What do you do in your spare time?

Any stay-at-home mom will have received this question at some point in time. I am sure they have laughed at the person asking the question. Spare time? What is that?

As a stay-at-home parent, there is no such thing as spare time. Raising kids and taking care of a household really is a full-time job. Even after the kids start attending elementary school, your days can be filled with tons of activities to get done – grocery shopping (heavenly without the kids), errands (again, oh so wonderful without having to always be watching your little one) and volunteering at their school.

As most of you know, in my spare time, I am a blogger and an author. In addition to that, I do the bookkeeping for my husband’s (sole practitioner) law firm. And I am treasurer for the elementary parent-teacher association. And last week I announced my latest endeavor- a birthday invitation store on Etsy where I design custom printable invitations.

Spare time? What is that?

Of course, with all these activities, it isn’t to say that I am always doing something “work” related – though sometimes it feels that way. In fact, lately, I have been extremely busy with my Etsy store starting and the release of my latest book – The Heir to Alexandria (which comes out tomorrow). But I do get some downtime.

In my downtime, I love to read. And I am the type of reader that authors love because I get pulled into the story and have a hard time putting it down. This is so much of a problem that I can’t read in the daytime, or I would never get any writing done.

Of course, if I am not reading, my other evening activity (after the kids are asleep) is watching a few TV shows. As parents, my husband and I never get to watch anything when it actually airs. Thankfully, we have a DVR. (Yeah! We get to skip the commercials!)

Once Upon aTime promo image.jpgThere are three shows that we watch together which all seem appropriate for a fantasy writer as they are all superhero-based shows. (Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, and The Flash). Another good show for a fantasy author is Once Upon a Time. I love that show but so far can’t get hubby to watch it with me.

I also watch N.C.I.S., Criminal Minds and Suits. I know the channels are filled with “reality” TV shows and contest shows but those have never appealed to me. I do, however, like to watch Top Chef and any of its Masters variations. I don’t know why this show appeals to me as I am not a foodie. But I have been watching it since season 3.

BigBangTheoryTitleCard.pngThis fall I added a comedy to the shows I watch. I need a little bit of escapism and some laughter, so I turned to The Big Bang Theory. After my husband saw that I liked it, he bought me seasons 1-7 on DVD in November. It didn’t take me long to get all caught up. Awesome show!

And of course, as a fan of the San Antonio Spurs, I try to catch a game here and there. I use to watch pretty much all of their games, but now I don’t usually get to sit down and watch a whole game all that often. (We also use to have a partial season ticket package which ensured I would actually get to GO to 10 games a season. Gee I miss that. Maybe we will do that again next year.)

So, there is the answer to what I do in my spare time – what little I have of it.

If you have children, you need a will (and life insurance)

gravestoneMost people don’t like to think about death or dying – especially when it is their own life they are considering. And this fear of thinking about it causes many to ignore the subject all together, falsely believing that it won’t happen to them. Or perhaps they have decided that they don’t care what happens after they die. I mean they are already gone, right?

When my friend, Trish, was first diagnosed with cancer, she professed to not caring about the bills or the money she spent on her family. Her theory was that you can’t take it with you. And while that is true…you are leaving behind love ones who will have to pick up the pieces. They will still have bills to pay.

Trish lost her battle with cancer at the end of August. She was the main bread winner of the family. She did not have a will or life insurance. Now her husband is struggling with paying off her medical expenses and adjusting to life without her income. A life insurance policy would have provided the family some relief.

In Trish’s case, the lack of a will was not as important even though it might have made a few things easier on her husband. But now he is the sole provider for their two kids. It is even more important that he have a will to provide for his children if he should pass away before they reach adulthood.

My husband is an attorney and while he doesn’t specialize in wills and trusts, he make a point to emphasize to parents that they need a will. It is the ONLY way to have a voice in what happens to your children after you die.

You may think it is obvious that your brother will take care of your kids or that your mom is young enough to do so. It may never enter into your mind that your mom and brother may argue over who is best to care for your children. Without a will, it will be up to the state to decide who will have custody of your children.

But with a will, YOU get to say who you would like to raise your kids. You can ensure that the family member or friend you want to raise your child is the one that gets to do so. You don’t want to leave it up to the courts to decide what is best for your family.

(There are other benefits of having a will such as giving instructions regarding medical decisions in case you are not medically able to express your wishes, providing for the education of children or grandchildren and avoiding tax consequence for your heirs.)

As for life insurance that money can help pay off your expenses and for your funeral instead of leaving your loved ones with bills. In the case of Trish, a life insurance policy would have done that as well as provide the family more time to transition their lives to a single, one income family.

So I urge all of you to review your life insurance policies and update your wills. And if you don’t have a will – and especially if you have kids – I urge you to get one.

I hate homework!

“I hate homework,” my second-grader declares as I call him into the dining room to begin our Monday afternoon ritual.

And honestly, I hate homework too. I find the afternoon very frustrating. In fact, I will be thinking about how much I despise doing homework as my daughter spends twenty minutes drawing cows and chickens for a simple kindergarten math question.

homeworkEvery Monday, homework comes out. Each child must choose three homework “squares” to complete. Kindergarten gets nine topics to choose from, and second grade gets six. Each grade has a certain “square” that is required.

In the beginning, kindergarten homework took maybe 15 minutes. But now they have to do a simple book review each week. This involves writing the title, author, and illustrator. (Don’t even get me started on how long it takes my daughter to copy those words and names and how many times I have to correct her letters and spacing.) They then have to write a sentence or two and draw a picture. Yes, simple but not quick.

The other homework squares for kindergarten are usually easy – spend 15 minutes on a website, draw a picture, search for shapes in your house, write sentences with their “popcorn” words and simple tasks like that. Most of them should take perhaps five minutes each – unless you are Lexie, who wants to draw detailed cows for the math problem.

On this day, her homework took an hour. This would be okay if she were my only child. But I also have Jase to help. He is in second grade and is not at the point where I can have him do his homework without some guidance.

His first task is the required math “square.” It states he should be able to do these thirty subtraction problems with a goal of having them done in two minutes. We set the timer. Eight minutes later, he is half way through. After fifteen, he is only two-thirds done. Now I know Jase doesn’t do well under pressure. The timer is not his friend. I am already short-tempered after dealing with Lexie and her slow cow drawing episode. It was pure frustration talking, but I announced to Jase that he would be redoing this test the next day and perhaps the next until he can do this better.

Of course, later I felt bad for adding to his stress of math homework. I know I have thirty years more experience doing math than he does. But he does seem to be slow when it comes to basic math. (Don’t even get me started on the stupid COMMON CORE math they do nowadays where you do 18 steps to answer a basic three-digit addition problem.)

I discussed my frustration with homework with my husband. He pointed out that I have a set expectation (it should only take X minutes to do homework), and I am frustrated when that expectation isn’t met. He of course is right. I have tried to lower my expectation, but that hasn’t helped. I guess I am going to have to realize that we can no longer get homework for the week all done in one day. I loved being able to get it done on Monday and then only doing Jase’s reading homework on the other days.

The only way for all of us to stop hating homework is to take some of the stress and frustration away. I need a better attitude. I don’t need to take my frustration out on the kids and have them even more stressed and worried about doing their homework. Oh, and I think I need to talk with Lexie about timeliness. Just because you can take twenty minutes to draw cows, doesn’t mean you should. Actually, not staying on task or finishing in a timely manner have been the two most common complaints her teacher has about her. (Another one would be not listening. I feel for her teacher here and completely understand. Lexie does a lot of “selective” listening.)

I began this post in March right before I began the A to Z challenge for April. Since then, homework has gotten a little better and less stressful. None of us still enjoy doing it, but I am looking forward to next year where I help Jase less and perhaps Lexie too.

Y is for Yelling #AtoZchallenge

Sometimes it seems the only way to get through to my kids is to raise my voice. It is as if they tune me out when I tell them something and only respond when I yell.

YToday we are up to letter Y in the A to Z Challenge, and I wanted to blog a little about yelling. I am pretty sure every parent out there – even those with awesome amounts of patience – has yelled at their kids once or twice (if not more often).

No, these aren’t moments that any parent is proud of, and I honestly feel crappy when I have yelled at my kids. But like I said, sometimes it seems the only way to get their attention.

I think my problem is that I sometimes have too high of an expectation for my kids. I forget that they are still learning, and that they do not think the same way as I do.

I recall reading a blog where a mother decided to go the opposite way and try whispering instead. She had success with it, so I may have to give that a try because yelling certainly is NOT an effective way to communicate. I know that by yelling, I am not modeling good behavior for my kids. I am teaching them that it is okay to yell. It is teaching them that they don’t have to listen until someone yells. It teaches them that they are not worth speaking to in civil tones. None of these things are my intention.

I wish it was as easy as saying, “I am no longer going to yell.” But it isn’t. I know this habit will be a hard one to break. All I have to do is look at my kids to remember why I want to stop this horrible pattern.

J is for Juggling Jobs – #AtoZchallenge

JToday on the A to Z challenge we are up to the letter J. I started my blog to write about two things – writing/publishing and being a parent. So with the letter J, I thought I would write about Juggling Jobs.

jugglingI wear many different hats and must juggle all types of responsibilities.

I am a self-published author. I am currently working on my fourth book as well as marketing my trilogy.

I am a blogger – posting at least two blogs a week (one on parenting and one on publishing or writing) plus a quote of the week and a Featured Author every Friday.

I am a parent and spouse. My husband and I have a six-year-old daughter in kindergarten and an eight-year-old son in 2nd grade. I volunteer each week in my daughter’s class during their computer lab. I also chauffeur the kids to gymnastics and karate each week. We also have four of the furry type children – three cats and our cocker spaniel puppy who is now 7 ½ months old. I do the majority of the household chores, all the shopping and am responsible for the house finances.

I am a member of my kids’ school PTA. This year I am co-chair of the faculty appreciation committee and am in charge of putting together a cookbook as part of the faculty gift for this year. Next year, I am taking on a bigger role and will be the PTA treasurer.

I am also in charge of my homeowner’s association newsletter, which comes out quarterly as well on the activities’ committee (which thankfully only has two pool parties and a Fall Festival each year).

And last, but not least, I also do all the book keeping for my husband’s law firm. Thankfully, he is just a solo practitioner so it isn’t too much work.

OK – I am tired just writing all that. Yes, I juggle many jobs, but I love being busy.

Favoring one parent over the other

“I want to sit by daddy,” my daughter declares.

“No, I want to,” my son says.

This is a conversation I hear all the time. It doesn’t matter if we are sitting on the couch, eating out at a restaurant or going on a ride at the amusement park. While with the first two, there are two sides to daddy so that both kids can get their wish but on the last, they have to take turns. Someone must sit with mommy.

favorite parentI know that the kids’ excitement about their dad is just because they don’t see him as often as they do me. I am the one to get them ready, takes and picks them up from school, makes their meals, helps with homework and all that stuff. I am also the one that takes them to the zoo, the library, the pool, and any other fun activity to fill up their days off during school breaks.

Many times I am happy when my husband comes home and they swarm over him. I know they have been missing him, and I am glad to have a break. But after so many times of them arguing on who sits next to him at the restaurant, I am sometimes tired of it. They once all sat on one side of the table in a booth. I had the other side all to myself. Talk about feeling unwanted, I sure did.

I know the kids aren’t trying to hurt my feelings when they continually want daddy, but it does sometimes. I also know that this is perfectly normal. One day when I was upset by their actions, I went online and read other parents’ accounts of having the same thing happen to them. And it helped that a few experts suggested the kids would only do this if they felt comfortable that I would always be there for them no matter what.

But even with knowing that, it does drive me crazy sometimes. Last May, we had a trip to Disney World planned, and I told my husband we would have to make sure they understood they would need to take turns riding with each of us.

Of course, my husband unexpectedly started his new business about six weeks before our trip and decided that he couldn’t go. My mom stepped in and took his place. But on the trip, all of sudden it was like I was “daddy.” Both kids wanted to sit beside me at the restaurant, on the bus and on the rides. It was nice to for once to be the preferred parent – even if it was only be default.