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?

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

My Thanksgiving and Black Friday Plans

My parents came over from Ireland in the 60’s, so there were many things that we as children enjoyed with a twist as first generation Americans. One of those events was Thanksgiving. I clearly remember my mother telling me when I was in grade school that she didn’t understand the Thanksgiving tradition, back home in Ireland, they were just thankful they had anything. It was mostly a disruption to their everyday life. While the parents of my friends extolled their long held family traditions, passed down from generation to generation, we had to build our own, because no one in our family had ever celebrated the holiday before.

cranberry-sauce-from-a-can

From the Cavender Brothers

Some traditions, my mother pulled from the images she saw on TV. Cranberry sauce seems to be one of these, as we never had cranberry sauce on any other day of the year. In almost a perfunctory manner, my mother would get the can opener, open up obligatory can, and slap it’s contents on a plate. The ultimate leftovers queen, she wouldn’t even save what was left behind, which was a lot. I hate cranberry sauce. Really, I’ve never tried it.

I tend to shy away from foods that have a squishy texture, and this looked as unappetizing as you could get. There really is no excuse for this shameless lack of knowledge. I live in a area filled with cranberry bogs. Therefore, my first goal of this Thanksgiving,

Make homemade cranberry sauce

It has been my experience that foods I don’t like, have been ill-prepared on my first tasting. The first time I had venison, it was made by a lady that loved salt and used it with abandon. The result was a boiled salty meat that was as unappealing in taste as it was to look at. I came upon this revelation when I ate some brussel sprouts at a fancy restaurant. When I first had them (probably at a friends house), they were too hard, and tasted like boiled leaves. But the creation I had at the restaurant showed me that brussel sprouts could be delicious.

When I discussed our Thanksgiving menu with my husband and he mentioned cranberry sauce, I knew it was time for me to confront the jellied mass from my childhood.

I’ve decided to use a recipe from the Cavender brothers, posted to their blog last year. It calls for 6 simple ingredients; honey, apple, lime, agave syrup, orange juice, and of course, cranberries. Do you make your own? What is your recipe? Include it in the comments below.

Other than that, we will have the same menu as last year, including turkey, mash, green bean casserole, and dinner rolls. We like to keep it simple.

There will most likely be a family walk after dinner and football watching. Hopefully, there will be so much gratitude flowing, that someone will do the dishes!

And if I find myself less than thankful to live in a house full of rambunctious boys, I have been given an open invitation to sleep over at my Mom’s house (Thanks Mom!). This is because the plan is for herself, my sister and I to get up super early Friday morning and

Go Black Friday shopping

One American tradition my Irish mother has fully embraced is Black Friday shopping. Ever the savings glutton, it has long been her standard Thanksgiving evening activity to gather all the sale papers and plan out how she could save the most money.

I have tagged along in the past, usually just ferrying their packages from the store to the car and in general be helpful.
This year though, I have long Christmas list, no longer filled with toys, but electronics. Since Black Friday can be a great time to buy electronics, I am doing my homework this year.

Tip #1 The first weapon in my cash savings arsenal is gift cards. I have purchased discounted gift cards from websites such as Raise.com and traded in my Verizon Smart Rewards points to get more discounted gift cards. Using these gift cards is like getting an extra 10% your total purchase. The best part is that unlike coupons, nothing is excluded. You can get 10% or more off clearance items, luxury items, electronics, and beauty products.

Tip #2 Another tools for the savings-crazed are credit cards with cash back rewards. There are many cards out there, but everyone should have at least one that offers straight cash back. I won’t delve into the card details here, you know which one you have that offers the best rewards. I have the card all paid off, and ready to go.

This year, it is a little nerve-racking using credit because we have just sworn off credit cards a couple of months ago when we enacted our debt reduction plan. This can be a slippery slope, like the alcoholic that decides to just have one drink at the office party. If this worries you too, do what I will be doing, paying the balance of the card that day. So, whatever I pay on Friday, for my great deals, Friday evening, I will be sitting down to tally the cost, and send that payment to my credit card company.

Tip #3 I could never master my Mom’s skill of remembering the prices of everything on her list. She really is impressive, she would kill it on ‘Price is Right’. So, as we tend to do in these modern times, I got an app for that.

I use Flipp on my iPhone to keep track of all the sale papers for my area. The app also has a coupons section which matches up available coupons to sales in your area. Plus, when I see something at a store and wonder what the price is at a competitor’s store, I can just look at their sales ad on my phone. This also comes in handy for stores that have price matching.

Do you shop Black Friday? what are your tried and true methods? Please share them in the comments below.

So, there I will be, fattened and broke on Saturday morning. Which leads me to my final goal for this holiday week,

Rock my high school reunion

There really is not a good time to meet up with people you haven’t seen in years, but fitting into a cocktail dress immediately after Thanksgiving is not an ideal situation. Plus, since I’m trying to save so much money on Friday, it doesn’t make sense to blow my hard earned savings on a dress I’ll hardly ever wear. So, I’ll just wear the black dress I have in my closet for funerals and spice it up with some color.

My focus has been on having some fabulous makeup for the event, as I didn’t wear makeup in high school at all, I think the contrast will be enough to fool some people into thinking I’ve really made it.

I could feel the pressure start to build, knowing that some of my old classmates are important business people in Boston and New York. Going to cocktails is a Tuesday evening for them. Gladly, I got in touch with some of my old friends this weekend, and found they too are nail-biting over baby weight that is still hanging around, and a lack of sophistication in their post-natal wardrobe. I gave this advice “Wear something you are comfortable in, rather than the latest style that makes you squirm. You’ll shine more when you are comfortable and have more fun.”

So, I’ll take my own advice, wear something comfortable and enjoy the time with my old friends. But I will absolutely strive to get the best smokey eye I can get!

556960_10200206636677656_1907554792_n

The hot mama look

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Things Work Out

My sister sent me this poem in an email some years ago. I don’t remember what the occasion was, maybe it was during the time of my divorce, or that time I got fired for accidentally exposing my company’s owner as fraud (I’ll have to write about that one). Whatever it was, it passed and things did, indeed, work out. I’m hoping they will again, as I go in tonight for the MRI on my femur to check out that bone tumor. As the doctor said, it’s most likely benign, and the only evidence that this moment gave me a little scare, will be this post, which I share with all of you.

Things Work Out

by Poet: Edgar A. Guest

Because it rains when we wish it wouldn’t,
Because men do what they often shouldn’t,
Because crops fail, and plans go wrong-
Some of us grumble all day long.
But somehow, in spite of the care and doubt,
It seems at last that things work out.

Because we lose where we hoped to gain,
Because we suffer a little pain,
Because we must work when we’d like to play-
Some of us whimper along life’s way.
But somehow, as day always follows the night,
Most of our troubles work out all right.

Because we cannot forever smile,
Because we must trudge in the dust awhile,
Because we think that the way is long-
Some of us whimper that life’s all wrong.
But somehow we live and our sky grows bright,
And everything seems to work out all right.

So bend to your trouble and meet your care,
For the clouds must break, and the sky grow fair.
Let the rain come down, as it must and will,
But keep on working and hoping still.
For in spite of the grumblers who stand about,
Somehow, it seems, all things work out.

This is actually part of my commute to work. I get to start the day with this view.

This is actually part of my commute to work. I get to start the day with this view.

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.

IMG_0577IMG_0580

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.

Electronics and Relationships

Put down your electronic device and just look at me.

Many people think this on a daily basis. You see Dear Abby columns about it and articles from doctors telling us to put down our phones and talk to our children. It’s everywhere these days.

I come from a close family with strong connections. It is interesting to me that we were able to become a close-knit family, since our addiction was not smartphones, but television. I clearly remember our family having t.v. time every evening as we would wind down from our day. When I was small, we would all cram into the living room at 8:00 p.m. to watch sitcoms and laugh together. Then, as television sets got cheaper, and cable entered the picture, 8:00 p.m. became the time for us to separate and go our own way. At its peak, my family would have 4 different televisions going, every night. My mother would watch some news program in the kitchen, my dad and brother would watch the game in the living room, and my sisters and I would watch our shows in the basement. If we really couldn’t agree on what to watch, we would beg our mother to use the t.v. in my parent’s bedroom.

I look at my family today, and see this same pattern, just different electronics. My 16-year-old stepson is attached to his phone, my 13-year-old plays XBox, my 10-year-old stepson can’t stop staring at his iPad, my husband plays PC games and I am still on the couch watching t.v. I’m embarrassed to admit how adept my 17 month old is at using Apple devices, and even knows which way to hold an XBox controller (they do watch you do everything). Asking any one person on this list to put down their respective electronics and spend time together is met with enthusiastic eye-rolling.

Brody xbox

How did I let this happen!? I didn’t even have cable for years, I thought it was a waste of money! And, I didn’t buy these electronics for the kids, they were given to them as gifts.

A supermom cannot let this stand. So, strategies have been developed to get these drones to disconnect from their screen, and connect with each other. Growing up, my family always had dinner together, every night at the table, and the t.v. was not allowed. We looked at each other and spoke about our days and what was going on in the world. This is how my family’s values were passed on to us kids. It is still my greatest tool. When I find that our busy schedules have spread us apart, I check our dinner plans. Have we been eating away from the table? That’s probably why. Time to get this train back on track.

Another tool moms love to use, is game night. My 10-year-old especially loves this. When we showed him how to play Monopoly for the first time, he found he had a certain knack for winning, and therefore it has been one of his favorite things to do. The others often start the game with sarcasm and bad attitudes, but once the dice are rolled, they seem to relax and the interaction begins.

Now that we are going into autumn, there are outings to be had at the local farms, picking apples or pumpkins, navigating corn mazes and shrieking at haunted houses. No, leave your phone in the car, you will not need it. Well, maybe you’d better bring yours mom, so you can take cute pictures of your family! Ones that don’t include little faces peering into screens.

1472950_10202608658726706_225914612_n