August 31, 2007

The Hardest Job in the World

When I was a child I watched the Andy Griffith show, the Brady Bunch and reruns of Leave it to Beaver. Television fathers made parenting look so easy. They were wise and had all the answers. They never seemed to struggle with finding solutions to problems and there was always a happy ending.

When I became am parent I realized it’s not that easy. You don’t always have all the answers and quite often you’re just experimenting. There is not a handbook attached to your child when you bring her home from the hospital and even if there was it could never begin to cover all the various aspects of raising children.

If you’re struggling with the challenges of parenting keep in mind that it’s trial and error. You're learning as you go. You’re doing the best that you can.

August 30, 2007

A Simple Gift

Send a “thinking of you” note or an “I noticed” card to someone who wouldn’t expect it. A friend, your spouse, a child, a neighbor, a waiter whose service was superb.

Send it anonymously. Imagine the smile it will bring to the recipients face.

August 29, 2007

A New Pair of Socks

Nothing is more comforting to me than a new pair of socks. I always keep a couple of new pairs in my dresser drawer and when I’ve had a stressful day I put on a pair and snuggle up in my favorite chair with a good book. There’s something about that feeling of new socks that comforts me.

Send a new pair of socks to someone who is going a through a difficult time. Include a note detailing what the socks are for. Ask that they do one thing in return. Send a new pair of socks to someone else who is in need of some TLC.

August 28, 2007

Number One Parenting Tip

Find a parent whose children are a developmental stage ahead of your children to be your mentor. They can offer you insights and encouragement.

Return the favor to a parent who has children younger than yours.

August 27, 2007

I Did It!

I’m a list maker. I make one at the start of each day. Making a list assures me that I won’t overlook something important. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve found that the real reason I make a list is because I love to scratch the items off as they are accomplished. My daily goal is to tackle each and every item on the list.

Quite often my daily list contains more items than are humanly possible to accomplish and by the end of the day I feel defeated. I beat myself up for not completing everything on the list.

Realizing that this approach wasn’t doing anything to improve my sense of self, I decided to turn things around. At the end of each day I now take a minute to review the things from my list that I was able to complete and I pat myself on the back for a job well done.

If you’re a parent, use a similar approach with your child. During their bedtime routine have your child list three things they did that day that they are proud of. It will foster self-esteem and put the focus on the positive rather than the negative. Even better, write those three things down in a journal. What fun you and your child will have reviewing those lists. What a boost to your child’s self image.

August 26, 2007

A Father’s Arms

Growing up on a farm included chores. One of those chores was walking the cow’s home each evening to milk them. Before my brother and I were deemed old enough to walk them home ourselves, our father would occasionally take us along.

He was running late one hot summer evening and decided to take a short cut through a soon to be harvested wheat field to get to the pasture where the cows were grazing. He told me and my little brother to stay behind. We waited until he was out of sight, grabbed each others hands and followed him anyway. Soon the wheat was over our heads and I lost the grip on my brother’s hand. I hear him crying and I push my way through the billowing wheat trying to find him. It was futile so I resorted to calling for help.

Suddenly, I am lifted off the ground by two strong arms. Our father had heard our cries for help. He carried the two of us through the wheat and deposited us at the end of field with strict instructions to go directly home.

We feared a reprimand and a spanking but it never happened.

We also never followed him again into a field of wheat.

August 25, 2007

Healthy Release of Anger

When I’m angry I vacuum. That back and forth motion helps me release negative energy and calms me down.

I like to make my own greeting cards so when the carpet doesn’t need to be vacuumed I get out some card stock and my paper cutter. Lifting the handle of that paper cutter and slamming it down helps me get rid of a lot of aggression.

What do you do to release your anger?

August 24, 2007

Older Than Dirt

As a child I attended church with my family every Sunday. To a young girl, the sermons were long and boring so I occupied my time by flipping through the red hymnal found in the pew rack in front of me. The book contained more than just hymns. There were Psalms, prayers and calendars for the church year.

One thing that always intrigued me was the chart on page 158 (yes, I remember the page number) that listed the days Easter would fall from 1941-2000. I would imagine how old I would be on certain Easter Sunday’s. In 1969 I would turn ten a month before Easter. My 19th birthday would fall three weeks prior to Easter. But the year 2000 was always the one that made me shake my head. That was the year I would be 41! To a child, that was older than dirt. I could not, in my eight year old mind, fathom being alive at such an old age.

I’m certain the denomination I was raised in has published a newer hymnal. I wonder if it has a chart for the days of Easter and how close Easter Sunday will be to my 100th birthday.

August 23, 2007

Separation Anxiety

Start leaving your child with people you trust at an early age. Start out with short periods of time and then slowly increase the length of time. It will make your child and you feel more comfortable with the separation.

Never sneak away when you leave your child. Create a good bye ritual. Include a hug, a kiss, and an “I love you,” You might also want to kiss the palms of your child’s hand and have your child save those kisses in their pocket. If they miss you, they can reach into their pocket, pull out a kiss and place it on their cheek.

August 22, 2007

The Empty Nest

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings. ~ Hodding Carter

That quote served as my guide during my children’s formative years. Parenting was hard yet rewarding work. Each developmental stage had its challenges. Each stage also had its joys. Today I find myself approaching what has become known as the empty nest phase.

The empty nest can be challenging but with a little planning you can make that adjustment much easier. I knew that one day my children would fly away. I also knew that I would need to find ways to occupy my time when my children no longer needed a mommy. Having hobbies and other interests during the years my children were young was important to me. I wasn’t always able to indulge in them like I wanted to but I knew that one day, when the children were grown and on their own, I would be able to invest as much time and energy into my hobbies as I wanted to.

My daughter is 21 and my son is 18. Soon they will be spreading their wings to fly. It’s bittersweet for me. I adored them as babies; I struggled with them as teenagers. I smile at them as young adults. I miss having children in the house but I am enjoying the adult relationships we are creating.

My nest is not empty. The contents have simply changed.

August 21, 2007


My son used a rusty screwdriver to etch the words KEEP OUT in his window sill. As a six year old he was on a mission to keep burglars out of his room. However, unless a burglar was crawling backwards into his second story bedroom window, it’s unlikely the message was observed. You see, John had overlooked an important detail. The direction of the letters. They faced in, not out.

August 20, 2007

Back to School

She has a baby in the shopping cart and two school-aged children walking alongside her. “Mom, can I have this one?” “Mom! Look! It’s a Spiderman lunchbox!” Mom sighs and glances down at the school supply list she is clutching. Yes, it’s back to school time and the school supply aisle at Walmart is so crowded I can barely maneuver my way down it. But I do because I love to observe the interactions of the families.

Making sure your children have all the necessary supplies is important. So is helping them adjust to a new school year. A couple of weeks before school starts implement a bedtime routine. Make plans for incorporating homework and study times into their schedules. Once school is in session, ask your child about their day at school. Don’t resort to the typical questions of “How was school today?” or “What did you learn in school today?” Instead you might ask, “What’s the funniest thing that happened at school today?”

Make a point of attending parent meetings, curriculum nights and open houses. You’ll be showing your child that their education is important to you.

By the way, I no longer have school-aged children. Observing family interactions is not why I was in the school supply aisle. The truth is that I love the smell of new pencils.

August 19, 2007

Whose Birthday Is It?

My daughter Emilie was eight when she walked into the dining room as I was setting the table for dinner. She asked, “Whose birthday is it?” I replied, “It’s no ones birthday, I just thought it would be nice to have dinner in the dining room.” She gave me a puzzled look and walked away her ponytail swaying behind her.

Her question made me stop and ask myself, “Have I been giving my family the impression that they’re not special enough to eat in the dining room unless it’s their birthday?” Who can be more special than family?

Use the good dishes and light some candles. Even grilled cheese will look like a gourmet meal

August 18, 2007

Taking a Stand

Eighty percent of communication is nonverbal. Be aware of your facial expressions and tone of voice. Don’t be afraid to take a stand with your child when they misbehave. Make sure your voice sounds firm not angry. If you appear angry your child will see you as being mean and dictatorial and you will be ineffective. It doesn’t harm a child when you speak to them in a firm voice. A firm voice will be much more effective.

August 10, 2007

The Wood Man

Emilie was as proud to be a big sister as any three year old little girl could possibly be. She loved talking to people about her baby brother. While in a store at the mall one day a clerk asked her the name of her little brother. She proudly stated, “John Edward. “ The clerk misunderstood and responded, “John Elwood in a nice name.”

My husband and I tried to contain our laughter. Our baby’s nick name was born.

We started referring to him as John Elwood. As time went by we shortened it and began calling him Elwood. Months later he would answer to Wood. When he began to walk he resembled a little man so we started calling him Wood Man.

He’s eighteen and everyone calls him John. But to me and his father he will always be our little Wood Man.

August 9, 2007

“Don’t Be Afraid Of Making Mistakes”

“What do you first do when you learn to swim? You make mistakes, do you not? And what happens? You make other mistakes, and when you have made all the mistakes you possibly can without drowning - and some of them many times over - what do you find? That you can swim? Well - life is just the same as learning to swim! Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live!" ~ psychiatrist, Alfred Adler.

Don’t be afraid to try something new with your child in respect to discipline. You will make mistakes, that’s a given. When you do, apologize to your child. Tell them you’re doing the best you can and that sometimes you will make mistakes. What a great way to be a positive role model for your child.

August 8, 2007

When Siblings Continue To Be Rivals

Sibling squabbles are an inevitable part of family life but what happens when children grow up? If they continue to squabble it can affect family dynamics, especially when it comes to parenting styles. Brothers and sisters growing up in the same family will, when they become parents, either mirror their parents’ child rearing style or reject it.

Most of us can recall a family gathering where one set of cousins was blamed for sneaking cookies before dinner while another cousin raced through the house and pulled the cats tail. Some families become so frustrated that they resort to limiting the amount of times their children see their cousins.

An alternative might be to have family members sit down and address the issues. Don’t get caught up in trivial matters but rather come up with specific rules that can accommodate all parenting styles.

Treat your siblings with the same respect you give your friends. Recognize that you were siblings before your children were born and you will still be siblings when your children leave the nest.

August 7, 2007

“Mom! He’s touching me!”

"Mom! He's thinking about touching me!" Ever hear those comments from your children? Sibling squabbles are normal. Being part of the same family doesn’t mean your children will have compatible personalities and styles of relating so it’s not realistic for parents to expect them to get along.

You can prevent friction between your children by the way you set up your home and daily schedule. Each child needs some space to call their own even if it’s a shelf or a corner of a room.

Notice when your children are getting along and reward that good behavior with comments like, “You did a good job of settling that argument, “ or “Thanks for playing quietly while I was on the phone.” If you give siblings attention for the nice things they do, they will be less likely to squabble to get your attention.

When siblings do begin to squabble, wait at least five minutes before you intervene to allow them time to work things out on their own. If it becomes necessary to intervene you can say, “I know you two can work this out in a way that’s fair to both of you.” Then walk away. They may come running back to you complaining trying to get you involved. Use empathy and respond by saying, “That sounds frustrating,” or “I can see you’re really upset. Once they realize you will not get involved they’ll settle the squabble on their own.

By using these approaches you will be teaching your children skills in how to negotiate. Skills they will find invaluable as adults.

August 6, 2007

Teachable Moments

Parents spend a lot of time in the car with their children. It’s easy and convenient to pop in a DVD or a CD to keep your children entertained while you're driving. Instead, try using the time to initiate a conversation with your child. If you have young children you might point out things to help them learn to recognize letters and numbers. Ask them, “What letter does McDonald’s start with?" or "Who can find two red cars?"

You can do something similar at the supermarket. Ask you child to be on the lookout for items that begin with a specific letter of the alphabet or that are a certain color. Encourage them to help you count the number of items you put in the cart.

There are many opportunities in our daily lives for teachable moments. You just have to look for them.

August 5, 2007

More Parenting Quotes

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings. ~ Hodding Carter

Parents forgive their children least readily for the faults they themselves instilled in them. ~ Marie Arie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Pretty much all the honest truth-telling there is in the world is done by children. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

August 4, 2007

My Favorite Parenting Quotes

"Having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain." ~ Martin Mull

"Raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare." ~ Ed Asner

"Before I was married I had six theories about raising children. Now I have six children and no theories." ~ John Wilmot, earl of Rochester

"When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out." ~ Erma Bombeck

August 3, 2007

Guranteed to Make a Child Smile

Write a letter to your child and mail it. Children rarely receive mail so when they do it’s special.


I was just thinking about you and

what I was thinking is you are so__________


August 2, 2007

“I’m Running Away From Home!”

My daughter Emilie and I had a disagreement. It ended in my favor so Emilie decided to do what most five year olds would do in a similar situation. She decided to run away from home.

She packed her little pink suitcase full of Barbie’s, her teddy bear and a change of clothes. She walked into the kitchen carrying her suitcase and announced that she was ready to leave. I told her I would miss her. I also told her that she might get hungry so I offered to make her a peanut butter sandwich. She accepted. She stood in silence while I slowly made the sandwich. I handed it to her and told her goodbye.

With her head hung low she headed toward the door. Her little hand turned the knob and she stepped outside. I watched from the window as she walked to the circle in the middle of our cul-de-sac and climbed onto the bench that’s found there. Her little feet swung back and forth as she sat there with her teddy under her arm.

After about fifteen minutes she climbed off of the bench and made her way back to the house. I quickly moved away from the window and back into the kitchen, pretending to be busy. She walked up to me and said that she had changed her mind and wouldn’t be running away from home. I turned around, smiled at her, gave her a hug and told her that I love her.

I’ve often wondered if it was because I gave her permission to run away that Emilie never did it again.

August 1, 2007

"Not Me!"

Upon waking this morning I went into my family room and after surveying the six remotes on the coffee table I found the one for the tv and I turned on CNN. I noticed an empty soda can on the end table. Not an unusual thing to find since I have two children, but it caught my eye because it was sitting between two coasters. Not on top of but between. I shake my head.

I head to the kitchen for some breakfast. Cereal sounds appetizing. Four boxes and not one with enough in it for a serving. I’m really hungry so I dump the contents of all four into a bowl. Now for some milk. As I remove the milk container from the refrigerator I realize there is barely enough to cover my cereal. I sigh, dump the cereal into the dog’s dish and do what any respectable mother would do. I put the milk back in the refrigerator.

If anyone asks who put the milk back with barely enough left for a serving I'm going to shrug my shoulders and say, "Not me!"