Oh no! My Son’s Growing Up and Changing our Family Traditions!

December 31st, 2011

In years past, I’ve blogged about the beauty of the Advent season  and taking time during the frenetic holiday season to Slow Down and Relax.

This year, I took my own advice, and did less blogging – and working – and more cookie baking!  But we still practiced – or tried to practice – the Advent Calendar tradition I’ve chronicled here the past few years.  Tried to practice? That’s what happened when my nine-year-old ig Boy announced he’s too old to read the Christmas story out loud, and wanted to save all his Advent calendar chocolates for one night. In an instant, one of my favorite Christmas traditions was changed – at least for this year.

I was optimistic that our tradition of celebrating the twelve days of Christmas would hold, though. Until Mr. Grown-Up challenged my assertion that it was the Fifth Day of Christmas – and maintained that Christmas CountDown Calendar was only meant for the days leading up to Christmas.

It’s just one more reminder to enjoy each moment, for as well we all know – they grow up so fast. How have your holiday traditions changed as your kids have grown?  Leave a comment and share!

And if I don’t get another post up today, well, Happy New Year! :)

– Lynn

Back-to-School Adjustments and Homework Hassles. How’s it Going?

September 21st, 2011

I can’t be the only parent who feels like once the kids go back to school, I’ve got a new, demanding job.  Demanding jobs are great, but I already have one!

It’s a lot to deal with, whether you’re

  • helping a child adjust to the new teachers’ styles;
  • figuring out which battles to fight and which to let go;
  • coaching a kid through an ever increasing homework load;
  • stumbling upon an MCPS website mention that the school year has been shifted by one day (with no other notice!); and
  • the list goes on…

Tweeting about Homework Battles

I don’t remember things being like this when I was a kid. Then again, my mother was a divorcee, a working Mom who didn’t have time to provide much oversight of my school activities.   I was a latchkey kid before the term was invented.

There are plenty of kids like that here in Montgomery County, Maryland, where 44,000 students qualify for the free lunch program.  But how do they cope?  As early as the second grade, homework assignments become so complex that it’s a frequent topic of conversation in even the most upscale neighborhoods.

The school system does provide a “homework hotline,” accessible via cable TV — which we don’t have! –  or through the computer — which we try to avoid, due to its distractions.

For many in the more affluent parts of the county, the solution to homework hassles is private tutoring. An increasing number of parents shell out $45 for group tutoring and $75 or more for individual tutoring. And it’s encouraged by some of the teachers (although officially they’re not supposed to suggest tutors, I hear).  I know this is going on nationwide. My friends in San Diego tell me about their “homework nanny.”

And my online grumbling about homework hassles did lead me to a wonderful site called School Family, along with some much needed morale support on a rough day.

How’s back to school going for you? Leave a comment and share!

 

Check Out This Month’s Green Moms Carnival: Green Back-to-School!

August 30th, 2011

For the fourth time in as many years, my friends — the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival – have come together to share our tips on how to get ready for the back-to-school rush.

Green Moms Carnival

I hope you’ve read my post about how sometimes even Green Moms forget to Reduce, Reuse, Refuse, Repurpose, and Recycle.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Head on over to Mindful Momma to read a great compilation of more than twenty posts about the green-back-to-school.

Enjoy!

– Lynn

Back to School Shopping: Remembering You Can Still Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose or Recycle!

August 20th, 2011

I chalk it up to a mother’s Prehistoric background as a Gatherer, married with her primal instinct to protect and prepare her offspring. How else to explain the fact that so many of us forget all about the Cardinal Rules of The Five Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle) when it comes to our own precious darlings’ return to school?  Sure, it’s tempting to fall into green shopping mania, but take a closer look at some of these tips…you may find that you can get away just fine without many new items for back-to-school.

Back to School Essentials?

After all, when was the last time you heard a grade schooler say, “Mom, I really need a  new lunchbox!” OK, granted, maybe girls are different – but I’d wager that boys could care less about the many new “back-to-school” items most Moms feel compelled to buy.    My rising fourth grader has been toting the same Crocodile Creek lunch box since kindergarten. Sure, it’s looking a bit beat up now, but does it really matter?

durable PVC-free lunchboxes

The fact is, if you spring for high quality gear at the outset, you may find, like me, that you’ll get years and years of use out of your back-to-school items.  Here’s what’s worked for me:

1. Lunch Boxes: Crocodile Creek’s PVC-free lunch boxes are incredibly durable. The one pictured here is going into its fifth year of service. For some reason my other son’s Crocodile Creek lunch box didn’t last quite as long – perhaps because of too much spilled yogurt on the inside.  When it got even a bit too funky for my taste, I replaced it with this Hanna Andersson lunch box, which is a bit roomier.

Do I think it’s time for a new lunch box after four years? Well, yes, so I purchased a new one…but Big Boy told me sensibly, “The other one is perfectly fine, Mom. And it’s not so eco-green to buy new every year, is it, Mom?”

2. Backpacks: Resist the temptation to buy the cheap theme backpacks. It’s amazing how soon that cool character they absolutely must have this year become so LAST YEAR or worse yet, BABY-ISH.   Perhaps because of the shortness of the “awesome factor,”  most of them are not built to last, but if you’ve got a younger one in preschool, they do make good cast-offs — even with broken zippers.

After my son’s Spiderman backpack broke after just two weeks of use, I purchased a durable Eddie Bauer backpack, which is going into its third year of use.  Sure it’s a little dirty, but again, we’re talking about a boy. And we could always …wash it!

durable school back packs

Other great sources for durable, long lasting backpacks that last for years? You guessed it…Hanna Andersson and Crocodile Creek.  And if your little one must absolutely have Spiderman, Thomas, or some other character, check the consignment shops. After waiting patiently for a season, I found an adorable Thomas backpack for $5. Of course, it’s broken now.

If you’re tempted to give in to the Back to School shopping mania, just think about all you can do with the $100 or so bucks you might save by not indulging. A nice dinner out. Some money in the savings account. Or a great little something for YOU.

What do you think? Will you be skipping any of the so-called back-to-school “must haves” this season?   Check out what the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival have to say about Back to School shopping at our 4th annual Back to School Carnival, hosted by Micaela of Mindful Momma on Monday.

Disclosures: In case you’re wondering, I don’t do any work for the companies mentioned here. They’re not clients, and I purchased all the items mentioned in this piece…most of them, years ago!  :)

– Lynn

Sick Kids: Ya Gotta Have Friends and Good Old Fashioned Neighbors

October 17th, 2010

I realized with horror tonight that I had not updated my blog. It seemed that between Twitter, FaceBook, email and the phone, I had gotten the word out to everyone I knew: my son is home, recuperating from surgery for a ruptured appendix.

It was so comforting to have the many cyber-hugs and words of sympathy from you, some of whom I’ve met “In Real Life” and others who remain mainly a Twitter handle.

But at the end of the day, it was those precious friends and neighbors (yes, who read my blog too!) who saved the day.  My son’s best friend’s parents and neighbors, who brought us a bottle of wine and my son a giant bag filled with books and a long sought after Diji (don’t ask!) to keep him occupied.  They kept my little one so I could go to the hospital.  The neighbors who took in my little guy and had him over for more playdates than usual to keep him occupied. Yet other neighbors who kept the little guy when I, in a trance, mistakenly picked him up early from preschool.

It’s been a long nine days since he first got sick, but tomorrow he gets the container that is attached to him removed. He’ll be a bit less fragile then. And every day he’s stronger and more like his old self.

Thanks again to everyone for your caring words, tweets, emails, and phone calls at a very rough time!

Lynn

The Babies of BlogHer: The Second Annual Round-Up

August 9th, 2010

In the second of what I hope to be an annual series of posts, I pay tribute to the Babies of BlogHer. Last year, I attended my first Blogher conference, and I marveled about how I’d never attended a conference with babes-in-arms. I spent twenty years working in the tech industry, where women at conferences were definitely in the minority. Babies? Fuhgedaboutit!

photo1_babyJoGreepHow appropriate that the first pic I snapped was of a doula – @outtajo aka of JoGreepChildBirth

As I blogged then,

Much has been written about BlogHer. How over-the-top everything was.  The big sponsors. The huge bags of swag. The blow-out parties.   The larger-than-life amazing, inspirational speakers. The networking.  It’s true – all of that was amazing.

But what really blew me away was something much smaller.

The babies. The babies of BlogHer.

They were everywhere you looked.

Though there were fewer than last year, the sight of all those gorgeous babies with their intrepid Mamas still blew me away.

photo6_babyatblogherunidentified

One of the first Mommy-Baby duos I snapped, Jen from Baby Making Machine and her Lil’ J were gorgeous! Those flowers make Lil’ Baby J look like a tropical goddess! (She’s only a month old!)

This year, I tried to include name tags in photos so that I could link back to the Mamas’ sites, but I’ve still fallen short! If you can identify one of the anonymous Mamas, please leave a comment so we know who she is!

EmilywithbabyBeautiful red-headed Emily (of ??) with her little sleeping moppet.

When I asked why there seemed to be fewer babies than last year, I was told it was because of reports about a baby being bumped at Blogher ’09. What a shame. BlogHer is a great place for babies, and I hope to see even more of them at Blogher ’11 in San Diego! (Particularly BlogHer co-founder Jory des Jardins’ baby!)

MorraAaronMele&friendwbaby photo

Morra Aarons Mele, right, and The Mama Bee with her adorable baby

Did I spot your baby? What was it like to bring your baby to BlogHer? Would you recommend it to other Moms? Leave a comment and share!

And if I snapped your pic, and it’s not posted…check back. I’ll be adding more to the post (including my own tykes) but I want to get up some other posts too! Oh…and real work!

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

The One Where I Call My DH a Nerd in Our Hometown Paper: The Washington Post!

April 23rd, 2010

TNT 1:2

Seriously, I did get his permission before sending the blog post off to education writer Valerie Straus at The Answer Sheet,  billed as a “school survival guide for parents and everyone else.”

“How could I argue?” he laughed.

In addition to being very smart, my darling husband of 11 years is very funny!

It was all for a good reason – I was trying to point out that my husband and I are far from slackers in the education department, but we are apparently slacker parents when it comes to how some families handle the rigors of assessment testing in the second grade. (Or so we’re told).

Anyway, you can check out the post here.  It’s called, “Who’s Afraid of the TerraNova 2 Test?

Would love to get your thoughts!

And yes, for someone who cut her teeth at local newspapers, studied journalistic ethics under Nat Hentoff, and regretfully left the newspaper industry, this little post has me more than tickled pink!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Kids and Earth Hour: Finally, We’ve Got It Down!

March 27th, 2010

Ever since Earth Hour debuted in 2008, I’ve struggled with how to incorporate the late evening holiday into my childrens’ bedtime routines. The first year, we celebrated what I called an “Earth Minute.”

earth-hour

Last year, I had it all figured out: I shared all the details on   Five Tips for Observing Earth Hour with Kids:

1. Stick to Your Routines

2. Pick a Substitute Time that Works for You

3. Use this as a Teachable Moment

4. Give Yourself a Break

5. Celebrate with Your Significant Other

But this year?  Well, Big Boy’s in second grade now. So when they celebrated Earth Hour at school, he actually understood the concept.

I spent the day today at a Green Jobs Internship Fair, talking to scores of amazing young people bent on using their talents to help save the Earth. Exhausted, I returned home. Earth Hour? They celebrated at school this year. My son understood. He was falling asleep as the last flickers of light left the sky.

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania


Teaching Financial Literacy & Values or NO, The Lego Company is NOT a Charity!

March 10th, 2010

tweet yesterday about teaching financial literacy through allowances caught my attention, mainly because I’m expecting to start work shortly on a new client project that will engage kids with financial issues (in a green way, of course!… More to come on that when it’s finalized).

As @johnlanza said, allowances are a great idea.

BUT there’s so much more involved than simply handing over $x a week to spend on stuff…Especially if your values are trying to teach kids that we don’t need so much of the stuff that consumes our environmental resources.

A few years ago, when Big Boy was 5, I took a class in allowances at a wonderful local non-profit parenting organization, The Parent Encouragement Program.  Their philosophy is simple:  start allowances at age 5 to teach saving, spending, and charity, and adjust the allowance over time as your child grows.

We started at age 5 with $3 for spending, $1 for a charity of my son’s choosing, and $1 for savings.  Very early on he grasped the concept of “saving” up for large purchases (you guessed it – Legos). It would take him 10 weeks or more to save up for a decent-sized Lego, but he did it.  His first charitable donation was to the local Bethesda library.

Two years on, he’s getting $7 a week, with $4.50 for spending, $1.50 for saving, and $1 for charity.

Judging by the number of Lego pieces I trip over in our house, I think he’s got too much spending money.  He’s deposited $272 in the bank, and he loves reading the bank statements when they arrive. (I miss the days of the old passbook savings accounts – which made the money somehow seem so much more tangible.)

But it’s the charity thing we’ve had the hardest time working on. Somehow, my complaints about Lego’s exorbitant prices have been misinterpreted. He became convinced that Lego must charge so much because they need the money. Therefore, in his mind, The Lego Company is  a charity. And for several weeks, he was bound and determined to donate his charitable savings to The Lego Company. But of course, I wouldn’t allow it!

He’s now finally got the concept of for-profit corporations down pat, and as the note below attests, his charitable contributions will be flowing to Haiti and Chile.

“Dear X,

I am donating  $X   to give to Haiti and Chile.  I hope this money will help the people in Haiti and Chile for food and water.

Sincerely,

XX”

Do you give your kids an allowance? What’s worked for you?

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

Roses and Thorns

February 22nd, 2010

Say what you will about President Obama. He’s too liberal. He’s not liberal enough.  He needs to move to the center. He’s doing just fine. Whatever. But here’s what we can all agree on:  his family is cute.

So when I saw a Parade cover story  about the adorable Obamas, of course I read it. It was one of those “soft” pieces for which the White House press office was so roundly criticized, right around the time of the Inauguration.

What struck me about the article was a simple story about their family dinners. Each person at the table takes turns sharing the best thing that happened to them that day (the rose) and the worst thing (the thorn).  The joke was that Obama’s daughter Malia thought her dad had a “thorny job” as president.

Source: Freefoto.com

Source: Freefoto.com

We adopted the Roses and Thorns tradition a year ago, and it’s been a blessing for our family. It is such a low pressure way to find out what’s going on in my second grader’s life.  Our 3-year-old doesn’t understand the concept of thorns yet, but he does eagerly share his roses.

Apparently The First Lady has been telling the Rose and Thorns story again as part of her new anti-obesity campaign. As this great post explains, Roses and Thorns not only helps families connect, it encourages the proper expression of emotion – so that we talk about our feelings rather than eat them away…

Rose and Thorns…have you tried it yet?

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010