Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teaching Manners is a Win/Win

It takes time and patience to teach your children manners.  They are not born with them, and they don't naturally acquire them.  So why should a parent take the time and make the effort to teach simple manners?

Let me tell you why...because teaching manners to your children will make their interactions with other adults more successful.  And when your children experience positive reactions when meeting and interacting with others, it helps build their self esteem, and reflects positively on you.  That is why teaching manners is a win/win proposition.
So how does one go about teaching manners?  What polite behavior is most important for your children to learn?  Here are three tips to help you get started:

  1. Start with the basics:  Have your children say "please" and "thank-you" when they ask things from you.  Remind them to use these simple words during your daily interactions.  Make sure they understand when they are given a gift, you expect them to say thank you to the gift giver.  This holds true for everything from treats at soccer practice to birthday gifts. 
  2. Teach eye contact:  Children are used to looking at screens.  Let them know that looking into people's eyes while talking to them is very important.  Ask your children to look into your eyes when you are speaking.  You will be laying the ground work for this skill.  I have heard job recruiters say that they have not hired extremely well qualified job candidates because the person was unable to make eye contact.  The formation of this skill begins early.  Start working on it right away.
  3. Talk about and model respect:  Children need to learn to respect a variety of people and possessions; from teachers and coaches to toys and electronics.  Respecting people and property needs to be taught.  Our culture fights this concept on every level, so parents must be vigilant about teaching respect.  Teach your children the concept of respecting someone's opinion even if it differs from your own.  Teach them to respect themselves enough to care about what messages they share about themselves on the internet.  Teach them to treat everyone with respect, from the fast food worker who takes their order to the teachers and administrators at their school. 
These three concepts when taught over time will allow your children to experience the satisfaction of making a good impression with adults.  These positive interactions will shape them and their future.  Being a kind and polite person never goes out of style.  So remember to take the time to teach the importance of simple manners.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Encourage Your Children to See The World!

This past weekend my college age son brought a friend home to visit.  I always look forward to seeing any of my children, and meeting their friends.  This young man was no exception.  He was fun and polite and fit right into the goings on in our home.  We were chatting over one of our meals and I asked him if he planned to study abroad while in college.  He gave the standard answer that he didn't want to miss any time on campus and he didn't think he could afford the added cost.  I have heard similar answers before when I ask this question to college kids.

My children have had many opportunities to travel.  Our family moved to London in 2006 for a year and during that time we saved our money by cutting out non essentials like a second car or multiple cell phones in order to afford to travel.  We rented out our house back in the U.S. to give us added income in order to travel.  We planned our family travel with a budget in mind, driving when we could, flying discount airlines when we had to and staying in rental flats that were on average cheaper than any decent hotel stay for a family of six.

Since our living abroad experience, my college age children have opted to study abroad.  One studied for a semester in Venice, and the other a summer in Paris.  My son is now trying to decide how he can fit it into his busy campus schedule.  But he knows that we want him to take advantage of study abroad opportunities while he is on campus.  It is an experience that is too valuable to miss.  Anyone I have ever talked to about studying abroad says that it was the best decision and they will never forget the amazing experiences.

One of our daughter's is currently teaching English Literature and Science in a boarding school in Taiwan.  Although I miss her being so far away, I am so proud of her willingness to seize this opportunity and live her life according to her vision.  I am sure that she has experienced things in Taiwan that she will take with her through out her teaching career.  I am sure that she will be profoundly changed by this experience.  And I am sure that the seed was planted when our family seized the opportunity to move overseas.  We all grew so much that year and were inspired by the beauty and history we were able to absorb.

My mother-in-law recently celebrated a milestone birthday by planning a trip for her and her seven children to return to Ireland (the home of her parents).  This travel experience was a wonderful gift to all of them as they got to spend time together and see the towns where their relatives came from (and visit with others who still live in the area).  I am sure that each of them felt enriched by this experience.

Travel is not cheap.  It is expensive and time consuming to plan.  But anything is possible with planning.  Don't let life pass you by without planning travel with your family.  Start when your children are young.  Share the joy of seeing new places and experiencing new things with them.  And when they grow up and head off to college, encourage them to take advantage of study abroad opportunities.  Don't let them miss out on these wonderfully enriching opportunities.  Colleges and Universities do an amazing job of offering a variety of locations and programs to take advantage of, and usually the cost is not much more that a normal semester on campus.  The other benefit is that your college student will know of other students who are studying abroad during the same semester and your student will be able to plan travel to other destinations and just bunk in with friends.  The ease of this will never happen again in their lives.  So urge them to take advantage of the offerings and broaden their horizons.  They will never regret it!

"Travel is the only thing that you buy that makes you richer!" -Anonymous


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How to Teach Your Child the Joy of Giving!

To children around the world the holiday season is one of great anticipation for getting gifts.  But little ones will experience great joy when given the chance to give to others.  Sometimes, we parents get so wrapped up in fulfilling each of our child's dreams, we forget to give them the same pleasure--the pleasure that comes with planning a surprise for someone else, or making a secret gift that will be shared on a special day.

Here are some ideas that emphasize the giving side of the holiday season that will help nurture the kind and loving spirit that each and every child possesses.  Pick one or two and give them a go.  You and your child will be so happy that you did!

Help your child pick a simple art or craft activity to work on this season as a special gift to someone.  My kids have done all of these over the years:
  • Baking cookies or a special treat
  • Making a special ornament
  • Painting a birdhouse or garden sign
  • Sewing a simple message with ribbon onto a welcome mat
  • Writing a book or poem
  • Creating a video of pictures 
  • Drawing a special picture and then frame it.   
Do an act of service as a family.  Choose a local charity and go help serve a meal or donate toys and games to a shelter.  Or better yet, think of someone in your community that could use a helping hand and anonymously perform an act of kindness.  Have your children help to buy groceries or bake for them and then do the secret delivery together.

Add bows to your Christmas tree as you perform kind acts for each other as part of a secret Santa tradition.  Read more about that here:  splashparenting.com/2012/12/best-christmas-tradition-ever.html

Emphasize the season is about giving and sharing.  Allow your children to put some coins into the Salvation army bell ringer's bucket.  Let them witness you buying a coffee for a friend, or help you buy gifts for a family you sponsor through your church or synagogue.

Above all else, talk about the joy that comes from giving and sharing, and try to deemphasize the "getting" side of the holidays.  I already have children in my preschool class telling me what they are going to get for Christmas.  Practically all of the adults that they speak with this season ask what they want...it is a vicious cycle.  But don't forget the importance of emphasizing the other side--the great  and wonderful joy that comes from giving to someone else.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Motherhood Has Taught Me Gratitude

Motherhood can be a thankless job; sleepless nights, endless messes, ear splitting noise, constantly filled calendars, and drained checkbooks.  When you lay it out like this, who would ever want children?

But truthfully, motherhood has been the biggest blessing of my life.  The list above pales in comparison to the countless ways my four children have enriched my life, caused me to grow, challenged my mind, made me laugh and drawn me closer to my husband.

Watching them mature into intelligent, thoughtful, passionate young adults is probably the best time of all.  Although I must admit I miss feeling a chubby, warm little hand in mine; or a little body curled up to me while reading a favorite story.

I know the road of motherhood is filled with difficulties, challenges and worries.  But I am here to tell you to be strong, stay the course, be the best parent you can be, invest in your child and his/her future, and make the time to revel in the simple joys of parenthood.  If you do this, you and your family's future will be the richer for it.  And remember to always count your blessings.
S.P.L.A.S.H. Parenting Principles

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Families Need to Work Together!

Busy parents are the first to raise their hands for convenience.  I know why--because it is difficult to keep up with crazy schedules and having multiple children in multiple schools with differing calendars,  demands and expectations.  Being able to cut a corner here and there has an immediate appeal.  Ordering groceries from a delivery service like http://www.peapod.com can prove to be a true lifesaver.  Making the choice to hire out for housecleaning or laundry services can offer parents a way to focus on being a better parent rather than stressing about chore lists that overwhelm and defeat them.

But I also worry that we are sending the wrong message to our children if we "hire" out all of our responsibilities.  These days I have seen parents hiring personal trainers to teach their kids to ride a bike.  I see parents opening their wallets to have their houses decorated for the holidays.  I know people who wouldn't dream of shopping and cooking a holiday meal.  Aren't we really paying the ultimate price for all of this convenience?  We are sacrificing time working together as a family to accomplish something, and this is a very important lesson.  If our children never see us accomplish any sort of task, where is there work ethic going to come from?

Please reflect on your lifestyle and see if embracing a simplified version might benefit you and your children.  Let's all slow down a bit, and enjoy time working together to accomplish something.  Decorate your own house, cook your own turkey, play with your own children.  Get to know your family through these simple activities.  Help one another.  Laugh together.  And get back to the basics of working and playing together.  Your children will grow up so fast, don't miss out on the life experiences that bond you together.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Give your children the gift of music!

One of my little preschoolers came to school yesterday with an extra sparkle in her little eyes!  She walked in carrying a violin case, and as our Student of the Week, she had decided to play a piece of music for our class.  And let me tell you, it was the high point of our morning together.  As she carefully removed her instrument from it's case, and then with the utmost of concentration performed her song, I was reminded of the countless hours of music lessons and performances that my own children were subjected to as they grew up.  And although none of them are continuing on with their music studies, I still would admit that requiring them to study music, until high school was a decision that my husband and I will never regret.  And here is why:

1.  Studying music teaches discipline.  Children need to practice, and although they don't usually want to, they quickly understand that they won't improve without practice.

2.  Music has relaxing qualities.  And children in our fast paced world need to find ways to unplug and unwind.  By studying music, children are exposed to different kinds of music and the benefits music can bring.

3.  Learning an instrument can build self confidence.  How do you know whether or not your child has musical talent unless you allow him/her to pursue music in some form?  All children have gifts and music may be where your child's talent lies.  In addition, learning to play an instrument brings a lot of positive feedback when your child performs for family and friends or in recitals or concerts.

4.  Music allows for creativity.  Children need creative outlets that allow them to experiment and test ideas.  Real experiences of making music and performing music are so much more valuable to young minds than watching movies or playing video games.

5.  Studying music has been linked to better performance/understanding of math concepts.  It certainly cannot hurt to require your children to be using their brain power a little more each week.

6.  Exposing your children to music will allow for you to connect with them about something.  Children who study a musical instrument or take voice lessons are exposed to a wide variety of different types of music.  There tastes will develop from there and will become a source of endless discussion as you to compare notes on musical tastes.  

My high school daughter loves to listen to George Winston piano music when she studies, my college age son has been featured on his college radio station-and loves to discover new, independent artists and their music.  Another one of my daughters has introduced all to her love of country music, and finally my eldest daughter loves to attend gospel mass at a church in Washington D.C.  All of these examples illustrate to me that we were on to something when we were insisting that they practice their instruments.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

6 Important Things to Teach your Child About Friends

I am so lucky to teach preschool and see these darling little people forming some of their very first friendships.  Some children are tentative and shy, but after a few weeks of being together it is such a joy to see them "open themselves up" and become active seekers of new friends.  

Also I have had the opportunity to watch my own four children navigate the choppy waters of friendship during their middle school and high school years.  Their relationships have been a constant reminder about how tricky friendships can be.  So based on what I have observed through the countless numbers of friendships I have seen bud, blossom, and (if we are being honest) sometimes wither, I have come up with a list to help teach your child how to be a good friend.  This is not always easy!  But being a good friend helps your child understand what qualities to look for in friendships. And finding a good friend is truly a priceless blessing.  

Parents:  Teach these lessons to your children:

1.  Friends Listen:  A friendship cannot be one sided.  If everything is about one person in the friendship than it is imbalanced and more of a groupie relationship than a friendship.  Teach your child to listen to the viewpoints of their friends, and also have the confidence to speak their opinion on things.

2.  Friends Defend:  One of the most valuable aspects of a friendship is knowing that the other person "has your back".  If you are unsure if your friend would defend you if they hear negative things about you, than you don't have a friend.  And you are not a friend if you don't speak up and defend your friends against gossip and meanness.

3.  Friends Share:  My preschoolers will tell you about this all day long.  They understand the concept of sharing but as children grow, it becomes less about sharing concrete items like toys and more about sharing their feelings with one another.  If you are upset about something going on with your friend, you need to share the feelings and work it out.  Friends also share the attention.  It cannot always be about one person in the relationship.  True friends value each other and share a balanced and healthy relationship. Good friends share happiness and sadness, together.  If your friend has something good happen to them, you should celebrate with them.  And conversely, if they are going through hard times, you need to be there for them.  That is what true friends do.

4.  Friends Forgive:  No friendship is perfect.  Friendships have their ups and downs, peaks and valleys, joy and hurt.  True friends learn how to talk things out, forgive and move on.  And the miracle is, making it through the rough times creates a stronger bond. When you come through a difficult time with someone, you enhance your relationship.

5.  Friends Don't Inflict Pain:  If a friend is constantly making you feel upset, bad about yourself, or less than, it might be time to look for some new friends.  Relationships don't always work out, and sadly knowing when to move on can be a very difficult decision. Even though it is hard to imagine, there are other people who are eagerly awaiting to become your friend--you just have to look for them.

6.  Be Your Own Best Friend:  Liking yourself is important.  Knowing who you are and what you stand for will allow you to find friends that compliment you and enrich your life.  Trying to be someone or something that you are not, by being friends with someone just to be "cool" is never a good idea.  People who like themselves have more authentic relationships because they are not based on trying to prove something to others.

These lessons are important but take a long time to learn.  Discuss these issues with your children and help to coach them along their path to develop and keep long lasting and valuable friendships.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

There is Power in a Hug!

Children can be quite unlovable at times.  They whine, complain, have temper tantrums, "forget" to do what we have told them a million times to do, and the list can go on and on.  But when our children are frustrating us and we are feeling anything but love towards them, ironically they need our love the most.  The more unlovable they are, the more they need our love and acceptance.  They need to reconnect with us.  They need us to reinforce the lesson that we love them no matter what; that as their parent, we are always present for them.

The best way to show a child of any age how much you love them, is by using physical touch.  Children need the calming message a hug sends.  They need to feel your love as you stroke their hair, or rub their back, or hold their hand.  Don't get too busy to make the effort to connect with your child in this way.  And take the time to learn what they like.  Some children don't want their heads to be touched but love a hand or foot rub.  And I can't think of anyone who doesn't like a loving hug.  Make time to cuddle your children and reinforce the message of just how very much you love them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3 Steps to Help Your Child Make Friends

It is a painful experience to watch your child struggle with friendships.  When your child is hurting you experience the pain in a most excruciating way, and often you feel powerless to respond.  You want to search out the child responsible for causing your child's pain or loneliness and "get even" or "teach that kid a lesson".  But trust me when I say, you only are seeing one side of the story.  Every situation has more than one side.  So, as difficult as this advice is to follow...take a deep breath and let it go.  Then refocus your efforts on the here and now.  What can you do to help your child facilitate lasting and quality friendships?  Sit down with your child and imagine a trip to the idea store...here is what I mean...

1.  Speak to your child about what qualities make up a good friend.  Brainstorm the type of friend your child hopes to find.  Is it someone who shares certain interests? Or someone who has qualities that would compliment your child?  Maybe an outgoing child because your child is shy, or an athletic child because your child loves to play sports.  Talk about morals and values, does your child want a friend that can be trusted and will be loyal?  Discuss why these qualities would be valuable to a lasting friendship.

2.  Discuss what your child might do to find that type of friend.  Does someone already come to mind?  You can encourage your child to reach out to a new person who they think might make a good friend.  Suggest that they sit by someone new at lunch or look for new friendships on the playground.  Maybe your child needs to join a club or activity that would expose him/her to new children who share his/her interests.

3.  Agree on a goal your child can work towards in the coming weeks.  Perhaps the challenge is to invite someone new over for a play date, or play with a new child during recess.    Challenge your child to reach out to children who don't already have many friends, and be the one to help other children who feel excluded.

Make it clear to your child that their friendships are their choice to make.  You are not willing or able to make friends for them.  But you are available to love and support them at all times.  Empower them with your confidence that they will find good and true friends.  Urge them to be patient with themselves and others.  Solid friendships take time to build.  And remember, all children really need is one true friend.  It is wonderful to be blessed with more, but as long as your child has a friend, they have the relationship that is so important to their development.  And if they don't have that one friend right now, take a trip together to "the idea store" and gather some ideas for how to find that special friend who is waiting to meet and make friends with your child.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Don't Burden Your Children!

Picture for a moment that you are enjoying a peaceful walk with your child.  You are enjoying his/her company and the beauty of nature all around you is calming and delightful.  Now imagine that you stop and give your child a backpack to carry, and inside it is one brick.  As you walk along, you stop and add another brick, and another, and eventually the backpack is bulging with bricks and your child is being forced to carry this enormous weight.  He/She is struggling to keep up with you, and the backpack is too heavy for him/her to manage.  You ignore the struggle and keep walking down the path, oblivious to your child's plight. Are you thinking: Ridiculous?  Far Fetched? Would never happen?

If you fight with your child's other parent in front of your child, you are doing this very thing.  You are burdening your child with your own anger, resentment, and lack of maturity.  This scenario is NOT FAIR for your child.  Children have tender hearts and those hearts are aimed directly at their parents.  To criticize or fight with the other parent makes your child feel less than.  Less than good enough.  Less than the child you both wanted.  Less than powerless.  Children are scarred by adults fighting in front of them.

Adult relationships are complicated.  I get that.  Sometimes disagreements arise.  I get that, too.  But consistently arguing in front of your child is not only hurting them in the present, you are hurting their future, too.  You are modeling an unhealthy relationship and will make it more difficult for them to create and experience a healthy, loving, adult relationship down the road.

A few years ago, I had a preschooler who was sharing with me that Daddy and Mommy argued a lot. "I try to get them to stop and be nice, but sometimes they just don't listen!"  His little face reflecting the pain and frustration he felt has stayed with me.  His message is clear.  Don't argue in front of your children.  You can do better and they deserve better.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Good Enough Parenting

      I recently had the good fortune to spend a week in London, a city that always hums with excitement and never ceases to amaze me.  While walking towards a museum I came upon this gate pictured above.  It totally cracked me up and made me wish that I had investigated a little further, especially if they had a bookstore/gift shop.  It would be wonderful to have an official "Good Enough College" T-shirt!
    My parenting column today is a warning to parents who practice "Good Enough" parenting.  Let me explain.  Often I see parents who justify their parenting duties or lack of them as being "Good Enough".  Do any of these examples sound familiar?

  1. You want time to surf the net or catch up on facebook, plug in a DVD or let your child watch mindless TV for hours on end.  It keeps him/her quiet and you are free to do what you want.  
  2. Your child puts up a whiny fit for something and time after time you give in and let the child have what they have been tantruming for, because it buys you the peace you want and so what is the harm in it?
  3. Your mode of communicating with your child is usually yelling or endlessly repeating yourself and you can't figure out why junior doesn't really listen to you.
  4. You know you love your child, so you feel as if you are doing all that you need to do to be a good parent.
  5. You buy your children everything they want, so you always ease your mind when it comes to asking yourself if you are good parent or not.
  6. You allow your children to sleep in your bed and manipulate your behavior at night time so that no one in your family is properly rested. 
This post is written to you as a cautionary tale.  This mode of parenting has an end result that will not be pretty.  Being a "Good Enough" parent means you are justifying behavior patterns that will put you and your family on a road to difficulty in the future.  Constantly giving in to your children, putting their electronic experiences before reality, and allowing them to grow up in an environment based on laziness and manipulation will result in your children learning how to manipulate you, and also missing out on the opportunity for you to teach your children about important things such as communication, empathy and self control.  But it ALL starts with YOU! 

Don't settle for being a Good Enough Parent!  Find parenting classes or read and study parenting articles and books that will help develop into an effective and wise parent.  You will NEVER regret effort put into improving your family life.  Parenting is the most important job you will ever have.  Don't settle for anything less than excellence.  Being "Good Enough" simply isn't good enough for you or your children.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

6 Ways to Enjoy a Family Centered Fall!

Fall is the perfect season to put your family at the top of your priority list.  There are so many simple, yet wonderful activities that you can do as a family that can strengthen your bonds with one another.  Reserve some of that precious weekend time to venture out and experience some seasonal activities together.  I have compiled a list of a few of my favorites that I hope inspire you to spend quality time enjoying your precious family.

  • Pick some Apples:  Find an orchard and head out for an afternoon of fresh air and apple picking.  Kids of all ages can and will enjoy this, and once you bring home your wonderful red or green treasures, the fun continues because you can all work together to peel and cut the apples and bake a deliciously simple apple crisp.  Yum!
  • Take a Hike:  Throw on your hiking shoes and visit a state park for a healthy hike.  Don't forget to pack a backpack with water and some healthy snacks.  It has been proven that time spent in nature reduces stress--and just about everyone I know can benefit from that.  In addition, the physical fatigue will mean that you are bringing home tired and calm children, and isn't that a great reward.
  • Visit a Farm:  There are farms that hold pumpkin festivals at this time of year, and that is always a fun outing.  Go and pick out the perfect pumpkin, so that you will be ready to carve your jack-o-lantern later this month.  Or jump on the hay wagon for a hay ride, and visit the petting zoo and pony rides.
  • Football:  Take your children to see a high school or college football game.  From learning the sport, to watching the halftime show and visiting the concession stand, this is a fun outing to enjoy all together.
  • Take a Ride:  Whether it is on your bikes or horseback.  Venture out and share a ride somewhere.  Fall weather is cool and invigorating and simply invites you to hop on a bike or a horse and explore a new trail.
  • Build a Fire:  Find a place that you can safely and legally start a campfire.  Then pack up the marshmallows and spend an evening enjoying the stars.  And if you know anyone who plays the guitar, invite them along, too!
 The key to having a happy family is to enjoying each others' company.  And in our face paced world, finding the time to do this becomes harder all the time.  So reserve some time to spend with the ones you love the most.  You will be so glad that you did.  Don't forget to take pictures.  But put your phone away for the day, and spend real quality time talking and laughing with your children.

Happy Fall!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Spanking is NOT Okay!


There are some parents who defend spanking their children as their "right" to discipline.  But I am not one of them and although I firmly believe in discipline, I know that there are better, and healthier methods of teaching your children right from wrong.  How do I know this for sure?  In my preschool class, I am called upon constantly to correct children's behavior and keep them focused, on task and learning in a positive and nurturing environment.  And I never have felt the need to use my physical power to accomplish any of this.

Now I must admit, in raising my own four children there were a few times I sent a slap their way.  And in my younger days, I know I did use the threat of spanking as a deterrent.  But as the years passed, my husband and I were determined to refrain from using any form of physical punishment as a method of discipline.  "Why?" you ask.  "What is so harmful about a spanking?", "It is the only thing that works!", "My parents spanked me and I turned out alright!"  Let me spell it out simply and clearly for you...

THERE ARE BETTER WAYS TO DISCIPLINE YOUR CHILD!  And if you use the other ways effectively, they eliminate the need for spanking altogether.  First, you must admit that most of your spanking is done out of anger.  This is UNACCEPTABLE!  YOU are the adult in the situation and you are not behaving as an adult!  You are controlling a smaller human being through fear.  This results in your own children thinking that is okay to control another person through physical threat and violence.  I know that is not a lesson you want to teach your kid, right?

Discipline should be coming from a place of wisdom.  You want to teach your child that what he/she is doing is not okay and cannot continue.  Also, you want to reinforce to your child that you love and care about them unconditionally, but you are also the authority in their lives until they are grown and no longer in your care.  To do this, you must earn the respect of your child...and spanking doesn't result in your child respecting you...only your power over him/her.

There are many techniques that can be effectively used for discipline issues.  Discipline should be targeted at the age and development of your child and also the severity of the action you wish to stop.  Discipline is especially effective when it teaches something.  Chores can be used as punishment.  So can taking away a favorite activity or toy of your child.  The duration of the punishment also needs to be realistic and something that you will stick to, but difficult enough on your child to be memorable.  This blog contains a earlier post about other discipline strategies which you may find helpful:
  6 Steps to Better Parenting
But the bottom line is, don't hit your kids.  There are better ways to accomplish your goals.  Don't raise a hand to them.  They are precious little people, who deserve your very best.  If you are having issues with their behavior, educate yourself.  Don't take it out on them.  They love you and don't want to fear you.  You can learn new ways of dealing with them that will benefit your entire family.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Beauty of Preschool!

Today at preschool, I could see brain's growing!  It is such a privilege to circulate amongst the littlest of workers; their tiny hands working on art projects, their little eyes looking up at the book we are sharing, their voices eagerly calling out answers and observations.  Learning to raise a hand, learning to walk down the hall quietly, learning who likes to play pirate ship on the playground.

It never ceases to amaze me how each child is so completely, 100% unique just like the flowers in a garden.  Even after years of teaching, it still surprises me.  And the gifts are there to be discovered.  This one is quiet and reserved and yet knows all of his numerals, this one can tie, this one can write her name, this one is brave and boisterous, but doesn't like glue on his hands.  They are each such a wonderful mosaic of loveliness.  Each is learning and growing at his/her own pace.  There is no need to compete and compare.  Each is right where he/she needs to be and each will forge ahead through the year, learning and growing with out even knowing what is happening.

I am so honored to be a preschool teacher.  Thank you for sending them to preschool for a few hours each weekday, so we can learn and grow and share and care for each other.  We are laying the foundations for successful years ahead.  We are developing positive self concepts, teaching life long lessons about working with each other, listening and communicating our ideas, sticking with tasks until they are finished, and caring about our classmates.  We are a learning community that is built on having fun.

Parents of young children, enroll your children in preschool so that they won't miss out on the joy and the excitement of learning and playing!  You will be giving them a gift of a lifetime.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Understanding Things Not Seen...

A precious young family sat in front of us at mass on Sunday.  The three young children were seated between their parents and just as the service began the fun started.  The youngest brother, who was about four, started a calculated attack on the oldest brother.  He subtly kicked him, pinched his hand, elbowed his ribs, and so on and so on.  The little one was such a quick witted child that as soon as either parent would glance down at them, he would throw up his hand a point to the eldest brother and put a sad look on his face.  And the older brother would get a strong word or shake from his mother or father.

By the end of mass, I felt so sad for the oldest boy.  He took this behavior for much longer than I thought humanly possible...and if he retaliated in any way, he was again reprimanded.  Please understand that I am NOT judging the parents.  Firstly, cheers to them for wrangling three youngsters to mass!  The value of this cannot be overstated.  I am merely writing this post in an effort to ask parents to question themselves about what patterns of behavior you might be missing.  How does one investigate this type of thing?  I would recommend having chats with each of your children, one on one to discuss how they feel about the family and allow them to voice any issues they may be having with one another.  This is healthy on so many levels.  Teaching your children to talk about feelings and open up to you builds the foundation for a solid and positive family life.

So be aware parents.  And make the effort to connect with each and every one of your children.  You will never regret it!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Patience is a Parenting Virtue

I am not a baker.  Ask my kids and they will tell you I make a mean salad.  And I can whip up a decent dinner.  In fact, surprisingly, my cooking is something my kids think I am pretty good at.  But they would be the first to tell you that when it comes to baking...well that's another story.  My cakes usually fall, I can't make a pie crust, and my go to cookie recipe only uses two steps, break and bake.  I think the reason for my short coming in the baking area is that I am not known to have a lot of patience for it.  I hate recipes that include too many ingredients or feature too many steps. 

But when it comes to children, I have noticed that my patience has had to grow over time.  I have gotten somewhat better at holding my tongue.  And with my cute little preschoolers, I can demonstrate boat loads of patience.  It seems ironic that now my own children are far beyond the preschool stage, and so missed out on this personal growth that would have benefited them.

Good parenting relies on patience, both with your children and your self.  Children go through so many transitions and obstacles, and taking a deep breath and not overreacting should be the goal.  Sometimes it is unachievable, but it should be the ultimate goal.  Being a thoughtful, patient and supportive parent is modeling the type of behavior that you want from your children. 

Also, it must be said that in order to be this thoughtful, patient and supportive parent, you must not only be concentrating on your children, but meeting your own personal needs.  Parents who gives every waking moment to their children are going to end up being burned out and resentful (think martyr) or at the minimum, lacking a well rounded, balanced life.  Neither of which is a good example for your children.

So be kind to yourself, and your children.  Be patient with yourself, and your children.  And make time in your life to participate in activities that leave you feeling happy and refreshed.  That will benefit you and your family now and in the days, months and years to come.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Life Lessons from TBDE (The best dog ever!)

Our family lost a friend yesterday.  And the grieving is continuing.  Who was our friend? She was truly TBDE (The Best Dog Ever).  She was my first dog, and at 38 years old, I wasn't sure I had the capacity to love any dog.  But at the time, the begging of my four children combined with the sentimental stories of my husband's childhood dog had gotten the best of me.

With the kids in tow, I headed out to visit a shelter that had reached out to me about a candidate that might fill our needs.  The kids had been briefed that this did not GUARANTEE we were coming home with a dog, and sure enough, when we arrived we discovered that the dog we had come to meet was already spoken for.  Disappointment was shared all around, but we decided to just look at the other dogs in the cages in the back room.  I was not expecting to be interested in any one of these dogs, who had already been "screened and not deemed appropriate for our needs".  As we walked through the aisles, my anxiety level was high...because I was not a true dog person.  The barking and sadness was quite overwhelming to me, and frankly, I wanted to finish our look/see with my kids and head home.  But there near the end of the chaotic noisy aisle, sat a golden dog.  She sat so quietly, with her deep, puddles of brown staring earnestly into my heart.  It felt like slow motion as I reached my hand towards her and she quietly and gracefully raised her face and gently licked my hand, as if to say, "I choose you".

When my brain took back my thoughts from my hijacked heart, I realized that she was a bedraggled looking creature; ribs visible, scar over her right eye, nothing really attractive about her but those earnestly loving eyes and soft pink tongue.  We took it to the next step, allowed her to interact with the children and then called my husband at work.  "We have found our dog!" I exclaimed.  "You need to drive out here and meet her before the shelter will allow the adoption."  My husband made the 30 mile drive from his office and had one question "Are you sure THIS is the dog you want?" he asked.  He was skeptical given her somewhat forlorn look, but he could feel that in my heart the decision had already been made.  So against his better judgement, even against what most rational people would decide...he acquiesced and it was decided that she would be our dog.

And what a dog she was.  With our family's love and attention, she blossomed.  Her golden coat grew in thick and soft.  Her body filled out and became strong and healthy. She would run like the breeze, prance delicately through the snow, and curl up gently by a fire.  She was quiet, and never relied upon her bark to communicate.  Her presence was enough.  She was a loving, gentle soul who always preferred children to adults and had a grace and elegance about her that I found irresistible.  She of course had her moments, like when she climbed on the kitchen table one day to eat the kid's sandwiches, or squeezed through the slats of the lake house deck to join us down on the beach, or found a porcupine and took quills to the chin on a late night romp with my sister's dog and her friend, Casey.

But she taught me many lessons.  I never knew what it was like to love a dog.  I never knew what it felt like to have a four legged friend who was always happy to see you.  Her calmness calmed me.  Her gentleness and loving nature was a gift to our whole family.  When someone was having a bad day they could always find some peace and comfort by petting her and just being near her.

Yesterday, we lost TBDE.  She lived a long life.  Our vet said that she was his oldest patient.  And even in the end, she was helping us realize it was time to say goodbye.  Today there is an absence.  No paws following me into the kitchen, no brown puddle eyes to greet me, no golden soft fur to stroke but a head full of memories about the dog who changed our lives for good.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

5 Parent Promises for the School Year

As a teacher and a mom, I have an understanding about what it feels like to view the school year from both vantage points.  I am acutely aware of how intensely powerful it is to hand your beloved child over to a relative stranger for a large part of the day.  It causes every parent to reflect on the influence both good and bad that teachers can have on a child's life experience.

Conversely, I have also heard too many stories about how great teachers have become burned out--not of their love of children and teaching, but because the parental piece of their jobs became overwhelming.  This is a tragedy.  We need good, kind, dedicated, child-loving teachers, and our job as parents is not to bully them out of their profession because we feel the need to push our child's agenda down their throats.

I also think it is helpful to keep in mind that it is highly unlikely that your child will love every single one of his/her teachers.  When your child is faced with a teacher that he/she is not fond of, look at it as a learning experience and a situation which will allow your child to grow.

The five following promises will help you, as a parent, be mindful of your role in your child's education:

1.  I Promise to attend school conferences and other important parental meetings in an effort to keep myself informed and build important relationships for the benefit of my child's education.

2. I Promise to always investigate my child's claims through other sources rather than immediately react to situations that arise based solely on the immature perceptions of my child.  That is not to say I don't trust him/her but understand that a child's understanding of a situation may not be the same as an adult's perception of the same circumstances.

3.  I Promise to refrain from "bad mouthing" the teacher and other teachers and administrators in the presence of my child or any children who attend the school, as I realize this behavior does not cast me in a favorable light, and does not help my child in any way. In fact, I will make an effort to speak positively about teachers and school in general around my child.

4.  I Promise that if an issue develops, I will contact my child's teacher first and discuss the issue as an adult.  If I am uncomfortable with this, I will ask that we meet with an objective third party, such as another teacher or administrator that I trust.

5.  I Promise to support my child's education by providing structure and encouragement when it comes to grades and homework assignments.  I will emphasize to my child that homework and grades are important and must reflect their best effort at all times.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bravo's New Show about Extreme Parenting

As a parenting author, blogger, preschool teacher, and mom of four, I believe that moderation is the key to all things parenting related.  Parents need to be able to discipline their children, and love them.  But too much discipline creates an abuser, and too much love results in a helicopter, over-involved parent.  Parents need to be able to set limits on things like screen time and sweets, and also indulge their kids with attention and support.  A parent is responsible for the health and safety of their child but being too anxious about everything causes stress to the child, yet having no worries about the safety of your child is reckless and neglectful.  In my book, too much of anything is never a good idea.

I am interested to see what the new parenting show, Extreme Parenting on Bravo can teach us about becoming effective parents.  I hope that the show does not merely feature parents who are more interested in achieving a few minutes of fame, at the expense of exploiting their children, but offers an intelligent look at differing parenting styles and creates an opportunity for all parents to reflect on the job we are doing and its impact on our children.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Six Secrets of Successful Parenting

It is not an easy job to raise kids!  They require so much time and attention and just when things seem to be going smoothly, they enter a new phase, or we parents begin to get complacent about things and BOOM it blows up in our face.  We watch our children struggle with sleep issues, or adjusting to a new teacher, or finding friends and these struggles can feel so overwhelming at times.  I am here to assure you that you are not alone.  All parents feel overwhelmed at times, but by the following these six simple parenting steps you can rest assured that you are on the right track.

1.  Use the Voice That Works:  Kids have an uncanny knack of tuning out a yelling parent.  They simply don't care as much as you do and when you are worked up they don't feel the same emotional charge that you do.  So use a calm, clear and firm voice to deliver directions to them.  And if they don't respond, follow up with an appropriate consequence.  Over time, this communication pattern is what kids respond to the best.

2.  Affirm More and Criticize Less:  Children want your attention and they want to please you.  But if they don't get your attention through pleasing you, they will find other means to get it.  Make sure you give them praise and affirmation when they are doing things well.  Don't let a day go by that didn't include some affirmation. 

3.  Chores Are Part of Being a Family:  Children need chores as part of being a member of your family.  Teaching children that they have certain tasks to take care of each and everyday, is a means to training them about life in the real world.  And as a parent, that is your ultimate job.

4.  Your Words are Your Parenting Treasure:  What you say and then how you behave provides the basis which your children learn to trust you.  If you don't live up to your own words, you are teaching your children to ignore you.  If you tell them to behave in certain ways, and they observe you doing the opposite, they will learn not to put too much stock in what you say.  Here is a simple example, if you tell your kids not to swear but curse all the time, your kids will curse.  And you are devaluing what your words mean to them.  Be conscious of the value in your words!

5.  Kids Understand Schedules:  Communicate with your children what their day and week will be like.  This helps them to understand their world and also gives them a feeling of confidence in the fact that they know what to expect.  Chaos breeds chaos.

6.  Hold High Expectations: Children will live up (or down) to the expectations you hold of them.  It is somewhat of a self fulfilling prophesy.  A child who knows that his parents require him/her to do well in school, and care enough to check on his/her grades and progress will perform better than a child who's parents don't care.  A child who knows that his/her family places a high priority on family time, will participate in family activities more than a child who's parents don't communicate that expectation.  Examine your priorities for your children.  And then clearly communicate your expectations.

These six steps offer a way to set your parenting on the path to a bright future for the benefit you and your children.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Traditions Build Strong Families

In the United States, the Fourth of July is the major summer holiday.  The nation celebrates with parades, picnics, fireworks and celebrations from small towns to big cities.  Our family has certain traditions established years ago that only seem to grow stronger as the years pass.  We have breakfast with friends, neighbors, and family members.  Then we walk down and all watch our hometown parade.  Later in the day, as a family, we drive to my sister's house for a fun, multi-generational neighborhood picnic and end the day huddled together on blankets enjoying the fireworks display.  It is a day filled with simple pleasures; donuts at breakfast, a hometown parade shared with friends and family, playing soccer or wiffle ball in Aunt Jodi's yard, a picnic dinner, fireworks on a blanket by the lake.  Simply the joy of spending time together.

This simple chain of events seems to have taken on more meaning as the years go by.  My husband and I look forward to spending precious family time together with our four grown children.  It doesn't happen very easily these days, and so when we are all together it is cause for celebration.  The funny thing is that my children often refer to this holiday as their favorite; out pacing even materialistic Christmas or (at their age) alcohol fueled New Year's Eve!

So why do they love this holiday so much?  I have a theory.  They love our family and our family traditions.  Even if one of them misses our Fourth of July, as they have over the years, they find comfort in the fact that it still goes on as always, and they will be able to experience it the next year if they are able.  They have been raised to appreciate our time together in the company of our family and friends, and not take it for granted.  And family traditions offer comfort and stability to them in our fast paced, ever so stimulating world.

What family traditions do you have?  If none come to mind, take the time to start some.  Pattern a celebration in a certain way each holiday and recognize what a gift you will be giving your children.  The gift of quality time, quality memories and simple family pleasures.  There are a lot of summer nights remaining.  Get busy planning some days and nights to remember!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Let's be honest, Parenting means Sacrifice!

On a recent trip, I saw a young mother holding feeding her adorable little baby girl in the midst of a crowded airport waiting area.  The young mother was traveling alone, with her tiny baby in tow.  All of us know how much stuff a baby requires, so of course the mother had a baby bag bursting with baby paraphernalia.  After she fed the baby, she was rocking her and hoping for her to sleep.  But this baby girl had some incredible stamina.  She just would not give in, and drift off to sleep.  She wriggled and cooed and would seem to be closing her little eyes, but something would startle her and she would begin to fuss again.  The mother was tired.  You could see it in her eyes.  She just wanted the baby to sleep.  But it wasn't happening.

We were traveling on the same flight, and our flight experienced a number of delays.  In the hours that passed, I lost track of the young woman.  But when we boarded the plane, she ended up sitting in front of me.  I noticed that even though the plane was full, the seat next to her remained open until the very last person boarded and was forced to sit beside her.  I felt bad that I had not taken that seat.  This mother was young, and I think it bothered her that no one wanted to sit beside her.  I also was thinking of how she had not been able to put the baby in a stroller or carrier and use the bathroom or have a snack or drink herself.  She had no one to hold the baby and no where to put the baby for the entire time.  Her struggles brought back memories of when my own children were young. 

The bottom line is, being a parent is TOUGH!  It is hard work.  It means constant sacrifice and putting someone else's needs above your own.  It is not for weaklings.  A parent needs to be strong.  A parent needs to be courageous and willing to make hard decisions.  Don't become a parent if you are not willing to do the work, because your actions will impact your children.  Let's just be clear.  Babies are cute, but they are hard work.  And then, babies grow into toddlers, and they are physically exhausting.  And toddlers grow into kids who grow into Teenagers.  Teenagers are emotionally exhausting.  Parenting is not easy...but when done right, the rewards are great!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Blogiversary...It has been two years!

Today marks the official anniversary of my parenting blog.  I have been writing this blog for two years.  Coincidentally, I reached my 50,000 view this very week.  As far as blogging goes, I have to admit, I don't know much.  But if you read my blog, you understand that my passion lies with helping parents to create loving and supportive families, and raise children who are prepared to thrive in the modern day world.

My own children, who are my greatest experiment and achievement (along with my husband, who is part of the equation) are my inspiration.  They continue to surprise and delight me with their love of adventure, care and compassion for others, and diligent work ethic.  I also teach preschool, and am inspired by the creativity, enthusiasm and kindness of my little students.

The goal of my blog is to continue to inspire parents.  Thank you to all my readers for your heartfelt comments and support.  It is truly the motivation for me to continue.

Happy Parenting! 


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Big Picture Parenting will help your child develop"super" powers!

All children are born into the world with unlimited capacities or "superpowers".  It is a parent's job to recognize this and then follow the philosophy of Big Picture Parenting in order to help each child develop his or her talents and self esteem, which in turn allows him/her to create and achieve a meaningful and fulfilling life.  This is no small feat.  This is Big Picture Parenting.  Often times parents get so caught up in the mundane tasks of parenting that they forget the Big Picture.  The mundane hijacks the sublime.  I am urging all parents to consciously fight against this tendency and embrace Big Picture Parenting for the benefit of your children and their future.

How does a parent embrace the Big Picture Parenting Philosophy?  First and foremost, the parent must at all times strive for objectivity when it comes to evaluating your child and his/her development.  This is easy to say but difficult to do.  Take some time to look at where your child is succeeding and where he/she is experiencing difficulties.  Be mindful to view difficulties as opportunities for growth and success rather than viewing obstacles and insurmountable cause for depression or immediate parental intervention.  Help your child formulate a plan for dealing with issues and put the steps into action.  This is being a supportive, involved parent that embraces the Big Picture.  The tendency for most parents is to rush in and solve the issues for the child.  Being this type of reactionary parent is counterproductive.  When parents react and rush in, they are communicating to the child that he/she is not able or capable to deal with issues.

Self esteem cannot be served to your child on a platter of compliments.  Children who develop healthy self concepts are the ones who have learned that they can deal with the obstacles that life throws their way.  Children are resourceful and resilient.  Parents tend to forget this.

Two practical ways for parents to foster self esteem in their children are to expose them to a variety of environments and experiences, helping them to discover their interests; and allowing them to feel their actions can make an impact on the world.  Take your children to concerts, expose them to art and history, sports, and travel.  These experiences help a child to recognize the vast opportunities that exist for them in the world.  Also, encourage service and volunteer activities at every turn.  Children love to feel useful and that they are capable of making a difference somewhere.

The Big Picture Parenting Philosophy is based on allowing your child to become all that he/she can be by experiencing a wide variety successes based on simple problem solving and developing self esteem.   These are key ingredients in helping your child to embrace his/her superpowers through a strong and stable self identity and confidence to follow his/her passions and dreams. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cuteness Isn't Enough...

Babies are so cute.  Okay, not all newborns are...but within a few weeks of breathing oxygen and being fed, babies blossom into adorably, cuddly, darling, captivating little creatures.  And their cuteness factor multiplies with each of their new achievements.  Their ability to smile, giggle, begin to experiment with language or learn to walk are milestones that increase their cuteness and general likability.  And we, as their parents, bask in the adorableness of it all.

But sometimes, our parental basking gets in the way of reality.  Sometimes, we forget to reevaluate and discern that even though a toddler is charming and soooo cute, taking a swing at daddy or trying to pull mommy's hair should not be acceptable behavior.  And we excuse away the behavior in the interest of keeping the peace.  The problem is that when parents end up excusing away unacceptable behavior or turning a blind eye, the child has this annoying habit of growing up and parents have an annoying habit of remaining stuck in their parenting cycle of excusing and ignoring.  The result is a child who has not been taught self control and empathy.

Our society is more in need of these lessons than EVER before.  There is a reason that we are hearing about bullying and harassment at record levels.  Our culture seems to glorify rude and selfish behavior.  We are literally bombarded everyday with examples of individuals who behave like selfish, spoiled brats, and so are our children.  Children's games and shows are full of examples of disrespect and rude behavior.  And any messages of wholesome, happy, family centered values are deemed as boring or lame.

So what can we do?  Teach our children!  Teach them empathy and kindness.  Start with teaching simple manners.  Manners are a tool to remind us that we are a polite society.  Manners are a way of thinking of how our actions affect others.  Teach your children to hold the door for another person.  Teach them not to interrupt or to use "please" and "thank-you" as part of their everyday vocabulary.  Read books to them that reinforce the importance of core character traits, such as honesty, compassion, the importance of friendship, or caring about others.  Teach them to be good sports on the playing field and in the classroom.  Show them the power of words, and how a compliment can brighten some one's day, but a mean remark can truly hurt someone.

Our society desperately needs more nice and less mean.  So let's all do our part as parents, to have a positive impact on society by raising kids who understand the importance of kindness.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Six Secrets to Summer!

School is out for summer!  It is the favorite time of year for most children I know.  But parents enter this transition with mixed feelings.  What does the new schedule look like, if there is a schedule at all.  Will the siblings be bored and fighting within a few hours of the final school bell?  Will there be tears about going to camp?  The questions about what the summer will hold are rattling around in every parent's brain.  I can still remember feeling the panic that would set in, while attending the final performance at school...oh no, what am I going to do now that they won't be in school?

Here are some tips for making the most out of your summer, from a mom who has weathered 25 years of them!

  1. Have a plan:  Summer is the time to kick back a little and relax, but children always adjust better when there is some structure in their lives.  Explain to them what a summer day will be like.  A schedule that used to work for our family was swim lessons and then chores and study time in the morning, and when the "work was done, it was time for fun!"  But depending on the age and maturity levels of your children, you will need to find what works for you.
  2. Make a list:  Get out the markers and a poster board and have some fun brainstorming simple activities you hope to do this summer.  This list is a great way to inspire your children to think about what they hope to do with you.  If you are in need of some ideas, head over to Pinterest for inspiration.  Or check out the 30secondmom.com website.
  3. Enjoy the simple things:  Go play at a park, pack a picnic, take a bike ride, visit your library and sign up for the children's programs, color, play board games, make lemonade, bake a cake, go swimming, hike in a forest preserve, run through a sprinkler, visit a farmer's market.  There are so many opportunities for simple summer fun.
  4. Guard against summer slump:  Academics shouldn't disappear for the entire summer.  Keep your children learning and growing but embrace fun ways to stay sharp.  Play math games in the car, write poems to each other, visit museums and zoos to learn new things about history or animals.
  5. Think outside the box: One year we placed a small tent in our yard and encouraged the kids to use it for a "special" reading place.  Even though it got hot inside, they loved this idea of a unique place of their own.  So get creative and do something different whether it is pitching a tent, planting a garden, or painting a mural.  Kids love the opportunity to experience new things.
Savor the summer.  Remember to view family life with rose colored glasses.  To use a metaphor, see your bucket as half full rather than half empty.  Eventually you will run out of summers with your little ones.  They grow up so fast, so seize the day!  Live summer to the fullest and enjoy this precious time with your children. 

Helpful links:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

This weekend we celebrated my daughter, Christina's graduation from college.  And this week's blog is dedicated to her and her accomplishments.

Dear Christina:

From the day you were born, you served up the unexpected.  Ending up in the hospital for 11 days was just your way of making a grander than expected entrance, and the memories I have of all of your family gathering around your incubator/plexiglass cubical to be near you, and hold you and shower you with love and attention truly made an impact on the type of person you would become.  You have always put family first, and when given the opportunity showered all of us with your love and attention as if you had already decided in those first few days of life that you would "pay it forward" to all of us.

If a character in a novel held your name, the image that would come to mind would be of a raven haired, olive skinned beauty: Christina Marie Lantero.  But once again, you serve up the unexpected through your porcelain fair skin, strawberry golden locks and beautifully expressive, dark blue eyes.

Your fierce independence was evident even back in preschool, when Mrs. Hoekwater wanted you to have a "buddy" to help when you broke not one, but BOTH of your arms.  And I remember you telling me in no uncertain terms, that if you had to endure another day with a "buddy", you simply would prefer not to return to preschool!

From high school to college, your father and I have been able to see you mature with such grace and style;  seeing you form amazing friendships with a wide spectrum of personalities, watching you overcome obstacles and disappointments, and cheering you on as you juggled sports and activities, while maintaining your grades and nurturing the people around you.  You have always been willing to step up and lend a helping hand when I have needed you.  You have no idea how much that means to me.  You helped with the retirement party last year, and the educational conference, and there have been countless other times you have created videos or slide shows that have enriched your family's lives.  Your giving nature has exceeded all of my expectations.

And now, you have graduated with a degree in education.  I figured you would find a job at a wonderful local school and they would be so glad to have found you.  But no, you will be heading to the other side of the globe, to inspire and teach and influence lives in the polar opposite time zone! 

Words cannot express how proud I am of you and your accomplishments.  You are fearless,intelligent, kind, and passionate.  You will be a wonderful role model to all of your students.  And I can hardly wait to see what life has in store for you.  Of one thing I am sure.  It will be completely unexpected but utterly delightful.  Just like you!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gardening Will Have To Wait!

 All parents know that when the calendar fills up the first thing to be sacrificed is self care.  We are programed with all the expectations of our family members and somehow the time for ourselves gets forgotten.  In my case, when I get sacrifice my "me time" the whole family pays the price.  My fuse is shorter, my moods are swingier, my thought process is weirder.  As you can tell, I'm in that place right about now.

So what can I do?  How should I react?  Who should I punch? Or wait, maybe that is not the answer.  Here is what I am prescribing for myself during these next hectic few weeks.

1.  EXERCISE!  I read once that if all the benefits of exercise were contained in pill form, we would all be taking it!  And I know from experience that exercise, even just a walk around a block or two, can have a calming effect and elevate my mood.

2.  Dial Down the Caffeine and Sugar:  I don't need to be adding any substance in my body that is going to add to my already jittery self.  When my mind says "go ahead and indulge, you need this"...I will stay strong and brew a cup of herbal tea or an icy glass of club soda mixed with a splash of fruit juice.

3.  Stock Up:  If I am shopping, I am going to consciously try to buy the necessities in bulk, so that running out of toilet paper or paper towels will not be an issue in the next hectic few weeks.

4.  Call in Reinforcements:  Have a friend or relative or babysitter come over to lend a hand if I am truly overwhelmed or need help.  There is no shame in asking for help.

5.  Reevaluate Expectations:  Okay, maybe I need to reevaluate what I can humanly achieve in the month of May.  Vegetable garden might not make the cut.  Sorry Michelle Obama, I need to go brew my herbal tea.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Gifts my mom gave me!

What gifts can you thank you mother for giving you?  I did some reflecting on what I have been given from both my mom and mother-in-law, and came up with this list of knowledge that they have shared and passed along to me and my family:

  • Put family first
  • Share what you have.
  • Delight in other's happiness
  •  Never stop learning
  • Practice your faith.
  • Love your grandchildren
  • Learn how to cook at least a few things very well
  • Don't stop exercising
  • Smile a lot and laugh often
  • Appreciate beauty in all forms
  • Treasure your friends
  • Value your marriage
  • Accept change with grace
I would love to hear the gifts that your mom passed on to you.
And Happy Mother's Day to all of our lovely moms!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Love your kids!

As my loyal readers know, my kids are all but grown.  Only my lonely 17 year old remains in the nest.  Which is quite a change from a few short years ago.  I am so grateful for my big (by today's standards) family.  My husband and I are blessed with four amazing children who I am convinced will make their mark on the world in a positive way.  I love that they have each other as well as their dad and I to support and love them.  Don't grow complacent about loving the people in your life. 

This week, I was once again reminded of how quickly things can change, as the father of one of my child's friends passed away suddenly of a heart attack.

So this parenting post is simple.
Love your kids.
Be the voice in their head that echos encouragement and praise.
Lift them up when life is hard or unfair.
Teach them to love you and their other extended family members by making family a priority in their lives.
Be your best self for them-so they can face the world with love on their side.

Love your kids.
Today and everyday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Childhood is Precious!

Yesterday at the preschool lunch table, my little ones were discussing Duck Dynasty and the "F" Word.  Now parents, I am sharing this without judging as I stand in the knowledge that my four children had moments in their schooling where I am SURE that their teachers heard questionable things coming from their little mouths.

I clearly remember sharing with a "friend" the fact that her son had been discussing that very word with my daughter in their first grade class, and the woman never spoke to me again! I was not sharing the message with her for any other reason than to let her know and possibly have a conversation with her son.  Just like I had to do with my daughter.  But her defensiveness ran deep, as it does with many of us when issues concern out kids.  But here is my non-judgmental plea.

Please don't use bad language around your kids, or allow your older children to.  Please don't leave it for the teachers to teach what language is appropriate.  And please don't allow your young children unfettered access to any and every TV program that is found on cable.  Just because you find something entertaining doesn't mean it should be shown in front of your little ones.

Preserve and protect your children.  There will be plenty of time for them in the future to watch what ever they like or speak however they choose.  But for now, during this brief time when they are little and innocent and naive, strive to protect them from adult messages, themes and language.  Childhood is fleeting.  Childhood is temporary.  Don't push your little ones into the adult world before they are ready.  Allow them to revel in childhood, with it's simple joys of playtime and discovery.  They will be grown in the blink of an eye.  So today, resolve to honor who they are at this most precious time and protect their childhood.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Does Your Parenting Partner Do Everything Wrong?

In speaking to parents, I often hear the complaint that the other parent does everything wrong.  This my friends, is a lie you like to tell yourself.  Just like the lie that you only ate one of the cookies in the cookie jar.  We have an amazing ability to create untruths and convince ourselves of their merit.  Your child's other parent does NOT do everything wrong, just like you do NOT do everything right.  We all make parenting mistakes.  The key is to learn and grow from them, and also navigate the parenting path with the other parent in the BEST interest of your child.

So here a few tips to help you make this happen, remember it is for your child.  That makes it worthwhile.

1.  Set the Stage:  Have an adult conversation about your parenting efforts at a non emotional, relaxed time.  Hire a sitter and go to dinner.  Examine together what you think you are doing well, and where you might need to tighten up.

2.  Agree on the Basics:   Find common ground about where you want to set limits for your child and how you will reenforce good behavior, and what you will do when your child's behavior is falling short.  The more united you are, the better for your child.  Mixed signals from parents are confusing and also grant your child a license to manipulate you, and play you against each other.  You need to be in agreement.

3.  Look in the Rear View Mirror:  Examine the type of parenting you were exposed to as a child, and have a conversation with your spouse or co-parent about how he/she was raised.  What did your parents do well, and what were their shortcomings.  This exercise can help you both understand why you react the way you do to your own child.  Usually we either mimic how we were raised or we swing way to the opposite side of how we were raised, in order to "make up" to our kids for any hurt we felt as a child.

4.  Don't Fight In Front Of Your Child:  This kind of behavior is damaging to your kid.  Promise each other that when you disagree, (which is bound to happen) you will relocate to a different room and hash it out.  Remember that you are the adults!

5.  Model Respect:  Respecting each other is key to having your children respect you in the future.  If you call each other names and carry on like preteens, your child will grow up lacking respect for either of you...and that is NOT what you want.

These 5 tips can help your child.  So put your ego aside.  Stop blaming your spouse or co-parent for all of his/her shortcomings and unite to become better parents.  Seek out parenting support if you need it from parenting classes or books or blogs.  Working on your parenting skills will bring a closer bond between you and your child, and a brighter future for all of you.