I is for Independence #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of characters. On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting, Wednesday – quotes, and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will focus on characteristics. On the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about characters from movies, TVs or books.

Funky capital I

Funky capital I

Today on the A to Z blogging challenge, the letter is I. On Mondays, I typically write about a parenting issue so for the letter I, I chose Independence – as instilling independence in your child.

Our job as parents is to love, nurture and protect our children while guiding them into become responsible adults. It is often too easy for us to want to do things for our kids rather than letting them do it themselves.

Yes, it may be faster to tie your kids’ shoelaces. But if you don’t take the time to show them how to do it themselves and let them practice (even if it takes them four times longer to do it than if you did it), then they will never learn to do it.

The same applies with chores. Children may take longer and not do as good a job as a parent, but they need to learn. And they only will learn by being given the opportunity to do it themselves.

So instead of doing it for them or jumping in to help, wait to be asked for help and then instead of doing it for them, show them how to do it.  After that stand back and let them do it. Allow them to make mistakes and figure out how to fix those mistakes. Yes, you can offer guidance but resist rushing into help or do it for them. Remember it is all in the name of letting them grow, learn and become independent.

If you missed the other days in the A to Z Challenge:

A is for Alice

B is for Belgarath 

C is for Cautious Child

D is for Dana Scully

E is for Enthusiasm (Quote) and Southwestern Eggrolls (Recipe)

F is for Flaky Character 

G is for Gandalf 

H is for Huckleberry Finn

Taking the kids to theme parks

Before we had kids, my husband and I belonged to the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE). We would attend ACE events that centered around riding roller coaster – usually in Texas but right before I became pregnant with Jase, we went to Ohio for ACE’s biggest yearly event. The highlight for us was going to Cedar Point, which has 15 roller coasters (at the time – they have even more now).

Even after we had Jase, we attended a few Texas ACE events, but it became harder to do. In fact, our whole touring of theme parks has changed since we have had kids. When we took the kids to Disney World as toddlers, we could no longer ride the thrill rides together. rider-switch1We would use the Rider switch program that Disney offers.  The way it was work: one parent rides and the other one watches the kid and then they switch off. If you are there with other people, they can ride with both parents. However, we went just as our small family so it meant we rode alone which isn’t nearly as fun.

The change in how we experienced theme parks – fewer thrill rides and more family or kiddie rides – lessened my husband’s desire to go to the parks. But I have held fast to the belief that at some time when the kids are a little older and braver, the parks will become fun for him again.

Every year we buy season passes to either Sea World San Antonio or Six Flags Fiesta Texas. The kids taste in rides have changed slowly. There was a period when Lexie was brave, and at 3 would ride Journey to Atlantis with its 5-story drop. Now she won’t ride it at all. Even though she is our adventurous girl, she tends to be more cautious with rides.

SpacemountainWe went to Disney World a year and a half ago, and the kids wanted to try out the roller coasters. They loved Space Mountain, and we rode it several times. We rode Expedition Everest and while Jase was a little scared, Lexie thought it was awesome. Yes, we still went to rides that we for the younger kids but at least we got back to the thrill rides.

But it did take some coaxing to get Lexie to try anything new. She was terrified to try Splash Mountain. Once we got her on it, she loved it. The same went for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. And because we knew she would like them we would convince her to give them a try.  (The same thing happened just this past weekend when we went to Fiesta Texas. We had to convince her to ride a mini coaster and a flume ride but she loved both.)

Disney rides are much tamer than those at other theme parks. Disney is meant for families. It isn’t full of the thrill rides my husband wants to ride. So on our next trip we plan to spend a few days at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

I have checked the ride lists for both parks and think there are things that our kids will like to ride. I didn’t include the major coasters because I am not sure they will meet the height requirement, or even if they are tall enough, I am unsure they will be brave enough. The only negative is that many of the rides are based on movies or TV shows that our kids have not seen. I know the rides can be fun by themselves but knowing some of the story line can add even more fun. I guess this means we have a lot of movie watching between now and our trip.

Questions, Questions,Questions #AtoZChallenge

Qjpg“Are we there yet?”

“How much longer?”

“Why does that man have dark skin?”

“How was the Earth created?”

“Where do babies come from?”

“Why can’t I drop Lexie over the side of the railing?”

Kids are filled with questions. Sometimes it feels like they have an endless supply. Some are easy questions – Can I have a cookie? And some are hard – “Why do people die?”

We recently took the kids to Dallas for Spring Break. I can’t tell you how often we heard “Are we there yet?” and “How much longer?” It made the drive seem so much longer.

Of course, there are always those questions that parents don’t know how to answer. Lexie recently asked, “How the Earth came to be?” Now I know some parents might say God created it. And that could have been the simple way out but not for us. It turned out to be a question that couldn’t easily be answered while driving in the car.

Plus when answering, you have to think about how much your child can understand of the answer. This especially holds true for the inevitable question of where babies come from or how they get in mommy’s tummy. You kind of just have to feel out how much your child wants to know.

You can start by giving a short answer and see if they accept that, or if they have more questions. The main thing is not to overwhelm them with information that they don’t want or are not ready for.

Another technique would be to ask them what they think the answer to the question is. This can always lead to some hilarious answers but can also give you an insight as to why they are asking the question.

Check out this website for 9 commonly asked questions and how to answer them.

Abstract red colored neon lights with the word Why uid 1647863Of course, one of the most common questions asked is “Why?” So every time you give your child an answer they say, “Why?” (Or in the case of my niece “how come?”) This can be a frustrating thing where you want to go “Just because” or “Because I said so.”

There is simply no way to stop kids from asking questions. And really asking questions is a good thing. It is the way they learn. I just wish that they would sometimes wait to ask their questions. Such as asking, “Why is that person fat?” when you are standing in line next to said person.

Making Education a Priority for A to Z Challenge

EjpgI often tell my kids they have one job – school. Their job is to learn. Today on the A to Z Challenge, it is the letter E so I decided to talk about Education.

Now when I decided on this topic for the challenge, I was thinking about formal education as in school, though I know kids learn so much in other places – the biggest being at home.

My kids are 7 and 9, which places them in first and third grade at our local elementary school. They both work hard and enjoy school. We have explained to them why their job as students is so important.

An education, we can at least hope, will prepare them for later. It will help them learn the basics they will need to get a good job and to survive in the world. And what they learn now is the foundation for further learning.

But it is more than just about leading them to a good job or career. Learning about the world builds character. It helps them make better decisions. The knowledge they learn can help them form opinions and develop a point of view.

And as they progress through school to middle school and then high school and finally college, I hope they continue their thirst for knowledge. And yes, we will be encouraging both kids to attend college.

I know that going to a university is not for everyone, but I think it will open up their world even more. It will introduce them to new experiences and to a variety of people. There is more learning at college than the classes you take.

Composite of graduation cap with diploma uid 1279578And with a college degree, their career paths will widen as an educated individual has a better chance of getting a job. I don’t want them to merely get by in life. I want them to succeed. And I think having a college degree will improve those chances. So as they get older, we will talk to them about college and their options.

But whether they go to college or choose a different route is not as important, as long as they are learning.

Two indoor “snow” activities for the kids

We don’t get much snow here in San Antonio. It might snow every three or four years, and even then it is never enough for the serious childhood snow play that I remember from my youth.

So whether you live in a snow-free climate or you just don’t like going out in the cold, here are two snow activities that you can do from the warmth of your house.

Snowball fight

P1040145For the past two Christmases, I have thrown a kids Christmas party and the biggest hit has been the indoor snowball fight.

I found this idea from a blog in 2013 and quickly made about 30 snowballs for our party. CIMG3565They are made out of white pantyhose and soft poly fill. The kids had a blast pelting each other with these snowballs.

They are exceedingly easy to make but you do need to make sure you put a knot in before and after each snowball (except the first one which only requires one after it).

Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to make them.

Fake Snow

CIMG3530In December 2014, I found this blog with snow as a sensory activity. It takes just baking soda and shaving cream.

CIMG3537On the blog, they didn’t say how much of either item to use. It just said one “large” box of baking soda. I used a 4 lb box and one can of shaving cream to make enough for both my kids. And the cool thing is the “snow” is actual cold! Lexie added a little white glitter to hers.

CIMG3560This kept Lexie busy for hours. Jase played for a little over an hour with it. He liked putting his Legos in it.

Since it is made of baking soda, you can always pour vinegar on it for a little bubbling action when you are done playing.

Both of these projects are cheap and easy to do. And best of all, the kids loved them and were kept busy over our winter break.

My Top 10 parenting blog posts from 2014

As this year comes to a close, I wanted to take this time to highlight some of my parenting posts from this past year (in no particular order). If you missed out on these and want to read more, simply click the “more” link to see the complete post.

listening1.) Eight tips to end the “my kids never listen to me” dilemma – You’ve repeated your request a thousand times – or at least if feel like that. But there sits your child ignoring what you just told them to do. The funny thing is that even though we know our kids may tune us out and choose to focus on their TV program we keep doing the same thing. Sometimes it feels the only way to get the kids to listen is to raise my voice. Then I feel guilty about yelling at them. (more)

2.) If you have children, you need a will (and life insurance) – Most people don’t like to think about death or dying – especially when it is their own life they are considering. And this fear of thinking about it causes many to ignore the subject all together, falsely believing that it won’t happen to them. Or perhaps they have decided that they don’t care what happens after they die. I mean they are already gone, right? (more)

3.) The thing I hate most about party planning – the RSVP (part of 3 part series on parties) – Throwing a party for your child can be a lot of work. I don’t mind the actual party or even the planning of my kids’ parties. In fact, I love designing their invitations. What I hate is waiting for people to RSVP. (more)

4.) Adding a Lego-twist to an army-themed birthday party – After Jase’s birthday party in 2013, I decided that we were done with throwing a party and inviting the whole class to some sort of party place. As Jase gets older, I want to scale back his parties. So we started talking about doing one at home or maybe something with just a few friends at another location. (more)

5.) My kids’ lack of care with their possessions – Just an instant before it hit the water, I realized the doll my daughter tossed into the bathtub was a singing (electronic voice box) doll. Even though my son fished it out quickly, I feared the damage had been done. (more)

CIMG28986.) Planning a trip to Disney World – Part 3 – Our Disney World vacation is getting so close – just a few weeks away in fact. There are so many things I could cover, but I think today I will talk about an ever-changing development as well as one of their annual events. (more)

7.) One down, three ups – “You’re stupid.” “You’re so ugly.” “Poopyhead.”  “You big baby.” Yep, these are all things out of the mouths of children – specifically those would be my children earlier this summer. Some people may brush this off as kids just being kids. Often times kids simply repeat things they hear on TV or from other kids without thinking that these things can hurt others. But they can and they do. (more)

8.) Scheduling Time for Family Dinners – My kids are lucky enough to live within close proximity to both set of grandparents. My parents moved to a city 20 minutes away before my son was born, and my in-laws moved to a small town about 20 minutes north of here about 2 ½ years ago. (more)

9.) Avoiding the Summer Slide – school work in the summer – “Ahh, mom, do we have to?” This is the typical response I receive from my kids when I announce we are going to do school work today – during school vacation. Yes, this summer I am making them review school work and read books so all the knowledge they learned last school year stays “fresh” in their minds. (more)

10.) Why the Otterbox Commuter is so worth it  – When I got my iPhone 4 back in December of 2011, one of the first things I did was look for a cover that would protect the phone if I (or more likely, one of my kids) dropped it. I had heard Otterbox phone cases were very popular and after reading reviews decided I needed one. (more)

So here is to hoping everyone has a wonderful 2015 and I hope you will join me in the new year for more parenting posts.

If you have children, you need a will (and life insurance)

gravestoneMost people don’t like to think about death or dying – especially when it is their own life they are considering. And this fear of thinking about it causes many to ignore the subject all together, falsely believing that it won’t happen to them. Or perhaps they have decided that they don’t care what happens after they die. I mean they are already gone, right?

When my friend, Trish, was first diagnosed with cancer, she professed to not caring about the bills or the money she spent on her family. Her theory was that you can’t take it with you. And while that is true…you are leaving behind love ones who will have to pick up the pieces. They will still have bills to pay.

Trish lost her battle with cancer at the end of August. She was the main bread winner of the family. She did not have a will or life insurance. Now her husband is struggling with paying off her medical expenses and adjusting to life without her income. A life insurance policy would have provided the family some relief.

In Trish’s case, the lack of a will was not as important even though it might have made a few things easier on her husband. But now he is the sole provider for their two kids. It is even more important that he have a will to provide for his children if he should pass away before they reach adulthood.

My husband is an attorney and while he doesn’t specialize in wills and trusts, he make a point to emphasize to parents that they need a will. It is the ONLY way to have a voice in what happens to your children after you die.

You may think it is obvious that your brother will take care of your kids or that your mom is young enough to do so. It may never enter into your mind that your mom and brother may argue over who is best to care for your children. Without a will, it will be up to the state to decide who will have custody of your children.

But with a will, YOU get to say who you would like to raise your kids. You can ensure that the family member or friend you want to raise your child is the one that gets to do so. You don’t want to leave it up to the courts to decide what is best for your family.

(There are other benefits of having a will such as giving instructions regarding medical decisions in case you are not medically able to express your wishes, providing for the education of children or grandchildren and avoiding tax consequence for your heirs.)

As for life insurance that money can help pay off your expenses and for your funeral instead of leaving your loved ones with bills. In the case of Trish, a life insurance policy would have done that as well as provide the family more time to transition their lives to a single, one income family.

So I urge all of you to review your life insurance policies and update your wills. And if you don’t have a will – and especially if you have kids – I urge you to get one.