Sugar, playdates and parenting decisions

Categories: Parenting & Family

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OK, so first a confession:

I’m a bit of a healthy eating nut and I think it is a skill and a philosophy I have to teach our kiddo.

When I say healthy eating I think I mean something reasonable without being extreme: Lots of veggies and fruit, less sugar and white anything, whole grains, very little red meat, lots of fish, nuts and other awesome stuff, like avocados (an obsession of mine and thankfully, my daughter). We don’t have junk food or candy in our house, don’t drink soda or sugary drinks, and our daughter has never been to McDonald’s. But we definitely have dessert and treats a few times a week and one of the most important things I try to teach at home is enjoying eating and food and making it a special experience as often as we can.

The other day our kiddo came home from a playdate and I asked her how it went. She said fine and then got this look on her face that said “hey, mom, I’m not telling you something.” I gave her my best version of the “hey, it’s OK, just tell me, I promise I won’t be mad” look and then she confessed: They ate pop tarts. And candy.

I think she expected me to get upset. But I wasn’t.
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On doing less (at least sometimes)

Categories: Balancing Act, Your life

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I had really ambitious plans for tonight:

Get home from work (around 6pm).

Do homework with kiddo.

Practice piano with kiddo.

Bedtime stuff and then read a chapter of Harry Potter with kiddo (we just started the first book).

Make dinner for tomorrow night.

Call mom.

Catch up on work stuff.

Get stuff organized for tomorrow.

Write this blog post.

Do yoga.

Read (currently making my way through the Steve Jobs biography, although very slowly).

Get to bed by 10pm.

Ha! I hope you’re laughing because seeing all my plans written out here makes me laugh with the realization that I was kidding myself thinking I can do all that and get to bed by 10pm (an epically early time for me, mind you.)

I’m terrible about making insanely unrealistic to-do lists. In fact, as I started writing this post I glanced at my to-do list sitting next to me and it’s not a list that I could have possibly accomplished in one day. Yet when I wrote it this morning that’s what I was aiming to do. And the downside is that now I feel like I failed when in fact, I wasn’t going to ever succeed in the first place.

I know we hear this advice all the time but I’m going to repeat it again and try to listen myself this time:
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How to get your kids to help more at home

Categories: Balancing Act, Parenting & Family

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I’ve had a major revelation recently about how to get my daughter to do more to help out at home.

She is seven and a half and for a while now we’ve had a chore chart going in an effort to get her to be more consistent about doing a few things to help. Nothing too crazy: Put away the dishes after dinner, make her bed in the morning, check her backpack for school, sweet the kitchen floor, feed her fish, etc. She is not terrible about remembering but I do have to reminder her, a lot.

The other day I wasn’t feeling well so I plunked down on the couch and said to my daughter, half kidding: “Could you please go and make me some tea and a snack?”. She has never done this and I wouldn’t trust her with the hot tea, but as soon as I said it she got really excited and ran to the kitchen. My husband was there and she asked him to help her get the tea ready and figure out what snack I might want. They came out and brought me some tea, cut up apples and some cheese on a tray. I kissed her and told her it was the best snack ever and she was so excited.

A few hours later I was in the kitchen finishing up making dinner and she came over and asked me: “Mama, do you want me to make you more tea?” I told her sure, so she went and got my husband, and they repeated the routine from before (she pressed the electric kettle button, he poured, she timed three minutes on the clock for the tea to steep). The next day she asked me again. And it’s now become a regular things she asks me and I don’t know which one of us likes it more.

So here is my revelation about how to get your kids to help out more:
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Small things you can do to feel happier in 30 seconds

Categories: Balancing Act, Your life

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I am writing this on the plane, on my way back from a week-long business trip. I’m exhausted and it’s been a long week. I hate being away for this long and I also hate coming back feeling down and grumpy from all the travel/work stuff. My fam is psyched to see me and I’m dying to see them (and it’s movie night - no one should be grumpy on movie night!) So I’m determined to do something about this, to lift the business trip exhaustion fog and feel happier — and do it in a very short amount of time I have before I see my crew.

I’ve been studying happiness for a few years now, reading every book and article and study I can find. I am really interested in what we know about our own happiness (not a lot, according to one of my favorite happiness experts, Daniel Gilbert) and what we can do to feel happier (if you read one book about it, read Flourish). Time to put all this reading to work: Here are some quick small things you can do to feel happier, right now:

  • Think of something good about your day today. It can be the smallest tiniest thing. Or it can be big. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s mine: I got a kale, broccoli, apple and celery juice at the airport and it was great. Also, it was a lot healthier than what I’ve been eating this week, so I feel like I’m changing directions for the better.
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Kids and iPads/iPhones: Where do you stand?

Categories: Parenting & Family

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How much time do your kids get with an iPad/iPhone/computer?

Lately I find myself having this conversation a lot with friends and other moms at my daughter’s school. Everyone seems to be wondering what’s enough, what’s too much, and how everyone else is dealing with preventing the wave of technology from completely overtaking their homes and kids’ minds. And like every parenting decision, it’s not easy and not black and white.

I have spent the last ten years of my career working in technology and I am big enough to admit that yes, I am quite inseparable from my iPhone. A lot of it is for work but a lot of it is for things outside of work: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and a bunch of other time-takers. We have an iPad at home and a laptop in the office. My husband and I often spend the evenings sitting next to each other working on our respective work laptops.

Do I like that technology is such a huge part of our life? Absolutely not. I think there are ways in which it is bad for our family. We try to be as disciplined as we can - no phones when we are eating, no background TV, etc. - but we’re absolutely not perfect. It is a core part of our daily lives and while we can blame it on work, the reality is that that’s not the only reason we’re attached to our gadgets.
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My latest parenting lesson: Tell my kiddo about my life

Categories: Parenting & Family

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We’ve got a pretty set routine most nights after work. My husband or I come home by 6pm to relieve the babysitter, who picks up our daughter from school. (We trade off nights when one of us can work late or hit the gym after work while the other gets home right on time. It’s something that allows our two-somewhat-crazy-job household to function.) When I get home, I hang with our kiddo for a bit in the kitchen, asking her about her day. Then it’s homework time, piano practice time, and if we have time left, we try to play a game or read together.

The other night I asked our daughter my usual coming-through-the-door question: “How was your day today?”

She said it was good and that they played museum on the playground (I think more adults need to play museum at work, but that’s for another post). And then she did something that startled me a little. She asked me how my day was.
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Here’s my big 2012 resolution

Categories: Balancing Act, Your life

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I don’t make a lot of New Year’s resolutions. I used to and I learned my lesson. The routine went something like this: Make too many resolutions. Set expectations too high. A few months later realize I’m failing. Feel bad. This was not productive so I stopped vowing to do things like lose weight or eat more broccoli or try to be better about remembering friends’ birthdays. (If you’ve been in a similar boat, don’t feel bad, it’s completely normal. Americans constantly overstimate how well they will stick to their New Year’s resolutions.)

No more big resolutions lists for me, thank you. But I do like the idea of having one theme for the year, one thing I’ll try to focus on. I guess you can call that a resolution but one is better than ten, right? So here’s my big theme for 2012:

Appreciate the good stuff more.

Yep, that simple. There is a lot of science that shows when you focus on the good things you have and are grateful for them, you are happier.
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Why I’m a total stickler for teaching kids good manners

Categories: Parenting & Family

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My daughter is a really good kid. Of course we all think our kids are good kids but there is a general consensus amongs friends and family that she is well-behaved, nice, and all-around not a lot of trouble. I dig that. But there is one thing that I’ve been pestering her about endlessly, especially as we’re in the midst of the holiday season: Saying thank you and please more often.

We’ve had lots of presents giving and lots of meals with friends and family, all of which made me realize that my daughter doesn’t remember her manners as often as I think she should. She is 7 and to be honest, I think most of the time when she doesn’t say thank you after finishing a meal or getting a present it’s because she is off to the next thing or she is excited to play with the new thing she just got. When I remind her to say thank you or to use please when she is asking anyone for anything — including family, friends or strangers — she is quick to do it.
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5 ways you can chill more and stress less during the holidays

Categories: Balancing Act, Your life

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The holidays are stressful.

However you slice it, there is too much to do in a short period of time (unless you’re a super-planner and got it all done in October), you’re running from one family gathering to another work function, and not seeing much of that me-time for a few weeks in a row. But this year I am determined to stop looking at the holidays as a series of to-dos and actually chillax and enjoy some of them. It won’t work 100% (I know already because I am stressing over this pile of cards I need to send out) but I think I can tame the holiday anxiety monster a bit.

Here are 5 things I’m going to try to do:

  • Walk or do yoga every day. I’m going to be really stubborn about this. These are two things I do that calm my nerves and energize me to deal with whatever stress ball is aiming at me that day. So even though routine flies out the window in a few days, I’m going to figure out how to do some yoga or take a walk every day between now and New Years. Determination!
  • Accept the fact that late is better than never. There is no way these holidays cards are going out on time. They are New Year’s cards, something we do every year because (1) New Year is great to celebrate and (2) this gives me extra time to send them out. But I am going to accept the fact that some won’t get to our friends or family until well after the New Year and that’s OK. Look at it this way: They will stand out from the plethora of other cards they’ve gotten… on time.
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Do you apologize to your kids?

Categories: Parenting & Family

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Yesterday was one of those Tuesdays which felt like ten terrible not very good Mondays squished in one. I’ll spare you the details, other than to say that it started with my sitting in traffic for over an hour and missing an important meeting and involved spilled tea, temporarily lost phone and forgetting to call someone I really needed to call. Yowsa. Needless to say by the time I got home I was cranky and exhausted.

I don’t know about you, but one of the first things that goes when I am exhausted is patience (and no, I’m not a very patient person to begin with). So when my kiddo - who also happened to be pretty tired - was goofing off as we practiced piano, I got upset. When she left her dinner dishes on the table and walked out of the kitchen, I gave her a lecture on my not being her made and her needing to clean up the dishes (it’s one of her responsibilities in our family.) You get the idea — it was one of those evenings.

After I put her to bed, had some tea and caught my breath a bit I felt pretty terrible.
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