28 November 2011

It's Time to Shop

Let's face it.  No matter what holiday you celebrate in your home at this time of year, for the kids, a big part, if not the biggest part, is about the presents. 

So, we parents must do our best to fulfill our kids' wishes.  We hear all about Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc.  How are we supposed to know if we are getting a good deal?  I found a great site for my Canadian followers.  At this toy site for kids games online, you can shop and compare deals on toys of all sorts! 

The site will tell you the price history of the item and will show you similar items. 

I have 4 kids to shop for and 2 holidays to cover, not to mention 2 birthdays... no small feat.  It's exhausting to think about, let alone make it all happen. I do almost all of my shopping online.  I can't face the stores at this time of year.  The only time I shop in the stores for gifts at this time of year is if I already have to make a trip there and I can just add the items to my existing list.

I find everything online and it only takes a little work to find the best price at the time I am shopping.  With a little work, I can often find a code for free shipping, or have the item shipped to a store nearby where I can pick it up, free of charge. 

I find it helpful to have a game plan, otherwise I end up buying and buying, forgetting what I've already bought for each of the boys.  I've even misplaced gifts in years past, there were too many to keep track of, it was ridiculous.

So, this year I am keeping track of it all on my phone... At least that's what I plan to do. I just have to find the time to go through everything and make the list.  I'm sure I'll get around to it.  In the meantime, it's fun just to shop for the kids, as long as I stick to a budget.

In the end, make sure you are having fun.  Do whatever works best for you.  If you like to get out of the house and shop in the stores, do it.  Go to the mall, go to Target, wherever you feel most comfortable.  I'm most comfortable sitting on my stability ball (better for my back) at my computer, so that's where I do my shopping.  I'm certainly not going to take 4 antsy boys to a store!

17 November 2011

Empty nest

Thanks to Lemuel Craft

Our last child has recently left for college, and my husband and I could not be happier. In many ways it feels like it did when we were first married. We have several close friends who have recently become empty nesters, and they all have raved about it. Now I know why. Our evenings our back to just being the two of us. We live along a lake, and we have spent the last several nights sitting on the dock and watching the sun set. I love our children dearly, but when they lived at home, they brought an added level of stress that is no longer here. However, with two still in college, we have been watching how we spend our money. We recently switched to fixed-rate energy through www.texaselectricityproviders.com in order to have a more predictable bill, and we have dipped into our short-term savings to pay for tuition. Luckily my husband set up a fund a number of years ago to pay for our children’s college education. I am so thankful for our children, but it is nice to be in a new stage of life with just my husband and me.

16 November 2011

Easy Money for Autism Speaks. Please Help!

Get a simple quote from Allstate between now and December 14 and they'll donate $10 to Autism Speaks! 


Allstate “Quotes for Autism Speaks” Aims to Raise $500,000
Initiative to support research for causes, prevention and treatment of autism

NORTHBROOK, Ill., Nov. 15, 2011 – According to autism statistics from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in 110 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism – a 600 percent increase in the past two decades. To help address this trend and support autism research and advocacy efforts, Allstate Insurance Company (NYSE: ALL) announced the launch of the “Quotes for Autism Speaks” program. As part of the program, Allstate will donate $10 to Autism Speaks for every insurance quote that is completed between November 14 and December 14, 2011, with the goal of raising $500,000 for the cause.

Individuals who receive an insurance quote will help Allstate reach the $500,000 goal and help change the future for those who struggle with autism. Quotes may be obtained online at AutismSpeaks.org/Allstate or by calling 866-998-4488.

“As a father of twin boys with autism, I recognize the magnitude of autism research, advocacy and outreach and the need to support families and individuals impacted by this disorder every day,” said Mark LaNeve, Allstate executive vice president, marketing & sales operations, who also serves on the board of directors for Autism Speaks. “Through Allstate’s support of this cause, we look forward to engaging families and communities to bring a stronger voice to Autism Speaks and support their mission.”

An estimated 1.5 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide are affected by autism. This year, more children will be diagnosed with autism than with childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.

“We are extremely grateful to Allstate for its commitment to raise awareness and funds for the autism community,” said Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks. “’Quotes for Autism Speaks’ is a wonderful program that has the potential to touch the lives of countless families affected by autism. We encourage everyone to show their support and contact Allstate for their free quote.”

About Allstate
The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) is the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer known for its “You’re In Good Hands With Allstate®” slogan. Now celebrating its 80th anniversary as an insurer, Allstate is reinventing protection and retirement to help nearly 16 million households insure what they have today and better prepare for tomorrow. Consumers access Allstate insurance products (auto, home, life and retirement) and services through Allstate agencies, independent agencies, and Allstate exclusive financial representatives in the U.S. and Canada, as well as via www.allstate.com and 1-800 Allstate®.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $160 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks’ Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light it Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $300 million in donated media. Autism Speaks’ family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a Grandparent’s Guide to Autism, and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government’s response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 29 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 10 states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.


15 November 2011

When things go wrong

With four children and a deployed husband, I live to avoid Mrs. Murphy's Law.

Everyone knows Murphy's Law:  "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong," but it is wives of men who travel or are deployed who best know Mrs. Murphy's Law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong when Mr. Murphy is away."

Of course, though, things are bound to go wrong and one of the most challenging examples is something on the car breaks.

The stereotype is for a woman to wait for her man to come home to help fix the problem, but women whose husbands are not available, or who just want to be independent, can learn to fix these problems themselves. 

Developing a good relationship with a good auto parts store can make all the difference.

If something on your car breaks, or a light comes on, visit a shop near you and ask for help.  People in these stores are usually friendly and are almost always very knowledgeable and eager to help. 

Relationships are an important key in many situations.  Whether you need help replacing an old windshield wiper or want to know the right oil to replace the oil in your car, the guys in auto parts stores are a plethora of knowledge.  I've found them to be incredibly helpful and by going back to the same helpful store each time, I establish a friendly relationship and am more apt to get more help with my task, something for which I am very grateful. 

By fixing things around the house and maintaining my car, I show my kids I can do these things and keep the house running smoothly for them even when their Dad is away for long periods.  Kids need to feel  safe and certain that life will continue as they know it.  By being a strong adult, capable of taking care of anything that comes my way, I help my boys feel secure in our home and our life. 

13 November 2011

Set Expectations

Running a chaos free household is not hard.  It might seem overwhelming, but it is an achievable goal, even if you think it's too late to change your kids.  It is NEVER too late.

The first thing you have to do is change yourself.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine, who happens to be a family counselor.  We were discussing this issue and she pointed out that, for the most part, unless we make a concerted effort to change, our parenting styles come from how we were parented.  Our parents are our models.

So, if you remember chaos in your childhood, you probably have it in your life now, too.

Here's how you can change things...

1.  Make up your mind to make the changes.

2.  Decide what the changes you desire are.
     -  Be specific.
              -If you want to yell less., that's a goal.
              -If you want your kids to listen the first time you tell them something, that's a goal. 

3.  Don't be overwhelmed by the thought of the work it will take. By taking small steps and being certain of your goal, you can make changes.

Let's say you want your kids to listen to what you say and do what you tell them to do, here's how you get there...

1.  Call a family meeting.
      State your concerns and your goals and tell your kids how you all are going to make the home a happier place.

     Be honest.

     Tell your kids that you haven't been doing your job of setting rules and following through with them but that those days are over and you are all moving forward.
     Tell them that this isn't a punishment, but that it just hasn't been working well the way it is and you want everyone to be more happy and calm at home and having set ways the house will run is the way to get there.

     State the "new" rules.  For instance, no yelling (yourself included), following parents' directions, doing chores, respecting siblings and parents, etc.

     List the consequences for not following the new rules.  Consequences should be clearly stated so there is no room for argument.

     I do not recommend stating rewards.  The kids should follow the rules because that is how families work.  The reward is the smooth and happy family life.   

2.  Start right away.  Easing into the rules will not help.  You have to show the kids you say what you mean and mean what you say.  This is critical to the success of the plan.  If the kids see you wavering, even a little, they will walk all over you and it will be even harder to make changes.

     If your son is antagonizing your daughter, tell him to stop: hitting, kicking, poking, whatever, right now.

     Hopefully he will stop, but if he does not, say, "I've told you to stop, do it now or I will take away your (fill in the blank) for the rest of the day."
     Then do it.
     Don't raise your voice, don't show your agitation, just do it casually.  It is the rule, the rule was broken, consequence is not up for argument.  If the child continues to commit the infraction or protests, tell him that he needs to stop or the further consequence will be (fill in the blank.)

     Then follow through and stick to it.  Do not give the item back until the end of the day no matter how great the child's behavior is as the day goes on.  A consequence is set in stone.  That is the only way you will make changes.

As I've said time and again, you have to say what you mean and mean what you say.  If you back down even once, you shoot yourself in the foot and your kids will slip further into the pattern of undesirable behavior. 

Small children who don't follow rules become teenagers who rebel, break rules and slip into dangerous patterns of behavior.

Now is the time to fix these patterns.  Even if you have a teenager you can change the patterns.  It just takes effort and stick-to-it-iveness on your part.

I cannot be more clear about this issue.

I see families struggling wherever I go.  At the grocery store, I see families with young children barely getting through their shopping because kids are yelling and whining and causing a raucous the entire time.  The parents look exhausted and beaten down and without hope.  The trip could be made so much more pleasent if the parent set expectations from the start and stated the consequences for not meeting the expectations.

What I see, though, is kids whining and throwing a fit to get something, parents trying to fend off the requests but giving in in the end.

Remember, kids will always ask one more time than you can refuse if you are in the habit of giving in.  They know you are weak and will prey on the weakness in order to meet their goal.

You have to reset the process.

You need to persist in order to meet YOUR goal.  YOU are in charge, as long as you remember that and keep your goal in sight, you will be successful.  Your kids will argue but in the end, everyone will be happier because your household will run more smoothly.

I see families with teenagers whose parents have given up trying to get them to conform to the family rules.  These kids have been successful at being in charge in their families for so long, it's the norm.

Of all things, remember, as parents, you run the family.  You are in charge.  Set the rules, set guidelines and stick to them.  Say what you mean and mean what you say EVERY TIME and things will get better, probably a lot more quickly than you think.  Don't be "bossy."  You are the boss, but you'll achieve your goal more easily if you are calm and nonchelant about it. 

1.  Set your goals.
2.  State them to your kids.
3.  Implement the changes.

It is as simple as 1-2-3.  Really.