Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things...

Christmas is just around the corner.  It's a time that is supposed to be cherished and celebrated with family and friends.  All too often I find myself in a parking lot, racing with my turn signal on making sure everyone knows that I'm about to park right there...and they can't have that space.  I'll see people in line berating a cashier, who has probably just worked a 10 hour shift, for something that is beyond his/her control.  And then, I see lines...lines, lines, lines.  We are waiting to purchase, to see Santa, or to visit some spectacular holiday event.  All of these are truly a test of our patience.

So, what are some of my joys during this mad rush?  I'd like to share them with you, and hope that you can take a moment to reflect on and add a simple activity to your family that slows it all down, and keeps peace, and joy in the season.

1.  The Handprint Tree Skirt - A favorite for my kids.  Each year we used our plain tree skirt, and painted the kids hands, and slapped them on the skirt (in one of the panels).  At the bottom we put the year.  You need to use an appropriate paint for fabric.  I also assigned each of my 3 kids their own color so they would know which prints were theirs.  We have filled two skirts over the years, and they look's a wonderful tradition!

2.  Cookie Making - I'm sure many of you do this.  Keep doing it with the kids and let them help and make a mess.  But also, make sure they help you with the clean-up.  This should be a start to finish project that the whole family can enjoy.  Set reasonable limits - too many cookies, and you'll lose your cooks!

3.  The Holiday Photo With Santa - it does not have to be perfect!  The one above is my favorite!  I love that Santa is smiling through while my little one is screaming for me.  It captures that year for her.  Don't stress about the photo, it'll be perfect simply because your children are in it.

These are 3 holiday moments that I cherish.  What are yours?  Merry Christmas!

Keep it simple...and full of peace and joy! ♥D

Friday, November 21, 2014

Don't Give Up...and Happy Thanksgiving!

It's the season of giving.  It's a time to be thankful.  For some reason, this year I have taken a step back and evaluated those thoughts.  Why do we put so much pressure on being thankful and giving during this commercialized, 8-week season of the year?  This should be a focus all the time.  Don't get me wrong, I love the holidays, and the way we get to transform our homes into a decorated place of celebration and family gathering.  I simply struggle with focusing on being 'thankful and giving' in November and December.  These are virtues that should be stressed and encouraged year round.

It's very possible that my age has something to do with my personal feelings, or even the recent events experienced by my family.  However, families and friends should be giving thanks to one another as often as possible.  Humans should be giving of one another in a thoughtful way, as best they can...without any judgment or expectation of assistance in return.  I recently had a conversation with someone who said she 'used to help others, but they don't help her anymore', so she stopped.  The giving spirit requires you to dig deep, and expect nothing in return.  That is hard. It also requires you to withhold judgment from those who simply cannot give in ways that you may choose to.

I also think that it's ok to give to yourself.  If you don't, you just might break.  Give yourself time.  Give yourself peace.  Remove yourself from the demands and chaos in your life that are not healthy... and heal.  If you do that, you are giving the gift of a healthy 'you' to your family.

Don't wait for November.  Get crazy and give in March too!  Be thankful in June!  Spread it out.  It will make for an amazing year!

Happy Thanksgiving to all...I am thankful to those of you who are reading.  I am grateful to my family and friends and feel so blessed today, and all other days of the year (even the difficult days).

Enjoy the turkey showdown video's just for fun!

Keep It Simple...and give thanks!  ♥D

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Our New Family Member - Screen

Note - For those of you following my book progress, there's an update on that page!  Check it out :)

As the school year rolls on, I assume parents are experiencing the joys and frustrations of schoolwork, extra-curriculars, and simply spending some time together at home.  In addition, we now have the added family member who I lovingly call 'Screen'.  He didn't come home from the hospital, but nonetheless, he did take a good amount from your wallet.  Screen is usually present in all rooms of the house.  He can sit on a desk, on your lap, and may even be an appendage on your body (usually connected to the hand).  Sometimes, Screen talks back to you.  Has that happened?  You think you are home with just your family (maybe you are even wearing your pajamas) and Screen has a person on it who suddenly says, "Hi Ms. Jayson, how are you"?  That is Skyping Screen.  I don't always love it when he is present.  But my children do.

Screen can take over.  Do you spend more time with Screen than with your kids?  Track it.  Record the amount of time you are actually focused on your children WITHOUT Screen present.  Screen has a very tricky way of invading all of our spaces.  Technology is important and critical for our ever changing society. We also need to ensure that our children are ready for future, but we  need to prepare them to be good, virtuous human beings.  That does not come from a screen.  This comes from direct, uninterrupted interaction with others.

Time spent with children, modeling for them kindness, generosity, patience and empathy for others is an invaluable lesson.  We live in a society that often demonstrates a disregard for the human spirit and humanity.  Wouldn't it be amazing if the news was filled with stories of acts of kindness brought forth by our children?  Play with your children, model for them what to do when things do not go their way.  Show them how to solve a problem with words (as opposed to some ways they will learn from Screen).  Show them how to disregard Screen and make them feel more important than Screen (demonstrates focus, non-distraction).

Finally, I know Screen has moved in permanently.  I love Screen, too.  But let's simply find a balance.  An hour with Screen, an hour outdoors-playing.  Another hour with Screen, and hour eating dinner together-NO Screen (he can eat later).  You can do it, so can the kids.  Enjoy the video below...I love the little baby who treats the magazine like an iPad.  ;)

Keep it simple...and balanced.  ♥D

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Social NEED-ia

I wake up to my alarm and turn it off.  For the past several years now, my routine is to grab my phone first thing and check in.  I have to check my 2 email accounts, text messages, Facebook, Instgram, and Twitter feeds.  Then, I have to double check those feeds for my 3 children (responsible/stalker parenting).  Like most humans in the morning, I have to use the facilities, but this phone situation, delays that by about 10-15 minutes now.  Oh, the days of long ago when I just hit the alarm and got out of bed.  I have a hunch that 75% of you can relate to this.

Why is this a topic today?  Because this is a very relevant form of communication for many, many people.  Adult and children are using social media as a way of communicating thoughts and feelings.  Are you paying attention?  I was so relieved this week when a comment was made to me about one of my children from a friend.  He knew about my daughter because, as a responsible parent, he checks his child's media accounts and our children are friends.  We talked about the time it takes to sit and keep up with not only our own social media, but our children's too.  However, the invested time is worth it.

Children feel validated with the number of 'likes' they get.  Children feel validated with the number of 'friends' they get.  This is when I feel it switches from media to need-ia.  There's a competition to see who likes a post, a photo, a comment.  Sense of worth rises through this.  But, it shouldn't.  Those accounts, and 'friends' need to be cleaned out.  This is when parenting, and verbal discussions about loving yourself, and feeling validation through good works come in.

Have that real talk about many do you, as an adult, have in real life that matter most?  Have a talk about internet behaviors.  I found a great video to share with you today, and hope you share it with your children.  It's light-hearted, and covers some aspects of internet behaviors.  Enjoy it...and enjoy the media, just don't need it.

Keep it simple...and lightly social.  ♥D

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pancakes With...Empathy

School can be a wonderful place, full of friends, academic successes, and fun!  It can also be a place where some children experience their most memorable difficulties and challenges.  They spend  13+ years in required attendance whether they are having a good or  bad day.  This is very similar to adult life.  What do your children know about reacting to others, and their feelings?  Have you discussed the term empathy?

As daily academic and recreational pressures, as well as the constant influx of technology and media continue to come into their lives, kids tend to be overwhelmingly stimulated and far less relaxed.  This can lead to emotional feelings that are hard to understand, relay, and communicate in socially acceptable ways.  Teaching children what it means to show understanding, and kindness toward one another at young ages is critical to creating a caring, kind, and accepting community.  Empathy can be defined as being aware of and sharing another person's feelings, experiences, and emotions.

Sometimes I see students, and parents, wanting to isolate and exclude a child who is having a difficult time expressing his/her emotions in acceptable ways.  However, when I see students who acknowledge and share another's feelings, as pictured above, healing begins immediately.  With a cooperative learning environment, mixed with empathetic classmates and understanding adults, transformations in behavior can occur with very positive outcomes for all.

Empathy is:  seeing with the eyes of another
                       listening with the ears of another
                       and feeling with the heart of another.

Please watch the video below with your children...empathy is key.  Kids need to be kind to one another and work on understanding and accepting one another.  It's a simple way for them to begin to grasp the concept, and you, as parent, can take it from there.

Keep it simple...and think of others.  ♥D

Friday, August 29, 2014

Using Our Language Filter, Even When It's Hard

School has (or will be) starting.  Your child will simply not be happy every single moment of every single day at school.   Mrs. Smith will have treated him unfairly.  Mr. Jones will have singled her (and ONLY her) out for absolutely NO reason at all.  Michael will have pushed him down on the playground and no one did anything about it, even when he told a grown-up.  And, one of the worst...all of the girls sat together at lunch and excluded your daughter.  She sat alone.  I am not being sarcastic, exclusion is one of the worst feelings a child can experience.  As the year goes on, I'll try and tackle some of these issues individually, but for today I'd like to discuss your immediate reaction, as a parent, to the statements (or those similar) made above.

1.  You know your child.  He/she's looking for some empathy.  Go ahead and give it.  Listen.  Just listen, with out a reaction.  I often tell people to 'keep your face'.  Be mindful of your facial expression.  Don't lose it, even if you want to.  Show empathy, but try real hard not to let the anger flow through or deep sadness for the situation they are describing.

2.  Then question.  You really are only getting 1 version of the truth. What would have motivated your child's offender to do what he/she did?   Most people are generally good people.  I'd like to say that again.  Most people are generally good.  We have to work on believing that.  We use a court system that prescribes to innocent until proven guilty.  Wouldn't it be great if we believed that most people are here for good, rather than here to harm?

3. Please do not react negatively.  Use a language filter.  Once your child sees that you've lost control and are in an negative emotional reaction, they've 'got you'.  It's possible you are done being reasonable.  It will be difficult for you to listen to the teacher's version of what happened.  Keep your mind open, and you thoughts inside.

4.  Wait 24 hours.  As the evening progresses at home and your child sees your non-reaction, maybe more of the truth will come out.  Maybe not.  In the morning, when all are calm, make an appointment with the appropriate school personnel to discuss what is happening with an open mind.  I always recommend having your child present at these conferences (especially if they are age 8+).  They can be accountable and can hold others accountable for their actions.

So, go ahead and have a flurry of thoughts in your head!  Just keep them from coming out in front of your child.  Children are so smart.  You made them that way!

Keep it simple...calm, and cool!  ♥D

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Finding Your Goulash

My two older children begin college this Monday.  My son is actually leaving.  It's his second year, and he will be living 4 hours away from home.  I remember last year struggling with his departure and loving his return trips home.  I couldn't wait for him to come home to visit.  I fussed over the house, and wanted it clean and in great shape.  Then came the moment when I was preparing his 'favorite meal'.  His whole life I've been a full-time working mom (a school administrator), and mother of three...taking the kids to their many, many after school activities.  We often ate on the run, and not always together.  So I'm thinking about that special meal to prepare for his return.  I have no idea what to make him.  I call him and ask what he wants.  "I don't care, ma...whatever you feel like making is good for me.  Just do goulash".  Then I realize, I don't cook.  I make about 3 things...weekly (and probably weakly!).  He has no 'favorite meal' that I can make for him to return home to eat.  I failed!  I'm devastated.  I love my mother's southern fried chicken and okra, and her biscuits and gravy.  I need him to love something of mine.  Right?  Or do I?

It took the year for me to realize that no, I don't.  He needs me to be me.  His mom that he knows is here always, loving him the way that I have for 19 years.  With Stouffers French Bread pizzas always on hand in that freezer waiting for him. He needs his home that is conveniently located right around the corner from Tim Hortons and McDonalds and Taco Bell for all of the meals required. And he will enjoy that sometimes I will pull off an amazing (yes, somewhat amazing) meal out of my oven once in a blue moon with the help of  I can cook, if I have the time. But loving my kids had me getting them where they needed to be for 18 years and attending those events at dinner time.  Our cars looked and smelled like a dinner table.   What do we all enjoy?  My goulash.  It's simple, but yummy.  Everyone has their own version of goulash.  Find your family's...and make it special.  Eat that at the table every now and then.  They'll come home from college wanting that and it will be great!  ;)

Keep it your kids, and be proud of the way you love them!  ♥D

Monday, August 11, 2014

Discussing Death

As a parent, I know that I would do anything to protect my children from hurt.  I can't.  We all get hurt.  My own children have experienced loss (way too much for their young ages), but with each loved one lost, I have learned more about the questions they have.  Guess what?  I don't have all of the answers.  If I wasn't feeling bad enough about the inability to protect them from it, at least I should be able to provide the answers to their questions.  Right? Today I give all parents permission to relieve yourself from this pressure.  You are probably grieving, too.  Just do your best.  I'm going to share a few things I have learned over time, and then offer some books to assist with this challenging topic.

Below are some questions that I've had to attempt to answer.  My hope is to forewarn you so you can feel successful with some answers.

1.  On cremation..."How did grandpa get so small?  When I die won't I still be big?" - I honestly googled to "how to explain cremation to young children".  Think about your words/language you choose prior to responding.  You do not want to make this scarier than it already is.

2.  On disease and/or chronic illness..."Will I get that too?" or you may see worries from children that this will happen to one of their parents.  Depending on the age of the child, you can explain a little about genetics.  But most importantly, take the opportunity to focus on a healthy lifestyle, regular check-ups, and caring for a loved one.  Hopefully they have experienced the power of empathy.  During illness families come together and help their loved one.  I don't think you need to 'hide' this from children...let them participate in caring for a loved one.  Our children need to be empathetic.

3.  On suicide..."Why?  What happened? Didn't he/she love me?" - This will be almost impossible to answer.  After a suicide, it is important to discuss with children mental health and ways they can seek support during any of life's bumps.  This conversation may need to be revisited so that you can ensure that your children know who to go to when they feel down.  The reassurance that 'yes, you were loved' by that person will also be needed.

4.  On experiencing grief and it's feelings..."Did he cry?  Did she cry?  Why or why not?" -  If the death is close to home, as an adult you can explain and understand the variety of responses to it.  Help your children remain empathetic to all, and explain to them varied grief responses.  It's ok to be sad and cry for days.  It's ok to be angry.  It's ok to laugh, and share funny memories.  This is another challenge as kids are focused on their own feelings, and possibly believe all should respond in kind.  All grief responses are ok, as long as no one is getting further harmed by one's response.

The following are some children's books on death.  Sometimes, letting a book do the talking for you is the best solution for all.  

  • Someone I Loved Died - by Christine Harder Tangvald
  • The Invisible String - by Patrice Karst
  • Samantha Jane's Missing Smile - by Julie Kaplow & Donna Pincus
  • The Next Place - by Warren Hanson
  • Pancakes With Papa - coming soon!  by Dena Albergo Jayson
  • Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss - by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen

Keep it simple...and be there for your kids.  ♥D

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Keeping The Back-to-School Storm Calm

Wow.  Where did our summer go?  Working at a school, I've seen many teachers coming in and preparing their classrooms for Michigan's after Labor Day start.  Whenever your start date (some of you may have already started), how is the stress management for you and your kids?  As I type today, the sun is shining, and it's looking to be a beautiful day today.  What are your plans with the children?  I hope they are to keep enjoying summer!  It's not over yet!

Every store where school supplies are sold will lead you to believe you are starting back tomorrow.  You probably don't.  How can you best manage the days leading to the first day of school?  Here's what I'd do...

1.  Take advantage of beautiful weather.  Go do something outside and allow the kids to play.

2.  Take advantage of the rainy/poor weather...that's a perfect day to go school shopping.

3.  Reduce stress with some financial planning.  Yes, your children will want to go back to school with some new clothes and spectacular supplies, but I'd venture to guess you do not need an entire new wardrobe. You may even have some of last year's supplies.  Keep it simple, and check out what they already have and can continue to wear/use.  Overindulgence is not a good thing.

4.  Have them use these days to assist the family, and 'earn' some of those extra items on their back to school list.

5.  When shopping for supplies, do not panic if you can't find an item.  You can wait until the first school day and communicate with your child's teacher a difficulty.  Believe it or not, they will not use all of the supplies on the very first day.

6.  Continue to read (that should be everyone's summer homework), and just enjoy the last few days.

I have added one of my favorite back to school commercials here...wouldn't it be fun to shop with your kids like he does?  Try it.

Keep it simple...and have summer fun!  ~D

Friday, August 1, 2014

We Simply Cannot Protect Them From Everything

The 'job' of a parent is to prepare children for the adult world, and to make sure they can manage on their own.  I'm sure we'd like to hold that off as long as we possibly can.  As life happens we find that we simply cannot protect them from some of the harsh realities that come their way.  Many times a tragedy will strike, a chronic illness with affect a family, or a sudden change in their lifestyle occurs and the world gets turned upside down. What can a parent do to help?  Here is what I suggest:

1.  Allow each child to express themselves as they need.  There should be no judgement.  Anger is ok.  Laughter is ok.  Sadness is ok.  No emotion is ok.  Everything is ok.

2.  Do things together as a family.  Even if  it is simply staying home.  Play games.  Watch TV.  Eat meals.  Be sure that you are together.  Do they need time with their friends?  Let them have that time...but be sure they return home after a short visit.

3.  Be truthful about your circumstances.  Be mindful of their age, and what they can handle when sharing information, but kids will listen, be concerned, and will overhear conversations.  They will know something is wrong.  Let them in, and then reassure them that all will be alright.  Knowing that as a family, you will get through, will help them cope. They need to be able to trust you, so I do not recommend lying to them.

4.  Absolutely seek the guidance of a professional (a psychologist/medical professional who works with children and young adults) promptly.  For the kids, and for yourself.  This can be short or a long term solution.  You can work with this professional to decide, but this will be critical.

If this post is one that is necessary for your family, I wish you peace.  I trust you will get it soon.

Keep it simple...and have faith.  ♥D

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Are you listening? Do you HEAR me?

I took some time off from the blog to stop talking and to listen and hear some of what was going on in my own household.  We can so easily get distracted by the noise in our daily lives that we are simply moving forward with what is practically 'the prescribed plan'.  I'm going to talk about my teenage daughter, an athlete, who is was college bound with an athletic scholarship.  One that she doesn't really want to use.  Don't get me wrong, she loves her sport, but she is growing into a wonderful young woman who is career focused now. She is also an independent thinker.  I smile as I keep reminding parents to 'raise kids to become independent and ready to live their own responsible adult life', and it's happening here in my home.  But, was I paying close enough attention?  Was I listening?  Yes.  Was I hearing her as she expressed her desires for her career?  Maybe not as well as I should have.  But, I'm listening and hearing her now.

It was the middle of a sleepless night and I heard her.  I got it, so to speak.  I'm so grateful for that light bulb moment.  We've made some college and career changes, just in the last few weeks, based on her desires, not mine. Parents have to ask questions of their children, and guide them, but also know their heart.  What do they want to do with their life.  Some have no clue at age 17.  Some do.  Are you listening?  Probably.  But are you paying attention to what they really love?  What is their passion?  Did it change?  Think about your own life...are you doing what your mother and/or father wanted you to do OR are you doing what you want to do?  I certainly hope it's the latter.  Check in.  Love them no matter what.  Give them guidance and allow them to change their mind.

I've added a little Big Bang Theory comic relief on 'Bad Listening'...enjoy.  

Keep it simple...though sometimes, it's a little difficult.  ♥D

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

SelfieCop...Monitor Those Pics!

Selfie was added to the dictionary this past May.  How may times a day do you hear and/or say the word?  How many 'selfies' do you take each day?  Here's the real many selfies do your children take?  Do you even know?  Where do they post them?  What do they look like?  Odds are the popular site to upload a selfie to has changed since I started typing this blog entry.  As parents, we can hardly keep up.  I just learned of a new app that can keep you informed of what your child is posting as a selfie.  You might want to create a new email address.  The app is called SelfieCop.  It will send your child's selfies to your email address.  A link to an article is provided below and it is currently only available for Android users ('s coming soon)!  I have the app, and it's working.  Here's the details, and some of my thoughts to go along with it.

SelfieCop Article

1.  You have to tell your child you are installing it on their phone/tablet/etc.  Honesty is what you want to model.

2.  You are encouraging appropriate picture taking.  The goal is not to 'catch them' in a distasteful pose. I do wish the creators chose a different naming device other than 'cop' for this purpose.

3.  Stress the importance of keeping them safe and keeping communication lines open.  Remind them of the increase in internet crimes.

4.  Make sure you are not receiving photos on a work email.  You may want to consider opening a new email account for this purpose, especially if your child really loves to take selfies...your inbox may fill up quickly!

Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of monitoring all of your child's internet activity.  It's a pain.  But you'll keep them safe.  They think they are invincible, and they trust.  You have to guide them.  Let this app help you out.

Keep it simple...but keep it safe!  ♥D

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 6th - Are We Bored Yet?

How's the summer so far?  It has been lovely here in pure Michigan!  I'm sure the holiday weekend has been filled with family and friends.  As we move along, however, how many times have the summer vacationers chimed in with 'Mom, I'm bored'?  Once a week?  Once a day?  Once an hour?  I can only imagine a worst case scenario where you don't hear from them at all simply because they are plugged in to electronic devices all day, preoccupied with the current (and many) social media opportunities.  Personally, I don't find these 'social' media sites the best place for youth socialization skills to develop.

Boredom is ok.  You are a parent, and unless it is your chosen profession, not an entertainment provider for your children.  However, it is a great responsibility to help foster imagination.  We need to encourage and develop imagination.  When the kids are bored, given them 'things' to work with that they have never (or rarely) used before...and see what happens.  Household items, old toys, new toys, tools, boxes, etc...see what their imaginations create.  Cook with them, build with them, create with them.  Stop what you are doing (unplug yourself from the internet), if you can, and spend some time with them.  I think you'll be surprised, and impressed.

I've included two articles with lists of ideas for both young children and teens to overcome that summer boredom.  There's some great ideas.

For young children:  Boredom Busters for Younger Children

For teens:  Boredom Busters for Teens

Enjoy the summer - unplugged and full of new experiences.  But don't stress, leave it up to the kids to figure out what to do.

Keep it simple...and a little boring.  ♥D

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Baby, Those Are Fireworks!

It's time to celebrate our nation's freedom and independence!  Backyard BBQ's, pool parties, and the fun of...fireworks.  Depending on the age of your child, you may not be feeling so free and independent.  The fun of the 4th can suddenly go with the anxiety of the fireworks.  I'm no therapist or counselor, but over the years I've learned that the anxieties kids experience are real and should be treated with compassion, kindness and empathy.  Here's a few thoughts on getting through the next few days...

1.  Find out why your child is afraid?  Is it the noise (most likely) or is it the fear of the crowd of people and getting separated from you in that crowd?  Talk with your child about the fears.  Discuss the plan to ensure safety in a crowd.

2.  If it is noise, explain that following the noise, there will be beautiful lights and colors.

3.  Try to overcome the fear, or deal with the fears with's one you can sing together (to the tune of 'Jingle Bells') Firework, Firework, I'm not afraid of you, You are loud, and you are bright,  lighting up the night.  Or you can pick any of your favorite songs that works for your family.

4.  As each firework 'pops', let the kids jump, or yell at it...whatever eases and releases their anxieties.

5.  Give them headphones (the BIG ones, not earbuds) and let them watch from inside a house or car.

6.  Don't force them to watch if they are weary...invite them.  They will come when ready.

Finally, stay relaxed as mom or dad.  This is important.  If you are anxious for them, they will sense it.  Kids are so smart.  If you have to miss the fireworks for a year or two to spend those moments a little closer with your little won't regret it.  I promise.  Watch this sweet, sweet video of dad/daughter below and see how they get through the fireworks.  There's still time for you to go out and purchase your own little baby pink guitar.  ;)

Keep it simple...Happy 4th of July!  ♥D

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Prepare or Protect? (Summer Homework for Parents)

Let's face it, if we could make childhood, adolescence, and those dreaded teenage years absolute bliss for our kids, we would.  Free from harm, hurt, and harassment.  Full of joy, surrounded by friends, and academic success.  However, this is not the way the life works.  Working in the field of education, I have come across many families who work hard to make the world their children live in pretty amazing.  They have written some excellent (and not so excellent) research papers for their children, made some healthy lunches for them daily, picked out what to wear for them each and every day, ensured that they would never be placed in the same class with the rumored school 'bully', and always fought to be placed in the class with the teacher that they knew was a 'better fit' for their child.

But what happens when those children reach an adult age and aren't protected by his/her parents anymore?Are skills in place for good decision making?  When life gets difficult, will he or she be able to cope?  I do believe that we have a large population of overprotected young adults that are not prepared, and this is why we have an increase in violence with young adults.  Independence, responsibility, and learning to handle the circumstances that we are given (at all ages) prepares children for the future.  It's ok for your child to have to make his lunch everyday beginning at a young age.  It's ok for your child to have to do her own homework, and then get the grade earned, even it it is a C.  It's ok for your child to have the teacher that is rumored to be challenging...there is a lot to be learned and overcome when presented with challenges.  When we are faced with challenges, we learn to get through them, and there is a great feeling of pride and accomplishment when we have.  Let's start this early with our kids.

I challenge parents to do some summer homework and reflect on some general practices.  Are you preparing or overprotecting?  What can you do to get them even more ready for college and beyond?

I've included a very short article from Time Magazine below, it may help with your homework.  Check it out.

Time Article

Keep it simple...but do your homework!  ♥D

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

World Cup of Parenting

The competition has started.  US vs. Germany.  Maybe you love soccer.  Maybe you haven't watched a day of it in your life until this week.  Whatever it is...the competition and thrill of the game extends around the globe for the sport this month and it's exciting!  I started out rooting for team Italy and my daughter was team Spain, and we're always a team USA household.  We're slowly getting knocked out of this year's cup.  

Do you sometimes feel that way as a parent?  Do you wake up as team Family United and within minutes turn into Family Divided?  It certainly doesn't take much for that sweet morning to take a turn.  A look the wrong way, a busy bathroom, an unclean shirt, overdue name it.  What is important to remember is that family is not a competition.  Struggles within a family should not be competitive.  There is no 'winner', between parent and child.  So try not to win, but know that your children will.  

If you must, you can redefine what winning looks like.  I would view family 'winning' as making sure that my children can function as responsible, independent adults, who can make good choices for themselves.

So, when a field battle is about to begin over what to wear to school, curfew times, eating the 'green stuff on the plate'...try to decide if that struggle is worth it. Give them alternatives.  I have Italy or the US.  Let your child pick something from the closet and you pick something.  Offer 2 curfew choices (they will pick the later one, of course).  Give 2 or 3 healthy food choices before cooking, and involve them in the process.  Or you can say, you have to eat the you want them on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday?  And...use common sense, kids do not need to have a choice in everything.  You are the parent, BE the parent.

We, as adults like to have choices.  Kids do too.  Empower them, let them feel important.  But remember, you are the coach, manager, and owner.  ;)

Keep it simple...Now Is Our Time (see Team USA below)  ♥D

Friday, June 20, 2014

Stalking Your Teens...You Should Only Have To Do It Once (that they know about)

As the summer continues to roll on, I'm sure the fun is just starting for your teenagers.  I'm certain that I drive my own crazy with the questions I ask.  This does not bother me.  Every nutty question I ask them is, (1) for their safety, and (2) for my sanity.  It may be selfish of me to request a bit of sanity, but we have been through a lot, and after all this time together, an attempt at sanity while they are out driving cars and possibly engaging in even more risky behaviors is the least they can do for me. can you let them know that you are still in charge for just a couple of more years, until they reach that precious age of adulthood?

Let them know you mean business when you ask those questions.  Where are you going?  Who are you with?  I find the most important one is...what's the address of where you will be?  I love the text messaging capability now because there's no excuse for lack of communication.  I always have them 'text me the address' of their destination.  Now, think back...were you always where you said you'd be?  This is where parenting teens can get fun, a little scary, and creative!

Get in your car, load that address into the GPS and go!  What if they are not there?  Get creative (make sure you have gas), and think like your teen...go where you think he/she is.  Do not warn them, or text them yet...just drive around and look for their car (really, when have you had a night out and an adventure like this lately, anyway)?  When you find the car, and I hope you do, I suggest the following:

FASES (Face Saving Exit Strategies) for your teen:

1.  Park your car and stay in it.
2.  Text your teen and ask...'where are you again'...this will give them one more chance at the truth.
3.  If he/she tells you the truth.  Go home.  Adventure over.  ;)
4.  If he/she is dishonest...I recommend a gentle text that says...'I am parked outside.  You have 3 minutes to get out of that house and into my car.  I do not care what you say to your friends.  But you have 3 minutes.  Good luck'.
5.  Do not let them drive the car home from that house...leave it there for the night. Or, if you have a helper/spouse/co-parent...have them drive the other vehicle home.
6.  Always remain calm.
7.  If your children think you will check on them and follow-through...they will be where they say they are going.  You should only have to stalk them once.

I'm sure you will offer consequences for dishonesty.  If you don't this will likely repeat.  As my children got older and began to work, I started to 'fine' them.  Hitting them in the wallet seemed to work.  No one likes that.  The money went right back into feeding them anyway.  ;)

Remember Home Improvement?  Here's a cute episode about raising teens...I enjoyed re-watching it.
Keep it simple...consistent, and follow-through!  ♥D

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Breakfast

I sit and type this Sunday morning thinking about Father's Day was the last one I spent with my dad.  It was a gorgeous Sunday, similar to what today looks to be, and he really enjoyed the day with my two young children (they were 4 and 3).  He ran around outside squirting them with squirt guns and played in the kiddie pool.  It really was a great day.  As we pulled away from the house to head home, I knew that was my last father's day with him.  I'm pretty sure he did too, that's why he made the most of it.

What is important to take away from that day is that it wasn't stressful.  It was simple, spontaneous fun yet I can vividly remember most moments from that precious day.  It was full of play and joy.  Had my kids been a bit older, I'm sure they would remember the day as I do.  So I ask you, what are you doing today?

I was also thinking about the children who are missing that person in their life with the label of father/dad/daddy.  Try to keep today positive.  Let children honor mom again.  Celebrate grandpa, an uncle, or cousin who may act as an adult male role model in your child's life.  If your children are lucky, they are surrounded by positive influences shaping them into their future selves.  Let the children celebrate them in some way.  This will help them realize that they do have people in their lives that really care.

Enjoy today. Keep it simple...and check out this video of some things dads can't do.  Who knew?  ♥D

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Angels Among Athletes...Sideline Parent Support or Not?

My daughter's high school soccer journey ended last night with a team banquet.  I'm quiet on the sidelines, but I chose the elegant banquet setting to finally shout out loud my 'soccer mom' sentiments.  I am always proud of her, but I chose that setting for a few reasons.

1.  I was overwhelmed with pride in her accomplishments.
2.  She could hear me.
3.  She wasn't playing, and I wouldn't effect her game.

She heard me (as did everyone else), she made eye contact, and smiled.

Do you have an athlete?  A dancer?  Are you a stage parent?  What kind of sideline support are you?  I watch kids on the field, rink, and court (all 3 of my children are amazing athletes) and I will see a child look to the side for approval, coaching advice, or maybe just to see if anyone is watching.  I often hear a variety of choice words from parents for players, coaches, and referees.  Are you supporting the efforts of the team and/or coach with your actions?  Think about the following:

1.  Children want to do their best usually.  I'm sure they are in most moments.  A coach once said to me...they (children) do not wake up and say "I want to go on the field, and play horrible and really disappoint my parents and coach today".  I'm sure that is true.  I have a hunch coaches and referees want to limit their negative encounters with parents as well.

2.  Imagine if you had a mirror in front of your face during a game.  How would it look? Pleasant?  Overly critical?  Crazy competitive?  I hope it is simply full of joy.

3.  Let your child play the game that is his/her game.  Not the one that YOU played or wish you had played.

4.  Let your child play the game that his/her coach wants to play.  Even if you disagree with the coach.  Demonstrate respect for differing opinions.

5.  Cheer.  Be positive.  And allow for your child to hear directions from his/her coach/teacher/leader.  So much side line commentary can be confusing.

6.  Children are  hard enough on themselves when a performance lacks.  Offer support by asking questions, when ready.  "I see you are upset about today's game.  Can I help?"  This will give them  an opportunity to open up a discussion about their game.

Let them play.  Such a key word there.  PLAY.  Here's a link to the Positive Coaching Alliance with some wonderful tools for parents.  Make sports fun not only for your children, but for you as well!  And...if you get caught by 'that' parent...pick up your chair and move. :)

Positive Coaching Alliance - Tools for Parents

Keep it and enjoy the game!  ♥D

Friday, June 6, 2014

If You're Given A Few Months...Or Even Ten Minutes

Not too long ago I was given what I now call a gift of a few months to do with what I wanted.  I didn't take full advantage of that time.  I spent much of it worrying, stressed, and yes, eating (oh no!). They say hindsight is 20/20.  That is certainly true.  If I had that time back, I would had made some different choices. 

Sometimes, it's just out of our control.

Worry is natural, but try not to let it overwhelm.  Many times life just doesn't make any sense.  There is an excellent quote from Corrie ten Boom that she has in Clippings From My Notebook..."Worry does not empty tomorrow of it's sorrow, it empties today of its strength."  Worry does not make us stronger and is not the example we want to set for our children.  We want them to be strong and resilient, yet empathetic.  It is okay to share with them that today is a hard day for mom/dad (building on their empathy) but that we are going to be alright.  Give them an example they can relate to such as, 'remember the day you took that tough math test and worried about it?  I'm having that kind of day, but all is well now that you're home!'  Then move on with your children to something fun.  You do not want to burden them with your worry.  Kids are very intuitive.  Here's 5 ideas I recommend when given the gift of time:

1.  Exercise...with your kids!
2.  Open the recipe book and learn to cook something new (and healthy!)
3.  Read more books for yourself and with your children...what are they reading?
4.  Play 'old fashioned' games...Monopoly, Sorry!, Rummy, War, Old Maid, Go Fish 
     with them.
5.  You may find yourself cleaning up the house a little more...don't get upset if your 
     family comes home and 'lives' in it.  Let them continue to enjoy their home.  They
     have enough rules to follow at school and work.

Finally, I've included a video from the adorable Kid President.  He made it for moms.  I'd like to add that this is for dads too!  We need both of you.  Kids need both of you.  Keep it simple not worry about the things we cannot control.  ♥D

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dear Principal, One last thing, before we break for summer...I've heard that teacher really doesn't like kids...

As the school year winds down, many of you should be getting ready to head off to the joys of summer.  I know that the teachers are!  The countdown began about mid-April.  Unfortunately for some, instead of relaxing, anxiety for the new school year has already started.  How many of you have requested a meeting with your child's current teacher and/or school administration to "suggest" or come right out and ask for a specific teacher?

Why did you do it?  Was it because of a previous experience with your other children?  Or was it because of (and please don't say it is so) rumors from the mill (ie, school parking lot) that the teacher doesn't really like the kids? Or is a terrible teacher? Whatever your reason is I ask you to consider the following philosophy that will be discussed here often:

"Prepare your child for the road, not the road for your child"

We learn from all experiences.  Most teachers are not in this field if they do not like children.  Schools and districts are held accountable to a set of standards that must be met.  They want quality teachers.  It is unfair to pre-judge anyone, in any circumstance.  And yes, every now and again, there is a teacher that needs development and work.  That is the true in every field.  But remember, they are professionals in their field.  They are degreed.  They have to continually update their certifications to keep them current. Continually.  There are usually protocols in place for conversations when and if concerns come up.  A structured classroom is not indicative of an uncaring, unkind classroom.  That is a room where kids know what to expect.  

I absolutely encourage you to meet the teacher, ask good questions and directly address rumors with the administration.  They have probably heard them.   Hopefully your mind can be put at ease. 

I challenge you to give 'that' teacher a chance.  You just might be pleasantly surprised.  If you have concerns after the school year begins, then follow the protocols in place for effective, cooperative communication.

See below for a little comic relief.  :)  Keep it simple...have faith in your school!  ♥D

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Red 'Oh-No' Cup...For Prom & Graduation Season

You can't stop the inevitable.   Especially at this time of year.   Prom season. Grad parties.  Pool parties.  Bonfires.  Your teenager will undoubtedly be invited to these and will be begging to go.  They have been waiting for summer freedom to arrive.

Red Solo Cup... this is your favorite time of year too!  As parents,  we are terrified of any photo with our children holding you close in hand.   But they may be put there.  Twittered.   Snapchatted.   Instagrammed.   You may think that ignorance is truly bliss.   But when it comes to your teen drinking,  knowledge is life saving.

Look at this Buzzfeed article and the images other countries have of American parties...

So how can we realistically help our kids?   I truly believe we have to offer our kids FASES (FAce Saving Exit Strategies).  I will offer these often,  for every age and many situations.   We all want to get out of challenging situation with grace, especially teenagers.  Here are my thoughts:

  1. Have them say, NO-I don't drink.  However, think back, how often did YOU do this?  Were you successful?
  2. Have them offer a medical excuse, "I'm taking medicine for an illness right now and cannot have alcohol".   Nope, it is not ok to lie...but if they find they are not strong enough to just say no, allow this one.
  3. Tell them to fill up the cup, but DO NOT DRINK from it.  Pour it out slowly.  Dump it in the sink. Pretend to drink, and then just don't!  Go to the bathroom and rid of the drink.  However, if a party is broken up with law enforcement, it is never a good idea to have the cup in hand anyway.
  4. Have them exit the situation.  Call you.  Text you.  Make it ok for them to get a hold of you for a rescue and then blame you for the exit.  It's ok for you to be the bad guy, if they stay safe, and remain in good standing with their peer group.

FASES are critical for all ages, even adults.  Do you have any to share for this issue?  Please do.

Finally, if you've got a little song in your you go (and this is Glee's version because this is what our kids are watching).  Keep it simple...everyday!  ♥D

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Have the Courage to Live the Life You Want

This is my first post in my first blog.  "Pancakes For Parents" is twofold.  I hope to use this to share some ideas to help parents get through those 'sticky' issues that come up with children (and maybe help address concerns with school), while also keeping you posted on my own personal journey of book publishing. That's what this first post is about.  Wait...stay with me!  Read on...

As parents (I have 3 wonderful children, just in case you forgot or didn't know), we really lose sight of living the life we want to live for ourselves as we give all that we have to our kids.  I've had this children's book idea in my head for about 10 years. My kids and I have experienced  losses of many grandparents who were very dear to us.  I recently had some time to put those ideas on paper (or laptop) and send them off to a publisher.  The book received favorable reviews and I was faced with meeting the publisher.  The meeting went well and the publisher was knowledgeable, considerate, and helpful.  However,a decision to sign had to be made. Nerves got a hold of me so...I went to Starbucks, of course!  It was there that I encountered Oprah, so to speak.  Now, I'm sure you have your feelings about Oprah, but see her words of wisdom below...

Of course, this was just the wrapper to my grande skinny caramel macchiato, but it was exactly the encouragement I needed to say YES to the publisher.  We are moving forward with my book, Pancakes With Papa.  It is scary.  It is risky.  It might fail.  But it might succeed!  It is something I want to do for me, after raising two kids, while still working on raising my third one (she's still a little young). 

In the last two weeks, I have talked with 2 friends who are in a somewhat risky career shift or they are taking a chance and making a change in their life.  Good for them!  They are living the life they want, with courage.  I think I am too.  How about you?