Posted in family, momlife, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

When to seek early intervention

Let me begin with a disclaimer. I am NOT an expert, I did not go to school for speech and language pathology, I am not working in the field in any way. I am simply a mother of two children with speech and language delays who has been through this and has done her research. I hope after reading this, if you feel concerns with the children in your life, that you will do your own research and seek the services available to you. I will attach links at the bottom where I got my information!

What is the difference between speech and language?

Language is the entire system of words and symbols (including written, spoken, or expressed through gestures and body language).
Speech is the actual sound of spoken language, including articulation of words/sounds. 

Since there is a clear difference between speech and language it is important to know that there is a difference between a speech delay and a language delay. 

[Examples]
Language delay Child may not be communicating (whether its via talking, sign language, gestures, etc) the way they should be at their age.
Speech delay Child may use words and phrases but is difficult to understand

All that being said, when should we start to notice if our child has a speech or language delay?

Before 12 months– Babies should begin cooing and babbling. By 9 months babies should be putting sounds together, using different tones, and say simple words like “mama” and “dada”. Lastly, before their first birthday, babies should pay attention to sounds and recognize the name to common objects (bottle, pacifier, mom, dad, etc).

12-15 months– Babbling at this age should have a range of speech sounds in their babbling (examples being P, B, M, D, N, etc), they should start imitating sounds and words, say one or more words, and follow one step directions (example- pick up the toy).

18-24 months– Most toddlers in this age group can say around 20 words by 18 months and at least 50 by 24 months. They should begin combining 2 or more words to make short sentences (Mama come, dad help, etc). Should be able to identify common objects and body parts when asked. By age two, children should start to follow two-step commands (pick it up and give it to mom.)

2-3 years– Over this year, most children have at least 200 words in their vocabulary (and as high as 1000 words!), begin to use 2-3 word sentences, say their name, use their personal pronouns (I, me, my, mine), and can be clearly understood by close family and friends. 

At this point it is important to know, (and I’ve said this before), EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT. The data above are of the average development for children in those age groups. Maybe your child hasn’t met one of the guidelines for his/her age group, that’s OK! It doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong. You may see that in a few more months they have caught themselves up and are blossoming! On the flipside, they are also made so you can know when your child is not blossoming. 

If your child is not meeting these developmental guidelines it is important to take action into your own hands rather than waiting for someone else to do something about it. I self-referred both my children to state programs. You don’t have to wait for a doctor to bring it up to you. Don’t be afraid to speak up. I know personally that it can be very scary when your child isn’t developing the way they should be and that it can be easy to overlook that there is an issue at all. However, it is our duty as parents to do everything we can to make sure out children grow and learn the way they should be. 

Each state has their own federally mandated, state funded early intervention program, including Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands, Commonwealth of Northern Marianna Islands, and American Samoa. Follow this LINK to find the contact number for your state. These programs have been a lifesaver for my family. Now, I am not familiar with each specific state’s program, but they are all completely FREE and work with children from birth-3 years. After the age of 3, children receive free benefits from their local school systems. If your child is in school, they will receive services during the school day, if your child is between age 3-5 and not yet in school, they can still receive free services at the school or, in some places, they may receive school services at their daycare/head start (if enrolled). 

I hope that some of this helped someone out there! 

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/not-talk.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/language-development/art-20045163

Posted in family, motherhood, parenting

Explaining Death and Loss

When I was 16 I took a trip to our local animal shelter. I found a sweet 9 month of German shepherd mix, Brandi. I don’t often believe in love at first site, but believe me when I say- it happened for me that day. I am a firm believer that pets our family. Rescuing dogs is such a rewarding feeling because these dogs are so grateful for you. Some rescue dogs don’t know what it’s like to have a home,  to be warm, to be loved. If any of you have gotten rescue dogs, you know that it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. These dogs are often skittish, defensive, and untrained. It takes a lot of patience to raise a shelter dog.

When I started to have children of my own, she wasn’t exactly keen on the idea. Small children made her very nervous. She always wanted to be around them (and me) but wasn’t very affectionate to them, she was very defensive. That being said, we did separate her from the kids unless we were there to supervise. Because of this, my children were never really close with my dog. They both still got the love they needed from me, just not with each other.

13 years after I took her home from the pound we found ourselves having to say goodbye to my “first born”. Very common with shepherds, she was losing strength in her back legs, she was losing a lot of weight, and also losing her hearing and vision. There is never a right time to say goodbye to your pet.  You don’t want to say goodbye too early, but you also don’t want them to be in pain or suffering. It’s an impossible decision, one that I did not want to make. With heavy heart I scheduled her to be put down.

Introducing death to children

We have experienced death once before. My grandmother died December 2018 when my son was 4. It was very difficult for him to understand back then. The only thing he did really know was that I was flying back home for a week and he had to stay in California with his dad. To him that was the only part that mattered, which to me, is very age appropriate. 

To prepare my oldest about Brandi, I told him that she was getting sick and was going to die soon. Eli, who is normally very emotional, just kind of shrugged it off. It kind of caught me off guard but he wasn’t that close with her, so I let it go. A couple minutes go by and Eli casually says to me, “Mom, when Brandi is dead, can we put all of our toys in the middle of the yard?” uhhhhhhh, sure. 

The day we planned to put her down, I took one last swing at explaining things to him. I again said that she was sick and that we were taking her to the doctor and we were putting her down. He didn’t really say much again. He did tell me that it made him a little sad but he would forget about her. I said well of course you will, you’re only 6 and you weren’t that close with her. It would be totally normal to forget about her. What he said next just blew my mind. After a beat he says “When you die I will probably forget about you too.” I said well I hope not!!!!!! To which he replied “I will just find another lady and say ‘will you be my mom because mine is dead.” Lol WHAT!? 

Listen, 6 years old is still very young to understand death and dying. I know this. I also know that it is very easy for children on the spectrum to view things as simply black and white. They can often be very blunt, have difficulty understanding and processing their emotions, and usually don’t react the same way as average functioning people would. If Eli’s ipad dies while he is in the middle of a game, what does he do? He is up in arms, falling to the ground, sobbing, he’s inconsolable. When it comes to the death of a family member or pet, not even a single sad feeling. I think this is the beauty of children. They don’t understand life yet. They are innocent. No real understanding of life, death, hardships, tragedies, war, etc. Of course, I’m not speaking for all children. There are definitely children who have lived these, and understand these. But When I look at my children, I see innocence. One day they will get to the point where they know and understand these things.

My children will one day feel true pain, and when that day comes I will be here, I will be ready. In the meantime, all I can do is mourn the loss of a dog that was in my life for over 13 years. The day I put her down will forever be etched in my memories. 

To Brandi- I love you so much. You were a beautiful, loving creature. You were my best friend and my “first born”. You are irreplaceable. 

Posted in family, momlife, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

Which Mom are You?

When we’re young we all think of the mom were going to be. When you picture yourself having kids, what do you see? For me I always imagined walking down the sidewalk with my daughter, picking flowers, matching outfits. We’d play toys together, make cute Pinterest crafts, read books, make health snacks. My kids would spend most of their time playing outside than on screens and I would still have time to be the same me. (spoiler- a lot of those didn’t happen.)

I’m sure at some point all of us have said or thought the phrase “I would never be like that when I’m a parent.” Let’s all laugh together. The thing is, you never know what kind of parent you will be until you are actually a parent. There are a lot of factors that contribute to who you are as a parent.

The era/generation you live in impacts what type of parent you will be for sure. I became a parent when technology really boomed, so it’s no surprise that I find a lot of parenting tools in iPad apps (ABC mouse) and Netflix shows (Word Party). There is also a lot of hype in anti-vac and gluten free lifestyles now-a-days that weren’t really thought about 20-30 years ago.

Who you had as parents shapes who you will be as well. A lot of times you tend to morph into your parents. Have you ever said that you would NEVER do something that your parents did when you have your own children, then 15 years down the road you catch yourself saying the EXACT same thing they once said to you. Circle of life my friends. This one can work the exact opposite as well. Having a very strict upbringing could cause someone to be very lax and open with their own children.

What type of children you have can also shape your parenting style. What do I mean by that? For ME PERSONALLY- having two children on the spectrum changed the way I raised my children dramatically. My children have trouble listening/comprehending and difficulty processing emotions. I’ve had a very difficult time sitting down and reading books with them, being able to enforce rules, even sitting down to play with my children-something so natural- is usually a no-go.

Who you are as a person is probably the biggest thing, and the most predictable. If you are a generally health person, hands down your kids will reflect that. Someone who eats extremely healthy will try and instill that on their own children. If you had anger issues before children, seeing a whole poop diaper smeared into the carpet probably won’t make your anger issues better. If you’re a type A person, odds are you will be a type A parent. Of course, this isn’t true for everyone either. As I said before, you never know the type of parent you will be UNTIL you are a parent.

For fun, I thought of some “Mom types” and decided to turn myself into some and write their bios.

Sandra, 42
Been there, done that Mom. She is the veteran mom, the wise owl, the unshockable. She’s lived through everything. She’s cleaned poop out of places you would think is impossible, her children have had a total of 6 broken bones, she can handle the chickenpox with her eyes closed. Sandra is the friend you go to when you have the most random parenting question, which she will answer without hesitation and never judges. Her house is always filled with the best snacks….and wine

Kaylynn, 28
Crunchy mom. Organic, gluten free, dairy free type mom. Her favorite past time is going to Whole Foods. She’s an antivaxxer and loves to let you know by posting 4 antivaxx links a day on her facebook. Her three children all sleep with her in bed, forcing her husband to sleep in the guest room. Her bake sale specialty is flourless muffins. She always gives advice when not asked and openly judges all of your “toxic” lifestyle choices. 

Cathy, 35
Sideline mom. She has four boys and can be found screaming on the sidelines of her children’s sporting events no matter the season. Cathy is not afraid to speak her mind. Her go-to saying is “Get your eyes checked ref!!!” Everything in her house is sticky. She’s lost the will to clean up after disgusting boys all day. Despite her usually serious attitude, she’s actually a pretty good time. Her usual drink of choice is a Miller Lite but loves her cosmos on girl’s night. 

Bethanny, 31

Type A mom.
You can set your watch by her family’s routine. Bethanny runs the house and everyone knows it. There is never a shoe out of place, but lord help us if there is. The calendar on the fridge is color coded and filled to the max. Her husband, James, doesn’t really care for schedules but it’s not worth the fight. He does love the morning smoothies she makes him every day though. She’s a stay at home mom but is almost always dressed in business casual. Her children fear her, her neighbors respect her, and the school faculty hate her. She doesn’t have many friends and isn’t sure why. Also, don’t call her Beth. She f***ing hates it. 

Katie, 27
The relaxed mom. Katie doesn’t mind messes, she’s not dirty, but her house generally looks like children DO live there. I mean, DUH. She makes plans and schedules, but doesn’t really blink when they get messed up. She’s usually pretty relaxed and easy going, but don’t test her because she WILL lose her shit on you. She disciplines her kids but also can get too persuaded by their emotions. Sometimes it’s just easier to give them the cookie, right? After homework is done she really doesn’t care what her kids do. There are no ipad or TV limits in her house. She makes the best friend because she is very laid back, doesn’t judge, and makes a killer taco dip.

Meadow, 25
Hippie mom. She shares a lot of characteristics with the crunchy mom. She is a vegan and there’s not a thing in her fridge that is not organic. Meadow is a child of the Earth. Her children spend most of their times outside and barefoot. She is a firm believer that you learn so much more from experiences than you do in school. She homeschools her children and the backyard is their classroom. She considers herself a “Free-range” parent. She lets her children make their own decisions so they can learn from the power of their free will. Whatever that means. She has a lot of friends, probably because she makes good weed brownies. 

Brittany, 31
Pinterest Mom. The title says it all. Her Pinterest account has over 50,000 pins in all categories. Recipes, school lunch ideas, DIY projects, party themes, outfits, nursery decor. Think of a category, and she’s pinned something for it. Unlike the rest of the world, she pins things and ACTUALLY DOES THEM. The audacity. She wets herself when she gets invited to a potluck or when her children’s school is having a bake sale so she can use her newest pin. When most of us try projects we got off Pinterest they turn out disastrous, not Brittany. She was born crafty, and hits her DIY out of the park every time. She is one of the most popular friends and loves when they ask her to make something for them!

Katrina, 19
The Newbie. Matching mother-child outfits, hair and makeup done every morning, really shooting for the “perfect mom persona.” She’s a first time mom and it is completely obvious. The girl that’s always in the Facebook mom group asking “What do you think this rash is?” or “My son fell and hit his head, should I take him to the ER?” She is just so unsure of herself, and that’s NOT A BAD THING! She just wants to be a good mom, and doesn’t want to make any mistake. The thing she needs to learn is that making mistakes is what makes us a mom. She has a TON of friends, but she’s the only one with a kid so far. She tries to make friends with veteran moms at the playground, but doesn’t know how to connect with them yet.

Tammy, 36
The Everywhere Mom. Classroom mom? That’s her. PTA? She’s on it. Soccer team needs snacks? She’s got it. She’s a stay at home mom and her kids are everything to her. If there is anything to do, she’s got it. Same can be said for her friendships. People don’t understand how she has the time or the energy to do the things she does. She makes it seems so effortless. Though she’d never show it, Her energy tank is on zero. She averages about 4-5 hours a sleep a night, usually because she’s up baking cookies for something. If you’re looking for a dependable friend, Tammy’s got your back!

Melissa, 31
The princess mom. Her husband is a CEO and makes more than enough money, so Melissa can stay home to focus on the children. The problem is, she’s not exactly the maternal type. Needless to say, the kids are wild and spoiled. Melissa spends most of her days getting her nails done and shopping with friends. She is never seen less than perfect. She knows all the town gossip. She has very high standards for all things in life, including friendships. Probably why she doesn’t have many girl friends.  Her children have straight A’s in school and are fluent in Spanish; thanks to the nanny, Maria.

Posted in family, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

Round 2

When Eli was Diagnosed with autism around 4 years ago the doctor told me there would be about a 20% chance of my next child also having autism. (Yes people, genetics, not the measles vaccine. So vaccinate your kids!) So, when Camille came around, I watched, listened, and observed everything she did. A rule of thumb of parenting is never compare your children to other kids (yeah, right.) It is a very important rule to follow though. Every child develops at their own pace. Just because little Timmy is walking at 9 months does NOT mean your child is behind because she is not doing it yet. If your nephew is speaking three word sentences at 12 months it does NOT mean your own son is behind because he can only say 5 words total. Our children hit their milestones at their own pace. They will deal with peer pressure in grade school so let’s not instill self-esteem issues yet!

All that being said, when DO you start to worry about where your child is developmentally? I don’t believe there is a real answer for that. I think, as a mother, you just know. 

Today’s world makes it so easy for parents to get their children evaluated for FREE through the state. Each state has their own fully funded programs. In Michigan, we have the EarlyOn program. When we arrived to Michigan I didn’t waste any time getting Camille evaluated.

So what was it about Camille that made me get her evaluated?

-Her gross motor milestones were always met, but a little behind
-Babbling was very delayed. She didn’t start actively babbling until around 18mo.
-She doesn’t play with toys as expected- she prefers to just hold items and walk around with them. She chooses to play with household items (shoes, dusters, etc.) vs baby toys. For a while between 12-18mo, she would only open and close doors and cabinets for entertainment.
-She walks very cautiously. She does not walk on uneven ground (grass, sand), she is uncertain when stepping across different floor types or over lips/lines.
-Does not climb on/off furniture. She does not attempt to climb stairs. She cannot get down from very low furniture (example- her 12′ toddler bed.) She will drop an object to the floor to judge how high up she is.
since becoming diagnosed she has attempted the stairs and crawling on . some furniture.
-She does not like a lot of touches- face wipes, washing hair, diaper changes, etc.
-She does not respond to her name or react when spoken to.
-She does not recognize or interact with other children/adults. She will allow other to be in her general proximity but other than that she does not pay them any attention.
-Little eye contact
-No mimicking. She does not copy other’s actions, repeat sounds. She will not point to objects.
-She likes thin items on her lips and around her mouth. Hair, hair ties, shoe laces, strings, etc. I would like to clarify that she doesn’t eat or even chew these things. She just likes the feeling of them on her lips.


To someone who has no experience with any of this, the evaluation process can be very, very overwhelming. There are so many people involved, multiple evaluations, and lots of paperwork. With my first born, Eli, I remember feeling overwhelmed, scared, sad, so many emotions. I felt unorganized. With Camille when the people involved started over-explaining the process to help me understand I politely said “Listen, this isn’t my first rodeo. I’m good. Do ya thang girl.” Honestly the best advice I can give to someone going through this the first time- relax and take the backseat. The professionals with these programs know what they’re doing. They help you every step of the way. The best thing a parent can do is get out of your own way. Let them help you with everything. 

After Camille’s evaluation process, she was placed in the moderate-severe autism range. Because she was evaluated through the School system/ EarlyOn program, this is what’s called an educational diagnosis. In another blog I will get into the difference between an educational diasgnosis of autism vs a medical diagnosis. The important thing to know for now is an educational diagnosis determines if a child meets the qualifications needed to receive special education services through the school system and is not a “firm diagnosis”. A medical diagnosis is a true diagnosis and opens the door for insurance supported therapy services.

So now what? We start by making a list of goals to work towards. For example, one goal is to get her to make independent choices for meals by using picture cards (PECS). Another is to get Camille to play more with age appropriate toys vs household items. We focus on the areas that are most important to improve. Keep your expectations low! Sometimes they take a while, AND THAT’S FINE!

Additionally, Camille is receiving in-home speech therapy. We will also soon begin occupational therapy, and perhaps Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. 

Getting an autism diagnosis for your child is a very overwhelming, scary thing. This, however, is one that I was waiting for. I knew the odds and I was prepared. If anyone can embrace this challenge for a second time, it’s me. I am ready for this next chapter in my parenting world. I look forward to sharing this journey with others and hope that by telling our story, we can help other parents out there who may be going through something similar!

Posted in family, parenting, Uncategorized

His Friendships Make Me Nervous

Eli has come so far in his social skills. His vocabulary is amazing and he is so smart. He’s more comfortable interacting with others at school and in our neighborhood. Although he’s had such amazing growth I am still very nervous about him making friends. Mainly because kids can be assholes.

Eli is still so very sensitive. The littlest things make him upset. Currently, our biggest issues with him is his crying. At school when he’s told to change tasks he often times gets upset and cries. If the toy he wanted to play with isn’t there, he cries. If I’m not standing on the sidewalk when he gets through the gate, he cries.

At home, if he’s not granted the snack he wants, he cries. If he’s told he has to turn off his iPad and go to bed, he cries. When we can’t go out and do the things he wants to do, he cries.

Most significantly, he cries a lot during interactions with his friends. Whenever there is the smallest disturbance with his friends, he usually ends up crying and running inside. No kidding, as I type this the boys were outside playing tag and Eli just came in crying because he was it (which he’s usually it) and he couldn’t tag the other boys and was getting frustrated so he started crying. Lately when he’s upset he tells his friend he doesn’t love him anymore, and they look at him a little funny. I’ve explained that love is for family and like is for friends. I get very nervous for him because he’s 5 now and kids that age start to judge.

One thing I would LOVE to fix Is the interactions with friends that make him upset. Sometimes Eli is justified for being upset with his friends. Often times when they play tag he is always it, he will finally tag someone and they immediately tag him back. The other kids are a little older and a lot more fast than him, it’s almost an impossible game. Sometimes, though, Eli’s fits are unjustified. One time some of the kids were getting ready to play four square. Eli didn’t want to play and continued playing with his cars. His friend told him to move over so he didn’t get hit- Eli took that as go away we don’t want you here.

So how exactly do you get your child to stop crying for non-crying situations? You can’t just tell someone to stop crying. He feels these emotions and runs with them. I love the fact that he’s so passionate; he generally enjoys life. The problem is that even though his highs are high, his lows get extremely low. The only good thing about his behavior is the blow outs never last long. When he’s upset about a situation he is usually over it within a couple minutes. For the time being, his friends seem to forget about it almost instantly, too. As soon as he’s calmed down and wants to go back outside, they welcome him.

Another issue my husband and I are noticing is that Eli isn’t standing up for himself. He is new to socialization so he just kind of rolls with whatever the other kids too. When his friend comes over here he runs the show. They do whatever he wants to do. Which is usually play with Elis Ipad or Wii. Which are both one player so Eli either watches or plays something else. All we can do for that is regulate or tell them to do something together.

Really I think my nerves are normal and to be expected. Any parent probably feels like this sometimes (right?). All I can do is guide him, give him advice, and let him learn on his own. Friendships can be hard, especially new ones. But there’s not a doubt in my mind that Eli will find some great friends that are a perfect match for him and he will be just fine.

Posted in family, parenting, Uncategorized

More Time to Fill

Ya’ll would not believe….

Monday morning I was all excited because Eli was going back to school. I got him dressed in a snazzy outfit, packed his lunch, got his backpack ready. We got in the car and headed to school. As I grew closer to the parking lot, I notice there’s not a lot of cars around as there usually is. Pull up to the gate and it’s closed and locked; not a car in the parking lot.

….SPRING BREAK IS TWO WEEKS LONG!!!!!!

Who the hell has two week long spring breaks? This is asinine. What am I supposed to do for another entire week? Well, it’s Friday so let me tell you what we did… NOTHING….AGAIN. Well, ok, we did a little bit.

Last Friday my husband was off work so we took both kids to the park where Eli and his dad took a row boat out onto the water. Eli loved it, except when they got attacked by a rogue goose. After that, Eli and I went to our housing’s Easter event. Painted mini canvases and ate a little food.

Then there was Easter. I was in bed with Camille watching cartoons waiting for Eli to get up. I finally get up to go check on him. I find him downstairs, already found and opened all the eggs and got his basket….

Eli is also a couple weeks into soccer season. We have a one hour practice twice a week and a game on Saturdays. That’s probably the most exciting thing going on in our lives.

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The rest of our days were spent watching tv, making car tracks, and having Eli outside as much as possible. He’s really gotten close to a couple kids in the neighborhood so I ship him out as much as possible. Although that usually ends with both boys in my house playing video games.

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Sure, there are tons of things we could go out and do; but packing a diaper bag for a 30 minute trip to the park is exhausting. A 15 minute trip to the grocery store the other day  was enough for me after Camille hit her head on the car-themed shopping cart as soon as we got in the door. She fussed and cried the entire time we were there.

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I’ve come to terms that nothing exciting will happen this spring break. Trying to do big outings is just too much work, especially when, during the week, its two against one. I think during spring break, I’d rather just break.

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Posted in family, parenting, Uncategorized

How to survive Spring Break

 

Spring break season is upon us. On the last day of school when Eli’s teacher said “See you in a week Eli!” I went into a mini panic mode. The realization hit me that I was going to be stuck in the house all day with two kids for 9 days straight. I immediately went into planning all the fun things we’d do to pass the time: go to the zoo, automotive museum, picnic at the park, splash pad. It’s now Thursday of spring break and guess how many of those we have done? ONE! The picnic at the park is the only thing we’ve accomplished so far; and I’m really not sure if eating Panda Express at a playground is necessarily considered a picnic.

Obviously I am in no position to give advice about what to do for spring break. But….who cares? I’m going to make a list of good ways to pass the time during your Childs spring break that I actually did do.

  1. Continue with education- Just because they’re on a break from real school doesn’t mean their learning should take a break too! As a parent YOU are your child’s biggest teacher!

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2. Find them new friends- what better way to pass the days than to make new friends, right? They will spend the day getting to know each other and having fun!

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3. Household chores- Oh, you’re bored? Well I’m doing 5 loads of laundry, vacuuming 4 rooms, doing the dishes, and cleaning the bathrooms. TAKE YOUR PICK!

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4. Wear them out- personally this is the most important one. If you want your little shits to pass out at the end of the day then you need to get them outside and active. Nothing knocks a kid out better than long exposure to fresh air. 60% of the time, it works every time!

 

5. When they’ve done chores, played with friends, and ran around aimlessly for hours outside, it’s time for some more inside diversions. Popcorn movie party is the go to in our house. Here’s your apple juice, bowl of popcorn, and the remote; I’m going to go hide in my room until you come find me asking for a second bowl of popcorn.

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6. When you’ve done all these and your kids finally pass out. It’s time to reward yourself. Whatever your vice is, indulge; you’ve earned it. For me, the answer is obviously wine.

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Hopefully after doing all these steps your child should look like this and spring break should pass quickly. Before you know it your monster will be back in school.