Falling in love with your family

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One of the best things you can do is spend alone time with the person you love. A great example is a fun camping date night. Add a two person sleeping bag and a great tin foil dinner over a campfire and you will always remember it! Whether it’s the fall cool weather or spring flowers – a great date night will really bring you closer together!

two person sleeping bagAmerican Trails Ozzie and Harriet Double 2 Person Giant Sleeping Bag, 80-Inch x 66-Inch

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2 person airbed air mattressIntex Classic Downy Queen Airbed with 2 Pillows and Double Quick Hand Pump

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tentAmerican Trails Mid Peaked Tent
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Mom and Me Journal

Mom and Me Journal~ Staying Connected With Our Kids

A couple of years ago, my then eight year old daughter left a “love note” on my pillow.  I still have it.  I loved that she would think to do something so sweet.  It dawned on me that I could start a journal with her.  Just her.  No one else would ever get to see it, or hear its contents.  For me, I have always kept a journal, and I find it much easier to share things that I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying out loud.  The very next day I bought a notebook just for us.

Let me tell you, it has worked wonders!  I have gotten to hear some of her fears, crushes, embarrassing moments and just some sappy love notes. Some of the entries are deep and emotional, while others are funny and make me laugh.  I love that I can encourage her, express my feelings for her, share thoughts on life with her.  We don’t write in it daily, but it makes it all the more special when one of us finds this treasure under our pillow at night time.

My daughter is a talker, so I was surprised how much she actually wasn’t sharing because she was too embarrassed to express some things out loud.  Which got me thinking… Her brother is a very introverted child.  Doesn’t like to share much at all.  He talks to us, but when anything “deep” comes up he gets uncomfortable and tends to clam up. How much was I missing from him that he was too afraid to express?  At the time I started journaling with my daughter, he was too young to write or read., but as soon as he was in 2nd grade, I started one with him as well.  Same stipulations; for our eyes only.  The difference in their journals is pretty funny.  Pages are written between the girls, while we have barely passed 2 pages in my son’s.  It hasn’t worked yet for him, but I keep it going hoping that the simple “I love you Mom” notes he leaves me will soon give way to longer entries.  Maybe even get some real depth in them.  However, whether they do or not, he knows that the book is there, that he can open it at any time a send me a note.  He knows that it is a non judgmental way to express his feelings.

The point of the journal is to connect with our kids.  Sometimes I don’t get it back for a month or longer, but I can still sneak into their room and borrow it to write them another note.  That way they get a note.  I plan on keeping them all in a safe place as we fill them up.  I look forward to seeing the penmanship change, the spelling improve and the entries grow in length.  But more than that, I look forward to them reading them as an adult and feeling how much I love them.

This experience has taught me so much about being a Mommy.  I really feel it has strengthened my bond with my kids.  Just a simple way to take a minute from our super busy lives and share a memory or a thought with my kids.

You should find an inexpensive notebook and give it a try.  It doesn’t have to be a fancy journal, my son and I share a composition book (I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t too girly) and it works well.   Even if you aren’t a fan of keeping a journal, this will change your mind!  It is such a  simple way to share our love with someone we care about.

Mom and Me Journal 2

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Living in Gratitude

11/25/2013 6:00 pm · 0 comments

by Alison

mom-with-boys-765092-gallery

Falling in Love with your Family by Alison

In a Nutshell: Get in the Thanksgiving spirit by expressing gratitude to your family…every day!

Next week, many dinner tables around the country will feature expressions of thanks and gratitude.  Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to appreciate what we have and take time to remember blessings we may have overlooked.  Most of the good feelings around the holiday don’t come from the Thanksgiving feast (though a nice big slice of pecan pie smothered in real cream doesn’t hurt), but from the good feelings that come when we approach life with a grateful attitude.

Do you express gratitude to your family?  Do they feel appreciated for what they do right?  In most families, children can do a hundred good and appropriate things–and be completely unrecognized. Their mistakes, shortcomings, and character problems get all the attention.  It’s the same for spouses!  My husband can do the dishes, put the kids in bed, and be a sweetie all day, and I don’t mention any of that.  Instead, I may get on his case for picking up the boys late from basketball or forgetting to pay a bill.  It is all backwards, and our families suffer because of it.

In order to create an effective family environment, experts suggest having a 5 to 1 positive to negative ratio.  That means for every “You forgot to take out the trash,” there are five positive interactions to balance it off.  (*See more about this “magic” ratio here.)  For some parents, the idea of praising their child so often or expressing affection so commonly doesn’t come naturally and can seemed canned or fake.  A great way to keep up the positive interactions is to focus on simply living in gratitude.  Train yourself to not take your family for granted and to take every opportunity to express your thanks.  Even if your spouse always goes to work, take a minute to thank them for getting up so early to provide a living.  If your son carries over his dish from dinner, tell him that you are glad he’s such a responsible kid.  When your daughter gets her P.J’s on the first time you ask, thank her for being so obedient. Thank them for playing nice, for giving you a hug, for forgiving each other.  Thank them for sitting quietly, for telling the truth, and for making you so happy when they smile.

Take it on as an experiment.  For one day, try to only express gratitude. Ignore any misbehavior short of burning down the house and pack up your preachy parent lessons.  Put on your rose-colored glasses and notice anything good anyone does.  Express your gratitude in a quick, simple way.  Then, sit back and watch the magic.   You might see less misbehavior or more good deeds, or maybe your children will express gratitude for all that you do (now, wouldn’t that be nice!).  You may also start to feel a bit of the Thanksgiving glow at your house…even without the turkey.  And for that, your family will truly give thanks.

 

 

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Time for Recess!

11/17/2013 8:01 am · 4 comments

by Alison

Open Mic

Falling in Love with your Family by Alison

In most parts of the country, the nights are getting colder, and the days are getting shorter.  Way, way, shorter.  It seems like the sun sets before dinner is cleaned up!  I’m a bit of a summer time girl myself and tend to get blue when days are grey.  So this winter, I am bringing an old friend back to visit…recess!  A poem I recently heard by a fabulous slam poetry champion, Kealoha, has inspired me to combat the cold-weather blues with a daily dose of happiness and family fun in 15 minute packages.  Here’s an excerpt from his poem Recess:

Remember the days when we used to play

On the playground everyday?

 What was that thing we took?

Recess!!

Yeah that’s right, recess…

15 minutes of sheer madness

15 minutes of running around

Getting down with all of your friends until the bell sounded

That inevitable bell

That wrought the well of time dry

And I

Remember those days so vividly

Licking Jell-O instant pudding

Off of our hands

Making forts out of sand

And doing everything you can to just play

 When’s the last time you took 15 minutes out of your day

To just run around and play?

. . . .

And now I see

The masses of our generations falling

Into the trap of daily routine

That unceasing monotony plaguing our society

And I be

Resisting

You see I don’t deal well with monotony

When did watching T.V. ever become an activity?

Letting time pass performing passive viewing

Watching someone else do something we’re not actually doing

Recessing through the eyes of someone else’s 15 minutes of fame

When we could be out living our own 15 minutes of game…

Remember the days when we used to play

On the playground everyday?

What was that thing we took?

Recess…

(www.kealohapoetry.com)

Bring back recess!  This winter and beyond, I’m committing myself to spending 15 minutes at the end of every day having “recess” with my kids.  I’ll start a quick game of indoor volleyball instead of coveting someone else’s project on Pinterest.  I’ll call out a handstand contest instead of checking my email.  And instead of sweeping the floor, maybe I’ll make some pudding and lick it off my hands with my kids.

So, let’s do a group brainstorm!  What are some good indoor activities?  What are fun, thrifty, and easy family activities you can do in just 15 minutes? It’s time for recess!

recess

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5 ways to help teens recognize abusive relationships, great tips for talking to your teen

Falling in Love with your Family By Alison

In a Nutshell: Parental involvement can help teens recognize and protect themselves from abusive relationships. 

The focus of this post it to help parents give kids the skills they need to form healthy relationships. If you are in a abusive relationship, or know someone who is, please call 1-800-799-723.  No one deserves to be abused. You can find more information here.

October is National Domestic Violence Prevention Month.  As I raise teenagers, I am especially concerned with the habits my kids form that will affect them forever.  In the teen and young adult years, we become programmed with what to expect from others.  If early experiences teach kids that control, coercion, and emotional mind-games are the norm,  they are developing a set of expectations that could have disastrous results.  As parents, there is so much we can do to help kids set their sights high, recognize good relationships, and put on their walking shoes when they recognize signs of an abusive personality.

1) Talk about it.  Have open, frequent conversations with teens about love, sex, relationships, and abuse.  They probably have already seen some abusive tendencies in people they know and would welcome an opportunity to talk about it.  Be a safe harbor for them to discuss these hard issues.

2) Set their sights high.   Teach kids that healthy relationships involve good communication, the freedom to interact with other people, kindness, and the right to make decisions about physical contact.  Help them develop strong self-esteem that is not dependent on attention from outside sources, but is formed by developing talents, working hard, and doing good things.  Teach them to dress with self-respect and to stand up for themselves. Encourage young teens to form many good friendships and avoid heavy, serious, and exclusive relationships early in life. Now is the time to learn to develop their own sense of self, without worrying about pleasing a boyfriend or girlfriend.

3) Teach them the warning signs of an abusive personality. Use the chart below and the  list of abusive personality warning signs to teach kids how subtle and gradual abuse can be.  Help them recognize that abuse is not only sexual assault or a beating, but manifests in many ways. 

WARNING SIGNS OF AN ABUSIVE PERSONALITY: Pushes for quick involvement and total commitment, is jealous, exhibits controlling behavior, has unrealistic expectations, isolates partner from friends or family, blames others for problems and mistakes, is hypersensitive, shows cruelty to animals or children, uses force playfully, makes critical or cruel comments, has rigid sex roles, shows sudden mood swings, or makes threats of violence.  

Power and Control Wheel

4) Intervene if necessary. If you feel a teen is in a relationship where there may be signs of control or abuse, don’t hesitate to get involved.  When I was in high school, I was friends with a needy young man.  I only dated him a few times, but he’d write me pages of letters telling me how he didn’t know if he’d still be alive without me, how I was the most important person in the world to him, and how I was the only one keeping him from getting into trouble.  When he asked me out, I felt like I had to go, or I’d jeopardize his safety and happiness.  A loving father helped me realize that I didn’t have to date someone just because he made me feel guilty and manipulated my emotions.  I could continue to be friends, but I had a right to refuse a date and keep my distance. He even drove me to his house to kindly tell him “No” when he asked me to a dance.  I’ll always remember his support and how he taught me about healthy relationships.

5) Parent well. Every day, our kids learn how they deserve to be treated.  When parents hit, yell, demean, control, or constantly criticize, children may think it is normal to be treated that way.  They are more likely to accept such behavior from a romantic partner in the future.  But, when we show kids they are loved and respected, they will grow to expect such behavior from others outside their family as well.  As you interact with and discipline your kids, think of the words you are using and the message you are sending.  Only say things in a way you would be comfortable hearing your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend talking to them in the future.

There is no sure-fire way to protect our teens from abuse, but as we parent them in a safe and supportive way, help them aim high, and teach warning signs in an open atmosphere, we can help our kids navigate the difficult dating waters and find safe, strong, and lasting relationships.

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Brigham with a chicken

Falling in Love with your Family by Alison

In a Nutshell: Children, like chickens, need fences as well as freedom.

Despite the fact that we live in a typical house with a typical small yard, we are proud chicken-keepers.  We frequently let them out in the yard to eat bugs and “play” with kids, but since losing our first little flock to a neighbor’s dog a couple of years ago, we’ve been pretty diligent to keep them contained and safe in their cozy coup and large run, especially at night.  That changed when we added three chicks this summer.  Until they are bigger, chicks need a separate place to be until they join the adult flock, so we created a separate small coup and small run for them.Because it wasn’t permanent, it wasn’t super sturdy, and those little chickens soon found every loophole in our plan.  They kept escaping their run to graze on our garden or hide in the shade.  At first, we diligently put them back in the coup and fixed wherever they had escaped, but then we got a bit lazy and more often than not, just let them run around in the yard.  They were pretty safe, and they usually went back to their coup at night.  I stopped worrying about them.  In fact, I even thought they were kind of cute.  I called them my little “hippie chickens” who knew no boundaries and needed their freedom.  They grew up with the backyard as their boundary.  Their desire for freedom became their norm.           

When they became “teenagers,” we began to introduce them into the large coup and run.  The rest of the chickens, who had happily grown up in this coup, seemed to watch in wonder as the newbies flew right up and over the fence.  As soon as the sun was up, they were out.  They went back to wandering in the yard, and even flew over the neighbors fence!  We clipped their wings to try to keep them contained, but they learned to hop on the coup and scurry over the fence.  The problem was, they couldn’t fly back over, so they would perch in a tree for the night, away from the safety and warmth of the coup.  They were used to freedom, and we were buckling down for the first time in their lives.  It was our own fault, and I felt so bad for those freedom-loving birds.  We needed to keep them protected, and I wanted the backyard clean from their droppings, so we covered their run with netting, found all their escape routes, and finally kept them contained.  At first, they were clucking unhappily and couldn’t figure out where to sleep, but now, a couple weeks later, they have gotten used to their new home, their new boundaries, and their new companions.  And they are safe.

This isn’t a post about chicken-keeping, and the merits or downsides to free-range chicken eggs.  It is about Free Range Parenting, which is everywhere.  It is so easy in early years of parenting to let the boundaries we believe in evaporate in the wake of tiredness, business, and distractedness.  Some kids are simply being raised without a fence.  They play video games endlessly, whine about dinner and get a sandwich, set their own bedtime, and habitually practice rudeness and ingratitude.  They make the rules in the home, and many parents, afraid of a fight, forget that children need fences every bit as much as much as they need freedom.  Children deserve parents who aren’t afraid to say “No,” parents who proactively set rules and stick to them, and parents who are more interested in raising a responsible child than scoring high in the opinion polls.    

When young children, like young chickens, are raised in this kind of safe, secure, consistent atmosphere, they will be ready to leave the coup a bit when they hit their teen years.  They can enjoy an increased sense of personal responsibility and freedom, because they have learned from the start to stay within appropriate boundaries.  But some, like my poorly-raised chickens, grow up used to setting their own rules and having their parents bend to their will.  Fences are just something to keep flying over.

If you are the parent of a boundary-pushing teen, it isn’t too late to learn how to set consistent rules.  It will be harder, but you can lovingly express limits and follow through with consequences.  If you are parenting a younger child, make sure that you are not setting up a future crisis by falling into the trap of Free Range Parenting.  Put up your fences, close the escape routes, stick to your rules, and don’t be afraid to parentSomeday, your chicks will thank you.    

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