, right? But then I took a breather. He was only three, after all. He thought the pattern passcode on my lock was a fun new game. And, I obviously neglected to realize that I had the default phone setting “erase all data after 10 failed login attempts” turned on. whoops.

So, as I thought things through, my anger dissipated. In its place, I was left with a keen awareness of just how fleeting electronic data is. Sure, I’ve tested and reviewed data recovery software before, but I’ve never had an actual loss. It’s not the end of the world. These weren’t wedding photos, or birth photos. I know enough to download photos to my regularly. So all that was lost? This past month’s cell phone photos and videos. But they were still memories that mattered. Memories of Toby being brave at the hospital when he got his x-rays, a video of him getting his cast put on.

Thankfully I don’t have to report to a client that I’ve lost their photos. And I pray I’ll never have to do so… my redundant backups should be prevention enough. But I’m still regret the loss.

So I thought I’d take a moment to remind you — please download your phone pictures regularly. Save them to your hard drive, burn them to a disk, put them in the cloud. Do something.

And what should you do if you lose your pictures? Take it as a reminder to do better next time. A reminder to be grateful for the memories you do have.

My attempts at using a photo recovery program were mostly unsuccessful.  Out of 3,358 files recovered, only 303 were fully recovered. The rest were partially corrupted. Thankfully I found the manual backup I’d done when switching phones several months ago.  So I’m only out 2-3 months’ worth of pictures.  Yes, this made me sad.  But you know what?  My life isn’t defined by the photos I have.. my memories aren’t relegated to pictures.  Sure, they capture the memories for me to enjoy later, but I can think back fondly on those memories without photos too.

I’m strangely okay with the fact that these pictures are gone.  My life is not defined by the pictures I take of it.  My enjoyment of this life is not dependent on the pictures I have captured.  Life is more than that.

I’m glad I’ve been documenting and sharing snapshots from our life on social media — snippets of those months are preserved there.  And, in the big scheme of things… no one has been hurt by this loss.  Maybe an emotional drainage has occurred, but nothing more.

 

5 Reasons We Love the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum

posted in: Notes | 1

I have many fond memories of the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum as a child. My girl scout troop had a lock-in there (we got to sleep on the 4th level of exhibits!), we had numerous field trips… and now I get to take my boys to experience the museum as well!  This post has actually been months in the making… I kept pushing it back in the schedule and I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because there is so much to do and see, or because the Hands on Museum keeps changing and updating their exhibits.  Whatever the reason, no more excuses!

These pictures are from a year ago, so it’s a bit of a trip down memory lane.  Toby looks so little, it’s amazing to see just how much kids grow in a year’s time.  And of course, Zack hadn’t arrived yet either.  A lot changes in a year.

Anyways, the Hands On Museum.  I wanted to share 5 reasons why we love it.

1. The museum encourages curiosity about how things work.

This is a biggie for me.  Growing up, my favorite books were “The Way Things Work” and an illustrated first aid book.  I was always asking: “why?”  I wanted to know how the world worked.  And I see that same natural curiosity in my boys.  Toby asks why a lot — and I don’t want to dissuade him from being interested in how the world works… but I admit sometimes the constant “why?” question does get old.  So we’ve come up with a solution — he has to ask what we call “why questions” or sentences.  It can’t just be “why?” — but needs to be a complete thought.  So far, that approach has worked pretty well!

2. There is a toddler room with age appropriate activities.

Before this room existed (years ago), all of the exhibits were child friendly, but many were geared towards older kids.  And during the day, when the museum became filled with children, it could be tough for the little ones to explore amidst the big kids.  The toddler room gives little ones a place to play …without worrying about being bowled over by older children.  There’s even a baby zone, for extra little ones.  We have spent many hours in this one room; Toby loves the ball whatchamacallit that has a conveyor belt, ramps, drop zones, and of course buckets for collecting the balls.  Also popular?  The toddler water table.  Two parent-friendly features that I really appreciate are the fact there’s a family restroom right off the toddler room (so you don’t have to pack up and leave just for a potty break), and that there is always a staff person monitoring the toddler room (to keep kids from leaving with out their adult)

3. It is a great option for winter excursions.

During the long winter months, it’s tough to keep from going stir crazy inside the house.  Since the Hands On Museum is about 15 minutes away from us, we would frequently bundle up and venture to downtown Ann Arbor for a fun playdate — either with friends, or just on our own. If we got out of the house as planned, we’d usually arrive just when the museum was opening.  Perfect for us, as it wasn’t yet busy, and we could plan around naps and lunch.  Sometimes it’s just good to get out of the house.  And the Hands On Museum can be a great place to go.

4. Membership options can include guest passes.

As a birthday present one year, we got a family pass to the the Handsn Museum — one that included guest passes too.  It was really nice to be able to introduce other friends to the Hands On Museum and not feel bad about finding out if they had a pass before inviting them.  We like to take care of our friends, and for the small upgrade fee in our membership, this option was totally worth it.  Plus, grandparents can take the kids too!  I think there’s also a named caregiver option as well, but since i watch the boys during the daytime, that was never really of any concern for us personally.

5. Making memories here is nostalgic.

Most people who grew up in this area have been to the Hands On Museum themselves — and since it’s been around for so long, many local parents my age have fond memories of going to the Hands On Museum as children.  It is so much fun to see your own child get excited about the same things that you fondly remember from childhood.  The ambulance is a classic, as is the working cut-away toilet, and the skeleton pedaling the bicycle too.  There are many new things to explore at the Hands On Museum, but one thing is sure — your child will definitely have fond memories of this place once they are grown.

The Ann Arbor Hands On Museum has over 250 hands-on exhibits that cover a variety of topics:  science, technology, engineering, art, math.  The Museum is open daily, and if you’re worried about it being crowded, you can always call ahead to see if there are any school field trips scheduled to arrive that day.

Growing a Garden – “The Gardener”

posted in: Learning | 29

Growing a Garden - Read + Play: starting seeds indoors for Earth Day!We’ve enjoyed having a vegetable garden the past few summers.  In fact, when the librarian read “Growing a Rainbow” the other day, I overheard my son arguing with another child. She said, “You can’t grow a rainbow!”

“Yes you can!” Toby exclaimed vehemently, “My mom and I grew a rainbow in our garden!”

That’s my boy.  So cute.

Anyways, that day, we checked out Sarah Stewart’s “The Gardener” (#afflink) …which is a Caldecott Honor Award book.  I loved the story, which was really brought to life with lovely illustrations by David Small.

If you want a synopsis, here you go:  Lydia Grace Finch goes to the city to stay with her uncle (presumably during the Depression, her dad lost his job). In her suitcase, she brings along seeds from her grandmother’s garden.  As the weeks progress, Lydia learns to bake bread in her uncle’s bakery, and grows plants everywhere — including a secret garden on the rooftop to surprise her uncle.  Ultimately, her dad gets a job and she goes back home, but not before becoming known as “the Gardener” by the city folk.

Here’s the cover of the book.  Again, I love the illustrations:
"The Gardener" by Sarah Stewart

So, when it came time to start our seeds for the vegetable garden, I knew this would be a fun post for the Earth Day Read and Play blog hop.  You can read about my plans for the garden this summer, which are quite ambitious.

But let’s not get sidetracked.

For this activity, we needed a few bags of seed starting dirt, some seed starting trays, a trowel, newspaper strips, and a seed pot maker #afflink.

Earlier, I had made plans for what we would be growing, and how many seeds would be needed.
Earlier, I had made plans for what we would be growing, and how many seeds would be needed.
We have a lot of vegetable seed packets, just like Lydia Grace
We have a lot of vegetable seed packets, just like Lydia Grace
He was very careful not to spill...
He was very careful not to spill…
I couldn't help but enjoy watching Toby work diligently.
I couldn’t help but enjoy watching Toby work diligently.
And smiling for the camera, of course.
And smiling for the camera, of course.
Here is a tray getting filled up with seed pots.
Here is a tray getting filled up with seed pots.
He worked hard for quite some time.
He worked hard for quite some time.
We went through both bags of dirt by the time it was all said and done.
We went through both bags of dirt by the time it was all said and done.
Toby filling up the newspaper cups with dirt.
Toby filling up the newspaper cups with dirt.
Here's the newspaper pot maker. It's awesome!
Here’s the newspaper pot maker. It’s awesome!

In case you’re wondering how the newspaper pots were formed, here’s a little photo tutorial (it uses the DIY seed pot maker #afflink).  Toby was able to make some of these on his own, but preferred to help me make them.  I will say that it was a great hands-on experience for him, even though he ultimately decided to have me make the pots so he could fill them with dirt.  The concept is really simple, so take a peek to see how the newspaper seed starting pots are formed!

You wrap a piece of newspaper around the pot maker, with about 1.5" overhang.
You wrap a piece of newspaper around the pot maker, with about 1.5″ overhang.
Here's the newspaper wrapped up.
Here’s the newspaper wrapped up.
Then you fold down the newspaper to form the bottom of the pot.
Then you fold down the newspaper to form the bottom of the pot.
And then you press the form together to crease the newspaper.
And then you press the form together to crease the newspaper.
Toby liked to make sure I twisted it back and forth each time.
Toby liked to make sure I twisted it back and forth each time.
Voila! Simply slide off the newspaper, which is now formed into a eco-friendly seed pot!
Voila! Simply slide off the newspaper, which is now formed into a eco-friendly seed pot!

And our next steps?

We’ll be watching the seeds sprout in our greenhouse over the next few days and weeks… and then the seedlings will get transplanted into our raised garden beds.  It really is a great extension activity that gets my toddler into the dirt and loving the nature around him.  Plus, it’s more fun to eat vegetables that you grow yourself!

Are you growing anything this year?  What’s your favorite plant to grow?  What summer vegetables would your dream garden have?  The only thing ours is missing is asparagus, because we don’t want to dedicate the space for a crop that takes 2+ years for a harvest.


earth-day-read-playEarth Day Read and Play Blog Hop

This post is part of a blog hop celebrating Earth Day!  Please check out the other posts below for some more fun book-based activities!  Book titles are in parentheses, linked to Amazon for your convenience (#afflinks used).

DIY Travel First Aid Kit

posted in: Notes | 2

bphotoart-diy-travel-first-aid-kitEvery parents needs a mini first aid kit in their purse, backpack, or diaper bag.  I can’t count the number of times we’ve needed “ouchy cream” (home-crafted healing salve) to soothe a boo boo, or a bandage for an accidentally scraped knee.  And sure, they sell first aid kits of all sizes.  I’ve bought a number of those travel first aid kits myself.  But, the thing is, most of them come with a sampling of items — more of a one time use — and it doesn’t usually have much space to hold the supplies we need.

Here are a couple nice ones, if you want to give them a shot before making your own. A sidenote: I’ll be sharing #afflinks to Amazon in this post, mostly for your convenience, in case you want to buy any of the goodies mentioned.

But if you want to create a custom first aid kit that will be the perfect fit for you, then keep reading.  To make this nifty kit, I pillaged some items from around the house.  Specifically, the items below:

Yes, I happened to have all that stockpiled among our various medicine cabinets.  Oh, and there’s one more thing you’ll need. An empty Altoids tin.  In case you’re wondering what tin has white and green, that was an Ice Chips (Immunity) tin.  But apparently you can buy empty survival tins on Amazon too.  Your choice.

So, once I had my tin ready, and my supplies, I crammed as many goodies as I could fit into that small tin.  Your mileage will vary, just make sure to include the things that you tend to use most frequently during first aid incidents.

If you want, you can use some clear packing tape to put a pretty “First Aid Kit” sign on the front of the tin.  I’ve even made a free printable for you so that this project can be really easy.  Here it is below!  Download the JPG or PDF, print, and cut out around the black line.

From Altoids Tin to Travel First Aid Kit (plus printable label!)
Download First Aid Kit Label: JPG / PDF

So, there you have it!  An easy first aid kit that is portable and totally customizable.  Make one, make a few, or churn out a bunch to give away.  Your call.

What are your “must haves” in a first aid kit?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Some Mornings You Just Need to Stay Home

posted in: Parenting | 4
Some Morning You Just Need To Stay Home
Photo by Jill Wellington, from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

I have to tell you, I love being a mom.  I love seeing my boys grow and develop, watching them refine their social skills and practice empathy. It feels good to be able to take them to activities like preschool, swimming, music class, and other activities outside the home.  But sometimes, it can feel a little overwhelming.  Sometimes all the hustle and bustle can make you feel worn thin.

It’s on mornings like today that I know I need a break.  An unplanned departure from our routine.  Some days it is better to skip everything and just stay home.

Today was that day.  We had a morning Moms and Tots group to be at, but the boys slept late, and I was feeling frazzled.  The house was a mess, nothing felt calm, and the past week it seemed like we have been at home only long enough to eat, mess up the kitchen getting food prepped, and sleep.  I needed a break.  Not from the kids — because we’d been fortunate enough to have date night this week — but from the grind of our routine.  While I love going to our Moms and Tots group, and I know it’s great for both boys, I could tell we all needed a break.

The clincher was when Toby, during breakfast, asked: “Mommy, can we miss part of Moms and Tots so that I can have energy?”  The poor kid has been crashing around lunchtime the past few days.  Although he gave up naps about a year ago, this week Toby consistently asked to be done with lunch so he could go rest — resulting in a four hour nap each time.

I know when to cut my losses.  The schedule, the routine, isn’t more important than our sanity and well-being.  It’s not worth “making it” to all our activities if my kids are going to have meltdowns from being so exhausted they can’t sit at the table for lunch.  And I’ve needed those naps too.

It’s not like I’ve gotten nothing done this morning.  On the contrary.  I tidied the kitchen, put away the straggling Christmas gifts that were piled by the piano, emptied laundry baskets (yes, plural) of clean clothes, and started a load of laundry.

But it feels peaceful. Relaxed.  Calm.  The stress is melting off my shoulders as I sit here and type.  Toby is playing happily with his matchbox cars and Zack is diligently watching.  We are a contented bunch, our morning obligations thrown to the wind.

We are happy.  We are having fun.  This break was much needed…. essential for our sanity.

Instead of the activity being our priority this morning… my kids are my priority.  Isn’t it crazy how the things we do for our kids can sometimes take our attention away from our kids?  That’s not right.  So this morning we are getting things straightened out.  I’m listening to myself and my subconscious desire to stay home.  I’m listening to my boys, interacting with them, taking time for them — instead of shuttling and directing them. Toby is now playing peacefully with his toys, bringing me tea and pizza from “his” kitchen.  Zack is cooing while he rolls on the floor, trying to get places.

We’re not doing much, but sometimes nothing means everything.

Some mornings, you just need to stay home.

What about you?  Have you felt worn thin by the many pressures of parenting?  The schedules that seem to become ever busier?  How do you decompress and help yourself find peace in the middle of a tumultuous week?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

 

Why You Should Backup Your Phone Pictures Regularly

posted in: Notes | 2
Why You Should Backup Your Phone Pictures Regularly
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

Take it from me… you want to back up your phone pictures regularly.  I know this from experience.  I learned the hard way.

It’s not like I lost that many images, in the big scheme of things. And it’s not like I lost the memories that those photos documented.  But still, the entire thing was preventable…. avoidable.

How I almost lost three months’ worth of phone snapshots

You see, I regularly back up my phone pictures to my hard drive, just as a precaution.  And I take advantage of an Android app that backs up my images to “the cloud” as well.  But when I got my new phone last fall, I neglected to set up the back-up feature.  But everything was hunky dory.  Until I decided to install a screen lock password for my phone (a judge ruled that police can access your phone’s data if it’s not password protected).  And when I set that up, I didn’t realize the default option for “reset phone and clear data after 10 failed attempts” was on.  Since I chose the pattern password unlock screen, my creative toddler was excited to find a “game” on the home screen of my phone, and he gleefully played it …for… you guessed it… all 10 attempts.

The phone was handed to me with a reset notification blaring in my face… and I unwittingly let it proceed to wipe my phone’s internal memory — as well as the micro SD card containing my precious snapshots.  I diligently went about getting my phone back in order.  And when I set the password screen this time, I made sure to uncheck that evil “reset everything” feature.  But for some reason my password was recorded wrong. So the phone had to be reset before I could use it again.  No problem.  Reset to factory defaults, easy enough.

So, two formattings later, I discovered my SD card no longer had my data on it.  I was upset and sad.  All those pictures… gone.  Well, aside from the ones I’d shared to Instagram or wherever else.  But, I was still hopeful.  You see, there are software programs out there that can recover data from damaged and reformatted cards.  And actually, when a card is reformatted, the data doesn’t disappear until new data is written over top of it.  So I was pretty optimistic about getting some pictures back.

Now, remembering which software I’d reviewed in the past was harder.  The first one I tried using was a complete bust. It recovered the names of every file, but nothing further. Nothing readable. Nothing practical.  I was so sad.

That night I got to thinking.

Yes, I love photographs. I love snapshots. I love how they draw me into the memory of that moment. I love how the image brings back the smells, sounds, and emotions of that split second, or even the entire experience.  I treasure my photos very much.  They remind me of the joy in my life, the wonderful family I have, and all that good stuff.

But.

Yes, but.  My stuff does not define me.  Those pictures are only a representation, an mere reflection on the surface.  They are a glimpse into the depth of my life experiences.  I still have those memories, even without the photos.  I still remember.  The photos are not “the key” to accessing my past.  They merely represent it.  My life will not be lived in regret of this loss — in the big scheme of things, it’s insignificant.

With that, I felt at peace about everything.  I was content.

Come morning, I decided to try one other software program to see if it could restore any photos.  Just for kicks and giggles. I didn’t really expect to see anything.

Was I ever surprised.

Before my eyes, the software started pulling up image after image.  My heart fluttered a little in excitement, I will admit.  Yes, I’d accepted my “fate” — but this was good fortune indeed!  Some of the images recovered were partially corrupted, and others had a working thumbnail but corrupted main image.  I didn’t get everything back. Some of my favorite snapshots were still gone.

But consider how many were recovered — I was elated.  I’d say for the three month time period when my phone wasn’t backing up images, I probably took a thousand shots easily.  80% were recovered, in some form (including some partially corrupted ones I deemed “passable”).

The videos, on the other hand, were lost completely.  Unreadable.

At that point, though, I didn’t really care.

Some of my images had been rescued.  Some of the pictures I’d thought were lost forever had been found.  I’m glad that I didn’t lose everything.

What’s the moral of the story?

You need to be backing up your memories regularly.  You don’t want to lose everything.  Back up your phone pictures, if you care about them. Back up your pictures that you diligently store on your computer.  Storage space is cheap. You can buy 1 TB drives for under $100 (Western Digital has 1 TB internal HD and 1 TB external HD options #afflinks).  You can use cloud services.  There are ways to back things up.  I’ll probably cover that in more detail in a future post.

But for now, know that your images need to be stored securely. And backed up on a regular basis.

Otherwise you might lose your photo memories, like I almost did.

Have you had a close call, or experienced loss of your photographs?  Either digital or physical photos? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

Valentine’s Day Blessing Activity

posted in: Learning | 4
Valentine Blessings - a book-based activity
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

I grew up loving the Berenstain Bears books, and it is so fun to see my son enjoy the adventures of the Bear family too.  What’s neat is that Mike Berenstain (Stan and Jan’s son) continued his parents’ legacy by continuing the series!  This book-based activity is inspired by one such book… The Berenstain Bears’ Valentine Blessings #afflink.

It’s a cute story about a valentine Brother Bear gets from his secret admirer, which distracts him from the upcoming hockey game.  The story line is simple, but there are some good lessons within.  Papa Bear tries to help Brother feel better about things by telling how Mama and he started dating… and ultimately Brother’s hockey game goes well, the secret admirer is revealed… you get the idea.

I love that the book comes with some built-in activity suggestions.  There are some talking points for parents to help kids get thinking about ways they can be a blessing to others.  Maybe by making a special valentine and sending it to someone, or by helping out in the community.

Valentine Blessing Activities

I love the phrase, “blessed to be a blessing.”  Part of the goodness of life is being able to pay it forward.  To care about others and empathize with them.  To bring joy into the lives of those who need it.

So, to kick things off, Toby and I talked about what things we do (or could do) to be a blessing to others.  Here are some things we came up with:

  1. Make and send cards to people
  2. Send artwork to people, or give it to patients at the local hospital.  (I love this idea, because the minimalist in me can’t allow all my son’s masterpieces to be saved for the memory box.  What a great alternative destination compared to the recycle bin!).
  3. Make meals for others (we make meals for new moms and the sick through our church… Toby likes to help with the prep and delivery).
  4. Give away things we don’t need or use anymore
  5. Leave a cup of pennies by the mechanical horse at the grocery store (it’s a penny per ride)
  6. Take cookies or other treats to school and leave them in the mailboxes
  7. Bake bread and drop it off on our neighbors’ doorstep
  8. Put out a snack for the mailman and the trash guys.
  9. Pick flowers and give them to people
  10. Call people just to say hello

I’m sure there are many more ways to help others, but these were just a few of the things we thought of.  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Sending “Blessings” in the Mail

Now, before we get onto my craft activity idea, I have to confess.  I didn’t get my usual slew of photos taken to document our activity.  I’m going to blame it on the RSV virus that Zack has been dealing with… the past few days have been spent holding a sick baby boy so that he could feel a little less miserable.  I guess that’s a blessing though — we were able to find a position in which he could be comfortable.

So, I’ll share our activity, and then add photos to this post at a later time.  Now, back to business.

Around our home, we have a lot of stuff that ends up getting recycled.  And while that’s better than being tossed in the trash, I’d much rather repurpose things that can be reused in some way or another.  I’m all for form over function.  So, for this recycled Valentine craft, I gave my toddler a bunch of paper and had him cut it up, with scissors, to his heart’s content.  Once the “shredding” was finished, we started decorating.  I had Toby glue and tape the paper strips all over the front of a piece of red paper (since the majority of the paper Toby cut up was white).  After that, we had to let things dry.

Once the glue was dry, we folded the paper in half, so that the white was on the outside.  Then I cut out a heart window in the paper, so it would make a window on the front of the card.  If your child is old enough to cut out the heart, go for it (my son’s scissor skills aren’t quite refined enough yet).

You’ll now have a nice window to the inside of the card, providing a nice color contrast.  Feel free to glue the heart you cut out onto the inside of the card somewhere.

I invited Toby to decorate the card himself, so he could write or draw whatever message he desired. If you want, you can write something cutesy inside.

Toby proceeded to decorate some additional pieces of paper… he wanted to mail more cards to people, to make them happy. Made my heart melt!

Valentine’s Day Read and Play – Along with me, more than 20 bloggers are participating in a Valentine themed read and play!  Make sure to check out the other fun book-based Valentine’s activities…. enjoy!

 

5 Tips for When You Spill a Drink on Your Computer

posted in: Notes | 5
5 Tips for when you spill a drink on your computer
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

Please enjoy this guest post from Zack Davis, longtime friend and fellow geek.  He posted the other day about having to rescue his new computer from the attack of an errant pop can.  And fortunately, he knew exactly what steps to take.

But are you prepared?  Do you know what to do when a drink spills on your computer, or any technology, for that matter?

If not, read on to hear more of Zack’s story, plus learn what to do if this ever happens to you.


What to do when a drink spills on your computer

Sunday afternoon I left my computer vulnerable to my own stupidity and it bit me! I had a can of soda on my desk, just sitting there.. and the cat tipped it off!  What’s worse, she tipped it off onto the side where my computer sits. Luckily a large part of it hit the floor (Thanks Rug Doctor!) but an easy 1/4 of the can went inside my system.

By some kind of karma, miracle, or sheer improbability, my computer didn’t fry immediately!  It’s also fortunate that I was walking back in the room when it happened; I was able to dive for the power button as I saw the can tip.  My computer managed to shut down safely before I could even pull the power cord.

It’s been off and air drying for the last two full days; half of that time under rice (since I couldn’t find silica packets around the house).

Luckily, I came out safe.

Especially since I JUST spent $1700 upgrading my computer system this summer.  So, I thought I would share a word from the wise.

First and foremost, always consider the placement of your computer, even your laptop, in relation to any liquids that could spill.

I knew my computer was at risk and I kept blowing it off and saying I’d move it under my desk instead of keeping it beside the desk — “I’ll do it later.”  If you haven’t taken precautions, don’t put it off like I did.  You may not be as lucky.

The second thing to remember is whenever ANY electronic device gets liquid in it, there’s some things you DO and DON’T want to do.

DO remove power from the device as fast as you can, if possible. Even if it’s off, if it’s connected to power it’s vulnerable.

DO dab the device with a towel; DAB, NOT WIPE!

DO try to keep the device at the same angle/position as it was when it was hit with the liquid. Moving the device allows the fluid to travel to places it may not otherwise have infiltrated.

DON’T Vacuum, Blow, Shake, or try to use any kind of pressure on the device. Doing so risks forcing the liquid deeper into the device than you would have not touching it at all.

DON’T be impatient. Yes you’re worried, your device that costs hundreds or thousands of dollars has been hit, it had an arterial bleed and now it’s in the ICU and you’re not sure it’s going to wake up. But trying to power it on too soon is a great way to kill it when it might have otherwise revived.

So, if you can see inside it and it looks dry after 24 hours, give it an extra 24 hours to be safe (I tore my the inside of my system down for the second 24 hour period because I’m insane!). If it’s a device you can’t open or see inside, then be as patient as possible. Keep it in a warm room, with some kind of absorbent material, such as silica or rice, and consider letting it sit for up to a week (since you can’t open it).

I’m just happy to be so lucky; I’m still cautious because liquids (especially soda) are not pure, so for the next few days at least I’m going to be cautious but very optimistic!


Has your computer been attacked by a rogue drink?

Well, I don’t know about you, but like Zack, I’ve toyed with disaster on this front a time or two. An open water bottle on my desk? Nah, no problems there… At least, no problems yet. Come to think of it, we’ve had a few spills occur with my laptop. With the little ones around, I’m pretty sure that my old laptop keyboard met an untimely end from the crumbs, milk, or whatever kid hazards have been around my kitchen table. Particularly at lunchtime. I think I’m going to be a little more careful from now on.

Have you ever spilled on your computer? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Teaching Kids to Use Words …Not Actions

posted in: Parenting | 2

I’ve heard it said that kids express their feelings through actions.  Actions are their words when they don’t know how to express themselves.  It seems like every child goes through a stage of using their body to communicate rather than their words.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, or fun, for parents!

Teaching Kids to Use Words... Not Actions.  Ideas for helping kids communicate verbally instead of physically.Some examples?

  • baby is crying — it hurts toddler’s ears.  Toddler hits baby because baby is “being mean.”
  • cat steals toddler’s toys — toddler is upset and swats at cat to grab the toy back.
  • mom is busy on phone — toddler wants attention, hits or pushes mom.
  • toddler gets pushed by another toddler — both are upset, and start hitting.
  • toddler doesn’t like that an older kid is doing something “wrong” — goes to hit bigger kid for “not listening.”

So, how can we teach kids to use their words instead of getting physical?  Is it really that simple?

Sometimes it’s not.

Kids hit and become physical for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes it’s due to sensory overload, and an inability to process things because of the environment around them.  Other times, strong emotions can dominate their mind, and it’s tough to not act in the moment.

Physical communication can also be a cry for attention.  An attempt to communicate feelings of sadness, rejection, loneliness.  Other times, it may be a planned way to get attention.

Because sometimes, any attention is better than no attention.  But that doesn’t solve our problem, does it?  As we grapple with understanding the “why” behind physical communication, it’s not like we can put our response, our discipline and correction, on hold.  Toddlers who communicate physically need to be redirected.  They need help verbalizing their feelings, and learning that there are other, more appropriate ways to respond to something that frustrates them or makes them feel bad.

When a child reacts physically, it can be tempting for a parent to respond forcefully and angrily.  Especially if the action seems to be done out of malice.  But sometimes it does more good to understand the root of the problem.  Sometimes it helps to say, “come here, let me hold you while we talk this through.”  Or, maybe suggest: “if you need my attention, a better way to get it would be to use your words.”

When my son uses his body to communicate instead of his words, I do my best to talk things through with him.  If another child, or an animal, is being hurt, a stern initial reaction may be necessary.  But then, it’s time to focus in on the motivation, the trigger for the outburst.

Instead of honing in on how it is mean to do ______, perhaps the better approach is to ask, “what were you feeling when you did ______?”  If the child evades giving an answer, perhaps the emotion is not describable.  Maybe suggesting emotions could help.  “Are you sad, angry, lonely, upset, hurt….”  It’s amazing how helpful it can be to give words to a child so that their emotions can be communicated.

Once the emotional motivation is understood, then alternate actions can be taught.  “Instead of hitting back, next time use your words to say, ‘please stop.’  Or walk away.  Or find an adult.”  If a child is really in need of a physical outlet, then perhaps it would be good to provide an example of when such physical behavior is appropriate.  “We don’t hit people.  We hit balls with bats, we hit nails with hammers.”

Consistent reinforcement of what is inappropriate physically, as well as what an appropriate response might be, …well, it may take time for you to see results.  But don’t just focus in on the negative behavior.  Make sure to reinforce the positive communication, both verbal and physical.  “I see you are being so sweet to your baby sister, thank you for making her giggle, and for hugging her gently.”

But sometimes, kids get physical for a simpler reason. They have too much energy pent up — and need to blow off some steam.  Maybe a daily rough-housing session with mom or dad could use up some of that energy.  Or a fun time spent outside running after a soccer ball.  By finding appropriate ways to “get physical,” kids often become more self-controlled in situations where physical communication isn’t warranted.

What advice, ideas, or tips do you have for helping kids deal with their emotions and learn to communicate with their words?

Teaching Empathy Through Happy Heart Kid Crafts

posted in: Parenting | 6

I’ve been loving activities that cultivate empathy, compassion, and understanding.  Last year around the holidays, Toby chose toys to give to “sad kids” (compassion).  Last month, we explored the concept of diversity with a book and rainbow popsicle activity.  And most recently, we got to try out the Empathy box from Happy Heart Kid.

The kit contained a number of different crafts and activities:

  • Flowers (to give to others)
  • Empathy Placard
  • “Feeling” Faces
  • Coloring Book

I handed Toby the unopened box and let him have at it (while documenting in pictures, of course).  He was excited to unpack the box, and checked out each of the activities as he placed them on the table.  I loved that all the crafts were compartmentalized in plastic bags, so that the parts didn’t get mixed up.  Ok, well, the crayons weren’t.  But all the small bits and pieces.

After checking out all the options available to him, Toby decided to make the flowers first.  I was in charge of reading the directions while he got out all the craft supplies.  As he made the flowers, I followed the conversation guidelines mentioned in the activity booklet.  We talked about how giving people flowers can make them feel better, and I mentioned some times in the past that I had received flowers or when they might be given:

  • “Just because” – from Daddy to Mommy
  • “Get well soon” – to people who are sick, like the people to whom we deliver meals
  • “Congratulations” – to celebrate the arrival of a new baby like Zack

Since the craft included enough materials to make three flowers, Toby decided to give flowers to three people (instead of the whole bouquet being given to one person — spread the joy, right?).  First, he wanted to give one to “the sick mama” that we delivered a meal to several weeks ago.  It took me a few minutes to figure out who Toby was talking about, but I thought it was so sweet that he remembered her, and was being empathetic!  Next, he decided he would give one to Grandma… and since he has two grandmas, that filled our quota of three flowers.

We then briefly explored another craft — feeling faces.  Toby enthusiastically stuck eye stickers to all of the faces, and we talked about different emotions associated with specific events, but he was hesitant to put mouths and noses on the faces because he didn’t like the texture of the included clay.  Ever the problem solver, Toby ran to the playroom and returned with his own modeling clay.  Smiling and frowning faces were then created, with nose that then turned into a tooth.  Don’t you love how creative and adaptable kids are?

Over the next few days, Toby diligently reminded me that we needed to deliver his flowers to the “sick mama” and his grandmas… because “that will make them so happy!”

Why You Should Vote Today

posted in: Notes | 0

Why You Should Vote Today - BPhotoArt.comVoting is a privilege.  If you remember your history lessons at all, you’ll know the right to vote was a big deal.  At one time, only white males holding property were allowed to vote.  Over the years, this has changed, thanks to pressure from our citizens.  To name a few:

  • Fifteenth Amendment – racial minorities
  • Nineteenth Amendment – women
  • Twenty-Sixth Amendment – adults 18-21

So many people throughout the world, throughout history, have been DENIED the opportunity to have their voice heard.  You may think that your vote doesn’t count, or your vote doesn’t make a difference.  But it does.  You have the right to vote, to be a part of selecting the officials to preside over you.

I have a friend who has always said something to the effect of: “Don’t complain about the way the country is being run if you don’t bother to vote.”  And it’s true.  If you care about what’s being done right or wrong by our government, you should care enough to go to the polls and vote.

To that I asked some bloggers: “Why do you vote? Why you take the time out of your busy lives as parents to go to the polls and vote?” Here is what they said:

women-before-me-suffered

Women before me suffered to pave the way for my right to vote. Imagine if we left those kinds of decisions entirely up to men!”

– Menucha at Moms and Crafters

i-vote-because-i-want-my-opinon-to-count

I vote because I want my opinion to count. I also believe that it is my civic duty and want to show my children how important it is to live in a democratic society.”

– Amanda Boyarshinov at The Educators’ Spin On It

its-our-duty-to-keep-trying

I think that it’s an incredible privilege to live in a democratic country like Canada. I took my son with me when the last federal election was held and talked to him about how important it is to vote for who we think will represent us best. Although sometimes the results can be disheartening, it’s our duty to keep trying to make a positive change and we have no right to complain about our governments if we’re not participating at the most basic level.”

– Sue at One Time Through

women-before-me-could-not-vote-i-can-i-will

I love my country.  I love the land of the free and the home of the brave.  I believe in the tradition and honor of having the vote.  We are blessed to live in a democratic society.  Women before me could not vote.  I can and I will.”

– Amy at Wildflower Ramblings

my-vote-counts

“I was born and raised in the former Soviet Union, when voting was a meaningless circus, I appreciate the idea that my vote actually counts, especially while voting on local issues.”

– Natalie at Planet Smarty Pants

And I found two other quotes on the web to share with you:

People didn’t simply die for the right to vote. They died for the right to choose who they thought would be best to support their views, aims and interests, both locally and nationally. – Emily Wilson

Voting is a tremendous gift. Young people just like you in other countries actually fight and even die for this right; a right that so many youth in democratic nations take for granted. You should vote because you can, if you don’t you may one day wake up in a country where you can’t.” – Mike Hardcastle, Top 5 Reasons Youth Should Vote

So please, do your civic duty and go to the polls today.  Take your kids with you, teach them about the importance of being able to vote, and how you take that responsibility seriously.  Let’s raise up a generation of conscientious voters!

Voting at Dutch elections 1918
“Voting at Dutch elections 1918” By Cornelis Johan Hofker (1886-1936) [2] ([1]) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

3 Reasons Mess Making Is Ok

posted in: Parenting | 2

I’ve never been one to keep neat when being creative.  As a child, I came home from school with paint all over myself — my mom probably lost track of how many outfits I ruined.  I’ve been lovingly called “messy Betsy” on more than one occasion — worrying about keeping clean would just hamper my creative process.

Now, as a parent, I’m revisiting the relationship between messiness and creativity.  My older son cares a lot about “keeping clean.”  So I will frequently remind him, “it’s ok to be messy, we can clean up when we’re done.”  It’s not that I’m unappreciative of his desire for cleanliness, but that sometimes focusing on keeping things neat diverts your attention from the creative process.

This came to the forefront of my mind when I invited Toby to help me paint some cabinets I’d acquired.  We were prepared to be messy — painting clothes, drop cloth, paper towel, you name it.  As we painted, Toby enjoyed himself to no end.  But I had to catch myself a number of times as I felt the urge to keep things neat.  “Don’t let the paint drip… Stop getting so much paint on your paintbrush…. don’t get paint on me… you have paint in your hair…” My attention was on managing the mess instead of having fun with the creative process of painting.

I had to chuckle at myself, because Toby was a picture of messy creativity.  He was thrilled to be helping mom with an important project, excited to use big paintbrushes, and just as messy as I was in childhood.  I’m grateful I was allowed to be messy — and I want to afford him that same opportunity.

So, with that in mind, here are several tips to help you release your inner child… or to encourage you in as you parent a little mess maker.

1. Creativity is messy sometimes.

As I just mentioned, we sometimes try to split our attention between creativity and keeping clean.  But, if you’re worried about keeping from making a mess, part of your attention will be distracted from being creative. To do your best work, to tap the depths of your creative resources, you need to get past that need for being neat, and accept that sometimes… creativity is messy.

Extending this to kids – let them make a mess!  Before painting, have them put on clothes you don’t care about.  Take the project outside so that you don’t have to stress out about cleaning up afterwards.  Use materials that won’t leave a permanent mark behind.  Don’t interrupt your child’s creative process just to remind them to “be neat.”

2. “Coloring outside the lines” isn’t a bad thing.

Maybe it’s from our schooling, or maybe it’s from a desire for outside approval, but we frequently try to stay in the box when it comes to self-expression.  Coloring books galore send subliminal messages that you need to use a certain color, and stay within the lines provided.  You have to get past those restrictions, the rules.  Free your creative mind from the approved “lines.”

3 Reasons Mess Making is Ok. Tips to help you release your inner child... or to encourage you in as you parent a little mess maker. - Betsy's PhotographyIf your kid doesn’t want to color “the right way” …what’s the big deal?  My toddler doesn’t like to color in coloring books.  He’ll cover the pages with elaborate swirls and patches of color, or put splashes of color over the faces on a coloring sheet.  But that’s the extent of our coloring within the lines.  There doesn’t have to be a “right” way to color, it’s the process and the self-expression that we really want to encourage.

3. Making messes teaches responsibility.

On a related note — it’s only by making messes that we learn to clean up after ourselves.  If we keep things ship shape for our children, there’s no opportunity for them to learn what happens if things get a little messy, and how good it can feel to clean up after ourselves.  By teaching that responsibility goes hand in hand with creativity, we can help our kids to get beyond the mentality that cleaning up after ourselves is an inconvenience.  Just like encouraging your kids to help clean house is a skill that will benefit them later in life, picking up after oneself is an essential life skill.  By letting your kid make a mess, you can teach and educate during the clean up phase too.

More Resources on Being Messy

I’ve collected a few posts about being messy, or doing messy activities, that you may find enlightening.  Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

And, here are several messy art projects that may prove helpful for you as you explore the relationship of messiness and creativity with your kids. These links will open in a new window too.

Do you have any tips or ideas for cultivating messiness (as it lends itself to creativity or other beneficial processes)?  I’d love to hear them.

Finding Our New Normal

posted in: Notes | 0

There’s something about life.  It is ever changing.  Just when you think you’ve got things under control, and are finally getting into a routine…

…things change.

The only certainty is change, right?  No matter how much we try to plan our days, to create a routine and maintain order… the inevitable happens.  Someone gets sick, sleeping schedules change, someone has a rough day.

Life is anything but routine.

Yet we try to create patterns, make routines, practice habits that will make life easier.

And sometimes those things work.

Since my younger son was born, we have been working on creating a new normal.  Helping my older son to deal with his emotions on those days when he “needs mommy time” …but baby’s basic needs have to be met.

I assisted at Toby’s preschool the other day.  While comforting a boy who didn’t want his  mom to leave, I noticed my son’s demeanor change from cheerful to concerned, and perhaps jealous.  I averted disaster by asking him to help find a toy to cheer the sad boy up.  But several other times that morning, I saw an angry frown on my normally happy son’s face.

Later I asked him about it.

He didn’t want to share his mommy.  He needed me.  He didn’t want others to need me.

And I get that.  In a world where you’ve gone from being only child to older brother, it’s important to know you can still have mom’s attention, that you still are deserving of mommy hugs.

Since my younger son was awake and needing mommy when we got home, the older had to settle for shared mommy time.  The three of us settled into our comfy reclining chair, and I read book after book to my boys.  Ultimately the three of us all fell asleep together.

The new normal isn’t bad, by any means.  Most days, Toby loves being a big brother.  He is a phenomenal helper, bringing diapers, wipes, pacifier for Zack, and snacks, drinks, or even a blanket to me when I need.  He has a giving spirit, he excels at helping others.

Our new normal isn’t perfect, but we are getting into a routine.  A routine that will be ever-changing as both boys continue to grow and develop.

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode

Living The Dream – Life In Spain

posted in: Notes | 8
Today I’d like to welcome Orlena of Snotty Noses.  Orlena is a British pediatrician who lives in Spain with her husband and four children.  Her website helps parents recognize when their child is ill …and know what to do about it (not meant to replace your doctor’s advice, of course!).  She also blogs about their hectic and crazy Spanish life.

If you’ve ever contemplated living abroad, then you’ll love Orlena’s insight on living the dream and how her family adapted to life in Spain!

— Betsy

The Reality of Living the Dream - Life in Spain - Snotty-Noses @ BPhotoArt.com

Living the Dream

When I look back, I can’t pin point exactly when I decided I wanted to live abroad. I’ve always enjoyed travelling, always had that itch, that yearning to travel abroad, to seek new experiences, new smells, new sights. To taste life from different cups.

When I met my husband-to-be, he felt the same way. We shared a dream of living and working a different life. It’s not that I don’t like England, I do. I think most people there don’t really comprehend what a great country it is. For all its faults, we’re lucky to have a free health care system, free schooling and a welfare state. The problem lies more in its latitude and rather unfortunate climate.  “Perpetual winter,” I have heard it called, not unreasonably to my mind.

Deciding Where To Live

It took us a while to decide where we’d like to live. Australia would have been, relatively speaking, an easy place for me to work. But it’s a long way from family and friends. I have family in the Caribbean, a paradise destination. But that’s nearly as far and very isolated. We settled on Europe. After all, we’re all “European,” right?  We share similar cultures and our history goes back, for better or worse, a long way back.

A rather cerebral thought process led us to the Costa Brava. We both wanted Spain. I wanted Mediterranean. Not too far south that it was ludicrously hot. Pretty much as close as we could get to my mother, who lives in the southern area of France.

The only problem remaining was one of language. A double edged sword. Our children would grow up bilingual, which would be great. We would both have to learn another language, which would be fun but difficult, not to mention a barrier to working.

My by-then husband finished his PhD and started up a software business. By started up, I mean from scratch, including learning how to program computers and write software. In theory at least, we could be mobile and still earn money.

Arriving In Spain

So that was how we arrived. We spent a week in Spain looking for somewhere to rent, packed up our stuff and moved. Pretty much like that. Except my husband drove our stuff across the continent and I flew with my 2 small children. But that’s a story for another day. We arrived in one piece.

And that was it. Our new life in the sun. Now what? How were we going to integrate? Learn two new languages? They speak Catalan and Spanish here, two different languages, but similar enough to make it confusing to learn them both. What about bureaucracy? Spain is hot on bureaucracy, not even the locals like it. It’s even worse when you don’t really understand what’s going on.

We arrived in one piece to Spain - Orlena
We arrived in one piece to Spain – Orlena

Settling Into Our New Life

That was three years ago. Now we’re relatively settled. The children go to school and nursery. The oldest two speak Catalan, pretty much like a native. Although, I expect their vocabulary isn’t as good as some of their school mates.

I still feel like an outsider, but I’ve learnt to live with. The culture here is very different from the UK. I’d love to join a mother’s group and drink coffee while we watch the children play and do activities. But they just don’t exist here, not in our little town. People are very friendly and I have some friends who are happy to work beyond the language barrier. Most of my friends I met because they wanted to learn English. I guess their interest in another language makes them more forgiving.

I still find it difficult at the school gate. I’m friendly with some of the mums. Some of our children are very close friends. But, I know I’m not “one of them.”  As much as I can do small talk chat, it can be difficult to express yourself quickly and with the subtleties of your native tongue. They chat away easily, I only understand half of what they say.  Especially since, as a mark of acceptance, they now talk in Catalan to me.  They know that I’ve started to learn it; I just understand Spanish better.

There are many groups at the school gate. In fact, there aren’t that many Catalan children at the school. Spain has always had a long history with Morroco and there are lots of Morrocans. Romanians and Latin Americans make up the majority of the remaining foreigners. We’re the only British people at our school. I suspect there are others who feel like an outsider too. Perhaps we should all get badges.

Our Dream For Raising Our Children

The children don’t remember our home in the UK anymore. They know they aren’t Catalan but I don’t think it bothers them. They’re the blond, blue-eyed English boys. I think it gives them a bit of a status symbol. I sometimes worry that it will affect them, “not really belonging” to this culture. But I hope that if I keep an eye out for it, we’ll work around it. I hope that they’ll grow up reaping the benefits of two cultures. When they’re older, I hope, they’ll be able to live where they want. In this ever growing global culture, as boundaries and barriers disappear.

My dream was to bring our children up in a beautify country - Orlena
My dream was to bring our children up in a beautify country – Orlena

It was our dream that we could bring our children up in a beautiful country where we can enjoy the outdoors and teach them to enjoy the fundamentals of life. Obviously we’re always learning and adapting as parents, but we’ve achieved the first goal. Sure, there have been sacrifices — namely my career, but that’s also another story.

If something is worth having, it’s worth fighting for. And that means sacrifices. A dream that involves a fairy godmother is unrealistic. A dream where you work hard?  That’s do-able.

— Orlena

What’s Your Dream? Are You Living It?

I love how Orlena described their dream, and how they made it a reality. They are truly living the dream, and loving it.

The truth is, everyone’s dreams are different. And every dream is worth considering, no matter how far out there or how mundane it might be. Some people dream big, while other people have more subtle dreams.

What is your dream? Are you working hard to achieve it? What sacrifices have you made?

I’d love to hear your stories, your dreams, your struggles… leave a comment below!

Freedom Ignites a Love of Learning

posted in: Parenting | 4
I love the title of today’s snapshot series – freedom really does ignite a love of learning! Join me in welcoming Andrea of Waldorf Salad and Cottage Fries. She is married with two kids, two dogs, and two cats. Andrea is also a certified Aromatherapist, Herbalist and has a B.S. in Natural Health Sciences; she homeschools, cooks and gardens in the foothills of Western North Carolina.

Thank you Andrea for sharing this wonderful memory that displays the love of learning you’ve cultured in your children!

— Betsy

Freedom Ignites a Love of Learning - Waldorf Salad and Cottage Fries @ BPhotoArt.com

Freedom Ignites a Love of Learning

Every time I look at this picture I smile; I think about how lucky we are that our children have the freedom to learn without countless constraints. Now, that does not mean there aren’t rules and expectations, but they are given the chance to “let go” and to see where the day may take them.

This happened more often than not when we lived high up in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  Since we homeschool, we thought our five acre tract of land that housed many animals (for instance bears, snakes, raccoon, bobcats and several species of birds) would be a special place to educate them.

Mud Alert

The day this photo was taken, we were in the midst of a study on weather. Each morning the children would take out their weather journals, document temperature, wind velocity, snow fall etc.

On this particular day the rain was falling especially hard.  We decided to collect water in several types of vessels to see how quickly each would fill up and to measure how much water we could capture. The containers filled rapidly and the yard began to look like a muddy pond. That’s when the decision was made to throw on winter garb and slide down the hill in our yard!

Granting Freedom to Learn

Now most mothers would be apprehensive about their children sliding downhill into the woods, let alone allowing them to put on ski wear to do so, but I was all for it. I helped them suit up and off they went — for hours.

Sliding down the hill turned into mud pie making, dredging the yard to construct streams, digging a hole that swiftly turned into a small pool, and of course the day would not have been complete without a good mud fight!

After several hours of fun it was time to come in, clean up and have a hot cup of tea. I sat there watching the two of them measure the water they collected and laughing continually as they discussed the day’s adventures. I beamed with satisfaction at the thought that this day would be one they would remember forever!

— Andrea

Have you cultivated a love of learning?

Are there times you’ve been intentional about letting your kids think outside the box in order to cultivate a love of learning?  Did you cringe inwardly or was your inner child thrilled at the prospect of engendering freedom?

I’d love to hear your stories, to know if you have a memory like Andrea’s that sticks out in your mind as one your kids will remember fondly in years to come.

Living Life To The Fullest: Silliness Is A Must

posted in: Parenting | 14
Today I’m welcoming Michelle from Divas With A Purpose. She’s here to share about living life to the fullest and how silliness is a must. You’ll also learn some simple ways for embracing your divatude (read on for more explanation).Michelle blogs regularly about inspiring and encouraging women in their personal and professional lives. You can connect with her on Facebook or sharing glimpses of her world on Instagram.

— Betsy

Living Life To The Fullest: Silliness Is A Must

This little bugger is my youngest son. I have this snapshot posted on my vision board as a reminder to smile and remember the fun, silly moments of life.

Living Life To The Fullest: Silliness A Must - Divas With a Purpose @ BPhotoArt.com

My pregnancy with him was rough – emotionally and physically. I was miserable and depressed the majority of my pregnancy. It hurts to say that now but there were many a nights that I cried myself to sleep. There was so much turmoil going on in my marriage, my career and my overall outlook of life. The moment I first laid eyes on him – I was overcome with emotion. I am sure I am not the only mother who wondered throughout their second pregnancy how her heart could possibly love a second child as much as their first. I quickly learned it was very much possible and came quite naturally.

While I was home on maternity leave with my son, my passion for writing returned. It had been years since I had truly been motivated and inspired to write anything. I had let life bog me down and extinguish the passion that I had for the written word.

“What is it that you stand for? When your name comes to mind, what do others think of? Is it something positive or negative? Is it what you’d want your legacy to be? Is it what you’d want your children to pass on to their children’s children? If not, what are you doing to change that?”

I believe in living life to the fullest. Life happens – the good, the bad, and the in between. Some of it we can control and some we just have to roll with the punches, regroup and continue to press forward. The silliness that you see in this photo – it brings a smile to my face many a day. It reminds me to not let life pass me by.

As a mother, I strive to embrace my divatude on a daily basis and encourage my children to do the same. Divatude? For many that may be a new concept. I believe that we all should strive to be driven, inspiring, victorious and called to action – our divatude! Sometimes when I share that it sounds quite grandiose and time-consuming, but it is really a simple concept to embrace:

Divatude - exactly what is it? - Divas With a Purpose @ BPhotoArt.com

Simple Ways To Embrace Your Divatude

  • Believe in yourself. Tell yourself regularly how awesome you are. It’s not cockiness – it’s self-confidence
  • Encourage others. Tell your children what they do well and support their endeavors.
  • Give back in your community – donate your time, talents and/or tangibles.
  • Support others with their endeavors, when possible. Your presence, alone, makes a difference.
  • Be positive and uplifting. It makes a difference.
  • Set goals for yourself personally and professionally. Strive to continue growing and learning.
  • Be the friend you want to have.
  • Share your story with someone that can be encouraged or motivated by it.
  • Practice gratitude regularly.

— Michelle

How Do You Live Life to the Fullest?

I love how Michelle challenges us to make sure we’re living life to the fullest.

So, what do you think? Are these ideas practical for you? What are you going to try first? Have you already found ways to remember the silly moments in life? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts.

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