Friday, February 5, 2016

Launching the "Give One Get One" Campaign

Anyone else have the problem of too many toys in their house?

Like many families out there, our family has many people that love to get our kids presents, not only for their birthday and Christmas, but other holidays, and other random times too.

I get it, I do, because I do it too. It is so fun to see them get excited, and it is hard to hold back.

But it results in this influx of toys, and without sending toys out again, we are reaching capacity for toys. So, I went on a hunt yesterday to figure out the best place to get new homes for the toys that we have convinced the kids to let leave the house.

Goodwill is certainly the most convenient option, but for those who might not know, the toys are put into the stores, and sold, and then the money is used for good causes. There is no guarantee that these toys will go to kids truly in need instead of families just trying to save money (no blame, I shop at thrift stores myself, just saying).

What I discovered though is that the most worthy of causes (in my opinion), like hospitals, foster homes, homeless shelters, Ronald McDonald House, Make a Wish Foundation, and others don't want our old toys, no matter how good of shape they are in.

Mostly for health reasons, none of these locations can or will accept used toys, what they need are new toys (and clothes, and many other things).

This got me thinking about a solution to my two main problems. One, too many toys at our house when they don't need them. Two, great causes need new toys, but good luck trying to get your kids to ditch toys they haven't played with yet.

Here is my proposed solution, that I would love to get momentum and become a campaign instead of just something for our family: Give One, Get One.

The Give One, Get One idea is simple: spend half as much on gifts for my kids, but instead buy two of the toys you do give. Wrap both presents, and put a note somewhere inside: Give One, Get One. Gift card givers can get two smaller amount gift cards, with "Give One, Get One," and one goes to others, and when my kids spend money on themselves, they can also spend money on toys explicitly for others.

Hopefully this will result in a birthday party with half as many toys to find space for in our house, and a car full of brand new donations to one of the many places that has kids that REALLY need those new toys.

Every spoiled time will become a time about teaching to give. My kids, seeing all those toys go to a hospital or shelter, learn about giving, and can know that another boy or girl will get to play with the same toys they are playing with. But since the "Give" and "Get" toys are identical, it won't hurt them at all to see them go, since they have one to play with themselves.
To family members that read this blog, please consider doing the Give One, Get One plan when you shop for my kids for all these occasions coming up.

When their birthdays come up again or when people ask me what to get them for Christmas, I will be including this blurb:
Our family would love it if you would consider participating in our Give One, Get One plan. Whatever budget you were planning on spending, please consider spending half of it on our kids, and instead buy a duplicate of the item or items you do purchase. Include the words: Give One, Get One somewhere on your card, and wrap both toys (or clothes, books etc.), and then we will donate the duplicate item or items to a local hospital, shelter, Ronald McDonald House, or Make-a-wish Foundation since they only accept new items. "Give One, Get One" works with gift cards as well, just do two gift cards instead of one, one to spend on themselves, one to spend on others. We appreciate your help in teaching our kids about generosity and giving to kids in need.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Freezer Meals Party

Starting in September 2015, every couple months I have been hosting a freezer meal party, and it has been great!

I started talking to a couple of other people at the ptf meeting last week and discovered they were really interested in the knitty gritty logistics of how I have been making it work. I was happy to share, especially since my particular flavor of freezer meal parties isn't like anything I have read on Pinterest, but is the best solution I've found to something that could be a logistical nightmare.

My friends and are are all connected through Facebook, and the parties are planned as events through there, with RSVPs incredibly important. The group has changed somewhat from month to month, and I am totally at peace with that as long as the people who are coming let me know a few weeks prior.

As it was my idea, I do choose the recipes, but I do have a group Pinterest board, and if people don't like the meals for the month, they just plan on coming on a future month. The number one thing I have strived to do with picking meals is to choose a meat theme.

Every freezer party that I have seen online is full of a few of this, that and the other kinds of meat. Which means that someone has to buy a bunch of different kinds of meat. I don't know, it makes more sense to me that each month I just choose one kind of meat.

We did a chicken month, a beef (like chuck roast) month, and today we did a ground beef month. 

The next thing I do, which again, I haven't seen anywhere, I just made it up, is I buy all of the ingredients except for the meat, I just buy enough for the whole group, then they pay me for their share. I do my best to be cost efficient, using Costco, deals at Target, or the 99 cent store to get all of the side ingredients for as little as possible, while having each person pick out their own meat prices. The reason is simple- my family prefers to typically get a higher quality meat (or use our freezer bison). But, I don't want to drive up the costs of my friends' meals to those prices if they don't want to use it. So we all just get our own meat.

Then, because I used to be a teacher, and am a planner by nature, prior to the party, I make up a strategy. For example, today's menu had a meatloaf that needed to bake prior to freezing, so we prepped and did that one first, and while it cooked moved onto other things.

At my house, we prep for the group, but assemble for ourselves. For example, our sloppy joes needed onions, garlic, peppers, etc. cut. So I was cutting one thing while my friends cut others. But once the vegetables were cooked, we all just put a portion into our bags. Some parties everyone preps their own food just near each other. No right or wrong way, just the way I think it works best for me. 

Things to note:

-I typically choose 4 meals, but most months I am doubling a lot of them. I have a deep freezer... most of my friends don't, so I have space for more, and they are happy with four (but are welcome to double anything as well). 

-Many hands make light work... but it is still a lot of work. Come expecting to be chopping, mixing, and assembling for hours.

-It makes a lot of dishes. Like stacks, because you are using multiple cutting boards, multiple bowls, and multiple work stations for it to go faster.

-The payoff is not on the day of the party (though friends make it fun).  Today I was tired, and literally just laid on the couch once we were done. But in the next month or two, when I can take something from the freezer, put it in the oven and have a healthy, low sodium, homemade dish ready for the family with no cutting, prepping or dishes... it is totally worth it!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Wrap Up Post

 The biggest overarching theme of this year for me was races, even though you don't see all the bibs in the picture above. Back in 2011, I made a huge goal to achieve the goal of running a marathon. I ran races leading up to it, but due to getting pregnant, I was unable to run the marathon I signed up for back in 2013. After more training, I finally achieved this huge, years in the the making, goal in February of 2015! In honor of this race (and future races) Blake made me a medal display. The left bib and far left medal will always remain in place. On the right, where the picture below shows the pink Diva run race bib, I put my newest race bib on top, and add the medals below. This picture is from February, but there have been 4-6 more added since then.
 This is the face of someone who has been running for 5 hours, and is so over the top excited to finally see the finish line!

 It doesn't get more genuine than this picture above. I was exhausted, but so proud of myself for finishing this goal.

 This is the half marathon I did a few weeks later with Jami! This was a particularly crazy weekend as immediately after the marathon in Temecula, we had to hightail it to Santa Barbara to see our good friends get married! We didn't even have time to stop for a meal, just gas and a quick stop at our hotel to get changed. This was also our longest time to date of leaving our kids with grandparents.

Apparently I was itching for more adventure, because soon after finishing my marathon I decided to do another run out of my comfort zone, with my first Ragnar in April. I then loved the whole Ragnar experience enough to do another one in October (no picture in this post), and signed up to do another one in February of 2016, this time in Arizona! I just love having a running goal to pursue, and these especially hit the spot as they require you to run three times in a short period, run through the night, but also have to be part of a team and support each other. If you like running, grab friends and do a Ragnar! So addicting. Anyways...
 This is the half marathon I did with Blake in November! His first half marathon (and he hates/hated all the pictures I took on that run).

 The pictures above are from family day this year, celebrated on the date that Grace arrived in our home back in 2013. Every year Blake takes the day off work for the four of us to celebrate our family, and in 2015 it was a trip to the aquarium.

 At the top of the first picture you will see a stack of Ducks tickets. We continue to be huge Ducks fans and go to as many games as we can (here's hoping they improve over the second half of the season and still get to and through the playoffs!). Some of the tickets are for games we bought in 2015, but some are tickets that we are given from a few amazing sources.

 Thought people would enjoy some random pictures of the kids from Easter this year, when our family was looking exceptionally good, if I do say so myself.
 This summer my brother finished his Masters in Business! Go Grant! They also are expecting their first child, and I get to be an aunt!!! So excited!

 More sports fan pictures, as we made it to a few Angels games too, even if Remington insists that he is a Dodgers fan in honor of my grandpa (so sweet!).
 We had an awesome trip to the Orange County fair this summer too! Remington literally talked about it for weeks afterwards, thanking God that he got to drive the car, and catch a fish.

 Two totally random, I love my kids and aren't they so cute pictures.

 The kids had their first camping trip this year, thanks to Damian and Katy!

 We had a great December with me finally getting around to the advent bags I had been intending to do for the last few years, and did a fun Christmas/nativity/winter themed fun thing every day (except for the two days that got too busy for the bag thing to happen). The two above are the kids having an amazing time making "snowflake soup" which basically was water play with snowflake confetti.

The kids also had their first time in the snow on our trip to Big Bear after Christmas. They even got to see snow falling, though both of them expected snowflakes to be bigger than they were. The snow didn't hold together very well, so didn't really get to make a snowman, but they had fun throwing snow around.

Featured in the "mason jar" picture, we have tickets from our annual trip to Disneyland and California Adventure, as well as a trip to Sea World. These big trips are fun, but I think my favorite memories from the kids this year were the little moments. I love seeing their imaginations and seeing them play together. They use the experiences we are able to give them, and they recreate it on their own, like going camping together on a blanket in the living room, and giving each other "marshmallows" which are actually just toys on sticks. They make each other food, go to the beach, drive to El Pollo Loco in their toy cars. They fight bad guys, or pretend to have characters go to school. I love the moments when they beg me to read to them (I sometimes wish they didn't too, but usually give in), and show me that they already know the power of a great book.

Speaking of books, I started tracking my books read back in 2010 on a website called Goodreads. My highest year since starting to track was 2011, when I got through 63, but this year was my second highest with 55 books! This is especially good considering that 2014 was exceptionally bad with just 17. No, that wasn't a mistake, or a lack of tracking, it was a year that I had subscribed to The Economist, and though I found it very interesting, I could not keep up with those weekly magazines, and didn't have much time to read anything but magazines. I did not renew that subscription.

What I did do this year was start my new reading goal, which is admittedly a long way from being complete, of reading through the Rory Gilmore booklist.
 I have made good progress though, and have read 34 more books on her list (in addition to the ones I had already read) since I started this goal back in April. I am still working my way through Don Quixote (which I also started in April... and am just going really slowly though, while also reading other books for fun and the list concurrently). It has completely pushed me out of my comfort zone with books, and some of the books I loved, and went on to read/ intend to read other books from that author, while others I hated and had to force myself to finish them. For example Ann Patchett's book Bel Canto was amazing, and I then went on to read multiple books from her that weren't on the list. I read the books that I had only seen the movies of, or had just heard about, like Lord of the Rings. I read poetry, I read journals, biographies, etc. and really expanded my horizons of books, and was able to make connections between books, or between what I read and my life. It has been a really positive change in my reading habits, and I am excited to start another year with it.

I also made progress towards another goal of being a paid writer. I have gotten a few articles published online, and one little blurb in a print magazine coming out in a few months. I have written a few children's books, but haven't made progress towards getting them printed yet.

So, for the new year, I plan on doing less races, but continuing to run to stay healthy, and try to get to the gym on a more regular basis.

I plan on continuing to read through the Rory Gilmore list, and see where it takes me. I will continue to try to get articles published on the website I have been, mostly for supplementary income, and I will also dust myself off, and make another good attempt to get a children's book published.

In 2016, in September, when Remington starts preschool, I also plan on starting to substitute at his preschool (which I can do, since I got my child development permit this year, yay!)

As far as the kids are concerned, I intend to be more purposeful in engaging with them on a daily basis. I realized that the advent bags really forced me to plan time in that was fun for all three of us, and usually were sweet connecting moments, whether it was reading, or art, or a game, whatever the day's bag brought, I felt it brought a good point to the day. It made me realize that too often, I allow the chores of the day- get to school, go to the store, lunch, naptime, make dinner, etc.- become the only thing I do with the kids until bedtime, with no moments of me stopping and carving out that quality time. I really want to get better at that.

Looking back over the year, it was a good one, but I cannot believe how much my kids have grown, and continue to grow. People said the time would fly by, and it truly does. I want to cherish these little ones as long as I can, because I really feel like I will blink, and I will have two teenagers.

Here's to a great 2015, and a warm welcome to 2016 and all the memories it will bring! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Olsen Kids, Early December

Remington was born a sports kid. His earliest favorite toy was balls, and he loved to throw them, roll them, chase them around, and watch them be thrown. Now that he is two, his interest in sports hasn't waned at all, it has grown with him.

His favorite game to play outside of Grace's school is invisible sports. The basic idea is that he names a sport, gives you and himself a position, and then you are supposed to act out that sport.
He knows most of the terms too, so in baseball you will either be the batter, pitcher, umpire or squatter (catcher). In football, he will designate the quarterback and receiver, and in soccer and hockey he will just say who is the goalie (and the other person has to try to score).

He isn't totally unfair either. Sometimes you get to hit the ball, score the goal, shoot the basket etc. Though most of the time, yes, he is the hero. As a goalie, the shots almost never go in, but as a shooter, they almost always do. In baseball, if you hit the ball, he usually manages to get you out with a tag or you hit a fly ball, and he caught it.

He frequently goes through multiple sports in a short period too. This morning we played some basketball, soccer, and baseball. When we picked Grace up, he fit in baseball, football, soccer and hockey. It is really easy to change sports when you use no equipment.


To be clear, he doesn't just play invisible sports. We have a sports friendly house, and on any given day, you will see Remington and whoever he convinces to play with him playing baseball, completely with bat, ball, glove and helmet, or hockey with the sticks, puck and net, or shooting at the big basketball net in the house. While Grace does soccer, he does too, aiming at another net, trying to score on Blake. Plus he has baseball guys and hockey guys that he imagines their games too.

When he isn't playing sports, he is using his healthy imagination in some other way. One favorite is fighting bad guys (balloons with faces on them) with light sabers, or cooking elaborate things at the play kitchen.

Grace has been very big into her babies lately, and don't try to add the word "doll" to that. They are her babies. For a long time, her favorite was a baby boy she named, "Joshua" and was very particular about having his diaper changed and his clothes changed for bed, changed back into regular clothes in the morning. But unfortunately all these tasks are still a bit challenging for Grace, which means that Blake and I got to do a lot of work taking care of this baby.

Then for a while she had two favorites, adding another doll, Scarlett (named after her cousin) to her (our) responsibilities for the day. But Joshua recently changed to Tina because of some doll tights she found.

Some might disagree with me, and I am not taking any side on the whole gender debate, but I drew the line at having "Joshua" wear the white tights with pink ballet slippers. I told Grace that she had to pick something else for her boy doll or start pretending that this doll was a girl. She really wanted a ballet outfit, so Joshua is currently "Tina."

She is the ringleader at playtime between the two of them, and frequently is the one who has the idea to pretend to drive to visit Santa, or go to the beach, or have a picnic, or any number of other things she cooks up in her imagination.

Naptimes are officially gone for her, but I have retained my naptime break through a hand me down tablet from my mother in law, and some kids games that she can play by herself during his nap (like right now). Her two favorites are a baby one, where you give the baby a bath, then get it dressed in any of a zillion outfits and then give it toys and take a picture, and a cake one, where you get to make an elaborate multi-layered cake, and decorate it with frostings and other random items.

They are both at fun ages, and most days, I cherish this time when they are still so small and cute. 

I was searching back over my pictures, and I don't have a lot of the things I described above. They are the moments I want to remember, they are the times where I most see my kids shine their own unique lights, but I don't have many pictures of them.

The main reason for that boils down to two main things- 1- when I start to take a video, I ruin it. I ruin their pretend world, I stop the play, they want to watch the video, or they want to purposely do something silly for the camera, which is completely not what I wanted to record. 2- A lot of times, I am actively engaged, getting the doll dressed, or being goalie, and I can't be active and present with the kids while also taking pictures or videos.

What do I have pictures of, that for at least today, I chose to not post? The family day at Disneyland, the kid's little races, a trip to a science center, her Thanksgiving party at school, Thanksgiving at home, and more special, not normal life events.

Back to basics

This blog has been neglected of late, and I feel like half of my posts start like that.

To put it simply, it just hasn't been high on my priority list. As I am not earning a steady income, my contribution to family finances typically means a bunch of little side jobs, that don't make a big dent, but help slightly, and make me feel a lot better.

One of my many side jobs is writing, and I am happy to say that I can call myself a paid writer, even if I am never going to get rich from my current writings.  When I have snatches of free time, I am typically working towards getting more articles accepted, because each one pays me a small, one time amount, and that is enough to keep me going. I would love to also work (more than I have already) towards getting a book published at some point, but at the moment, the small short term payments are more worth my time than the long term investment of a book deal.

All this to say that my recording small snippets of life with a few pictures as a record for prosperity/myself/friends/family has had to sit on the sidelines. I have very purposefully decided to not monetize this blog, because it isn't about the money, and I don't want it to be. It has always been enjoyable to write, and great to look back over and know just how I was feeling about events in life from my posts.

I am going back to basics, and see if I can give at least one post a month that are more what the blog was originally intended to be, as opposed to my articles, or articles that didn't make the cut,  or even big event pictures/stories. This is the moments, the thoughts, the small slices of life.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Science Backed Parenting Tips (Not Found in your Typical Parenting Book)

9 Science Backed Parenting Tips (not found in your typical parenting book)
Some parents pour through parenting books, looking for the quintessential user’s manual for their children, while other parents fly by the seat of their pants, and parent however comes naturally, come what may. Every parent is different, and it seems like every parenting book gives different advice as well. But there are some tips that it seems most parenting books leave out, free from the general biases and opinions of Joe Schmo’s latest book, backed by scientific research (which, we all know, is just a few steps more reputable than opinion… and sometimes less). Take them as you will, but here are 9 parenting tips based on research studies, and if you don’t agree with them… then treat them like any other parenting book, and parent as you see fit.

1.  Don’t help your kids with their homework
This is something anyone would put in the list of "good things to do for your kids," and is a hard one to resist. Imagine your child, sitting at home, and she says she can't figure out the answer to her math problem. Most of us would jump to her rescue, some would even just do the problem for her. Turns out both are the wrong choice. Research done in 2014 found that helping younger kids with homework doesn't help them perform better on standardized tests, and once they get to middle school and higher, it actually can bring their scores down.

Like most research, you are left to draw your own conclusions as to why this is the case, but there are some theories, and mine are influenced by my personal background of six years of teaching elementary school. I would put parents who help with homework into three categories. The first category is those parents who were so eager to “help” their child, I got assignments done by the parents. The second category are parents who sadly “help” incorrectly, by solving the problems wrong or incorrectly editing writing assignments. At least one study illustrates this problem group by finding that thirty percent of parents admit that they were doubtful about their ability to help their kids correctly do their homework (and common core in the U.S. is probably just making this worse). These parents “helping” actually do more harm than good in another way too, not only because of their lack of skills, but also their math anxiety can be passed onto their kids. One study found that parents with math anxiety who try to help their kids with their math homework results in kids that actually learn less math over the year and “catch” the math anxiety from their parents. Meanwhile, a math anxious parent who doesn’t help their child with homework keeps from “passing it” to their child. 

The third group are parents who are genuinely helping their kids without doing it for them. It is easy to see how two of the three groups are not going to positively benefit their kids or have any positive impact on their testing scores. And since you might not be sure if you are in group two or three… it might be better to just leave them alone to try their best on their own, and let their teacher help if needed.

No one wants to raise college kids who have never had to do homework on their own, so even if you continue to help your elementary school kid, make sure you cut the habit before middle school when the effects are frequently more negative than positive.

2. Let your child decide when they are done eating
"Finish your food, clean your plate, eat more of that please, keep eating, you’re not done yet, you can play when you're done, etc." are all common parental phrases.  And...that's bad.

Here’s the crazy thing- kids are better at knowing how much food they need than adults are.
According to one children’s hospital, children know how much they need to eat, should not be forced to eat anything, and their food requirements can vary greatly even from meal to meal. They specifically say not to make them a special food or offer a substitute if they say they don’t want to eat what you offer.

But you don’t understand, if I don’t force my child to eat… she won’t eat at all!

Interestingly, that’s not true either. A study was conducted on preschoolers, the notoriously picky age group, and some of them were asked to finish their food, and some were left to their own devices. What they found was the the group that ended up finishing more of their food was the ones who were NOT pressured to eat. Plus, those pressured made more negative comments (probably along the lines of “this is yucky”) about their food.

Imagine yourself at two different stores. One of them has an obnoxious sale clerk constantly pushing products on you. The other has a sale clerk who asks if you need help, makes some suggestions, and then leaves you to your own devices. Which are you more likely to shop at? The one that leaves you alone. Kids’ relationships with food appear to be the same way. The more they are pushed to eat, the less they want to eat. The more that vegetables are forced on them, the less they will eat the vegetables. In fact, even a study of college students showed that even as young adults, they disliked the foods forced on them as kids, so those mandates of you WILL eat those peas have lasting consequences.

Asking our kids to finish everything on their plates is another harmful habit we have to break. A study in September found that making your child eat more even when they feel full puts them more at risk of becoming overweight.  It makes sense, if a kid is forced to ignore those full signals when they are young, they train themselves to ignore those full signals later.
So what is a parent to do? One article suggests to give the children an opportunity to choose between healthy alternatives, and start with a small portion size. Your child can choose how much of the fruit, vegetable, and protein they want, and if they happen to be in a hungry mood, they can have more (since it is all a positive choice), if they aren’t hungry, then they can be done, but they don’t get anything else to eat either. There is no incentive to be picky if you learn that there is no grilled cheese alternative waiting for you. As a bonus, less fights, and no extra meals being made.

3. Clean your kids...less
Kids are some of the dirtiest creatures out there. They tend to touch everything, they play rough on the grass and with their food, and it seems like common sense that they should have a nightly bath to clean all that muck and "kid smell" off. Apparently that's not the case.

Our cleaning doesn’t only clean off the bad, it cleans off the good oily protection for our skin. Researchers are finding that kids are cleaned so often, it is causing more cases of eczema, which is dry, itchy irritated skin.

For babies, researchers are saying the maximum is three times a week, and less is okay too. Plus, on those limited times you do give the little food, drool, spit up, diaper blow out, mess of a critter a bath, it is important to follow up with a lotion, particularly a thick or oily one to replace those oils you just washed off.  You can, of course, clean the problem areas as they happen (can you imagine if you didn’t?) but dermatologists say to keep those soapy full body washes for just a few times a week.

Some kids love baths and showers, and for some kids it is like asking them to have pig slop poured on them (though they might actually enjoy that), so to the parents dealing with nightly fights to get them cleaned, good news. The American Academy of Dermatology says that a daily bath is fine, but kids aged 6-11 really only need one or two a week! They give examples of times they need to be cleaned, but otherwise... daily bathing is optional. Once they hit 12, this site does recommend that they join the majority of the adult population in the daily shower/bath ritual (just in time for puberty and the age of the all mighty deodorant).

Adding to all of this is that research is finding that as a nation, we are going too clean, and it is causing an increase in allergies. We buy anti-bacterial soaps, sanitize toys with anti-bacterial wipes at home and basically wage a full out battle against the germs and nasties out there. For all our precautions we are rewarded with… allergies. Yep, research  is finding the cleaner we get, the more there is an increase in allergies as our bodies switch from fighting infection to developing allergic tendencies.

So basically, embrace some dirty and get rewarded with less dry skin, less bathtime battles and less allergies, sounds like a plan to me.
x. Keep quiet while your child plays their sport

Go to any youth sporting event, and you will hear a number of parents cheering, instructing, and yelling various things (positive and negative) to their child.

Trouble is, there is a multitude of things wrong with this sideline coaching, and it is basically impossible to do right.  One study found that (unlike the rest of the time) kids apparently stop playing to listen to what their parents are saying. That’s great! Except now they aren’t paying attention to whatever it was they were actually supposed to be doing at the time you said something.

What if you are just giving well needed coaching from the sidelines… that’s helpful right? Wrong again. Even coaches are taught to not give instructional tips during play time. That’s why you see them sitting down with a video and going over strategy and mistakes after the game, during the game is a time to focus on the task at hand.

Besides, even if there is a moment for in game coaching, it should come from the coach, not you. Multiple sources of “coaching” can result in kids getting confused and frustrated, feeling like a failure and end up making the kids unmotivated to perform and not even having fun playing. Say goodbye to your future professional sports player.

Most of the time, our comments are intrusive, research finds, and are best left to coaches (as hard as it is) to give at the next practice or whenever they go over the game... not mid play.

 x. Don't Give Allowances
The concept of giving an allowance comes from the desire to teach kids how to manage their own money, to become financially literate. For this reason, Lewis Mandell (Ph.D in financial economy), gave his own child an allowance as she was growing upBut then, he started doing some research. He now calls giving an allowance a “form of child abuse”  since the studies show that it actually makes kids know less about money, makes them enjoy working less, and also takes away their motivation to earn money.

The main study that he is referring to is one where students were given a financial literacy test on key money concepts, like saving, spending and credit. Then, they looked at the results, and contrary to what you might have guessed… kids who never got an allowance scored the best. The second highest were ones with allowances tied to chores, and the worse off were those given money for nothing (those slackers). For the record… no one did well.

Not only that, but with teenagers, there is a dangerous trickle down effect as well. See, teens given allowances are less likely to find a job outside the home (makes sense, why work more if mom and dad are already handing out cash). Teens who have never worked outside the home score worse on 4 out of 5 sections of the finance test. So… giving Johnny that weekly allowance (with chores or without) means that Johnny won’t go out and try to get his burger flipping job, and will know even less about money.

So what are parents supposed to do? According to Mandell, it is all about the conversations. / Why and how do parents make the financial decisions they do? If your child wants the next latest and greatest gadget out there, don’t just hand over money. Talk about it, within the context of your family’s financial situation, as well as the valid reasons for it. Then, decide together if it is a good buy.

If you insist on giving an allowance to your kids, experts don’t recommend giving it for nothing (see above) because it tends to create a sense of entitlement… but also don’t pay for chores. Most sites seem to point out that 1- chores come with being a member of the household, and 2- it emphasizes work isn’t fun. Seriously, who among us thinks that chores are fun? While on the other hand, a large portion of the adult workforce aspires towards jobs they are passionate about, and might even go so far as to call fun (at least at times).

If you can’t handle Mandell’s extreme no allowance idea, I recommend the idea that Alisa Weinstein suggests in her book.  She says to connect the allowance with tasks tied to careers. The basic idea is if your child wants to be a chef, then have him cook dinner for the family, design a menu or budget out a week’s grocery trip for him to earn some extra cash.

x. Don't Teach your Child "colorblindness" when it comes to race
Many people's philosophy of teaching about race is to ignore it, and pretend it isn't even a feature. We can talk about someone's height, someone's hair color, or their super cool t-shirt, but kids are taught to completely ignore the color of their skin. The idea is to treat everyone equally, and that is a great thing to teach, but to do it by ignoring a very real part of someone's identity is actually doing them a disservice.

One study had children play a game. It was basically Guess Who, but unlike the version I played as a kid that seemed to have very few minorities featured, this one had about half black and half white individuals. If a child was willing to ask a simple question like, “Are they black?” it would have helped them immensely in the game. But more than half of the kids were unwilling to even ask the question, some of them believing it to be rude , some of them believing that it was actually racist to even ask.

Trouble is, minority kids are getting these subtle signs too. A 2005 study found that teaching Black students that “race doesn’t matter” actually interferes with positive racial identity. One sociology professor goes to far as to say that “claims of colorblindness [saying you don’t see color] are really modern day bigotry.” He goes on to say that our culture works so hard to ignore the differences, the new problem is that the history of discrimination is swept under the rug. The history of Blacks in America is not a pretty one, but it is part of their culture.  Another example of this that made the news recently is of a student’s textbook talking about the Blacks coming over as immigrant workers…not exactly the case. Race does matter, it is a part of who you are, and influences your perception of the world, and too often lately, also how you are perceived as well.,204,203,200_.jpg
The better lesson is to accept the past of your race (good and bad) and see it as a portion of who you are, and then put it all together as a positive self image. 

x. Talk to your kids like adults... even when they are babies
How often do you hear parents use the same "goo, ba" sounds right back to their kids, or use their words like "baba" for bottle? You even hear "kid speak" used frequently with the little ones. "Go park, play swing?" "We go home? Eat Lunch?"

Non-parenting adults find it mind numbing, but the babies love it... so parents keep doing it. Here's the catch, it isn't the best thing to help them learn to talk. They are trying to copy the sounds, the words, and the sentence structure they hear, but if they aren't hearing you talk correctly, they are going to have a harder time learning to put together complex adult sentences later.

This research was reported in a study last year. They found that the babies with the best vocabulary and verbal skills were the ones whose parents talked in full, grammatical sentences with rich varied vocabulary... so normal conversation. So, the next step is getting more parents to learn the best ways to talk to their kids. One study looked at what would happen if parents were trained how to talk to their toddlers with this higher quality language, and gave an eight week course to a group of parents. When the children from this group were compared with a control group, they found that the ones from the test group had bigger vocabularies and processed language faster.

Bottom line is that while your baby will have no idea what it means if their dad says, " I have to go to work in the lab, and run reactions on my chemicals," they are more likely to learn it later if that's the way they were talked to when they were tiny. Languages are complicated, but the sooner that they hear all the crazy nuances of pronouns, verb tenses, and the other things that characterize educated language, the sooner they can start using them themselves (and all the non-parents around you will rejoice as well).

x. Don’t stress about how much time you can spend with your kids
Yes, finally, someone is telling me I can ignore my kids! Fantastic, back to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram I go. Eh... no. The moral of this story is "quality not quantity."

Life is busy, and many families have two working parents, either just to make ends meet, or because they both have a career that they are passionate about. Many of these parents also feel guilty over the lesser amount of time they are able to spend with their kids compared to those with a stay at home parent. Parents in this category go to night stressed about the effect that their jobs are having on their children. The good news for these families, as it turns out, is that kid’s outcomes are completely unrelated to the amount of time that parents spend with them.

The sociologist conducting the research said that she could show 20 different charts of results, and 19 of them would show absolutely no relationship between how much time their parents were able to spend with them, and how the children do later. She goes on to say that is is the moments of connection that are the most important.

In other words, the working mom who spends an hour a day actually playing with, reading with and interacting with her kids is making a better impact on her the kids than the stay at home mom who is on her phone, watching tv, or just working around the house all day, not connecting with them.

The flip side of this is that considerably more effort needs to be made to transform time near your kids to time with your kids. The same article reported that parents who spend the majority of their time watching TV or doing nothing with them actually has a detrimental effect. So, to those working parents, no matter how much you want to spend the chunks of time not at work totally in "zone mode"... try to muster up that energy to play a game with your child. To those moms who feel like you can check the "awesome" box of time spent with kids, stop and think about just how much of that time was really spent with your child... and how much was spent near them. But don't focus on the hours punched on the job, but on the number of "connecting moments" made.

x. Argue in front of your kids

Conflict is a huge part of life, from dealing with the person who cuts in front of you at the coffee shop, to dealing with an impossible boss and/or coworkers to their friends and future spouses. It is naive to try to shield them from all forms of disagreements anyways, especially when it is a perfect teaching opportunity. You don't have to agree, shoot, it's better if you don't, and then give them the opportunity to see what a compromise or someone backing down can do for a relationship.

To be clear, not condoning physical violence, at all, not even a little.  But a mild to medium level verbal conflict between between parents actually can have a lot of benefit for kids… as long as they see the resolution as well. (The disclaimer here is that above a medium, it can get into scary anxiety inducing behavior for your kids... and can start to cross that line from healthy disagreement to verbal abuse at times too, which is not good for the kids... or you).

That impulse to say, “We will talk about this later,” and then resolve it (in the bedroom?) away from the kids means that your children have gotten a great example of fighting… with no real useful information about how to deal with arguments. On the other hand, kids who see the whole drama, especially if it is done with love, support and compromise (which every argument is… right?) has a slew of great side effect for the kids who watch. This includes, “better social skills and self-esteem, ...increased emotional security,...better relationships with parents, do better in school and have fewer psychological problems,” all from watching you argue and make up (not in the bedroom).

It even physically benefits them as adults. Adults who reported seeing arguments at home had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when dealing with conflicts at home than those whose parents apparently never fought or fought behind closed doors.  Plus, remembering you are modeling conflict resolution might just help you to calm down and make sure that you act how you want your kid to act the next time someone tries to take a toy from them at the playground.

Note- This was the original article that I wrote, and got accepted to the cracked website. They edited it more to the taste of the website, and published the article below. Feel free to read both, but I wanted to make sure that my original, longer, cuss word free article was the first thing that my parents, grandparents etc. read. I am trying to look at it as if they are "translating" my points into the language they feel their readers identify with.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The X Factor

If you have kids, you know this to be true: no matter how well you plan, you can still be late.

A person without kids tends to think about where they are going, how long it takes to get there, and decide from that when to leave. Most moms I know, myself included, add time onto the base prediction in hopes to cover some of the child “x factors” of delay, but even then, it doesn’t always work.

When you have a baby, most people know that there is always the chance you will be late based around the infant’s intense demands on your schedule between nursing, napping etc.

But babies also come with the always dreaded “blow out.” For those never initiated into this plan changer, this is when you have your baby completely dressed, packed for the outing, ready to step out the door and get them into the car seat… and then realize they pooped. But this is not any low level, change diaper, get out the door kind of poop, but a poop that somehow has mysteriously made its way out of the diaper, onto your child’s back, legs and I even had one that went up to my son’s neck. No one quite knows how these little bodies can project their poop so far, but they don’t seem to struggle to accomplish these feats.

Congratulations mom, you will now be late. No matter how much time you allotted for, you probably didn’t plan enough for a complete quick bath/shower/full scale wipe down, plus outfit change, plus restocking a backup outfit.

As they get older, to toddler and preschooler age, you don’t lose the chance of unexpected delays, they just change.

Last week, I had a need for an impromptu change of clothes for my toddler, when he decided he was old enough to get his own water from the fridge… and then promptly dump it out, both on himself and the floor, of course when we were trying to get out the door for my daughter’s preschool.

His “I do it myself” mantra has also made it so that he wants to climb into his car seat himself. This leaves me with two options, both bad, and both slow. I can let him do it… it just takes three times as long for him to climb first into the car,  then into his seat, using his little arms and legs. Or, I can try to “speed up” the process by just putting him in myself. Trouble is that he fights me to put him down, arches his back to keep me from buckling him in, and generally makes my life difficult, so much so that I would have to time it to see which is actually the more efficient way to get us ready to go.

Thankfully, at some point, the scale starts to tip back in the mom’s direction as your kids truly become more independent (instead of the toddler version where they want to be independent but can’t actually do things by themselves for the most part).

One instance of this is that my daughter is perfectly capable of going to the bathroom by herself, while I work on getting my son ready, so that on good days, I can actually get out the door quicker. But one of the fun things about my four year old is that she is at the age of epic tantrums, which can strike at any minute, for any cause.

This means that I can have days where I ask her to go to the bathroom as her last step to be ready to leave before school, and instead of a happy girl that goes and does what I ask, she starts to yell, and scream, and then I have to put her in the bathroom myself.

When I put her in the bathroom, I had a fully dressed daughter, down to her shoes. When I checked on my grumpy preschooler, forced to go to the bathroom against her will, I had one in just a shirt. She had decided that as her sign of protest, she would remove all of her bottom half of clothing, including her socks and shoes.

Of course, I didn’t leave enough time for this clothing protest. I didn’t have time for her to keep kicking her legs so I couldn’t get things back on easily. I didn’t have time for her to kick her shoes off again in the car. I didn’t have time to have to carry her to her classroom, having her kick her shoes and socks off again as we went, but that was my Monday, so long story short, we got to preschool fifteen minutes late.

She is my oldest, so I can’t speak for the moms of older kids and teenagers, but I tend to think that the statement still holds true, that you can never plan well enough for the refusing to get up days, the “I have nothing to wear” days, the “I don’t want to go to school days,” and all of the other myriad of ways that kids have found that cause the same end result… you are late.  

Fellow moms, I know. I know that best intentions mean nothing when it comes to life with less than full grown individuals working against you. We can’t stop trying, there will always be a start time that we have to try to make it by, we can just keep allowing more “x factor time,” in hopes that it will cover the newest way our children have found to make us late, yet again.