Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: Practical Moms Unite (page 1 of 2)

Don’t Let Physical Distance Drive a Wedge Between Loved Ones

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People living in modern society often have to move around the country at some point during their lives. That could happen because they meet someone special, but it might also occur when the individual seeks a better job. Thanks to modern technology, there is no reason that physical distance should cause families to lose touch with each other these days. Any readers with family members who live more than a hundred miles away should benefit from the advice on this page. It’s vital that everyone works hard to keep in touch because family, friends and loved ones are important.

Send written letters with photographs

Lots of folks send emails or texts these days when they want to communicate. While they are cheap and efficient methods, there can be something sterile about receiving a typed message. With that in mind, family members should try their best to send handwritten letters to their loved ones whenever possible. The recipient will appreciate the effort, and it’s likely to mean more to them. That is especially the case if people remember to include photographs of their children. Experts from Silver Bee Photography say that even professional images are not going to break the bank, and they will let the loved one know someone cares.

Communicate via Skype and other video calling tools

Almost everyone has a laptop at home with a webcam, and so you can use these tools to keep in touch. There are many video calling software tools available on the market today that anyone can try. Best of all? Services like Skype don’t require any investment, and the calls go through the WiFi connection. That means there is no need to stress about inflated telephone bills. Also, the family members will get to see each other on the screen, which is fantastic for grandparents, aunties, and uncles with growing nieces and nephews. Some alternatives to Skype include:

 

Arrange family get-togethers at least once each year

Regardless of the distance, all family members should manage to attend a gathering once each year. Some folks might like to call it a reunion. Try to choose a location that’s in the middle of everyone, so that some people don’t have to travel much farther than others. It’s possible to save a fortune on hotel rooms if the entire group books together, and there are lots of other ways in which the family can save money, such as cooking some meals, sharing transportation costs or finding discounted tickets to activities online. At those gatherings and reunions, be sure to take as many photographs as possible and encourage all the kids to play together to create lifetime connections.

With the tips from this post, all families can manage to keep in touch and see each other regularly, even when they live hundreds of miles apart. People can come and go during most people’s lifetimes. However, family members will be there until the bitter end, and so it’s always worth making an effort. Sometimes our links to the past are an important part of creating a future that makes us feel happy and content. How have you kept in touch with family far away? 

Source for video chatting photo above

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Do You Have a Fussy Eater On Your Hands? These Tips Might Help

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Children are notoriously fussy in this day and age. So many mothers feel like they share something in common if their child is fussy with their food. Some children are worse than others; and while many parents try to figure out what they may have done wrong,  there really is no rhyme or reason as to why children develop such funny aversions to certain foods. That being said, there are some ways you can combat the fussiness and try and improve things for the better. I thought I would share with you some of the tips that may help.

Plant some fruit trees and vegetables

Many children like to get involved in everything, and many of them love spending time in the great outdoors. So take advantage of this exploring nature and do a little gardening with them. Plant some fruit trees or vegetable plants, and watch them grow together. This could help you to encourage children to try new things that they grew themselves, but what if you end up with a bumper harvest? Things like a pressure canner can help you preserve excessive fruit and vegetables, which means things like wastage become a thing of the past, and it may even save you some money in the process.  

Make the food more fun and appealing

One thing many parents struggle with is making the food look appealing. However, if it visually looks good, it may encourage children to try more foods. If the plate is uninviting, then children are less likely to want to eat it. Parents have great success with making smiley faces or little scenes on the plate. It might be worth a try. Thankfully, you can find a little inspiration online on websites like Pinterest.

Encourage them to cook with you

I think a great idea is to try and get your children to cook along with you. After all, they may love the idea of doing something with you (same idea as the gardening) and getting involved in the kitchen. It might be as simple as letting them put things in bowls or measuring out ingredients. Depending on their age, you can start to teach them new cooking skills. If they make it, they may be more enticed to eat it.

Relax during meal times

Many parents need to relax during meal time because children can sense tension and the anticipation that goes along with trying new foods. You may find that feeling frustrated with mealtimes, or even being over the top with emotions, can perhaps hinder your chances of success. Relax and go with the flow. 

A rewards chart

A reward chart may not work for everyone,but there have been many success stories of trying charts, specifically for new foods. Perhaps a sticker for every time they try a new food or finish their meal.

Positive encouragement

Finally, It is always good to remain positive and give positive encouragement when it is due. Sometimes, we can focus too much on the negative side of things, and this can have the opposite effect of what we are trying to achieve–getting children to be less fussy at mealtime. 

Perhaps you have more ideas to share. I would love to hear them.

 

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Having Fun With Your Kids

Say what? Why is having fun important? Besides providing meals, clothing, shelter, and education plus taking our kids to the dentist, doctor, and school, we should also have fun? Yes!

This post is inspired by our activities over the weekend and my subsequent thoughts. I’m being a little silly because of course, you know that having fun with your children is important. But let’s also be realistic–a lot of parenting is not fun. Even the things kids think are fun, like children’s museums, playgrounds, cartoons, are not fun for the parents–not really anyway. 🙂 You probably wouldn’t choose to go to the pumpkin patch with  face painting and bouncy houses if it weren’t for your kids. That’s all I’m saying.

Katie just before BINGO

But on Saturday and more and more, Katie and I are finding activities that we both enjoy, that we both have fun with, and that we are doing together.

I was thinking about how much parents adore and treasure those little newborn babies up until they can walk and talk and have to be entertained. Then there are a lot of parenting challenges to face every day–potty training, tantrums, 3 meals a day, bath, fights over bedtime, etc. But at 6,  I feel Katie is the most fun ever because now she can participate in activities that I actually enjoy, and we can do them together. Over the weekend, we played…B-I-N-G-O.

We were at a small festival for our community, and one of the activities was Bingo. I might not have encouraged her to play if it wouldn’t have been so hot outside; but because it was, and I wanted a break from the heat, we wandered into the school and found ourselves in a Bingo game with prizes–food prizes, like popcorn, candy, potato chips, cake mixes, and more.  What fun! We laughed; Katie almost cried until she won a game; we smiled; we got excited; we made jokes. We enjoyed ourselves–both of us.

This has happened a few other times this summer, where we were both engaged in what we were doing, and it wasn’t just me the parent watching her the kid doing something.

I encourage you, especially if you are a parent of an elementary school -aged kid or above, to find those activities for your family right now, too. Maybe it’s a mutual game you like to play. Maybe it’s a painting class. Maybe it’s a show on television (we also love to watch Masterchef).

And I know it doesn’t seem possible to love your child any more than you did when he or she first was born. But I swear, I love her more and more every day. I just love her little personality, the way she looks at the world, her hopes and dreams, her creativity, and it makes me excited as a parent, which is what gets us through all the times when we are wondering how we will ever manage to do this parenting gig.

What activities do you enjoy doing with your child?

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Keeping Your Sense of Self When You’re a Mother and Wife

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It’s fair to say, as women, we have drawn the short straw in many respects, and there’s no doubt we have it tough at times. Along with growing, carrying and giving birth to our babies, in most cases, we’re their primary caregiver, too. And as wonderful and special as this is, it does mean that everything else in our lives can be twice as hard as we’re fitting it around our children. One thing many women struggle with after having kids is losing their sense of self or identity. You’re no longer just you, you’re a mother. Your new name is “mom,” and your new role is of a parent and sometimes wife. But just because you are these roles (and as enjoyable as they are), it doesn’t mean you have to totally lose the person you once were. Keeping your own identity is important; here are a few ways you can go about it.

 

Take Care of Your Appearance

As a busy parent, the way you look often falls to the bottom of the list of priorities. In the morning, it’s probably all about getting your little one up and washed, fed and dressed. But you don’t have to give up on yourself entirely, and actually making a small effort with your appearance is one of the best things you can do for your self-esteem. Perfect a super quick makeup routine- some foundation, bronzer, and a sweep of mascara will instantly make you look your best without being too done up. Every now and again, visit the hairdresser. Have a style cut, which is easy to maintain and quick to do in the morning. The trick is to work with your natural texture, for example, instead of shoving it into a ponytail. If your hair is already straight, run it over with the straighteners for just a minute or two. This will make it look tidier, get rid of any frizz or fluffiness, and allow it to sit better. If your hair is curly, you could scrunch through with some mousse; it won’t take long, but you’ll feel much better being well presented. You probably have your comfy “mom uniform” that you wear to run errands and get stuff done around the house; but a few changes here could make all the difference, too. Instead of a tracksuit, for example, a pair of leggings with a jersey skater dress and a long cardigan would look cute but be just as comfortable. If you run into anyone you know or catch sight of yourself in the mirror, you’re likely to be far more confident, too.

Exercise

Keeping fit is useful when you have energetic children to look after! It will allow you to play with them far more easily and generally keep up. You probably don’t have all the time in the world to hit the gym five days a week, but there’s plenty you can do. Go on a power walk with the pram, or take a ball or frisbee to the park and run around with your kids. Instead of driving shorter distances, walk them instead, and go on family bike rides. You’ll maintain your figure and the endorphins will make you feel good.

Maintain a Social Life

You might have hung up your dancing shoes long ago, and a night out with friends these days might not be to a nightclub or bar like it once was. But keeping friends is so important; find activities that you all like to do now that you’re mothers and wives. Whether it’s play dates with the kids, brunch on a weekend, or an afternoon tea, keeping those connections there is so important. There are of course other ways to keep in contact with friends too; you could use a postcard app to send any funny or sweet pictures as a postcard right to their house. You could talk on the phone, video call, or of course, use social media. But having that support and friendship group around you will help you keep a grasp of your own identity.

Go Back To Work

One way you can keep and maintain your identity is through your job or career. As a parent you might not necessarily want to go back full time, when you have children to look after. If that’s the case, how about part time? You could even start a home business or do some freelance stuff online. Either way, maintaining your career interests is a good way to go, and bringing money into the home will make you feel good.

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Cutting The Cost of Parenthood

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From the moment you first find out you’re pregnant and that initial flush of joy fades, all moms-to-be find themselves asking the same question, “How am I EVER going to be able to afford this?” The good news is that nobody’s ever ready for the trials (and joys) of parenthood; and while of course some expectant parents are financially better off than others, it’s worth remembering that parents of all kinds of incomes have been getting by for as long as the human race has been around. That said, there’s no denying that a child can put pressure on your domestic finances. With the average cost of raising a child to the age of 17 approaching $240,000 , it’s enough to make any parent-in-waiting balk.

The good news is that the cost of parenthood can largely be ameliorated by a combination of ingenuity, thrift, invention, and common sense. While the default setting for many new parents is always “worry”, cutting financial costs is one of the many ways in which moms and dads can make life easier for themselves. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Never replace when you can repair

We live in a culture of disposability, where the pervasive logic is that when something breaks, it should be replaced rather than repaired. This is a shame because with a wealth of knowledge available to new parents through digital means, you can learn to fix just about anything from torn clothes to broken toys. While kids grow out of clothes quickly, you can learn to make alterations that can significantly expand their lifetime, and it’s worth looking into different types of embroidery machines. At a younger age, when kids grow emotionally attached to their clothes yet haven’t learned to be fashion snobs, this is particularly useful.

Plan your meals and batch cook

Whether you’re a parent or not, one of the surest ways to waste money is over-reliance on takeout and restaurants. Sure, everyone loves a treat after a hard day’s work, but a home cooked meal can rival anything bought at a restaurant at a tiny fraction of the cost. You can make a family night in just as special with candles and music without paying ludicrous restaurant prices.

You can also make substantial savings at the supermarket by shopping smart and avoiding impulse purchases. You can plan your week’s meals and shop accordingly, plus save time and effort by cooking in batches and making a bolognese or curry sauce, chili, or lasagna that will last the family for several meals. Reducing meat and dairy and upping the veggies will ensure that your weekly shop lasts longer, too.

Get creative with vacations

Family vacations are often perceived as way more expensive than they need to be. A great family vacation requires only three things; fun, family, and love. Everything else is bells and whistles. Taking a road trip not only saves on expensive flights, but allows your family much more freedom and control over your vacation, reducing the risk of stress and things that can go wrong.

Mom and son photo at the top of the post found here

 

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Money Myths That Cost Single Parents Greatly

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Maintaining financial health is hard work at the best of times, but it can be especially difficult when you’re a single parent. After all, those life commitments could stop you from landing the dream job while the costs of bringing up children continue to rise each year. In truth, it doesn’t make things easier when you fall into the common traps.

A better understanding of the full picture gives you a far better chance of keeping your head afloat. Here are some of the commonly perceived problems, along with the best ways to overcome.

Myth 1: It’s You vs the World

Splitting up from a partner is emotionally difficult, and it’s only natural to concentrate on yourself and the kids. This is perfectly normal from an emotional standpoint. Regarding the financial outlook, though, help is at hand. Whether it’s support for medical bills, grocery shopping, or anything else, you are entitled to this assistance and should not feel any guilt in taking it. This is one of the reasons you paid those taxes throughout your working life.

In addition to the help provided from the state and discounts from businesses, you deserve support from your ex. Even if you ended the relationship acrimoniously, the children remain a joint responsibility.  If you can’t work this out between you, legal advisors are there to help. In the meantime, nonprofit credit counselors can assist with other decisions.

Myth 2: Poor Credit = No Hope

When you become a single parent, it is very easy to fall behind on bills. Sadly, it only takes a short amount of time for your credit rating to be badly hit. While you should make the necessary moves to start repairing that broken score, it will take some time to get back to where you once were. However, that doesn’t have to stop you from gaining temporary relief. Let’s face it: the immediate future is where most of those problems lie anyway.

Adjusting to life as a single parent can take a few months. Small pay day loans can help you get through those difficulties even when your credit score is poor. It may be that you can survive without that support. Nonetheless, knowing that the safety net is there can make a world of difference to your frame of mind. During this time, peace of mind is probably the most important weapon at your disposal.

Myth 3: Luxuries are Off Limits

 As a single parent facing financial fears, getting your priorities in order is essential. Repaying debts and keeping the household afloat should be job one. However, it’s equally important to remember that life is for living, too. You and your children deserve happiness, which is why it’s vital that you avoid overlooking the need for treats.

With a little creative thinking, it’s still possible to take a winning vacation when funds are a little tight. Otherwise, camping trips and cheap days out, including walks and picnics, can be equally fun. First and foremost, it’s a key aspect of giving your children the upbringing that they deserve. In reality, that special time together is what will get you through the tough emotional patches also. You are doing a great job, and those magical moments are your just rewards. Do not forget it.

 Myth 4: Working Is Pointless

Being a single parent does throw a spanner into the works regarding your career. Time constraints mean that you’ll either need to work part-time hours or hire a babysitter. Meanwhile, working may sometimes force you to sacrifice certain entitlements. In turn, this can leave you feeling that working long hours for minimal financial gain offers very little benefit. It’s not all about finance, though, and the emotional rewards and setting an example for the kids should not be ignored.

Depending on your location, it may be possible to find alternative employment that doesn’t impact entitlements. This means that you’ll see the full financial rewards of hard work. Otherwise, you could look at the prospect of starting a home-based company. There are thousands of inspirational single parents out there who have done the same. Whatever you do, losing that ambition altogether is never the solution.

Myth 5:  Small Savings Are Futile

If money is tight, regardless of your relationship status, you often enter panic mode. Therefore, you’ll almost certainly try to find the big changes that could generate huge financial influences. While these elements are vital, you must also acknowledge that the small switches often make the greatest impact. This is especially true when it comes to spending.   

Trade your contract cell phone for a Pay-As-Yo-Go deal. Remove your expensive TV package and buy a Netflix subscription instead. Run a price comparison on electricity bills or home insurance quotes. Those simple tricks may not feel hugely significant on their own. Cumulatively, though, they can completely transform your financial health. Better still, those saving habits will follow you for the rest of your life.   

Myth 6:  The House Is Everything

Keeping hold of assets clearly has advantages, and possessions don’t come more valuable than the home. However, it’s only a property, and downsizing isn’t the end of the world by any means. Paying extraordinary running costs when you could be just as happy in a smaller space is very foolish. Besides, starting a new chapter can often be emotionally attractive for newly single parents.

The newer, smaller property might not boast the same financial value. But the capital this move frees up could make all the difference as you aim to keep the kids fed, clothed, and happy. There’s nothing wrong with staying in the old marital home if you can afford to. Ultimately, though, suffering for the sake of a few bricks is not the answer. There are far more important things in life, and seeing your children smile is one of them.

Source for calculator Image: above.

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Family Finance Failures: Where Could You Be Going Wrong?

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Being a single parent often means that every decision for the family is solely on one pair of shoulders, and it can be quite overwhelming and pressure to ensure that we make the best decision for all concerned. Finances are just some of those burdens and decisions we all have to face, whether a single parent or not, and often they can be depressing as well as making us feel like we are scratching for every dime we have. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We all have family finance failures, and in some cases, we can continue to make the mistakes over and over again. I thought I would share with you some of the most common issues any one of us can face, and hopefully offer you a few tips to help you take steps to financial success.

It can all start with you

Often some of the bigger financial failures we can all experience start with us, and mostly that can mean debt. However, debt isn’t always a bad thing; but if it isn’t manageable, then it could be causing more harm than good to your credit profile. If you feel that your financial past is significantly impacting your financial future, then it may be time to take action and seek the help from websites like creditrepair.company. Specialists in the field can help to repair any damage to your history that can then ultimately help you move forward with your finances, offering you a little breathing space with your outgoings.

Now let’s tackle any debt we have

Once your credit file is on the mend, it is always worth placing a huge focus on any debts you may have. Of course, many of us can have a large debt like a mortgage; but this focus should be more on the smaller things like personal loans and credit cards. The more you have, the more interest you are paying; and in many cases, the rate can vary from one credit account to another. Look at your bills and focus on paying off the one that costs the most money, while still keeping up repayments with the others. Reducing the debt will ultimately free up income on a month by month basis. If you have the option, consider consolidating all of your debt into one monthly payment like a loan. A simple repayment plan with one lot of interest being charged.

Are we paying too much for our regular bills?

All of us are happy to pay out for the bills we need to run a home or keep us going, such as energy bills or insurance policies. But are we paying too much? When was the last time you checked a competitor company to see what they were offering? We can all get complacent with our bills, but what we fail to see is that loyalty doesn’t always pay off. So it is important to ensure that you compare other companies and switch providers if you can pay less for the same thing. It’s a no-brainer, and this one exercise can significantly reduce your outgoings.

I hope that this helps you to overcome some of the family finance failures we can all be dealing with.

calculator photo source

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Advice From Grandma: I Am Listening

Grandmas love to spoil grandkids and love to give advice. If some of you follow me on WOW! Women On Writing or Facebook, you know that I’m currently watching Gilmore Girls from episode 1 to the reunion show (exclusively for Netflix, that takes place 10 years later in good ole Stars Hollow). This is the best show for an example of “Grandmas love to give advice” because Emily Gilmore constantly shares her wisdom and her unwanted opinion with Lorelai, her daughter and mother of a teenager/young adult.

Don’t worry–my mom (thankfully) is nothing like Emily Gilmore; but when Katie was first born, she loved to share her advice. And daughters can be stubborn–Why do we not listen more? Most of the time, the advice is solid, comes from the heart, and can be quite true.

In my case, we lived with my mom the first 10 months of KT’s life, so that’s another reason why she often shared her opinion from: “You can’t let that little thing (her grandchild) cry it out” to “I never breastfed you. Why are you killing yourself to do this? Give it up.” So, we didn’t always agree on everything…but here are a couple of solid pieces of advice, where I think she is exactly right AND I want to pass on this wisdom to you.

  1. When I had you, I wish I wouldn’t have worried so much about my house being clean.   I have taken this one to heart. No, we don’t live in a pigsty, but I definitely don’t clean as much as my mom used to when I was  younger. I try to keep things neat as possible; but if my daughter seems like she needs my attention or something fun to do pops up, I will put cleaning aside for another day. The dirt is not going anywhere!
  2. Meals time should not be stressful. My mom did not force me to eat food I did not want to eat. Now some of you might not agree with this philosophy–and you take this stance instead: Kids will eat if they are hungry enough. But I have raised Katie like my mom did me, where food is concerned. Is she the best eater? No. But she does eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, and we are adding to her main dishes all the time. Recently, without complaint we added to her diet: salad, pasta salad, Morning Star veggie patties and turkey (she ate this before but she would complain). As I grew older (once I hit first grade like my daughter is now), I started eating more foods, and now I eat just about anything (within reason). So at mealtime, I give her food I know she will eat. I add foods every once in a while–she must try it and rate it, but  I make sure there is other food on the plate that she will eat. By the way, 9 times out of 10, she tries the new food before eating anything else.
  3. Enjoy every moment because they grow up too fast.  Not exactly original–I know…but it’s good advice. And I try to remind myself of it constantly because already it seems like I blinked and went from breastfeeding to driving her to school for first grade.

What advice do you take from your parents about their grandkids? 

 

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Family Fun in Fort Worth

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If you’re looking for an interesting place to take a vacation with the family in the US, Fort Worth, Texas, might not be your first, second or even third thought, but it is actually a great place for family fun.

Just take a look at these amazing family-friendly attractions that are located in the area to see why it’s a great choice when you have kids in tow:

Forest Park Miniature Railroad

For some reasons, kids just love trains, and they’re sure to love the Forest Park Miniature railroad, which has been entertaining families since 1959. When you hop onboard the mini-train for a fun-filled five-mile round trip through the Trinity Park and TCU Zoo area, you’ll be treated to spectacular views the whole family can appreciate.

SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium

The SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium In Fort Worth is an attraction not to be missed thanks to its distinct family vibe and the over 300 species of interesting marine life, exotic animals and tropical birds, many of which you can get up close and personal with. Educational and fun-filled, this is one attraction that, once visited, you will never forget.

Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Image source

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was set up to provide amazing learning experiences for people of all ages. Within its impressive castle-like walls, you’ll find the awe-inspiring Noble Planetarium, where you can explore the expansive cosmos at leisure; the DinoDig, where you can dig for fossils, like a great archaeologist; and the Omni Theater, which has its own immersive IMAX Dome to spark the imagination and teach you about the mysteries of science and history.

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge

If your kids are animal lovers, they’re sure to enjoy a trip to the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, which not only goes a long way to creating the Fort Worth of times gone by with its prairies, wetlands and forests, but which is also home to some pretty special animals, including imposing brown bears. You can hike the 26,000 acres (probably not all of it) at your own leisure, immersing yourselves in the beauty of nature on one of the many fantastic hiking trails within the Center.

Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame

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The Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame is sure to be a winner with little boys, in particular. This museum of sorts is dedicated to preserving the memory of the state’s finest cowboys and cowgirls who were amazing at rodeo sports, ranching and basically being tough ole Texans. Of particular interest is the collection of Old West wagons and the Exploratorium, where children can learn a few cowboy skills of their own.

Fort Worth Zoo

Kids love zoos, and the Fort Worth Zoo will not disappoint them with its collection of exotic animals, including primates, rhinos and lesser flamingoes! You can easily spend the whole day here and never get bored.

Fort Worth really is a kid’s paradise. It’s wild, informative, and most importantly lots of fun. The little ones will love it.

Photo at the top from Flickr here.

 

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A Lesson for The First Time at the Ocean: Get to the Root Problem

This summer, Katie and I went on a fabulous little trip to visit one of my best friends, who has a condo in Ocean City, Maryland. And this was Katie’s first time to see the ocean. It was her first time on a beach. It was her first time to go into the ocean. And it was the least favorite part of her trip.

How can this be? I love the ocean. I receive energy and rejuvenation from the sound of the waves and the seagulls. The air feels crisp; and in spite of the sand, which I grant you can be an annoyance, I love the way it feels at the ocean.

And the first night, Katie did, too.

Ironically, there was a storm rolling in, and we only had a few minutes for the girls to play, but this was by far her favorite experience at the ocean.

The next day, when the storm had rolled on through and it was bright and sunny, we were in a different spot on the beach, the waves crested quite high, and they knocked her right off her feet. She didn’t like it. But somehow I convinced her, rather easily, that the next day, nearer to the condo, it would be better, and so she trusted me and stayed excited to go in the ocean.

I probably don’t have to tell you that the next day, nearer to the condo, the waves knocked her over again; and this time, she was done. She had a full-fledged “I hate the beach” meltdown, and I couldn’t get her to do anything. I couldn’t get her to stop crying. I couldn’t get her to walk on the beach and look for seashells. I couldn’t get her to wiggle her toes in the sand or build a sandcastle. The only thing she wanted to do was leave the beach. Luckily, we were only 5 minutes from the condo, so we could easily do this; and after I tried and failed, that’s what we did.

But I was angry. This is not one of my best parenting moments. I didn’t want to leave the beach. I had been waiting for months (since we made these plans) to jump in the ocean with her and experience this with her. I had been waiting to enjoy one of the places I love that I don’t get to visit often, living in the Midwest, and I was ready to relax. None of that happened, and so most of my anger came from frustration that things didn’t work out the way I expected them to.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! 

Once I calmed down and she did, too, I realized that I wished I would have handled the situation differently. It turns out her meltdown mostly came from fear–she was scared of the ocean. And let’s face it, the ocean is a big, scary place, where a lot can go wrong. And my anger wasn’t anger at her not enjoying the ocean, it was that I was disappointed it didn’t all go as planned–and that, my friends, seems to be where a lot of our anger and unhappiness comes from all the time.

When we decided to be parents, we also decided that a little person is in our care, and their needs come before ours. I made the right decision, of course, to take her back when she wouldn’t calm down, but I wished I would have found out sooner how she was reasoning and how scared she was, and maybe everything would have worked out differently. Maybe I could have convinced her to look for some seashells with me and had a contest to find the biggest or prettiest one.

So what did I learn? First, I learned that my daughter (and probably a lot of your children, too) have a reason for their behavior. Most of the time, they are not difficult for the sake of being difficult. They are scared, tired, hungry, worried, and so on. And if you can get to the root of the problem, maybe you can diffuse the situation somewhat by taking care of that root problem. Second, I have to watch my expectations. I am dealing with a six-year-old, super smart, strong-willed, beautiful child, and she is not going to like the same things I do. I don’t have to sacrifice everything I like because she might not, but I do have to be realistic in that some things adults just like better than kids.

It all goes more smoothly when I let go of expectations and just be.

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