Welcome 2015!

Here we are two weeks into a brand new year and I can hardly believe it. I was just getting used to 2014 and now its over. It has completely sped by me before I was ready for it to leave. Now I have no choice but to say, “Welcome 2015!”

On New Year’s Eve, we did just like everyone else…rang out the old and rang in the new. Although, we certainly didn’t do it like we did pre-kids! I am lucky if I am awake at midnight. I do remember how fun it is to be out at a party on New Year’s Eve. And at midnight to watch the ball drop, maybe enjoy some fireworks, and toast in the new year with your beverage of choice. I wonder if anyone even sings Auld Lang Syne anymore. We never did.

Back in the day when I did enjoy New Year’s Eve properly, it was the morning after that was always so hard. But once fully functional, I definitely celebrated New Year’s Day. It has become one of my favorite holidays. It reminds me of Thanksgiving. There is always a gathering with a good meal, family and friends. Growing up in the South, we really did it right and followed tradition with our menu.  Certain foods, when eaten on New Year’s Day, are supposed to bring you prosperity for the coming year. And why not try to get yourself a little good fortune at the start of a brand new year.

The Southern New Year’s Day cuisine includes pork, cooked greens (like cabbage or collards), and black-eyed peas. The greens represent folded money, the peas are for good luck and money (coins), and the pork is for wealth and prosperity. I can’t remember a New Year’s Day without these foods. I have always managed to keep up the tradition no matter what happened the night before. And we still do to this day. I do feel like I have been very lucky in my life so maybe the black-eyed peas are working. I’m still waiting to see if the greens and pork will send some of that hard, cold cash my way.

The other traditional part of the New Year is to make resolutions. I’ve always make at least one resolution but it hasn’t been easy. In the past, I have made them so complicated and really hard to keep. I am not sure why I felt the need to make it difficult. I guess I thought that these resolutions had to be painful and really challenging or it wouldn’t count. Of course I rarely kept them.

I think by making it so trying that you miss the whole point of making resolutions. For me, resolutions should be more attainable and why not make them fun? The whole point is to make yourself accomplish some goals. I’m not against putting in some challenges for the new year. But I need to be sure to make some of these resolutions feasible. Once reached, you feel like you have really accomplished something and can tackle the harder ones.

In the past few years, my husband and I decided to change it up and do a family resolution. The one we started last year was a great success and lots of fun. In fact, we are going to do it again this year. Our resolution was to go on a monthly family mini-adventure. It can be something big like a trip or something around town. The only stipulations were that we had to do it together and it had to be something that at least one of us had not done before. Some of the fun things we did last year were sand dune exploring, snow tubing, concerts, plays, nature hiking, beach camping and whale watching. The best part of it all was that we did it together. We are all looking forward to it again this year. In fact, we need to figure out what we are going to do for this month before it is over!

As for my own personal resolutions, I have made one and might make a few more. But this time they won’t quite so difficult as the ones in the past. I may even take a cue from our family one and make some time to have an adventure on my own.

What New Year’s Resolutions did you make if any? We would love to hear all about them.

 

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Being thankful…

stock-graphics-vintage-thanksgiving-postcard-0006

It’s that time of year…Thanksgiving. Not only is the holiday about food (yes, I’ve become obsessed with googling the perfect way to roast a turkey. Still a turkey novice so any help I can get is a good thing…) but it is a time to reflect and be thankful. Actually, being thankful or being grateful on a daily basis is something that I am working on.   So here is my list of what I am thankful for…

  1. My pets. They give me pleasure, companionship and warmth (especially on cold nights when the Scientist cat would like to sleep on my head but will settle for my pillow.) Last year, when the Movie Star dog died, it left a dog shaped hole in my heart. The Wonder dog, who has recently joined the family, has begun to fill the void. I love our early morning walks. I may not be disciplined enough to meditate on a regular basis, but this quiet time seems almost meditative, especially since the Wonder dog is a sniffer. We cannot go a few feet without stopping, sniffing, peeing, etc.
  2. My co-workers. I’ve been at my new job for a little over three months now. It is so pleasant to work with such a group of professional, thoughtful and smart people. I actually don’t dread Mondays (although I do believe we should have three-day weekends every week.) It doesn’t hurt that my boss likes to have wine and cheese on a regular basis (after work, of course.)
  3. My friends. I have such wonderful friends. People who support me, laugh with me and sometimes even cry with me. And believe me, there’s no better stress buster in the world than catch-up lunch during a hectic week or a night out with the girls.
  4. My family – near and far. Some members of my family are nearby but a lot of them are far away. I did get to see most of them this past year at my mom’s 80th birthday party. Family is family. You have a shared history and bonds that are always there no matter how far they have to stretch. Plus, Facebook helps keep me up with what’s going on with the various family members.
  5. My boys. When I look at Frick and Frack at times, I can see the babies they once were but I can almost see the men they will become. Time flies so quickly. The best time in the world is hanging out with my boys. Especially since I can still tickle them without too much protest.
  6. My husband. The Husband has taken on the twin herculean tasks of running his own business as well as taking care of the boys. He oversees homework, cooks dinner, and does laundry. What more can a girl ask for? He’s my best friend and always makes me laugh…

Here’s hoping that everyone has a truly happy Thanksgiving. Now, I need to get back to my research regarding brining the turkey! Gobble Gobble.

 

 

 

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It’s that creepy time of year!

lighted skull2Tis’ the season to celebrate and I don’t mean Christmas. I’m talking about Halloween. It’s the season to put up the spooky decorations, dress up and take to the streets to gather some loot (aka candy), listen to scary stories and watch creepy movies, and participate in assorted haunted activities. I freely admit it…I just love this time of year. Halloween has become one of my favorite holidays.

I’ve always enjoyed it even as a kid but didn’t really get into the Halloween spirit until I was an adult with children.  The kids just have made it more fun. Having children gives you permission to do things you wouldn’t normally do, and be a kid again.

I do realize there are a lot of people who don’t like Halloween, and that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and opinions about All Hallows’ Eve. But me, I just happened to love it. And this is not about worshiping pagan rituals, sacrifices, or raising the dead. I celebrate it for other reasons. Some of them are:

lighted pumpkin facesCommunity
This is probably the main reason I love this ghostly holiday. It is truly the only community-based holiday there is. In our case, this includes my kids’ school’s Halloween festival, our spooky back yard treasure hunt, parties for both kids and adults, and trick-or-treating (which is the best part). Our neighborhood does it right on Halloween. It is always buzzing with excitement. Almost all of the houses on my street are lighted and decorated. The streets and sidewalks are filled with kids and families. It is festive, fun and a great way to socialize with friends and neighbors.

It’s all-inclusive
That’s right. This holiday is for both adults and children. Everyone gets to have fun and can dress-up.

painted jarsIt’s creative
This is the really the most fun part for me. I love being able to decorate, do crafts and activities, and create costumes. Dressing up is the best. This is the one time of year you can be whatever or whoever you want to be and nobody judges you (unless it’s a contest). My oldest really loves this part. He creates his costume from whatever he finds in the closet or combines costumes from years past to create something new. Three years ago he wore a Darth Vader mask with his Anakin Skywalker costume. He called himself Jed Vader, the brother/Jedi-wannabe no one ever talks about (maybe the family is embarrassed by him since he never could cut it.).

Best of all…candy!
I’m no fool. This is totally the best part of all. I have an incredible sweet tooth (mostly for chocolate) so any opportunity that I can load up on candy & chocolate guilt-free, I am all for. And, ofcourse, all of it is for the children, not me. Well, okay maybe a few for me.

I was curious to see what other people out there thought of Halloween. So I did a littledid a little looking around on the web. I am glad I did. I found quite a few like-minded folks out there. There were alot of good blog posts out there to choose from. It was hard to narrow it down but I found a really good one that completely sums up my feelings and thoughts on this spooky time of year. It’s a great story and I agree with this mom blogger, I wouldn’t have my family miss out on any of the fun of Halloween either. Here link is attached be sure to check it out.  http://bethwoolsey.com/2014/10/on-robin-hood-his-merry-men-and-why-we-celebrate-halloween-even-as-christians/ We also have a link to another good halloween site on our Facebook page. Check it out when you can.

I hope you have a fun, safe, and happy Halloween!

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Finding my third gear

Life is a Beautifu RideMany changes have occurred in the past weeks.  School has started.  Despite all my worrying, Frick is adapting well to middle school.  Frack is back in the mode of school, friends and soccer.  The husband and I both have new jobs.  The husband now works from home. So another big change is that we no longer have a babysitter for the boys.  And I’ve starting riding my bike to work again.  Not every day yet but I am slowly working my way to five days a week.  I did ride my bike to work at my old job every so often but with having to be home by a certain time to relieve the babysitter, I felt it was easier to take the bus.  Also, there wasn’t an accessible gym and/or shower room to change in.  And the bike parking was a hassle. Or at least, that’s what I told myself. It’s so easy to talk your way out of exercising.  And as a working mom, exercise is something that is never a priority although it should be, like getting a good night’s sleep (fodder for another blog.)

Now that I am riding again, I remember why I love it and am reminded of how much I missed it.  Biking has always meant freedom to me. When I was a girl, my bike was the horse that I couldn’t have. When I was a teenager, my bike was my transportation to friends’ houses and my first places of employment. In fact, I bought a yellow Schwinn ten speed with my first check from my first full time summer job. When we lived near the beach, my husband and I got bikes and took long bike rides along the coast (pre-kids, of course.)  We even house hunted on our bikes and were lucky enough to find one where we could commute to work on our bikes, a rarity at the time in So Cal.  Now we are lucky enough to live a bike friendly community.

Every day that I ride, I have a chance to have some quiet time to myself before and after work.  Some time to think. Some days I have so much on my mind that the ride goes very quickly.  However, there are days when I just enjoy the ride.  Of course, I am still becoming accustomed to riding.  Slowly, it is becoming easier.  My knees hurt, some days more than others (oh the joy of being over 50).  But last week, I found my high gear (which I always thought was my low gear because it’s harder to pedal – thank you Google.).  I’d been using the middle to low gears up until then.  Now I am even pedaling downhill (not just coasting, although I still coast on occasion.)

My goal is to work up to five days a week by the end of the month.  And I am hoping to ride through the winter (fingers crossed.) Now that I am getting the exercise that I sorely need, I really don’t want to give it up.

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Trying to put my chopper on the ground

Well, here we are at the start of week three of school. It is hard to believe we are already into September and a new school year has begun. There have been a lot of changes this year. As I have mentioned before, my oldest (Mr. Minecraft or MM) is a sixth grader and the Princess has just started first grade! What happened to my precious little babies? Now they are growing up and way too fast.

Last school year was a little easier. Both my kids were in schools close by and we had a nice little system going. I walked my kids to and from school everyday. I knew what was going on with both of them by staying “in-the-know” as much as I could. And yes, I hovered. And as much as I hate to admit it…I am helicopter parent. Well, not entirely, but I think I have the traits. I have always “loosely” described myself as one. And since that may be the case, I decided to educate myself on what it is and what it means for my kids (and for me). I mean I think its good that I am always there for them. But you know what they say about too much of a good thing.

So, I did what anyone who needs some information on a subject does…I googled it. I really don’t like looking up something that is a bit scary, like anything medical. Because it seems that every time you do a little investigating on the subject, it becomes something horrific. That seemingly innocent bump on your arm may very soon become a large, cancerous tumor that will kill you at any moment. Ok, so I over exaggerated a tiny bit. But why is it that the worst possible outcome is the first thing that usually pops up?

Knowing all this, I decided to just go for it anyway. After typing in “What is a helicopter parent?”, I found several definitions right away. Here is a good one, courtesy of Wikipedia. It said, “A helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead. It is also known as over-parenting.” Unfortunately, so far, I fit the bill.

I decided to dig a little deeper. As I did, I found some other nifty names for it. Some are lawnmower parent (uh ok..haven’t heard that one before), cosseting parent (not in my usual vocal, so I looked it up. It means overprotecting.) or bulldoze parent (that sounds rather harsh). Wow the names alone say it all.

While researching even more, this interesting post popped up on the parents.com site. It is called “What is helicopter parenting?” by Kate Bayless. Here’s the link: www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/what-is-helicopter-parenting/. The post is very informative and a good read. Here are some of the highlights from it:
• This term is commonly used for parents of high school/college-aged students, but can apply at any age (like toddlers or elementary school children).
• Examples of over-parenting are arranging class schedules, talking to professors about grades, shadowing child (in reference to the little kids), ensuring child has the right teachers, coaches, activities or friends, and always directing play time and behaviors.
• Why do we hover? Because of fear of dire consequences, anxiety, overcompensation, and peer pressure from other parents (That one was a surprise.).
• Consequences of hovering: Kids could develop low self-esteem, no coping skills, increased anxiety, undeveloped life skills, and a sense of entitlement.

The last thing that post talks about is how to avoid all this. And how a parent can love and take care of their kids without overdoing it. It says that you have to let them do tasks they are able to do physically and mentally. They also need to struggle and fail. We parents are supposed to allow that to happen and help them work through the problem but not solve it.

Ok, now that I have more information on the subject of helicopter parenting, I do feel better about myself. Yes, I do hover and have some of these traits. I’d say my over-parenting is mostly directed toward my daughter, Princess. With MM, I really have done so much better. He is in a new environment (sixth grade and still can’t believe it!) and is really doing well. He gets himself ready and to school without me doing a thing. I’ll admit there are some days where I lapse and hover a bit, but overall I am doing pretty well.

It is a different story with Princess. She is in a new school with all new people. So yes, I do have to meet with her teachers (all of them..gen. ed, special ed, and speech) and will do this often throughout the year. I also shadow her when we go places or do new things. And sometimes, I direct her play time and some of her behaviors. Because of her challenges, her needs are greater right now. So being heavily involved is essential, but maybe not all the time. After reading about all of this, I do see I need to pull back more than I am. I can still be present but not be so overwhelming. She needs to try more things on her own and she can do them.

Starting now, my goal is to really put that into practice. In fact, I started that today. This morning, I dropped Princess at her classroom door and told her bye. Last week, I walked her in the classroom, checked in with her teacher and aide, helped her do the morning routine, and stayed way too long. You know, I hovered. But this morning, I didn’t do any of that. At the door, Princess waved bye to me, went right in and did the morning routine all by herself…just like the other kids. It was so great and I am so proud of her!

I agree wholeheartedly that it is important to let your kids struggle and fail. It is equally important for us, parents, to do what we can to help them through it. But, sometimes that is easier said than done. I find it challenging trying to figure out when to let them solve problems that come up. I guess that is what parenting is. So, the best thing I can do is keep doing what I did today, and trust that my kiddos can handle some of these things.

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No more

I am a mom.  I am white. My husband is white.  We have two boys.  One is Latino, the other is African-American.  That means that both my boys, as they grow older, are more likely than their white friends to be followed by security at stores, “scare” people and/or be stopped by police.  They are more likely to be hurt or killed by those same police officers.  Or hurt or killed by someone with a gun because of the color of the skin.  Once upon a time, an African-American man came up to me as he saw my husband and me playing with our younger son and asked me if I was prepared to raise my son.  I took offense to his question and told him, of course, we were.  We are his parents.  We love our boys with all our hearts. And as any parent, we would do anything to protect them from harm.  The man, however, did have a point.  I am white.  I will never have to face what my boys will have to face because of the color of their skin.  Recently, I heard a story on NPR about an African-American man’s run in with the police in Denver.  Alex Landau had been adopted by a white couple.  They never spoke about race at home.  When Alex was growing up, they lived in mostly white suburbs around Denver. His mother thought that “love would conquer all and skin color didn’t really matter.” At the age of 19, that all changed.  He was stopped for a traffic violation.  After he was stopped, he was patted down.  He had a white friend in the car who was also patted down.  His friend had a joint in his pocket and was put in handcuffs. Once that happened, Alex thought he would be ok.  Then he asked to see a warrant before the police continued the search.  He was severely beaten and almost shot by those officers.   You can read and hear the whole story here. http://storycorps.org/listen/alex-landau-and-patsy-hathaway.  The story really hit home for me. I, too, believe that love is the answer. Unlike the family in the story though, we talk about race in our home.  We have also discussed with our boys and will continue to discuss with them that they will be treated differently in the world because of the color of their skin.  We have told them if they are ever stopped by the police, to act politely, keep their hands in sight, don’t do anything quickly, their lives may depend on it. We also tell them that it is not fair.   Although we as a country have come a long way from the days of segregation, before the civil rights movement, we still have a long, long way to go as seen again in the town of Ferguson, Missouri this week.  Michael Brown who was stopped for jaywalking is dead.  Although I don’t look like his mother, I feel her pain as a mother. That could be my son.  When is this going to end?  How many young men have to die because of the color of their skin before we as a nation say it’s time to stop?  I think it is time for the parents of this country, no matter what skin color, to stand up and say enough is enough.  No more. As parents, these are all our kids.  Until then, I hug my boys tighter and explain to them things that I wish I didn’t have to about the world. But I still do in order to hopefully keep them safe.

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The Chore Chart

dustpan & broomI have been threatening to do a chore chart or list for such a long time. But just kept putting it off. Once in a while, I would get the kids to help around the house. But I never really stuck to it. My son, Mr. Minecraft or MM, claimed school was really hard, time-consuming, and he didn’t have the time to do extra work. And I bought that excuse…hook, line and sinker. And as for my daughter, the Princess, I just didn’t push too hard. On occasion, I would have her help me do something. But, again, I lacked consistency.

Well, my procrastination on this has come back to bite me big time. Now I am the one who pretty much does everything around the house. When summer started, I decided it was time to change all that. And frankly, I am tired of doing all of it. They definitely need to pull their own weight around here. So, I told MM that there was going to be a chore chart. After sharing some of my ideas about it, MM was not very enthusiastic. He claimed none of his friends were doing any chores like I described.

That didn’t sound right to me. I know his friends’ parents. I also know for sure those kids don’t get a completely free ride. Then I found out for sure. I happened to hear MM’s conversation with one of his friends. His friend said that he couldn’t stay and talk right then because he had to go home and clean the toilets. He said he would call MM later when he finished all of his chores.

MM looked at me and groaned. Yep, he was busted alright. “Well now,” I said, “isn’t that interesting? Your friend cleans the toilets. Hmmm…I really like that one.” MM was mortified. Later on, I found out that MM was right. His friends weren’t doing the chores I had talked about earlier. They were doing more! This included cleaning the whole bathroom and mopping floors to laundry and making meals. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Now I was really inspired!

And so, our chore chart was born (much to MM’s dismay). As I was working on it for him, he asked about his sister. What about her? Shouldn’t she be doing chores, too? And I had said that they both needed to do some work around the house. It’s only fair. And you know what, he was completely right. She needs to be treated just like he is. Most of the time she is, but sometimes I tend to give her an easier ride on things. But that won’t help her in the long run. Just because my daughter has a disability, doesn’t mean she can’t do things. The Princess certainly can and has shown that often. Plus, she can make a nice mess like no other. So it is time for her to get in there and do some work.

This has been quite an education on my part. I realized that I am not helping either one of them by doing everything. They need to contribute to our household. Sometimes, I get impatient and just want the task done, instead of waiting and letting them do it their own way. Patience is not a virtue of mine, but I am getting better at it.

Now that the chore charts are done, the kids are beginning to accept and follow them. The chores aren’t hard or complicated. Actually they are really rather easy. The best part is that they are honing their skills and learning a few new ones. It isn’t always smooth sailing but for the most part both of them are doing great.

Next up….summer/school work charts. Oh yea, they have been warned. I expect more groans and complaints, but it won’t be bad at all. And to make sure I don’t go chart crazy on everything, I have made them (and myself) a promise that this will be the last one. Well, maybe.

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