Summer is almost over and Jam and I finally made it to the pool. Sad, I know. And what makes it even sadder than the fact that it’s late July and we haven’t gotten to the pool, is the fact that our apartment complex has a fully accessible pool that’s open 7 days a week. Yep, this is an epic parenting fail. Well, maybe not epic since last summer we didn’t go at all because I couldn’t find the access card, but a fail nonetheless. This time I made sure that I got a new access card well before summer started, but I also knew that Jam would be swimming and going to the water park with the day camp she attends. I wasn’t too pressed about not utilizing our pool, but there’s still a sense of “not appreciating what you have” that I feel. I digress though.

Even though it’s summer, there aren’t many days that lend themselves to us having a leisurely dip in the pool. We’re always going, going, going, so when I realized that it was a Saturday evening and there was actually some down time available, I jumped at the chance to finally get over to the pool. Jam, of course, was ready and willing and we made our way over. And get this…not a soul in sight. The pool was completely empty. At first, I thought it was closed or had some deadly chemicals floating around in the water, but after searching for signs and checking the apartment’s Facebook page for updates, I gave Jam the “go ahead” to jump right in. And jump right in she did!

My baby swims.

When she was just a little baby, Jam loved the water. She was one of those babies that was just at home in the water. As we would wash her up in her little tub, she would splash, put her head under the water, stretch her arms and legs out, and just be. It was the cutest thing ever and anybody that saw her do it would comment on how she’s “such a water baby.” I’ll never forget the time she got in her first kiddie pool, wearing her first tiny bathing suit. There was so much wonder and excitement in her eyes. And she splashed, rolled around, and laughed for hours. It was perfection.

African American baby's first time in pool.

 Fast forward to this weekend and I saw the same wonder and excitement + bravery. Running and jumping in the pool and everything. And then she started swimming. Just out the blue. Never having had a lesson in her life, but always watching everybody swim around her. It was magical, especially as a mama that never learned how to swim and one that’s had such trouble learning. Her stroke isn’t perfect and she can’t hold her breath for very long, but she swims and she’s learning. View Post

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Figuring out how to be a better mom can be difficult when you're exhausted and overworked. Check out these tips and tricks from a mom who has been there.

Lately I’ve been exhausted. I used to be able to come home from work, cook dinner, get the kid ready for bed, help with homework, plan for the next day, and blog, without skipping a beat. I would will myself to stay awake and stay productive so that I could get everything done. Well, that’s not the case anymore. Now when I get home, I can barely finish dinner let alone do all those other things. Maybe I’m just starting to feel what moms all over the world have already been feeling–exhaustion. I am exhausted. No longer tired, but flat out exhausted. My mom duties though? Those suckers don’t take a break and each and every evening, I find myself asking, “Okay, what do I have to get done tonight? What can wait?” The thing is though, I want to be a great mom–not just a good enough mom. So to know that I’m not giving my best to my daughter on a regular basis is heartbreaking and that’s why over the weekend, I had a long talk with myself. “Get it together, Vaneese. You don’t have to be a perfect mom, but you can commit to being a better mom…even when you are exhausted.”

Okay, Self. I hear you.

How to be a Better Mom When You’re Exhausted

  • Fuel yourself for the work you do. To be a better mom, you first have to be a better person. Not in a “we are the world” type way, but in a “I need to take care of myself first” way. I recently picked up a few V8 V-Fusion+Energy Drinks from Walmart and they’re great for boosting energy throughout the day. When I’m busy + thinking about all the stuff I have to do, it’s so easy to forget to take care of me in the process. The V8 V-Fusion + Energy drinks boost my energy and has a full serving of fruits and vegetables. And the energy is natural, not artificial, because it has green tea in it. Being energized and not super sluggish definitely helps me be a better mom.

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  • Give up on perfection. Kids gonna kid, right? When I’m tired, there’s nothing more frustrating than my child being a kid. “Did you really have to drop that, spill that, break that? Ugh.” Exhaustion has a way of magnifying everything—especially the bad. To be a better mom, I had to give up the idea that everything would be perfect at all times. We all make mistakes and our children are no different. There is so much to be said about the phrase, “Just breathe.”

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  • Accept that some things won’t get done. This is, by far, the hardest thing for me. I overbook myself and think of myself as Super Wonder Mom. I can make every single appointment, the school play, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. I can take care of dinner, do the laundry, and feed starving children all in one evening. That would be nice, but it’s not reality. In reality, in order to be a better mom to my daughter, I have to pick and choose my battles. I have to be okay with saying, “You know what? That laundry can sit in that chair for another day. It’ll be just fine.”
  • Be present. When you’re with your children, you’re with your children. Jam (and Hubz) have gotten on me several times for being distracted when I’m supposed to be paying attention to them. Since I’m pretty heavy into social media, it’s really easy for me to get bogged down on Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes instead of being in the moment, I’m busy taking pictures of the moment for Instagram. I’m learning that divided time is not quality time and that being a better mom means being great at quality, and not at multi-tasking.

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  • Plan the work and work the plan. I am a big fan of planners, organizers, and calendars. My life would come to a screeching halt if I didn’t have access to my agendas at all times. Since making the conscious decision to be a better mom, I’ve relied even more heavily on my planners. When you’re already tired, not having a plan makes it even worse; it becomes downright overwhelming. When I have a clear picture of what to expect in my day, I can focus on mommying, without feeling that I’m dropping the ball somewhere else.

These are just a few ways to be a better mom when you’re exhausted. The list of things you could do is extensive, but it all really comes back to making the conscious decision to be better. It’s all about making choices that support what you want out of life and out of motherhood. I know that I have a long way to go because, as the name of my blog states, I work a lot. But nothing, NOTHING, is more important than the relationship I’m building with my daughter. She deserves more than a tired, overworked, second rate version of her mama.

If you’re looking to boost your energy throughout your busy day, please grab some V8 V-Fusion+Energy Drinks on your next trip to Walmart. You’ll be happy you did! In the meantime, be sure to enter the this sweepstake for a chance to win one of 5 $500 Walmart gift cards! V8 V-Fusion+Energy #V8EnergyBoost $2,500 SweepstakesLearn more about V8 on their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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What other suggestions do you have for those of us who are mothering while exhausted? Leave a comment below!

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Recently, I found the transformative power of daily affirmations. Of course, I had been hearing about how great affirmations are and how they have the power to change your life, but not quite realizing the power of thoughts and words yet, I shrugged it off as woo woo. You know, that new age stuff that folks are all into nowadays. Unbeknownst to me, affirmations–positive thoughts and words–are not new at all. I mean, this stuff goes way back, like biblical back. There are a ton of scriptures that support affirmations, but the one that always sticks out to me is, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

When you really sit down and think about how much of your life is guided by your own thoughts and words, it’s quite shocking. Confidence, self-esteem, goals or lack thereof, all stem from what we think and say about ourselves. Cognitive behavioral therapy is rooted in the belief that addressing, and then reframing, maladaptive thinking can lead to behavioral changes. This stuff is everywhere.

So what does any of this have to do with kids and confidence? Well, everything. As Jam gets older and is exposed to more and more, I’m starting to notice a few things that concern me. There seems to be some self-deprecating comments happening and I don’t like it. And then there are the numerous instances of giving up if things don’t go perfectly or the automatic assumption that she can’t do something or that she’s not smart enough, thin enough, tall enough, funny enough, etc. This is a slippery slope, in my opinion, and I’d rather nip it in the bud now than have to deal with it later. Since positive, daily affirmations have helped me so much, I thought it would be a great idea to get Jam involved. Here are a few of the daily affirmations we’ve started saying.

  1. It’s okay if I don’t fit in because I was born to stand out.
  2. I am strong and I am brave.
  3. I am loved.
  4. I am a great friend.
  5. I like me because I’m awesome!
  6. Everyday, I get better and better.
  7. I make mistakes and that’s okay.
  8. I always do my best.
  9. I am unique and I am special.
  10. I am creative.
  11. I have the ability to solve problems.
  12. I can express my thoughts and feelings openly.
  13. My parents and friends love me.
  14. I can learn and will ask questions when I need help.
  15. I take care of my body so that it can take care of me.
  16. I believe in my dreams.
  17. I can reach all of my goals.
  18. I can do a lot of great things.
  19. I am beautiful.
  20. I love and accept myself.

Can you imagine hearing your child or children say those things and believe them? I can attest to the fact that it’s a wonderful, I-may-get-this-parenting-thing-down-yet, feeling. I’m already noticing a boost in Jam’s thoughts about herself and we’ve only been doing this for a few days. My hope is that this becomes a lifelong practice for her, or at least a coping mechanism for when she’s feeling out of wack.

Does your child say daily affirmations? List your favorites in the comments below!

This post is brought to you by Mott’s and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

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Parenting. It’s hard. The movies and cute television shows make it look easy, but the hard, ugly truth is that it’s a hard job.  And it’s one of those jobs where your performance is not measured until years and years down the line.  I mean, just the other morning I found myself hoping that I wasn’t raising a serial killer.  A serial killer?? Yes, a serial killer. That’s the way that parenting has warped my mind and skyrocketed my anxiety.  Sad, isn’t it?

The fact of the matter though, is that all of us are doing the best that we can with what we know and what we’ve got.  Still, I constantly question my decisions, my beliefs, my actions–everything–when it comes to parenting.  And the parenting books, blogs, documentaries, and even conversations with other parents don’t make it any better.  Because according to some of them, I’m a pretty crappy mom. Heck, to some of them, I’m technically a bad parent.

7 things I do that technically make me a bad parent

  1. I allow my daughter way more screen time than I probably should. In my defense, I’m watching it too so it could be counted as spending time together.
  2. We don’t have a hot meal every day. Sometimes, it’s a bowl of cereal and some fruit, while other times it’s “whatever you find Wednesday!” At this point in our lives, I’m more concerned with Jam actually eating, more so than I am with if I prepared what she’s eating.
  3. I’m cranky…a lot.  Oh boy, can I be Mrs. Cranky Pants! Sometimes, the whining and the several requests to do the same thing just does me in.  “Mommy, why can’t I wear a sundress and sandals even though it’s 4 degrees outside? You don’t love me!!!” Oh my goodness, on some days I just can’t deal.  And instead of explaining for the 14th time that her legs will freeze off, I become short and “because I said so” inevitably finds its way out of my mouth.  Yes, some days I am Madame Cranky.
  4. I curse. Like a sailor. A very pissed off sailor. But in my defense, I try really, really, REALLY hard not to do this. It’s just that most of the time I fail.
  5. I forget everything. My poor kid.  From showing up to school in “regular” clothes on pajama day to mixing up crazy hair day with the much more formal read and feed day, my forgetfulness has done Jam in on a number of occasions.  Thankfully, she’s a forgiving child, a trait she must have picked up from her dad.
  6. I’m selfish. There are some days that I just need to be by myself. Give me a marathon of Grey’s Anatomy and some snacks, and I can be alone for days.  As a mom though, that’s not possible.  But on some days, I make it possible.  I shut myself off and it’s just me…and it’s glorious.
  7. I don’t feel bad about this list.  It’s true; I don’t. Because as parents, we all have tricks, ideas, things that we won’t tell anyone up our sleeves.  It’s totally okay! No matter how much we’re told as parents that we should be perfect, the truth is, we’re not and we never will be.

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That’s why I’m so happy that Mott’s is encouraging moms and dads to be good and honest about this thing called ‘parenting.’  Mott’s, maker of applesauce, 100%  juice, and juice drink that parents have counted on for years, just wants us to tell it like it is!  In an effort to uplift parents, share a laugh and acknowledge that we all are basically just winging it as we go, Mott’s is asking that we share our #GoodandHonest moments when it comes to parenting.  Let’s help each other out with tips, tricks, or hacks we’ve learned along the way.

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Leave a comment below with your “parenting truth.”

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Jam recently said something that rocked my world and made me grin from ear to ear.  As we were leaving home one morning for school/work, she said, “Mommy, I love to read now.”  I was so excited and so happy for my kid because, well….we all know about my joy of reading.  More than that, though, was the fact that Jam hasn’t always liked to read.  There was a time when I literally had to make her sit down next to me, pull out a book, and make her listen to me read or make her read aloud to me.  It was torture for both of us.  For her because she was being made to do something that she really had no interest in doing and for me because it was hurtful that the joy of reading didn’t come as naturally to her as it did to me.  In all transparency, it sucked.  But it was also a learning experience for me–a lesson in parenting. Here a few ways I got my kid to read and love it.

Surround them with books

This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve been into homes where there were no books.  Either the parents aren’t interested in reading or they think that there’s no money in the budget for unnecessary things like books.  But books are sooo necessary.  There is no better way to expand a person’s reality than by books.

And yes, books can be expensive.  Thankfully, there are ways to get around that though.  Thrift stores and the “for sale” stack at many public libraries are just a couple of ways to save money on books.

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Choose books that allow children to see themselves in the characters

I noticed that as I started buying more and more books with main characters who had beautiful, natural hair and gorgeous, brown faces like Jam, her interest exploded!  She was able to say, “Hey, Princess Cupcake looks like me with her big, curly hair and big, brown eyes.  She saw herself.

The books with characters that look like Jam is small, but it’s definitely growing.  There is a definite need for diversity in children books because it’s so important for children to see reflections of themselves in what they read.

Create incentives around reading

Call it a parenting “a ha” moment, but I’ve learned that punishments don’t work for Jam.  Since they worked for me as a child, I mistakenly assumed that the same would be true for her.  Not the case.  Rewards and awards work for my kid.  She needs a tangible incentive to make it worth her time.  Otherwise, unless she’s interested, she’s not interested!

On a recent trip to Dollar Tree, I found these cute little reading rewards cards that keep track of how many books you’ve read by punches.  It’s similar to a Starbucks card, I guess.  And just like Starbucks, once the card is filled, you get a prize!  I probably won’t give her a Frappuccino, but she’ll get something that’s fun and that she loves.  She can’t wait!

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Create fun, hands-on activities around the books

Until there is an innate love of reading, there’s nothing that can get a little kid into a book like some arts and crafts.  Get some glue sticks, a few Popsicle sticks, some markers, and some construction paper, and you’re golden.  Most kids eat that stuff up, figuratively and literally.  It’s how many of them learn–by doing.

Pinterest is a great resource for stuff like this, along with teacher blogs and just general crafty people websites.  Crafts can be done with any and all books, to some extent.

Check out: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Clothespin Art Display

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 Set the example

Our kids learn from us.  No matter how much we say, “Do as I say, not as I do,” they’ll always do as we do.  So if reading is not a part of your life, consider creating space for it.  It’s a great way to relax, let your mind wonder, and recoup from everything going on around us.  I’m convinced that my decision to read more and actually enjoy reading again, had a huge impact on Jam doing the same.

Do your children like to read? What worked for you in getting them to read?