Archives for June 2012

Sit, Stay, Come!!!

“Sit!”

“Stay!”

“Down!”

“Come!”

These are the most common words in our house lately. As you may have figured, we just got a 6 month old puppy (we got her from a local rescue agency)! And boy is our house lively these days. It seems as if every member of our family is fighting for her attention. We do a good job of keeping her busy- we run with her, we walk with her, and we play games with her in the back yard. As they say, a tired puppy is a good puppy. And boy does she sleep well at night.

Not everything is fool proof though. The newest member of our family has found her way to shoes, socks, and even our wood deck. We sometimes find pieces of them in shreds in the most unlikely places. For now, we have been managing our new family dynamics by making changes in our environment (all shoes have to be put behind closed doors if they are not on our feet). Our goal, however, is to train our puppy so that she can be fully integrated into our lives without the risk of extreme property damage.

And, of course every one wants to be part of the puppy training, even our five year old. I think our puppy has a hard time taking her seriously. After all, they see each other eye to eye. Literally. At times my 5 year old will snuggle with her or play with her. And at other times she will very sternly (at least from her point of view) give her the sit command. Our puppy looks questioningly at me and then back at her as if to ask “Do I have to? Really?”.  Clearly our puppy struggles with their relationship. “Is she my companion or my leader?”, she is likely asking.

As a conscientious pet owner and parent might do, I begin to search for answers. What is the best way to integrate our new puppy into our family? Can the children take an active role in socializing our puppy? The first step is puppy kindergarten. So I enroll in a local dog obedience class that meets for six weeks. I even take the kids. As it turns out this was one of the best things I did so far. We learned so many skills for working with our puppy. And the everyone in our family has the information so we are all doing the same thing.

Additionally, I found a great book titled Don’t shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor. It is full of helpful ideas and tips that work for dog training and beyond. I even used some of the techniques on my kids (more on that in a later blog). A also found more practical tips on trainyourpuppy.com. This site has many useful tips about children and puppies such as:

  • Children should use calm, quiet vocal intonation with the puppy
  • Use a gentle hand, lead or collar when handling the puppy
  • Do not disturb a sleeping puppy
  • Children should not tease a puppy
  • Do not leave children’s toys of any danger to a puppy in the presence of a puppy

So if you are considering (or already have) introducing a furry, four legged, bundle of joy into your home check out the resources listed above and get ready for endless hours of furry fun!

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Surviving Summer

Summer has arrived. Everybody is home. No school, no work (mom is home for summer), no homework, no after school activities. Just endless days together, as a family, outside, in the sun, at the park, out with friends. It always sounds so dreamy at first. But I know from years of experience that this is a picture that exists so perfectly in my mind only. I seems as if it just takes a few weeks for the reality of nothing settles in.

“Mom, there is nothing to do!”

“Mom, there is nothing to eat!”

“Mom, there is nobody to play with!”

And before I know it I become the activity planner, the chauffeur, the short order chef, and the play date hostess for the duration of the summer. And all of my dreams of having nothing to do are blown away like a warm summer breeze.

Well not this summer! This summer I have dedicated myself to developing a summer plan that saves my sanity while enriching my children at the same time. Last week I began by posting some links to favorite summer “hot spots” and activities in the Benton County and surrounding areas. With your help on Facebook, I even added to my list. This week I have a few more summer survival ideas.

First, I hope to create a summer routine (and write it down) that builds in responsibilities for all of my children, such as: tidying up their rooms and other shared areas of the house, reading time (studies show that kids who read over summer have greater success in school the following year), snack and lunch times (with options for cooking themselves), outside time (studies also show that unstructured playtime is critical to child development), game time, creative time (arts and crafts etc.) and “down time”. Children look forward to routines and they find comfort in knowing what is expected and when. Of course this is in the absence of any summer “field trips” and activities like those mentioned in last weeks post. And, as with all routines, flexibility and spontaneity are allowed because summer surprises are way too much fun to eliminate completely.

Second, I plan to develop a “to do” list with my kids. We will brainstorm the things that we would like to do with our summer hours such as: training our new puppy, making a stepping stone garden, learning to play hopscotch and double dutch, making homemade ice cream, and planting a new flower garden. Just in case we forget, we can refer to this list in desperate times of nothing to do. Check out this link from education.com for summer “to do” list ideas. Do you and your kids have any creative things on your summer “to do” list? If so, check out our Facebook post titled “Summer Survival” and share your ideas.

Third, I plan to schedule time for myself to do the things on my summer “to do” list as well, such as: plant a garden, take a dance class, and read a novel. As ambitious as it sounds I think my children will benefit from seeing my list and watching me do the things on it. Yes, I will lead by example, probably the most powerful parenting skill we all possess!

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Summer Fun in the Sun

It’s the time of year in Oregon when we remember what it’s like to be covered in the sun’s warmth and light. How sweet it is. I really miss the sun during our Pacific Northwest dark and hazy months of winter. And I now realize that I took for granted all of the “happy energy” that the sun beamed my way while growing up under its constant rays in Southern California. Like many of you, I have big plans to spend countless hours outside soaking up (and possibly storing up) sunshine (after slathering on the sunscreen, of course) with my family until school begins again in the Fall.

Now that the weather is urging us all outdoors there is much to do outside in the Willamette Valley and surrounding areas. And if you have school aged kids that are almost done with the 2011-2012 school year you might be looking for fun outdoor activities to do with them. At the very least most parents are hoping to avoid hearing the dreaded two-word phrase that becomes popular among kids over summer break in July sometime when the excitement of the school year’s end comes to pass. “I’M BORED”, they say as they head for the kitchen pantry or refrigerator. I have a list of creative canned responses to this phrase that I hope to avoid this summer with a little bit of research and planning.

So lets get to it. Some of my favorite places to find outdoor (and indoor) summertime activities for children and families in the Willamette Valley are listed below. Check out the links and get these fun events on your calendar so you can make the most of the next three months.

First, the neighborhood Parks and Recreation Guides. Check out Albany and Corvallis.

Check out the Gazette Times “Summer in the City 2012” for more summertime fun ideas for Mid-Willamette Valley dwellers and visitors.

Here are some links to some larger events in the area: Philomath Frolic and Rodeo, Benton County Fair, Oregon Country Fair, DaVinci Days, Free Noon Concerts at OSU.

Don’t forget about water fun: Albany Community Pool (ACP), Osborne Aquatic Center (OAC) in Corvallis, Clemens Community Pool in Philomath.

There are a lot of amazing and fun children and family events to fill up our time during the lazy days of summer. I could not possibly get them all listed in a single post. So I propose that each of you readers post your FAVORITES to our Facebook discussion titled “Fun in the Sun; What are you up to this summer in the Mid-Willamette Valley?” I will be looking for at least one new outdoor activity go to with my family this summer. How about you? Hope to see you outside…

 

 

 

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Let Them See You Cry

Monday was the big day.

My daughter was leaving for a week long overnight camp, three hours away, in the woods, with the entire fifth grade, parent volunteers, and her teachers. In the weeks leading up to this day she and her friends were bubbling over with anticipation. This was a first for her. And she wanted it REALLY bad. At ten-years-old her need to feel separated from her parents is getting stronger by the day. But so is her dependence on us for guidance into the social and emotional arena of puberty and middle school. This is such a complex time for our entire family.

On the eve of her departure, she asked me to help her complete her packing by checking things off the list given to her by her teacher that are already packed in her overnight bag. After I get over the fact that her bag is probably heavier than she is, I plant myself down on the floor on the opposite side of her room and I can see her rummaging through her bag across from me. “Okay mom, tell me the first thing on the list. ” she eagerly tells me. So I say, “Five pairs of socks.” She replies with a military sounding “Check!” then “Cross it off mom and tell me what is next.” She is clearly in the lead here so I follow marveling at her stature and commitment to the task at hand. Obviously, she is highly invested in the successful completion of packing her own bag. I begin to feel lucky that she even asked me to “help”. We continue in this format down the list and about halfway through the list, as I watch her sifting through her bag looking for the next item, I begin to feel hot and a bit shaky. Then suddenly I get a flashback of myself in the hospital holding my new baby and looking up at my husband with proud and scared eyes, both of us thinking — without saying a single word — “Wow! We did it!” As my  mind slips back into present day and my eyes try to refocus on my daughter, who has by this point turned to face me, I notice that she is looking at me with a quizzical look in her eyes. “Mom,” she gently tells me, “the paper is all wet.” I look down and realize that the list I had been holding is saturated with tears. I whisper to myself, “How did this happen?” She grew up so fast just like everyone said she would. I didn’t believe them. “It was supposed to last forever.” And I secretly wished that this moment could. My daughter moves across the room, meets me with her own tears, embraces me, and softly tells me, “Aw mom, it’ll be okay. I’ll be back before you know it.” Boy does that sound familiar. “I know.” I tell her, “I am just so proud of you. And I want you to have tons of fun. I am just sad that I will not be there to see it.” My husband knocks on the door to her room. “Is everything okay?”, he asks knowing exactly what is going on inside. He peeks in and sees our tearful embrace. “Mom is just sad that she is not going to camp with us.” (my husband is a chaperon) My daughter empathetically tells her dad. He replies “Oh, that’s what moms do.”

Yes, that IS what moms do. We are happy in front of our children, we are sad in front of our children, we are angry in front of our children. And dads are all of these things as well. Expressing our emotions in front of our children can be difficult at times. I did not want to spoil my daughter’s excitement about going to camp for the first time but I was overcome with my own emotions. She seemed to appreciate that I showed I cared. Additionally, without planning to, I gave her a window to my soul, I let her know how I felt inside and how I communicate and express those feelings appropriately. This is good parenting. Let them see you laugh, smile, cry, be angry, compassionate, loving etc. Show them what these emotions feel and look like. And then have a dialogue with your children about those emotional moments when appropriate. This will provide a foundation for your children to understand and express their own emotions as they evolve and become more complex.

I usually like to provide you with a link to an article of some sort that gives you parenting tips and advice on the topic at hand. But this time I have given you something special. I have given you a link to my heart.

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