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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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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PREPARING for a TORNADO

As I write this blog, the National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for my area. As a Midwesterner, tornadoes have been a part of my life my whole life.

When I was a child, tornadoes occurred with far less frequency than they do today, however. My mother used to usher my two sisters and me into the basement while she and my father remained upstairs. I never understood why she and my dad would be safe upstairs while we anxiously awaited their presence downstairs. Did tornadoes not allow adults to fly up their funnels?

Children pay attention to their parents' behavior, and I must confess that I, too, have been guilty of placing my children in a safe spot, then running to the windows and looking outside for signs of a tornado.

But if you truly want to protect your children, stay with them. They might be frightened and will need your assurance that everything is going to be OK.

During one particularly bad storm, about a mile from my childhood home, the third floor of an apartment building flew off and landed across the street. Fortunately no bodily damage occurred, but it shook our little suburban Chicago town, and it reminded us that none of us is safe when it comes to tornadoes.

Years later I moved 50 miles south of Chicago and purchased a mobile home in what I later found out was called, "Tornado Alley" by the locals. My children and I, during that first storm, went to a local Denny's, because people in our mobile home community told us it was the safest place to be. The restaurant was surrounded by windows. How safe could it be?

We returned home and entered a windowless bathroom, where we told stories until the storm was over. I had been told that the bathtub was the safest place to stay.

Today I live in a mobile home community again. The safest place for all of us to stay is in a small alcove between all of the back bedrooms. The space is large enough to accommodate all five of us. But it's still a mobile home. Not safe. But then is any structure safe anymore?

What I've discovered is that the bathtub isn't necessarily the safest place to stay. Fixtures can be pulled from the ground and come crashing down.

One family recently, probably through the grace of God, decided to put a helmet on their child during a tornado. When the sink propelled from the bathroom floor, it smashed down on the little boy's head. The helmet later flew off and was found crushed to pieces, but before it flew off his head, it saved his life. Now I know why people recommend sitting beneath mattresses.

The best way to deal with a tornado is to educate yourself about tornadoes.

According to FEMA, the first thing you need to know is the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning.

Tornado Watches mean that tornadoes are POSSIBLE. A Tornado Warning, on the other hand, means that a tornado has either been sighted in your location or is indicated by weather radar. Warnings require you to take immediate cover.

If you're not in the habit of listening to the radio or watching TV, look for approaching storms. The sky will be dark and will have a greenish cast. Large hail precipitates tornadoes, so listen and look. Look also for large low-flying clouds, especially those with rotation. Listen for a loud roar. It will sound similar to a freight train. Take shelter IMMEDIATELY if you notice any of these tornado indicators.

If you are in the midst of a tornado, get away from windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as much distance between you and the outside walls as possible. Protect your head and neck. And DO NOT open the windows.

Mobile homes offer little protection in a tornado. Your best bet is to find a shelter designed to handle tornadoes. Some communities offer shelters on the premises. Others don't. Find out where your nearest safe shelter is. Sometimes you don't have enough time. Protect yourself and your loved ones with enough blankets and pillows to prevent fatalities.

If you are outside and you see a tornado, never try to outrun it. DO NOT sit under a bridge or overpass. Lie flat in a ditch. Cover your head and neck. Watch for potential flooding, and pay particular attention to flying debris. Most of the fatalities and injuries come from flying debris.

Tornadoes can arise quickly. No building is safe. If a hospital can be torn asunder by a tornado, how safe is any structure? But by following FEMA's advice, you stand a chance of outliving a tornado.

For more on tornadoes, please visit the FEMA web site (click the link).

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Little White Lies We Tell Our Children

Wesley and Jeremy playing Rock Band, too young
to have been plagued by the McDonald's Police
We teach our children not to lie, but are we guilty of telling little white lies – to our children?

Years ago, when my kids were young, staying up until midnight on New Year's Eve was a big deal for them. It was a big deal for me too, because I worked all day and was exhausted by 10 p.m. every night. Staying up until midnight was out of the question.

Fortunately New York televised their New Year's Eve celebration an hour early so that Midwesterners who didn't want to stay up until the REAL midnight could trick their kids into watching what they thought was the actual New Year's Eve celebration.

But even 11:00 was late for me. I was exhausted. Could I stay up that late? Ugh, I could try to make it to 11 p.m.

Guilt washed over me and pushed my mom button as I looked at my bouncing and behaving children. They looked so happy. Hmpf, I HAD to stay up until 11 – for them.

So we sat in front of the TV, the kids electrified with enough energy to light New York City while I, dragging one foot behind the other, eagerly anticipated the countdown so I could go to sleep.

And for a few sweet years, I was actually able to pull it off. I managed year after year to get the kids to bed after our annual toast, big hugs, and lots of midnight (New York time) kisses.

Everything worked out fine for me – until they got old enough to tell time.

"It's not even eleven o'clock," one of my daughters whined. Great. Thank you, Educators everywhere – I am now forever doomed to stay up until midnight. Couldn't you at least have saved 'telling time' for high school?"

Oh, I was a terrible mama, lying to my babies just so I could get a good night's sleep. Nobody I knew was as deceptive as I was. As a matter of fact, I thought I was the only person who told their children little white lies – until I discovered somebody else who stretched the truth.

My oldest daughter, Keeley, was guilty of committing this crime as well. Read McDonald's Police to find out what lie she told her kids to get them to behave. What genes have I passed down to my children?

My youngest daughter, Brittney, and her husband, Scott, are not exempt from the White Lie Club, either. A few weeks ago, when their children wanted to play in the sand box at the local park, Brittney and Scott told them why they couldn't. (I'm sure it had nothing at all to do with the fact that their little bodies would have been carrying sand particles into a clean house.)

As Nolan related to me later, when we passed the sand box on the way to the park, "We can't go in the sand, because cats pee in it, right?"

Maybe it's just MY family.

But no, it isn't. Because I know somebody else who deceives her children. My son's wife, Michelle, came up with a great way to get their kids to bed on time. When I was watching them one night, Kaden told me that we couldn't watch movies past 8 because Netflix stopped working at 8:00.

So are little white lies OK or are they harmful?  Some people believe that any lie is wrong. Others think that if the lie doesn't hurt anybody, what's the harm? Still others think that little white lies are necessary:

"Do I look fat in this dress?"

"No, you look great – the dress is ugly."

In grammar school I had a nun – yes, a nun – who told the students in her classroom that it was OK for us to lie as long as we said the truth under our breath. "Yes, of course, I like you (but not really)."

So what's your position on little white lies? Are they OK or do we have to be 100% honest at all times?

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