Parents Blog

Friday, 03 May 2013 11:42

Remembering Mom on Mother’s Day

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What does Mother’s Day mean to you?  When I was little, it revolved around mom in some fashion, possibly involving a meal out after church with cards and flowers, but it certainly wasn't a day off for mom; I can see that now.  Mom’s job is never-ending; whether it’s shuttling everyone to and from that special lunch or cleaning up the mess the kids made while preparing her breakfast in bed.  The pressure is always on and the thank-yous seem to be few and far between.

Occasionally someone would jokingly ask, “Why isn't there a Children’s Day?”  This would receive the inevitable response, “Because every day is children’s day!”  This is something most children don’t tend to realize until they’re much older, and possibly not until they have children of their own.  So why aren't moms more appreciated?  Perhaps it’s because the best moms seem to be always there, always knowing what’s needed almost before it’s requested.  Whether she works in an office or is a stay-at-home mom, she always makes time to listen to stories, help with projects, and cuddle and wipe the tears away.  When these super powers are exhibited every day, they tend to become the norm, expected, and occasionally, unappreciated.

So what’s to be done to correct this?  Dads, please make sure that your kids appreciate everything that Mom does.  Moms are pretty good at making Dad look like a hero every day; try to do this same for her.  And Moms – hang in there!  If nothing else, remember that at the very least they’ll finally get it when they have kids of their own!

What are some of your favorite Mother’s Day memories and traditions?  Post them here on this blog at www.luckykatworld.com so we can share them with everyone, or post them on our Facebook page at www.fb.com/luckykattvcom.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, 18 March 2013 10:53

Allergy Awareness

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It seems like every day we hear another story of an unfortunate accident that took someone’s life, but it’s never more saddening than when it happens to a youngster.  Cameron Fitzpatrick, home on spring break from his freshman year in college, tragically lost his life last week after eating a cookie with peanut oil, to which he was allergic.  Is there someone to blame for this?  The answer is no.  Cameron was well aware of the severity of his allergy and even had his friend taste the cookie to make sure there was no peanut butter in it.  It’s a story we hear too often these days.

Sadly, food allergies seem to be increasingly commonplace in today’s youth.  So what can you do to help?  As adults, it is our responsibility to ensure the children in our lives react with sensitivity to those around them with allergies.  We should teach them that if someone has an allergy, it should be taken seriously.  This is not just a matter of someone developing a rash; serious cases lead to life and death consequences.

You might want to remind your kids to keep an eye out for others who have allergies. They should be taught that allergies are a big deal to those who have them.  Children with allergies can be easy targets for bullies and should never be pushed into eating something they don’t think is safe. As a friend to someone with an allergy, children can help each other keep an eye out for things that shouldn’t be eaten and, if they are ever unsure, they should always err on the side of caution and ask a teacher, parent or trusted adult to help them.

Cameron’s mother told ABC News that she hopes kids learn to be their own biggest advocate and if they have any kind of allergy, not to take it for granted.  Never be afraid to inquire, always ask about any uncertain food or product. 

Kids should also know about the fun and tasty options out there!  Places like Sweet Alexis and Peanut Free Planet cater solely to people with allergies.  At www.peanutfreeplanet.com you can purchase yummy treats for every holiday and occasion that your kids will love!  The fabulous goodies at www.sweetalexis.com are just as good as homemade and are dairy, egg, peanut, and tree nut free!  Who knew sweets could taste this good?

Do you have a suggestion for how to help Lucky Kat World parents teach kids about interacting with those with allergies, or how to stay vigilant if they themselves are allergic?  Share them here, along with other tips on special foods!

 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013 08:26

Who’s Your Special Valentine?

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Valentine’s Day is that extra special day during the year to celebrate your feelings towards the people you love and cherish - FAMILY.  I am lucky enough to be married to my sweetheart, and having the added blessing of 3 beautiful children fills me with pride and joy.  Who is your special Valentine, and how do they make you feel?

 

Make it Personal.  For me, having the chance to express my feelings for my family of Valentines is not about expensive baubles or marketing schemes.  Instead, I try to use my creativity and think about fun ways to express myself to make my loved ones happy, since this truly is a holiday that epitomizes the saying. “It’s the thought that counts”. 

 

Find the Time.  Being pressed for time in a household where both parents work full time, I have to make the most of my time for planning by using normal lunch breaks and errand running to the fullest.  Where could you find a little time to plan some personal Valentine surprises?

 

Keep it Simple.  There are so many ways to make your Valentine feel loved; keep it simple by focusing on their favorite things.  My motto is, “Make it, bake it, or take it”, which means I use creative energy to individualize my surprises by making something, baking something, or taking something to my loved ones.  Waking up a little earlier to make a special breakfast is a great way to start the day, whether it is chocolate chip pancakes or scrambled eggs and heart shaped toast.  Also, sneaking a special treat into lunches with a personal note is a good surprise during school or work.  Writing a poem or letter to your loved ones describing what makes them special is an amazing way to connect, and making a playlist for those little music lovers is also a great way to create lasting memories.  If you need a little inspiration, the internet is full of great ideas to get those creative juices flowing.  What simple things can you think of to surprise your Valentine?

 

I would love to hear what you come up with for Valentine’s Day and I challenge you to make new traditions with your sweetheart and your family.  Remember, simple gestures and thoughtful planning are the keys to making an extra special day for your Valentines!

 

Tuesday, 04 December 2012 00:07

Parenting by the Book - Sort of!

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Parenting by the Book - Sort of!

By:  Diane Meehl

I wouldn’t be a new mother again for all the flawless skin in L.A.  True – those were very sweet days.  Back then it was all new love - and I could pick out what they wore, make wholesome foods they’d actually eat and find utter joy in pushing my stroller around the park.  But what I don’t miss?

Trying to achieve perfection in parenting.  Doesn’t exist.  Sorry, newer mamas and papas. I know - you were going to be the first!

Actually, I’m not sorry.  Let me spare you some of the pain and agony – you can read all the parenting books by the so-called experts, and guess what?  Your sweet cherub is still going to be far from perfect.  He or she will pick his nose onstage, throw a tantrum at Safeway, swear in front of Grandma.  Parenting is nothing if not completely humbling.

Most real moms and dads will tell you those books don’t help a lot when you’ve got to get three squabbling siblings out the door in the morning.   Sometimes, we just do what we have to do – but of course, even as a seasoned mom, I still strive to do better.  And sometimes that means we’re going to stand our ground and arrive late to school.  Been there!

So I’m not as obsessed with reading all the how-to’s as I once was.  However, every now and again I come across a book with some sound advice that doesn’t make me feel inferior and drive me to consume Twinkies.  (If only we could now!)  Have you read, Have a New Kid by Friday, by Kevin Leman?

First: confessions.  My son walked by me reading the book and said, “Mom.  You’ve been reading that for a while now.  Do you really think it’s going to work?”

Ha, smart aleck.

Truth is, I am applying some of the principals, and when I do things consistently (not my strong suit!) it does work.  Look – we’re all a work in progress and results may vary.  After all, my husband would probably love to read a how-to on getting a “new” wife in a week, but I doubt I’m going to completely transform any easier than my kids will!

But, there are a few principles in the book I think we can all apply right away and learn from, such as:

Old School Tricks with a New Twist

Say it just once. It’s exactly the kind of advice your grandma would have given before the “use your inside voice” brand of parenting took root.  When you say “no,” or ask them to do something, say it once, and don’t budge.  It might seem very uncomfortable at first for us softies, but you’ll be amazed at the results!

Raise your Expectations. We all want our children to enjoy a positive self-esteem.  But the truth is, constant praise for nothing seems empty.  Encourage your child to do anything he can do for himself, and when he does it – then offer praise!  (I spent too much time rewarding my kids for things I should have simply expected of them – now I try to attach praise to achievements, like improving their math grade.)

Change their attitude by adjusting yours. As a mother of a pre-teen and a bona-fide teenager (How did I get that old?) I can assure you there are more attitudes in my house than holiday catalogues in my mailbox. Dr. Leman really made me think when he asked, “What if your attitude changed?  What if you didn’t pester her further after you’d asked her once? What if you just walked away and expected her to do it?  No reminders, no raised voices, no anger on your part.” Seriously, this works. The power of walking away calmly is priceless.

So what works for you, Lucky Kat parents?  Do you have any books to recommend?  Feel free – just don’t ever expect perfection.  Take it from me – because I’m still trying to be a new mother in 5 days – but I have to start over today!

 

 

 

 

 

Family Rituals Teach Values & Foster Identity in Kids

Have you ever noticed it’s the stuff you do with your kids over and over again that they really remember?  (Sometimes this is good news - and sometimes not!)

As we enter the holiday season, I’ve got the usual stuff on my mind – gotta get my “A” game on for the busy round of shopping, school performances, entertaining, office parties, charity, and church.  But when we strip it all down, what I really want to do is create memories. And I want my kids to be grateful for our many blessings.  What’s the key to achieving both?  Establishing traditions.

Each year our Christmas Eve is the same.  We take a hike or a bike-ride in the morning, attend church early in the afternoon, enjoy dinner at Rustler’s Rooste - where kids and adults can plunge down a giant slide and every meal is topped off with their signature cotton candy - then, we tour the neighborhood and check out the lights.  Each kid gets to open 1 gift, and after we leave cookies and milk for Santa, we tuck 3 bleary-eyed kids into one bed for a rare evening of sibling harmony.  Bliss!

Out of all those magical gifts we spent so much time searching for, it’s those shared moments, the ride down the slide, the ooh-ing and ahh-ing over twinkling lights, that I’m certain our kids will remember most.  It’s a treasured ritual, and holds so much more meaning than just an activity we do together.  Aren’t your little ones always crying, “Again!  Again!”  There’s a reason for that!

In her book, The Heart of a Family, author Megan Cox says a ritual is, “almost anything, big or small, that families perform deliberately, providing there is a repetition or some dramatic flourish that elevates the activity above the ordinary grind.”

Cox argues that rituals make children feel part of something – it helps them to achieve a sense of identity.  Rituals, she says, “provide security, teach values, cultivate knowledge of cultural or spiritual heritage, keep the memories of departed family members alive, create memories, and generate joy.”  Wow – that’s powerful.

Chances are you’ve already started, intentionally or not, your own traditions.  Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, check out a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

Serve up some good cheer to someone in need. Find a place where your family can serve others together.  There are plenty of online resources that will help your source volunteer opportunities for kids.  Try my personal favorite, Feed My Starving Children at www.fmsc.org.

Create a Chain of Gratitude. I’m all about doing fun stuff that’s easy.  Cut some colorful construction paper into strips and enlist everyone in the family to write down things for which they’re grateful.  Then, make paper chain links and use them to decorate the house!

Make a Family Tree - with Cupcakes. Everyone can get in on this fun – get a large piece of white poster board and draw or paint a large tree.  Make cupcakes and decorate them with the faces of each person in your family with candy, and place them around the tree for a cute picture before devouring the cupcakes.  A delicious, fun way to appreciate your loved ones!

Fashion Pilgrim and Native American headgear. Score some construction paper and feathers, and perhaps a book from the library about the first Thanksgiving for a little history to boot.  Then invite everyone to create a festive hat to wear during dinner. Fun!

I’d love to start a forum here for other Lucky Kat parents to share some ideas with each other.  What are some of your family’s holiday traditions?  Let’s inspire each other to get creative, have fun and promote those time-honored values of family, friends and faith!

 

“Mom – you wanna know what my coach said about _______  ?” (Insert some topic about which I’ve talked to my kids countless times.)

I’ve noticed this funny little habit about my kiddos.  I can tell them something a zillion times while they roll their eyes and murmur a half-hearted, “Ok, Mom.”  But the moment a teacher, coach or friend’s parent affirms the same message, suddenly, it’s brilliant.  Why is that??

Kids’ penchant for listening to other role models and mentors is the reason I’m so grateful for advocates like Retro Bill.   Just in case this generation’s “Mr. Rogers” hasn’t visited your school yet, Retro Bill is the nation’s busiest, zaniest children’s motivational speaker.  Travelling to schools across the nation most of the year, he serves up a serious message with a generous dollop of fun, empowering kids to make good choices, stay safe, and respect others.  (Everything I’ve said countless times, in other words.  But Retro Bill makes it a lot more interesting!)

Now Retro Bill and Lucky Kat World are thrilled to release their first joint project, a DVD starring Retro Bill and Lucky Kat and Lexie Kat.  You heard that right – fulfilling one of Retro Bill’s long-time dreams, the DVD combines Retro Bill’s signature fast-paced live action with animation for a wild ride kids (and parents and teachers) are certain to love!

Wondering Retro Bill and his dynamic duo partners, Lucky Kat and Lexie Kat, promote for kids in The 7 RIGHT ONs of Good Character?  Check these out:

Respect

Integrity

Golden Rule

Honesty

Tolerance

Own It!

Never Give Up!

Most parents I know try hard to teach and model these traits each day.  And of course, most schools also implement character programs designed to reinforce (or even introduce) them.  And as Retro Bill points out, when we teach tolerance for people’s differences, we’re less likely to engage in behaviors that lead to bullying – or unwanted physical contact, intimidation or negative attention.  (Truth be told, I know some adults who could benefit from this DVD!)

So what’s different about Retro Bill’s message?  It’s the second part of “Right – ON,” which stands for “Own It” and “Never Give Up.”  When we teach our kids to take responsibility for their behaviors, we’re empowering them with a lifelong lesson.  What they say and do in every interpersonal interaction counts. And challenging them to “Never Give Up” reinforces that while none of us are perfect, we can continue to work toward embracing these traits every day.

Every child has the power to make good or bad choices that define their character and underwrite their accomplishments. And when kids practice those 7 RIGHT ONs, they amp up their own self-esteem, because making right choices always feel better.  And increased self-esteem, practiced with humility, can only help them grow into the confident, kind, generous and productive adults every parent hopes for.

So thanks Retro Bill and Lucky and Lexie Kat for making my job so much easier!  And parents, if you’d like to pre-order a copy for yourself or to give to a school, please visit www.luckykatworld.com.

 

 


Did you ever see the movie, Yours, Mine and Ours? In this large blended family the mom’s (Rene Russo) parenting style is what you might call, “free to be me.” “Homes are for exploration and creativity!” and, “Now, let’s have a group hug….” are the mantras by which she doles out the “talking stick.” Dad (Dennis Quaid) on the other hand, wants his “crew” to run a tight ship and fall into line as he barks orders. Sound familiar?

I’ve rarely found two parents whose “management” styles seamlessly blend together in a perfectly orchestrated round. Many of the couples I know seem to have one parent that’s a bit more authoritarian, while the other provides the soft place to land. You know, the one who’s more likely to cave. Where do you weigh in, Lucky Kat parents?

Well, I admit – the “caver” in our family is, you guessed it, me. Guilty! (Only please don’t tell my husband I admitted that so easily to you. I’ve been known to balk at his suggestions to this sentiment in the past.)

Yes – it’s me that is more likely to give in when my kids wear me down for 15 more minutes at bedtime, for another cookie, or when I feel my husband’s tone or punishments are too hard on the fruit of my loins. I major in nurturing and minor in discipline; and the opposite is true for the Big Dog Daddy in our house.

While you’d think that we’d achieve some sort of balance, it’s often far from the case. Our goal is to present a harmonious, respectful, united front to our kids. In our little suburban utopia, we’d bite our tongues when we disagreed with how the other parent handled a particular issue, and take it up later over pillow talk and a glass of chardonnay.

But that rarely happens.

True confessions: it’s more likely that my husband will issue a command, or execute some form of punishment he feels fits the crime – and I’ll roll my eyes or sigh or intervene in some way. I’m not proud if it - but sometimes his, “I’m the dad; that’s why!” style makes me harken back to days of staring bleakly at a plate full of broccoli for an hour after the table was cleared. Conversely, hubby often swoops in when I’m negotiating a peace treaty during sibling warfare and simply takes over. (Yes – I know his way is often more effective for the moment, but it’s hardly the point!)

Neither one of us are doing ourselves - or our kids - any favors. First – and I’m talking to myself here – it’s important for the kids to see that we’re on the same page. Those little angels are master manipulators until they mature a bit, and they’ll seek every opportunity to divide and conquer. I need to carefully determine when it’s time to bite my tongue and affirm my husband’s direction, and when it’s time to have my say.

In the end, I think it’s OK for parents to show their kids different styles. They adapt. They’re going to have to get used to the range of personalities in the world with whom they’ll have to collaborate and work for. So until we reach the pinnacle in our own parenting zenith, for now, I figure we’re just modeling for them another life lesson – that we sometimes see things differently. But when we disagree, we should try hard to support the other, or at least, disagree agreeably.

Good luck with that!

Winning the Chore War: Getting kids to whistle while they work (sort of!)

My kids love to work. When we call in the troops for Saturday morning family work hour, they charge downstairs, eager to tackle their assignments.

Ok, NOT! Erma Bombeck had it right when she mused, “My kids always perceived the bathroom as a place where you wait it out until all the groceries are unloaded from the car.”

The real world is a little different from my fantasy. In my version of reality TV, I have to yell upstairs for my brood at least 5 times before they come trudging down, heavy in their Saturday morning glaze, reluctantly having turned off all media devices in our house. (Including LuckyKatWorld.com. Hey - we’re all about balance!)

I believe getting kids to pitch in around the house is good for them. (In the way that they’ll thank me in another 20 years.) I want my kids to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done – and helping out around the house delivers a powerful message - that they’re a part of something larger than themselves. And, that they belong.

At LuckyKatWorld.com, it’s why we invite kids to explore the WIYO (the World is Your Oyster) theme – because it empowers them to dream big, and then figure out how to make them come true. It’s a theme that underwrites a path to independence, and doing chores delivers the same message: You can do it.

Still, I love my babies and I don’t want to torture them either. So check out my “real mom” strategies when it comes to delegating household chores to the kiddos:

The Chore Wars: How about a Win-Win for the whole family?

  1. Set aside specific times for chores. Carve out an hour over the weekend, or a few minutes after school and get all the kids involved at once. Turn on some tunes and make it FUN!
  2. Assign age-appropriate tasks. Experts may not agree, but these are tips for the real world. The idea here is to teach kids a work ethic, so the chore itself does not, in my mind, have to achieve perfection. Avoid frustration and assign tasks according to your kids’ ages and interests.
  3. Differentiate between paid and non-paid chores. In my experience, it works best to assign regular chores for each kid to do every week, just to contribute to our family’s well-being. But we also offer our kids the chance to earn some cash for jobs that require more effort, or that no one likes to do. (Picking weeds, anyone?)
  4. Pile on the praise. Everyone loves encouragement. No one wants to work for a cranky, critical boss. I praise my kids while they work, and remind them that in another 20 years, they’ll get to manage family work hour!
  5. Get ‘em their just desserts. A job well done will eventually become reward enough for your growing brood. Maybe it’s only my kids – but they need some positive reinforcement. So when the chores are finished, we do something fun together, or indulge in something yummy – like Rice Krispie Treats (because I’m all about making things simple and easy!). Find the recipe here!

Now that’s what I call a win-win – the chores get done faster, my kids feel capable in their contributions, and we ALL enjoy some sweet eats.

 

Parenting Lessons Learned from the 2012 Olympics:  Winning isn’t Everything

Ah, the Olympics.  The excitement, the pageantry, the shared national pride and unity.  And of course - the scandal. Seems every year these gladiators serve up more than just killer athletic prowess – some also manage to garner attention the old-fashioned way, by behaving badly.

The Summer 2012 Olympics has delivered its fair share of fodder for tabloid gossip and crushing disappointment.  A few of the allegations regarding this year’s alleged unsportsmanlike and illegal behaviors include:

Ø The Badminton World Federation recently announced that eight female badminton players were disqualified for trying to lose matches

Ø The IOC (International Olympic Committee) says female gymnast Luiza Galiulina from Uzbekistan has now been formally expelled after she tested positive for doping

Ø Greek triple jumper Papachristou and Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella were each banned from competing in the Olympics after posting racist jokes on Twitter

Ø China’s Ye Shiwen is accused of using performance enhancing substances – although she denies all allegations

Whether it’s doping or throwing games or showcasing unsportsmanlike behavior, it’s tragic.  Is the desire to take home the gold so important it trumps integrity?  Is winning all that matters?  And does elite star power mean the usual rules do not apply?

Most importantly - what message does all of this give to our impressionable children?

As mere mortals who struggle to get to the gym twice a week, we tend to revere these athletes for their enduring blistering tenacity and brutal training schedules.  But at the end of the day – they’re human.   Is it fair to hope in the relentless pursuit of perfection – and winning at all costs – that we also ask these athletes to serve as role models to our children?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know we can all take a lesson in this to teach our kids better.  There is nothing wrong with fierce competition.  I’ve heard many parents lament today’s notion that, “everyone gets a trophy.” In pursuit of preserving self-esteem, we’ve gone a bit too far in padding our children from the agony of defeat.

But on the flipside, we’ve all stood witness to parents who’ve fallen short of modeling sportsmanlike behavior themselves.  We’ve seen parents engage in mutiny of volunteer coaches they don’t believe are up to snuff; we’ve cringed as parents and coaches scream from the sidelines and berate children for under-performing.  So it’s no wonder that we sometimes give them the message that winning trumps the means by which to get there.

I say we let out kids compete, but teach them the joy in playing a good game for the sake of exercise, fun and competition.  And that winning, by means other than skill and integrity, isn’t always everything.

A real champion works hard, competes harder, and wins or loses with grace.  Kids can learn about good sportsmanship and more at LuckyKatWorld.com, an online gaming website for kids.  They can also participate in the WIYO Olympics by playing their diving game!


You are at the controls to make Lucky twist, spin and dive his way to a gold medal. While you’re there, you and your kids can check out all the other great games, build a virtual island, and even watch videos in LK, a safe video website for kids!  So teach your kids about having fun and good values at the same time, and what it takes to become a true Olympian.

 

 

 

“It’s addicting.”

That’s what my 10-year-old daughter, Lauren, declared when she’d fired up her iPad and downloaded Lucky Kat World’s brand new game, Daren’s Donuts. On special now for just .99 cents, the game is inspired by everyone’s old-time favorite, “Hangman.” (We’d come up with a more politically correct name for that one these days, but I digress.)

Since I’m a resident mama blogger here at Lucky Kat World, you can’t exactly count on me for an unbiased opinion. My daughter however – well, she’s one tough critic. With strict instructions to give it to me straight, she carefully reviewed the game’s features and benefits like a finicky baker sourcing the finest ingredients. After a half hour of purposeful playtime, she gave Daren’s Donuts a rousing thumbs-up.

I’m glad about that because let’s face it – she also finds certain TV shows and games addicting that have far less educational value!! My resident 5th grader thinks she’s having fun, but she’s accomplishing two things: first, she’s building her vocabulary; and second, she’s not fighting with her brother or sister. (Which means she’s accomplishing something else – peace for mama. I wish there were more “Apps” for that!)

Daren’s Donuts: The lowdown before you download

  • Daren’s Donuts challenges kids (according to Lauren, perfect for kids ages 7 – 10) to guess the correct word in each round by choosing letters with one touch, one at a time, just like in Hangman.
  • For visual reinforcement, Daren, Lucky Kat’s resident gentle lion with an important message - stands beside a stack of 10 mouth-watering donuts. Each time the player chooses a correct letter, it appears into its proper space; when an incorrect letter is chosen, Daren loses a donut.
  • In his throaty, commanding voice, Daren offers encouragement throughout and a roaring cheer when the correct word is completed.
  • Hints are offered along with each word if a child gets stuck. My little gal loves to challenge herself, so she didn’t click on the hint until those donuts were really starting to get depleted. For example, a hint might read, “A fish that can generate electricity,” for the word, eel. Another example includes, “A vegetable that looks like a tree,” for the word, broccoli.
  • The player can miss 9 times and still win the round – and there are 200 possible rounds to play.

Daren’s Donuts is available on Lucky Kat’s website www.luckykatworld.com and also from iTunes. The game is formatted to download onto an iPad or Smartphone. Both mother and daughter agree – Daren’s Donuts is educational and FUN, not to mention a wise way to spend .99 cents!

It was one of the most memorable moments I’d ever enjoyed with my children. No - we weren’t at Disneyland. We weren’t cheering at one of their games. And we weren’t tearing breathlessly into glitzy Christmas gifts.

Instead, we weren’t focusing on ourselves at all. Standing side by side (they were 7 and 10 at the time) in a church hall packed with scores of families, we chanted, “Chicken! Veggies! Soy! Rice!” as we raced against the clock to fill bags with life-saving meals for families in need. In Ghana. In Haiti. In North Korea. We touched them that day, those children whose bloated tummies we see on TV. The ones that make me wince with a blistering combination of pain and compassion.

And powerlessness.

Which is the very sort of emotions Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) seeks to inspire – and then empower. The nation’s fastest growing charity, FMSC seeks to “feed children hungry in body and spirit.” I was thrilled to learn kids as young as 5 years old could participate with adult supervision. FMSC.org gathers communities together to pack ready-to-cook meals, engineered by scientists to eradicate the ravages of malnutrition.

That day, putting those feelings into action changed my children forever. At the beginning of each hour-and-a-half volunteer packing session, FMSC (a Christian organization that welcomes volunteers from all - or no - faith traditions) shows a video explaining the extreme suffering of children across the world due to hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity. I will never forget how my son turned to me with wide, wet eyes.

“Mom – after all the times you’ve talked to us about poverty, now, I really get it.” (I know. I need a tissue, too.) I love words. But it is actions that truly count.


It’s pretty unglamorous work, really. Volunteers wear hairnets, and you’re guaranteed to break a sweat. But it’s fun. Really fun. Almost better than Disneyland fun. And where else can you find parents, teenagers, kindergartners and grandparents all working together toward the same goal

In an orchestrated assembly line, rocking out to up-tempo tunes as we hustled to pack vacuum-sealed bags of 4 primary ingredients, I enjoyed a blissful camaraderie with my kids that day. True confessions – I struggle when they complain. Such is the downside when children’s bellies are full, clothes are plentiful, vacations are a given. And I want those things for them. I don’t want them to feel guilty – just a little more appreciative.

And on that day - and during the many packing sessions since - my kids learned to empathize with the plight of others. To serve neighbors both near and far. A lesson, I’m certain, that’s wedged a new building block in the architecture of their worldview.

Score one for mom.

To learn more about Feed My Starving Children and sign up to volunteer at a local packing session, visit www.fmsc.org.

Thursday, 05 July 2012 10:56

Battling Boredom

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I always feel a sense of relief on the last day of school. Until the next school year starts, I get a break from carpools, making lunches, monitoring homework, being a room mom, PTO duties, and the rest of the things that I sign up for during the school year. After a few days of being home all day with the kids, the feeling of relief vanishes almost instantly when I hear the dreaded words: “I’m bored.”

I know some families who spend most of the summer out of town, but for typical families like mine, summer means that my three kids are home with me all day long. If we go out on a day trip that keeps us out of the house for the entire day, they won’t get bored. Most days we are home for at least some length of time, and for some reason, no matter the circumstances, we can’t get through a single day without some sort of sibling rift or someone complaining of boredom.

So I ask myself what I can do to tackle this so called boredom. While I hope that they will just find something to keep themselves busy on their own, I really want them do something stimulating so they can make a smooth transition into learning new material when school starts again. I don’t want them sitting in front of the TV or playing video games all day long.

I think it’s important to have some balance between structured time and free time. Regardless of their age, all kids should be able to find something to do to occupy themselves for at least a while. I usually try and engage my kids when they are genuinely bored. LuckyKatWorld.com is great because they can have fun while getting some learning in as well. It’s actually a great website for the whole family. I’ve even gotten really good at Gobs of Bubbles! Sometimes I sit down and read with them, although the older they get the less popular this becomes. Other times we take the dogs for a walk. I’ll even play video games once in a while. When Dad is home he can toss the football with the boys and even have a tea party with our little girl. It doesn’t really matter how old they are or what they want to do, sometimes kids just want some undivided attention from mom and dad, whether they admit it or not. If all else fails and they are still bored then I know it’s time to get out the chores list.

At the end of the day, I know I am blessed with three great kids. The school year is so complex with school, family nights, and sports, just to name a few. It’s nice to look forward to summer when I can spend time with my kids without having to rush around. All I really do is focus on my family and keep things simple. It’s really about the time I spend, not the money, and the less boredom I hear about the better. While the end of the school year can be a really great thing, I take comfort that the start of a new school year is just around the corner.

While checking my Facebook page recently, the following question was posed by a fellow parent-in-the-trenches in the food allergen community: “Should children with life threatening food allergies be placed into one classroom within a school – separate from other classmates?”

I admit it – my reaction was as swift and fierce as a tsunami. I wanted to shout from the rooftops, “STOP THE PRESSES! Are we going to separate all children according to their disabilities – Autism, diabetes, food allergies, etc.?

OK, deep breaths. While my reaction was born of my own perspective, believe me - I get it. I understand the fear of raising a child with a severe disability (in our case life-threatening food allergies). I know the agony of being scared to death to allow my beautiful angels to step outside the safety of my arms, into the big bad world full of so many pernicious foods that could, quite literally, kill them.

I get it.

Still, the reality is this – unless I want my children to live in a bubble, it is my responsibility as a parent to teach them self-reliance. I want my children to experience life – go to school, make friends, travel, get married. Letting go is something I believe we must do for all children, and especially those who will have to serve as their own advocates. Because, like all kids, at some point, they’re going to insist on asking a server at a restaurant about any possibility of an allergic contaminant – by themselves.

So how do we encourage our children to take responsibility, yet still keep them safe? It’s not easy, of course. But check out just a few suggestions from a seasoned mom of kids with severe food allergies:

  1. Take one step at a time. At each stage of a child’s development will come different challenges, so take each one slowly. You can’t run before you walk. Looking into the future will only cause stress and anxiety.
  2. Make a plan. With each and every event (traveling, first day of school, eating at a friend’s home) devise a plan of action that is understood by all.
  3. Enlist others. Learn to trust – it’s hard, I know! Not only is this imperative for your well-being but it is also extremely healthy for your child.
  4. Empower your child. This will be much easier as they get older. Teach your child to identify their situation and know how to handle it. Make sure they have their medication on hand at all times, and know how to administer it on their own, or, with the help of another adult.
  5. Do not “go there!” Never allow yourself to go the dark place of “what if.” It’s just not healthy, so stay positive.

So - back to that original question.

As a society, the more we learn to respect and appreciate the differences between us, the better off we are. Separating children with allergies – segregating them – will only cause division and misunderstanding. Instead, when it’s appropriate, let’s teach our kids to talk to teachers and other students about their allergies. You’d be very surprised how many of them will go home and ask their parents to refrain from packing peanut butter and ask for “Sunbutter” instead!

Lesson in empathy: check.

Discover the delicious, allergen-conscious confections whipped up by Michele and her team at www.sweetalexis.com.

In 2008 more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. The rate of obesity in children has tripled over the last three decades - it has truly become an epidemic.

The primary cause of obesity is caloric imbalance - we eat too much, and move too little. Today’s average child does not get enough exercise, spends too much time on passive entertainment, and fails to sustain healthy eating habits. These may seem like significant challenges to address in busy, time-strapped families - but parents can help their kids make better choices that will lead to a lifetime of healthy living.

At Lucky Kat World, we want to offer a few helpful tips – and we welcome your suggestions, too!

Get Moving

Just move it. Kids should engage in at least an hour of moderately intense physical activity each day. The good news? This includes biking to and from school, walking the dog, and just running around playing. Encourage participation in a variety of activities through sports, school and family recreation.

Limit Screen Time. This is a hard sell to most kids - but we promise it’ll pay off. Set up some family rules limiting the time your children watch TV, play video games, surf the web, and use their cell phones. Instead, encourage your kids to “earn” their TV and gaming time through physical activity. For example, one hour of biking and playing outside earns 30 minutes of TV time.

Encourage Healthy Eating Habits

Provide Balanced Meals. Offer plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products. Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products, or choose lean proteins such as soy, chicken and fish. Don’t forget about those lunch boxes! Packing a lunch with these foods will help with their energy and focus at school.

Limit soda and juice. Drinking soda is like drinking candy - and juice isn’t much better. These culprits fill up our kids with empty calories very quickly. It’s a lot better for them to drink lots of water and milk instead.

Avoid fast food as much as possible. We know this is tricky for busy families that are always on the go, but with some creativity and just a bit of advance planning - you can do it! Dust off your crockpot and get dinner going early in the day long before the afterschool rush of activities. Have some yummy healthy snacks in the car so you’re not tempted by the drive through.

Don’t forget breakfast. Kids with a healthy balanced breakfast in their tummies learn better at school and are less likely to seek out high calorie snacks.

Lead By Example

Good habits start with mom and dad. Don’t send a healthy lunch to school and then stop at the fast food drive-through for you. Make the right choices for yourself first and set the example for your kids.

Make it a Family Affair

Plan physical activities as a family, volunteer to coach your child’s sports team, and set family rules for computer and TV time that mom and dad will follow too. Plan healthy meals together and teach your kids to shop and cook. The family that plays and eats healthy meals together is a healthier and happier one!

Do you have an idea to share with other Lucky Kat parents? We welcome your comments!

 

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