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.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

My two year old letter to Remington

I wrote this in his baby book, but decided to write it here as well, so that even if something happens to the book someday, it will still be safe.

I want you to be independent and I admire your willingness to fight for it, though it sure makes you a handful at times. I love your passion for sports and your great imagination too. But I think my favorite moments are the glimpses of baby still lingering, like when you cuddle up with me to read a book, give me a hug, play with my moles ( as much as it bugs me) and say,"Hi, momma ."

I am so torn between looking forward with you to the things you want to do, like go to preschool and be on sports teams, and trying desperately to hold onto this time that I get to be with you for most of the day and share in your fun and games. 

I loved you when you were little, and I'll love you as you grow. 

Love, Momma

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Overload of Last week

I hope to post a good number of pictures, and limit my word count, but I at least wanted some description to match the craziness that was my last week.

I wish I could say that I endured all of it like a champ and wasn't stressed at all... but any member of my immediate family can tell you that is not quite the case. I may have been a bit more short fused last week, but by the end of this, you will see why.

The Elements of the Storm
Since March, we have been planning to do a trail Ragnar with two of our running friends. For those unfamiliar with this kind of race, it is a relay race that lasts somewhere around 24 hours, with at least one member of your team running at all times till you finish.   Different than the road Ragnars, we didn't have a van and have to keep driving to different places (nor did we cover the extensive ground those do), we had a campsite, and each person of our eight person team had to run each of the three loops (that all started and ended near the campsite) to be finished.

I was somewhat scared/nervous about this race, but mostly excited. However, it went from just fun for me to a bit of work, as one of my two friends accepted the amazing opportunity to work with the UN and assist with processing refugees. She asked if I would take over captain, and I accepted... and then had a bit more on my plate coordinating carpooling, supplies, and when everyone was running.

Since this summer, I was planning a joint birthday party for my kids. The date got nailed down when I learned that my sister in law, who moved halfway across the country in May, was going to be in town right around birthday time... and if I planned it right, she could be there for their party, which meant a lot to my kids.

As life goes... this date was the Sunday following the Ragnar planned in March. No problem, I thought, I can make both work, this is doable. I planned a good amount ahead of time, in hopes that the weekend of, I could just run the party for the most part.

On the week of this party/race, I added two more things to my plate... because I apparently like the feeling of spinning plates.

After meeting with Grace's teacher on Tuesday, long story short, I became the class room mom. Also, I decided to go back to school.

The going back to school thing is kind of funny, in that even with my degree, minor, credential and masters... I am not qualified to sub in a preschool classroom. I don't have the CA mandated 12 early childhood units. But the teacher mentioned they have trouble finding subs, and I think it would be a very viable thing for me to do once Remington starts there next year. Plus, if I get qualified to teach preschool, I have more job opportunities open to me when I start looking for a job full time (though that isn't until he is in school full time).*

*This will be pushed back if there is some way that our current status on third child changes.

All of the above meant that Tuesday through Friday, at any given point, I was planning race stuff, or making bags for the party, calling IVC, e-mailing the school to figure out room mom stuff, and also planning for the extended babysitting while we camped/ran.

The race Friday/Saturday went great. It was totally scary at times for me, but once I finished I felt exhilarated, knowing that I had accomplished things that were definitely out of my comfort zone. I was one of the slowest of our team, but our awesome team didn't hold it against me.

The literal storm
On Thursday, the day before our race, two days before the party, my cousin in law texts me to ask me if I had noticed the weather report. Honestly, I hadn't... probably because of all of the aforementioned stuff. Yes folks, rain was due to rain on my park party. Sigh. I couldn't deal with it then... or Friday...or most of Saturday. I had no reception at the race... except for at the top parts of our runs, and that wasn't a great time to do it.

So we get back Saturday, and that pesky rain hasn't gone away, but our house wasn't party ready either... because we had been gone at a race (and it's natural state isn't party ready).

I make a desperate play for a clubhouse near our house, was told I had a shot if I went in person the next day. So, even at 7AM on the day of the party, I couldn't tell anyone where the party was going to be. Unfortunately (though in retrospect, it might have been for the best), my ditch effort was unsuccessful.

At 8 on party day, I was texting everyone it was at our house, and between 8-10 I worked hard with my mother in law and sister in law to get everything ready. We felt prepared at... 9:55. Party started at 10:00, but we did it!

Our party was a superhero theme, so the kids decorated masks, tried to lasso a pumpkin, rescued "captured" adults, played pass the Kyptonite and raced like Flash. I think the kids had a great time, and I was so relieved to have two major stresses off my table (still room mom and going back to school, but still seems better overall).

Friday, August 14, 2015

Stream of Consciousness about the Here and Now

I neglect this blog, I know I do, and yet, it is actually quite substantially read, especially compared to anything else I write. I find that I only can find the effort to post pictures or write about big dramatic events and the day to day nuances get left in the dust.

It's sad really, that I take these days for granted, and I have thought about that a lot recently for a variety of reasons. I am living my dream, truly. If you asked me what I wanted to be in high school, one of the things I would have told you was a mom. I spent years waiting only somewhat patiently for the "right" time to try, only to discover that when the time was right, based on our understanding, that God said not yet. Then I spent years actively working towards the dream, trying to get pregnant and working through the intense process of an international adoption, only to find myself pregnant after all when I thought I had truly come to terms with not experiencing that part of life.

Now here I am, two great kids sleeping in their rooms. Two kids that light up my days, that make me laugh, that are so creative and so much fun to be around, and I don't write about it. I throw pictures up when I can or talk about the big, non-essential, not big dreams that I waited for for so long.

The best reason I can come up with is that I am happy. Truly, resonantly happy with my day to day routine. The days that I felt like I would burst if I couldn't write a long cathartic blog about how I was feeling are gone, for the most part. I have dreams, I have aspirations and goals, but they don't damper my current joy with my family.

I accomplished my marathon goal, I am working towards my writing goals, I am pursuing a more generalized goal of strength building now, and of course, my long time goal of maintaining that balance of mom and housewife and time for me that keeps everyone happy.

Grace, sweet Grace, is generally having less tantrums, but she still has intense anxiety at nap time and when people she cares about leave. We had gotten to a point where she would take naps without me, but for some reason she has recently reverted, and needs my physical touch to be able to get to sleep. She loves sculpting, and is getting pretty good at it. She can be content for a long time with just some playdough or silly putty to continually mold into different things, and will tell you all about her dolphin or mermaid or whatever else she created at the time. Without her top two sculpting materials, she can be content with molding a napkin or toilet paper (though we are trying to curb the toilet paper use and aim more for the silly putty when the need to mold hits).

She was taking dance, for a long time, but at the start of the summer started doing gymnastics and gymnastics camp, which she loves. Though if you ask her, she prefers the class over the camp. She says it is because of the art room and she doesn't like to do art (and don't even get me started on her sculpting being art... it isn't to her, and don't try to tell her otherwise), but I think it is because I leave during camp, but stay during class. This September she will be going to preschool three days a week instead of two, and at her request, is no longer doing dance, but wants to do soccer instead. So she is signed up for a soccer team, and will have practice one or two days a week and a game once a week. We shall see how that goes, but she really wanted it, and is old enough to start.

Remington is a handful at almost two, and he really wants to get his own way or he will give you "Remington face," but is generally a happy kid. He still loves sports and on a day playing at home will play hockey, soccer, baseball, and basketball, all without prompting. When he plays hockey at home, he still asks for skates from time to time, and is really improving with them. His favorite is basketball, and every time Blake calls to say he is on his way home, Remington takes the phone and asks if they can go to the basketball court. If Blake says yes, then he gives me the phone back, and goes away and plays again.

He is also in a gymnastics class and loves it. His favorite parts are jumping and hanging. He knows his coach's name, and is really happy to see her, and cries when he thinks it is a gymnastics time and it isn't. He apparently really loved our recent trip to the fair, and still, almost two weeks later, thanks God at night like this, "Thank you God, we go vroom vroom, thank you God, got the Ducky, thank you God caught the fishy." He got to go on a ride that was a pretend car, and played a look under the duck game and a catch the fish game, and apparently they left a huge impression on him!

A nightly tradition for us now is to play a couple of rounds of hide and seek with the kids before bed. They LOVE it, but are not good hiders yet, and frequently are giggling so much that you can hear them even before you see them.

Most nights, I am either working on writing something, playing a computer game with Blake or getting through the books on my Rory Gilmore reading list. Blake's passion continue to be in either video games or sports. We are all happy, and loving life as a family.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Skipped June... so Pictures first

Remington is likely to wake up any second... with Grace close behind. So, this post will be pictures first, captions if I have time.
 My brother got his masters!
 Date with Remington above
Pictures from Temecula vacation below

 She is so proud of her tall tower!

 How the kids slept in the hotel
 Above- Blake had to have computer time on the trip
Below- Blake opens Father's Day presents

 Remington LOVES batting, especially being pitched to, doesn't love the tee.
 Angels baseball games on back to back nights

 Above- watching finding Nemo on the field after the game.
 Below- Remington also loves playing basketball with dad like so:

 Both kids in gymnastics at least once a week, often more.
 Remington's favorite part- hanging