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Is What You’re Doing Making You Happy?

By August 16, 2017 About me, Advice, General

A lot of people ask: Are you doing what makes you happy? But I wonder if we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe we should ask: Is what you’re doing making you happy?  I don’t mean your job or career.  Sure, there’s value in doing something that you find rewarding.  But I’m talking about your general mentality in life.

When I was younger; just starting out on my own, a lot of people said I had an attitude problem. That made me so mad! But they were right. I just couldn’t see it.

The problem wasn’t my “personality” – it was how I came off to others. I had been surrounded by so much negativity for so long that it had become my “normal”.  My mother and step-monster were slowly smothering me with poison and I didn’t even know it. I was the proverbial frog in hot water.

Are you surrounded by negative people? We call them “toxic” these days.

One thing that we should all recognize about toxic people is that they have chosen to be like that. My mother wasn’t always a pit of negativity. Life dealt her some tough cards and she decided to flip the table and have a tantrum. For 30 plus years. And still going. I fully believe that these kinds of people are also aware of their weight on others – but that’s another post…

I decided to follow a different path.

When I was in college, I met a girl who was always bubbly and happy.  She practically giggled her words out.  When I moved away after a few years, I decided that I wanted to be like that girl.  I wanted other people to enjoy being around me.

So first – I had to change how I talked.  Even about something as mundane as the weather.  It seems silly to tell our children that they’re “not allowed” to use words like “hate”, but I think we should teach them that it is a very strong and very dark word and it should be used sparingly.  As a young adult, I had to almost completely strike it from my vocabulary.  I had to tell my point of view from a different angle.

Instead of saying, “I hate winter!” I learned to say, “I prefer summer.”  Instead of saying, “The service was terrible.” I began to say things like, “I wish the service was a little better.”  Instead of saying, “The food was bad.” I changed to, “I didn’t care for what I ordered.”

In changing how I said things, I also began to change my mindset.  I started to consciously choose happiness.  I would choose to smile…to greet others with a smile and a kind word.

Additionally, I began to put the negativity into perspective.  I remembered how lonely I had been when my children were young.  How starved for adult companionship I had been.  Sometimes, the store cashier was the only adult I talked to all day.  So I began to make a point to be as nice as I can to everyone.

Unfortunately, everyone didn’t learn this message.  My mother is a toxic person.  She chooses to think, feel and say negative things and counters them with, “I’m not a nice person,” as if it’s a joke.  Maybe long ago it really wasn’t how she actually felt.  But by years of embracing that pessimism, she has become bitter and sad and lonely.

So the decision for how to deal with this falls to me.  I don’t have to buy-into her toxicity.  I can walk away or otherwise distance myself from it.  Because she is my mother and because she has chosen to allow alcohol to blur her sensibility; I have chosen to love her anyway – while keeping her gloom in perspective and at an arm’s length.

My mother lives about 1,400 miles from me.  In order to preserve the relationship between us, I call her most days after work, Monday through Friday.  If I feel like I just can’t handle the sadness and disparity, I can either not call or make an excuse to keep the conversation short.

Now – a couple of notes –

Note #1 – Did you notice how I said she had chosen to allow alcohol to blur her sensibilities.  That’s not an accident – a typo or a slip – that is 100% how I feel.  She didn’t go to a doctor one time and come home with the diagnosis of alcoholic.  People who get cancer don’t come home as cancer-holics.  And they don’t keep feeding the cancer cells because they “just can’t stop”.

Cancer isn’t a choice.  Alcoholism is.

Note #2 – Did you catch the line about giving an excuse to get off the phone?  I’m not above lying.  It’s for my own mental health and self-preservation.  To that end, I have come to understand and remember the following rules:

  1. It’s all about her.
  2. Don’t mention friends.
    • This will lead to a tangent that includes how it “must be nice” because she “doesn’t have any”
    • It may even lead to a conversation about her only friend who died
  3. Don’t mention fun things
    • This will lead to a conversation about how she never gets to do anything
  4. Never mention that you have hurt yourself, broken something, gotten an incorrect doctor bill, gotten a high doctor bill, or otherwise have had something happen to you
    • Whatever happened to you is not as bad as this one time something 1000 times worse happened to her
    • See #1
  5. Do not mention grocery shopping.
    • She can’t even afford toilet paper and she eats 11¢ hotdogs!
  6. Never mention my oldest son by name.
    • He is almost 22 years old. He used the F word on Facebook and when she commented on the post, he commented back that she would never see another one of his posts.  She was “very hurt”.  So, any mention of his name is an invitation to retell the whole story.  With tears if I’m super-lucky.  {Insert eye roll here}
  7. Never, ever, ever mention anything having to do with money.
    • See #5 and #1

And so, with these rules in mind, I have to select what I say carefully.  If I’m having dinner with a friend, or having my oldest son come over for dinner, I will usually just say I’m going home and I don’t know what I’m having for dinner – probably leftovers.

So what’s the point of all of this?  It’s just this: Is what you’re doing working for you?  Are you angry that no one is there for you; but you don’t know how to foster a healthy friendship or other relationship?  Are you nasty to the only people you do see?  Are you judgy about perfectly normal behaviors like women wearing makeup and perfume or coloring their hair and painting their nails?  Are you creating your own unhappiness?

If you’re not happy, ask yourself if there is one thing you can change.  Maybe it’s something you can just change for a day or two – like letting the radio keep playing when the alarm goes off and singing along while you get ready for the day.  Not going anywhere?  Take a long shower.  Take extra long on your hair or makeup.  Don’t usually primp?  Just this once, do it.  Window shop and greet everyone you see.  Say, “Hi. How are you?”  And actually wait for their responses.  Remember things that once made you happy.  Your first kiss, the first time you drove a car, someone giving you a compliment…and look down and smile a secret smile to yourself.  Keep smiling when you look up again.

Be nice.  Always.  And ask yourself, every day, “Is what I’m doing creating happiness?”

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You can be anything you dream of…. Oh, but not that.

By July 2, 2017 About me, Advice, General

What do you want to be when you grow up?  It’s a question we ask children, young adults, even ourselves.  It’s a dragon we all have to slay.  What will I do with my life?  What will I be?

Of course, when we ask young children what they want to be when they grow up, it’s cute when their answers are pro-football player, ballerina, astronaut, president.  We laugh about it as we repeat it.  “Said he wants to be a football player.  Isn’t that cute?”

Here’s a new question. When did we become so jaded? So disbelieving? So doubtful.

We tell those kids, “You can be anything you want to be.” But do we believe it?

We don’t tell them, outright, that they can’t do it.  But we start to make it sound less and less possible.  Eventually we make comments even to them.  “Well, maybe you should pick something a little more plausible.”  Counselors in school want to know what career path they’re going to follow.  When someone announces that they’re going to Hollywood or New York to make their band famous, the counselors get that look on their faces.  And they say, “Well, maybe you should pick a couple of things to “fall back on”.

Many people start to say things to their children like, “It will take a lot of work to be a football player.” But they really mean is, “I don’t think you will work hard enough.”  These people believe that their kid will never make it big.  Whatever the lofty goal is – those goals that only the best become – they honestly believe that those dreams are for “other” people.  They say, “You can be anything.” But they mean, “You can be anything ordinary.”

“It has to be someone’s kid.”

I ask, “Why not your kid?”  It has to be someone’s kid.  What excludes your child?

I have always taught my children that they really can be anything they want.  However, I have always also told them that some things take a lot more work and dedication than others.  With my belief in my children, I have also had the dedication myself to do whatever they needed me to do.

My son wanted to be professional hockey player.  He was not the best.  (Nor the worst.)

I told him that he could absolutely still go pro.  But it would come at a cost.  He would need to have year-round training.  He would need to skate before and after school, even when his team was not.  He would need to work harder than everyone else.  He would need to be the first one on the ice and the last one off.  He would have very little time for socialization.  However, he would still need to keep his studies on track.

In the end, he decided that he loves to play hockey; but that he did not want to put that much work, dedication and sacrifice into it.  That’s ok with me because above all – it needed to be his decision.  To play, to not play; to become the best, or to just enjoy the game with his friends.  It all needed to always be up to him.

Do I really believe he could have made it to the NHL?  Absolutely.  But not without a lot of hard, hard work.

One of his coaches once said, in a parent meeting, “None of our kids are ever going to go to the NHL. We’re just here to have fun.”  What a terrible attitude!  It’s great to have fun and have that be the priority in kids’ sports.  But again, someone’s kid has to make it.  Why not ours?  Imagine what could be done if that coach had said, “I want this season to be fun; but I’m also going to challenge your kids to be the best of the best. I’ll teach them to work together as a team and we’ll work on fundamentals. I think any of our kids could go pro if he works hard enough!”

Most people who reach professional status in any area have the full support of someone.  Usually their parents.  Look at the Olympians.  Do you think any swimmer, runner or gymnast got there without a lot of parent hours?  Those parents are driving their children to practices before school, taking them to a second practice after school, helping them with homework at night.  They are planning everything around training.  They are helping their young athletes eat right and get good nutrition, even when the constant running makes it hard.  They are making sure their children sleep enough, even though they might be losing out on their own sleep.  They are in the gym watching the failures, at the ice rink while their child practices, by the pool day in and day out.  If the parents weren’t dedicated to helping their child reach those goals; those children just wouldn’t.

Here is a perfect example:  My father was a professional trumpet player in the Army Forces Command Band stationed at Ft. McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia.  He grew up playing trumpet and was a very dedicated musician.  When he was in high school, he won the John Philip Sousa Award which recognizes superior musicianship, dependability, loyalty, and cooperation.  By the time he was 30, he was a successful musician in the Forced Command Band and played piano and guitar as well.   He even wrote two full-band marches – with the help of friends and colleagues.  The first, “Freedom’s Guardian” became the band’s “official march” and the second, “The Red Piping” was also played on occasion.  Unfortunately, that same year, he got cancer and died within six months.

Years later, one of his very close friends and fellow musicians told me this, “I don’t think that your dad was just very talented.  He was a very hard worker.  He practiced his craft as often as he could.  That’s what made him the best.”

So next time you ask a child what he’s going to be when he grows up, make sure you don’t dismiss his answer.

You never know.  He or she could do it.  And you should believe in that dream and help it come true!

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Locking Lugnuts

By June 3, 2017 About me

 

Locking Lugnuts. For some reason, every time I say that out loud, I think of Annie exclaiming, “Leapin’ Lizards!” It would certainly be an apt exclamation in this case….

It was a rough week. Do you ever feel like you just have a black cloud over your head?!

On Monday, I was driving home from the store with my daughter when my stomach began to rumble. I was feeling a little sick, so we decided to stop so I could use the bathroom. After that, it was homeward – as fast as possible!

We drove two and a half miles and turned a corner when the car began to imitate a shake-weight commercial. Uh oh.

Incidentally, when we turned the corner, I was able to pull into a parking lot. In fact, I was pretty familiar with that parking lot. It was at the business that fired me back in January! Coincidence? (Well, yes, of course it’s a coincidence. There’s no such thing as a cursed place. There’s no such thing there’s no such thing!)

Well, I called my hubby and he came to pick us up. He monkeyed with the car – jiggled cords and checked the oil – and then determined that we would have to leave it and call a tow truck.  (Duh)

My stomach started to rumble again. Oh boy. I really needed to get home.

At last, while he called the roadside assistance number, he drove us home to drop us off.  My stomach didn’t settle down until the next day and I was really worried that “bad gas” might be the problem.

I had just put gas in at a station right next to (and downhill from) a place that had burned to the ground a couple days before. The fire department had spent hours spraying it with water, to no avail. Additionally, we’d had monsoon rains a day or so before that. I Googled – because Google knows – and it said that if there was a crack in the underground tank, that a lot of water in the area could seep into the tank. Google, that genius, also said that one of the symptoms of “bad gas” in the car was “The Hippy Hippy Shake”.  Sure enough, my car (I named her Fiona) was acting like Speed Buggy having a panic attack.

That settled it. I knew we were doomed. I continued searching Google. Those repairs could cost hundreds – even thousands of dollars! I was ready to call Fox News and The Ellen Show. I just knew the repairs were going to cost more than the car!

Finally, the call came. The moment I was dreading. “What’d you find?”  I sat down so that I’d be ok.

She said it was a temperature gauge for the cylinder and that it was less than $200.

LESS THAN $200!  I thought I’d won the lottery!  I asked her to also do a recall and to replace my horn, which would be charged to a warranty.  I was elated.  What a relief.

I picked up Fiona on Friday. I missed her!  I was so happy.  I put on my “Bumpin’” Playlist, opened the sunroof and bounced all the way home.  Sweet.

Now, when I got home, I decided to update my iTunes. Nothing remarkable happened. Typical boring Friday night at my house.

Saturday, I got up and decided I wanted to update some of my playlists.  I discovered that 300 of my songs were “missing”.  Weird.

I called iTunes. **As a side note – if you ever have to call iTunes – they are amazing!  They are easy to understand, you don’t wait on hold forever, and they usually solve the problem.

Except Saturday, they didn’t.

I was on the phone for an hour and a half and they could not figure it out.

So, at 4:30, I decided to leave and go to church. I’ve been attending the 5pm service on Saturday because I hate getting out of bed on Sunday morning. I figured I had enough time to go to the ATM and get some cash for the offering plate and then get to the service.

The ATM was out of order.

Ok, so I give double next week.

As I was rolling away from the ATM, my tire indicator dinged. Not one ding like usual, to say, “Hey, you might need a little air.”  Nope.  4 dings. Like, “Hey the tire is REALLY FLAT! LADY! PULL OVER!”

So, I had a few thoughts at this point.

My first thought was not sharable. Haha

My second thought was, “Hey, that’s pretty cool that it dings enough to let me know there’s actually something that needs immediate attention.”

My third thought was, “Satan doesn’t want me to go to church. I refuse to lose this battle!”

So, I looked at the tire.  I could make it around the corner to church.  Once I got there, I called my husband and told him that I needed air.  I asked if he could come fill it while I was in church. He agreed.

So, after church, I went outside and my husband was there working on the tire. The hole was so big that he could put a finger in it!  So he aired it up and followed me to a garage that could mend the tire.

When we got there, the worker asked if the car had locking lug nuts. And this is where the whole thing went downhill in a hurry!

I said, “Yes, I know they couldn’t find the tool last time, so I will go find it.”

As I was looking, my husband pulled into the parking lot. “YOU WOULD KNOW IF YOU HAD LOCKING LUG NUTS!” He said forcefully. So, I tossed the bubble-wrapped thing that I was holding onto the seat.  It was small and round and I figured it must be an extra lightbulb.

The garage crew pulled the car in.

“It does have locking lug nuts. Do you know where the tool is?”

They searched my car. My husband complained about the idiocy of the whole concept. Lug nuts that cannot be removed except with this special tool. No garage keeps this tool around. It comes with your car. The auto-parts stores don’t carry it. You have to get it from the dealership.

Who was the last to take the tires off? This same garage was. Oh no, had they lost the tool?!

They tried everything. No luck.

So we wheeled poor crippled Fiona back to the parking lot with just enough air in the tire to take her to the dealership where she would have to spend the long Memorial Day weekend.

Now, by this point, I was still not convinced that the tool was not inside the car. Sure, lots of people had assured me that they had looked everywhere. That there was nothing. But I didn’t buy it.

So, in the parking lot; I began to look.

“WE HAVE TO HURRY TO THE DEALERSHIP!!” My husband yelled.  (Why? Did the garage use the last of their air? I was cranky and snarky.)

Fine. So I drove to the dealership.

After parking Fiona in a nice shady spot, I began to gather my things. As I picked up my sweater, I saw the bubble-wrapped item that I had tossed to the seat earlier – thinking it was a lightbulb. I decided to unwrap it.

It was the magic tool!

At this point, you would think I would have been super-excited, right? I was so mad I could barely see.

I TOLD him that I knew where the tool was. I TOLD him it was in bubble wrap. I HAD IT IN MY HAND. But he insisted that we didn’t have locking lug nuts.

I drove back to the garage. I wanted to have a mutiny.

I said, “Are you sure the tire can even be fixed?”

They said, “Oh yes.”

Fifteen minutes later we were picking out new tires.

So, $350 and two new tires later, the garage handed a sporty Fiona back to me.  I took her shopping. We bought small ziplock bags and put the tool into a nice little see-through bag. Then we bought a pouch to put a lot of the stuff from the glove box and console into a nice organized place.

On the way home I cranked the bass up so loud that I didn’t hear my phone when my husband called to ask me to pick up food for him.

Ooops. Maybe next time.

Kristine

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How To Raise Your Children To Be Your Friends

By April 14, 2017 About me, Advice

 

How to raise your children to be your friends

I’m sure this post will set some people off.  And I’m ok with that.  For some reason, there is a large group of people who believe that treating children in a negative way that they would never treat another person is somehow “good for them”.

I think that treating children with respect – from the time they are old enough to understand respect – is the way to create a healthy, positive relationship that will endure the trials you will all suffer as they grow.

I’d like to take a little bit of time to tell you why I believe these behaviors and ideas are completely wrong and share how I was able to raise three great kids who have grown to be my friends and who actually like me.

Your job is to be their parent

I’ll start in my own teenhood back in the 80’s.  My family had moved to this tiny little town when I was 13.  I was the oldest and I felt utterly alone.  Some people would come and go as friendly; but I had no deep friendships.

I was a good kid – never had a lot of interest in promiscuity or smoking and drinking, and certainly never drugs.  When I was a younger teen – 14 to 15, I would tell my mother that I was going to [where ever] and that I’d be back around [a given time].  My mother would say something like, “Be safe.” And I’d be on my way.

Now, if you are one of those people who were friendly; please know that I am forever grateful for the amount of friendship you gave.  Looking back on my own situation and knowing that my mother was often not home, I would never ever allow one of my own children to spend a lot of time with someone who had almost no parent supervision at any time.  I don’t blame anyone.  It is what it is.

But, back to the story.

So, eventually, during my 15th year, my twice-widowed mother met her 3rd husband.  He was a lunatic and a tyrant.  I was suddenly not allowed to do anything.

I never went to the movies in high school.

I never went on a “date” in high school.

I ate lunch by myself because I was so intimidated by the friendships that were formed on the hallway benches.  Friendships that I could neither understand nor participate in.

I spent every night at home in my bedroom.  I needed more than a parent.  I needed a friend.

So – on that happy note, let’s talk about the good stuff!

Just before I graduated from high school, I met this really cute guy.  I was 18 by then and this cute guy was 24.  He would come and pick me up and we would just GO.  To the movies (the movie – Navy Seals – was bad and the floor was sticky).  To the beach.  To his house.  Where ever we wanted.

By the time we hit our third “date”, we had our kids named.  We got married when I was 21 and welcomed the first of those pre-named children when I was 23. 

Nick was such a great baby.  Oh, of course, we had the same struggles as you young moms and dads are having now.  I was a breastfeeding mom and a stay-home mom.  It was exhausting.  And then, when Nick was 9 months old, we found out that we were going to have our second child!!  (Oops J)

So, when my first baby was only 18 months old, we welcomed Rachel and things got….um….well, this was adulting and parenting for REAL, y’all!

Rachel was a crier screamer.  I mean a SCREAMER.  She would roll on to her tummy and scream and rub her face into the crib sheet until her nose was raw.  I tried everything.  I held her, I swaddled her, I rocked her, I put her in my sling and “wore” her.  I walked her, I tried the swing.  White noise, rock and roll.  Fed her, changed her.  Put clothes on, took clothes off.

Nothing. Worked.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention I had a toddler too?!  Yeah.  Super-fun.  Sometimes, my husband would come home from work and we’d ALL be crying.

Well, eventually Rachel stopped screaming.  Then came the terrible twos and threes.  (At the same time).  The only thing was – they weren’t terrible!

In fact, I loved this age.  They were old enough to be able to tell me what they needed or wanted.  We could have conversations.  And I loved how they soaked up knowledge so readily.  They craved it.  They wanted to know about everything.  What was it?  Where did it come from?  What caused it?

We went to the park for picnics.  We went to the library.  We went on trips to museums and zoos.  We read books in forts that we made out of the couch cushions.  We made pancakes and waffles and a mess.

A couple more years later and Benjamin was on the way.  And we did everything all over again, all the while navigating the new minefield known as “school” for the older two.

School was a disaster

Of course, there were challenges.  In 2002, my husband had to go to Iraq for over a year.  When he got back, he and I were often at each other’s throats.  He was always angry.  I got pregnant again, but miscarried.  I wanted to try again.  He didn’t.  I didn’t know how we would heal.  But we did.

If you have read my previous posts, you know that school was an unqualified disaster for my older two children.  Nick was dyslexic, but we weren’t sure about that until 5th grade.  Rachel had a horrible condition called hyperhidrosis which caused her body temperature system to be completely non-regulatory.   (Which is probably why she screamed as a baby.)  Rachel also had an “eye-convergence disability” which caused her to see double doing anything close-up.  You know like reading and writing?!  And we didn’t know about either of these problems until she was in 4th grade.

As a side note – my children were able to slip through the cracks with these problems largely due to the fact that many states’ grading systems consist of a vague number or letter system such as 1’s 2’s and 3’s or S, U, N (Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory and Needs Improvement).  True A-F letter grading would have identified to everyone exactly how far behind these children were.  What was worse was that I knew something was wrong, but when I asked about it, the teachers said things like, “Well, I’ve seen worse.”

But again, that’s a post for another day.

Little Ben entered school and my days staying home ended.  I got various jobs.  Nothing noteworthy.  I had gone back to school when Nick was having his school troubles and now had a teaching degree.  But the field was saturated and teachers with more experience were being let go.  Worse, I was beginning to realize that politics had ruined education.  There was no more time to satiate the hunger of minds that were ravenous for more learning.  It had become about teaching to the test.  Interest in the subject matter no longer had any place.  And education was not the place for me.

So day by day we did the things that families do.  We had been a family who ate dinner together most nights.  And now, as they all began to get older and be involved in more activities, dinner was later; or on the run.  But whenever we could, we still set the table and sat down together.  We still folded our hands and asked for a blessing on more than that food on that night…I mean, sure, that’s what the words are – “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let these gifts to us be blessed.” – But surely God was blessing so much more.

Always talking and listening

My boys played sports.  Primarily hockey.  Ben also played soccer and football.  This gave us a lot of time to talk while we were driving to games.  So that’s what we did.  We talked about school.  I never admonished them much for what I call “light swearing”.  After all, “darn” and “damn” really mean the same thing and we gave those words their meaning.  Using the Lord’s name and “heavy swearing” were forbidden.

So we could talk about whatever they wanted.  I gave advice, gently.  I never judged; but I always made sure that they understood a couple of things.  First, they were free to think that girl in third period was a werido.  Sure, she might be pretty strange.  But, you don’t know what’s happening inside her world.  Maybe she’s a little weird because she has no one in her life that she can count on.  So, you don’t have to be her friend.  But you should be friendly.  A smile and a kind word can change a person’s day – or even their life.  And second, you treat everyone with respect.  Always.

Nick and I always felt like we had to have each other’s back.  As he got older, he became a comfort to me when things went wrong.  I always knew I could count on a hug from him when I was feeling inadequate.  I asked him tonight why he thinks we’re so close.  He said it’s because we’re so much alike.  I suppose that’s true.  We are the oldest.  The experiment.  The one who had the hardest time when the family moved.  The one who had to figure it out.

Your job is to be whatever they need you to be

Rachel and I also became very close.  When she was in 5th grade, she began “eye therapy” to train her eyes to be able to overcome the double-vision.  It was an hour and a half away and we went once a week.  We listened to books on tape.  She told me her fears, her dreams.  She was starting to have a hard time in school.

Remember when I said that I hate it when people say “You shouldn’t be your child’s friend”?  Well, I believe that, as a parent, you need to give your child whatever they need.  And at that time, and even now that she’s almost 20, what she needed most was a friend.

I remember how it felt to not have friends.  To be that person looking at others and wishing you could be their friend, but not trusting anyone enough to try.

So, we spend a lot of time together.  We have similar interests and hobbies.  And, more and more, she is becoming an adult-child-friend.  I respect that she is an adult.  She has begun to make friends that are healthy for her.  (As opposed to picking the ones who used her or ones that had risky lifestyles.)

The Five Key Things

One – Kids aren’t mini-adults.

They don’t have the life experience that adults have, they don’t have the maturity adults (are to supposed to) have, and they don’t have the reasoning skills adults have.

Further, some children, like my oldest, have trouble finding the right words to explain themselves – especially in a sudden misunderstanding.

Two – Remember when YOU were a kid.

I have told my kids for years, “I used to BE a kid.”  I almost always said this jokingly.  However, it is so true.  I remember being in elementary school.  I remember being in middle school and high school.  I remember being a young adult.  USE that to relate to your kids.

Three – Talk.  And Listen.

About the important stuff.  About the trivial stuff.  Make sure your kids know that they can come to you – and then when they DO, make sure you’re there.  Play games, go to movies, share funny memes.  Talk about school, about boys and girls, about friends and enemies.  Just make sure to take the time to be with them.

Four – Embrace Technology.

A lot of parents don’t see any reason to use the new apps that the kids are using.  They don’t care what the hot new thing is.  My mother is one of the baby boomers guilty of not wanting to learn to text and/or use a cell phone.  Guess what?  She barely knows her grandchildren because that’s how they communicate.  And, she doesn’t make it better by shaming them about their use of technology.

It’s also irresponsible as a parent.  You should know what your children – even older teens and frankly young adults, in my opinion – are up to on their phones.  What are they using and why?  If you don’t know, you’re opening doors that lead to heaven knows where.  Now, if you’re thinking, “I just won’t get my child a phone.”  I believe that to be a naive solution.  You want your child to be able to call you and you want to be able to reach your child.  You may want to consider a service such as Disney’s Circle.  I don’t know a lot about it; but it is a technology management tool.

Five – Respect.

Treat your children with at least the same amount of respect you would give to your co-workers.  Treat them with the respect that you would expect them to return to you.  To the the world.

Respect brings up one last point that I want to make.  Embarrassing your kids on purpose.  Because you think it’s so funny.  It’s not funny.  When they go to school and they already feel like everyone’s laughing at them…(maybe everyone really isn’t.  Maybe everyone really is)…But when it feels like everyone is laughing and their own parents are making fun of them too…guess what?  It’s really, really not funny.

Do you think your child’s friends are going to just let the scene you made go, without comment?  Are you crazy?!  That is the sort of thing that can last for months.  Or longer.  “Remember when Jenny’s mom ________?!”

That sort of behavior is severely lacking in respect (not to mention maturity).  Trust me, if you’re going for something your child will remember, this is NOT the way to go.

So, that’s all I have for you today friends.  I hope you enjoyed seeing a piece of my life.

Till next time 🙂

 

 

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How You Can Make Money With Your Blog In As Little As 20 Minutes! …and other lies you’ve heard.

By April 2, 2017 About me, Advice, General

Hello friends,

**Disclaimer:  Please read the following post with humor in mind.  While some of it is 100% true; this is not meant to make you give up if you are attempting a blog and it is not an indication that I have given up.

Well, an interesting thing happened this week.  After working on creating this blog for almost 11 weeks – almost three months – I had to finally admit it.  This is anything but easy.  If you have seen the many posts out there that say you can start a blog and make money with it in ____________(insert small amount of time here); you are not alone.

Now, I’m not about to say that these people are lying.  Maybe it all did come together for them fairly easily and quickly.  But, for the rest of us there is one certainty.  It’s going to be a lot of learning and a lot of good, hard work.

Building the site and writing the posts? Easy peasy.  But learning how to get followers and then how to get money…holy moly.

What is Google analytics?!  I couldn’t even SPELL that on Monday!  Google Adsense?  How are a bunch of Instagram followers going to help me?  What is Canva?  I actually just learned this today.  How do you like the graphics on this post?  Nice, eh?!  I just opened it and started “playing”.  That’s the only way to learn, I suppose.

What’s a custom 404 page?  Why do I want one? Need one?  What are breadcrumbs? What’s pagination?  (Sounds like a band.)  Discus?  Commentluv?

What are social bookmarking sites?  Do I need those?  Why?  What are digg, stumbleupon, del.icio.us?  Do I need media management tools?  Hootsuite and Buffer?  Are they free?  What are they for?  Who are they for?

Should I do a newsletter?  Isn’t the blog kinda the same thing?  Why do I need a newsletter to send to people who are reading the blog?

There’s something called “blogging networks”….yeah, networks of blogging, I guess.  No idea.  There’s blogengage, blokube, bizsugar, inbound.  I haven’t had time to go check them out.  Not sure what the idea is at all.  One more bullet on the points of no return.

And then, all of the advice says I have to have a “niche”…I can’t have a few things – like stamping, cooking, books, travel, etc….Nope.  You have to pick ONE thing and that has to be your specialty.

Well, guess what?!  Nobody lives their life doing just one thing.  I have lots to share and I hope that people will follow me because they never know what to expect.  I’m like a box of freaking chocolate.

One thing that completely stresses me out is that I’m supposed to have pictures to go with everything.  I guess I’ll have to take one of me crying for this post.  And then I have to post it on Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram – but I still don’t know where all the people who see me crying go to drop off their money!!  Seriously, though; there are some sites that offer free pics (ahem, not THAT kind of free pics!).  One is Canva and another is Pixabay.  But if you search “free pictures”, you’ll get tons of sites that will want you to pay!!  How does free = pay?  What the heck?!

By now I’m thinking, this is like the slowest “Get rich quick” scheme I’ve ever done!  Just kidding.

So friends, I hope you don’t get discouraged.  It’s not that this stuff can’t be learned; but I think “hitting the bigtime” is more about having all of the pieces fall together at just the right time and I think a little luck goes into it as well.

For me, it’s been a case of: “What can I learn today?”  And I like that – to a degree.  I read a book about teaching young students a while ago and the writer said that, in order for students to remain challenged and engaged, the “puzzle”, i.e. the work or the task, had to be “solvable”.  In other words, if the children were not ready, then the lesson would not sink in and they would become frustrated and give up.  It’s the same with anything in life…video games, learning to drive, learning a foreign language and, yes, blogging.

Thankfully, there are tons of “mentors” out there that will help you.  You just have to find them.  I think I have found a couple – maybe as many as a few.  I look forward to continuing to nurture these new relationships and to learn from what they can tell me.

Till next time…..stay hopeful!

K

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Weight Loss

By March 20, 2017 About me, General

Howdy friends.

Well, since I have all this free time right now; I might as well join some fitness classes and lose some weight.  So, congratulations.  You can follow my journey here!

I am really motivated by friends and, since I have none who will join these classes and/or workout with me, this is going to be a very hard thing for me to start and stay with.

So, I did the next best thing:  I bought cute workout clothes.  Teehee.  Don’t tell my husband!!

I bought some tight workout pants because one of the classes that I’m planning to take is a cycling class and I don’t want to wear shorts that might ride up or loose-leg sweatpants.  I got them from Fabletics by Kate Hudson.  They have some really cute stuff.  Unfortunately, sometimes they sell out of my size.  🙁  I also got some cute stuff from Shopko.  I really like some of the styles of shorts and tanks at Shopko.  I got one tank and a pair of shorts with spandex leggings on the inside.  I am hoping this will reduce ride up and chafing on account of my fat legs.  By summer this shouldn’t be an issue, right?!

I am going to start tomorrow, Monday, March 20.  I’ll be joining two fitness classes at our local YMCA.  One is Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the other is Tuesday and Thursday.  So, yes, I will be going to the gym 5 days a week.  The classes are at 4:45 and 5:15 respectively.  I didn’t choose morning classes because….well, duh.  Morning.  Nope.

WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?!

So, the first class is “Indoor Cycling”.  The brochure says:  

“Low impact option when you want a high intensity workout. Great for all ages and skill levels. Set to rocking music, you are sure to break a sweat. Great way to increase lower body strength and cardiovascular endurance.”

Yeah, bicycle that doesn’t move.  How hard could it be.  Right?

 

 

 

The second class is called “Triple Threat”.  I’m scared already.  The brochure says:

“This 3 day series of workouts is 30 minutes of non-stop action! Each day features a different focus.

  • Day 1 is strength;
  • Day 2 is cardio;
  • Day 3 is yoga!”

Ok, two hard days and then yoga.  Yoga looks like it’s relaxing.  There’s like a mat that you put on the floor so you can lay on it.  I think I’ll like yoga.  Right?

My goal is a bikini.  Seriously.  Like, no amount of pounds…just bikini.  And I don’t want to just wear one because I can.  I want to look good in it!  I want to be proud of it!!

So, I hope you will all be rooting for me.  This is going to be interesting.

I will also be changing my diet slightly.  Believe it or not; one of my biggest problems is I don’t always remember to eat.  Especially now that I’m not working, sometimes I will forget to eat until 7 pm or later.  I also have some stomach issues, so a lot of times, food refluxes.  Ew.  So, sometimes I don’t eat because feeling hungry isn’t as bad as feeling “refluxy”.

I will start by eating a piece of fruit and possibly either eggs or oatmeal in the morning.  I will eat lean turkey or chicken, cheese, nuts, salad and vegetables (not all at the same time) for lunch.  For dinner, I will eat mostly pork or chicken, vegetables steamed or sautéed in olive oil, and baked or steamed potatoes (or none).  I will still be eating pasta sometimes.  I will eat toast with butter with my eggs.  I will drink mostly water, but occasionally milk.

I don’t usually drink alcohol, so I’m not giving anything up there.  I gave up soda in December and (thankfully) haven’t picked the habit back up again.  I did have the rare Pepsi today when I had lunch with a friend and I thought, “I don’t even want this.”  Lol.

I also have never been a smoker.  In fact, generally speaking, I’m probably pretty healthy.  Just out of shape.  (Round is a shape….)  I’m really excited to see results.  But I’m really a little scared at feeling sore!!

 

I will look forward to reporting back to you!  Wish me luck!

Kristine

 

 

 

 

 

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Memories of Dad

By March 10, 2017 About me, General

Good Afternoon, everyone.

Today is a sad anniversary for my family – the anniversary of the day my dad left this world.  But, it’s not without hope!  Read on, to feel our pain and see our triumph!

March 10, 1980 was a Monday.  I don’t remember if I went to school that day.  What I do remember is that I was with a very special family who had been friends to my mom and dad for years.  We had taco nights alternating from our house to theirs; Clothes were handed down from their oldest daughter to me, back to their second daughter and back to my little sister.  I learned how to ride a bike at their house.  And, this day, this horrible, sad, Monday, they babysat my sister and me while my mother went to the hospital to visit my dad.

My dad was never angry.  He seemed to always be happy.  I can literally never once remember him being cross.

He had a hammock which he strung between 2 trees in our backyard and his 6 foot 4 inch body would sway back and forth in it on lazy Georgia days from May to September.

One summer, a tree in the corner of our yard was infested with thousands of caterpillars.  Dad knew they would kill the tree; but he still shared my fascination of them all.

He played trumpet in the Army.  He practiced every night.  He played guitar and piano too.  He wrote beautiful marches for his band.  Our house was always filled with music.

He let me copy my handprint in the copy machine at work.  I wish we had thought to keep one.

When I had my tonsils out, he built a snowman with my mom outside my window because I was too sick to play.  He also bought me a giant stuffed blue elephant.

I loved him very, very much.  It seems that most people who knew him loved him too.

In 1980, I was in the second grade.  Between first and second grade, my mother had taken us all to a small tourist town in Upper Michigan for a vacation.  My dad had loved it.  It was a different world.  Everything moved at a different pace compared to the city of Atlanta.

Once we returned from vacation, as near as I can figure out, dad must have started to feel sick.  He visited the doctor in October of 1979.  Surely, everyone thought he would treat this cancer aggressively and win.

Unfortunately, by Christmas, things were looking grim.

My mother insisted that my sister and I would be allowed to visit him in the hospital.  She was pregnant with my brother and home health care would have been impractical, and was far from the usual mainstream idea it is today.  So, we would drive from our home to the hospital several times a week.

I remember stopping and playing at the Burger King play area.

I remember scooping up the rare fresh snow that fell one day to bring in to dad – and then eating it!

I remember coloring in special coloring books that were kept at the hospital.  My sister and I sat on the floor and colored, my mother knitted and talked with dad.  My dad laid there, tubes everywhere; not lounging in a hammock, not laughing and happy.  Just existing.  Barely.

That day in March so many years ago, my mother went to the hospital alone.  She had been doing so for about a week.  Even at 7, I knew things were probably bad.  And so, that Monday, before she even came to pick us up, I knew.  How long did it take us to get home?  Was our Pastor already there?  I don’t know.

My mother and the Pastor sat with me on the couch and my mother’s words will never leave my mind:  “You know I have always been open and honest about your father and his sickness.”  I think I must have nodded before she continued.  “Today, your father died.”

I was on a merry-go-round that was spinning too fast.  Everything was a blur.  I was crying.  My mother was crying.  My sister was watching something on Nickelodeon.  She turned and asked why we were crying.  My mother told her.

Died?  My dad had DIED?!

How could this be true?  But it was.

Days later we would have to say goodbye.  I walked up to the casket.  I wanted to touch his hand one last time.  It was so cold and hard.  It wasn’t the same hand that played trumpet and piano and guitar.  Not the same hand I held to cross the street.  Couldn’t be the same hand that tickled me into fits of laughter.

We went to the cemetery.  A long line of black sadness following us.  It was a very cold, rainy day.  It was as if all of the world knew our heartbreak and cried with us.  Someone spoke of my dad’s life.  A speech about what a loss he was.  Then, somewhere far away a bugler played taps and a second one shook with its sad echo.  The American Flag was folded and given to my mother.

And we left him there.  He was gone.

And yet…….if we had never lost my father, I doubt we would ever have moved to Michigan.  I would never have met my husband, had my children.  Sure, I would have met someone and would have had children….but not THIS husband, and not THESE kids.  I know that sounds crazy; but I believe my life would have been very different if my father had lived.  Happier?  Maybe.  But maybe the agony of losing a father is what makes me the compassionate and loyal friend and person that I am.

I think that my father would be proud that I choose to be a happy person.  Sure, I have my days when I’m down.  That’s only natural.  But, I’m not down and out!  Just down…but never count me out!

I miss dad every day.  I know his friends miss him.  He had many.  I know my mom misses him too.  But, we’re all ok.  And that, my friends, is the hope for today!

I hope you’re all “ok” today as well.

Happy Friday!  🙂

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What I’m Looking Forward To

By March 9, 2017 About me, General, Lists

Hi everyone, I hope you’re having a great day.  Our weather here in the Midwest is completely schizophrenic.  It was windy and warm the other day until evening, then I saw flurries.  Now tomorrow it’s supposed to be freezing cold again, but expected to be warm again in a couple days.

And so it is that we’re in this holding pattern of “maybe-it’s-Spring” and “Winter-isn’t-over-yet”.

When I lived down south, it was definitely becoming Spring this time of year.  In fact, we would have our Church picnic outside on the grounds on Easter Sunday (or around that time).  There was SO MUCH FOOD!  There wasn’t just one buffet table; there were several.  And people were sprawled on blankets and dressed in their new clothes.

Not so much here.  Sometimes in June, we start thinking, “I think it might be Spring!”  Not kidding.  Ah, oh well, right?

So, some things that I’m looking forward to:

Number 1:  BEAUTY AND THE BEAST!!!  I got the tickets today.  I am so excited.  I will probably cry when it starts.  BATB has been my favorite since the cartoon version came out in 1991.  I always hoped they would make a live action one.  I think the CGI is really well done, from the trailers I’ve seen and the Beast is just amazing.  I love that Belle is intelligent and she’s not afraid to exert that intelligence.  No one tells her what to think, what to feel.  There are a lot of times when she probably “talks out of turn”, but GOOD FOR HER!!  And she’s a bookworm!  I just love her admiration of books and stories.  Easily one of the best written characters in Disney lore.  I am not impressed, however, with the media saying that it is a “feminist fairytale”.  Why does everything have to be political?!  Can it not?

Number 2:  Physical Therapy release!  So, I am out of shape.  I gained some weight as I aged.  Unfortunately, when I started to exercise, I had a problem.  I wasn’t able to walk very far before my hip joint started to hurt.  It would hurt my lower back and into the groin/joint.  When I went on a shopping trip with my daughter in December, I really was in agony.  So, I’ve been seeing an amazing PT since then.  But, I think she will likely release me next week as I am almost pain free!  The pain that I still have is “I’m-still-out-of-shape” pain.  Lol.

**Side note:  If you have chronic pain and/or you “can’t” do things like you used to – no matter how young or old you are – do yourself a favor and look into Physical Therapy.  This is not the first time I have used PT for something that wasn’t right and they have helped it be right again.  I think a lot of people think that Physical Therapy is just for people who have had an accident or a surgery.  However, PT’s can help no matter what the reason.  I also think that people believe that pain is a normal part of aging.  Some people just accept that they have pain.  That isn’t necessarily true.  It never hurts to look into PT!

Perhaps I will interview my doc on exactly that point at a later date….

Now, I don’t usually watch a lot of TV.  But, surprisingly – the next 3 –

Number 3:  The new ABC show Time after Time.  I watched the pilot last night.  HG Wells and Jack the Ripper are friends.  Jack (known as “John”) is about to be caught when he uses the Time Machine and travels to New York City in the present day.  George (HG) follows him and now they are racing against “time” to find and stop John before he kills again.  The problem is, they can never catch him or the show would be over.  Maybe they can catch him at the end of the season and then next season will offer a new “time” problem.  This will be a shame, though; because as much as you don’t want to like a killer, he’s totally hot and self-aware – even 130 years in the future!  I am interested to see where this show goes.  Oh, and to be honest, George isn’t hard to look at either!  Teehee  🙂

Number 4:  Dancing with the Stars.  Ok, I have long said that this show seems to have a formula.  Creepy old man; Older, overweight, desperate woman; young female athlete; disabled person; football players; and then the actual contenders.  Still, I’m a sucker for the show.  I usually start watching late enough so I can fast forward over the horrible ones.  But when it’s good.  It’s really good!

Number 5:  Once Upon A Time:  I’ll be honest.  I didn’t love last season.  Didn’t hate it, just didn’t love it.  This last Sunday the show returned and I’m excited.  Although, can we please NEVER see “aged” Hook again?!  Lmao  J  Also, speaking of Hook…if modern medicine can attach a donor hand; can’t the magic world come up with something?  Just saying.  The new season looks like it might be really interesting.  I love the idea of friends’ children being at war.  Will this tear them all apart?  How could it not?  Maybe everyone will be “good” in the end?  Meh, what fun would that be?!

 

Number 6:  2 Proms!  My son and his girlfriend go to different schools.  Hence, 2 proms.  Omg, adorable overload!  Pics to follow.

 

 

And, last – the thing that I really think about a lot –

Number 7:  Thunder and Lightning.  If you live someplace where there is never a long period of snowy, cold, winter; you won’t get this.  But if you have a for-real winter, you’ll understand.  There is no sound more fascinating, more relaxing, than the sound of the first thunderstorm of the year.  The thunder growls in the distance like a hunger pain needing to be satiated.  And the lightning cracks across the sky like the hatching of new beginnings everywhere.

There is no smell like the electrified earth that calls you to think of new flowers, new grass, new buds on the trees.

Did you know that smell actually has a name?  Petrichor.  Yeah, I know!  I’m weirdly excited about this!  It is a combination of the chemical called geosmin and plant oils.  Apparently the soil actually emits these things after a storm and causes the smell.

I think it’s a taste too; a taste that feels like perfectly cool water when you’re parched.

But, oh…..the one thing above all…..after the storm, if it’s at the right time; and if not, then maybe after the next storm……..but always after a night of clashing thunderbolts streaking the sky with their crooked lights…..it’s the morning when the birds have returned and as they wake with the peeking sun you begin to see it.  To see them.

The tiny green buds begin to smudge their way across the previously-bare tree branches.  There is a haze of dewy green across the hills and into the valleys.   You begin to feel that change is about to happen.  You can see that gentle green growing.  And then…….

The next storm after that.  And you wake to an explosion of green!  The buds uncurl themselves into full leaves!  Flowers have been poking through and now they greet the rising sun’s kisses with happy tones of red, yellow and green.  And you look out across the world and you just can’t imagine that all this, and even the sky itself, was so grey not too long ago.  And now, the grey is gone and color rejoices with you!

Yep, safe to say that I’m ready to see some color in my life.  To get rid of the grey.

I hope all of you embrace all the color of life today!

Kristine

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Pokémon Go

By February 19, 2017 About me, General, Pokemon Go

Hi everyone!  I have so much to tell you and it’s all so unrelated that I feel like I have ADD!  Where to begin?!

Well, how about with Pokémon?!  Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since last summer, you probably have at least heard of, if not played, Pokémon Go.  This game hit the US in July of 2016.  My kids, all adults or older teens, begged me to play.  I love gaming and I had hidden all of the old cards and video games away years ago on a hunch that they might become valuable.  I figured, if I was wrong, no loss.

Well, anyway, back to PoGo.  So, if you haven’t played – even if you’re not a kid – I urge you to play.  It’s a fun way to get outside and get moving.  In the winter time, the last thing we want to do sometimes is take a walk; but at least we’re getting out of the house and driving to some of the locations.

So here’s how it works:  you download this app to your phone.  Then you go to places that are significant landmarks (often churches, libraries, court houses, and other points of interest).  A lot of these will be “Poke Stops”.  So, you swipe the disk on your screen and you get “stuff”.  You’ll need this “stuff” to catch the Pokémon.

Next, you walk around and locate the creatures.  Let me just say, some of them are SO cute!  So, let’s say that the very first thing you catch is a Bulbasaur.  Then, you’re walking around and you see another Bulbasaur and you think, “Gee, I already got one of those, so I don’t need this one.”  Well, yes you do.  You have to get a number of some of the Pokémon in order to “evolve” them.  Some evolve once; some evolve more than once and some don’t evolve at all.  Some don’t evolve now, but may evolve later.  Sounds complicated, right?  It really isn’t though.  The bottom line is that you “gotta catch em all”!

So you also have the option of “hatching eggs”.  This will help you get some Pokémon that you can’t find and also to evolve hard to find ones.  This is where the walking part comes in.  Niantic designed the game so that you actually have to get out and move around.  No treadmills, sorry.  It’s a GPS-based game; so you have to move from place to place.  (And it knows if you’re in a car, so don’t bother).  So, you get eggs at Poke Stops.  They come in 2k, 5k and 10k.  You have to walk said distance in order to hatch the egg.  I have tried walking around my house and that doesn’t seem to be very effective either.  You have to actually go somewhere where you are moving a significant distance.

My daughter and I went to Mall of America in Bloomington, MN for Christmas shopping last December and it is a HAVEN for Poke Stops and the walking is totally trackable in the Pokémon app.  Also, MOA has WiFi; so that makes it totally worth it.  We each also had 2 battery packs.  PoGo is a fast battery drain.

So, in July we started walking, hatching, and catching.  (There’s also battling, gym training and more, but I’m not covering that today.)  By the time February rolled around, there were only 5 Pokémon that I still hadn’t caught and another 8 which are either unavailable to everyone, or not available in the USA.

Now, about those 5.  Tiny rant here.  I live in a small town.  I have spent hours playing this game and have never seen these 5.  Worse, 4 of them are upper evolutions of Pokémon that are so rare that I haven’t been able to catch enough to evolve them.  Seriously, you earn 3 “candies” for every caught Pokémon.  You can trade them in for another 1 candy.  So, 4 apiece.  One of the Pokémon that I still need requires Four HUNDRED candies.  And the “Magikarp” fish that I have to catch is pretty rare.  I’m lucky if I find one ever two to three weeks.  I have currently caught 44.  I need 100.  Pretty frustrating, not gonna lie.

Now, when you hatch a Pokémon, you get more than the standard 4 candies.  But this can also be frustrating.  I have a “Kubuto” which can evolve into a “Kabutops” with 50 candies.  I hatched my Kubuto and got 32 candies.  I have never even seen another one.

Meanwhile; there are super-common Pokémon that eventually the player starts to be a little resentful of.  Like really, another Weedle?!

But, I digress.  Niantic has had a couple of “special events” where you could catch extra stuff.  That has been super helpful and fun to revive our desire to play.  But, I admit…we were getting bored……..til last Thursday!

SECOND GENERATION!!!  So, a great re-boot of the game.  It really isn’t a re-boot, per se.  The game is the same, but with a TON more/new characters.  There are 100 characters in the new gen.  However, again, there are 5 “Legendary” Pokémon that are not available at this time (and some of the other ones may be location-specific like in gen I).  I’m excited to say that I already have 42 of the new ones.

There is a catch to evolving though – with some of the Pokémon, you will need to find “special items” to evolve.  I used a “dragon scale” to evolve my gen I “Seadra” into gen II’s “Kingdra”.  I also used a “Metal Coat” (Which I thought looked like a tin can, but whatever.) to evolve my gen I “Onix” into a “Steelix” from gen II.  Again, the problem here is that, in a small town, there aren’t a lot of Poke Stops and these special items are hard to get.  My daughter and I drove to all the stops in town yesterday and again today – spending a total of about 6 hours just hitting Poke Stops and we did not get a single “special item”.

Which leads me to my whole point of this post.  Of the Pokémon that I don’t have – will I ever be ABLE to get them?  Will they be so rare that I can never find them?

I would love to hear from people in small towns and big cities.  What have you gotten?  What have you seen?  What doesn’t appear to be out there at all?

Let me know!  I’d love to hear from you!!!

Here’s a list of what I have so far:

189 Jumpluff 169 Crobat 198 Murkrow
195 Quagsire 170 Chinchou 202 Wobbuffet
208 Steelix 173 Cleffa 209 Snubbull
230 Kingdra 177 Natu 215 Sneasel
152 Chikorita 178 Xatu 216 Teddiursa
153 Bayleef 183 Marill 217 Ursaring
161 Sentret 185 Sudowoodo 220 Swinub
162 Furret 187 Hoppip 221 Piloswine
163 Hoothoot 188 Skiploom 227 Skarmory
164 Noctowl 190 Aipom 231 Phanpy
165 Ledyba 191 Sunkern 232 Donphan
166 Ledian 194 Wooper 234 Stantler
167 Spinarak 196 Espeon 238 Smoochum
168 Ariados 197 Umbreon 239 Elekid

 

 

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Everything – That Means EVERYTHING – Happens For A Reason

By February 14, 2017 About me, General

Hi there friends!  Sorry for my long absence!  I came down with the flu last week.  Yuck.  I had two days where I never left bed.  But, I’m on the mend now and back for another hopeful post!

So, remember how I said that I think everything happens for a reason?  Well, I said it.  If you don’t remember, you should go back and read more of my posts!  🙂

Well, I had a bit of a (possibly fever-induced) epiphany last week!  I was thinking that there just can’t really be any rhyme or reason for me losing my job.  I loved that job.  I loved the work, the hours, the people, the flexibility.  Ok, not the pay.  But, I liked it well enough to contend with it.

Maybe “Everything Happens For A Reason” doesn’t always mean MY reason.

So, I was thinking I was a bit of a hypocrite by saying that everything happens for a reason.  How can bad things have reasons?  That’s ludicrous.  And a cop-out.  Or is it?

Have you ever seen Bruce Almighty?  Bruce doesn’t think anything happens for a reason.  Then he gets to play God for a couple days.  He hears all those pleas to win the lottery.  So he grants them all.  And everyone gets $12 or something.  We all realize that everyone can’t get everything they want.  But it’s more than that.

I think that for one person to receive; another has to let go.  For one to win, another has to lose.  So, what if life is one big heart transplant?!  Maybe “Everything Happens For A Reason” doesn’t always mean MY reason.

So, I lost my job.  It sucks.  But, I’m not going to lose my house or my cars.  In fact, very little has changed.  I’m still paying off my credit cards.  The only big change is that our planned trip to Disney World is cancelled postponed until things are back on track.  It’s a bummer.

But what about everyone else?  Well, let’s look at the rest of the team I worked with.  Two young, amazing women.  One is getting married this summer.  She has a new car.  They share custody of his son.  They have had some pretty horrible trials recently.  If she lost her job, it would be a disaster.  Another is not officially engaged.  She and her boyfriend are trying to save up enough money to begin a life together.  They are strong, wonderful people; but they have their own strife.  Another woman, closer to my age, just started.  She has young children and a husband whose job is very demanding.  Her job is the haircuts, the sports, the extra cheer clinics, and the milkshakes after the lost soccer game.  Hers is the extra income that lets them keep up with everything from family to living expenses to little extras now and then.

Then let’s look at the person who will fill my role.  She must be leaving her current job for a reason.  We don’t know what that reason is.  I once worked for a terrible boss.  He was mean to the core as well as completely inept at everything that my job entailed.  I have nothing but sympathy for anyone working in an abusive work environment. Or, maybe the pay or the vacation and benefits weren’t keeping up with the times.  It’s pretty hard to make ends meet when you’re working in a professional environment that pays less than McDonald’s.  I can only speculate.

So, maybe this time, “Everything” is happening because someone else really needed things to go this way.

And, friends, you know what?  That thought makes me feel a little bit better.  I played my “Angry Playlist” today and noticed that I’m really not angry anymore.  Or sad.  Or confused.

I’m ok.

I think the hardest part of the journey is over.

Also, I had a really good hair day today!!  🙂 🙂

Hope you all had a rockin’ day too!

K

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Seeking Angels and Demons

By February 4, 2017 About me, General

Hello friends.  I thought I would share some of what’s haunting me with you.  Maybe you can relate.

I don’t mean the Angels and Demons of Dan Brown’s book – great book though – go read it!

What I mean is almost just as involved, though.  If you’re old enough to remember, maybe you can recall the photos that cropped up everywhere in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11/01 tragedy.

In some, people swore they saw angels – perhaps some good touching down to save those who were saved.  To be fair; a lot fewer people died that day than could have.  Many were certainly saved by some blessing.  In other pictures, people see demons.  Surely, there was a lot of evil at play that day.

I once read an article that said that the human mind seeks out familiar shapes and concepts, because that’s what our mind was designed to do – to make sense of what we’re seeing.  So, maybe it’s all just seeing shapes in clouds.

On that same note, I have been struggling to make sense of my recent firing.  It’s pretty hard to make peace with something that just doesn’t make any sense.  By all accounts, I got along well with everyone; I was good at my job; I was good at learning new aspects of my job.  The other workers and project managers that I worked with seemed to like me.  I didn’t ever treat anyone with disrespect inasmuch as yelling, swearing, or being condescending or mean.  In fact, the reason that my boss cited for my dismissal was that I had sent a private message to her regarding another worker.  I said that I was having a hard time finding a confirmation email and wondered if this other worker (who was still newish) could have done something incorrectly.  I was dismissed from my job because it was “not my place” to say these things.

Now, I have to admit that I had been “in trouble” on two other occasions for typing a communication and saying something that “wasn’t my place.”  The first, back in November, was when I answered a question that my boss’s boss had asked me.  I indicated that the new girl was going to be taking over this project.  Well, apparently, when a new person takes over a project, there has to be a grand proclamation.  It was “not my place” to say that she was taking over.  **In fact, they all claimed that this new girl was not taking over; but she was doing ALL the work.  I call that taking over.**

As punishment, I had to have 8 weeks of one-on-one counseling with HR.  Ironically, they told me several times that I “shouldn’t think of it as punishment. “  They were doing it “to help me grow.”  After eight weeks, I mentioned in the meeting request that it had been 8 weeks.  That also was “not my place.”

So, back to our angels and demons.  I feel like I’m going crazy.  No one gets fired over those reasons, right?!  They can’t possibly have thought it was better to start over with a new person than to educate indoctrinate the one they had.  My mind can’t process it.  Can’t make sense of it.

There has to be something else.  Maybe it was the $16,000 discrepancy I found on an invoice a week and a half before my termination?  I mentioned that in a private meeting with my boss and told her that I just wanted it known that I was not the one who had changed numbers in the database.  But, maybe I’m making excuses.  Looking for demons.  After all, I’m not even 100% sure that the discrepancy was a discrepancy.  It could have just been an overlookance.

The one thing that I know, is that I refuse to compromise my integrity no matter whether these people think I did something wrong or not.  I refused to apologize for a “misunderstanding”; which, quite frankly, was not a misunderstanding at all.

I didn’t fabricate that this girl was now doing all of the work that I had once done.  I didn’t imagine the meetings, both before she started and after she’d begun, where our team talked about how the new girl would be taking some of the work off of my shoulders.  It was no misunderstanding.  Maybe my boss didn’t tell her boss and when I mentioned it, she got in trouble and threw me to the wolves.

HR was furious when I refused to admit that I had purposely undermined my boss.  They refused to yield that it was anything less – certainly it was a lot more than a misunderstanding!  But it wasn’t.

So, what can you do when you can no longer trust your HR department?  What can you do besides go along with the plan as you watch the house of cards collapse?  You have no one to go to.  No recourse.

Ah, but lest I leave you with no hope; here’s the thing……Becoming hopeless and desolate would allow them a victory – even if they never knew it.  I would know.  So, I refuse.  I will stand tall and be proud in the knowledge that I did nothing to be ashamed of.  And I will just wait for the hand of God to move the right pieces into place.

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Hockey Night

By February 3, 2017 About me, General

Hello again everyone.

Well, I had such a great day today that I couldn’t wait to share it with you!  My son, who is 16, plays varsity hockey.  Unfortunately, it’s been a tumultuous season.  This year, some of the players that he played with when he was younger returned after playing on more “competitive” teams.  That is, they left our area to play for teams that were “better”.  However, as seniors, they decided to come back and play for their hometown.

This seems like it would be a great thing.  And in some ways it is.  But, my son and a couple other players, ended up getting short-changed.  I call these “old-kids-who-came-back” the “superstars”.  It’s not that I mean to be sarcastic.  Ok, that’s part of it.  But, it’s just that – while they’re good, they’re not amazing.  Typically, we are still winning and losing against the same teams that the high school team has won and lost against since forever.

So, we have the “superstars” and we also have the “freshmen”.  We live in a pretty remote area and we only have a varsity team.  Either you make it or you don’t.  Most years there are very few freshmen who even try for the team and not many who actually make it.  Maybe there will be one or two.  This year we have 5 freshmen on the team.  Now, again, I’m not saying that they’re not good.  But again, they’re not amazing.  They just aren’t.

Now let me get one thing straight before I continue.  My son is also not amazing.  He is, at best, a little better than average when given the chance but sometimes he could use a little work.

So that brings me back to the whole point.  This year, he hasn’t been getting much of a chance.  The first game he didn’t even touch the ice.  I waited until I talked to him to get super mad.  I thought there must be a reason.  After all, he played last year on the varsity team.  Maybe there was a reason.  Nope.  And so, since that first game at the end of November til now, we have watched a lot of games where he barely played and some where he didn’t play at all.

But, oddly enough, there have also been games where he has played a reasonable amount of time.  In a way, this has just added to the confusion.  As I said, it’s been tumultuous.

However…I just kept hoping.  And tonight he STARTED!

He played the whole game on the first line.  I was so proud.  He was so excited!  My husband did the announcing and got to announce our son in the starting lineup!  I can’t remember a recent night with more smiles!

I should mention, we lost the game 5-4.  But he played really well and it really didn’t feel like a loss!!

Sleep well, friends; and dream about your hopes coming true!

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Groundhog’s Day

By February 2, 2017 About me, Funny Stories, General

Howdy friends!  Happy Groundhog’s Day!

So, the furry little rodent saw his shadow this morning, which means one thing:  It’s pretty sunny in Pennsylvania this time of year!  Just kidding.  So, it’s supposed to mean 6 more weeks of winter.  But, rest easy, readers.  Phil’s only been right 6 of the last 30 years.  It’s actually good that he saw his shadow, because if we count on him being wrong, as usual, that means an early spring!  Or, it could mean absolutely nothing and we’ll all just have to wait and see.  If I wasn’t such an optimist, I’d think the ladder to be true!

Did you know that Groundhog’s Day actually came to be because German settlers in Pennsylvania had a saying.

 “For as the sun shines on Candlemas day, so far will the snow swirl in May”

And, let’s not forget that movie!  Bill Murray is cursed to repeat the same day over and over again until he gets it right.  Bill Murray, if you’re reading this (and I can only hope you are), I have to tell you that the “Don’t drive angry” scene cracked me up!  Long before this movie came out, I used to give my baby sister rides on my bicycle.  To make her not be scared, I used to say, “Don’t drive wacky!”  I would wiggle the handlebars back and forth rapidly and she would laugh.  Til one day when I wrecked and she got a fat lip.  Yeah.  Oops.

But, maybe repeating the day isn’t such a terrible curse!  I think there are several days in my life that I wish I could repeat until I got them right, with no consequence other than my own learning.  In fact, the learning aspect of the movie is probably one of the most endearing.  He begins taking piano lessons, a true novice at first, but he is able to learn from day to day while his teacher remembers nothing of his past visits.  Wouldn’t it be a miracle if we could learn from our mistakes while those around us forgot that they ever happened?!

Imagine if everyone could pick a day to repeat until they got it right.  Our doctors could cure diseases.  Our scientists could find the right answers to their scientific questions (Very specific, eh?!).  Our students would excel in their classes; our artists would never fail at brilliance.  I would have wowed the powers that be, and get promoted instead of fired.  Our loved ones would see a doctor for that cough or that twinge in the side before it was too late.

But, maybe it’s not unfortunate that everything we do has consequences and some are good and some are bad.  Maybe everything has to be the way it is because whatever makes the world go round says so.  I believe that’s God.  And, I believe that everything happens for a reason.  Oh, it’s pretty hard to find the reason when I’m sitting here, bored and tired because I can’t seem to sleep through the night.

But, friends, that’s what it is to believe.  If I say I believe that everything happens for a reason, then I have to truly believe that everything happens for a reason.  Even this.

So, on this Groundhog’s Day; I’m going to count my blessings for the sunshine rather than curse poor old Punxsutawney Phil.

Have a great day, friends!  (And don’t drive angry!)

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My Recommended High School – Adult Book List

By February 1, 2017 About me, Advice, General, Lists

Hello friends!  Happy February!  Let’s start the month out with my final book list!  I have given these books a lot of thought.  I’m interested in what you think too, so make sure to find the comment button below and share your takes on these and other good books.

One more thing…did you find the Bloglovin button to the right of this post?  Click on it and you will be able to get updates every time I post!

I hope you enjoy the list.  Have a great Wednesday!

  1. The Giver – So, in case you didn’t see my middle school list, I’m going to start with this one which is also on my middle school list. This is another book that I STRONGLY caution parents of.  When my oldest son was in middle school – all three grades – he would not have been able to handle reading this book.  In fact, I don’t think he would have been ready for it even as a high school senior.  Oh, he could have read it; certainly.  But he would not have understood all of the themes and the more serious undertones would have been lost.
  • This book is an example of what were to happen if everyone was really “equal”. It’s a great opportunity to start a conversation about what “equal” means.  In this utopian society, they have manufactured “equal”, and in doing so they have had to end true freedom.  It is only when the young protagonist of the story begins to see things as they really are that things can become what they should be again.
  1. To Kill A Mockingbird – Odds are you probably had to read this book at some point in your life. If you didn’t, then your children probably did.  This book contains the themes of racism, black/white crime, rape, ethics, integrity and social classes.  It is set in Alabama during the Great Depression.  There is little I can say without giving away the ending.  It is a must read!
  1. Cheaper By The Dozen – This is the true story of the Gilbreth family, written by two of the children. and Mrs. Gilbreth were time and motion study engineers – or efficiency experts – in Montclair, New Jersey.  Mrs. Gilbreth was the first woman in her field.  The couple studied how to make things run faster and more efficiently.  The story, however, is about their family of 12 children and how their father and mother handled them efficiently.  It is funny and smart.
  1. Belles On Their Toes – This is the next chapter of the Gilbreth’s life story. After tragedy strikes, the family must move on.  Again, funny and smart; but with an emotional resonance.
  1. The Great Gatsby – Ah, the Great Gatsby. Have you ever seen the movie “Catch me if you can” about a boy who learns to lie so convincingly that he spends time being paid as an airline pilot and a doctor?  That reminds me of Gatsby.  Who is he?  What does he do?  No one really knows.  Is he just one of the greatest con men ever?  If you haven’t read this book; you are cheating yourself.  It is very thought-provoking, but also written so well that you can just envision the 1920’s glamour.  You can almost smell the cigarette smoke mixed with champagne and you can imagine the silky feel of the satin dresses and the weight of the costume jewelry.
  1. The Scarlet Letter – It is a little astounding when a work from the 1800’s withstands the test of time so well as to be relevant in today’s society; if only in a figurative manner. This book is about so much more than adultery.  It is about having class when those around you don’t.  It is about having the integrity to accept that you have done something wrong without dragging others down.  It is about living the rest of your life with dignity, in spite of your transgressions.  While the heroine, if she can be called that, keeps her silence; the secret eats away at her lover until he can bare it no more.  Again, if you haven’t read this one, you’re cheating yourself.
  1. When the Wind Blows and The Lake House by James Patterson – These books have 0% learning quality. Ok, they make you think a little.  Just because science can do something, doesn’t mean we should.  How do you treat others, even when you don’t understand them?  Those are a couple of themes.  Patterson introduces us to the world of Maximum Ride in these books.  He later wrote the “Max” series for young adults.  My kids enjoyed that series.  I thought they were a little over-indulgent on the writer’s part.  These first two books are amazing.  Could not put them down.  I downloaded them to my permanent library on my Kindle.
  1. Stephen King: The Stand – This book is the absolute best book I have ever read. Hands down.  And I’ve read it about 5 times.  It is a bit daunting at first…after all, it’s well over a thousand pages long.  However, this tale of the end of human civilization as we know it and the war between good and evil is epic.  It is terrifiying; not in the way that King’s supernatural horror stories are terrifying; but rather because you know that it’s a little too realistic.  We all know there is evil in the world.  We try to deny it; but in the end, we know.  And, in The Stand, we learn that there are different kinds of evil; but they all come together as one ultimate evil.  Whether you believe in God or not; this book is amazing.  And, speaking of believing, Mother Abigail says, “…it don’t matter…He believes in you!”
  1. Twilight Series – I know, I know. I can’t believe I’m going from The Stand to Twilight.  A lot of people will argue this one.  The fact is this: it was entertaining and easy to read from the first book to the fourth book.  It was clever story-telling (explaining Bella’s injuries and absences).  And it was dusted with a couple of mentions of classic books, which intrigued the literary student in me.  Yes, Bella and Edward’s love is a bit obsessive at first.  However, I especially love Edward’s commitment to waiting until after marriage.  Not many culturally acceptable icons in today’s society could get away with such “prudish” behavior!  Bravo!
  1. Angels and Demons – Dan Brown wrote many books based on Italian geography, art and architecture. I read this book before I read The DaVinci Code. I was a fan from the start.  These books made me want to go to Italy.  I want to go and see this art and these fountains and sculptures.  I want to walk the streets and travel the canals.  The writing in these books makes you feel like you are there while making you want to actually go there at the same time.  The stories, while centered in Italy and around the famous sites, are not really about those sites…which makes it doubly interesting.  Instead, they are about ancient symbols – what they mean, where they came from and who used them.  I highly recommend all of Brown’s books.
  1. No Fear Shakespeare – I wanted to include this on my list, even though it’s actually a series of books. Every Shakespearean play is available in Sparknotes: No Fear editions. These books take the original play and put it line-by-line on the right side, while putting the modern English version, also line-by-line, on the left side!  These books make it so that one can actually enjoy the plays.  You don’t have to take a class and have an instructor tell you what some of the long-outdated phrases mean.  Here, you can read for yourself.  And, if you are taking the class, I completely defend your right to proudly carry this book right into class with you.  You see, if you’re smart, you can read the commentary and you can either agree with it or argue with it.  A good teacher will recognize the intelligence in a student who reads the commentary as someone else’s opinion and forms his or her own opinion in spite of reading this.
  1. No Fear Canterbury Tales – The same applies here. This is just one book for all of the “tales”; but Chaucer, like Shakespeare, is hard to understand. This book makes it much more enjoyable.  My favorite “tale” is the Wife of Bath.  She has seen a lot; been married several times and traveled a lot.  She is smart and not afraid to show it.  She is also a bit manipulative, which, given the time period of this “tale”, cracks me up.
  1. Eragon – This is on my “going to read” list. My oldest son enjoyed the series. It begins when a teenage boy finds what he thinks is a stone; but is a dragon egg.  The dragon hatches from the egg and that is the beginning of a cat and mouse game while the boy, Eragon and his dragon evade capture.  The book is followed by three more:  Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance.
  1. Dean Koontz’s series: Frankenstein – This is a five book series that re-imagines the Frankenstein tale. Viktor Frankenstein has found a way to live to our modern era, where he continues to create live “monsters”. However, these “monsters” develop a sense of cognizance that Frankenstein never expected.  In fact, they have developed “souls”.  And, so, his dream of creating a new master race is sabotaged by that power that no one truly understands: Love.
  1. The Metamorphosis– This story is going to be the strangest you have read. The main character is a traveling salesman who wakes to find himself transformed into an insect.  The entire story is about his acceptance of his fate and how his family handles him, now that he is a burden.  This novella is full of symbolism.  Perhaps Gregor is sick of his job not paying him what he thinks he is worth.  He feels like he is a burden to everyone around him and like he will never be able to pull his own weight or have a job that he finds worthy.  This transformation is the result of the ugliness inside manifesting itself on the outside.  Gregor hates himself, so it is no wonder that he sees that hatred reflected in his family’s eyes as they look at him with dread and horror at what he has become.
  1. The Yellow Wallpaper – This is a short story written at the turn of the 20th It is about a woman whose husband locks her in a room with yellow wallpaper and treats her like she is mad. When the woman eventually becomes mad, is it because she always was mad, or is it because her husband treated her that way?  I believe this story to be a story of nature vs. nurture.  However, scholars say this is a story about the oppression of women.  I just don’t see that.  Read it for yourself!  You can comment below and let me know what you think!!
  1. Tuesdays with Morrie– I admit that I haven’t read this since my early 20’s. However, I really loved the stories that Morrie shares with his visitor, and of course, all of us through the book.  The themes are so relevant throughout time: Love, loss, death, depression, right and wrong, and survival and happiness.
  1. The Left Behind series – For the Christian reader, this series is a lesson in two men’s opinion about what will happen during the “end times” of the world. There is a great debate about whether God’s chosen will be “raptured” before the tribulation begins or whether they will have to endure the tribulation. The books are fiction, but are well written and provide an enormous amount of information which can prompt the reader to look into getting more information.  The stories are also emotional and touching.  The first 10 books were amazing.  The net two books – 11 and 12 – started to seem a little too drawn out for my taste.  I did not even know about books 13 – 16 until I looked up information for this post.  Yay!  More books to read!
  1. The Secret Life of the Dyslexic Child – I will be, at some point, writing a post that will specifically deal with dyslexia. This book, however, was life-changing for my family. My older son was a very smart preschooler; albeit stubborn.  I never, in a million years, would have thought that he wouldn’t catch on when he began reading instruction in school.  Yet, by the time he finished 2nd grade, I found myself arguing with the teachers and administration that something was wrong.  Dyslexia, as author Robert Frank, Ph.D. writes, is more than slow and mixed up reading.  Frank himself is dyslexic and he talks about the many problems that have nothing to do with reading.  I believe every adult should read this book – and every educator should read it twice.  As I am writing this, I have skimmed through the book.  In ten minutes I have read enough of my marked and underlined pages that I’m heartbroken all over again.  Check back for my complete post on this in the future.
  1. Thirteen Reasons Why – I have not yet read this one. It was recommended by a friend. It is a story about a girl who commits suicide, but creates cassette tapes for each of 13 people whom she says drove her to her death.  I think, reading the synopsis of this story, that it gives people a look into a lot of what is going on in the world of teens.  Each person who received a tape had to deal with their part in driving someone to their death.  In the end, each of them could choose to do something different and to make a positive impact on others instead.
  1. Legend series – Again, I have not read this series, but my youngest son loved it. In fact, for once, I can’t even tell you what it’s about. Let’s see what Wiki says……..Looks like an alternate reality/dystopian society in the future.  There is a gap between rich and poor and a war has broken out.  (Sounds like Hunger Games, no?)  There appears to be elements of a plague and conspiracy as well.  I’ll look for your ideas on this one, readers.  Did you read it?  What did you think?!  Tell me in the comments section.
  1. Things Fall Apart – This one is on the list as a NEVER read! My children had to read this story as a required reading.  It is an African (I think) book and the first problem is that the names are incomprehensible as well as too close to one another.  For example: Okonkwo, Unoka and Umuofia as well as Ekwefi and Ezinma to name a few.  The writing is wordy and too involved and the point is lost in the text.  By the time you wade through all of it, you just don’t care what the bottom line is.  If you are a teacher thinking of using this for your curriculum, I urge you to look at other options.  Your students will not love this book.
  1. Into the Wild – This is another one on my NEVER read list. This is a non-fiction story of Chris McCandless. It was originally written as an article and, honestly, should have been left as an article.  There really isn’t enough “story” for a book.  Here’s what it was about:  This idiot who grew up in the suburbs in Virginia and who studied at Emory University, decided to give away all his possessions, stop talking to his loving family give away his college fund and hitchhike to Alaska.  He had read about survival in the wild and thought that this “book knowledge” would be enough.  Long story, short.  He was wrong.  He died.  He was stupid.  I think it is often on required reading because it represents adventure.  All of my kids thought it represented enormous selfishness and stupidity.

 

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Top 10 Parenting Tricks — Babies – Adult

By January 19, 2017 About me, Advice, General, Lists
  1. Feeding a toddler:  Have you ever served spaghetti and had to take the time to cut it for your small child?  If you have more than one – mine were 18 months apart – by the time you cut up their food, yours is cold.  Plus, cutting spaghetti is a pain in the neck!  SO….put it in a blender.  Pulse the blade a couple of times and the spaghetti and sauce are perfectly mixed and the noodles are cut perfectly.  Just pour it on their plate!
  • Still feeling a toddler: Have you ever cut French toast or pancakes for a little one?  Also a pain!  Use a pizza slicer!!  You can cut the pieces faster than with a fork and knife.  You can even cut strips of the French toast so that they can “dip” it in syrup.  Fun food becomes eaten food!
  1. Reading to your children: You should read books that are a little past their reading abilities, in my opinion, at least until they are out of elementary school.  For a list of some of my favorites, come back tomorrow.  When you read to young children who have not yet begun to read, or who are just learning to read; make sure that you are sitting (or lying) side by side and that your child can see the book as well.  Point to the words as you read them.  This will help your child understand that we read from left to right and even help him begin to learn some letter recognition skills and phonics skills.  As your child progresses, keep reading books that are a little higher than his reading level.
  • Again, come back tomorrow for a list of my favorites. Remember – don’t shun the classics!  There are many abridged and kid-friendly versions of many of the classics available.  If you don’t have time to read aloud every night, invest in some books on tape/cd/digital media.  Or visit your library.  Audio versions of books are a great way to enhance the written word.  Also, if your children have struggles in reading, whether vision related, or just not catching on as fast as their peers, these books on tape can be a life-saver.
  1. School issues: If you are unfortunate enough to have a child that is struggling in school, let me first say, “I’m so sorry”.  There is nothing worse than when the child who you know is smart and inquisitive cannot seem to “get it” at school.  What’s worse, your child’s teacher may not be a big help.  (**A note here – if you are a teacher, I am sure you always do everything in your power for all of your students.  But every now and again, there is a situation where the teacher is the one who doesn’t seem to “get it”.)
  • Buy the school’s textbooks – including teacher’s editions, if you can afford them. I’m not saying you should let your child copy all of the answers out of the teacher’s edition of the textbooks.  Children who struggle in school often give up at an early age.  Do you really think they forgot their math book again?  They don’t want to even try because they are spending all that time doing the homework and it’s still wrong and they get an F.  If they leave their math book at school, they still get an F.  They’re actually learning to manage their time pretty well!!  (Just kidding.)
  • If you have the teacher’s edition – especially in math – it not only has the answers for you to check your child’s work; it also offers examples of how to teach the concepts. Maybe the teacher explained it a different way than the book.  Maybe the book way is the way your child is going to “get it”.  That’s the important part.  For other subjects, like spelling, grammar and reading; it helps to have extra worksheets in case your child is a “misplacer”.
  • **Another tip here – have workbooks for spelling and grammar spiral bound at a local printing shop. It only costs a couple of dollars and then it makes it super easy for you to make copies of those “missing” worksheets instead of having to ask the teacher for them.  Also, if you have a teacher who “won’t accept late work”, then your child will never do those “missing” worksheets.  This means he is not held accountable and also that he has missed that skill which he needs to learn.  If you have the capability to copy them yourself, you can require the child to do the work, even if the teacher won’t take it.  Also, you have all of the worksheets to review before a test.
  • For reading, science and history, having a book which your child owns and can highlight will help him comprehend and remember important information. It also teaches him a valuable study skill for when he is in high school and college.
  • One last thing: if something seems like it is wrong, trust your instincts. One thing that I never thought of was my daughter’s eyesight.  The school does eye exams.  I never knew that those eye exams did not really include close-up vision.  Make sure both your child’s close AND far vision are tested.  Sometimes children have good vision; but their eyes (like with my daughter) don’t work together.  For my daughter, this meant she saw double all the time.
  1. In sickness and in health:  If you or your child has a cold, try plain old Advil.  It has a fever reducer, but also an anti-inflammatory agent.  It will bring the swelling in the sinuses down and allow for clearer breathing and no icky side effects of feeling drowsy or loopy.
  • While a kid is sick, put mouthwash in a small spritz bottle and spray the toothbrush with it after each use. They won’t re-infect themselves and the germs won’t jump to another’s toothbrush.  I used mouthwash to clean sports mouth guards and pacifiers as well.  Just use caution with pacifiers – you should rinse them before giving them to a little one.
  1. Have a child who’s old enough to play in the fast-food play area, but another who isn’t quite walking yet? Bring a walker into the restaurant.  Your child will be able to move around without crawling on the filthy floor.
  1. At the beach or pool: Take an inflatable pool to the beach with you.  You can fill it with a tiny bit of water for your baby to splash in and if nap time comes, you can dump the water out and use it as a clean place for her to sleep.
  • Get sand off your bodies very quickly with baby powder. Sprinkle it on and the sand wipes away.
  1. Make your own baby food from the food you buy for yourselves anyway. Rice Krispies can be put in a blender or food processor until a powder is formed for “rice cereal”; the same can be done with Mini Wheats for “wheat cereal” and Cheerios for “oat cereal”.  You can do the same for basic foods as your child is ready.  Add a little water to banana and blend.  Boil carrots and apples until soft and then blend.  Sweet potatoes, spinach, pears, and eventually meats, anything you make for yourself, you can blend the basic food for a baby.  As the child gets older, allow more texture by not blending it so much.  Store leftovers by putting them in ice cube trays until frozen and then putting in labeled Ziploc bags.
  1. Use Johnson & Johnson “Baby Bath” as “Bubble Bath” for babies – through adults. I use this for bubble baths several nights a week, myself.  It is gentle enough that it won’t cause bladder/ uninary tract infections and it makes pretty good bubbles!
  • Got bath toys? Use a hot glue gun to seal the holes in them.  Otherwise, they get moldy and will eventually get your kiddo (and maybe you) sick!
  1. To prevent toddlers from trying to climb out of the child seat in the grocery cart, tie their shoes together. They will not be able to bring one foot up to begin climbing.
  1. Use Crayola “window crayons” to write on practically anything. You can write messages on counters – I used to circle the crumbs that people couldn’t seem to “find”.  You can write IN the sink – I used to write, “Put it in the dishwasher!”  And you can write on mirrors – positive messages, reminders, etc.  It all stays until washed with soap and water.  Running water in the sink will not wash it away!!  You can also write on windows and cars!!  Hehe

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