No Life Rehearsals

Live, Love, Laugh–Your Life Depends on It

Parenting Karma–The Gift that Keeps on Giving

kid karma2When it comes to parenting small children (and teenage girls), karma’s a witch spelled with a “b.” Everything you do and say comes back to bite you in the ass.  A vague reference to getting  ice cream at some point turns into a nonstop litany of “but yoouuuuu saaiiidd we could get ice cream.”  And, god forbid you fail to deliver on a promise to drive your daughter to the mall with her friends.  This grave offense may result in seeing all 16 personalities of Sybil (remember that movie?)–at the same time!!

Then, you have the constant need to play your cards close your chest because your kids can read you better than any Vegas pit boss.  You dare to wish, or even think about your kids behaving a certain way and they will do the opposite.  Logic and reason are out the window and if you want predictability—fuhggedaboudit!

If that wasn’t enough, there’s the whole energy thing.  They can’t win any battle of parenting Survivor because it’s not a case of outwitting or outplaying, they will simply outlast you each and every time.

There will be periods of respite.  A calm before the storm as it were.  But then, suddenly, your kids will turn into something familiar, recognizable–a smaller version of you.  Awwwww, how cute.  Not.  That smaller version will have all your tricks up his or her sleeve and a lot more for good measure.    You’d better buckle up because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

 

 

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Knock, Knock is Anyone Home? Why Don’t We Feel Safe in Our Own Homes?

salesman 1My local mom’s group listserv was on fire this last week.  By far the most talked about topic OF THE YEAR involved a young college-aged man who was selling educational books door to door.  The comments were all over the board.  Some were kind saying give the kid a break and offer him a bottle of water (we were in the middle of a heat wave).  The vast majority were decidedly wary and/or fearful and full of questions.  A fair number simply did not like his manner or his “name dropping” of other mom’s names in the neighborhood.  Many thought he was too “aggressive” because he would not take no for an answer.  One mom was trying to get out of her driveway when he drove up and parked behind her.  She said he wouldn’t move his car.  He should have.  That was wrong.

He did come to my door and tried hard to make a sale.  I twice told him firmly that I was “not interested” and when he did not stop talking, I just shut the door on him.  End of story.  I did not feel rude in the least.  Many wondered whether he even had the right to sell door to door.  Some encouraged calling the police.  A couple of moms could not believe that he would actually park his car in their driveway.  Where is this Saleman 4concern coming from?

We are a quiet suburb between Boston and Providence.  Sure we’ve had some break-ins of cars and houses (while the owners are away), but for the most part, this is a safe community.  We also have a long history of door- to-door salesman in this country.  At this juncture, I question whether this is a viable sales method anymore.  Still, I occasionally get people selling lawn and other home services and sometimes black suited young persons trying to “sell” me on religion.   Do I like door to door salesman?  No.  Was I annoyed to have to answer the door?  Sure.  My air conditioner was on and I didn’t want to let all that hot air in.  I listened to about 10 seconds of his pitch before cutting him off.   He drove off and that was that.

What was so objectionable about this young man that warranted dozens of posters to comment on it?    In contrast, a few months ago, a very earnest young woman came to my door touting a cable package (with a free gift card) if I switched cable companies.  I know she visited a lot of houses in the area.  She didn’t park in my driveway. She arrived on foot.  I’m not sure where she parked.  No outrage from the moms.  Not a peep.  So an “aggressive” college male selling educational books who parks in their driveway warrants this dialog but a similarly aged woman selling cable services on foot does not.  Is it a gender thing?  Have we become so fearful of young males that we do not feel safe having them park in our driveway and come to our door?  I sure hope not.

Of course, I could not write this post without mentioning the elephant in the room and another young male that someone questioned his right to be in their neighborhood–the Zimmerman case.  I’m not saying that we need to stop employing common sense wariness of strangers that come to our door.  However, many argue that our society has become defined by a culture of fear and that our perception of danger has increased but not the actual level of risk.  Do we give in to this fearfulness and believe that danger lurks everywhere?  That is the question.

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Stop the Presses – The Digital Press, That Is

books 1I’m in mourning.  If this were the late 1800s, I would be wearing all black, carrying a piece of the deceased’s hair in a locket around my neck or, in my case, a page torn from a book.  Yes, printed material is dead, or perhaps gasping for it’s last breath if you want to be more precise and a bit morbid.

I wish I could say the demise was slow and lingering, worthy of its place in history.  Instead, it was a quick, peel the band-aid off fast before it hurts, kind of death.  The fact that it’s near death is universally acknowledged.  Recently, PC World magazine  announced that they’re discontinuing the print edition and going all digital by the end of the summer.  No, this alone is not shocking or even a harbinger of the beginning of the end of the printed word.  The shocking part is that the commentary consisted solely of how long the magazine took to make the switch; implying that printed magazines are somehow archaic and passé.  Newsweek PC magazine, U.S News and World Report did it years ago.

If we can’t, as civilized society, read our People magazine in the toilet what can we do?  I guess I need to acknowledge that the writing is on the wall–the Facebook wall (or the bathroom wall, same difference).  We, as a society, are reading finger snapdifferently and the change wasn’t even generational.  Whole generations converted like that. I don’t know if we have to change the name of our book club to a Kindle club.  Nah, not on my watch.

There is a generation that will soon be coming to age that knows nothing different.  We have the Baby Boomers, Generations X and Y and now the Digital Generation.  We’re changing the way we interact with the world.  What will be changed next?  If you mess with my morning coffee, I may have to kill you.  I feel like I’m the last of the Mohicans or should I say the Bookhicians (the dwindling tribe of people who primarily read printed material).

The question is how could something that has been around for centuries go obsolete so fast????  In the blink of an eye really.  We have simply become too clever for our own good and something wondrous and special got harmed in the process.  Why are some things gone before their time, like Nirvana or the sci fi show Firefly, and others linger on, like the diet soft drink Tab (yes, it’s still around and refuses to die).

Maybe I should start a Change.org petition.  Since it’s online, people will probably read it but will anyone know what I’m talking about or even care?  What about Kickstarter?  That’s all the rage these days.  But what would I raise money for? A printing press?

Maybe I could appeal to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and petition them to put the printed book on their endangered species list.  No, wait a minute, they might actually want this.  All those trees dying for paper, messing up some species natural habitat and such.  I can’t call them.  Is there anyone out there?  If a tree falls in the forest and no one makes it into a book, does anyone care?

 

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The Seven Simple Steps to a Fun Road Trip with Your Kids this Summer (Yes, I mean Fun!)

car tripIf you are thinking about taking a cross country road trip with your kids this summer, the best you probably think you can hope for is that it doesn’t turn out like the movie Vacation.   That’s where you’re wrong.  I’m here to tell you that it CAN BE FUN!

Every year, my friends think I’m crazy because I take my two little ones (now not so little at ages 7 and 8) on a long distance car trip halfway across the country.  At some point during the summer (that’s what I love about the car trip, you don’t need to plan ahead), I drive from Massachusetts back to my home state of Minnesota.  Even when they were toddlers, I would drive  alone with them cross country to a wedding in Kansas or to spend a few weeks down in Florida before they were in school.

My husband went along with these trips begrudgingly not wanting to spend valuable vacation days driving in the car.  I get that.  But, I think I have finally persuaded him that the drive is half the fun.  Yes, that’s right–THE DRIVE IS HALF THE FUN of the whole trip.  The kids talk about the car trips all year long.  My daughter is right now compiling a list of the “surprises” she would like to get on the car trip–most of which she won’t receive but it’s like Christmas you don’t always get everything you want.

They especially love staying in hotels–from playing in the pool to eating the free “hot” breakfast (which includes choosing their own cereal or manning the waffle maker).  It’s something we only do during the summer and they think it’s awesome.  I have now successfully imprinted in their DNA a love of car trips.  Mission accomplished.  If you just follow a few simple steps, you can do it too.

My father loved to plan family car trips.  Growing up, he would meticulously plan out our car trips–the sights we would see, the places we would stay, and even places to eat.  If he were alive today, he would have loved the GPS and a smartphone with an unlimited data package, it would have made his job so much easier.  Technology does make things easier but that’s not the only secret to a successful car trip.

So, the vast majority of you are, at this point, wondering if I’m not just a touch delusional or addled in the brain somehow.  Maybe you suspect I’m on some kind of drugs–ones that still allow you to drive because all the good ones don’t.   The question is how could I possibly enjoy what amounts to 24 hours in the car with two small children (and that’s just one way!).car trip 6

As with anything else, the key is setting expectations and a schedule.  Yes, a schedule.  Here’s what you need to do:

1. Invest in a Dual Screen Car DVD player:  You can find them at Wal-Mart, Target or Amazon for under $100.  They are a godsend, along with the iPad, iPhone, Kindle, etc.  However, don’t get lulled into a fall sense of security thinking that technology alone will do the trick.

2.  Find some Used Kids Books:  I buy used kids books at thrift shops, library sales, and garage sales.  Every morning, I put new books in their seat pockets to read.  I dole out two new books a day. At about 50 cents a book, it costs me $10 to $15 dollars for the whole trip.

3.  Maximize the FIRST Day:  Drive the farthest the first day when they (and you) are the freshest and make each day progressively shorter.  I’ve only driven three days straight (before getting to our final destination) and I make sure the last day is only around 4-5 hours.  On that last day everyone is ready to “get there”, so we make one quick stop and then I can finally say “the next time we stop, we’ll be there.” Which brings me to stops….

4.  Set a schedule for stops:  I try to push them the longest in the morning (as long as I can!) and then make the stops shorter as the day progresses-say every 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours.  Tell them the schedule and make sure you stick to it.  For example, if I say our next stop is at 3:00, they can look at the car’s digital clock to see if it’s getting close to the stop.

5.  Reward good behavior and make them earn it.  My kids earn a “surprise” at each stop for good behavior.  I pick up things throughout the year at the dollar store, yard sales, you name it.  The surprises are then put in brown paper bags that they can select from.   They love it!  It’s like they get a birthday present at every stop.  I also warn them that they will not earn a surprise if they behave badly.  The first time they did not earn a surprise, I had to endure a 15-30 minute tantrum but it was worth it because I’ve never not given a surprise since.  Every trip, I remind them of the time they did not earn a surprise.  Believe me, they remember!

car trip 46.  Set their expectations.  Tell them whether that day is going to be a long drive or a short drive.  Give them benchmarks.  Maybe you tell them how many stops it will be until you get there or tell them whether you are going to be there by lunch time or by dinner.    Be honest.  Talk up the stop (get them excited) and make sure the hotel has a pool.  Plus do your research, you don’t want to get to Wally world and have it be closed!

7.  Snack Box and Treat Box:   Put together a snack box and a treat box and set a schedule for when it comes out and they know that schedule.  That is the key, setting expectations and breaking the day into manageable little chunks.  Don’t just bring it out whenever they whine for a snack.  Set a schedule and stick to it.  You can say, “It’s still 25 minutes until the treat box comes out.”  Kids respond to a routine–like they have at school everyday.  Make sure your snack and treat box is filled with things they ordinarily don’t get during the year.  If you want to stay nutritious, go to Whole Foods or somewhere you don’t ordinarily shop and find some new nutritious snacks to try.  It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it feels special and different.

By doing the things I’ve listed, the days actually fly by.  The kids have fun and Mom and Dad also have fun.    Although the excitement is not on the same level as going to Disney World, it’s pretty close.  I would love to hear your great tips and tricks for surviving (and enjoying!) a car trip such as car bingo, puzzle games, I Spy and the like.   Mom always likes to have a few new tricks up her sleeve!

 

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A Great (FREE) App for Parents – Capture All of Your Kid’s Best Quotes with Day One

day one

As many of you know, this week some of the top rated Apple apps are being offered free in honor of  the app store’s five year anniversary (has it really been only five years since our lives changed forever?????).   So I grabbed a couple to try out.  I think they will only be free for one week so ACT NOW.   I thought I would take this opportunity to Rave about something instead of my usual Rants.  One of the apps in particular intrigued me Day One – a journaling app.  I have not had enough time to fully appreciate it’s uses but one use came to me immediately because I’m trying to create a Kid’s Quote Book in Shutterfly (all the best quotes from my kids complete with cartoon talking balloons).  Ambitious yes, but it’s a project I’ve wanted to do for awhile and I’m determined to get it done.  Kind of like that carpet cleaning from my last post.

So what can Day One do for you???  If you are anything like me, and I suspect you are, your iPhone is full of pictures and movies of your kids.  But what about all those funny things your kids say?  The ones that you and your husband laugh over for days, or even months and then are forgotten.  Do you ever find yourself later saying things like “what was it that she used to call spaghetti?  It was so funny.”  Then, for the life of you, neither of you can remember.  Those cute kids phrases are like dreams, your brain simply doesn’t have room for them and they somehow get deleted.

Obviously, there are many ways to document these gems–scraps of paper that get put in a box, notebooks, your calendar, etc.  But I think I’ve found a good way, one that I wish existed six years ago when I started this project.  Enter the iPhone–the device that never leaves my side.  If you want to preserve these funny quotes, I think you should seriously consider a journaling app.  Now I’m sure there are a lot of great journaling apps out there and frankly, I don’t care which one you use. I only started using the Day One app (mostly because Apple was offering for free this week) and loved it!  It’s simple and straightforward.  You make a new post by pushing the plus (+) sign and then you “tag” it by pushing the shopping tag icon( ).

Give your post a tag name (I called mine “kids quotes”) and then you all of your kid’s quotes posts will be under one tag.  It’s that easy.  Obviously there thousands of uses for this app and it seems like people LOVE it and use it for many different things.  It’s time to download first, ask questions later.  ACT NOW!  RISK FREE!  MONEY BACK GUARANTEED!

 

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Stay at Home Mom Seeks Praise, Validation or just Carpet Cleaning

cleaner 4I’m at Stay at Home Mom (no acronym) with a confession.  By the way, you should know that I’m never going to use that awful four letter acronym–SAH*.  NEVER.  I plan on making it my life’s mission to come up with a better one.  That is, right after I get this load of laundry done, pick up the toys, make lunch, etc.  I guess I don’t have time for life’s missions right now.  But when I do, watch out you stupid four letter acronym–you’re going down.

Okay back to the point.  My confession:  We have not had our carpets “cleaned” in over ten years.  Frankly, I’m not sure how big of a confession this is.   I didn’t poll my friends before writing this post and carpet cleaning is not high on the list of conversation topics when we get together.  I mean when you have The Bachelor or Toddlers and Tiaras to talk about, is there really room for much more?   As confessions go, is it “we still have the same mattress after twenty years” type confession or is it “I’m a grown man and I have an unhealthy obsession with Pokemon” and write about it (sorry, that was a shameless cowardly dig at the person who wrote that piece for the Thought Catalog.  I still think it’s funny).  

In any event, my carpets were cleaned today.  Hip Hip Hooray.  The fact that I picked one of the most humid days of the summer to do it and they’ll never dry is besides the point.  The carpets are CLEAN.  The need to clean was spurned by an unfortunate incident with tape in the kid’s playroom.  Despite the good intentions of the perpetrator (me) for placing the tape on the carpet, a sticky residue of tape adhesive has attracted dirt like a moth to a flame.  Come closer dirt…yes, I can feel you now…ha, I got you, you’re mine, all mine and I’m never letting you go.

So, after beating myself up about it for months and my pessimistic husband warning “it might not come out”, the carpet is finally clean and any hint of residue is gone.  To which my husband immediately cautioned, “it could still be there and attract dirt again when it’s dry.”  He’s a glass half-empty kind of guy.  I’m the opposite.  I feel a step lighter, a sense of accomplishment.  I take my solutions and celebrate the heck out of them.  In this job when moments of praise and validation are few and far between, I guess I’m okay with a good carpet cleaning (pat, pat on the back).

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