Tag Archives: parenting

Settling Your Palate

As parents, it is our jobs to worry. My oldest child hated to read. Every word that made it from paper to his brain was a fight. Oh, he’d listen to me read all day long, but getting him to pick up a book on his own was akin to torture. One exception was C.S. Lewis and other classics like White Fang. Tough books for a little boy with dyslexia.

But this wasn’t the first time I’d had to worry extensively about him or my other kids. Like any good mom, my kids’ eating habits were of utmost concern.

When Eldest was about a year and a half old, all he ate were strawberry Poptarts and bananas. And I do mean this literally. My lovely doctor assured me it was just a phase and that Poptarts were heavily fortified enough to see him through to the next love. My Dear Daughter, on the other hand, was a yogurt fanatic. She loved all things dairy to the point of refusing infant formula. She went straight from mama’s milk to moo milk at six months old–and Lord, did that cause a stir. Seven years later Youngest devoured oatmeal by the gobs. He had a bowl every morning and one every night before bed, often times supplementing his daily menu with a snack or two in between. If I had a penny for every time someone told me he would get fat from all the carbs, my Dear Hubby could retire

The only one who didn’t have a phase was our Middle son. At about eight months old, Middle had gotten so sick that he nearly didn’t make it through the severe dehydration caused by his multiple-infection diagnosis. For the next few years, he subsisted off of McDonalds’ shakes just to keep his calorie intake up and help close the growth gap created by the side-effects of his illness. Doctor’s orders. As you can imagine, he was a seriously picky eater. (Right, Dave Homann?) Not to mention, we were seriously concerned parents. All despite having other children with quirky eating habits not only survive, but thrive.

I have no idea if Eldest eats Poptarts or bananas, though I suspect many of the former and few of the latter. He is a college kid, after all. DD can’t stand the texture of yogurt, and Youngest still uses oatmeal as a bedtime snack more often than not. Middle likes anything not from McDonalds–with lemon peppered asparagus & brussel sprouts as a current fave.

Tastes change. Or not. And that’s okay. But what we don’t’ have to do is stress over the evolution. Change can be good. The journey even better.

We are blessed with a lifetime to try new flavors and textures. Opportunities abound to stretch our experiences and fall in love with new foods. So, too, are readers capable of changing literary loves.

As a voracious reader of mysteries in my childhood, I still appreciate a good thriller with a tangled web of deceit and a healthy dose of red herrings. I’ve also grown to love nonfiction. But only medical or history based nonfiction. Give me a 1,000 page tome on the history of rabies and I’m like a kid with the whole candy store at my disposal…or should I say consumption?!

Crime novels were once my Poptarts and bananas. While most romance novels are akin to the goopy texture of Greek yogurt.

My bookshelves are filled with a  vast palate of literature ranging from the classics to YA to pulp fiction. And that’s better than okay. Diversity is good, even if we have to go through picky phases to get there.

So, don’t be too harsh on your children for not eating their peas or not loving to read. Tastes change. It is our job to support the journey and expose ourselves and our  kids to unique and continuous opportunity, be it music, food, athletics or literature.

Once upon a time, Eldest struggled to read. Now, he is rarely without a book.

How has your palate changed? What are your current faves (of anything) and why? If you are a writer, how has this affected your writing journey?

Curious minds want to know.

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I’m Not A Total Idiot: I Promise

I’m not a total idiot. At least not all the time.

Case in Point 1: I am a fairly decent mom and dogmom. After all, I have graduated two children and haven’t eaten my last two yet. (That was a joke, by the way.) I’ve also house broken more kids and dogs than I care to count. But…I can be a little too trusting at times. Take our Tiny Dog for an example. I was checking out new blog widgets and snacking on peas. Tiny Dog politely asked for one. I shared. She jumped off the chair, hopped back up and asked for another. And another. And another. It wasn’t until Youngest Son saw the conglomeration of nibbled-on peas in the middle of the floor that I realized I’d been duped. Tiny Dog was stockpiling her veggies.

I wasn’t being a total idiot. I was simply being more nurturing than was necessary. Unless, you don’t consider letting Youngest eat a partially masticated pea pod nurturing. Then I was just being stupid.

Case in Point 2: I have pretty good success with technology–or at least the basics of it–for someone who was born and raised in the dark ages. However, sometimes I have “aha” moments that are downright embarrassing. For instance, I didn’t know I could connect to another blog and have a snippet of a post show up on my sidebar. I’d seen other bloggers have these fancy little doodads, but could never figure out how to get my own. Of course, I’m claiming this is a new feature on this particular blog template since I revamped it a handful of years ago, which is why I didn’t notice it before.

But now that I’ve found it, I want to revamp my whole blog yet again. I mean, how many more cool things have I missed in my technological stupor? Seriously, check the sidebar for a glimpse of my kid blog…without actually having to go to my kid blog. Sweet, right? And it was actually pretty simple, too. I just didn’t know it.

Case in Point 3: Even though I don’t always know my way around technology, I’m a living map of sorts in the real world. I know road signs and street names instead of landmarks. I can tell north from south without a compass. But until two days ago, I had no idea that interstates were named in the most simplistic of all manners–a thought that had never occurred to me. Basically, Interstate numbering starts on the west coast and heads east. Likewise, the smallest numbered Interstates belong to the south and grow larger as you head north. I would go into detail, but my brain can’t hold all the nuances that Wikipedia can. If you are truly interested, click here for more details. I did, and got lost in the history of Freeways for so long I needed a map to find my way back to reality.

All this is to say that no matter how good we are at something, we can be incredibly dense at times. The reverse is true, as well.

In other words, we’re human. And that’s not a bad thing: I promise.

MUM’s the Word: Parenting is forever…kinda

Eldest is a very level-headed, mature young man for just turning 18. Even so, has his moments of impulsive behavior. Like going off to the Renaissance Festival with my little sister. And buying a–hahum–very expensive trinket.

“But it looks cool. It is cool.”

Yes, I can appreciate his passion for medieval swords and gauntlets and throwing knives and chain mail and leather and jousting and turkey legs on a stick and, and, and…

Lord, why did I encourage him to hang with his aunt on his first week off of work and college?

Oh yeah, because I thought he would maintain the tight grip on his checkbook he’s proven to have. I guess it gets easy to assume that good kids will always make good choices. Even when history proves that great kids can let their passions override their level-headedness.

“But Dad bought…”

To which Dad said, “Yes, but I have a job and can afford to buy what I want.”

It was the classic Dad/Son headbutting moment. The one where the dad knows nothing, even if he knows everything and the kid rolls his eyes and swallows his guilt, but insists that he does have a job and can afford his newest collectible.

The easiest thing about being a parent is knowing all the dumb stuff we did. We spent our money in the wrong places and on the wrong things, hung out with the wrong kids or egged the wrong car. We were dumb and young and made poor choices on occasions. Heck, we still do, only we’re just a bit older and grayer and hopefully wiser.

Which is why we expect so much from our kids. We don’t want them to make the same mistakes we made. But the thing about parenting–really, the only true and honest thing about parenting–is that kids need to make mistakes. It’s how they learn.

It’s how we learned.

So, while we carry all the worry for our kids no matter their ages, at some point we have to sit back and let them experience life for themselves. We have to allow them to make mistakes. All the dumb mistakes in the world. Just not the life-changing ones.

And that’s what I’ve learned most about raising kids. There are two kinds of mistakes. The dumb ones and the earth-shaking ones. Eldest went to the faire. He bought a sword for more money than he should have. He didn’t get anyone pregnant, and he didn’t drink and drive. His mistake is merely dumb.

Or not. Only time will tell if he actually thought out his money situation and felt he could handle the burden of spending the money the way he did. Heck, he lives on campus with a meal plan. Worst case scenario is he can’t go to Buffalo Wild Wings until spring. He certainly won’t starve and he has a roof over his head.

As much as I’d love to control his every move under the advisement of my over-protective-mom-gene, I’m not going to. I’ll have to settle for parenting from afar.

Are you a helicopter-parent, or do you allow your kids to mess up and learn from it? What tips do you have for knowing when to step in and enforce the family law? When is it okay to give a bit more freedom than you otherwise want to?

Curious minds want to know.

MUM’s The Word: Reinforcing Bad Behavior

The other day, I arrived home just in time to see the garbage truck pull up to the house. Our youngest lab stood at the end of the driveway and barked her tail off at the sanitation specialist (I think that’s PC!). He promptly chucked a dog biscuit into the yard. As soon as Bailey took off after it, he went about his business of collecting our trash.

I was furious.

I mean, I get that he doesn’t want to be attacked by vicious, slobbery dogs all day long, but seriously, he just compounded his problem 100 fold.

He absolutely reinforced to her that standing her ground and barking at him earned her a treat. A treat! As in, “Good dog. Please bark at me again, and I’ll give you another yummy biscuit.”

Yeesh! No wonder beating her to keep her quiet doesn’t work. Okay, I don’t really beat her, but I do hold her muzzle and sternly tell her no. Though for her, this method of behavior modification isn’t nearly as fun as the dog treat from the sanitation worker. Nor is it nearly as effective.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn that we send our kids the exact same kind of mixed messages. (Or our significant others, too, for that matter.) We are so apt to respond to the moment that we fail to keep focused on our long-term goals. In the end, we can be met with disasterous results.

The hardest part often comes in when someone else reinforces a behavior we don’t agree with. Every home and every setting has a different set of rules. Daycare, school, grandparents and church might all have different expectations that clash with those we want to instill in our children.

Quick tip for garbage men everywhere: Don’t give the dog a bone until it sits nicely. Seriously. It wouldn’t take but a few times of withholding the bone and making a dog sit before he’d plop his butt down the second your truck rumbled up the road. Imagine how much more pleasurable that would be?

Same with you, parents and teachers and caregivers and coaches. Think beyond the moment. Determine how you want your charges to act and enforce those behaviors instead of the other way around. And don’t forget to consider the ramifications of acting on short term rewards. It may not be in your best interest for the long run.

Which kid behaviors drive you crazy, and how do you handle it? How do you enforce good behavior? How do you deal with bad behavior reinforced by others? Do the children in your life have different rules you must help them navigate? If so, your examples would be appreciated.

Bonus writer question: Can we, as writers, encourage bad habits/behaviors of other writers in the communities we frequent? If so, how do we combat this tendency?

Curious minds want to know.

Frivolous Friday: Balancing Writing and Parenting Schedules

I’m intuitive about a lot of things. Child rearing being one. It doesn’t mean I’m great at it. It simply means I get the big picture with relative ease. Yet there are other things I don’t get at all. Obvious things that everyone else in the universe seems to inherently understand.

This is fine as long as I remain blissfully unaware of my ignorance. Yet the moment realization crystallizes and I can see with the utmost clarity that I have totally missed the boat that everyone else in the universe is on, I feel pretty sheepish.

Like infants, writers need a schedule to keep themselves on track. I do fairly well with that as a whole. However, as I transform my blog to include all my passions, I finally figured out I needed a blogging schedule as well.

Duh, right?

Well, sometimes we’re slow on the uptake…or, at least, I am. So here’s what’s in store for you as I balance the things in my bloggerly life:

  • Mash Up Mondays (aka MUM): these days will be filled with the ins and outs of motherhood and marriage.
  • Writing Wednesdays: yep, the same great info on writing with the same quirky anecdotes from my life. It’s how I roll.
  • Frivolous Fridays: exactly how it sounds. Whatever tickles my fancy in terms of life, literature and liberty. Yeah, liberty. As in the things I feel passionate about like literacy, bullying, etc.

So there you have it. I’m moving on from infancy and heading toward toddlership. I’m trying to catch up with that boat before it completely leaves home port!

How do you handle those times your slow on the uptake? Do you find that realizing things a little too late is the end or a new beginning?

Curious minds want to know.

Confession Time: Rebuilding My Brand

I hate to publicly admit my failures, but I’m going to do just that, right here for all the world to read.

When I started Words from the Woods, it was my private space. A place where I could go as a wanna be writer to connect with other wanna be writers ina way that didn’t intersect with my real life. And I did.

But slowly, more and more of me came out in my posts, and readers began telling me, “I read your blog to keep up with your family.” Or, “I love your insights into kids and relationships.” Over time, I’ve found myself catering to two vastly different readerships:

  1. Those seeking posts on my quirky take on family dynamics, marriage, child-rearing and my unique soap box issues. Sure they enjoy the bits about the books I read, and more than a handful like to keep tabs on my writing. But, and here’s my public failure announcement, I didn’t start blogging with you in mind.
  2. The people I initially blogged for were those seeking writing tips. Guess what? There are a thousand and one aspiring writer blogs (times infinity). In fact, I blog at a collective with that as the sole purpose. I’m also very active at AgentQuery Connect where, as a moderator, I provide real-time tips to writers nearly every day. Seems a little redundant, actually, to expend the energy regurgitating the information here. Which is likely why I haven’t been blogging as much recently. (Public failure announcement number two.)

All this got me thinking that it’s time I repurpose my blog. My future audience of book buyers is not writers themselves. Well, actually some are, but, as a whole, my future audience is parents. Parents and grandparents, or aunts and uncles, or godmothers and godfathers or teachers and librarians who are looking for WHY my books should be on their shelves. Not writers. Not unless you also have a child or twenty in your life that you wish to purchase books for.

I also happen to like talking about the things near and dear to my heart, like child-rearing, education, literacy, marriage, bullying and friendship. I’m a speech coach, a mother, a volunteer, a wife and a writer. I advocate for at-risk kids (the traditional kinds and the kinds we seldom consider) and do freelance writing on the side. Someday I want to have my books published and in the hands of the children you love. It is my ultimate goal.

But in the meantime, these other passions are also a part of who I am, and they impact why I write the things I do. These are the focus of my new journey in blogging.

Over the next week or so, you’ll see some changes to my blog as I begin rebuilding my brand. Not as a whimsical walk with an aspiring writer, but more so as a whimsical walk through the life of a parent writer.

I hope you stick around to see where this takes me. Personally, I’m both thrilled and terrified!

If there’s anything you personally would like to see me do more of (or not at all) let me know. Thanks for your support up ’til now and hopefully through this and beyond.

Hugs~

PS. I’ll completely understand if I some of you abandon this new brand. Just know you can always follow my writing words of wisdom at From The Write Angle or on AgentQuery Connect.

BRAVE the Unknown

This morning, my Dear Daughter and her Awesome Speechie Friend (aka, ASF) embarked on a BRAVE new journey.

They have spent the past few weeks creating an anti-bullying program for one of our elementary school classes. Only one, because a certain amount of research is going into this program to help them better understand the impact of teaching methods on behavior modification.

They have researched bullying and the way we learn. They have discussed deeply what they feel is the most beneficial message to spread to youngsters in regards to peer interactions. They put together a presentation and rallied support from teachers and principals.

They are BRAVE. Through their program, they will be Building Relationships Against Violence Everywhere. Their mission statement is clear. Their goals for the year extensive and measurable. They are committed to creating a program for the highest risk demographics for bullying: children in grades 3-6.

They are finalizing their website, which should be online in the next week or so. This site will be a resource for parents, teachers and students to help them build relationships based on respect. When it’s live, I’ll link to it for you.

I’m very proud of DD and her ASF, even as I’m sad as to how this program came about. Bullying is prevalent and damaging. It’s an issue nearly every child has to deal with on some level. It’s often under-addressed or swept under the rug by parents and educators who aren’t quite sure how to deal with certain behaviors.

I can only hope their research will indicate a new model of programming that will help our school district and community get a better grasp on the bullying that has almost become an acceptable and expected part of childhood.

BRAVE the unknown. Take a chance and make a difference.

 How about you, dear readers? How is the bullying in  your community? Does your school have a solid anti-bullying program in place? If so, have you seen a difference? If not, are you interested in starting one?

Curious minds want to know.

Another Must-Read Book for Parents

Over the weekend, Dear Daughter and I journeyed to the bookstore. She is starting an anti-bullying program in the elementary schools in our district and wanted to buy a few books on bullying. While scanning the child care aisle with her, I came across a book that screamed for my attention.

HOW TO SAVE YOUR DAUGHTER’S LIFE: Straight Talk For Parents From America’s Top Criminal Profiler.

Yeah, I know right? If you love your daughter, how do you not pick it up and turn to the cover blurb? And once you’ve turned, how do you look your daughter in the eye and put it back on the shelf?

You don’t. And you shouldn’t. I’m dead serious. This book is a wake-up call for parents of girls. Not that the information doesn’t apply to boys, because it does. In fact nearly every scenario described in the book can be played out upon a little boy or young man. A terrifying thought when you consider your only job as a parent is to raise happy, healthy children. And if your child’s physical and emotional well-being is destroyed via assault by another human, you will have neither.

We will have neither.

Our children will suffer when we could have been more in control. Now don’t get me wrong, reading this book will make you raise your eyebrows at some points–who is Pat Brown, America’s top criminal profiler, to tell me what to do?–and want to slink away in embarrassment at others. She does not sugar coat her advice, but neither does she judge. She simply lays it all out on the line.

I work with at-risk children and I had no idea how easy it can be to slide into a life of prostitution. Nor did I understand all the forms prostitution can take. This book is an honest view into the world we subject our children to each day without nary a thought.

I’m not even kidding when I say I couldn’t put this book down. I bought it on Sunday during our family vacation and started reading Sunday night before bed. I finished it on Monday about halfway home from the lake. By dinner time, I’d already talked to my boys about the new rules in the house.

Surprisingly, I didn’t get a mass rebellion from my eleven and eight year olds. I’m banking on this early intervention to teach them the right way to treat others in their lives–namely the girls they like, will want to date and someday hope to marry.

Because not only did I learn how to keep my daughter safe, but I also took away from it how I can help my boys learn to keep your daughters safe.

As parents, we have been entrusted with our children’s lives. It is our responsibility to give them the best advantage we can and to protect them with everything we have. It is also our responsibility to raise upstanding, caring and respectful young men.

Educate yourself. Lead by example and for all that is holy, take care of your children to the very best of your ability.

Please.

Now You’re Cooking…er, writing!

Eldest just got home from a twelve day trek with two of his closest buddies. I barely heard from him the entire time he was gone–I guess it’s hard to call your mom when you’re cliff jumping and deep-sea fishing. Next year when he goes to college, I’ll probably hear from him even less.

“Oh, he’ll be home to eat his favorite meals,” many parents have claimed.

Yeah, right.

The only time he called and actually talked to me versus texting me a picture and a quick quip was to say, “Hey, mom, I’m making my favorite hot dish and wanted to make sure I had all the ingredients.”

He named them all except garlic. Not bad for a seventeen-year-old boy. And since he did the lion’s share of the cooking, I doubt very much he’ll be home for me to feed him. He’s way ahead of many young men who have never lifted a spoon before embarking on the next leg of their journey.

To this end, there are two kinds of critiquers. Ones who give advice in hopes of teaching and ones who rewrite entire passages.

There are also two types of writers. Ones who want someone else to rewrite and ones who want to learn how to do it themselves.

I’m a firm believer in teaching, not providing. In doing, not letting someone else do it all for you.

There are no shortcuts in writing–nor in life.

 Are you a teacher or a provider?What are the benefits of both? How do you hold back and teach when you’d really like to give? Vice versa? When is it okay to provide?

Bully: One Point. Victim: Zero. Again.

I don’t know about you, but I am well and truly tired of the unchecked bullying that goes on in our schools and on the air.  Cyber space, with its photoshopping and instantly viral social networking capabilities, is one heck of a nasty place.  In this technologically advanced world, the playground–and the bully–knows no bounds.

According to irate students in a small rural community, one such instance occurred yesterday.  A photoshopped picture with a cruel caption was posted on a social networking site FROM A SCHOOL COMPUTER DURING SCHOOL HOURS.

As the story goes, the guilty party was told to take it down.  Great.

Take it down.  Check.

Parents called.  Check.

As soon as school let out, the picture went back up.  My question: where were the parents on this?  The ones who had been called as the sole form of punishment for the child’s violation of school policy?  Where was anyone?

The photo was reposted over and over again by the bully’s friends.  Some kids saw it and laughed, no doubt spurring the bullies on.  Encouraging them through their applause and like buttons and nasty comments.

Other kids are furious.  I’m furious.  I’m tired of the hand slaps that bullies receive for violating another child’s privacy, for smearing reputations and for causing emotional damage.  But more so, I’m frustrated by the lack of consequences.  When nothing substantial is done, adults send the message that we condone this type of behavior, thus perpetuating the cycle and escalating the viciousness of future attacks.

When the Ravi/Clementi verdict was handed down, I rejoiced for a brief moment.  I’d followed the story and was rooting for justice.  But then my heart stopped when “guilty” made me realize a young man could be deported–away from his family, away from his friends, away from a culture he knew and transplanted unceremoniously into foreign territory.

The consequences are scary and heart-wrenching.  Nobody wins in this situation.  Not Tyler Clementi who took his own life after Ravi’s deliberate invasion of his privacy.  And not Ravi who is looking at a possible prison sentence and deportation.

Had Ravi known he’d be caught, had he known Clementi would commit suicide, had he known he would actually be prosecuted and found guilty, I guarantee, he would have made a different choice that day in his dorm room.

And that’s my problem.  Kids don’t know.  They don’t know because they continue to get away with bullying.  They receive a tiny reprimand, an empty threat.  It isn’t until things escalate to the point of tragedy that verdicts are made and sentences carried out.

Why, though?  Why do we wait for extensive damage before we act?  Why do we feel that parents and teachers and principals and grandparents and aunts and uncles do not have the right–nay, the responsibility–to demand respectful behavior from kids?  Why are we so lazy with the well-being of a child’s life that we sit back and allow bullying to take place?

Ravi knew what he did was wrong.  He knew it.  You can’t attend school in America and not know about the so-called zero tolerance policies on bullying.  He knew it, as did those who launched the cyber attack yesterday.

Sadly, they also knew that adults rarely follow through.  Their chances of serious consequences were virtually nil.  Ravi gambled and lost.  So far, yesterday’s perpetrators have won.  I can only hope that won’t be the case for long.

What do you do to enforce positive behavior in the kids you know?  What is an appropriate consequence for bullying within the school setting?  Do we, as citizens, neighbors, friends or family, have the right to intervene when we see bullying?  Do we have a responsibility to do so? 

Furious minds want to know.

*And no, this isn’t my kid.  And yes, I am fully aware that my children are not perfect.  Nor am I as a parent.*