What I Learned from Losing my Best Friend…How to Deal with Ghosting and Rejection

Motherhood

I’m not a stranger to rejection. I don’t think anyone is…maybe everyone just deals with it differently. The last year was by far the most challenging of my life. I hurt more, cried more, felt all the things, and grew more than I ever imagined. Trauma tried to complete break me down and in some ways it did. I picked myself up and started over more times than I can count.

I felt like a failure at work no matter how hard I tried to get back to a place where I truly enjoyed what I did. I felt like no one truly had my back or could understand what I was going through. But how could they when I didn’t even understand what I was going through? I felt like a failure in my marriage and I dreaded being anywhere besides my bed (where I got very little time to even sleep between working nights and homeschooling four kids during the day). The only constant that I had in my life was my best friend. I thought she’d always be there. She was my person that I searched my whole life to find. She was the person that I wanted to be when I grew up. We went through pregnancy together, a toxic work environment together, Home Goods trips when we felt like we were about to break. We were neighbors, our kids were best friends, we went on vacations and lake trips together. Some of my best memories include planning our toddlers’ weddings, suffering through our little girls’ dance classes on no sleep after working all night. But we were in it together.

When I knew that my marriage was over but couldn’t admit it to myself, she picked me up more times than I could count. I couldn’t imagine a life that didn’t include planning birthday parties or a world where we didn’t wish each other’s kids Happy Birthday. I still can’t wrap my head around never having another pool day in the backyard with mimosas.

Losing someone who is still here was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. I’ve cried more tears at night over the loss of that relationship than I did when it finally sank in that my husband cared more about controlling me than saving our house or our family. I’m still angry that she couldn’t even have the decency of letting my kids say goodbye to their best friends before moving across the country.

I’m angry that she couldn’t support me in doing what was best for my children when I would have walked through fire for her. I’m so angry that she knew how panicked, how hurt, how scared, how broken I felt because she was the one person I opened up enough to to share those feelings and she couldn’t even give me a reason. She just ghosted me like you do someone who you have no emotional attachment to at all. I’m angry at myself for still wanting to reach out for answers after months of being ignored. I’m angry at myself for being angry. I hate that in giving so much of myself to other people I completely lost myself.

At the end of the day, the biggest loss of my life taught me that you have to love yourself. You have to believe in yourself enough to pick back up on the hard days. You have to find strength in who you are but to do that you have to know who you are without any labels. I could try to word this better and add in some bullshit about a beautiful tomorrow but the truth is that tomorrow isn’t promised. There is beauty in breaking but it hurts like hell. That’s the truth. It hurts like fucking hell.

As a mom of four, I’ve seen, heard and experienced alot of different cries. Some tears flow freely. But the ones that don’t come with alot of sting. The tears you try your hardest to hide from the world are the ones hurt the worst. Let it out. Don’t hold that shit in. Breathe. And move on. No matter how much you wanted them to want you…if they can’t at least respect you enough to give you an answer…they aren’t worth your time.

One thing that I’ve learned from suffering from PTSD is that you deal with trauma at some point or another. You don’t walk away completely unscathed. It might be something silly like a trip to Home Goods by yourself where you break down looking at Rae Dunn coffee mugs because it was much more fun with your best friend. It may be working in Seattle thinking about Grey’s Anatomy and realizing you don’t have anyone to discuss it with anymore. It might be a phone call from a complete stranger who is mentally disturbed a year after the worst moments of your life were broadcast on national television reminding you that you still don’t have answers. Triggers are different for everyone. But since I can’t avoid the pain, I’m choosing to move on the only way that I know how.

I’m choosing to forgive. I’m choosing to accept that I feel things and that’s okay. I’m choosing to keep the happy memories and hope that one day maybe my tears will be the ones that flow freely. I forgive myself for making excuses for someone who could have sent a simple text message. I’m vowing to try and be better at communicating my feelings even when it’s hard because I don’t want to hurt anyone else. I’m choosing to accept that just because I want something to be okay doesn’t mean that it is. We are all human and at the end of the day the basic rules, wants, and needs are the same. We don’t know what the hell we feel sometimes. At others we think we have it down to a science but we aren’t even close. We need interaction but fear getting close to anyone.

I don’t regret any of it. The world hasn’t hardened me yet and I still love her deeply. And I’m proud of myself for trying to fix what I broke even when she wouldn’t give me an answer. Forgiveness isn’t always for the other person. It’s so that we can pick up the broken pieces and try to put them back together again. Things will never be the same. I know that…I didn’t always, though. I used to fight so hard to avoid change. But I think I’m on to something. I don’t know what that is yet but I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was yesterday.

I Moved across the Country when Life Got Boring

Motherhood

I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy with my job. I wasn’t happy in my marriage. I no longer felt secure in my home and I could no longer tell my kids that everything would be okay with a sparkle in my eyes.

See, I used to carry the desire for adventure in my back pocket. I wanted to see the world, do something important…I wanted to help people and nothing was going to stop me. Steve Jobs once said that the people who believe they will change the world are the ones that actually do…or something like that. I’m typing this in notes on my iPhone while traveling surrounded by nothing but clouds. Honestly, it’s the only place that I find peaceful nowadays.

Life is funny like that…once your worst nightmare happens in your safe place, everything else is fair game. I lost my fear of flying or being bit by a shark. Oh yeah, about that…I met a guy on my travel assignment that survived a shark attack. Maybe it was then that I realized I’m my only limit. I learned that I invested way too much of my energy into caring what others thought about me. I don’t do that anymore. We’ve all had our own shark bites. We all deal with trauma in our own way and I’m still learning to deal with mine. What I do know is that I no longer expect people to understand. As a matter of fact, I hardly have expectations anymore. Life is better that way.

I’m no longer bitter. I no longer hold resentment towards the people who treated me unfairly. No matter how much I wanted them to be, they weren’t my people. I’m special. So are you. I care. Too much. And I’ve learned to love that about myself. I feel this way when I fly. Who are you without any labels? I don’t want to know if you’re a mother, what you do for a living, or what kind of car you drive.

Who ARE Y O U? Maybe that’s why flying does this to me…because I’m above all the pain, the labels, the responsibilities. I have time to think about who I am and what I want out of life without all the other distractions. I’m a better person when I take the time to reset. Aren’t we all? Give yourself some grace…some time. And realize that time doesn’t heal all wounds. Learn that it’s okay to be a little broken. But put yourself back together in a way that matters. PTSD and trauma never completely go away, but I’ll be damned if I let it destroy me. I will rise above it. I’ll fly in the clouds as many times as it takes without offering an apology to anyone for how I choose to reconfigure the broken parts of me. I’ll swim in the middle of the ocean in a country I’ve never been, hike a mountain in a new state, and say hi to a stranger even though it makes me uncomfortable. Because being comfortable is boring anyway and I want to feel alive again.

Things You Save in a Fire Book Review and Mental Health Tips

books, Mental Health

If you haven’t read Things You Save in a Fire, I highly recommend that you do. I recently had one of my social media followers ask about books I recommend for mental health. Personally, I have a hard time finishing self help books. I follow podcasts, Ted Talks, and watch a lot of documentaries. I read ALOT, whether it be a book or an article. I personally relate more to story telling. I love books that I am able to escape reality with but also learn something. Things You Save in a Fire taught me how to begin to move on from something that caused me severe trauma and PTSD. The steps to forgiveness and why it is important to forgive even when someone will no longer be a part of your life completely changed my thought process. I didn’t believe that it was possible to see the good in a situation so devastating. I thought that if I admitted that any good had come from that situation, I was saying that was slightly less awful. As a mother, how do you feel okay saying that something good came from a situation that stole your child’s innocence?

Step One: To forgive you must admit that someone hurt you. That sounds easy enough, right? While I will admit that most of the time this is the easiest step, for fellow empaths or others who overanalyze every situation, this isn’t always a piece of cake. I have always been hard on myself. As the saying goes, you are your own worst critic. I realized that in an attempt to control the uncontrollable, I caused myself destructive anxiety. I believe that there is such thing as a worry that is productive. Being excited about something can be an exceptional motivation factor, but being anxious about something that you have absolutely no control over is destructive. I have a desire to fix everyone and every situation. I want to know what I did wrong and I’d rather be wrong because then I can be proactive about the situation. Admitting that someone else caused me pain and the situation was not within my power to alter was extremely hard for me. Seeing those words in writing while reading someone else’s story put everything into perspective. I knew the answers all along and I was fighting to change something that I had no choice but to accept or let it destroy me. Admit to yourself that you allowed someone to get close to you. Admit to yourself that you were a victim of a crime. Admit to yourself that you are a little bit broken right now. Admit to yourself that you are allowed to feel pain. To become a survivor, you have to feel what you need to feel first. Feeling the pain now allows your body to time to process the emotions. As someone who still suffers from PTSD, I thought that avoiding the emotions would keep me from feeling pain.

For example, I tried my best to stay off social media. Don’t misread what I’m saying. Taking a break from social media and distancing yourself from any kind of negative environment is a good thing. In my case, social media was important to me before the trauma. I stayed in touch with my family and friends and by avoiding it all together, as well as not allowing myself to process my trauma in a healthy way, I cast the entire trauma off on social media. I didn’t know who to blame anymore. I didn’t even have a lucid version of what actually happened in my mind. I became triggered everytime I received an email or text message. I dreaded checking social media accounts to the point where I had anxiety attacks just thinking about reading a message. I associated any pain that I was feeling with social media. In the process, I missed positive messages from friends and family and pushed people who wanted to support me away.

It’s important to admit what happened. I am all about taking responsibility for what I do wrong, and I would never tell you to place blame where it is not due. However, we have so many negative thoughts that go through our head every single day. Telling yourself that something was your fault when it wasn’t will not make the pain go away. It will not give you any more control over the situation. It will only prolong the healing process. Admitting what happened is important for the next step.

Step Two: Acknowledge that the person who hurt you is flawed, like all people are. To me, this was a lot bigger than just saying that someone sucked. It was saying that in a way, we are all a little broken. Our flaws can add character, and they can cause some serious damage. In acknowledging that the person who hurt me is flawed, I also acknowledged that I was. I learned that sometimes it’s no one’s fault. Sometimes two people can be toxic for each other. People don’t always apologize and you won’t always receive the closure that you so desperately hoped for. Part of the healing process is gaining an understanding of what happened. In no way do I mean fixate on the situation or allow it to control your life. But you need to have an idea of what went wrong, the parts of the situation that you do have control over, and the parts that you do not. You can control your reaction to someone else’s actions, but you cannot control their actions.

What do you do when the person who hurt you is blaming you? This question is precisely why forgiveness is so important. Forgiving someone else is not always for them. It’s so that you can move on. If you blame yourself for everything that goes wrong in life, not only will you be miserable, but you will limit yourself in ways that you cannot even imagine. So again, feel what you need to feel…and then move on. You are in no way saying that because all people have flaws, someone’s flaws did not hurt you. You are simply saying that imperfections can cause pain and gaining a better understanding of boundaries that you may need to set in the future.

Are you ready for step three? I know I wasn’t, but here goes.

Step Three: Find something positive that would not have happened if the situation had not occurred. For the longest time I thought that finding something good discredited me. I thought that finding a glimmer of light and hope would give someone the power to say that I spent no time in the dark. The trauma we suffered was real. I know this because I finally allowed myself to feel. That doesn’t mean that I’m never allowed to experience joy again. That doesn’t mean that I can’t find peace and move on. It doesn’t mean that I wanted this to happen to me. Finding the good in a bad situation allows you to change your story. It doesn’t delete the chapters before it. They will always be with you. But it allows room for new characters and events. Someone once told me that the reason some people stay stuck in the worst moments of their life is because that’s all they have. They live in that moment because it was significant.

I don’t want to give too much of the book away because you really should read it for yourself, but I will reference a part of the book (with no spoiler context) that was super relateable to me. One of the characters mentioned that when she envisioned her trauma, she pictured herself as scared and hopeless. When she finally embraced the power of forgiveness, she pictured the woman that she had become sitting alongside the scared little girl. She pictured herself giving her a hug and letting her know that it will be okay. That might sound crazy to some, but for trauma victims it’s common to feel as though your life was split into two parts: the part of you that lived before the trauma, and the person that you became afterwards. The middle can be kind of hazy sometimes. Your body has a way of shutting down some of those thoughts and preventing you from remembering certain things. Don’t spend so much time wishing that the past didn’t happen. It did. But what are you going to do about it? Are you going to remain stuck in the moment? Will you use your knowledge to help others see the light?

If you found this helpful, let me know in a comment and feel free to follow along! Follow me on IG: @ashleeleighann and TikTok @ashleelemay.

-The Zombie Mom

 

 

DIY Cotton Candy Ice Cream

DIY, Motherhood

IMG_8506

This week we have been on a cotton candy kick! Alyssa and Addalise got a Nostalgia Cotton Candy maker for their birthday last year and we finally decided to pull it out and give it a whirl. Of course we are all addicted now! We have an ice cream maker also and use it ALL the time. Before this, we only attempted vanilla and chocolate homemade ice cream. Both were delicious, of course! For this recipe, you do not need an ice cream maker. Cotton Candy ice cream is so fun and full of summer vibes! I actually tried it before adding sugar and was surprised that it actually tasted good (not big on sugar free personally, but if you need sugar free recipes this one is good with or without).

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 14 ounce can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Cotton Candy Flavoring
  • Sugar
  • Food Coloring
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Mixer
  • Dish to freeze ice cream in

Step One: First you will pour your two cups of heavy cream into a large bowl. You will mix until the heavy cream becomes thick. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down and have no liquid come out.

Step Two: Once you are done mixing your heavy cream, add one can of sweetened condensed milk. You will fold the sweetened condensed milk into the havy cream to mix the two together.

Step Three: Add two tablespoons of sugar

Step Four: Add half a teaspoon of cotton candy flavoring and mix everything together.

Step Five: Separate the mixture into two separate bowls (same amount in each bowl)

Step Six: Add blue food coloring to one bowl and red food coloring to the other. I needed about 5-6 drops of blue, and about 2 drops of red.

Step Seven: Alternate scooping blue and pink into the dish you will use to freeze the ice cream. It should look something like this at this point.

IMG_8493

Step Eight: Cover dish and put in freezer for 4-6 hours. I used a Pyrex dish with a lid, but you can cover with saran wrap also.

Once your ice cream is frozen, Scoop out and enjoy! We used fancy ice cream bowls that my Mamaw gave us, which made it extra special since it’s tough to see loved ones right now ❤

IMG_8504

Let me know if you found this helpful. Feel free to follow along for more DIY, parenting hacks, homeschooling, etc.

Follow me on IG: @ashleeleighann

-The Zombie Mom 

 

 

How to Make a DIY Car Wash this Summer for Super Cheap

DIY, Motherhood

316234_154034104779051_1934471763_n

I posted a silly TikTok with our DIY carwash and several friends wanted to know how to make their own! I originally did this a couple of years ago when I was first getting into photography and absolutely loved the way the photos turned out. It’s a super fun mini session to offer during the summer months, and fun for all the kiddos. It’s not super expensive, and right now when it’s hard to find a pool filter…it’s a great way to be able to enjoy going outside.

Supply List:

  • (9) 1″ elbows
  • (7) 1″ tees
  • (2) 1″ crosses
  • PVC Hose Adapter
  • (20) 1×30″ pipe
  • (3) 1×37″ pipe

Making the Frame:

  • Lay two of the 30″ pipes on each side (parallel to each other, using 4 pieces of 30in pipe so far). You will then connect the pieces with tees in the middle.
  • You will put elbows on the ends of three pipes, and a tee on one end. The tee is what you will connect your PVC Hose Adapter to later.
  • Once connected, add 6 of the 30in pipes vertically (three on each side). In the front and back of your car wash frame, put a tee on each of the vertical 30in PVC pipes.
  • You can go ahead and add the cross sections in the middle vertical pieces if that makes it easier.
  • In the front and back of the carwash fram, add 4 pieces of 30in pipe vertically and use a tee and a 37″ pipe horizontally to connect them at the top. This will complete almost everything but the middle section of your frame. For your cross fittings, you will put them in the middle section of the car wash on both sides (if you haven’t already, I waited until this step).
  • Once you have the cross fitting on each side, add two 30in pipes on each side of the car wash to connect the sides laterally (four pieces in total).
  • Add 30in pipes on both sides vertically (middle section only, so 2 peices), and use an elbow on each pipe to connect the 37in pipe at the top. This will complete the middle section of the frame.IMG_8436

How to get the water to flow:

You are going to drill holes about 1in apart (this does not have to be exact). We used a 1/16 drill bit to make the holes. Attach a standard water hose to the front of the car wash by using a PVC hose adapter connected to a tee.

Completing your Car Wash:

Gather up pool noodles, sponges, plastic streamers, etc. I grabbed little spray bottles from Target that were about a dollar. I got them from the Beauty section one year in bright colors. I got sponges from the dollar store and hung them from the car wash. Pool Noodles can be combine with streamers so that you don’t have to purchase as many noodles. Another suggestion for truly making this a DIY project is cutting floats that have holes in them to make plastic strips. You can also use plastic table cloths to make your streamers. Just cut them into pieces. We also used a leaf blower as a “dryer” for our car wash at one point, ha. 

Have Fun:

Grab your scooter, coop car, box car, or just run through the car wash like a sprinkler! Wash your cars with sponges. Bring on your best pretend play! This will occupy your kids for hours! Splash in puddles, grab rain boots. The possibilities are endless with this DIY summer hack!

Optional Ideas:

Make a sign in front of your car wash and teach your kids about running a business. Talk to them about what is going on in the world right now and how being resourceful is necessary.  I like to use everything as a fun learning opportunity!

Let me know if you found this helpful. Feel free to follow along for more DIY hacks, budgeting tips, parenting reads, and more. I post daily on IG also. @ashleeleighann

-The Zombie Mom

 

 

I don’t do Six Feet Apart or Toxic very Well…Confessions of a Mom and Healthcare Worker

Mental Health, Motherhood

B0D4B5AD-F3E9-490F-9C5C-0C4B3F48448B

Everything below this paragraph I wrote yesterday before I had any idea what was coming. Reading it again now, I realize how much God was preparing my heart for what was about to come. I know that I gave it my all. I know that I fought for my job in healthcare more than I’ve fought for anything else in my life. I went through a year of discovering my worth, and recently I started to realize that I don’t have to stay in a toxic environment. I don’t have to allow people to destroy me for something that I had no control over. I left a job I thought I would retire from, a job that I was proud of, and a job that honestly defined me for so long. Sometimes when something is so good for so long, it makes it that much harder to realize when it’s no longer serving you. I never thought I’d have the ability to say that I deserve better than this without a backup plan, but I know that I have to take care of my mind, and the stress from situations out of my control became way too much. I’ll write about exactly what happened later, but for now, here is what it’s really like to work in healthcare right now (especially as a mama).

I’m a mama who works night shift in a laboratory and I’m tired. I’ve worked at night, gone home to my kids, and stayed up all day for almost five years now. I can honestly say that I’ve never been this tired. I breastfed two babies while working nights. I was pregnant twice while working nights. With my last baby, I worked the night before while in labor and delivered my baby the next day. I still wasn’t nearly as exhausted as I am now. It’s not so much the job, as the current state of the world. I’m used to having most of the answers and being able to figure out the ones that I don’t have. When I went to school, I knew that I would be exposed to illness. I knew that I would experience times where I couldn’t fix it or figure it out. I remember having my hands prayed over before starting clinicals and thinking of all the wonderful things that my hands would be able to do. I felt empowered. I felt excited. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and joy that I didn’t allow room for exhaustion. I learned equations, medical terms, the correct order of draw, and how to determine if an infection is viral or bacterial. I learned the reference ranges for lab values. I learned how to determine what gram positive cocci look like vs. gram negative bacilli. I learned how the coagulation system works and exactly how our blood circulates. I can tell you what tests to order to check for most ailments and if your potassium is really critical or if it’s contaminated. I can even tell you your blood type by testing for in manually. But I wasn’t prepared for six feet apart.

IMG_1040

I wasn’t prepared for the day that I couldn’t go see my grandparents without fearing judgement or possibly infecting them. I wasn’t prepared for the night I would leave my already traumatized daughter and have her ask me if I was going to die. I wasn’t prepared for the nights where I’d struggle to breathe behind a mask for almost nine hours and get on social media to read all the misinformation out there. I’m prepared to fight for you, and I’m prepared to be on the front lines. What I wasn’t prepared for was the hate and tension that surround us right now. You don’t really feel like a “healthcare hero” when your day to day consists of constant changes and you still don’t have the answers.

I’m tired of telling my children that we can’t walk in the store. I’m tired of my ears hurting and face breaking out because of a mask. I live in the South and I’m tired of not being able to walk up and give everyone a hug. I’m tired of letting my phone ring because I’m so mentally drained that I can’t handle a conversation. I’m tired of telling my daughters that we can’t go to the zoo, or the park, or find a filter for our pool because of this virus. It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting not knowing what to say. It’s exhausting reading the opinions people gather from empty numbers that they don’t understand. It’s exhausting having my educated opinion questioned for trying to provide a sense of hope. It’s exhausting not knowing what to do, so I get it. As a healthcare worker, I want you to know that you aren’t alone.

My five year old starts kindergarten this year,

and while I homeschooled my oldest by choice before, I wanted to send her. I wanted her to experience the first day of school. I wanted her to make new friends, go on field trips, and come home sweaty from recess. I wanted to take her back to school shopping and pack her little backpack for the first day. My oldest got to experience two years of “real school” as she calls it and I wanted Addalise to experience that too. I’m tired of feeling like I’m letting her down. I’m tired of being asked questions that I can’t answer. I don’t know when this will be over. I don’t know how to tell her to not be scared when everything around her is changing. I’m tired of not being able to control the spread at work, and coming home without a moment to gather my thoughts. The only answer that I have right now is that I don’t know. I’m trying my best to focus on setting up our homeschool room. I’m trying to stay strong for her, remain positive, and remain grounded in the belief that even though things may not be ideal, I can still create a magical learning experience for her this year. It’s okay to let yourself feel, but don’t stay in your negative thoughts for too long. Utilize the resources that are available to you, vent when you need to, and start your school day with a grateful heart and open mind.

I know that’s easier said than done, but trying to control the uncontrollable will solve nothing.

I don’t like not knowing. I don’t like not having concrete information. I don’t like being in a lose lose situation where I don’t even have a choice. I don’t like feeling like the entire world is giving up hope, but not being able to honestly say that I don’t feel the same way. I don’t like that people are losing their jobs. I don’t like that everyone is struggling in some way, and there is no way to appease everyone. I try to fix everything. I try to do what I can. Being on the front lines isn’t enough. How are we really supposed to feel like we are all in this together when no one really has a clue what’s going on? I don’t like how comfortable people have become behind a keyboard because they have nothing better to do. Don’t be bitter, get better. On your worst day, think of a positive memory or something that you can look forward to and get out of bed. Don’t assume the worst but hope for the best. Make it the best that you possibly can, and try harder the next day.

I don’t want to give you empty positivity because I get it. I have fears too. We all do. I fear for people’s mental health. I fear for the loss of connection. I fear for the seniors that didn’t get to experience a real celebration for all their hard work. I fear for the new marriages that are already facing so many challenges right at the beginning. I fear that something I say will make it worse for someone else. At the same time, I fear that as someone who is always positive, saying nothing at all is so much worse.

While I don’t have all the answers, I can tell you this.

There is beauty in every day. As a mama and a healthcare worker, I can tell you that we care. I can tell you that we take this job seriously and that I have dedicated my life to helping people in any way that I can. I can tell you that we feel it too…that everyone is frustrated. I can tell you that no matter how many times I have felt lost, I know that we will get through this. There are ways to stay connected. We can adjust to this new normal the best that we can. I can tell you that homeschooling really isn’t so bad after all and that I’ve used this time to connect more with the people at home. I can tell you that when things become a little sunnier, they will shine brighter than ever before. I can tell you that we have the opportunity to recognize how much we took for granted before and vow to not let that happen again.

I won’t feel stressed about planning a birthday party and I won’t worry as much about how messy my house can get with four kids. I will put real life connections with my friends and family above my own unrealistic image of how I should appear as a young mother. I will try to always remember the days where I had to use my imagination. I will continue to reinvent things and encourage my kids to experience life as much as possible. Because you never know what tomorrow may hold. I will show my teeth when I smile. I will visit family as often as I am able to. And I will give myself grace when life piles on beyond my control.

IMG_3024

I won’t take gatherings for granted. I will be grateful that I have the chance for closure at a funeral and the ability to celebrate the life of someone who meant so much to the people around them. I will tell my daughters that as much as I hated leaving them, I was doing what I had to do. I will never again take for granted the comfort I feel knowing enough to make sense of my own personal research. I won’t feel as though taking in four children is inconvenient.

Better days are ahead, my friend but until then I wanted to give a few tips to get through this. Know that you are not alone. Realize that your fears and concerns are completely justified and that we all feel a little anxious right now. While your concerns may not be the same as someone else’s, let’s try and support each other the best that we can. Let’s use this time to realize that we do need other people and find new ways to adapt together.

Occupy your mind. Take a breath, a walk, or a bath. Relax. When you have exhausted all efforts to find a solution, remove yourself from the situation for a moment. I’m not saying give up. Definitely don’t do that. But don’t overexert yourself so much at one time that you forget how to function. We charge our phones, reset our routers, and restart our computers. Don’t forget that almost anything will work again after some rest.

Use this as an opportunity to grow. Mindset is not something that you achieve overnight and it’s not something that you “get” and then quit working towards. Constantly set new goals for yourself, make lists, and ask for help when you need it. It’s okay to not have all the answers. Especially now.

Research the options available to you and make an informed decision. IF you have done that, then the rest is out of your control. You made the best decision available to you with the information that you had. And that’s enough. You can’t achieve the impossible and predict every outcome. You just can’t. None of us can.

Be honest with your children. Tell them the situation in words that they will understand, and end the conversation by asking them for questions or concerns that they have. You may be surprised to hear that sometimes they have a better understanding than we do. Their thoughts are not clouded by the same anxieties as ours. Spend time with them, and listen when they tell you that they are frustrated. Sometimes our children express their emotions differently than we do, but as parents we have to be present for them. Remember that you are tired too and let them know that it’s okay to feel these things. Try to be positive and end the conversation by constantly giving them something to look forward to. Maybe you can’t go to the beach right now, but you can give them a memory to focus on. Maybe they can’t visit their grandparents right now, but remind them how amazing it is to still be able to connect through technology. Show them photos of people working on the front lines and use this as a teaching opportunity.

Learn a new craft, watch a TV show that you loved over again, or take time to appreciate the things that you “didn’t have time for” before. Acknowledge the activities that we are still able to do.

As I was writing this, I remember thinking that I was scared to even say that I worked in a laboratory because I might get in trouble or lose my job. As healthcare workers we should never feel like we can’t say what we do as an occupation. The people who truly have a passion for what they do belong in this profession right now, and we need them there. Keep your head up. You got this. We all do.

If you found this helpful, feel free to follow along! I post homeschooling tips, mental health, parenting, fitness, etc. on my IG too ❤

-The Zombie Mom

instagram: @ashleeleighann

 

 

Nervous about Homeschooling? I was too. Here’s How I Made it Work.

DIY, homeschool, Motherhood, parenting

 

IMG_8149

As a full time laboratory scientist at night, homeschooling wasn’t something I planned to do. I have four children. My oldest is nine, Addalise just had a birthday and turned five, Aveley Kate is three, and Ashlynn Jaymes is one. I have homeschooled while breastfeeding, and while pregnant. It’s not only doable, it’s actually fun. In the midst of the craziness going on in the world right now, we are all trying to find a new normal. You may be thinking that homeschooling (or distance learning if this applies to your situation) is not something you can manage. Many parents have been forced to homeschool for at least some time period. So many mothers that I know personally have asked me homeschooling questions and I hope to answer a few of those here. Whether or not you choose to homeschool, as a full time working mom of four, I wish I had this information when I was trying to decide. You are not alone in struggling to decide what is best for your child. Education is so important. As parents, we want to give our children the resources they need. It’s a crazy time, but that doesn’t mean that you do not have options. It took me years to finally get the hang of everything and I couldn’t even imagine trying to make the decision that most parents are faced with right now on a whim.

A little backstory: I want to say first of all, that I have so much respect for teachers. Many of my friends are teachers and this is not intended to discredit their profession in any way, but to give a personal experience in hopes that my feedback with answer some questions. Alyssa went to a small private school for kindergarten and first grade. I only had two children at the time, but I remember missing Alyssa so much throughout the day. She had friends, I was a room mother for her class, and went on every field trip. I attended every party. Working night shift and still attending events is rough. Everyone assumes that since you are at home, you are available. Sometimes I was running on less than empty. From the beginning, Alyssa struggled in reading. She mentally couldn’t handle receiving a bad grade on a test because she was so hard on herself. I was like that in school too, so I get it. It broke my heart so see her so anxious when she was doing so well.

IMG_4830 2

At the time, I thought about homeschooling but I was worried about how she would get social interaction and taking her away from her friends. I registered her for another year (first grade) and she was still being taken out in the hall for tests because of “testing anxiety”.

The school she attended was great, so my decision was not about disliking the school. I just felt that she needed more one on one attention and a different learning environment. I decided that we would give homeschooling a try for one semester and if she was falling behind, I would look into other options.

What would my other children do during the day?

I have multiple children, so one concern was taking too much time away from them or the littles distracting Alyssa while she did school work. Of course screen time was an option, but I wanted to limit that as much as possible. For the most part, the younger girls are in the school room with me the entire day and it’s rarely an issue. I purchased many puzzles, games, pencils, art supplies, etc. from the dollar spot at Target. Sometimes I would have Alyssa read to them out loud, or I would pick a colorful science experiment that all four would enjoy and learn from for different reasons. When Alyssa was trying to learn the 50 states, she put together her states floor puzzle while Addalise and Aveley put together their ABC puzzle. When they were done, Ashlynn made her contribution by stomping all over both puzzles. There are so many subjects that can be relatable to multiple ages. For example, the months of the year song was something all four enjoyed. As Alyssa learned abbreviations in second grade, we started with days and months. Singing songs introduced them to the younger kids and even if they didn’t have a clue what we were singing at first, after awhile my three year old (then two) knew them all.

81038614_10159171185958146_6173684397561085952_o

What curriculum did I choose?

The school that Alyssa went to previously used Abeka, so that is what I chose for the first year. I purchased the parent and child kit which came with lesson plans for each day, text books, answer keys, and other resources. I tried to go strictly by their curriculum the first year and joined a group on facebook where I could ask questions when I had them. For second grade, I was alot more comfortable using multiple resources. Alyssa still struggled a little bit in reading so we no longer used Abeka readers (I still think their readers are great, we just had to do something different). When Alyssa started reading Magic Treehouse books, reading was a completely different ball game. She started to LOVE reading and now wants to read ALL the time. She just needed something that she was interested in, and honestly I get that. At first, I didn’t even think about switching it up because I was trying to go by the book. Homeschooling lesson number #1: Most days will not go as planned, ha.

I became familiar with her learning style and adjusted my teaching style to fit her needs.

I use printables from Pinterest and TeachersPayTeachers, games, and we go outside alot. I used Abeka for tests. For writing, I found a list of prompts and also added my own. I printed a checklist to hang on our whiteboard, and sometimes I would answer the prompt with her to show her that I was taking part in her education. Amazon, Thriftbooks, Goodwill Bookstore, and even stores like Sams and Costco have great all in one books by grade. If I am super busy or just need another worksheet for a particular topic, I would pull from those.

IMG_4826

What if I don’t have time to homeschool?

I work full time at night so this was my biggest concern. I wanted Alyssa to have all the resources that she needed and some days I am so exhausted that I wouldn’t want me as a teacher, ha. What I discovered is that being able to plan out and occupy my time gave me so much more energy and time with my kids. I was present much more than before. It was so hard for me to come home from work, load up all the kids, get Alyssa to school on time, and come back home before. Now, I am able to sleep for a couple hours after work and reset before starting our school day. Most days, homeschooling takes us no longer than 3-4 hours and that’s including lunch breaks. When we have days we aren’t feeling well, we have the freedom to pick up and start the next day without falling far behind. It’s not always easy, but it’s rewarding every single day. As a mom who loves to read and write, homeschooling also encouraged me to pick up those hobbies again. There are also several resources that give me a few minutes to breathe throughout the day and allow Alyssa to be educated by someone other than me. ABC Mouse, Homer, SouthwesternAdvantage, Khan Academy, Crayola, and many others have amazing resources for children. Homeschooling also allowed us to plan trips around when I could take off work, rather than going off of the school schedule. That being said, it is a commitment. I do have to plan our days and patience is still something I’m working on.

How do I get everything done while making sure my child receives the education he or she deserves?

I’m not going to lie. Homeschooling was overwhelming for me at first. I tried to go into depth for each subject every day and it didn’t work for me or my child. I would get excited about a science project and become frustrated when we spent too long on a new math concept. I signed Alyssa up for art classes, violin, cooking classes, and all kinds of co op activities. There were days where we just couldn’t do it all, so I had to come up with a game plan. We utilize a loop schedule. Here’s an example of what that looks like for us.

Loop Schedule

  • Daily
    • Reading
    • Math Daily Work (10-15 minutes, new concepts are learned when we reach Math on the loop)
    • Violin
    • Bible
  • Monday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Creative Writing
    • History
    • Math
  • Tuesday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Language
    • Science
    • Art
  • Wednesday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Creative Writing
    • History
    • Math
    • Language
  • Thursday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Science
    • Art
    • Dance Class
  • Friday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Creative Writing
    • History
    • Math
    • Language

IMG_8146

You can set up your schedule however you want. Doing this helped me from teaching science three days in a row and never getting around to a writing prompt. Obviously there are subjects that we do every day, but I just write out a list and mark where we stopped so the next day we start with the next subject. Some days we are able to go over all subjects, some days we can’t. We are now able to easily incorporate violin and dance and I have time to put the other girls in activities as well. Before quarantine, Alyssa would read during Addalise’s dance class. You find way to make it easier and fit into your life as you go.

What if my budget prevents me from providing the resources my child needs?

It won’t. Buying an all in one curriculum can get pricey but there are many options to make it less expensive. If there’s a Goodwill Bookstore, or something similar near you, I found so many readers, chapter book series and slightly used text books for $1-$5. Libraries have book sales all the time. Making your own flash cards will help your child remember a concept better and save money. Dollar Tree has so many fun posters, flash cards, coloring books, etc. I stock up on school supplies during sales and usually have enough for the next two school years. Being able to do school in your PJs also helps with four girls, ha. There are free printables, and I have paid for some on TeachersPayTeachers that were well worth it and budget friendly. I will also include some resources here as I’m planning our days/year.

IMG_1069

Any other tips?

It’s not possible to fit everything you need to know about homeschooling into one blog post and honestly, you will have to adjust to your child but it gets easier as you go. For me, purchasing a personal planner just for home life/homeschooling plans helped so much. While Alyssa was in second grade and Addalise was in preschool, I wrote out Alyssa’s lesson plans for each day with page numbers or referencing a work sheet by each day. I used a notepad for Addalise’s days and picked a concept for each week. For example, if we were learning the letter A, we sang songs, practiced handwriting, did worksheets, etc. I wrote a list of what we were working on that week and put together a folder for her. I kept a treasure box visible so that they could see what they were working towards. I used a sticker system in a file folder and they got stickers for a great test grade, following directions, etc. Each child had a different goal, but the sticker system was effective for each of them. My two year old was potty training, Alyssa was learning multiplication facts, and Addalise was perfecting writing her name. They all shared the common goal of getting a treasure from the treasure box. Sometimes I did simple treasures like a popsicle pass. Alyssa thought it was great when she was able to tell us she had a pass when we said no, ha. Others I purchased from Dollar Tree, on clearance, or ordered in bulk from Amazon. I tried to keep something new, even if it was small, because that’s part of the fun, right?

I hope that you found this helpful. Feel free to reach out with any questions that you may have about homeschooling, distance learning, struggling readers, etc. I will help in any way that I can. I can assure you that you are not alone. Feel free to follow along and let me know topics that you would like more information on! I also have homeschooling highlights on instagram. My handle there is @ashleeleighann.

-The Zombie Mom 

 

 

 

 

Sunset Summer Minis

DIY, Photography

Here’s a chance to get updated family photos, photos of the kids, your dog, whatever ha. Everything looks magical at sunset. I love capturing clients during golden hour, but rarely have the availability to offer this as a mini session. Use the booking link to claim your spot! These will be located in a field in Nesbit. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions after visiting the booking link! Can’t wait to go on a fun adventure ❤

Book your Golden Hour Summer Mini Here!

Mermaid and Fisherman Minis

Photography

Obviously this summer, I kinda have a thing for water. I have been working hard to come up with some fun sessions for the kiddos. I want to capture the imagination of childhood because we know that it won’t stay this way for long.

Book Your Mermaid and Fisherman Session Here!

These will be 20 minute sessions, props provided, and you will receive at leave 15 edited images. Use the booking link to claim your spot! These won’t last long. I will send out more detailed information including exact location along with a reminder through the booking website <3.

Book your Summer Mini Session Now! Car Wash and Lemonade Stand Details

Photography

 

Book Your Summer Mini Here!

Details:

These are 20 minute, fun, water mini sessions! The above is an example from a couple years ago, but similar colors/props will be used to give you an idea for outfit choices! We will capture a few portrait style photos before getting wet (if you choose to do the car wash set).

Kids will be encouraged to run through the water, wash the cars, and have fun!

You will receive at least 15 edited images via online gallery and you are welcome to be in a photo with them. Each child can take photos with both sets. I will send the exact address after booking, but they will be held at my home. Click the link to book your spot and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have! Excited to get out in the sunshine for some photo fun ❤

If you have already paid for a package or paid your deposit through PayPal, just message me and I will fix it on the booking site for you 🙂