Archive for the 'family tips' Category


tip: read to children

My children are my guinea pigs. My children are my laboratory. Over the course of 16 years of parenting, I have come to realize it’s nothing more than a great experiment. I have poured into their beakers my ideas, dreams, thoughts, philosophies. That has caused a unique chemical reaction with each individual child’s inborn traits. Life has turned the heat up on the Bunsen burner through outside circumstances. It’s all very thrilling. Experimental. And highly unstable. I advise you to wear protective eye gear around us.

Trial and error has been a good teacher to me over the years. Mostly as it pertains to error, but if there is any one area where I have had consistent and amazing results in my specimen, it’s been with stories. I read to them as infants. Let them chew on board books, practicing the hinging codex move until it became second nature. Open book. Close book. Open book. Close book.

I raised them with books all over the house. They saw me reading. I took them to libraries. I read to them. Out loud. From the beginning of their existences, I read to them all. And guess what? They all LOVE reading. They actually get in trouble for reading, but that’s a blog for another time.

They not only love reading, they live it. Stories come alive to them. Some where deep in their minds and souls. They weep over characters. They run around in the yard pretending to be in their books. They tell other children about their books like little lore masters in astonishing detail.

Long after the days when they can and do read heaps of books to themselves, I read to these grown ones as well. Let us not neglect the oral tradition. There is something primal about having a story artfully and passionately read aloud to you. I did this to my kids. In my lab. I injected them with this serum called literacy. It somehow mutated and produced super soldiers who not only could read stories, but loved reading stories, loved learning, independently pursued some Platonic cave of wonders without having to be told to want to. Self motivated learners came from invested readers came from helpless little tots being held captive with a book on my knee.

OK, call it brain washing. If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.



blip: a real way to support the troops

Happy veterans day.  If you’re a veteran, you deserve to be honored.  Period.  But much like Mother’s Day, this official national day of recognition might be the only time all year society or even your own family gives a partial damn about what it cost you personally to achieve such an honor.  So milk it.  Tell your war stories.  Even if they only are stories about drunken expeditions to Tijuana, they still need to be told.  Remember on this day all the influences, the personalities, the sights seen, experience gained.  For most veterans, the service was where they grew up and became a bona-fide adult.  Horizons were expanded.  Adventures were embarked upon.  Life courses were altered, re-calibrated and set.  The military was, is, and will always be a part of who you are.

For those of us who cannot be counted among the ranks of veterans, this day is also for us.  How often do we give thought to the fact that there is an armed force in place sworn to protect our liberty.  Our family. Our way of life.  Unseen on the outskirts of our daily existence, they a large part of the reason why we can wake up every day unhampered by the same kinds of issues faced by most people in the rest of the world.  They are individuals who made a choice and signed a binding contract that restricts their own freedoms in order to bolster yours.  This day should begin with reflection upon that staggering fact.  And hopefully what follows will be a genuine heart-felt gratitude and awareness of how important veterans really are.  Appreciation should lead to verbalization.  Thank all the members of your family, your friends, your neighbors, random people you see in uniform on the street.  But I want to take it even beyond words.  What can you do right now, today, to show true thankfulness and tangible encouragement to soldiers?

As a mom, I can’t help but want to show the troops the same kind of love I have for my own sons.  It might not be too many years until my sons themselves decide they want to enlist.  If my sons were serving in the military in active duty, or just stationed somewhere far away doing training in peacetime, I’d want to obsessively send them reminders of the home and life they are sworn to protect with their lives.  Well guess what?  A mom like me and maybe like you has already done that. is a website devoted to sending care packages to troops.  They tell you a very specific and very concrete way you can make a real gesture to show your love.  To me this is the perfect way a family can sit down together and cultivate some real thankfulness for freedom, America, veterans, and our troops.  And they can take that thankfulness, wrap it up in a bow, and ship it off.  Somewhere a serviceman or woman will be extremely blessed.  A small token of thanks for a large debt of freedom, but meaningful to all parties.


blip: bad day emergency preparedness


This is one of those weeks I find myself digging ever deeper into my Mary Poppins-esque carpet bag of tricks to combat the doldrums. Everyone should have a bad day strategy. I also recommend a shitty week emergency plan and also a life crisis survival kit. And what precisely does one pack in ones preparedness bunker for inevitable craptastic times?

A spoon full of sugar does help the medicine go down. I like gummy bears in my stash because they won’t melt and will stay fresh probably through a nuclear war. I’ve also heard tell of emergency hoarded Nutella, chocolate of all descriptions, twinkies and ho ho’s, cookies. Alcohol is pretty much pure sugar, but be sure you aren’t at risk for pesky dependency issues before using a wine bottle for SOS drinking, please.

Once sugar for the body is procured, find something sweet to soothe your mind, emotions, and spirit. 911 bible verses to call upon. Photographs, memories, this might be the place to keep your thankfulness journal. Counting blessings helps. It truly does. Make a list of things you love and cling to that list on dark days. High on the list for me is anything artistic. Cooking, painting, crafting, coloring in a coloring book, sketching, writing a poem: there is power in art and also healing. Today I was able to recover from a nose dive with the help of the art work of my children. You can see in the photo above some passionate renderings of their heroes: Star Wars, X-Men, Harry Potter, The Incredible Hulk. There is such enthusiasm and unadulterated fun in these crayon creations, it’s impossible for a heart to be downcast looking at the awesome little drawings.

So let this be your cue to prepare a battle plan to combat the Armageddon of a really bad day or a grey streak in your life. Don’t be defenseless in such an attack: know your emergency exits. Know how to put on the oxygen mask and use your seat as a flotation device. Know that the antidote for evil days is usually the truest joys of your heart. And a Reese’s peanut butter cup doesn’t hurt either. And of course a hug, go get you one of those immediately. Here’s a virtual hug to tide you over. ((<3))


blip: the 12 days of Thanksgiving

Fa la la la la. La la. La. La! No!!!!!!  I’m not skipping over November head long into holiday madness, though if I lived my life according to retail store displays, I would be.  I don’t want to lose November, I will not surrender her to the holly jolly madness and temptation to put up the tree the day after Halloween.  I’m not ready to give up pumpkin, apple, caramel, cider, and all those spicy autumnal flavorings.  Get that peppermint out of my sight! I want fall, extended fall, fairest of all the seasons, and I will stand my ground and beat you upside the head with a drumstick should you attempt to persuade me otherwise!!!

The problem is, Christmas seems to have so many more awesome ways to celebrate it than Thanksgiving.  There isn’t a whole lot of fanfare to be had for what is increasingly becoming an old fashioned, rustic ritual of overeating.  Thanksgiving carols? Ummmm…. no cute little jingles about sweet potatoes who saved the day or pilgrims shining on high.  At best we could break out the hymnal and fold our hands and sing songs of thou gratefulness….which might actually be a cool idea, but it’s very stoic and stern. Very 1694.  No one is in a huge hurry to jump into that kind of activity (no one that I know anyway).  Hmmmm.  How can we make Thanksgiving a time of true celebration, that rivals the revelry of next month’s merriness? How can we build up anticipation of the big day? How can we draw out the crucial elements of being thankful for harvest and bounty and blessings?  Our ancestors rocked this holiday.  I say we take it back and make it awesome once again.

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is advent.  I live to count down the days to the big #25.  Yay hypothetical birthday of my man, Jesus.  Every year we do it a bit differently and it has become a hallowed tradition in our home.  Why not do this for Thanksgiving, I thought to myself.  Well, it’s Nov 4th, I’ve missed the whole counting down from the beginning of the month cue.  But there’s still time to salvage that and make it into “the 12 days of thanksgiving!”  This year that is going to kick off on November 11, so I have an entire week yet to plan.  Ha-ha! I feel the awesome juices flowing even now…..

I have 12 little boxes.  I plan to stuff them with 12 little activities, meditations, treats, and tokens that will draw us together as a family when we open one each night counting down to Thanksgiving day.  Maybe we’ll write our own Thanksgiving carols.  “On the first day of Thanksgiving, my true love gave to me…..a tofu vegetarian turkey.” We roll demented like that in my family, make your celebration reflect who you are.  Take your time, Christmas isn’t going anywhere.  And may the advent of this fall holiday bring you a deeper time of togetherness, a deeper understanding of gratitude, and hopefully a deeper slice of pumpkin pie.


TIP: Respect. The. Mom.

The first thing you need to know about me: I am pro-mom.  Before we go mining through the ether for every little secret on how to improve the slightest nuance of your existence, let’s start with the  obvious.   As in your very origin.

You are only here sucking down oxygen today because your mom made that possible.  You’ll never fully understand the sacrifices and dirty work she endured to procreate and raise you, so don’t bother.  Even if your mom was totally belligerent and neglectful, you still owe her  respect for bringing you into this world.  You’ll find it will always go better for you in this life if you (say it with me now) Respect. The. Mom. 

How to accomplish this?  Putting just a slight amount of effort into showing your mom you (A.) remember she is alive (B.) appreciate all she has done for you (C.) want to do something nice for her and it isn’t even a holiday and (D.) realize the amazing fact that she somehow, against all odds, managed to raise a considerate human being will yield tremendous returns on your time investment.  In this era of the flagging American dollar, mommy points may prove to be a more valuable commodity to invest in and store up, here’s a quick list of easy things you can do RIGHT NOW TODAY to rack up major mommy points:

*send a free e-card

*call her with plenty of time to let her talk about whatever she wants

*come over and clean something

*take her somewhere beautiful

*If she nags you simply say “you are right” (magically ends nagging)

*sit quietly with her and “just be”

There is no “one size fits all” gesture for expressing love and appreciation to any woman, so keep your mom’s individual likes in mind for optimal impact.  This is a spring board to inspire you to come up with your own tailored ways that cultivate a habit of maintaining one of your most valuable and important relationships.  Your mom gave up a little piece of herself most likely in the process of bringing up kids.  The most meaningful thing you can offer her is to acknowledge that fact.  Making much of yo’ mama on a regular basis does something deep and magical for her, but it also adds a level of self fulfillment in your soul that can’t be had elsewhere.

I hope it goes without saying MEN that the mother of your children deserves all the respect in the world and more and you should honor and appreciate her as you would your own mum.  Why not take it one step further and celebrate all moms you know, or even total stranger moms you encounter in your daily outings?  Nothing fuels up the mother ship like a positive comment from a passer by:

*what a beautiful baby!

*wow, you’re doing a great job with those kids!

*you have so much patience, I admire that  (great one for the mom whose kid is melting down in public)

*or even just smiling warmly at a mom out with her brood

I can’t think of a more ancient, more demanding, and more thankless vocation than motherhood.   Respect it.  Respect. The. Mom.

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