Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

It's New year's Eve and I hope each and every one of you has a safe, fun and memorable celebration.

Sometimes we make beginning a new year very hard on ourselves. We pledge to make numerous changes in our lives, to lose those extra pounds, to get that promotion, to take that trip we've been planning for years. We swear that this year will be different than the rest, better than before. It doesn't matter that we've made these promises to ourselves for years now; somehow we believe that this year will be different.

And yet somehow it isn't. Why is that? Because:

1) We have too many goals. Change is hard, so trying to change multiple facets of your life all at once is extremely difficult. Prioritize your goals and work on one or two at a time. The others will keep for another day.

2) Our goals are unreasonable. I don't care how much you love horses, if you are a 6 foot tall, 250lb. man, you are not going to be a jockey. Don't give up on your dreams, simply put aside unattainable goals and work on those you have a real chance of achieving.

3) We don't have a plan of action to achieve our goals. You need to map out a plan for reaching your goals on a day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month schedule, with firm dates for reaching your goals and milestones to mark your progress.

This year I plan to put these three steps into action. This year I will succeed, because I will follow a plan for focusing my energy on accomplishing what I need to do in order to reach my goals.

May you reach your goals in 2009! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stress-Free Holiday

Okay, okay, there is probably no such thing as a stress-free holiday, simply because we insist on packing so much activity into such a short time. Shopping, baking, cleaning, mailing packages, writing Christmas cards, entertaining, attending parties. Whew! It's enough to make anyone dizzy. So, if we can't elimiate stress entirely, here are five ways to reduce stress during the holidays.

1) Make a plan. Instead of running around to several different stores, decide what you're shopping for and where best to find it, then head out. Try to stick to one geographical area at a time - the mall on Friday night, the local shopping center on Sat., etc.

2) Shop during off hours if possible. Take an early lunch one day and get a few things done, or come into work extra early and take off at three. Of course, it helps to have a flexible work schedule and an understanding boss. If you can't swing that, several stores open as early as 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. on weekends and stay open late during the holidays.

3) If you do get stuck in a long line, take a deep breath. Try to use the time productively. Enjoy the lovely music, think of the fun you're going to have with your kids, reminisce about your favorite Christmas, people watch. You're stuck in line anyway, why be miserable? Same thing goes for the cookies that burn or the gelatin that won't set. Don't sweat the small stuff and lose sight of the important stuff.

4) Prioritize. As the holiday draws nearer, you may not be able to get everything on your list done. Decide which items must be done and focus on those. Christmas will still come if you don't get every decoration up or make that extra batch of fudge.

5) Remember why we're celebrating. It should be a time of joy, of love, of opening our hearts to those around us. Don't let little things get you down. Enjoy the time we are given to spend with our loved ones. It's priceless.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Joy of Writing

As promised, I said I would write about the joy of writing, so I will.

If you've ever experienced putting words together in a way that perfectly conveys your feelings, then you know the joy of writing.

If you've ever written something that evokes strong emotions, then you have learned how to use the written word to make a connection with another person.

If you've ever made an argument on paper that is so persuasive that it forces another to examine his or her views, then you understand the power of the written word.

If you feel compelled to write even if no one else ever sees your words, simply for the fulfillment it brings to you and you alone, then you are a writer.


It's November 30th and I just uploaded my novel to the NaNoWriMo website. It totals 50,544 words. Yippee! Anyone who completes over 50,000 words is a winner, whether the novel is completely finished or not. I still have a couple of chapters to write to move into the final dramatic conclusion (which is already written!), so I'm almost there.

Of course, after I finish the first draft, I get to start in on the revisions, so there is still a lot of work to do. However, I'm happy to have gotten this far and feel I have ample cause to celebrate. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Follow Your Dreams

I haven't updated my blog for some time. That's because I've been busy completing a project that I began last spring. I'm writing a mystery novel. It's something I have always wanted to do, and so I am finally doing it.

I have a tendency to begin projects and never quite complete them. Some simply must get finished, and somehow I manage to get through them. Others are easier to put off. Writing a novel falls into the latter category for several reasons.

1) It's just plain scary. You're putting something you have created, something that is a part of you out there for the whole world to see - and judge. And they don't call them critics for nothing.

2) It's hard. Let's face it. Writing is hard work. It is all consuming as the characters occupy your mind day and night. You have to sit down in front of a blank page or screen and start writing, even if you haven't got an idea of where you're headed with that scene. You agonize over finding the right word, only to scrap that sentence, paragraph or entire page the next day when you reread your work.

3) It takes a long time. You can't write a novel in a short amount of time. It takes months to plan it out and months to write it and months to rewrite it. Even though I'm writing like the wind for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I began thinking about this book a long time ago, and there will be many edits before the final draft is complete.

4) It may never be published. Book publishing is a business and editors won't buy a book unless they believe it will sell many copies. That makes it harder to break into the business, but it doesn't make the effort of writing the book any less worthwhile.

Next blog - the Joys of Writing a Novel

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Power Within

"What lies behind us, and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

What a beautiful quote and how important it is that we believe this and that we teach our children to believe it as well. We all have tremendous strength within us. We learn to cope with grief, loss, illness and disappointment. We pick ourselves up and carry on, ready to face a new day.

In addition to our inherent strength, we are all blessed with unique, individual talents. When we put aside our fears and our embarrassment, we allow our innate gifts to shine forth. Encourage your children to take risks, to reveal their gifts to the world and leave the world a better place for having done so. Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Moving Forward - Things are Different Now

We had a special treat this weekend. Both kids were home from college to help my mom celebrate her 83rd birthday. It seemed like old times with the entire family together, but it was different. Brian could only stay one night; he had to be back on Sat. to work on a group project with some friends. Katie wanted to earn some money babysitting and she needed to get together with a high school buddy. Eric, as usual, was busy with his friends, and spent a big chunk of the weekend playing football.

And so, the times have changed. Once your kids grow up and leave home, the dynamics are never quite the same again. They have their own lives and their own set of priorities, just as we did when we were that age. We can either feel sad and mourn the loss of that family togetherness, or we can recognize how very lucky we were to have had those times together and look forward to the future visits we will have. Me? I'm going to do the latter.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Topics You Would Like to See Addressed

Greetings everyone,

I would like to make this site helpful for everyone who visits it. I would love to know what kinds of topics you would like to see addressed. Is school number one on your mind? How about social issues? Is your child struggling with any problems in particular? I will do my best to address them or find someone who can offer sound advice.

Just leave a comment or email me at Thank you!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Kids Should Make Sacrifices Too

This has been called the age of the self-sacrificing parent. Supposedly we have given up everything for our children and we now plan our lives around them entirely. Gone are the days of sending the kids out the door to play, only to see them again at dinnertime.

It's true that today's kids are busier than ever before. After school activities abound, coupled with the inevitable doctor's appointments and music, dance and or karate lessons. Add in a sport or two and you are busy every single day of the year.

When we do so much for our kids, we can fall into the trap of doing everything for them; before you kow it, the kids rule the roost. They decide what program gets watched, what music gets played and where dinner is eaten. It's easier to give in than to fight over every little thing, but what does that teach the kids - that whining wins the day?

It's good for children to make sacrifices too. Let them listen to your music for a change. You decide what program to watch and invite them to join you. (Here's where having only one TV in our house was a real gift. It taught the kids how to share and how to respect each other's rights and ours too.) Ask them to work on the crossword with you, instead of playing their video games. It's a two-way street. Learning to compromise and learning that they will not always get their way will serve them much better in life than always getting what they want.

Off to College

We dropped our son off at college yesterday. It wasn't as heartwrenching this time as it was when my daughter left for school two years ago, in part, because we had been through it before and also because he is only 30 miles away. We already plan to see him in two weeks when my mom celebrates her birthday.

It's an interesting experience, seeing your child off to college. As you help him move into his dorm, you want to help him make his bed and get unpacked, setting everything up for his success. You make sure he has everything he could possibly need, and then you say goodbye. If he is far away from home, it may be quite a while before you see him again. Even if he is close to home, something is different now. Your relationship has changed, and when he does come home to visit, it will be as an adult.

It's a time of adjustment, a time of shifting roles, and it has only just begun. Luckily, it is also a time of celebration, knowing that you have done your job in preparing your child for the bigger world out there. He will face challenges; he will have many successes and also some failures. That is inevitable, but you have equipped him with the necessary tools he will need to meet life head on.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fitness and Fun Times

When our children are young, it takes every bit of energy we have to keep up with them. Once they learn to walk, the race is on as we try to match our activity level to theirs.

However, as our children grow, they become less dependent on their parents as playmates and prefer the company of their friends. That's only healthy and natural, and it gives us parents a much needed break from constantly looking for ways to entertain the kids. Besides, as their strength and athletic abilities grow, we may not be able to keep up.

That is when it becomes so important to find some sort of exercise routine that we enjoy and will stick with over time. We don't want our own health to fail just as our kids are growing up and moving out. After all, we want to be in good shape for the day those grandchildren start arriving.

Visit my blog at for several articles on staying in shape whild still having fun.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Back-to-School Night

Wednesday is Back-to-School Night at my son's high school. With three kids, this will be my 16th Back-to-School Night, so I consider myself something of an expert. Even though I've done this numerous times before, I'm still curious to meet my child's teachers, to find out from him where he sits, so I can see his view of the classroom, step into his shoes for a few minutes.

Of course, things have changed over the years.

When they were in elementary school, the rooms were packed. Both parents attended whenever possible, so it was standing room only. Middle school parent nights were also well attended, making it a real challenge to navigate between classrooms during the three minute passing period - the same amount of time the kids have.

High school Back-to-School Nights have been a little different. This will be our seventh year at the high school, and my husband and I have experienced both sides of the coin - classrooms that were full of anxious parents, wondering what will be expected of their child, and nearly empty rooms where maybe three other parents showed up.

Granted, sometimes a parent can't get away from work, or they have more than one child and can't be in two places at once. But this is the one time it really pays for both parents to show up. It's one evening where you get to find out what is expected of your child, what the homework policy is, whether or not extra credit will be awarded. How much are the tests worth? How much time should they be studying at home? What big project is due next week?

Try to fit Back-to-School Night into your busy schedule. It will be worth the time; and, who knows, you might even learn something!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

First Impressions

First impressions are very important - especially when it comes to a new school year. When your student finds himself in a new class with a new teacher, urge him to strive to make a good impression. Teachers have to get to know your child quickly; after all, Back-to-School Night and parent-teacher conferences are just around the corner. If your child gets off to a bad start, it can effect his performance for the entire school year.

If your child is on time, in his seat and ready to begin when the bell rings, he will make a good impression. If he is attentive in class and gets his homework in on time, that's another feather in his cap. If a teacher sees a child giving his best effort, she will be more than happy to give him a little extra assistance if he is struggling with a particular concept.

By the way, developing good study and work habits and showing respect for his teacher and classmates will also help him throughout his life - to be a better student, a better employee, a better person.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Back-to-School: Goal Setting Time

For those of you with younger children, your back-to-school experience will no doubt include a parent-teacher conference and a chance to set some goals for your child this year. However, many middle and high schools forego this process. After all, the kids rotate from classroom to classroom and work with several different teachers. You can't have a conference with each one.

In lieu of the parent-teacher conference, you should sit down with your student and come up with your own set of goals. These should include expectations regarding study time, recreation time, and after-school activities. What kind of grades should he strive for, what social and behavioral goals should he have? Make the goals realistic and agree upon rewards for achieving those goals. Write up a contract with your child and check it throughout the year to see how he's doing.

This is a great tool for keeping your child on track and helping him to succeed in school.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Beginnings

This month promises to be a very exciting one.

My daughter has completed her first week of her junior year in college and likes all her classes.

My older son begins college in a couple of weeks, where he will try out for the baseball team. His goal is to combine the intense five-year architecture program with baseball, so it will be quite a challenge. In some ways though, he does his best work when he is pressed for time - not unlike his mother.

My youngest is at a high school orientation for freshmen today, led by a "link crew" of experienced seniors who have volunteered their time to help the new kids adjust to life in H.S. They will keep in touch with the kids throughout their freshman year, helping them make the adjustment to their new school.

My husband is switching to a new group at work and will have new responsibilities there.

I will be writing full time come next week, and I can't wait. So here's to new challenges and new beginnings!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hooray for Independence!

This post is an addendum to Monday's entry. I gave my son the option of attending Freshman Registration by himself or with me at his side. He opted to try it for himself, knowing I was just a phone call and a five minute drive away. He did just fine by himself, and he said it made him feel more responsible handling everything on his own.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Give Your Teen the Chance to Prove Himself

I volunteered to help at High School registration this year. I had worked the Senior Registration last year, and it had gone pretty smoothly. So this year I decided to be brave and work two days, registering first Seniors and then Juniors.

To my utter amazement, almost half of the kids showed up with their parents. One would expect to see a lot of parents with the Freshman class, maybe even the Sophomores, but sixteen and seventeen year olds?

A lot of these kids can drive themselves, and most live within walking distance. The registration process is simple. The parents and children complete the forms at home, so all they have to do when they come to school is hand in the correct forms at the correct station. There are plenty of parent volunteers to steer them in the right direction, and the student should be able to handle any problems that arise.

It's great to see parents involved in their children's education, but what will these kids do when they have to choose classes and complete registration for college without help from mom and dad? Parents are not included in that process, so going through high school registration is good practice for their kids and helps them build confidence in their ability to take care of themselves. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A New Focus on Tweens, Teens and Young Adults

Because there is already a lot of information out there about newborns, toddlers and younger children, I'm going to focus more on tweens, teens and young adults. It represents where I am in my life, with two in college and my youngest in high school. It's also a time when the kinds of problems you might encounter with your kids become more serious too.

Whether it's teaching your child to drive a car, helping your kids prepare for college entrance exams or going to bed while they're still out with friends, there are many adjustments we parents must make. As we shift from the caregivers of our young children to the advisors of our teens to the companions of our adult children, we go through many changes. I want you to come to this site to find help in making those necessary adjustments. That said, I will do my best to provide you with meaningful resources and I welcome any comments and suggestions on how to make this site better.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Clothes for Back to School

A new school year often brings a big investment in new clothes. Last year's fashions simply will not do, and, chances are, your kids have outgrown them anyway. So how do you keep the costs down come September? Here are a few ideas.

1) Buy clothes that can be mixed and matched. If all your child's tops can go with all his/her jeans, shorts, skirts, etc., you're in business. Pick neutral jackets and shoes that will go with everything.

2) Go through your child's closet before you go shopping. Give away any items that are too small or have never been worn. Try to find clothes that are a perfect fit and that your child really likes, so they don't end up gathering dust in the closet.

3) Give your child a clothing allowance. It will help them decide between clothes they really want and stuff they'd just like to have, but don't really love. It's also good for them to learn to work within a budget.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Money-Saving Tips for Back-to-School Supplies

Here are more tips for saving money on school supplies this year.

1) Stock up - If you find a great sale (either before school starts or as the year goes on), stock up. Sometimes you can get a great deal in the clearance section in late Sept. Keep your eyes open. You know you'll need these items throughout the school year and in years to come too.

2) Buy in bulk - Why not shop with a friend or two? If their children need the same items, you may be able to save a lot of money by buying items in bulk, then dividing them up. Plus, it can make the shopping trip way more fun.

3) Don't buy big ticket items until you know what is needed/allowed - Contact your child's school for a list of needed supplies before classes begin, and find out whether or not rolling backpacks are allowed. I know several classrooms where there is no room for backpacks that cannot be hung up on pegs on the wall. It would be a shame to waste money on something that expensive that cannot be used.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Recycle, Re-use, Reduce

Yesterday I blogged about school supplies and how many things have changed since I was a kid. Parents today are asked to come up with all the supplies needed to get the school year started, and it can really add up fast. Here are some tips to help keep costs down.

1) Recycle - Check to see what you already have at home. If you're like us, you have assorted crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc. lying around the house. Put these together in a pencil box and that will save you a few bucks.

2) Re-use - Kids think that last year's backpack has to go, but a quick trip through the washing machine may give it new life.

3) Reduce - Does your child have a notebook from last year that has three pages of written material in it and 77 blank pages left? Did you find this notebook in the recycle bin - or worse - the trash? Now is a good time to discuss waste and keeping it to a minimum by getting the most use possible out of every item.

More tips tomorrow. In the meantime, check out Lisa Kirby's blog for more insight on kids and their need for new stuff at

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Back to School Craze

Remember when going back to school meant buying a few notebooks, a new box of crayons, and new shoes? If you wore a uniform to school, you probably got one of those too; if not, you got one or two new outfits. That was it.

Well, times have changed. The supply list now contains items that used to be provided by the schools - like scissors, glue and tissues. Every child needs a new backpack, notebooks, paper, pens (red, blue and black), glusticks, ruler, tape, scissors, markers, folders and a calculator. If you have two children and you shop the sales, you can still end up paying out more than $100.00 in supplies alone. And that doesn't even count the new clothes your child "has to have" or the fees that are required for art projects, lab costs, etc.

Don't even get me started on the supplies, including furniture and appliances, your child needs for college. Does it ever end?

This week on the blog, read my ideas for keeping the costs down and bringing a bit of sanity back to the back-to-school craze.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Vacation - Part 2

We're on vacation in a cabin at Big Bear Lake. The weather is beautiful and the village is walking distance away, so I'm getting some exercise. Also, the cabin is three stories, so I'm getting a new kind of workout going up and down all those stairs.

In addition to this blog and my other freelance writing, I also have a blog at Check out the following entry, then check back here in a few days for a progress report.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Don't Forget the Camera!

We went camping this week. We arrived on Sunday afternoon to find that the spot we had reserved was tiny and sloped at about a 30 degree angle. I was just sure that we would slide down the hill and into the ravine below. Luckily, the camp was not crowded, and we were able to find a lovely, shady and spacious spot in a loop all by ourselves. I love camping during the week!

Our final morning, my husband and I hiked up to the nature center, a beautiful and somewhat challenging hike that ended at a big, flat-rocked vista point, which would have been a perfect spot for a picnic. On a Tuesday morning, we had the place all to ourselves. The only problem - we forgot to bring the camera!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Vacation Time

It's August, so the baseball camps are all done, and it's officially vacation time. We leave tomorrow for a camping adventure in Idyllwild. I've only been there once before. My friend Pam took us to her mom's house for the weekend when we were still in college, so it's been....a really long time!

It's always fun to check out a new camping spot. This one has "partial shade," so we're bringing a shade structure with just in case. We borrowed a dutch oven from friends, so we're going to try to bake cinnamom rolls at the campsite. Should be an adventure!

No time to camp this summer? Just set up that tent in the backyard, blow up those air mattresses, set out the sleeping bags and go for it. You don't have to go far from home to have a great time outdoors.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Night at the Fair

Corn dogs, cotton candy, turkey legs and deep-fried twinkies! Hawkers and clowns and the Peking acrobats! Does it get any better than that?

This was the first time in years that we went to the fair without the kids. That meant we missed certain parts of the fair, like the midway (sigh of relief), the wild rides (another sigh of relief) and the pig races (a really big sigh of relief.) Not that those things weren't fun, but this year I had all the time in the world to wander through the arts and crafts building and marvel at the talent displayed there. The paintings were stunning, the photos amazing, the table settings innovative and the collections lots of fun. It was a slower, more relaxed trip to the fair and I liked it. I guess there's plenty to embrace about this empty nest thing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Separation Anxiety - in Reverse

Well, my 18-yr.-old son left for Australia last night, so now the shoe is on the other foot. After all those years of little ones hanging onto my leg and not wanting to let go, it's my turn to worry about my son as he travels to a different continent - heck, even a different hemisphere!

I had a taste of adult separation anxiety two years ago when my daughter went away to college. I was okay up until the final goodbyes, then found I couldn't speak. I held back the tears until I got in the car, then let loose. This September, I get to say goodbye to my son as well, as he heads off to college too, so I guess I should be getting good at it by now. But it takes some courage to send your child so far away.

My one consolation is that I remember so well how much fun I had the summer I was nineteen. I got the opportunity to study in Heidelberg, Germany through my college, Pepperdine University. It was the best summer of my life, hands down, as I got to travel to many countries and experience different ways of life. I will never forget that summer, and I hope my son will have great memories of his time in Australia. My daughter is looking to study in Ireland, and I know my youngest will want to take some type of big trip as well.

It's all a part of growing up, going on these adventures. It's tough on the parents, but it's so educational and so meaningful to the kids, and I hope every young adult gets an opportunity to broaden his or her horizons and go explore the world!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Writing with Writers

I came across a great site for kids today. It's called Writing with Writers. It's a Scholastic website where kids can get expert advice on writing in a variety of genres by successful, published authors. For example, mystery writer Joan Lowery Nixon presents a short mystery of hers for your child to read. She then provides some writing tips for your young author, before taking him through the writing and revision process step-by-step. He can then publish his story online. Why not check it out? Who knows, your child may be the next Agatha Christie or Erle Stanley Gardner!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Party time!

One more idea on keeping the teens busy this summer. Let them plan a party for their friends and put the entire thing together. That means they should clean the house in preparation for the big day. They should pick a theme for the party, then plan and shop for the food and decorations. Make sure they stay within a given budget too. They will appreciate you so much more when they discover how much effort and energy went into all those birthday parties you gave them. And they will feel proud of themselves for planning and executing their own party all by themselves!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


As your teen gets older, she craves more independence from you. This can be tough for a parent to accept, but it's a natural part of growing up. Kids want to spend more and more time with their friends and less time with the family. That's especially true of their parents, although younger siblings may get short shrift too as the older kids distance themselves from childish pursuits.

Now is the time to start giving your teen more independence. Of course, you must take into consideration her level of maturity - not all teens are created equal - and let her have some opportunities to prove herself responsible. Summer is a great time for this. There are any number of fun activities, whether it's spending the day at an amusement park or going to the state fair. Maybe you could drop her off at the beach with her friends for a few hours or let them walk to the movies alone.

Bit by bit, you should be giving them more responsibility and judging how well they handle it. It will help them stay busy this summer and they'll grow up a lot too!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Making His Bedroom His Own

It was fun, wasn't it? Designing your child's bedroom, first as a nursery and later as a kid's room? Well, now it houses a teenager and it should reflect that fact.

As kids grow up, their personalities emerge and they should have their own private space that reflects that personality. What better time to re-do your teen's room than the summer, when he is bored and looking for something to do? That's right, now that he's a teen, he can wield a paint brush or assemble some new furniture all by himself (or at least with minimal supervision.) Even if the room isn't ready for a major remodel, your teen can make a few changes that make his or her space seem more grown up.

Of course, it's your house, so you still have veto power. You can nix the black walls or the disturbing poster your teen picked up at the swap meet. Negotiate, compromise, and give your teen something to do this summer!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Keeping Teens Busy During the Summer

As the long summer days press on, time at home with the kids can wear on your nerves a bit. While there are plenty of activites to keep young kids busy, it can be a lot harder finding things for your teenager to do - especially if that teenager is too young to work and drive a car. This week, we'll explore some of the unique challenges we parents of young teens face during the summer months.

If anyone has any helpful ideas, don't hesitate to leave a comment.

Tomorrow: Updating Your Teen's Room

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Break up the Monotony

Whatever you do in terms of exercise, you must keep it fresh and interesting or you will soon give it up entirely. Have you seen those vita courses? You walk from one point to the next, then stop and perform the specified exercise. You may be asked to do some pull-ups or push-ups. You may be asked to stretch, or do a short step routine. This way you work different muscle groups and keep your walk interesting.

Don't live near a vita course? Make one of your own. Throw in a few toe touches or jumping jacks. Get creative. Have fun! Keep exercising!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Exercise While You Watch TV

Okay, no time for exercise today? But you found time to watch TV? Here are a number of things you can do while watching your favorite show.

Exercises to do sitting down.

- Head and neck stretches (Slowly move your head forward and back, left and right.)

- Shoulder shrugs (Move shoulders up, hold, release, repeat.)

- Arm stretches - (Get creative here - up, forward, to the sides, behind you...)

Exercises to do standing up

- Leg work (Lean against a wall; slide down until you can feel the burn and hold.)

- Calf exercises (Stand on your tip toes and hold. Release and come back onto your heels while leaning forward slightly. Feel that stretch.)

- Strength-building maneuvers - (Using a chair for support, try a number of balancing poses.)

Floor exercises

- Crunches (Move slowly and carefully and hold each crunch for a few moments.)

- Leg lifts (There are several varieties of leg lifts. Try them all.)

- Push ups or planks (These are great to build your core strength.)_

Do you have more energy now? Did you still get to see your TV show? Try this at least three times a week and in no time you will feel stronger and firmer and less guilty about watching TV!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Baby Steps Work for Exercise Too!

When I first joined the gym I thought I was in pretty good shape. After all, I had kept up with my kids, walked regularly and had kept my weight under control. So I was shocked when I lasted a mere three minutes on the elliptical machine.

Apparently, living in a one-story house and not having to climb any nearby hills had taken its toll. My legs ached almost at once, and I was embarrassed at being in such poor shape. But I didn't give up. I decided at least it would be easy to improve on such a poor performance, so I set a goal to last 5 minutes the next time. I made it and increased my goal by two more minutes each time. I didn't always reach my goal, but I kept building up my strength until I was doing 35 minutes on the elliptical, as well as working out with weights.

Baby Steps! Don't give up!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stress-Reducing Benefits of Yoga

Some people still think of yoga as some strange mystical practice involving impossible flexibility and lots of chanting. In reality, yoga is a fun, relaxing method of getting in shape and letting go of your stress. In fact, I don't even realize how tense my body is until I come out of a yoga class feeling loose, refreshed and relaxed.

While I think it's best to take a class to learn the basic positions, there are a lot of good yoga videos for beginners. Just remember that you should work within your own comfort zone. Never push yourself to do something you are not ready to do. And yoga should never be painful.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Find time to exercise every day

This week I'm going to focus on exercise as a great stress buster. Whether it's taking the kids on a walk or going to the gym, jogging in place or doing sit-ups, find time to exercise for at least 15 minutes every day this week. You will be amazed at how much better you will feel.

I know some days it's harder than others to get yourself going. Plus, we all lead such busy lives. But just taking a few minutes to do something for your well-being can really make a difference in your life. I know whenever I drag myself to the gym I walk out feeling great - and I could swear I'm at least two inches taller. The benefit that exercise has on my posture is worth the effort alone!

So get moving today and have some fun.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Don't Forget to Have Fun!

We're well into the summer and it seems that life is busier than ever. Many households have two parents working full time and kids enrolled in summer school, followed by after school care. Not that different from the rest of the year. But summer is supposed to be different.

Make some time this summer to go camping. If you don't have the gear or can't devote an entire weekend, pack a picnic lunch and get up to the mountains or over to that lake. Spend a day hiking or relaxing while you listen to that unique sound the wind makes when it blows through the trees.

Take in a ball game. Nothing is quite the same as listening to the crack of a wooden bat as the crowd cheers for the home team. Can't get to a big league park? Support your local minor league team. Even the single A games are pretty impressive to watch. And the antics of the mascots make the breaks between innings as entertaining as the game itself.

Get to the beach if you can. It's a wonderful way to spend a day. The sound of the waves rolling in is soothing and I never cease to be amazed by the sheer power of the ocean. Feel the warmth of the sand under your feet and the cool refreshing splash of the salt water as a big wave catches you by surprise.
Have a great summer!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How to Listen to Your Kids

When I think about it, most of the misunderstandings and frustrations I have experienced have arisen from a lack of communication. Either I've misinterpreted what the other person was saying, or I haven't really listened in the first place.

Effective communication is one of the most important tools in your relationship with your child. It can help you avoid unnecessary conflicts and worries. But how do you communicate effectively? One way is to practice active listening.

Active listening requires not only that you listen to what the other person is saying, but you must also ask for clarification so you are certain you understand exactly what he is saying. You do this by repeating his message back to him in a question.

For example, "Do you mean that you don't want to go to the movie today or that you don't want to see that movie ever?"

Try active listening today. Ask a question to see if you really understand what's being said to you or if you're jumping to conclusions and not really listening at all. Remember, effective communication makes your life easier and less stressful, so work on perfecting this most important skill.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Conflicting Signals

Today I attended the Parent Orientation at my son's college. While it was very informative and very well-organized, it was also very - well - scary!

After hearing the general presentations on how to help our child transition into adulthood and to watch out for the two most common causes of academic problems - stress and lack of sleep - the representative for the architecture program dropped a bombshell.

During the five year program, students are expected to work seven days a week (in order to complete group projects on the weekends) and they will frequently need to pull all-nighters to keep up with their work. When I asked her if these students had procrastinated, she said no. The workload is simply that difficult and demanding. They also have a dropout rate of 30-40% after the first year and 10-20% after the second.

Having always urged our children to find a balance in their lives, this was a bit hard to swallow. But I'll keep an open mind. We'll see how things go. Maybe she was exaggerating; maybe he'll rise to the challenge and thrive on the work. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Keeping It All Straight and Stress-Free

Every home with children needs an information center - some sort of system for keeping track of all the appointments, lessons, practices, etc.

At our house, we have a combination white board/bulletin board where we keep track of everyone's whereabouts. The bulletin board holds fliers, permission slips and anything else we need to keep track of. The white board has a line for every day of the week, Sunday through Saturday, listing all the events for that week. I use a different colored marker for each person, so one quick glance tells me where everyone is. Next to the white board I keep a calendar and the boys' sports schedules for a quick reference.

Some people use chalk boards, poster boards, monthly, weekly or daily schedules. Find a method that works for you and stick with it. That way you won't miss out on any important events, and your life will feel more organized and far less stressful.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Easy, Nutrious, Stress-Free Dinners for You and Your Kids

I find that when I plan out my meals ahead of time, I have a much greater chance of providing my family with a healthy, nutritious meal than when I just "wing" it. If I have something planned out, I can start preparing the meal early in the day, even if it's just to gather the ingredients together. When it's time to begin cooking, I can get the job done in a relaxed and organized manner.

On the other hand, if I wait too long to get started even thinking about dinner, only to find that I don't have all the ingredients I need or the recipe takes longer than I thought it would, then it's all too easy to give up and opt for fast food.

Try this. Next weekend, plan out a week's worth of meals and shop for everything you will need. Place the menu for the week on the fridge where everyone can see it. (Hint: The kids will complain less about Tuesday's dinner if they realize you're having their favorite on Wednesday.) Try out some slow cooker recipes that can be prepared in the morning. Try a few one-dish dinners as well. For some more ideas about healthy, easy-to-prepare meals, visit my friend Mary's sight at

Bon Appetit!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

This is a great holiday, filled with fun, good times and good food. However, please keep in mind that children need extra supervision today. If you have access to fireworks you know the dangers involved, so you must be extra diligent. However, did you realize that pets, frightened by the sound of the fireworks, can behave in unexpected ways?

Last year, my good friend bent down to try to calm her brother's dog. Normally sweet and gentle, he suddenly attacked her and she wound up in the emergency room receiving over 30 stitches in her face. She was lucky - a year later, you can hardly tell anything happened to her face. It was completely unexpected and in 12 years this dog had never exhibited any aggressive behavior. So be careful around animals tonight and watch your small children closely.

Have a safe and sane 4th!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Identify Your Time Wasters

If you feel stressed much of the time and are always falling behind, certain that you'll never get caught up, one simple way to attack this problem is to identify your time wasters.

Television is a big one for most people. Have you ever watched someone walk through a room where a T.V. is on? Before you know it, that person has stopped and is drawn to the television, mesmorized by its content, even if it's a program they've seen a hundred times before. T.V. has a certain attraction for most of us (and our kids too) and it's easy to spend hours wasting time that could be used doing something productive.

You don't have to give up T.V. entirely, just schedule your favorite programs into your day and stick to your schedule. No channel surfing for two hours! Even better, get down on the floor and do some leg lifts and crunches while you watch T.V. Get your kids to join you. Burn those calories from dinner while you relax.

If T.V. isn't your biggest time waster, then take a minute and think about what is. Maybe you like to read the paper cover-to-cover every day. That can take awhile. Try skimming it for the most pertinent articles and catch up on your reading on the weekends. What other habits are wasting your time? Do you chat on the phone more than you need to? Do you spend too much time planning projects rather than just jumping in and getting them done?

Whatever your biggest time waster is, try to identify it today and make the changes that will give you more free time to get to the important things in your life. Eliminate whatever is keeping you from accomplishing all that you wish to and soon you will see the difference it makes in your life.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Stress-Free Communication with your Kids

When your kids are little, they can't wait to share every bit of news they have with you - often in excruciating detail. As they grow up, they become less likely to share their thoughts and details about their lives. A case in point: "So, what did you do in school today?" The familiar response: "Nothing."

Sometimes, the best way to get your kids to open up to you is to play a game with them or to sit down beside them and work on a puzzle together or color pictures together. Any activity that allows you to just chat with each other in a non-threatening way beats an interrogation any day. And when you're standing over them asking all kinds of questions about their day, it can seem like an interrogation to them. Instead, while you're playing catch, coloring, changing a doll's clothes, share something that happened in your day. Pretty soon they'll be chattering away, letting you know what's going on in their world, who's still friends with whom, who got a time out from the teacher, etc.

Even when there isn't much to tell, you can still work or play, side by side, enjoying a companionable silence. You're spending time together, and your child knows you're there, ready to listen to them if they need to talk.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Never Too Old

You're never too old to learn something new. If you read yesterday's post, you know that we went camping this weekend. When we checked into the campground, we were warned about mountain lions and told that the bees were plentiful as well. However, we were also given a tarantula warning. That was a new one for me, and the very first night I happened upon a group of excited children who had spotted a tarantula. Unfortunately for the tarantula, it had also been spotted by a tarantula hawk, a type of large wasp that stings its prey and ....well, the rest is too graphic for this website. But, if you have a child who is interested in insects or spiders, you may want to find out more about tarantula hawks. Just remember - nature isn't always pretty!

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Joys of Camping

This weekend we went camping with a group of friends. I had forgotten how much fun camping can be, having opted the last couple of years for a cabin in the mountains instead of a tent. While staying in a cabin offers certain advantages - like hot water, comfy beds, a full kitchen, hot tub and pool table - it still doesn't compare to camping.

There's just something about being outdoors all day long that can't be beat. Mind you, we do it the old fashioned way, with just a tent and campstove. For us, the point of camping is to get away from the technology that dominates our lives. We want to rediscover the thrill of communing with nature, listening to the wind blowing through the trees, gazing up at the stars from a hammock. No TV, no radio, no newspapers. The X-Box is replaced with a friendly game of horseshoes, the gameboy with a game of cards.

When we arrive home, we are refreshed, relaxed and ready to plan the next trip.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Keeping the Big Picture in Mind

When a baby is born, she is completely helpless. She depends on her parents for her every need. You must feed her, bath her, change her, comfort and entertain her. All this you do gladly, for she is the most precious thing in your life. She is your child.

As she grows she becomes more and more independent. It starts with little things. She learns to talk and walk and is soon getting into everything. She learns to feed herself and go to the bathroom by herself and she most definitely learns the meaning of the word no!

As time goes on, it may seem as though life is nothing but a continuous struggle with your child. She longs for her independence. You don’t want her to grow up so fast. She can’t wait to go to High School, to drive a car, to leave for college. You wish she could just stay this little forever.

Parenting is a tough job. While we start out in complete control of our children’s lives, gradually we must learn to relinquish that control, just as they must learn to take care of themselves. It’s easy to be saddened by this transition. We mourn the days of family outings and togetherness. We see this as an end, rather than a beginning. But that’s exactly what it is – a beginning!

It’s the beginning of your child’s life as an adult. It’s a celebration of all that you have taught your child and all the memories you have helped to create. If you’ve done your job as a parent correctly, your child will be completely independent and able to thrive without you. You can look forward to a new relationship with your adult child. You will have done your job well.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Making the Most of your Time Together

Kids are like sponges, soaking up new thoughts and ideas, absorbing all kinds of information. They see the world through fresh, unfiltered eyes and their curiosity is contagious. Yet somehow, as they grow older, they begin to grow leery of museums and art galleries, anything that might be – that dreaded word – educational. The child who once got so excited about a field trip to the post office in kindergarten wouldn’t be caught dead in a science museum or a concert hall.

“It’s too much like school mom. I want to have fun on my weekends off.”

So what is a parent to do? Simple. Keep talking to your kids. Keep those ever-important lines of communication open. And look for opportunities to inform and educate your children without turning the conversation into a lecture.

For example, a recent trip to a local beach provided me with multiple opportunities to discuss a wide range of important topics with my thirteen year old. As we parked next to the Civic Center we noticed a little garden out in front with a sign welcoming visitors. As we strolled along the path, we read about each drought resistant plant and talked about what we could do to save water.

As we turned around, we caught sight of a beautiful restaurant with a curved roof that resembled the thatched roofs we had seen on a trip to Ireland. My son was almost too young to remember that trip, so we talked about the dying art of roof thatching and other interesting things we’d encountered in the “old country.”

A stroll down the side streets led us to a thrift shop and we talked about the need to help others and the good feelings we gain from donating to a worthy cause.

Stopping at the ice cream shop on the corner for refreshment, a few more steps brought us to the beach, where we sat down and enjoyed our ice cream while we watched the waves. No lessons here, just the warmth of the sun on our faces and the feel of the sand between our toes. Just another memory of time spent together, sharing our thoughts and feelings, learning about the world around us and learning about each other.