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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Almost Time...

New Year's Eve is quickly approaching. It's the end of the old. The beginning of the new. It's a time to move forward and make changes.

Do you let your children stay up all night and ring in the new year with noise makers and fireworks?

Do you all go to bed early and ignore the festivities?

Do you make resolutions and ask your children to do the same?

I don't think there is any right or wrong way to celebrate the new year. For us, the girls get to spend the night with Grandma while we attend a party. I don't really do resolutions, though. I try not to set myself up for failure...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hand Warmers and Other Necessities

It's that time of year when cold air invades the world (unless your current season is summer...). The temperature right now in Atlanta is 32 degrees. It's cold. It's miserable outside. I don't like it one bit.

This time of year, when the possibility of snow and ice is near, I take stock of the things I might need in my car in case of an unexpected emergency. Having two small children in the car with me most of the time means that I need to be extra prepared just in case we happen to get an ice storm that strands me and the kids on the road somewhere. It isn't likely, but it has happened here in the Atlanta area before. In an effort to ease my overactive imagination, I prepare for the possibility that I might end up stuck on the road somewhere with my girls and no way to go anywhere at all. Lucky for me, my car has a few hidden compartments for special storage. I use those areas to be sure we have whatever we might need if we were to be stranded out in the cold. Here's a list of what I keep in my car.

1) Hand Warmers - You know those inexpensive things you can buy in the camping area at Wal-Mart? Well, they are awesome for keeping you warm. They last for a full ten hours. Two hand warmers placed under a blanket would easily keep me and the girls toasty warm. I keep several of these in the car. They take up minimal space and provide such a huge benefit that I consider these to be the top of the list.(I've tested this theory at home when I couldn't manage to get warm. These things are amazing.)

2) Food - Kids get hungry. My kids are almost always hungry. I keep a supply of snacks and certain canned goods in those hidden compartments. I replace the food at least once a year to ensure freshness. My last selection of food was canned peaches, graham crackers, and Kool-Aid packets for our water. Now that the girls are much older, I will be putting other things in the car like canned tuna and saltine crackers along with some of those mayonnaise packets from McDonald's. It's important to be sure that any crackers that are put in the emergency food supply are well sealed. The peanut butter cracker packs are always good options. It's also important to use foods that will not melt or spoil easily. Keep in mind that you will probably not be able to cook anything if you are stranded, so foods that are good when eaten cold should be included. If you're stocking canned goods that do not have a flip top opener, be sure to include a manual can opener in your stash. I try to be mindful of what the girls like to eat. While I realize that kids will eat whatever is in front of them when they are really hungry, I also recognize that giving them foods they like in an emergency situation of this nature will make my life much easier. Keeping hard candy in the stash is also a good way to brighten the situation for the kids. Chocolate might be a good option, but there's that whole melting thing...

3) Blankets - I keep blankets in the car when it's really cold outside. I generally keep them in the floor right by the girls' car seats because they both complain about being cold when we go anywhere. When I set up my emergency stash, I will also place a blanket in the cargo hold area where the spare tire is.

4) Clothes - I keep a change of clothes in the car for everybody. There are two reasons for this. First, an extra layer of clothing would come in really handy if we have to walk in the cold. Second, a change of clothes is always welcome if we are stranded in the car for a length of time. I make sure that this set of clothing is extra warm.

5) A tarp with rope - This one may be a bit of a surprise, but I also keep a tarp and rope in the car. The reason for this is just in case we are in a snow storm. A tarp spread out over the exhaust pipe area would prevent the snow from going high enough to clog the exhaust and forcing you to turn the car off. Also, if you're stranded for a length of time, having a covered area for bathroom needs would be beneficial. (Remember that change of clothes... If you're having to get out of the car to tend to your bathroom needs, that change of clothes might be really handy if your clothes get wet from snow.) Another benefit from a big blue tarp is visibility. My van is white. It wouldn't be easily visible in a snow storm. A blue tarp, however, that is spread out to create a semi tent by the side of the car - now THAT would be visible.

6) Toys - Of all the items you keep in your stash for being prepared, you really need to keep some toys in the stash. Coloring books, colored pencils, small toys that are easily stashed - these are all good options. I don't recommend keeping crayons in the stash because they will melt in the summer. However, crayons would be a great addition as long as you remember to pull them out when the hot days return.

7) Flashlights and batteries - Keep a couple of flashlights and batteries in the car. This is pretty self explanatory as far as reasoning goes.

8) Keep a few extra toiletries in the car for the sake of comfort. Deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, a brush - these small things can help make the situation just a little bit better for everybody.

If you have any suggestions, add them below. :-)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I trust them

A couple of days ago The girl (my 15yr old daughter) announced she was going out with her girlfriends and heading over to the local Starbucks. I asked her if she had any money when she told me she had a bit of change. So I directed her to take $5.00 out of my wallet.

This is when my MIL just about lost it ~ The conversation then went something like this;

MIL ~ you let her just go in your purse and wallet and take money?
SM ~ yes, I trust that she will take what I tell her to
MIL ~ what if you didn't have a $5.00
SM ~ then I am sure she would have told me and not taken anything at all
MIL ~ her friends were waiting, are you sure she would have just left with the change she had.
SM ~ yes

Yes, I trust both of my kids to go into my purse or wallet.

I was taken back that my mother-in-law found it strange that I would allow my kids to go through my stuff. I have nothing to hide and I trust them. I don't understand why she would have found it wrong for me to allow the kids to go into my purse. I have built an amazing trusting relationship with both of my kids that I started from the time both of them were quite young.

Do you allow your kids to go in your purse or wallet?
If you do ~ Do you trust your kids enough to take what you tell them to or to take nothing at all?
If you don't ~ Why don't you allow it?

But most importantly ~ Do you think there is such a thing as too much trust?

Contributed by; The Mind of a Mom

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sometimes addiction is a good thing

I confess to not understanding the widespread hatred for Harry Potter and Twilight from people who have not actually read the books.

What is it about popular juvenile fiction that engenders such extreme emotion on the part of non-fans?

It all makes perfect sense if you actually read it - then you will know for sure if you love, like, dislike, hate or want to burn the books.

I've read all of the Harry Potter books, and enjoyed them all. JK Rowling is an excellent story-teller and spins a fine yarn that gets progressively darker and more convoluted as the characters age and delve deeper into the mysteries of the world she has built.

From the very little I’ve read of the Twilight books, Stephanie Meyer is a less technically accomplished writer and her story is a fairly shallow romance/urban fantasy story with a very specific target audience – young teenage girls. This is not a bad thing, it just isn’t the type of story I can get interested in reading. I certainly don’t hate it or look down on people who are fans.

What is truly great about both of these series, however, is that they have young people reading them - in very large droves. Almost anything that gets kids reading is a good thing, IMO. Once kids get hooked on reading, they will branch out and read in a much broader area.

You shouldn't stress over whether the characters in the book are good role models for your kids. Your children are actually capable of understanding the difference between pretend and reality – no matter how much they pretend to be Hermione or Edward or Superman or Ariel or whatever, they know that it is pretend and that they aren’t really a witch or vampire or alien or mermaid.

Get your kids reading – even if what they are reading isn’t what you yourself prefer. Reading is the key to the world – a person who reads well and comprehends what he reads can learn anything. And the most important lesson he will learn is to think for himself, to dig into something that is worth knowing, and to always be trying to learn more and more.

Here are some books and series for kids and juveniles that are worth reading – you may not like them yourself and may even strongly disagree with some of the messages that are presented, but your kids may well learn to love reading through these books:

Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope (pseudonym for many BT authors)
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene (pseudonym for many ND authors)
Encyclopedia Brown by Donald Sobol
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
His Dark Materiels by Phillip Pullman
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (pseudonym for Daniel Handler)
The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon (pseudonym for many HB authors)
Podkayne of Mars by Robert Heinlein
Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein
Lucky Starr series by Paul French (pseudonym for Isaac Asimov)
Norby Chronicles by Isaac and Janet Asimov

This is just a short list off the top of my head, and it includes only fiction in the genres of mystery, fantasy and science fiction. These came first to mind, I suppose, because they are well-known and already very popular with young readers. While there are hundreds of thousands of fine books (both fiction and non-fiction) for young readers, I think that these kinds of stories are the best gateways because they grab the kids and bring them into the adventures and lives of the characters and make them want more and more.

Sometimes, addiction is a good thing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Many of you may realize that parenting is a continual process of learning and adjusting. I was once asked how I know so much about parenting and feel that I am qualified to give any kind of advice on the topic. I explained to that person that part of my reasoning was simple experience. Having four children of various ages, all with their own special issues, has given me a very wide range of experience. The other thing that I do is read. I read just about anything and everything I can find on the topic of parenting. When there is a new book of ideas, I will read it. Magazines - I read them. Blogs - I read those, too. I try different techniques and tips. I use a variety of entertainment options. I share what works (and sometimes even what doesn't, if the theory is sound because children are all different).

If you want to increase your knowledge and your arsenal, I would encourage you to read frequently on the topic of parenting. Even if the book or magazine is something that is not quite along the lines of your standard reading material, you may be able to glean something useful from the writing.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Toy Choices

I was reading through the Atlanta Parents magazine today and noticed the recent holiday article detailing this year's favorite toys for Christmas. I couldn't help but notice that all the favorites consisted of multiple buttons to make them faster, glitzier and noisier than other toys that have come before. Of course, this is the trend each year as the holidays approach. The manufacturers work diligently to produce a product that will catch the attention of a child and impress upon the parents just how important it is for their child to have THIS one special toy because it is so much better than any other toy on the market.

There was one Christmas that I fell into the "bigger, better, noisier" trap. We had endured a rough holiday season with the loss of my dear father-in-law. When the time to shop rolled around, my husband and I both were in need of a bit of aggressive retail therapy in the form of lavishing our oldest son with the best Christmas he could ever have wanted. (Kira was barely 3 months old at the time.)

We were wandering the aisles of Wal-Mart when we came across the perfect gift.

The Tarantula - a remote control, cross-country vehicle that claimed to roll easily over rocks and hills and yada yada yada. 

My husband was instantly in love. He entertained visions of revving the engine as he and Gibson chased the Tarantula all across the yard, hooping and hollering as the monster tackled event he most intimidating piles of dirt.

We had already finished our shopping for Gibson based on the dollar amount that we had determined to spend for his Christmas. There was no need to add to his already appropriately suitable pile. This one thing alone was more than the amount that we had determined we would spend on Gibson, so this would double his Christmas allowance.

We bought it. We just KNEW he would love it. We were craving that one MOMENT when his eyes would light up with the joy and excitement of having received exactly what he didn't even know he wanted until the very moment he unwrapped the box. After all, this is not the type of thing we would ever have agreed to buy for him, so he would never have even asked for this expensive toy.

Christmas came and the moment was just as we had hoped. Gibson was, indeed, quite thrilled and excited with his new remote control vehicle. The rush to purchase the proper batteries came the day after Christmas, as we were unskilled with these things and had no clue that the batteries for this toy would be unattainable at the local Wal-Mart. Luckily, Radio Shack was well stocked.

We managed to assemble the batteries and get the thing running after a day or two. If you've ever purchased a remote control vehicle then you know that those batteries generally need to be charged for a full 24 hours before you can use them. Again, this was something we should have researched before Christmas.

Gibson waited - not so patiently - until we could bring out the Tarantula and embark on a journey that would undoubtedly be filled with the best kind of fun ever.

The battery lasted for about two hours.


Gibson was not finished. He wanted to play more, but the battery now required another 24 hours to charge. There was disappointment and frustration as the battery was removed and placed, once again, on the charger.

(Yes, having an extra battery on hand would have been such an incredibly smart thing to do...)

The next day the scene was repeated. An hour or two after playing hard with his Tarantula, the battery died and had to be recharged.

That was the last time he played with the "perfect toy" that had been under his Christmas tree. He decided that the effort of charging the battery was not worth the amount of fun that would be gained because the time it took to charge the battery was so much longer than the amount of time that the battery would last.

We waited nearly two years before we passed that expensive, perfect gift onto the local thrift store to be bought by some other kid who would probably love it with or without working batteries.

It did not take us two years to learn our lesson. 

You may wonder what lesson it is that we have learned. Well, there were many lessons built into that one Christmas.

First, the excitement wears off real quick. The big rush is fun, but after the rush is over the second guessing kicks in. We could have spent that money on far better things. We could have bought him 5 or 10 little things that he would have played with for years instead of one big toy that he quickly lost interest in.

Second, the basic toys are usually better and more loved than the glitzy toys. Things that allow a child to use his imagination or can be used in multiple ways will be more likely to stand the test of time. The classics are considered to be classics for a reason. Lincoln Logs are still popular because children PLAY with them. Play-Doh is still popular because children PLAY with it. Balls are still popular (and recently admitted to the Toy Hall of Fame) because children will always PLAY with balls. It isn't necessary to break the bank on the "latest and greatest" in order for your child to have a magical holiday season filled with toys that will last at least a week or two instead of only a day or two.

Third, setting a budget for Christmas is important. Sticking to that budget is also important. Blowing the budget even once tends to set a precedent for years to come. Children actually remember what they get from year to year. If last year's holiday was BIGGER and BETTER, then this years holiday might be disappointing if the selection and number of toys are not quite as impressive.

Finally, if the toy won't be played with - and you know it won't be played with - go ahead and give it up. Waiting two years will not change the fact that your child is no longer interested. Letting that toy sit and take up valuable space is just torture for yourself. If your child has decided that the toy no longer holds value for him, go ahead and pack it up to be given to charity. Don't drag it around through three different moves in hopes that one day you child will once again decide to charge the batteries and take it out for a spin. Trust me, he won't.

Saturday, December 5, 2009



That's all I have to say on the subject...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas Time

Welcome to December. We now have less than 24 days to do all our shopping. I, of course, would NEVER wait until the very last minute to do shopping for every single person on my list. Nope - not me...