My animal-loving daughter takes death of animals – even in the movies – to heart

I’m raising some animal loving kids. Both kids are very compassionate about animals. I guess this is to be expected as we have three cats, two dogs and a hamster.

Lexie in particular loves dogs and wants to be a dog rescuer when she grows up. If I let her, she would start now. She always concerned when she sees a loose dog on the street or a sign advertising a lost pet.

While dogs are clearly her favorite, she does love all animals. And this love has been clearly shown in her reaction to two movies that we have watched in the past few months.

When we went to the theater to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Lexie was particularly troubled by the scene where the brachiosaurus dies in the fire. It was by far a sad scene for everyone in the theater, but it bothered Lexie quite a bit. Beyond just the tears during the scene, for days afterward she would suddenly wail out about the injustice of it all and why did it have to die?

For that matter, in the first Jurassic World, she was quite upset when the Indominus Rex goes on a killing spree of the other dinosaurs on the island. She had very little concern for the people who died but the dinos were another story.

Last week, we watched Alpha. We almost didn’t make it past the opening scene where the warriors chase the buffalo over the cliff.

It doesn’t matter to Lexie that this is just a made-up story or that these creatures weren’t real. She feels for the innocent creatures. In fact, she always seems more upset about the death of animals than she does about the human characters. Maybe it is because humans are flawed or simply because she doesn’t think the animals deserve to die. It doesn’t even matter if the death is so others can survive such as in Alpha when the boy Keda has to kill a rabbit to feed himself and the wolf Alpha.

Guess this means Lexie will never be a hunter. And I guess this means we need to really monitor what scenes Lexie sees in the movies, on TV or YouTube. Because as we all know not everyone out there loves animals. Not everyone sees them as creatures with feeling. There are lots of bad people out in the world who mistreat animals and these people are portrayed in movies and on TV. It was sometime over the summer that Lexie was devastated about a cartoon on YouTube in which someone threw a puppy against the wall. For the longest time while she was crying about this, I thought she saw a video of a real dog being killed. Ugh.

In the end, Lexie did like both Fallen Kingdom and Alpha. Heck, she even watched A Dog’s Purpose which is about a dog’s spirit who gets reincarnated as several different dogs throughout its life. The first death was the hardest but with each one it got a little easier and she loved the end of the movie. By the way, we warned her not to watch this movie but she insisted because it was about a dog.

I know we can’t protect her forever from these images and stories, but I do think we have to remember how sensitive she is to the lives of animals and while my husband and I understand the scenes in these movies, Lexie might not. At the very least, we can warn her about anything that will leave her in tears.

 

 

 

The morning rush is driving me crazy

Every school morning with my daughter seems to end the same way – with me yelling at her to hurry up.

Lexie is not a morning person. She is like her daddy. She is slow to wake up and the kind of person who can keep hitting snooze on the alarm and going back to sleep. I am not this person. I tend to pop awake but even on the days where I am dragging, I know I need to get up, pack the kids’ lunches, get them ready for school and so on. So, I get up and do it. I may drag for a few minutes, but I trudge through the routine until I am awake.

Jase is like me. While he sometimes does fall back asleep, usually he gets up, turns on the light and then climbs back in bed to eat his breakfast in a half awake/half asleep stage. Yes, both kids eat their breakfast in bed. We have never eaten breakfast at the table. It is usually a breakfast bar, cereal or something easily transported to their rooms or even the living room. Maybe if they ate at the table, they would wake up easier. But then again, I wouldn’t be down there as I have my own morning routine. No one likes eating at the table, so it is not a battle I am willing to have.

One day before Thanksgiving break, it was a pleasant surprise for me to go into Lexie’s room to find her already awake and watching on her iPad. By 7 am she was dressed and in my room asking if I was ready. Of course, she wasn’t fully ready. She still had hair and teeth to brush, socks and shoes to put on, and medicine to take.

Ten minutes later, I am back to yelling at her to hurry up.

Ugh.

I hate this. I hate yelling at her to hurry up. But she seems to run at a snail’s pace. Everything seems to take so long with her. I attribute some of that to the fact that she is trying to watch her iPad and get ready at the same time. She can’t brush her hair and watch something or talk to you. It just doesn’t happen.

I guess I am spoiled with her brother who I never have to tell to hurry up and get ready. He wakes up, gets ready and leaves for middle school without much guidance. (I do have to remind him to brush his teeth.)

I know something needs to change.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

The problem is figuring out what works not only for me but for Lexie. I know right now that neither of us enjoy mornings. She hates waking up. She hates me yelling at her. And I hate the yelling too. I hate sending her off to school upset. It makes her day start off bad, and it makes mine start off bad.

The next day my husband got involved in the morning routine. It took a lot of reminding Lexie to stay on track and get ready. But it worked. She was ready on time with no yelling from me. A good start but now we have to keep up with it or if it doesn’t work find something else that will because yelling is no way to start the morning.

Knowing how to swim doesn’t stop 6-year-old from drowning

So many times, when you see a story about a child drowning, there will be comments such as “This is why my kids learned to swim” or something to that effect. People seem to think that knowing how to swim will safe guard their child from drowning. But sadly that isn’t the case as my neighbor found out.

Last Saturday, my neighbor had some friends over to enjoy her pool. That group included her daughter and her granddaughter. Six year old Ryland is a good swimmer. She has been taking lessons since she was three. She even has competed in a few swim meets. Ryland loves the pool and plays in her grandma’s (who she calls Bunny) pool all the time.

The doctors chalk it up to exhaustion causing her oxygen levels to suddenly drop while she held her breath as she tried to retrieve all of her dive sticks. The drop caused her to pass out. Her family was right there at the pool, but it still took them a moment or two to realize Ryland hadn’t come up for air. They immediately jumped in and pulled her out. She wasn’t breathing.

Luckily, there was nurse attending the party. She performed CPR as someone else called 911. Ryland began breathing again and was rushed to the hospital. While she was breathing on her own, she wasn’t conscious. They admitted her to the pediatric intensive care unit where they decided to keep her in a medically induced coma while they evaluated her.

It would be three days before they decided to bring her out of the coma. At that time, they knew she had some liver damage and there was still fluid in her lungs. But they wouldn’t know if there was any brain damage until they woke her up. Instant relief could be felt in the room as she immediately recognized her mother and her Bunny. She was able to whisper the answer to a few questions.

The next day, they took her off oxygen and even allowed her to get up though she tires easily and definitely isn’t back to her normal cheerful self. There will be a few more tests to run before she will be released from the hospital and her lungs will need the heal but so far everything miraculously looks good.

But Ryland’s story is a reminder to all of us that we need to be alert when our children are in the water. They could get a cramp, hit their head or as in the case of Ryland, suddenly pass out, and drown. Knowing how to swim is a good thing for everyone but it doesn’t make you “drown proof.”

Ryland’s mother is a single parent. While she has insurance for Ryland, there will undoubtedly be medical bills to pay. To help her out, a Go Fund Me page has been set up to collect donation to cover these costs. I know you don’t know this family but if you want to help, they and I would appreciate it. Even a small donation helps.

Getting my kids their own debit cards

When Jase was five we began giving him a small allowance to teach him about money. In the beginning, I would put cash in his wallet. When he went to store, he paid for his items. We did the same for Lexie when she turned five. (For those of you who don’t know, the kids are now 12 and 9.)

Then in 2015, the kids received iPads for Christmas and with that came online purchases for apps and games. As online purchases became a norm and with Jase making money doing yard work, it became easier to keep track of their money on a spreadsheet.

As time passed, we ended up just keeping track of their money virtually and stopped putting cash in their wallets. It was easier with online purchases or for the times when we were out at the store and they didn’t have their money with them.

But this meant that I had to know how much they had. I would have to remember to check the spreadsheet before we left or before the kids bought anything online. The information was tied to this one file and the kids didn’t have access to it. And with us making purchases for them and just keeping a running tab, we worried they weren’t effectively learning money management.

We decided to look into other ways to handle their money or more importantly, put them back in charge of their money. We looked at apps, but they didn’t improve what we were already doing. My husband’s office uses a debit card through Wal-mart, but it charges a fee every time you add money which we would be doing weekly for their allowance. We were going to look into a PayPal account but while it may do what we want, it didn’t have the ease of access for us to oversee their accounts.

A quick internet search led us to the answer to our problem. We found three programs designed to let kids or teens have their own debit card with proper parental monitoring.

Current offers a Visa card for teens. It allows teens to put money into three different wallets – savings, giving and spending. Parents can set up allowances and chore charts and have the option to set spending limits and block purchases from certain categories.

The main negative in our case was that your child had to be 13 to have a card.

Price: $3/month for one kid, $4/month for two kids (each additional kid is an additional $1/month) – billed upfront yearly.

Greenlight offers a Mastercard for teens. While similar to Current, it does not offer payment for chores, and there is no way to divide money into savings, giving and spending categories. The card also cannot be used at ATMs or to get cash backs on purchases.

Price: $4.99/month per family.

FamZoo also offers a Mastercard. With this program you can do a virtual tracking of money or you can opt to get a debt card attached to your child’s account. If you opt for a debt card for anyone under 13, the card will be in your name, but after they turn 13, the debit card can be in the teen’s name. You can divide the money into savings, spending and giving but each one will be on a different card. You can also set up allowance and chores.

Price: $5.99/month for up to 4 cards. There is a discount if you pre-pay making the amount as low as $2.50/month.

After weighing the pros and cons of each card and reading reviews for each program, we decided to go with FamZoo. We signed up for three cards – one for each child and then one for me (aka The Bank). My card holds the money I want to be able to transfer to their cards.

We loaded the app on Jase’s phone and Lexie’s iPad. They have their own log ins and can only see their own information. On my app, I see all accounts and can review their purchases.

They have tried them out at the store with no problems, and we linked their cards to their iTunes and Xbox Live accounts.

The only negative we have had so far is that I put money on Lexie’s card for the school book fair, but they couldn’t process her payment. They only take credit cards and hers is a debit card. (Actually, it brought up a screen where the librarian could call and process the payment, but the librarian wasn’t willing to do that for fear it would take too long.) It worked out okay as I had my credit card with me. Seconds after making the transaction, I moved the money out of Lexie’s account and back into my FamZoo account. Problem solved.

I think we are going to like the FamZoo cards, and I definitely think it will help the kids be more aware of their money and where they are spending it. It will put the money management back in their control instead of mine.

 

Encouraging my nine-year-old to save money

When Jase was 5 years old, we started giving him a small allowance as a method of teaching him how to handle money. We stopped buying him candy or toys when we were at the store and insisted he uses his own money for these extras.

He wanted a Star Wars AT-AT and with the help of a graph to show how much savings he had verses the cost, he ended up saving up enough money for the toy. (We did match his savings so technically he only had to save up half the amount but it was an expensive toy so it still took him a long time.)

Now, Jase is willing to do extra chores to earn money and is good about savings. Even now, he has $100 in savings and is often reluctant to spend his money.

Lexie too has been receiving an allowance. But she has the exact opposite reaction as Jase. If she has money, she thinks she needs to spend it. If she gets $5, she wants to buy something right then. She made $9 at her Nana’s garage sale and immediately handed it to me to buy an app for her iPad.

These past few weeks, she has been saving her money but her plan is once she reaches her goal, she will spend it and be out of money again.

I hate that she spends everything she receives. I also don’t like that she is purchasing virtual things – often “gems” or “coins” for some i-Pad game. She has nothing physical to show for her purchases. But I am not sure it is my place to qualify her purchases as foolish as they might not be to her. All I can do is explain the opportunity costs of her decisions. (If you buy gems for Animal Jam today, you won’t have money when we go to Sea World this weekend.)

Now when we first started the allowance, it was meant to be a learning tool – one I researched a lot before we implemented it. Many sites suggest you have your child divide their money into three categories – savings, spending and charity.

But I didn’t want to tell them how to spend or that they had to give their money away. I didn’t want to tell them what they could and couldn’t buy. I wanted it to be their money and their decision. Which means if they want to spend all their money on candy or virtual “money” than they can

The kids and I have talked about budgets and wants vs needs as part of our summer life skills/lessons. We have talked about making sure you take care of purchasing the things you need such as a place to live and food over things that you just want to do like go to the movies or buying a new video game. And I plan to repeat these points to them as they grow up.

Recently, I sat down with Lexie to talk about her spend-everything attitude. I reminded her of times we were somewhere and Jase was able to purchase a larger toy than she could because he had saved more. And there have been times where she couldn’t buy anything at all while Jase spent his money. (The bad thing is Jase is too sweet. He will buy her something so she isn’t upset.)

But more importantly, I mentioned to her the importance saving will have when she is older.  When she is an adult and on her own, she will not want to spend everything she makes. She will need money for emergencies. Being an animal lover, I pointed out that something unexpected could happen to her dog and she will not have the funds to pay for medical expenses.

That example made an impact on her but I don’t expect her to all of a sudden to start saving. In her mode of instant gratification, I don’t know if she will have the dedication to become a saver without some help.

So as much as I would love to allow her to do whatever she wants – and I do think she can learn some powerful lessons by making her own mistakes with money – I also want to instill in her the importance of savings.

In order to get her use to savings, I think we are going to have a minimum she must have in the “bank” rather than a certain amount to save from each allowance.

Part of me fears that making her save without her understanding the reasons can backfire later. When she no longer has anyone “making” her save, she could go the opposite way and go back to spending like crazy. Or maybe she will have learned to save some of her money. But really, only time will tell.

My anxious child excels at his violin concert

I’ve written before about Jase and how anxious he gets over different events. He is our rule-following boy and always seems concerned with doing what he is supposed to do. He will have panic attacks if he forgets to do a homework assignment. If he is to bring in something to class, you can bet that he double and triple checks that he has it.

When it has been a day where kids can wear PJs or have crazy hair, he is nervous to participate, worrying that he will be the only one. He will be so nervous until he sees that others are dressed in their PJs or have spiked green hair. (Actually this semester he has gotten better about this.)

So you would think that he would be nervous about performing in front of a group. All eyes are on you now, watching, judging. But nope, this never phases Jase.

Recently, his fifth-grade strings group performed as part of a citywide concert. I expected Jase to be nervous. A friend told me his daughter refused to get out of the car the previous year. I imagined Jase doing the same thing. But he didn’t.

I do think he was nervous. It was just that it didn’t seem to control him. He didn’t have trouble sleeping the night before or eating as we drove to the event. Now because I know how anxious he can get, I do what I normally do. I tried prepping him for what would happen. I showed him pictures of the event from the previous day. (It was a four-night celebration, and he was performing on day 2.)

I think the photos helped. It showed him that he would be in the stands versus on the floor of the gymnasium. No nerves showed up as I dropped him off. Heck, he probably would have been more concerned about being late than actually being there.

My husband and I ended up sitting two rows away from him at the performance. He appeared calm and collected as he waited for his turn to rehearse and then later perform.

So here is the boy who will be panicking because he has to do a science lab experiment with worms or the fact that he didn’t finish reading his required Blue Bonnet book, and now he is behaving as if this is nothing to be concerned about.

Of course, I probably shouldn’t be too surprised. The fact is even though he panics over many small things and worries about dozens of everyday events, he has done this before.

He has tried out for the school play, gotten a part in the talent show and often participates in front of his class. Yes, he was nervous about the audition but not to the extent that missing a homework assignment caused. Yes, he had butterflies about performing in front of the whole school and sped through his routine. But he did it without a panic.

It just baffles me at what he gets worked up about and which things he takes in stride. My husband worries about his anxiety but you know what, he has survived all that and keeps on going. I think he will do fine just as he did at his concert.

Sticking with my No TV or computer in my kids’ bedroom

Ever since Jase was young and would easily fall asleep in front of the TV, my husband has occasionally brought up the idea of putting a TV in his room. And as Jase uses a computer more and more (mostly for play instead of homework), my husband has also suggested we give him his own computer for his room.

On both these accounts, I am firmly against it. I don’t see any reason Jase or Lexie need to be holed up in their room watching TV or glued to the Internet without any contact from the rest of us.

large-cartoon-tv-0-12713There are two TVs in the house. They have free use of them, and each child has their own profile set up on Netflix. We can clearly check to see what they have been watching. (My kids pretty much have never watched regular cable TV. It has always been iTunes or Netflix.)

One report I read said 71% of American kids between 8 and 18 had a TV in their room. (By the way, more boys than girls have TVs in their room. I can only speculate that has something to do with gaming systems.) Researchers followed up with those in the study two and four years later. They found that those with TVs in their room tended to be overweight and continued to gain weight.

0bb52e4a68920cf04dd0017cbaa3be5e_laptop14-cartoon-clipart-for-laptop_1600-1200Jase and Lexie have a computer to use. It is in our office right next to mine. They have even come up with their own schedule for using the computer. And since the computer is in the office, my husband and I can monitor what they watch or play.

They are both really into watching YouTube videos and while their YouTube apps on their iPads have restrictions, I don’t believe there is any on the computer. Occasionally we tell them that what they are watching is inappropriate (usually because of bad language).

If they are in their room, I would not be able to monitor their Internet usage. I would have to rely soley on security settings and monitoring their web browser history. And at this point, they don’t NEED a computer for school work. It would only be for entertainment, and I feel much better having them use the computer out where I can monitor them.

apple-ipadUnfortunately, since the kids do have iPads with internet access, it is almost the same thing as having a computer in their room. And yes, we do allow them to watch it in their room. Jase sometimes hides what he is watching, but it is more for fear that we will tell him that he shouldn’t be watching something rather than him chatting online. (And he always lets us see what he is watching when we ask.)

We do have age restrictions on their iPads. All their purchases have to go through us, and we have to know all passwords. Their email accounts automatically copies my husband. Yes, I realize as they get older we will need to do more monitoring, and at some point we may not allow them to charge their devices in their rooms in an effort to stop them from texting or playing online when they should be sleeping.

But it is unrealistic to think that not having a computer in the bedroom will keep them totally safe. They can access the Internet from a friend’s house or at school. And no amount of filters will ever keep all the bad things away from them. So it is up to us as parents to keep talking to them about their online usage and monitoring it the best we can. It is about us teaching them proper usage of technology – whether it is in the terms of Internet safety or in the moderation of its use.