7 things I wish I’d known sooner about parenting an ADHD child

When I learned that I was pregnant with my first child, and then a few weeks later learned that it was a boy, I could not have been happier!

I knew the timing was right and that I would do everything I possibly could to raise a happy and healthy boy. However, there were some bumps along the way. Within the first few weeks of the pregnancy, we almost lost him. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Conversely, after we learned he was going to be OK, it often felt like I was growing a rugby captain! He was so strong and active!

Was this a sign that he was later going to be diagnosed with ADHD? Maybe. What I do know is that even though I have an elementary education certification and part of that process required me to study special education for a couple of semesters, nothing prepared me for parenting an ADHD child.

Now that he just celebrated his 14th birthday, I can easily compile a list of things I wish I would have known earlier about parenting an ADHD child. I could probably offer a list of at least 30 things, but here are seven in order of most relevance for me at this point in time:

  1. It’s unlikely that your child is acting inappropriately because he wants to annoy or torment other people. He’s acting this way because he has to. In other words, his brain is not getting what it needs. The norepinephrine neurotransmitter in his brain isn’t the same as in his neurotypical peers. Speaking loudly or without thinking, hugging too hard, bursting into a room like Kramer without knocking even though he is “old enough to know better” are his ways of getting the dopamine stimulation his brain needs.
  1. Sometimes the adage “You know what’s right for your child” isn’t always true. Or probably more accurately, sometimes it’s harder to tell what’s right for your ADHD child because unless you have another ADHD child, or you’re a trained professional, you have zero clue what’s right for your child. If this is the case, you need to educate yourself and ask for help, and you need to do it expeditiously.
  1. Sometimes, when you receive advice from professionals, it’s spot on. Sometimes it’s so wrong. A teacher you may dislike might offer the best advice; a teacher you think you love might offer the worst advice. Like the time my son’s first-grade teacher gave us an article about there being fewer cases of ADHD in France than in the U.S. Although he was a patient, kind teacher, the article was later deemed to be grossly inaccurate and unhelpful.
  1. When searching for the correct educational setting for your child, schools that look exceptional on paper are often far from it when it comes to special education. For instance, when we moved back to Pennsylvania, the “blue ribbon” school district we chose to send our kids to ended up being far from stellar. Don’t get me wrong: for neurotypical kids, it is a great school, but for special ed kids of any sort, it’s shockingly exclusive and archaic.
  1. Many people with ADHD experience life-changing effects from medication, but not all. Over the years, we’ve tried at least four different ADHD medications, stimulants and nonstimulants. For some reason, none have worked well for our son. This year, at the age of 13, he decided to stop taking his latest prescription because it made him “feel so weird.” And to be honest, his irritability level during the afternoon rebound time was painful and a bit scary to witness. So now we’re encouraging proper eating, sleeping, and physical fitness more than ever. We are also emphasizing that if and when he feels the need to try a new medication, we’ll help him schedule an appointment with a doctor ASAP. If we see a drastic change or drop in positive behaviors, we’ll also strongly encourage him to reconsider medication and therapy again.
  1. Sometimes you’ll be appalled when you witness teachers, parents and other kids treat your child with such unfairness and cruelty. Sadly, so many people still don’t understand ADHD. They’re grossly uneducated and, frankly, sometimes just don’t care enough to learn more about the condition. In the latter case, remove your child from the setting as quickly as possible. The trauma they can inflict can last a lifetime.
  1. Having an ADHD child forces you to see who you and your child’s friends really are. It also forces you to see who the best, most compassionate and most well-equipped teachers, coaches and family members are. So, while sometimes you may feel down because your child doesn’t have an abundant number of friends or you believe you’re not getting invited to hang out with the coolest moms on the block because you have a special needs child, remember: Do you really want or need friends like that? As Maya Angelou famously stated, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

These are just a few things I wish I had known before becoming the parent of an ADHD child. I hope you find some of this information helpful if you or someone you know are in a similar situation.

And on your darkest days of parenting an ADHD kid, don’t forget: Some of the most incredible human beings on our planet had or have ADHD. Like Albert Einstein. Musician Dave Grohl. Astronaut Scott Kelly. Gymnast Simone Biles. The list goes on. With a lot of love, encouragement and education, your child could very well end up on this list!

For more posts about parenting and ADHD children, please visit Paulette’s blog, Just Three Pumpkins.

Strolling down memory lane: Keeping it in check

While I was playing taxi for my son last week, he flicked his wrist to the beat of the song on the radio and I was instantly catapulted to a memory from 15 years ago: An extremely excited toddler in diapers listening to Bob Marley and doing a wrist flick with each exuberant dance move. At the time, seeing him do this brought me so much laughter, I was crying.

To this day, it still brings a reminiscent smile. When my kids ask me what I’m smiling about, I tell them these memories about when they were little.

Most times, when I remember when the kids were younger, it’s usually the positive ones. The smiles, hugs, the cute way they talked. I think what I really miss the most was when they would say, “Ok, mommy! I love you!”

As a parent of teens, when times get tough (which they often do) it’s easy for me to want to escape the current reality and romanticize the past. Back to the “easy” moments of parenting. You know, when things were simpler.

Ahhh yes, when times were easy and simpler.

Or wait, were they? (I hear you snickering parents with young kids; hang with me.)

Even though they may have been younger and smaller, I tend to forget the other details. The diaper bags, childcare, work, young parent stress, sleepless nights, and the infant puke. Don’t even get me started on how everything was sticky – or the public tantrums.

All of that still makes me shudder.

While it’s my tendency to look back on the past and say, “Oh I remember (that time in life)? Things seemed so much easier,” I fail to recognize that it wasn’t always that way. What I’ve come to realize is there are no “easy” times in parenting. There are growing pains when it comes to growing people.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and because I know more now, it only seems easier.

I can just as easily remember the cringeworthy memories. The ones where my patience ran thin, and I yelled too loudly at them. When I felt like I didn’t spend enough time with them in the day because I was too busy doing one thing or another. Those words I regret saying or not saying. The things I wish I would have done with them.

Man, if I could just turn back the hands of time and change it, right?

For me, it’s important to remember the past but I must make the conscious choice not to live there. The memories can oscillate between fond or cringeworthy, but the biggest takeaway is that they are in the past. There’s nothing I can do to change or alter the past.
Simple as that.

It’s a dangerous place for me when I continue to live in the past, positive or cringeworthy, because it prevents me from living in the now. When I’m replaying a scene over and over, wishing I could change the outcome or relive a positive moment, it doesn’t allow me the gift of experiencing the present to its fullest capacity.

When I’m living in the past, I am failing to live in the present moment.

I am reminded of moments when I wished for time to move faster. So that they could walk and tell me what they needed. Or when they could be more self-reliant. Now, I wish for time to stand still. They have lost their baby faces. One is growing into a handsome young man and the other into a beautiful young woman. Both will soon leave the nest to go make their own nests.

Time moves so fast. I often wonder if I am setting my kids up for success in the real world doing adult things. Worrying too much about the future is a whole new can of worms, which is why it is so important for me to stay in today. This moment.

Living in the moment means experiencing the journey of life as it is right now. If I don’t, I’ll miss the gift and beauty of the present. When I look back at the memories with my kids, I realize that if I hadn’t been present in that moment to experience it (positive or cringeworthy), I may have missed that memory altogether.

Even though my kids have full lives today, I choose to be present with them when we’re together. I’ve noticed that my teens have tiny windows of opportunity for when they are ready to connect with me. If I’m not living in the moment, I could miss that chance.

I’m very much aware that I will, at some point in the future, look back and say, “Man, I miss my kids. I hope they call this week.”

Today, I am choosing to live in the moment as best as I can.

After all, living in the past won’t help create memories today to remember for tomorrow.

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Mourning the pet I never wanted

Confession: I am not a pet person.

This is usually met with horror, but I’m just not. I didn’t grow up with pets. My dad is allergic to cats, so they were out.

I was also the kid who wept over the baby bunnies we tried to rescue in the back yard and gave them a funeral when they didn’t survive. I am not here for getting attached to a small creature with which I cannot communicate. And as a SAHM, guess who would get stuck with… er, “bathroom” responsibilities? My days of dealing with poop are over, thankyouverymuch.

So imagine my dismay three years ago when a lady walks up to us at a local carnival, hands my husband a goldfish in a bag, and says, “Here! My boss told me to find a family to give this to!”

The girls were 2 and 5 at the time, and we both feared their first lesson in death was imminent. Because, you know, carnival fish are notorious for going belly-up within a day or two.

This fish, however, lived past the assumed two days. Long enough to acquire a name: Goldie (I know, original). Once she hit about a week, we bought her a fishbowl and some pretty “rocks” for the bottom. I feared all this fancy stuff would traumatize Goldie and *that* would be when she kicked it, but she loved it. In fact, she actually used to bat the rocks around somehow when she got excited.

Goldie was not only feistier than your average carnival goldfish, but I’m pretty sure she was more intelligent. She knew we were the source of food, because any time we walked by, she’d swim toward us like “oh hey, you’re going to feed me now right?” And I’m pretty sure she recognized the fish food container, because if we left it out, she’d swim over and stare at it like she could will more food into her bowl.

I always felt a little guilty about having Goldie. What kind of life did she have in that little bowl? She seemed happy enough; she’d swim over and blow bubbles when Annabelle went over to giggle at her throughout the day.

Alas, last Sunday night I noticed Goldie wasn’t well. Our perpetually-hungry friend couldn’t swim to the top of the water to get her food. She was on her side with an arch to her back. I frantically Googled “how to help an ailing goldfish,” but I got conflicting or irrelevant information. I took to Facebook to see if any friends had dealt with anything similar, but most warned me that Goldie’s time was probably nigh and I should prepare the girls.

And, of course, my too-tender heart cried over that darn fish. I felt guilty because I didn’t do anything beyond trying to poke some food down to her. Her water was clean, and we checked on her throughout the day and talked to her – I told the girls to tell her they loved her while they could – and sent up a prayer to St. Francis of Assisi to intercede for Goldie so she wouldn’t suffer.

Goldie fought it – she’d perk up and start trying to right herself – but she swam over the Rainbow Bridge a few days later.

Sophie and Annabelle took Goldie’s passing hard. They were responsible for Goldie; Sophie fed her in the morning and Annabelle fed her in the evening. They saw her ailing and felt that helplessness of not being able to make it better.

I told them her pain was gone and that she was in fishy heaven and could eat whenever she wanted and it wouldn’t hurt her. Then Annabelle broke my heart by saying, with giant tears in her eyes, “I hope there’s a creek between fishy heaven and people heaven so Goldie can come visit us when we go to heaven.” (commence more tears from me)

We released Goldie’s body into a nearby creek. It seemed the most respectful option. I know that’s probably not environmentally correct, but I also know it’s not a good idea to flush goldfish. I also didn’t want to bury her in the backyard, because there are too many critters around here that like to dig and I did not want to risk the girls seeing Goldie’s grave desecrated – or worse.

The girls are recovering, but I have to catch myself every morning and not remind Sophie to feed Goldie. And every so often, I look over to the spot where her fishbowl resided and do a double take because she’s not there.

But seriously, no more pets. My heart can’t take it.

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Let’s hear it for the stay-at-home dads

I often forget that we are not the typical U.S. family. Only about 20% of American households with children have a stay-at-home parent anymore, and only a small percentage of these families feature a stay-at-home dad. What’s more, I am a female entrepreneur with a small business

I’ve been happily running full time for over five years.

If feels incredibly normal to us because it’s the life we life day-in and day-out, but sometimes I am reminded by a client or a colleague that it’s not as typical as it feels.

“Oh … and he just stays at home?”

Uh, yeah. Men can raise kids, too, you know.

It’s not like he’s eating bonbons and binge-watching Netflix. (But if he did, I would cheer him on because he DESERVES IT.) He is chasing after our toddler 10-plus hours every single day. Even as I’m writing this, it’s not quiet upstairs. He is running around after Reggie (our robot vacuum) and yelling out what direction he is turning. “Now he’s going left! Now he’s going right!”

If we’re being super honest, my husband does a better job as a full-time caregiver than I would ever be able to. With my business, I revel in being overloaded and having too many deadlines to juggle. I don’t always keep all those balls in the air, but I sure do try my darndest.

In personal relationships? I am real lazy. Without a doubt, I know that working as a stay-at-home mom would translate to too much TV, garbage food 95% of the time and any excuse to go for a drive. Friends, if I’m in charge of her meal situation, I am microwaving a quesadilla and giving her frozen peas. I do this currently. I literally did it yesterday. Can you imagine if I was in charge most of the time? #nutritionalnightmare

I know that this is a Mommy Blog, and I am technically the mommy. Even so, Kevin does such a huge part (the most important part) of raising our girl that I wanted to share his perspective on what it’s like to be a stay-at-home dad. Here is an unedited interview with my partner, Kevin.

So, tell me, what’s it like to be a stay-at-home dad?

Kevin: It’s still weird to me, but I can’t imagine not spending every day with Coraline. I love watching her grow and develop into a curious, happy little person. I’m very tired, but I have faith that it’s going to be completely worth it.

Do you feel like people look at you differently because of your job title?

Kevin: Maybe. I haven’t really had a chance to interact with too many people because of COVID, so I don’t have a good sample size. I did get some good feedback from a mom at the park when she found out I was a stay-at-home dad. She was wildly in favor.

Do you ever feel like you’re missing out on life because you’re a stay-at-home dad?

Kevin: Oh God no! I feel like I packed in a ton of life in my past life, and I was starting to really feel a sense of pointlessness to the grind — more money – rinse — repeat cycle. This is the most purpose I’ve felt in my life. Absolutely more than the commute, the money, the “prestige” or even the view out of an airline flight deck. Raising Coraline is absolutely the most important part of my life. I relish this time with her.

What are some things you wish your partner would do to be more helpful?

Kevin: I have an amazing partner. She is almost always available for Coraline when she needs mommy time. She works very hard for our family, and her commitment to understanding my needs is obvious. Other than the occasional tendency towards populating the house with roached coffee cups, I have no top-of-mind complaints.

KEVIN, I need dirt. I need scandal. I need sad/difficult emotions. Where are they? Tell me what’s hard about being a stay-at-home dad.

Kevin: I frequently wonder if it’s worth it – if I should let a professional at UGRO or KinderCare do their thing and I do mine. I am sad she is growing up so fast and this magical time will be over so soon. I am sad that I don’t have the energy for more children or the desire to experience a stroke-like migraine again from my partner. I hurt. It’s really hard on your body to pick these little scamps up and down all the time. I haven’t had time off — like a whole entire day — since she was born. These things are downsides, sure, but again, I just know how quickly this time will be over. It was also hard at first to adjust to not bringing in any income.

Can you explain your feelings further on that?

Kevin: Well, I’ve always been the higher earner in our relationship, and I’ve always worked since I was 18, so it was an adjustment to not be bringing in any income. There are societal stigmas and pressures that you can tell yourself you don’t care about, but when you actually do something against the societal norm a little bit, you can end up feeling those negative feelings anyway. I did. I don’t really feel bad now because I realized the value of my work more as time went on, but it took a while to get there.

Anything else you would like to say to the internet about your experience as a stay-at-home parent?

Being a stay-at-home parent is difficult and easy. It’s more rewarding than I could have imagined, more heartbreaking at times, too. Your compensation isn’t in money but in legacy and connection to something greater and more important than you. It’s sometimes very boring, sometimes very exciting and challenging. It’s always changing. The job requirements slowly, insidiously or miraculously change as your child grows. I never properly appreciated it all until I was in it. I’m very, very happy with my experience so far.

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It’s Never Too Late to Encourage Kids’ Sports and Exercise

Last month, after more than 12 months of abiding by state and local COVID guidelines and starting a new full-time contract job, I felt as if I’d fallen behind the eight ball as a mom.

As I was wrapping up work one afternoon, it dawned on me: “I don’t think my kids have hung out or played with any friends for at least a month!” Sadly, I was right.

Although we live in a neighborhood filled with kids, and it’s a great place, I’ll admit it’s a little cliquey at times. Which is a typical childhood development thing – especially when, as in our case, our kids’ ages don’t line up perfectly with many of the other kids.

Another contributing factor to the lack of socialization was the fact that it was the beginning of April. The weather was still very windy and brisk. We were all pretty much over the cold. My kids even said at a few points, “I don’t feel like biking/scootering over to Billy’s house. It’s too cold!”

However, that afternoon, I realized that another key reason we hadn’t seen friends, other than chilly or rainy weather, was the fact that we enrolled our kids in a cyber charter school last fall, thanks to the pandemic. My kids were no longer making plans to meet up with their friends after school on the school bus ride home, because they weren’t attending their regular school. It was definitely a case of out of sight, out of mind.

To top it off, sometime in early March most of the neighborhood friends were now back at organized school-related sports activities: baseball, soccer, track, lacrosse.

Even so, to be clear, this year I never even thought of signing my kids up for spring sports for a few reasons:

1) COVID restrictions weren’t fully lifted.

2) I was immersed in my job and it didn’t even occur to me.

3) To be honest, we normally don’t do organized sports anymore.

You see, my kids aren’t team sports kind of people. We’re OK with this in regular times. Not every kid or family is cut out to be the kind that devotes 80 percent of their non-school time on the soccer field multiple times a week.

I am a mom who feels blessed to not have kids involved in travel sports, or even rec sports. It takes a level of commitment and financial devotion that we don’t believe pays off, except maybe if your child is begging you to play, you come from an Olympic-level lineage, or you enjoy getting bedbugs from the hotel near the tournament site (ha ha).

So yes, while some families thrive with the rigorous schedule of organized sports, we usually flourish with more unstructured fitness offerings like skateboarding, snowboarding, hiking, running and yoga. Yep, you know it! We’re more of the individual, non-organized sports breed.

The key word here is “usually.” Because this year, as we all know, nothing is “usual.” Normally, not being involved in team sports would be OK. We’d make up for any lack of socialization through brick-and-mortar school, church and knocking on neighbors’ doors, or by hiking, skateboarding or riding bikes.

However, this year, and on that day earlier this spring, it just hit me. I needed to sign my non-competitive kid up for a sport!

Any sport of his choice. It didn’t matter if the season had already begun. Nor that he hadn’t played in rec sports since age 3. It needed to happen. And so, after asking him which he’d like to try again, I signed my youngest up for our local rec soccer league. They accepted him with open arms.

For my middle daughter, who is about to turn 13, the thought of joining a competitive sports team was a hard “no.” But I did convince her to sign up for Pilates and we continue to encourage her to work out in our basement.

My oldest, age 14, continues his skateboarding passion, and this week was a new win because I finally convinced him to try running. I showed him the Couch to 5K app, and he tried it and said he liked it!

Later this spring (May 23, June 6, June 13), all three of my kids (and hopefully some friends) will participate in Kickballapalooza, a Sunday afternoon kickball event hosted by Derry Township’s Joy of Sports Foundation. Kids of any fitness level, grades three through eight, are encouraged to sign up. I hope some of you will decide to join us.

To register, please visit Spring Kickballapalooza.

Whatever you decide, I wish you and your family the best in finding the perfect physical activity for your kids.

For more writings about the adventures of “momming,” please visit Paulette’s blog, Just Three Pumpkins.

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My battle with depression has made me a better parent (for my kids)

Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide.

On Christmas Eve 2019 I sat alone on my couch, tree lights twinkling brightly over wrapped presents, and my almost empty fourth glass of wine. I should have been happy, but there I was, staring at the text conversation I was having for the fifth time that month with Crisis Hotline.

I had two choices that night: act on my plan or reach out for help.

Beth Montgomery

I chose reaching out for help.

Both choices seemed hard at the time, but my kids saved me – again.

That may not seem like a hard decision, but in the deepest depths of my experience with depression, suicide seemed like the best idea. I wasn’t thinking straight. I felt like I wasn’t a good enough mom. I felt unworthy. I felt like I didn’t measure up. All those negative feelings repeating over and over in my mind; I just wanted it to stop. I wanted the pain of living to end.

I remember on one specific summer day in 2019, the sun was shining and everything seemed to be going well. I should have been happy but I wasn’t. I was driving and came up over a hill and saw the sign: “Don’t Give Up.” It was one of hundreds of signs in Central

Pennsylvania put up by Chronically Strong, a nonprofit started to raise mental health awareness at a community level and advocate for mental health reform in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (https://www.chronicallystrong23.com/ FB: https://www.facebook.com/chronicallystrong23)

“Don’t Give Up.” Those simple words carried me through that day, and the signs popping up all over in yards kept me going.

The outside world could have never guessed how much pain I was experiencing internally. Yes, I put on a front that everything was OK. No, I wasn’t honest with those closest to me. I had this preconceived notion that sharing my struggles with others was weakness.

Asking for help was the strongest, most courageous act I have done. As scary and fearful as I was, I knew I had to reach out.

So, I sent my therapist a message and we got back on track with sessions. I also started an intense inner healing journey like none other and slowly, I climbed out of that dark pit of despair with the help of others. I can’t tell you exactly when the turning point was, but it happened.

Things got better.

But wait, how does this make me a better parent for my kids?

My daughter is 14 and my son is 17 and they both have experienced multiple classmates who have committed suicide. Multiple.

In sharing my story in an honest and authentic way, it allows that often hidden door to open. I have struggled with deep, dark depression for many years. They have experienced mom “going away” for a week twice because of it, so they’re aware. Instead of pretending it never happened, I made another choice.

I decided to talk to them about it.

My thought is: If this discussion doesn’t start somewhere, where else will it start? I have worked really hard at keeping an open and honest line of communication with my kids ranging from budgeting to sex. I do this because in the event they feel like they have felt how I did on Christmas Eve 2019, they have someone they can turn to.

I know what signs to look out for. And more importantly, where to turn to get them the help they need if that need arises.

During the pandemic, mental illness has been at an all-time high. A lot of people of all ages have been suffering, some in silence.

If that person is you, know that you are NOT ALONE. KEEP GOING. It WILL and DOES get better. Reach out to someone, reach out to me, reach out to Crisis Hotline (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor (https://www.crisistextline.org/).

If you know someone who is suffering, check up on them, often. There are resources out there. Check out the links above for tips on how to help someone you love.

Courage means acting in spite of feeling fear. Picking up the phone and asking for help can feel like picking up a ton of bricks (I get it) but be courageous. Someone on this earth needs you here.

Here’s the hope:

Today, I sit as a member and committee chair of Chronically Strong in hopes of breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness, suicide specifically. On a personal level, I’m able to identify my feelings and reach out for help more quickly, before it gets to the crisis stage. I can pick up the phone and tell someone I trust how I’m feeling and know they will listen because they care. I know I have purpose and meaning.

I’m able to say that I’ve lived in the darkness but have clawed my way to the light.

I can be happy and grateful. Just for today.

I am worthy of life, and so are you.

If no one has told you yet, you are SO loved and deserve to feel that love.

To connect with Beth, she’s on Facebook and Instagram. You can also check out her “Dear Diary” series and send her a message at www.singleparentsproject.com.

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5 ways to revamp your money habits for a better 2021

(BPT) – While the past year has been rough in so many ways, one positive result is that people are focusing more on saving money — creating a silver lining to the cloud that was 2020. A new survey from Coinstar found nearly 3 out of 4 people (74%) say they are likely to set aside an emergency fund in the future due to COVID-19. The survey also revealed that people who had savings said they dipped into it more than twice over the course of the past year, highlighting just how important a savings account or an emergency fund can be.

The survey also found people reexamining what they spend money on, ways to plan for the future and how to be more conscious of their overall financial picture as a result of the events of the last year. Almost half (46%) of those surveyed said they plan to “tighten their belt” by actively spending less.

If you’re one of the many Americans looking to improve their financial situation and emergency-proof your finances, here are some tips to get you started.

1. Establish a post-pandemic budget

While you might not be going out much right now, it’s possible that the future could once again include more fun options like eating out, entertainment and travel. Developing a workable budget now, that includes room for discretionary spending, will make it possible to do those things you look forward to doing in the future, when you feel comfortable.

2. Create an emergency fund

This year made it clear that even people with stable jobs can have their livelihoods upended by unforeseen events. No matter how you earn a living, it’s a good idea to have 3-6 months’ worth of expenses set aside in an account for emergency use only, so you aren’t tempted to dip into it for splurges. Start small by setting up automatic deposits from your paycheck into a special savings account, and save up change that you accumulate daily to add to your emergency fund once a month.

3. Consider selling personal items

In the survey, nearly one-third (31%) were considering selling personal items to help boost their finances. Spending more time at home has made everyone reevaluate clutter in their homes, and to reassess what is really necessary or useful. Decluttering by selling items you no longer want or use is a win-win — you get a tidier home, along with a little extra cash to save or spend. And thanks to the internet, there are many platforms available to post items you want to sell.

4. Look for the right side hustle or investment opportunity

Over half of those surveyed (57%) have considered picking up an extra job or side hustle. And fortunately, today’s gig economy is full of options for taking on extra work. From being a shopper or rideshare driver to creating items for sale or caring for someone’s children or pets, it’s important to choose a side hustle that really works for you. It should be something that fits your current schedule, and earns enough cash to make the extra effort worthwhile. And if cryptocurrency is your thing, consider making small investments and watch how your investment might grow. You could even have fun dabbling in this new area.

5. Be purposeful with collecting spare change

Make a special place where you keep extra change that piles up. Then you can use those coins to pad your emergency fund, or to pay for extras in your post-pandemic life (such as movies, dinners or gas). It’s easy to save up and use your spare coins, which you can convert to cash or to a no-fee eGift card at a Coinstar kiosk.

You can use some or all of these strategies to help support your financial goals moving forward. With a new approach to budgeting, earning and saving, you’ll feel more confident about whatever the future may hold.

How to keep medications safe from kids of all ages

(BPT) – Prescription medications have many benefits, including managing pain, regulating chronic conditions, preventing disease and more. Despite numerous positives, medications can be dangerous to others in your household, especially kids.

As routines have changed and people are spending more time at home, parents may be unintentionally leaving medications out and accessible to children. Babies and toddlers may rattle medicine bottles like a toy. Curious kids may think the contents inside are candy. Child-resistant caps aren’t enough, as many children can open them easily.

Every eight minutes a child goes to an emergency room for medicine poisoning, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, and three out of four ER visits for medicine poisoning are due to kids getting into parents’ or grandparents’ medicine. Unintentional injuries including poisoning are the leading cause of mortality among infants and children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research from the American Association of Poison Control Centers shows the vast majority (90%) of poisonings occur at home. That’s why it’s important to look at how you use medications in your household and adopt safer practices that include:

Never leave medications out: When busy multitasking, you may leave your medication out on a counter or toss it in your purse or backpack. Leaving it out even for a minute could be enough time for a child to access and open it. Don’t leave medications where kids can see them or where they can easily be found, such as in drawers, on nightstands or in bags. If the medication is for your child when they are sick, never leave it in their bedroom.

Store medicines out of reach: Choose one storage location for all medication that is out of reach of children. This can be anywhere throughout the home that is high and out of sight. Get in the habit of putting medication back in its safe storage location every time.

Use a locking container: Even though most prescription containers have child-resistant caps, children can find ways to open them. Consider using Safe Rx Locking Pill Bottles to secure medications. The convenient portable containers require a four-digit code aligned from bottom to top to open. When you are done, you simply replace the cap and mix the numbers to lock the bottle securely.

Talk with your children: Be honest with kids about the dangers of taking prescriptions. Adjust your conversation based on your child’s age, stressing that medications are only meant for the person the doctor prescribed them for and can be harmful to anyone else. Tell them to never take a medication without checking with you first and if they find any pills or bottles to bring them to you right away.

Dispose of unneeded medication properly: Check if your community has a drug disposal program for any unneeded medications. Many pharmacies offer take-back programs as well to properly dispose of unused prescriptions. If nothing is available near you, dispose of medications at home by mixing the pills or capsules in a container with an unappealing substance like dirt or cat litter before placing in the trash.

These steps will help significantly reduce the chances your child will access your medication. However, in case of emergency, call poison control immediately. Program the poison control center at 800-222-1222 into your home and cell phones. You may want to add this number on a sticky note or other label in your medicine storage space as well.

Parents! You can help youth athletes level the playing field

Last week, my older daughter, Sophie, was looking over my shoulder as I scrolled through Instagram. We saw a video from a college we know, saluting all its sports for NCAA Division III Week, on the account of its athletic conference. 

Except one sport. Cheerleading. And Sophie didn’t think that was fair. 

Jen Deinlein

“Can I comment and ask them why they left out cheerleading?” she asked me. So I let her respectfully do so from her own Instagram account.  

As of this writing, a little more than a week later, she hasn’t gotten a response. 

Mind you, this is not the Big 10 or the ACC. It’s a small college conference and doesn’t get a lot of feedback, so it’s not like her comment was easily lost in the shuffle. And it’s also very obvious that the account commenting was that of a 7-year-old who plays sports (even though I started the account to preserve her artwork for posterity, but that’s another story). 

I beat the drum for cheerleading A LOT and I know that annoys a lot of people. But this really started to bother me for Sophie’s sake. What message was this athletic conference sending a 7-year-old youth athlete? Her opinion wasn’t important? Not every sport is equally important? 

Sophie currently plays soccer and flag football, and her 5-year-old sister is giving cheerleading a try for the first time. And with me being a cheerleading coach, naturally she’s going to have respect for the sport. She also has a goal of being the first woman to play in the NFL, so this likely won’t be her first bout with disrespect. 

Last fall was the first time she played soccer, and she was surprisingly fearless about it. She won over the hearts of a lot of team parents because of her determined play. She even loves playing goalie! (I’m not as big a fan of that, but I’m proud of her bravery.) 

One of her fall soccer teammates is now on her flag football team, and his dad was thrilled to see Sophie on his son’s team. Although this league advertised flag football as coed, she’s the only girl on her team and the only one we’ve seen playing so far. But she’s getting along great with her teammates, and I believe that’s a reflection of parents and coaches being supportive of a girl on the team. 

As parents, we can tell our kids to respect other kids and other sports, and I think that’s important, but we obviously lead best by example. The past year in a global pandemic has wreaked havoc with athletics budgets, schedules, practice space and even competition opportunities. There are a lot of sports that feel they have to battle harder for respect and the opportunities that come with greater respect.  

It’s too easy, though, to do battle with the wrong opponent. I can’t tell you how many times my various cheerleading squads were made fun of by other female athletes. Is that just passing down their own perceived lack of respect? Probably. I can also tell you that my current squad has a fantastic relationship with our women’s basketball team, to the point that when we were trying to recruit team members my first season, some of their athletes were the biggest cheerleaders for our efforts! 

So even as we are struggling to keep our respective sports going, I think as coaches and parents, we need to make a concerted effort to show our kids that every sport and every athlete are equally important. I believe there are changes in attitudes that may not come about without a generational shift, but our youth athletes of today are the sports parents and athletics administrators of tomorrow. Let’s equip them to save the “battles” for the opposing team and not each other. 

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Finding pockets of happiness in the chaos: take a minute with me before you break

I realize 2021 just started, but doesn’t it feel kind of like we’re extending a yearlong experience of a toddler who raided the snack drawer, missed their naptime and probably has a stinky diaper? It’s been chaotic, loud, and WHY is everything so sticky?

I may not have toddlers anymore, but life with teens can be just as chaotic. Just in different ways. No matter how hard I try, I can’t ignore it.

I used to hide a lot behind my smile. Life can be really difficult and from my experience, being a parent is nothing short of organizing chaos. Schedules, changes, work… And on top of that, adulting is a lot to juggle.

Queue the “mommy’s happy hour” posts and comments.

For a while, that worked for me. Until it didn’t. It’s no secret that I made a decision to step away from the “wine mom” culture in the middle of this pandemic, so I’ve really had to lean heavily on finding pockets of happiness and peace to keep my sanity in-tact.

Looking back, I had pushed my own needs to the bottom of a never-ending list… until I broke. Because I had a life-changing emotional and physical breakdown in 2014, finding pockets of happiness has become an especially important part of my daily life. Even more so today.

Finding pockets of happiness throughout each day started as a writing prompt I stumbled upon in 2014 when I was rebuilding my life (pretty sure it was from my therapist). This simple nightly prompt has sustained me for close to a decade and has become an unconscious competent act of self-love.

What those pockets are changes from day to day. One day it could be my hammock bed, the next could be the sunrise. Even though it could be all over the map, there is ONE thing that is consistently on my pockets of happiness list… the quiet moments between breathing intentionally.

The best part: It takes less than a minute.

So, take a minute with me. Sit back, get comfortable, and relax those shoulders. Unclench your jaw. Place your hands on your lap or to your side and notice your breath. When you’re ready, take an intentional deep breath in, expanding your stomach until you can’t bring in anymore air. As you exhale, pretend you’re blowing out a candle, bringing your bellybutton inward to your core, exhaling everything.

Allow your breathing to return to normal and say (or think) “Thank you.”

Do this three times. Eyes closed or open, in the office or in private, wherever, whenever. Don’t overthink it and if it doesn’t work, no big deal. This is what has worked for me.

Someone once told me at my lowest point that I could intentionally make my life into a beautiful and happy one. How? One day at a time. Sometimes, one moment at a time.

If, at the end of each day, I say it was a happy and beautiful day, I will look back and say it was a happy and beautiful life.

I can say, without a doubt, that my life is happy and beautiful. Sure, there are ups and downs, even the occasional derailing’s, but one thing is certain… I’m still here, and so are you.

Life isn’t going to go the way we planned, and that’s ok. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” (taken from his April 1960 address at Spelman College)

Keep going, friends. Find those pockets of happiness and enjoy them. Please know, you’re not alone.

I’d love to connect with you on the socials or through www.singleparentsproject.com.

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2020 taught us we can connect virtually

I realize it’s entirely cliché to look back at the year that just passed, but 2020 certainly was… interesting. I didn’t learn a new hobby or how to bake bread or start a business. I do feel like I learned some things, but a lot of it was reinforcing old lessons I’d kind of forgotten. For example, connections really can be made virtually.

We all learned to use Zoom and FaceTime, and perhaps spent some virtual holidays with out-of-town family. And while it was born of necessity, I do think we made some genuine connections through the wires and airwaves.

To be fair, there are a lot of people I know and love whom I’ve never met, so this isn’t exactly new to me. As a late Gen Xer who was introduced to the internet in college, I found myself exploring sports chat rooms and email list-servs. My old NFL chat buddies are friends of 25 years at this point – we’ve seen each other through a lot of ups and downs through that time — and I also have an extended coaching family who have served as mentors and sounding boards, and whom I also love dearly.

I’ve been advising the ZTA chapter at Susquehanna University pretty much virtually since I left Selinsgrove in 2012, but this past year I wasn’t able to make any visits to campus for homecoming or other events. Nowadays, I consider myself the chapter cheerleader and in addition to my position as adviser, I just try to give them as much love and support as I can through social media.

It meant so much to me to receive a thank you note from one of the newer sisters recently. I haven’t gotten to meet her in person yet and I don’t feel like I can do enough right now, but she told me I’d done a lot for her just by cheering her on.

Creativity and finding ways to survive various stages of lockdown helped new communities form, too. My husband’s college friend, Scotty Kilwein, started playing livestreams on Facebook for fun this past spring when Jellyrolls, the Disney World piano bar at which he works, shut down. The livestreams became a Friday night ritual in our house and we’d let the girls stay up to listen to “Mr. Scotty.”

As the months went on, and Jellyrolls didn’t reopen, Scotty kept playing – and built an online community affectionately known as the PalPals. PalPals are old friends and fans of Scotty’s from all corners of the globe. I discovered that one of my aforementioned coaching friends, a Disney aficionado, is a big fan of Scotty and Jellyrolls – but we all became friends with each other.

One PalPal makes handmade cards and sent them to anyone who wanted some to share. We have PalPal merchandise! We chat with each other through the livestreams and have come to support each other through the rougher days, which are always made better with some music from Scotty and his kids. His wife, Amanda, serves as executive producer, so she is rarely in front of the camera, but is a very important part of the livestreams.

And best of all, we PalPals rang in the New Year together with a four-hour Zoom, watching Scotty play a socially distanced event in Clearwater, Fla. We even let the girls stay up until midnight. I really thought they’d conk out before then, but no…

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to seeing each other in person in 2021, but the connections we’ve made through our screens in 2020 are something for which I’ll always be grateful.

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Bitsy McCann: I’m fortunate to have my feelings get hurt

I work. A lot. Can we talk about that for just a few? I promise it’ll lead to parenthood, just stay with me here.

 Let’s jump back to the week after Thanksgiving 2014. I had just been let go from a short stint at a financial firm, was drowning in self-pity, and was eating half my weight in ice cream every night. (Hey, don’t judge. I’m allowed.)

After a few straight weeks of unshowered Netflix binging, my husband returned home from a trip to find me passed out on the couch after some serious nacho demolition.

“Hi. I know you’re in mourning,” he said – somewhat unsympathetically. “I know no one is responding to your resumes. So what? What do you want to do?”

With his direct prodding and sincere encouragement, I started a business. A real grown-up type of business as a freelance graphic designer. I had spreadsheets and everything. Very legit. Now, don’t get me wrong, I kept sending in those resumes. I had virtually zero clients my first year.

Well, flash forward to now. I have enough business that I am able to be the sole provider for our family.

Kevin would argue with this and say that he also contributes financially by selling unused things from our basement. Credit where credit is due, so let me rephrase: I am mostly the sole provider for our family.

This means that I am glued to my computer almost 10 hours a day during the work week and sometimes on the weekend. This means that my stay-at-home husband gets to hang out with our little magic chaos creator. This means that I get to miss her while she’s literally in the same room as me.

Sometimes I hear her cry for me while I’m on the phone with a client, and I just want to “accidentally disconnect” and run to her. Every day, Kevin goes out into the world with her. They go on adventures to the park and the lake and the river. Adventures I’m missing out on. But hey – I get the pictures, so it’s all good, right?

The other night, we woke up to her cries. I’m the nighttime care parent since I’m still nursing, so I went in and got her from her crib. She didn’t want to nurse. She didn’t want to cuddle. She couldn’t be consoled. Finally, Kevin came in. She reached for him, and when he took her, she immediately stopped crying.

Yeah, OK. Cool. Thanks.

I have never been a tender-hearted person, but my feelings get obliterated by her sometimes. I understand that Kevin is the primary care parent. I understand that she’s going to prefer him. But during night shift? That’s my time to shine. That’s where I fix it all with the magic of boobies. And that night, my superpower was broken. It was painful as hell.

I use these times as reminders that Kevin deserves a trophy. Not only is he doing an incredible job raising our kid (she can now do some tricks), but he manages a lot of the household. Cooking, laundry, vacuuming. He also takes care of our car inspections and the leaky toilets and manages our finances.

Wow, it sounds like I do absolutely nothing in our home.

I do try to help out where I can. Before pregnancy was even a possibility, I read this very, very, very sad (did I mention it was sad?) letter from a woman to her husband about him never helping out around the house. Not only did she raise the kids, but she did everything in the home as well.

I did NOT want to be that partner, so I make a conscious effort to 1/thank Kevin all the time, 2/do the dishes, 3/sweep a million times a day, 4/do the bathroom and kitchen deep cleans, and most importantly 5/ask if there’s anything else I can do that day.

Truth talk: I don’t want to. I don’t want to do any of it. I am exhausted at the end of the day. Between my time with the baby and work hours, it’s a 16+ hour day. But the lightbulb for me happened when I read that letter years ago: the stay-at-home parent is also exhausted. (Imagine me miming my brain exploding with hands going outward and all that.)

Realistically, that stay-at-home parent is probably even more exhausted than the working parent. Have you ever read “Hair Love” 62 times in one day? Kevin did. Bless that man. I would have lost that book under the bookshelf.

When the baby hurts my feelings because she prefers her dad, it makes me realize how lucky I am to have such a great partner in my life. It makes me stop during the workday to read books, enjoy a family lunch, or chase my daughter around the house for a little bit. My hurt feelings make me break at night so I can have a few hours with the kid before she goes to bed and I go back to work.

I try harder to be a more present parent because I realize that time is fleeting. And if I have any hope of being her favorite at any point in the future, I better start working on it now – even if that means a dropped call every now and then.

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