Alone In A Crowded Room – Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

A mom leaves an event full of lovely women, laughter and fun only to stumble through the door at home in tears.

This was me several times last week.

For much of my adult life, I’ve struggled with loneliness. I’m surrounded by people – good people. But often I stand in a crowded room and feel unseen. 

And alone.

As an introvert, large social events and groups tend to be a challenge. I’m much more comfortable with just one or two people. In many groups, I tend to sit back and listen instead of jumping into the conversation. As a result, unless someone asks me a direct question, I may not speak at all. Often, I go home feeling like I had things to say and I regret not speaking.

That regret becomes frustration. That frustration opens old wounds. I don’t feel heard. Or seen.

Did it even matter I was there at all? Familiar feelings of loneliness rise – powerful and painfully real.

Still, other times, these feelings of loneliness rise up out of nowhere, uninvited, and without cause. 

These feelings aren’t based on truth. They are a result of me believing a terrible internal lie – that I wasn’t wanted or needed.

The truth is, I was invited to the event I spoke of earlier. My presence was welcomed. My words and thoughts would have been welcomed as well. No one said or did anything unkind or cold to me. Loneliness doesn’t always show up when it makes sense. Often times, the feelings are real, but they don’t make sense at all.

Why do I still feeling lonely?

Usually it isn’t others who make me feel lonely.

It’s me. 

But that doesn’t change the overwhelming way feelings of loneliness hurt. Experience has shown that left unchecked, loneliness can be paralyzing. Focusing on loneliness robs my days of joy and causes me to pull back from relationships – further perpetuating the problem.

When loneliness surfaces, it is imperative that I take purposeful steps to battle against it. As I said before, I am still struggling (even as I write this) with loneliness and perceived rejection.

These are a few ways I’m learning to address loneliness when it comes up.

Seek God

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

A good friend is a beautiful thing. But no friendship can rid me of loneliness. When I’m lonely, what I need most is more of God. Whether I ‘feel’ His presence or not, I need to press into Him by reading His Word and praying.

When I feel lonely, the enemy’s lies seem like truth. I question my worth. I begin to suppress God’s truth about who God says I am. When this happens, I need to tell God my thoughts, even though they go against what He says.

‘God I know You made me without mistake. I know I am fully loved and fully known by You. Yet, right now I feel inadequate, unloved, unworthy and rejected. I feel so alone and unseen by others. Help me to see myself and this circumstance as you do. Will you help me believe it and walk in truth?’

Often, pouring out feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and self-loathing at God’s feet brings peace. It is hard to be in God’s presence and believe lies. Being with Him opens my eyes to truth and helps my soul rest in His comforting arms.

In the midst of loneliness, the focus is on me. I desperately need to worship God. Worship turns my focus outward and upward. He is still God, and He is good – regardless of any emotion or circumstance I may be in. When I remember God’s character – His goodness, faithfulness and kindness – and how He has revealed Himself to me, it becomes hard to feel alone.

Kari Jobe’s ‘I Am Not Alone‘ has helped me worship this week. What comfort there is in recalling that God never leaves me and always goes before me!

See A Friend

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Isn’t it strange that when struggling with loneliness, I tend to isolate myself?

Isolating myself happens when I believe and accept the lie that no one cares if I’m there or not. In all honesty, even after spending time with God, I sometimes still feel lonely and disconnected. Isolation only makes things worse.

In these moments, I need a good friend. I am grateful to have several women in my life with whom I can share hard things. One friend, in particular comes to mind – she lifts me up, encourages me, and points me to Jesus. We don’t see each other that often, but when we do, it is like no time has passed between us. We do spend time catching up on daily life, but we always spend time talking about what is on our hearts.

Time spent with a good friend lifts the soul.

God gave us the gift of fellowship so we can be mutually encouraged by one another. But we need to be IN fellowship with others to experience it. 

Last week, after a rough morning wrestling with emotions, I called that friend. We met at a park with the kids. Kids played. We took a walk. We talked. I shared my heart – she listened and then spoke truth and kindness into hurting places. I left feeling recharged, refreshed and so very grateful. Time spent with her is life-giving. Friends like this are a priceless gift.

As an introvert, I know I need more one-on-one time with good friends. This time has to be built into my life on a regular basis because life is BUSY. Schedule it. Show up. 

BE A Friend

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Alone In A Crowded Room - Purposeful Steps When Struggling With Loneliness | thisgratefulmama.com

Sometimes we long for deeper friendships, but we haven’t made it our mission to just go out and BE a friend.

Friendship is a two-way street – if we want people to be there for us, we need to be there for them! Cultivating deep relationships takes time and purposeful effort.

Check in with that friend about ‘that thing’ they mentioned last time you talked – the appointment, interview, struggle, celebration or milestone. Notice when a friend is unusually quiet and ask how they are doing. Then be prepared to make time to listen to how they’re really doing. 

Often, I feel the most lonely when I’m busy. Some seasons, like after having a baby, may just be busy. It happens to all of us. But sometimes, we allow good things to make us so busy that there is no margin for people. When this happens, we need to make some adjustments to maintain valuable friendships. Examine your schedule and priorities to be sure you’ve left room for people. 

Let people know you care. Be available to others. Being connected to others in daily life opens the door to have conversations about what is on your heart.

Start with one person. Who will it be?

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A Case For Front Yard Living

A Case For Front Yard Living | thisgratefulmama.com

I know most people spend summer on their deck in the back yard, but I want to share about something different.

Front yard living.

At the end of 2013, we moved into a new construction home. When the brutal subzero winter ended, people emerged and we finally met our neighbors.

One of the greatest benefits about living in a new construction neighborhood is everyone is new – especially the first year. There are no cliques – no long-term established friendships.

Everyone seems friendlier and more eager to meet their neighbors.

Since new houses come with dirt yards and gravel driveways, significant time is spent walking the neighborhood and in the front yard. Few homes have decks right away.

Then driveways go in and sod that can’t be walked on.

The driveway is the yard. Initially, front yard living was necessity.

We spent the first three summers in the front. This is our fourth summer and this summer we built a deck.

This spring, when the deck materials were delivered, a neighbor commented in passing – now we’ll never see you guys anymore. Her comment has stuck with me.

With the excitement of having a new deck – we have been spending a lot of time in the back yard. Backyard living has some great benefits –  convenience, privacy, more space, and in our case, a view. But more time in back means less in the front. 

I love our deck, but there is a great case to be made for front-yard living and it has to do with relationships.

A Case For Front Yard Living | thisgratefulmama.com

Simply put, front yard living creates opportunities to build relationships with neighbors. 

A Case For Front Yard Living

Meet Neighbors – As people pass by, on the way to the mail box or on a walk, simply being in the front yard creates an opportunity to greet and meet neighbors in a natural way. Even the most reserved or shy people are usually open to a friendly wave and smile followed by an introduction. Some may move on quickly, but others will surprise you and stay to chat. Many of these chance introductions have turned into hours of conversations and cherished friendships. 

Kids – This neighborhood is crawling with kids. They walk, bike and scooter by on a regular basis. Regular friendly waves and hellos or meeting them briefly when they walk by with their parents let them know we’re safe adults if they need something. We’ve helped with minor scrapes, calling parents, and bike chains.  Front yard living has also helped us build relationships with kids who play with our kids on a regular basis. It is amazing how long a child will stand and talk to us while all the other kids are playing – they tell us stories, about their weekend or school day, and what activities they’re involved in. Relationships with neighborhood kids are important to us – these kids are precious family friends.

Fun – In back, kids are usually in the yard and adults are up on the deck. Separate. (Don’t get me wrong – separate can be lovely). In the front, we’re in close-proximity. Our kids are more likely to invite us to join their fun, or join us if we’re all in the yard. More spontaneous water fights, and games of catch, 4-square, and soccer happen in the front yard with our kids and whoever else joins in. A water table, bubbles, and sidewalk chalk are magnets for other kids and their imaginations.

Regular connections – Being in the front means we see neighbors coming, going and passing by. These brief interactions allow for regular, natural connections. We have the chance to enter into real-life with our neighbors. We learn what is on their minds and what is going on in their lives – the good, bad, sad, stressful, joyful and real happenings of daily life. I am always grateful to learn these things from a face-to-face conversation than on Facebook, Instagram, or text. 

Lend a hand – Being out front means we get to see when others need help – unloading or loading something heavy, watching a small child so they can run into the house for something quick, changing a tire, lending a tool or holding a ladder, or providing a missing ingredient. These chances to help are invaluable gifts – relationships are often forged in these types of experiences. We are blessed to be able to step in and help when we can.

We ARE enjoying our deck and the benefits of back yard living. But, front yard living still holds significant value.

Front yard living has allowed us to join our neighbors in real-life. We have been blessed as so many have stepped into the messiness of life with us through the conversations of front-yard living.

We plan to continue making time to be out front, experiencing and building community in our neighborhood.

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 (ESV)

To love your neighbor as yourself, you have to first get to know them.

A Case For Front Yard Living | thisgratefulmama.com

10 Practical Helps For A Mom With A Newborn and Older Children

10 Practical Helps For A Mom With A Newborn And Older Children | thisgratefulmama.com

In the past 2 months since our third child was born, we have gratefully received help from family, neighbors and friends. Help from others has been key to helping our family adjust and survive.

You guys, we have been so blessed!

I’d like to share 10 of my favorite ways people have helped our family. Every new mama and her family deserves to be blessed as we have been!

 

10 Practical Ways To Help A Mom With A Newborn and Other Children

  1. Bring Food – Bringing a meal is a great way to bless the whole family. Not a great cook? It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it doesn’t have to be dinner. You could bring muffins or donuts for breakfast, sandwiches and soup for lunch, fresh fruit and veggies for healthy snacks, or dinner. ALL will be appreciated and helpful. Remember to ask if the family has any food allergies before you shop.
  2. Do Chores – Ask if you help around the house. Don’t take ‘No’ for an answer! A new mom’s brain is focused on her baby and family, not housework! If nothing comes to mind, find something to do before you leave – empty the dishwasher, wash dishes, sweep or mop the floor, clean a bathroom, take out the trash, water the flowers, fold laundry, or mow the lawn.
  3. Bless Older Children – Obviously baby requires a lot of mom’s attention that used to be spent on other children. This is an adjustment for older kids, and can leave any mama feeling guilty. One of the best ways to bless mom is to bless her children – play with them, take them on a walk, to the park, or out to lunch. The kids will soak up the love and attention. Another way to help is to lend a helping hand at dinner or bedtime (or both!). Babies are often fussy in the evenings and when mom is often in the most demand from other children.
  4. Help Run Errands – A baby car seat in the shopping cart really hinders what can fit in the cart. If mom can’t fit it all, she’ll have to do multiple trips per week, or struggle to pull a cart while she pushes the stroller. Offer to go to the store with her and push an extra cart. Then, help unload and put away groceries while she feeds the baby. Or, ask if you can run an errand for them.
  5. Babysit for Doctor Visits – Taking older, healthy children to the pediatrician’s germ infested office for a healthy baby visit is almost guaranteed to produce a sick child within the week. Offer to watch older children for an hour while mom and baby go alone to the doctor.
  6. Pray – Prayer for the new mom and family is a gift with eternal value. Pray for a peaceful baby and household, for mom to heal quickly and fully after delivery, for baby to eat well, and for the whole family to adjust quickly. Oh, and for sleep. Lots of sleep. The family may never know you are praying if you don’t tell them, so bless them even more by letting them know you are faithfully lifting them up.
  7. Listen – Instead of jumping in with advice, just listen. Advice may be appropriate, but often, a new mom just wants to be heard – to know that someone else knows what they are going through. Don’t assume you know what they mean by things like ‘the baby never sleeps’ or ‘cries all day’. Ask questions to really understand so you can respond appropriately. Sometimes a new mom does needs advice, but some times they just need a hug or other practical helps.
  8. Encourage – After listening, share what you see they are doing well. If you know they are struggling, send a text message or email. Call them often, whether they call you back or not. Tell them you are proud of them, cheering them on, and praying for them. My favorite words of encouragement have come recently via text.  Family and family have told me they were praying for me, and have shared scripture to encourage me. Words are powerful!
  9. Extend Extra GraceWhen they don’t call, text or email back, be ok with it. They are tired, busy and you aren’t being singled out. If they are like me, they are investing in their older children or husband when they have a free moment. Rest assured, normal communication will resume once they get their feet underneath them again. Oh, and some sleep. Zombies can’t carry on coherent phone conversations. Be gracious, and don’t give up on them.
  10. Car Pool – If your children are in the same activities, offer to give them a ride to and from so the parents can have a little break. OR, offer to go with the family and help load the kids in the car. Cheering for the kids will give them a boost and mom will appreciate the company and help with logistics.

 

Now…go find a new mama to bless. She will be oh, so grateful.

What is your go-to way to help a new mom?

DIY Snow Day Survival Kit

DIY Snow Day Survival Kit | thisgratefulmama.com

Somehow, Christmas has passed, and I haven’t given all our gifts yet. I’m not sure how it happened, but it did.

I love giving gifts and am usually done with cards and gifts long before Christmas arrives. And to this list-making, pre-planning girl…procrastination is rather uncomfortable.

I woke up this morning with the NEED to get things done. Time to kick procrastination to the curb.

Better late than never?

For a handful of friends, I’m putting together Snow Day Survival Kits with an assortment of goodies to keep them warm on a snowy day.

Good thing we FINALLY got measurable snow in MN this week.

Simple, warm and tasty.

Each DIY Snow Day Survival Kit includes:

  • Plastic storage container (Hello, dollar section of Target)
  • Hot Chocolate Mix (Packets of Starbucks Salted Caramel and Starbucks Peppermint hot chocolate and/or small tin of specialty hot chocolate)
  • Plain Marshmallows in cellophane bag
  • Peppermint Marshmallows in cellophane bag
  • Chocolate Covered Spoons (homemade using plastic spoons dipped in melted baking chocolate – dry on wax paper then wrap each chocolate end individually in plastic before packaging in cellophane bag)
  • Baking Mix (Brownie, Blondie or Cookie Mix)
  • Caramel Corn or Popcorn

The marshmallows and chocolate spoons were hand-packaged in cellophane bags. Labels were created using PicMonkey and attached with ribbon.

labels for snow day

What you include in a Snow Day Survival Kit may vary depending on the recipient. The kits we made went to families with small children. If you are looking for other ideas, there are plenty of ways to personalize this gift!

Ideas to Personalize a Snow Day Survival Kit:

 

Our family Christmas card and the note below were included in each gift.

Snow Day Survival Kit

These were fun and simple to put together and I think they turned out pretty cute.

DIY Snow Day Survival Kit | thisgratefulmama.com

Hopefully they bring some warmth and fun to our friends on the next snow day.

Merry Christmas!

DIY Snow Day Survival Kit | thisgratefulmama.com

 

Practice Gratitude – And An Invitation.

Practice Gratitude - And An Invitation

 

As I wrote last year, I firmly believe that Thanksgiving is more than a meal with Turkey. In 2014, our family placed an extra focus on gratitude during the month of November. Our son and I filled out gratitude calendars. It was amazing to hear how our 4-year-old son could verbalize what he was thankful for and to also hear him do it with far more variation than I expected.

October was a busy month, filled with a rotation of colds and coughs, apple picking, bonfires, fun activities, a trip to Maine to visit family and rejoice at the wedding of our nephew, and culminated with the return to Minnesota and the celebration of our son’s fifth birthday. It was a whirl-wind.

In fact, October was so busy that I feel like November snuck up on me. I woke up this morning in a day-light-savings haze and realized it was ALREADY November. We were already one day behind!

There are 23 days until Thanksgiving, 52 days until Christmas, and 59 days until New Years Day.

Our plan for 2015 is similar to last year, only we will practice gratitude from now until 2016. If we had started yesterday, it would be an even 60 days, but 59 will have to do. Perhaps next year I will be a little more proactive.

Instead of the gratitude calendar we made and used last year, we are going to try a gratitude tree. I’m excited to go out and find the ‘tree’ this week, but in the meantime, we’ll record our gratitude on little notes to hang when the tree is ready. I can’t wait to share it with you!

It may have to be a big tree to support our family’s notes for 60 days! Perhaps we need one per person…

So, what does it mean to practice gratitude for 60 days? 

Let’s start with defining practice and gratitude according to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary.

prac·tice (verb): perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.

grat·i·tude (noun): the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

In essence, we are choosing to develop the quality of being thankful by practicing it repeatedly through the New Year. With the busy-ness of the holiday season, it is easy to get caught up in To-Do lists, and all kinds of good activities. Although the season is fun, filled with family and friends and twinkling lights, sometimes we lose sight of just how much we have already, because we are focused on what we have to DO.

By focusing on what and who we are thankful for, we create a pattern of reflecting on what we already have. We will more readily see the blessings in life despite and through our circumstances, and more easily and habitually GIVE THANKS to others. From experience, the effect is uplifting, joyful, and WORTH IT. 

And why would we do this?

Because we have MUCH to be thankful for.

We have MANY people to thank.

We have a Lord who deserves ALL our gratitude and praise.

We will strive to emulate a passage of scripture that is very dear to my heart:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 And so…

I’ll be posting our daily gratitude on the thisgratefulmama Facebook page for the next 59 days. I would love to share this journey with you. Will you join us? 

 

Grateful.

Grateful | thisgratefulmama.com

It’s Monday.

Before jumping headfirst into the week, why don’t we just take a moment to be joyful in this moment?

As I consider all that is before me, and all behind me, I am left with one simple yet profound word.

Grateful.

The weekend did not go as planned. A little one had a fever so instead of a weekend packed with activities and friends, it was packed with…us. Just our little family. And it was lovely. I am grateful for moments of extra snuggles, silliness, quiet, and even the tears.

After a month filled with researching and wrestling with a large decision, today I find myself feeling that peace that transcends all understanding. Not ‘peace and quiet’, but that deep peace and rest that comes only when I realize that God has me exactly where He wants me to be.

Right here.

This is where I belong. I am doing what He has called me to do.

What more could a girl want?

As I look back on the past month, I see God’s handiwork in my relationships and circumstances. Woven into daily life, sometimes into the tiniest of details. I see how the challenges of the past month have deepened my relationship with God, with loved family and friends. Challenge has a way of penetrating your soul, requiring and releasing new levels of authenticity in relationships.

The result has been the rich blessing of stronger faith, and stronger, more authentic relationships.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose – Romans 8:28

What. A. Promise.

As I start this Monday. This week. I am grateful for so much:

My Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Who loves me. Died for me. And lives so that I may find life abundant.

My husband and best friend who provides for this family selflessly and generously. He is my favorite person on this planet and I am so grateful I get to live out my days with him.

These sweet children. Their smiles, curiosity, playful joy and even their testing of boundaries as they learn about life. I am grateful for the way their eyes shine when we tell them of Jesus. And for their hugs as their little arms squeeze as tight as they can when they greet me each morning – It doesn’t get much better than this.

Our family. Parents and grandparents who want the best for our family and are helping hands, wise counsel, and listening ears. Siblings who listen and speak truth into situations in ways only they can. And who provide support, encouragement, and who check in often. Family who choose to be more involved than just the occasional family get-together.

Friends. Neighbors. Church. O my.

We are so blessed. People we can be ourselves with. Who know and see us as we are, and still love us.

My friends, this is a beautiful life.

Today is a new day.

A new week.

Let it begin with JOY.

Grateful.

Too High or Too Low…Beware of Setting Irrational Holiday Expectations (and 6 Tips to Maintain a Realistic Mindset)

too high or too low

We’ve all done it. We develop expectations of our children, friends, family and of events only to be disappointed.

It could be an event we’re attending, or one we’re hosting.

It starts innocently. We pencil in a date on a calendar to go on a date, celebrate with family, attend an event, or just spend time with friends or family. We get excited.

Don’t get me wrong, being excited is a GOOD thing. In fact, if I’m spending time with someone, I WANT to look forward to it.

BUT. Sometimes, this excitement transforms into something unpleasant…and sometimes, into something downright ugly.

In our excitement, we start thinking of all the fun things that can happen,  and how lovely we will feel. Of course, we assume everyone there will be just as excited as us.

That would be a good place to STOP.

But often, we start to get carried away. We begin to assume that our version of events is what will work best for everyone. We jump down a rabbit hole and imagine everything we anticipate in vivid color. Our imagination skews the event to fit our personal desires and we anticipate something PERFECT.

Perfect is a dangerous word.

Perhaps we think our children will be elated with an activity, even if they’ve never done it before. We just know our family will make lasting memories and how everyone will never forget them.

Of course, everyone will be on their best behavior, our daughter will nap, and even if the kids go to bed late, it will be fine because everyone is having SO. Very. Much. FUN!

This daydream becomes our EXPECTATION for real life.

These types of expectations are not just silly, they are irrational.

Now, if something goes wrong, we’ve built things up in our mind so much that we may now find ourselves in the place of disappointment. We may end up trying to make others do our bidding, instead of just enjoying the moments as they happen.

OR, conversely, maybe the problem is not perfect expectations, but no expectation at all. Sometimes, we have such low expectations we assume NOTHING will go well, and we dread the event all together.

Do you ever find yourself dreading an event? Perhaps you booked it a while ago and now you don’t feel like going. Or maybe you booked so many things that now the next event just feels like just a hassle. Perhaps it is across town, late at night, or you are tired from a long week and just want to stay home.

There is plenty of danger here too.

When we expect the worst, we are likely to show up with such a poor attitude, that we may rob others of joy. We put ourselves in the mindset that something will NOT be fun, and then we’re surprised when we do not have fun.

We may take for granted, and poison someone’s efforts, good intentions and goodwill. 

Bad attitudes are infectious.

So what ARE we to do? I think there are a few practical tips we can follow.

6 Tips

6 Tips to Maintain a Realistic Mindset:

1. Choose to Have Fun

Walk into the event with an attitude that YOU will choose to have fun, regardless of what happens. No matter how many daydreams you’ve perfected, set them aside and CHOOSE joy, regardless of what happens, who comes (or doesn’t come), who throws a tantrum, or who leaves early. If you’ve simply decided the event will not be fun, stop, check your bad attitude at the door, and CHOOSE to go into it with an open mind, and to find something or someone you enjoy. Remember, Christmas isn’t about you, or your family, or your friends…it is about JESUS. Having that in mind will make it hard to be focused on your desires. Also, be wary of dragging others into your poor expectations, because it will be more difficult to break free and enjoy yourself while you’re commiserating with someone else. Find someone who is having fun, and join in their fun. Misery loves company, but so does JOY!

2. Leave Room For Spontaneity

While is nice to have some back up activities or ice breakers to use in case the party gets slow, don’t have everything so planned out that you leave no room for spontaneity. Go with the flow and don’t force something that seems to put a halt to good that’s already happening. Be open to others ideas and suggestions and if you don’t get to everything, be OK with it. Put your efforts into helping everyone else have fun, and you will too!

3. Laugh It Off

Often times, the worst thing you imagine happening (a burnt dinner, saying the wrong thing, or something else totally unexpected) becomes a topic for laughter for years to come. It’s all about how you handle it. Sometimes it is hard when something we worked hard on doesn’t turn out, or we find ourselves embarrassed. But, it can be done, regardless of what happens. When something goes wrong (and let’s be honest, something will go wrong), choose to make light of it, and move on to enjoying the moment.

4.  It’s Not About the Event, It’s About The Company

It isn’t about the perfect meal, activity, or gift. The joy is in the people who are there with you. Spend time with THEM instead of analyzing whether your plan is going well or if they are living up to any expectation you may have had. All these people came to the event and most of them are probably in a pretty good mood and hoping to have fun.

5. When It Comes to Children, Expect NOTHING!

Two years ago we took our son to Big Truck Day. He loves trucks and we expected him to be elated, to laugh, and to, well, love it. What happened? He cried most of the time, overwhelmed by all the people and noise, and we left with him screaming when he saw a person dressed up like Curious George (who was apparently TERRIFYING). Just because the idea is well-intention-ed and seems like a great fit, doesn’t mean a child will see it the same way you do. And, anytime sleep is lost, or over-stimulation is possible, give them a lot of room to act however they are feeling. Instead, take a step back and let their reaction surprise you, and marvel at how unique they are.

6. Be OK Staying Home, or Leaving Early

Just because you scheduled it doesn’t mean you have to go. Sometimes we have simply over-committed and taking a little time at home may be enough to set your mood right for the rest of the season. So, if your kids are over-tired, over-stimulated, ill, or if YOU are in that same place, it is OK to just stay home. It is your choice to attend or not. The people who invited you to the event love you, and while they want you there, they will understand if you can’t come. Be respectful: use tact, and honesty, and communicate using your VOICE not a text message or email. Perhaps you aren’t comfortable not attending. That is OK too. Go with an open mind, have fun for a while, and then bow out early. Or, if you find yourself where your children are falling apart, or you are falling apart or are detracting from the mood of the event, call it a night.