Category: Family Culture

Personal Growth When Life Turns Upside Down

Jams and Grahams – a Caregivers Story of Personal Growth

Last week I shared a tremendous story of how my sister maintained her sense of value and happiness and was able to problem-solve effectively during a very stressful experience. Today I want to share one more that is equally amazing. This happened on Christmas day, 2022, so I wanted to share it before we were too far into the new year.

My sister Rozanne’s husband has had two strokes. They have upended their lives. Some days can be very challenging. As she said, “Since the second stroke, it has been six months of ‘adding in and letting go,’ of various expectations, for both of us.”

Christmas was not the same. There were no gifts under the tree they had purchased for each other. It wasn’t something her husband was capable of, and she had been busy taking care of Christmas for her grown family and others she loves and cares about.

Nevertheless, we want to carry on with traditions, so on Christmas morning Rozanne placed a bow on a box of jam that she had purchased for Daryl. He loves jam. She chose not to wrap the box, only adding a bow. At this challenging time, she had been practicing letting go of what had seemed important in the past but that she now knows is unimportant. After all, since her husband’s stroke what was necessary and important had changed a lot.

The box of jam looked lonely sitting there. Then she remembered Daryl had asked his son, Kenny, to buy a box of graham crackers for her, because he knows she loves them. They were in the kitchen cupboard. She went to the kitchen and retrieved the box of crackers and placed them under the tree next to the jam. Into her mind came these words, ‘Jams and Grahams,’ a Caregivers’ Story of Personal Growth. As a full-time caregiver, I can relate to my sister’s experience!

You see, life isn’t static. It changes. Sometimes the change is exciting and pleasurable. Sometimes it requires that we manage our story and in turn how we choose to feel.

The Rest of the Story

My sister could have mourned the changes that Christmas morning, but instead she took charge of the story, and the result was joy, not sorrow. Let me share the rest of the story and you will see what I mean.

Daryl was happy to see two gifts under the tree. He took his bottles of jam and put them in hiding. : ) As my sister walked to the kitchen to put her graham crackers back in the cupboard she noticed that Daryl had taken the bow from his jam package and placed it on her cracker box. My sister said, “The picture in my mind of that sweet gesture, will remain in my thoughts, for the rest of my life.”

This year, choose to suffer less. Choose to remain in control of your stories. Write them in your mind in a way that lifts you, no matter what happens. You are 100% in control of your response to whatever comes your way. You can’t control everything that happens or how others behave, but you can control your response.

Here’s to a ‘Character Building’ New Year full of personal growth.

6 Tips for Talking With Kids

6 Tips for Talking With Kids

I have had some GREAT conversations with kids. There are always opportunities to practice this skill, and it is a skill. Part of the reason I have these great conversations is that I work at keeping the conversation going. I want to talk with them, I want to know what they think and feel about what is going on in their lives. I want to know them better. That is what makes a great conversationalist with kids of all ages.

How to keep the conversation going 

A conversation goes much farther with a child when we do not impart our judgments or opinions. There is great value in focusing on a child’s feelings or reactions in any given situation rather than sharing what we think or feel. When we can listen without judgment, it helps kids process their emotions.

I laugh when I think of a conversation that a friend shared. She was riding in the car with her teenage daughter, and it went something like this:
“Mom”.
“What?”
“I don’t think I should have a baby now.”
“Is this a consideration?”
“I thought about it, but now I’ve realized something.”
“What’s that?”
“I only really want to buy lots of cute little baby shoes.”
“Oh, that’s very different from having a real baby.”
“Yeah, that’s what I think too.”

When this mom listened calmly, without judgment or sharing her own opinion, she found out what was really going on. It was all about cute baby shoes and not sex. She learned something about her daughter. The conversation lasted long enough to know what her daughter was really thinking.

Here is another example of listening without judgment or opinion.
“Mom, I don’t like David.”
“Hmm, why not?”
“He is dumb.”
“What happened to make you think that?”
“He pushed me off the swing.”
“Oh really? How was that for you?”
“Not good! I really wanted to swing, and it hurt my leg.”
“You didn’t get to swing.”
“No, and that wasn’t nice!”
“You got hurt?”
“Yeah! I would never do that to someone!”

Right after the words, “Mom, I don’t like David,” this mom could have begun a mini-lecture on why it isn’t nice to talk mean about our friends, and then she wouldn’t have discovered what her son was feeling or had experienced.

6 TIPS FOR TALKING WITH KIDS

  • Ask open-ended questions. “How did that work out? How do you feel about that? What do you think you can do? How was that for you?
  • Don’t offer your opinion.
  • Give fewer judgments.
  • Say fewer words.
  • Help kids find their own feelings about their experiences.
  • Rather than tell, ask.

These tips will help your child develop emotional awareness and a strong inner compass. It will help them choose their behavior even when no one is there to evaluate and give them feedback. There is always time to revisit a conversation if teaching is needed, but for now, listen, be interested, and ask good questions.

When we practice talking with our children we are better able to be present and we parent more wisely.

Helping Children Be Free to Learn

In September, I took a rest. I had traveled to Colorado in late August to help a daughter having surgery and was repeating that trip for the same reason early in September. I knew I was going to need a rest. The truth is I would like an even longer rest. You are moms so you know what I am talking about. LOL

However, consistency is a hallmark of my life. I have found that it is a principle of power. I also keep commitments to myself and others. I told you I would be back the first Sunday of October. : ) With that in mind, I am back.

Today I am sharing an article I read years ago, written by one of my favorite authors. It had a powerful lesson to teach – it is the parent or teacher’s job to establish an environment where children can learn and grow (even experiment) without fear of being in trouble.

I was not this kind of mom, and it took me decades to begin to scratch the surface of this lesson. I want you to receive the lesson, even though it is still a work in progress for me at seventy-two, although I have made long strides in the right direction. It will hearten you, challenge you, and, if internalized, help you be a more present parent. I hope you enjoy and learn as much from Kerry Patterson’s story as I did when I read it back in 2008.

“It Is Rocket Science” by Kerry Patterson

“When I woke up that bright and sunny morning, I never suspected that I’d burn down my bedroom. But some days just don’t go as planned.

It was a Sunday morning, and this meant that later that evening the entire Patterson clan would plop down in front of their fifteen-inch black-and-white DuMont TV and worship at the altar of the Ed Sullivan Theater. For those of us living at the far edge of the U.S.—and at the far corner of Puget Sound to boot—Ed Sullivan provided a lifeline to the bigger world of hip happenings and top-notch entertainment. Who knew what menagerie of singers, dancers, acrobats, and comedians Mr. Sullivan would bring us! Would it be Elvis or even the Beatles? Surely the ventriloquist Señor Wences or the puppet Topo Gigio would grace the stage. It was Sunday, it was sunny, and all was well.

And then came the bomb. Mom sat me down and explained that she and Dad would be attending a volunteer meeting that evening and that I’d have to chaperone in their stead. Chaperone? I was a fourteen-year-old kid. Whom was I supposed to chaperone?

It turns out that a friend’s daughter, who was attending the local college, wanted to buy her first life insurance policy, and Mom had volunteered our living room for the sales presentation. Unfortunately, since Mom and Dad would be gone, I’d have to hang around. Without my dampening presence, who knows what lecherous shenanigans the insurance agent might attempt? And, as if listening to an insurance salesman wasn’t going to be bad enough, the meeting was to take place during the sacred time slot of the Ed Sullivan show!

When the appointed hour finally rolled around, I squirmed impatiently while the insurance fellow yammered on about “contingencies” and “risk aversion” until I could take it no longer. With one swift move, I slipped unnoticed into my bedroom adjacent to the living room. This put me out of range of the insurance talk but left me with nothing to do. After carefully studying the skin on my elbow for a couple of minutes, it hit me. Under my desk was a large bowl of rocket fuel I had recently concocted and set aside. Now would be the perfect time to turn it from a dry powder into a solid mass by melting it down and then letting it solidify.

I had never performed this operation before, nor did I have the necessary equipment on hand, but I had heard that transforming the powdered fuel into a solid block gave it more stability. I quickly fashioned a Bunsen burner out of materials I found in the bathroom. A Vaseline lid, a wad of cotton, and a couple of jiggers of my dad’s aftershave lotion—and voila! I was ready to cook. Next, I poured a generous portion of the fuel into a Pioneer chemical container that consisted of a cardboard tube with a flat metal bottom and a pop-out metal top. The cardboard would provide me with a safe place to grip the container, while the metal bottom would take the flame and melt the fuel.

Within minutes, I gingerly held the jury-rigged beaker above the Aqua Velva flame and was merrily melting the powder. Sure, I’d be missing Ed Sullivan’s guest star, Richard Burton, as he performed a number from Camelot, but I was advancing science. What could be more important?

Then, with no warning whatsoever, the powder hit its ignition point and burst into a frightening torrent of smoke and flames, scorching the wallpaper above my desk and burning a hole in the ten-foot ceiling. I couldn’t drop the blazing tube, or it would have careened around the room and set the drapes and other flammables on fire.

So I gritted my teeth and held the flame-spitting cylinder firmly through its entire burn. For a full minute, the fiery tube charred the wall and ceiling while dropping blazing bits of debris on my arms and legs—burning holes in my shirt and pants and leaving behind pea-sized scars.

The rest is a blur. When it was finally safe to set the container down, I bolted from my bedroom and threw open the front door to vent the house. A fire truck loaded with highly animated firefighters rolled into our driveway and it wasn’t long until several of them were screaming at me for being so stupid as to—well, cook rocket fuel in my bedroom. Apparently, not being able to swing their axes or shoot a single drop of water into our home had really ticked them off. One angrily threw open the parlor windows when I asked him what I could do to get rid of the smoke. Another glumly stared at my bedroom and shook his head while muttering, “Boy, are you going to get it when your folks come home!”

And then my folks came home. As the fire crew backed out of our driveway and the insurance salesman and frightened college girl bolted from the scene, Mom and Dad slowly approached. Watching a fire crew pull away from your home is never a good sign when you’re the parent of a teenage boy; however, it did give my folks a hint as to what lay ahead. As the two walked stoically into my bedroom and surveyed the damage, Mom stated, “You realize, of course, that you’re going to have to set this right.” I did. I paid for the repairs out of my college savings.

And then, Mom said something that was so quintessential “Mom” that I’ve never forgotten it: “What did you learn from this adventure?” Most parents, when faced with the smoldering shell of a bedroom would have grounded their careless son through social security. Or maybe they would have hurled threats, pulled out their hair, or perhaps guilt-tripped their soon-to-be-jailed juvenile delinquent into years of therapy. But Mom simply wanted to know what I had learned from the incident. It wasn’t a trick on her part; it was how Mom treated debacles. For her, every calamity was a learning opportunity, every mishap a chance to glean one more morsel of truth from the infinitely instructive universe.

So, I talked to Mom and Dad about ignition points, research design, precautions, and adult supervision. I meant most of what I said. I even followed my own advice and avoided catching any more rooms on fire. In fact, save for one minor screw-up a few months later during a routine rocket test where I accidentally blew off my eyebrows (leading to an embarrassing few days where I was forced to darken my remaining forehead hairs with eyebrow pencil—not cool for a guy in high school), I averted further disasters of all types.

But what I didn’t avert was the bigger message. Mom wanted me and my brother to be full-time learners—ambulant scholars if you like. It was her central mission in life to turn us into responsible adults who learned at every turn. While the masses might bump into the world, take the occasional licking, and then endlessly complain, she wanted us to bounce back with the question: What does this teach us? While others carped about effects, she wanted us to find the causes. Our classroom was to extend beyond the halls of academia and down any path our journey took us—even into the occasional charred bedroom.

The implication of this message to parents and leaders alike is profound. It’s the adult’s or leader’s job to establish an environment where their charges can learn and grow (even experiment) without fear of being grounded through social security. This isn’t to suggest that either the home or the corporate learning environment should allow individuals to run about willy-nilly—heating up rocket fuel without a single thought as to what might go wrong. I had been irresponsible, and I was held accountable. But I had also been experimenting with rocket science, and Mom didn’t want to stifle this part of me. She wanted me to experiment, and this called for calculated risks. She saw it as her job to teach me how to make the calculations, not to set aside my test tubes and chemicals.

So, let’s take our lead from the ambulant scholar. Should our best-laid plans run afoul, may we have the wisdom to pause, take a deep breath, and ask: What did we learn from this?

The Parenting Microscope

I was not a perfect parent! Of course, you know that because there are no perfect parents, any more than perfect people. However, it shocks me when I see a poor behavior from my parenting days that has crept into my grandparenting days. Being with children is like being under a microscope, where your strengths and weaknesses are enlarged for you to view.

That is why being a parent can be rough some days…because you are always under that microscope. It eases up a bit when you become a grandparent because you don’t have children 24-7, and when you do have them for longer periods, say overnight, well, you can hold it together. It’s when you have them for more than a few days that the microscope turns back on. That happened to me this month. I went to Washington to help one of my daughters for eight days, to give her mini-breaks, and to love on my grands.

A NOT Perfect Grandparent

My Washington grands are all under ten. They have friends in the neighborhood who match those ages. On some days we would have five or six kids. They can make a lot of noise. : ) I had to work at remaining calm and patient with the noise and the resulting chaos. You know the kind, chalk all over the patio and not in the bucket; water toys on the lawn, not in the pool or even close to it, scooters lying on the lawn, towels dropped on the ground and not hung up on the landing, and so forth.

Meals were somewhat challenging also. I recall that two of my boys wouldn’t eat anything green or red. Augh! My grands have their own picky way of eating. But the final meal was awesome. I lined up all the leftovers on the counter and said, “Pick what you want.” Then I added carrots or cucumbers depending on the child. It was much more enjoyable than being fussed that no one wanted to eat the same food

A ‘Really NOT Perfect’ Grandparent

I remind myself that I grew up in a far different time than my grands are growing up in. No one talked to kids, they just told us what to do. No one ever explored our feelings and what was causing us to behave in a certain way. I can find myself back in that parenting place. After all, it is familiar. What that looks like is me holding up my hand, and saying, “We aren’t going to discuss it further. You know what to do,” in my ‘strict’ voice. Not loud or angry, just absolutely firm.

This isn’t how I grandparent most of the time. But when I’m tired, hungry, or sleep deprived, well… It happened with one of my grands in Seattle. Elliott went to his room upset with me. I told his mom what happened, how he had responded, and how I responded. Kate went to talk with him. He said, “It makes me scared when grandma uses her strict voice.” Oh my gosh. Not how I want them to remember me. But I am still not perfect, even after seventy-two years of getting rid of the garbage and learning new skills.

Later, we were all outside and Elliott was riding his scooter. As he coasted to a stop I said, “Do you want to talk about it.” He said, “No.” I waited and then I used a helpful skill – mini-conversations. As he coasted down the drive and stopped by me again, I said something about scooters in my day. He was intrigued. As he coasted by me a third time, I asked him a question about his scooter. He answered me. The next pass I asked a question about scooters and school. He was even more animated in his response. The next coast down the drive, he asked me a question. I felt the energy change. I was forgiven for not being perfect, for being strict. We hugged at bedtime and had our goodnight talk. All was well.

So, what is the point of sharing these experiences that cast me in a less than stellar light? I am not perfect, and neither are you. I am not always as fun as I would like to be. Sometimes I forget to be the grownup. Sometimes I forget to take breaks and I get too tired. Often, I forget to ask for help with the load. The point is that you will be working on becoming a better parent and grandparent your whole life!

Not Being Perfect Doesn’t Erase the GREAT!

I had interesting bedtime talks with these three little people. I made a huge difference in my daughter’s workload and home. I was great to do chores with. I made them short, quick, and fun. Tessa and I shared quite a few laughs. Elliott, Gus, and I took some great walks. We chatted as we went. I baked with them. I drew chalk pictures with them. We waded in the ocean and collected shells. I solved problems. I laughed with their friends. I sat through the new Minion movie and laughed at what they thought was funny. I helped set up 2 lemonade stands, one for boys and one for girls. I hunted for treasures with Gus. I helped build a fort and cheered them on as they played. I served snacks. : ) I made sure they were safe, fed, dressed and cleaned, hugged and kissed.

Each morning, regardless of the good or bad of the day before, my grands gave me hugs and kisses. We are friends. They think I am a great grandparent. I am not a failure as a grandmother to them despite my occasional strictness, my annoyance, or tiredness. I am a grandmother doing my best and for them, it is enough.

For a week in August and again in September, I will be with other grands while their mom has two surgeries. Most of it will be wonderful but we may have a moment because I am not perfect. But they will love me, and I will focus on the successes.

Parenting, as I said, is like being under a microscope, seeing all your strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, we tend to focus on our weaknesses and forget about our strengths.

I have a lot of strengths and I no longer beat myself up over my weaknesses but instead remember that anything can be changed. I am still alive and that means there is time for growth and that while I am working on whatever isn’t quite right yet, I need to celebrate what is. And so do you!!

Doing that one small thing, celebrating your successes and growth, will ultimately move you forward –

Not toward being a perfect parent, but a parent worth loving and emulating.

 

Let the Gifts You Have Mastered Count

Yesterday, after an hour’s drive, I spent the day helping a friend clean and organize her garage. Wow, it was a hot day, punctuated by a downpour, in the afternoon. I got to work with her sons which was a treat. They did good. : )

At one point, my friend asked me if I ever got tired of being called on to clean and organize other people’s messes. Fair question. She felt bad for asking me to help her. But I responded with this. “Would you feel bad asking if I played the flute? Would you ask me to play at a funeral, a wedding, or in a parade? Would you be hesitant to ask? No, because it would be my talent. What I do is no less a talent, and I am glad to share it when possible. What I do isn’t any less valuable, just less showy. So, when asked, I use my talent to clean and organize.”

I have thought a lot about this conversation. Here it is in a nutshell. I am excellent at three things that make me a superior organizer and cleaner: consistency, focus, and a sense of order. I can’t take any credit for these three things. I was born with them. I know you will want to argue this point, but I have lived in my skin for over seven decades. I was this way as a small child. I was born with these gifts. I can’t take credit.

Here is what I can take credit for.

I practiced every day, for decades. Sometimes I did better than others but over time, I became a master. I can take credit for that.

That is how talents are. We have a natural propensity for something – fishing, dance, playing an instrument, comedy, gymnastics, football, cleaning and organizing, planning, listening to another’s grief, gardening, cooking, caring for the old or ill, connecting with children, the list is endless. Some take this natural gift, and they use it regularly, they practice, and they become masters. Others don’t and although they have a gift, they don’t become masters.

Case in point

I was a very talented dancer. I thought about going to Europe to study. I read books about dance, and I danced my little heart out. One of my teachers said I was gifted, and I was. I could have pursued this goal. However, I discovered that as good as I was, it wasn’t the thing I valued most. So, I let it go and I’m glad I did. In dancing’s place, I have a family of seven accomplished children. I have a marriage that is filled with love after 51 hard and sometimes brutal years. I have learned much about charity, humility, and a generousness of spirit. It has been these other things that I pursued that have led me here, to who I am today.

What natural gift have you honed? Look closely. If you think you have let your life slip away and that you haven’t pursued your dreams, look again. What gift have you perfected over the years that serves you and others and feels more valuable than what you let go of? Celebrate that! Stop feeling like a failure.

I am a success. I change people’s lives; not in a way I thought I might, decades ago, but in the way that has lifted me and others, that has changed me and deepened my soul.

Let the gifts that you have devoted a lifetime to perfecting count!

Every Mom is a CEO

I have a friend, Nicole. She was a solopreneur, and a single mom, who homeschooled her two boys. That was a load to carry, however, Nicole manages well. That wasn’t always the case.

I recall when she was feeling overwhelmed with the load she was carrying. Nicole is intelligent, and she had numerous ideas that would make her business even more successful and give her the income she needed to raise two children on her own, but time was always an issue. There just wasn’t enough of it.

She couldn’t do everything by herself, but she kept trying. She felt bad asking for help. I mean, she should be able to manage, right? This ‘doing it all’ led to days when she wasn’t her best with the boys. She would struggle to remain calm, school felt like a huge weight, and she let her clients infringe on time with her family. She couldn’t say no. She carried on like this for several years.

This might sound like you. It was certainly me for most of the years I was parenting. It took me decades to understand systems and to be willing to get help. Eventually, Nicole learned some valuable lessons. These were the same lessons I had to learn. If you are overwhelmed and not managing as well as you want, you will have to learn them also.

First, Nicole began talking to other moms who had been where she was. I was one of those moms. I had never been a single mother, but I had a husband on the road, and money was always tight. We had seven kids. A load is a load even if they are not the same. As we talked, I was able to help her see that she had systems, but they weren’t very effective. We came up with ways to make her days flow better, to give her time for work, and to have more present time with her boys.

Then she hired a retired businessman who helped her develop better systems in her company and convinced her to hire some help. Team meetings made a big difference in her effectiveness and in her ability to manage time. It made a WORLD of difference in her ability to put her excellent ideas into practice which helped her gain new clients. Her income increased substantially. Her mentor helped her manage those clients more efficiently and with better boundaries. He taught her how to stop being a self-employed, overworked mom, and how to become a CEO.

That is an interesting acronym meaning chief executive officer. The CEO is the highest-ranking person in a company or other institution, ultimately responsible for making managerial decisions. That was definitely Nicole’s role in her newly structured company. It was also her role as a parent. Isn’t every father and mother a CEO? In two-parent homes, they are a team ultimately responsible for making decisions. In my friend Nicole’s case, she was the sole CEO.

Before Nicole got her systems in order and her thoughts out of her head so she could organize them and bring them to fruition, she was successful as a businesswoman and a mom. BUT and this is what I want you to take away, she struggled every day to feel successful. Nicole was overwhelmed much of the time. She felt she failed in many areas. She was overworked.

After Nicole began accessing wise counsel and good resources, she began talking to her kids. They were young, but they were still part of the solution. She got them to buy-in to doing things a new way. She helped them feel important and part of what was happening, not like pawns that were being told what to do. They began having regular family meetings. She accepted that her children were capable of greater executive function, and she started giving them more responsibilities.

Executive function refers to skills that help us focus, plan, prioritize, work toward goals, self-regulate behaviors and emotions, adapt to new and unexpected situations, and ultimately engage in abstract thinking and planning. This increase in trust and responsibility increased her children’s willingness to participate.

Things began to feel better; Nicole’s children became more involved and helpful. Her business expanded relieving her financial stress, she enjoyed working with others, and she felt supported.

There isn’t any way to remove the weight of parenting – the actual physical work, the mental work and the decision making, the responsibility. But there are ways to manage all this better so that you not only perform at a higher level, but you feel successful more often.

Tips to feeling successful and less overwhelmed.

  • Ask for help. Maybe you have systems by default, and they stink. : ) Find others who are managing what you aren’t managing, and ask them what they are doing.
  • Be willing to experiment without feeling like a failure. That is what scientists do. Take what you have learned, then with some thought and a willingness to experiment, design something similar that you hope will work for your family. If it doesn’t, go back, take another look, and design another experiment.
  • Be consistent in using systems that work. It’s funny, but research shows that when we find something that works, often, we will eventually go back to doing it the old way. We must decide to change and then practice consistency in the new way of managing.
  • Get your family to buy-in. When people feel they are part of the decision-making process, when they feel some ownership, they perform better.
  • Allow your children to become active participants. Give them opportunities to practice executive function skills. Trust them to be able to do a bit more than you think they can. They will probably surprise you.
  • Model this way of living for them. It is stimulating. They will learn more and be prepared to go out on their own. What they see you do is far more powerful than what they hear you say.
  • Celebrate successes. You will feel better, and your children will stay in the game better. We all like to feel successful. Life is more enjoyable when there are goals and rewards for meeting them.

Nicole and her boys are managing life better. I manage my life better, and you can manage yours better too. This doesn’t mean you won’t have bad days, weeks, months, or maybe even a year.

Things happen, but when you can, get up and get back to consistently doing

what you know works.

Raising Financially Literate Kids: Tips to Help You Navigate the Financial Journey of Parenthood

It can be tiresome and overwhelming to constantly explain the intricacies of money to your children. Even if you’re a seasoned parent, you might still be unsure of how to talk to your kids about finances. But don’t worry—there’s no right or wrong way to approach the issue. As long as you’re feeling genuine and honest with them, your kids will understand that you’re just looking out for their best interests.

Even as early as age 3, kids begin to understand that money equals security. So, the earlier you can begin discussing finances with your kids, the better. My husband and I didn’t know much about money management when we had our seven children. We flew by the seat of our pants and that didn’t work out as well for us as some knowledge about budgeting, saving, and investing would have. It also made it more difficult for our children as they moved into adulthood. BUT there is a wealth of great information and useful strategies out there now that can help you navigate better than Don and I did and will help your children manage money better. Laura Pearson and I teamed up to offer you some strategies that can help you navigate the financial journey of parenthood. Laura Pearson is passionate about teaching the younger generation. Edutude was built to share resources on how to keep children engaged and in love with learning.

Plan Ahead

When you know you’re going to have kids, start planning for their future financial health as soon as possible. This may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little bit of research and effort, you can create a financial plan for your family that will help your kids understand money and make smart decisions from an early age.

One of the best ways to start planning for your children’s future finances is by creating a family budget. This doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach—you can start by breaking down large purchases (like a house, car, or vacation) into smaller monthly amounts.

Money Under 30 notes that this will give you a much better understanding of your family’s financial situation, as well as give your kids a better sense of how much money they will have at the end of each month.

Make a Budget

One of the best ways to teach your kids about money is by showing them. As discussed above, breaking down large purchases into smaller amounts can help you better understand your family’s financial situation, as well as give your kids a better sense of how much money they will have at the end of each month.

Another important way to show your kids is by creating a budget together. While creating a budget can be a bit tedious, the more you do it, the easier it will get. Once you have your budget in place, try to stick to it as best you can.

This not only helps you understand your own spending habits but it also gives you insight into how your family can be better stewards of money.

Finally, it’s never too late to teach kids about business. Budgeting skills come into play here, as well. While there are many ways to acquire startup capital, your young entrepreneur must know how to allocate these funds for success.

Teach Financial Habits

One of the best ways to teach your kids about money is by modeling financial literacy behavior. This is why it’s important to regularly take the time to talk to your kids about money—both when you’re together and when you’re apart.

Regularly talking about finances shows your kids that you trust them to learn about money on their own. Plus, it gives you a chance to go over any topics you’ve neglected, as well as introduce new ones.

Lastly, when it comes to modeling financial literacy habits, there are a few key things to keep in mind:

Start early: Lifehack suggests modeling financial habits as early as possible by talking to your kids about how finances work and what is important to remember.
Be consistent: Make sure to follow through by regularly talking about finances, acting as a good example, and modeling financial literacy habits.
Have open-minded discussions: Don’t be afraid to have open-minded and constructive discussions about money with your kids.

With these tips in hand, you’ll be better equipped to raise financially literate kids.

A lot of peace of mind comes with this, as you know you’re doing all you can to set them up for success in life now and in the future.

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Tips for preparing to Be a Father or Why Take Care of Your Wife : )

As I said last week, in 2011 I asked a few fathers and grandfathers to share their parenting experiences. Well, one of the sweetest responses came from a yet-to-be father. Brady Houston is my son-in-law, married to my youngest daughter. At the time he wrote this they had been married just a year. Enjoy.

It’s still hard to believe that I’m finally at a point in my life where becoming a father is an imminent reality. My wife, Kate, and I have had many conversations during this first year of our marriage about parenting, and I have often thought about how I can prepare to become a father. All those parents out there are surely scoffing, “Preparation? No such thing.” I am the first to cede that no amount of planning can truly prepare me to be a dad, but I have learned a very valuable lesson during this first year of marriage that I believe will greatly help my wife and me.

Kate and I went to dinner with my parents a few months ago, and we asked them about their preparation. Among the answers they gave us was a comment my mom made to me, which I hope to never forget, “Take care of your wife, and she will take care of your kids.” With that simple phrase, my mother taught me that first and foremost, I need to make sure my wife feels loved and appreciated, and she in turn will nurture our children.

Since then, I have redoubled my efforts

to make my wife feel like she is special to me by doing things like:

  • planning weekly meaningful dates
  • voicing my appreciation for her
  • serving her in whatever ways I can

I hope that learning to take care of my wife’s needs now, will allow me to continue when we have children and that by so doing my children may receive the nurturing that they need.

Brady and Kate now have three kiddos ranging in age from ten to three. Life can be busy and chaotic. Brady has been working to follow his three tips. Because he works at home he helps out and Kate can plan time for herself. Of course, he plans time just for the two of them. This last weekend they went to Las Vegas. He is doing his best. Way to go Brady!

Now a few comments from the mother-in-law. : )

This couple was wise because they:

  • They thought ahead about the prospect of parenting and particularly for Brady, fathering
  • They asked for advice from those who have gone where they are going to go
  • Brady and his wife are jointly making plans
  • He has implemented some of the good advice he received

I think that Brady is in the process of being a GREAT dad!

Brady Houston is married to Kate Johnson Houston. Brady works for Amazon and Kate is back in school. They have a very busy life. 🙂

Balancing Family and Work Time for Fathers

In 2011

I asked some fathers and grandfathers to share some of their feelings and experiences about fatherhood. My friend Darrell Hendriksen shared this story with me. I think this is where many busy fathers find themselves and it will be instructive. After all, parenting is about being present despite our busy-ness. Here is his story:

My wife and I own an older home that we have been remodeling one room at a time. A few years ago, in early spring, we decided that it was time to remodel the long-neglected front porch. Knowing that I would only be able to work on it during the warm months, I planned to work on it every Saturday from sunup to sundown, trying to beat the deadline of autumn weather.

As a father of three, I have always tried to be conscious of and involved with spending quality time with my children. To this end, I determined that to complete the porch by autumn I would need to devote each Saturday in its entirety to remodeling work, which would allow me to dedicate weekday evenings to my children.

As the weeks passed and the project dragged on, I became increasingly concerned that I wasn’t going to get the job done before the summer ended. If the porch wasn’t painted in time, the wet and cold winter was going to cause extensive damage to the newly installed wood porch. Notwithstanding my supposed balance between home remodeler and devoted father, I found myself more and more answering my sons’ requests for my attention with, “Not now, son- I’m really busy”, or “I will as soon as I’m finished nailing these planks”.

I remember going to bed very late one Saturday night, having once again missed our nightly family ritual of brushing teeth, reading a bedtime book, reading scriptures, singing, praying together, and tucking the children into bed with kisses and hugs. This nightly ritual had long since become a cornerstone in our family traditions, and I felt awful that I had missed it again. In my mind’s eye, I saw them with sad expressions on their faces, asking my wife, “Where’s Dad”? This, coupled with my increased frequency of choosing work over my sons, had me downright depressed.

I felt like an absent father, and the last thing I wanted was for my children to have even a hint of a feeling that they wished I was with them more. They are the most important thing in my life. I knew it, but I didn’t know if they knew it.

I could have said “I’m doing this work for you” all I wanted, but if they didn’t feel like I was available for them, all my work would’ve been meaningless. What good is a fancy remodeled house if all it’s good for is a place for a disconnected family to eat and sleep? A house is a house no matter how old the carpet or the color of the paint. What I wanted was a home- the kind that comes from absolute family unity and love. As ‘head of the home’, I knew it had to start with me.

That very minute I committed that my new rule was to never be “too busy”. Whenever my children come and ask me to read them a book or push them on the swing, or whatever– I say, “Yes”! When I put down what I’m doing right then and there, I immediately let them know by my actions that they can approach me. When we’re finished, I invite them now, to come and help me.

Regardless of age or capacity, there are four distinct fruits of this conscious effort to be more present in my children’s lives:

• My children know that they are paramount in my life
• I now have a direct opportunity to teach my children how to play and work
• My children and I, and therefore the entire family, are closer to each other
• Spending time with my children is FUN!!

When I ask my children to help me with a work project, they react as though I told them we were going to Disneyland. They are so excited to spend time with me- they love just being around me. But rather than simply being in close physical proximity to each other, parents must take advantage of these opportunities to consciously engage with their children. We need to ask them about things happening in their lives, that are important to them. We need to take the time to teach them about the world around them. These are the moments that combine to form a child’s character. The word parent is a noun, but too often we fail to seize the opportunity to use it as a verb- actively rearing them by loving, guiding, teaching, and showing them the way.

I don’t believe my children had really regarded me as ‘too busy’ but I had been, and that was enough to cause a problem. This feeling has long since dissolved, and I now revel in the opportunity to genuinely rear them, not just provide a place for them to live. Initially, I feared that my remodeling progress would slow, but it hasn’t. In fact, it has increased because my children are a bit older now and are confidently learning these skills for themselves.

It is so important that we consciously schedule time with our children, just as we would any other appointment or meeting. If we want our children to know we love them, we must show them by giving them our time and affection. We must also tell them we love them. Life is full of things to do, but our children deserve more than to be regarded as a task or burden. Since our children are our most important responsibility, let them be at the heart of our lives.

Let us regard everything we need to do in life as an opportunity and a venue for accomplishing this, the most important position in our lives- that of a parent. If you want to know what they’re thinking- ask them. If you want them to become something- teach them.

Do not assume they know you love them- tell them. Show them.

Darrell Hendriksen lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Heather and their three boys. He enjoys running, hiking, camping, gardening, making music, and doing handyman work- none of which would mean much without his wonderful family by his side.

A Mother’s Day Replay!

On Mother’s Day in 2012 my daughters hijacked my blog and gave me a HUGE Mother’s Day surprise. I was reviewing that old blog recently and reread their messages to me. I was again moved to tears at their kind words and generosity of spirit. I never was a perfect person, let alone a perfect parent. But my daughter’s words reminded me of what I weekly work to remind you – our kids aren’t looking for perfect. They want us, with all our flaws and all our love. When we stay the course, do the best we can, and keep learning, IT WILL BE ENOUGH!

Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

A decade has passed, and they have grown so much. Their lives have been challenging and beautiful. I put current pictures in the article, so you could see them as they are now. : )

May 13, 2012

We’ve hijacked our mother’s blog for a surprise Mother’s Day Tribute. We wanted to share with all of you, her dear readers, and friends, how honored we are to be her daughters and what she means to us. We are grateful for your joining us to celebrate our mother and yours.

Kate Houston
I remember one of my favorite things when I was living at home was sitting in our “library” with you talking about our love for books. You taught me to hunger for knowledge.

When I was young you showed me how to make a meal out of almost nothing, how to grow a beautiful garden, and how to REALLY clean. You taught me how to be a homemaker.

The summer I wanted to study abroad in Europe, and we had no money, you spent the whole summer baking cakes and selling water bottles with me. You taught me how to work for what I want and be creative doing it.

When I wanted to be a varsity cheerleader my senior year of high school, even though I had NEVER cheered before, you were right there on the day of tryouts to make sure I stuck it out until the end. You taught me how to dream and dream big.

Growing up you loved to teach us how to make sugar eggs, gingerbread houses, and frosting flowers for cakes. You taught me the importance of cultivating my talents.

When you were in your 40s, you had seven children and an incredibly busy life, and yet you finished your master’s degree. You taught me the value of education.

When times were tough and family life was especially hard, I’d walk past your open bedroom door and ALWAYS see you on your knees. You taught me how to have a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Mom, it’s easy for us to look back on our time as a mother and wonder if anything we did gave our children what they needed to be successful in their life. Sometimes we look back and feel discouraged because as far as we can see, what we did wasn’t enough. But it’s the little things, the daily things you taught me that made all the difference. Because you were the person that you were, I am the person that I am today. Through your service to others, you taught me how to serve. Through your example of forgiving and being patient, you taught me how to forgive and be patient. Because you grew and blossomed, like the flowers out back in our garden, you taught me how to grow and blossom.

Now I’m getting ready to take my first steps into motherhood and because of you, I am not afraid. You have already walked the paths down this unfamiliar road and through the wisdom you have gained, you will teach me what it truly means to be a mother. Thank you, mom.

Marie Henry
There are so many things that I have learned from you but there are two things in particular that have forever changed me and how things have gone in my life. The first one was prayer. I remember always walking in on you praying. I knew Heavenly Father was your friend and that you trusted him.

When I decided to come back to the church, I knew what to do. I knew I could talk to Him about everything. That it was okay if I was angry, even at Him, as long as I talked to him about it. That even if I sat there and said nothing at least I was in the right place. I knew I had to build up trusting Him but I trusted you, so I knew I would get there and that it would be okay. The second thing was to never ever give up, that change is possible and that it is very real. That you need not give up hope. There is a way to return to happiness, and it is through Jesus Christ.

The past 13 years have been quite the journey for me and my family. There were times I didn’t think things would ever turn around or feel differently, but then I would pray and get through the day. I knew from watching you that no matter what you don’t ever, ever give up. You continue to fight even if the answer takes years to come.

Now, look where I am at. I finally love being a mother. I feel content and peaceful with myself and how things are going in my life, and I have the greatest man as my husband. There are many things I get to pass on to my children but the two things I continue to tell them about are to always pray, no matter how you feel, and to never ever give up, that Heavenly Father is there for us and no matter what you fight to stay on his side.

I know that one day you were praying, in the kitchen, I believe, and you said to Heavenly Father that we would have all been better off if he had just sent us to someone else. He said to you, that may be true, but he sent us to you. Well, I am proud that he did. I am very grateful to have you as my mother.

Our lives here on earth are meant to have trials in them. I left your home knowing how to make it through and come out the other side being a better me and closer to the Lord. Having fewer trials really doesn’t matter. That I know how to make it back home to Heavenly Father is what I came here to learn and learn it I did. I am grateful for the family I have and PROUD I get to say you are my mother. I love you.

Jenny Johnson
I really love my mother. And it is one of those interesting loves; the bigger the love gets, the bigger my heart gets, and the more it makes me love the entire world. Amazing!

I remember being a child and mom would take all her 7 children with her to the nursing home on Sundays just to visit the patients who weren’t getting usual visitors. It was the family’s volunteer work.

That is how I now kind of define my life. I prioritize (highly) having volunteer work in my life that serves the geriatric population. Also, I just finished the endeavor of earning my master’s degree. I will now start working as a professional in the skilled nursing home to serve the geriatric population with different modes of therapy. I feel so happy and grateful because I know that working in this environment and serving this population is really going to feed my life, daily! She has taught me that despite possibly never bearing children, there is a viable way for me to mother this world! I serve…and it makes me happy. It is how I run my life. This is the legacy my mother has left in my life. An ocean of thanks to you, my sweet mother.

A handful of years ago, when I was in a severe car accident and wasn’t walking, my mother flew to California and took care of me for 4 months. I mean REALLY was taking care of me, as if her 30-year-old daughter was 3 again. Feeding me, cleaning me, helping me move from point A to point B, etc. That was such a wonderful blessing given to each of our lives because what came out of that intimate tragedy was that my mother became one of my dearest friends. I feel so supported, loved, and valued and that, again, strengthens and augments my desire to serve and support this entire world, and it makes me love this world even more. A canyon of thanks to you, my sweet mother and friend.

What my wonderful, beautiful, vibrant mother is teaching me now about being a woman is that personal evolution never stops, and it is never too late to become 10 times more than you have ever been. Beauty, wisdom, self-love, personal manifestation, grand service – these are things I am learning from her and really beginning to value because she is performing these things and becoming these things and mastering these things and it is all so amazing to watch! She is painting such a colorful masterpiece across the canvas of her life. She is leaving such a mark, and I feel so honored and blessed to be a part of it. I love you mom, to the moon and back! A universe of thanks to you for everything.

Jodie Palmer
I turned 40 years old a few weeks ago. It’s sort of a surreal experience for me because it’s the only age that I distinctly remember my mother being. She gave birth to her last child at 40, and so have I. I am now where my mother once was, a place I remember her being.

A fascinating thing has happened now that I’m standing in the shoes, I remember my mother wearing. She has suddenly transformed into something more than my mother. I’m connecting with her as a woman.

It’s been hard to try to put this transformation into words or describe what it means to finally see my mother as a woman. I hate to admit it, but my mother has never been a “real” woman to me. She’s been . . . my Mother. Something different than, “a woman.”

Throughout my life, I’ve been walking these antipodal paths of both discovering who I am as a woman, and consciously putting myself together into who I want to be. But the change that has happened for me is that I am beginning to see my mother in the context of who I am as a woman—this complicated mixture of contradictions and messiness, grace and beauty, vices and flaws, backbone and tenacity, soft and tender places, guarded and hidden places, confusion and wisdom, fullness and emptiness and so much more all wrapped up in one heart.

I find myself feeling so tender towards her, not in a reminiscent way, as is usual for Mother’s Day, but in this current, primal, female, connected, Red Tent sort of way.

As I was attempting to write this tribute to her, I came up with my usual celebrations of memories, the ones that have informed my whole worldview and way of being with the world. Like the time she packed us all into the car to return something that had recently been purchased because we needed the money. On the way out of the parking lot, there was a man holding a sign asking for help. She rolled down the window and gave the man part of the change we had just received. She shared and gave, even when it hurt.

Or the time when she washed the body of a woman who had died and had no one in her life to give her that one last loving honor. She is a rememberer of the forgotten.

There are so many other memories that have served as the elements taken up as food by the beautiful garden of my life.

But, today I want to honor my mother differently than I have ever been able to before. I want to honor her as a woman. I want to honor her complicated, contradictory, messy, deeply beautiful, wise, lovely self. All of it is beautiful to me, and so needed by me, as a woman. All of her is so needed by the world. And the world is better for it—the little worlds of her children and grandchildren, the little worlds of her client families, the little worlds of her neighbors, and the strangers that cross her path. All these little worlds collide together in one big bang of goodness and beauty for all the rest of us.

That’s the beauty of women, we are wombs and birthers of beauty and goodness in the world through the complicated mixture of who we are. We are good for the world . . . And the Lord God looked and said, “It is good.”

I am honored to be a woman born and grown from this woman. I am honored to have her blood and her bone, her spirit, and her heart living in me.

I am grateful for these new eyes that have allowed me to not only see her differently but see my daughters differently. I newly see, and feel, that we are sisters, we are friends.

Again, Happy Mother’s Day to you all.