My Top 10 Parenting Posts of 2019

It is a New Year…and time to look back at my Top 10 Parenting Posts of 2019. These are listed in no particular order…in other words, these aren’t ranked as to which ones are better than the others. If you missed any of these, simply click the link after the first few lines of each post.

Dying too young…

On a recent Saturday morning, I noticed a post on our neighborhood community board that my neighbor’s son was missing. He is a high school senior and had gone out with friends the previous evening to a restaurant to celebrate a friend’s birthday but didn’t come home. (Click here to read more.)

Requiring my kids stick with a club or sport but not that they do one

The other day, Lexie called me from the school before her robotics club met. She announced she wanted to quit. This was two weeks before their competition in which she is one of 10 students chosen to compete. I told her no and sent her on to her meeting. (Click here to read more.)

Should good deeds and volunteering be recognized?

Should good deeds, donating or volunteering be rewarded? This is a conversation I had recently with a fellow parent. She believes that when we are collecting used books, box tops or having our kids volunteer their time that they should do so out of the goodness of their heart and not because any reward is attached. (Click here to read more.)

Teaching our kids to not spend more money than they have

Not all children get an allowance but one of the reasons we began giving Jase and Lexie one is to teach them about money. They need to learn about saving and not spending more than you have/make. Each week, they get a small amount put on their FamZoo debt card. (Click here to read more.)

Family Night is a good thing

My husband has been working a great deal lately. This means he has been working weekends or evening. Sometimes his work takes him out of town. The kids have been missing him. So, this past weekend we decided we needed to do something as a family. (Click here to read more.)

Unexpected events: Suicide and suicidal thoughts

Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting in a church in downtown San Antonio. My husband and I were attending a memorial service for Mike – a fellow attorney my husband had known for the past fifteen years. As I sat on the pew, I was surprised that the family had the minister address the circumstances around his death. (Click here to read more.)

And so it begins…My daughter’s first serious crush

I knew it was coming at some point. She is 11 years old after all. Yep, that is right, my daughter has her first serious crush.

Last year , when Lexie was in fifth grade, she liked a boy, Jacob, and even gave him a note telling him that she liked him. (A brave move that I wouldn’t have done at her age.) But sadly, Jacob didn’t respond…at least at the time. (Click here to read more.)

Allowing my kids to walk to school despite “Stranger Danger”

A black Toyota pickup truck slowly pulls up next to the middle schooler walking to school. The man slowly rolls down the window and offers the boy a ride. The boy shook his head and continues to school. Later that evening he mentions it to his parents who alert the school and city police departments. (Click here to read more.)

The magic of Santa Claus comes to an end

Image result for santa claus not believing

In 2012, I wrote about the magic of Santa Claus and wondering when my kids would stop believing. At that time they were 7 and 4 and were firm believers. Now, in 2019, they are 11 and 14 and both no longer are believers. (Click here to read more.)

Navigating makeup and my tween

Last Friday, my daughter attended her first middle school dance. This was just a casual dance, not a boy-ask-girl type thing. She was very excited to be meeting up with her friends and picked out a simple black dress. (Click here to read more.)

Things to work on (or my annual not a resolution post)

Laptop,Earphone, Diary, Letter, List, Pen

I am not one for making New Year’s resolutions. You know most are destined to fail in a few short weeks or even in a few days. It is hard to make changes that you will stick with through the duration. (See my post from last year for popular resolutions and how to make them last.)

But it is equally hard not to want to make changes or improvements in your life. Whether you take the new year as a time to start or wait for spring or whenever, I say go for it. There is no reason you can’t lose weight, exercise more, or whatever your goal is.

Here are a few things I would like to do this year.

Professional

Last year, I did not put my writing first. Whether it was writing for my blog or working on my latest novel, I let other obligations take up my time.

So, this year, I vow to write more consistently on my blog. Not only is my blog a good way to stay in the writing rhythm, it also allows me to stay in contact with other moms, writers and readers. I want to get back to writing twice a week – Monday on Parenting issues and Thursdays on Writing/Publishing/Marketing issues – as well continue the weekly inspirational quotes and featuring a monthly recipe as I have done in the past. For the next six months, I am also planning to feature new excerpts of all of my books and maybe end with a sample from my current work-in-progress (that would give me until July to get something worthy of being shown off).

Speaking of that WIP, I plan to finish that this year. I don’t have the first draft complete but have been working pretty steadily on it for the past month. If I can keep that up and continue to make it a priority, I think I can have it published this year. (For those of you wondering, I am currently working on a follow up trilogy to my The Elemental trilogy.)

Personal

On the personal side, I would like to strengthen my relationship with my husband. We both have been absorbed in our own things – him on expanding his law firm and me with my writing and volunteering (as well as working part-time for his firm.) We haven’t been making time for date nights or even lunches together.

But for any marriage to survive, you need work at it. We need to make time for each other and not solely concentrate on our work or the kids. So, date nights, lunches together, snuggling in bed to watch a movie and more need to be on the agenda. Our 25th wedding anniversary is coming up and I am hoping maybe we can at least plan a weekend getaway.

Another thing I would like to work on is letting things go. I tend to worry about things I have no control over. I can obsess about being late when I have no control over the accident causing traffic to come to a standstill. Or worry about…a million different things. I can only do so much. And as I keep telling myself, everything will work out.

So, I will go into the New Year hoping to make these changes. Whether I can stick with it for days, weeks or months is yet to be seen, but any progression in these areas will be worth it.

 

The magic of Santa Claus comes to an end

In 2012, I wrote about the magic of Santa Claus and wondering when my kids would stop believing. At that time they were 7 and 4 and were firm believers.

Image result for santa claus not believingNow, in 2019, they are 11 and 14 and both no longer are believers. For Lexie, this is her first year. I don’t know what made her stop believing. In the past, other kids have told her Santa wasn’t real but she refused to listen to them.

I had always worried she would be upset that we had lied to her. But it all turned out fine. She just declared she knew and then asked us how we had known what she wanted when she only told Santa and who ate the cookies.

I don’t recall when Jase found out. I don’t think he said anything. Maybe he didn’t want confirmation or perhaps he didn’t want his sister to find out. It just seemed that he knew – just as he knew about the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny (who isn’t me as I have never bought an Easter basket. That is all on my mom or EB as she signs her emails asking what I think the kids want in their baskets.)

Since both kids now know the truth, you would think that stockings or Santa gifts would be over. But Lexie being the smart, negotiator has declared it is now tradition to get those things so she expect “Santa” to deliver this Christmas too.

I had always planned to keep up the stockings filled with small gifts and candy. Now “Santa” at our house never brought more than one gift and it was never a big or expensive gift so having “Santa” drop off two small gifts is no big deal.

Now with her new knowledge about Santa, she also has figured out there is no tooth fairy and didn’t put her last tooth she lost last week under her pillow. And yes, she still wants money for it. I’ve given Jase money even after he stopped believing – though again he never said he didn’t believe.

So now I guess these “magical” parts of childhood are over. A part of me is sad about that but I understand it is part of growing up. Now they don’t have younger siblings or cousins to protect the secret from but I will make sure Lexie knows to keep this information to herself when out in public as other kids may not know.

And while this part of the magic is over, it has not decreased their excitement or joy in the season. They know that Christmas is more than just “Santa.” It is a time of giving, happiness and family.

 

And so it begins…My daughter’s first serious crush

I knew it was coming at some point. She is 11 years old after all. Yep, that is right, my daughter has her first serious crush.

Last year , when Lexie was in fifth grade, she liked a boy, Jacob, and even gave him a note telling him that she liked him. (A brave move that I wouldn’t have done at her age.) But sadly, Jacob didn’t respond…at least at the time.

This school year, the two moved onto the much larger middle school. And now, Lexie has found out that Jacob likes her too. He wanted to respond when they were in fifth grade but for whatever reason didn’t. They exchanged phone numbers. And now they have been texting back and forth – finding out that they have lot in common.

Lexie is so excited. And nervous. I don’t think she knows what to do now. Are they “dating”? What happens if he wants to hold her hand? Will this relationship last? What if he breaks her heart?

So many questions and so far she is turning to Mom to discuss this. Actually, I got text messages from her when she first realized he liked her back and then again when she gave him her number. I’ve told her to slow down and enjoy just getting to know him. Don’t worry so much about the future. She can’t imagine going out to the movies with him. Did kids do that still? Or is their form of dating at this age just texting and possibly hanging out. Do kids hang out anymore? Maybe nowadays most of their relationships happen online. (And yes, we periodically check both kids’ text messages.)

Ugh. I am so not ready for this. Jase is fourteen and besides having a “girlfriend” in the fourth grade, I have yet to hear about any crushes. I do remember the girl who flirted with him outrageously while we were on the Orchestra sixth grade field trip but while Jase liked the attention, I’m not sure he knew this girl was crushing on him. Of course, we have yet to come out and ask him if he is interested in anyone – and I am not sure he would give us an honest answer. He is the type to be embarrassed by liking a girl.

But before I know it, both of them will be dating. Yikes. I hope I am able to answer any questions they have – assuming they still come to me with them by that time. I don’t have a lot of experience with dating. I only went out with a handful of people in high school or college before I met and began dating the young man who would become my husband. (That was just twenty-seven years ago. So much has changed in the dating world since then.)

Ok, I know I shouldn’t jump ahead of myself. Let’s just keep the focus on Lexie and Jacob and deal with her questions as they come up. I can panic about dating later.

Presents for the furry members of our family

Christmas is a time of giving. We give gifts to family, friends, strangers and…of course, our pets. Most of us after all consider our furry (or not so furry) pets part of our family.

Numerous surveys show that people love to go over board buying snacks, toys and beds for their fur babies. Survey results in the U.S. show up to 89 percent of dog and cat owners buy their pets gifts. In fact, one survey showed 56% spend more on their pets than their own family members. And just because I found it interesting, people spend more on dogs than cats. Poor kitties.

The pet industry of course knows our love for our pets and offer a plethora of gifts to choose from whether it is toys, clothing, collars, beds, chew toys, treats, scratching posts, blankets, bowls, grooming kits, carriers, GPS trackers or even pet heating pads.

And it isn’t just dogs and cats that get gifts. People buy for their fish, bunnies, mini pigs, snakes, hamsters, ferrets, horses, goats and any other animal they consider part of their family.

My family is no different. We love our pets as members of our family, and of course, buy them presents.

Dogs

We have 2 Cocker Spaniels – Sadie Rose and Gypsy.

Now Sadie Rose is all about food but we don’t buy her treats as she could stand to lose about 5 lbs. But that doesn’t stop us from buying her a new chew toy or bone.

Gypsy is still so much a puppy as she turns 2 this coming February. She loves anything that anything soft that squeaks.

Typically, I buy one of those stockings full of toys from the pet store and then some sort of rawhide or bone for Christmas evening. They also get gifts from both my parents and the in-laws.

Cats

We have 3 cats – Nikki, Tails and Spooky.

The kitties are all older so not as spry as kittens. And with the dogs always stealing and destroying their toys, we have to be careful where and when the cats have their toys. Being cats, they love things that are soft and full of catnip.

And yes, they get presents from my parents and in-laws too.

Hamster

We have one hamster – Poptart.

Last year was her first Christmas so my daughter wanted to get her something. We ended up getting her a treat (hamster frosted donuts) and then a chew toy (pizza shaped). Poptart liked the treats but not sure the chew toy was worth it as she hasn’t really gone after any of the chew items we have purchased for her.

Sadly, only our family bought Poptart a gift last year.

Now, I don’t spend large amounts on our pets (and certainly not more on them than the humans in my life.) On one survey, 48% of people spent $10-$25 on their pets while 26% spent $26-$50. Only 3% spent over $100.

I don’t think it matters how much you spend, just as I don’t think it matters whether our pets understand what all the fuss is about. It is about showering our pets with a little extra attention. And who doesn’t enjoy a new toy or a treat.

Counting down to Christmas with Advent calendars

As a child, it is hard to wait for Christmas. To help my kids countdown to the big day, I introduced them to Advent calendars.

Now when I was a child, we had advent calendars but they were much simpler. We opened a small door to reveal a picture or maybe a piece of chocolate. My brother and I shared a calendar, each opening a door on alternating days.

When I first started the kids on Advent calendars, I bought them ones filled with their favorite toys. They make one for those that like matchbox cars, Playdough, Legos (Friends, City or Star Wars), Barbie, Tsum Tsums and more. They also have ones with chocolate, nail polish, makeup, or even alcohol (for adult, obviously). Prizes range from $6 for picture/cheap chocolate to $20-$35 for ones with toys.

Every year, Jase chose a Lego one. Most often it was the Star Wars version but sometimes it was the Lego City one. In the beginning, he would immediately open the daily bag and build the miniature Lego creation. But now that he is a teenager, the thrill seems gone (though he still likes Legos as that is the majority of his Christmas list.)

Lexie is the opposite of Jase. Every year, she picked something new – Playdough, Tsum Tsums, Lego Friends, Hatchimals, and Littlest Pet Shop. But as she gets older (she is 11 now), she isn’t as interested in toys.

I looked for other options, thinking maybe one with candy would be better. The choices were limited. I didn’t want the same chocolate every day. Lexie is allergic to nuts so that also limited my choices.

There are several advent calendars where you fill the drawers, pouches or boxes with your own gifts. These run about $20-45 each. I would need two. And the boxes usually are tiny so I would have to find really small things to stick in them. Then I got the idea to buy little boxes ($10 for 50 on Amazon). I can fill them with little gifts or candy.

The kids were game to give it a try. And I figured it would cost me about the same as buying a toy advent calendar. Well, I was close. Last year, I spent $55 on 2 advent calendars (Star Wars Legos and Hatchimals). This year it was about $64 in addition to the boxes. But, they will (hopefully) get 24 days of things they like and enjoy. With the toys ones, there were always disappointing days where you got “accessories” instead of something to build or play with.

Fancyleo Christmas 12 Pcs Mini gift box Christmas tree New Year decoration decoration Christmas ornaments

This year’s boxes are filled with their favorite candies (and gum for Lexie). I also bought small toys though it was hard to find things I thought they would like. Ok, it was harder for Jase than Lexie. It is always easy to find small, inexpensive things for girls like nail polish, tinted lip balm, bath bombs, hair accessories or earrings. The items cost between 50 cents and $3, except for the Holiday earrings set of 5 earrings that cost $8. (I know, way over what I wanted to pay but she has no holiday earrings. and these were so cute.)

So, I guess we will see how this goes this year and if they want to do the same thing next year or do something else. Or perhaps they won’t want an advent calendar at all. (Who am I kidding. Of course, Lexie will want one and then Jase won’t want to be left out.)

 

Navigating makeup and my tween

Last Friday, my daughter attended her first middle school dance. This was just a casual dance, not a boy-ask-girl type thing. She was very excited to be meeting up with her friends and picked out a simple black dress.

This is somewhat of a surprise because Lexie isn’t a girly-girl. She doesn’t wear dresses, fuss with her hair or care about fashion or typically her looks. But I know the day is coming when she might want to do some of these things. She is after all 11 years old.

And we got just a hint of what is to come last Friday evening. She got dressed and fussed over her hair, combing, styling and worrying about fly away hairs. We got that under control, and then she mentioned makeup.

She wore just a touch at Halloween as part of her costume and, yes, she played with my makeup when she was younger, but she proudly will tell you she isn’t a girly-girl, so I was a tad surprised she wanted a hint of lipstick and to use some concealer.

We picked out one of my lightest lipsticks. She still thought it looked too dark. So, after wiping some of it off and adding a light layer of powder, she was satisfied. She used my concealer on the darker skin under her eyes and whatever blemish that she could see (that I couldn’t).

Now, I know she doesn’t want to wear makeup all the time. (She said as much.) But I wondered when she would be ready. I recall being just about her age when I started wearing makeup. Of course, that was in the 80s and big makeup was popular. I just remember buying purple eye shadow (still one of my favorite colors though way subtler now.)

I recently volunteered during lunch time at her school. Most of the 6th graders weren’t wearing makeup, or if they were, it was subtle. Some of the seventh graders had makeup on, but it was the eighth graders whom I really noted the makeup use.

Looking online, it seems that many girls start between 13 and 15 years old. But 11% of 10 and 12-year-olds are wearing makeup. As with many things, it is a personal choice between tweens/teens and their parents.

I have no problem with her using concealer (as pimples and blemishes are certainly coming) and tinted lip balm. I don’t think she needs mascara and anything beyond light eye shadow. I certainly don’t want her to go crazy with makeup (at this age or really any age). I don’t think she needs it.

But I am also a realist. It is coming. And I don’t want her sneaking around and putting on different clothes and makeup when she gets to school. And she needs to use her own makeup. I know it isn’t good for her to share my makeup, and her skin is paler than mine so what works for me won’t work for her.

With this in mind, for her Christmas stocking this year, I have picked up a light concealer, translucent powder and two different tinted lip balms. I don’t expect her to use this daily, but she will have it for those occasions she wants to use it. And when she is ready to advance to different makeups, I’ll take her to the store and help her select some that will compliment her skin and age. And that day will be here before I know it!