Showing posts with label single parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label single parenting. Show all posts

Monday, June 19, 2017

Five Ways To Teach Your Kids Situational Awareness


Kids are naturally observant and often notice things we would not expect them to or want them to notice. They often say what is on their minds and ask questions we would never have thought to ask. You can take advantage of this for their safety.

While kids are young is a perfect time to teach them situational awareness. Teaching them to be aware of their surroundings can stop a potential kidnapping or may help someone else in need. Too many kids have their heads down nowadays whether they are playing on their phones or other devices or they are just not paying attention to anything.

Five Ways To Teach Your Kids Situational Awareness:


1. Play games with them. We would play a lot of "I Spy With My Little Eye Something..." passing the time at restaurants, doctor's offices, and ball games. I would start with the game with picking out a color of something. This game has the benefit of teaching kids to look around and notice things that wouldn't normally notice. I would also make up games like "Name 5 Things That Are (Color)" or Name 3 Things That Start With (Letter)".

2. Leave the electronic devices at home. When you are running errands or taking short trips, leave them at home. Instead of looking down at a device, kids will be looking up and around and probably noticing a lot more than you want them to. However, they are looking up and being aware of what is around them and that is a good thing. If they are walking to a friend's house, school, or the park, teach them to stay off the devices too. They need to be looking up, not down.

3. Teach them to be wary of strangers. I know there has been some debate on this, but the truth is that kids need to wary of anyone who they or you do not know. They need to be taught what to do in those situations also. If they are approached by a stranger and you are near by, they should be yelling for you immediately and running towards you. If they are approached by a stranger alone, they need to keep walking or start running for home or the nearest safe place. You should also teach them some basic self-defense in case they are grabbed.


4. Teach them to look for the good people. They should know to look for the good people or the "helpers". Just like they need to be wary of strangers and people who might harm them, they need to know that they can run to a teacher, police officer, pastor, or fireman for help or to get help.

5. Teach them to be confident. If kids are confident and look like they are in control of themselves and their environment, they will less likely become a target. There is a difference in being cocky versus being confident. You should teach them to look everyone in the eye, be assertive in their body language, and be vocal if someone is bothering them in a displeasing way. When they walk into a room, teach them to enter with confidence, looking around at their surroundings, and taking notice of everyone in the room. This will take practice and encouragement from parents. You should practice this at home as well as away from home. You can ask them questions about what they noticed and what problems could have occurred.

In what ways would you teach your kids situational awareness?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, May 26, 2017

We forget to live life


Today is my kids' last day of school. They will be out at 11:30 am today and will have the whole summer to do what they want without the restrictions of school (for the most part). Yes, they will have daily and weekly chores to do. They will also have camps to go to, swimming to do, life guarding to do, 4-H fair to be apart of, and so much more.

Life is always a little crazy during the summer too, but life during the summer for a kid is mostly about living life. They don't have a strict schedule with many commitments on their plates. They aren't worrying about grades and papers. They can relax with their friends and do nothing if they want to until school starts again on August 23rd.

As adults, I think we forget that. We forget that life is about living. We get caught up in the work at a job, work at home, sleep, eat, and repeat. We forget to experience life and just live life. We don't go for a hike or go camping due to "time restraints". We don't go to a concert of a band from our high school days because we just don't think we have time. We don't go on dates with our significant other because of time and expense.

You want to know something? We do have the time, but we just don't take the time to do those things. Not having time is a pretty rare thing. We often have a million and one excuses about why we can't do things that would help us relax and enjoy life for awhile. We usually do have the time. Sometimes money and babysitting can be a legitimate problems, but there is so much else to do too.

We forget to live life.

It is so easy to caught up with prepping, homesteading, gardening, taking care of the animals, taking care of the kids, saving money, and a myriad of other things. Our to-do lists are mammoth on a normal day and some days are not normal. We work away from home and come home to work more. We can't see the light at the end of the tunnel and we keep working harder and harder to do so.

We forget to have fun.

No, life is not all about having fun. I have understood that for a very long time. However, life is not all about working either. We are meant to relax and have fun once in a while. To have a day that is not structured and filled by the never-ending to-do list. A day to be lazy, watch movies, and hang out with the family. A night to invite friends over for a picnic and a camp fire.

We need to remember what summer vacation time was like for us as kids. Yes, it was busy for some. Most of us though remember what it was like to be kids in the summer. We swam, rode bikes, explored, looked at the sky, looked at the stars, and just enjoyed life as a kid. We slept in tents in the back yard, hung out at the lake for the day, read books in a makeshift fort, and went on adventures. Sometimes we were with our family and sometimes we were with our friends. Sometimes we explored on our own. No matter which way you look at it, we have had fun.

Just because we are adults now doesn't mean we can't keep experiencing this and more. We forget to live life and have fun. Maybe if we started doing more to relax, our lives and health would be better too.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Monday, May 22, 2017

10 Prepping Activities To Do With Your Kids This Summer!


Summer is coming! The kids will be out of school very soon and will need ideas to keep them out of trouble and off your nerves. Teaching kids prepping should be at the top of your list of things for them to do. We put a lot of emphasis on adults knowing how to prep, but we really should be teaching the next generation how to prep too.

Remember: our goal in raising kids is that they are self-sufficient when they leave home. While we should expect phone calls on how to do things, we want them to know the basics and be able to care for themselves.

I am gearing this list towards first grade age kids and older. You obviously know your kids better than I do. You can be the judge about whether they are ready and responsible enough to learn these prepping skills. However, always teach your kids about how to be responsible while doing these activities.

10 Prepping Activities To Do With Your Kids This Summer!:

1. Camping. Even you can only camp out in your yard or at the county park five miles from your house, teach your kids to camp. You should be teaching them that the outside isn't scary at night. You can be teaching them how to cook without electricity. You can teach them to explore, forage, identify markings/plants/tracks, and pay attention to their surroundings. You should not allow any devices to come except for a cell phone and that is only used for emergencies.

2. Building and making a fire. You can teach them to how to gather kindling, sticks, and logs to build a fire. You can teach them how to light the fire without using a lighter or a match (although those methods are not bad to know either). You can teach them about fire safety. You can teach them about maintaining the fire.

3. Build a solar oven. There is several plans online to do this. I think it is a really neat idea and totally doable. If you have kids who are in 4-H and need a fair project or need a science fair project for the next school year, this is a great idea. After building it, you can experiment with cooking different things in it like brownies or chicken.

4. How to cook on a grill, camp stove, and other non-electric methods. While I always teach my kids to cook using the stove top first, I like to start teaching them alternative methods when they are older. Teaching them to grill is a good skill to learn so they can feed themselves if the power is out. If you have a rocket stove or something similar, they should learn that too.

5. Gardening. Kids are naturally curious so gardening is a great activity to do with them. You can teach them how to plant different vegetables, how to recognize the plant when it is growing, how to weed, and how to care for the plants when they are growing. You can also teach them how and when to harvest the fruits and vegetables. You may want to give them their own garden plot, but I don't do this. I have my kids work alongside of me in the garden and explain to them that is everyone's responsibility to provide food for our home.

6. Hiking. Like camping, you can teach them to explore, forage, identify markings/plants/tracks, and pay attention to their surroundings. You are also working on physical fitness for you and them. You are also teaching them endurance and stamina for when you might have to walk a long distance or work for longer than normal hours.

7. First aid. We are very fortunate that first aid is taught in most of our high schools in Iowa, but I think it should be taught when they are younger. I think kids should know how to treat a cut, a burn, and a skin reaction (itching, sun burns, bug bites, and allergic reactions) while still in elementary school. I think they should know to the basics of CPR. They should know how to treat someone who is choking. They should know how to call 911 - not just the number, but knowing their address or location, being calm while calling, and how to state what is happening to the victim. You can role play a lot of first aid situations and make it a fun game while emphasizing the seriousness of what they are learning.

8. Fishing. Teaching your kids to fish is a lifetime skill. They can learn fish identification, what is edible or good to eat, and how to catch them with hooks and lures. Not sure how to fish yourself? Find someone who is willing to teach you and your kids. There is usually plenty of fishermen who are willing to show someone else how to fish. Also, be aware of your state laws. In Iowa, residents and nonresidents over 16 years of age need to purchase a fishing license. If you are fishing trout, you will need to purchase or pay a trout fee.

9. Archery and gun shooting. Shooting and target practice is a great way to build skills and learn responsible gun and bow handling. Kids are young as 7 can learn to shoot. I would purchase a bow and arrow set in their age and size range for comfortable handling and less learning frustration. Also, get a lot of arrows. You are bound to lose a few.

A BB gun is a great way to start a kid shooting. With a BB gun, they can learn to sight in and target practice with a gun and ammo that is way cheaper than .22 ammo would be. When they show they can responsibly handle a gun, you can move them up to a .20 or .22 gauge rifle or shotgun. This is the process we have decided on at our home, but you can decide differently for your kid.

10. Reading. I am a very, very strong believer in reading. I think it gives you a solid foundation for every area of your life. Just because school is out doesn't mean they should not be reading. If your kids are younger or willing to listen, please read to them also. Find some good fiction and non-fiction books on survival and preparedness to read.

Some of my favorites are:


I know there is a lot more to do with your kids in the summer that would expand their preparedness and survival skills. Let me know in the comments what you like to do with your kids in the summer to help with their skills!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Back To School Routine - How To Set Up Your Family For Success This School Year!


School has started for us! (Excuse me while I do a happy dance!)

Starting school is an excellent time to start new routines in your household. I find being organized in the morning starts our day off well. We are on time for work and school. The kids are rarely rushing around to get their things together. 

This school year we have had some additional changes from last school year. We are taking cold lunches to school almost every day. We are no longer eating breakfast at school. (The school raised the rates and we no longer qualify for free or reduced lunches.) We are no longer allowing electronics and phones to be in their rooms overnight. 

We also had some changes to make from last school year. We needed to get more organized at night. We were not getting clothes picked out the night before which caused some chaos in the morning looking for a certain shirt. Bags were not ready to go in the mornings. Things were scattered everywhere and certainly lost by the time we were ready to leave. We needed one place for electronics and phones so we can grab and go. 

All this? Just about drove me bonkers!

I realized being organized is not just a kid thing, it is a parent thing too. I couldn't remember everything that needed to be done by my kids. How were my kids going to remember? Simple habits that were second nature to me were habits they are still learning. 

So I made up a list of what they need to do every morning and evening. This list helps me and them to remember what they need to do. And guess what? I wanted to pass it on to you! 

This is a pretty simple list. I am not a fancy person although I enjoy others' efforts to be fancy! (Yes, I love printables!) And just a disclaimer: we are public school goers. We fully respect other families' choices in schooling, but this is what works for us. This may mean your morning and evening routines will look a little different. That is okay! 

Here is our routines:

Morning Routine:
Wake up, shower if needed, and get dressed
Morning chores
Finish packing lunch for school
Get laptops packed into backpacks
Put bags into the car
Eat breakfast
Night Routine:
Evening chores
Get school lunch ready for the next day
Pick out clothes for next day
Get backpacks and gym bags ready the next day
Homework!
Shower
Plug in electronics and phones at charging station
Put backpacks and gym bags by your bedroom door

Because I try to make life easier for all of you, I also have it available to print here: Kids Routines!

Like I said, this is nothing fancy. Just a good list of reminders about what we need to do every morning and evening. I have it hanging on the refrigerator door for every one to see.


And you know what? This is already worked with success. The kids appreciate having a list to refer to. They know what is expected of them. That alone will reduce every one's stress levels.


What do you do for back to school success?


Thanks for reading,

Erica


Thursday, August 11, 2016

What Does Your College Student Really Need?


I have had two kids in college for over three years now. I know there are things they need and don't need. We have experienced dorm life and apartment life. While both are very different, the college student needs are very similar in dorm life and apartment life. 

Basically, this is home away from home! Your student needs to feel at home where he is at while being very independent. 

While I had a pretty good idea on what a college needs, I polled some of my favorite college students, mainly my daughters and their roommates/best friends. They had some great insight on what a college student really needs and what makes life easier. Three of them have been in college for three years now so they have a pretty good handle on things that are needed. 

You might read some of this list and think "My kid doesn't need that". Some of these things are more comfort items than needs, but your kid needs to feel comfortable at college or you are going to get some really sad phone calls. Your college student also needs to be independent and not running home every weekend for you to do their laundry!

What Does Your College Student Really Need?

1. Food, water, kitchen supplies, dorm fridge, and a toaster oven/microwave.

2. A tool kit with a small selection of screws and fasteners. Teach them how to use it too. 

3. School Supplies and Tape. Just like high school, they will need notebooks, binders, pens, pencils, paper clips, a calculator, etc. They will also need tape like scotch, masking, packaging, and duct tape.

4. Paper products - toliet paper, facial tissue, and paper towels. This should go without saying. 

5. Cleaners - dusting spray, all-purpose spray cleaner or wipes, glass cleaner, dish soap. Depending on your college student, you might need to show them how to use them. You may also need to remind them to use the cleaning supplies. In addition, for apartment living - toliet bowl cleaner, floor cleaner or a good all-purpose cleaner. Also, they may need a vacuum, broom, or a floor sweeper.

6. Laundry supplies. Most dorms have laundry facilities that will let you use a debit card or your student account card. However, the college student might still need quarters as well as laundry detergent, stain remover, and maybe fabric softener. They might also need instructions on how to run the machines and how to wash the clothes. 

7. A vehicle emergency kit - tire pressure gauge, a quart of oil, flares, flashlight, battery jumper cables, rags, tire repair kit, vehicle maintenance manual, small tool kit, and a jack and tire iron. Also teach them how to use this, check their oil, and change their own tires. 

8. Towels and Bedding. Wash cloths, kitchen towels, bath towels, and rags. Whatever they like to sleep on and underneath. They will need them all. You might also want to look into getting a memory foam topper for the uncomfortable mattress. Trust me on this. 

9. Personal items like clothes, personal grooming, etc. For dorm life, a shower caddy and shower shoes or flip flops for the trips to the community showers. Also, a first aid kit would be a very, very good idea too!

10. Organizing items like tubs, cubes, under bed storage, totes, whatever it takes to make the space livable and keep your items from taking over your space.

11. Decorating items. Your college student is going to spend time in his dorm room or apartment. Use banners, wall decorations, posters, and pictures to decorate the room and make the space their own. 

12. Entertainment. Again your college student is going to spend time at college in his dorm room or apartment. They need to be able to entertain themselves and their friends. Think movies, books, card games, board games, video games, etc. These are good things to help manage the stress level, bond with new friends, and spend time with old friends. Also, having these things may keep them out of the kind of trouble that will give you phone calls you don't want. Just saying. 

13. Good time organization tools. They will need a clock, alarm clock, planner, and/or calendar. Being on their own for the first time, they will need things to help them be responsible. Getting up on time, knowing when to be a class and work, and what their assignments are is crucial. They need a good tool to manage it all. I know they all have smartphones, but I liked have things down on paper then and nothing has changed. Having a visual reminder will help them too.

14. A good pair of headphones. Before you think this is crazy, it isn't. It is your college student being considerate. No one wants to listen to what they are listening to, plus it helps them tune out the other people in the dorm, apartment, commons, or library when they are studying. The college students were adamant about this. 

15. A Computer or Laptop. Yes, this is a necessity in college. Yes, the school library also may have them. However, more and more colleges (if not all) are requiring the student to have them. Along with this, they will need a mouse, printer, printer ink, printer paper, and possibly a wireless router.

Most of this list is just the basics. Your college will have rules for their dorms/apartments and you need to look into that. Some do not allow candles. Some do not allow single burners to cook food or even microwaves. Some may not allow you to nail or screw anything into the walls. Some may not have carpet in the room and the student may need a good size area rug. 

Some dorms and apartments do not have air conditioning and your student will need fans. Case in point, my oldest daughter moved into a dorm in August when Iowa had record breaking temperatures. It was 95 degrees F with a heat index of 105 degrees F when we moved her in. She and her roommate had no air conditioning. They had four fans running before we left. 

You might think your student needs a car at college. Again, every college is different. Some colleges do not allow freshman to have vehicles at college. If there is 2-3 kids from the same town at the same college, maybe they can work out a carpool solution. Having a vehicle at college is at the discretion of the parents and the college. 

Parents of college students, what else would you add to this list?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Single Parent Needs These 10 Things!


Some people are single parents right away. Some people become single parents after being married for a while then becoming divorced or widowed. Either way you become a single parent, you have to make big adjustments. 

You need certain things in your single parent arsenal to be a better one. Because, let's face it, being one isn't easy. Some days go really well. Some days go really bad. An unexpected bill, a misbehaving child, a broken washer, or that phone call from the school can just make you want to pull the covers over your head! 

After being a single parent for almost ten years, these ten things are completely necessary for me to survive and thrive as a single parent. I am not offering these ten pieces of advice out of arrogance. I have learned all ten of these things the hard way which is how I learn most of the time. 

10 Things A Single Parent Needs

1. A way to keep your sanity in a healthy way. Develop some hobbies. Get some exercise. Find something that calms you, helps you blow off steam, and is healthy for you. Being a parent is wonderful, but sometimes you just need to clear your mind for a few minutes. 

2. A planner/calendar. Or both. I write down what is coming up and I write down what I did. I do not remember when I cleaned out the gutters last time or cleaned out the chicken coop. I need some thing that I can go back and look at. I have tried to live without a planner for a year. It wasn't pretty.  

Write down every event that is happening on your calendar for you and your family to look at. You will have a much better time keeping your sanity if your family and you know what is going on at all times!

3. Reliable transportation. Having a good vehicle that gets you to where you need to go is crucial. I used to live in an apartment complex in a small town almost 20 years ago. Some of the apartments had single mothers living there with no transportation. I couldn't even imagine. They were dependent on their families and friends for rides to next town for groceries and whatnot. That just baffled me and drove home the lesson that a dependable, decent car is a necessity. 

4. Food storage. Having a full and complete pantry with some food storage on the side will make your life easier. Supper times will be less of a struggle. That last minute request for cookies will not seem so bad. When you aren't able to get groceries for a week, that food storage will save you. 

5. A budget and savings. You need to know where your money is going and why. You need to set limits and think of the future at the same time. You need to make sure you have money for the whole month, not just the first two weeks. A budget is crucial. Having money in savings is important for those future unexpected and expected expenses. Sit down and starting being honest about your money and where it is going.

6. A community of people to help you. Being a martyr and trying to do it all yourself is silly. Gather yourself a group of people that you can absolutely depend on and start asking for help when you need it. Have two kids going in two directions? Ask a friend or grandparent to help get one kid to their destination. It isn't a bad thing to ask for help. 

7. A job. You need to make your own money. Do not rely on child support, the government, or alimony to take care of you and your kids. It could all be gone tomorrow. You can work at home or away from home, but find some way to make your own money if you are not already. 

8. Ability to be frugal. Now is the time to choke your pride and start living the frugal good life. You don't need to buy new everything. Your kids and you do not need every little thing you want. Learn to say no to yourself and get some self-discipline. 

You will thank yourself when you still have money at the end of the month. 

9. A toolbox and tools. You will need these more than you will ever know. You will find it easier to fix your own stuff than to pay the handyman to fix your things. YouTube videos show a lot of useful information on how to fix your stuff as well as the library having some great DIY resources. It is time to learn some skills and fix your own stuff.

10. A working relationship with the other parent and/or grandparents. I know this is hard because I didn't have this for several years. He and I are still not really good in this area. I wish we were because this would make my kids' lives so much easier. 

For your kids' sakes, you need to put aside the anger, the hurt feelings, the frustrations, the accusations, and the sadness. Your kids need you both to be in their lives (unless they would be in danger) and you both need to put aside your selfishness for that reason. The kids really do suffer without both parents in their lives and that can lead to other problems. Try to put aside your differences and get along for them. 

Being a single parent can be hard, but these ten things can life as one a lot easier. If you are one, what would you add to the list?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

9 Things I Have Learned As A Single Mom Prepper/Homesteader

(Circa 2007 when this journey began)

I am the only one who can do for myself and my kids. Of course I have a great support group of family and friends who help, but at the end of the day I am still the only one for for my kids. I have to do the work required to keep up the home, bring in the money, and to do for ourselves. I have to do the canning, be worried about security, working to stay of debt, keep buying groceries to eat and to store, and be creative.

I learned really fast that being a single mom, after being married for eleven years, came with a steep learning curve. Suddenly I had to do two parents' worth of work as one person. I had to figure out a lot of things for myself. I had to change my ways, look further down the road, and prepare for it. Preparedness became extremely important to me because I never knew when the child support would or would not come. I might have $700 in child support one month and none the next month. 

Now cchild support isn't an issue, but then it was. Having food storage and extras have literally saved us some months before I had to apply for food assistance. I only had that for a year and used it to my advantage. I built up my food storage even more.  Having a garden has fed us in the leaner summer months. Being willing to work harder at home made a huge difference.

These are some of the things I have learned from being a single mom prepper/homesteader:

1. Self-reliance is not an issue most of the time. It is so necessary that it becomes ingrained into you. I am not one of those who is going to cry on social media that I need help and money and how I have nothing. I actually have trouble understanding people like that. I like knowing that I have done what I did with my own two hands. I have trouble asking for help on the best of days, but I know I am the one who can do the work at home. However...

2. Make your kids help around the house and homestead! They aren't helpless. They can do chores. They can make supper. They can tidy up after themselves. They do not have to become a burden and more work for you. Start working with them when they are young and they will be great when they are older. 

3. You will raise better adults because you will have taught your kids how to run a house, do chores, do laundry, and raise livestock. You will teach your kids how to be responsible. Society needs you to do this. Please do if you don't already! My older two daughters are in college, self-supporting for the most part, maintain their own apartment, and decent grades. Teaching them young to work has benefits down the road.

4. Creativity is a must. An absolute must. Whether it is making supper, fixing broken things again, trying to get everything accomplished in a day, or whatever, you need to be creative. Learning skills helps you to become more creative. 

5. Having a fully stocked pantry and lots of food storage will literally save you. When you don't have enough money for groceries, you can eat from the pantry. You might have to get creative, but you won't go hungry.

6. Staying out of debt is so, so crucial. I have learned this lesson over and over again. I still get into pickles once in a while, but for the most part I avoid debt.

7. Having a reliable vehicle is a necessity and not just for bugging out. Vehicle maintenance is a must and should be a line item in your budget. I drive the wheels off my vehicles. I try to make sure all preventative maintenance is done within reason. I usually get at 200,000 miles plus on each vehicle before they become totalled by a teenager or become unfixable. 

8. You still have to push through the fatigue and get the stuff done. The garden needs to be planted, weeded, and harvested. Canning will still need to be done. Some nights, midnight is an early bed time. You still have the kids to help while doing all that. In some ways it is lucky that I have insomnia and take advantage of that, but I also struggle with fatigue and have to really push through it. I figure winter is for resting and getting caught up. 

9. You will accomplish more than you can ever imagine. You are the only one, remember? You have to get it accomplished. I thought I would never be able to raise chickens, but I did. I never thought I could have the satisfying life I do now, but I do. Life gets better and you stop surprising yourself because you know you can tackle whatever life throws at you!

Life is what you make of it, but I have learned so much about self-reliance by being a prepper, homesteader, and single parent. For those of you who think you can't do all of this, now is the time to find out if you can or not. But I bet you can.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

12 Safety Tips For College Students


This August I will be sending my second child to college. I have sat through two college orientations and my favorite session is the personal safety session for parents. I have learned a lot about how to help my college age kids safe while at college. I have a lot of confidence in my girls being able to protect themselves and being aware of their surroundings while at college. 

However, let's be real here. There are some potential situations that girls or any kids can face at college (or even high school). Some situations may be unavoidable, bad decisions may be made, or small problems can become big problems. Drinking, drugs, sexual assaults, bad roommates, thefts, and fights can be situations they could face.

In light of this, here are twelve safety tips for college students and young adults. These are tips that have been given by safety officers, campus police officers, and some common sense tips from myself. These are tips that can be used to avoid or prevent a bad situation from happening.

1. Have your college student put the phone number of the campus police department in their phones. They will then have it in case of emergencies. Yes, they can still call 911, but they might get a faster response calling the campus police directly. Most campus police departments are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At the college my daughters go to, they will also provide a safe escort home at any time during the day. 

2. Write down all serial numbers to any electronics they will be taking with them. Keep a copy in their dorm and at home. In case of theft or damage, you will be able to provide that information to the police and the insurance company.

3. If your kids are taking a bicycle or moped to college, write down the serial number to them. Also, you should take a picture of the bicycle or moped and keep the information in the dorm room as well as at home. I was surprised to learn how many bicycles they said were stolen every year and never recovered. They also recommended using a U-shaped bike lock to keep the bicycles safe.

4. Talk to your kids about issues and situations they may face while at college. You should sit down and talk to your kids about dealing with other people in non-confrontational way, not engaging in fights unless they need to defend themselves, drinking and drugs, protecting themselves from date rape/sexual assaults, and protecting their things. I know you might have had these conversations with them already, but a refresher would not hurt.

5. Enroll your kids, especially your daughters, in self-defense classes. Most colleges offer these classes, either as a class or through the gym/wellness center. Make sure your daughters especially take this as it could save their lives. 

6. Teach your kids about staying safe, the college edition. Teach them to walk with another person when they go out at night. Teach them about going out in groups. Talk to them about getting a safe ride if they need a ride home instead of walking by themselves. Talk to them about letting a roommate or a friend know if they are going out on a date or out with other friends so someone knows where they are at. 

7. Teach your kids about situational awareness. If an area or place does not look safe, they should avoid it. If something seems off about a person or persons, teach them to trust their instincts and get away as soon as possible. Teach them that saying no is okay and they need to do it if they don't want to be in a potentially bad situation.

8. Give your kids the tools to protect themselves. Provide them with pepper spray or mace. Teach them about using a small knife to defend themselves and get away. Teach them to use a tactical pen. Enroll them in self-defense class or show them yourself where to hit an attacker to disable them enough to get away. If they are about to be attacked in any way, teach them to yell or scream for help. 

9. Teach your kids to not engage someone on social media in a negative way. Social media can be a great thing, but bullying and harrassment are very, very common on social media. Teach your kids to not engage someone who may be trying to engage them in negative ways. Teach them to also not start anything negative on social media. If someone is doing this to them and it does not cease, they should tell their resident assistant or the campus police. These situations can escalate out of control quickly. Harrassment is a tough thing to prove, but the charges are very serious. 

10. Find out the chain on command for their dorm or apartment and make sure your kids know it. Find out who your kid should go to if they are having problems with roommates or fellow college students. While I believe in kids settling problems directly with the person they are having trouble with, we all know that sometimes a peaceful solution may not be had. Then your kid needs to talk to someone to get a situation resolved.

11. Teach your kids to keep their rooms or apartments and vehicles locked at all times, but especially when they are gone from them. You would not believe how many kids do not lock up behind them. They believe they are invincible and no one would want their things. They would be so very wrong. They need to keep their rooms and vehicles locked up unless they are there. The campus police or regular police have less sympathy when they find out things have been stolen from unlocked places. The insurance company has even less sympathy.

12. Teach your kids to become friendly to their neighbors, roommates, and others. The friendlier your kids is to others, the less likely they will be a target for anything. People watch out for people they like and are nice to them. Proven fact. Kids should be cautious, but being friendly can pay off in big dividends too. 

College is not a scary place, but scary things can happen if college kids are not careful. They are out on their own for the first time and feel invincible. Parents, it is your job to help them understand they aren't and what they can do to protect themselves. 

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Parents, Life Is Meant To Be Simpler (And Not So BUSY!)


Life gets so crazy sometimes. We run and run and run. The kids are involved in several things at once, we can't say no to the latest commitment, and home is only a place to rest your head. Does this sound familiar?

Life shouldn't be like that. Yes, I know. I can hear y'all now. Kids are only young once. They need to experience all these things. They need to find out their potential. We need to be involved in their things. We need to be active in everything. The kids need to know what it is like to be involved and learn to get along with others.

Stop it.

Life is meant to be simpler.

Kids need to know that their family is also their best companions. Kids also need to know what it is like to hang out at home and be a contributor to the household. Kids need to learn how to keep a home, be content with what they have, be content being home with family, and live a simpler life. Kids need to learn how to work and develop a work ethic. Kids need to learn to entertain themselves instead of their parents doing it for them. We have to model that for them.

Does it hurt them to be involved in activities? No, but kids are in so many things that their activities become the universe in which the family spins around. That is crazy! We have lived this life. It makes every one exhausted, frustrated, and discontented. This isn't healthy for the parents and for the kids.

At one point in time, Shali was in four sports plus the dance squad, speech, theater, and choir for almost four years. In the fall of Jordan's junior year of high school, she was in volleyball, football cheerleading, and dance squad. She ended up being a very sick kid by November from the stress and lack of sleep as well her grades suffered a bit. Shali has two injuries that will haunt her the rest of her life because she couldn't rest them like she should have. The pressure to play was too great for her. The kids went to a small school that needed people just to have teams and my kids did what they could. The stress on our family was very great.

I have learned this lesson the hard way and am very happy we are now in a school district that only allows one sport at a time. However, that rule does not stop the endless weekend tournaments, open gyms, weightlifting, and camps. Parents wonder why their kids get burned out or, as they find out later in life, the kids kept playing to make their parents happy.

What are you really teaching them? To over-commit? To live for a sport that may have no meaning to them after high school? That home is only a place to lay their head at night and not a place to live?

This summer, my son decided he no longer wants to play little league baseball. I am perfectly content with his decision. We have a busy summer the way it is. I did ask him a few times to make sure he was certain. He is. However, I have family who thought I should have made him. Why? He clearly did not enjoy baseball by the end of the season last year. He plays basketball on a traveling team in the winter so he is active in something and he loves it.

We actually like to be home at night. I look forward to having a summer without nightly ball games. Next summer, Paige will be playing junior varsity softball and those games will be at night.We have one summer to rest and relax.  I want to rest and relax and so does my family. We want to have a summer of projects and fun. We don't want to be so tired that all we do is veg out in front of the television.

We as parents can stop the crazy train. We can say no. I didn't think I could, but I found out that saying no to being over-committed, stressed-out, and frustrated is very easy to do. Will other people be mad at you? You bet. Should other people's opinions matter where your family is concerned? No it should not.

You as parents are in charge of your family and the decisions that your family makes. You should decide how your family spends its time outside of the house. If you want your child in a sport or an activity, that is your choice. We still have sports and activities going on in our house, but I will not make my kids do something that they have already tried. I do want them to try sports when they are in junior high before deciding they like it or if it is worth sticking with. I also want them to be in either band or chorus in high school because I feel a music education is important.

Other than that, I don't expect my kids to be in anything. If they want to be and I don't feel like they are overextended, then they will be. I made some mistakes early on with my older two children that I won't make again. I feel that other things like being home and having a part time job to be more important for my kids and their futures.

We can make life simpler for our families. We can say no to the busyness, the constant running, and tiredness. We can do this and make life better for ourselves and our families.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Raising Your Kids To Be The Opposite Of Society's Expectations

Some beliefs I have encountered:

Many people believe that kids need a gentle, coddling introduction to being a grown up.

Many people believe that kids cannot function on their own until they are 22-25 years old.

Many people believe kids do not need to have a job while in junior high, high school, or college. They should just concentrate on their studies and being involved. They have the rest of their life to work.

If the kids have jobs, they still don't need to pay any of their own expenses. They should save their money or just blow the money on junk.

Many people believe that kids need to go to college in order to be successful. As long as they graduate with a degree, they will be successful.

Many people believe that it is okay for kids to move back home after being gone for a few years and not have to contribute to the home or pay bills. They need to concentrate on finding a job and saving money to buy a car or a home.

All of these beliefs? They are the reason why we have a generation or two of adults who can not function in our society. They can not work or don't know how to work. They believe that someone else will always take care of them.

I don't know about you, but I want my kids to be independent, respectful, functioning members of society. I love them too much to be anything else. I want to see them succeed. I want to watch and love where life is taking them. That requires me as a parent to help them get to that point.

How do I do that?

1. Teach kids skills while they are young. All my kids learn how to cook and know basic cooking skills. I want to know they can feed themselves. They learn how to do laundry. They mow the lawn. They are in charge of animal chores and taking care of the animals. They also help around the house and do whatever chores I assign them.

2. Teach kids to work. My kids do all the things in #1 to learn skills, but to also work. I don't pay an allowance, but I want them to understand that to get anything you have to work for it.

3. Teach kids to pay for their own things. This is a tough one. When my kids turn 16, I don't buy a lot of things for them anymore. I buy their food, basic necessities, car registration, car insurance, and first vehicle. Other than that, they buy their own stuff. They want to dye or perm their hair? They pay for it. They want clothes, jewerly, and shoes? They pay for it. Their grandparents buy them a fair amount of things, but they refuse to buy everything the kids want too.

4. Encourage kids to get a job. Let me rephrase that: Strongly encourage them to get a job. By telling them they have to pay for the things they want, they will want a job anyway. But I still encourage them to get a job. My girls' jobs (so far) have included babysitter, cook, waitress, bartender, cleaner, camp counselor, teaching assistant, and the list will continue to grow. Has it hurt them? No, not at all. In fact, those jobs have helped them decide what they don't want to do in life.

One of the things that stuck with me at Shali's college orientation was in a parents' session, they encouraged the kids to be busy and to have a job while in college. Why? Because kids that are busy going to classes, working, studying, and being involved with college activities were more productive and had better time management skills. Those kids are also better students and more successful in life.

5. Do not coddle kids. I teach mine from an early age to work out their problems and deal with people themselves. I will always be there to help, advise, and defend them if need be. However, I teach my kids to be responsible for themselves. They have had to explain that they lost homework and library books, were late for school, and/or missed a lesson. If those things were my fault, I wrote a letter of explanation and apology. Otherwise, my kids have to explain themselves.

I also do not take my kids everywhere with me. They stay home by themselves at age 10 or older depending on maturity level. By age 12, they are watching their siblings while I am gone. I do not have daycare in the summer and the older ones are now responsible for the ones that can't drive. They do have wonderful grandparents that help out, but the responsibility is on their shoulders. I do "pay" for them doing this by providing gas money, but I feel kids should have to help out at home.

6. Teach kids that education is important. This one comes with a twist. I do not believe that all kids should go to college. I tell my kids that they should go to college if the career they are going into requires it. However, if they are interested in a trade, then go to a trade school or go to work right away. Military service will always be a possibility. College is not for everyone and they should not waste their time by getting a soft degree that will get them nowhere afterwards.


Kids will appreciate this when they get older. Sometimes they will argue with you on it, but the goal is for them to be functioning members of society that will not want to freeload off of you or the government.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Single Mamas: Life Does Get Better

Dear Single Mamas:

Life Does Get Better.

Someone said this to me when I was going through my divorce and I thought I couldn't be a single mama, full-time working mama, soccer mama, and whatever hat I also needed to wear. I thought life was going to be even harder when I realized I was truly on my own and their father wasn't going to be an active part of their life.

But life got better. And it will for you too.

It is hard to see that when you are knee deep in the trenches. It is hard to see that when you are crying with frustration in bed. It is hard to see that when your child is disappointed and you are powerless to help. It is hard to see that when you are robbing Peter to pay Paul and may need to rob Simon too. It is hard to see that when you have a screaming toddler and impatient, attitude-filled teenager. It is hard to see that when all you need is another person who understands your situation and you think no one does.

Life does get better.

Your children will pass through the stages of life and be off to college before you even realize what happened. Your children will come around you on your lowest day and love you so much you just want to hug them and cry at the same time. Your children will do amazing things and conquer the stereotype of kids who have single parents. Your children will screw up, but learn so much from it that you, yourself, are astounded.

You will go to bed more thankful for your blessings in life that you ever thought possible. You have a great group of family and friends around you that will lift you up, surround you in love, help you in their own special ways, and be there for you in your best and darkest times. Sometimes you find it hard to ask for help or feel helpless, but just ask. Someone will be there for you.

People will talk about you, criticize your parenting, and how you do things. Just ignore them. Most people are going to sit back and admire you for the good job you are doing. You may not know what to say when someone compliments you, but just say thank you. Because there is nothing else to say, but to give thanks.

You may or have already found love again. Hold onto that love with the great strength that exists in your power. Realize that you cannot bring the past into the present so don't bring your old hurts, mistrusts, jealousies, and anger into something that is new and precious. Realize that you are with a new and different person who doesn't deserve that. Give them the chance to prove it.

You are a wonderful person who got dealt a troublesome card, but don't let that card define you. Be the strong woman that we know you are, raise your children the best you can, love ferociously, and leave yesterday where it belongs.

Because life is better. 

Thanks for reading!
Erica

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Mother's Desire for Her Children

These last few weeks have been crazy, slightly emotional, and full of firsts/lasts. I find it very hard to believe that my oldest daughter is a senior in high school already. Time really does fly and I look at the wonderfully made, beautifully mature young woman that she has become with awe. She is experiencing a lot of lasts with a few firsts: last first day of regular school, last season of high school volleyball, etc.

As her mother, I feel even more responsibility for her to be launched into the world with the character qualities that I want her to have as well as the moral fiber that will make her a strong, wise young lady. I also feel some difficulty in letting her go to make her own decisions. I have never strived to make all my children's decisions, but guide them to wise decisions. I have had to step in and make decisions for them when they do not appear to be heading the right direction. As they get older, I have felt more compelled to guide them in their decisions to avoid making unwise choices.

Letting go will be hard, but necessary.

I am continually humbled by the fact that someone in the universe gave me four incredibly wonderful blessings. I am humbled by this knowing that when I gave birth to my oldest child, in no way was I parent material. I didn't know the first thing about being a parent or how I wanted to guide my children. For many years, I didn't feel as though I should be their parent. I had many little voices in my head telling me I had no business being a parent and what did I know about it and that I was going to fail them.

I don't know how other parents do this, but for me I need to pray often for confidence, guidance, and wisdom. Especially as my kids have come into their teenage years. I pour so much into these kids that I find it hard to grasp that after 18-19 years, I have to let go of them and hope that they will use everything I tried to instill in them.

Will they be able to thrive in the world after they have left the nest? I certainly aim towards that goal for them. I want them to find what excites them and what they feel is their calling so they can be content with the life that has been given to them. I want them to be secure in themselves to make the best choices for them and those around them.

For now I will try to enjoy the firsts and lasts knowing they will lead to greater things in their lives. I will continue to guide them and love them so they know that their mother is doing what she was called to do:

be their mother.

Thanks for reading! Have a great day!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Single Mama Gig


I have had this post cooking in my mind for awhile and not sure how to write it. You see, I never intended to be a single mother. I never wanted to be a single mother. I wanted to be married and have the support of a marriage while raising my children and thereafter.

Life threw me a curve ball. One I wasn't prepared for. One that sent me to my knees and still does. My then-husband did not want to be married anymore. He did not want what we had built together. Now, looking back, I see that we had not really built too much together and how much of our marriage was focused on him. 

But we had four incredible, wonderful blessings together. Blessings that to this day give me so much pleasure and hope for the future that I want to be better for them. Blessings that also keep me going from the time my feet hit the floor every morning until I go to bed every night. 

So I find it disturbing just to say the least when people comment to me that life must be easier as a single parent. 

That I am "lucky" to be raising the kids by myself. 

That I make this single mama gig look easy.

That I must be superwoman for how I do parent by myself.

The truth is? 

I am none of these. I wake up everyday wondering and organizing and scheduling and planning how I am going to get through the day. I wonder how I am going to get to everything the kids have going on. I wonder if I have everything I need to do what I can. I wonder if I have everything covered or at least have someone in the background ready to cover those things that I can not get to. I wonder if I can make it up to the kid whose thing I missed because I couldn't make it. I wonder how the bills are going to be paid every month and still provide for the kids' needs and wants. I wonder if I am going to be able to hold it altogether. 

Life isn't easier as a single mother. 

I have heard some people say, and I am guilty of it myself, that discipline must be easier as a single parent. I can decide how I am raising my kids and no one can interfere with that. Very true, but the flipside to that? I am the one solely responsible. For everything. If I have a doubt about my decision, I get to live with the consequences. No one who can share the burden of a wrong parenting decision. No one who can take the blame with me. No one who can help to figure out how to fix, change, or negotiate the wrong move. No one to share the doubt with. No one to help set the rules. 

Life is harder as a single mother.

When the little voices creep into your head about how life would be easier if you were single, think about it all: your life, your relationship with your spouse/significant other, your kids. Would life be easier or is it just easier to walk away and try to be the single parent? Relationships are hard work, but with kids involved, that hard work becomes worth it. 

If you do not have kids yet, choose your partner well. I wish I had because life would have been easier to have someone by my side each and every day. I am incredibly blessed with the people I have around me now, but life would have been easier if I had chosen well the first time. 

Life is not easier as a single parent.

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sometimes we all need a little help...

I have gotten some feedback from readers on my lack of posts on single parenting. I can understand that. Single parenting is not something I can write easily about. Or keep my opinions to myself on. And I am kind of opinionated.

Single parenting is not easy. I am finding it to be easier now that I have a rhythm and a routine. We have a schedule and I have to roll with the surprises (oh, you have this going on?!?!) and the disappointments.

I would not be anywhere this easy going about single parenting if I did not have help. Unfortunately, their father is not much in the picture anymore. He pops up from time to time and he pays child support because the state hunts him down and garnishs it. He does not take the kids for the weekend and he does not live very close to them anymore. I do not depend on him for anything.

His parents, though, are fabulous! They help so much. They take the kids a couple weekends a month when their schedule permits and help me with shuttling kids around. Sometimes they go on the field trips when I am at work or make treats for the classroom. They attend most if not all the school events. They only live 5 miles from me and they make life that much easier. I will never, ever be able to express all the gratitude I have for them.

My parents are great too! They will listen when I call. They support the kids at their various activities and millions of fundraisers. They will show up with various treats for them as well as fix up cars for the teens to drive (and sometimes re-fix!). My mom saves coupons for me to help extend my savings at the stores. Again I will never, ever be able to express all the gratitude I have for them.

I also have good friends that will help with watching and shuttling kids as well as be a listening ear when times are a little hard. The counsel and wisdom I have gotten from them is treasure in itself! Again, I will never, ever be able to express all the gratitude I have for them. They are simply wonderful.

I don't know where I would be without Rob. He helps so much. He helps keep me accountable as well as be a huge support in this journey. He has fixed things on the cars and in the house. He has become a friend to the kids and become someone they can go to. Again, I couldn't begin to thank him enough.

The point I am trying to make is that single parenting is not an easy journey. No one should be expected to do this by themselves. That goes for a single parent and a double parent household. Everyone needs someone to come up beside them and offer a helping hand or be a listening ear. Help should not be expected from others though. I don't expect anyone to help me (except my kids!).

Yes, at the end of the day, I am their parent and I make the choices. I am responsible for everything in their lives and for our household. I need to make sure everything needed is taken care of. But I couldn't do this all by myself. I am completely grateful for everyone who offers to help in some way or will listen to me even if I sound like a broken record.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me! I couldn't do without you all!

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Single Parenting

You all knew this subject was going to come up some time, right? You knew I might get on my soapbox and let the world know my opinion about single parenting, right? Actually this might be painless for most of those reading today. 


I am a single parent, not by choice, and due to circumstances I might address another time. While I do miss having the other parent there to help with the joys and burdens of parenting, I don't miss the conflict about how to raise the kids. That is fine with me because I have evolved and changed my mind several times about how I want to raise the kids. At this time, I have found the methods and disciplines that work for our household. We run fairly smoothly most days and I give a lot of credit to my kids for this. 


What I am struggling with, right now, is people's attitudes towards single mothers. We are protrayed as either welfare moms that pop out kids willy-nilly with no regards to the burden on society or we are lazy do-nothings that work and let our kids raise themselves. To me, single parents have a bad enough time trying to do right in our kids' lives without being condemned by others who are ignorant of the situation. 


I know there are single parents out there who fit the aforementioned stereotypes very well. That is shame, but sometimes understandable. The government makes this possible by giving the handouts and keeping them trapped in layers and layers of red tape and feelings of helplessness. Also the lack of decent paying jobs makes the government's role in "helping" the single parents much easier. The lack of church families and societal charities also contribute to this. But I digress.


I struggle with the feelings and emotions that plague most single parents. Am I doing a good enough job? Will my kids be alright? How can I be there for all of them? Am I making the right decisions? What can I do better? We struggle with indecision, worry, anxiety, fears, self-esteem, and more. We don't need society to keep beating those down who try so hard to do what they can for their kids. 


I don't have the answers on how to help single parents. Most days for me, peace comes in the form of encouraging words and watching my kids grow up. Sometimes the adult conversation is a welcome break from thinking about supper, kids' activities, the to-do list, and work. Having family and friends close by helps any single parent. Praying for them can never be underestimated!


I know that becoming self-sufficient is the biggest confidence booster for me in thinking that I will prevail above the attitudes of people in society. Having an emergency fund in place and plenty of food in the house will get us by when tough times and money-short months happen. Knowing I have a garden that will help feed us is an amazing feeling! 


Please support your single parent friends in their journey in life! They need you more than they can ever thank you for! Thanks for reading!


P.S. Please keep us in your prayers as we try to find Shali a new car and only pay cash for it. This is my goal, but we are struggling to find something right now with the resources we have. 

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