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?

 

 

 

 

Should Your Child Play Pokémon Go?

It may seem silly, as a full-grown adult woman, to be downloading the latest apps that are trending, but I do it.  Am I trying to stay young and fresh?  No, I’m making educated decisions for my kids.

I downloaded the Pokémon Go app and tried it out myself, and it didn’t take me long to realize this app could lead my kids to make poor decisions.  There is enough these days for our kids to consider and things to derail their thinking, they don’t need another distraction.

Here are my list of concerns with Pokémon Go:

  1. It drains your phone battery – very quickly.  If you are anything like me, you bought your child a phone so they could contact help in an emergency.  At least, that’s what you tell yourself while your pre-teen whines, “But Mo-ooom, everybody at school has a phone!”   Unable to listen to that whining for one more minute, you tell yourself, “If I do this, at least they can get a hold of me in an emergency.”   You wouldn’t want to lie to yourself, now would you?   So, what if I told you I took a 10 minute walk with my dogs, just around my neighborhood, and my battery was almost dead?  Granted it was only charged about 75% when I started my walk, it had dropped to nearly 20% by the time I had sauntered around the block checking for Pokémon’s along the way.  And, I had the battery saver on.  The Battery saver mode is a setting you can choose, however, most people don’t realize that in order for it to kick in, you must hold your phone upside down.  When you do, the screen dims, but you are still making progress in the game.  But what’s the point of the phone if it’s dead?
  2. It uses cellular data.  If the phone isn’t dead, then your kid has used all of your cellular data allowance.  And frankly, that’s just annoying.  If you do decide to let your kids play this game, make sure you have your text notifications on, so you can receive the text two days into your data cycle that let’s you know it all been used up and you are now into overage fees.
  3. Players don’t pay attention to their surroundings.  And neither will your kids.  Honestly, I am a grown woman, and I found it difficult to keep my eyes from checking my phone screen.  While I found my resolve, others may not and kids resolve can be shaky at best.  Since I live in a tourist town, we have lots of places considered hot spots for people to pull in and check out.  But as I drove to work, I found a rather large number of people pulling into my dentist’s parking lot, which is weird because he is on vacation this week.  One glance at my phone showed me the reason for all the hub-bub: a flutter of leaves I’ve been told indicates a rare Pokémon.  With all the people pulled over, I had one burning question in my mind:  How many people weren’t bothering to pull over and attempting to catch the Pokémon from their car, while driving?
  4. The locations of Pokémon are not vetted.  How do the game makers decide which areas to stash these Pokémon?  Or to make a PokéStops and Pokémon Go Gyms?  When I first downloaded the app, I found a Charmander right at the foot of my bed, how cool is that?  While I haven’t seen anymore in my house, I have located a few in places where I don’t want my kids to hangout.  There is a Pokémon Go Gym located at our local beach, which generally would be a good idea.  Who wouldn’t want to relax at the beach and do battle with their Pokémon?  But the location is odd, because it is about a mile from the public access beach, where my town has lifeguards posted.  It is positioned just next to a public bike path which transects a private beach access site owned by a local HOA.  I’m sure they are thrilled by the new influx of non-members onto their beach, as are the bikers, now that their path is blocked by hoards of people on their phone. But you should consider using Offender Locator App along with Pokémon Go, and you’ll see that the house your kid is standing out front of belongs to a registered sex offender.  Apparently, users of the Pokémon Go App can use special items that lure Pokémon to them, instead of having to go out and seek them.  This of course costs money, but what’s a little investment to lure victims to your location?  This has already been used by robbers, that have lured App users to their location, by luring Pokémon to an isolated spot, and then robbing unsuspecting App users.  And just think, all of your victims are carrying their iPhone or Android phone in their hand, making it easy for you to grab.  And remember that Gym located at the private beach?  What is to stop predators from using this App to locate where the kids are hanging out?  No thank you.  This is by far the biggest concern with this game.
  5. Common sense is not common.  When you start the game, it provides a warning that tells the player to please pay attention to their surroundings.  But the news is being littered with people who are doing the exact opposite.  As much as we all like to think that our special little snowflakes are different and those tales of woe could never happen to them, I think those people in the stories thought the same thing.  I don’t want my kid discovering a dead body, or getting robbed at gun point.  I would also hope my kid would know not to go looking for Pokémon at the Holocaust Museum or the 9/11 Memorial in front of our Fire Dept on Main Street, which turned out to be a PokéStop!  So mingled in with those paying their respects to fallen, are giggly kids playing a game?  Where is the reverence for our sacred spots.  There was another story about a guy who lived in an old church, and that the App had chosen his house as a Pokémon Go Gym.  So does this mean that churches could soon be flooded with those not there to worship?  I find that very disrespectful.

We all have to make our own choices when it comes to these things, and of course there are safe ways to use this app and have fun.  When I was a kid, I didn’t need an app to explore my neighborhood.  We were allowed the freedom to explore on our own.  These days, letting your kid play outside can be considered neglect, or at least may garner the attention of the nosy neighbor that will call the authorities on you.  While I’d like to give my kids more freedom to explore their world, I don’t think this  App is the way to do that.

But if you do decide to let them play this game, make sure you monitor it as you would any online and social media interactions.  It may be good for you to know that the App logs the location of all the captured Pokémon.  So, where have your kids been?  Maybe consult with the Pokémon Go app.

The Conception Roller Coaster

When you are trying to conceive, I find that hope springs eternal.

If your bra chafes your nipple, and now it’s tender, you’re pregnant.

You gained a few pounds, you’re pregnant.

If your period is an hour late, you’re pregnant.

I had never had the experience of trying to conceive before now. All four of my previous pregnancies were surprises. I wouldn’t call them unplanned, so much as I didn’t plan birth control, and hence, was nicely surprised.

But after having a baby in 2014 and a miscarriage in 2015, I find my fears and anxieties are through the roof. For anyone, after a miscarriage is scary to try to conceive, and thanks to Google, you can find tons of online communities filled with ladies going through the same thing. It’s a place where you, at once, yearn to be pregnant and hope you’re not at the same time.

Once you find yourself in that space where you are wondering if you are pregnant, you immediately wonder will it be okay. And when things don’t start normally, you have more fear that things will not work out.

For me, to take some of the guess-work out of the situation, I purchased and used an ovulation test, that measured LH surges. (If you are new to the conception lingo, LH surges can indicate that a woman is ovulating.) Assuming that I did everything right, I should have conceived. So, when my period didn’t show up, I assumed that I was pregnant.

But then I wasn’t so sure. The home pregnancy tests were all negative. I wasn’t feeling nauseous like I had in the past, and the same was true last year. So, immediately I become frightened that I’m going to have a repeat of last year. How can one be hopeful about being pregnant with those thoughts in their head?

Then I got the best advice ever from my mother. Plan a vacation.

“What!?” I said, “We are planning on having a baby, not go on vacation.” We can’t afford both. Was she nuts?

Nope. She was right.

The last thing you need when trying to conceive is to put pressure on yourself. That’s why the other pregnancies were a delightful surprise. I wasn’t planning on them or trying to make something happen that really is out of my hands. I was living my life and enjoying myself and was blessed.

So, it remains to be seen what actually is happening with me at this point. I’m not saying I’m going to take a laissez-faire approach to my health, but I am going to stop pretending like I have control over the miracle of life. I don’t have control over, no matter how many sticks I pee on, it will happen, or not, as it’s meant to. And really you enjoy life more, when you stop trying to control it.

 

The 10 Year Gap – Diapers and Drama

I read an interesting comment on an article today that related the diaper changing years to the drama filled teenage stage. Since my kids run the gambit from 2 to 17, I guess in this manner, my parenting is currently filled with dealing with crap. I’m up to my eyebrows in it.

Something happened last night that really snapped my into attention, that I hope other parents will sit up and take notice too.

A little background, my littlest will be two next week, and we are planning a small family celebration on Saturday. I’ve been wrapped up in my own thoughts this past many months, thinking about the precious baby I’d lost. That’s life, sometimes it can catch us off guard, as it did last night.

So, yesterday, my husband called me, somewhat annoyed. My 13 year old didn’t come home on the school bus like he normally does. I had to call the school, who in turn called the bus company, that got a hold of the late bus driver to see if my son was on the late bus. [The late bus is for kids that stay after school for school related activities.]

It seemed like an awful lot of people to bother, and I’ll admit it’s embarrassing having to tell other adults that you don’t know where your kid is.

As you would do, we sat down with him, and spoke about how we don’t mind if he does things after school, but we must always know where he is. Checking in with us is a responsibility that will not be going away anytime soon.

He stood there with a sullen look on his face, that I instantly recognized. It was my sister’s sour teenage face I remember so well. Whenever we got in trouble, and yes it was usually the both of us together that got into trouble, she had a very unique way of handling my parents. She was sit there, stone faced, while my parents railed against us. Me, I always fought back with silly arguments, “But you never said….”, “But I didn’t do it…”, or “That’s not what I meant…”

Not my sister. She wouldn’t say one word when we were being yelled at. After one particularly grueling session, my sister took it upon herself to impart some wisdom to me. When you speak up while being yelled at, it lasts longer. People that are upset with you don’t want to hear you, they want to be heard. So she stayed quiet, and let them feel heard. Even with her wisdom, I couldn’t bring myself to shut my mouth, then, or even now.

While my husband was speaking I looked at my son’s face. There was no emotion, no outward sign of distress at being in trouble, no apologetic glances acknowledging that he’d made a misstep, nothing. He didn’t even flinch when we took away his electronics, every teenager’s life-force. He truly looked like he didn’t care and nothing scared me more.

Later, with my husband off to work, and dinner cleared from the table, I refused to allow my son to go to his room.
That’s what they like to do, you know. They go to their teen lair and think about how wholly unfair life if, and if only this, that or the other happened, they could be happy, like the people in movies or TV shows.

As I sat on the floor, playing with my 2 year old, I gave one simple command, “Speak.”

He was quiet for a long time, and I explained that it was obvious something was bothering him, and I wanted him to open his mouth and start spilling it, until he got it all out.

He arose and went to his room, and I despaired that I was losing him. But then he came back, and in his hand was a letter. He had written it after we had reprimanded him. In it, he expressed his apologies for showing that he didn’t care, but in a way, he didn’t care. He was dealing with friends turning on him this year in school, kids that had been good friends in the past, were now ostracizing him at lunch and pressuring his remaining friends to abandon him. It consumed his thoughts and now even his girlfriend was becoming distant, and not really talking to him.

I considered this information carefully. I was glad he trusted me with this information and knew that at his age, these were huge problems, overwhelming problems and the type of thing that can consume a child. It couldn’t be easily dismissed.

How can this be related to changing a diaper? I would rather change 20 diapers. This was a load of crap that I couldn’t hardly navigate myself at his age, and I know that at that age you don’t listen to your parents advice anyways. What was I supposed to do.

You do your job as a parent and change that diaper. I picked my son up, and dusted him off. I gave him encouragement that he is a good person, and a loyal friend, and advised him not everyone in the world play by all the rules, in fact, they can be quite cruel. He can’t focus on what other do, he can only control himself. After our talk, he realized he did have some good friends that would stick by him.

It seems only yesterday I was having his 2 year birthday party. I think of his little chubby cheeks and big eyes as he took in his construction truck theme cake. He tore each little piece of wrapping paper off while making explosion sounds with his mouth. How I wish I could make him feel better with one simple action. But he’s not two anymore, he’s 13, and he needs to learn to deal with this stuff. I can’t protect him from his peers.

I remember watching my brother, who was 10 years older than me, interacting in high school, and it made me yearn to grow up and go to high school and do all those teenage things. Only when I got there, I didn’t have as easy a time dealing with the social scene as my charismatic brother.

But here’s the nugget that let me know we would all be okay. I told my son to look at his little brother, and how much he loved and looked up to him. Sometimes having that unconditional love of a toddler can heal you, and as he considered his little brother, I saw that genuine smile return to his face for a moment, and then it turned into a full grown grin, then he was laughing. Things can’t be all that bad with that little face upturned in admiration.

To help my 13 year old out, I let him off diaper duty for the night. he has enough crap to deal with.

Hitting the “Publish” Button

Those that may have been excited about my blog and what I was saying, probably had figured me as another blogging casualty. They thought I was one of those overnight pop ups, that have a bunch of posts and then the content dries up before hitting the six month mark.

Don’t despair.

While I have not been publishing much lately, I have been writing. There may have been a better way to take a break, but what’s done is done.

As many of my followers know, I was due to have a baby in March. I lost the baby back in August, around the time I started this blog. As the time went by and March got closer and closer, the reality hit me in the face.

As it goes, I normally write about the thing that is most prevalent in my mind, and it seems my draft box is filled with post after sad post, chronicling how I’m relating to this so very awful experience.

So, why not publish them? Forgive me, but I’m not ready to share. Or to be judged.

When you hit that “Publish” button, the words and thoughts are gone from you, like feathers from a busted pillow case, and try as you might, you can never gather them all again. While you may do your best writing when the subject is something you are really passionate about, it can be too raw to let others see it yet.

I’m sure my readers would have nothing but support for me, as you are all so kind to me. Until I’m ready to receive that support, I’ll keep my drafts where they are. But look forward to many new posts.

Thank you all so much!

COMCAST TIP

I don’t normally post things about businesses, but I had to pass this along.

If, like me, you hate calling Comcast, then I have a tip for you that may make your life a little easier.

Comcast now has direct lines to their agents. I spoke with a Customer Service Agent today, and she was helpful, polite, and direct. She just helped me with my problem swiftly and didn’t make me listen to a bunch of pre-written lines, like some operators do.

As a joke, I asked for her direct line when she asked if there was anything else she could help me with, and to my surprise, SHE ACTUALLY GAVE IT TO ME.

Of course, she isn’t there 24/7 to help, but I can leave her a voicemail and she’ll get back to me, or I can try my luck with one of the other operators, it really just depends on the severity of the issue.

If you find the same luck, and end up with a good Comcast operator, ask for their direct line! And good luck!

When Small Children Act Out

When children are small, every thing is a game to them. They are curious and like to test all the boundaries. When you take them to a place where this curiosity is encouraged, like a playground, it can be an awesome event to behold. But when you are in a situation where this curiosity is not supported, like to eating out at a restaurant or when you are on a tight schedule, it can wreck havoc with your life.

So, there are two things to consider here: how to prevent a situation where your child will act out, and what to do when you’ve failed to prevent it. Dealing with your child’s tantrums can be a major source of parents feeling inadequate. You could have it all together, and then your child screams in the grocery store and you suddenly feel judged by all the patrons.

So, the first thing to adjust, like in most cases, is your own attitude. While it may be your task to go about your business as an adult in an orderly fashion, it is your child’s job to test out their world and push their boundaries. Being able to recognize that your child is not trying to misbehave, or be counterproductive, they are trying to accomplish their own agenda, which can include items like investigating what happens when they pull the apple out of the bottom of the apple pyramid at the grocer, researching people’s reactions to them throwing their food in a restaurant and using trial and error to figure out how best to get you to buy them candy. So, all in all, they are just doing their job.

I believe that understanding this fundamental piece of information can go a long way to remove some of the negative emotion from when we fail to prevent a tantrum. When you understand it isn’t personal, you can begin to see how to engage in a way with your child that is more positive.

Now, as a precursor to this advice, please realize this will not help you get a toddler to behave through a marathon of adult activities. Children can only pay attention to so much throughout any given day. Marathon events can include things like weddings, flying on a commercial airliner, to their very own birthday parties. The fact of the matter is they don’t have the stamina we have, even though we may admire their energy. I will write another post about how I get my kids through those events, and believe me, it is possible.

So, without further ado:

How to prevent situations where you child will likely to act out:

Toddlers are extremely independent souls, that are oddly so dependent on you.  They want to do things by themselves, but they need your help to navigate our society. Balance can bring you leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. So, it follows that if you want your child to sit for a long period of time, have extra active time for them, because children are filled with energy, and that energy has to go somewhere. Make a space for them to perform their experiments and make a mess. Make sure they have a proper appetite at meal time, by limiting pre-meal snacks.

Often we may take the easy route, like hand them a snack to keep them out of our hair while we make dinner, but then how is that same child supposed to focus on their dinner when they have no appetite. Without that focus, you have basically handed them a plate full of projectiles and squishy experiment projects. The easy route leads us down a path to our own detriment. It may be easier to let the child take a longer nap so we can finish our house chores before we go out, but you are then leaving the house with a fresh child ready to terrorize the world.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Plan your child’s day as you would your own, and plan your day with your child in mind. How about an example?

Let’s say on any given weekend, I need to do 4 loads of laundry. I can schedule my day in any number of ways, but some favor more time saving for myself and other schedules prioritize positive interactions with my kids.

As a busy adult, it would seem to make sense to get the laundry over and done with as quickly as possible. At my quickest, I could finish all 4 loads in 3 hours in all. Run down to the basement, start a load, it’s easy, right? But when I go downstairs, my toddler always wants to come with. So, while I may be able to get the washing machine loaded quickly when I do it on my own, 9 times out of 10 I come back upstairs to a toddler tantrum. So, this works out to 5 minutes to load the machine and 25 minutes to calm the child and get them back to their activities.

Instead, I can take him downstairs with me. It may take me 20 minutes to load the machine, but I’m still saving 10 minutes and I’ve been able to have some teachable moments. Toddlers love to explore and going down the basement steps is good practice. Anyone with stairs in their home, will know all too well how much energy is expended in keeping stairs secure from exploring toddlers. At least, I feel if my littlest was to somehow access the stairs without my knowledge, that he is physically able to get up and down them and is less likely to have an accident, than if he had no experience with them. When I separate the clothes, I can teach him his colors, or let him feel the fabrics (this is smooth, that is rough) building his vocabulary.

Also, it is important for us to keep the outcomes of our toddler’s actions in perspective. I needed to walk our two dogs, and once again I was faced with doing the quick adult way, or slowing my pace to incorporate my toddler. So, I let him come along and he presented me with a challenge. HE wanted to hold the leash. One of our dogs is less than 10 pounds, so I knew he was strong enough to do it, but what would happen if he couldn’t? The dog could pull loose and run away.

Now, I use a leash to keep my dog from running away. But if I’m honest, the toddler is the only person that hasn’t accidentally let the dog loose, simply due to a lack of opportunity. So, if he were to let the dog run off, it would be no worse than any number of times I had lost the dog. Our small dog, is a Pomeranian, and she will come when she is called. So, I handed my 22 month old the leash with confidence, and he didn’t let me down.

So, it really comes down to making space in our busy modern lives for these little ones. So then, what about when you’ve done all this to accommodate your small child, but then they throw a tantrum anyways.

System Failure. Child Tantrum Imminent. Now What?

You’re at the bank, and you are using this as a moment to teach your toddler numbers, but they get upset. The denominations of the currency doesn’t match the numbers they learned on Sesame Street. 2 comes after 1, not 5. Where is the $2 bill? You try to explain, but it’s too late. Unless you can produce that $2 bill now, a full blown tantrum is on it’s way. Your child is already raising their voice in excitement.

At this point, the energy has already built up in their tiny little bodies, and now it needs to be released. Whatever it was that has pushed them over that edge, keep in mind that you can’t bring them back from the edge they just flung themselves from, the energy release has already begun. Your job now is to limit the stimulus your child is experiencing. So get them into a calm quiet environment and ride it out.

Remember that they can’t keep up that amount of energy required for kicking and screaming, so soon they will calm. Once you reach this break, don’t introduce new stimulus to the situation, or they will act up immediately. I see this happen sometimes with my husband, when our little one wants a toy, and he can’t find it. The baby proceeds to have a fit, and as soon as he stops to catch his breath, my husband will present the previously missing toy. The baby will erupt once again.

Keep in mind that it probably wasn’t the toy that pushed the baby over the edge, maybe he was tired, or hungry or had a a dirty diaper and the missing toy only provided a catalyst to release the pent up energy he felt about the situation.

Don’t feel bad about your hasty retreat if this happens in public. These things happen. I’ve had meals hastily boxed up so we could quickly leave a restaurant, or even laid in the bedroom in the dark with my son, so he could calm down.

What have you found has helped with keeping your small children from acting out?

Our Kids are in Pain

I remember in my early teens, a lot of my friends felt pressure to own certain brand-name clothes, to wear their hair a certain way and have the right stereo/gaming console/CDs. We were very materialistic. Since then, society has made strides towards detangling our self worth with our worldly possessions. So, what kind of dilemmas face our young teens, these days? I think the answer would surprise and frighten you.

I’m glad that I have the type of relationship with my 13 year-old that he feels he can tell me things. But honestly, the things he tells me scare me. My son has a huge heart, and cares deeply for his friends, so it doesn’t surprise me that his friends unburden themselves on his caring shoulders. In turn, he needs support from me, because the issues he is facing are more than most adults can handle.

Here are some of the stories my son has told me:

A boy named Sam* lives at home with his parents, who both smoke. Sam’s hair and clothes constantly smell of cigarettes, through no fault of his own. People look down on him and call him white trash, but what hurt the most, was when his closest friend decided one day that he didn’t want to be friends with him anymore. Friends since pre-school, once they began 6th grade, the boy just stopped talking to him. He said it was hard on him, and since then, he has had issues opening up and letting new people in. He talks too much in class, and gets in trouble a lot.

Jack is popular, funny and well-dressed. His parents are wealthy and he always has all the newest gadgets. They take weekend trips to their house in Maine to ride snow mobiles and ski. But Jack’s parents don’t really pay attention to him, and he engages in increasingly more dangerous activities, hoping to catch their attention. Recently, he broke his ankle, riding a bike down a steep hillside full of trees.

A girl named Sue is lesbian. She came out to her parents, and has a great support system at home. She needs it, because there is no end to amount of slurs she must face, not only online, but while she is at school. The hatred she has had to stand up to in her short life boggles my mind, she is depressed and so it comes as no surprise the girl had at one time contemplated suicide.

Her friend, Sally, has not come out to her parents yet. She is in constant fear that her parents will find out, and has also considered suicide. Currently she self harms, by cutting.

Tyler lives with him Mom and Dad, who had him late in life. His next older sibling is 21, and none of the other kids live at home. Mom works, but dad is out on disability. Tyler revealed that his father often took pain pills for his back, and sometimes exhibited irritability as a side effect. His dad used to send him out to play, even on days when it was far too cold. Tyler soon figured when these events were about to take place, and left the house on his own, to avoid inevitably being kicked out for the afternoon.

Mary lives with her 5 siblings, mom and stepdad, and sees her father every other weekend. With so much going on in her home and traveling back and forth, no one had noticed that she was struggling socially. She is painfully shy, and is taunted for not being like the other girls. She doesn’t go for the brand-name clothes and wears her hair plainly. She felt alone and had no one to talk to. When she first met my son, she was planning to kill herself.

These children are in pain, and they just want to the pain to stop. They are acting out, becoming aggressive and considering suicide. You could never tell by looking at them. They pop up at my doorstep, looking for my son, all rosy cheeked and bright eyed, as youth tends to make people look. But they are hurting inside and they are coming to my son with their problems.

We all know there is pain in the world. You don’t have to know a child in danger before you talk to your child about these types of things. We certainly can’t barge into all these homes and tell these parents what’s what. But if you want to do something for these kids, start in your own home. Teach your child about handling these situations, what to say if someone if hurting themselves, or wants to and who they can report it to. No one wants to be the wet-blanket tattle-tale, but remember, those that speak of self harm, are asking for help. Whether they have plans or not, or even if they don’t intend to actually go through with it, they need and want help. People may think they keep their child safe, by shielding them from the things that can and do happen, but to send your child to school each day without the knowledge they need to handle some heavy problems facing our youth, is the same as sending them into a football game without a helmet and pads. Equip your kids with the know-how to navigate the world they actually live in, not the fairy-tale land you would make for them.

*All names have been changed to protect the children.

The Challenges of a Unique (Uneek) Name

This post is a plea to those parents in search of the most unique name for their little one. You may consider lots of things when picking a name, but after living with my very unique Gaelic name for over 35 years, here are some more things you may want to consider before saddling your child with their very own uneek name.

No one can spell my name.

No one can spell my name, not even my mother, apparently. My mother chose to change one vowel in my name. This may not have been such a big deal if my name was Brandy;

“No, no, it’s Brandi, with an ‘i’.”

I wish that was the extent of my troubles. When I speak to people on the phone, I have to spell my name multiple times. Some people think that I have spelled my own name incorrectly, and happily change it for me. Ugh.

Can you imagine my poor teachers in school? They are trying to teach me my ABCs and phonics and the letters in my name don’t even come close to the sounds they are supposed to make. Which leads me to my next issue:

No one can pronounce my name.

When I worked in customer service, my calls took at least a minute longer than my peers, because I spent extra time spelling and saying my name over and over again. And it didn’t really matter because I was called everything BUT my actual name.

In school, my teachers would go down the list, taking attendance, and I could always tell when they get to my name. The cadence of their voice grinds to a halt;

“John? Jennifer? Amy? Matt? … er… um… “

“That me.” So, I finished college and think I’ve put all that behind me. Then restaurants started asking for your first name. As people order ahead of me, no one has to spell their name to the cashier. But I do. Twice. Sigh. And it doesn’t help at all.

When my order comes up, they butcher my name anyway. It isn’t their fault. They have never seen a name like mine before. The mispronunciation of my name has been at least, and inconvenience, and at most, embarrassing. Why? Because…

I was teased for my name.

Kids can be cruel. We all know this. And they will for sure make fun of your name, even if your name is Sally, Roger or Apple. It doesn’t matter.

But I was really shy in school, and it led to many people mispronouncing my name. I just couldn’t bring myself to correct them. Even even they took my name and created a super awful rhyme that included my name and indicated that I wet my bed.

My name doesn’t rhyme with bed, but it did the way they said it. It really made me hate my name and I hated any free time at school. I heard the rhyme at least once a day, and I was miserable.

I would wish constantly that I had literally any other name. I daydreamed about changing my name when I turned 18. I wonder what types of forms I would have to fill out? It doesn’t matter, I would have to do it multiple times because something always gets left out or switched around.

My name costs me lots of time and money.

Spelling my name multiple times for cashiers, customer service reps and administrative people takes time. And I have to do it multiple times, and sometimes they still get it wrong. Sorry, if I’m a little jealous that you can walk right in and say “Mike”, and they got it.

But spelling my name multiple times doesn’t seem to help, because I’ve had to refill paperwork several times. My marriage certificate was missing a vowel. My deed to my house had some name I had never seen before. My student loan was on my credit report twice, because the agency holding it had my name spelled two different ways. I didn’t get two different checks!

It’s one thing to have your name spelled wrong on your coffee cup, but it takes time and effort to change things like your deed, and costs money too. I had to wait to close on my house while they redid all the paperwork.

Now, I really wish I had left it alone, because the worst part of having a unique name?

People can easily invade my privacy.

I bet you are wondering why, with all this complaining I’ve done, why I haven’t said in this post what this awful first name could be. The truth? I can’t.

With my first name, and my first name only, you can find out what I’ve been doing for the past 20 years and where I live. I am not a serial Facebook poster. I don’t feel the need to share pictures of my meals, or use those tools where you ‘check in’ places, so people know where you are. But because of the uniqueness of my name, the whole first page of Google results are actually me.

I feel I need to reiterate that I am in no way a famous person, related to a famous person, or even on the fringe of anything remotely famous. There are just so few people with my name. Now, remember that one vowel that my mom decided to change? That’s where this comes in to play. There are many women with the traditional spelling in Ireland and Great Britain, that would have caused me to be several pages deep on a Google result. It may have still been possible to find out information about me, but having the record of my deed on the first page of results is so stressful.

There was a time in my life that I held a protective order against my ex. I really didn’t want anyone to know where I lived. It was just dangerous and I really didn’t feel safe. It led to a time in my life that I would guard my name as if it were a key to my house. You are reading that correctly, I wouldn’t even tell people my name. If we met out, I would give a fake name, just to protect myself.

I’m sure that it wasn’t my parents intention to give me a name that made me feel unsafe or to cause me trouble. But the fact is my name has caused problems for me. People have used that information to locate me and show up unannounced. Now that I have children, it scares me even more.

I have embraced my name and I love it. It no longer makes me miserable as it did in elementary school. But it is something I need to consider in my every day life. I think that there are names that can be special for you and your family, but try to reign it in if you are going too overboard.

Do you love your name? Or hate it? Maybe you never think about it, it’s just your name. Share in the comments below.

How Many Chores Are Too Many?

Chores. Everybody in my house hates doing them. We don’t like the house to be messy, but we aren’t jumping up to offer to clean it either. My house definitely has that ‘lived-in’ look everyone keeps talking about.

Growing up, my mother believed in chores for her kids. My husband rarely had chores to do. With both perspectives, we agree, that children need to have daily chores.

I have had all types of reactions to the chores I give my children, ranging from admiration of the abilities they have learned to dismay at my robbing them of their childhood. So, how can you tell if your child has too many chores?

To start, if they don’t have chores, then they definitely need some. Chores have wonderful benefits to your kids, yourself and your family as a whole. My family sometimes bonds over our hatred of the necessity of chores, or the boys band together against my insistence chores be completed in a certain way (the correct way a.k.a. my way!). It obviously helps me and my husband, because we have many responsibilities and aren’t available to do every single task. Having chores gives my kids ownership of the home we live in and knowledge on how to be self sufficient in the future. It also makes them appreciate their free time more. If your child has ever said they are bored, they need more chores!

On the other hand, if your children have no down time or chores are interfering with their ability to get their homework done, you may have ventured into the land of child slave labor, and need to cut back a bit. Some people like to give their children a strict list of daily chores that never changes and other like to assign chores as things need to be done. I prefer a list of daily chores, which can be substituted out. For instance, my 13 year old feeds and walks the dogs, but I’ve been teaching him about the kitchen and making simple meals, so if he cooks dinner, I’ll take care of the dogs. It’s only fair if he take one of my tasks, that I take one of his.

It may seem extreme, but as soon as kids can walk, they can have chores. It’s important not to let the word “chore” take up too much head space. People balk at my toddler having chores, but he does. We don’t call them chores, and the work he does isn’t really helpful in the overall scheme of the things I have to do in a day, but they help him learn. He learns a rhythm of everyday life of preparing for an activity, performing an activity and cleaning up after the activity. So, he sees us set the table for dinner, this give him a cue to take his seat at the table, then we have dinner and he knows it’s time to eat, then he sees me at the sink, and he knows it is time to cleanup. When I’m using the dishwasher, he takes up his post, moving the utensils back and forth in their little holders. When I saw this behavior, I handed him a spoon I had rinsed off to see what he would do. He put it in the dishwasher! So now, one of his chores is putting the utensils in the dishwasher. Even though this means it takes twice as long to load the dishwasher, and we can’t put knives in until we are ready to run it, it’s his chore and he is proud when he has completed it. He’ll “help” me close the dishwasher door and give himself a round of applause.

The older boys help take care of the younger children. The fact that the kids ages are so spread out, it helps them to bridge that gap and form bonds. The 13 and 16 year old change the baby’s diaper, and help the 10 year old with his homework. But even with this team effort mentality, it is inevitable that the kids will feel overburdened and taken advantage of. When they have to pause their video game to take out the trash, or stop chatting with their friends online because the the dogs need water, they can start to imagine that they do EVERYTHING and no one else has to work as hard as they do. They feel it’s not fair.

When this happens, it is more than worth it to write down every chore that needs to be done and offer to reassign everyone to new chores. When they see that your time is taken up by grocery shopping, paying bills, replacing shingles on the roof, and cleaning gutters, all of a sudden their small every day tasks seem much more manageable. I don’t think kids need to be blind to the work it takes to run a household in order to remain carefree children. It really makes them appreciate that they don’t have worry about all that, because you got it!

A word of caution though, don’t try to oversell how difficult your tasks are, or let on that you struggle with them. Kids worry about their parents, and fear if we can’t hack it, they’ll have to step up and do it for us. I learned that lesson when I was a single parent.

Once your kids get into their teen years, you should be able to count on them to get their tasks done in a timely manner and completed correctly. But that doesn’t happen unless they grow up with chores. For children 10 and under, don’t really expect their help to be useful. In fact, you may have to go behind them and repeat the task, so it is done correctly. But never reassign a task because a kid doesn’t do it right. This will obviously lead to them doing all their chores wrong, to get out of them. My older sister perfected this strategy against my mother, so much so that none of my siblings ever used her washer, dryer or dishwasher.

What chores do your kids have? Feel free to share below in the comments.

Notyetsupermom’s kids chores:

  • 16 year old:
    • Clean his room
    • His own laundry
    • Clean his bathroom (including toilet, sink and bath)
    • Mow the lawn/shovel the snow
    • Take care of the younger kids
    • And, once he gets his license, he’ll drive the kids around sometimes.
  • 13 year old:
    • Clean his room/laundry/bathroom
    • Feed and walk the dogs
    • Wash dishes
    • Take out the trash
    • Help with the younger kids
  • 10 year old:
    • Clean his room/bathroom
    • Help with the dogs
    • Separate the recylcables
    • Fetch items from under beds and behind furniture (He’s the only one small enough to do this without having to pull out the furniture!)
  • 20 month old:
    • Put his toys in his toy box after play time
    • Separate laundry colors from whites
    • Put the spoons in the dishwasher
    • Help me cook by pulling out all the pots and pans, creating tripping hazards and general noise