Joining Forces with Scary Mommy

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It might take a village to raise a child, but it takes a tribe to kickstart a writing career.  I’ve been very fortunate along the way.  I’ve met some incredible people along this journey, and Jill Smokler was one of the first bloggers to help me get started (or take pity on my obvious lack of blogging skills – either way, I’ll take it).

Jill gave me a place to share a different voice early on in her guest blogging forum, and that experience was eye-opening.  I made countless amazing connections in the blogging world.  They helped me find my way, and I turned around and paid it forward to other newcomers.  The world of mom bloggers sometimes gets a reputation for being super competitive (that’s the nice adjective there), but I have found many friends along the way who are kind, helpful, hilarious, and just all-around good people.  They stand by me and I stand by them.  And we all continue to do our thing.

So when Jill asked me to join her team of experts at Scary Mommy…I jumped at the chance.  You’d have to be living under a rock to be hearing her name for the first time, but in addition to her fabulous writing, both online and in print (seriously, read her books now), she also launched a non-profit, Scary Mommy Nation, to help feed families in need.  Jill is one of the good ones, and I am beyond proud to join her team.

Head over there and check out my first article about picky eaters, but stick around a while.  She’ll make you laugh, she’ll make you cry, and she’ll inspire you to take a chance and do something new.

See you there!

 

Facebook Free for 40 Days…

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This is the sound that feeds my soul…

I gave up Facebook for Lent.

I know, right?  How will I get the most important news stories?  Do I really have to scroll through the CNN app on my own each day?  What about the cute pictures of kids and the funny updates that give me a laugh?  And oh, the Buzzfeed quizzes.  How will I ever crack the code now????

It’s only been one week and I feel like a different person.

Here’s the thing:  To some degree, I need Facebook.  I’m a freelance writer and the expectation is that I will share my articles on Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else that people might listen.  Facebook is how I keep people updated on the progress of my book, and find a little cheerleading when I feel like I can’t possibly write one more word.

And on a personal level, Facebook keeps me connected to my friends in other cities.  I like seeing the cute little faces of kids in my feed that I wouldn’t ordinarily see and I enjoy the funny status updates from my friends.  It’s an easy way to keep in touch, and who doesn’t love easy?

I love my Facebook friends, I really do…

But I don’t love the white noise.  I don’t love the days when it seems like people argue simply for the sake of arguing.  I’m pretty tough and I can take a fair amount of criticism, but I don’t like it when people leave negatively charged comments on my Facebook updates containing parenting articles.  That’s what the comment forms are for on each website where you might find my work.  There is absolutely a place for that and I would love to hear what other people have to say, just not on my personal Facebook page.  In fact, I actually love when the comments appear on my Practical Parenting Facebook Page – when comments appear there (positive or negative), parents engage in meaningful conversations.  They share their own stories, concerns, and victories.  They help each other out.  That’s why I didn’t give up my professional page for Lent.  I want to to hear those thoughts and engage in those conversations.  We are all different, and meaningful conversations are good.  But arguments on my personal Facebook page?  No way.

But alas, sometimes the lines are blurred when it comes to personal and professional on Facebook, and sometimes you just need a break.  I’ve never been particularly good at white noise…perhaps it’s the introvert in me.  Perhaps not.  Either way, I took a break.

I’ve always prioritized being present with my kids.  I fought long and hard to have them, and I don’t let anything get in the way.  I let text messages go unanswered, I ignore email for days, and I am known to silence the phone when both kids are with me.  The only person who gets through is my husband.

The flip side of that, of course, is that my poor husband has to bear the brunt of me playing catch-up when the kids are asleep.  I quickly scan for priority email and other things that I should respond to in a timely manner before I cook dinner and focus on him for the night.  It’s ok.  He gets it.  We both work.  We both have things that need doing.  But still, the white noise crackles in the background – and the white noise doesn’t need doing.

I thought I would miss it more when I bid Facebook farewell for 40 days.  I thought I would feel disconnected and miss the small moments with my friends in other cities.  I thought I would worry about my work and disappoint my editors with my lack of social media activity.  But the truth is…I feel relieved.

(And I think my editors understand…)

I’m still working during my office hours and sharing my articles as necessary, but then I’m shoving my iPhone to back corner of my desk and moving on.  A sense of calm washes over me each time I water the plants the four of us planted last weekend without a hint of distraction.  A sense of strength courses through me when I run with my phone on DND.  And a feeling of connection keeps me focused when I engage in more meaningful connections with the people I encounter face-to-face each day.

(Incidentally, you NEED to read this article in Time.  Seriously.  I love this research from Boston Children’s Hospital…partially because I find myself conducting similar “research” often.)

The truth is that my friends know where to find me and when to text me if they want me to respond.  They know the best times to call to chat and the best times to leave a quick message.  They know that I am there for them 100% day or night when they need me.  And they understand the importance of stepping back and enjoying the present instead of looking to the virtual for feedback and connection.

I will return to Facebook when spring is upon us. I will continue to share my work and smile at adorable pictures.  I will make jokes that only some people understand (thank god for my brother…and Sondra) and post pictures of my own little cuties.  I enjoy the connection in bits and pieces, and I enjoy the old friends that have popped back into my life simply because someone had a really good idea…

But for right now, I’m taking time for me, my husband, and my littles.  Because even though I do my very best to keep my phone out of sight when I’m with my people…the only way to truly silence the white noise is to shut it down and walk away.

Until next time, my friends…

 

Tips for Talking to Kids About Predators

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There are some parenting topics that are very difficult to address.  Melissa is back this week with some startling information and helpful tips about talking to kids about predators.  I hope you will take the time to read and digest this very important information.  Thanks, Melissa.

This week in my town there was an incident that scared the daylights out of parents of school-aged children.  Police alerted the community to what was believed to be an attempted abduction of a seven-year-old girl who was riding her bike home from school.  It was the type of scenario we all dread and fear:  man grabs the girl and tells her to put her bike in the trunk of his car.  Thankfully, she sped away and told the parent at home, who called the police.  A day later, it was reported that it was actually a case of mistaken identity, not attempted abduction.  An older grandfather whose eyesight is failing thought he was addressing his granddaughter, whom he was supposed to pick up on that particular day.

While parents across our district breathed a sigh of relief and the police department shook off their embarrassment for sounding the high alarm, others, like my husband and I, took it as an opportunity to refresh our family’s protection plan and talk to our kids—again—about “stranger danger” and safe touching.

You may wonder, won’t that just scare my kids?  Isn’t it my job to protect them and not alarm them about dangers that are not likely to happen, if I keep close watch?  Wrong.  While this was a case—albeit, a mistaken one—of abduction, which is less common, sexual abuse of children is a very frightening and common reality with serious consequences.  Like stranger danger, it should be discussed with children even before they attend grade school and reviewed on a regular basis.

If you think the possibility of a man trying to grab your child on her way home from school is alarming, listen to these facts about sexual abuse:

 

  • Child sexual abuse is the use of a child for sexual purposes by an adult or older, more powerful person, including an older child. It is a crime in all 50 states (Committee for Children).
  • Studies suggest that about 1 out of every 5 American women and 1 out of every 10–20 American men experienced some form of sexual abuse when they were young (Committee for Children).
  • An estimated 180,500 children in the United States were sexually abused in 2005-2006 (Sedlak et al., 2010).
  • Most sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows and trusts. Snyder (2000) found that nine out of ten children who have been sexually assaulted know their attacker.
  • The offender often uses a position of power to take advantage of a child, usually developing a relationship before any sexual abuse takes place as part of a process known as “victim grooming.”
  • Young children are at the greatest risk.  Studies show that one third to one half of victims are under age 7 when the abuse begins.
  • Sexual abuse occurs in children from every culture, walk of life, and socioeconomic status.  Boy or girl, no one is exempt from the risk.
  • Children are not likely to reveal that abuse is taking place.  Studies show that only 2-4 of every 10 victims will tell an adult at the time of the incident, and even fewer will tell the authorities.

 

Scared?  You should be.  Our children are vulnerable, but there are ways for parents to prevent possible victimization.

 

  • From an early age, allow your child to say no to hugs or other affection, even from family members.  Children should be encouraged to maintain physical boundaries that feel comfortable to them.
  • Talk to your child about safe touching versus unsafe and unwanted touching.
  • Be sure your child understands proper names for their private parts, and that no one other than a parent (for a young child, for cleaning purposes), or a physician may ever touch them there.
  • Teach your child that while it is important to obey adults, particularly parents and teachers, they do not have to obey adults if an adult attempts to break safe touching rules, or otherwise entice the child to act outside of family rules or expectations.
  • Be open to answering questions your child may have, and do not hesitate to review the topic from time to time, particularly surrounding events such as the one which took place in our community.

 

For more information about how to talk to your child about safe touching, visit the website of the Committee for Children, at http://www.cfchildren.org/advocacy/child-safety.aspx

 

 

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5 Tips for Raising Positive Thinkers

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Some kids are naturally more optimistic than others.  Some kids just seem to approach all tasks, no matter how difficult, with a smile and a can-do attitude,  But others…others might seem a little more pessimistic or quick to throw in the towel when the going gets tough.  That doesn’t mean that those kids are quitters.  What it means is that they need a little help along the way.

It helps to consider why some kids immediately start chanting, “I can’t…” or “I’m not good at…” when things aren’t working out as planned.  For many kids, it comes down to a few issues:

Fear of failure.

Perfectionism.

Fear of disappointing others.

Low self-esteem.

And/or…

Low frustration tolerance.

It’s not easy to be a kid, and some kids have huge ideas…the kind of ideas that might be just out of reach when it comes to developmental level.  That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.  Sure, you want your kids to set age-approriate goals so that they can succeed along the way.  But you also want them to reach a little so that they can begin to understand the importance of practice, patience, and learning from mistakes.

So how can you turn an “I can’t” kid into a can-do kid?  With a little bit of patience and a lot of positive energy.

Reframe it first:

If you have a kid who regularly declares defeat before even digging into whatever project takes center stage at the moment, chances are you have a little perfectionist on your hands who can’t stand the thought of failure.  And the only way to truly avoid failure is to quit before you actually give it a try (in the mind of a child, anyway).

Teach your child to reframe his negative thought immediately.  When my little perfectionist musician-in-training (not really, but in his five-year-old mind) throws up his hands in defeat the minute he forgets a song lyric, I give him a simple task:  “Flip it.”  The first few times I needed to be a little more specific, as in, “Let’s say something positive about what you can do instead of giving up right away.”  But now we’re down to two words.  Before we even discuss the issue at hand, I help him flip the negative thought into a positive.

Reframing negative thoughts helps break the cycle of giving up in frustration.  It retrains the mind to find one small positive to keep you going.  When there is a light at the end of the tunnel, you will fight to get to it.  If you all you see is darkness, you’re more likely to curl up and hide.

Look for obstacles:

Kids have a lower frustration tolerance and are more likely to become sad and upset when they are sleep-deprived, hungry, or sick.  Assess your child’s physical and emotional state before launching into a speech about following through and trying harder.  Major life lessons are often lost on exhausted, starving, and/or sick kids.

Often, a little snuggle time with mom or dad and a comforting snack can bring back the positive.

Empathize:

Remember that time that you cried for three hours after you struck out three times in one game?  Your little baseball player needs to hear that.  Or how about the time that you froze during the school play and completely forgot your lines until someone whispered them to you?  Your little actress might need to hear that one.  You get the point.  Empathize with your child.  Share your own childhood stories and talk about times that you felt the very same way.

When parents empathize with their children, their children feel understood and less alone in their frustration or sadness.  They also see that their parents survived those very big feelings and overcame whatever failure caused the negative feelings in the first place.  That can be very eye-opening for little kids.

Celebrate failure:

Ok, maybe don’t throw a party with balloons and streamers and cupcakes…but learn to find the positive in failure.  You know what the best part of failure is?  Learning something new.  Finding a new path.  Exploring a different option for the next time.  Have you updated to the iOS7 yet?  New path necessary.  They’re probably not sobbing in frustration at Apple headquarters, but you can bet they’re working on something better.

Kids need to learn that failure isn’t the end of the world.  But that’s not an easy task, so they need you to help them get there.  Remain calm.  Let them cry and yell and vent their feelings, but then help them find the silver lining.  Ask questions about what might have gone wrong in order to kickstart the problem-solving process.

And learn to laugh about, own up to, and share your own failures along the way.  We all make mistakes and we don’t always get it right on the first (or second, or third) try.  When we show kids that we also struggle at times, they learn that it’s ok to get back up and try again…that perfect doesn’t actually exist.

Model it:

If you want your kids to have a positive attitude, you have to have one, too.  Watch your words, body language, and mannerisms around your kids.  You might think they’re not paying attention when you’re venting to another mom at school before the bell rings, but they usually are.  Save the venting for a time when the kids aren’t around, and rely on a positive attitude in front of your kids as much as humanly possible.

When you keep your emotions in check and use adaptive coping strategies to work through difficult tasks (deep breathing, taking a quick walk, frequent breaks, asking for help, a cup of tea) your kids learn the importance of learning to work through their feelings while tackling difficult tasks.

How do you help your kids stay positive?

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Spending time with Dr. Greene

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Last week I spent my days “guest hosting” over at DrGreene.com.  Dr. Greene has an amazing community.  You can find answers to just about any parenting question over there, but it’s more than that.  It’s a kind, caring group of people looking to help parents along the journey.  I was beyond honored when they contacted me to guest host for them.

In case you’re not following me on Facebook and Twitter and missed my week of posts over there, I covered everything from marriage, to bullying, to boys who need a little extra love along the way.  It was a great week, and you can find the links to all five posts here.

Please stop by a check it out.  I know you’ll like it over there!

The Thing About Supermom…

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Like many of you, I read a lot of stuff about moms, kids, and parenting.  I keep up with the current research and relax with a steaming mug of Irish tea and a few words from some of my favorite writers each day.

I love that mom voices are everywhere these days.

With one exception….

The so-called myth of supermom.  I’ve read countless pieces referencing the fact that supermom doesn’t exist.  No mom is perfect and we all have our moments.  There’s some truth to that, of course.  No mom is perfect.  What is perfect, anyway?  Don’t we all have our own goals?  Don’t we all have our own styles and kids who are all individuals?  How can we possibly measure perfection when we are  not the same?

That’s not the troubling part, though.

I don’t like it that moms feel the need to excuse the so-called imperfections.  I don’t like it that moms measure their days in mishaps instead of celebrating the small victories.  If you take to Facebook with a picture of something great, you stand accused of only sharing the good and sweeping the bad under the carpet.

Here’s the thing:  We are all supermoms.  Parenting is hard work.  Sure, there are less than ideal moments.  That’s life.  But there are so many great moments.  So many small moments that fill us with happiness.  And the work we do to make those moments happen?  That’s what makes us super.

I’m over at HuffPost Parents talking about Supermom.  Let’s own it, mamas.  We deserve those capes.

Won’t you join me over there and help share the super?

Nice People Rock

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My six-year-old daughter is nice.  Really nice.  I know that this often said about kids but, honestly, she’s beyond nice.  She just has a very kind soul.

She thinks about other people’s feelings, kids and adults.  She worries when someone is sick and cheers when someone succeeds.  When one of her best friends won medals at her first ever Irish Dance competition…she was over the moon.  Some kids might have been jealous.  Some might have lamented that they weren’t there.  Mine made a video for her friend to let her know how proud she was.

She’s a nice kid.  She helps her brother when he’s sad, mad, or sick.  She picks up things that accidentally drop and opens the door wide for all to enter.  Her smile could truly stop the world.

Even though she worries about big things more than I want her to, and even though bedtime takes just a little bit longer as she runs through her deep thoughts each night, I actually don’t worry about her much when it comes to succeeding in this world.  She’s kind, generous, thoughtful, and determined…and those traits will get her everywhere.

Because nice people rock.

A very nice person nominated me for an award through Circle of Moms by POPSUGAR.  Circle of Moms is one of my favorite mom blogging communities out there.  They are truly very supportive of moms who write and they offer a great place to connect with other moms…even if you don’t write!

Last year I was nominated for the same list – the Top 25 SoCal Moms.  When I wrote a post about it to let you know, I took a beating for it.  Some not so kind people said that I was engaging in a popularity contest.  That I wasn’t being true to my parenting expertise.  In essence, that I was selling out.

To be perfectly honest, it hurt.  Writers always say that you have to take the bad with the good and look the other way when angry comments come your way.  And, for the most part, that’s true.  But still, when put you heart into something…you don’t want people to cut you down simply because you were finally recognized for it.

Making that list last year opened up a world of opportunity for Practical Parenting.  When opportunities come my way, they come your way next.  I don’t do this for recognition or attention, I do it because I love to write and because I love to help.  It’s who I am.  And all of this helped launched my freelance career, where I can reach a wider audience and help more people while working from home.  For that, I’m truly grateful.

So here we are, one year later, and some lovely someone nominated me for this list.  Yes, it requires votes. Yes, it requires daily voting.  And no, I probably won’t remember to vote for myself every day.  If you feel so inclined, hop over and check it out.  Some of my friends are on this list as well, and they all deserve the recognition.  If you don’t, no harm done.  I will have another parenting post for you tomorrow!

Thanks so much for being you, and for the kindness you’ve shown me as this little blog has grown into something much bigger.

And stay tuned for more great things coming your way through my participation in the Target Inner Circle!

Vote here!

Embracing Differences

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If there’s one thing that drives me just a little bit nuts, it’s when I hear people say, “We just have to accept people for their differences.”

Acceptance isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Acceptance sometimes implies that you might really want to change something but can’t so you just give up and accept your fate.

That’s not much of a life lesson for kids.

I truly believe that we need to teach kids to embrace differences.  We need to find the positive and highlight it.  We need to show them that different is amazing.

My husband is different.  He always was.  And that difference is everything.  I wrote about him on moonfrye today…please stop by and let me know what you think about raising different.

Share the Light

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“There is more good than bad in this world,

More light than darkness,

And YOU can make more light.” – Peter H. Reynolds

 

We need more light in this world.  Please stop by moonfrye and Make More Light.

And please, pretty please, share the light.

We just need more light.

Transitions

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Transitions can be hard.

Little things seem enormous when the babies that once slept peacefully on your shoulder grow and change right before your very eyes.

And forget about the mom guilt.  It doesn’t matter if you work full time, part time, or stay at home.  I’ve spent the past six years making sure that I didn’t miss a beat (even while I worked part time), and still the little changes feel large and life changing.

Kids grow.  They learn, laugh, play, and cry…and all the while they grow up.  As much as we might want to freeze time or screenshot every moment, they just keep moving forward.

It’s exciting and fun and fills you with pride, but is also brings tears and longing.  Because the truth is that each little milestone is a big step toward independence.  And while we might take pride in each moment, big and small, we also know that they are separating.  They are doing what we helped them to do, and yet we want them to stay by our sides.

It’s up and down, this parenting gig.  Highs and lows are everywhere – and the feelings are simply overwhelming.  Rolling waves on the mighty Pacific have nothing on the give and take of letting go and moving forward when what you really want to do is hold them close forever and ever.

But…we have to let go.  In tiny steps, with tears hidden beneath smiles, we have to let go.

This week on moonfrye – Liam made a big change.  He handled just as I knew he would – with ease and comfort.  I, however, am still a work in progress.

And don’t even get me started on Riley’s loose tooth…I am so not ready for big teeth, my friends.

See you at moonfrye!