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LB Living Better Newsletter!



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.

Lessons Learned and Gratitude Month

Top Ten Earbud Rules for Teenagers!

Let’s face it, ear buds have become the bane of many a parent’s existence for too many reasons to possibly state. This is the top ten list for acceptable and non-acceptable earbud behavior shared with the teenagers that reside in my house.  It includes but is certainly not limited to the following:

1)  Earbuds will not be worn at any meal, whether served at the table, at the counter or especially in a restaurant (we want to at least appear to the general public that we can converse like normal human beings).

2)  In conversation with any adult, you will remove both earbuds (not just one while you keep tuned in to whatever song you are listening to).  If you did not hear the opening line of the conversation, the appropriate response is “I’m sorry would you repeat that” not “Huh” or “What” as if you just crawled out of a cave for your first human conversation.

3)  I should NOT hear what you are listening to when you are wearing your earbuds!

4)  No earbuds at work!  The person that is paying you has a right to have your full and undivided attention to whatever it is that you are supposed to be doing, even if said activity does not involve hearing.  No matter how you slice it, if you are working with ear buds stuck in your ears, the natural and usually correct assumption is that you don’t give a damn about the job you are doing!

5)  There is NO good reason for your earbuds to be at school – why don’t you just ask for a detention!

6)  You may use your earbuds in the car for a long ride during which you may prefer your own music to my choice of radio station.  If however, I pick you up for one of our numerous rides about our small town, then you may not plug yourself into your preferred device and tune me out.  I am not your chauffeur and it will not kill you to make polite conversation until you are old enough to drive yourself where you need to go!

7) You may NOT borrow my earbuds because you have lost or broken your own.

8) This list applies to your “BEATS” as well!

9)  Do not pretend that you cannot hear me when I call your name.

10)  Last but certainly not least.  Earbuds are not appropriate at church, during the national anthem or pledge of allegiance, at a funeral or wake, during classes, visiting a relative in the hospital, or in the shower and I reserve the right to add to this list!

In Honor of Mother’s Day… Respect for Momma Bird

IMAG0523I dislike her immensely.  She is messy, noisy and downright inconsiderate.

Doesn’t she realize that my house is sporting a brand new paint job, the first one ever done by a professional and not yours truly and husband.  It’s not even six months old and it is covered in moss, mud, twigs, and bird crap!

Can’t even open the front door without being dive bombed.  She has even had the nerve to fly in my house uninvited and flap at me like I’m the problem.

It gets better, she thinks my new front porch is her urinal  (yup that’s the evidence).

IMAG0529Seriously, who does she think she is, the woods aren’t good enough for her family?  Going to birth those eggs in a sheltered pent house apartment.

My “male” neighbor laughed and told me to take the nest down and replace it with a slanted piece of flashing that would make it impossible to rebuild blah, blah, blah….

I really stopped listening after “take the nest down” because I immediately thought, I can’t do that.  She is a mother, building a home for her future family.  I may not like her choices, her arrogant nature, her rude inconsiderate personality nor especially her hygiene, but at the end of the day she is a Momma (or about to become one).  This Momma bird is one hard working little critter.  It would appear that she is building this nest single handedly and I have to admit quite impressively.

So, while we don’t see eye to eye on just about anything, we don’t have to, she is a Momma and for that reason alone she has my respect!  I just wish she would clean up after herself…

That's her in the center, watching me watching her!

That’s her in the center,
watching me watching her

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.


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?


Happy Birthday Bobby Orr… and many more

Bobby Orr is my husband’s lifelong hero.  Worshipped by many Bostonians, there is a generation for whom Bobby Orr is the be all, end all, of the sport of hockey.  (Not being a hockey fan, I do not have any formal understanding of this concept but after a couple of decades of marriage, I have learned a thing or two about hockey and of course, Bobby Orr).

Fast forward to last summer and a trip to the drugstore with my daughter.  Upon pulling into the parking space, I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a nice looking older gentleman who had just appeared in front of my car.  When I opened my eyes, he was but a few inches from my bumper, however still standing.  As the man signaled his apologies with his hands, I let my heart rate return to normal.  My daughter and I exited the car and headed to the same store a safe distance behind the near accident victim.   Moments later from an adjacent store, a man stopped and yelled  (insert thick Boston accent here)”Hey, Bobby Orr, how you doin’?  My near fatal collision victim (okay at least some serious broken bones) turned and saluted the fans that had now stopped and gathered on the side walk.

Turning to look at my daughter’s face, I realized that she too knew the enormity of my near miss.  “You almost took out  Bobby Orr”, she whispered, “Dad would have killed you.”  And so it goes, decades of marriage and I am pretty sure that my daughter was right that all would have been over when mini-van meets hero!

Mom you’re embarassing….

I think one of the true keys to successful parenting is to make sure that your kids believe that you are capable of anything. No I do not mean you have to be superwoman or superdad. I find that when kids have a healthy respect of what you “might” do it alleviates and contributes to the on-going battles of discipline. Sometimes you have to show your kids visibly just how far you will go to make your point, get their attention or follow through on your threat. This is an ongoing effort starting very young and lasting well, as long as they live under your roof.

Every now and then it is important to remind them just how crazy and capable you are…. Recently, one of my children has entered a “you are embarrassing just by existing” phase. You know he would rather have people believe he was hatched in the forest than admit to having parents. Driving him to play practice the other day he was being particularly obnoxious about not needing/wanting parental input. It was really starting to get on my nerves. I have worked too hard for too long to be suddenly disowned by this prepubescent. I fired a warning shot into the back seat, “you have no idea how embarrassing I can be”. Silly boy, he continued with his obnoxious behavior until we pulled up in front of the school. A school with a large courtyard full of junior and senior high school students milling about and waiting for rides. A school with a long sidewalk to walk along until you reach the front door. As my son exited the van and slammed it shut like he had never seen me before in his life, I rolled down the window and in my loudest, whiniest voice I yelled…”Good-bye honey, have fun at play practice, I hope you know all of your lines, I will be right here waiting at 5:00 pm, Have fun!” At which point he started to run towards the front door.

Days later when I dropped him off at play practice, he looked at me with a smile and said “that was pretty good the other day, but please don’t ever do it again. I was obnoxious and it won’t happen again.” I smiled and said, ‘no problem, I thought it was sufficiently embarrassing myself.” You see it was very easy, one they always underestimate your willingness to embarrass yourself and two there is nothing a middle school kid won’t do to avoid embarrassment themselves. Peace has returned to the valley, at least for now.