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Traveling with Teens

As our teens get older, making memories with them become much more important… and much more challenging. Being able to travel abroad with your teen and experience another culture is a fantastic way to create those lifelong memories and spend quality time together. Traveling with your teenager can also be a wonderful learning experience for them – It gives them a chance to see how other cultures live and how to interact within them. It can also give them a greater appreciation for their life at home.

So, if you are thinking about embarking on an international adventure with your teen, we’ve put together a few tips to help you prepare for the experience!

1. Less is more. You might think you need a ton of clothes, shoes and everything in between, but packing a little lighter will allow you to be fluid. For example, if you fly in a smaller airplane with weight requirements to reach your destination, you’ll be happy to have only the essentials!

2. Talk about the culture and customs before you go. Spend some time researching the country you are visiting and have a few conversations about how it might be different than the US. Knowing more about the country you are visiting will help you better immerse yourself in the culture. (And it might even help you with what we mentioned about packing!)

3. Be okay if things aren’t perfect. Part of travel is about handling obstacles and being willing to readjust plans if needed. Traveling with teenagers is nerve-racking as it is, so be prepared for things to be a little different than how you planned them in the first place.

4. Learn a few words in the local language. While language barriers are common when traveling to other countries, if you know a few words, it can help ease tension when you are trying to communicate and is a sign of respect.

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Her Second, First Bedroom

Just yesterday I was picking out the perfect bedding, just the right paint colors for the wall, a nice rug, lamp, a rocking chair, and pictures to hang on the wall for her first bedroom. The room where we would say “goodnight, I love you, God bless you, sweet dreams, for eighteen years…

A couple of months ago, my friend Allyson gave me the sweetest “random” gift for no reason at all (aren’t those the best!)  Well, maybe the reason was because I needed it!  It was a small plate with an easel that had a handwritten letter on it written by her friend reflecting on a time when her three-year old daughter was fighting cancer. It reads, “Dear Normal Day – Let me be aware of the treasure you are.  Let me learn from you, love you, and bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in the quest of a rare & perfect tomorrow.  Let me hold you while I may. Faithfully yours.” (cue the band Journey… “Faithfully”) 🙂

How beautiful & profound.  As mamas, we are constantly racing to the next thing, preparing for the next perfect vacation, striving for the next promotion, pinning that picture-perfect Pinterest meal, trying to plan for the perfect tomorrow, but this plate was a sweet reminder to take a look at my own full plate and embrace the “normal day!”

As my number two out of three daughters leaves the nest this week, what I truly will miss the most is the proverbial ‘normal day.’  The car rides where she gets frustrated at me, and I giggle because I know I am being a ridiculous backseat driver in the passenger seat, the cheering from the sidelines at every sporting event possible, discussions about homework, what Ms. Smith said in class today, how Bobby got in trouble, how some friends are for a season & some for a lifetime, how to keep being the light, how she got an A on her math test, how to manage her time, etc.. – just the mundane, ‘normal conversations.’  Then there are the normal dinners around the table filled with prayers, laughter, maybe an accidental burp or two, no cell phones, and normal conversations. The family movie nights where we take thirty minutes to pick out a movie to watch that we can all agree on, bowls filled with popcorn, sprinkled with our favorite candy that I inevitably fall asleep and never get past the middle of the movie.  My favorite normal time of them all, “tuck-in time.”  When the lights go off and all defenses are down. Head on the pillow, talking about our ‘favorite and saddest parts of our day” which turn into deep conversations, that turn into prayers, that turn into another normal tomorrow.  These ‘normal days’ are where we get to pour into our kiddos, whether they know it or not, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

How did yesterday become my today so quickly? Surely ‘Father Time’ does not have a second hand, I swear the dude must have wings!  So it begins again, eighteen years later…picking out the perfect bedding, just the right colors, a nice rug, lamp, and pictures to hang on the wall for her ‘second, first bedroom’ – her dorm. The place where we get to say  “good night, I love you, God bless you, sweet dreams” from a distance & cherish all the ‘new normal days’ that have gone by and the ones yet to come.

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When Your Teens Don’t Need You Like They Used To

As Summer winds down, I’ve been reflecting a bit on how different of a summer it was.  As a mom of two teenage boys, 14 and 16, not only did they not need me the same way that they used to – they didn’t want me around in the same way either!  So, let me explain.  Seven years ago, I left the corporate world to create a more balanced life for my family; one where I could still provide a great income, but do so on my terms around my kids’ schedule.  The summer I started, my boys were 7 and 9. We had a theme for the summer – “Camp Kara.”  I would work early in the morning, for the bulk of the day I was theirs (beach, pool, hikes, touring our city), and I’d wrap up my work-day in the evening.  And for the past several years, we’ve spent a few weeks in the month of July in the mountains of Colorado.  This year was different; no vacation due to their insane sports schedule.  No beach, no pool, no hikes and certainly no “Camp Kara.”

The one that really punched me in the stomach was planning my entire work-day to get home by 3pm to take my younger son to his first high school football practice to only be told, “Mom, I don’t need a ride – my brother will drive me,”  and off they went without looking back.  Ouch!  I thought to myself, “they really don’t need me right now—at least not how they used to.”

What they needed from me had changed.  They now needed food (and lot’s of it), a space to “hang out” with friends, advice on personal hygiene (e.g. skin care), and for me to be present all of their games.  I’ve seen no less than 30 baseball games this summer and I wouldn’t change a thing.  They needed my trust, which at times these days can be hard.  Not that I don’t trust my kids, but I don’t trust the unknown.  It’s uncomfortable to watch your two teenagers drive away together.  It’s uncomfortable when they have a whole set of new friends and you don’t know their families.  It’s uncomfortable when you’ve heard what goes on at parties but trust they will make good decisions.  And it’s really uncomfortable when they start having “girls over.”

So, here’s what I’ve learned (so far) from having two teenagers as I enter this next stage of motherhood; writing it down helped me, and maybe my observations will help you, too.

1.  Communicate with your kids.  Have clear ground rules and expectations.

2. Have something for yourself.  I see many women who put their careers on hold to raise kids and are now left feeling a void when their spouses leave for work and their kids don’t need as much from them.  There’s great value you to develop a workout routine, join networking groups or start a new business; just find your passion—something that excites you every day.  And if that passion ends up being work that you love, it won’t feel like work at all.

3.  Reconnect with old friends.

4.  Get to know your spouse again.

5.  Create a space for your kids that they are proud to invite friends to.  Have things for them to do – basketball hoops, pool table, ping pong.  There are lots of resale websites – you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on these things.  Make your house the social hub – so you can get to know their new friends.

6.  Always have a stocked pantry and refrigerator.

7.  Trust your kids until they give you a reason not to.  If they are driving, install an app such as Life 360 – helps to know when they come and go, how fast they are going and if they are using their cell phones.  Make sure they know you have it and will only check it if they give you a reason to.

8. Enjoy them while you can becausem, before you know it, they’ll will be leaving forheading off to cCollege.

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4 Simple Steps to Get Over Your Mommy Guilt

Countless emotions come with being a mom—love, happiness, fulfillment, pride. But, there’s one common emotion that doesn’t get as much attention: guilt.

Why guilt? Because we all make parenting decisions we regret. Children don’t come with a parenting manual. Add to that the knowledge that our decisions may affect our children forever, and you suddenly have a hefty dose of parental guilt just waiting to bog you down.

As a working mom, you probably feel guiltiest for not spending enough time with your kids during the work week. But it’s so much more than that.

Does this sound familiar?

You feel guilty that you’re too busy to keep the house clean, that you don’t have the energy to play games with your kids before bed, that you missed their soccer game (again). There’s an endless list of reasons why we feel mommy guilt, and it’s often exaggerated by other people’s opinions—questions like “Why aren’t you breastfeeding?” or “You let your child watch that?” can trigger our mommy guilt immediately.

So what do we do about it? We may not be able to completely stop feeling mommy guilt—because we care about our children so much—but we can learn to accept that mommy guilt is natural and give ourselves a break. Instead of regularly tearing yourself down, use these four tips to give yourself a pat on the back for being a great mom.

How to Get Rid of Mommy Guilt: Don’t Dwell on It!

1. Let Some Things Go

Let’s be honest, not all parental obligations are created equal—some things are just not worth stressing over. If you’re too busy to volunteer for the bake sale this year or your kids went to school in mismatched clothes, it’s not the end of the world!

When you feel guilty about something you didn’t have the time or energy to do, try to remember the bigger picture—your child’s happiness and your relationship with them. Spending quality time with your kids is much more important than being completely on top of every detail all the time.

2. Talk to Other Moms

Don’t compare yourself to other parents! You might be surprised to find out that everyone is figuring it out as they go along, even if they seem like they know what they’re doing. Believe me, you’re not the only one who’s sporting a juice-stained sweater and unwashed hair—and you’re definitely not the only one dealing with guilt either. Moms are afraid to look bad in front of others, but there’s comfort in knowing you aren’t alone.

Confide in other moms and you’ll realize that you’re all facing similar challenges. You might even be able to help each other out with the million and one things you all have to get done!

3. Try to Find a Happy Medium

Let’s face it, as much as we try to be supermoms, some days it doesn’t feel possible to have it all. As a working mom, hectic days can make you wonder if it’s possible to have both a happy family and a successful career. Meanwhile, stay-at-home moms can feel guilty about not bringing home a paycheck when times are tough.

But, the thing to remember is that there are more options now than ever before for moms to find a work-life balance that works for them. Working at home is a great option for some moms. But, even if you have a day job, explore options for telecommuting a couple days a week. Stay-at-home moms can run their own websites and shops from their laptop, enabling them to contribute monetarily to the household in a variety of ways.

The working world is more flexible than ever before for moms, so look for creative solutions to address situations that are causing you guilt.

4. Take a Moment for Yourself

Everyone gets overwhelmed—we all know what it’s like when you’ve just had it up to here and feel like you’re going to explode. In these moments, we don’t act our best. We yell, lose our temper, say things we don’t mean, and feel guilty about it later.

To be a good parent, you have to take care of yourself. Learn to know when you’ve had enough and need a break. When you’re aggravated, try to pause before you react. If you’ve had a rough day at work, sit for a few minutes alone in the car before you head into the house to get in the right mindset before seeing your family. You don’t have to take negativity from work home with you. Caring for yourself will let you better care for your family.

To Get Rid of Mommy Guilt: Be Nice to Yourself!

We hate to break it to you, but you’re not a perfect parent—no one is! And when we expect ourselves to be perfect parents, we set ourselves up for overwhelming guilt whenever we make mistakes.

Try to accept the fact that no one is a perfect parent, we’re all just doing our best. In fact, your mommy guilt is a sign of how much you love your children—so embrace it! Do your best to learn from your mistakes and feelings of guilt, not dwell on them.