Categories
Children Parenting Summer

Why I try (and still fail) to keep a summer sleep schedule.

It’s officially summer!

We just had our first camping trip as a family down at Harrison Lake State Park a few weeks back, and it didn’t turn out too bad. The planning part wasn’t awful. Gathering all of our supplies that we needed the week before the trip was a bit hectic. Honestly, the worst part of the whole planning process was the packing that had to be done near the end. I had lists, upon lists, upon lists to make sure we did not forget anything, had things prepacked in advance before the day of departure, and we still managed to forget essential items.

Also, we thought we could survive without coffee for the whole week. We were sorely mistaken. I’m definitely investing in a percolator and a manual coffee grinder for our next excursion. Or, I could just pack some instant coffee or get some preground stuff and just make some good ol’ fashioned “Cowboy Coffee“. However I decide to do it, I’m definitely not leaving home without the caffeine bean again. Yes, I know have a problem, thank you.

After going on this trip, I became curious about sleep schedules for kids during the summer, since it seemed like everyone I knew had a different way of approaching the subject. Some held very strict standards, and every event or item of the day was planned around bedtime. Others were more lenient and allowed their kids to stay up late during the summer, but would then go back to bedtimes once school started back up again. Of course, this all varied depending on factors like the child’s age/developmental stage, the kind of schedules the parents or caregivers had and based on what the kids liked and what they didn’t like. It was interesting to see the different strategies that everyone had managed to make work for them. And I saw that these methods got tweaked over time as the kids got older, or after a big change in schedule occurred.

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I think we’ve all seen this gem floating around the internet lately, and I can definitely relate…

According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is recommended that preschool-age kids get between 10-13 hours of sleep per night, while older kids get between 8-11 hours a night. This is because it can be harder to readjust sleep patterns when fall comes back around, and days start to become shorter and the sun starts to set earlier. If their circadian rhythm gets thrown off, it has been shown to affect future habits in sleep, diet, and activity levels. A Japanese study on a group of 400+ 18-month-olds also found that those who had earlier bedtimes with enough nap time during the day had shown positive effects on neurodevelopment.

From what I remember, my mom didn’t really enforce a sleep schedule on us. (But I also don’t remember anything significant before the age of 15.) My mom worked and was definitely a busy person during the year, but she never had to enforce a bedtime. I think she let us learn the hard way what would happen if we decided to stop sleeping. We knew how to listen to our bodies and figure out when we needed to sleep during the summer. So enforcing a summer bedtime on my own daughter, even while on a vacation, was completely new territory for me to wade into.

Anyway, we rented out the only cabin that existed in the whole park, and it was amazing. The reason why Harrison Lake held a special place in my heart? It was clean. Quiet. Peaceful. Felt like miles away from home, even though it was only an hour drive. And it was also a big part of my childhood. I would go with my mother and younger sister almost every year. It was our way to unplug and unwind for the summer, and I had many fond memories of the place. Now with a husband and child into the mix, I had hoped to be able to completely unplug once again and enjoy alone time with myself once again. My hopes were shattered that first night as PJ was still adjusting to her new environment, and Dan continued to use his phone to play games. I remained committed to my tech-free decision despite this. My phone was off and out of sight, and I don’t regret it.

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At first, I was devastated. I began thinking about how I may not get the chance to have a quiet moment during my first vacation that I’ve had in years. PJ stayed up late for the first few nights in, but then I think she realized she was getting tired during the day. Luckily, there were few tantrums and was able to take a few power naps.

Once PJ adjusted, she became the happiest little girl on the planet. She ended up LOVING the trip, and I am excited to report that we will be planning another trip before the camping season ends. She loved being outdoors and exploring. And my heart melted as I got to watch her enjoy the simple activities I used to enjoy when I was younger.

Watching her eat a s’more for the first time was absolutely hilarious.

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While I did struggle with my conscious about putting her to bed while the sun was still out most of the time, that feeling of guilt quickly disappeared once I saw her snuggle with her favorite teddy bear and blanket and rolled over into a little baby burrito to prepare for her snooze. I wasn’t a complete control freak for the whole week, either. I let her stay up way past her bedtime for a couple of nights to roast some marshmallows with our guests and watch the stars with us.

When we got home, it was super easy to get her back onto her regular schedule for the summer. The first night home, she was eager to get back into her bed, with all of her familiar books and stuffed animal friends she missed while she was away. Now, we’ve never heard her say she actually wanted to go to sleep until we returned from that trip. We really must have worn her out! This whole thing was a success in my book.

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At the Homestead Ice Cream Shoppe in Archbold, OH.

So in my experience, a sleep schedule during the summer works for us. This is only my two cents about it. And there are definitely days where I suck at enforcing it. There are definitely pros and cons about sleep schedules, especially during the summer, but for now, this method seems to work for my family. I’m sure it will probably need adjustment down the road, but as long as everyone is happy for the most part, I’m okay with it.

My kid is napping happily in her room as I’m wrapping this up. I’m just so blessed to have such an awesome kid. Whether she sleeps well or not, she’s amazing. While she sleeps, I will continue to be grateful for these rare moments to myself in the kitchen, nibbling on my favorite dark chocolate and sipping my afternoon Sunday tea.

Life is good, guys. Enjoy the little things.

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Some things never change. (From left to right: Me, my mom, and my sister Tabitha.)

**Special thanks to my sister, Tabitha Marquis, for these awesome photos!**

Categories
Children Life

How to handle the question – When are you having more kids?

I know this is often asked with the purest of intentions. Or maybe someone was just trying to make conversation to get to know me better. This is not written towards those people who don’t know better – this is aimed at people whom I may love dearly that continue to ask these kinds of questions without thinking. Even after I have said my piece and ended the discussion with “Someday, but not right now.”

This is also for people who don’t know me personally and then will read a sentence or two of text online before jumping to conclusions and then judge me with the intensity of a thousand suns. Y’all gotta chill.

I’m sorry to report this to those who don’t have kids yet – the question about whether you’re having kids or not doesn’t seem to stop until maybe you get 3 or 4 of them. Then after that, you get comments about how you should stop having kids because 7 is too many. Hey, if that’s your thing, you do you! Why are these people so interested in your kids, anyway? They’re not the ones who will be paying for them.

Sydney Kleinman from Scary Mommy came up with some fantastic responses to this question, and I can still relate to how uncomfortable that pressure to procreate can be.

Sure, you can fumble around and find something polite to say back if this kind of question throws you off guard. I usually do this most of the time. But once in a while, I will resort to a death glare if the question is brought up one too many times.

Here are some of my favorite responses to use for three scenarios I usually face:

“You got grandkids money?”

Remember when you tried to convince your parents to go through a McDonald’s or something because you were hungry and got tired of the food at home? Well, the response above is perfect karma.

I love my mom. I also love my in-laws. Almost immediately after our wedding ceremony was finished, we got bombarded with this question, especially from the hopeful grandparent candidates.

This was probably most often done at this point in jest, but it really started to annoy me. I realize that there are some not-so-great expectations that guys have to deal with from society in general, but the one where I’m supposed to be in misery for several months and then experiencing permanent changes to my body? That’s a big deal to me. Not to mention the amount of time, money, and resources that will be needed to support such a great venture.

So if you catch me with a cup of ramen noodles, do NOT even go there.

“I have to focus on me for a bit.”

Sure, this one may make me seem selfish, but I think if you take anyone though the physical and emotional pains of labor, make them sleep deprived for several months, and give selflessly to a completely dependent being, I think even the most rational person would tap out from exhaustion.

People seem to forget sometimes that moms are people, too. We have needs to be met as well. I do a whole lot of “nothing” around the house that somehow manages to keep PJ safe and happy for another day. Just because the laundry or dishes didn’t get done doesn’t mean I wasn’t hard at work.

I was one of those women climbing the corporate America ladder before I fell pregnant. Work outside the home is important for me too (because money!) but when I returned to my job at the time, I was overloaded with breadwinner duty and baby duty. There was too much on my plate, and I crashed after trying to maintain everything for about 4 months straight. What I was doing was not sustainable for my health.

My career path has definitely changed up a bit since having PJ, but I believe the change has been for the better, even if it’s a bit delayed. However, I think a sibling for PJ should wait until I can take a few more steps in the direction where I want our family to go.

“Nah, I’m good.”

I realize this isn’t very easy to say in some cases, but it is OKAY to tell someone that kids are not your thing. You really don’t need to explain yourself to anyone. Like for me, I just don’t want another one right now. PJ is enough.

Simple.

…No really, I just don’t want more right now. Maybe later.

Maybe. Now leave me be!

Categories
Children Life

What it’s like being the married friend with a kid.

Sometimes, I worry if I’ve lost my ‘fun’ side after I decided to settle down. I’m fortunate to still have a few of my single friends that don’t have any kids to lug around, but it’s become harder to socialize these days, let alone get a decent shower in.

I still love to go out every now and then, if my bank account says it’s okay to do so. But I’m definitely not pounding down drinks like I was while I was in college. It’s not that I couldn’t recover from the hangover if I chose to do so, but I’m busy. And I’m kind of at an awkward spot in life – where people tend to be having their kids later in life, and I managed to win the baby lottery at the young age of… 25?

What?

But people were having kids around that time in their life, maybe back in the 1950’s or something? I can understand why people are holding off on having kids these days. Crippling student debt and the cost of living are just a few factors. (I promised myself I wouldn’t rant about this stuff… yet.)

But here’s the thing – even though my doctors had said I was at the “sweet spot” in terms of childbearing age, it sometimes still feels like I had jumped on the baby train a bit too early because I see a lot of people my age still partying, traveling, living it up in general – while I’m over in the corner with my mortgage, marriage, and sweet baby girl.

My life is pretty awesome, don’t get me wrong. It is just so different from what I had imagined.

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See? I still do fun things sometimes. Like go to Columbus to see Twenty One Pilots.

So when my single ladies ask me to hang, there are more obstacles I have to face besides the outfit I’m going to wear.

Gone are the days of spontaneous nights out after a long week. I have to usually plan girls nights out at least a week ahead of time in order to be completely free to do what I want. This entails getting a sitter for PJ or having dad take one for the team. There is no such thing as free childcare, even when you have relatives who won’t charge you – there will be unique challenges to deal with there, too. (It’s the grandparents’ job to spoil the kids rotten and give them candy before bed, after all.)

Also, I can’t decide to just stay out until 2 am unless I consult with my husband first before I head out the door. We’re a team, so unless there is an emergency, we try to make it home when we say we will. Chances are, he is eagerly looking at the clock waiting for me to get back to pass the baby/household chores/work/etc. on to me as soon as I walk in the door, just as I do some days when he goes out with friends or is working. Respecting each other in a loving relationship is cool.

When my ladies come over to my house for lunch, I will mention PJ for a hot minute and then ask about their work lives and what’s going on with them – I’ll save the gross parenting stories for my newly acquired mom friends. Seriously, thank God for the mom friends in my life right now.

Secretly, I don’t want to scare my single friends off from parenting after complaining about the challenges and obstacles I face being a new mom. Who knows? Maybe in the future, they will join the parenting club and then we can bond once again between the war stories of childbirth and temper-tantrums in the grocery store aisles.

It’s honestly not that bad, but it’s not for everyone. Parenting has its moments and it’s quite an adjustment in life. I get it.

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You need support from your friends… in all areas and seasons of life.

But I’m so grateful for my single friends to call or text me, even if I haven’t spoken to them in months. I’m sure I’m not included in every outing or night out now because of how long it takes for me to get out the door, but I’m grateful to have girlfriends left who understand and will wait up for me. They’ll give me crap about it for sure, but they would never leave me behind.

If you wait up for me, I will happily share a bottle of wine with you and listen to all of your problems. I’ll even cook you some dinner. I’m just thankful for some social interaction with another adult and happy to hang up the mom hat for a bit and relax like a normal human being.

Do I miss the excitement of being single? Sometimes, sure. I don’t miss the drama or having to deal with jerks in the dating game. The single life got old to me real fast. At that point in my life, I was done wasting time on things that no longer added value to it. So I decided to start planting my roots.

What I’ve gained over the past few years are things that a lot of people would kill for. A home that is mine. A husband who loves me and is waiting for me at home every day. An amazing little girl who is happy, healthy, and learning every day.

Even as I’m helping plan a big night out for someone who will be following my footsteps soon, I know that even while living it up and partying with my friends, I will still be missing the family life that I’ve made and will look forward to coming back home to them. Every single time.

 

 

 

Categories
Children Life

Why my child isn’t my first priority.

I’m bracing myself for the comments about to come my way, especially from those who may get upset at the title without reading what I have to say first.

Also, check out this bit from Business Insider about why putting kids first can harm everyone in the long run. It seems I am (thankfully) not alone in feeling this way.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little resentful about motherhood expectations. Particularly about what a dear friend of mine came to me to confess before heading out on a last-minute Christmas shopping outing. She had told me that she was feeling pressured by more than just a few people to cut back on occasional nights out with friends, concerned that she is not giving enough of her time to her husband and child. Meanwhile, her husband was happily playing Xbox with his friends online. Almost every. Single. Night. She was not the only friend of mine with kids to tell me this.

And boy, did that sound familiar to me… and it made me angry.

Why is it that when women go into motherhood, we are expected to act like nothing else exists in our lives? I’ll admit that there are certain “mom” stereotypes we most certainly fit now – the Target addictions, the yoga pants/messy bun combo, and the badge of honor that we wear on our clothing that can resemble spit up, poo, food stains, and the like. But why do some people still think that once we become mothers, that is our sole identity?

Why is it that when married women and mothers go out with their girlfriends, it’s a sign that she is having troubles or that her marriage is failing, but when husbands and fathers go grab a beer and bowl together, no-one bats an eye?

My name is still Jessie. However, I will be lovingly referred to now as PJ’s mom. (or another one that bugged me after I got married was Dan’s wife. I have a name, come on!!!)

Well, I am here today to let everyone know that I will not be guilted or pressured by anyone into sacrificing everything that is of me for the sake of raising PJ, or any siblings that may come after her. I understand that having children involves some degree of sacrifice and devotion to ensure the kid’s needs are met, but giving all of me, every day for the rest of my life is definitely pushing things too far.

Here are some things that would happen in my life (read: important!) if I decided to make my child the #1 priority.

1. My marriage would suffer.

I love Dan to death. He is my rock, my soulmate, and has been an amazing father. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to come along this wild journey of parenthood with. Just as Dan has made time for me in the past, I need to also make time for Dan too, as he is not just a father. He was a person with his own identity too before we got the news that would change our lives forever. And he still is.

The first few weeks after PJ came into the world were rough for me. Dan was there to make sure that I had what I needed while desperately trying to nurse our daughter and trying to recover from a tear I had acquired downstairs that had to be stitched up. Not to mention the hormones being all over the place, I was a wreck. He had to deal with that. Just as I have to deal with Dan when he has his moments where he feels like a wreck, too. I suppose that’s how marriage works.

And marriages need a lot of work investment to keep things rolling.

We need our date nights. We need to spend quality time with each other. We need to be able to talk about things besides diaper changes and napping schedules with each other. If I put 100% of myself into raising PJ, I will have 0% left for my relationship with Dan. And that would be a recipe for disaster. This is why having a quality babysitter or a fantastic relative who is able to watch our child is worth their weight in gold. There should be no guilt in taking time off from parenting.

And if we’re happy, guess what? We can be that embarrassing pair of parents that smooch, be affectionate, and have fun with each other in front of our kid. I want our daughter to know what a healthy relationship looks like. Those to me are marriage and parent goals!

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Husband Dan holding daughter PJ during our holiday travels.

2. I’d lose myself.

Sure, having a kid involved a lot of sacrifices that needed to be made in my personal life, but I still need more than just food and showers to stay sane.

As a human being, I have needs, wants, and feelings just as valid as anyone else’s. I need some semblance of social interaction with others, outside of my house. Just as I had mentioned in a previous post of mine, I needed something consistent for myself to smooth the transition to parenthood and to keep a sense of normalcy in my life. And I feel that this will also help me develop healthy boundaries that need to be set so that I don’t feel completely drained of life at the end of the day. (I’m locking my bathroom door.)

You know the saying “Happy wife, happy life?” Well, it’s so freaking true. Taking care of myself will enable me to take better care of my family. Even on days where I just want to pack my bags and buy a one-way plane ticket to the nearest beach in California, I’ll still miss my husband and my kid at the end of the day and want to come running right back home to them. Absence does, after all, make the heart grow fonder.

3. My kid will have unrealistic expectations.

I don’t want PJ thinking the universe revolves around her. Or owes her anything. My job as a parent is to raise her to the best of my ability to live without me, not believe that she is royalty and deserves to be waited on hand and foot. She needs to realize that she is not the only being on this planet with needs. (And sure, that one may take a while before it finally kicks in.) I want to pass down the lessons I have learned from my mother about being a decent human being, and how to be considerate of others around her – without being a complete pushover.

More importantly, if she ever decides to have children of her own, I want her to know that her own struggles that she has while raising them are just as valid as they were for me while I was raising her. Of course, I will be there for her when she needs me, just as any parent should be, but I will not subject myself to be her on-demand personal dishwasher, chauffeur, or laundromat. Nor should her kids treat her that way.

So no, my daughter will not be my #1 priority, and that’s okay. And my priorities will change as I get older. As will hers. One day she will leave the nest, and I will be left to figure out what to do with my life once she is old enough to start leading hers. When that day comes, I probably won’t be ready for it. I will most likely bawl my eyes out. I will continue to support her when needed, and hopefully, take a few long vacations with all of the time that I will suddenly get back to myself. But I will still be missing her and loving her, no matter what.

 

Categories
Education School

Be nice to your bus driver.

“Substitute bus driving is one of the hardest jobs ever, but it is so rewarding.”

Sure, the title of school bus driver isn’t exactly the sexiest one out there. When I was younger, I’ve always thought of the bus drivers who drove us around before and after school as cranky, embarrassing old people at best who maybe had hobbies besides driving the bus outside of school hours.

But after this experience I’ve had, I can understand why there is actually a school bus driver shortage as of late. I didn’t realize how much I had taken these guys for granted.

I remember when I finally got my 1992 Buick Century station wagon, complete with the wood panel trim and all – it was my ticket to freedom from the confines of the yellow tank filled with noisy students and limited legroom from all the equipment I was lugging around back in the day. I carried my 20-pound backpack and student violin case everywhere I went.

After getting my parking permits for the high school parking lot, I never really thought about school buses again until about 10 years later, when I found myself in a classroom at a facility where I almost finished my high school diploma. And that facility was Penta Career Center.

I ended up applying for a substitute bus driver position during my job hunt, and I was in the beginning stages of obtaining my Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in the state of Ohio. I didn’t quite know what to expect, as I haven’t stepped foot in this neck of the woods for literally over a decade.

Instinctively, I sunk myself in the back row of the classroom as the instructor entered behind me.

“Oh no, this ain’t a church – you get to sit in the front seat!”

Wonderful.

 

 

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I’m still trying to remember what all of these extra buttons on the dash do… like opening the door. That one is important.

 

The first day wasn’t bad. I was in the room with a bunch of other rookies until the second day, where we had veteran drivers come in to get re-certified. Joe Dietrich was our instructor for the class, and he lovingly referred to the school bus he drove as “Big Yellow”. The veteran drivers filled the entire back row and ended up being about a third of the class. That was when things started to get a little real.

Joe asked, “How many of you guys have had a car pass you and blow your stop sign while you’re dropping off kids?”

Every veteran driver raised their hand.

Joe then showed us some pretty scary videos like a driver’s ed class should. But this time, after having a kid of my own and seeing some of these kids on buses die from cars that did not stop for school buses hit me hard. I was looking forward to putting PJ on a school bus to send her away for the day while I enjoyed the house to myself, but now I was terrified. What if my kid ended up in one of these accidents?

The general public AND the state of Ohio expects the school bus drivers to be perfect and nothing less. They are responsible for the safety of some precious cargo in a nearly 15-ton yellow metal tank that can cruise around at speeds up to 65 MPH on the interstate. That’s a huge responsibility these guys take on every day alone.

Not to mention that kids will be kids and do just what kids do. They are loud. They don’t pay attention to you. They do some pretty stupid stuff (like snorting Crystal Lite drink mix) and can be messy. Very messy. This job is not for the fainthearted. Or for those who value their privacy and space.

When you drive a school bus, you are basically a big yellow brick on the road. Anyone can and will watch what you do. Because you’re big and yellow and loud. You also have the school’s name conveniently right on the sides of your bus, so you are also a glorified Public Relations Manager for the school district you drive for. The parents will just think you are able to just work your magic and be little Johnny’s personal chauffeur… even though there may be 25 other kids on that bus.

I haven’t even started to drive one of these things yet, but just from taking this course, I’ve found a new appreciation for school bus drivers everywhere. You guys take a lot of crap to do a very important job.

So parents and guardians everywhere, be nice to your bus driver. Next time your kid gets on the bus, give them a note or a card to give to the driver that just says thank you for what they do for your child. You’ll have no idea how much that will make their day.

These drivers that are left in this line of work are not in it for the money – they are in it for the kids.

“Those are my kids.” one veteran driver said as we held our group discussions. “During the school year, you watch them grow up, lose teeth, get through some tough stuff. They grow on you.”

Even if I don’t make the cut to be a certified bus driver in Ohio, I’ll definitely take home these stories and experiences to bring awareness to other parents and friends of mine. At least I can be a bus driver’s favorite (or least irritating) parent from this experience someday.


 

**Special thanks to Joe Dietrich for giving me permission to write about my class experience! You can find out more about the Bus Driver Pre-Service Training Program he teaches here. Know a person who could be a great school bus driver? Click here for jobs in the Toledo area!**