Writer's Block (by Darah)

Many people ask me from where I get my ideas and how I choose my topics. Frankly, I haven’t the luxury of time or serene lifestyle that enables me to simply inhale deeply, face my computer, and “begin the creative process.” The reality is that as I go about my hectic days, thoughts will suddenly “pop” into my head. I’ll imagine converting a stressful moment or funny situation into a blog article.

First Scenario
I’m driving in the car with several of the children and something they say or do is the impetus for an article idea. “What a great piece that would make —so darn funny and everyone can relate.” I mumble to myself psychotically, cracking up all alone.
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Would You Like Some ... Ways to get your kids to listen? (by Darah)

Tired listeners …In today’s world where reality and cyber-reality intersect and co-exist, parents need to be creative and stay one step ahead when it comes to maintaining communication with their children.  For example, many kids nowadays prefer electronic forms of communication—texting, instant messaging and tweeting—as a means of “developing and sustaining” relationships in lieu of old fashioned face-to-face conversations and eye contact. We parents cannot change the ways in which our children prefer to receive, process and deliver information. If we want to keep the lines open, we’ve got to speak their language.

Depending on the child’ age and maturity level, here are a few creative techniques parents can use to “be heard.” 

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Tip of the Week : Disconnect Completely to Reconnect Fully (by Darah)

After nine full days away from my husband, children and daily life responsibilities, I have realized that the only way to truly find happiness is by disconnecting completely and spending some time ALONE - rediscovering you. Prior to my long-awaited “hiatus” I was misguided. I told myself I would spend my precious few days off considering alternative forms of discipline for my “challenging few,” analyze my marriage, and life in general. My original goal was to return full of great ideas about how I was going to fix my flaws and change the world for the better - starting with my own family.
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Tip Tuesday : Make time to talk

Image courtesy of bastet in the sky with diamonds via Flickr and CC. I don’t know about you, but finding time to talk about the big things is always a challenge.  It feels like there are so many other important things to do, that making time for something like talking has a lower priority.  It seems to get relegated to the rare date nights, which turns them into something more torturous than a date ever should be!  I find that heavy talks, or simply the painful “big subject” ones need a few extra things to make them work. 

  • Schedule the time and the subject
  • Grab a snack
  • Get your favorite drinks
  • Find a comfortable spot … bring your info to the bed or the couch or the back porch, someplace where you’re both relaxed.
  • Put on some music to keep the mood light.

Formalizing it does help in many ways, and is better than relying on a hurried phone conversation, or the 5 minutes when you’re both getting ready in the bathroom in the morning.  It doesn’t have to be long, but taking a few minutes to set the stage really helps the discussion along, and keeps it from muddying up the bed or the date or the morning routine.  Let me know how it goes!

Tip Tuesday : Be Full, Not Just Busy

I was going to save this for Friday, but it’s too good not to use today.  Misha Thompson wrote a great article On Being Busy or Being Full: How Can You Tell the Difference? and it’s so worth reading.  She starts it with an Anne Lamott quote that I’ll share again here …

“..At 80,” Anne says about the students she is teaching, “will they be proud that they spent their lives keeping their houses cleaner than anyone else in the family did, except for mad Aunt Beth, who had the vapors? Or that they kept their car polished to a high sheen that made the neighbors quiver with jealousy? Or worked their fingers to the bone providing a high quality of life, but maybe accidentally forgot to be deeply and truly present for their kids, and now their grandchildren? …What fills us is real, sweet, dopey, funny life.”

I’m a pro at being busy, but often end the day feeling like I missed something.  Being full is more about intention and less about reaction.  It feeds the soul, not just the checklist.  It’s about priorities and memory making.  If we can’t do that in summer, when can we?!  Go check it out!

Tip Tuesday : Don't forget distractions ...

I was away this past weekend, and had several other people watching my kids while I worked on wedding planning with a bunch of girls.  As I heard the care-givers working with them, through a cloud of favors and decorations and makeup, I was reminded once again that distractions are a wonderful tool with young kids.  Drag their focus away from whatever the issue is, and they’ll rapidly forget what was bothering them in the first place.  I tend to over-engage and get into arguments or battles of rationalization, which are utterly useless most of the time.  A rapid change of subject or direction calms us all down!  It works for me too sometimes, just change the subject or channel or direction I’m facing and everything falls into place.  Here’s to distractions …

Tip Tuesday : Free Movies online

Cindy D turned me on to this one (thanks!), and it’s cool if you like old movies like I do :).  Check out http://emol.org/movies/  and see Entertainment Weekly’s Online Magazine section that offers free movies that are out of copyright.  There’s a catalog listing here that shows what they cover.  My boys love the old cartoons especially, and they’re great summer entertainment.  Check it out next time you’re looking for something new to watch, or waiting for a Netflix, or just bored with what’s on the shelf.  

Any other free movie sites out there that are legit?  Please add to the list if you know of any, and have a great Tuesday :).


The Worst Parenting Advice I Ever Received (Guest post by Heather S.)

Thanks to Heather S. for this guest post, you’ll be seeing more of her around!  Don’t miss her links at the bottom.

During my baby shower, a little book was passed around.  The guests were encouraged to write their best parenting advice for yours truly.  I received all sorts of advice ranging from sleep when the baby sleeps, remember your husband, sleep now because you will never sleep again, embrace the muffin top because it will never go away, and NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY!  All sound advice.

But the one piece of advice that stuck with me (and still does) is to “enjoy every moment”.

That piece of advice sucked!

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Tip Tuesday : Milk Your Motivators

We all have our pet ways of motivating ourselves.  You have one or two things that almost always jolt you into action, right?  I function well under deadline, and tend to procrastinate until things are red hot and glowing, and then spring into a fury of action that has me sliding into home at the last possible second.  Quite frankly, I love it!  It makes me feel good, it’s fun, and yes at times it’s stressful for my family but it works.  Things get done.  I have a tendency to create artificial deadlines just to get myself moving. 
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Tip Tuesday : Be Honest

This might range all over the place, but bear with me.  First off, it’s rather obvious that honesty is better than lying, especially in the long run.  We’re going through a time with my eldest where he’s tried lying to cover things up, and it’s backfired in several cases.  He’s finding that hiding the lies is harder than bearing whatever consequences there are for telling the truth.  Whether that lesson sticks or not is up for debate. 
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Tip of the Week : Try ACTive Reading with your kids! (by Jocelyn)

ACTive Reading

Guest post By Jocelyn Greene (Don’t miss her discount code below if you’re NYC-based!)

Kids love to be entertained, they also love to take part in their own entertainment.   So here is the plan: Make reading aloud a game and let them play parts in the stories you read with them.  I call it ACTive Reading!

Creating the environment of a book is a wonderful way in.

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Tip Tuesday : Keep Short Lists

I love Post It notes.  Especially the 3-inch square ones.  They’re the best way I know to keep lists … short lists that is.  The best kind of list has no more than 5 things on it, preferrably less.  They’re do-able, specific, and not terribly intimidating.  If it fits on a Post It, you can get it done today, right?  I like to think so.  Having a list where everything gets crossed of is rather important to my sanity, and the shorter the list the better chance I have.  Try it sometime :). 

Tip Tuesday : Give Yourself a Break

I know, I know, it’s a tired old phrase but the reminder is no less necessary.  If you’re having a rough time, frustrated, or out of ideas, just give yourself a break!  I’ve hit a rough patch in homeschooling, and while I’m not one bit surprised, it’s still hard and somewhat demoralizing.  It’s a huge thing to adjust to, and we both have our issues. I’m struggling with feeling incompetent and impatient, two hot buttons of mine.  No surprises there to any who know me :).  I’ve had to step back a bit, and take stock of where I am, where he’s going, and watch and reflect for awhile.

One of the things I’ve been pushing is writing, which he needs work on, but every angle I try, I get huge amounts of resistance tossed back at me.  Rather than continue to battle him on it, I’m dropping it for now.  I’ll pick it up again eventually, but when we’re both ready, and not so battle scarred from trying!  He’s not going to fall behind, and dragging us both through something we both hate is pointless.  It’s more about our relationship, and less about writing I think.  We both need to relax and build some things together before we try to write.  Do what we’re good at, and let that drive the foray into things we both find challenging. He needs the break as much as I do.

A break is a good thing, no matter what you need a break from.  Chances are, returning to it will be all the sweeter and easier!

Tip Tuesday : Write It Down, Big!

In one of my favorite books of all time is Mister God, This is Anna.  Anything that interested the pint sized Anna, she asked whoever was handy to “!Write It Down Big!.  I think it’s great advice, and have been seeing the need to implement it at home.  We did a “big” calendar a couple of weeks ago for the fridge, but it’s not big enough.  The squares are small enough to ignore, and it’s on Fynn’s eye level but my kneecaps don’t notice it when I’m opening the door!  It simply needs to be bigger, and put somewhere that we’ll all actually see it. 
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Tip Tuesday : Pick a Room!

It’s that time of year, the spring fling purge and get rid of stuff time.  The sidewalks here have been overflowing the last few weeks, with piles of furniture, books, fans, old printers, you name it and someone’s getting rid of it!  I confess to getting a lot of my furniture that way, and have been keeping my eyes peeled for some gigantic bookcases.  I have the same urge myself, and have been cleaning closets and shelves with abandon. 
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Tip of the Week : Google for Coupons!

If you order anything online, I hope you already know about this one.  If not (like the friend I spoke to yesterday) get ready to save!  Any time you go to buy ANYthing online, first Google “Gap Coupons” or whatever company or site you’re ordering from.  You’ll get a big list of sites like CouponCabin or MyCoupons or whatever, and I almost never fail to find a relevant coupon that gives me anywhere from 5 to 20% off of my order, or free shipping, or something like that.  I never spend more than 5 minutes looking.  Beware of the ones that are only for some special group that you don’t belong to (like students or whatever) but most of them are entirely legit. 

My example from last week …

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Tip of the Week : Travel Light!

I know, I know, it’s virtually impossible with kids!  However, I’ll bet you can get away with a lot less than you think. 

  • For starters, one batch of laundry while you’re gone can cut clothing weight down dramatically!  How many “never ended up wearing it” pieces did you bring home last time?!  
  • Favorite toys? Just pick a few, and let the novelty of new places and people do a lot of the entertaining.  Pick toys with multiple uses too, and not ones with small pieces! 
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Tip of the Week : Talk About What Your Kids Read

Maybe this tip’s just for me, I don’t know.  I’ve been going around the house lately looking for books that Douglas hasn’t read.  He’s absolutely voracious in his consumption, and anything that I’ve handed him he’s read at least once, with one or two exceptions.  He complained yesterday that the WWII era escape book (which I loved in high school, and grabbed in my desperation to find something new) was boring because it had no dialog, so I dropped that one.  What I didn’t realize however, until I started quizzing him, was that a good chunk of the books he’s read he didn’t really ‘get’.  He’d motored through them and understood most of the words, but comprehended little of the actual point.  Doh!
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Tip of the Week : Change Direction Frequently

When you’re frustrated, change direction.  When something isn’t coming together the way you want, change direction.  When your kid is getting frustrated, change direction.  Admittedly I’m plowing some new furrows right now, in taking up homeschooling, and that requires many shifts in habits and directions.  I’m feeling my way through a maze in the dark, and the steps are rather tentative.  I’m learning again, and it feels good.  Not knowing is good.  Being the newbie is good.  Changing directions is good too.  Sometimes you just have to turn your head and see something a bit differently, sometimes you have to pick up and move your feet too. 

Last bit: when you change direction, there’s always a momentary pause in between.  Sometimes more than a moment.  Savor them as long as necessary, they’re sweet and meant to be chewed until they’re almost tasteless.  Sometimes more is learned in the pause than you ever imagined. 

Tip Tuesday : Arnica is Almost Magic

I was sitting here wondering what to “tip” about today, and rubbing my incredibly sore shoulders.  Why they are sore, I have no idea … it happened before the snowfort-building-snow-ball-fight-having day that included a slog through a snowstorm with a stroller outing!  It suddenly hit me that I might was well promote a product (completely un-sponsored, just something I believe in) that I might have mentioned before.  It’s the homeopathic gel/creme called Arnicare Gel, and it is a muscle relaxant and trauma repair product that is simply amazing.  For bumps, bruises, and muscle soreness I’ve never seen anything work as fast or as well. 
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