Finally, A Win

I started this blog just after learning I had miscarried in 2015.

Eight months ago, I just stopped posting. In my mind, I had figured this was just another blog that fell by the wayside. People say if you are still blogging 6 months after you start, then it was meant to be, or something whimsical like that. The truth is, as things in my life got more awful, I just didn’t feel like sharing. To write down my thoughts, would be to acknowledge them, and I wasn’t ready.

But, I just got off the phone with my lawyer, and this was the first window I opened in my browser. I wanted to share with you again, not a loss this time, but a win.

And I have to say after being gone so long, it was really nice to see that people had visited this blog while I was off going through my trials and tribulations. Thank you.

My lawyer had called to let me know that my long fight with my company over my worker’s compensation claim had been ruled on, and it was in my favor. It isn’t a large sum of money, but it filled in the missing income while I was out of work, getting treatment for my injury.

I’ll make a post this week, for those that want all the sordid details of this drama that has been unfolding in my life since 2014. But right now, all I can think about is my kids. As the breadwinner and supermom wannabe, my family relies heavily on me. I bear that burden gladly, I cherish it. Maybe I’m not so thrilled at changing stinky diapers and dealing with teen angst, but celebrating my successes of my children and family as a whole, makes me feel whole.

So, tonight, we celebrate being whole. Cheers!

Togetherness

The family that _________ together, stays together!

Is it possible to fill that blank with just about anything? Well, barring any illegal activities… yes, it is!

There have been many versions of the saying through the years, and in fact I think it started as ‘The family that prays together stays together’. While this saying may have started out as a slogan to get families to church, I find it has much more meaning when you look at the word ‘together’.

You would think the emphasis should be on the activity the family does, however, I think it’s more important to be together. This isn’t meant to minimize the effect prayer has, but rather to take a look at togetherness in the family setting.

The family that cooks together, stays together!

When I was a child, we were exiled from my mother’s kitchen. Anyone that dared to traipse in there looking for a snack would have to answer to the guardian of all our food, my mother. I frequently have to explain to my mother, that I don’t have time to guard food. I put the best choices I can in easy reach, and hope for the best. It is demoralizing when I have to throw away wilted salad, and then vacuum up debris from chips they got into while I was busy, but I try to remember that more often then not the salad bowls are in the sink to wash, and the chips are still in the cupboard!

When you start to have a larger family, food preparation time can really eat into your schedule. So why do it alone? I like to prep vegetables at the kitchen table, where my two-year-old can always be found. He always is curious about what I’m doing and we have fun naming each item and their color. It also helps me be more mindful of my selection of veggies! If he says “Green!” three times in a row, I know I need to get some more colors into my veggie diet.

Of course, there are endless blog posts about food creations you can make with your kids, in fact I have one myself! Play with Your Food was a post I did last year with Halloween food crafts. But what these posts don’t tell you is the finished product isn’t always so pretty, as the nice pictures bloggers put into their posts, and afterwards, the kitchen is a huge mess. I actually remember taking pictures for that post at such an angle that readers would be able to see the huge mess the kids had made. Although I did mention the mess in a post later that month, about Being Present in the Moment. Maybe, this year, in an effort to be more transparent, I’ll include the mess in my blog pictures, so people will know what they are getting themselves into when they decide to cook with their kids.

One thing I can’t show you in a picture, is the pride my kids have, as they grow older and are able to (and do!) make better food choices for themselves. With the knowledge of how to prepare food, they are given more to choose from than just whatever plastic bag they can rip into. Plus, it becomes an activity that brings them fond memories of their early childhood and time together with us, their parents.

The family that eats together, stays together!

Many people don’t even have time to ponder if sit-down meals bring a family closer together, never mind actually have one. With all the schedules of parents and children’s after school activities, it sometimes seems impossible to get everyone under the same roof, forget about getting them to the same table. But I am a supporter of the family sit-down meal.

When children are small, it is mostly on you to clear enough room in your schedule for a sit-down meal each day. If you don’t, you not only rob your children of time with you, interacting unfettered by the outside world distractions, you rob yourself! We spend so much time doing the less than pleasant part of parenting, it is a really nice change to just slow down and take your children in for a moment. How big they are getting, how much they have learned and what thoughts run through those little minds.

When the kids get older, it becomes more difficult to find that slice of time when everyone can sit down. I remember that my mother somehow made it work, and there was an 18-year age span between the four of us. So, when I started school, my brother was graduating and going to college, and my little sister had just been born. When we all got older, my mom still made us sit down for dinner at least once a week. And I adore her for it. I can recall the enthusiastic way my dad and brother would discuss New England sports, and how my sister and I, only 4 years apart, would kick each other under the table, and then my younger sister would say something adorable and everyone would stop and say “Awwww, how sweet.”

Of course, you can only remember these things if there are no phones at dinner, and although back then, it just meant you would let the phone ring, or later, let the fancy new answering machine pick it up, it’s the same concept. No phones at dinner!

The family that cleans together, stays together!

All this cooking and eating makes a huge mess, of course, and it’s why so many chose not to do it. It takes less time to get through the dinner routine if you don’t pull out all the stops. I mean, for some of you, as you read through the last two sections were already picturing your kitchen sink with plates, pots and pans, the floor and table covered with food and not enough energy to deal with that.

When you have a heavy load, it’s always easier when you have some help. Plus work aids in digestion. So, we all clean it up together. Someone takes the baby and cleans him up, someone else put away the leftovers, while another cleans the table and floor. In 10 minutes we have the whole mess cleaned up and everyone can relax. I have never had a meal cleanup last longer than 15 minutes. I know you may think that’s impossible, it takes forever to do all that work, but in reality, it just doesn’t take that long.

I have many friends that clean the house themselves, to avoid the long, inevitable, drawn out task of getting their kids involved in the effort. Even older children can break out the toddler tantrums when you ask them to do chores. So, I use the same tactic I use with my toddler when I want him to eat something, I make them pick between two things I want to happen. Then I just do the other one and my work has been cut in half. I will warn those that are very particular about how chores are done, you may find yourself going behind your children and re-doing the task up to your standard, but don’t use that as an excuse to skip having them so it. When children see what it takes to keep the house nice and tidy, they appreciate you more. Plus they’ll live on their own someday, and they won’t be able to say that you never taught them how to clean!

The family that games together, stays together!

You begin to see that anything that your family does together can have benefits for your family and strengthen your bond, but what about broadening your horizon, and getting into your kid’s turf for a little bit. My parents never had video games, in Ireland, they were lucky to have much at all, but I got into gaming in college, and now I play with my kids. The games they have are very different from what was available to me, and most of the games, I really can’t see myself playing. But I do play Minecraft with the younger kids and last weekend, we started a action role playing game called Diablo, with the older kids. While they saw it as a chance to show off their superior gaming skills, my husband and I used it as an opportunity to teach team work. With four players on the screen, you need to work together to accomplish the game’s goals. Not only that, but you have to sometimes sacrifice for the team. It is obvious that the other games they play teach them to grab all the loot and horde it for themselves. But in Diablo, your team is stronger if you support each other by sharing loot with the team, so that each player has the best statistics for game play.

It’s great for families to do things together, and you don’t need things to be perfect to spend time with your kids. Other things we do together include working out and vegging out in front of the TV; Being super productive and finishing a big project and being super lazy and doing nothing all day. Any and all of these things are opportunities to spend time with your family. Then, maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to use the bathroom by yourself again!

What are some of the things your family does together?

 

 

 

 

Just Say YES!

To keep your sanity, just say NO YES!!

There are many sources of advice on how to say “No.” An internet search will pull up many tips and hints on how to say no to people to lower your stress and increase your productivity. I’m going to tell you the opposite – just say YES!

With the myriad of things each day we have to do, choose to do or do because we finally have two minutes of down time, it is important to limit how thin you spread yourself. Only, that isn’t what people are doing. We end up saying no to family time and yes to more work.

I’m not economy expert, but I can see people happy to still have a job, while they watched coworkers laid off or forced into early retirement. It certainly doesn’t seem like a good time to ask for that vacation time off, does it? Sometimes, the work of those that have gone is foisted upon you, as the positions at your job go unfilled.

So, when you shuffle on home at the end of the day, you just need to relax. We’ve been told, letting stress build up is no good for your health. So, you have to take action to control your stress. Maybe you workout to combat stress. Maybe you eat your feelings. Whatever your plan (or non-plan) may be, you have your routine to keep your sanity. So, when your family asks you to change that, it is understandable why you might get a little nervous and cling to your routine with a resounding “No.”

Work commute

Even though this is part of my commute, I still need to de-stress when I get home from work.

All work and no play makes Supermom a dull girl. It’s a good thing I’m not yet Supermom, because I can set my routine aside and get me some yes.

If you follow my blog, you may know I’ve been suffering some leg pain, and recently was told I have a bone tumor in my femur. So, when my husband asked me out of the blue to go for a walk with him one evening after work, I definitely had a valid excuse. When I opened my mouth to answer him, “Yes.” came out instead. It wasn’t a long walk and we didn’t break a sweat, but I had a chance to connect with my husband, which I would have missed out on had I declined his invitation.

My 12-year-old suddenly emerged from his room, which is a rare circumstance indeed, and asked if he could watch TV with me. I had too much to do to play couch potato in the middle of the afternoon, he must see how busy I am. “Sure.” As we watched one of his favorite shows, he started telling me about the people on the show. Then we ended up having a conversation about his future, and that he may not want to go to the regular high school, here in our town. Even though all his friends will be going there, he thinks he wants to go to the Technical High School. Now, we could have discussed this later, he has the rest of this year and next school year to decide. But I was there for him, and now we both know that when he needs a sounding board, I’ll be there for him.

I am by no means a superfan of sports, but I like cheering for the local teams, and this time of year that means watching Patriot’s games. (I love the Bruins, but the channel their games is broadcasted on, is not in our cable package, BOO COMCAST!). Then, the baby indicated he wanted to explore outside. The sun was going down, and it would be getting cool. I was all comfy, settled in to watch the game. Don’t I deserve some “Me” time?

Instead, I said “Okay.” and outside we went, where this happened:

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Maybe that isn’t so much, but I bet it meant something to him, more than looking at the leaves through the glass door, or hearing me cheer for the Patriots. Then something even better happened. My husband came outside to join us and snapped this picture of me and the baby:IMG_0923

That’s my hubby’s finger in the upper right hand corner, but who cares? I love this picture. And all I had to do was say “Yes.” So, go out there and get yourself all of the Yes you can squeeze in.

What did you say yes to today?

How to Stay Strong in the Face of Bad News

There will always be times in your life when things do not go your way. To be able to move forward despite your disappointment is a skill that any supermom, or any one for that matter, needs to master.

For many years, this was a skill that eluded me. I looked to my brother and his struggles and learned from his example. He never let obstacles slow him down, he would just adjust course. To read more about his story, please read my post Loss of a Sibling.

It would seem that recently, life has been testing my ability to stay strong in the face of utter defeats. I think I’ve done well coping with my new struggles this year, and I hope you can employ these tips and stay strong.

#1. Reach out for support.

It is my time to shine. I had a good year at work. I met my goals, I even surpassed some. I did get a “Good job.” from my boss for the marked improvement in report submission. The improvement is appreciated. Perfect time to ask for that promotion, right?

Maybe not. But next year looks good.

I was crushed. I held it together, and finished the meeting with my boss. We finished with a strategy to get me that promotion, next year. After she left my office, though, it was time to call in my support group. I called my husband first, who promptly called my boss a jerk. After, I called my mom, who of course decided that my boss was only trying to keep me down because I was her work horse, her secret weapon. I made her look good, and it just wouldn’t do to have me be promoted out of there.

These things aren’t true, of course. But in that moment, it’s what I really needed. Because I didn’t want to end that meeting with a smile and a handshake, I wanted to scream in her face! Doesn’t she know how expensive things are? How hard I’ve worked? How much I needed that raise? How can I work properly when I’m constantly worried about providing for my family? I can’t even afford their health insurance benefit anymore. Each year the premium has risen, so they are taking more and more out of my check. A small raise would help at least cover their expensive premiums, but without one, my check gets smaller and smaller.

But your support group shouldn’t just put down those that disappoint you. Nothing will show my boss that I deserve that promotion more than taking her constructive criticism and coming back more dedicated than ever. After that initial emotionally charged period, your support network will help you move on to the next step. From the extra hug I got from my husband the next morning before work, to a coworker that gave me tips on how she got her promotion when she was in a similar situation at our office, they give you the support to come back strong.

#2. Be sad.

Sometimes, I just have myself a little cry. It may not sound like something a strong person would do, but to keep your emotions stuffed down in side you is not good for you. A very smart lady said “It takes a shit ton of strength and courage to be a sensitive person in this world.” (Thanks Hattie Cooper/The Anxious Girl’s Guide to Dating in 2013)

People tend to give you space and time to be sad when catastrophic events occur. I still shed a tear for my brother at random moments. Misting up over the miscarriage is more difficult, because I didn’t tell people at work what had happened, and I don’t want to. Taking those few moments to have a cry can reinforce you. It is a release of the stress and emotion building up inside you. Let it go, let it out, and you’ll feel better.

For smaller disappointments, this strategy still works. Give yourself a little time to release the emotion from each small disappointment. If you are a private person, that is fine. Excuse yourself and find a space where you can release the emotion. This leaves you unfettered and ready to handle the next emotional thing that will happen in your day.

#3. Process what happened.

After you let out the emotion, there is more room in your brain for making plans.

At a recent doctor appointment for my chronic knee pain, the doctor let me know at the end of my visit that I had a tumor on my femur. His attitude was laid-back, meant to keep me calm about what he was telling me. They wanted an MRI of my femur, so they could better judge if it was benign or malignant, but I shouldn’t go home and worry because they were confident it was benign.

Well, Google isn’t so confident. It seems these types of tumors are more common in young people who are still growing. So, to have developed this in my late 30’s tells me (again the source being Google) that it is most likely malignant. Freak out time!

Nope, I’m going to stay strong. The fact is, it could be malignant, but all the Googling in the world won’t diagnose my tumor. I need to get an MRI, and then maybe a biopsy, gather the data to determine what type of tumor it is. Either way, some type of treatment will be called for, and I can deal with it when that happens.

To try to process something that hasn’t happened yet can just drive you crazy. There are so many ‘what ifs’ out there, it’s a miracle we make it through each day. But we do, most times without incident. So, stick to the facts.

#4. Make a plan.

Plans are great. They can fill you with energy. It is like looking up at an insurmountable peak, and then seeing that around the corner, there are steps that you can take to the top. The steps are your plan. My boss and I made goals for the coming year. Reaching those goals will make it easier to get a promotion. So, I made plans on things I can do at work that will help me reach those goals. My husband and I, though crushed by our loss this past summer, plan to continue to try for another baby. Just making that decision helped me recover some of my strength. We have also planned a memorial on what would have been the baby’s birth date. He wants us to get matching tattoos to remember our son – that plan isn’t final yet. My doctor and I have a plan for my femur. I’m going to get an MRI and see him again at the end of the month.

Having a plan can make you feel in control over a situation that may have left you feeling helpless. You are not helpless, make a plan, or adjustments to your previous plans, to get to where you want to be.

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Moms are pure strength. We have to be strong for many reasons. But it isn’t something that just happens overnight. If you are feeling downtrodden, reach out to your support network, feel all the feels, but keep your focus on the facts of what happened, then, make a plan to get yourself back on track. This will lead you to see the strength that is within you.

How do you stay strong? Please share in the comments.

Being Present in the Moment

As parents, we have many responsibilities, ambitions, tasks and burdens. Corporations should thank us, because multi-tasking was undoubtedly created by parents. With technology making our tasks more accessible, i.e. mobile banking, online shopping and even an APP to help us talk to our kids, we are being driven to produce more results, more often.

In my childhood, I remember clear boundaries being drawn in regards to my parents’ time. When my mother sat down each month and handled our bills, we were not to bother her. My siblings and I would find something to do, and if we argued about it, we kept it down because Mum was busy and interrupting her was not an option. We weren’t scared to interrupt her, we weren’t under threat of punishment and we weren’t all that considerate that we left her be simply because disturbing her concentration was rude. My parents’ boundary lines taught us to prioritize our needs, so that everything we experienced wasn’t an emergency.

Well thank goodness I don’t have to set boundaries! I can just do all those things on my phone while I attend to my children’s every need and want!

Wait a second… but that isn’t a good idea.

Aside from the fact that children do need to be taught boundaries, I am doing no one a service by splitting my attention in too many directions at once. Can I really enjoy their performance at the soccer game, if I’m making my shopping list through my grocer’s weekly ad app? Am I really listening to the song my son made up on his guitar, if I’m running through a To-Do list in my mind? Will I hear the baby’s first word, if I’m listening to the news while making dinner? Probably not.

I have often struggled in my life to be present in the moment. I barely remember my college graduation, with all the logistics of my whole family coming in from out-of-state, getting them checked in to their hotels and figuring out what restaurant could accommodate us, I forgot to stop and take a picture. I had no pictures of my graduation ceremony, or myself in my cap and gown. The professional photographer at the event only has a picture of me hurrying back to my seat. I couldn’t even take a moment on the stage, to savor the culmination of my college career. I had to throw my gown back on, late that night at the hotel, and snap a few pics.

These days, I’m slowing down a little. It is important to me to make these memories not only last, but exist! Making memories is an active participation task. You must do your part to not only plan these things we do with our family, but you must participate as well. I have gotten a little better at it now that I’m more mature, but I wish I knew these things when I was younger, especially as technology has become a larger part of my life.

These are a few tips, that I would have given to my younger self:

Life isn’t made up of ambitions

When I was small, I was a bit of a dreamer, and spent much of my time planning my future. I’m not talking about the normal run-of-the-mill “I want to be an astronaut” day dreaming. I mean I did research, made lists and planned it out, I even had a list of dogs I wanted to own! (Although, I DID want to be an astronaut, very much so, for about 6 months.)

Now that I am older, I realize life isn’t about the specific job you hold, things you own or places you visit. It is the attempts to achieve your ambitions. It is the memories you create for yourself and others. Especially when you have children. Those memories will hold value to your children when they’ve grown, and they will pass those values to their children.

Set a time to focus on your business, and take care of your business during that time.

When I come into my office during the day, I have time set aside for daily tasks, like running reports, checking emails and making phone calls. It works well at home too. When I get home, I have a little 30 minute routine that I go through that gets me up to speed with the rest of the family.  I talk to my husband, during this time I assess his stress level. If the baby has been crying all day and has worn him out, it is easy to tell. Because he is a man, he just says “The baby cried all day, I’m going to lay down, you’re up.” (A side note, I’ve encouraged my stay at home mom friends to use this line as frequently as needed.) My husband will fill me in on the day, what the baby did or didn’t do, and since I want to teach the baby to talk, I ask him about his day as well. Did he play with his favorite toy? Did he take a nap? Did he drink juice? He just sort of gazes at me happily, I can only assume glad to be part of the conversation. I check in with my older son the same way.

The reason I can take this time to connect with my family is because I have set aside time to deal with the business of running my house. It is so tempting when I see the mail by the door on my way in, to pick it up and start going through it, but knowing that I have time set aside to handle my correspondence leaves me free to check in with the rest of my clan. I planned dinner the evening before, so I’m not stuck trying to figure out what to eat and there is nothing thawed, or I need to go to the store for that one ingredient item, which somehow ran out. And the mail will be handled, just not in this moment.

My secret productive hour? It is actually in the morning. Since I’m blessed with a stay at home spouse, I don’t need to prepare the baby to leave the house for the day. Most days he is only waking up when I am leaving. I realize this is not everybody’s situation, and morning can be quite hectic. But take a look at your day and find that time you can get down to business. Then stick to it, everyday.

Note that it doesn’t have to be the same time everyday. On weekends, my productive hour can shift to just after lunch. Everyone is fed and happy, the baby takes a nap, and I have some quiet to deal with my responsibilities.

No one is saying emergencies won’t pop up, and thankfully we have the technology to make those easier to handle, but paying your electric bill at your kid’s dance recital is not one of them. Transferring funds into your checking account because your husband mixed up the debit card with the credit card might be.

During an activity, don’t worry about the mess.

My kitchen must be cleaned daily, as most people’s do. So, when I decided to do those Halloween food crafts two weeks ago, I started to notice that we were making a huge mess. I immediately shut that thought down.

How do you eat this thing?

How do you eat this thing?

That is the old me, the me without a graduation picture. When I shook the thought off, I caught a glimpse of my stepson opening his mouth super wide to bite into the skeleton pretzel brownies. I wouldn’t have missed that moment for anything, especially not a little extra mess in the kitchen. Ok, a super big mess. But who cares? I’m still going to have to sweep the floor. The odd thing is sweeping the entire floor takes about the same time with a little bit of dust as with a lot of pretzel salt and brownie crumbs. You’re still covering the same area. So, don’t worry about it and instead pay attention to what is happening in front of you.

You are responsible for you

Well, sort of…

You are responsible for your kids, yes, but can you make them feel differently about a moment by changing your behavior? No.

I really wasted so much time worrying about everyone feeling good in the moment, that I failed to notice how I felt about what was happening. When I look back at those memories, they are faded somehow. On my graduation day, I was totally worrying that everybody was comfortable, watching all the interactions between my friends and parents, looking out for my brother, in case there was an area he couldn’t take his wheelchair. But nothing I could have done or not done would have changed their day. It only changed my memory of the day. I definitely wasn’t thinking about how I felt about completing my degree and savoring the victory of a job well done.

Feelings go hand-in-hand with memories, and strong emotion can boost your memory. So, take a second to feel all the feels. And you don’t have to do this only at special family events, do it every day.

Pay attention to these tips, and when you look back, you won’t see lists, bills and your phone. You will see your life, made up of wonderful memories.

This post was inspired by the photography of Eric Pickersgill and blog post by

Ready to Try Again

When I suffered my miscarriage back in the summer, the question hung in the air; Would my husband and I like to try to conceive again?

This was a hard thing to think about while I dealt with my grief. I felt like there would be time later to decide this. Then we got the all clear from my doctor. We are physically able to try to conceive. But am I prepared mentally?

The miscarriage shattered the world I lived in previously. In that world, nothing bad could happen, I was a super pregnancy unicorn. With my first son, I was very sick and lost 30 lbs., due to my nausea. I couldn’t keep anything down. Somehow, he managed to grown to a whopping 9.5 lbs! I don’t know how I did it, but I did. With my second son, I was scared of giving birth. I was 11 years older and not in the great shape I was in at 25 years old. Would I be strong enough? Apparently, I was too strong, as I barely got into my first good push and the doctor yelped “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” – the baby was already out!

So, I felt like I was made to have babies. It just seemed to go well for me. Extreme nausea aside, most people didn’t even realize I was pregnant until I was almost due. My tall frame made for plenty of room for little ones to grow.

Back in the summer, in that doctor’s office, with no heartbeat to be found, I just knew it must be something wrong with the equipment. Things just work out for me, this couldn’t happen to me.

But it did happen.

Now, we have to decide if we want to try again. We are certain we want another child, but now the worries are around every corner. I am fallible.

The questions are many and none are productive thoughts. “What if it happens again?” “What if we struggle to get pregnant?” “What if the doctor missed something?” “Can I stand to go through that again?”

To dwell on negative thoughts such as these is not helpful, but they creep into your mind, and you can’t help it. Before, I would just assume things would be fine, but now, I know better. Things can go awry, for apparently no reason. But it’s in that fact that I find my hope to push past the negative fears in my head.

There was nothing I could have done to save my baby.

So, going forward, I can only do my best, and hope that we will be blessed once again with good news. I will use my fear to motivate me to a healthier state, both physically and mentally. Because to let my fear paralyze me will cause me to miss out on what’s to come.

Play with Your Food

Last week, I happened upon some great ideas for food crafts. With hope in my heart, I went to the store, bought the ingredients required, and set off to have a fun weekend with the kids. These ideas are by Robert Mahar , presented by Julianna Strickland. I loved the ideas immediately, but would the kids enjoy making them as well?

10426257_10208053654088187_3504280038095661407_nI set up at the kitchen table, made a one of each and called the boys into the room. Did anyone want to try or make things with me? The baby was, of course, very interested. All the items on the table just had him ready to create, or at least grab things and push them into his mouth. Then I looked at the faces of my 12 and 10 year-olds. Slightly more reserved than the baby’s reaction, they actually sat down at the table. Now, I just had to reel them in. I started with chocolate, because that is very hard to turn down. I pushed a plate of witch hat cookies towards them. Easy and fun to make, we just used some orange icing on the center of a Keebler’s Fudge Stripe cookies and pushed a Hershey’s Kiss onto the icing to make the point of the hat. 12115559_10208053653808180_5987752917513585714_n

Then, I hit them with the skeletons; a brownie base, with a pretzel spine, ribs and a marshmallow head. More fun to look at, but much more difficult to actually eat. The kids seemed to prefer making them to actually eating them. I have seen a few variations of this one, using a cupcake instead of a brownie, or leaving out the pretzels. If we were having a Halloween party this year, these would make fun centerpieces.

We had a failed attempt at making witches brooms, like the ones shown here. The cheese crumbled too easily, and the chives snapped apart when I tried to tie them. The apple peanut butter marshmallow teeth fell apart when the kids tried to put them into their mouths. Although they said they tasted yummy, I could tell they were disappointed that they couldn’t walk around and use them as false teeth.

I finished off our food fun with jack-o-lantern stuffed peppers, which I had been roasting in the oven while we were having our fun. My planning on this wasn’t best, since the kids were now filled with sweets and weren’t in the mood for something a little more substantial. Oops!

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I learned a few things – primarily, that you should have lunch first. But also, I had selected too many projects to do, which resulted in a long shopping list. Although, it is important to pick more than one project, because if it fails, you can quickly move on to the next fun project. You don’t want your kids shuffling back to their rooms disappointed with your craft fail. The reward for all this effort? An extremely messy kitchen, and the gratitude from my children. Yes, actually grateful that I took the time to do something with them. They said it was fun, and they enjoyed it.

I felt the meter move closer to supermom.

It’s Going to be a Hurricane Party Weekend

At the end of my week, I like to think ahead to what I would like to do with the kids for the weekend. If I fail to plan out my activities, it becomes inevitable that we all go to our own corners to veg out after the stressful week. And sometimes that is just what we need.

But being a native New Englander, I realize we are coming up on some dark days. Leaving for school and work in the dark. Not having too much day left after school. Forget about it for me – I can only look out my office window longingly at the sunlight, I never get to step into it during the week.

But that time is not here yet, so we must make the most of the splendid autumn we have before us. Apple picking, leaf peeping, corn maze running – it’s all on our list. So imagine my disappointment that after work today, I will be preparing my home for Hurricane Joaquin. No outdoor jaunts for us this weekend, we’ll just have rain, wind and more rain.

Of course, this means we must have a Hurricane Party! The idea popped into my head this morning as I watched the weather and I realized I had several activities that I had been wanting to try, and this is the weekend for it.

First of all, you must have a good movie. I chose The Avengers: Age of Ultron which is available starting today on DVD. My oldest son has seen the movie already and even he is looking forward to seeing it.

For snacks, how about some Jell-O worms? Anyone? Well they are super fun for the kids to make. I learned how to pop corn when I worked at a movie theater in high school and college, and since have perfected my buttery, light taste with my homemade popcorn, so it’s time for a challenge. I received this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens with a great recipe for caramel corn. My husband loves caramel, and putting it on popcorn is about the only way I’ll eat caramel, so this should be a yummy treat for all.

With the yucky weather outside, it’s the perfect time to break out the crock pot and get going on those slow cooker recipes I’ve been seeing in my inbox. Maybe Betty Crocker’s Mexican Beef Stew?

But enough about food, we need some activities. One thing we’ve been planning for a while is an epic blanket fort. The baby loves it when I drape blankets over things, and he always tries to crawl under them. My older son and I have been saving up items for the blanket fort that we’ve come across. I started a little pile in the corner of supplies. I have an old beach umbrella we though could be useful. Pillows are tantamount to a good fort, square ones with stiff filling. We went through all the sheets and blankets and picked the best ones. How do you know which are the best? Lightweight are best, since the heavy ones droop too much and need stronger supports.

I also have some wax paper and leaves for making leaf pressings. This was a favorite activity of mine when I was small, and it’s a little too early to have very colorful leaves, but I’ve managed to collect some already this fall, so we may as well do it now. For some better entertainment, I’ve been wanting to try out this list from BuzzFeed on 17 easy magic tricks – I kind of just want to see if I can do most of these. That reminds me, I need to add bananas to the shopping list.

Of course, if things go badly and Joaquin follows Hurricane Bob’s path… we will be abandoning our party, and heading inland. Maybe Springfield, MA and the Basketball Hall of Fame?

What are some of your favorite rainy day activities? Mention them in the comments!

Sending Mixed Signals to Your Child

I was mad, and I was going to show it. “What I actually said was…”

I never got to finish what I was saying because just as my voice grew louder, aggravated by my husband’s inability to hear what I was saying, the baby decided to mimic me: “Argh-a-dada-ba-da!”

That is what I probably sounded like to my husband too. If I wasn’t so ashamed, I would have had to laugh. I just stared at the baby, who was unaware how his mocking me had affected me. He simply was copying what he was hearing, and what he heard was my yelling.

I have been more aware lately of the messages we are sending to our youngest family member. At just 17 months old, he is starting to pick up our ways of interacting and speaking to each other. I hardly want the baby to think it is okay to yell and scream at people. Lesson learned. For all of us. We keep our tone more docile now, and it’s nice that we aren’t all hollering to each other all over the house. Growing up, my family was like that. Someone would start a story, someone else would think that their story was better so they would interrupt the first person, being sure to speak more loudly to be heard. Before long, our nice family dinner would be all 6 of us talking as loud as possible with no one listening. This is a trait I never noticed about my family, until I left home for college and met other families, that conversed in a more civil manner.

I had a conversation with my husband about other poor habits we may be instilling in our little one. My husband loves to rough house with the boys – and we are a rowdy house of boys to be sure. One night, when my 10 year old stepson came to stay, the baby was so happy to see him, he swatted him in the face. I understand that I’m the lone girl in a house of boys, however, what happened next dismayed me. My husband and 12 year old son laughed. The baby thought it was great so he hit him again!

It may be easier for your older children to distinguish the nuances of these interactions. It seems ridiculous that such a sweet cherub would a) be vicious and/or b) hurt anyone with his baby smacks. But the baby doesn’t know why you’re laughing, he just knows he likes it. And he will see no reason why it wouldn’t bring laughter from you again – say at the park. With someone’s child. So, we all know the golden rule, if you don’t want your toddler to hit, don’t hit. If you don’t want them to yell, don’t yell. You also can’t laugh when they go off on their tirades of baby language gibberish, or swat at someone.

With that being said, are there mixed signals we send to the kids, that maybe aren’t so obvious? Normally, we think about this when children are small, since they seem to mimic all of our behaviors. What about older children? When I was growing up, my parents never drank coffee, instead opting for tea, as they were used to doing in Ireland. By the time my younger sister was entering high school, my mom had a cup a day, which she normally picked up from Dunkin Donuts. I don’t drink coffee, not ever. My sister, who moved to the West coast, now regularly gets Dunkin Donuts coffee sent to her via mail. Wherever we go, she is always on the hunt for a good cup of coffee.

Now maybe drinking coffee isn’t a big deal. If anything I feel freakish amongst my office mates when I divulge that I don’t drink coffee. But what about driving habits? My father taught all of us how to drive, including my mother. But we rode in the car with my mother the most. So, despite being taught very technical aspect of driver from a CDL license holder, I drove like my third-time-is-the-charm driving test flunking mother. Several speeding tickets in my youth and huge insurance rates finally broke my poor driving habits, although I still yell at other drivers, just like my mom.

As the children grow older, they become more attuned to your daily habits. Do you workout? Or are you a card-carrying member of the couch potato club? Do you make poor choices when deciding what to eat? Do you spend money frivolously? Do you take time to read? Really, it can be any habit – good or bad – that your child will pick up from you. There are many articles about smoking parents are more likely to have kids that smoke. I don’t think that I have ever seen a parent that would wish for their child to start a smoking habit.

When debating the role-model parenting style, many people wish to point out that some actions are things that adults do, like drinking alcohol, and are not meant for children. Therefore, as an adult, you should be free to do as you wish. I disagree for the main fact that even the adult things I do, I still try to be a role model. My parents drank socially, and many of my drinking habits come from what I watched them do as a child. I don’t drink alone, I don’t drink and drive, and I don’t get wasted. These come from distinctive childhood memories, seeing my parents drink responsibly.

Children can also learn a lot for you messing up, and when you do mess up, own it and apologize. So, instead of launching a much deserved tirade at my husband, who doesn’t listen, I apologized, lowered my voice and repeated what he hadn’t heard, several times. Maybe the baby will mimic my sweet apologetic tone when he get older and messes up.

In the meantime, I’ll just do my best supermom act, until I make it to supermom status.

Helping Children Achieve Goals

Sigh. “I need to save some money.”

My 12 year old is under a lot of stress. As we drive down the road, he tells me of his money woes. He feels the pressure to start gathering the funds he will need to own a car.

I feel I’ve been doing well teaching him about money, despite my recent stumble into debt myself, letting him know about saving, and the actual cost to things. Like insurance. Maybe he knows too much, to be thinking about his financial goals for 4 years from now. I am also proud he’s thinking of his financial future – 4 years from now!

My son’s paternal grandfather passed away when he was only 4 years old, but the two had a strong connection – cars. This child’s first word was “Vroom” followed swiftly by “Papaw”, the affectionate name he had for his grandfather. It was decided that Papaw’s ’95 Chevy Silverado and ’68 Roadrunner would be given to my son. Now, the truck has been kept on the road, and needs a new clutch. My son doesn’t think he will have any problem saving up the funds to get that fixed, in fact, he could probably do the repairs now with his money in his savings account. But the Roadrunner is another issue entirely. It’s a project rebuild car – that Papaw himself barely found time to work on. This summer, while at his Dad’s he worked on the car every chance that he had.

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He dug out all the chrome parts his Papaw had ordered for the car, and put them on the body. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he’ll have to take them all off to paint the body, but he’ll figure it out. My son envisions a future (4 years from now) where this Roadrunner and his Papaw’s old truck sit shining in my driveway. He’ll be the envy of all the neighbors because he’ll have such spectacular vehicles. Affording this dream is his primary goal.

I gave him some plans to increase his income. His current saving account is filled with money from relatives in Birthday cards and extra chores he’s completed around the house. He knows how to mow – but mowing season will soon be over. He’s pretty handy with a snow shovel, and if this winter is anything like last winter, he could make a fortune! I also suggested he babysit – he is great with his little brother, knows how to change diapers, make bottles, and play appropriately with little children.

After thinking on his problem, I got some ideas, other than just increasing his income, that may help him get a handle on these big plans he has. What he needs is a project list. When I’m planning anything, I start with a project list and a budget. He should prioritize his two projects – the truck and the car – separately. In my opinion, the truck will be more likely to be put on the road, in a timeline acceptable to him. So, he needs to take a look at what parts the truck will require. Even these need to be prioritized, into items that are really needed, like the clutch and new tires, and those he wants, like fancy rims. How much does it cost to transfer the title? Register the truck? Insure it? How much gas is this guzzler going to drink?

Same for the Roadrunner. What parts of the car are currently viable? What needs to be replaced? After sitting in a garage since the 70’s, this car is going to need a lot of work. It may be something that he will work on through his twenties. He even admits that the project itself is more having something he and his dad can do together, which helps me to know that his ambitious dreams aren’t using all his brain power. He is reasonable enough to know the Roadrunner is a huge undertaking.

Maybe this is too much for a soon to be 13 year old to be worrying about. That thought certainly crosses my mind. These seem to be very grown-up concepts my son is trying to master, not just the financial, but mechanical too. But then again, if you know a pre-teen, motivation can be hard to find in their sulky little bodies. They seem to be made up of eye-rolls and sarcastic barbs for their parents. I certainly prefer his furthering his mechanical aptitude than playing Xbox all the time.

Also, this is a perfect chance to teach my son how he can achieve any goal he sets for himself. You see numerous articles all over the internet that teach you how to take your goal and break it into actionable steps. Each completed step brings you the confidence that you can reach that goal. You can apply this to pretty much any task you set for yourself: athletic training, financial goals, organizing, etc.

I sincerely hope he achieves his goals, despite these not being my first picks for my baby to drive when he gets his driver’s license. I thought my Camry would be a safer, more economical first car for him. But if he accomplishes what he has set out for himself, he will be the kind of responsible person that won’t be reckless behind the wheel, and will work hard for gas money, so he will be able to enjoy the spoils.