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Friday, December 30, 2011

When You Can't Afford Gifts

Many single parents find themselves in a predicament when it comes to purchasing gifts for special occasions. I was (and still am) one of those parents. Reasons vary. For me it was always a matter of working for people who never paid me enough to meet my bills AND have money left over for gift shopping.

When it came time for birthdays and other occasions, I was often left with very little and sometimes nothing. My kids would want to go to friends' birthday parties and I knew that I would have to sacrifice a gallon of milk, a box of cereal, and a couple of cans of Beefaroni in order for them to bring a gift.

I never wanted my kids to feel poor, though, so when they were invited to parties, they went, and I learned to sacrifice. I also became inventive with leftovers. (For information on Hiding Leftovers and Candy From Your Kids, click the link.) 

Allowing your kids to think you aren't poor takes sacrifice. You may make less than everybody else on your block, but you don't want your kids to FEEL poor. 

So, yes I was sacrificing, but before you crown me a saint, let me explain that I am one of those women who could care less about the latest fashions or the latest shoe style. I can't wear glamorous shoes anyway. My feet are too small and my right foot is persistently swollen. Throw a pair of 5" heels on my size 4.5 foot and, as tall as I am, I would topple to the ground. 

No, sacrifice for me, means taking the kids where they want to go, having them work for their own money (one of my daughters found a job as a dishwasher when she was only 15, and all of them worked while they were still in high school), and teaching them how to respect money.

Giving so little feels terrible, especially when you find yourself at a birthday party for your own grandchild and everybody else is giving gifts that must have cost at least $50 while you sit there with your $10 present wishing you could melt into the floor.

For years I felt so bad about my lack of money, I almost stopped going to the parties. Almost. Until I played out conversations in my head. My fear was that others would judge me for giving so little, but then I realized that if anybody truly thought so little of me just because I couldn't afford to give expensive gifts, their judgments said more about them than it did me. My kids and grandkids know I love them. What else matters?

Photo borrowed from Snapfish.com


And so this past year for Christmas, knowing I could afford only $10 gifts, I logged into my Snapfish account, chose photos I thought were cute, slapped them on a mug and sent away for them. Sitting under my tree were cups for 12 of the youngest grandchildren with photos and an inscription that read, "(Child's name)'s Mug".

That gift will last them for years – or until they drop it and smash it to pieces. And I've learned to stop feeling bad about something over which I have no control. Unless I sell a screenplay or one of my blogs goes viral, or I come up with an idea that's going to make me instantly wealthy, I will forever be in the lowest tax bracket. My grandchildren will learn that love does not equal money. What matters to me is that they feel loved, and I can give them all the love their little hearts desire without denying myself food, shelter, or clothing.

You may not be able to afford gifts, but you can afford to demonstrate your love by reading books to your kids, playing games with them, taking them to the park, coloring with them, having picnics on the floor with them, watching their favorite movie with them … Giving them your time is the best gift of all and it doesn't cost you a thing.

If you would like to read other blogs by this author, I invite you to click on any of the following links.


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thank You, Nurses!

Many of you working single moms and dads are nurses. I admire you. I truly do.

When my kids were babies, I had no problem changing poopy diapers, but I had a nearly impossible time cleaning up vomit or blood – I still can't handle vomit and I panic when I see red (blood).

I had such a hard time cleaning vomit, as a matter of fact, that I just didn't do it. I taught my kids very early how to respond to a sick tummy. At the first sign of a gag reflex, I brought out the bucket and wrapped it around my babies' heads. By the time they were two years old they were comfortable grabbing the bucket and wrapping their heads inside it.

But if by some freak of nature one of them vomited anywhere other than in the bucket, I had their father clean it up. Fortunately I was married at the time.

And when it comes to taking care of wounds, I'm the last person on Earth capable of handling trauma. My oldest daughter, for instance, got her foot stuck in the spokes of her bicycle when she was a little girl (she's in her 40s now). Dangling flesh hung around her mangled ankles. As you might expect, I rushed to her side, donned my custom scrubs, grabbed my bandages and antiseptics, and went about carefully cleaning her wounds.

I lied. That was a fantasy. I couldn't even look at the wound, let alone clean it. I gave that job to both of her grandmas. Now I have grandchildren of my own who rely upon me to care for them. And I'm more than happy to do that as long as they don't vomit or bleed.

Lucky for you (and for them), I chose another profession. Can you imagine walking into a hospital with me as your nurse? Me either, because I was never nurse material.

So to all of you who bandage and clean wounds, who clean up vomit, and who work longer hours than most people work, I thank you.

http://www.blueskyscrubs.com/categories/Scrubs/Scrubs-for-Women/Original-Scrubs/

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Differences in Learning Over the Decades

Kaden with his younger brother, Zac
Kids learn very differently today than they did when I was a kid. When I was in first grade, I read things like, "Run, Jane, run." My first-grade grandkids, on the other hand, read interesting stories, and the books they read include words that span more than two syllables.

A couple of months ago, I opened Kaden's book bag. Kaden, 6, had homework due – a book report. So we sat down on the couch and he read the book to me. With no effort whatsoever, he smoothly read all the words, even gliding by "triceratops" as if he had read it a million times.

What made the book more interesting to me were his interruptions as he instructed me, "When you read, you make predictions. What do you predict will happen?"

OK, I admit, I couldn't help but laugh. He ignored my reaction and very seriously continued, "Check for understanding. If you don't understand something, we'll back up and reread."

Good, because I was kind of distracted by his pedagogic demeanor. He had memorized all of his teacher's instructions and knew exactly how to teach me the proper way to read.

"Now, as I read," he told me, "I want you to tune into interesting words." I was impressed. I wished my teachers had taught me as well.

"For fluency, we may need to reread the text. Accuracy is important." Again, I was impressed, not only by his ability to retain all of the information his teacher had taught him, not only by his comprehension of the book he was reading, but also by his vocabulary.

He continued to read, interrupting every so often to make sure I understood what he was reading. "Look at the pictures," he suggested. "They will give you a clue about the text." Another laugh erupted from Grandma. I wished I had learned that very helpful technique when I was a kid.

When I was about 9 years old, after my classmates and I had learned the two distinct sounds of the letter, "C," our teacher had us all read to ourselves a story from our books. Afterwards, she told us, we would discuss the story.

Page after page after page, the same word appeared with two C letters. I panicked. PLEASE DON'T CALL ON ME, I pleaded with my eyes, because I had no idea what a kirkus was, nor did I know what a sirsus was. I didn't know the rules of English allowed two DIFFERENT sounds of the same letter to appear in the same word, despite all of the pictures of clowns, tents, elephants, and acrobats on high wires that accompanied the words on EVERY SINGLE PAGE. (I later blamed my parents for my anxiety attack because they never took my sisters and me to a circus. If I had made up the name, circus, I would have spelled it C-I-R-K-U-S, to alleviate the anxiety of all children who didn't understand the same rule I didn't understand.)

But back to the story of Kaden. He read and we discussed and he continued to read and we continued to discuss the book as he measured my comprehension of the text. And when he wrote his book report, he faithfully placed one finger between each word to make sure he wasn't crowding the words.

Great teaching technique, Bourbonnais schools! We should all demand of our teachers this same type of instruction.


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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Getting Little Kids to Straighten Their Rooms

Getting kids to clean their messy rooms is a task that (I thought) ended when my kids grew up. Despite all the begging and pleading and time it took to get them to straighten up their rooms, however, the way they were when they lived with me is entirely different from the way they live now. Each one of them is neat (they didn't get that trait from me) and their homes are clean and orderly.

But now I have grandchildren and my job (I used to call it a chore) is sometimes to get my grandkids to straighten up their rooms. Every week I care for three of my grandchildren, and every once in a while their mother asks me to get them to clean their rooms.

Only Kaden and Zac were home this past week (Taylor was practicing for her first play), so I had only two little people whining about having to clean their rooms.

The first thing I had to consider was a reward. They wouldn't go willingly. Maybe a favorite DVD, a snack, or a game.

Taylor, Kaden, and Zac's mom owns a frozen yogurt shop, and I decided that after the boys finished cleaning, we would visit Mom and get some frozen yogurt with the intention of each boy getting to hold down the lever on the frozen yogurt machine for 3 seconds. After their bowls were filled each could choose two toppings.

The next task was to get over their objections.

And then I remembered the game I had played with them the last time they had to straighten their rooms. Ah, yes! Only this time I would make it a little different.

Last time I set a timer and said, "I'm going to set this timer for 5 minutes, and I want to see you work as fast as you can to see how much you can get put away in 5 minutes."

They were astounded by how much they could accomplish in only 5 minutes. So we did 5 minutes more, then 5 minutes more, etc. until the room was straightened.

This time I decided to go by the number of items they could clean up and I told them I would take pictures of their progress. Kaden is quite competitive, so when I said, "Let's see how it looks after you each put away 10 items," Kaden said, "Let's make it 40."

So I said, "Nah, let's just keep it 10."

I'm kidding. I was enjoying his competitive nature and his enthusiasm.  We could see faster results with 40 items, but I think it's wise to start small and let the kids decide if they want to do more.

Kaden and Zac after completing the job

Almost there

Still a ways to go

Whoa! Look at that mess!
So, hearing about the game, Zac rushed to the closet and sat down. Apparently Zac doesn't have the same competitive nature as does his brother. And I said to Kaden, who was complaining that his brother wasn't helping, "That's OK, Kaden, if Zac doesn't help you, you get his yogurt and his toppings along with yours.

And Kaden said, "That's OK, Zaccy, you don't have to help."

Zac, still in the closet, must have been thinking about watching his brother enjoy all of HIS yogurt, because he appeared suddenly (I had to stop myself from saying he came out of the closet) and began cleaning.

After the 2nd picture was taken I had to adjust the reward I had promised them, because Zac had decided to stop cleaning.

"OK, Zac, you get to hold down the lever for only 1 second and you get only 1 topping," to which Zac responded, "I only want one topping – strawberries."

Well, there you go. Kaden finished cleaning, the room looked great, nobody was complaining, everybody was happy, and we all had frozen yogurt.

So my suggestion is that rather than tell your kids it's time to clean their rooms, make a game out of it. See how many items they can put away in 5 minutes, or have them count the items they are putting away.

Also, kids need to know when cleaning up their rooms, where to put everything. You may have to show them where everything belongs, and if they're really young, you may have to show them several times, but if you make it a game and have a reward they'll want, they'll be more agreeable to straightening their rooms.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Happens When Parents Never Leave Their Children With Others

I sat on a bench across from the elevator on the maternity ward in the hospital the morning after my one and only son was born, waiting for the arrival of my (now ex) husband, my oldest daughter, and my youngest (at the time) daughter. Keeley was 13 years old and Lindsey was 15 months old.

My ex and I went out only once every year on our anniversary where we "celebrated" in a bar (his idea of a celebration). On those once-a-year occasions, his parents babysat. Our only other outings consisted of family get-togethers, weddings, and funerals but at those social events, we brought our children with us.

So, with the exception of the one time my ex and I had to attend a wedding with his parents and Lindsey was left in the company of one of my sisters (who swore that she would never again babysit for anybody – horror story to follow), Lindsey had never been away from me.

On the day after I delivered her brother, Lindsey was, in a word, MAD – that I had left her. Even at the age of 15 months, she had decided that I had committed an unforgivable offense by leaving her home with her father and sister WITHOUT me.

The elevator doors opened and I saw her look at me, though she immediately turned her head away as she folded her arms across her chest and looked everywhere but AT me. She refused to allow me to hold her or hug her, her way of letting me know how upset she was with me.

Looking back, I can see that one of the biggest mistakes I made was in never leaving her to learn how to trust others. Her world consisted of me, her father (who never changed a diaper, never read her a book, never fed her, never bathed her, etc.), and his parents. Period. 

Our once-a-year excursion to a bar, where we left her with his parents meant that by the time she was 15 months old, she had been away from me only twice in her entire life. She must have felt completely abandoned by me when I left her to give birth to her brother.

I'm sure she remembered the time I had to attend a wedding three months prior to her brother's birth when I left her in the care of my sister. Lindsey didn't know my sister very well, because we had gotten together only during holidays, and she felt traumatized. (The "she" in that sentence was meant to be ambiguous, because it could refer to Lindsey or to my sister.) 

I was pregnant with my son at the time of that wedding, and in the days before cell phones, I could call my sister only occasionally throughout that looooonnnnng day when every time I called her, I could hear the panic in my sister's voice and Lindsey's screams in the background. 

By the time I was able to leave the wedding, I was an emotional wreck, and my sister was in a state of apoplexy. Lindsey hadn't napped and she had screamed the entire time my sister had cared for her. Probably hungry because she hadn't eaten, my baby's convulsive sobs took nearly half an hour to subside once I got home. I felt horrible.

If "do overs" were possible, I'd have introduced Lindsey to other caretakers before she turned one-year-old instead of stressing my baby by leaving her with strangers (yes, even family members can be strangers to a baby who doesn't know the person). 

If I could leave you with one suggestion, it would be this: allow your baby to learn to trust people other than you, your spouse, and your parents. Otherwise, an occasion will arise when you have to depend on somebody to watch your child, and you will have to deal with the guilt of knowing you've frightened your baby.

(The photo is of my grandson, Nolan.)

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Big Family Saver

Written by Sonny Quinn

I had a huge family growing up and that meant we didn’t have any extras. We all wore hand me downsclothes and spent a lot of time worrying about whether or not someone would take all the food at dinner and who was going to be in the one bathroom when we needed to use it. Now that I’m a mother of an only child I think it’s great I’m able to give Sarah everything I never had. We got Direct TV at home so she could watch her Pretty Little Liars show and she got the cutest dress for her first homecoming dance that was just a few weeks ago. I know it doesn’t seem like much but just the thought of her asking for something and us not being able to provide it makes me so sad – I want her to have all the things I never did while I was growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I came from a loving family, but a poor one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Would You Still Love Me If I Were Gay?

In the 1960s when I was a teenager, the term gay meant happy. Even though I knew that one of the English teachers in my high school was "effeminate," I still had no idea what homosexuality was. As a matter of fact, the first time I met a gay person was when my oldest daughter married a man whose mother was gay.

Today, most children understand not only what it means to be gay, but also how easily they can bash around this group of people – oftentimes with support from fellow classmates, teachers, and even administrators.

I've seen parents disown their own children after discovering their children were gay – and I can't help but wonder – how can a mother or a father suddenly stop loving a child because that child is gay?

And how difficult must it be for gays to "come out" to loved ones? One of my dearest friends is gay. He agonized over telling his wife and his children. His experience was so excruciatingly painful, in fact, that I have to ask, "Why would anybody choose to be gay?" I honestly think that if people had a choice, they would choose to be straight simply to avoid the hate, the rage, and the anger flung at them.

Gays are persecuted mercilessly from an early age. A little boy gets called a sissy; a little girl is labeled butch. Why?

How many times have I heard Bible-toting judgmental people (who call themselves Christians, by the way) admonish gay people by telling them they are evil.

Again, I am perplexed. The two gay people I know are in committed, loving relationships. How can love be evil?

I wonder, if I were to suddenly awaken tomorrow morning and find out I was gay, would my family still love me? Would my friends? I would hope so.

Thankfully (and I say thankfully because of what I've seen gays go through) I'm not gay. I don't think I would have the stamina to deal with people who hated me for being gay, because unless I was Ellen Degeneres or Jane Lynch, I would probably find myself hiding from my tormenters as I know many gays still do. I might even have been one of those poor unfortunate souls who committed suicide because I just couldn't stand being surrounded by so much hatred every day.

Why do people think that being gay is a choice? Would YOU choose to be persecuted relentlessly every single day of your life?

And what if one day you discovered one of your children or grandchildren was gay? You know what? I can say with certainty that I would love my child or grandchild as much as I do today. Unequivocally.

I've said it before. I'll say it again. It's time we stopped just tolerating people and started accepting people for who they are. If we haven't learned by the time we are adults how to empathize, we have to start over. Empathy is the first step toward acceptance.

We must also teach our children to be empathetic and to learn the difference between tolerance and acceptance. Above all, we need to learn – and we need to teach our children – to STOP THE BASHING!

If you would like to read more from this author, click any of the following links:

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mothering or Smothering?

Since I was five years old, I've had asthma. My parents had no idea what to expect from an asthmatic child, so my mother's first instincts were to rush into overprotective drive. In the winter, back in the day when girls weren't allowed to wear pants, she would dress me in leotards. Under the leotards I wore bulky long underwear.

The school uniform consisted of a wool skirt, a short-sleeved blouse, and a vest. Over the vest I wore a sweater – buttoned up. Over the sweater was a heavy winter jacket. I also wore a hat, gloves, a scarf, and boots. (My sister Cindy once drew a picture of how my sisters and I looked – like giant balloons bouncing down the street. One swift wind would have blown us sky high.)

By the time I got to school, which was four blocks away from my home, I was drenched in sweat. I was always the last child to undress at the lockers. Until my body acclimated to the indoor conditions, I would shiver until the sweat dried up.

However, after having children of my own, I understand why my mother was so over-protective. She was afraid she would lose me to one of my asthma attacks. All of her actions generated from fear.

I operated from fear all of my children's lives too. I still do. When one isn't happy, I'm the first one to rush in with remedies. We all want to raise happy and healthy children and many parents will do whatever it takes to ensure a happy healthy outcome.

But are we smothering our children? I recently read an article in Ladies' Home Journal, entitled, Smotherly Love, written by Michelle Blake. Michelle wrote, "The truth was that seeing my children unhappy made me unhappy. And I didn't like that….my kids could sense my anxiety in the vibrato of my forced cheerfulness and my fumbling attempts to suss out crucial information…Too often they got the message that the fleeting unhappiness brought on by disappointment of any kind constituted an intolerable burden–for them and for me. It was better not to try than to fail, better to stay in your  known little world and avoid the judgments of the wide and wicked universe."

As parents, we are forever learning. My children are all grown and I'm still jumping in to save them from sorrow. But I have to remember that when they first started walking, they, like every other baby, fell numerous times. I had to learn that it was OK for them to fall, that I didn't have to be there every second to pick them up or to make sure they were not hurting. I have to learn to allow them to fail too, so they can pick themselves up again and move on from their pain or their sorrow.

Our goal as parents is not to insure our child's happiness, but to support our child when he or she fails and succeeds. Children have to expect to feel pain in their lives and we have to learn how to step back and allow our children to live their own lives. If we smother them with love, they won't be able to breathe.

If you would like to read more from this author, click any of the following links:

All Craft Connection
Your Weird Dreams
Your Blog Connection
Help For Single Parents
My Heart Blogs To You
Writing Creatively
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Financial Aid for Single Parents

When I attended college, I searched through grants and loans to help me in my chosen field. Unfortunately for me (and others who want work in creative fields), not many colleges offered aid unless we are prepared to wear a set of scrubs or farmers overalls.

Today, so many scholarships are available for creative people that anybody interested in the performing arts, including dance, drama, broadcasting, and music can find numerous sources for financial aid. See the list below. Included in the list are forms you will need.

And yes, you can use this blog to locate scholarships for nursing and farming as well.

For scholarships to performing arts schools, visit Performing Arts Schools.

The Donna Reed Foundation, located in Denison, Iowa (Donna Reed's hometown), offers scholarships for students interested in the Performing Arts.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation offers scholarships for the Performing Arts.

Numerous other performing arts scholarships are available. If you plug "performing arts scholarships"  (or "writing scholarships) into your search engine, you'll find over a million results. I've listed only a few. You can also try plugging in grants and loans.

NOTE: Grants and scholarships are monies given to students that do not need to be repaid. Loans, on the other hand, must be repaid.

All college-age students will hear the term, FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You can submit your application electronically by clicking the link. All students who wish to receive college financial aid will need to complete this form.

http://www.blueskyscrubs.com

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Why Parents Should Be Specific When Talking To Children

Though I cannot mention the little boy's name, for reasons that will soon become obvious, I feel compelled to relate the following story, because young children tend to take things very literally and parents need to keep that in mind when they explain things to children.

When I was a little girl, for instance, my family and I often played the game, Candy Land. The first time I played it, the instructions said that I couldn't move until I drew a red card, so I ran to the junk drawer in a frantic search for a red crayon. That was my first lesson in learning that words can have two or more meanings.

When the father of the little boy for whom this blog was written told his four-year-old son that he could "go potty" outside if he had to (they camp sometimes so it wasn't like he was telling his son that he could go potty every time he wanted to water a tree), the four year old already knew two different definitions for "go potty." His father made the mistake of thinking his son would consider only one, urinating.

As you might guess from the previous paragraph, one day the little boy pulled his pants down, crouched down next to a tree in his back yard and started pooping. His father ran up to him. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

Well, Daddy, you did tell him he could "go potty" by the tree.

By the way, this same little boy, while shopping at the grocery store with his mother, pointed out a pear out of which somebody had taken a bite. "Eww, Mom, look at this! Somebody started to eat this pear!" The fresh bite looked mysteriously the same size as his mouth.

You cannot imagine my delight in knowing that this little boy is going to be providing me with lots of blog material in the future.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mom's Question

This guest post from Lenny Mcknight

My mom asked me to look into wireless internet in Holloman for her when she began the process of moving so I did. I want to be really supportive of her move but I’m just really concerned that she and her boyfriend are buying a house together after knowing each other for so little time. I love that she’s really spontaneous and still so spunky but I don’t want her making any big life mistakes just because she’s older now and somehow feels more mature. I love Bob but he’s also being a little crazy if you ask me since he’s got three kids of his own and only met my mom back in January. Anyway, I’m going to help mom with anything she needs and even if she asks me to come down there and pack boxes I’ll do it because I love her and she’s been a great mom to me my whole life. I guess I don’t always have to approve of the choices she makes in her adult life!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Is Shut a Bad Word?

Nolan goofing around in a tree.
Every once in a while one of my younger grandchildren will ask me or one of his or her parents if a certain word is "bad" or not, so I wasn't too surprised when Nolan asked his mom and me if "shut" was a bad word.

Of course we both knew the word he thought he was saying, but because he clearly said, "shut," we told him that it was not a bad word.

Later when he was playing with one of his toys and it either malfunctioned or he dropped it (I didn't actually see what caused the outburst), I heard him say, "oh, shut!"

I guess any word can sound bad with the appropriate attitude.

Sigh.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to Help Your Child Deal With School Anxiety

Whether your child is afraid to leave home or whether she is one who is used to Mommy or Daddy being close beside her, separation anxiety and other school-related worries can be frightening to children.

Yes, children feel panic occasionally. And trying something new, like attending school for the first time sometimes causes anxiety in your child.

According to Phobics-Awareness.org, anxiety causes "stomachaches, nausea, fatigue, shaking, a racing heart and frequent trips to the toilet." Social phobias include fear about performance (speaking in front of the class or participating in games children don't know how to play) and making new friends. Phobics-Awareness.org offers lots of information for parents dealing with their child's school anxiety, and they provide a link to a book entitled, The Anxiety-Free Child Program, developed by Rich Presta.

Another helpful site in dealing with child anxiety is the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (aacap.org). Click the link and you will find information for dealing with childhood anxiety.

To help your child transition from a home environment to a school setting, go to the school before school starts. Show your child around the classroom and the school. Introduce him to the outdoor play area, the school cafeteria, the library, the gym, and when possible, the principal, and the teacher. The more familiar your child becomes with his surroundings, the better your child will feel about leaving home.

Another helpful suggestion is to start teaching your child at home. Make learning fun, so she can discover how enjoyable learning and discovering can be. If the anxiety becomes a phobia, for your sake and for the sake of your child, seek professional counseling.


If you would like to read more from this author, click any of the following links:

All Craft Connection
Your Weird Dreams
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My Heart Blogs To You
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Stress of a 6 Year Old Thumbsucker


All week long Lindsey stressed over her first overnight. When Lindsey was in stress mode, she paced.

Her friend, Kari, had asked her to spend the night and she really really wanted to go, but she was terrified of getting caught. Pace. Pace. Pace.

"Mom," she finally lamented, "I really want to spend the night at Kari's house, but I don't want her to see me suck my thumb."

"Yes," I empathized, "It's going to be a problem."

I had fallen instantly in love with Kari from the moment I met her. She was the type of friend I would have chosen for Lindsey if Lindsey hadn't chosen her herself.

For several days Lindsey tried unsuccessfully to rid herself of her thumb-sucking habit. Nothing worked.

The day was getting closer and closer, and Lindsey was getting more and more stressed. At the end of the week she lost the battle of the thumb and realized she had to come clean with Kari.

While they were riding their bikes the weekend of the overnight, Lindsey hesitantly told Kari, "I have something to tell you."

Lindsey was shaking, she was so nervous, but she blurted it out, worried the whole time about how Kari would respond.

"I suck my thumb."

There! She said it. And as soon as she said it she waited for the humiliation to set in and the reprimand to begin. She waited for Kari to tell her she had to go home, that she didn't want a thumbsucker in her home. She was ready to hear her friend tell her she was too old to suck her thumb and to just stop.

But as Kari zoomed ahead of Lindsey on her bicycle, she called out, "That's OK. I wet the bed."

After all these years, I still love Kari!

If you would like to read more from this author, click any of the following links:

All Craft Connection
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My Heart Blogs To You
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cell Phones in the Toilet

Wesley on a better day!
Texting has become so proliferative that people are now texting EVERYWHERE, even while they are pottying. Yes, you heard me right. And guess what happens when you are a guy who texts while you pee?

You got it. PLOP!

Last week one of my grandsons gave one of my other grandsons his extra cell phone. The very next day, as he was standing in the bathroom (at least I think he was standing – I wasn't watching {Wesley's probably thinking, "Thank God"} so I'm not exactly sure HOW it happened), he dropped the phone in the toilet.

At first Wesley, like all of my children and grandchildren who are embarrassed by accidents that involve themselves, told me I was not allowed to blog about the event, but then yesterday I noticed he posted it on his Facebook account.

"HEY!" I told him, "you told me not to blog about this," to which he responded, "go ahead."

I just did.

But I'd like to add some advice for those of you who think you cannot live without reading your text the moment you receive it and who feel you have to text back immediately:

I shouldn't have to write this first admonition, because with all the media coverage about texting while driving you would think people would pay attention, but apparently it takes an accident or death for some people to understand the dangers of texting while driving.

I'll repeat it anyway: DO NOT TEXT WHILE YOU DRIVE!

In addition to being dangerous, texting can be a nuisance. I've noticed kids vying for their parents' attention while the parent is completely oblivious to their child's pleading because they are utterly devoted to and focused upon THE TEXT.

Kids discover they are allowed to speak only during the interim between TEXT SENT and TEXT RECEIVED. The best way to reach parents who text all day long is to borrow somebody else's phone and text Mom or Dad with a request to spend quality time with them.

If they don't respond, kids should throw the cell phones into the toilet. ;)

By the way, the remedy for drying a cell phone is to take it apart completely and let it air dry overnight (although I've heard the drying process could take up to 3 days). If that doesn't work, you'll need a new cell phone.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Should Your Child Have a Facebook Account?

I've heard arguments on both sides of this issue. One side says absolutely not. The other says go for it as long as parents have access to what is being written.

Because communication is highly valued and the most important component in raising children (besides love), the best relationships are those where children share everything with their parents without fear of retribution.

For a variety of reasons, sometimes because parents work out of the home for as many as ten hours per day, many children don't have the kind of relationship with their parents that allow them to "tell all" comfortably. Most of their day is spent with peers and siblings.

For those reasons and for those parents who are absent most of every day, I tend to go with the second argument for the following reasons:

You'll find out what is going on in your child's life. Even if you don't understand the lingo, you'll know what is going on day to day. Most of the time you'll see entries such as "bored," or "what u doin?" But other times, you'll see cries for help, "Y is life so cruel".

A Facebook account will give you access to your child's emotional state of being.

You'll also be aware of why your child's attitude and behavior changes. If your daughter's (or son's) behavior starts to change, because she falls in love with a Facebook "friend," you'll know. Whereas before she had a Facebook account, you would have had no way of knowing what was happening in her life, especially if she decided to keep her relationship secret, you now have access to her innermost thoughts. You can also keep track of your child's mood. What she might not say to you, she will probably say to her friends or post on Facebook.

Facebook, for a child, is a safe place to vent feelings. Paying attention to your child's moods will prepare you for any discussions you might want to have.

You can easily access your child's account, because you sat with her when she set it up. If you don't allow your child to have her own account, she may sneak an account at a friend's house using a fake name. She can disguise herself so well you would never know she had an account.

You can prepare your child for what to expect from others. Because children tend to believe everything they read, they will fall for compliments they receive and they can easily fall in love with the first person who shows them affection – yes, you can find affection online.

Facebook gives you, as the parent, an opportunity to discuss the way pedophiles contact children. That 15 year old boy who has captured your daughter's or son's attention might actually be a 40 year old man who has been convicted of rape.

Never, under any circumstances, should s/he give out her/his phone number to anybody without your permission.

You can control how your child is perceived. While nothing is really safe anymore, you can control some of the information you put on your child's profile. Tell him he is allowed to approve only those friends who are actually friends. Make his profile private so that only he and his friends can view it. Let him know that you will have to approve his friends.

Photos you post should not depict anything that would give any indication of where your child attends school and you should instruct your child not to give out any information to anybody that could let pedophiles know where he goes to school or where he spends his time.

You will need to monitor your child's Facebook account to make sure he hasn't accepted somebody you haven't approved, because even something as simple as saying I'm going to Lincoln Park Mall will give the pedophile valuable information.

If you upload a photo (better to use an icon or a graphic representation of your child rather than an actual photograph of your child), don't show the child's features clearly. Show him walking away from the camera or blur his features enough so that he would be unrecognizable if seen in person.

You will have access to your child's personal profile. You'll be alerted through email about any changes made to your child's profile. You'll also know your child's password. Remember it. You don't want to lose it.

To keep in touch with what is going on in your child's life, especially when you are away from home, visit your child's page frequently. Get to know his or her friends. Pay close attention to where s/he posts his/her comments. Engage your children in conversations about their friends.

If they spend too much time at the computer or if they cover the screen when you walk by, something requires your attention. Privacy is one thing. Secrets are another. Laptops should be used in rooms with easy access to parents, and they should never be used behind locked doors. If your child wants privacy, provide a diary.

Remember, if you forbid your child, especially when he is a teenager, to open a Facebook account, he may seek out friends who will open one for him.

Keep the lines of communication open. Get yourself a Facebook account too, so you can leave messages for your child. "Friend" his friends.

Facebook has given this grandma a gateway into the lives of her children and grandchildren. I'm grateful for the opportunity to get to know them in ways I might never have known about them in any other way. As their grandma, I also let them know when I'm not happy about their word choices, especially when it comes to swearing ;)

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wasp Stings and What To Look For

Audrey pre-wasp sting
Two of my grandchildren and I went out in the back yard this morning. Nolan, 4, had to use the bathroom, though, so I followed him inside, leaving Audrey, 6, to play on the swing set until I returned.

Last year, wasps had built nests inside the slide, but we hadn't noticed any activity there this year.

While Nolan and I were returning to the back yard, however, Audrey, who had been playing on the side and then jumped onto the swing set, was coming inside screaming that a wasp had stung her. As I am allergic to bee stings, I was concerned about what her reaction might be so I visited Mayo Clinic online to find out what to expect with a wasp sting.

According to Mayo Clinic, anyone stung by an insect should move to a safe area away from where the sting was delivered, remove the stinger (wasps won't leave a stinger), apply a cold pack, hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or baking soda, and take an antihistamine.

The following signs (also from Mayo Clinic) indicate a severe reaction:

    •    Nausea
    •    Facial swelling
    •    Difficulty breathing
    •    Abdominal pain
    •    Deterioration of blood pressure and circulation (shock)

If reactions progress rapidly and include any of the following symptoms, call 911 immediately or visit your nearest emergency room:

    •    Difficulty breathing
    •    Swelling of the lips or throat
    •    Faintness
    •    Dizziness
    •    Confusion
    •    Rapid heartbeat
    •    Hives
    •    Nausea, cramps and vomiting

I applied Benadryl cream to the sting area and I'm keeping a close watch on Audrey, because reactions might not show up until tomorrow.

Delayed reactions could include "fever, hives, painful joints and swollen glands."

Now that we've taken care of the physical reactions, we have to concentrate on the emotional reactions, because Audrey now refuses to go outside anymore – she thinks the wasp will remember her.

For more information on what to do for insect bites, please CLICK HERE!


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Thursday, June 16, 2011

HOME FOR SALE – Should I Offer a Rebate?

Kids are grown and though my youngest daughter and her family had moved in to help me with expenses, they are moving into a home of their own. I will soon be fending for myself. I would love to keep my home, and I'm sad I have to lose it, but I can no longer afford it and I had to put it up for sale.

My home has been up for sale for not quite a month. I've been getting calls and people have been stopping by to look at my home from the outside, because in addition to having the home listed on craigslist, I also have a sign posted on my front lawn. Nobody, however, is offering to look inside the home or to purchase it.

In a way, I'm glad nobody is stopping by to look at the place, because I have giant holes in my ceiling where the contractors cut open the drywall to find the source of the water damage that has leaked through to my floor. Because of all the rain and because so many other people in my area are experiencing all kinds of damage due to the weather, the contractors have not yet been able to repair my ceiling. After the night before last they still won't be able to fix it, because it rained again and I heard water dripping on a different spot above the ceiling. Time for a new hole.

The roofers have already replaced three vent caps on the roof, so either they are going to have to replace more vent caps (if I even have more up there – I don't know – I've never been on my roof), or they're going to have to find a different source and reason for the water getting into my house.

When I posted my "home for sale" ad on craigslist, long before I knew about the water damage, I was going to offer buyers a $1,000 rebate at closing so they could get the carpets cleaned.

But then I wondered if maybe I should clean the carpets myself. The home is quite large – over 2,000 square feet of space, but the only rooms that have been badly affected with stains have been the living room and the dining room.

I honestly don't know want to come back into the home (should I sell it) to clean the carpets myself. I don't have a lot of upper body strength to handle carpet cleaning, so I thought hiring a professional carpet cleaning service would be the most attractive solution.

How much do professional carpet cleaning services cost? I wondered.

Surely it wouldn't cost me $1,000 to get 2,000 square feet of carpet cleaned. And now that I think about it, two of the bathrooms have no carpeting at all and neither does my kitchen. Even if the cost was $.25 per square foot, I'd be saving myself more than $500 (online sources place the national average for professional carpet cleaning costs at around $.22 per square foot).

I'm going to have to look into this. In the meantime if you are looking for professional carpet cleaning services and you live in the Austin area, click http://www.thesteamteam.com/.

Maybe I should offer a $500 rebate?

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lost and Found – Teachers Who Kill Their Students' Spirits and Students Who Reclaim Their Lives

When I was young I was so insecure, one negative comment would send me into a tailspin of despair. I thought I was stupid and ugly, so when I entered high school, I was already prepared to feel like the outcast I knew myself to be.

What didn't help was a home ec teacher in my freshman year who targeted me with her loathing.

I saw it on her face the first day I met her, her squinty eyes subtly warning me, "I hate you already and I will make this year miserable for you." She had never before met me, but I figured she must have known ABOUT me, because her contempt was accurately pointed toward the only student in the class who deserved not to be liked – me.

Our first project to sew was a skirt. I was 5'6.5" and weighed not quite 100 pounds. Stores didn't carry size 0 back then, so I wore the next largest size, which I think at the time was a size 5 (still too large for my anorexic-looking frame). She commanded me to purchase a pattern in a size 10.

My mother, however, refused to buy one in a size 10, but then reasoned that maybe this teacher's intentions were to have her students make the skirt too large so they could take it in later. As a compromise, we bought a size 8 pattern.

A too large pattern was not this teacher's intention; everybody else had purchased the size they wore. She was probably angry with me for purchasing a size different from the one she ordered me to buy, but she never said anything about it; she just punished me relentlessly the rest of the school year. In any event, with pattern in hand, I, along with all of the other students, proceeded to open the package and spread out the pattern.

Sewing was new territory for me. I didn't have a clue about how to read a pattern. While Mrs. Bunyan labored over detailing the pattern instructions to the other students in the class, hopping from student to student, she told me to "figure it out." After several failed attempts, even though other students stepped forward to offer me help, I finished the skirt. When I put it on, it promptly fall to the floor.

On "swatch" day, she draped swatches of cloth near the faces of several students while she explained to the other students why a certain color looked good or didn't look good on those students she chose to wear the swatches. To show the differences, she chose a blond, a brunette, a red head, and the only girl in the class with black hair, me.

As she placed the different colored swatches on the blond, she remarked about how good the blond looked in red, blue, orange, black, white, brown, purple – every color, as a matter of fact, except yellow.

The brunette looked good in every color, too, though green wasn't her best look, and the red head looked good in every color but red and orange.

Then she sat me in front of the class. "Notice how green makes her look sick. Notice how yellow drains the color from her face and makes her look sallow. Black makes her look too stark and white makes her look too pale." The ONLY color that looked good on me, according to Mrs. Bunyan, was pink.

With each negative comment, I felt my shoulders slump more and more and my self esteem sink deeper and deeper into the floor. I wanted to run out of the classroom and never return. I wanted to smash her face with a frying pan, but instead I held it all in until I left class and balled my eyes out where nobody could see me. She had humiliated and degraded me in front of an entire class of my peers, and now I knew for certain how truly ugly I was.

Teachers have the ability to make or break a child. Mrs. Bunyan broke me. When I added her insults to my father's injuries (he always told me I was stupid), I felt unworthy of being in the this world, let alone in her classroom. I sunk deeper and deeper into a state of despair and even contemplated suicide. Who could love somebody as ugly, stupid, and unworthy as I was?

Somehow by the grace of God and perhaps my Guardian Angel, I survived her class and I have managed to make it to the ripe old age of 59 without allowing her negative comments to prevent me from moving forward. Why she chose me to attack, I will never know, but I do know that she probably sought out the most insecure person in that classroom – me – and chose me to persecute relentlessly. She offered me no help while I made the skirt, nor did she offer any help with the sleeved blouse I mangled, and she completely ignored me during cooking class.

I know that I am probably hypersensitive to child abuse in any form, and I know that if my child had experienced Mrs. Bunyan as his or her teacher, I'd have forced the school to accommodate my child and I would have gone through all the necessary steps in ridding the school of the cancer known as Mrs. Bunyan.

My parents probably thought I was exaggerating when I talked about the evil woman who taught me home ec, and in defense of my parents, I probably wasn't all that vocal about the abuse back then – I was an extremely emotional and sensitive teenager – but in my opinion, any person who deliberately drains you of your spirit and who thwarts your every attempt at success is evil.

An evil, negative presence that hacks away at a child's spirit prevents that child from moving forward and causes (sometimes) irreparable damage. Parents have the right to remove their children from classrooms where teachers treat their children abusively.

If your child is stuck in a classroom with a teacher who hates him or her, get your child out of there NOW! Don't allow ANYBODY to destroy your child's spirit. She or he will be able to reclaim it someday, but why put your child through the torture of enduring that kind of hell?

Side note: I was nearly triumphant when I heard Mrs. Bunyan had been fired several years after I left high school. Perhaps enough students stepped forward to confirm her abuse and the school was able to rid itself of her cancerous behavior.

This post was written as part of a new Group Blogging Experience (or GBE), previously begun by a woman named Alicia. Today Beth, along with Marie Anne, continue the experience for bloggers to associate with one another, support each other's blogging experience, and hopefully expand their readership by providing a network for bloggers.



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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Good Old Days

Guest post written by Chris Akron

It's hard to believe that my wife and I have never gone up to the observation area at the top of the Empire State Building. People rag on us all the time for it, too. We've lived in New York for years and years, but the pace of everyday life can often times distract you from some of the things that are available around you. The other day, I visited http://hearingaids.miracle-ear.com/hearing-locations/michigan/ hearing aid, and I decided that I would go home and finally order my wife and I two tickets to the top of the Empire State Building. I really don't know what took us so long, but my decision definitely led to a nice date for the two of us.

We got to finally go atop the building and see out over New York. It was really a special experience, and I'm glad we got to share it together after all these years. Being atop the Empire State Building made me think about our initial journey to the big city, as well as the incredible story that we have shared together. It doesn't get much better than nostalgia at it's finest!

Preparing Kids For Divorce and Leaving The Family Home

When divorce becomes a huge heavy cloud that hangs over you all day – every day – when those heavy clouds seep into your dreams at night and everything from where to live and how to live, from what to tell the children, to how to prepare them for the inevitable changes, that cloud becomes a somber gray, and nothing can completely prepare you for the changes you are about to encounter.

But some positive thinking can help you and your children get through the hard times. From personal experience, I offer the following advice.

• SHOW your kids that you love them – be affectionate. You are going through a difficult time, and it will be easy for you to slip into self-destruct mode.

• PAY ATTENTION to your children! They need you now more than ever.

• Do NOT speak about the absent parent with condescension, hatred, or ill will. It will come back to haunt you. Maybe not right away, but in years to come, they will learn not to trust you, even if the absent parent was abusive.

• Stress the positive aspects of living in two homes – more friends, two bedrooms, two holidays, two birthdays, etc.

• TALK to your children about your and their expectations. Address their concerns. Recognize their sadness. Console them.

• ALLOW them to participate in the decoration of their own rooms.  ASK them how they want it to look, what colors they want on their walls.

• ACKNOWLEDGE that you know how much they will miss their other parent. And EXPLAIN in age-appropriate terms why you can't stay with their other parent any longer.

• LET THEM KNOW, with perfect clarity, that the divorce is NOT their fault, that it has nothing at all to do with them, that it was nothing they did or said, and that the reason you are divorcing is because of something between you and the other parent. Children tend to blame themselves and can become depressed because they believe that if only they had said the right things or acted the right way, the two of you would still be together.

• EXPLAIN to your children that the missing parent loves them, but say it only if it's true. Some people are incapable of expressing love in a way that feels like love. Children KNOW when they don't feel loved, but they often don't understand that the expression of love can be misinterpreted. Children who need hugs and don't receive them will infer that the parent who doesn't hug them also doesn't love them. Some children need to HEAR, "I love you," and without that assurance will believe that the parent doesn't love them. If the other parent truly loves them but does not show love in a way that is acceptable to the child, explain the different ways people show their love for each other. Perhaps the absent parent buys things for the child, because it is the only way the parent knows how to express love.

• MAKE TIME for your children. When your time is limited, either because you have to work two to three jobs, go to school full time – whatever takes you away from them, you have to set aside time to spend with your children. Do your homework with them at the table. Have picnics on the floor. Invite their friends over for sleepovers. Let them know they matter.

• Finally, HELP YOUR CHILDREN prepare for their futures. Get them involved in sports, crafts, activities, support groups, if necessary. Get them excited about learning. Take them to free events around town. Don't let them sulk. Make them the center of your life and focus your attention on creating the best possible life for them. Ask yourself every day, "What can I do today to create happiness for my children?"

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