Falling in Love with my ADHD Brain

adhd, Motherhood

For most of my life I struggled to fit in. Even though I was “successful” at a lot of different things, I was really hard on myself for not being able to stick it out any one thing. How was I ever going to be the best at anything if I eventually got bored and moved on to the next idea that sparked my interest?

I constantly told myself that I wasn’t enough. I silenced myself; therefore, it left a lot of room for miserable people in my life. I have recently met several females who were diagnosed with ADHD later in life. Even though I had a diagnosis pretty early on, I didn’t understand my brain.

Because I didn’t understand my brain, I stayed in the wrong relationships for for too long. I said yes so many times when I wanted to say no because I was scared of what other people would think of me. ADHD can be a beautiful thing. There are so many things that I am good at but often times we hyper-focus on the wrong things.

Almost 10 years ago I had a mini me who is so beautiful and smart. She’s creative. She’s kind. She’s the kind of person who puts others before herself and if we are being honest, that’s exactly what scares me the most. Being empathetic isn’t a bad thing and I wouldn’t trade the ability to feel so deeply for anything in the world. I’ve learned to look at it as a super power. But that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes empathy is extremely overwhelming.

Sometimes being overwhelmed causes us to lose sight of our vision. I can do this. I just told myself so many times that I couldn’t. I started to believe it. So I’m going to tell myself I told my daughter last night. It’s OK to stand out. It’s OK to be different. It’s OK to do things in your own way. I personally don’t think that codependency is always a bad thing. Just be careful who you depend on.

You are going to meet people who light your world on fire. There will be people who try to understand you that never can. That’s OK. Love them anyway! You inspire so many people just by being you. I know how frustrating it is to have a great idea that nobody can see but people will see it. You just have to show it to them in the right way and you’ll get there I promise. It takes all kinds of kinds.

I’ll let you be free as much as possible because I know that you were going to change the world one day. I can’t wait to see how you do it.

How to be DONE with your Losing Season

Lifestyle, Motherhood

A friend of mine recently posted a beautiful photo where she was glowing! As soon as I saw the picture of her, before ever reading the caption, I started smiling. She’s someone I can relate to and someone that I am so happy to see find her voice. The caption said something along the lines of “Stop being jealous of people in their winning season. You never know what they lost in their losing season.” Wow, did that hit me hard!

In a little over a year I lost my job, my best friend, my sense of security, my marriage, my grandfather, my house…anyway you get the point. I had a pretty rough losing season. I’m in the process of finding a new therapist after moving across the country and I’m learning to cope with my trauma in healthy ways.

I promised myself a little over a year ago that I’d never lose my voice again. I’d never refrain from speaking my truth. I’ll admit, I didn’t always go about things the right way. PTSD is something that I will live with for the rest of my life. I’ve recently struggled to remember so much. I’ve researched what PTSD does to the brain and as someone who used to remember every tiny little detail…I can’t put into words how much it hurts to watch videos of my children over and over again to try and replace those hard memories with something positive. This isn’t a poor pitiful Ashlee post by the way. It’s just so if anyone else finds themselves struggling…you know you are not alone.

When I started making Tiktok videos a little over a year ago, I had no idea that people would actually follow me. I just wanted a connection. I wanted to be a part of something again. Don’t we all? At work, I was struggling to come to terms with my depression and PTSD. I was doing everything I possibly could to hold on to the life that I had, no matter how flawed it may have been.

I would have never left. It didn’t matter how worthless I felt. It didn’t matter how toxic the work environment was. It didn’t matter how many times the police were called. In the end, I had to realize that It really didn’t matter who believed me or believed in me because I knew the truth. It has it’s way of coming full circle, but I’m not the best at being patient…or at least I wasn’t until I had to be.

I moved across the country with my four girls and I discovered that no matter what I was told in the past, I wanted to stay in the present. I had to remain in reality for my girls. I had to continue to fight for them but I had to fight for myself first. After spending months wanting to unlive, I forced myself to get outside. When I did, I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a long time and honestly thought I’d never experience again…excitement. I felt the warmth of the sun and I heard my little baby’s feet waddling/running (idk what it is, but it’s cute). I let my kids get extra snacks at the grocery store and I realized that I have to be the one to teach them that life doesn’t have to be so complex all the time. Sometimes we are going to go to a new park completely put together and some days we are just going to play in the backyard looking a hot mess still in PJs. But you know what? They’ll take either day as long as I’m happy.

When I left the grocery store, for a brief moment I remember thinking that all this STUFF, the heavy stuff, the stuff that keeps me up at 1am writing this blog post to keep from shutting down again…will always be with me. And it will. There’s no denying that. But so will the lessons I’ve learned, so will the people I’ve met and the places I’ve gone along the way. Growth is messy and healing isn’t easy or pain free. To be done with your losing season, you have to come to terms with the fact that your life will never be the same again, and that’s okay. It’s not supposed to be. If you’re challenging yourself every day and you know that you’re doing the best you possibly can…you will find your people.

I used to believe that we only had one soulmate and you should stay with that person until the end of time no matter what. I still have a hard time letting go of toxic. I had a hard time providing myself closure when someone shut the door on the opportunity of a clean break. I believe that we outgrow people. I believe that things happen to us and some of us can’t help but feel every little sting. And I couldn’t heal in the same place that broke me. I couldn’t drive by the same gas station or pull up in the driveway of the place where I lost my sense of security and who I was. Moving and changing my environment was hard, but it’s hard either way. I just had to choose a path and stick with it. And every day it gets a little easier. Sometimes I feel the sting, but I know that even though that feeling can be painful and STRONG, I KNOW that I’m stronger. I just finally see it now.

You are stronger than the thing that broke you. Don’t stop. Believe in you.

Follow me on Tiktok @ashleelemay where I share my chaotic motherhood journey! Let’s connect.

Two Year Old in Tulip Town

For collabs: ashleelemay@gmail.com

Job Loss and Confidence

Mental Health

I saw a video going around not too long that talked about describing who you are without any labels…without saying I’m a mom, a wife, a sister, friend, etc. Who are you without naming your occupation? Who are you without your degree or hiding behind your social circles? It hit me differently because I don’t think I know who I am without those things.

It’s easy to lose yourself in the process of giving everything you have to your family. It’s easy to define yourself by your occupation and bury yourself within your career. We grow up thinking that it’s normal to not be happy at work if the money is good. For years I worked night shift as a scientist and homeschooled my kids during the day. I had the best of both worlds…or at least that’s what I told myself.

I was proud of myself for finishing school despite having a second baby and I never wanted my girls to give up on their dreams because of a difficult situation. But was being a scientist really my dream? Was it? Maybe. Can our dreams change? Absolutely. You’re allowed to redefine yourself a hundred times over and it’s normal for your path in life to change. You are under no obligation to be who you WERE…one minute ago.

The problem with using those labels to define yourself is that sometimes life happens and those titles can be compromised in a heartbeat. I lost two jobs this year. Both times were unfair and handled poorly but when enough people say you do something it doesn’t really matter, does it? Before 2019, I’d never lost a job. I don’t even think I’d ever interviewed for a position that I didn’t receive an offer for. I went to school, got a degree, and even received a promotion at the job I thought I’d retire at. A couple weeks before I was brought into the office about my “negative influence on the workplace” and “intimidating behavior” I’d received a near perfect evaluation.

My performance review was nearly perfect and I wasn’t given much that I needed to work on. I got along with my coworkers, and I loved going to work. Despite the work environment being extremely toxic, I tried my best to make it work. I was diagnosed with PTSD and extreme anxiety after experiencing a very public trauma and I felt like my job was all I had left to hold on to. I couldn’t imagine starting over again or going through another change. After all, I’d spent years in school and given up so many hours with my children to accomplish goals that I thought would provide them (and me) a better life.

I went from being the lead of two departments as a Medical Laboratory Scientist to being unemployed. The years I’d given to that organization ended with less than a page notice that returning to work would not be best for my mental health. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make but looking back it wasn’t really much of a decision. I didn’t have a good choice. They’d proven they’d stop at nothing to make my life miserable there and it didn’t matter how much experience I had, how well I performed my job, or how much time I’d invested outside of work just to keep things peaceful when I was present.

Leaving taught me that life goes on whether you really want it to in the moment or not. It taught me that I’m more than a scientist, but also that someone else’s disapproval of me can’t take my degree or who I am away from me. Maybe I didn’t do the smartest thing, but I did the right thing. Doing the right thing doesn’t always pay off immediately, but I know that in time I will heal. That being said, I strongly believe that time heals nothing unless you move along with it. I needed to feel it. I needed to hit rock bottom so that I could learn to pick up the pieces and stop hiding behind the image of what I thought life was supposed to be like. Something tells me that I’m not alone in that feeling.

It took me a long time to begin to recognize the difference between my intuition guiding me, and my trauma misleading me. Losing a job is a loss. I needed to take the time to grieve but I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t have a support system. Not truly. Everyone expected me to make lemonade out of lemons like I always do but I was too exhausted. Telling pieces of my story and realizing that I’m not alone has helped. I was too ashamed to admit, *even to myself* the full story because this wasn’t supposed to happen to me.

I’ve learned that hurt people, hurt people and I don’t want to be that person. I want to heal not only for myself but for my girls and the relationships that I will make in the future. There are so many things I want to get better at. As much as I didn’t want to leave certain people behind I’ve realized that it’s hard to turn the page when you know your favorite character won’t make it into the next chapter of your life…but the story must go on. It’s not finished yet. You’re not finished yet. You repeat what you don’t repair so please make peace with your broken pieces.

Follow along for more. Tiktok: @ashleelemay IG: @ashleeleighann

-The Zombie Mom

DIY Cotton Candy Ice Cream

DIY, Motherhood

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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.

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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 ❤

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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 

 

 

 

 

How Setting a Reading Goal for Yourself can Improve your Mental Health

books, Mental Health, Motherhood

No matter how busy you are, you can and should make time to experience the positive health benefits associated with reading.

This year I set a reading goal for myself. I wanted to read 50 books by the end of the year. Obviously life happened at the end of last year. Negative thoughts occupied my mind for far too long. For months I have worked on growing as a person, avoiding negative thoughts, and keeping a positive mindset no matter what. It’s something that I have to work at every day, but it’s getting easier. Now when I set a goal for myself, I try to spend time actually reaching that goal and avoiding all excuses. There’s no reason why I can’t accomplish something that I’m passionate about. Negative thoughts will consume your mind if you let them, and it’s estimated that about eighty percent of the tens of thousands of thoughts that go through our mind every day are negative. Crazy right? Let me share with you how reading positively impacted my mental health and helped me escape.

Learning to love myself didn’t happen overnight. First, I had to realize that I’m an empath. I am happiest when the people around me are thriving. I feed off of other people’s emotions, and that’s only okay when I set healthy boundaries. I’m still learning to say no, but I have found ways to make the most of my time and not allow room for unhealthy thought processes. As a teenager, I remember letting go of any anxiety as soon as I walked in a book store. I could spend hours enjoying the magic of picking up a book and reading the plot summary in an effort to make the best selection for my next read. I was one of those nerdy kids that looked forward to purchasing books during the summer for required reading.

When I feel a destructive or negative thought coming on, I take a deep breath, count backwards by 5 (utilizing the 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins LIFE CHANGING), and replace that thought with something productive. I love to read and learn new things. I also love to create and escape through travel and books.

I’m sure you can come up with a million and one excuses for why you don’t have time to read. But I’m a toddler mom and I can play this game all day. Leggo.

I don’t have time.

Yes, you do. We make time for the aspects of life that we find valuable. Find value in yourself. Invest in who you are as a person. Tell yourself that you are worth it every day until you finally believe it. I have four children, work full time on night shift as a laboratory scientist, homeschool my kids by choice, have a photography business on the side, and about 20 different things from day to day. We throw the words “don’t have time” around way too freely. We shut down suggestions before we even hear someone out.

I remember graduating college with my five month old a few feet away from me as I walked across the stage. Any time that I would talk to someone who either didn’t attend or didn’t graduate college, their reasoning was that they couldn’t study or couldn’t focus. I’m ADHD. I couldn’t take medication for the majority of my college career due to pregnancy. But I did read. The more I read, the less I struggled with it. Picking up the book is the hardest part. Sometimes we are so reluctant to welcome change. We are so scared to fail that we limit ourselves before we even try. That gets us no where.

I have kids and they deserve my full attention.

You’re absolutely right. They do. I’ve been there. For years I took my kids to the zoo on no sleep after working the night before. We constantly went on trips and honestly I was happy…for awhile. But somewhere along the way I forgot to fill up my own cup. I forgot how to reset. I had four babies that absolutely gave me joy, but when you forget who you are as a person, you lose the ability to truly be present. You lose the ability to give back to them.

After so many years of going through the motions and just trying to stay awake, I stopped seeing a beach sunset as magical. I stopped looking back as we left a pretty field during golden hour. I couldn’t picture it anymore. I was there, but in my mind I was constantly searching. Your kids know when you aren’t really there. They don’t want a warm body. They want Y O U.

Fitness isn’t just about tightening your core or a good cardio routine. We have to put our brain to work also. Stop acting as if your brain doesn’t control everything else because it most certainly does.

Reading increases your critical thinking skills, vocabulary, and writing skills. Links to decreases in blood pressure and even longer life expectancy have been made in correlation to reading. Reading for pleasure helps us relate to others, be compassionate and empathetic, and reduces stress levels. It’s good for your mind. Daily reading keeps your brain engaged and aids in preventing memory loss.

Good Reads helps me track my reading goal. When I can see progress, I am more likely to stick with something. I can mark books that I’d like to read, books I’ve purchased, books I’m currently reading, and books that I have previously read. It’s also fun to see that other people are reading and discuss the characters of a book that felt so real to me. I’ve related to so many characters in books and I carry them with me. Being an empath can mean feeling things way too deeply. On the other hand, I wouldn’t give up being able to ride the Magic School Bus, or walk into a tree house and end up in ancient times. I wouldn’t give up feeling the sand between my toes at a beach I’ve never physically visited. I wouldn’t even give up having my heart break for a fictional character.

I utilize Book of the Month club because it helps me with book selection when I’m feeling overwhelmed with options, the book is shipped to me, and I can read reviews from an app on my phone. I can discuss the book with other members as I’m reading or by leaving a review when it’s finished. If I don’t like the book choices that month, I can skip. In my experience, the few times this has happened I used my credit to pick two books the next month. I am able to support up and coming authors and have access to books before they are released to the public. Who doesn’t love having something exclusive?

Get a discount on your first BOTM here!

Thrift Books, The Book Bundler, and a local thrift store are all good outlets to keep you looking forward to your next read. I typically pick out my next book as I’m reading my current selection so that I have something to look forward to. Sometimes I give myself a day or two to process the book that I just read and then I start a new book. Don’t give yourself too much time to get out of the routine.

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Magic Tree House books are THE BEST

Here’s the thing. This year I have lost more than I can count. I lost my sense of security, I had my car stolen, my marriage was barely hanging on by a thread, and I saw the true colors of the people I thought were “my people”. Plot T W I S T…those colors weren’t so bright and wonderful. I lost financial freedom, my daily routine, and my ability to stop the racing thoughts and go to sleep. But you know what I didn’t lose? Knowledge. And it really is power. I’ll admit that my thoughts weren’t always positive, but one day I was able to say enough is enough. On that same day, I already had the tools to begin taking my life back.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go”.

I didn’t engage with people because I felt like I could no longer bring value to the conversation. As moms, we do this all the time. Look, I get it. I’m a mama to four little girls. The youngest hasn’t even turned two. They are the best thing about my life. But was I the best part of theirs? I see the smiles returning to their faces when they are around me now. I see the relief, and as much as that breaks my mama heart…I’m so glad that I finally see it. Reading helped give me something to contribute again. We feel as though our lives are boring or others won’t relate. Sometimes it’s easier to relate to a character in a book and mention his or her story in conversation. In my experience, your friend is probably feeling the same way. She is just too afraid to say it out loud.

Let me know if you found this helpful! I’d love for you to follow along. Drop a comment with your favorite book <3.

-The Zombie Mom

 

Dear Alyssa…Do you Really Have to Grow Up?

Motherhood

Dear Alyssa,

You like to remind me every day that it’s getting closer and closer to your 9th birthday. Birthdays are a time to celebrate, and you know that I find any excuse to throw a big party and have all our friends together. But then I reflect on the last year of your life, and it’s always bittersweet. Something about the fact that you are almost T E N is really not okay with me. I know this year hasn’t been the best, but to be honest you probably think that it has. I hope you never lose that light you have to offer the world. You really are something special.

You’re a dreamer. You get that from me. I hope that you never waste time viewing that as a flaw or trying to fit in.

Thank you for telling me it was okay so many times when it really wasn’t. Thank you for seeing the positive in every situation and finding the beauty in this ugly world. I am so proud of you for fighting through your fears. You handled all the struggles of this year with grace, sometimes much better than I could as an adult. Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I hope that you look back at this time and know that everything I did was to protect you.

You’re such a cool kid. I’m not even saying that because you’re my kid. The fact that you still want me to pick you up, spin you around, and “squish” you at almost nine years old makes my mama heart so happy. Your Pokémon pajamas, desire to learn everything possible about sharks, and your independence make me so proud to be your mom.

You know that dance parties require 90s music, that the only way to cure a broken heart is by eating a Snickers ice cream bar, and sprinkling glitter everywhere is just a part of life.

I know it won’t be like this forever. This past year you have learned to play violin, found a love for reading, and gave the best dang soldier performance during the Nutcracker that I’ve ever witnessed. You are so intentional with everything that you do, and sometimes I really do love you so much that it hurts.

You find the best in people, even when they really don’t deserve it. It used to worry me, but after this past year I’ve realized that the world needs more people like you.

Sometimes people need just a little bit of your magic. I know that your smile, despite the worst of odds, made me commit to becoming the best version of myself. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it’s not okay in any sense of the word, but you made me so proud to be your mom by showing everyone what you are made of. Never stop standing up for what is right. You are your only limit, baby girl. I truly believe you can do anything you set your mind to because I’ve watched you do it. I watched you pick up your violin and play when all you wanted to do was hide under your blanket.

I want you to know that I support you. I love hearing all your dreams and no matter how exhausted I am, your energy gives me life. You love to create, and I am so blessed to call you mine.

So many people have told me that kids are resilient, like you can just move on and forget about the trauma you’ve been through. They’re right in a way. You have shown so much strength. But you also have the biggest heart, and you understand things that an eight year old should have no clue about. Sometimes you’re the only adult conversation I have all day. You’re an empath, like me. I want you to know that it’s not easy for me to leave home at night when I know you need me there to feel safe. But I get to spend my days watching you grow.

There have been so many positives this year. You had your first dance recital, you played basketball and had nerf wars. You went to Mexico and swam out in the middle of the ocean and slid down a slide into the water. You jumped off cliffs into the lake. You drove your scooter to your friend’s house all by yourself. You learned your multiplication facts and read your first chapter books.

I won’t ever be ready to see another year go, but I am always up for a new adventure.

Love you allllllll the way to the moon and back,

-The Zombie Mom

How a Room Makeover can Change Everything with DIY Tips

DIY, Mental Health, Motherhood

Back in December, my daughter went through a very public trauma. Our lives were completely turned upside down, and while I can’t go into the specifics of that right now, I can say that her doctor recommended a room makeover for her bedroom. I have four girls. The older three chose to share a room, and before this happened they basically just slept up there and played in the playroom downstairs. I loved having a simple, clutter free space for them to sleep at night. This made cleaning soooo much easier as toys everywhere drives me nuts, BUT it’s super hard to avoid with four kids.

First of all, this kind of wrecked us all emotionally and it was right at Christmas. We had definitely seen better days financially, but you do what you have to do for your kids, right? Alyssa is usually extremely happy, talkative, and has no trouble sleeping because she’s like the energizer bunny all day every day.

Picking the Theme: I wanted something bright with happy colors. My daughter is super obsessed with space, and the younger two really like unicorns, and everything Jojo. It took some time, but between Target, Amazon, the Dollar Store, and Lowe’s we were able to combine this theme and didn’t spend very much money! So here goes!

Glow in the Dark Stars and Twinkle Lights: I ordered these on Amazon and they were very inexpensive. The twinkle lights came in a pack of 6, and we hung them behind her pastel rainbow colored curtains that I’ll get to later. I also picked up a few extra strands of twinkle lights at the dollar store. I pinned these to the higher parts of the ceiling to keep my younger littles from pulling them down.

For the glow in the dark stars, I used spray adhesive to make sure that they stayed on the wall. They came in multiple colors, which really helped with combining the themes of space and unicorn/whimsical. The stars do come with a sticky back, but it took some time to put hundreds of stars on the wall so I only wanted to do this once.

Paint: I love getting Valspar paint samples from Lowe’s. There are always multiple colors to choose from. I used a bright blue, pink, and purple. The samples are less than $5 a piece, and one sample of each color was enough to complete my project. I painted one wall a dual toned blue and pink, and another wall blue, pink, and purple .

For the dual toned wall, I just used painters’ tape to make a line, and since there was nothing (like a bed) going against that wall, I used the glow in the dark stars to make the separation blend a little better.

For the galaxy wall, I painted a spot blue on the wall, and started blending other colors with a grocery sack. I watered the paint down just a little bit since it is pretty think.

Curtains: I got the curtains on Amazon. They are blackout curtains and this was important since I wanted my daughter to feel secure in her room again. These were such a great choice for the focal point of her room and I loved these colors even more in person.

Bedding: Since I have three girls, originally I wanted to get three different color bed spreads, but it was messing with my OCD too much. I ended up purchasing two pink bed spreads and a white bedspread with pops of purple, pink, and blue for my oldest daughter. Her bed is in the middle so it turned out super cute.

Hanging Stars: A couple years ago, I got these huge gold stars from Dollar Tree. They are actually Christmas ornaments, but they look super cute and sparkly (perfect for a little girl’s room(. I picked up a few more white stars at Target (these were also ornaments). I used ribbon that I already had at home and hung them from the ceiling.

I wanted to get the girls a doll house for Christmas and I spent hours looking for the perfect one. I love DIY projects so I thought about fixing up and older dollhouse, but I became obsessed with this one. I watched for sales and got it for about half price closer to Christmas. If they were going to have toys in their room, I wanted them to be cute.

Playhouse/Reading Loft: We had extra wood laying around the garage, so my husband put it together to make a fun reading space for the kiddos. There is a little bookshelf, and the kids grab sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals and whatever else they can find to hang out in there. Alyssa chose some books about space since that’s where she found comfort at the time.

I changed everything about their room, from where their beds were placed, colors, bedding…everything. My aunt and cousin helped out so much and I will forever be grateful. This was at a time when my oldest wasn’t able to sleep at night. I am so glad that she has regained a sense of normalcy through all the chaos.

If you don’t like your story, change it. Don’t just go through it, grow through it. And remember that it takes a village. We are all in this together.

Thanks for following along on our journey!

I hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

-The Zombie Mom