Archive for November, 2012

One Idea to Preserve Family Traditions

// November 18th, 2012 // 1 Comment » // Uncategorized

Thanksgiving…my favorite day. From autumn’s first flirty nip in the August twilight, I look forward to the cooking, the fun, and a house full of family in late November. It’s been a few years since Papa Dave and I have spent the holiday with our entire family. This year we’ll have a nearly complete set of offspring. (Tho we’re bummed grandson Nic can’t make it.) That’s 26 of us, plus another 15 extended family. I’m praying it doesn’t rain. But Dave and I love filling the Haasienda* with family and friends. {*We call our vaguely Spanish style home “the Haasienda”, replacing first part of the Spanish word for estate (hacienda) with our last name.}

As per our tradition, the day before Thanksgiving, my girls and the kids are coming to cook. We’ll make rolls, pies {chocolate, pumpkin, my mom’s secret-recipe cherry pie}, and fudge. Lots and lots of fudge. We’ll get a jump-start on the next day’s meal by chopping and cooking some of the veggies, setting out bowls and platters, and rearranging furniture.

Last November our family lived in three different states. But, Amy and Jae were able to make our traditional dinner without Mom. Five years ago, I made Thanksgiving cookbooks—with recipes, pictures from Thanksgivings past, the menu, shopping list, a time line, and family quotes.

Making the nine copies took about a week. I already had most of the supplies and I found the 8×8-inch photo albums on clearance at Target. Each page of the book came together as I approached it with stamps, stickers, printed recipes, and not a clue how to put it together.

My girls turn to these books often {not only on Thanksgiving} for recipes and hints. Each of them has told me that this idea, that came unexpectedly, is one of their favorite gifts from me. Long after I’m gone, {maybe I’ll retire in Fiji. You never know…} my daughters and granddaughters will have Thanksgiving at their fingertips, complete with memories and a grocery list.

If you want to know more about the cookbook, or have ideas to share, I’d love to hear them!
Pssst…Mom’s secret recipe is on the far right of the page….

In 1979, my son Steve could really put away the pie…

…so could his little sister and brother (Amy and Nick).


A Thanksgiving cookbook wouldn’t be complete without a few ideas for the leftovers.

My mom with her feet up after a long-ago, long Thanksgiving day. Miss her…


No matter how you spend the day, I hope you feel the blessings of the past year, and stay open to many more in the coming year.


How to Like Your Kid(s) ~ Teens

// November 14th, 2012 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

I love kids of all ages, but I’m especially fond of teenagers. Though they seem to challenge parents at every turn, they need encouragement at a time many adults turn their backs to the stereotypical model they assume all teens are. Your teen is so close to becoming the person they will be—the adult who will make decisions for our futures…at the polls and near the end of our lives.

That’s why this post has been the most difficult, by far, to write. I want to do them justice without whitewashing the realities of separation and becoming that are like another birth, complete with its own labor pains.

The trouble with teens is they have truly adult feelings and thoughts that are unprotected by the layers of experience shielding our hearts and minds. Everything they feel, they feel completely, whereas we feel through protective membranes developed by experience. {Honestly, some people call this callousness or cynicism. I prefer to see it as a natural patina that improves with age.}

So…how do you get to like a teenager? The same way you grow to like anyone. Spend time with them. Time is at a premium now, but make sure to include your teen in family activities—cooking, family game night, and family outings. Talk with them, but more important, listen. This is how to get to know your kid as a person. Who he’s becoming. What she believes. What they want out of life, and what they plan to put into life.

Withhold judgment…often. Choose your battles. Some are not worth fighting {hairstyle and color, most piercings, non-vulgar slang—to barely scratch the surface} and winning those can undermine the relationship you’ve worked hard to build.

Trust, but not blindly. If your teen wants to spend the night with a friend, check with the other parents. Check your teen’s chat and surfing history. Who are they talking to? Who are their friends? This isn’t excessive—unless, of course, you hang it over them like a guillotine—as always, find balance.

 Hold true to yourself. My friend told me, “My kids’ blaring rock music is driving me crazy!”

“Mine aren’t allowed to listen to Metallica and the like when I’m home.”

“Oh, they’re going to do it anyway,” she lamented.
“Sure, and they can do it somewhere where it won’t grind my nerves to a pulp.”
But, that was me. Your style may be more like my friend’s. We both had teens that are now great adults.

Another piece of advice that helped keep the peace in our family…if s/he gets a ticket, s/he pays for the ticket. Traffic violation or a concert, that’s their responsibility. My son Steve saw where his friend ended up {unemployed, homeless, and hopeless} after years of the mom bailing him out of tight situations he continued to create for himself long into adulthood (payday loans, disconnected utilities, diapers for the baby, even jail). Steve knew tight situations, too. He also spent time in jail. Coming home after a week there, he told me, “I am so glad you didn’t bail me out, Mom. I know I never want to go back there and I plan to stay out.”

The whole point of raising kids is to help them grow into effective citizens. Stretching limits at the right time teaches them to make choices. {Choices that began early with, “Do you want the red cup, or the blue cup?” and eventually include the complicated questions of right and wrong in every aspect of life.} They’re going to make mistakes. They have to make mistakes—and pay the penalties of those mistakes. Without consequences, they can’t learn the lessons. If they start making choices early, those consequences are minor. I may be wrong, but I think this is why too many college freshmen spend too much time partying and not enough time studying. Decision-making is an unrehearsed concept.

 Preparing for this post, I asked my daughter, Amy, what’s the most challenging part of mothering her two teen daughters. “I want to stay close to them, but let them go at the same time. It’s quite the balancing act!”

Well stated. Knowing when to set limits, stretch those limits, and then drop them altogether means keeping all your plates spinning at the same time*, always assessing maturity level. And there aren’t any hard and fast rules. With each teen, the timing of loosening the limits changes because no two siblings are exactly alike. A balancing act, indeed.

* (a great analogy for parenting!)

Joining the track team is a great way to burn off those unharnessed energies of youth. Here, Robyn runs cross-country for her school.

P.S. One of my favorite negotiations with my teens…..
“What time do I have to be home?”
“Ten. You’ve got a class tomorrow.”
“Can’t I stay till eleven? You know I’ll be up that late, anyway?”
“Nope. Be in the door by nine.”
“What!? Ten is fine.”

I haven’t forgotten…..

// November 10th, 2012 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

I had no idea I’d have this much trouble finishing the post on teens! It wasn’t very long ago that my home was full of teen-agers…mine and many others. But when writing gets tucked between sewing {I got Cannon’s quilt finished!}, online classes {I’m only one lesson behind}, and housekeeping {oh, who am I trying to kid?}, it’s hard to keep a thought long enough to commit it to paper.
But, God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll finish and post it by Monday.

Oh…I’ve also been very busy grandmothering!

How to Like Your Kid(s) p4 ~ School Years

// November 3rd, 2012 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

     His world just got a whole lot bigger, expanding into a realm that doesn’t revolve around you. Be involved in this new world. Although it’s next to impossible for moms and dads who work outside the home to volunteer at school, if you’re able, as little as an hour a week or chaperoning an occasional field trip can go a long way to help you see into this world. If you can’t go to the class to help, maybe the teacher can send a small project to you. Some teachers go the extra {hundred} miles for their students and appreciate help with cutting, grading, or gathering extra supplies. There’s an extra dimension of closeness when you know what’s going on at your kids’ school.

     You’ve just barreled in from your outside job, dinner is a mere question in your mind, and the laundry languishes in the basket? Instead of rushing headlong into the work, take a five- or ten-minute Family-Flop-Break—everyone who’s home, get comfy on the sofa or flop onto the bed. Ask questions. “What’s the coolest thing you learned today?” or “What did you do at recess today?” Ask questions that “yes” or “no” won’t fit.
     Now’s no time for sitting around! Or is it? A few minutes of talking about the day can save time-consuming whining from all of you as the night wears thin. After your FFB,  talking about the day {or whatever},  while making dinner together gives even more time to share, and tuck in a few covert lessons along the way.

     One way our family chose to stay close was homeschool. I know it’s not for everyone, and I’m not sure I could have done it for seventeen years without the county office of home education program. They provided books and workshops for our Kindergarten through eighth graders. If you’ve ever thought about home schooling, research it first. I talked with experienced friends and read several books. Homeschooling for Excellence by Colfax was my favorite. (It’s still in print.) If you decide to go for it—your first year is not a reliable yardstick. It takes time to figure out each other’s learning and teaching styles. Also, don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of work. You have a year and many avenues to the same destination. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post!
 Jae (blue flowered shorts set) getting into a Dance & Sing Workshop at our homeschool


How to Like your Kid(s) 3 ~ Pre-School

// November 1st, 2012 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

     Sometime between two and four, we see that our baby isn’t a toddler anymore, but a walking, talking preschooler! How the heck did that happen?

     Break out the Candyland, small playground balls, and crayons and paper. At first, she will NOT follow the rules of the game. It’s an emerging alien concept. The part about taking turns at mixing bowl in the kitchen {might} get transferred to the game board—but counting squares will take longer to grasp. I pretty much let the little ones wander all over the board, even when we play with the older ones. It’s a good lesson for the big kids. “See where you used to be? Wow! You sure have grown!” usually, the little ones wander back and forth to play with something else before the game’s over, and that’s okay, too.

     Contrary to popular 70s tradition, I love coloring books. As they get older, we talk about tracing and staying in the lines, but there’s something beautiful about a scribbled up page, too.
I was so strict with my first one, that I didn’t give him doodling material. At four, he took one of my small tablets and a pen from the kitchen counter, making tiny multi-circles all over many of the pages. My friend saw it. “I can imagine him furtively glancing over his shoulder while he did this.” Live and learn. After that, I bought kids their own art supplies. I kept paper and pen {along with a few matchbox cars}in my purse for unexpected boring times, too.

     By now, there might be a sibling in the house. Big brother or sister can be lots of “help” fetching clean diapers, checking on baby, and singing to him. There are sure to be moments of jealousy, but they don’t have to dominate the house. While nursing it’s easy to snuggle with your bigger “baby” and read a story, or even tell a story {maybe about when she was a baby}. While Nick (#3) napped, I often asked Amy what she wanted to do. “Play Barbies!” We stretched out on the living room floor, play-acting with Barbie, Skipper, and the crew.
     When Amy’s second child was a napping toddler, there was so much to do, and some things she didn’t feel like doing with Kirstie. I finally confessed, “Remember when we played Barbies while Nick napped?”
“Yeah! I loved that!”
“Well, I really hated playing Barbies!”
“Oh! I never knew.” She got the point. Sometimes we sacrifice what we want to put time into the bank of Relationship. It pays greater dividends than an hour on the sofa reading.

     Don’t get me wrong. We NEED the reading/crafting/whatever ME time, too. Without enough ME we can’t give to THEM. But we have to find the balance between the two. And giving a block of one-on-one time goes a long way in easing jealousies.

Not really representative of the post, but it IS a brother and sister having fun. 🙂

Amy-4, Nick-2 at the Del Mar Fair…1980