Planning for Disaster

This past week another hurricane hit the US and caused a lot of devastation across many states. I hate that people are going through this again and that more people are facing the monumental task of recovery. I haven’t been in anything nearly as severe as the recent hurricanes and it took quite a while for me to wrap my head around all the destruction, it just didn’t seem real! One day things were there and the next things were completely different. Places I went were flooded out and never reopened, families sold their houses and moved, and just about everyone lost their refrigerated or frozen food (this was before generators were really owned by tons of people).

One statement that you hear when these things happen I heard again in response to this most recent hurricane: “it’s just stuff.” While I agree with that statement, and things can be replaced, the loss can’t be denied. Kids won’t have the mementos, photos or history that get destroyed by these storms, often things that can’t be easily put into a car because they’re too large and not food, water, clothing, pets or people, to share with their kids. While kids are resilient and sometimes better able to deal with change than we adults are, the loss of things that mean a lot to them, the things that are “normal” to them can be a devastating blow, one that they’ll be sad about for possibly the rest of their lives.

So what’s the answer? Consider investing in waterproof, sturdy boxes (military or survivalist types) that can store some of these valuables if you can’t take them with you if you need to move to safety. Make sure to label them with your information on the exterior and interior so that they can be returned to you should they float away. Also take photos of all of your valuables so that at least you’ve got the picture to look at. Make sure that all of your pictures are either uploaded to the cloud and/or on a device or devices that are stored at all times in those waterproof boxes. Take time to record the stories that go along with each item or photo so that your kids are never without the stories, because those can be as treasured as the items. Also, with the increasing frequency that storms like these have been happening, it’s a good idea to consider where you live or are moving to and how vulnerable it may be to things like flooding and tree damage, as well as have really good insurance (money can’t replace the past but it can recover some of the items from your present).

And above all make sure that you take time to be with the people you love and make happy memories together so that even if a natural disaster does happen you all have lots of good memories to hold onto.  How will you prepare for your future today?

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Fun and Fears

October is often the month known for all things scary, although for those who are true horror film or paranormal buffs, there’s never a bad time to check out a new scary movie or location. Whether you enjoy watching those types of movies and shows or visiting those types of locations, and whether or not you believe in the paranormal, just about everyone has fears about something during their lives. Sometimes these are fears like something/someone being under the bed or in the closet that are 99.9% of the time not based in reality, but they did come from somewhere, regardless of however rare the reality of them occurring is.

Sometimes we get over our fears in large part, but some of us are never able to break free. And to an extent it is healthy to have fears, or at least have a healthy respect for things that can harm us like heights and cliff edges and deep water and violent people. Our fears become an issue when they prevent us from living life as fully as we would like.

As adults we have to find a between balance being honest with the next generation about some of the not so awesome things and people in the world, and helping them have a healthy attitude towards life and the fun that can be had, including with all things scary. We shouldn’t judge them for their fears or being asked to check for monsters, instead we should help them learn the many different faces of fear; from reality to potential to imagined to fun and make believe.

So go ahead and have a little spooky fun with your kids this month, but make sure you know if their definition of spooky is visiting a haunted attraction, watching a slightly scary movie or carving a scary face on a pumpkin.

Choose Your Responsibility

As we finish out this month over the weekend I wanted to share one more thought on the topic of responsibilities, this time with an eye to kids. Part of our job as adults is to teach our kids about responsibility so that when they’re adults they can handle the pressures that life (work, family, relationship, health etc.) puts on them as they grow up and become adults.

There are a variety of ways we can teach responsibilities, like talking about ours and helping kids understand why we do things. Traditionally chores have also been used to help teach responsibilities, and they’re a great way of having your kids participate in caring for the house and themselves, and can also help teach financial responsibility and management if you attach a monetary reward to completed chores.

Part of teaching them responsibilities is teaching them how to use the power that comes along with them, and giving them the opportunity to make choices for themselves.  One of the ways you can do this is by giving them options (that really aren’t options) to give them some control and power over their choices.  For example when they have to pick a snack after school you can give them a selection (at least 3 options) of fruits, vegetables and other healthy options to choose from.  If they have homework to do and need to shower before bed you can give them the choice of which they do first or if they do some of the work and then shower and then finish the work.

Yes, some of these choices/options means that you have to be prepared to have a little more variety in your life, for instance buying more options at the food store, but it gives them the ability to make some decisions and you to de-escalate a situation that could be much more difficult to resolve or handle if you just made the decisions for them.

What are your tips for teaching kids responsibilities?

Taking Time To Remember

Today in the USA is one of the days during the year that we take time to remember. Today 9/11, we take time to remember the 4 attacks on September 11, 2001, 2 in NYC, one in Pennsylvania, and one at the Pentagon in Washington DC. We stop to remember the 2,977 people who died as a result of the actions of men and women who hated us. Although it’s been 17 years, for many of us it feels like just yesterday. Most of us can remember exactly where we were when it happened. For countless people around the world we have a personal connection to someone who died that day.

We hear the stories from those who were in and around NYC or the Pentagon and helped rescue countless others. We also hear the stories of the people they knew intimately who died while saving lives or just living their lives. We don’t hear the stories from the people in Pennsylvania because they didn’t survive but instead gave their lives to save many others, in some ways making them the biggest heroes of that tragedy.

It’s not fun to remember 9/11 or the days that followed as we came to understand the seriousness of what happened, but it is important. The US was forever changed by the actions of those who hated us that day, in ways that it hadn’t been touched previously. We remember those 2,977 people because they made a sacrifice that day most didn’t plan on or agree to make. We remember their families so they know they aren’t forgotten. We remember in hopes of creating a tomorrow someday that doesn’t include the fear of similar events happening and families don’t have to go through similar pain.

I encourage you to take time to remember today. Remember those you’ve lost and remember those who have touched your life but aren’t part of it anymore, and take time to give thanks for them and the life you have today.

In Sickness and In Health

For the past couple of days I’ve been dealing with a headache that just doesn’t seem to want to give up. Fortunately I’ve got things planned so that my partner always has food options for when I don’t have the ability to cook for us and I try to be on top of things around the house so that if I can’t for a day or two the world won’t end. What happens when you need some extra time or help, either you’re sick or someone in the family is? Today I’ve got a couple of suggestions for these occasional days or sets of days for making sure your kids are cared for when you can’t give them the full attention you usually do.

Let’s start with food. Most weeks I make a trip to 2-3 grocery stores, including a fresh food market, so there’s never a lack of fresh foods or healthy foods readily available, some that don’t require more of my attention than throwing them in the oven for an hour to bake or take a couple minutes to wash up. Have extras of the kids favorite snacks on hand, don’t make it a practice of running out, as well as key staples in the cereal and grain departments (keeping a loaf of bread in the freezer is a great idea). Finally, always have stored away a couple special treats, whether they’re frozen bars, special snacks or frozen dinners that the kids ask for but aren’t things you like to give them on a regular basis that you can treat them with during challenging days.

What about keeping them busy? As always it’s great if you’ve got another family close to yours that you can switch off kids if there’s a need in either of your homes, or if you can hire a sitter to come in for a few hours. But if your kids are old enough and responsible enough to be entertain themselves for a couple of hours while you’re sleeping or just resting, having a selection of movies and TV show DVDs or On Demand that they don’t watch frequently but enjoy on those occasions is a good option for these times. It’s also a good idea to have some new activity books/boxes, new toys, new coloring books and new books hidden away for these times too, it gives them something new and special to work on individually or together.

What are your tips for caring for kids when you’re not feeling 100%?

Dog Days of Summer

I’m a big dog lover, having a dog growing up was one of the best experiences. I think it’s important for all kids to be either raised with or regularly exposed to pets so that they can have a healthy, not fearful, relationship with them, should they ever come into contact with them as a kid or adult. One of the families I work with recently got a dog and being with them and the dog has me thinking about pets, and about the phrase ‘dog days of summer.’

Some say the ‘dog days’ originally referred to the dog star Sirius appearing which could happen in late July. Now we refer to them during the days of summer when the day is so hot it just makes you want to lie around and do nothing, except pant with your dog of course.

I loved having a dog growing up and I look forward to having a dog again soon. But having a dog, or any kind of pet, is a big responsibility and not something that everyone can do full time. If that’s the case for you there are lots of organizations around the country that welcome visitors to be pet petters, some organizations have volunteers who take in pets for short periods of time before they find a full time home, and you can also pet sit for neighbors and friends.

Why do I encourage regular interaction with pets? Because just like many other things in life kids need to learn how to interact with them so they can respect them, know how to interact with them, know how to react to many different behaviors and feel comfortable and confident when they’re around. Pets are much better than people at picking up on how someone is feeling, so they react strongly to fears and anger, and unfortunately often react in ways that reinforce that anger and fear.

Pets are treasured members of many families around the world, and with more awareness, education and interaction I believe we can turn the tide for many dogs, pets and kids of the future.

Thankful to be Alive

Second chances are a powerful thing. This week we learned that the boys and their soccer coach who went missing while visiting a cave in Thailand were still alive. They were in the cave for 9 days before they were found, and in the days since then people from around the world have been providing the expertise they have in caves and engineering to try to help and get the kids out before they run out of oxygen or the cave floods. Of course many of us are reminded of the Chilean miners who were trapped in a cave for 69 days in 2010. It took a serious effort to get them all out, and while the situation is different, it’s no less overwhelming or scary for the family members of the children and the soccer coach.

I believe that blame does have a place, but not here and now. It can come after we know how the story ends, hopefully with tales of rescue. This week for the kids and parents has been an opportunity to reconnect and share messages that may never have gotten out if they weren’t found. It’s an opportunity for them to talk again and see each other again.

Every day we deal with tragedies, and the loss of people who are killed accidentally or intentionally. There are very few cases of people who have absolutely no one who will miss them, there’s almost always someone left behind who will have to deal with the loss. In so many of those cases there wasn’t the opportunity for last messages, for apologies, for anything except to deal with the loss. But these families have had the chance this week to reconnect, even if it’s with a lot of earth between them.

We’re not guaranteed anything but today. You can’t predict or control what others do, you only have control over yourself. Don’t make light of second chances. Live and love today not because it might be your last day, but because you’re alive today.

Wisdom from Dads

With Father’s Day on Sunday here in the US, I thought I’d share some wisdom from other dads to inspire the dads of the world.

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“But now, being a parent, I go home and see my son and I forget about any mistake I ever made or the reason I’m upset. I get home and my son is smiling or he comes running to me. It has just made me grow as an individual and grow as a man.” LeBron James

“We already had an adopted daughter, 10-year-old Courtney, from my previous marriage. To me, there is no difference between ‘natural’ and ‘adopted.’ My own childhood showed me that when it comes to loving your kids, concepts like that don’t apply. I was the oldest of six, and three of my siblings were adopted. Mom and Dad even took in foster children. ‘There are no limits to how much you can love,’ Dad always said.” Al Roker

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Fulghum

“A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.” Billy Graham

“Being a father has been, without a doubt, my greatest source of achievement, pride and inspiration. Fatherhood has taught me about unconditional love, reinforced the importance of giving back and taught me how to be a better person.” Naveen Jain

“Two toddlers can get hectic, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Every day they teach me different things. The love is there. When you have a two-year-old saying every other hour, ‘Papi, I love you,’ it can’t get better.” Ricky Martin

“Much of life, fatherhood included, is the story of knowledge acquired too late: if only I’d known then what I know now, how much smarter, abler, stronger, I would have been. But nothing really prepares you for kids, for the swells of emotion that roll through your chest like the rumble of boulders tumbling downhill, nor for the all-enveloping labor of it, the sheer mulish endurance you need for the six or seven hundred discrete tasks that have to be done each and every day. Such a small person! Not much bigger than a loaf of bread at first, yet it takes so much to keep the whole enterprise going. Logistics, skills, material; the only way we really learn is by figuring it out as we go along, and even then it changes on us every day, so we’re always improvising, which is a fancy way of saying that we’re doing things we technically don’t know how to do.” Ben Fountain

“When you’re a dad, there’s no one above you. If I don’t do something that has to be done, who is going to do it?” Jonathan Safran Foer

“Be a dad. Don’t be “Mom’s Assistant”…. Be a man…. Fathers have skills that they never use at home. You run a landscaping business and you can’t dress and feed a four-year-old? Take it on. Spend time with your kids…. It won’t take away your manhood, it will give it to you.” Louis C.K.

What wisdom do you have for the dads out there?

Teaching Forgiveness

With Mother’s Day just around the corner for those of us in the US, I’m thinking about an interesting topic that moms are pretty familiar with: forgiveness. It’s one of the many life lessons parents are supposed to teach us or help us learn, but not always an easy one to teach or to live. One of my earlier memories is one of needing forgiveness for having done something wrong, it really didn’t feel good to need forgiveness or to be caught doing something wrong.

It can be hard to teach forgiveness because it’s not always fun to forgive, nor is it always easy, especially if we’ve been hurt before or it just doesn’t seem to add up for us in our heads on why we should be forgiving them. It’s even hard to forgive when we know the other person doesn’t know what they did or didn’t do wrong intentionally, because we’re still hurt. It can take a lot of courage to take the time to really understand all of the situation, not just how hurt we are, and choose to forgive.

Teaching forgiveness, grace and understanding are all things that parents should to teach kids, and are lessons that we should use throughout our lives. We have to decide to forgive our coworker for standing us up at the big meeting, our neighbor for the damage caused to our property during a party, our kids for the car accident, the town for a lack of notice when they decided to tear up the street and turn off the water, or our significant other for forgetting our anniversary, and countless other little things that happen during our lives that hurt us.

What about you? Do you need forgiveness in your life or do you need to forgive someone? Life’s too short to let the hurts build up and cripple us. I encourage you to take steps this week towards forgiving someone, even if it’s just that first step of understanding what and why they did what they did.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Today in the US we’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo, so I thought I’d share a few fun ideas that you can craft, create and play with your kids!

Fringed party favor bags

Punched tin napkin rings

Ribbon lanterns

Straw flowers

Crepe and tissue paper flowers

Cupcake liner flower crown

Neatly folded napkins with maracas

Cactus balloons

Foam stamp cacti artwork

Stenciled southwestern welcome mat

Piñata napkin rings

Cinco de Mayo place cards

Fan drink stirrers

Sombrero headbands

Fiesta pattern bowls

Cactus pillow

Cactus mini cupcake stands

Tissue paper lantern

Colorful flatware

Piñatas:

Miniature Mexican star piñata 

Chili pepper piñata 

Mini piñata garland

Donkey piñata

Sugar skull piñata 

Emoji piñata 

Pizza piñata 

Owl piñata 

Watermelon piñata 

Alligator piñata 

Mini cactus piñata 

Unicorn piñata 

Taco piñata 

How are you planning to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?