Sunday, November 20, 2016

⚾The importance of sportsmanship

Teach your kids to be good sports even when things don't go their way.Playing sports helps my kids burn off steam, stay fit, figure out how to get along with others, and learn so many other interpersonal and social lessons.

Today I wanted to comment on sportsmanship.

No one likes to lose, but someone has to.

The winners need to learn that it's unsportsmanlike to gloat, taunt, or rub it in.

The losers need to learn that they themselves are not losers, they just lost a game. There will be another game another day. There's no point in complaining how unfair it is, how the refs are blind, or the other team cheated.

It's easy to demonstrate good sportsmanship when you're winning.

It's not as easy when you're losing.

Sometimes, when my hockey player's team is losing, the kids lose their tempers. They start playing aggressively as opposed to skillfully. This often results in penalties, which only exacerbates the losing trend. My hockey player spent a good amount of time in the penalty box last year. This year, so far, not so much.

In the picture above, my son and his teammate are fist-bumping the second referee.  Hardly anyone ever fist bumps the second referee (some don't even fist bump the first if he doesn't get in or stand near the line) because he's usually somewhere out of the way. In the picture above, their team had just been embarrassingly beaten. The scoreboard shows 7-1. In hockey, that's pretty bad. And that is just when the scorekeeper stopped keeping score. The score was actually run up a bit more. But my son and his teammate demonstrated sportsmanship and thanked both refs anyway.

Win or lose, always thank your referees

Even more important to me than whether my son's team won or lost is if he thanked the refs. It is an important way for him to learn to respect authority. Even if he does not agree with that authority, he needs to be respectful. Even if he does not want to be friends with another player, he still needs to be friendly. You don't have to agree with or like everyone, but you do have to be polite.

You win some you lose some.

One final note: I don't believe in participation trophies for kids older than five or six. That's just not the way the real world works. One of my all-time proudest moments was a couple of baseball seasons ago when one of my sons gave a game ball he'd just been awarded to another kid who was clearly upset that he didn't get the game ball.

My son told me, "my prize is on the inside. I know I played a good game."

Friday, November 18, 2016

A mom's hectic morning routine

"Bye hon, I love you!" I ushered my youngest and last family member out the door. I've been up for an hour-plus, and I have finished phase one of the morning routine. I am sitting down with a coffee (decaf), listening to the dishwasher do its thing, and trying to decide if I should go to the gym before my 9:00 meeting, or squeeze it in at lunch time.

The frenzied morning routine when you have kids

In the morning the gym is crowded but I know as time passes, I will be less and less likely to go.

"Why not work out at home?"  you might ask.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The class ring ceremony

I wanted to write this post about my son's class ring ceremony last week, but then he lost his class ring and my bubble was burst. He lost it just two days after he got it.

For two days he beat himself up and we talked through numerous scenarios about where could it be. We looked for it at home, checked his car, and he retraced his steps at the stadium where he was the last time he remembered having it. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bowling with Jesus

One day recently my boys hooked the Wii up to our TV and went bowling with Jesus. (We don't have any violent video games for the Wii -- the older two play those on their Xbox, all courtesy of their dad.

Bowling with Jesus on the Wii beats playing Call of Duty on XboxIt was like old times, back when I was the "un-fun mom" who only let her kids play sports games or dance party on the Wii.

All of the kids were in the same room together, laughing and taking turns. Besides bowling with Jesus, they were playing frisbee with Jesus and boxing with Jesus (though I do wonder if Jesus would really knock anyone out).

Nobody was secluded with headphones on, back turned to the rest of the family, shades drawn, or door closed.

Nobody was shouting, swearing, banging, or complaining about our "lame internet service" or "crappy router."

Nobody was trying to convince me that "It's not a problem!"

Bowling with Jesus -- what a nice break!

In case you are wondering, yes, we do have a problem with the Xbox in our house.

"It's not going to be a problem, they insisted when they pressed to have the Xbox come to our house, since they only got to play it every other weekend at Dad's. "Everyone else plays it," they insisted. I had managed to resist any shooting video games in our house until they were 14 and 16.

I do not like violent video games and I have a problem with the Xbox use.

We had a "come to Jesus" meeting about Xbox use last weekend and things are better. The consequence of things not getting better is that the Xbox goes back to Dad's house, where he can deal with the problem. It would likely be a huge sacrifice because they're not making that trip so much anymore (he lives out of state, which is why I acquiesced and let the Xbox come to our house in the first place).

Currently, their headset is broken and something is wrong with the controller, and no, "I haven't found a chance to order anything new on Amazon yet." (I won't be paying for that, I assure you. It will be reimbursed from their bank accounts.)

Bowling with Jesus is a better choice. Everything is better with Jesus.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why did I eat all those cookies?

Do you struggle with sugar addiction?I  made two dozen cookies tonight just after I took a chicken out of the oven. I figured why not, the oven is already hot.

Well, so was the chicken. In the time during which I was letting it stand, the cookies finished baking. They were ready to remove from the trays almost right away, while the chicken was still doing its thing.

I was starving. The cookies smelled so good. Maybe just one, I thought.

The chocolate chips were still soft. Maybe another, while I transfer them onto a plate. And another.

I refocused on the chicken and prepping the plates and getting the soup started and placating the dogs. Okay, just one more cookie before we sit down for dinner.

Dinner was delicious and I was full, but afterward, while cleaning up, I had a few more cookies. I don't know how many -- I lost count.

But the thing is, I really don't need any cookies. I was just hungry. And maybe a little tired and stressed out. Sugar is poison, and I am apparently back on that roller coaster. I feel like George in the opening scene of the Jetsons cartoon, "Jane, stop this crazy thing!"

Saturday, November 12, 2016

College visits: get your high school student ready

How to get your high school student ready for college visitsI've been nudging Oldest for a couple of months now about college. Time to think about college, time to make sure you're pursuing activities that are attractive to college admissions boards, time to think about your major, what kind of school you'd like to go to, what you want to be when you grow up.

That last one was a bit too much for him. He's 16.

Friday, November 11, 2016

I saw friends IRL today!

Having a cup of tea with friendsI brought my middle son off at a friend's house for a birthday overnight and he and another friend both brought their Xboxes (and forgot sleeping bags and pillows), even though the birthday boy has his own Xbox.

There were a couple of other boys at this event who did not bring their own Xboxes. Five kids and three Xboxes.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

My first marriage ended on Veterans Day

Veterans Day is a day to celebrate and honor the service of all U.S. military veterans. Additionally, the day marks the anniversary of the day my first marriage ended, the day I left.My first marriage ended on Veterans Day

Every Veterans Day, I remember the final day in court, when we were standing in front of the judge – finally – after having been there for more than half a day. His Honor was asking questions: “Did you read the agreement?” “Do you understand the agreement?” “Did anyone force you to sign the agreement?”

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

❤ I love you, man

This is a story I wrote about love more than six years ago from my book, Snakes, Snails, and Puppy Dog Tales. I thought it was fitting to share it today, because personally, I am so tired of all the hateful comments on social media. And even though growing up, I was taught not to discuss politics or religion publicly (how times have changed!), I am including a bible verse with this post.

I love you, man list of complimentsMy older two were bickering and wrestling in the kitchen and they had started to kick and get rowdy. Even as I inserted my presence between them, they continued to flail at each other and hurl insults. I told them, as I separated them, one boy in each headlock, “You know, I read about a mom who had her kids sit down across from each other and write down five nice things about each other if they were arguing like you two are.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Jury duty for the holidays – how festive!

Jury duty for the holidays: how festive!I received a summons for jury duty two weeks ago and ignored it as long as I could, but eventually I had to address it and fill out and return my juror questionnaire (fortunately, I learned that part can be done online).

This is Federal court, which come to find out is a lot different than state court.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Are you addicted to video games? Take this two-minute quiz

Are you addicted to video games?Are you worried that you or someone you love might be addicted to video games? Take our simple two-minute quiz to find out. Knowing is better than wondering.'

How often do you play video games?

Never (score 0)

Monthly or less (score 1)

2-4 times a month (score 2)

2-3 times a week (score 3)

4 or more times a week (score 4)

How many hours a day do you play on typical day when you are playing?

1 or 2 (0)

3 or 4 (1)

5 or 6 (2)

7-9 (3)

10 or more (4)

How often during the past week have you found that you played video games more or for a longer time than you intended?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Changing the clocks

Happy fallI don't know whether now is standard time or savings time, but whatever. The clocks have changed and the days are shorter and it makes me sad. And tired.

We slept in, kind of...first the dogs needed to go out...then my oldest got up to go do a day of service at his school so I got up to make him breakfast and help him find the rake -- he doesn't know where it is because he doesn't do that kind of service at home -- and then I went back to bed. I couldn't really sleep so I scrolled through Instagram (I don't look at that very often -- it's hard to keep up with all the platforms and I don't even know why I try. Some people are really good at Pinterest but I am so...not good at it. Yet. I don't know, maybe there's hope for me. I am contributing to a group board currently.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

5 tips for to tame work-life tension

5 reminders for taming work-life tensionThis post is especially for telecommuters or people with home-based businesses. Some of these tips might seem fairly obvious, but if you're like me, you might have a light-bulb moment one day and realize that work-life balance is more like work-life battle (though on a good day, it might be work-life blending, if that can possibly be good). Today was one of those days.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Help! I’m sharing a bathroom with four dudes!

Our whole family is sharing a bathroom because we’re having some work done in the master bath to remediate some water damage. (We decided to work with a contractor-friend and make some additional fixes/upgrades while he was here.) This is particularly hard between the hours of 5:45 and 6:30 a.m. when four people need to take showers and get ready to leave the house. I, too, leave the house but do not shower until I come back from the gym whenever.

Yes, I am sharing a bathroom with four dudes: my husband (who I share with usually, anyway) and three sons. I haven’t shared with them in years because our old house where we lived before this had two bathrooms and they used the shower in one and we used the shower in the other. I find myself cleaning up a lot -- partly because there are so many of us using one bathroom and partly because I apparently have higher standards of cleanliness than anyone else in the house.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The ugly truth about my hypoglycemia and sugar addiction

Walking the dogsWhat happens when my blood sugar crashes

I was walking our dogs one day recently. We have two semi-large dogs: one is about 70 pounds and the other is 80-85 pounds. We were on the rail trail in our neighborhood and I started having momentary foggy feelings, kind of like vertigo. It was uncomfortable. Fortunately I had brought a Luna snack bar with me on the walk. I put both leashes in one hand and tore the wrapper open with my teeth; my hand was a little shaky, I realized as it had been relieved of the tension from the dog’s leash.

I ate the bar in about three bites. Quickly.

We still had about ¾ of a mile to go before we got home and I felt waves of heat washing over me.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Accidental chicken soup (or I have no time to cook)

I have like no time to cook so I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea to plan menus for weeknights when the kids went back to school. I mean, in theory it’s a great idea, because we’d all be sitting together having a meal, and it would be planned ahead so there would be less short-order cooking (though I still have to do that for one boy who is extremely “selective,” so much so that he himself admitted to me that he doesn’t need a nutritionist, he needs a psychologist.)

I took a vote and we decided on Mac ‘n’ cheese Monday, Chicken Tuesday, Pasta Night on Wednesday (because Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day), Taco Thursday, and Friday was kind of a free-for-all if anyone was around. Maybe we’d cook a pizza. Saturday was unstructured (sometimes the kids weren’t even home) and Sunday I had been making some sort of crockpot thing like beef stew that only my husband and I ate. Because I really have no time to cook, Pasta Night (tossing frozen meatballs and a jar of sauce in the crockpot) and Pizza night were my favorites. All of the other nights were somewhat labor intensive, but at least on Sunday, I could get the crockpot set up ahead of time.

Note: if you don’t want to read this whole story, you can skip to the end for the recipe!

Our Gratitude Tree

This is a picture or my family’s gratitude tree, which I started before my kids could read or write. Originally, I had an actual faux tree on which we hung paper "ornaments" with colored pipe cleaners. Today it has evolved into a tree-shaped cutout on a poster board, at one time displayed on an easel, but now hung on the wall.

The leaves are secured with tape or glue sticks; thumbtacks were not a good long-term choice: not only did I not want to lose the leaves that fluttered to places unknown if a thumbtack fell out, but also, no one wants to find thumbtacks with their feet.

I take the gratitude tree out every year the day after Halloween. Just because retail stores begin displaying Christmas before Halloween, doesn't mean that we should forget Thanksgiving. (In a perfect world, we'd remember Thanksgiving year round, but in an imperfect one, let's at least devote some time between trick or treating and hanging the stockings.) Anyone who walks into our home between then and Thanksgiving is welcome to write something they're grateful for on a leaf and stick it on the tree. Or they can just look at the tree and remember to be grateful for all the blessings they have in their own lives.

I've shared pictures of the tree over the years on social media. Here's how it looked a few years ago. People have told me that our gratitude tree has inspired them to create a similar tree for their home, classroom or Sunday School.

Most of what people have written is very basic: life, love, family, friends, pets, and the occasional “oreos,” “my yoyo,” or “candy.” Some of the leaves go so far back they only have scribbles on them (with my translation on the other sides), or one of my boys’ names, when he was practicing how to write it. On the more recent leaves, people have written "home," "food," "relationships," "sports," "my education," and "my job."

A couple of the leaves say “electricity.” The ice storm of 2008 was a very dark time, not only because we lost our power but also because it was shortly after my mother passed away, at Thanksgiving time that year.

We did not put our tradition aside, though we were all very sad by this sudden and unexpected loss and it was bittersweet to see the cornucopia on the posterboard stating my youngest’s gratitude for his dog and his grandma from the very season that she passed. Still, we found things to be grateful for, even amidst great sorrow.

First Thessalonians 5:18 says give thanks in all circumstances. It doesn’t say we have to give thanks for all circumstances. I know so many people today who are facing trials they never imagined: illness, death, poverty, loss, failed relationships – unspeakable disappointments. What we need to keep in mind is something that my Sicilian colleagues used to say (that I had written on a sticky note in my cubicle during the early years of my technology career), “Si çiùri 'na porta e si ràpi 'm purticàtu,” which basically means “a door closes and a gate opens.”

A gate is bigger than a door. Let’s focus on the things we can be thankful for.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving season!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Happiness must be grown in one's own garden

I wrote the following story in the Spring of 2007 when my boys were 7, 5, and 1. I was a single mom at the time and I rarely came out and talked about that, but I wonder now if I should have. It was a hard time but not devoid of happiness. My thought process then was that I didn't want to pigeonhole my writing for just single moms, just like now I hesitate to target it to just working moms, but I am a working mom so I can't help it if my blog is not so much about homemaking, recipes, and DIY...I'm usually writing stories about balancing work and life or trying to find time for myself (if I'm not writing about the boys..,I thought I could stop, but they're still somehow present in just about every aspect of my life).

(Speaking of homemaking, last time someone asked me to make something for a bake sale, I wound up buying supermarket bakery cookies.)

The reason I wanted to share this story again today is that I had written about "growing children.". And now here we are, almost 10 years later. My oldest got his license less than two weeks ago and is off somewhere in his car (I know where he is now: I just texted him because he wasn't home an hour and a half after school let out), my middle left with his bike and $30, and my youngest made himself a snack and went to eat it in his room. I'll be taking him to hockey practice and dropping him off. Long gone are the days that I would help him tie his skates and even when I did, I made him sit on the bench outside the locker room because no way was I going in there. My kids are pretty well "grown."

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...