Branching Out – Back to School and Fall Goals


Fall is an interesting time of year.  It is a time when everything in nature dries up and contracts its life-force in, preparing for the cold winter ahead.  Fall is also a time when routines change from the laid back days of summer to the structured days of school, homework and extra-curricular activities.   Going back to school is a really big adjustment, especially for the younger school children.

The changing of the seasons always motivates me to make some big changes in my life.  Sure, I get over zealous, but I usually accomplish a portion of what I set out and that works for me.  I have found that goals are the best way for me to stay focused and clear on what I want to achieve.

#1 Getting Organized.  

This year, my focus has been set on getting organized in preparation for the year ahead.  Although it does not happen frequently, I have been the mom who forgot the homework assignment or the permission slip until last second.  I would much rather be the mom who signs the slip and returns it the next day!  I also tend to get stressed out and impatient when my life is in a big jumble, so being organized and prepared will allow me to be a much better mommy.

I want to recreate this awesome organization wall over our computer desk, which will keep everything in once place, from meal planning to loose-paper filing.  I am a little challenged when it comes to hanging things in an orderly fashion, so once my husband finishes it, maybe I will share a picture.  🙂

This is also a great post on back to school organization from iHeart Organizing.  The pictures offer great ideas on getting the kid’s stuff organized and put away so it doesn’t sit on the kitchen table for 8 months.  Because I wouldn’t know anything about that…

#2 Believe.  

Kindergarten was a difficult year for my son.  I’ve talked about it here and here.  We were constantly communicating with his teacher about his bad behavior of the day.  She even had a behavior chart which he had to color in a smile face or a sad face depending on how he acted during that portion of the day.  My son was stressed out all day long with how much was being demanded from him versus how much he was accustomed to giving.

At home, I didn’t make it much easier for him.  Too often my focus was on the negative, telling him “Don’t do this” or “You can’t do that.”  I was only increasing the weight upon his tiny shoulders.  I have decided that instead of having our primary focus on whether he was good or bad that day, instead or focus from now on will be believing in ourselves.  Believing that we are good, believing that we can always be better because we are always growing and every day is a new day.  I want him to believe in himself that when he makes a mistake, he can pick himself up and start anew.  I think this is something we were missing last year, and I am hoping it will help us have a much more positive experience this year.  After all, where your focus goes, energy flows.  Think positive and see positive results.  🙂

#3 Get involved.

Even though fall is a time for nature to contract, I feel the need to do the opposite and really expand in our community this year.  I want to raise my kids to be comfortable in their skin and I think getting out there and being social is a really important part of this.  I am planning to volunteer for school functions through the PTA and bring my family along for the fun.  I want to make the school and related individuals a fun part of our family life, rather than just work, discipline and negativity.  Last year we were only minorly involved which may have been less than ideal for his adjusting to kindergarten.   I’m going out on a limb here, but I think if I can try to endear the school in my son’s heart via the fun activities offered, he will gain a greater sense of belonging and enjoy participating inside and outside of class much more.

#4 Ditch the awkward.

I have a confession.  Due to my majorly over-analytic nature, I am pretty socially awkward.   I really like people and enjoy connecting with them, however I spend too much time thinking while I’m talking and forget to do important things like ask people their names.  There are quite a few moms at my son’s school whom I talk with every now and then, and I have no idea what their names are.  My goal is to not only meet more people through school, but also make sure I ask them their names so we can have a better connection.  This goes along with #3 above, but the more people we connect with, the more enjoyable the school experience will be.

Fall is a great time to challenge yourself for self improvement and expansion in you life.  Make some steps of your own!

These are the things I have laid out for myself to make the most of the “Back to School” and Fall season.  While nature is pulling its energy back, it leaves a lot of room in the universe for us to branch out and improve ourselves.  Take advantage of this beautiful and opportunity-filled time of year and make some plans of your own!

Are you working on self-improvement this fall?  Please let me know in the comments below!


Healing the Gut Part 3 – Allergy Tests and My Weakness Exposed

What to do when doing an elimination diet for allergies with a child.

A lot has happened this month on the allergy front!  We finally decided to take our six year old for the blood work his allergy doctor ordered a few months ago.  I was holding off because I was afraid.  There was a time in the past where a tech could not find his vein and was jabbing a needle inside his arm trying to catch one… I guess they call this fishing.  Anyone who’s job it is to poke a needle into a vein should at least be good enough to actually find the vein.  It’s their job, after all.

So anyway, the day before the 4th of July we went for the blood draw.  It actually went really well and he barely cried, RELIEF!  We were still following the elimination diet, removing the top allergenic foods such as egg whites, gluten, soy, dairy and nuts.  The doctor called about a week later letting me know that in addition to testing allergic to dogs, cashews and mold, he is also allergic to gluten and soy.  We should make sure to always have an EpiPen on hand.

Do you know what happens when you send an EpiPen to Day Camp with your son who thinks he knows better than you when you say not to play with it?

EpiPen safety is taught to our kids, I just wish mine would LISTEN!

The answer is he stabs himself in the hand with it.  Thank god he wasn’t applying much pressure when the needle popped out.  He was barely poked, but definitely scared.  One day, I tell myself…  One day he will listen to me when I talk.

Sometimes I think my sarcasm is the only thing that keeps me sane.

How the elimination diet is going…

We were doing pretty good at avoiding the allergenic foods and cooking at home.  I noticed that eating out in restaurants would impact him negatively – his immediate symptoms are grogginess, inability to listen and communicate, tired and glassy eyes, throat swelling and asthma.  The more we eat out, the more I see these symptoms.

To any person who cooks at home every day, I salute you.  We do not have a dishwasher and cooking and cleaning up three meals a day (sometimes six meals because everyone eats something different)  is so time consuming and exhausting.  If I wasn’t a stay-at-home mom I would have to hire a chef or a maid.  Or Mary Poppins.

For lunches, I have been sending him the same foods I discussed here.  We are sticking to gluten free treats, which cost an arm and a leg but are worth it when my son is bright eyed and communicating throughout the day.  He attends summer camp through the City Park District, which offers a “healthy” lunch three times a week.  Here is what this lunch consists of:  GMO white bread sandwiches with non-organic lunch meat and cheese, a piece of non-organic fruit which few of the kids actually eat and sometimes a salad.  (Because kids eat salad.)  My son eats the lunch I pack before lunchtime and then eats the GMO white bread sandwich, throwing away the free fruit and salad.  Elimination diet fail.  The good part, however, is that even though there are some slip-ups, we are seeing improvements in behavior and overall appearance which suggest his body is doing better than he was before.  In pictures from the recent past, his eyes were droopy, dull and sunken in, but now they are clearer and he looks happy and healthy.  Again, RELIEF.

It is my plan to go strict elimination diet in August when I have full control over his diet.  The important thing in healing the gut is to completely avoid foods which irritate the body, otherwise healing will not take place.  Every time my son eats something he is not supposed to, we are back at square one.  While I am seeing minor improvements which I am super thankful for, true healing of his gut will not take place unless we can completely stick to his diet.

Why am I so terrible at sticking to an elimination diet?

That is the question I keep asking myself.  I talk about what we need to do, I write about what we need to do.  I even start to do what we need to do.  Then the resistance starts.  My son complains.  He won’t feed himself.  I have to hand feed two kids while cooking and cleaning up and doing dishes non-stop.  My son wants a treat.  We are out of gluten free snacks.  There is pizza day at camp.  Wait, it’s ice cream AND pizza day.  I just cooked lunch and cleaned everything up, now its already time to start dinner!?  What the heck an I going to make tonight?!?  AHHH.  Ok, so I think its pretty obvious why sometimes I just say whatever, just this time we will steer off the path.  The problem is those times add up!

On Saturday it was my son’s trophy picnic for completing the t-ball season.  On the way there, my husband needed to stop for a coffee.  (The fireman schedule is not conducive to early mornings.)  Of course, son wants a doughnut, so Dad gives him a little doughnut hole; like the little part stamped out from the center of the big doughnut.  No big deal, I guess.  Then we get to the park.  He gets a free lunch of a crappy hot dog on a crappy bun with some chips.  I’m not liking this, but how can I rip the hot dog out of his hand without being evil?  I ripped off most of the bread but he still got a big dose of preservatives, gluten and who-knows-what else.

Later, we stop by family to hang out for a little.  He eats fancy crackers that look like they are whole grain and I hoped not too bad (from an allergy perspective).  On the way home he starts coughing and trying to clear his throat, so I know his throat is swelling and he is having a reaction.  I felt so guilty for not protecting him because I was too tired to fight him, and now he was suffering and it really was my fault.

I am so terrible at sticking to his diet because I get weak.  I get tired from all the battle and I just give in.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how tired I am.  My son’s health and well being is my responsibility, whether he likes it or not!

Thankfully I put my own whining behind me and decided to work out a solution.  If I can be prepared at all times, then my son will still feel included and I won’t have to be the “bad guy.”  We ordered some coconut flour to make some treats at home, and I found some “healthy” (only meaning not full of corn syrup) fruit snacks at Target, check them out here.  We are still buying these gluten free cookies made by Annie’s which my kids love.  I am going to use his old kindergarten lunch box as a carrying case and take it with us when we go to visit friends or out to events.  The preparation will take a lot of time and most likely border exhausting, but nothing is more exhausting than the whining and fighting if I don’t prepare.

The bottom line is that we are taking on this battle to improve my son’s quality of life.  He has been sick pretty much his whole life and I want to give him a chance at feeling better, while I still have a little control over what he is eating.  With preparation, I can avoid a lot of the resistance and keep us all on track.  A happy healthy boy is my reward and that is the best gift any mother could hope for!

Is your child on an elimination diet?  Please share your tips or tricks in the comments below.  I need them!  😉

Keep Calm and Stop YELLING: The Road to Peaceful Parenting.

Want to know how to stop yelling at your kids?  Read at

Hello, my name is Janelle and I am a yeller.  Some of the time.  Too much of the time.  I think we have all been there.  Ten minutes to get out of the house.  I have been asking my older son to get his shoes on for the prior ten minutes and he still is nowhere near his shoes.  I just changed the baby’s diaper but he has pooped again and now I am trying to chase him down to change him again while still asking my older son to put on his shoes while he rolls around on the floor or does something else completely unrelated to what I am asking him to do.  SNAP!

I always feel guilty after I yell.  I see the hurt look on my oldest’s face and know I have acted childish.  It’s just so hard in those moments to stay calm.  Last week, I had both kids in the bathtub.  The older one wanted to lay down, but he is too big to do that with the little in the tub.  Regardless of how many times I said “sit up,” he did not.  The baby ended up getting soap in his eyes because I washed him in a position where I couldn’t see his face well.  Commence the screaming.  “Sit up god d$%%#$t!”  How classy am I?  The worst part was when my husband came in from outside and told me how loud I am.  We live in a neighborhood where the houses are so close together you can hear your neighbor sneeze from inside their house.  Surely at least a few people hear my screaming when it happens.  It is definitely past due that I work harder on not screaming.

The last time I yelled at my son for not putting his shoes on, I later tried to drop him off at summer camp and he started crying and angrily tried to march away, saying he would not stay.  It took twenty minutes and a phone call to my husband before I could leave him without him following me to the car.  I was so upset that he was upset and the analyst in me began thinking.  And thinking and thinking.

Some of my best thinking comes when I am exercising.  While I was hitting the punching bag in my garage that day I felt so angry.  What better place to let it all out!?  I ended up realizing that I was angry at myself.  It is my responsibility to manage time and make decisions which avoid outcomes in which I become so stressed, irritated or overwhelmed that I end up screaming at my kids.  I can act pretty childish when I am rushed or overwhelmed!  I really need to get a grip, step back and take a breath.  It’s okay if we are five minutes late or I have to bathe my kids separate so they can enjoy their bath.  When I try to make them do everything my way, they don’t and I get frustrated.  I think the real art of parenting is allowing kids more freedom to make choices which are in alignment with your end goals.  If my older son likes to lay in the bath, I can no longer try to cram both of them in there to save myself time.  In the end, it becomes more of a problem for me to try to make them do things my way.

It’s so strange to me how one day my kids were just babies who needed me for every decision and then they wake up the next day wanting to do everything themselves.  This happened much earlier with my second; he has a big brother he wants to be like.  Parenting is an evolving process which needs constant re-evaluation and adaptation.  My older son is 6 now and knows what he wants and doesn’t want.  I need to begin trying to honor his feelings and choices instead of trying to cram him into the day I have planned for us.

I have never been the type to let my kids make a mess just because they want to.  My youngest is in love with these Aden & Anais swaddle blankets.  I used to keep them under his crib but had to move them into the linen closet because he would pull all eight of them out and roll around on the floor with them.  Now, occasionally he will ask me for them.  Not just one, but ALL of them.  (That he can see, anyway.  Usually its just the top 3 off the pile.)  I usually say no because I don’t want to do extra laundry, but recently I just gave him what he was asking.  He is so happy to have a few of them at once and they really don’t get dirty enough that I can’t return them to the shelf when he is done.   There is no big deal in letting my kids make a few decisions in their day.  It makes them so much happier!  Happier kids = better listeners.

In the last year I have been reading about a parenting method called Peaceful Parenting, which encourages empathy and listening when raising children.  It is exactly what I need!  I never thought I would need parenting lessons, but I definitely do.  Peaceful Parenting provides methods to help control your own behavior and emotions so that you can help your child navigate through their own emotions.  I have always noticed my children are like a sponge and will subconsciously mirror my behavior.  For someone like me, tools are necessary to prevent things from getting out of control.

As the universe always provides, Heather from sent out an email last week about a free one-hour Positive Parenting webinar offered by Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions on July 8th and July 9th.  Amy has been featured on  The Martha Stewart Network, New York Times and the Today Show to name a few.  I have looked into her material time and time again for help with getting my older son to listen, stop whining and behave better overall.  I feel I can never have enough tools to resort to and I am so excited for this class!

If you would like to sign up, visit this link.

Do you have any tools to help you be a more Peaceful Parent?  Let me know in the comments below!

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