Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Whose Grades Are They Anyway?

My daughter is really struggling with her grades and honestly so am I. I understand that I am part of the problem because I am having trouble controlling my anxiety with her grades. Can you give me some suggestions of structures or processes that I can put in place that will not only help her, but help me stay calm during the process?
— Jill F.

Hal : We get this one a lot…well, at least this subject. OK, here’s the thing. You are not responsible for your daughter’s grades…I know for me I’ve got to breath that truth in. So, if that’s true, you have to take a step back and identify what are the actions that you have been taking that you actually feel responsible for? Are you harping on it? Are you talking about it every day? Are you having parent-teacher conferences without your kid in the room? Which, by the way, is mind-boggling that this happens. So, the parent feels responsible for getting the kid to get good grades and the teacher who feels responsible for getting the student to get good grades and getting together to discuss this…even though the only person that actually is in control of getting good grades is not even in the room. That is just not going to be productive.

Try this. "Whether you get good grades is up to you. Is there anything that I could be doing that could help you do better?" Get feedback from your kid. Ask her. Don’t be afraid of what she might say. She might say, "Yeah, you could get off my back." "Really. Tell me more about that." "Well, you’re harping on it all day. It’s all you’re ever talking about. You’re freaking out all the time." Then, you just have to resist the temptation to say, "Well, I’m just doing the best that I can. My parents didn’t…". You would tune yourself out if you were listening to that. Of course she’s going to tune you out. Don’t turn it into a lecture. Continue to ask questions.

Because…you’ve got to ask yourself a tough question. "Do I want her to discover her own unique way of learning and take control of her own grades or do I just want her to vindicate that I’ve been right the whole time?" I see parent after parent after parent who just wants to be proven right…rather than leading them down a better path. What are my responsibilities to my children? Do I set up a helpful schedule? Do I restrict TV time enough? We do it a little differently in my household. I tell my kids, "Hey, the TV is coming on at 5." "What?" "The TV is coming on at 5." "What about now?" "No." "Well, what should I do now?" "I don’t know…go outside, play, read a book, do your homework…that’s up to YOU." They are like "Huh?" That’s just so different than "The TV is not coming on until you do your homework." They need to now start thinking about managing their own time. "Oh , by the way, the TV is going off at 6." They begin to figure out, "Dad’s actually encouraging me to watch TV? How bizarre. Hmmm. Maybe now would be a good time do my homework."

My job is to provide encouragement, structure, supplies, whatever help they may need…but that may not come from me. If they ask for help, I say "who else in your class can you call?" My job is to hand their life back to them and equip them to eventually know what to do with it. And it’s never too late to get started.

Take care, Hal.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seth Godin is a ScreamFree Parent

Ok, so I'm not even sure that the dude has kids, but I am 100% convinced that if he does, he is a ScreamFree Parent.  Why am I so certain? Because every now and again he writes posts like this.

He's describing how doing the things that are right may be harder in the short term, but they are better and less expensive in the long run. Sure, keeping your cool while your baby screams bloody murder for the third hour in a row is no walk in the park. But doing anything else will cost you (and your child) much more heartache and stress down the road. Same for toddlers, kids, preteens, and even...teenagers.

When you are in the throes of teen angst and you want to throw in the towel, don't. Do what's right, what's best, what's hard - the first time. I promise you will reap the rewards for years to come. If I'm wrong, we can both blame Seth Godin.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The First Shall Be Last

I have to admit that while I have been thinking and praying about the Chilean miners, I haven't been watching the story 24/7 like much of the world. But on this momentous night when all 33 miners were rescued, this CNN headline grabbed my attention:

"Last miner scheduled to emerge is group's captain."

Luiz Urzua thought that he was leading his crew into the mine for a 12 hour shift. He ended up leading them for 69 days. He was the first into the mine and the last one out. This is an incredible story about true leadership. Too often, kids think that power equates to freedom and leverage. They crave it because they don't feel like they have much say over their lives. And many times, all of that is true. But leadership is different than power. Leadership - servant leadership - is about being the first to go into a dangerous situation and the last one out.

This man kept his team sane and healthy by keeping his cool. Plain and simple. We as teachers and parents could learn a thing or two from Mr. Urzua. Here's hoping that he gets paid all of that overtime that he most certainly deserves.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"I Poo in Blue"

So this morning, I'm watching television with my kids and preparing myself for the endless barrage of "Wha???? Why???? What are we supposed to do????" comments that are about to come my way when I tell them to turn it off. That's when this commercial comes on the screen. 

It was, in the short span of 30 seconds, both hysterical and horrifying. Part of me loves the ridiculous over-the-top nature of the commercial and the product. The funky music, the slow-mo movement of the baby strutting down the street saying the classic line, "Even when I go number two, I look like number one." It is tongue-in-cheek at it's best.

But what I don't like is that beneath all of that irony is a bitter hint of truth. As parents, we do ridiculous things so that our children look, act, sing, play, and learn better than any of their peers. Why can't we just love our kids and want what is truly best for them without having to introduce the cruel concept of competition into their little lives so soon? Why do we tie so much of our own self-worth to the way in which our offspring "perform" for the world?

I am as guilty as the next mom. Despite what I say I believe, I sometimes get caught in the trap of comparing my son's baseball skills or my daughter's emotional intelligence to those surrounding them. I size up their competition and think about what I can do to help them get a leg up. Hey - no judging allowed - I didn't say I was proud of doing it - I just said that I do it.

So, Huggies - I thank you. Now when I  compare, manipulate, cajole, or anything of the sort when it comes to my children and how they are perceived by the world (and how that makes me look, of course) I will think of that stupid denim diaper. Because caring more about them getting ahead or being the best - instead of spending my energy on guiding their character, is simply creating a nice stylish package that is full of ..... well, you know.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Calling all Parents of Teens

So, this week, I was approached by the Partnership for a Drug Free America to be a guest blogger on their site. I will be submitting four articles about "decoding teen behavior" or something along those lines. Basically, they want my take on what makes teens tick and how we can parent them better.

I have taught teens for a number of years and I have a young one of my own, but I'd love to go into this guest blogging thing with a little backup from my peeps. If you have teens or adult children, I need your help.

What from ScreamFree has been helpful to you as you've parented your teens? Have their been some principles that have really made a difference to you? What is the best advice you've heard about teens and drinking or drug use? What kinds of things would you like to see someone in my position address?

I've already written one and I'll share it with you soon. But I know that there is strength in numbers. If you know someone who might have some insight, send them a link to this. Let's see what we can come up with together for the sake of all of our kids.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tip of the Day: Fear of the Unknown

I was talking to a woman the other day who had huge bags under her eyes. She was pale and worn thin from a lack of sleep. Her seven month old baby took an hour to be put to sleep, and then he was waking 3-4 times a night. He would only nap if she held him, and even then, only for 20-30 minutes. He cried every time she tried to get him to sleep.  

Both mother and child were miserable from this pattern, yet the mother wasn’t sure that she was ready to teach her child to go to sleep on his own. Her reason? “I just don’t know how he’ll react.” Ummm…He’ll probably cry at first, but how is that any worse than what she’s going through now?  

If you’re in a pattern with your child that you don’t like, make a decision to stop complaining and do something about it. Do some hard thinking about what your child really needs in the situation, then jump right in. You won’t always do things perfectly, but that’s ok. Kids are resilient. What isn’t good for them is a long suffering parent too afraid to take chances with something new.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tip of the Day: Too Much of a Good Thing

Kids will have you believe that they don’t enjoy structure. They will tell you – just as soon as they are able – that they want to sit around and play all day without having to do anything. Don’t believe them, for they know not what they say. As George Bernard Shaw said, "A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell."

Kids (and parents) thrive on structure. Every now and again, a day off in pajamas is a fun treat. But taken too often, this treat will make everyone sick to their stomachs. Kids like to feel a sense of accomplishment every bit as much as adults. Give them chores, set aside time for study, set limits on tv and computer usage. Sure, they’ll gripe at first, but remember – what kids say they want and what they really need are often two very different things.

Flippin Brilliant

By now, most of you may have already seen the Swagger Wagon video. If you haven't, you must. It's the perfect combination of self-depricating humor and marketing. Love it. I love it so much that I temporarily forgot about all of Toyota's legal and safety issues....for a minute.

No offense to the dad in the video - I'm sure he's a great guy and all - but enough with the hot moms on tv being married to goober guys already. It's just depressing.

Brain Function Related to Stress Levels?

In prepping for my new adventure this fall (I'll be returning to the classroom full time) I've been doing a little research. There's a new class for juniors and seniors that I'm developing called "Communicating in the Digital Age". 

In my studies, I ran across a very interesting article published by the University of California Berkeley. Their research was centered around the connection between poverty and the development of children's brain function. We all know that kids from middle and upper class homes tend to do better in school. There are a variety of reasons for this. What we didn't really know before this study (or at least, what I didn't know before I read this study) was how malleable our kids' brains really are.

The study indicated that the prefrontal cortex (the part responsible for choosing between right and wrong, governing social control, and controlling emotional urges) of lower income students resembled the brain scans of adults who had suffered frontal lobe damage from trauma. 

The researchers say that this is likely the result of two things: 

1. The lower level of cognitive engagement (fewer books, more television, less time in conversation) in poor homes.

2. The higher level of stress. 

It's pretty astonishing to see how environment and biology work together like this. The fact that our kids brains actually change their makeup based on what we do is humbling. I guess the good news is this:

It stands to reason that if we can increase the level of thoughtful engagement (giving them choices, actually seeking to understand where they are coming from, heck - simply talking to them at the dinner table) and decrease the level of stress in our homes, that our children will reap tremendous benefits.

That's pretty cool.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tip of the Day: What You CAN Do

Do you ever get paralyzed by the “big picture”? You know, the one that you really cannot control? I know that I do. And when I do, I ignore the smaller things in my day to day habits that I actually can control. Ironically, it’s the smaller things that usually lead to big results.

Tip of the Day: Eastern Wisdom

There's a famous quote attributed to JFK that I've heard isn't quite accurate in its translation. "The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis'. One brush stroke stands for the word danger; the other for opportunity."   Any of you out there fluent in Chinese are welcome to set me straight. But until then, I'm sticking to this one. I like it because of what it teaches me about parenting...  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Death of a Doormat

I am not one to cause a scene. I am married to one who enjoys causing scenes, and thus I avoid them like the plague. I have been known to drive away from a fast food establishment knowing that my order is wrong just because I don't want to make a fuss. Yeah, I know. It's pathetic. But something is happening to me the older I get...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tip of the Day: The Best of You

When your kids make a mistake - and they will - assume that they want to do better. This is especially true as kids start lying. Try this the next time you suspect that your child is twisting the truth: Look them straight in the eye and tell them...

To (Go) Nude or Not To (Go) Nude...

I just read an interesting article this morning called "El Mirage nudism case raises parenting questions". Apparently, an Arizona woman and her husband are being investigated for living the life "al fresco" around her two adolescent boys from a previous marriage. The best line of the article is this one:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tip of the Day: Let's Get Ready to Rumble

While in a fast food restaurant, a friend of mine saw a tyrannical preschooler running away from his mother and knocking food off of other people’s tables. As he screeched past her, she glimpsed his tshirt. It read: “Center of the Universe – and I know it.” 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tip of the Day: DO Get Carried Away

As parents, we have the tendency to take life a little too seriously. We allow the urgent things to consume most of our energy and passion while we stuff the important things to the back burner. This struggle is obviously not unique to our generation, but it is unique to the world of adults. Malcom Forbes once said, "A man who never gets carried away should be."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tip of the Day: Power Play

"If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment."

Marcus Aurelius Antonius (121 AD - 180 AD)

Often it’s the meanings that we attach to events or conversations that cause us the most pain. Think about it: Someone else’s child gets engrossed in conversation and forgets to pick up their plate after dinner. You playfully remind them to do so. What happens when your child does the same thing? Suddenly it MEANS something. They don’t respect you. They are lazy. You haven’t done a proper job in getting them to take responsibility around the house.

If you can extract yourself from this kind of thinking, you can free yourself up to look for the good in your child rather than squint for the bad. You actually give yourself the choice as to whether or not to take something personally. That's why taking just a moment – in the heat of the moment – gives you tremendous power.

A Little Perspective

My good friends David and Angie Fann lost their home and all of their possessions in the Nashville flood earlier this week.

I see these kinds of natural disasters on television all the time and I feel for the people affected. My heart hurt for those in Haiti. I prayed for those miners in West Virginia. But now that I actually KNOW the people involved in this disaster - everything has changed.

I have been in this home. I have sat at that table. I played that piano. I love these people. And everything they own is just gone.

I look around my house and I cringe at the way that I've taken all of my belongings for granted. How many times have I barked at the kids to pick up their junk? How many times have I lamented about not having just the "right" throw pillows? How often have I complained about "having" to organize my pictures? My sweet friends would give anything to have those problems. And after doing what I can to help them rebuild, I'm going to do the next best thing I can think of - I'm going to take a good long look at the life I lead and I'm going to just be thankful.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tip of the Day: Choose to Choose

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose."

Dr. Seuss

Too many times in life, when we are faced with a difficult situation, we tend to think in extremes. We either shut down or we blow up. While this is definitely understandable, it is ultimately weak.

We are much more powerful than that and the people we love deserve better from us. When you are pushed, you have the choice as to how to act. When you are slighted, you have the choice as to how to respond. It’s not easy, but it is better. So, give yourself a chance to choose by pushing the pause button next time instead of simply reacting.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tip of the Day: How to Be Really Rich

"The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own."

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) British Prime Minister

When we teach our children right from wrong, we are sharing the riches of our wisdom. That kind of teaching should be a vital priority for all parents. But it shouldn’t be the only priority. As parents, we should be looking for the unique qualities that our children seem to exhibit and we should be encouraging those as much as possible.

I think that many parents feel as if “looking for the good” in our children means ignoring the bad things they may do. Quite the contrary. Those things need to be addressed, but they don’t need to dominate your interactions with your child. Spend more time helping them find their own riches and watch them soak up yours as well.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tip of the Day: A Father's Biggest Job

"The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."

Author Unknown

This should go without saying, but the reverse of this is true as well. If you are blessed to have a two parent household, spend at least as much time cultivating that relationship as you do working on your parenting. To a child, there is nothing more comforting than knowing that all is well between mom and dad, so don’t allow your children and your concern for them to dominate your marital relationship.

If you are divorced and find yourself co-parenting, this quote is still just as true. By treating your child’s other parent (regardless of how you feel about them) with respect and love, you are giving your child a true gift. As difficult as it may be, work your hardest to keep that relationship positive so that your child doesn’t have to shoulder your burden as well as their own.

Doing the Hokey Pokey: Life with a Teen

Have you ever had one of those moments where you wonder, is this really happening? You know, something so strange that you are sure at any minute, you are going to see the Cat in the Hat playing badminton with Hilary Clinton and you'll realize that you are dreaming. I recently had one of those moments....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tip of the Day: War Wounds of Motherhood

"Think of stretch marks as pregnancy service stripes."

Joyce Armor, U.S. television writer

Jenny here. I wouldn't let Hal touch this one... That would just be wrong. The same kind of wrong that happens whenever men say the most ridiculous sentence they could possibly utter... "We're pregnant."

Back to the issue at hand...stretch marks. First there was the Battle of the Bulge, then D(elivery) Day. How could you NOT end up with some war wounds? Your body did an amazing thing and you should be proud of any collateral damage.

Now that you’re on the other side of the border and in the trenches for real, its time to reevaluate how you’re taking care of your equipment. Your bod is the only one you’ll get. Big or small, flab or fab, you’re doing a disservice to everyone around you if you consider it your enemy rather than your friend. Be thankful for the action you’ve seen and I guarantee you'll see the better kind of action in your future.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tip of the Day: End Game

ScreamFree Daily Tip

"If your children look up to you, you've made a success of life's biggest job."

Author Unknown

We all want our children to respect us. The difficulty is this: you can’t MAKE someone feel respect towards you. In fact, the more you try to force that respect, the smaller you become in their eyes. And it’s awfully hard to look up to small people.

So, think of this. Who do you look up to and why? I’ll bet that they are people who treated you with respect and through their actions and their integrity earned yours in return. A quiet calm in all of your actions will draw your children towards you and will enable you to access the best parts of yourself. Who won’t respect that?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tip of the Day: The Letter After Z

The ScreamFree Tip of the Day:

"My alphabet starts with this letter called ‘yuzz’. It's the letter I use to spell yuzz-a-ma-tuzz. You'll be sort of surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond 'Z' and start poking around!"

- Dr. Seuss (1904-1991)

We live in a culture of instant answers and immediate gratification. Have a question about something? Just jump online and find an expert. Ask your Facebook friends. Tweet your followers. You’ll find many “solutions” to common issues you may be having with your kids.

But the best solutions will come from within you: a place that takes time to develop and it takes patience to mature. So, don’t get frustrated when we won’t tell you exactly what to do in a specific circumstance. The more ScreamFree you become, the more outside the box you are willing to look. Being creative takes work, but the payoff is tremendous. It keeps you from being lazy and taking your relationship with your kids for granted.

Brand Spanking New Study

This week's Time magazine features an article that bears mention. It's called The Long-Term Effects of Spanking.

Spanking is one of those topics that we get asked about quite often, but we do our best to skirt the issue. Why? It's not because we are unsure of our position or anything of that sort. Rather, it's because the discussion is so rarely productive. Strong proponents of spanking are not usually open to even hearing what science is now saying about the practice. Instead, they shake their heads at what they deem as "permissive parenting" - i.e. anything besides spanking.

So, if you are a hard core spanker and you feel good about doing it. This post isn't for you. I recognize that whatever I say or whatever evidence I present, you will not agree with me. That's your right. But, if you are on the fence about spanking, or if you've done it begrudgingly and thought to yourself - "there has to be something better" - then you might want to keep reading.

The Time article by Alice Park describes the findings from a new study conducted by researchers at Tulane University. The study followed two groups of 5 year olds. One group was spanked twice a month and the other not at all. The findings were remarkable. "The children who had been spanked were more likely than the nonspanked to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, become frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against other people or animals." Just how much "more likely"?


That's 5-0.

I get the urge to spank. Trust me. The appeal is evident. It will generally stop the behavior you are bothered by. Quickly. But at what cost? Look again at the findings of that study. When we spank, we are creating the very outcomes that we are hoping to avoid.

We want our kids to be respectful. Spanking produces defiance.

We want our kids to have self control. Spanking creates a demand for immediate gratification.

We want our kids to be compassionate. Spanking causes frustration and temper tantrums.

Here's the truth. When we give up what we want most (see above) for what we want right now (our kids to behave, feel remorse, shut up) we fail. We have to work hard to remember what it is that we're doing. We are raising the next generation. We owe it to them to teach them right from wrong without resorting to the quick fix of spanking. Discipline is valuable - it is even necessary. But it doesn't have to be done with force. Face it, eventually you'll have to give up spanking anyway. Why not now?

I'd love to hear from you. What methods of discipline work for you? Let's start talking specifics and help each other out.

Tip of the Day: Your Window of Opportunity

"I was cesarean born. You can't really tell. Although whenever I leave a house, I go out through a window."

Steven Wright, U.S. comedian (1955- )

We are interesting creatures, are we not? We do strange things and if we look closely enough at our past, we can probably gain some insight as to why we do those things. But if we spend too much time trying to figure out the past, we’re missing the whole point. After all, explanations and excuses are two different things.

If you find yourself in a pattern that you don’t like with your spouse or your children, it’s fine to spend some time trying asking yourself why it’s happening. But a better question might be: Is it helpful?

If the answer is no, then take steps to change the pattern. You are in control of you, no matter what happened in your past. Period. Sure, change won’t come easy, but good things never come cheap.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Dust Has Settled

Wow. Has it been forever since I last posted or what?? I went all ostrich on this site for a while and buried my writer's brain in the new ScreamFree Marriage book. Well folks, it is finished (at least the first round of editing is) I am happy to report that Hal and I made it through the manuscript with our relationship relatively unscathed. Time to emerge with the coming of spring and get back to the fun stuff...blogging and talking to you.

We've had an eventful month or so with the highlight being our family trip to Washington, D.C. I know that in some of our articles, we say that the term "Family Vacation" is an oxymoron. I would like to go on record as officially changing MY position on that. I think there might be a small window when traveling with your kids might actually be easy and fun.

Theory: Between the ages of 9-13, kids are:
1. self-sufficient enough to feed, clothe, bathe, and amuse themselves.
2. curious about the world and interested in learning.
3. not yet loathing your very presence.

We are in the sweet spot of those years with Hannah and Brandon and we had an absolute ball with them. We stayed with wonderful friends, toured monuments, explored museums, ate loads of ice cream, and laughed until our sides hurt. All in all, it was fantastic. I actually returned from Spring Break refreshed and ready to face the world. And it's a good thing that I did, too, because awaiting me in the front yard when we pulled into it was an enormous sink hole from our septic tank. Mmmm, mmmmm, good.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rube Goldberg Parenting

I ran across this video by OK GO and it made me realize that this kind of "Rube Goldberg" experiment is a lot like parenting. How so? Let me count the ways...

1. Parenting is a series of simple tasks that we manage to make much more complicated than we need to.
2. One small action can have an enormous impact on our environment.
3. It is always EXTREMELY messy.
4. Many valuable items are destroyed in the process.
5. Despite all of the above things...It sure can be alot of fun.

But in a Rube Goldberg experiment like the ones the OK GO guys have set up, everything has to go just right in order for it to work. And that, thank goodness, is where the similarity ends. Parenting is about relationship, not destination. It is constantly learning and growing alongside your child so that when mistakes happen...and they do can respond to them in the best way possible.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I think I may have found the key to happiness last night. No, it wasn't the warmed Krispy Kreme donut I inhaled while no one was looking - (oh, come on, you know you've done that too). It was something far more simple and even more unexpected.

I unplugged.

I completely and totally turned my back on the 21st century. I closed my laptop, turned off the phone, hid the remote control, and curled up on the couch with (gasp!) a book. It was very strange at first. It was eerily quiet. Then I started hearing things that normally I tune out. I heard Hannah humming "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" while she scribbled away on her math problems. I heard Brandon scratch his head and sigh aloud as he struggled to come up with a clever ending to his Language Arts assignment. I heard Hal giggle to himself when he read a quote from the book he is reading.

It was my own little symphony of sounds to enjoy. I couldn't help myself. I just stopped reading and stared at the three of them in wonder. They were all so different, yet so alike. Their heads were all cocked in the same position and I swear to you, both Hannah and Hal's feel were keeping time to some imaginary drummer. It was then that Brandon snapped me out of my moment by looking up and pronouncing with disgust. "Ug, Mom! You have that ooey, gooey look on your face. You aren't going to try and kiss me, are you?"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kids Saving the World

I ran across this video today about Kids and the World's Problems. I just love how these kids think. It is both refreshing and awe inspiring at the same time. Refreshing because of their optimism and lack of intimidation. Awe-inspiring because my generation - that's you and me, peeps - are the ones who are supposed to be doing the things that they are dreaming about.

I think that many times we don't take the time to listen to our kids and the really really big things that they want to do. Kids may act like all they want is a lazy afternoon of video games and television, but deep down, they would rather make a difference in the world. Let's start opening our eyes to the possibility that our children can do bigger and better things than we've ever given them credit for doing...and guess can we.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And I Thought A Week Ahead Was Good

I don't know about you guys, but I hate grocery shopping. H.A.T.E. it. Maybe if I saw these guys down the aisle, I'd have a better time. But as it stands, I only seem to find the aisles filled with slow old ladies and screaming children (some of whom aren't with me). Besides, I always spend more money than I should even with a list) and I inevitably come home without the most important ingredient that I needed in the first place. Thus, I try my best to avoid doing it, which forces us to either eat out more than we should or try to make dinners out of stale saltine crackers and chicken noodle soup.

Fast forward to my new year's resolution. Figure out how to be a grownup when it comes to cooking and meal planning. I am a smart and capable woman, so why, on God's green earth should I be perplexed when the kids ask me, "What's for dinner?" Dinnertime doesn't sneak up on me. It happens about the same time every day. Those children we decided to have so long ago seemed hungry last night and chances are, they will be again tonight.

I came to the conclusion that while I may be good at several things, this was not one of them. So, I turned to my friend, the internet, to help me out. And I found it....the Holy Grail of meal planning and grocery shopping....the best things since sliced bread...the answer to my daily dilemma. Are you ready? This is going to rock your world...

I swear to you that I am not getting paid to rave about this site. I just love it so that I had to share. Parenting is hard enough without all those stupid chores and things around the house we have to do. So far this month, I have followed the meals, saved about $40 a week at the store, and stayed away from feeding my kids crap at dinner. Just thought I'd share. BTW, as organized as this all sounds, believe me, it's pretty easy. No extreme measures are allowed in my house. After all, I am NOT this woman...


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Me and My Samoan

So Sunday night, Brandon and I watched 60 Minutes. His idea, not mine. They ran a story on the improbable number of Samoans in the NFL. There are something like 28 of them currently playing the highest level of football from a town of about 65,000 total people. According to the story, if a boy is Samoan born, he is 56 times more likely to end up in the NFL than any other boy from any other ethnic group.

These kids play ball in donated helmets beat to hell on rock strewn fields. They have no state of the art weight room, no fancy locker room, and no locally sponsored scoreboard. But they have something that many of our kids of privilege stateside don't. Adversity.

These kids aren't handed anything. They work hard for their families before ever hitting the football field and they don't take anything for granted. They showed one boy in particular clearing a field with a machete before grabbing his books and heading to class.

True, the people of this heritage tend to be on the bigger side physically, but that doesn't do justice to the size of their hearts and their will. I was struck by how soft we allow our kids to be. We try to shield them from difficulty as if that does them any favors. We bend over backwards so that they have every single thing they "need" to succeed when in reality, all they need is the chance to struggle.

After the show ended, Brandon's eyes were wide. I turned to him and asked him what he thought about those boys and how hard they had to work for the sport they loved. He nodded his head and said with absolute wonder, "Wow. Did you see that dude's machete? That was awesome!!!"