Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is a Stress-Free Christmas Even Possible?

One of the clear indications that I am getting older is the sheer velocity of the passing of time. I'm pretty sure it was just July yesterday and now I'm told it's almost Thanksgiving which means that Christmas is pretty much tomorrow. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhrrrrrrgggg!

Is there anyone who doesn't experience stress over the December holidays? (I'm generalizing...I don't know enough about religions other than Christianity to know if people who believe in other religions experience stress at the end of the year holidays.) I suppose you have to be older than 20 and probably have to have kids for it to be truly stressful but I remember being stressed even as a teen worrying about what I would buy my family (and the THAT not the cruelest form of torture to try to figure out what to buy a boy you've been dating for a few months?).

My kids get those toy catalogs out of the mailbox and mark 98 percent of the catalog as "want." I know that's part of being a kid, though I don't remember the volume of toy catalogs as a kid. The toys are more expensive now too, right? Or am I just old and cheap? My son circles $100+ Lego play sets and thinks it's fine to ask for all of them.

We've always told our kids they can ask Santa to bring them 3 things. It helps them narrow down all those wants and really think about what they want the most. Sometimes Santa gets off inexpensively. Sometimes not. So far, Santa has always brought all three things for the kids. The number 3 comes from the 3 gifts the wise men brought for Baby Jesus. I've tried to explain that to the kids but I don't think they really care. Did I mention they're kids?

Other kids send Santa a huge list. My kids know that too. I think. But I've asked them (told them) to think of the other kids and remember Santa has only a limited amount of room in his sleigh. They know that they wouldn't want to take toys from other kids.

I think they get it. At least a little bit. They are so lucky. Santa should send more gifts to the kids who don't have as much. Santa is magic but still has limitations.

Thank you Santa, for the gifts you've given my family.

Monday, November 15, 2010


My parenting skills ebb and flow, like much of the things in my life. In one week I might fluctuate every other day between calm, in-charge Mommy and screaming, irrational Mommy. Other weeks I am on top of my game and confident. The next I will be nutty all week. Then there are days that throw it all in the mix.

My kids have to be confused by it all. Heck, I'M confused by it all. Consistency is key in discipline, relationships, maybe even in life. I'm reading and re-reading Love and Logic, (okay so I've never read the original...yet but I'm reading the early years and what to say when kids leave you speechless). The techniques work wonders for my kids if I remember to employ them.

When my kids fight (and they have been fighting often lately) in the car I've started telling them they'll need to pay me to listen to it and start naming ways they can pay me. If they argue at home, I simply leave whatever room they are arguing in. It's amazing how quickly the dispute is resolved without mom observing.

Why don't I use this stuff all the time? I suppose I need to practice more. Maybe by the time they have their own kids I'll have it down...but I doubt it.

Maybe I need one of those shock collars that some people use to prevent their dogs from barking. It could give me a jolt to remind me that yelling at my kids never works as well as being calm and confident.

Friday, November 12, 2010

isn't it funny

i had this whole post planned for today about the importance of thought and reform. i had this whole post planned for education and love. i had this whole whole post about kids and reading and advocating.

but now i blog from my phone in the waiting room to see if owen's four fever in seven weeks means anything. i sit in the waiting room in the wake of my grandfather's death last night. i sit in the mix of my bad mechanics and phone typing with the judgment of others looming as my son plays a ds and i am seemingly texting...

isn't it funny what life doles out in the middle of a great post?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A day

I was posed the question, what would you do with an entire day without commitments, without others, without pressure?

My logical side said, Clean the house, get the junk out, decorate the bare walls, paint the boys' rooms, get my life in order.

My playful side said, with a glint in her eye, oooohhhhhhhhh, if it was in the winter, I'd fly to Colorado and snowboard all day long. Run after run of sheer dry powdery bliss. Or maybe I'd go to the scrapbook store, find a new inspiration and create, create, create. If it was sunny outside and warm, I'd go for a run and then a coffee in the sunshine while reading the paper. I'd go listen to the water move in the creek. I'd go see a movie, just because. I'd go for a hike, explore a new downtown. I'd be...

I'd be.

I'm looking for time to do both the logical and the playful because I'm drowning in a sea of too much. While I come up for air and look around, I wonder if there is a way to work both into a week? Right now, it seems like all or nothing and really, my mind is believing it so...I wish for a little play and logic in each day, but it seems like my organizational skills cannot produce more hours in a day...which lends itself to another question...

what gives?

So now I ponder that question as I fix a toy, answer a homework problem, make dinner, clean up after dinner, pack lunches for the next day, grade papers, get the gym bag ready for tomorrow morning, run errands, make a grocery list, and, uh, breathe.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It is the word of the month. We are working on reducing our "stuff" especially with the onslaught of new stuff coming. The boys are trying to make sense of all their books and toys, who needs what and wants what. The logic and reasoning of a seven and four year old makes me smile in so many moments.

We are trying to reduce the amount of time we spend out and away from our home and center. Granted, we have three weekends in a row that are booked with friends, but at least it is in our home.

We are trying to reduce our spending, reduce our consumption, reduce our waste, and reduce our complacency with a world that pushes busy and efficient. Frankly, I'm tired because of both.

It is 65 degrees out November. If we don't drop our worldly commitments of schedule and errands to breathe that in, we are missing something beautiful - and I want to reduce the amount of missed moments as well.
Simply slow down is my mantra this month, and it is amazing how often I have to say it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Wine Goodness: It's time for Beaujolais Nouveau

Years ago, before I started developing a taste for wine, I would only drink pink wines. You know, the white zinfandels and ros├ęs that are like $4 a bottle. Slowly I was introduced to better wines, and developed a different palate, one that wasn't all about added sugar and headaches. But I was afraid of deep reds, they were too thick and my imagination is too wild - it felt like drinking blood.

The first red wine I fell in love with was a Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau. It wasn't heavy like most of the reds I had tried (which I now love, but that is a taste that develops over time for many people.) It comes out in November, and is not the kind of wine that should be stored and kept, it should be drank immediately. It does not get better with age - it gets skunky.

The Beaujolais Nouveau is fermented only for a few weeks, as opposed to months or seasons like most other wines. It is thinner and sweeter than most reds, and is best served slightly chilled, but not as chilled as most white wines. The easiest thing to do is to put the bottle in the fridge about ten minutes before you intend to open and drink it. It is not the kind of wine that does well by itself at Happy Hour - it goes better with a meal, in my opinion.

This year's Beaujolais Nouveau should hit stores in about two weeks. The Georges Duboeuf website says November 18th. Pick up one and try it, maybe offer it at your Thanksgiving table. They are a fun way to show off your confidence and knowledge of different types of wines, and because they are usually priced around $10-15 a bottle (sometimes cheaper) you won't break the bank.

* Click here for some fun Beaujolais facts.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oh, those mommy instincts.

Yesterday I had kind of a weird day. It started with my out-of-town aunt calling, just as I stepped into the shower, to ask me to please go pick up my grandmother and take her to the emergency room. Which I did, of course, and she's fine and feeling much better now that she has some antibiotics. But after we were back in the car and headed to the pharmacy to fill her prescriptions, I took kind of a hard left at a stoplight, trying to get through the intersection while the light was still on yellow. (I am a "yellow means go faster" type of driver, just so you know.) And as we skidded through the intersection, I threw out my right arm gently against my grandmother, as if the G-force and her seatbelt wasn't enough to hold her in her seat.

"You can't help that, can you?" she said to me. I thought about it for a second. "Nope," I replied, "although normally the only thing sitting in that seat is my purse."

I have only a few times driven a car with a child sitting in the front seat. When I was in college and a nanny, I had an older model car without an airbag, and I usually put the car carrier of the infant in my care in the front seat, backward of course, so that I could reach her and put that damn pacifier back in her mouth every time she spit it out as we drove around town on errands. This was how the child's mother showed me how to do it the first time she strapped the baby into my car, and this was back before it was suggested so plainly that children should always be in the back seat, before passenger airbags were standard. My ten year old has ridden in my front seat exactly twice: once when coming home from a freezing boy scout camp outing, where I allowed him to sit in the front seat so that he could use the butt warmer; and the other when I was taking a twin mattress to someone and had all the seats down in the back of the van.

My grandmother said, "I did that, too. I always put my arm out to hold your aunt or your dad in, but we didn't have seat belts then." It didn't always help. In about 1950, my grandmother and my aunt were in a car accident so bad it was amazing to many people around them that both survived.

So where does that instinct come from? What other instincts do you have that don't seem to come from experience?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day! Civics and Kids

Across the US today, people are standing in lines at polling stations to do their civic duty and vote. There are elections at all levels of government except President - federal, state, and local. Schools across the country have been holding mock elections to teach the electoral collage process to students. But at our school, another lesson in civic duty is being learned. Our school's fifth grade class will soon visit Exchange City.

I visited Exchange City when I was in 5th grade - I loved it. The program has been going strong in Kansas City for over 30 years. I'm so excited for my son to finally get his turn to go. Students visit in a day long field trip where they each get a job, a paycheck, pay taxes, bills and sometimes fines (like speeding tickets, or in their case, running tickets.) Jobs consist of things like Bank Manager, Police Officer, Postal Carrier, Radio Station DJ, or even the City Judge.

The City Judge is the only position which must campaign to be elected for this office at school in the weeks prior to the field trip. The kids who choose to run make posters, and create slogans. It prepares them for the concepts of running for student council office in the next few years, once they get to middle school and high school. (Kids go to middle school starting in sixth grade where I live.) All other jobs require students to make a resume, apply for a first, second and third choice job and explain why they are qualified, and get references from two adults (not family.) There's a lot of work before the big day of the field trip itself.

It's an excellent program. I remember I learned so much that day. I had no idea how my parents' jobs and paychecks were affected by taxes and bills, it was eye opening. I had no idea how you have to budget your money, and how fines can eat up so much of a paycheck (I, was, er, ticketed several times for running and yelling, I remember. I think I ran out of money to buy snacks and candy at the store - although we did have sack lunches.)

Other cities have similar programs, though they may not all be attended through school field trips. Check for such a program in your area. Exchange City Kansas City also has a summer camp program - although the 2011 information isn't up yet.

Teaching kids about elections and how we vote in the US is crucial to their understanding of government and civics. But teaching them how to function in society and business is even more important. Things you can do at home to help keep your kids in the know:
  • Have a conversation with your school age kids about money, how what you earn affects the family, how bills are paid, etc.
  • Give allowance, either in exchange for chores or just because, and teach them to save for things they want like Lego sets and video games.
  • Dave Ramsey, financial guru, radio host and author of Financial Peace University, has programs for kids to learn how to save and use money to avoid debt. He also has teen programs. (They are Christian based programs.)
  • Check out, the official kids portal for the federal government
And finally, if your kids' school takes a field trip related to civics and or business such as Exchange City, make an effort to go along as a chaperone, so you can discuss later. The best thing we can teach our kids is how to be involved, by showing them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Boys and hygiene: like oil and water. Lots and lots of oil.

Remember when your little ones were so excited for that evening ritual of bathtime? When they couldn't wait to finish dinner so everyone could all run upstairs and strip off their clothes and climb in that big, bubbly hot, toy-filled tub of joy and splash around for a while, getting clean in the process?

Well, it ends. Especially with boys. They no longer long to be clean. They no longer care. They are too busy playing Nerf gun wars in the backyard or building intricate lego sets to be bothered with bathing, putting on clean socks, or for that matter, pajamas. Sometimes they sleep in their clothes. Nowadays all I hear when I suggest it's time for the bath or shower is whining. Now that my kids are a little more self-sufficient, (or at least I thought they were) I find myself saying things like, "when was the last time you used shampoo?" and "dude, you are ripe."

And what do I hear back from them? "Um, do I need to change my underwear?"

YES! This is a question that needs to be asked?

My friends with teens tell me it changes again soon, the pendulum swings back again, and then you cannot get them OUT of the shower.

I look forward to that. I think.