Is your child ready to stay home alone?

Home_Alone_Boy1

Some parents dread it, while others are anxiously awaiting it…the decision to leave your child home alone for the first time. How do you determine if your child is ready to stay home alone? Only a few states have laws that specify the age when a child can be left home alone, including Maryland (age 8) and Illinois (age 14). In Kansas and Missouri, state laws do not specify the age at which a child can be left home alone.

Most states have guidelines with the Department of Health and Human Services or other child protective agencies that test a child’s ability to be left home alone. According to the Child Welfare Reform Information Gateway, here are some questions to consider before leaving your child home alone:

  • Does your child feel comfortable being home alone?
  • Does your child obey rules and make good decisions?
  • Is your child physically and mentally able to care for himself?
  • How does your child respond to stressful situations?
  • How long will your child be left home alone?
  • What time of day will your child be left alone?
  • What routines well your child be responsible for? (i.e. Will your child need to fix a meal?)
  • Is your home safe and free of hazards?
  • How safe is your neighborhood?
  • Are there adults nearby that you trust and you are home and can offer mediate systems if there’s an emergency or if your child get scared?
  • Does your child know what to do if a visitor comes to the door?
  • Does your family have a safety plan for emergencies? Can your child follow this plan?
  • Does your child no his or her full name, address, and phone number?
  • Does your child know where you are and how to contact you at all times?
  • Does your child know who to contact if you cannot be reached? 

 

Once you have determined that your child is ready to stay home alone, the following tips may help prepare your child to feel more comfortable about staying home alone:

  1. Communicate. Encourage your child to share his feelings with you about staying home alone. Have this conversation before leaving and when you return.
  2. Establish rules. Make sure your child knows what is (and is not allowed) when you’re not home. Set clear limits.  Some experts suggest making a list of chores or other tasks to keep children busy while you are gone.
  3. Have a trial period. Leave your child home alone for a short time while walking the dog around the block or running a quick errand to the grocery store. This is a good way to see how your child will manage on their own.
  4. Role-play. Act out possible scenarios to help your child learn what to do if a visitor comes to the door and how to answer phone calls in a way that doesn’t reveal that a parent is not at home.
  5. Discuss emergencies. Talk about what your child considers an emergency and what you consider an emergency. Create a form with the plan and contact numbers in the event of an emergency.
  6. Prepare. Spend time with your child before you leave preparing simple snacks and meals, making sure doors are locked, reviewing house rules and expectations for behavior. This is a great opportunity to fill your child’s bucket and let them know how much you care about them and their safety.
  7. Check in. Call your child while you are away to see how everything is going. If you are not able to check in, ask a trusted neighbor or friend to do this for you.
  8. Don’t overdo it. Even a mature responsible child needs interaction with their peers and adults. Consider other options such as programs offered by schools, community centers, youth organizations or faith-based organizations.


If you determine your child is not ready to be left home alone consider these options for childcare:

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The BEST jeans for the kid that ONLY wears elastic waisted athletic pants.

For the past two years, my 9-year old son’s wardrobe has rarely deviated from elastic waisted athletic pants.  We have endured tears and tantrums about putting on a pair of pants that have a zipper for class programs, weddings, and family portraits.

I am not the mom who picks out their kids’ outfits everyday.  I’m exactly the opposite.  Anyone who has seen my kids on any given school day knows that I let my offspring choose their clothing–almost always.  

  A handful of times each year, I ask ny kids to wear something that matches and looks like they didn’t just roll out of bed or walk off the basketball court.  

Special occasions requiring dressed-up attire have been a tearful, sweaty disaster with my big-guy.  UNTIL, my neighbor enlightened  me about Abercrombie & Fitch’s sweatpant stretch jeans.  

That’s right.  SWEATPANT. JEANS. 

Jeans that fit and feel like sweatpants. This is not a joke. This is a real thing. If you don’t know about it, you are missing out.

After purchasing a pair of the $39.95 a&f straight sweatpant stretch jeans, my 9-year old son who hasn’t worn a pair of jeans without crying in 2-years exclaimed,

“On a scale from 1-10, I give these a 9.75!”

Then, HE WORE THEM TO SCHOOL! All day.  Without complaining. He even rode his bike around the block wearing them after school.

I am getting ZERO kickbacks from a&f for this blog (although I would gladly except some in order to afford multiple pairs of these magical sweatpants jeans).  I wrote this so other mothers with “husky” “sensory-sensitive” boys can experience the bliss and freedom from a life lived solely in athletic pants.  
 Disclaimer: my husky 9-year old needed a size 14 in the skinny stretch jeans, so size up if your little man is a bigger-little man.

Seriously…Give your family the gift of a athletic pant-free holiday and order some of these magical jeans today!  You will not regret it.  Especially when it’s time to go to Aunt Vivienne’s fancy China-clad Christmas Eve dinner and you kid wants to roll up to the table in his Under Armour apparel.

 A&F Sweatpant Stretch Jeans

Empowerful Parenting: how to lovingly empower your kids vs. enable them

Any parent will tell you that parenting is the hardest job in the world. A day spent at home with my kids is more mentally and physically challenging than any day at work.  Why? I believe it is my strong emotional connection to my kids.  After all, it is my responsibility to fill them with love and help them grow into the best human beings they can be.  As parents, it is our nature to give our children unconditional love and kindness. The challenge arises when delineating between loving-kindness and enabling.

“Moooom, WHERE ARE MY SHOES?”

“Moooom, I’m hungry!”

“Moooom, is it time to go yet?”

“Moooom….”

“Mom? Did you hear me?”

“MOM–wake up!”

I know I am not the only mother that is exhausted by the end of the day. The constant need for guidance and assistance and attention can be draining.  Sometimes, it just seems easier to do things for them rather than teach them to do things for themselves.  But is that the loving thing to do?  Isn’t empowering more loving than enabling?

Like all parents I love my kids to the moon and back. I want the world for them and I want them to HAVE, DO, and BE everything their soul desires. I realize that I don’t have to HAVE, DO, and BE everything FOR them.  

So, where is that fine line between acts of love and enabling (which really is disabling) your child to depend upon you to HAVE, DO, and BE everything FOR them.

By definition, enabling means: give someone or something the authority or means to do something.  

There comes a time when you have to choose between giving your children the means to depend upon you or giving them the authority to explore the world independently.

I recently placed a picture in my kitchen to remind myself how to choose between lovingly empowering and enabling my kiddos. 

On a picture of my children at the beach, the caption reads: Do not do for others what they can do for themselves.

Now, when I hear, “Mooom….”, I take a moment to ask myself, “Is this request something they can do for themselves?”

If it is something I know they are capable of doing, I do this– I call it Empowerful Parenting:

  
1. I encourage them by letting them know that I believe in them and their ability to do this task independently. 

You are smart and strong I believe that is something you can do for yourself. 

2. Then, I challenge them to find a solution.

Hmmm…what ideas do you have to solve this problem?

3. If they tried. I mean really tried. Then I offer choices as suggestions to guide them in their problem-solving.

Have you tried___ or ___?

4. Finally, I offer to help complete the task together. Not FOR them, WITH them.

I am proud of you for trying…let’s see if we can do it together.

If you think about it, when we are recognizing our children’s abilities and supporting and believing in the fact that they can do it for themselves. We are empowering them. That is ultimately loving them.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still “MOOOOM” moments that require my attention. (i.e. I puked in my bed or I want a hug.) 

And, if I am being completely honest, I still revert back to the “I’ll do it for you” on occasion. Hey, nobody is perfect, right?

Overall, I am consciously making an effort to EMPOWER my children to trust in themselves and their own abilities, not to depend upon me to magically meet their needs and solve all their challenges.

Presently–and even after my kids are grown-up and moved out of the house–I know there will be those “MOOOOM MOMENTS”. Those moments when my children really do need ME. 

In those moments I will follow the advice of my own mother, and “appreciate being needed“.  

Snooze E. Sheep’s Toddler Treasure Hunt is Happening THIS OCTOBER!

Guess what?  A magical sheep has just flown into Kansas City.  His name is Snooze E. Sheep, and he is on a mission to transform toddler nap-times into a fun adventure.  Snooze is so super duper excited for the kids of Kansas City to discover the joy of “snoozing” with Snooze, that he is going to hide copies of his book, Snooze©, in various kid-friendly spots throughout the city!

Everyday Friday this October, Snooze will hide his book in a new location.  Check his Facebook page each Friday morning at 9am to get a treasure map to help you find the book.

Use the treasure map and take your toddler on an exciting treasure hunt to look for Snooze’s signature z-shaped clue and find the magical book that has the power to transform not-so-happy nap-times into magical adventures.


Don’t worry if you aren’t the first one to find Snooze’s hidden treasure.  Anyone who finds Snooze’s clue has a chance to be a winner! Take a picture of your child next to Snooze’s clue and post it on Snooze’s Facebook Page with #snoozethesheep for a chance to win a copy of his book!

Winner’s names will be drawn and announced at the end of the month.

Don’t have time to take your toddler on a treasure hunt, but want a fun new way to transform nap-time “nays” into “hip-hip-hoorays”?

Check out Snooze’s website where you can purchase the book and get more fun information about Snooze E. Sheep (like what in the world is his middle name and what Snooze likes to do for fun).

Happy Hunting!

Snooze the Sheep

Toilet Meditating for Parents who Barely Have Time to Poop

As a parent in a busy household, one of the wishes I have each day is for just a few moments of peace and quiet and solitude. As a mama also aspiring for enlightenment– a few moments of meditation would be equally awesome.  But, let’s be honest.  Finding peace and quiet is a rare commodity in a busy household–unless you wake up at the crack-of-dawn and disappear to the solitude of the basement before those little feet pitter-patter down the hall squealing, “I’m hungry”. 

Of course, you could wait until the house is quiet in the evening after the kiddos are in bed and your spouse has finished blaring his nightly Netflix episode of Breaking Bad on the TV …if you can stay awake that late.  I don’t know about you, but it seems that my house is abuzz with activity from dawn until midnight. 
So, what is an exhausted mom seeking a slice of solitude to do? 
We all know the “escape to the bathroom trick”.  Oh, come on, don’t act like you have never used the bathroom as a getaway.  Once you are in there, hunched down holding your head in your hands, how do you maximize those precious moments of “me time”and bring your energy from zero back to hero?  
Toilet Meditation.  
Yes, you read that correctly…Toilet Meditation.
It can be done, and it can be glorious.  We take time to “lighten the load”, but what about our emotional and energetic load?  We owe it to ourselves and our families to pause a few extra minutes on that porcelain throne to enlighten our minds and not just our behinds.
The benefits of mediation are comparable, if not better than a good BM, so why not squeeze a MB (meditation break) in after your BM?

Consider these benefits of toilet meditation:
1. Provides a sense of calm and balance
2. Increases energy
3. Reduces pain and enhances the body’s immune system
4. Reduces stress
5. Relieves muscle tension

Follow these 10 Steps to Master the Toilet Meditation:
1.  Secure the area (that’s basically the lock yourself in the bathroom technique aforementioned).  
2.  Get loaded.  The toilet provides a wonderful support for you to sit grounded with your spine erect and your feet flat on the floor.  No need to try the lotus position in the loo. 
3. Close your eyes and bring your attention to the space between your eyes.  
4. Get your brain from Beta to Theta.  I personally love listening to Dr. Joe Dispenza’s “You are the Placebo” meditations (available on iTunes).  However, if you are locked and loaded and you left your iPhone and earbuds in the kitchen, the hum of the bathroom exhaust fan is the next best thing to the harmonious binaural beats.
Follow this handy-dandy brainwave map to get you there:
  

 5. Do not attend to any knocking, hollering, barking, ringing for 5-minutes.  Imagine that your body is not a solid mass, but instead that it is made up of millions of tiny atoms (because it actually is). Feel the space between the atoms expanding and filling the room (kind of like a fart). 

6. Breathe.
7.  Ignore that pounding on the bathroom door and the “Moooooom, are you in there?”
Bring your awareness back to the space between your eyes.  Keep your eyes closed.  
8.  Stay in that Toilet Theta State as long as you can…but not too long.  You don’t want to end up with ring-around-the-toilet thighs (especially during tennis-skirt season), or worse yet, have your legs fall asleep!
9. Bring your awareness back your body.  Open your eyes.  Can you feel your toes?
Your legs? Your arms? Feels good, Right?
10. Don’t forget to flush and wash, and while you are in there, go ahead and give yourself a wink in the mirror and say, “I’m good stuff!”

I turned into a bear on the eve of Christmas Eve.

I try very hard to maintain a positive attitude and remain optimistic. I make a conscious effort everyday to see the glass as half-full, to play, to be creative and have fun. I do a pretty good job (most days) rolling with life’s waves and finding humor in things.
However, on the eve of Christmas Eve, I turned into a bear…a growling, snarling, grizzly bear.
I felt the storm coming upon me earlier that day. As I was driving to work, the list of things I needed to get done that evening were already scrolling through my mind. Then, I started having anxious, stressful thoughts. You know, the “Christmas is in two days” thoughts:
Have I wrapped everyone’s gift?
Did I wash all the sheets for my houseguests?
Are all the holiday meals planned?
Did I put away the bras hanging in the hallway before my father-in-law arrives?

“Take a deep breath,” I literally said out loud to myself. “It will be fine.”
But I could feel myself sinking into the stress abyss.
“I am equipped to overcome this,” I thought.
I sent a few text messages to some of my favorite people telling them how much I love them.

Love conquers all.

This helped…my spirits were lifted. I forgot about the evening to do list and smiled about how much I adore my friends.

I made it home from work with a smile on my face (a glass of wine with a friend after work also helped this).

“I don’t feel good, Mom,” my son said.
The Stress Storm hit me like a tsunami.
WHAT?!?! A sick kid? This was not on my list of things to do tonight!
My mind started racing.

Deep Breath.

Love conquers all.

I was able to maintain my composure to comfort my son, do a fever check and make a bowl of chicken noodle soup.
I held it together enough to prepare a meal for my family and my in-laws.
I repeated my mantra:

“Love conquers all.”

I snuggled my son on the couch, then helped him get to bed.
“Stay in here with me, Mom, he pleaded.”

Love conquers all.

I snuggled next to him on his bed, stroking his hair as he dozed off.
Until…Little Sister entered.
“Mom, tuck me in!”
“No. Stay here with me.”
“Mom, tuck ME in!”
“No…don’t leave (sobbing)!”

“Where is your dad?” I asked.

“Busy. Just tuck me in, Mom.”

“Okay,” I said. “I will tuck you in, Sis. Then I will be back to tickle your head, Buddy.”

(Sobbing continues)

After tucking in Sis, I ran downstairs to find my dear husband getting a haircut from his Pop in the basement…
My mind raced…We have kids to tuck in, gifts to wrap, dishes to do, meals to prep, laundry to fold and YOU ARE GETTING A HAIRCUT!?!?
(can you hear the record stop?)
SCREEEECH

“MOM, WHERE ARE YOU?” I heard my son call from upstairs.

This is when I cracked.
Like a grizzly bear hatching out of a dinosaur egg I roared.

I said a few short words to my husband about needing help and the things HE needed to do on MY to do list. I threw around a few gift bags and rolls of wrapping paper, huffed at my dear mother-in-law and stomped into my son’s room still growling.
That is where I fell asleep.

When I woke up in the morning, I literally ached. What in the he!! happened last night?
I imagine this is how Michael J. Fox felt in the movie Teen Wolf, after he turned from werewolf back into a normal teenager.
Then, I remembered…the roaring, the growling.
Yikes, I had some emotional cleaning up to do.

I said my mantra: “Love conquers all.”
I sent an apology email to my husband who had already left for work.
I apologized to my mother-in-law for my outburst–and she said she understood and forgave me.
I forgave myself and decided to move on. I felt worlds better. More like a human-less like a bear.

We all turn into bears or wolves every now and then.

When you feel an animalistic rage storm coming upon you,
it helps to remember this mantra:

“Love conquers all.”

and follow these steps…

1. Try to shelter yourself from those outRAGEous thoughts by filling your mind with LOVE.
-text a love note to your spouse
-email an old friend to say you kids them
-hold the door for a stranger
-smile at a baby
-pet an animal

2. If the storm hits, take charge on clean-up duty.
-say “I am sorry”
-ask for forgiveness
-forgive yourself
-move on…the past is done…focus on NOW.

Did anyone else turn into a wild animal before the holidays? I’d love to hear your story.
If you haven’t cleaned up your mess after the storm yet, today is a good day to do it!

Love conquers all!

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Carpool Conversation. Crickets. Shake It Off.

I am blessed to participate in our neighborhood carpool. Two mornings a week, I get the joy of transporting six of the kids in our neighborhood to school.
For 10 minutes, twice a week, I have a captive audience. Literally. So, I try to make the most of this time and impart on them some positive thought or wisdom.
This Monday, I wanted to help them to start thinking positive thoughts about the upcoming week. I asked the kids,

So, what is one thing you are all looking forward to or excited about this week?

Can you hear the chirp of the crickets?
There was silence.
Nothing.
“Oh no,” I thought, “they have nothing to look forward to!?!?”
Just then, the kindergartener of the group hollered from the third row,
“Turn up the tunes…this song rocks!”
To the blaring sound of Taylor Swift’s newest hit, Shake It Off, I had a revelation. Another teachable moment brought to me by my 5-year old.
Happiness is not found in some future thought. True happiness in life is found in BEING and experiencing and feeling 100% in THIS present moment.
Happiness is right here, right now. Kids know this (especially 5-year olds).
Watch a group of kindergarteners at recess on the playground. They are running, laughing, squealing with delight. Picking dandelions. Burying their feet in the rocks and sand. Catching bugs.
They aren’t worrying about what happened yesterday or what happens next. They are reveling in the magic of the moment.
Aha…Duh-why on Earth would this carload of elementary school kids want to waste these valuable minutes thinking about some possible event in the future when it would be better spent rocking it out with Taylor Swift?

Just when I think I am playing the role of “Mom of the Year” my kids go and show me, yet again, that I could stand to learn a few things from them.

And so, in those remaining 8 minutes on the way to school we were living in the moment. We “shook off” any thoughts about the future or the past and laughed and clapped, sang and shook with all our hearts :

I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music
In my mind
Saying, “It’s gonna be alright.”

That’s right, Taylor Swift. It IS going to be alright!