21 Day yoga Girl Challenge Day 17: I Love You #yogagirlchallenge

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There is so much love overflowing from my heart for these people: my three amazing kids and my best friend/boyfriend Bill. See that big happy smile on my face? That’s because loving these people makes me so happy! I try to tell them every single day how much I love them and how much I appreciate them in my life.

I’ve been a mom for 21 years now. Loving my kids has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my whole life. It’s an unconditional love that weathers the storms and celebrates the good times and fills in all the spaces in between. l tell them I love them, and I also show them with my actions, being there every day for them, holding their hands, giving them big hugs and kisses, giving encouraging words when they need them, and so many more ways.

Bill and I are in a new relationship, but the love is strong and based on 34 years of friendship and history. I love him with all my heart, and he gives it right back to me. People tell us we ooze positive, loving vibrations when they are around us. We can’t help it; we glow with love.

I also took some time to let other people know I love them. I contacted my mom and told her. I posted some messages on people’s Facebook timelines. I try to be open and loving to people on a daily basis, but it did feel good to consciously make a point of saying those three words together.

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Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

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21 Day Yoga Girl Challenge Day 16: The Altar #yogagirlchallenge

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This is where the Buddha sits in my bathroom under the leafy plant with the flower, mermaid, candles, and incense holder. I don’t technically meditate in the bathroom, but I do stretch in some yoga poses and I do spend quiet time alone. My meditation mostly takes place on my yoga mat. Because of the challenge, I added more things that connect me to spirit: some seashells my kids brought me from Florida, another candle for more light, a lucky bamboo plant, a picture of me and my man who lives 1,000 miles away, and a reminder that I am loved.

This is a place that helps me find my center. These small symbols of things that matter most to me are a beautiful reminder every day that I have so much to be grateful for. I appreciate taking some time every day to reflect on these things, to be still and calm.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

Teenagers and Technology

Teenagers and techonology, what’s your take? For every positive thing I can think of on the topic, I can think of its negative counterpart. It’s no secret that technology is changing our lives, both adults and kids. The question is how do we use technology in positive ways while downplaying its negative effects?

How do we keep it all in check? I ask these questions both to myself as an adult and a parent, and I’ve worked for years on balancing my addiction to my iPhone with attentiveness to the present moment.

As an adult, I know how hard it is to step away from the phone, so I know it must be even harder for teenagers. They don’t have brains that consider and accept consequences of their actions. They’ve grown up with smartphones. It feels like an entitlement to them. Everybody has smartphones, and everybody has all the apps. So there is pressure on young people to keep up with their peers.
My oldest daughter (20) didn’t get a smartphone until she was in high school, and even then we were not big fans of texting or paying for the data plan, so we made her split the cost with us. My middle child and younger daughter (13) has had an iPhone for a few years now. In fact, she has the iPhone 5s while I only have the 4s. Yes her phone is better than mine, but that is just because of our upgrades. I’m due for the next upgrade, although to tell the truth, I am perfectly happy with the phone I have and don’t need more. Our son (8) has a phone, but it’s not a smartphone. He just has it because he walks home from school, and we feel better knowing he has a way of contacting us just in case something goes wrong. I wrote about fear yesterday, and of course, my kids being alone is one of my big fears.

I’m a pretty structured parent, strict in some ways and easy-going in others. Based on my experience as a classroom teacher, I use behavior contracts at home as well to reinforce expectations. It’s a simple idea based on Lee Canter’s Assertive Discipline. First, state some basic expectations in the positive tone. Then assign both positive and negative consequences. The child learns to take responsibility for choices they make, and they learn accountability for their actions.

Here are the stated rules and consequences on our contract, signed by all members of the family:

1. Follow directions.
2. Tell the truth.
3. Don’t post anything online you wouldn’t want your parents/teachers/employers to see.
4. Be kind and help each other.
5. Respect personal space.
6. Mind your own business

Positive consequences include:
*technology (TV, phones, devices, computers, XBOX, Wii etc.)
*personal items
*time with friends
*car keys (for our older daughter )
*going out

Negative consequences include loss of any or all positive consequences.

We even went so far as to write a separate contract for Acceptable Use of Technology: including cell phones and internet behavior. Failure to meet expectations results in loss of technology.

Internet Rules:
1. Do not share personal information online.
2. Stay clear of strangers.
3. Don’t post/follow anything you wouldn’t want your parents or teachers to see.
4. Be honest.
5. Do not give your location.
6. No deleting without permission.
7. Academic purposes only during school (no social media during school).
8. Use after 9m only with permission.

Cell Phone Rules:
1. Use phones with friends and family only.
2. Be honest.
3. Don’t text things you wouldn’t want your parents or teachers to see.
4. No deleting without permission.
5. Phone stays downstairs at all times.
6. Texting with family only during school.
7. Use after 9pm only with permission.

We all signed the contracts, and they hang on our refrigerator so there is never any confusion. The kids agreed these are fair expectations and to abide by them. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask. However, every time I spot check a teenager’s phone in this house, I inevitably find something on it that breaks at least one of the above rules. Perhaps they need help understanding the expectations better, so every time there is an infraction, I keep the phone for a while to make a point. What is my point? That having a cell phone and access to the internet are privileges, not entitlements.

When I told my teenager that “when and if she gets her phone back…” I couldn’t believe her response. “If? You mean I might not get it back?” It was 9/11, and the most serious thing going on in her thirteen year old life was the fact she didn’t have a cell phone to take to school with her.

Why does she need one?
She doesn’t.
Why does she have one?
Because she takes the bus home sometimes, so we want her to have a phone just in case something happens.
Why don’t I just meet her at the bus stop or pick her every up every day?
I could. And I do pick her up several days a week to get her to the dance studio on time.
Aren’t there already phones at school she could use in the case of an emergency?
Yes, there are.
Didn’t we grow up without cell phones while we were at school?
Yes, we did. Imagine that.

Why does she want it during school? For entertainment. For connection and communication with her friends. So she can send a million selfies back and forth to her group text with dance friends. So she can be distracted during the school day by all the teenage drama. So she can listen to music in class when she’s finished with her work (even though I’ve told her I don’t support that even if the teacher allows it.)

Those are really not the reasons we provide a cell phone for her. And all those things are not where want our kids’ focus to be during the school day.

Social media is another issue here. Kids these days are defined by the bios in their profiles and how many likes and comments they get on their posts. They are buying followers and following people they don’t even know just because they think they are cool or just because someone else they know might know them. Teens post the best parts of their lives, not all the messy and boring stuff, and it leads to comparisons and envy. Some teens act out online just to get attention or to create a reputation for themselves. It’s the same with adults, but teenagers are less likely to think ahead to the consequences of their words and actions And they are less likely to take precautions to avoid dangers inherent in the online world. Teens are much less likely to think twice before saying something or posting something online.

When are they going to realize it’s not safe to talk to strangers? When are they going to realize that what they say online is out there for the whole world to see? When are they going to realize that things they say or post create an image of themselves, sometimes in a negative light, giving bad impressions and complicating relationships and friendships?

When are they going to be ok for one day without access to a cell phone or the internet?

I’m addicted too, so I truly get it. I understand it’s human nature now to have a mobile device and to share life with the world on the internet.

My teenager has her phone back today in an effort to build trust. Wish us luck.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

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30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 14 Joy

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My son (8) took his first guitar lesson today, and just look at the smile on his face. This is a candid shot I took during his lesson. He has been so excited to start taking lessons, and his mind is open to a whole new world of learning. I’m looking forward to his weekly lessons and the future when he and I can play guitar together. Music education is so important and helps kids be more successful in school, especially in math and science. It helps with understanding patterns and fractions, as well as many other math and science related skills.

If you are interested in guitar lessons (for yourself or your kids) check out my teacher’s website. He has a large video library and can also teach over Skype. Here is his website:

http://www.mikesguitarlessons.com

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

Thankful for Maids

I am so thankful I have maids who come to my house every other week to clean. My back hurts all the time, and it’s painful just picking everything up off the floor so they can clean. It’s a ton of work just getting ready for them. That might sound ridiculous, but unfortunately it’s true. I can’t imagine having to do all the work they do. I can barely keep up with all the surface cleaning in the two weeks between their visits, and I never really get to the deep cleaning. Since they come every two weeks, it keeps us all accountable for our things. I hate to think what it would be like without outside help.
Little kids in the house equals stuff everywhere despite the specifics of the kids and the stuff. Boys make a certain kind of mess and so do girls, just a different kind. Did I mention that my patio is covered in blue and silver glitter? The common denominator is that they undoubtedly need extra help from me to make their bedrooms, bathrooms, their living room, and the rest of the house suitable for deep cleaning. That means all of their little things that they barely notice everywhere have to be picked up by someone else…either me or my housekeepers. It’s not their job to do that, so I step in. When I pick up for the kids before the maids come, I throw everything in their closets. They have to deal with that one step at a time to get things where they belong. On particular days when the kids put zero effort into getting the upstairs ready, privileges do get lost and consequences are enforced. My daughter was at dance class for four hours plus a fifth hour in between classes last night, and she’s trying to get her science fair project done by tomorrow, so I don’t mind helping.
In fact, I’m grateful that I have help deep cleaning the house, and I’m grateful that I have two beautiful children living under my roof to make the messes. I’m grateful I have the time during the day while they are at school to tend to the small things in the house.
I don’t want to be the mom who stresses out on all that anymore. Been there, done that. It doesn’t help. What does help is appreciating everything that comes with having a family and continuing on a day to day basis to teach the kids how to do a little bit every day so it never becomes a huge job.
So there is glitter all over the patio. That’s the mark of my daughter having fun being creative in the back yard with a friend. She can clean it up.
So there are clothes to pick up and laundry to do. My kids have enough clothes to wear. We all work on it, one load at a time. So there are toys and books and movies and remotes everywhere.
So there are lots of extra toys around that my son never plays with because he’s outgrown them. I boxed them up and gave them to the maids (they both have young kids). Win win.
So there are always dishes to do. We have enough to eat. We work on it, one dishwasher full at a time.
So what my kids aren’t perfectly organized. Who is? They are learning. It’s my job to teach them.

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Life as a Married Mom

Two movies in two days, both with the same lead actress and plots about being married parents. In This is 40, a couple faces middle age, parenthood, and marriage. In the Change Up, a single slacker and a married lawyer switch lives by accident after wishing for each other’s lives. In both movies, the characters learn to appreciate what they have and how to fix problems common in every family.

Let’s face it. Life is hard. Being single is hard. Being married is hard. Having children is hard. Being childless is hard. It’s hard to be a kid. It’s hard to be a student. It’s hard to have a job. It’s hard to be the parent of adult children.

It’s tough having quality time together as a couple and/or family, and its tough finding time to be alone. Meeting our own needs as individuals is difficult, much less meeting the needs of spouses, children, and parents.

Our jobs as parents require us to have all our shit together enough to provide for, care, guide, and nurture the little people we created. We shape and mold them emotionally, spiritually, physically, financially, and psychologically. If we are too busy or unhappy with own own lives, they pick up on it. It affects their sense of self. It affects family dynamics.

As with everything in life, it seems that the answer is always balance. As adults, we need to take care of ourselves first or we are no good to our children. Do we sacrifice for them? Of course we do. But if we don’t take the time to meet our needs first, we won’t be able to give to our children in a quality way. And we won’t be able to be happily married while we raise them.

Both moms and dads work hard to provide financially for families. We have different needs, but it’s important we allow ourselves some down time when we are not working to pursue our interests, socialize, and exercise. It’s important we care about what we eat and how much we sleep so we can feel our best day to day. We need quiet time to reflect and develop ourselves spiritually. We need friends and fun. We also need alone time, both as individuals and alone time as parents.

Holidays together exaggerate family dynamics and intensify expectations and tempers. A college aged kid wants to come home for the comforts but doesn’t want to be treated like a kid. Little kids misbehave when they eat too much sugar, stay up too late, and are bored because adults are talking. We try to give them what they want, yet we try to teach them that Christmas is for giving, not getting. We try to make things special for them, but we also need to be consistent with expectations and consequences.

We have to remember we made these little people and act accordingly. We need to remember that life is precious and we create our realities. A yoga teacher once told me,a “where the feet go, so do the hips.” It’s the same with the mind. The way we think is reflected in the world around all of us. It’s up to us to be strong, balanced, and loving. It’s up to us to communicate. It’s up to us whether our kids have happy memories from childhood. Nobody is perfect, but finding the fine line of balance can make life feel perfect.

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Daily Prompt: Time Capsule 2012

“The year is drawing to a close. What would you put in a 2012 time capsule?”

1.  A dance bag with ballet, jazz and hip hop shoes and gear. This is the year my daughter (12) became super serious about dance, and our lives now revolve around her practice schedule.

2.  An iphone.  Four out of five of us in the family have iphones. They are definitely a sign of the times.  They have itunes libraries reflecting today’s music too.

3.  My Obama victory magnet.  It’s on the back of my car. I’m happy that he won reelection this year!

5.  Camoflauge pants and combat boots to represent my stepson (20) who is now in the army, stationed at Ft. Drum NY.  He is an infantry man. We are super proud of him for his sacrifice and service.

6.  A Texas Tech flag and a Zeta Tau Alpha sign to represent our daughter (19) who is a ZTA at Texas Tech. She loves going to school there!

7.  My son’s (8) last baby tooth in the front that finally fell out (the yellow one).  It was yellow because when he was a toddler he fell down the stairs and whacked his face and mouth on the tile floor. It cut off blood supply to his tooth, so it turned yellow.

8.  My husband’s business card. This is the year he made partner at his law firm.  He also turned 40 this year (officially over the hill).

9.  An Algebra 2 book because I’ve been studying it a lot this year.  I’m a private math tutor, and I have kids everywhere from Pre-Algebra to Algebra 2 and in between.  This year, I have lots of kids in Algebra 2 and have been enjoying working with them.

10.  An electric guitar because this is the year I’ve been taking lessons consistently and finally learning more about music theory and writing solos.

My Boy and his Birthday

Thomas lost his seventh tooth today, his last day of being seven. He’s barely a little kid anymore. Tomorrow we start a fun weekend of celebrating his eighth birthday.  I will visit school and take him lunch and donuts to share with his classmates. He doesn’t like cupcakes. So he asked for donuts. We plan to have dinner at Jinbeh (his choice) and then to have red velvet cake (again, his choice) and presents at home afterwards.

We have a surprise present for him. Can’t wait to tell him we are going to spend Saturday night at Great Wolf Lodge!  It’s what he wanted, but he doesn’t think he is getting it.

Sunday we will go to Main Event for laser tag, bowling, and arcade games.  I’ve never been there but I’ve heard it’s really fun.

Our little guy is growing up! He came into the world at 4:53am on 11/09/04 with his left hand under his chin. He is a thinker and loves learning. I remember having contractions every fifteen minutes that day, and I tutored a student that evening. It was a peaceful delivery, and our sweet boy has been a blessing in our lives ever since.

We wanted a boy, and we got one! I am so grateful for the gift of having a son. Tomorrow, we will have an eight year old son.  It feels like the end of an era of sorts. Only a small window of time left to enjoy his years as a small child. I absolutely love that I can be a mom full time to enjoy it!!

my kids and my food allergy update

I woke up late this morning (love sleeping in on the weekends) and cutie pie Thomas announced to me that today he has a date. When I asked with whom, he informed me his pillow (my king sized pillow that he always steals and he decided to draw a happy face on)…and not only is it a date..they are also getting married! As a consolation, he told me I could be his second wife. Nice of him to include me.

Zoe helped Joe with the dishes this morning. She is pretty good at emptying the dishwasher (Sierra’s job) but doesn’t like to load it. With Sierra being gone all week, we’ve needed some extra help getting all the chores done. I took Zoe to get a haircut yesterday to get it out of the way before my surgery (I found out from the dr. he doesn’t want me to drive for six weeks – ugh) and before school starts in a few weeks.

Sierra comes home in two days…I miss her tons but I get it that she needs to spend time w/ her dad and grandparents. I have to share.

OK, now for my food allergy updates. The blood tests all came back negative, just like the skin tests a few years ago. It just goes to show they are not reliable (which the food allergist explained to me after charging me $350 for the skin testing). I don’t know about the gluten intolerance but I do know that I get a rash whenever I mess up and have any wheat or corn products. So I will stick with eliminating them from my diet despite the test results. Just the other night, Joe was trying to be helpful and picked up a yummy rotisserie chicken for dinner. He put it in a brown rice tortilla w/ some lettuce and tomato and cheese and he forgot about mayo having corn syrup and put mayo on it too! I just can’t seem to escape it. It seems like I am always messing up and having a little somehow. It takes a few days for the rashes to go down.