family · life

The child not the path

I find it interesting when I read about parenting and changes in parenting. I’ve always thought of myself as an old school parent. I try very hard not to shelter my boys. We have conversations about topics the bring up. We have talked about everything from sports, politics, education, conservation and so much more. Richard and I believe that we need to provide them the tools for adulthood.

As the boys get older, we are trusting them more and more to do things on their own. We are allowing them to make their own mistakes and not fixing them for them. We guide, we may even direct, but we can’t do for them. Our job as parents is to help them become adults.

No automatic alt text available.I recently read an article talking about the difference between parenting when I was a child, and before that compared to parenting these days. (Sorry I can’t provide a link because I’m not sure where I read the article, it has just been bouncing around in my brain) It asked the question of why did those parents feel comfortable providing the freedom that many parents today do not. The freedom to go as well as the freedom to fail. The articles answer struck me… it is not the faith or trust in the children that has changed as much as the parents feelings about parenting. Too often today parents blame themselves for the shortcoming and failures of the child. This probably contributes to the fact that many parents do not want to see fault in their child, because then they are in essence admitting failure in themselves.

In many ways this hit me and hit me hard. I often blame myself for the shortcoming of my sons. Just the other day we were yet again supervising cleaning of the basement. Richard was getting frustrated because he felt the boys needed to show more respect for the items they have, which I totally understand. But, my gut reaction was that I didn’t doImage may contain: text my job as a stay-at-home mom when they were younger. I didn’t instill this respect for property, I didn’t foster the desire for a clean living space, I wasn’t able to provide them with the routine of cleaning up that stuck through this phase of life. It is easy to slip into this I failed mode. I was the one who was home with them. If I only did x, y, z better then, my kids would do what they were supposed to do. But, wait they are. Kids are perfect. They will makes mistakes. Tweens and teens are notorious for being messy and not taking care of their space. Is it that I didn’t do my job as a parent, or it is that my kids are… kids?

My sons are good kids, far from perfect, but good kids. Do I think Richard and I are bad parents… HELL NO! Do I think we are/were perfect parents… NOPE! But, do the shortcoming of our sons need to reflect on us as humans, never mind as parents? No. One can not raise perfect beings… it isn’t possible. We model the behaviors expected. We helped them see the errors of their ways and fix their mistakes. We foster an understanding of differences and an acceptance of others choices and opinions. We can guild our children, we can foster their interests and gently guide. We can show them the safe way to proceed with caution when needed, as well as allowing them to throw caution the wind when life allows. We will be there when they fall, but we can not fix the path for them. I do not know what lies ahead in the road for my sons, I can only hope that we have given them the tools to deal with each choice they make. When they succeed and excel we will be there cheering them on. Just as when the stumble and fall we will be there to help them dust themselves off and try again.

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family · life

Why did you leave FL for PA??

Whenever people learn that we moved from Orlando, FL to Pittsburgh, PA, we always get that look of … “What were you thinking?” People then always say “Was this for a job?” “Do you miss Florida?” “And many other questions that make you know that people think we are nuts.

Maybe we are, but this is working out for our family.

Yes, the weather in Orlando is a LOT warmer. Yes, Orlando has Disney and Universal and Sea World and Legoland and so many other things. Yes, Orlando is the only place my sons knew as home. Richard too had only lived in Florida.

What have we found? The neighborhood we live in now is a lot friendlier than the one we left. The boys have friends here. They enjoy going out on their bikes and joining up with other kids to play sports, ride bikes, play on the playground and so much more. The school they attend is for grades 4-6. This means they have more freedom and responsibility. The school doesn’t focus all their time and energy on the state testing. They want the children to be involved in learning beyond the classroom. They are more concerned about the depth of knowledge than the breathe of knowledge.

The city of Pittsburgh is a bigger city than Orlando, but it actually has a small town feel. There are lots of museums and things to do, but you can walk around and go to small restaurants and other venues that have been there for decades or longer. When you talk to people around they are friendly and speak highly of the city they love to call home. We have met so many people who say they grew up in Pittsburgh, moved away and came back.

No city, town, area is perfect. But, I will say that feel of this city is so caring and welcoming. We look forward to getting to know the area, city and state more. We are enjoying the change, and not just the change in seasons.

So were we crazy to leave Florida? Nope! We made a step that is helping bring happiness to our family, and that is what is important.

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What did I do now?

There is nothing easy about being a parent. Just when you think you’ve figured things out… bam! Everything changes and what works doesn’t work anymore.

 

One thing that I’ve also learned as a mom is that whenever things go wrong, I am the one they get mad at, even if I had nothing to do with what they are mad about.  My sons get so frustrated when they can’t do things perfectly, especially things having to do with school. For the most part academics comes very easy to my kids, this is good and bad. The challenge with this is when they have to work at a task or struggle to understand a concept they get really upset.

For example, Colby has a really strong understanding of math. He understands many math concepts before they are taught to him. He just has a way of figuring them out on his own. One thing that this did not translate well to was multiplication facts. Now, don’t get me wrong, Colby totally understands multiplication and can do it in his head, just not fast. Colby is my creative son, and this includes school. When Colby does math he does it Colby-style. And, Colby-style isn’t always fast, it’s right, it works, but it isn’t fast. In class right now they are taking timed multiplication tests daily. He has 1 minute to complete 40 multiplication facts that are mixed. Colby knows the facts, he just doesn’t have the memorized to the point that he can do them that rapidly. He doesn’t want to memorize them because… why should he? I can do the work. I can do the math problems. I know how it all works, why do I have to do these problems this way in this time frame? And for that I don’t have an answer. Why… because he is the same as me. I always struggled with memorizing math facts. I love math. I love problem solving. I took high level math, but wasn’t happy until I could use a calculator because then I didn’t have to struggle to do the computation to prove the answer that I already knew how to solve.

So, when Colby does not do well on these timed multiplication tests, he has to practice at home, and get the paper signed. This means that Colby has to remember to bring it home. Colby is my creative child… he is also my forgetful child. We always say Colby would forget his head if it wasn’t attached.  Colby is smart, don’t get me wrong. Colby is just somewhat scattered and distracted. His brain is going so fast that simple things like packing his backpack, putting away his dirty clothes or closing the door to the garage don’t register as important in his brain.

Needless to say, yesterday Colby left his folder at school, again. And, couldn’t complete his homework, again. And he also knows that he will have to figure this out himself again. I will not go to school after the fact, I will not “rescue him”. So when we were talking about this yesterday, he wasn’t mad that I wouldn’t get the folder or that he won’t be in the “homework club” or that he has to tell his teacher and get a second form signed by me stating why he does’t have his homework… Nope he was mad because I wanted to work on his multiplication facts to help him get ready for the test today. This I guess was the wrong thing. There was yelling, there were tears, there even may have been a door slammed. All because he didn’t want to hear he needed help.

So, yet again I’m in a stage that I have to figure out. One thing I already know about Colby is that when he gets into the state of I hate the world and especially you… you have to leave him alone. Typically I leave him for a good half hour and then go talk to him. I always remember to tell him. “I love you, I will always love you, but I didn’t like your choice to _______, and we need to fix it.” Together we work on fixing the problem… when we can. But, I also leave thinking ok what can I do differently to fix this issue. How can I help him deal with what is going on before we get to the explosion.

I think every parent wants to help their child, my kids just know that in doing so I won’t fix everything… I’ll help them fix it himself.

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Progress is good

Last Friday I posted about keeping myself accountable in order to make progress. I am working on getting back into a healthier life style, working out, eating healthy, managing stress, and finding time for the boys, Richard and myself. I’ve posted about the need for balance in life, and although I know true balance is impossible, it’s a goal worth working towards.

Just to give an update on everything.  Over the weekend we went for a bike rider, the boys and I rode for just under 6 miles. Ok well I rode for just under 6 miles, we stopped at a worn down tennis court that the boys like and they rode for another 25 minutes there, so I don’t know how many miles they rode.  I was pleased with my ride, although my legs were jello when I was done, I’d rode the furthest I’ve ridden since we moved to PA.

Sunday to Thursday I went to the gym. I worked out on Sunday with Richard. This is my day to increase weights and do things that I won’t do without Richard there with me. When started working out at the gym I could only bench press the bar which is 45 lb. I am now able to bench press 65 lbs. I keep at a weight until I can consistently do 2 sets of 10, then I increase the weight. I’m not trying to add bulk, but working out with weights has so many addition benefits. Check out this link to see 7 reasons to strength train.

When I work out on my own I typically do 25-35 min of cardio and then strength training. I try to keep changing up what I’m doing as to not get into a true routine and therefore get stale (or bored). I use free weights, kettle bells, workout bars, and any my own body weight in my workouts. I try to alternate upper and lower body, with some type of abs every day.

Let me tell you, even though I’m still not totally happy with the body in the mirror, it’s working. If you know me well, you know I HATE scales. I hate being a number. I don’t like it when it comes to clothing sizes either. I hate that that number is what people use to define healthy. For me, the way my body is even when I’m at my fittest, the number on the scale is higher than people say it should be. That being said. I do recognize that using the scale is a way to see progress. I will never tell you the number I saw on the scale, but I will tell you that I’ve dropped pounds. I can also see the the definition in my muscles is beginning to return.

Food wise, I’m doing well with that too. I try to eat protein and fruits or veggie every time I eat. I’m eating 5 times a day to maintain metabolism. My new favorite thing to have is ants on a log… yep you read that right. Every day when I get home from the gym I make it to have for a snack. Think about it celery, raisins and I use fresh ground peanut butter. What could be better? Sweet! Salty! Crunchy! oh yeah and healthy!!  I find myself eating a lot of salads with meat on it.

Shhh don’t tell my kids but I’m also adding more veggies to the meals I make. Whenever I make anything that cook with a sauce (taco mix, sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce etc…), I will add onions, pepper and carrots, sometimes celery. While I know eating these items raw give more fiber, getting the veggies into them works for me. I look forward to making soups and stews where I can hide more. Oh and when I move into the new house and can put the veggies through the food processor and make the pieces even smaller than I can with my knife so they don’t pick them out.

They are getting better at eating the salad I put on their plate. I individualize them a bit since Colby doesn’t like lettuce, he likes spinach and of course Blake is the opposite. They typically have this carrots, cheese and few croutons. (here’s a hint with croutons… crush them up. you don’t need as many and they can eat them with every bite of the salad and not just pop them in and then avoid the green stuff).

Today I’m taking the day off. I had to drive Richard into work this morning. My muscles are crying especially my legs. So I’m giving myself a break. I’ll focus on cleaning the house, doing laundry and a bit more me time today. Hey I’ve earned it. This weekend will find us back on our bikes and back in the gym.

I’m worth the effort. Now, I just need to work some more on the balance, but that’s another post for another day!

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Accountability

Earlier this week, I posted about setting a goal to get back into a healthier shape. I’m happy with myself at this point. I have managed to workout at the gym every day this week. M-Th I worked out by doing 30 min of cardio and about 30 min of weights. Today I did 40 min of cardio.  I’m please with this progress.  I know that now that the boys are in school I can go to the gym every day.

I decided to purchase myself new gym sneakers, they were much needed! I also purchased myself a new tumbler cup to use at home.

I’ve also found myself more on point with eating. For example, I made the guys tortellini last night for dinner. I had already made homemade spaghetti sauce which I added more veggies than normal (carrots, onions, peppers, and spinach). Then I baked myself some summer squash with parm cheese, and topped it with the spaghetti sauce.

I’m having yogurt with berries for breakfast, carrots with pb and raisins for my morning snack. The rest of the day changes depending on what I want to have to eat.  I’m upping my water intake as well.  I’m trying to make it fun and not super structured menu daily.

I am please with myself, so therefore I ordered some more workout clothes on Amazon.  I needed more to have enough for the week… and well a treat for progress.

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Looking for the beauty…

Today started out sunny and warm. We went on a bike ride. While there we took a break and I took these pictures.

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Colby needed to go the bathroom so we stopped and the boys decided to ride on an old tennis courts. They had a blast.

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We were waiting to hear from Richard before heading back to the truck. But, before that happened, a storm rolled in. After living in FL for over 17 years, I knew to take shelter. Some may have seen it as an end to a beautiful day.  But, it didn’t have to be. I saw the beauty in the storm. Even if I didn’t capture any lightning pictures, I did capture the beauty of the rain.

Image may contain: tree, plant, sky, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor and nature

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Cooking, Baking, Rambling Thoughts

If you read my post the other day on balance, you know that I feel that eating healthy is important. I cook most dinners that we eat, don’t get me wrong we go out to eat, but when we eat at home it is typically home cooked, pretty close to it.

I find that being in the kitchen is a great joy of mine. I enjoy both sides of being in the kitchen, I love the creativeness I get from cooking. When I cook I typically do not use a recipe. I will look at recipes and use them as a jumping off point, but from there… yeah well you never know exactly what a dish will taste like when I cook it. Cooking is a way to take raw ingredients and transforming them into something totally different. I love going to the store and purchasing something as simple as ground turkey and then transforming it into a whole meal for my family. I have begun looking at things as simple as how to make my own taco seasonings, how to transform a typical meal and making it more my own.

I also enjoy taking a dish that I made already and transforming the leftovers into something that takes on a whole new life. This allows me to recreate what I’ve already created. I’m doing that tonight for dinner, two weeks ago I made pasta with meat sauce. I froze the leftovers. I took them out of the freezer and purchased ricotta cheese. I’ll use that to make my lasagna cheese and mix it together with provolone cheese and mozzarella cheese. I’ll put the whole thing in a 9×13 pan… ta da!  lazy lasagna made with meat sauce.

Now the other side of me is a baker. When I bake I use recipes. I look at baking as relaxing. Yes, you read that right. Baking is an escape for me. I would bake daily if that didn’t mean I’d gain 5,000 pounds!  I enjoy the science of baking. The seeing something go from a raw dough to a baked treat.

Ok… so what is the point of this post?  Yep, I know you are asking this. Well… we watch a lot of Food Network Shows, shocking?  Blake keeps asking me which cooking show I want to go on. My answer is always none!  I’m not a chef, I’m not a cook, I’m not a baker. I enjoy these things. I enjoy sharing these things in person and on my blog, but I’m no expert.

So, I’ll keep cooking for my family, and baking from time to time. I’ll share my recipes, but as I search for the direction this blog is going… one thing I know for sure… it’s not going to be just a food blog.

Anyone have thoughts on what blogging direction I should follow?  What would you like to see/hear on here.

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Balance

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Balance is such a hard thing to achieve in my own life. The challenge is that I don’t only have to find my own balance, but help my sons find theirs. As I mentioned in my 3 part blog post, life is all about choices. But, often times we need to not only look at the consequences of the choice, but how that choice fits into the balance of life.

Often times we have to decide between two positive or two negative choices. Which one do I want to do more, or which one will cause less issue/pain. Balance between what I want to do and what I should do. Balance between what I want to eat and what I should eat. Balance between rest and activity. Balance… it’s not just what keeps up literally upright, but also what keeps our lives on an even keel.

But, balance is a hard thing to show others. It is a hard thing to express to children. So often parents talk about wanting their children to be happy. I want my child to enjoy childhood.  Well… I do too, but that can’t be at the expense of understanding responsibility. That can’t be at the expense of healthy eating. That can’t be at the expense of learning how to deal with boredom, which is a whole other blog post to come.

So what do I want for my sons… I want them to learn that life is about balance. Now, if I could only figure out how to keep that balance for myself too!

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Choices part 3– You choose

The last few days I have been blogging about choices. Wednesday’s post discussed why I believe you need to start teaching children about making choices early (as in the first few years of life), and how I did it with my sons. Thursday’s post discussed consequences and the need to have child see that all choices have consequences as well as the fact that consequences can be both positive and negative. Today, I’m going to talk about the fact that every action is a choice.

I hope you are enjoying this blog thread. I am enjoying discussing how teaching has influenced my parenting and how parenting has influenced my teaching. Buckle up this one will make you think a bit more.

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As a teacher and parent, there is one phrase that bugs me… “He/she made me do it.”  Oh really. And how exactly did that person MAKE you do anything? By the fact of human nature we have free will, the ability to choose. Again let me add the caveat that there are certain neurological issues that impede the ability to make some of these choices quickly/easily.

As a teacher, I often made a statement that many people had to think twice about when they hear it the first time. “I can’t make anyone learn”… What stop, hold the bus, you’re a teacher your job is to teach, which most translate as make another learn. But, it’s not what we do. Teach: show or explain to (someone) how to do something. But, I can’t make you do it or understand it. So therefore I can’t make you learn.

The first time I say this to children we always get into a conversation about the fact that I can’t make them do anything. This totally blows the mind of 5-7 year old kids. They are told that their parents can make them do things. When in essence the parent can’t make they do things. They can just provide consequences when the child does not do what the parent wishes them to do.

Think about a time you told your child to go to time-out and the child then got up. You put the child back in time out, but you can’t make the child stay there unless you sit on them or in some way make it impossible to get up. But, the child has the choice still to sit still or move. To sit quiet or scream. The concept of time out is a place to calm down and think about the choice your child made, but we can’t make them calm down or think. To be honest, I often used it as a way to give me a time to calm down and think.

Back to the comment that I hate “he made me do it”, when I first was teaching when I’d hear this I’d call both children over to me and we’d discuss the situation and send them on their way or instill some type of consequence. Now even at that time, I believed that both children needed to deal with consequences.

But, I began thinking… I wasn’t addressing the issue of placing blame. How exactly did this child “MAKE” you do anything?  So, I began dealing with this situation differently. Before I would call the other child over, I’d ask the first child “So how did he make you do it?” This is a question children never expect to get asked. Typically the answer is he did blah blah blah, so I did yadda yadda yadda. Doesn’t matter what the first or second answer is, my answer is still the same, so he didn’t MAKE you do it, you chose to do it. Again, this typically gets an upset answer of placing blame, but no matter what you chose what to do.

This is a hard thing for people of any age to learn, but think how much better society will be if all children learn this at a young age. You choose. You decide how you react to the actions of others. You take responsibility for your actions. And this is where parents and teachers need to make changes. So often we hear, “My child would never….” or “That child made my child…” or “My child saw so and so do it first…” Those my friends are excuses. And I don’t listen to excuses.

Again, you have choices. Many parents believe their child is perfect, but I have yet to meet one of these perfect children, or people for that matter. Everyone makes the wrong choice from time to time. They may see someone doing something that looks fun, funny, cool whatever and choose to join in, but doesn’t mean that the other person made them do it.

My own sons know this and even though at 9 and 10 they still try to tell me “He made me do it” they know the response they will get from me… “How”. After they tell me “how” I will say didn’t you choose to “_____” couldn’t you have choose to  “____”. They hate this answer. They want to place blame on anyone else, but at this point, they understand they can’t. They choose.

To give a real life example. Yesterday the boys were out playing on their scooters. Blake came in and said he got hurt. I asked first if he was ok and then what he was doing. “Colby made me jump my scooter down the stairs.” “Oh really, how did he make you do this?” “Ok well he told me to do it.” “And you choose to do it?” This garnered some groaning, and finally… “fine, yes I chose to jump down the stairs.” “Ahhh and the consequence of that is you fell and got hurt. Might want to think about it next time.” (I will state that he wasn’t really hurt, he didn’t even scrape himself. I think he bruised his ego because Colby jumped successfully)

I will continue to try to get my sons and my future students to take responsibility for all their actions. I can only hope that this post has encourage you to look at choices in a new/renewed way. If you chose to read all three parts… thanks! If you choose to leave a comment, I’d love to hear what you think.

I hope to write more posts like this that show how teaching influences my parenting and how parenting influences my teaching because  a teacher and a mommy is who I am!

 

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Choices part 2- choices have consequences!

Yesterday I began a multi-part blog post on choices. I explained how I started helping my sons make choices, and a bit about why. Today I want to talk about consequences. Please enjoy my thinking. Drop me a note and tell me what you think. Do you do things the same, different, do you agree or disagree.  Remember I’m not perfect, just confident.

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Let me start with the teacher side of me today. As I mentioned yesterday in my years of teaching primary children I’ve come across many children who struggle to make choices. They struggle with anything from simple this or that choices to bigger choices such as which friends to pick, or which learning strategy works for you.

There is a bigger pieces to choices that people often forget about…. choices have consequences. Typically when people hear the word consequences they think of punishment. This isn’t always the case. If I choose to eat ice cream, the consequences can be: I get to enjoy a bowl of ice cream and/or I feel guilty for eating ice cream. But either way it is a consequence. As stated in the attached definition consequence means: the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier. If you read through the remaining definitions, you will see that there is nothing that states the consequences have to be negative or punitive.

So, when you teach children about choices you also have to teach them about consequences.  Yesterday I gave the example of picking Cheerios for breakfast and then after you start eating decide you want oatmeal. As parents we have two choices… we can give in and allow the child to switch meals. Or, you can tell your child that he/she picked Cheerios and that he/she can choose to have oatmeal tomorrow. See you have choices too.

Now what are you teaching your child with both options? Well if you let them switch foods, then if you change your mind you get what you want, even if it means that you are now wasting food. Or you can teach them that the consequence of picking a food is that you eat it. By stating that they can choose have oatmeal the next day, you are reminding them that they can look forward to having this option another time.

The same thing can be seen for when I child makes what would be perceived as a negative choice. If your child hits their sibling, this is a choice that he/she made. The consequence of this choice is not the sibling is upset and crying and the parent will most likely get involved. Again your child has choices, he/she can figure out at way to make the situation better or worse. Most likely as a parent you will assert some form of punishment here, your child can choose to deal with the punishment as it is, or they can choose to escalate the situation. Again, both of these options have consequences, If I deal with the punishment as it is– I get it over with, don’t make my parent even more upset and get to move on with life. On the other hand, if I make it worse– it takes more time, my parent gets more upset and most likely the punishment gets worse.

The challenge with this example is how you are a parent choose to deal with the situation. If you give in and do not have your child complete the punishment you have chosen to give over control of the situation.  This is the child that has the most difficulty at school, in my opinion. This child has learned that if I get upset and escalate the situation adults will give in and I get my way. I will tell you from all my years of teaching experience, this doesn’t work at school. A teacher has 16+ other students to teach and protect. Teachers can not give into children who try to manipulate adults. (now yes, there are children who have issues that cause them to look like this child ie. autism, bi-polar, ADHD… but this is different and still not an excuse for many behaviors).

When you talk about choices and consequences, we can’t forget to talk about the choices we make as parents. When you are imparting a “consequence” on your child’s choice I suggest you gravitate as close as you can to natural consequences for the action. This means:  you spill it, you clean it; you knock it down, you clean it up; you choose that food, you eat it; you do something wrong, you make it better. Children cope better and begin to understand how to deal with these unwanted choices better when the consequence matches the choice. Now, sometimes this isn’t possible. We can’t let a child who runs into the road get hit by a car, but we can make it so they can’t play in that area for a time. We can’t let a child touch a stove and get burned, but we can have them leave the kitchen.

We as parents and teachers, need to discuss the positive and negative consequences to choices with children. This will help them see the relationship between them. We need to follow through on the consequences when we state them aloud to the child. It isn’t a battle of you and them… it is a matter of dealing with the consequences of the choices he/she made.

Tomorrow I will post the last part of this series… helping children see that every action is a choice… every action, and the need to take responsibility for their choices.

Remember, feel free to leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think