Saturday, September 29, 2012

It's More Than Just a Job!

Don't even try to convince me that parenting isn't one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. It is the hardest job and, to make matters worse, it pays nothing. Some mothers say the salary is in the snuggles and kisses but I ain't buying that! Those are fleeting moments in my experience. Perhaps one could count those as perks to the job but it certainly doesn't offset the sweat and toil I put in to do this parenting thing right. I deserve cash. Cold hard cash.

Parenting is not just hard because of all the sleepless nights or dirty diapers. Temper tantrums, field trips and the teenage years all make for horrible working conditions and yet even those are not the worst parts of parenting.

Have you seen our 'clients'? Not only are they extremely difficult to manage, they don't come with an owner's manual. Parents have to wing it. Day in and day out, for years and years we perform our duties off the cuff with little to no training. Meanwhile you become ridiculously attached to someone who, you masochistically hope, will leave you someday.

No, I say parenting is - hands down - the toughest job in the history of forever.

If it was just a simple as keeping our little angels clean and fed; that I could do. For free. (House pet anyone?) Instead we become nurses, teachers, babysitters, chauffeurs, tutors, barbers, coaches and counselors. Yet we are still even so much more than that!

And that's where it really gets hard. While being all that my kid needs, I must keep in mind that none of the duties I perform fulfill the purpose of parenting. Of course we're to take care of our kids and make sure they have all that they need but the one task I am not assigned in my kid's life is to ensure their happiness.

Because we love our kids we want them to be happy. Because we are the ones so invested in their lives, we want them to be happy with us. But this is not our goal. The purpose of parenting is to raise children who can survive and thrive in the society in which they will live. Don't misunderstand me; a byproduct of parenting is (thankfully and sometimes) joy, it's just not the point.

Take my kid for example. He does not like to study. Every night he kicks up a fuss vehemently avoiding homework. Now, if I wanted him to be happy I wouldn't make him do the work. Instead he would play all evening. But because he needs to learn, and because it is good for him, I make sure that he does his assignments. He doesn't like it one bit. It makes him very unhappy.

The truth is, it hurts me to see him so distraught. Everyday I must fight the urge to make it better for him. I want to offer him ice cream for completing his work or promise extra video game time, anything to make him feel good again. I long to lesson his pain but honestly, that isn't a good idea.

It's not my job to soften the blows of life for him. My job is to raise him so that whatever may come his way he can face it. If I take away all the things in his life that cause him unhappiness what will he learn about life? That it is always fun? That life is always fair? Wouldn't those mindsets actually hurt him later when life gets real and gets tough? That's why today my son needs to learn that he must do his homework because that is the right thing to do. Not because there is a reward at the end of the assignment.

I might be in the season of parenting when we are all about sports, school schedules and college visits but I can't lose sight of the fact that I'm raising so much more than my kid. I'm raising someone's friend, spouse and perhaps even father. I'd much rather shape him into the man he could be rather than give in and placate the boy in front of me. It might cost me my blood, sweat, tears and sanity but if that's the price I pay for this job called parenting ... well I'd say it's worth it! Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

(This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Daily Review Atlas, a GateHouse Media Company)
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hold on and Enjoy the Ride!

I hadn't been on a roller coaster in approximately fifteen years but I didn't let that stop me from taking an opportunity to ride one last summer. It was, and is, a decision I regret.

While I thoroughly enjoyed riding roller coasters in my teen years this last tryst left me fluctuating between a throbbing headache and vomiting sensation.
And that was my instant reaction.

The next day I was in desperate need of a chiropractor as nursed my mental wounds and mourned my youth. I fear I am destined to become the no-fun mom who sits on the park bench supervising souvenirs while wearing compression socks and cataract sunglasses while everybody else enjoys the rides.

Despite the fact that my body has begun to betray me in my middle age does not negate the fact that I once loved the acceleration, the drops and loop-dee-loops of raging roller coasters. 

I'm not alone either. Stand near the exit of any roller coaster and you'll hear raving reviews from folks who, just moments before, practically peed their pants. Why? Because no one stands in line for boring or slow roller coasters. What's a roller coaster without hills, drops, twists and turns?  A commuter train, that's what!

This summer was our youngest's first roller coaster encounter. Now that she was tall enough I was willing, and admittedly a little excited, to let her have the experience. As we weaved our way through the line to the loading dock my daughter had no idea what she was in store for. In our excitement to ride together we neglected to show her what she was about to board. She put her faith in us and as we locked ourselves into the car I encouraged her to be brave. 

She hated the ride. Her face was frozen in fear while she held on with a death grip. Immediately regret came over me. I mentally scolded myself for being such a careless mother. How could I have not protected her from such an intense experience?

At the end of the ride I gathered her in my arms and offered her all the comfort I could give her. I patted her head and looked into her face declaring how proud I was of her bravery. I even apologized to her. "It's ok Mom," she said "at least I tried it."

We went on about our day and enjoyed many other aspects of the amusement park. As the day drew to a close my daughter asked to ride the roller coaster again. I couldn't believe it. "Why?" I asked.
"Because it was fun!" she said. 
"But you were scared" I said incredulously.
"I know," she sheepishly admitted, "but it was still fun!"

I've been thinking about roller coasters recently; how much I love them, or used to love them. All roller coaster enthusiasts will tell you the best rides are the ones with raging speed accompanied by extra high hills with unexpected twists and turns and drops that make you cry for your mommy. It seems sorta masochistic to me, that we would love to be scared. But that's the way it is with roller coasters. It is also the way it can be with life.

Sometimes I feel as if I am a rider in the roller coaster of my own life. Life is not -as much as we may want it to be- a smooth ride. For anyone. Life has it's ups, it's inevitable downs and the boring stretches in between. We can only sit down, buckle up and hold on with all our might.

Hopefully, at the end of it all, like my daughter reminds us, we can choose to be brave. We can even learn to enjoy the unexpected twists and turns life may throw at us. Then, when the ride comes to an end, we can say we enjoyed the entirety of the experience.

I may not be riding real roller coasters anytime soon but as I mature I am learning to enjoy whatever ride life throws at me. And if I can teach my children that lesson as well, it'll be a ride well worth it. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why. 

(This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting column in The Review Atlas.)

Have you ever made a parenting decision that you regretted but ended up working out ok? Or am I the only one? And what is it about growing older that is forcing me to pass on roller coasters? Will I ever be able to enjoy an amusement park again?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What's a Kid to Do?

A Christmas Story

I've never known a kid who did not get in trouble. And I've known a lot of kids. Also I've had a lot of kids but that's not the point. Kids get in trouble. They get in trouble frequently and with alarming regularity. However, what most parents don't know is that you can diminish the amount of times your children cause you grief. It's true!

Now, I must first preface this information with a disclaimer. No matter how well you parent your child will misbehave. (Unless of course you've literally given birth to an angel, which chances are you haven't.) This is important information because often parents feel as if their techniques are not good enough. But that's how it goes with parenting. You can give your finest performance and still have struggles. Why is that? Well, because as long as you have children in the equation you have an unknown variable. You can control your actions but you cannot control theirs. Therefore there is no guarantee the outcome will be desirable.

But this is not to say we don't try. That is why I've identified three specific times that parents can look to avoid. With just a little attention in these areas I can almost guarantee (key word almost) you can eliminate a good portion of your children's behavior problems. 
First, look around your house. Is it safe? Are valuables put away? Are toys accessible? A good home environment is the first step in eliminating behavior problems. I know you want to display Aunt Rose's antique vase but if you don't want it broke there is only one way to protect it; put it away. If you don't want you phone in the toilet, keep it put up. It seems too easy to be true but think about it. If there is nothing lying around, then the temptation to destroy is irrelevant. 

But you want your child to learn to deal with valuables? I understand and would recommend you teach them. Sit down with young children and model the behavior  you desire. If you're not willing to supervise its use, or risk the item breaking, then don't leave it unattended.

And we're not just talking about little children. Your older kids need you to make your home safe as well. Turn off the internet at night. Monitor online viewing habits. Be aware of their conversations and text messages. Encourage healthy homework and bedtime habits. Don't leave anything unsupervised that you're not completely comfortable with. Should teenagers know better? Of course. But you remember being their age right? Remember how much trouble you found? Uh-huh. Go supervise.

Secondly, children also misbehave when they are tired. This is why I never went to the grocery store between the hours of 1:00 and 5:00 p.m., otherwise known as nap time. I would rather starve than go shopping at that bewitching hour because sleep deprivation precedes almost all behavioral issues. That's why it looked like we having fun at the local fair last week at 9:00 p.m. but the next morning, just 12 hours later, we were dragging our butts and getting a little mouthy. That's not to say my kids' behavior was an excuse, it certainly was not! But it helps me understand that their bad behavior was due to my decision to keep them out late, let them spin around on rides while doping up on funnel cakes and apple cider slush.

I mean c'mon. I was asking for it right?

Finally, children will always get in trouble if there is nothing to do. If you take your child to a three hour appointment and get frustrated because they can't sit still I'm afraid you need an expectation adjustment. It is both developmentally and physically impossible for young children to be still for long periods of time. However, you can't always avoid these scenarios either. Sometimes you must go out to eat, sit through a church service or encounter a long car ride. This is a good time for parents to do a little prompting. Keep toys and books with you as well as ideas on how to pass the time. Play games like "I Spy" or thumb wrestling, both of which require no materials. 

Keep in mind all of this falls into a very fine line. I don't believe it is a parent's responsibility to entertain a child all the time but I also know "Go play!" can be an ineffective directive as well. I do think however with a few clever, well timed tricks up our parenting sleeve we can make our job easier. There is no way we can expect to prevent every mishap but with a proactive attitude we can greatly diminish some behavior problems. And what mom or dad doesn't want that? So the next time you're tempted to discipline your child for bad behavior ask yourself if it could have been prevented with a little forethought. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

Stephanie is a Parenting Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and will share all her what-to-do-while-your-waiting games. She can be reached at This article is a part of my Practical Parenting series the appears in the Saturday edition of The Daily Review Atlas. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Great Banquet

I felt like I was in heaven on Saturday.

I was a guest at a banquet. There were many people there. Different people. People who spoke other languages.

As I walked a little dazed along the food line humbly holding out my plate to the hosts I was given hot, delicious smelling ethnic food of many varieties as well as food I recognized like hot dogs and chips.

I shuffled looking for a seat amongst strangers. Should I join this table? Should I sit alone?
My eyes scanned the crowd, my ears taking in the laughter and chatter.

Food kept arriving to the table and multiplying - more than enough for everyone.
We were eating until we were full and then some.
The volume was high.
Conversations floated above my head with words I didn't recognize.

I looked around, admiring the smiles on the faces of people I couldn't communicate with.
"Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me!" I heard in broken English. I looked up. A man was trying to get my attention. He wanted to ask me if I had enough food.
I graciously thanked him. I had more than enough.

I continued eating delicious new foods feeling merry and disoriented at the same time.
The volume and conversations were growing louder.
I moved my eyes over the crowd and saw old and young people.
Brown people, yellow people and white people.
All of us together, partaking, enjoying.

I looked across the table at my husband who was enjoying his meal with vigor.
He met my gaze and I leaned in. "This is like heaven," I said.
Silently he nodded and my eyes filled. Blinking back tears I returned my focus to my food and the jovial voices around us as they continued to crescendo.

It was a wonderful banquet.
We were eating at the victory pot-luck hosted by a few parents from the Monmouth-Roseville soccer team, the group of boys (and girl) that my husband has the great honor of coaching.

But to me...
it was really
a glimpse of what I imagine heaven will be like.

"Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." Revelation 19:9 "...I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb..." Rev 7:9

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Fistful of Weeds

I first published this article for our local paper last Spring. After spending the weekend doing some yard work where some dandelions have reappeared I thought I'd share my thoughts with you again) As always, thank you for reading my blog. There area  gazillion of them out there. I'm honored you would visit mine!

First let me say I am no eavesdropper. I have enough drama/trouble/activity in my own life with five children …I really don’t care to know yours. That being said, I overheard a conversation while visiting a nearby kindergarten.

As the children entered the school one morning, bright eyed & bushy tailed, a little boy walked in with a fistful of dandelions. Proudly he presented his bouquet to his teacher. She graciously accepted the gift, patted his head and walked her class down the hall.

image from
A second teacher leaned into another woman, covered her mouth with her hand and said, "I never accept dandelions! I mean it sounds harsh but students have to learn they are really weeds. Right?"

I was appalled.

You see here’s the great thing about children: they are children, innocent and full of life. Children are so trusting and simple. They have the ability we’ve long lost as adults – to see the beauty in something so common.

Of course dandelions are weeds! Isn’t it evidenced in the millions of dollars spent annually by homeowners desperately trying to ride their yards of pesky clover, creeping charlie or deep-rooted dandelions?

But aren’t dandelions also flowers, fun to pick and entertaining to blow?

I can’t imagine any scenario in which a five-year-old needs to be taught dandelions are weeds. They’ll figure it out soon enough. How dare we rob a child the fun of gathering up a bouquet, the experience of blowing on the fuzzy orb seeds or hurry them along during a walk when they wish to stop and admire the soft yellow petals.

image from
And why do we even hate dandelions? Haven’t you driven along the highway and seen a field full of yellow and thought to yourself "It sure is beautiful"? I think we despise the weed for the same reasons we hate clover and creeping charlie; we’ve been taught to. Taught by marketing ads with their glossy photos of perfect families enjoying a perfect lawn on a perfect day. We’ve been sold that anything short of a turf lawn is a ‘problem lawn’.

And even if I can’t convince you the children should be allowed to explore and discover nature, isn’t the gift of a bouquet of flowers – even dandelions – more about the act of giving than it is about the gift?

A child who picks flowers has no regard for plant biology. They’ve yet been taught that roses are superior to the likes of dandelions or clover flowers. If they’ve taken the time to collect a fist full of drooping, sad looking, common flowers it’s because they are learning the basic etiquette of gift giving. To refuse this offering from an innocent, botany-ignorant child is to teach them that you don’t value an act of kindness, only expensive gifts. This, my friends, is a very dangerous lesson to teach.

To some, dandelions have real meaning and purpose. I recently learned herbalists consider the common dandelion a valuable herb with many culinary and medicinal uses. They are a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium and zinc. Dandelion leaves are often used to add flavor to salads, sandwiches and teas. In fact, some coffee substitutes use dandelion roots and the flowers are used to make certain wines.

Just remember this, whether you love dandelions or work feverishly to remove them from your lawn, children see them differently. And different can be good. Please don’t scold a child for blowing dandelion seeds. Please accept with gratitude any bouquet you receive. For in that offering children remind us that beauty can be found everywhere. Even in a fistful of weeds. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!

p.s. My friend Natalie sent me this poem after she read my article. It's quite apropos:

The Dandelion Vase
© Jennifer L. Holte

This vase may be quite tiny,
but its importance is monumental and grand!
For the love that went into each picked 'flower,'
was carefully chosen by your child's small hand.

How important these pesky 'flowers' become'
and how great they will make your day,
when your child comes running across your lawn'
'I picked these just for you,' they'll say!

No other flower can show your child's love,
than that of the dandelion in bloom!
For sometimes in the thicket of weeds,
God's love is revealed to you!

So each time you use this vase,
remember how great the reason!
For nothing can compare to the love of a child,
when the dandelions are in season!

Monday, September 17, 2012

55 Days !

55 Days.

That's how many days until my next trip to Europe.

I'm thrilled to be with a team of individuals who are traveling to Central Europe to be a part of a ground breaking trip - a trip that has the potential to change an entire community.
I'm taking my experience as a Parent Educator to the Roma.

I'm so thankful for the support of many churches and individuals in my community who are helping give to this cause. I accept your donations and support for me with great humility. I am extremely grateful for your belief in this cause.

Read an excerpt from my team leader Bill Howell as he sums up our trip perfectly in his blog entry from

The numbers don’t add up. 10-62-50. The numbers don’t tell the whole story. 10-62-50. The numbers are not simply numbers, they are people, they are the Roma(Gypsy) of Czech and Slovakia. 10-62-50.

In the nation of Slovakia, the Roma comprise about 10% of the population. Yet their children account for 62% of the children in special schools. The reasons are many but two of the key factors are prejudice and preparation. The prejudice often comes from members of the majority population who simply don’t want their children exposed to the Roma children. In some cases petitions have been signed informing local officials that placing Roma in the local “normal” school will not be tolerated. The other key factor is preparation. The impact of large families, paralyzing poverty and lack of preparation in the home means that Roma children are not able to compete at grade level when it comes time to enter school. As a result they are classified as “special needs” and put into schools where the curriculum is oversimplified. The result is a lack of education, a lack of job skills, a lack of opportunity and a life vulnerable to unspeakable horrors. That’s where the last number comes in, for while Roma are 10% of the population but over 50% of the victims of human trafficking. 
This fall a team from NLI will begin a training initiative for Roma parents. The curriculum is designed to help parents prepare their children (0-6 yrs. old) for a lifetime of learning. Using common tools and items the team will bring (Parent’s Toolbox), the children will learn simple tasks that actually unlock the ability to learn at higher levels throughout their lives. While most of us understand the importance of early childhood education we may not be aware of the crippling effect a lack of basic skills learned at an early age has on later more complex learning. As a result of increased cognitive abilities due to the training, these children will be prepared for a lifetime of learning.
Why?Why should we get involved? Why should we be training parents? How is this missional? Simply put, the work of the gospel is to change lives. By working with these parents we will be helping to change the now and the future of these children. And because this is part of a comprehensive strategy to share the message of Jesus, we will bring the training to villages and towns where relationships are being built and churches are being planted. 
This coming November our team, including two early childhood specialists, will be “road testing” the curriculum in Cachtice, Slovakia and Kojetin, Czech. At present we are in a funding stage where we are looking to raise $20,000 for the first phase, including developing the curriculum, translation into Czech and Slovak, the Parent’s Toolbox and initial publishing). 

If you are interested in this work, would like to offer your support or would like to extend an invitation, I'd be honored to speak to your church or social service group so you can partner with this worthy trip. Absolutely honored. You can reach me via email at starski(at)

Friday, September 14, 2012

30 years of Poverty - Finance Friday
They say misery loves company.

I wonder if that is true about the numbers represented on this map posted recently by USA Today. It's worth clicking over and sliding the bar and watching the change in poverty rates in our country since 1980.

In an odd way it comforts me.

I know our decisions, our own, have created this situation we find ourselves in. And often I refrain from complaining because of that very fact.
We chose a job three years ago that relied on our ability to raise our own salary.
When that failed we chose to send hubby back to school rather than reentering the workforce.
And yet,
and yet .... is it right that a person works 3 -sometimes 4- jobs and still can't make ends meet?
Is that ok?
Is it right that in this day and age a full time, minimum wage job keeps an individual living in below poverty status?

Is it right you can work your fingers to the bone,
work until you develop Planters Faciitus and
miss tucking your kids in bed
so that you can take your paychecks,
stretch them
and still fall short?

Then, after all that hard work and all the hours on your feet an away from home you are still subjected to criticisms from individuals who either flippantly spew their beliefs about "people on welfare"
or worse, treat you differently.

Why should you treat me differently if you find out about my financial woes?
Because you're embarrassed?
Shouldn't I be the one worried about being embarrassed?

Or is it because you're against welfare, food stamps and free insurance?
If that's the case I can only hope that you or someone you love never falls into financial difficulty.
I really hope you don't.
'Cuz this?
This is embarrassing.
This is a heavy burden.
This is painful.
I'm weary of looking over my shoulder at the grocery checkout wondering who will see me.
I'm angry at the school for sending home a letter with confidential information about my free/reduced lunch status with my child.

But, hey! according to the map I'm not alone.

Despite the fact that in 2008 1,532,238 (or 12.2%) of my fellow Illinoisans are living in poverty (www.policyarchive) I suggest misery doesn't really love company.

Because I imagine other poverty stricken families are, like me, too busy trying to make ends meet to fraternize, sit around on our lazy butts and cash in our checks.

It is Finance Friday on my blog. The day I dedicate to documenting our family's difficult financial season. Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bedtime is Sweet Relief

(this article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Monmouth Daily Review Atlas)

Don't tell my kids I told you this because they would be mortified; my children go to bed at a ridiculously early bedtime. And by ridiculously I literally mean their classmates would have every right to poke fun. Some days they are in bed so early the sun has barely set.

The idea for an early bedtime struck me when I was a new, overwhelmed mom. I had survived the day with my endlessly curious and extremely talkative child and I needed a break. I needed the day to be over. I needed that sweet precious child of mine to go to sleep so I could have just a moment of downtime. She was wearing me down.

Then I had two kids. Then three. Then five. Suddenly bedtime was not just the time of the day when I could catch a break. Bedtime was my one and only chance to rejuvenate before the next day's onslaught, er, I mean adventure.

Also, the earlier the bedtime the more my sanity stayed intact.

It's not easy getting children to bed. It's sorta like getting a cat to take a bath. But that didn't stop me. I developed routines that the children looked forward to. Bedtime became a cherished ritual in my children's mind. Little did they know mommy was collapsing on the couch in a near-vegetative state after the last story was read.

Fast forward a few years, I no longer have little tykes and yet my children still go to bed relatively early compared to the norm. And it's still one of my favorite times of the day.

It turns out that my survival skills have created healthy sleeping habits in my kids. Not only do I get the peace and quiet I desire every night but, call it coincidence if you must, each of my kids also do very well in school. I'm convinced that a good night's sleep predicates a successful academic career.

If that's not reason enough to convince you to establish an early-to-bed policy keep in mind that children who get a good night's sleep are more likely to wake up well rested. Well rested children aren't crabby in the morning which means hassle-free mornings and star behavior. Who wouldn't love that?

How many times have adults said, "I wish I had that kind of energy!" about a child? Heck, I fall into bed every night and I didn't even do half the activities most kids do. Can you imagine how much more their little bodies and minds need to sleep?

Now that another school year is well underway there has never been a better time to establish a healthy, early bedtime. Otherwise Science class gets nicknamed 'Silence' class and story time becomes naptime; both of which are very true examples as well as tempting sleep opportunities during the day for exhausted children.

I know kids don't want to go to sleep at night. I know they prefer texting, television and Facebook. I know extra-curricular activities and varying homework loads often prohibit early bedtimes. I also understand that children get more active the more exhausted they become thus giving the appearance that they are not tired. Nonetheless, most doctors recommend school age children need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep each night. And since children aren't going to put themselves to bed at a decent hour if given the choice, it's up to the loving parents to see to it that they are tucked in each night. 

Listen, early bedtimes benefit everybody. You get an hour or two (or in my case four) to yourself every night for whatever you want! Be productive or lazy. Who cares? The point is each evening can be bliss. While you're enjoying some "Me Time" your child is getting the much needed sleep he needs. It's a win/win. So for the love of the Sandman, put your kids to bed. You'll be happier. They'll be happier and believe me, your child's teacher or daycare provider will be happier too. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

Stephanie is a Parenting Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and is available for personal or phone consultations to area families. She can be reached at

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Note to Self

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, September 7, 2012

Salvation Army Shopping

Living in a small town is a retail challenge.
That is, you can't always buy what you what or need when you want to.
Sometimes you have to plan a purchase based on your schedule.
For example, the nearest mall is 35 of miles away. We can't just pop over when we feel like shopping. We literally have to find a time in our busy schedule to go.
Personally this is not a problem for me as shopping is not one of my favorite things to do. However, with the advent of a new school year underway and 5 growing kids, you can imagine that new socks, longer jeans and other items needed to be acquired.
Shopping during a financially tight season is stressful enough but doing it with 5 kids in tow ... stick a needle in my eye.
Thank goodness for
-Grandmas who like to shop
-my kids' birthdays (which are a rouse for getting new clothes) and
-for my teenage daughter who works to feed her own shopping habit.
Nonetheless, with an afternoon to ourselves recently, my darling hubby suggested we "head to town".  Content to spend time with the family (and, I'm not gonna lie, hoping to make a little stop at the Ice Cream Shack) I was up for some errands. Yes, even shopping.
One of our stops, at my husband's request, was the Salvation Army.
Did I mention he loves the challenge of finding a good deal?
When we pulled into the parking lot we immediately noticed there was liertally NOwhere to park. That seemed totally weird but after we finally maneuvered the van into a spot did we realize they were having a one-day-only half off sale.
We were intrigued.
Instantly we all broke up and went our separate ways hunting through the racks and shelves for bargains. The twins asked to adopt every sad looking stuffed animal. My son begged for his favorite movies on VHS tapes but it was hubby who managed to fill up a cart.
He found:
4 Hollister shirts for the boys
3 other favorite logo t shirts
2 collar shirts for his upcoming internship
1 pair of shorts
I found:
1 pair of corduroys
1 pair of Khakis (for Tent making)
and each twin choose
1 sweatshirt each
1 blouse each
and we found adorable pattern knee high socks
All of this was a grand total of $36.00

$36.00 !!!

I may not have time to go shopping. I may even avoid it because I hate doing it. But I will make the time and energy to save a hundred dollars. That was one of the best errands we made that day!
Listen until you are in a financial position where every penny of income is earmarked for necessities you can't understand how frustrating it is to not be able to buy anything. We live in a culture where we're told to buy new shoes/clothes/purses/anything just because "Orange is the hot new color!" this season. While I'm an adult, perfectly capable of wearing my shoes out before I get a new pair, it's not so easy on my kids. And thus it's not so easy on me.
I don't care about name brands. Seagulls on t-shirts today are no different than the alligators I begged my parents for 20 years ago. It's all an insignificant fad that will pass. Nonetheless we need clothes to cover ourselves and what we scored at the Salvation Army that day was unheard of prices. I still don't love shopping. It will probably continue to stress me out. But I'm happy to report I had a positive experience.
It's Finance Friday on my blog. The day I dedicate to writing about our family's journey into the world of free & reduced lunches, second hand store shopping and cutting the cable bill all in effort to create a better future. Thanks for visiting today. I know there are a gazillion blogs to read. I'm honored you would read mine. Blessings!

p.s. as you can see The Salvation Army is so much more than a store where I buy my kids name brand clothes that I would never otherwise purchase. Consider donating or shopping there yourself.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Don't You Tell Me "No!"

Here's the thing; I don't want much out of life except I want my kids to do what I tell them to do. I want the boss to grant my request for a day off. I want my internet to stream Netflix instantly and for goodness sakes there had better be ink in the printer when I have a project looming. I do not want to see that big red flashing light screaming "No! No! No! You can't print here!"

You see, I admit with full disclosure I want what I want, when I want it and I don't want to be told "No!" Oh, don't judge me. You know you are the same way. You get just as mad when things don't go your way. Whether you actually verbalize or show your frustration depends, well quite frankly, on your maturity level.

It's the same with children. They certainly don't like to be told no either. Except that's a problem for teachers, parents and caregivers because all we do, pretty much all day long is tell kids, "No!"

"No, you can't have candy." "No, you can't stay up late and you can't play in the street or talk back." "No, you can't play outside until your homework is done." "No, you can't chew on the electric cord or put mommy's phone in your bowl of cereal." (What? Like my toddler is the only one that did that!). Children, like some of us unfortunately, are notoriously immature. But don't hold that against them, they are just children after all.

So what is an adult to do? You can't just let your children make their own rules and let them run around all willy-nilly. We must stand guard over our children but boy doesn't it get messy when they put up a fight, flail on the floor and turn your entire household upside down in a temper tantrum? And I'm not just talking about toddlers. Parents of teenagers, you feelin' me?

The way I see it we've got three choices in these scenarios: you can say no and deal with the drama, you can say yes and relinquish all your control or, I propose, a less common but sometimes equally effective tactic. Try saying yes and no.

Because children, like us, hate being told no, the first thing grownups should do is use the word "No!" sparingly. If overused "No!" becomes dreadfully ineffective. For example, if your child asks you for more food don't say, "No, you can't have seconds" and then ask them why they want more or ask what else they want. If you wanted to gauge whether or not they were still hungry you should ask them, "Do you need more?" rather than, "No you can't have more! Why? Are you still hungry?"

In other words, save the word "No!" for those really important life issues like heath, safety and discipline matters. 

"No" is not the phrase you use in negotiable situations. This mean adults must stop and think before they give their answer. Some of us are so used to saying, "No" before we really process the child's request. Make yourself pause before you answer your child. Is it the answer really "No!" or is it possible the answer is "Maybe" or "Later"?

This is my favorite tactic. I use it regularly on my own children. I love to say, "Yes, you can do that. Later." Usually my kids aren't asking to do something they already know they are not supposed to do. They are asking for a privilege that I can't grant them just yet. So rather than say,"No! You can't have any friends over!" I say, "You can have a friend over but not today because we have soccer practice. Perhaps Caleb can come over tomorrow."

It might seem like silly semantics to an adult but a quick rearranging of words is an effective tool when working with children. This phraseology makes my kids feel as if they still have some control over their lives alleviating the feeling that they are constantly under my rule. Oh, I'm still in control! My kids just don't realize it. Their independence remains intact and my authority still reigns supreme making them more compliant in the long run.

The idea of when-you-do-this-then-you-can-do-that works in a lot of situations. Need to stop playing and get to an appointment? You can say, "No more playing!" or you can try, "We will finish playing when we get back." Want your child to finish homework before going out to play? "Yes, you can go play! After you've done this math assignment." Or perhaps your child wants move to the next task before cleaning up the previous activity you can say, "Sure we'll head out for ice cream, as soon as we get this job done." 

Parents would do good to remember that most children are not naughty on purpose; they are just trying to find their independence. This is a good thing. Without that autonomous spirit you could end up with a forty year old, unemployed son or daughter living in your basement eating cold pizza out of cardboard boxes.

And we don't want that! We want independence! We celebrate it! So if you must rearrange your words to help your child feel as if they can have some freedom and if you can disguise your less significant rules as options, then your child may very well grow up to believe they can do and try anything in the right time.

Perhaps they will grow up to be even more successful than you ensuring your retirement years are a comfortable payback for all the time you invested in them. That's my goal anyway. I intend to raise healthy, independent, well-adjusted children who will gladly say "Yes!" to me in my old age. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

(This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting column for The Daily Review Atlas in Monmouth, IL.) Stephanie has five children, including three teenagers and eight year old twins. She is a Parenting Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and can be reached at

AddThis Smart Layers