Category Archives: parenting

Really Great Advice

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I am not sure if anyone is in the same predicament as me but with two jobs and grad school, it has become quite hard to spend as much time with my children as I would like.  I spoke with my pastor about this and she had some really great advice.  My main issue was that I needed to spend more time with my teenage daughter and as anyone knows teenagers can turn their backs on parents and shut them out; mine hasn’t done this and instead has been trying to connect with me more often.  My son is a handful and usually takes up most of my time when I am at home and not grading papers or writing papers.

So, I was told to send my four-year-old to bed an hour early. Simple but great advice! Why didn’t I think of that?  Well, that is why I am sharing.  I probably didn’t think of that because I am running on autopilot and didn’t step outside of the situation to take a closer look.  Within that hour my daughter gets 30 minutes to herself to relax without having to help with her little brother and the last 30 minutes are for us to share and do whatever it is that SHE wants to do.

When I told her about the idea she was excited.  She even helps me get her little brother in the bed earlier for his storytime and kiss goodnight.  So far we have played monopoly (her favorite game) and 8 ball (a game that uses our cell phones).  We even answered questions from our “Coke or Pepsi” book (great book to get for girls middle school and up).  She loves our time together and so do I.

 

Re-Visioning

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stop-procrastinating-and-do-revisionIt has been a while since I have posted to this blog and it is because sometimes life gets in the way.  Mine became all-consuming and I started to drift off into a place where I felt detached from myself.  I was just a robot doing what needed to be done and existing but not living.  The more time away from writing, the more I became detached.  Words are my life!  My goal is to get it back and focus on what matters “MOST”,  hence, the title Re-Visioning.

I have my students revise their drafts because sometimes it lacks focus, purpose, or careless mistakes have been made.  Some drafts are beautifully written but can be taken to the next level.  That is how I explain it when they ask why they have to revise.

Life can be revised.  Sometimes we get into a pattern where we lose focus, purpose and make careless mistakes.  Sometimes we are at the top of our game but just need to switch gears and try something new.

I am at that point.  I am re-visioning my life and doing what works for me and mine (my household).  My goal of getting published this year did not occur because I drifted and got caught up in existing.  Do not let this happen to you and if it does, know that you can switch gears. A new year is coming but more importantly a new day.  It doesn’t matter how far down the wrong path you have traveled, as long as you stop and turn around.  We can constantly recreate the life that we want for ourselves.  We can constantly revise our plans when thrown a curve ball.  We can re-vision our purpose.  It is never too late.  What I will not do is look back another 10 years from now and ask “Why didn’t I even try?”

Be A Warrior in Your Relationships

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Well, I have moved back to my old neighborhood and I am glad because the kids are happy, their schools are closer, and it’s beautiful here.  Along with this move came a reconnection to their dad.  Our past is somewhat intense.  We met in high school and knew then that we wanted to be together “forever” but as we all know, when kids get involved and only one parent matures, it makes for some heavy situations.  Fast forward 14 years and we are both a lot more mature and it is time to act as such.

I have come to the realization that it is important for our daughter to finally see her parents interact in a positive way and our 3.5 year old son to have his dad around on a consistent basis (also in a positive way).  So, I extended the olive branch and offered for him to spend time with the kids and then when they went to bed we could watch the first game of the NBA finals.  Both of us are going for Golden State!

Anyways, he was surprised because I never wanted to watch sports with him when we were together in the past nor did I really want him watching sports alone.  I’d rather have him watch a good Lifetime Movie with me. So, he accepted the offer and was pleasantly surprised when he saw that I had brought two different types of wings, chips and dip, and beer and wine for the game.Go Warriors

We watched it and celebrated the ups and downs of the game.  As we sat there glued to the screen and the food, it suddenly hit me that there was a clear power struggle between him and me. I didn’t want to give up control and he didn’t either.  We also weren’t keeping the kids and each other partner first.  We were young and selfish.  All he wanted was my presence sharing an experience that he enjoyed.  Crazily I used to be so mad at him for other actions that I tied it to anything that he wanted to do and “didn’t do it”.

Needless to say it was a great experience sharing a positive night with their dad and since then he has come over more often to spend time with the kids, talk about our daughters grades and our sons progress in a new preschool, and just relax.

What I want to end with is the fact that there shouldn’t be a power struggle because those types of struggles don’t account for the children.  We need to focus on healthy relationships, which sometimes mean sacrifice, for our kids.

The Justin Saga

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So, my two-almost-three-year-old gives me the worst time when I take him out in public. It has gotten to the point where I am afraid to take him anywhere, including church! I have good reason, he randomly yells at people passing by, hits other children, and makes faces at strangers. Of course, I researched and came up with a load of possible reasons why he is the way that he is, my little sprout watching bundle of joy. I had narrowed it down to just a few, oppositional defiance disorder, severe ADHD, and borderline personality disorder. I’ve already taken him to a child psychologist and she prompted me to use the program 1,2,3 Magic! I hope that it works because it is getting hard to find a babysitter to watch him while I go to the grocery store.

After my own analysis of the situation and then speaking with the child psychologist, I came to the conclusion that it “should” be hard to label a two year old. For goodness sake, one of the guidance counselors at my school thinks her son has sociopathic tendencies. Of course we don’t truly believe that there is anything wrong with our children but what we do know is that the behavior being exhibited cannot continue and we want to take action now. Justin’s (my son) pediatrician said that his behavior is normal, especially for a child who spends all day with his older grandparents and is not used to going out and interacting with other children. He stated that the negative behaviors should start to diminish after he starts preschool.

But, guess what? He must be potty-trained to start preschool. And Justin’s response to potty training…. a resounding “No”!

The saga to be continued….

Sick with a toddler

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I believe it is the hardest thing to be sick as a single parent with a small child at home. You don’t want to pass your germs on to your bambino but you are the only one in charge of taking care of them. I am lucky enough to have my thirteen year-old daughter who was so responsible and made me tea, a pot-pie (in the microwave) and entertained her little bro. Trust me this is not an easy feat as he is super active. I was able to rest when I got home from work so that I can go in tomorrow. This week, I have back to school night and I need to prepare both my classroom and my presentation for my new parents. I just can’t afford to take off now as it isn’t even winter yet, which is when I really get sick.

I sometimes wonder how some other single parents handle a situation like this? Sometimes, I know that I get overwhelmed and I need to take a step back and fill my bucket with some sort of positivity and inspiration. But, I also know that I may not always have the time to do that. One thing that brings me peace is knowing that I am not alone in this journey. I know that there are other single parents out there dealing with the same issues, some even more pressing and they and their children are coming out on top. Wow! That gave me inspiration for some other posts. I chat with you later. Stay strong!

Breaking Generational Strongholds

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Break free!!

When I think of my mother, I think of a strong woman whom worked hard all of her life until she retired on disability. This is the same woman who had two children early in life and then was surprised by another (myself) in her late thirties. Needless to say there was a lot of adjusting that needed to take place. With an 18 year gap between myself and my sister and a 20 year gap between myself and my brother, my mother and I have always struggled to bond as she wasn’t used to children any longer.

Now don’t get me wrong, she was the best mother she could be but, she, herself had grown up with a mother whom did not show love in the emotional sense, but through her ability to provide for and take care of her kids. The emotional piece had been missing for generations. I’m sure the fact that my grandmother growing up in the south and experiencing racism to an extent that I never had probably contributed to the hard demeanor that she presented. I am also sure that that was passed on to my own mother.

Now, as a parent myself I find it easy to show affection to my children while they are young but not so much as they get older; please do not beat me up for saying this. I currently have a 13 year old whom is going through her own hormonal changes and in need of emotional support of which I am not familiar except by the examples set forth in the family sitcoms I watched growing up.

I am thankful that I noticed my waning emotional support immediately (thanks to being a teacher and experiencing it firsthand with my students and their parents) because I was able to dig deep and surface the source and then research ways to remedy it.

I am happy to say that it is possible to break generational strongholds. I believe in purposeful parenting because you can never get back the years lost with your children but you can make a significant change for the better at any stage that will positively impact their lives. I am constantly searching for opportunities and creating opportunities to provide that emotional support to my daughter. I can’t say that I am an expert or that I am doing it correctly, but I am trying.

I have:

  • Purchased Groupons to brunch in the city for just her and I
  • We read a good book together or talk about whatever she wants to freely
  • We have created traditions that are unique to us and will be different for myself and her brother once he gets older
  • I purchased a devotional geared towards mothers and daughters to read with her every night
  • I do not allow electronics at the breakfast/dinner table to allow for conversation between her and myself
  • I have recently looked up more volunteer opportunities that we can do together

I am constantly looking for ways to create the emotional support that she needs as it is vital to her self-esteem and self-awareness. Recently, I read a book called How Full is Your Bucket by Tom Rath and my goal is to fill her bucket daily with positivity. I recommend reading this book and also StrengthsFinder 2.0. Just because something has been a certain way in your family for generations doesn’t mean that it can’t stop with you (and I am referring to something negative). You must proclaim that it will be different for you and yours. Purposefully parent!

Creative Play

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Creative Play
courtesy of nor.org

courtesy of npr.org

According to PBS (n.d.), the ability to create something from personal experiences and feelings can nurture emotional health and assist with mental growth by providing opportunities to problem solve and think in new ways.  Adults benefit too because creative play leads to relaxation or stimulation of new ideas and mental growth.  With advantages like these, it is impossible to deny the impact it can also have on bonding time.  As single parents, it is crucial for us to bond with our children as we are their first peek into what the world is like “out there”.  We want them to trust us and our opinions more than they will trust their friends as we have been there, done that.  It is during this time, that walls can be broken down and conversations can filter in (for the older children).  Some of us struggle with the concept of being silly and getting dirty or letting our children find their way in creative play.  But, there is no failure or gong that goes off to signal foul play.  It is all fun, outside of the box fun, giggles, laughter, joy, eye contact, wonder, imagination, celebration, stimulation…play.  Don’t be scared that the carpet and the walls will become ruined (the odds that this will happen regardless are great).  Put on some clothes that you feel comfortable in and depending on the type of activity, that you don’t mind getting nasty.  First think of your child’s natural strengths and talents and build activities around those. After building self-esteem, transport them to new activities where they must think outside of the box and use their imagination.  I look back at my own childhood and since everyone else in the household was an adult and worked long hours, I had to entertain myself.  I set up concerts using my Barbie dolls, created castles with Lego’s, completed latch hook and paint by number pieces, collected garbage pail kid cards, rocks, stamps, etc.

But, now there are so many other options out there and our kids are glued to screens instead of manipulating pieces and putting things together with their hands to create something new, whether or not it turns out the way that they intended.  Below, I have listed some options for creative play with your child by age group.  I hope that this helps and you try some of these this summer when you have more time with them than during the school year.

Toddlers & Young Children:

  • foam blocks
  • foam tangram
  • finger paints outside, in the tub, on a wooden table
  • Wii just dance or any dance game on the Wii or Kinetic for Xbox
  • decorate clay pots
  • use towel paper rolls to create instruments, kaleidoscope, animals like color snakes, etc
  • fruit loop necklaces
  • create a rainbow with paper plates and colorful streamers
  • just color (crayons, blank paper, huge coloring book)

The great thing about toddlers is that they are more interested in the box than the contents. Utilize everyday household supplies to save money and create with what you have.  Small ones love to get messy and make a lot of noise so keep that in my mind.

Tweens:

  • make lip gloss, soap, candy
  • bake a cake that looks gross but tastes wonderful
  • let them design a menu and make the meal (with your assistance of course)
  • watch a YouTube video together and learn a new dance move
  • put together a skit, write it and act it out
  • put together a dance routine
  • Wii Zumba
  • latch hook
  • paint by number
  • watch a YouTube video and learn how to crochet and knit (make a scarf)
  • purchase a science experiment book and try one a week
  • make jewelry
  • up cycle a pair of jeans or a t-shirt and make it something new
  • paint glass

Remember there are a lot of items that you can obtain from your local dollar store.  You don’t need to go to some expensive craft store to get started.  Also, use your seasons; in the summer collect seashells and place them in clear containers, in the fall, gather some leaves and create something, in the winter make something besides a snow man with the snow, and in the spring plant a garden.

Teens:

  • make snow globes
  • create a musical
  • shadow boxing
  • create an iPad sleeve from recycled resources or old clothing
  • make a journal from scratch
  • vision boards
  • bejeweled iPhone cases or jazz them up in a different way
  • learn to sew together
  • Wii Michael Jackson

Okay, the Wii showed up in each category but it is really fun and my kids love to see me let my hair down, plus I get some exercise.  If you can think of anything else, please add to the list in the comments.  If you have questions please feel free to contact me here in the comments or via Twitter.  Now, go play with your kids!

It’s My Birthday!!!!

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Well, I have made it to another year and I truly feel blessed.  I’ve had my challenges and my triumphs.  But, I can honestly say that this was a year of learning life lessons, digging deep to truly understanding myself and my interactions with others (which is what I think your 30’s are all about anyway).  It is a journey, this thing called life/wisdom, and I am glad that I get to travel this road.  It is mine and I own it with all of its beauty and faults.  As a single parent of two I find that my bad days always turn into  good days when one of my children does something silly or smiles or whatever.  They truly make a difference in my life in a positive way.  For so long I chased after the dream of a traditional family and held onto a relationship with their father for far too long but, while he was in and out, they were always there.  I am not sure how my life would have been if I did not have them, I can only assume–and remember what they say about assuming.  I know that I am a better person that they are here; they have kept me focused and grounded.  Children force you to really self-reflect and they peel through all of the layers.  So, although it is my birthday, I want to celebrate them.  They are my motivation, strength, blood, sweat, and tears.  They are my heart and I am rocking this thing called “Single Parenthood”!

Learning in the Sun

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We have all heard of the infamous “Summer Slide” and if you haven’t, it is the loss of knowledge that occurs during the summer months.  Children are usually outside playing, babysitting siblings, or inside playing video games or on social media–all of which are not promoting learning throughout the summer.  So, in turn, they lose what they have learned throughout the school year and the brain becomes lazy.  As a teacher, it is always interesting to hear a student say “Mr. or Mrs. So and So didn’t teach us that last year.  This is mostly 90% incorrect.  They were in fact taught the concepts but failed to retain them throughout the summer and the brain placed the information into the deep recesses of their mind.  They just don’t remember. This leads to a reteaching of concepts that have already been taught and a waste of classroom time that could be spent on “going deeper” with those same concepts.

Every summer, I have my daughter read a book and tell me about it.  If it is a book that I haven’t read myself, I pull a copy of the chapter by chapter summary from online (to make sure she is not bluffing).  Most times, she has a summer reading assignment for her teacher for the upcoming year but, I also give her assignments myself.  The web is a great tool.  I can create crossword puzzles to test her knowledge of the book.  There may even be some already created.  My new passion is Prezi, so this summer, I am having her use this platform to summarize the story (plot events), conflict, theme, and main characters.  She is currently reading ” The Fault in Our Stars”.

Another tool I use is my local bookstore.  There is an entire teacher/education section where I pick up material for her to study math concepts (this is her hardest subject).  It is important, especially with subjects that children find challenging, to keep them immersed in the material all year-long.  Finally, the local library usually runs a summer reading contest or club catering to the different age groups.  There are so many resources out there and if you need any other ideas, feel free to drop me a line.  I have also added my Pinterest board “No More Summer Slide,” that provides a wealth of resources and I will continue to add to it as I come across great links.  Remember, you are not stealing the fun away from your child.  They can still go out and play.  But, what you are doing is preparing them to be successful academically and later on in life.

 

Toddler + Movie Theatre = Challenge

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MovieTheaterJob_HWell, challenge accepted.  Damn $6 Tuesdays at the movies (check your local regal cinemas).  I love a great deal and it is hard to pass up great movies on the big screen for $6 all day long.  I usually take my daughter to see a good show once a month but, this month, I decided to take Justin.  Did I mention that he is in the terrible two-phase (Lord, let it be just a phase).  Anyway, it was raining, he was irritable because he didn’t take a nap beforehand, and my daughter wanted everything she saw at the concession stand.  To summarize, this is how it went:

Scene 1: We enter the multiplex, my 13-year-old daughter says that she has to use the restroom and will get some things from the concession stand. I hand her my credit card (big mistake) and she runs off.

Scene 2:  I struggle with my flailing two-year old and find a spot where he will not annoy any surrounding viewers.  The lights dim, the music from the previews start, and now Justin is in fear for his life.  Why is it dark?  Why is loud?  He cries and jumps into my lap and holds onto me for dear life.

Scene 3:  We sit like this patiently until his sister returns with two huge drinks, chocolate covered raisins, a large popcorn, and sweet and sour cabbage patch kids or we could just say $30 in the hole.

Scene 4:  Justin calms down because his sister is there and he sits between us but, I think he is only calm because he sees food and a huge coke (which he refuses to let sit in the cup holder in the arm rest but instead must hold it in his little lap).

Scene 5:  The movie starts and everything is going okay…. at least for an hour.  The last half hour Justin decides that he would like to ask a lot of questions really loudly during the movie, stand up and dance, move around, cry out when we say no to his demands, and spill food on the floor.  My daughter and I block him in by placing our legs up to the chair in front of us so that he is trapped ( I like to call this unconventional parenting).

Scene 6:  The movie is finally over and it is time to leave.  My daughter has to go back to the restroom, maybe from the huge sprite she drank, and I am left to struggle with Justin to get him out of the theatre, through the rain and into his car seat.  He wanted to run around the lobby area of the theatre instead.

Scene 7:  My daughter finally appears and we are on our way back home.

Now, there are a couple of things that I learned from this incident.

#1 Feed the children before you get to the theatre and keep snacks in your handbag.  I know theaters do not like for you to bring your own food but, I wound up spending more than I would have on regular priced tickets just on food alone.  They are not paying your bills and if you have a toddler (which you pay for their ticket too, you can put some water or juice in their sippy cup along with some  Goldfish or Cheerios and save yourself the money).

#2 Always go on a weekday or early afternoon as there is less chance that the theatre will be packed and people will become annoyed with you and your rambunctious toddler.

#3 Look for another toddler.  This in fact saved me a lot of embarrassment because while Justin was up in the top row talking loudly, a little girl down in the front was screaming at her father and running around.  This took the attention off of us.  Okay, okay that is not an actual lesson learned.

#4 Take them often until they get used to behaving in public.  I know you want to call it quits but, they will never learn if we just avoid all situations where they misbehave (except for the grocery store, at the grocery store leave the cart where it is, take the child and get out.  They will learn that they are not running the show and still will not get what they want and you have not lost any money, only time).

Lastly, the movie sucked.  I should have waited for it on Netflix.