Thursday, July 29, 2010

Back-to-School Shopping

Back-to-School shopping is right around the corner, and I am trying to figure out the best strategy for getting everyone what they need without me having to reach for yet another box of Clairol hair color to cover my gray!

Perhaps, the divide and conquer strategy will work best for shopping, too. It might be more time consuming, but if I take each child by themselves, each shopping trip might be more productive than if I took all three of them at the same time.

The phony bugger compensates the activating follower.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Divide and Conquer

If two's company and three's a crowd, nowhere is this truer than with my children.  When two of them are together (it doesn't matter which two), there's very little arguing and fighting.  But add the third child and all hell breaks lose.

It is always two against one--whether it is boys against the girl, the youngest two against the oldest, the oldest two against the youngest--someone is left out, picked on, ignored, or tormented.  And it escalates in the summer when everyone is home, and when we are in close quarters on vacation in a hotel room or suite.  It turns what is supposed to be a relaxing vacation into a stressful experience.

So this summer, for the first time ever, the five of us are not vacationing together.

This week, Violet, Jack-Jack and I are in Orlando, FL.  Violet is a Harry Potter fan, so we are here at Universal Studios to check out the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and to drink some butter beer!  My husband and Dash are spending the week in the Poconos in PA where they've been go-karting and fishing, and plan to spend a day at the Eagles traning camp at Lehigh U.

Below: Violet and Jack-Jack entering Honeydukes in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for bagsful of candy, wizard-style!

While this divide-and-conquer approach to vacationing is proving to be a great success, I hope that it won't become the norm.  Maybe I can use the wand I picked up to cast a spell and turn my kids into perfect little Stepford children!
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Home Alone

I found an article on about leaving teens home alone.  This is an issue we've recently been facing with Dash, and I think this article offers some great advice and insight.  I've included an abbreviated version of the article below:

Home Alone: Is Your Teen Mature Enough?
By Meghan Vivo

Take one teenager, add one empty home and what do you have? A recipe for disaster, say some child development experts. Give an inch and many teens will take advantage of their freedom by breaking the rules, partying with friends, gorging on junk food, spending hours in front of the TV, playing video games, or otherwise misbehaving.

But lots of parents are able to trust their teens to behave appropriately without adult supervision. And when parents trust their children enough to leave them home alone, they seize an opportunity to let their kids grow into responsible, independent adults. After all, in just a few years your teen may be living in a college dorm or starting a career - all without your careful oversight.

So how do you know if your teen is mature enough to stay home alone? Start by asking yourself the following questions:
  • Is your teen nervous or afraid of staying home alone?
  • Are you comfortable leaving your child home alone?
  • How safe is your neighborhood?
  • Is your child sensible, responsible and trustworthy?
  • Does your teen tend to make good decisions, follow directions, and take responsibility for daily tasks like homework and chores?
  • Does your child know how to use the stove and other appliances?
  • Does your teenager understand the dangers of opening the door for strangers or telling a caller that their parents are away?
  • Is your teen comfortable contacting you if there is a problem or if they made a mistake?
  • Do you have friends, family members or neighbors you can count on if your child needs help?
Most experts recommend considering these questions when your child is around 11 or 12 years old, and only when they begin to push for more independence. Of course, some younger children will be mature enough to stay home alone and some older teens still can’t be trusted. Keep in mind that some states have a minimum age for leaving children unsupervised, so call your local Department of Social Services before making a final decision.

Setting Ground Rules
If you decide your teen is ready to stay home alone, gradually start leaving them alone for 30-minute intervals and then build up to longer periods of time. Ask how your child would handle different scenarios that may arise and make sure they know how to reach you as well as neighbors, emergency services and other resources in case something happens.

Experts also suggest having emergency evacuation and fire safety plans in place and teaching your child basic first aid, though surveys show that roughly 25 percent of parents leave their children home alone without adequate guidance about safety.

Next, set up a few ground rules. For example, instruct your teen not to answer the door in your absence and discuss how to tell anyone who calls that parents aren’t available. If your child is fairly young, talk about which appliances are okay to use and whether TV, Internet and video games are acceptable pastimes without parental supervision.

Also decide whether your child can have friends over or leave the house, and whether prior permission is required. Because teens fare best with structure, make sure you offer some ideas about what should be done while you’re gone, such as homework, reading or chores.

As with all rules, you should decide ahead of time what the consequences will be for breaking them. Then be sure to follow through with the consequences if a rule is broken and take some time before letting your child stay home alone again.

If you’re considering leaving your teen home alone, the final decision should be based on what you feel is best for your child’s development. While you don’t want to miss out on a valuable growth experience, you and your teen both have to be ready for new responsibilities. With a little guidance and preparation, your teen will be ready to prove that they are capable of exercising good judgment and are worthy of your trust.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back. . . Parenting 's Ups and Downs

This week began on a high note.  The kids decided, after watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, that they were going to make over the front porch, sitting room, and a bedroom in our house.  They worked together and did a phenomenal job.  In fact, I can actually walk onto our front porch without tripping over basketballs, scooters, skateboards, and in-line skates.  It was great seeing them work together.

The following morning Dash woke up and made pancakes for himself and Violet (Jack-Jack had already eaten a bowl of cereal).  I thought, "finally, we're turning a corner."  However, it was just a slight bend in the road.

Yesterday was back to our chaotic "normal."  It was the classic two-against-one day.  The older two tormented Jack-Jack most of the afternoon.  They decided they were "spies" who were on a mission to avoid Jack-Jack.  Whenever Jack-Jack came near them, they ran from him.  Whenever Jack-Jack tried to talk to them, they ignored him.  The Jack-Jack felt rejected and ended up crying through almost an entire episode of SpongeBob (yes, I was trying to bribe him to stop crying by allowing him to watch cartoons).

Things went from bad to worse as an argument escalated over a busted slip-and-slide that had just been purchased two days ago.  There were more tears and a lot of finger-pointing over who ripped a hole in the water slide.

Just when I was about to tell them to put on their swimsuits so that we could go jump in the pool, the skies opened up and unleashed a torrent of rain, thunder and lightening.  I guess Mother Nature was crying along with me!

When I felt at my absolute low today, I kept reminding myself of the positive moments this week. I also keep reminding my children of how great they felt working together.  Maybe it will start to sink in soon.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Their Secret Identities!

My children made me promise that I will not use their real names on this blog, so I vowed to keep their identities a secret.  In keeping with the secret identity theme, I've decided to use names from one of my favorite family movies, "The Incredibles."

So, from now on, on this blog my children will be known as Dash, Violet, and Jack-Jack.  (I was tired of calling them "oldest son, daughter, youngest son").  Hmmm. . . does that make hubby and I Mr. and Mrs. Incredible?  There are many days when I could use Mrs. Incredible's superhero flexibility.  Maybe not physically, but definitely emotionally and mentally!

[above: "Violet" and "Jack-Jack" with the Incredibles in Orlando, FL]
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Too Cool for Radio Disney

Until a few months ago, my children were content listening to Radio Disney because it wasn't "babyish" as were the Raffi, Two of a Kind, and Classical Kids CDs I'd pop into our minivan's CD player.  However, recently they've decided that Radio Disney is just not cool anymore.  Or, rather, they are too cool for Radio Disney.  The station of choice is now Philadelphia's Q102.

This past week, I relented and allowed them to turn on this station while on our way to the pool.  I was dismayed as they sang along to Eminem and Rihanna's hit "Love the Way You Lie."

Here are just some of the lyrics:
Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/But that's all right because I like the way it hurts

And right now there's a steel knife in my windpipe/I can't breathe but I still fight . . . It's like I'm in flight/High of a love/Drunk from the hate

It's like I'm huffing paint/And I love it the more that I suffer I suffocate/And right before I'm about to drown she resuscitates me/She f*ing hates me/And I love it

What?!?!  Are you kidding me!  Huffing, f*ing, loving someone who is hurting you?  There's NO WAY I want my kids listening to this.  But, they are listening to it.  They knew the song when it came one.  Somewhere, somehow, they are listening to this garbage.  And I know that I cannot police their every move.  I am not with them when they are at school, at their extra-curricular activities, at sleep-overs with friends.  But shouldn't they have the sense to know that this music is trash?  That it's not appropriate for pre-teens?  Yeah, right . . . I know. . . it's the forbidden fruit.

I've been reading thought Dr. Michael Bradley's book Yes, Your Teen is Crazy.  So, when I got home I flipped to the index to see if he offered any advice for parents dealing with the horrible music their adolescents are listening to.  I found a few pages on this topic.  I can't say that I agree with everything he says, but I did grudgingly have to admit that Dr. Bradley is correct when he says that adults are the ones producing and marketing this junk to our kids in order to turn a profit.  Adults are taking advantage of our teenagers' young minds.  With that in mind, I read the rest of the section on music with an open mind.  Here's an excerpt:

Is much of the music of today's adolescents outrageous, disgusting, evil, racist, chauvinistic, violent, and poorly harmonized?  Without a doubt.  Does it cause kids to become outrageous, disgusting, evil, racist, chauvinistic, violent, . . . and poorly harmonized?  No, it doesn't.

Okay, he's the expert and I guess I should feel relieved to read those sentences, but I don't know if I fully agree that music doesn't have an impact on adolescents.  Heck,  how many of us feel uplifted when we hear certain songs, or moved to tears when we hear others?  (Did I really just write "heck"?  I hope my kids don't read this because any "coolness" points I've earned from them will go right out the window!) Anyway, that's just my opinion.

But some of Dr. Bradley's suggestions  I am going to try to employ.  For instance, he suggests that parents bargain with their teens and tell them that they can listen to the music as long as the parent and child listen to it together and talk about it.   Dr. Bradley also suggests that parents try not to forbid music and not to fight with their teens about it, but to save the big fights for really huge issues that will come down the pike (sex, drugs, alcohol).  Hmmm . . . we'll see how well this goes when I begin a discussion about someone being burned and liking it!  I'll keep you posted.

Until then, I'll throw the Raffi CD into my personal CD player, pop earphones into my ears, and wish for the times when life with the kids was simpler.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Am I Crazy, or Are They?

I consider myself to be a pretty laid-back person--a go-with-the-flow, non-argumentative, don't-worry-be-happy person. However, until recently, I had never encountered the type of people I am dealing with now on a daily basis . . . pre-teens!

My oldest two children (especially my 12-year-old) challenges me daily. Nothing is ever his fault and he constantly tortures his younger siblings. I, of course know nothing about anything, according to him, and get this. . . he yells that I over-react!

Me--calm Mom--over-reacting. I feel as if I am losing control. I feel as if I am going crazy. Where is SuperNanny when I need her?

Two years ago while my children were all still cute and thought that I was the best mom in the world, their school invited Dr. Michael Bradley to come speak to parents. Dr. Bradley is an expert in adolescent behavior. After the event he signed copies of his book, Yes, Your Teen is Crazy! Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind. The book has been collecting dust on my bookshelf for the past two years. This past week I plucked it off of the shelf and began reading it.

The following story in the beginning of the book has given me a little clarity and hope, and is helping me restore what little sanity I have left:

Michael's mom sat in my office sobbing, repeatedly attempting to reason with her raging and verbally vicious adolescent son. After watching his endless bullying and her tormented begging for too long, I sent him out of the room, turned to her and said, "Why are you talking to him like he makes sense?" "What do you mean?" she sobbed. I gave her the same shrugging "Duh" gesture her son had just used a dozen times and I almost yelled, "He's nuts! You can't talk to crazy people like they make sense."

Her eyes and mouth flew open, astonished at my insensitivity. Slowly her wrenching sobs transformed into chuckling, softly at first, then building to a crescendo of raucous laughter that rang off the walls. "Oh God," she howled, "How I needed to laugh like that! It feels wonderful. You're right. Michael is nuts. And I'm nuts to sit here and talk with him like that."

Every time I read that, it reminds me that maybe I'm not as crazy as I think I am. Maybe they are!
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