The Pressure of Mother’s Day

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It may seem strange but Mother’s Day has been one of my least favorite holidays since my kids were born. Don’t get me wrong. I love being a Mom and I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything.

Before I had kids of my own it was great to bring my Mom flowers and have lunch with her. However, when I listen to her talk about Mother’s day as I was growing up I think she had the same opinion of Mother’s Day as I do.  She recounts tales of endless Mother’s Day outings to McDonald’s, her least favorite restaurant.  She ate the burgers that she detested for her children. Really? It was MOTHER’S Day! Right?

Fast forward 25 years and there’s a older version of me. Exhausted after having 3 children in 2 years and wanting some peace on Mother’s Day.  My husband tried to get everyone to cooperate but it ended with him trying too hard and everything exploding in chaos.

I decided to go shopping for the day. And every Mother’s Day after that for the next 10 years. From that day forward I decided that Mother’s Day was for me as I desperately needed that day to recharge.

Alone.

As I shopped I noticed families seeming to enjoy themselves, but meltdown after meltdown seemed to land square on Mom’s shoulders and I could tell that she needed a break too.

It seems that Mother’s Day puts so much pressure on one day. Shouldn’t mothers be appreciated every day.

This is what I want my kids to learn about appreciating mom’s everywhere.

  • Appreciate those around you every day.

  • Make mom feel celebrated each day by your actions and your generosity.

  • Stopping to open the door for a woman juggling two kids and a bag of groceries may just make their day.

  • Giving a smile of reassurance and a kind word to the mom whose child is having a meltdown.

  • Talking to the child in the cart in line at the store may just help that mom get five more minutes peace.

  • Respect when mom says she needs time to herself.

  • Hold Mom’s hand when she’s on the phone to let her know you need her attention instead of saying “Mom, Mom, Mom”

How was your day?

 

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The front door closes and the kids start to go about their afternoon rituals. Snacks, talking to friends, homework and maybe an evening activity.

But have you taken the time to see how their day was? Not just “How was your day?”

There are many different ways to find out more about school and learn more about your child at the same time.

Ask questions that are open ended. Anytime you ask a yes or no question you have to be prepared to get only one word back.

Try one of these questions afterschool today:

  1. What is the new song that you are learning in choir/band right now? Which part is your favorite of the song?
  2. What was the best thing that happened at school today?
  3. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
  4. What would you pick for school lunch if you could have anything you wanted?
  5. Are there any changes that you would want to make at your school?
  6. Who is your favorite teacher and what do you like about them?
  7. If you could be Principal for the day what is the first thing that you would do?
  8. Which rule was hardest to follow today?
  9. If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you choose? Why?
  10. On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your day? Why?

 

 

8 Ways to Keep the Family Connected During the Holiday Season

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We pull them here. We take them there. We ask them to shake hands, make conversation and be on their best behavior.

For many kids, the holiday season is very stressful. Their routine is upset and it can turn a kid’s world upside down.  While we are taking them out and asking them to do their best they may be somersaulting internally.

So how can parents enjoy the holiday hoopla while keeping the kids content?

  1. Open a Book – Wrap a holiday or favorite book (old or new) for every day from December 1 – December 31. Each day a child chooses a book for the family to read together at a designated time. Traveling… bring the books with and keep the routine going.
  2. Let them wear comfortable clothes. Yes, the frilly dresses and ties look cute but it’s hard to feel at ease when you are in stiff clothes.
  3. Bring along some of their favorite snacks. Not every kid likes lutefisk and lefse and when you are hungry it is hard to be on your best behavior.
  4. Try to maintain a consistent bedtime. If you know it’s going to be a late night it might be a good time to call a babysitter.
  5. Keep it simple. Many kids are overwhelmed by all of the gifts and expectations of the holiday season.
  6.  Bake cookies together. Baking can be a great learning experience and a fun way to connect.
  7. Have a family movie night. For ideas of fun family movies check out this list.
  8. Try to remember the things you enjoyed as a kid about the holiday season and share them with your kids.

 

Earth Day everyday?

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“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

But how do we make sure that they are getting out into nature and having the experiences that we had?

There has been a lot of recent conversation around Free Range Kids lately. Part of the Free Rangeness is giving kids the freedoms to explore and step more into nature.

It seems that with the growth of technology many kids are not experiencing the outdoor adventures that we did as kids because they are inside on the computer or watching tv.

So how do we get them off the couch and outside?

PARENT!

We are the ones to set the limits. We also set the examples. Want to get your kids to go out and climb trees? Explore with them when they are young and as they grow they will return to the outdoors you have taught them to love and appreciate.

For a few years I worried about how much one of my kids was getting outside. Sure, he played outdoor sports but after that seemed to come home and lie around.  I made sure that he was outside doing something each day. There were many days he was not happy with me as I turned down his requests to play video games. However, now that he is more independent and can drive he and his friends love to go out and explore state parks.

He still loves to climb and explore.

Our kids are products of our parenting and the world around us. If we show them how wonderful the outdoors can be we are giving them a gift that will last a lifetime.

Who’s Watching Minecraft?

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My kids are basically techie kids. They are all at different levels and each really love their technology.  Nine years ago my oldest asked my to help him purchase a beta game from the Netherlands called Minecraft.  I hadn’t heard of it but after some research it looked like something to invest $15 in. It reminded me of the very basic computer games that I played in school when we got our first computers. It was no Oregon Trail but I thought we’d give it a try.

From that day on Minecraft became the go to game. It was like the favorite pair of footie pajamas passed down from sibling to sibling. When one felt they were getting too old to play a younger sibling would take over.

The kids have gotten older and over the past months there’s a growing trend that I have noticed. The kids aren’t at the computer playing the game anymore. They are gathered around their devices watching Minecraft videos on YouTube.

As a parent there are major differences that I see in this transition between game play and watching game play. Kids tend to have their favorite YouTubers. Some of these people are intentionally creating family friendly content and others are teens/young adults just having fun and playing the game. I try to listen when my kids are watching the videos and live streams. There are times when I have heard language that I don’t approve of and have the kids switch to a different YouTuber.  I encourage parents to monitor their child’s YouTube usage.

Here’s a blog that describes some of the Minecraft YouTubers that are recommended for children.  http://learningworksforkids.com/2015/03/minecraft-videos-watch/

I love listening to the kids all laugh along with their YouTubers. They seem to have formed a community around Minecraft. They have their own language and cultural norms. They know when their favorite YouTuber’s birthday is and where they live.

It’s such a different generation of kids that are tuned into technology in a way I never expected.

I have a lot to learn.

Rolling on down the road (or not)

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I never thought that I would be the parent of a teen driver. Not that I didn’t expect my kids to get older, but I really hadn’t thought that far in advance. It seems that yesterday they were in grade school.

After passing the drivers test many parents have a set of keys ready to give their new driver.

I had the keys.

I had a lanyard like the kids at the high school hang their keys on.

I gave them to him.

I feel like a new parent. Where’s the manual for parenting a teenage driver?

Fast forward almost one month and he slides on the ice and hits a tree.

Airbags deploy on the rusty minivan. The van is totaled but all I can think is how bad it could have been. This privilege that he was given could have killed him. He was ok; Not hurt at all.

So now it feels like there’s second chance to get it right.  Start slow with a bit of fear (on both of our parts).  More practice.

Remind him that he is 16 and he doesn’t know it all. Remind myself that even though I am an adult that I also have so much more to learn.

The manual has yet to be written.

 

 

The Power of the Meal

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Dinner. At my house it may not taste good but it’s important that you are there.

Dinner at my house growing up consisted of our family and Pat Sajak. We tried to solve the puzzles each day on the 6″ tv that was in our kitchen.

Were we connecting as a family?  My first thought is no, however, we were all interacting with the same program towards the same cause of solving the puzzle.

Fast forward 30 years and there isn’t a tv on during dinnertime in my kitchen.  We have always played word games with the kids at the table. Something as simple as “Things that start with the letter B”. Even my youngest child could participate.

While the words may be nonsensical, the laughter that ensues carries us through. The laughter and time spent at that round table connect us.

As the kids have gotten older the games at the table have changed. We may not eat together each night but we still make sure that we are all there three to four nights a week. Ipods and phones are not allowed at the table either. Their friends can wait 30 minutes.  Having teens makes me realize that I don’t have them there for very much longer and I want to make sure I take advantage of every opportunity I have to be with them.

They won’t remember what they ate but hopefully they will remember time spent at the small round table in our kitchen.

Why sometimes its best to go slow

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I was so excited to present my family with a gift… a kitten.  They were so excited to have the new little puffball enter our lives. Well, almost all of them.

But what about when one family member doesn’t agree with how the others in the family live. Yes, we already have a cat and a dog – I can see where this does seem like excess to you. You live very minimally and do not put much value into material items. You see the holiday season how many outside the U.S. see our holiday season. A season of excess.

As a fellow minimalist, I can see how having more than one of something seem like too much.

Is a kitten a material thing? I guess that’s the question. You have always been the kid with so much caring and love for your family.  I’ve been so proud that you are an individual and don’t feel the need to follow the crowd. You see things very differently than others your age and many times have an older, wiser perspective.

So, we will introduce you to the new little kitty slowly and I know that the caring and sensitive person you are will end up loving that little ball of fur more than you do your computer games.

 

Mama Bear and the Cub

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We all think that our kids are fabulous. We know them better than anyone else. I, like many other mama bears, will go to great lengths to defend my cub.

Until I walked into high school conferences.

It’s time for the cub to defend himself. However, the vocabulary of the sullen teenage cub is not very developed. When the teacher let the cub know how he was doing (which he already knew was not good) and what he needed to do to remedy the situation he had few words.

At home the cub is rarely quiet. Telling me sometimes more than I want to know.

At school, face to face with teacher and parent, it’s not quite so simple.

So we sit and wait for the cub to answer the questions. The Mama Bear in me is fighting to get out. She wants to push him to answer the questions and make the Cub study and turn in his work. She wants him to know that it’s not about the work being turned in, it’s about not giving up on himself.  For high school is not just about academics but about life and we all want the cub to succeed in life.

But the sullen cub remains.

And the Mama Bear will remain by his side trying to teach him the skills to advocate for himself.

Because the Cub is indeed fabulous. He will not always be the sullen cub he is now.

The Chore Chart


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Most kids want money. I think it’s important to teach them the value of a dollar and how important it is to work for your money.

However, time and again, the debate of whether or not to tie allowance to chores comes up in our circle of friends.

For the past few years our family has followed in the footsteps of a friend who gave me the Chore Chart that she had used with her kids. It has worked well for our family.

CHORE CHART

Each kid has many things that they need to do daily/weekly simply because they are members of our family and household. Just as I have to do laundry they need to do things like set the dinner table, take out the garbage and feed our pets.

It’s when tasks go above and beyond that the kids have the opportunity to earn money. Once they complete five extra chores in a week, from the list on the chart, they earn a set amount. At our house that amount is $10 a week for those over 13 and $5 a week for those younger than 13. One stipulation is that they can’t do more than two chores on the chart in a day. This stops them from thinking that they need money and rushing to get it all done in one day.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could work for one day and get paid for a week? Ahhh… reality sets in.

We’ve found that it’s nice that the kids have direct control over whether or not they earn anything.

Hopefully this serves them well as they get older and see that to earn money there are things in daily life that need to be done. Beyond those daily living things you can earn money for work that you do.

We can generally tell when they are saving for something special. The Chore Chart can sit blank for months or get used everyday. You never know.   Either way the chart is there as an opportunity for them.