Tag Archives: children

The Truth of About “Going Screen-Free” this Summer!

time_unplug_children_summerI wish I could say it was a great epiphany or the culmination of the study of great parenting journals that helped me arrive at the decision to go screen-free for the summer.  No, it was nothing like that at all, it was an honest to goodness, full-blown, hissy fit. One of those not to be proud of parenting moments wherein you make a loud, impactful declaration from which you cannot back down.  Such is the birth of our screen free summers! Continue reading


Instantly Outnumbered

copies from old computer backed up oct 08 085As my book nears its completion (yup almost there, really, I’m pretty sure). I thought I would add some excerpts to spark your interest or perhaps amuse you.

“Instantly Outnumbered”

(excerpt from Barbies in the Horse Bin, Living Better with Organized Children)

I knew that I was having twins by my 12th week of pregnancy. I did not know that I had two babies to care for until they were wheeled into the recovery room, side by side, in one bassinet. They were just lying there, two hats, two blankets, two babies.

My memory of this moment is one of the most vivid of my life. I took a deep breath and apparently said aloud, “there are two of them”.  At this point the nurse looked at me with sheer amazement and asked, “Didn’t you know you were having twins?” As I recovered from the initial shock of seeing two babies, together, I replied, “Yes, yes I knew I was having twins, I just didn’t KNOW I was having twins.”

And so it begins, my new normal, instantly outnumbered by babies, forever changed and yet forever blessed. While I had always considered myself to be a relatively organized person, this new normal would challenge everything I thought I knew about being organized. I was instantly out-numbered, counting the two year old sister, there were three babies, all in diapers!

When people saw us coming, triple carriage and all, the most frequent comment I received was “Oh, God bless you.”  My response was always the same, “He already has.”  The twins will be 14 next week and together we have learned to live better everyday.    My mantra when they were young was: “You will never miss out on anything just because you are twins, we will make it happen.”  So far so good since we became instantly outnumbered!

Mom’s Christmas Card Photos ~ A tradition I love…

DSC02071Every year, for 16 years straight, we have managed to take a family photo for the Christmas card.  Sometimes it is the whole family of five, most of the time it is just the kids, and every now and then it includes one or two canines. This year was no exception and below is a quick glimpse of our “organized chaos” in 2013.  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=711006615591054

The family photo for Christmas is not a unique tradition by any means, it is however one that I have fiercely protected year after year.  Like many good ideas, and well meaning intentions, traditions for us  have started and stopped over the years.  For some inexplicable reason I remain adamant about keeping this tradition and it wasn’t until I was questioned about it this year, that I truly realized why.

Each year the photo is blown up to an 8×10 size and framed for the living room wall.  Sixteen photos now proudly hang, some are great pictures and some, well, I would possibly retake them, if I could.  It is not just the sequential marking of the passage of time that each photo represents, it is definitely something more.

One of my teenagers asked me, in that oh so delightful teenage tone, “why do we have to do this every year?”  I really had to think about my answer.  The truth is, it is the story behind every photo, not so much the photo itself.

It is the full family version, taken at the local portrait studio, that has the parents laughing, but all three kids looking petrified.  I explained to my children that their dear auntie was helping that year and that she was jumping up and down and making faces behind the cameraman.  Obviously, by the blank stares on your little faces in the photo, you did not find it nearly as funny has your parents did.

There is the year, I thought putting all of you  in a large Santa sack was a “cute” idea. IMAG0858 Thankfully the picture was taken prior to the tipping over of the large sack causing heads to knock together and ending in tears.

There is the photo taken at the boardwalk of one of our lovely beaches.  Look closely and you will see that everyone is freezing cold, red noses, watery eyes and hugging themselves.  That is the year that your Papa died, unexpectedly,  in October.  That could have been the year that the photos stopped, but something made me decide that a picture by the ocean he loved was just what we needed.  Too bad it is so chilly in December, in New England!

I showed my eldest child the very first Christmas photo.  It was taken on the IMAG0855 (2)floor of her bedroom in our first apartment, a place she does not remember.  Pre-digital days, this photo required 24 attempts on a roll of film that was rushed off to the pharmacy in the hope that one would come out okay.  You took off your hat, the dog (Norman Bates) lost his bow, in some pictures you crawled away and in others he put his head down.  Twenty-four takes and one success!    I would later make a collage of these photos on one of the earliest versions of Photoshop with the help of a middle school student who was serving detention in my classroom.

My daughter now uses the photo as her facebook profile and my sons were intrigued by my willingness to let a student on detention “work off” his misbehaviors.  I also had to explain how “rolls of film” worked and why you didn’t snap a photo of just anything.

So after wrestling with our dogs for the 2013 photo and reliving the history of past photos with my family, I was left thinking, when should I stop?  When they go to college? When they have families of their own? Next year, when the boys enter high school?

The more I thought about it the more I realized that I don’t think I will stop.  There will be a reason to be home from college for an afternoon, or to stop by when their work schedules get busy, or to visit when they have children of their own.  It’s time for Mom’s Christmas Card Photo – a tradition she loves.

Spanglish – “No Space Between US!”

Spanglish quote

I love the unexpected.  I especially love when life gives you a moment in time that is so truly ordinary and void of expectation and suddenly (or even slowly) it turns into a pivotal moment.  An aha moment if you will, a moment of clarity and understanding.

Now, I never could have anticipated being thankful for the nasty cold virus that descended upon my house this past Spring.  As it made its way through the house, I suddenly found myself home on the couch with my teenage daughter, a shared box of tissues between us.

TV remote in hand, we found the movie Spanglish about to start.  I knew that I had seen it before but honestly my recollection of movies is sad at best.  I remember saying something like, let’s watch it, I think it’s pretty good or at least funny.  (A little sidebar from this post.  If you have not seen this movie I highly recommend it.  As a middle age parent, I think I related to every character at some point, even the drunken grandmother.  I included the trailer at the bottom of this post…let me know what you think.)

By the end of the movie the tissues were for more than the runny noses.  You see the end of the movie is a seen between a teenage daughter fighting fiercely for her independence and friendships all while she tries to shame  her mother by screaming at her on the way to their bus stop.  When the mother tries to speak to her daughter at the bus stop, the daughter stops her by saying “I need space.” The aha moment for me was the response from her mother when she says, “There is no space between us!”

The movie is narrated by the daughter as she writes her admission essay for college.  In the end she writes about “being her mother’s daughter ~ there is no space between us.”

At first I struggled with the concept because as a parent we worry about our children’s development and independence, “when to push them… when to back them”. If there is “no space between us” then does that mean she is not her own person?  Is she not living her own life, not mine?”

It has been several months since I saw the movie and have mulled over its message.  I am proud to be my mother’s daughter with all her strengths and her weaknesses, it is her blood that courses through my veins and I am proud.  I am not a perfect mother but it is my blood (sweat and tears) that courses through my children’s veins and for that, I am proud.   “No space between us ~ I am my mother’s daughter”, I thought that this was wrong, until I realized it was so right.

I would like to thank the cold that put life on hold and allowed me to watch this movie.  More importantly, I am grateful to have watched it with my daughter for whom I am absolutely certain, no matter where life takes her, there will be no space between us.

Spin the Bottle….(i mean map!)

images (4) The Kids are Home, the Kids are Home…Spring Vacation in New England!

Here is a fun, simple game I have played with my kids for years, when we cannot think of anything to do! Get out a map of your town, state, local area and place on a table. Have your child close their eyes. Spin the map and have your child drop their finger to stop the spin. That is your new destination. If you have multiple children you can vote, fight, or debate the options after each one tries (good luck letting only one of them do it). In the meantime, take the opportunity to show your kids the different elements of a map and how to read it (bonus education points).

You can set parameters prior to the spin – we are only doing an outdoor activity, we have to stay in a 50 mile radius, we can only spend $20, it has to be somewhere we have never been, location has to be pet friendly…. you get the idea.

Don’t have a map? No problem, go to google images and type in “map of _____” you can get an image of anywhere in the world down to streets in your town. In less time than it takes to find a map, you are good to go. Even better, download the map to a tablet and spin the tablet (parental discretion is advised).  Have Fun!

You’ll Eat It – You’ll Eat It and LIKE It

IMAG0485Like every parent, I love my kids.  I would run into a burning building if need be. What I hate having to do is FEED THEM!

This magnet lives on my refrigerator for good reason, I hate to cook.  Notice I did not say “can’t” cook (which is questionable sometimes), I said HATE to cook, it is just not an activity that I enjoy.  I often hear, “It relaxes me”, or “It’s so easy”, neither of those adjectives have ever entered my kitchen.  All the work of preparation, the shopping and chopping and then of course the actual cooking and for what?  My family can take days worth of planning and meal preparation and devour them in 3 minutes!  And then, in case you haven’t had enough fun, there is always the clean-up.

No one tells you, when you bring home your bundle of joy, that you have also signed up to be a short order cook and snack provider for the next eighteen years, at least.  My kitchen is a 24hr revolving door of drinks, dishes, boxes, jars and cans. I would rather mow a lawn, paint a room, even fold laundry, than prepare a meal for my family. I suppose my nomination papers for Mother of the Year will have to be rescinded.

So, when I do cook and it does happen, you had better believe that “You’ll eat it, You’ll eat it and LIKE it!

Ten Volleys – No Quitting – Score One for Parenting

Couple Playing Tennis

Don’t let him quit, DON’T let him quit, that was all I could think.

It was no longer rational, it was visceral, it was stupid, but I couldn’t let him quit.  I heard the future knocking, if he quits this, he will quit everything.

An extreme embellishment, I know, but I couldn’t stop.  For some reason I had the feeling that this lesson would stick, and I wanted it to.


Parenting 101 Lessons Learned from Norman Bates

Not this Norman...

Not this Norman…

Norman Bates Best Dog Ever!

Norman Bates
Best Dog Ever!

Okay so I scared you a bit with my title didn’t I? Marrying into the last name Bates comes with it’s share of comments about Norman, motels, etc… My favorite has always been “are you going to name one of your kids norman?” While I see the humor in all of this, let’s face it, it can get old. My solution was to name the dog Norman (which, yes, makes me Norman’s mother)

My husband and I consider Norman to be our first born, rescued from the pound as a puppy, he was the center of our universe.  We spoiled him and therefore had quite a bit of difficulty with obedience training, actually training of any kind.  A large, shepherd-husky mix, Norman was very strong but fortunately very intelligent.  The people who needed training here were his owners and nothing made this more clear than enrolling him in puppy obedience class. It was at a puppy obedience class that I learned a very simple concept, however one that has made me not only a better pet owner but also a better parent. The puppy obedience teacher said this, “Do not encourage any behavior that you do not want to see again!” That’s it, following this simple statement changed the way I treated my dog but more importantly gave me a simple concept to follow in raising my children.

I have countless examples where this statement has come into play and I still use it today with teenagers. (There will be a future post “Norman teaches potty training). Like the puppy, fundamentally, our children aim to please. From a young age they are experts at reading our body language and demeanor. If you laugh they laugh with you and do it again, if you are stern, they can read that also as danger, parent not happy with frozen waffle in the dvd player”.  You get the picture.

As for teenagers, the concept is still the same, I do believe they are still aiming to please, however we also know that they are testing the waters on a daily basis. What can I wear, say or do that will get a reaction, and what kind of reaction will it be? I can think of one recent example where I relied on my puppy obedience training. Child X gave me a very common teenage reply to something I had said, and that was “whatever”. Now, you may think that’s harmless, they all say it. But for me, the “whatever”, complete with tone and attitude was a quasi-appropriate response to hide the true meaning. As calmly and deliberately as I could, I responded with “you may talk to your friends like that all you want, but you may not use that word with me or any other adult, period. It’s been a couple of years, and I have not heard “whatever” again, behavior discouraged!

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Homework Helpers… Simple but they work!

Hello All.. It is back to school time and I thought I would repost this homework helpers blog!  As you start a new school year, make sure you skip to the second  tip on school supply locations!  Brainstorming with your child where and under what conditions they like to do homework can relieve some of the “battles”.  Who says you can’t do homework in a tree or under the bed… as long as it is getting done!  Everyone is unique in their learning preferences, don’t be afraid to look at lighting, music, type of pen/pencil, lap desk or traditional desk and help your child decide what works best.  Happy school year!

I have spent many years working as a tutor. In fact, there were some nights that I felt I should have a lit up sign like a pizza delivery person on the top of my car as I raced from home to home. Math here, paper there, science project, oh no! I do however have two tricks up my sleeve that I use over and over with my students. These tips could not be simpler but when I produce them, I am all that, and a bag of chips tutor!

binder clipsFirst, almost every student from 4th-8th grade is given an assignment notebook to begin the lovely process of learning to be responsible for homework and plan for long-term assignments. At this point in the year the book is well worn and nearly half full. Use a binder clip on the used pages (this does well with workbooks too) so that when the student opens the book to write down assignments, Voila, they are on the right page. Pure genius! (Do have them refrain from putting binder clip on their nose as it does hurt, a lot!)

homework caddy
My second handy, dandy trick is to put the school supplies where the student does their homework. Whether they do their work at the kitchen table (and I would estimate at least 80% do), on the floor of the bedroom or at an actual desk, make sure that they have everything they need within arms reach. This not only saves time but also for those prone to distraction, a trip around the house looking for a ruler can be disastrous. It doesn’t have to be a “caddy” as pictured, but any container that keeps everything they could need to complete assignments,from colored pencils to glue sticks and calculators. Don’t be afraid to keep it somewhere strange like your kitchen cabinet…or under the bed they sit next to when doing homework.

Last but not least, it is THEIR homework. You have done yours, and I assume if you are reading this, you passed.

Getting Organized is not the hard part… it is getting started!


I am finishing my coffee and psyching myself up for the garage!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s been a long winter here in New England. I am putting the shovels away (yes, I know it could snow in April). You heard me mother nature, I do not care how much more white stuff you dump on us, I am NOT shoveling it!

So back to the garage, I know what to do, I know how much time it will take, I can envision the end result. This however is just not enough to get me moving. We are hard wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain so I need to add some motivation for this project. Seeds will work. Weeks ago I purchased seeds to start indoors, for our garden, this is how desperate I am for Spring. Since, Spring is taking its sweet time arriving, spending the afternoon with hands in dirt will make me feel it is truly just around the corner.  But first, I have to clean the trays, which you guessed it are buried in the garage!

Additionally my thought process and motivations include the following:
– the garage is embarrassingly messy and dirty at this point
– it is too cold out for most other activities
– I do need to find and try on all the cleats for this springs sports season
– I have some painting projects for which I need the saw horses in the middle of the garage
– I could clean my bike and put air in the tires
– I would rather give up a cold, snow on the ground, day than the future days I would like to spend outside

Probably the most important underlying motivation is that I have three sets of helping hands (my kids).  Oh they will complain fiercely this morning but this afternoon they will actually enjoy planting and just hanging out.  A strong work ethic and a grand sense of fun are two of my most important parenting goals – check back to see if mission is accomplished!

Okay, I think I’m good.. a quick proofread of this blog, coffee finished, round up the kids and we’re off…Cheers to cleaning the garage!

What will you accomplish today… more importantly, what motivated you to do it?