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Archive for the ‘As a Parent….’ Category

A mom recently made a list of 44 things she wanted her kids to learn before they hit adulthood, which is something we should all think about as we’re raising our own future adults. I know for me, there are certainly some major values and skills I want for their lives. So without further ado, here are 15 things I hope to instill in my kids before they hit their adult years.

P.S. Have any you want to share from your own list? Leave it in the comments!

1. Honesty is always the best policy. Best way to not be caught up in a lie is to not do anything worth lying about. But if you do find yourself in a situation where you’re tempted to fib your way out, DON’T. It might make things uncomfortable in the moment, but trust me, you’ll be better for it in the long run.

2. The first step to something great will likely feel insignificant. This goes for anything – learning a new skill, saving money, beginning a new project… But it especially goes for getting a new job. You cannot expect to enter the workforce and be given an impressive job title and high salary right off the bat. The reality is you will probably be paid far less than you want to be paid for a job that only hints at your interests – if you’re lucky to get that close to your dream job. Do it anyway. Even the most successful chefs started out washing dishes in the back. With experience comes knowledge, and that will help you not only learn more about where you want to be in life, but will help others easily recognize your potential. Which brings me to #3….

3. Take pride in your work. I don’t care if it’s sweeping the floor, working a minimum wage job, or climbing the corporate ladder – always put your best effort into what you are doing. After all, if you can’t handle the smallest of tasks with finesse, what makes you think you can handle the bigger ones?

4. Handle your money like an adult, not a kid. Keep your checkbook balanced. Do not rely on credit to get the things you want. Save for expected expenses, and unexpected ones, too. Never pay a bill past its due date. Avoid borrowing money like the plague (but if you must borrow, always pay it back). Live only as large as a portion of your paycheck – not the whole thing, and definitely not more than you make. And regularly give to charity.

5. Learn to cook one meal really, really well. By all means, learn to cook in general. But find that one dish that will impress. There will come a day when you will need to pull that ace out of your sleeve (cooking for your significant other’s parents, inviting the boss over for dinner, contributing to a dinner party…). Wouldn’t it be nice to be prepared beforehand?

6. Do your best to only speak about your spouse in kindness. Not only will badmouthing your spouse kill your marriage, it will also kill your friendships. Trust me, there is nothing funny about being stuck in a room with someone who can only say snarky things about their husband or wife, even in jest. It’s just uncomfortable and terrible, and no way to treat a person you love.

7. Never stop learning. Read lots of books, take a class, learn a new language, study a culture or religion, challenge yourself to a new word a day, pay attention to the news of your community/state/country/world…. Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” This is truth. Live by it.

8. Figure out your passion. And once you do, don’t let life get in your way of pursuing that passion. If you love singing, then join a choir or band. If you’re a writer, join a writing group. If you’re an artist, take classes. If you love to build things, go fishing, play golf, then do it!

9. Make time for fun. Once we get into adulthood, sometimes this part is forgotten. There’s a job to go to, a house to clean, bills to pay, errands to run, committees we signed up for, a family to care for, life to contend with… All of those things are important. But so are you. Schedule in a portion of your week when you can enjoy the things you like to do so you can be a better worker, friend, mom or dad, etc.

10. Treat everyone as you wish to be treated. We all want love, kindness, equality, generosity, honesty, dependability, and more wonderful traits from the people around us. Be this to the world, and the world will be this to you.

But on the same token…

11. Do not give anyone permission to walk all over you. You are your best advocate. Stand up for what you believe is right.

12. Abuse is never okay. Be it hitting, using derogatory names, or making dangerous threats, these are not the actions of someone in love. These are actions of someone who wishes to control their partner. If you are tempted to take these actions against someone else, get help immediately. If someone is mistreating you, get out of the relationship. Don’t walk, RUN. Because if you stay, you are giving that person permission to treat you in a way no one should be treated. You cannot change them. It is not your job to change them. But it is your job to look out for your own safety, because no one is going to do it for you.

13. Appearances DO matter. Sure, we say beauty lies on the inside. But can a potential employer really see the inner beauty of the person they are interviewing? First impressions can never be taken back, regardless of the situation. So always leave the house wearing clean clothes. Keep your hair and teeth brushed. Shower regularly. And seriously think about where you place artistic expressions on your body.

14. Don’t forget me when you leave the nest. I want you to be independent and make it on your own. That is my biggest goal for you when you leave this house to create a home of your own. But call me once in awhile, okay? Let me know how you’re doing. Keep me in the loop about what’s important to you, what you’re struggling with, who your friends are, what’s going on in your life. I’m your mom, and I always will be. And you’re one of my favorite people in the whole world. Keep in touch.

15. Love your sister/brother. He/she shares your history. He/she is your closest link to our family. Be there for each other, celebrate each other’s families, cheer each other on. Don’t ever take your sibling for granted. When I leave this world, nothing will make me happier than knowing you have each other to lean on.

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Naughty boy2
I recently became enamored with a Points List that a mother used when her kid got grounded. Basically, the mother created a list of things her child could do to get off groundation, each task attached to a certain number of points. Once the child reached 500 points, they were done being grounded.

I think this parenting hack is brilliant, mostly because it puts the length of the grounding into the child’s hands, and they’re learning several things in the process:
– How to strategically rack up the points to finish faster (hint: the larger items aren’t always the best way to get there)
– Motivation to do lots of chores without procrastinating
– That getting in trouble really isn’t worth it

My son has had his Xbox taken away for pretty much the whole school year because his grades slipped past the point of being acceptable. The rule was he could get them back as soon as he brought his grades back up. However, today is the last day of school, and his grades never budged.

I’ll be honest – I hate punishing my kid. And with summertime here and no way of him getting his grades back up until school started, I really wanted a way to give him back his game system. However, he still needed to earn those grades back.

In came the Points List (click to enlarge).

On the list, there are a few items to take note of.

The first is the one 50-point item: deep cleaning his room. My son’s room is a disaster area, and it will probably take him a full day to get the job done. This is why it has so many points attached to it. And while every other item on the list is stuff he can choose between to do, this is the one item I have made mandatory.

The second is “G-rated Lucas.” Like most 13-year-old boys, my son finds humor in some of the grossest or inappropriate things. 24 hours of no potty-talk is totally worth 15 points to me.

Third is the large list of 5-point items, particularly the letter writing items. He can probably whip up every single one of those items in one day, which will add up to a lot in a very short time. But I thought it would be a nice touch for his grandparents to get a nice note from him. Also, Ella is a little girl we know who is working very hard on her reading. How awesome would it be to receive a letter from a 13-year-old friend?

Fourth is the 20 points for reading Forever Thirteen and writing a book report. Yes, I am shamelessly enticing my son to read the book I wrote through a points system.

Fifth are the negative points. While the majority of the list are items that can help him earn his Xbox back, there are a few things that will keep him from earning it back as fast. This was my chance to try and turn around a few of his pesky bad habits – like sneaking food in his room or borrowing without asking.

And there you have it. If you’d like to download a copy of your own Points List, here is a link to mine in a Word Doc so that you can change it as you see fit: Wine Country Mom Chores Points List

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SAHM1

This week, the blogging world exploded when Amy Glass blatantly put down stay at home moms (SAHMs) when she wrote a blog titled “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry“.

Here are a few token quotes:

“Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself? There’s no way those two things are the same. It’s hard for me to believe it’s not just verbally placating these people so they don’t get in trouble with the mommy bloggers.”

“You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.”

What can I say about Amy Glass?

Well, first, what can I say about my own experience?

I am one of the lucky moms who have experienced both SAHM-dom and being a working mom. Both have their perks. Both also have their downfalls. As a working mom, I look with envy at SAHMs. I’m envious that they have time to make their kids lunches every day before school, and are home to help them with homework when the kids get home. I’m jealous that they get to join the PTA, or volunteer in the classroom, or have the time to really investigate what’s going on when Johnny’s grades start slipping. Some of the SAHMs I know are the ones whose kids look the most put together, and have socks that actually match, while you can see my kid’s socks peeking through his holey sneakers because I haven’t actually found the time to take him shoe shopping.

I feel like I’d have so much more time as a SAHM. But then I remember what the reality was.

I did the stay-at-home mom thing in the first year of my daughter’s life, and in the first several months of my son’s. We moved to a new city and I had no friends. I spent my whole day being mom, talking to babies, cleaning up messes, keeping the kids entertained…. I was jealous of my husband who got to go out and make a living and talk to other adults while I stayed home in sweats and smelling of spit-up. I had dreams, too. But those got put on the back burner while my husband became the breadwinner, and I kept the home straight. My expertise became vested in keeping the household running and the kids thriving. But my self-worth? It mistakenly plummeted. I felt like I a big fat nobody. I mean, how do you incorporate your homemaker skills onto a resume? How do you keep up with the world when the majority of your news media exists on PBS, Disney, and Nickelodeon? How do you not feel jealous when you see attractive women exiting their cars to walk towards their big office jobs, wearing pencil skirts and carrying briefcases, when I’m juggling a baby on my hip and breakfast remnants in my hair?

It was our meager finances that finally dictated my need for a job. But honestly, I was relieved to get back to the work force and take a break from the littles. My new job became my vacation from my real job. And whenever I get a little jealous over a few of my friends who are lucky to be able to stay home with their kids, I remember how much I suck at keeping a stay-at-home schedule, and how hard it was to get time off from a job that was pretty much around the clock.

Mom kidsAs I reflect on this opinion that Ms. Glass has, I can’t help but feel like she wrote it simply to attract a ton of attention to her blog, and nothing else. I mean, if you look now, there are more than 10,000 comments both applauding her stance and blasting her words. However, I feel sorry for her too, because it’s apparent she feels the need to bring herself attention by slamming a whole group of people for a significant choice in their life – a choice that means the world to their family.

And I can also only guess that she doesn’t have children. If she did, she’d understand the miracle that exists in their very first breath, and the way it feels to see the world through their eyes, and the Jekyll and Hyde emotions of wanting to strangle said kid when they’re being total buttheads while simultaneously willing to give them her very last breath if it meant they could keep on living. She’d understand the sacrifice that goes into being a SAHM, of sometimes feeling like the world is on one realm while she’s stuck in the land of tikes, even while understanding that this is where it is most important for her to be. She’d understand what it’s like to give up a career and a paycheck, throwing herself into her child’s future instead. She’d understand that fine balance of devoting time to the family while keeping her self-worth, and the daily struggle of not putting her whole entire identity into being the mom of her child.

I guess I can’t be mad at her, either, though I do feel a little judgey about her writing such an obvious ploy piece to gather hits for her blog. I can’t fault her. I clicked. I read. I’m responding.

Truthfully, no person – mom, or not – should be looked down upon for their life choice if that is what their calling is meant to be. If you are meant to backpack Asia, awesome! If you’re meant to work full time while also raising a family, good job! And if you devote your time to your kids as a stay at home mom, fantastic!

We all would do better to pull each other up instead of putting each other down.

Note: I became aware of this post by Amy Glass when my cousin posted her own rebuttal. She is much more eloquent than I am, and definitely more forgiving. Read what she has to say HERE.

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I have a 12-year-old son who is a 7th grader this year. Like most 7th grade boys, my son’s actions don’t necessarily involve a lot of thought. Just this week alone, he decided that buying and consuming a Monster energy drink right before bed was a good idea, skipping his chores and lying about them being done was perfectly acceptable, yelling at his stepdad would have no repercussions, and leaving the house and not coming back until after 8 p.m. (with no cell phone or note) was okay.

And in the past month or so, he has also pointed his fingers at other cars while I’ve been driving, pretending to shoot at them.

replica gunYesterday, our county was rocked by the news that a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed by the police in a southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood. The first reports spoke of a man carrying assault weapons who was shot down. But the developing story evolved, and it became clear that no would-be murderer was killed – it was just a boy, carrying “toy” guns, or rather, replicas of real guns.

I can’t comment on who is at fault in this situation. There just isn’t enough information yet about what went down in the time when this kid was spotted, and when he was fired upon. But I do know that nerves are rattled at the recent news of a boy the same age who brought a gun to his Nevada school, injuring two students and killing a teacher before turning the gun on himself. I know that there are news stories all over the nation of kids who are capable of heinous crimes. And I know that a boy around the age of 13 would think nothing of carrying around a toy gun that looked exactly like the real thing – because they’d WANT it to look like the real thing.

This morning, I sat down with my son and told him about this 13-year-old boy’s death and his family’s tragedy. I took the opportunity to discuss how there is nothing funny about pretend violence – how it can actually lead to something tragic like this. And I laid out some firm guidelines for him:

– Never go out in public carrying anything that might look like a real weapon. Nerf guns are one thing – their bright colors and odd shape makes them apparent they’re just a toy. But anything that is supposed to look real can be mistaken for the real thing, and could get you injured or killed.

– Never point your fingers at anyone else to look like a gun. You don’t know who you’re pointing at, and it could have the real thing pointed back at you in return.

– Always, ALWAYS respect the law and those employed to enforce it.

This boy’s death is a tragedy for his family, and for our community. There are no words to describe the sorrow I feel for everyone involved in this devastating event. Yes, there was a time when a kid wouldn’t get shot for carrying something that is only meant to look like a weapon. But times have changed. Even “just playing around” can be deemed unsafe.

I urge all parents to take a moment and speak with your kids about the importance of weapon safety – even if that “weapon” is just pretend.

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I’m currently in the process of taking old posts of mine and putting them together in a book.  Right now I’m working on posts I wrote in 2009 – the days when I was a single mom with two kids and had just met my Mr. Wonderful.  Today I edited one of my favorite inspirational posts, one with advice I have given many times over to lots of moms – whether single or not.

How to regain your sense of self instead of placing your whole identity in your kids.

(P.S. I just wrote an article for the newspaper on a mom, on a journey through fashion, who emphasized this truth as well.  Check it out HERE)

Look for this chapter in my upcoming book on single parenting!

THE FINE ART OF BEING SELFISH (excerpt)

When kids are young, we as moms become totally immersed in motherhood. Suddenly everything is about the kids. It’s our tendency to go from being totally involved in ourselves, our work, our marriage, and our friendships – to being involved solely in our kids. Upon the arrival of these little beings, our whole world suddenly revolves around them.

It’s hard to break away from that.

I was no exception. For most of my married life, I was a stay at home mom. I volunteered at my daughter’s preschool. I carted the kids every single place I needed to go. I gave up going out at night in favor of staying with the kids. I sacrificed my personal interests and dreams one by one as interests and dreams wrapping around them took their place.

I was a mom. That was my name, my identity, and my world.

Most days the kids were the only beings on earth that heard my voice. I’m not saying that this is how it is supposed to be in motherhood, or even that most moms suddenly mutate into this being that resembles more gray than any other color. But that’s what happened to me.

For me, it took a divorce to shake me out of the clutches of “hermitting” into motherhood. It was jarring when my kids spent their first weekend away from me with their dad. I knew that I was aching to have a break, to not have anyone to worry about other than myself. But once that happened, I had no idea what to do with myself. How did I survive before the kids came along? What did I do with myself and my time? Suddenly there were too many hours in the day, and the world was much too quiet. I knew I needed to do something with this gifted time, but what? I didn’t have a lot of friends, having let a lot of friendships go to the wayside as my focus changed. And I really hadn’t done much else but kids’ activities in the past several years.

I needed a plan.

End of excerpt. Read the rest in the eBook “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows“.

 

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This post will publish in the Press Democrat on Friday, Feb. 22.

I hate school projects. There. I’ve said it. I’ve often felt like it was more homework for the parents than it is for the kids. Yes, I understand that school projects are meant to be for the kids. But please tell that to the students who bring in the projects they worked on all by themselves only to be shown up by the child whose architect father built an exact replica of the Golden Gate Bridge out of toothpicks.

True story.

At any rate, I am not a parent who does my child’s project for them. But I do have to sit and hold my child’s hand from start to finish on these projects just to get them done, feeding him ideas because he just can’t come up with them on his own. I suppose these projects are meant to help kids learn in a more fun way. However, forcing a child to sit for hours during the weekend as I suffer through glue gun burns while talking him off the ledge is anything but fun.

Recently my son, Taz, brought home a packet of papers detailing the upcoming science fair. He had a choice to either do homework during this time or create an elaborate project. Of course, he chose the project because it’s “more fun” than homework. In the meantime, I suffered flashbacks of every project we’d done in his 12 years of life.

One year, Taz had to create a report on different leaves he found. He was to collect about twenty leaves, dry them, and then tell a story about where he found them. Sounds like a sweet project, doesn’t it? Wrong. Between his tears and whining and my threats that he’d never see the light of day again until this project was done, I don’t think either one of us wanted to see a leaf ever again. Even now I shudder a little when autumn comes around.

In 4th grade, Taz was given the infamous Mission project. For kids with parents who know how to build, this must have been a blast. For me, it was a really bad joke. The book he brought home from the library with the instructions on how to build a California Mission from scratch was totally wrong in all the measurements. I had to stretch my brain to capacity to figure out what the measurements were supposed to be so that the building would actually stay intact. Then I used way too much hot glue, both on my fingers and on the house, because I just couldn’t trust him with the tool.

mission

This year, my son was given a month of lead-time before the project was due. Taz had chosen an experiment that compared the growth of sugar and salt crystals, which he assured me was very quick and promised we had plenty of time to finish it. Since he is now in sixth grade, I took him at his word.

A week passed by, and then another. The science fair project was pushed to the back of my mind as it slipped off my radar. But when I received the teacher’s reminder that the project was due in five days, I began to hyperventilate. She happily noted that we were probably already done with the experiment, and just needed to finish the poster over the weekend. But we hadn’t even started. Even worse, through research we learned that sugar and salt crystals take 7-10 days to properly grow.

We were so in trouble.

Actually, the Taz was the one who was in trouble. But as his parent, I couldn’t help feeling responsible that I hadn’t pushed harder for him to get this done much sooner. I dragged him to the store to gather up all the materials he needed to finish the project and make a beautiful poster to go with it. Then the two of us went to work setting up jars of water, one with salt and one with sugar, and a stick for them to grow on in each.

The first day, the salt one began to crystallize on the stick while the sugar one did nothing. The second day, the salt one grew a tiny bit more. The sugar one did nothing. The third day, the salt one was still slowly growing while the sugar one was asleep at the wheel.

The science fair was two days away and the experiment had failed. There wasn’t enough time to start over. We were forced to make a choice – keep going and hope that something would happen in the nick of time, or scrap the whole experiment and do something completely different.

That was how we discovered which household item cleans pennies the best.

The completed poster

The completed poster

Have I mentioned how much I hate school projects?

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This article will be published in the Press Democrat on Friday, February 8.

A friend of mine had to teach a group of teenagers about how seeds travel so they can germinate. Her challenge: how to teach about the topic and also keep these technology driven kids interested for more than an hour.

As a crafts teacher for younger children, her natural talents were geared towards more artistic activities. So my friend utilized her skills and had the teens decorate “seeds,” or in this case, wine corks that would represent seeds. You should have seen how fast those teens grabbed at stickers, paint daubers and colorful pens to decorate their corks.

Then my friend took the teens to the local creek. The teens were instructed to throw their corks in the water and watch as they got closer and closer to the finish line/collection point my friend had put at the end of the race, where the corks could be retrieved. The teens got really into it, following their “seeds” as some corks flowed downstream easily while others got stuck behind rocks. In the process, all of the kids not only learned something new but were entertained beyond their smartphones, MP3 players and video games.

Sometimes it takes a little bit of creativity to “trick” youngsters into having fun away from their electronic toys.

One of the hardest parts of raising kids is knowing how to keep them entertained. It’s easy to let them sit in front of the TV for hours on end. But to get them up and moving, or to exercise their mind? Finding ideas to occupy them when they’ve run out of things to do can be a real challenge.

For Robert Correa of Novato, the answer to keeping kids occupied is as easy as giving them a list of things to do every time they say they’re bored.

“Housekeeping, lawn mowing, dog walking, baby-sitting, reading, dishwashing,” Correa listed off the top of his head. He suggested that older kids would find enjoyment in being taught how to cook, and any kid can fly a kite, paint a picture, ride their bike, or skate. He also noted that kids should call their grandparents when they find they have “nothing to do,” just to tell their grandma and grandpa they are loved. And, of course, there is nothing like throwing an impromptu dance party in the privacy of your own living room.
“Put on some of your old records or CDs and dance together or sing together,” Correa said.

Elizabeth Dalton of Santa Rosa has three boys, ages 6 and 4 years old, and 20 months, and knows all too well the importance of having something fun up her sleeve to keep her sons entertained. One activity she discovered is called geocaching, otherwise known as a good old-fashioned treasure hunt. But in Dalton’s case, she gives the activity a prehistoric theme.

“I bury dinosaur toys outside and have the kids dig them out,” she said.

Jessica Snowden of Santa Rosa has a different kind of treasure hunt she suggests for quick entertainment.

“Make a list of age appropriate items,” she suggested, like telling younger kids to find something tall or red, and older kids to find something horizontal or bigger than a foot. As they find each item, then can check them off their pre-made list. “I have done this treasure hunt in teams for birthday parties or sleepovers,” Snowden said. “I have also done it with cameras,” she added, noting that cellphones and handheld video game systems worked well for this activity, allowing kids to capture their treasure through a photo instead of collecting the actual item.

Lorna Brown, owner of My Gym Santa Rosa, is known for having fun things for younger kids to do. One game she plays with kids is to blow up balloons (not helium), and give one to each child.

“Give them indoor space to bop them around, encouraging them to keep them up in the air,” Brown instructed. “Let them know that if their balloon pops, then game over.” She suggested that when the kids need a break from so much play, they can stop and decorate their balloons with markers.

And every kid can benefit from an “I’m bored jar.” Take an afternoon to brainstorm 100 fun things to do. Add in things like making homemade playdough, taking a hike in the hills, building a fort in the living room, learning how to speak Pig Latin, writing an illustrated children’s book, trying to beat your own record of bouncing a ball on a tennis racket, blowing the biggest bubblegum bubble, or anything else you and the kids can think of. Every time the kids say, “I’m bored,” point them toward the jar and have them pick an activity at random.

Do you have any tricks to entertain your kids when they have nothing to do?

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