26 February 2014

Teach Your Toddler To Drive

It feels like yesterday my oldest son, Zack, was a five year old kindergartener and I was busy taking care of him and his two younger brothers. Now, seemingly suddenly, he is nearly 16 years old and the youngest of his three younger brothers is now in kindergarten.

Monday night, Zack, Horatio and I attended a mandatory driver education lesson for parents and kids. The issue that was most stressed during the lesson is that parents are the biggest influence on teen driving habits. I believe this theory 100%. It's like everything else we do as parents. We have to model the behavior we want to see in our kids. It's as simple as having good eating habits, not yelling and losing our temper when we get upset, and making our bed when we get up in the morning. If we want our kids to have positive behaviors, we have to show them how to do it.

As our kids get older, the modeling we did when they were younger, good or bad, will become evident. The thing is, you can't model bad behavior and then suddenly tell your child: toddler or teen, to do as you say and not as you do. Our kids are watching our every move. We are their biggest influence. We can't drink to excess in front of our kids and then expect them to listen when we tell them alcohol and drugs are bad for them, just like we can't practice poor driving habits and expect them to follow the rules. We have to start when our kids are small. It's hard to imagine the adorable two year old as a teenager, but it happens before you know it.

At Monday's driver's education class, the teacher and school police officer both stressed the terrible influences of distractions on drivers, especially young drivers. Among the most dangerous distractions, is a cell phone. Drivers talking on the phone are four times more likely to crash and drivers texting are 23 times more likely to crash! Driving while talking is equivalent to driving while intoxicated. It doesn't feel like we are distracted by talking on a cell phone, but studies have proven otherwise. If a call is important enough to take, it's important enough to pull off of the road to take it.

It is easy to spot the drivers who are talking or texting. They are slowing down and speeding up erratically, they are weaving over the lane boundaries, making sudden stops and missing their highway exits. See this video of a study showing how truly distracting the phone can be. 

The evidence is clear. Turn your cell phones off in the car. Parents can download apps to disable their children's phones in moving cars: www.otterapp.com and www.getizup.com are two good ones.

Texting and driving is severely disabling to a driver. Texting takes the eyes off of the road for 30 seconds, or more, at times, during which a car can travel hundreds of feet, basically making the speeding car driverless!

Please watch this moving video about the real life effects of texting and driving.

Do not let yourself or loved ones be affected by tragedies like these.

A Start teaching your toddlers/elementary schoolers/all children safe driving habits now. It's not too late!

16 January 2014

The Act of Giving Selflessly

To see the act of giving selflessly, one need only look at Lois Pope. After a lifetime of philanthropic efforts, devoting her time, energy, and financial resources to a host of admirable causes, her most recent focus has been on the disabled veterans of America. Recognizing the need to provide recognition for those who have been injured while serving their country, she became co-founder of the LIFE Memorial Foundation. Thanks to her tireless dedication, she has been instrumental in the erection of a Memorial that highlights the service of living veterans who have been disabled through the traumas incurred by war. This Memorial will be completed in thanks for their service and sacrifice, a reminder to every American about the price that has been paid for our personal freedoms. The Memorial is a tribute to all disabled veterans throughout our nation's history as well and any to come.

Ms. Pope has actually given a substantial amount of money, nearing $10 million, to see the Memorial come to fruition, a small gesture when one looks at the big picture of living disabled veterans today that have amounted to a staggering statistic of three million. The Memorial will be a permanent fixture in Washington D.C. and a symbol of great pride for anyone who has taken up the flag of the United States of America only to face injuries that may linger for a lifetime.

A History of Generosity
A look back over the years proves that Ms. Pope has not been idle, exhibiting the true spirit of giving in many ways. Her interest in disabilities can be seen nearly twenty years ago, when she made a generous donation in the impressive amount of $10 million to establish the LIFE Center in her name at the University of Miami. The main goal of this center is to perform groundbreaking research in order to discover a cure for all forms of paralysis. In recent years, Ms. Pope has also demonstrated an interest in the promising field of stem cell research, donating additional funding to this admirable cause as well.

In addition to monetary donations, Ms. Pope has given the gift of her time by serving on various boards to offer her insights and support. From the Colin Powel Center to Florida Atlantic University, she has played a key role in important decision-making. Not content to rest on her laurels, she has also made charitable donations on a global level, looking beyond American soil in order to have a positive impact on the world. Israel has received ambulances thanks to Ms. Pope's efforts and hundreds of thousands of dollars have made their way to women in Sudan by way of the Genocide Response Team.

President G.W. Bush held Ms. Pope in the highest esteem, proving his admiration by granting her the Daily Point of Light Award. She is a shining example of how one person can have such a positive influence on so many, using the advantages of her social position to improve the lives of others.

02 September 2013

Scholarships for Military Dependents

A Texas Program for Veterans

Veterans who are returning home to Texas are in for a lot of luck. Recently, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) announced that they awarding over $1 million to financially support the College Credit For Heroes workforce development grant at over nine different colleges and universities throughout Texas. This workforce development grant, launched in 2011, was created to help translate the skills and knowledge of military servicemen and servicewomen into college course credit. This is done to allow easy transition into the workforce.

Texas Governor Rick Perry believes that expanding this program will help returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan find ease when looking for jobs. Expanding this program allows servicemen to quickly obtain degrees and certifications that make them easily employable after leaving the military. Transitioning from civilian life after spending years away from home can be rough for some. However, programs like College Credit for Heroes creates sustainable workforce re-entry pathways for those who are serving the country overseas.

Central Texas College has played an integral role in expanding the program. They developed the College Credit for Heroes web portal, CollegeCreditforHeroes.org; a site that allows veterans to connect with variety of partner higher education institutions in Texas. Texas is home to over 400,000 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans and they have the experience and skill-set necessary to readily enter the workforce. Programs like this give veterans the opportunity to connect with employers immediately after leaving service and start a new civilian life.

Whether or not you are a Texas resident - there are other resources you should consider after returning home from overseas. For starters, the US Department of Education is a great resource to scour in order to look for scholarships, fellowships and other funding opportunities to go back to school. There is even the possibility to find a
scholarship for military dependents. If are a serviceman or servicewoman with teenagers on the verge of going to college; there are funding opportunities available through various nonprofit agencies that provide transition counseling services to veterans and their families.

Also, the Obama Administration has taken great steps to reduce student debt, especially for those who have served in the armed forces. Veterans have the opportunity to seek student loan forgiveness for pursuing careers in the military and other nonprofit organizations. Also, veterans should look into state-based scholarship programs. States like New York and Illinois provide education assistance to veterans and their families.

28 January 2013

Valentine Pretzel, Hersheys Kiss, M&M treats

 This is a fun activity to do on a cold or rainy day.  Colors can be modified for any holiday.  Kids of practically every age can get involved in making this fun treat.

These treats are salty and sweet and make delicious and cute Valentine treats to share and enjoy. Enlist the help of your kids.

What you'll need

  • Bite-size, knot pretzels (they look a bit like hearts)
  • Hershey's Kisses (you choose your favorite type)
  • M&M's candy (valentines colors or other to suit the season)

How to make magic happen

  1. Heat the oven to 200 F. Set bite-size, twisted knot pretzels (one for each treat) in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper, then top each pretzel with an unwrapped Hershey's Kiss.
  2. Bake for 4 to 6 minutes until the chocolate looks shiny but retains its shape.  Kisses will feel soft when touched with a wooden spoon. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and quickly press an M&M's candy into the center of each Kiss.
  3. Allow the treats to cool for a few minutes, then place them in the refrigerator to set, about 15 minutes. Enjoy and Share!

    We made half with classic milk chocolate kisses and milk chocolate M&Ms and half with dark chocolate kisses and dark chocolate M&Ms. 100% Delicious!

04 January 2013

Parenting is the Problem

Here's my take on how we can prevent future mass tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook.  It's all about parenting practices, reinforced with responsible gun ownership.

Read all about it on Yahoo: Parenting is the Problem

03 January 2013

D├ętente in the Mommy Wars

I am very opinionated when it comes to parenting.  

I know this about myself.  I have a blog for it.  It's no big mystery.  My friends and family know me as the Been There Done That Mom for a reason.  I do, however, in my daily life, usually keep my mouth shut, unless my opinion is solicited.  Parenting styles differ, and one can never tell where another parent is coming from, so standard parenting guidance might not apply.  

I am quite happy to offer my assistance whenever I am asked, and while I do sometimes get paid for it, most often, the advice I give is free.

I take umbrage, though, when advice is given to me, unsolicited.  I am particularly put-off when said advice is regarding my youngest.  After all, I have Been There and Done That three times already.  Any mistakes I've made, I am probably going to make again with my fourth.  Fair is fair.

So, last week, in the parent waiting area at my youngest child's preschool, when a well-meaning grandmotherly-type inserted herself into a battle of wills I was having with my nearly 5 year old, Harold, I could barely contain my inner mommy warrior.  She ignited a fire in me and I was ready for battle.

It was Harold's beloved teacher's birthday and all of the kids were signing her card.  Harold is a feisty young lad and despite the fact that he signs his name in his classroom as he enters each day, he decided he didn't want to do it right then.  Like many children his age, Harold can be pretty grumpy when I pick him up from school.  Just two months into the school year, he has yet to adjust to the schedule of having school every morning and since he gets wound up and overtired, he doesn't get as much sleep as he needs.   I know that crabbiness is a natural byproduct of a busy schedule for a four year old.  I have learned to cope with it, though, and have set techniques I use to deal with his mood.

So, when the 60 something woman sitting at the table where Harold held the pen in his hand, refusing to put said pen to paper, inserted herself into the situation, I snapped.  She boldly told me to just let it go and write it for him.  She went on to say that she had raised her kids already and knew that it is just easier to write it for them and pretend they did it themselves.  I think it was her high and mighty tone, accompanied by an eye roll, and her insinuation that she had experience with preschoolers that I did not, was what set me off.

In hindsight, I know that I should have just smiled and kept my mouth shut but, wrong time-wrong place, I guess and I was not to be shut down this time.  I responded quickly, telling her this was my fourth preschooler and that I too had, on occasion, signed my children's names for them.  But, once I tell one of my kids to do something, I don't back down.  It's a basic rule of parenting.  'No means no' and 'do it means do it now'!  I resented her conceited air and was insulted by her rush to judgement and insertion of what I am sure she deemed as words of wisdom.

My words of wisdom when it comes to parenting advice: Keep it to yourself unless you are asked for it or a child is in danger.  Last week's unpleasant experience has driven that philosophy home for me.  If I ever offered unsolicited, unwanted, parenting advice, and I am sure I have, I apologize.  I meant no offense.  I will continue to do it in print, but will keep my thoughts to myself when I am away from my computer.  I do not want to contribute to the oft referenced 'mommy wars,' which are a waste of time and energy. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are fighting an actual war right now.  "Mommies" should exert their energy where it is needed, raising their kids to be good citizens of the world, rather than battling each other on the homefront.

In the end, I broke my rule of 'no means no' and 'do it means do it now' because the basic rule my own dear mother taught me, 'if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything,' guided my actions.  I figured it was better to get it done and get out, before I said something I might, or might not regret, but that's another story altogether.

12 August 2012

Question from a Reader

I received this request for help via my site, www.EveryBabyBook.com

Dear Been There Done That Mom,
My husband and I are trying to devise a system to help our 4 year old son get out of the house in the mornings to go to school  He NEVER wants to go to. Of course, once he's there, he is usually pretty happy.

Can you help?

Here are some sticking points:

1. When given the choice, Bobby (name has been changed) would rather stay with me and run errands than go to school.

2. Transitions are a terrible challenge.  If Bobby isn't finished with a task, he will have a major tantrum if I want him to do something else.

3.  Our weekend routine is not the same as our week day routine, do we need to keep it the same?

Thank you.

At My Wits' End

Dear Wits' End,

I can help but it will only work if you commit to it and do not waver at all.  Kids of all ages will latch on to what they see as your weakness and if you give in even just one time, they will remember that, not the times you stuck with it, therefor, if you make a statement, you have to stick with it, even if you later regret it. You must be consistent.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.

As far as going to school , I see this time and time again with the families I coach.  Of course Bobby would rather stay with you.  You are his world.  It is your job to teach him that the world is bigger.  It's not scary, it's great and that you are happy he is going, have no doubt he is safe and happy there.

In the morning, be clear that today is a school day and it's great.  You can say something like, "today is going to be a fun day at school and when I pick you up after lunch/circle time/whatever we will fill in the blank."  This will give him a clear idea of the series of events in his day. 

At drop off, if carpool line is offered, use it.   Do not walk him in to the classroom unless that is the way it is done.  Stick to the routine the school lays out.  Unstrap the carseat and get him out and hand him over to the teacher.  One kiss and hug, cheery goodbye and see you after fill the blank.  Then leave.  Even if he is crying.  It's a show, for you.  As you say, he's happy there.  DO NOT EVER offer him a choice of school or errands or anything else.  A school day is a school day, end of discussion.  Weekends are a different story and you can run them however you want.

For the morning routine, I suggest you make a list, perhaps with pictures, on a paper.  Then, have a meeting with Bobby.  Tell him it is a family meeting to fix some things that aren't working right with the family.  You can say it is for mommy, daddy and Bobby.  Talk about the weekday routine.  Show him the list: this is the list of everything we need to do every morning.  Read it to him and show the pictures as you do so.  Tell him that after he does each thing on the list and is ready to go, he gets to put a sticker on the chart, or color in the box, or whatever (you'll need to print off a success chart of some kind from the internet, put it on the fridge or some other permanent place so he can monitor his success.) Make it clear, when he colors 7 boxes, the reward is xxx.  At the meeting, tell him, this is the way things will be from now on.  It is a change but a change for good for the whole family so everyone can be happier.  Say that mommy and daddy make the rules for the family and we all follow them.  When it's time to get up, we get up and start our day, do the list and ...

Also, he can't play/draw/build whatever, until his list is complete in the morning.

If he is defiant, use time outs.  At the meeting, tell him that from now on, if he does not listen he will get a time out.  Use the 1-2-3 magic technique after you explain it to him.  Tell him, if he misbehaves you will say "1" as a warning, then if he keeps it up, "2" and then "3, time out"  time out is in the corner or on a step or some other place where he cannot interact with you and it is 4 minutes.    If he is yelling and mad, that's ok, that means it is working. 

Afterwards, you can hug him and say, "you had a time out because you..." make it short and to the point, no discussion or debate.  The 1-2-3 technique works into the pre teens.  It nips excessive arguing/debate in the bud.

If he won't put on his pants to go to school, he goes to school in his pjs.  You can send the clothes in his back pack if his teachers want him to change, or you can just have him wear the next day's clothes to sleep at night so you don't have to worry about getting dressed. 

Stay calm in the midst of his tantrums.  Tell him you understand why he is upset, and help him learn to transition.  "it will be here when you get back."  If it's a huge problem, try to make sure he doesn't start something he won't have time to finish if you have somewhere to go.

Mornings should be calm, leave plenty of time from wake up to departure so you aren't pushing/rushing him.  A calm voice makes it easier.  I changed my ways with this about 6 years ago and it really helps.  You want to start the day off in the right tone.  Kids take your lead and your mood can affect their whole day. 

I hope this helps, let me know if you have follow up questions.

I always tell people, Parenting is hard, but if you don't do it right, it gets harder.

Been There Done That Mom

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10 July 2012

Marketing today and in the future

More and more businesses are moving from paper to digital for their every day communications and for their marketing needs.  As a freelance writer, I depend on email and social networking for all of my communications.  In the 21st century, most businesses use email for their business dealings and the medical industry is no exception.  In today's day and age, if you don't communicate via email, you a missing an entire audience and are therefore, really missing the boat.

According to Google, 92% of US physicians use the Internet to get medical information.  If you are in the business of marketing to or communicating in any way with physicians, using a company that provides a concise and easy to use email list is essential to your success.  You need a user friendly,  complete, current and comprehensive  national physician database to fully reach your target audience.

Pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment companies,  and more need help with their marketing.  Getting help from an expert to provide the target email lists saves time, effort and financial resources, all the while helping to reach the goal of driving in more business and growing their consumer base.  A good national physician database can help your company reach all of its goals.

Been There Done That Mom thanks its sponsors.

21 May 2012

Bullying hits the homefront

My middle schooler son’s proclamation, on a Friday afternoon, many months ago, caught me off guard but did not completely surprise me. 

Zack came home from school and told me that another eighth grade boy slammed his locker shut as soon as he opened it and then another boy tried to trip him as he got off the bus. It really did feel like my boy had been attacked by two armies.


I was immediately on high alert.

"They" say that marijuana and alcohol are gateway drugs, I say that locker slamming and tripping are gateway actions to bigger bullying.

We deal with a lot on the homefront: absence of a father on deployment overseas and a child with Asperger’s Syndrome for instance, but I have felt lucky to have dodged the bullying bullet thus far. 
I've read the articles and the blog posts, watched the tv stories and thought, "thank G-d, at least we don't have to deal with that." 

So, that Friday felt like D Day to me.  The bomb had hit our home and I was not going to crawl into a bunker (my bed) and ignore it.

I have a lot of practice taking strategic action because I am a military wife and am used to fighting my way through rough terrain.

Thankfully, we have great counselors and support at our local schools.  I immediately emailed the counselor and alerted her to what happened and asked what we should do.  She told me to come to school the next school day so we could talk in person. 

So, I met with her and the school Resource Security Officer.  They both assured me, leaving no doubt in my mind, that they take bullying very seriously and presented the three options of the next step for us to take:

  •   Do nothing and see what happens (they discouraged this approach, of course.)

  • 2  The counselor has a chat with the offenders, telling them that the teachers in the area observed the bullying (so that my boy does not come across as a tattle tale), stress the gravity of the actions and that if it ever happens again, even once, specific actions will be taken and consequences will be given.  Charges of assault and court action can result.

  •  3  Immediately resort to the legal process by having the children meet with the school Resource Security Officer and other administrators and proceed from there.

I opted for number 2.  The counselor, officer and I agreed that we wanted to give the kids the chance to do the right thing.

So, we set plan in action.  After I left the school, the counselor pulled the locker bully out of class.  She told him what had been seen "by teachers near the lockers" and what the consequences would be if it happened again, even once.  She also talked with my son so that he would know that the adults at the school are on his side.  For an Asperger’s kid especially, this is probably one of the most important parts of the “story.”  My Aspie needs to know that the adults in the situation are on his side and will be there for him, knowing adults are approachable and receptive helps him feel safe in school.  

The counselor and my son teamed up to try to figure out the name of the "tripper" on the bus, and then she took the same steps with the bus bully.

The Next Day…

Zack returned home from school with shoulders slumped.  I asked him what happened and listened to him tell me that the locker kid held his locker shut while my boy tried to open it at the end of the day and that the bus boy had tried to trip him again.  To make matters worse, locker boy rides my boy’s bus and continually blocks his way from sitting at the back of the bus.

I called the school counselor who took the next step with the bullies.  I was not told what the step was but was assured the proper consequences were given.

Day 3

No bullying.

Fast forward, months later.

A few weeks ago, my son came home from school to tell me of a funny interaction with a child in his class.  He and the boy are working together and having fun doing it.  I asked my son to repeat the name of the boy he was talking about.  I asked him, isn’t that the boy who was bullying you?  His response was the best.  Better than I could have ever imagined: “Yes, Mom, but that was months ago.  We are over it and are friends now.”

29 April 2012

Nutella Has Fat and Calories? No Kidding

I count myself among the many moms out there who think the lawsuit Athena Hohenberg, California mother of a four year old, is beyond frivolous.

I, too, am the mother of a four year old (and 8 year old, 11 year old and 13 year old) and I, too, saw the advertisements for Nutella. The ads call the product a quick and easy way to give kids a breakfast they’ll want to eat. They say the product has quality ingredients. Of course they focus on the healthy ingredients, which actually make up only a small part of the spread, but it’s an advertisement! That’s what they do.

They left out the fact that one serving has 200 calories and 11 grams of fat, but guess what, peanut butter has even more, at 210 calories and 150 grams of fat!  The sugar content in Nutella far exceeds that in peanut butter, and therein lies the rub.  Nutella contains 21 g of sugar, but guess what, some brands of granola, considered a healthy breakfast by most people, exceed that!

It’s all about reading labels.  Hohenberg claims to not have time to read “all” the labels, but a mom really has to be naive to just count on the advertisements as her only source of information when buying food for her family.

I agree that the advertising changes mandated by the settlement will be helpful, but the $3+ million dollars going to consumers who claim their part of the class action settlement could really be better spent, don’t you think?  I can think of several ways right off the top of my head:
  • $3 million to a handful of food banks.
  • $3 million to nutrition information programs in under-served schools
  • $3 million to literacy programs so kids will grow up to read nutrition labels
I have bought a jar or two of Nutella for my kids over the years but I will not be claiming my $4 per jar.

Nutella DOES sometimes  play a part in providing a healthy breakfast for my kids.  The key word here is “part.”  Would I give my 4 year old a spoonfull of Nutella and call it breakfast?  No.  Would I spread in on a piece of whole grain toast and serve it with a glass of milk?  Yes.

Moderation is the key here.  Let’s use our heads.  We parents should not need a lawsuit to tell us what to feed our kids.  I can read labels for myself and I think other moms can, too.

I’m sure Mrs. Hohenberg is a great mom and wants to do what is best for her kids, just like most moms, but suing the company isn’t setting a great example.  It’s putting the blame on someone else.  I say it all the time:  Parenting is hard, do the job.  This includes reading food labels and making good choices for our kids.

I, myself, will continue to buy Nutella and serve it in the rotation of other breakfasts my kids eat.  Four kids, four breakfasts every day…  variety helps them get a balanced diet and the more choices I have to serve, the better.  If serving something chocolately on a piece of whole grain, whole wheat bread they would otherwise push away encourages them to eat it, I’m all for it.  Sometimes they eat omelets, sometimes they eat cereal, sometimes yogurt and sometimes Nutella on bread.  I’m the mom and I can decide what I provide for my kids to eat.

I’m happy when they go off to school with fuel in their furnaces, ready to learn.  That’s the important thing.

We, moms, work hard to do right by our kids.  Meal time is often a struggle.  I prepare the meals and and am happy when they eat them.

As I’ve said before:

24 April 2012

Dedicated Post: National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Phoenix's Story

The following is the story of my cousin Loren’s youngest son, Phoenix.  Loren is a single mom to nine, adopted, special needs children.  In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I helped her put her son’s story into words.

We hope you will read the story and remember it.  Sadly, Phoenix’s story is not unique.  In fact, child abuse is on the rise.  In the U.S., a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.  Five children die every day as a result of physical abuse or neglect.

Here is Loren's story:

This story is about my son, Phoenix, who will turn 5 this Sunday, April 29.  I met Phoenix two years ago, on April 29, 2010.

On April 28, 2010, I was given Phoenix’s sister, Tully, a 3-month-old little girl, as a foster baby, when she and Phoenix were removed from their maternal aunt’s house because of child abuse.
The case worker who dropped Tully off at my house told me that Tully had a two year old brother who had suffered a terrible beating at the hands of his aunt.  He was in his second brain surgery of the day and that he was not expected to make it through the night. I asked the case worker if I could call the hospital throughout the night to check on him. I wanted to, someday, be able to tell Tully what happened to her brother if he didn’t make it.

I called every two hours to find out that he remained in critical condition. The next day, I spoke to a nurse who referred to him as “a tough 3-year-old boy,” to which I responded, “He’s not 3, he’s two.”
She then told me that it was his birthday that day.  Hearing that, I took Tully and we went to the hospital to visit her brother. He was in terrible shape.  The doctors had no idea if he would live.  If he did live, it was unclear if he would be able to see, if he would ever walk or eat or have any cognitive function.

When we arrived in Phoenix’s room, he had tremors from all the tubes and wires – he was shaking all over.  Then, Tully started to talk to him, to coo at him, and his body became still.  I vowed that day that we would spend time with him every day to help his recovery.

The nurses kept referring to me as his foster mom and I kept telling them that there was no way I could take home such a physically sick little boy; I had 7 other children to think about. As time went on, though, I advocated for him with the doctors, nurses and CPS (Child Protective Services).

Phoenix’s condition gradually improved.   We found out that he could see, he started eating better and his motor skills improved.  When he walked down the hall with his physical therapist, I looked at the nurse and said “there goes my son”.  I called the case worker and told him that Phoenix was coming home with me.

It took five weeks for him to be released from the hospital, and I took him home.  He was missing part of his skull for 3 months, in order to leave space for swelling.  Phoenix had no language and very little mobility.  He was still very sick.  But, with the help of all his siblings and with his amazing spirit, Phoenix has made a full recovery; he can walk, run, talk, eat, think and play like a wild man.

Phoenix and Tully today

Thankfully, he has no memory of what happened to him. The only evidence left from his abuse is a huge scar that runs around his head.  He is one very lucky boy and we are so lucky he is a part of our family. We continue to send pictures to the firemen who saved his life and to the doctors who worked on him in the hospital.

During the process of making Phoenix officially part of our family, I learned that he first suffered abuse at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend, in February 2009.  The boyfriend brutally beat Phoenix, who suffered broken bones and a spinal cord injury that left him temporarily paralyzed on his left side.  He stayed in hospital for three weeks following that incident and CPS placed Phoenix with his maternal aunt.  The boyfriend is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence.  Phoenix’s mother served 10 months in prison for “Failure to Protect,” and is now on probation.

It was a year later that the aunt, while on crystal methamphetamine, threw Phoenix into the wall or onto the tile floor after getting angry with him.

When Paramedics arrived on the scene, Phoenix was clinically dead.  One of the fire fighters later told Loren that Phoenix’s condition was so bad that he had worked on him so that they’d be able to harvest his organs for donation.

We are so happy that Phoenix fought hard to recover and is now a sweet, happy part of our family.
Phoenix’s aunt was never convicted of her crimes, due to lack of evidence of her guilt.

Click this link to see last year's news story about Loren and Phoenix. 

It's best to click the thumbnail of Phoenix's face to watch that video first, then the one with the firefighter.

21 April 2012

Security at Home

When we moved into our home, my husband said we needed to get a security system installed. 

He felt family security was the most important thing we could do for our home, before we could do any other projects.  He reminded me that he'd be deploying the next year and wanted the peace of mind that we'd be safe, in our home.

So, I searched the net, researching sites, like homesecurityfamily.com, and systems and found ADT to be the best option out there.   I set it up with the company and got-the-job-done.  The system was installed by a very helpful, knowledgeable guy: doors, windows, motion sensors, smoke alarms, the works, and let me tell you, I am SO happy we did it.

Horatio has been gone for nearly 17 months now and every night, I rest more easily seeing the red light on my security system key pad, indicating the system is armed.  Of course I always check to make sure my doors are locked, but feel secure knowing my home is monitored for security.  They also gave us stickers for windows and a sign for the front yard, indicating our house is protected.

You can't put a price on peace of mind.  That's what I always tell my friends when they are considering whether to get a security system or not.  What could be more important to spend money on than something to keep your family safe? 


It's only about $1 a day when you break it down.

Knowing an alarm will sound if anyone ever tries to get into our house, uninvited, keeps me calm and allows me to be free to worry about anything else that might be on my plate.  It's nice to have at least one responsibility left for someone else, while I shoulder everything else these days.

08 April 2012

What's For Dinner?

Meal time is a struggle in kitchens across the country, if not across the globe.  Mine is no exception.

I've been preparing meals for my children for 13 years and almost every evening, I dread the question, "what's for dinner?"  I don't like to have to make the decision of what to make, I don't like to cook, and I really don't like it when my kids reply to my response with, "eww," or "awwww," or "again?"  Doing it all on my own, night after night, during Hortio's long month deployment is tiring.

I made this sign at BuildASign.com. It was quick and easy and reasonably priced and I love that the company gives free signs to families welcoming home troops. The sign's presence in the kitchen serves as a reminder of our house rules.

I've instituted many policies, with regard to mealtime, over the years.  Some have been successful and some have failed.  The one I stick to, no matter what, is: "dinner is dinner.  Eat it or don't, but don't complain about it."

I have found there are a few key elements to successful mealtime with picky kids.

First and foremost, ban the complaints.  In my kitchen, if you complain about the meal, you get one chance to back down, after that, the offender will suffer consequences, such as loss of dessert, which follows dinner. (More on dessert, later.)

Require a "No Thank-You helping."  Kids should have to try what is served to them.  Trying new things is good for expanding their tastes and teaches them good manners for when they are not at home.  If they try everything at home, they are likely to make a good impression when served something new while out to eat.

Always include one acceptable item.  I make sure that each meal includes at least one item each of the kids will eat.  This way, I know they won't go to bed hungry.  If I am serving a new recipe, I might also offer rice on the table. All of the boys like rice, so even if they don't like black bean meatless loaf, after their no-thank-you helping, they can fill up on rice and satiate their appetites.

Dessert follows dinner.  Dessert is not tied to what or how much the child eats.  It is not a reward, it is just part of the meal.  It took me many years to get to this point.  We tried making the kids eat everything on their plates to get dessert.  We tried making them eat at least so many bites to get dessert.  You get the picture.  None of these tactics worked.  They only served to make it a mind game for everyone at the table.  It drove us all crazy.  So, now, as long as the kids eat a no-thank-you helping of each food served at dinner, without complaining about it, they get dessert.

Sticking to these guidelines helps make meal time enjoyable for my family and it can for yours, too.  With so many tasks to juggle, as a temporarily single mom, making the rules clear and constant makes my life easier and the kids' life more predictable in a time of uncertainty during their Dad's deployment.  It doesn't always go smoothly, but usually it does and we are all happier for it.

26 March 2012

Homework, Homework

Parents often ask me when they should step in to help their kids succeed in school and when they should back off and let them fail.

After several years of combat duty on the homework battlefield, I have no trouble encouraging other parents to take the leadership role after some good basic training of the troops.  Give them a good foundation of habits and then back off.

Early in a child's education career, he or she needs our guidance to learn the school's and our expectations and how to meet them.  We need to actively show our children how to meet or beat the requirements set by their teachers.

Many schools even require teachers to present the students with rubrics by which the students will be measured in a given task.  When this is the case, a parent can easily go over the rubric with the child and reiterate that the items listed are exactly what is expected of the student.  Parents should explain, depending on the abilities of the child, that he or she should meet or beat the expectations of the teacher.

For a child above the primary grades, at this point, the parent should back off until the end of the task.  When the child thinks he or she is finished with the project, the parent can then look it over and make suggestions as to how to make improvements, if appropriate.

In my own home, I find that second grade is the key age to make a big difference in the path the child will take toward academic success.

My kids are in grades: Eight, Five, Two and preschool.  My Eighth grader and Fifth grader each tested the waters of what they could get away with as far as homework and projects are concerned in first or second grade.

My now eighth grader, Zack, would feign helplessness.  He would ask questions at every stage of his homework.  Finally, his second grade teacher, Mrs. Larson, whom I will never forget, said I needed to tell him to do the work on his own.  She said he was more than capable of doing the work and doing it well.  He was using me as a crutch and if I didn't put a stop to it then, it would probably never stop.  She gave me great advice.  She told me to make a homework space for him and get him settled and comfortable in it and to tell him not to come out until his work was complete.  (Bathroom breaks were permitted, of course.)

I followed her guidance and, wouldn't you know it, it worked!  It took me a while longer to learn my lesson, though, I remember, vividly, the relief map/diorama I "helped" him make during his unit on Native Tribes.

Now in grade eight, Zack does a pretty good job getting his work done.  He overcomes a lot to get there, too.  His Asperger's Syndrome throws a lot of obstacles at him but we work together as a team to keep him organized and despite road bumps here and there, he does a great job and my input is more limited than could have been the case.

We keep a separate calendar, in a prominent place in the kitchen, for special projects and long term assignments so they don't get put off until the last minute and we keep notes on the white board in the kitchen for weekly to do lists.

My now 11 year old presents slightly different challenges.  Dwight asks for help less frequently but if I'm in the room, he will test to see how many questions I'll answer for him.  I tried to banish him to a "homework cave" but that method failed with him.  He does best working in the kitchen where there is activity going on and does not like to work alone.  So, when I find he is asking questions I think he doesn't need me for, I conveniently find that the laundry needs to be transferred, or one of the other boys needs something.  Most of the time, by the time I return from completing my task, Dwight has figured out the problem and moved on with the next. 

Dwight is fully on his own when it comes to class projects, other than a little constructive input or guidance.  I do not touch his work.  It is HIS work and not mine and I make that very clear.  "I've told him that I already graduated, so I don't have to do school projects.  Now it is his turn.  So far, so good.

Young Bob is bright, like his brothers, and has no trouble with his homework, except when he misreads the directions.  Until recently, I'd only get an occasional question for clarification of instructions but he completed his work quickly and, for the most part, without errors. 

Now, though, he is bored with the work and somehow "forgets" he has homework.  I should be better about checking the online "blackboard" the teacher posts to, but I admit, that is something I've let slide.  I feel deeply that it should not be the responsibility of the parent to take an extra step to monitor the child's homework.  When Bob failed to turn in his weekly word study for the first time, he got a stern reprimand from me and while the teacher said he didn't need to do it over the weekend, mean mom (me) said he did have to do it.

He tried one more time to tell me he didn't have homework but I pressed and learned he did.  I gave him a final warning.  "Homework is to be completed on time and turned in to the teacher or privileges will be lost."  My job is to be firm but loving, not a pushover.  Parenting is hard, it's a job to be done.  We can, and should, snuggle our kids at bedtime.  Homework time is not the time for coddling.

The boys have full control over whether they suffer consequences at school at at home.  Do the work and everything is great.  Don't do the work and grades suffer and Mom takes away ipods and screen time.  It is a simple equation.

I know that my methods and stick-to-it-iveness get more fine-tuned as each of my boys goes through the early elementary years.  Hopefully, by the time Harold reaches 2nd grade, I'll be near perfect.  I should be, but probably won't be.  I'll be better, though, and he'll be better off because of it. 

As Zack enters high school, I am glad we set good habits at the start of his academic path.  It isn't an easy road but we march on and learn as we go.  Establishing these routines sets the boys up, as best we can, for success in school and wherever they land after graduation.

10 March 2012

Spring Forward to a Better Night's Sleep

Daylight savings time change is a perfect time to readjust your child's sleep routine. 
 Early riser? Don't change their bedtime in real time. If his bedtime is usually 7:00, put him to bed at 8:00 tomorrow, it's the same as tonight on his body clock, but an hour later for you in the morning if he sleeps until the same time in the morning. 
 A child who usually wakes at 5:30 just might sleep until 6:30 with this change!

02 March 2012

24 February 2012

No Use Crying

It's all fun and games until something upsets the apple cart, so to speak.

Single parenting is not easy, nor is it complicated.  The hardest part, for me, besides having to do absolutely everything- every day, is the logistics of getting the boys to their various appointments and activities, all at the same time.  It's not rocket science, though, all it takes is for me to swallow my pride and ask for help.  Thanks to supportive friends, we work it out.

What throws me off my game is anything that goes wrong.  One little thing that adds extra work to my day can really knock me off track.

Today I really did feel like crying over spilt milk.  Here's what happened...
Dwight poured himself a glass of milk this morning.  He had a few sips and then put it in the fridge.  Yes, I've told him not to do this what feels like a thousand times.  I reminded him two days ago.  He is 11 years old, though, so my expectations only reach so high.  In his mind, thanks to our philosophy of minimizing waste, he was doing the right thing.

Tonight, during the tiresome, yet necessary task of making dinner for the boys, I knocked the glass of milk over- in the fridge.  Insert exasperated sigh here...

My initial instinct was to yell, growl, find someone else to clean it up.  Facts are facts, however annoying, it was my fault and no one else would, or should, clean it up.  So, slightly dramatically, I admit, I cleaned it up.  Bounty paper towels are a staple in our house for a reason.  Spills happen.  In the end of the day, it truly isn't worth crying or yelling over spilt milk.

It's just a bit of a mess.  No one was hurt.  The fridge was due for a little cleaning anyway.  I soaked up the milk, sprayed it down with a water/white vinegar solution and wiped it again.  A half roll of Bounty in the trash and the job was done.  I poured myself a drink, sat down and watched my boys calmly watching The Amazing Race. 

After 14+ months at this job of single parenting, I'm happy to say that that I am still not a yeller.  It's not always easy and is a big relief to know.  An incident like the refrigerator milk spill is a cliche reminder.  It really isn't worth crying/yelling over spilt milk.  Only a handful of things warrant a parent yelling.  It's a hard habit to break, but the kids REALLY appreciate it and actually listen better when parents don't yell.

We are 75% finished with this deployment.  I can almost see the end of the road where I know Horatio will be home and it won't be as much of a struggle to keep my patience in tact.   When Horatio is home, he often helps with the milk spills or pours the drink.  For that, I am thankful.