Aug 312009

Training kids is not an easy task and definitely not for the faint of heart; especially when you’re in a hurry and think “This 2 minute clean up session is taking 10 minutes.”  You can feel that gray hair coming in faster than little Junior can get his toys in the bucket or little Mary can get her dinner plate to the sink.

I’ve trained my kids to understand the Team rules.  And I also color my hair. lol Here’s the drill:  If you drop something, pick it up.  If you want to take it, you have to carry it.  If you make a mess, you clean it up.  It’s ALL for One and One for ALL!

Those lessons weren’t easily learned. They were earned with blood, sweat and real tears. It took twice the effort to teach them to do it own their own, but well worth the investment.

As the family grows, so do the responsibilities.  The kids help each other with homework, the older one reads to the younger one and the 5 year old makes a “mean” PB&J for school lunches (it’s nothing to look at, but tastes great)!  We all have to help.  We’re in this together.

Otherwise, mom is the one doing everything and mom’s job is to lead, guide, teach and protect, not to be their slave, chauffer and short order cook.  It’s important that they respect your role, your authority and appreciate all the things you do for them.  Train them to say thank you.  I rarely have to remind them to do this..  It becomes second nature.  Believe me, It wasn’t always like this.

Cultivate a sense of TEAM Ship.  This will take the focus off of themselves, creating productive little citizens with an appreciation for You and their Community.

 Posted by at 7:00 am
Aug 292009

When I was a kid, no matter how many fun things we got to do, it was never enough.  The moment it was over, I was thinking, “What’s next?”  Typical of a kid, right?

My dad was a Marine and Community Boy Scout leader.  If you weren’t up by 7am, the day was wasted.  The one phrase you NEVER said around my dad was “I’M BORED.”

If you didn’t grab OPPORTUNITY by the HORNS and find something to do, once that complaint was made, he was gonna Plan your day for you.

We lived on the lake. Our day consisted of a few daily chores, lots of swimming, trampoline jumping and biking to our heart’s content.  One time, my sister and I could not stop fighting and complaining – there was nothing to do.  We were hollering “She’s looking at me!” Stop repeating everything I say!” and the list went on.  Then one of us uttered the life changing phrase:  I’m bored!

Next thing I know, he had made provisions for a TRUCK LOAD OF BRICKS to be dropped along the side of the house.  I mean, a TRUCK Load.  We were looking out the window like . . . What’s that for?  It was a special delivery, just for us. . . Our job was to Move all the bricks from one side of the house to the other!!  And when we were done . . . (like Forrest Gump said) . . . we had to move ’em BACK!  I tell ya, if that won’t fix a squabble and bordem, I don’t know what will.

I learned TEAM BUILDING that day.  I also learned Never to say:  I”M BORED.  It made quiet the impression on me.  To this day, I cannot utter the words:  I AM BORED.  I use to think how terrible it was that my dad would do something like this, until I had kids of my own.

And now, on days when I hear them pitching a fit in the back yard, fighting over a rock, because they can’t get along or there’s nothing to do in the backyard full of every toy, playground equipment and tire swing known to mankind, I think about calling Home Depot and having a truck load of bricks delivered.  : )

 Posted by at 1:27 pm
Aug 272009

After giving birth to my 2nd child, my husband gave me and my mom an 8 day trip to Europe.  I was beside myself with excitement.  He agreed to watch the kids, a 2 year old and 4 month old, and I agreed, for a greater cause, to take the breast pump and keep pumping while I was there.

As we’re checking into the Four Seasons, my mom, in all her excitement, agrees to watch the luggage while I check us in.  Upon my return, I lean down to grab the pump, inconspicuously hidden in a black back pack, and IT’S NOT THERE! I panicked, because you know women, you can’t quit pumping cold turkey, or your boobs will inflate like a Macy’s Day float; and then you are in big trouble.  I searched the lobby, asked my mom if she had seen it and even spoke with hotel security.  I didn’t care if I lost all my clothes or money, but I needed that PUMP, not only for my son, but I knew in about 2 hours, my boobs were gonna be coming out of my sweat shirt and then what was I gonna do?  I was looking at little kids on the street, in a different way.  Hmm, does anyone need milk?

We reviewed the hotel security tapes and much to my amazement, you can see a hand slip next to my mother’s legs and a back pack is slowly removed, while my mom is looking around with anticipation and excitement that she’s really in Europe.  Say good bye to the breast pump, it’s gone!!  The security camera didn’t pick up a face, only a hand grabbing the bag; so now what?

We called every hospital in town, looking for a breast pump.  My mom was on a mission to save her daughter and her grand baby!  After calling just about every pharmacy in town, she found a “hand pump.”  Oh dear God, what was I gonna do with a little hand pump.  At this point, we’re 8 hours into no relief and my boobs are practically touching my chin, “no lie, I was scared!”  It’s 2am when she called the hotel lobby and requested a cab to take her to the pharmacy.

My mom said (in her Southern Accent ):  You won’t believe who showed up. It was Mohamed Al Fayed’s personal driver, you know, the owner of Harrod’s in London.  The guy shows up in a stretch limo; that’s right, a stretch limo.  My mom looked around as if the “Candid Camera Crew” was filming.  So off they go, mom in a stretch limo heading to the pharmacy at 2am to pick up a $20 breast pump! Dear Lord!  I couldn’t believe it.

At this point, my boobs are so big, I can’t move.  It was like carrying two huge boulders on my chest.  It was insane.  I had no idea that something so great could “TURN ON YOU” so quickly.  Here I was, lying in bed at the Four Seasons Hotel, watching those crazy English Channels, you now, the ladies with blue hair and fast cars, while my mom and I took turns pumping.  That’s right, by by pride, we took turns pumping, telling stories and laughing about the predicament we were in.

That was an unforgettable moment.  I never dreamed I’d been in a situation where my mom would be hand pumping my boobs.  “Mother of God” we pumped 18 ozs that day, as we laid in twin beds laughing our tales off at the situation we found ourselves in.  One of us would snicker, which turned into a “pee in your pants”, giggling fest.  I prayed that day, that whoever stole my breast pump would find no comfort or rest until they asked Jesus to Save them.  : )

AAHHA Moment:

Carry Your Pump at All Times.  Never let it out of your site, or you may find yourself in another country, feeding little children that you don’t know.  : )

 Posted by at 6:44 pm
Aug 262009

Sample Chart

Each Member of the Family is part of a team.  When the kids are little, you find yourself doing everything around the house, but as they grow and become a little more independent, it’s important to instill a sense of team work and community.  Making a responsibility chart has changed our lives.  Here’s how it works:

Each child receives a chart with responsibilities given according to age and maturity level.  The older they are, the more responsibilities, which means, the more stars they need to earn a prize, whether it be stars or money or something from a treasure box.

Example: 8 year old Responsibilities:


15 minutes of Reading

Unload the Dishwasher

Put away Folded Clothes

Help Make Next Day Lunches

Laundry (separate towels from clothes)

Hug Mom

Example:  6 Year old Responsibilities

Set the Table

Brush Teeth

Make Bed

Unload the Dishwasher

Homework (Write Spelling Words)

Hug Mom

3 Year Old Responsibilities:

Feed the Dog

Make Bed (as best they can)

Pick up All toys in backyard

Brush Teeth


Putting away folded socks/underwear

Hug Mom

2 Year Old Responsibilities

Clean Up Clean Up Every Body Clean Up

(put your toys in the toy box)

As they begin to do these responsibilities on their own, I take it off the list and put something older / more mature for them to do.

If there’s 5 items and 5 days in the week, that’s 25 stars.  I make the 8 year old earn 20 stars to get a prize or money, whereas, the smaller ones need around 17, anything less than that, they’re slacking on their responsibilities.  That means they’re only doing each item 3 days out of 5 days a week.

At the end of the week, whoever has the total number of stars needed, will be given $3 to go to the dollar tree and spend it anyway they like.  It’s cute to see them walk in there with their money.  They’ll pick up an item, think about it, put it back and pick up something else.  They pay for it themselves.  It gives them an idea of how much something costs and how hard they had to work for it.

Sometimes I will notice that one or two of the kids aren’t cleaning their room, so I’ll give the one cleaning his room a bonus star, which gets them an extra 30 minutes of “stay up time” while the other kids go to bed early or something special they like.  For my 6 year old, it’s gum. For my 8 year old, it’s playing his video game an extra 15 minutes without the kids in the media room harassing him.  : )  This makes the other kids more alert to the fact that a bonus could be given at anytime, so they better do all the responsibilities.

How to Construct the Responsibility Chart:

I take a bright yellow piece of felt, from Michael’s or other craft store – it looks like a place mat, (cost $1) Map out their responsibilities and place it on the front of the fridge.  I bought stars (from Michaels / Hobby Lobby) that you peel off the back, so it’s sticky.  All their stars start out on the right hand side of the chart.

When they do a chore, they move the star to the box.  During the week, we access how well they are doing.  They often times have to be reminded to do certain things like READ.  But as time goes on, they just get in the routine and it becomes 2nd nature.

I noticed that when I took down the chart, they quit doing everything. They need it as a guide for the day.

If one kid does the chart and another doesn’t, then they have to go to the Dollar Tree and watch the other kids buy something.  It’s a tough lesson, but one not repeated.  There will be cries and tantrums, but they know you mean business.  If on Friday evening they are lacking 1 or 2 stars, I’ll give them a chance to make it up before we go to the store, by having to do extra work that they wouldn’t normally do, sort of like giving them Grace.  And then off we go.  We make a big deal out of it, as if we were buying a new car.  I tell them how proud I am and their grinning from ear to ear.

So, now you have it.  There are always adjustments.  The Dollar Tree may not work for you.  You’ll figure out what works for you and your family and before you know it, you won’t be doing ALL the work.  The trick is figuring how to make them more independent!  It’s a Team Effort.

 Posted by at 11:36 pm
Aug 262009
Ava and Mom and Target.

Ava and Mom at Target.

When my little girl was not sitting up on her own, I would haul her (car seat and all) to the grocery store and place her in the cart. If I put her inside the cart, it filled up the entire area; no room for groceries. If I placed her car seat in the front, it always looked unstable, so here is a solution I found that worked quiet nicely.

Put your “little one” in one of those Bumbo Seats, like the one pictured here. It’s sturdy, wipeable and supports their back. Ava began using it around 3 months of age.  You can find Bumbo Seats for around $39.95 at Target, Babies R Us or online. Place the seat inside the large area of the cart, sit them down in it, and VIOLA, your infant will be amazed at the new view around them, plus they won’t be sucking on those nasty handle bars they tend to lean on.

Your baby will get tons of oohs and aahhhs and they will be happy that they’re not lying on their back, like business as usual. Necessity is the Mother of Invention. Happy Shopping!

 Posted by at 12:42 pm
Aug 252009

What is Baby Brain:  Stephanie’s Dictionary defines it as:  a temporary brain fart caused by baby hormones.  It’s when your brain sparks but doesn’t quiet complete communication, leaving a pregnant mom trying to think of words like:  vehicle – but instead you say:  that thing full of cheerios in the driveway.

I was on my way to a Birthday party last year and noticed, after I had run errands that morning, that my black pants were inside out. Ok, my excuse is I’m pregnant and my brain cells had temporarily left the building.  The obvious one inch seams running down the sides of my pants were a dead give away. I took them off and changed during a red light, trying to hurry as a rather large truck pulled up along side of me. I think I gave myself a hair lip in the process. Oh, the joys of baby brain.

 Posted by at 3:23 pm
Aug 252009

If I saw something crazy or outlandish, I had this bad habit of saying:  OMG and my 5 year old says:  Mom, it’s oh my goodness!  not oh my God.  He’s right.  They will hold you accountable.

Have you ever caught yourself hiding to eat a cookie.  Once you have kids, it’s like you can’t eat anything and have it to yourself.  “What are you eating, mom?”  Do I smell Chocolate?  What’s in your hand?  Can I have that?  I just want to eat a cookie PEOPLE, without sharing, but the kids remind me:  you make us share.  aaaaaahhhhhh!

You teach them and then they teach you.  They hold you accountable  by holding a mirror to your face and showing you all the things you need to work on, because good or bad, they are little reflections of you.  You didn’t know you gave birth to a mirror.

 Posted by at 12:48 pm
Aug 252009

You can always tell when your husband dresses the kids. Different shoes, wrong sized pants, 3 versions of yellow in the same outfit and and of course, no socks.  Poor little kids show up looking like little clowns, but hey, dad gave it his best shot and we should give them kudos for helping us out.  Besides, if dad is dressing the kids, we’re probably at the salon or running errands without children, so it’s sort of a favor – try to be appreciative.

 Posted by at 12:25 pm
Aug 252009

I heard Michael J. Fox on the David Letterman Show describing the difference in how the first child was treated, vs. the fourth.  It was quiet hilarious.   I’ll Paraphrase it:

With the first baby, when you drop the paci on the floor, you boil it before handing it back to the baby.  With the 2nd child, when you drop the paci, you place it under the faucet and rinse it with hot water.  With the 3rd child, when you drop the paci, you lick it and hand it back. With the 4th child, when you drop the paci, you let the dog lick it and hand it back. Isn’t that the truth?!

Stephanie’s View:

With the first child comes home from the hospital, you make everyone wash their hands.  If anyone coughs or looks like their gonna cough, they don’t get to hold the baby. They are one step away from wearing a haz-mat suite or being banished from the room. By the time the 3rd and 4th arrive, and the oldest says”  Mom, little Henry is eating the dog food, you stop and think “well, if it’s good for the dog . . .

 Posted by at 12:22 pm
Aug 252009

Growing up, we lived on the lake.  We fished, swam, ate ice cream and jumped on the trampoline with a sprinkler shooting across, all day long.  It was a good life.  We use to bike until dusk, till we heard mom’s voice say:  Dinner’s ready!  We would make bike ramps, climb trees and explore every inch of land within a 2 mile radius.  Life was so exciting.  We now live in a concrete jungle where every moment of their day is watched, critiqued and viewed.  From school to home, kids are scheduled from sunrise to sunset.

Ahha Moment:
Though times have changed, we should try to instill a since of exploration and adventure in our children.  It teaches independence, cultivates imagination and adventure.  It’s just good for the soul to discover things on your own.  So loosen those reins a little, take them on a bug hunt, a hike, camping or a search for various flowers and leaves.  Let them come back and tell you all about their adventure.  They’ll enjoy new experiences and perhaps, discover more about themselves along the way.

 Posted by at 12:18 pm
Aug 252009

Don’t Judge Lest You Be:
Have you ever been walking through the mall or enjoying a quiet dinner at a restaurant and a toddler refuses to sit down, he bucks in the stroller and is screaming “I hate you” no no no” uncontrollably.  And the first thing that pops into your mind is:  “I’m glad my little Johnnie is sweet and kind and doesn’t act that way.  I wouldn’t allow that.  My kids know better.  Tisk tisk.

Well, don’t hold your breath, because it will happen to you.  You think you raised this cute little princesses and when it really counts, you’ll look over and tired, cranky little Sarah turned into Chucky V and nothing will console her.  And then you remember the moment you felt high and mighty about your own.  Keep in mind, kids are kids and with the best discipline and character development, they’re still learning, growing and testing boundaries; they get tired when we carry them out during nap time.  It’s going to happen.  Just don’t judge, instead sympathize, say a little prayer for that mom and count your blessings.

With my first son Jack, I invested so much time and energy into him, reading books at 4 months old, spending every waking moment with him, teaching him all the little things in life he would need to know.  We watched endless educational videos for babies, with all the colors and sounds.  He was the perfect little child.  We were shopping at the Gap one day and passed this mom, whose kid’s head was spinning, he was screaming, bucking, floundering in her arms, throwing toys and hollering “NO!  NO!

I looked at Jack, who was about 15 months old and whispered:  Hey buddy, mommy has taught you better than that, right?  You’ll never act like that, you’re a good boy.

1 month later – Cracker Barrel:  16 months old:  I met my mom and grandmother for lunch; we sat there ordering our food, chatting about how good Jack is, all the character building we’ve invested in him and then, as if another child jumped into his body, he began screaming, trying to jump out of his booster seat, threw mash potatoes on my back, and tried to pull the Cracker Barrel Lantern off the table. Thank goodness the light was screwed into the wood.  I couldn’t believe he could act this way.  Well, welcome to the terrible twos, on steroids.

Ahha Moment:
At that very moment, I remembered the woman at the Gap.  It all comes back around.  Let’s be kind to each other, mom to mom.  We have the hardest job in the world.  We need to stick together and have compassion for one another. Because you never know when it may happen to you,

 Posted by at 12:06 pm
Aug 252009

Freeze, Put Your Hands in the Air!
Around Christmas time, my husband and I had just had our 3rd child and it was crazy busy at my office and he was traveling to London for weeks at a time.

One Saturday, while I was at work, playing catch up, he had the 3 boys, all the while he was preparing to head to Europe for 1 month.  It was one of those days when you’re not really sure what the kids are doing, but no one is crying, so you forge ahead.

That afternoon, in a rush to the airport, my husband dropped off the kids at my office.  Oh, that was fun.  I had a 4, 2 year old and a crying infant to care for until 10pm when I wrapped everything up.  My office looked like it had been attacked by squirrels.  There were milk bottles, snack wrappers, and banana peels all over the floor.

When I got home that night, I noticed the front door was wide open.  I called my sister and told her my situation.  She said to call the police, “there could be a burglar in the house.”  So I called the cops, waited with a car full of kids down the street, anticipating their arrival.  The police dispatcher said to stay where we were and not attempt to come into the house until the police waved to us down the street. My heart was pounding.

Who would break into our house? What had they found?  A million thoughts were rushing through my mind.  When all the sudden, the police officer instructs us to pull in the drive way.  One policemen has a large flash light and the other is walking through each room of the house, pouncing through the door with his gun raised, ready to shoot anything that moves.  Remember, it’s Christmas.  At that moment, I could see from the driveway, that he was entering the dining room where I had a 5 ft. tall motion sensored Santa Claus Teddy Bear.  As I screamed, “don’t shoot, he jumped into the room and that Teddy Bear started dancing, and I tell you, I thought he was gonna blow the head off that thing. I was amazed at his quick assessment and self control.   He motioned for me to come into the foyer and asked if I could identify anything that was missing.

I looked around and saw food all over the floor, the recliner had been turned upside down, but nothing was missing.  Turns out, my husband was working from the house all day and let the kids wreck the house while I was gone, and had forgotten to close the front door, in a rush to get them loaded in the car and to the airport.

I have to say, that was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life; I almost wished burglars had taken something, rather than the cops explaining to me that my own children had destroyed our house and  my husband had just left the door open.  I would have loved to have read that report:  Busy parents let kids run wild, think they’ve been robbed.

Ahha Moment!
We were doing too much at one time.  We both owned successful  businesses and had 3 children in 6 years and were frankly, overwhelmed by it all.  When you take on that much responsibility, learning the word “NO” can be a valuable asset.

Something has to give.  It’s either going to be family or work, but only ONE thing can receive 100% or 2 things can receive 50%.  You have to map out a plan of action, a strategic business plan for your family, just as you would, when planning the success of your business.  If not, you’re flying by the seat of your pants and your outcome is determined by the wind.

 Posted by at 11:53 am