Mommy Perfect discovers a new social game that becoming popular called The Kindness Rocks Project and spreads the word.
I want to tell you about a new trend that is spreading around the world — it’s a message of helping others through random acts of kindness, and comes in the form of small painted rocks. It can seem sometimes difficult with our hectic lives and the world in apparent turmoil, to keep a happy outlook and feel faith in humanity. The idea behind this project is just to bring a little random happiness to your day in hopes you may pass it on and spread the kindness, touching lives in positive ways, thus the name: The Kindness Rocks Project.
The concept is simple: random people, kids and adults, paint small rocks with pictures and inspirational quotes, then place around your town in hopes that someone finds them. The hope is that the message speaks to them and it brightens their day. If it speaks to you then you may pick it up and keep it, but it is suggested to replace it with one you make for others to find, essentially passing it along.
There are Facebook groups popping up all over the world as this kindness rocks project catches on, usually titled as [the name of your town] plus “rocks”, for example, “Portland Rocks” You can make a game of it, walk around your town hunting for kindness rocks, take pictures and post them to your local painted rock group or to the original Kindness Rocks Project Facebook page. If you don’t find a page for your town’s kindness rocks project then go ahead and start one.
I thought this would be a fun thing to do with my kids this summer, so we got the instructions and started our adventure. Flat, smooth, river rocks work best for painting, but we don’t live near any rivers from which we could take some, we had to buy them. I found a pond store that sold all sorts of decorative rock and bought half a dozen for a couple dollars.
Next we checked our craft drawer for a stash of kid’s acrylic paint to use as the base color of the rock. Fortunately (or unfortunately in the mind of my husband) I never throw away art supplies, so we had a bunches of colors to choose from.
When that was dry we wrote on them with oil-based Sharpie paint pens. You have to remember to write the #thekindnessrocksproject on the back so anybody unfamiliar with the game can look it up. After all the artwork was completed and dried, I sprayed them with a spray paint can of non-toxic sealant that I bought from a craft store. You could also use clear-drying Elmer’s glue to seal the paint.
The last and most important step was finding a place to put them. We brought our rocks with us to a farmers market downtown and as we strolled along we saw other people’s kindness rocks sitting in planters and flower beds, so we swapped them.
Find out about how it began and how to get involved at their Kindness Rocks Project Facebook page. Together we can do more to create positive change, so lets help each other have better days.
Mommy Perfect brings you the perfect sweet iced tea for hot summer days, or any time of year, and Gidget tells about the first time she ever tried iced tea.
Sweet iced tea is a Southern thing and I am from up North where tea is drunk hot, in fact I had never heard of sweet iced tea when I was a kid growing up. I can remember the first time I had this thing called “sweet iced tea”; we were on a road trip driving down the east coast of the US, it was a sweltering hot summer, and our car didn’t have air conditioning. It was old fashioned kind of cooling where you rolled down the window.
I cannot recall precisely which state we were in, but I know we were in the “south” because the accent had become distinctly “southern” and the air was humid like you were wrapped in a blanket that you couldn’t shake off. We pulled off the highway to refuel both the car and our stomachs, but rather than opt for the same drive-thru burger chains, we ventured our luck on a cute looking diner with a sign that indicated southern cooking. I was unfamiliar with what southern cooking would be — images of My Cousin Vinny poking at his pile of grits came to mind (“What is a grit anyways?”) — but road trips are about adventure so we gave it a try.
As we approached the front door I recall seeing a sign promoting their “Homemade Sweet Iced Tea” — again something I didn’t know people drank. The meal couldn’t have been spectacular because I don’t remember what I had, but the sweet tea was delicious and so refreshing, I was a fan immediately. I remember wondering why had I never had this drink before.
Now that I’m married and have kids, sweet iced tea has become a staple in our home, especially in the summer. Having experimented with countless batches, I’ve found that mixing in lemon juice really balances the flavors — its the only way we drink it now. Some people may call this an Arnold Palmer (after the golfer), which is 1/3rd lemonade and 2/3rd sweet iced tea, but in my house we just call it iced tea because its the only way we like it. I make it reduced calorie with 1/3rd Splenda, but if you are averse to artificial sweeteners you can use all sugar.
Are you tired of the same old Easter Basket sugar blitz every year? Try this new spin on Easter Baskets.
In our family we do the whole Easter Bunny/Easter morning thing and it is a lot of fun for everyone. We color hard boiled eggs on Saturday; when they go to sleep the Easter Bunny hides the eggs around the house and leaves them an Easter basket beside their bed. However, my kids are still working through their Halloween candy by April and they don’t really need another load of sugar delivered to their bedside. So I tried to come up with a way to deprive them of candy while still making it fun.
This was the idea that I came up: buy a bunch of little toys and things, put them in plastic eggs, and hide them around the house. To identify who gets which eggs I color coordinate a certain color egg to each kid and leave in a note in their basket that says “Your Color Is Blue”, etc. I put out about 10-12 eggs per kid, but you can do more or less depending on your budget and time. I still give them a little bit of chocolate in their Easter baskets, usually a small chocolate bunny (I’m not a monster after all!).
Mommy Perfect shows you the simplest way to make kosher deli dill pickles in 2 minutes. (Full disclosure: it actually takes 2 minutes of prep, plus a week of pickling, but who’s counting?)
I think it’s fair to say that most kids love kosher deli dill pickles. Each of my kids can eat a whole jar by themselves in one sitting… if I were to let them. While pickling at home can be fun, but it’s always time consuming, takes loads of prep, ingredient shopping, special pickling jars, frankly it’s not a thing we can do very often (at least I can’t). The Mommy Perfect method is the absolute easiest way to make a jar of kosher deli dill pickles in 2 minutes with almost zero effort and only two ingredients.
a jar of your favorite kosher deli dill pickles. I buy the 64oz Claussen half-pickle jars for $6.50 at Wal Mart, but you can use any size, style, or brand that you want.
a few cucumbers. Any cucumber variety will work: salad cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, whatever you want to try. A bag of 6 pickling cucumbers at Wal Mart is roughly $3.
Let your kids eat the new jar of kosher deli dill pickles, but keep the jar AND THE BRINE! Don’t pour it out or toss it.
Rinse off the new cucumbers. Cut them in half, quarters, or leave them whole — your choice. Slicing them does speed up the pickling process however.
Pack the jar full of the cucumbers, put the lid on it, put the jar in your fridge, and come back in a week.
After a week in the fridge, give them a taste test. If you want them to taste more salty/pickly, put them back in the fridge for a few more days until you’re pleased. Keep refrigerated.
I suggest only using the same pickle brine once. You could possibly use the same brine twice (I’ve tried it as many as 3 times), but each time you use the same brine it will get less and less salty and flavorful because the salt and flavors are literally being soaked up by the pickles leaving the brine watery and bland.
Is this cheating? Well sure it is, but who ever said that taking shortcuts in the life of a mom isn’t allowed? The important thing is that it works, its easy, it’s cheap, and your kids will love them. Enjoy!
If you like this idea, please repost and share with your friends and family.
Mommy Perfect reviews the premium Nutri Ninja blender system from the engineers at Shark/Ninja.
My food processor is a 15-year-old wedding gift that my dear husband Mr. Perfect broke the lid’s locking mechanism from by strong-arming it the first time he tried to use it. I’ve suffered ever since by having to jam a tooth pick into the safety catch whenever I need to process food, which tends to be infrequently because it’s annoying. (Yeah, first world problems and all that, whatever.) When I recently decided to make some Better Than Sabra Hummus with my goofy old food processor setup, and I couldn’t get the jammed-up tooth pick to push on the safety release button at just the right spot, and in a moment of exasperation I tossed the darn thing into the garbage, grabbed my car keys, and set off to the store for a new one.
I had intended to get a basic food processor sufficient enough to blend hummus, as I rarely used my last one all that often, but as I browsed the aisles of the big box chain superstore with the multitudes of fancy food processing devices, my eyes were drawn to the sexy-looking box of a Ninja multi-purpose blending/mixing machine. I wouldn’t normally pay heed to infomercial brands, but I’ve had such a good experience with my Ninja Coffee Bar — and I still think it’s one of the best coffee machines on the market (that’s not a paid plug) — that I gave the Nutri Ninja blender a look.
It’s a glorified blender with a gnarly-looking multi-blade attachment for power blending things like hummus or liquifying fruits and vegetables. I wasn’t in the market for a blender, but I’ve had the same basic Osterizer blender that I bought at a Montgomery Wards department store in the 1990s when I first moved out of my parent’s house. Monty Wards doesn’t even exist anymore, making my blender a true relic. With a risk-free 60-day money back guarantee, I decided to give the Nutri Ninja blender a try.
They have several models and variations available; the one I took home was the Nutri Ninja Auto-IQ Compact System with Smooth Boost as it seemed to have the best mix of options for the price. I got it home, unpacked (which is always fun), and jumped right into blending things up. The construction feels very sturdy, everything locks in place well with no wobbly or flimsy bits. The motor has horsepower for days, and the base locks to your counter with a suction cup mechanism that also has an easy release button if you need to move it. The front panel has several feature buttons, but isn’t overly complicated, which is important to me because I find excessive features to be mostly useless and just confuses the whole process. My front-load washing machine for example has 38 different wash settings, of which I use two, but I digress.
The first thing I made with my new Nutri Ninja blender was the hummus that I initially set out to make, which got this whole adventure started. I was accustomed to blending hummus with my now discarded food processor and I knew how long it took to get it smooth. This Nutri Ninja blender churned out the smoothest, creamiest hummus in 1/4 of the time. Sweet!
My old Oster blender was fine for mixing protein powder into milk, but anything more involved wouldn’t come out too well, so I wasn’t accustomed to liquifying whole fruits and veggies, in fact the whole notion of drinking liquified vegetables sounded gross. Feeling adventuresome I experimented with making spinach and fruit smoothies for my kids (recipe included with the blender), which I never would have tried before. The Nutri Ninja box says it will break the veggies down so smooth that you won’t even notice the fibers. Yes I was highly skeptical, but the kids, who hate spinach, had no idea it was there. I tried recipes with whole apples, oranges, avocado, even celery, and all sorts of smoothies recipes. All of them came out smooth like a milkshake with nary a trace of vegetable fiber and none of the recipes tasted like lawn clippings. Yay — I can feed the kids more veggies without complaints!
An important fact I soon learned about the Nutri Ninja blender is that the order to which you load the ingredients for making smoothies and such actually matters. The Nutri Ninja Blender comes with a handy quick reference sheet of the ideal loading order; fruit first, ice last, that sort of thing. My natural skepticism forced me to test this “rule” by making two smoothies, one with their suggested ingredient loading order and the other in reverse. I can attest that you will get better results by following their suggested loading order.
Of course it works great with dips and such, like hummus, guacamole, tzatziki sauce — all of it comes out great. Any blended soup like my Super Easy Harvest Pumpkin Soup comes out perfectly creamy smooth. It includes various blades and containers for different purposes so you can customize what you are making. I tried making blended ice cream treats (think Diary Queen Blizzards). It even has a dough mixing blade for cookies, breads, or my authentic Scottish Scones — the dough attachment does just what is says it will with ease.
For adding hidden healthy veggies to your family’s diet, and convenience in kitchen prep, the Nutri Ninja Auto-IQ Compact System with Smooth Boost is another winner from the folks at Shark/Ninja. Now every time I see something of theirs in the store I wonder if I might be missing out on some super useful appliance that needs to be bought right away.
Do you have a Nutri Ninja blender, or interested in getting one? Leave a comment or question in the comments section below.
This is not an advertisement for the Nutri Ninja Blender or any other product. Disclaimer: this article may contain affiliate links.
Every year in late October and early November most Canadian wear little red poppy pins in honor and remembrance of fallen soldiers. Depending upon where you live you may have been exposed to this custom. Canadians are fiercely proud of their veterans, and I would like to speak a bit about this honorable tradition.
The poppy became widespread in Europe after bombing and shelling from The Great War (World War 1) enriched the soils in France and Belgium with lime from the explosives and rubble from the fighting during those years. These little red flowers became so abundant that they even flourished around the grave sites of the war dead.
These flowers were noted in 1915 by a Canadian doctor named John McCrae, while serving in the Canadian Artillery. In his poem “In Flanders Fields“. Flanders Fields is the name of the battlefields of parts of Belgium and Northern France. Today millions of poppies grow there naturally.
In November of 1918, war secretary Moina Michael read this poem and made a personal pledge to always wear a red poppy in remembrance, “keeping the faith with all who died.” In 1920 a French woman named Anna Guérin was inspired by Moina Michael and thought to make artificial poppy pins as a way to raise money for the orphans and others who suffered from the war.
In 1921 Anna Guérin visited Canada and convinced the Great War Veterans Association of Canada, now known as Royal Canadian Legion, to adopt the poppy pins as a symbol of remembrance to aid in fundraising for those in need.
Today, the Poppy Campaign is one of the Royal Canadian Legion’s most important programs. The money raised from donations provides assistance for Veterans in financial distress, as well as funding for medical equipment, medical research, home services, long-term care facilities and many other beneficial veteran assistance programs.
You can acquire artificial poppy pins by donation from one of the thousands of Legion members volunteering their time to raise money. It is traditional to wear the red poppy pins, over your heart, from the last Friday of October until Remembrance day, November 11. On that day you are supposed to place the poppy pins at a veteran’s memorial or grave site. You can wear as many as you feel is appropriate — some people wear many while others only wear one.
Although today this is largely a Canadian custom, anybody of any nationality or ethnicity can participate and spread this honorable tradition for the benefit of those who have served their country.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS POEM The World’s Most Famous WAR MEMORIAL POEM By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium
Mommy Perfect shows you how to make a fun Halloween yard dungeon for under $20 in less than an hour.
In the last decade Halloween has become the second most popular American holiday, in terms of participation and money spent, behind Christmas of course. When my grandparents were young it was a minor holiday, rarely celebrated, and only by kids. When I was a youngster in the 80s Halloween had definitely grown in popularity, but still only observed by kids one night a year, and our plastic costumes were bought from the grocery store. Nobody decorated past having a Jack-O-Lantern or hanging up a Halloween craft we made in elementary school. Nowadays Halloween is big business, with seasonal Halloween stores popping up in abandoned K-Marts before school even gets back in, pumpkin spice everything, and more adults are getting into it than ever before. If you’ve seen the price of the elaborate yard decorations being sold these days then you know you need to take a second mortgage on the house just to keep up with the neighbors!
Here’s how to make an inexpensive yet elaborate-looking fun Halloween yard dungeon for under $20 in less than an hour, plus an optional “fresh grave” to add to the frightful delight. Definitely recruit your kids to help.
What you’ll need:
Zombie Arms — $10. You’ll need to make a trip to the Halloween store to get some “Zombie Arm Lawn Stakes” or something similar. They have a huge selection. Skeleton arms would work, as would “severed” arms and legs, depending how gross and bloody you want to make it. See step F before going to the Halloween store, in case you want to buy an elaborate grave marker.
Red Light Bulb — $6. Swing by Home Depot or
Lowes for a red light bulb. I got an LED one that uses 8 watts, won’t get hot, and won’t cost much to keep on all month.
Basic wooden pallet — free. You can pick one up almost anywhere. I found a stack on the side of the road and took one home. Look on Craigslist or ask around if you don’t have one. (Be careful of splinters.)
Large glass or plastic jar — free. I used
an empty plastic Claussen pickle jar, but anything similar will work. I soaked in warm soapy water for 30 minutes to peel off the label. Make sure all labels are off so the light can shine through.
Old clamp light fixture — free to $10. We had an old reptile clamping light fixture hanging around the garage, but you can buy a new one at Walmart for $10 or less, or check Craigslist and you’ll likely find one cheaper still. Remove the cone if it has one.
Grave marker, or plastic lattice — free to $5. I uses some old plastic lattice we had hanging around, but any two pieces of wood you can screw together to make a cross will work. Dollar stores sell basic foam gravestones for real cheap, or get a cool grave marker from the Halloween store if you want to be elaborate.
(Optional) Old piece of plywood or plastic tarp — free. I used an old piece of 1X10 board about 5 foot long. This is optional, it just makes it easier to clean up in November.
Lets get started:
Choose a spot for your “dungeon”. Lay the pallet down, and use a shovel to “score” the earth into a square just slightly larger than the pallet.
Choose a spot for your “fresh grave”. Lay a board (or plastic, or nothing at all) on the spot where you want your pile of dirt to go. A board or plastic tarp will make it easier to shovel the dirt back in November when Halloween is over and you want to fill the hole back in.
Dig your square hole about 1′ deep. (Optional) I chose to first move the sod to other more barren parts of my yard, by carefully scoring 2X2 squares and transporting them with the kids’ wagon. Your kids can help lift the grass squares.
As you dig your for the pallet dungeon, pile the dirt long-ways like a “fresh grave”. When your hole is dug and the pallet fits nicely inside, flush with the top of the ground, dig another deeper spot in the center, about 1 foot deep and 1 foot across. This center hole is for the light fixture to sit in. Let the kids help dig too.
Put your light bulb, clamping fixture, and large weather protecting jar together, placed down inside the center hole. I used a red brick at the bottom and clamped into that to keep it stable. The jar should keep out light rain and moisture.
Make a cross. I had some old plastic lattice pieces hanging around and used a simple handsaw to cut out a cross. A jigsaw would work too to cut it to size. Make the bottom of the cross twice as long as it will be under the ground. You can use any two pieces of wood screwed together, or buy a foam gravestone.
Carefully place the pallet on top. Set your zombie arms in between the pallet slats.
Voila! Easy and cheap, but it looks elaborate and will surely get envious glances from your neighbors. Since the LED light bulb is only 8 watts you can leave it on all month long, day and night, and won’t cost most than $.60 for the whole month. On Halloween night you can place your jack-o-lanterns around the “dungeon” or on the grave for added effect.
Did you like this craft? Be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter with your friends! Also share photos of your project in the comments section below.
Mommy Perfect takes the family camping and my husband learns that camping is f*cking intense. (Part 2 of 2)
Continuation from Part 1 in which we set out on a group camping trip to Walt Disney World Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. We had just finished our first night there, waking to sore backs and tired heads.
Once the coffee and Advil had kicked in and we’d had breakfast, it was leisure time, sitting around sipping beers and chatting with the grown-ups while the kids kept themselves entertained. After lunch the kids asked to go swimming at the public pool. We looked at the map Disney provided us to see that the pool is in a location separate from our campsite loop. Since we didn’t rent a golf cart, we got to walk there. Mr. Perfect declared that he’s not coming. I notified him that he was mistaken, he is in fact coming, and that since he didn’t want to rent the golf cart he gets to carry the bags.
I loaded up our beach bags with towels, sunblock, water bottles and snacks, and off we marched to find the pool. It was about a 15 minute walk to reach the pool — the Disney campgrounds are massive. Guess who suddenly decided that we should have rented a golf cart after all? Since we still had 3 more days on this trip and he had come to his senses, after the kids were done swimming Mr. Perfect took the bus up to the main office to rent a golf cart for the remaining days. Surprise! — they were all sold out for the remainder of our trip.
For those who’ve never been, Disneyworld was built on a swamp. Through earth-moving and landscaping they’ve done a good job masking this fact, but the facility is dotted with lakes and man-made canals linking all the bodies of water together. They call them “rivers”, but its stagnant water; no flow. Disney rents canoes for people to paddle around and pretend they are in a Davy Crockett movie. These canals are about 20-feet wide from one shore to the other, with an embankment on either side, and we had one of these bluffs right alongside the edge of our campsite. It was very pretty, especially at sunrise when fog would settle along the surface of the water and the sound of bird calls filled the setting; you peer half expecting Hiawatha to appear from the mist paddling his canoe in the pre-dawn light.
Around mid-day the 7-year-old boys were out riding their bikes around the campsite loop. They would ride through our campsite, up onto the grassy bluff beside the canal (“river”), then back down to the road making a loop. The bluff beside the canal was a broad, smooth, grassy section with plenty of space to ride. I was sitting in camping chair by the canal sipping a hard cider and watching the boys in their mock BMX race, when suddenly one of my son’s friends named Cam steered a little too close to the canal-side of the embankment where the slope became quite steep, gravity took hold and he rode his bike right down into the canal, disappearing out of site under the murky brown still water.
I’m sure you remember that 2-year-old boy who was killed by an alligator at Disneyworld this summer (2016). This canal is connected to the same lake where that deadly incident occurred. The spot where Cam and his bike disappeared is at least 50 yards away from me. I stood up urgently expecting to see a flock of adults rushing to him, but I realize that I’m the only adult around who witnessed the event. I haven’t done a 50-yard-dash since high school, but off I ran to the boy’s aid while shouting “help help”. Fortunately Cam could swim and by the time I got there he was dragging himself back onto the grassy bank. He was scared and crying, but unhurt, so I told him that was a neat trick, gave him a high-five, and helped walk him back to his campsite. Fortunately no hungry alligators were involved in this story. After that excitement Cam was not allowed out of his mother’s sight for the remainder of the trip.
The bathroom and shower facilities at the Disney campsites are very nice and clean, unlike most other campsite restrooms I’ve been to, and that night my husband decided he was going to take a shower. As he tells it, on his way into the facilities there was a boy leaning against the wall beside the entrance door, giving him a very strange look as he walked in. Mr. Perfect walked through to the shower area, there was nobody else in there, he stripped down and jumped into the shower. Hot showers on a camping trip when you’re not the one paying the water bill tend to be a long ones. He washed and rinsed and soaked his sore neck muscles, when he suddenly heard two women talking through the sound of the running water. As confusion led into fear, he turned off the water and stood in silence listening to the unfamiliar female voices outside his shower stall — inside the building, not outside. Realizing that either these women are in the wrong showers or he is, and that his towel and change of clothes are on the bench outside his stall, he stood still, wet, and silent, waiting for the sound of their showers to start up. When he thought the coast was clear he tip-toed out of his stall, dressed himself while still wet, put his towel over his head, and charged out of the building. As he walked out he looked beside the door at the obvious “WOMEN” sign attached to the brick facade. The boy who was there when he entered was no longer standing beside the door, but the youngster’s head would have stood conveniently where the letters “WO” are. Although Mr. Perfect claims to not have peeked through his shower curtain at the women as they undressed, I remain slightly suspicious — he is a man after all.
After that excitement he decided to retire to our tent. He set upon making up the bed with the newly purchased inflatable mattress he had bought that afternoon (see part one of the story). Perhaps he intended for me to join him, given the voyeurism that may (not) have just occurred in the lady’s showers because he asked me to help him setup the bed. He unboxed and spread out the mattress, the smell of fresh rubber filling the tent, then I asked him where the pump was. “Isn’t it in the mattress box?”, he replied. I handed him the empty cardboard box and pointed at the text on the front: “Pump sold separately.” He went to bed grumpy and alone.
All in all it was a fun trip. The kids had a blast, nobody got seriously injured or ill. Disney does a really great job about theming everything; you really feel like you’re in an old western movie. My husband learned a few things for next time, not the least of which is that camping is a lot more than just f*cking in tents.
Mommy Perfect takes the family camping and my husband learns that camping is f*cking intense. (Part 1 of 2)
As a child my family camped often. Several times a year, every summer, camping in tents, in campers, in rain or shine, we were a camping family. I love camping, but since having kids of my own we hadn’t made time to take them camping.
I decided to organize a four-day camping trip with a few other families who’s kids are friends with my own. After all, camping is great fun and an inexpensive way to vacation! We reserved some adjacent campsites at the Walt Disney World Fort Wilderness Campgrounds several months in advance and waited excitedly for the date to arrive. The campgrounds are a sprawling 750 acres of pine forests, lakes, deer, rabbits and frontier theming with 800 campsites. Because the grounds are so large, the Disney people recommended that we reserve golf carts for an additional $250. My husband thought that was a ridiculous idea and flatly refused (“Its a campground,” he said, “we sit by the tent, then we sleep.”).
Gradually I purchased the necessary camping supplies, prepared, and packed all the non-perishables for our drive to the campgrounds in central Florida. I suggested to Mr. Perfect that we buy inflatable air mattresses to sleep on, but again he flatly refused (“When I was a Boyscout we slept on the ground,” he lectured again — so that was supposed to be good enough for our kids and us.)
Finally the week of our departure was upon us. Our living room was filled with an orderly stack of supplies in lidded-plastic bins. My husband made me aware (with a slightly snarky tone I will add) that my pile of supplies that was filling our living room — not yet including food — was larger than our SUV. Honestly he is better at solving spacial puzzles than I am, so I flippantly told him to figure out how to pack it all in. Initially his solution was to bring less stuff. I permitted him to cull some of the less-necessary items like board games, but the remainder were mandatory and I wasn’t going to budge. He attempted to cull the supplies further, but as I said I was not budging, and the pile was still larger than our entire SUV. So he drove away and returned an hour later with a new flatbed trailer he had bought at Lowe’s for $1,000. Triumphant at having solved the spacial puzzle he declared, “If it doesn’t fit on there, it’s not coming!”
Two days before the long drive our SUV began to make an unusual squealing noise as it drove. An unscheduled trip to our mechanic determined that a bearing in a joint on the drive shaft was worn out and that it would only get louder until it was replaced. Fortunately the repair job only took a day, but that was another $500 that we hadn’t planned on.
It was the day before our departure, which meant it was time to shop for perishable food stuffs, when lo and behold I wake up with a stomach virus; vomiting and all the lovely rest. All day I got nothing done, stuck inside with one end or the other on the toilet. It was horrible! I was almost sure that we would have to cancel the whole trip. Fortunately the bug only lasted 24 hours, and by that evening the worst of it had passed; bonus, I was 10 pounds lighter! I managed to rally enough strength to get the groceries bought that evening — at least now we could eat on the camping trip.
Next morning we loaded the trailer full, the SUV full, the kids were strapped in, and away we went. On the road at last! Flying down the highway I’m watching telephone poles go by; my eyes hypnotically tracing the power lines as they sag, meet up to the next pole, and sag again, like an endless wave. Suddenly I catch my breath and sit up straight. Sh*t! I forgot the extension cord and power strip. The next exit with a Walmart and we were supplied with the necessary electrical cords.
Back on the highway again when the kids begin asking the inevitable questions in 60 second intervals which only aggravates Mr. Perfect. I guess this must have gotten him wanting alcohol because he asks me, “You did get beer, right?”. Sh*t! I forgot. The next exit with a supermarket and we were supplied with the necessary adult beverages. I got some hard root beer for me, because yum. Back on the road again.
After many more hours of driving, stops for fast food, bathroom breaks at rest stops, we finally arrived at the Walt Disney World campgrounds and by some miracle we were first out of the four families to get there. We check-in, unload, pick our tent spot, and set up everything. Yeah camping! Now what do we do? I guess we just sit in a chair and do nothing. That is the weird thing about camping: you hustle and work so hard to get there, but then once you arrive you have nothing to do. You have to force yourself to just stop, relax, and do nothing.
Eventually everyone else arrived. We helped them unload and set up while the kids ran around like wild animals. Soon it was dark, time to make dinner and smores by the campfire. Smores and campfires are a stressful venture with kids. Not only do you have the possibility of kids falling in the fire as they push and shove for a good spot, but you also have the inevitable excited swinging of the flaming marshmallow on a long stick. Hazards everywhere. You want them to do it themselves and learn how it all works, but after they lose their 15th flaming gooey marshmallow into the fire you end up doing it for them anyhow. Then they want another one.
After everyone was ready for bed one of the other kid’s father decided to tell all the kids ghost stories around the fire, preschool aged through middle school. Mr. Perfect and I were tired and ready to crash, so we left them to it. Are you ready to not be surprised by what we learned? When kids are told ghost stories they scream. A lot. By midnight my husband had had enough. (How does that father know so many ghost stories?) The talking, the giggling, with the dramatic finale and a dozen kids screaming was impossible to sleep through, so Mr. Perfect eventually announced that it’s time to pipe down for the night.
The next day at sunrise the coffee couldn’t be ready fast enough. With sore neck and back from sleeping on the hard ground (remember, Boyscouts don’t use air mattresses), I sat zombie-like with a mild headache in front of the fire with coffee in hand like Gollum with his ring, waiting for my brain to wake up. The kids were charging all about undoubtedly waking up the rest of the campground. Mr. Perfect informed me that it didn’t hurt to sleep on the ground when he was kid, but for some reason it does now. No sh*t genius. Later that afternoon he made a trip to the nearest Walmart and bought a queen size air mattress for us to share; the kids can still sleep on the ground though.
Mommy Perfect offers some key suggestions on how to keep in touch with your teenager.
We all know the years go by very quickly; one day you have a toddler, the next they are a teenager. Typically when children become teens they develop an urge for independence, they pull away from their parents, they want to experience life and all it has to offer on their own terms. I know that I was a difficult teen — really put my mom through it. I was a child of divorce and she had to work a full-time job so wasn’t able to be around much, which left me largely on my own through those teen years.
I wanted my daughter to have a different experience, one where I was there for her and present in her everyday life. I’m fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom, but even with always being around it is hard to maintain an open and communicative relationship. Plenty of things can get awkward and uncomfortable for her to talk about. I know she has questions about life and the changes she may be experiencing, but she won’t always come and talk to me about it. It’s embarrassing and what not. I remember the feeling, and I ended up having to figure most of it out on my own. Mistakes were made. I decided that I had to come up with creative ways to keep the communication open and happening. Here are a couple of things that are working so far.
Shared Journal. This is a journal that we both can use. I write whatever I want and leave it in her room, then she can write whatever she wants and gives it back. We can cover a lot of topics that way and there is no pressure or awkwardness.
Shared Interests. We have found a few passions, hobbies, and activities that we both like. We may not get to do them together all the time, but we can have fun talking about it anytime and it makes her want to spend time together to actually go do those things. At a time in her life where her life “sucks” because she isn’t with her friends all weekend, it can be pretty special to enjoy an activity with her.
Be Present. Helicopter parenting has unfortunately become the de facto standard in the last 20 years or so, something I’ve written about before, and I urge parents to avoid this parenting style. With that said, you can be present without hovering. Give them leash, but they know you’re there and available. If her friends want to have a group outing to the mall or some event that requires a chaperon, I volunteer. I can be around without hovering, and often she and her friends end up hanging around me anyways. I’m present, I’m safe, but not controlling or nosy.
Don’t Force It. You will have to make an effort, but don’t force it. Kids know if you’re being a “try hard” and just faking it. It ought to be natural and comfortable for both of you. Also remember that you’re not their friend, you’re their parent, and these are efforts to retain a parenting relationship with a young adult, not to force yourself into the role of their best friend. Its important to remember that distinction.
It may seem like the effort of these little things aren’t worth it sometimes, but trust me they are. Teenagers may not show their appreciation for anything you do, but they do feel it. They need to know someone is there for them, willing to listen or just be present. Consistency with rules and boundaries, keeping your promises, not betraying their trust, are some of the most important things you can do to keep a good relationship with your child as they grow up.
Summer break time again, the kids have finished the school year, and all the PTA moms are sending their kids to summer camps or have elaborate detailed itineraries planned to keep their children entertained for maximum neural stimulation. Normally I am right in there with them making lists of activities, paying for expensive themed camps, planning play dates with friends, and all the other things a “good” mom should do for summer break. A hectic school year capped with a hectic summer to “maximize” every moment, or at least that’s the theory.
This year I say, “No more”. I am taking it back to the 70/80’s style when we had no plans and kids entertained themselves outside. Unfair water fights with older siblings, neighborhood bike rides, building forts, reading books. No schedules or commitments. A retro summer break of free play!
The electronics have taken over so much that kids no longer seem to know how to entertain themselves. They need a chance to be bored and to figure out how to fix it on their own. To that end there will only be TV allowed in the mornings before I wake up, so I can make up for all the lost sleep in the school year — I am on summer break too and no one wants the sleep deprived mombie trying to break up the inevitable close quarter sibling fights all day long. No video games, computers, or tablets whatsoever.
When we told our kids the plan they went into a deep depression for the first day. We were “ruining” their summer and their lives, this is the “worst” summer break ever, how can we be so mean, bla bla bla. I allowed them to sob in their rooms for the first day, moping around sulking and mourning their lost dreams of becoming electronics-induced zombies by playing video games 12 hours a day for two months. By day two they had snapped out of it and the process of entertaining themselves had begun. In past years they’ve complained about how summer feels so short; this way perhaps it will feel longer to them (especially if they are bored a lot).
A week into the retro summer break and they’ve begun pulling out dusty board games from the closet, doing jigsaw puzzles, they read books, draw pictures, ride their bikes around the neighborhood — their entertainment is their responsibility, not mine. If they want to go to a friend’s house to play, I make my kids call them to set it up and then let me know what they planned. I’ll still take them swimming at the local public pool, the mall movie theater does free kid movies which I’ll take them to if they want, and weekends may have planned family outings, but for the most part I’m tossing aside the itinerary and structured scheduled play dates in favor of spontaneity and freedom (within certain legal and safety bounds of course).
Each day is a surprise and the pressure is off as we all just decompress from the hectic school year. If they want to stay in their PJs all day baking cookies, so be it. My expectation is that they will learn to connect with life outside of structured school, organized sports and video games — just like summer was when we were kids.
Let us know your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below, and for more thought provoking articles on the topic of raising self reliant kids, visit Free Range Kids.
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Mommy Perfect brings you a full flavor, super simple, and super low calorie desert recipe that you can enjoy guilt-free: Skinny and Simple Apple Crisp.
Like every other normal person, I love desert. I would eat it after every meal if I could. Unfortunately, like every other normal person, I can’t. If I did I would become enormous, develop type-2 diabetes, and die young of heart disease. So in the interest of living a long, happy, healthy life I choose to eat sensibly and exercise often.
Rather than feel guilty about eating an occasional desert, I developed this skinny and simply apple crisp recipe. It’s a full flavor desert, with truly healthy ingredients, even my kids can’t tell that its good for them. Plus its SO easy to make — you can prepare this dish in 5 minutes (not counting bake time).
Mommy Perfect offers you the simplest and best Margarita recipe on the internet: Simply Perfect Margarita.
There’s no need to bore you with the history of the world’s most popular cocktail. You already know what it is, you already know that you want one, you just need the recipe… so here you are: Mommy Perfect’s Simply Perfect Margarita.
As with all things, fresh juices will obviously taste better than pre-processed. If you have the time and energy (or you’re trying to impress your friends), feel free to buy fresh limes and oranges to juice them yourself. Since I rarely have either (time or energy) I find that the packaged juices do just fine for my Simply Perfect Margarita. I suggest the little lime-shaped juice bottle and any Minute Maid or similar orange juice from the supermarket.
Many “foody” Margarita recipes call for agave nectar, but having tested it I advise against using it. There is a distinct flavor to the agave nectar which I do not care for and I dare say that it ruins the drink. Imagine using brown sugar for example — yuck! I much prefer using simple syrup due to its neutral flavor. But don’t be scared off from making your own simple syrup — it takes less than 1 minute and is SO EASY!
Simple Syrup recipe: Simple syrup is just sugar and water in a 1:1 ratio. Boil some water, measure out 2 Tablespoons white sugar, add 2 Tablespoons boiling water, stir until dissolved, you’re done. You can make a cup at a time (1 cup sugar, 1 cup boiling water) or more using the same 1:1 ratio and save the rest for later in a mason jar, or just make the amount you need when you need it. For a “skinny” variation substitute granulated Splenda for sugar.
It should go without saying that the better quality your tequila is, the better your Simply Perfect Margarita will taste, and the less severe your hangover will be tomorrow. I like Tres Generaciones Añejo tequila (Three Generations, aged 10 years) and find that it doesn’t make me ill like Cuervo or other wells. By all means experiment with brands and use what you prefer.
Mommy Perfect weighs in with common sense and experience on the oft debated parenting question, “Should You Bribe Your Kids?”
Parenting magazines, eggheaded sociologists, and new-age parents will tell you that bribing kids is a bad idea, that it will eventually backfire, that children can miraculously behave precisely how parents desire simply because they desire it. I’ve heard this sentiment repeated often in print as well as the park bench, but guess what, its complete bullsh*t. This hogwash comes from ivory tower philosophers hoping for a utopia that doesn’t exist. Let’s talk reality.
Economists have long understood that you influence human behavior by establishing incentives and penalties; the carrot and the stick. This is natural law, because it’s how the natural world functions. It’s even hard-wired into our bodies and brains: eat calorie dense food like fats and sugars and your brains rewards you with a dopamine rush; touch a hot fire and your brain penalizes you with sensations of pain. All of life and societies operate this way.
Children are not born knowing what society expects from them, what is good behavior from bad, or table manners. If we expect these values to be understood by our kids then we must teach them; that’s our job as parents. If you want your kids to be good, then you must teach them to be good. We do this by example, and we do this by instruction. This shouldn’t come as a surprise.
None of us would show up to work on Monday morning if there wasn’t a paycheck in it for us. Incentive. Who among us would pay our taxes if there wasn’t a threat of jail time for non-payment? Penalty. If adult behavior responds this way, why would children be any different?
To answer the salient question, yes, you should bribe your kids. “Eat three bites of meat and you will get this bite of pie.” Provide incentive for clearly understood achievement and always follow through with the promised reward. This is absolutely vital. If you break the trust even once the effort to parent will become 100x greater than it needs to be. This truth applies to all higher mammals including humans.
A distinction should be made between a bribe for a clearly understood achievement and a reward for ceasing bad behavior. Say your child is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store because you declined to buy a cookie — this is not a scenario where a reward should apply. Do not promise to give them the cookie if they stop crying as this will only teach them to throw a fit next time with the expectation that they will be rewarded upon ceasing the crying. I suggest that bad behavior would require either being ignored or garner a penalty, a figurative “stick”, but it must be administered immediately, not in the distance future because young brains don’t comprehend time as well as we do. Banning TV when you get home is too far removed from the incident right now. A scolding perhaps: “You are not getting the cookie, and I am not happy with you right now because you are being bad.” Children are aware when their parents are not happy with them, and that can often be enough of a penalty. Perhaps a sharp “HEY!” or a gently but abrupt squeeze on their arms. I know many parents object to corporal punishment in any form (which I don’t mean to wade into at this time), but a gentle yet physical jolt can help to get their attention and make them know that you mean it. The point is not to scar them or even to deliver pain, just make them aware of your displeasure and if they are in the midst a tantrum they may not hear your scolds, but they may feel an appropriately gentle squeeze on their arms. Always be deliberative with penalties, never cruel.
As your children get older, it is entirely appropriate to incentivize not only good behavior but accomplishments as well. If you catch your 10 year old being especially kind towards your 6 year old, take them aside, praise them, and give them a dollar. If you want more of that behavior then you must reward it. Pay them for good grades on their report card. My system goes like this: A’s get $5, B’s get $3, C’s and D’s get nothing, any F’s get grounded for one week (no TV, video games, or sleep-overs). A six-subject report card of all A’s would earn $30. The children must be old enough though to have the concept of longer time spans and working towards far off goals — I think at least 8 years old, but depends on the child. Clarification: I don’t pay for the grade on every assignment or test, only on report cards, but that would be up to you to determine. Perhaps an especially important test is worthy of a bribe. The bribe needn’t always be money, especially with younger ones, but any reward that the child desires: ice cream, TV or video game time, a trip to the park.
Teach and encourage your kids to negotiate on the price of the bribe. We are preparing them for real life here so they may as well begin to learn how negotiation and deal making works. My kids have become adept and accustomed to negotiating with us. Early on I had to teach them how this works, but now they always try to “wheel and deal” with us. I know so many adults who have no idea or even have an inclination on how to make offers and counter offers, whether buying on Craigslist or buying a house.
I also encourage them to identify jobs that need to be done and make me an offer to be paid for it. These are budding entrepreneurial concepts: find a need, fill the need, get rewarded. If they want to buy something, they need to look for a job that needs to be done, then make me an offer. Yard needs to be raked, car needs to be washed, pantry reorganized; teach them to identify what needs to be done rather than you telling them what you want done.
Should everything in your household require payment? I think not. A home is not truly a free market economy because the kids don’t pay for rent or board. We expect a certain amount of clearly defined and age-appropriate chores to be done as exchange for living here and being fed.
The purpose for bribing your kids to is incentivize behavior. You are the economist and you are designing a system to develop the type of adults that you want your children to become. Incentives and penalties are effective tools when utilized wisely and will make your job as parents easier and more satisfying.
Agree, disagree, have suggestions or a story of your own? Please share in the comments below.
The other day my husband came home with three trophies that his mom had been keeping in storage from his youthful sports days. This was from the “old days” when you had to earn a trophy by winning, not just participating, and winning wasn’t considered “offensive”. I watched as he showed our kids the trophies; the pride of accomplishment and the fond connection to his childhood was quite evident. It made me stop to think and look around — what about me? Where’s my trophy?
I realized that after multiple moves across the country, starting over here and there, I had nothing left of my younger years. No symbol of the things I have done; no trophies or medals to prove it. That is until my eyes rested on the one thing I use everyday: my trusty Nalgene water bottle.
It’s the only thing I own that has been there for everything I have been through, every place I have gone and every adventure I have had. My youth was not idle — from rock climbing, surfing, back country snowboarding, and riding horses, to rolling down a cliff in a 4×4 truck (not my fault, I was a passenger), cross-country road trips, my wedding and honeymoon, having kids and beyond. It’s always there dangling from my finger or attached to my pack, keeping me alive, never letting me down.
You wouldn’t think that someone could grow to become fond of an inanimate and inane object like a drinking vessel, but there it is, the symbol of my life’s accomplishments. My trophy. My Nalgene water bottle. It may be a bit banged up, but its still strong and nearly indestructible (a bit like me).
I look forward to seeing what adventures in this life my Nalgene and I can get up to in the next 40 years.