Tag Archives: family

Autumn Breeze

Image credit: rankinz302

by John

The night is longer,

School has started,

The wind howls as it chills the air,

The blue sky deepens and crisps,

Monday back pack checks and warm breakfast fills chattering bellies,

A whiff of fluoride, a palm wipe around the mouth, and smoothing kinked strands of hair,

Visions of day-mares that horrify mirrors to cheering squeals,

Dusting off bats, ghouls and head stones,

Sweeping, corralling, twitching crackled lifeless leaves into bean bag-like blobs,

Flip flop cold and hot baked days,

The day is shorter,

Cluster tree tops of fiery reds, mustard yellows, moldy violets and hint of distant greens,

Ends with counting lollipops, chocolate bits and tired belly aches,

And hints of snow dust in the horizon.

Playdate Mantra – The Cause and Effect

by John

As my kids are getting older we are starting to arrange more play dates. Like all parents we talk to our kids about appropriate behavior on a play date. Things like use good manners, don’t play too rough, say thank you and please, don’t break anything, cooperate, be friendly, help clean up and listen to the parent in charge. Our play date mantra is “Kids who behave themselves get invited back”.

My kids easily understand this cause and effect. Once I got them to understand the concept of cause and effect I’ve used it for everything. Things like:

  • If you finish your homework early the effect is more play time
  • If you review your school material and study for your test the effect is good grades
  • If you clean your room up the effect is more friends can come to visit
  • If you eat healthy the effect is more energy and feeling better
  • If you brush your teeth the effect is less dentist visits and no painful cavities
  • If you develop good listening skills the effect is less confusion and better learning
  • If you are friendly and positive the effect is more friends
  • If you read more the effect is improved writing
  • If you practice the effect is improvement
  • If you are willing to try new things the effect is finding more things you love
  • If you care about others the effect is others will care about you
You get the idea. With my kids I’m always trying to find their Ah-Ha moments. Understanding their Ah-Ha moments helps me communicate better with them, lay the foundation to more complicated issues, and helps me rediscover the joy of childhood.

When is Trendy Too Expensive? Finding Balance

My daughter is of the age when she’s beginning to notice not just WHAT her friends wear, but where it came from. Because jeans are apparently cool when they come from Justice, but not nearly as cool when they come from Target. Even if they look exactly. the. same. (And don’t even get me started about people who wear pants with stuff written on the butt. Over. my. dead. body.)

And I struggle with this.

Now I lean very much on the practical side of things when it comes to outfitting my children. When they will wear it just ONE season before they grow out of it, the thought of blowing my hard-earned cash on expensive clothes is ridiculous to me. There are perfectly trendy clothes at Target, Old Navy, etc. (and for that matter, the rummage sale and second hand store) that look just fine. And this is coming from someone who is all about dressing well.

But I also remember what it was like growing up and NOT shopping at the trendy store. I struggled to fit in as a child on many levels. This was one of them. And so I can relate to my daughter’s desire to shop at Justice and buy the cool stuff in order to fit in and be cool.

This all came to the forefront when a girl down the street got a diary from Justice. She had it out at the bus stop every morning, and all of a sudden my daughter DESPERATELY wanted a diary from Justice. I told her she could have one from Target (who didn’t, apparently, have one with a lock.) I’m all for encouraging things that encourage writing. We compromised by finding one at Barnes & Noble (where I had a coupon.) And she’s been having a great deal of fun writing and drawing in it. Even though it didn’t come from Justice.

But I wonder about the culture that says to our kids they must have exactly this from exactly this place in order to be cool. And by the way, you have to spend a lot of money to achieve that status.

I want my kids to be aware of current culture. But I also want them to realize that it’s not the label that makes you cool or not. And I want them to have the confidence to carry that message without me having to stand there and tell them that.

I think we achieved that with the journal. It’s serving its purpose and she’s happy.

But she also knows that I think Justice is way too expensive and I don’t intend to shop there. I wonder when that will come to a head. At some point I’ll probably give her the option to spend her own money there if she wants to. But she’ll understand she gets less for her money by shopping there than elsewhere.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you approach it when your kids want the trendy thing from the expensive place? Would love to read your comments.

What are you grateful for?

The last couple of years have been a roller coaster ride to say the least. Lately, I’ve had time to thank God and be grateful for where I have landed.

My morning of gratitude:

6:30am – The sun peeks through my window.

6:35am – Snuggled cozily in my big comforter.

6:40am – The warmth of my beautiful wife beside me.

6:50am – The sounds of chatter and restless feet.

6:53am – My dog whining for me to get up.

6:55am – Morning bear hugs and peppy smiles from my kids.

6:58am – The smell of preparing a fresh pot of coffee for Jen and the circling dog reminding me to feed her.

7:00am – Our first class breakfast menu of yogurt, turkey sausages, mini bagels, whole wheat toast, fruit, nuts, cheese, egg whites and milk.

7:05am – The laughter from PBS educational TV and making healthy lunches for my kids. A Lunch menu consisting of PBJs, flat bread pizzas, bagels, grilled-cheese sandwiches, carrots, fruits, granola bars or money to purchase school lunch on Fridays.

7:25am – A meeting of the minds in choosing the appropriate school and weather fashion.

7:30am – Squeezing their little faces, checking their sparkly white teeth and combed hair.

7:35am – Piano practices and beautiful music to awaken sleeping beauty mommy.

7:45am – Brain warm-ups, a little math, a few spelling words and/or the thought for the day.

7:50am – Free play! A little Legos, dolls, Wii, DS, TV, reading, sharing, catching up or anything the kids want to do.

8:00am – Get ready to leave for school. Jen and I get more “I’ll miss you” hugs, kisses and smiling faces.

8:03am – We walk over to the bus stop and exchange good mornings with our neighbors surrounded by trees and our little quiet neighborhood.

8:10am – The school bus pulls up and the doors open to a smiling bus driver wishing everyone good morning!

8:15am – Jen and I go for our workouts. Sometimes we take a walk together, or she goes for her run, and I’ll do my martial arts exercises.

8:45am – I post my first comments, tweet my good mornings to friends, and make my to-do steps to reach my goals.

Recently, I ended a business post that life is like a river, but sometimes it’s more like a hurricane. Like the aftermath of a hurricane, there’s always new life, growth and beauty. I cherish more vividly all the beauty in my life. I’m so grateful for each day. What are you grateful for? How do you start your days?

~ John

Helping Our Kids Handle Bullies

Recently, one of my children experienced an episode of bullying. It was minor and my child handled it, but we felt it was important for the teacher to know (she wasn’t present at the time) so that no one got hurt if it happened again. So we sent in a note.

What surprised me was how seriously the school took it. Both children were called down to the principal (separately) to discuss the incident, the teacher called us, and the school actually had to prepare a report. Apparently there is a lot of legislation in our state now related to bullying, and how schools are expected to handle it.

And I have to say I’m glad to see it. As a child, I dealt with a lot of bullying. I didn’t have the world’s best social skills, and as a result, there were times I was tormented by the other kids. My mother would try to get the school to do something, but at the end of the day it continued. I finally just sucked it up, because there wasn’t a lot that could be done.

And yet my kids are growing up in a different world. At Back to School Night, I saw posters in every classroom that talked about bullying, what it is, and the rules against it. I know they talk about it in their classes as a group, to make sure no one experiences it, and if they do, what they should do about it. Kids in our school district fully understand what a bully is, and they know they have protection. What confidence this can give our kids!

We’ve also taught our kids at home how to defend themselves. They know that the first thing they should do is to get out of the situation if they can, handle it with their words, and tell a teacher. But if someone is physically doing something to them, they know how to protect themselves. We practice at home.

And we also talk about why the bully might be acting that way. Perhaps something is unhappy at home. Perhaps they don’t know how to make friends except to be physical. We encourage our kids to extend a hand of friendship when it’s possible. It might just change the bully.

Can we fully protect them forever from others who may be mean to them? Of course not. But we can make them aware of the behaviors that constitute bullying, so they know it when they see it. They’ll know what to do to get themselves out of the situation, because they’re being taught about it. And my kids also know how to step up and help other kids who may find themselves in bullying situations. We’ve taught them this at home, and they’re learning it in school.

It makes the playground a happier place for all kids.

How does your school handle bullying? What do you do to teach your kids about bullying at home? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments.

What is Up With the Cost of Movies Today?

I remember when going to the movies was affordable family entertainment.

Today I have a family of 5, and the closest theater is a “dine in” theater.

What this means in practical terms is that it typically costs us $150 to go to the movies. (YIKES)

Now I will say that I’ve never been a huge movie-goer. Ask me if I’ve seen something and I probably haven’t. The last 2 movies we saw in the theater were kids’ movies…Rio and Spy Kids (both in 3D). Before that, I couldn’t tell you the last movie I saw in a theater. Really.

So perhaps it’s because I haven’t been in a while that I’m experiencing such sticker shock.

John points out that it costs about the same as going to the boardwalk at the beach for a day. True. But it’s the FREAKIN BEACH. It’s all day entertainment, rides, and food. It’s supposed to cost more. We’re not talking about a couple of hours in a chair.

So maybe I’m the kind of person who DVDs were invented for.

Do you experience sticker shock from movies? Any tips for making them more affordable? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

Managing the Family Schedule

With 3 kids, we have a lot of schedules to keep. Between playdates, birthday parties and after school activities, my business trips, church activities, and more, it can get overwhelming fast. John handles a lot of the day to day scheduling for the kids. I just try and make sure my work schedule makes it to the central calendar, so we can plan around it. Most of the moms we know in town know at this point that they shouldn’t ask me about scheduling playdates. I always refer them to John.

With so much going on, having a good system in place to keep track of everyone is essential. I won’t say we have the perfect system, but it works for us. It’s rare we miss anything (although we did miss the scheduled call from the teacher last night…coming back from a business trip, I was just sooo tired and plain forgot! Oops!)

Here’s what we do:

  • We have a family calendar hanging in the kitchen. Sports, playdates, parties, and other activities are all listed there.
  • I initially put travel in my computer’s calendar, but always add it to the family calendar as well.
  • Birthday party invites go on the fridge, under a heavy duty magnet. That way we can always find details/directions.
  • My travel itinerary goes in its own spot on the fridge. I always print out 2 copies, so that when it’s time for me to pack my bag I can grab one to go in my travel pack, while John has all the drop-off/pick-up info he needs within arm’s reach.

I’ve thought about creating a central calendar on Google Calendar, but haven’t gotten past trying to sync Outlook and Google Calendar. One of these days I’ll figure it out. J It is nice, however, to have a handy reference available without having to turn on a computer.

How do you manage the schedules in your house? Any handy tools or apps that you use? Would love to read your tips in the comments.

When Supermom Travels

When Jen travels

Every time Jen travels I feel a little nervous the day before she goes away. Because I’m one of those planners, checklist makers, one who tries to anticipate everything that can possibly go wrong, and comes up with the perfect plan, until life happens.

Here’s my mental checklist for Jen’s travel (it used to be on paper):

  • Jen and I review all the business needs and priorities
  • Discuss how I can reach her in an emergency
  • Make sure her travel plans are clear
  • Make sure she has enough travel cash
  • Talk about travel safety
  • Make sure she is sure everything is packed
  • Check any last-minute mommy duties
  • Get her off on time!

And of course Jen always seems ready even without a little help from me.

Now that I’m home alone! This is the part I worry about the most, especially when Jen first started traveling for business. I’ve always been a hands on dad, but kids without their mommy sometimes get a little crazy.

Here’s my mental checklist for kids, home, business and pretending to be (super) mom (I still make little lists):

  • Double check emergency phone numbers
  • Make sure there’s plenty of food
  • Know and prepare their menu for the days Jen is gone (menus to take-out places)
  • Make sure they follow daily routines precisely to reassure kids everything is normal
  • Have treats, games, toys, videos, stories on hand in case kids miss mommy too much
  • Make sure my parents are there to back me up if I need help (fortunately, we have a two family house and my parents live two doors apart from us)
  • Make sure to remember all their school, extra curricular and homework schedules and assignments
  • Make tent and campsite for kids to sleep in my bedroom, in case they need comforting at night
  • Make sure Sugar, our dog, gets plenty of walks and treats so she’s comforted, because Sugar will miss Jen the most (Sugar is the baby of the family)
  • Make sure I’m on top of all business needs and duties
  • Get breakfast, lunches, dinner, clothes ready, check homework, extra curricular schedule and everything else that’s not on a list ready for the next day (if Jen isn’t back yet)
  • Make sure I’m there to pick up Jen from the airport with Sugar our dog on time when her plane lands
  • Fill her in on all the events, dramas, business that have happened since she been gone before the kids smother her

Sure, I’m a planner, but when life happens and messes up your plan, the best plan is to trust your instincts, do your best and pray! I know Jen feels guilty and misses the kids when she’s traveling, but it’s a great opportunity for me to practice being a (super) mom (in my book any mom that works and takes care of the family is a supermom even if they’re not perfect), once in a while to stretch and help me grow as a parent and as a man.

Do you think this is the new reality for families? How would your family manage? How do single parents do it?

Apparently I Am a Dog Person

Sugar and My Dad

If you had asked me 3 years ago if I would ever be a dog owner, I would have told you you were crazy. With 3 kids, a husband, and a business to run, I had more than enough to do THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

But that was before I factored in my daughter. You see, she has a heart for animals. A gift. And from a very young age, the campaign to get a dog began. I held strong for a while. And then I made my mistake. Figuring I would help them get it out of their systems, I took the kids to the pet store in the mall to play with the puppies. (As an aside, if you don’t want a dog, I wouldn’t recommend this strategy.)

Long story short, I now had 3 kids begging for a dog.

Now I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to get a pet, you should rescue one rather than purchasing the product of a puppy mill. There are plenty of animals that need homes, and unless you plan to show your dog, there is absolutely no reason to get an animal from a breeder. Perfectly wonderful animals are put to death EVERY DAY because people choose the pet store over the shelter. Totally not necessary.

So anyway, we pulled up Petfinder and started looking. Now I had my standards…I knew I didn’t want a puppy. I wanted a dog that was already house trained and wouldn’t chew up my furniture. We finally settled on a rescue organization that had a darling, 7 year old dog that my kids thought would be perfect. We filled out the application and were all set to meet the dog, when the woman from the rescue organization called. She said the dog we had chosen would be fine, but since my kids were so young, she’d recommend a younger dog. And she had one she wanted us to meet first. If we still wanted the other dog we could meet him afterwards. But she was hoping we’d meet this one first.

Sugar loves to run!

And so we found ourselves at the PetSmart in Rockaway, NJ one sunny Saturday morning. On the way, my husband asked if we would take the dog home that day. Of course not! I told him. We had adopted our kids and I was used to drawn out processes and lots of paperwork. I was sure we were going to meet the animal, get used to each other, and then find out what the process was to take the dog home.

So we walked in to the PetSmart and saw Sugar right away. And we fell in love. She was a year and a half old, and absolutely beautiful. My husband didn’t want a “girlie” dog. He wanted an animal that was strong and muscular. We didn’t want long hair to clog up the vacuum. And we wanted a dog that was good with kids, and could stand up to the activity that comes with them. Sugar fit the bill in every respect. We said we would be happy to adopt her.

And they handed us the leash.

Wait! I said. Didn’t we need to do paperwork? Nope. All the paperwork was already done. God bless the foster mother who walked us around the pet store, helping us pick out the essentials, since we didn’t have ANYTHING on hand. And we drove home as brand new pet owners.

We learned a lot about owning a dog those first few weeks. And now Sugar is such an integral part of the family. My son came home with an assignment the first day of school where he was supposed to put how many people were in our family. He said six…including the dog! She’s my exercise buddy, she wants to come with us everywhere, and she keeps me company all day when I work.

I never anticipated how wonderful it would be to have a dog. My parents laugh at the change in me (they’re hard-core animal lovers.) I now know I will have a dog for as long as I live. She’s such a sweet presence, and she makes me happy. We make her happy too.

And one more thing about pet adoption. This organization who rescued her got her from a high-kill shelter down in Georgia. If they hadn’t rescued her, she would have been put to death. And that kills me. Because she is the perfect family pet. So sweet and affectionate. We’re so fortunate to be her family.

So now we are dog people. And it rocks.

How did you get your pet?