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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lesson 15: Suicide is Never the Answer

We live in a small town and news travels fast here.  Recently we heard that a student at our local high school committed suicide.  We did not know this boy, but from what I have seen he was active in sports, had lots of friends and seemed like a very "normal" teenager.  Unfortunately, his parents were the ones who found him and I can't imagine the absolute heart break that they must be feeling.

This is clearly a tough subject and one that I would prefer my girls didn't have to know about, but we thought it presented an opportunity to have an open, honest discussion with our daughters.

We asked them if they could think of any reason why this boy would think that the best answer was to take his own life.  We talked about things that might cause angst in a teenager's life.  The worst case scenario that my girls could come up with is if their entire family were to be killed.  While this would certainly be devastating, we talked about other things as well.  A break-up with a boyfriend, a fight with a friend, failing a test, not fitting it, disappointing your family, even abuse of some kind. 

We asked them what they would do if they were feeling any of these things and were feeling like their life were not worth living.  I was happy to see that they understand the power of communication.  They suggested talking to us, to each other, to a friend, a teacher, an aunt or uncle, any other trusted adult. 

We asked them what they would do if a friend told them that they were thinking of suicide.  Their immediate reaction was that they would tell an adult.  This is the perfect answer, but we also told them to take that person seriously.  We told them to not leave them alone and if they couldn't get to an adult immediately that they could talk to them, go see a movie, play a game, tell them to talk to a parent, call 911....anything to get them to realize that things could get better and to encourage them to get help.

As parents, we have tried to instill in our children that their lives have value.  We told them in no uncertain terms that suicide is NEVER the answer.  We also assured them that they will have crappy days and times in their lives when they feel like their life is miserable.  I wish this weren't true, but it most likely is.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this young boy and all of those who loved him.

Lesson 15:  Suicide is never the answer 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lesson Fourteen: Everybody Loves A Good Book

One of my favorite places in the world is a book store.  I love reading as does my husband so we have been successful in raising voracious readers.  The girls constantly have several books going at one time.  They are always telling us that we should read this book or that book.  Not that I don't trust my children, but I don't always have the same taste in books as they do.  (They inhaled the Twilight series  for instance and I just couldn't get into it).

I have been part of a pretty active book club for about 5 years now.  We all have different tastes in books so we are sometimes stretched to read things that are outside of our comfort zone.  Recently one of the members chose a book that her high schooler was reading, The Hunger Games.  I picked it up, read the back and groaned.  I very much dislike futuristic, Mad Max books and movies and as this book takes place in a future year, I wasn't looking forward to reading it at all.

Like a good little book club member though, I plunged in.  Much to my surprise, I found that I was completely sucked into this book within about 2 pages of starting it.  I love when characters are written well and these characters are very real.  I absolutely loved the book and finished it quickly.

I asked my daughters if they had ever heard of the book and they had.  I told them both it was a great book and they should read it.  My oldest daughter decided to read it first.  I knew that she was enjoying it just as much as I was when we couldn't get her out of her room on a Saturday afternoon because she was reading.  Once she finished it, my other daughter started to read it.  Once again, I knew she was enjoying it when I couldn't get her out of bed for school because she was reading in bed after her alarm went off.  She has not yet finished it, but it won't be long.

I am surprised that all of us read and thoroughly enjoyed the same book.  In fact, my oldest daughter has a friend who has the second book and when she told me she was going to ask her to borrow it, I told her that I get first dibbs on reading it!

In the era of Ipods and laptops and Wii games, I am thrilled that my children can still find joy in reading a good book.  I am even more thrilled that we can enjoy the same book and have a conversation about how much we enjoyed it.

Lesson Fourteen:  Everybody loves a good book.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lesson Thirteen: Everything's Better With Bacon....Or Onions

In our house, we have a saying about food:  Everything's better with bacon.  Not surprisingly, we aren't vegetarians.  As far as eating goes, my daughters are pretty adventurous.  They will never turn down pizza of course, but will always try whatever I make and in general eat quite a few things that I don't see many tween girls enjoying.

We recently went out to lunch and waded through a salad bar.  As we are taking a look at each other's choices, my daughter tells me that she doesn't like onions.  "What do you mean, you don't like onions?  I put onions in everything I cook.  Remember the pasta I made last week--onions.  The chicken tacos we had---onions.  The mushroom soup that is your favorite---onions."  She was stunned.

I don't hide ingredients in food.  I know some parents do this so that they can get their kids to eat in a more nutritious way, but I don't.  If I want to put onions or garlic or broccoli or anything else in food, I just do.  The girls can eat it or choose not to, but I don't change my recipes for them.  I find that there are times when they pick through ingredients, but for the most part I think if they are used to seeing it, they just eat it.  (My kids love broccoli, by the way.)  I was a little surprised therefore, that she was stunned.  We have onions in our kitchen at all times.  Where does she think they go?  I tried to explain to them that garlic and onions are used in many, many foods to jumpstart the flavor.

When we got home, I found my girls pouring through a kid's cookbook that they have asking if they could make dinner.  I'm not going to turn that down since I am generally the one who cooks in our family.  They rejected several options since I told them they needed to choose something that we already had all the ingredients to make.  They finally made a choice:

What was the first line of the ingredients?   1/2 cup of chopped onion

Lesson Thirteen:  Everything's better with bacon....or onions.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lesson Twelve: A Lack of Gratitude Equals a Lack of Privileges

I think most parents want more for their kids than they had themselves and we are no exception.  During my childhood I had very few opportunities to do activities and sports.  We try very hard to give our kids opportunities when we can, while at the same time hoping they understand that they are lucky to be able to do them.

I am currently unemployed and have been for the last 9 months.  We have had to do much belt tightening and have made many decisions about our finances.  Before I was laid off, we purchased ski lessons for our girls at a charity auction.  Now that ski season has arrived, we had to make a decision about the ski lessons knowing that there were costs involved such as lift tickets and equipment.  After much discussion we decided that we would make some other sacrifices so that we could provide ski lessons for both of them.  This marks the third year that they have taken lessons.

We scoured through Craigslist looking for inexpensive equipment for them, bought student discounted lift tickets, warm hats and gloves and made the drive up to our local ski area.  My youngest daughter is always up for a challenge so she was thrilled to be in the snow.  My older daughter on the other hand was less than excited.  Her coat was too small, her goggles were too loose, the skis were too heavy, it was too cold.

We met up with the instructor and sent them on their way assuming that once they got out there, they would enjoy it as much as they had in previous years.  When we returned to pick them up, they both politely thanked their instructor as we would expect and then turned to walk away.  We asked how it went and from my youngest daughter, we heard that it was great.  From my oldest daughter...."I hate skiing".

After spending money that could have gone elsewhere, spending the time and effort to find, adjust and clean the equipment and then drive up to the pass this was enough to send my husband and I over the edge.

We ended up having a very long discussion about gratitude and privileges and decided that in order for her to have a better understanding of gratitude, we would take away the privilege that is most important to her; her phone.  She will be without her phone for 2 weeks at which time we will re-evaluate.  In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, my children absolutely have to understand how lucky and blessed they are. 

Lesson Twelve:  A lack of gratitude equals a lack of privileges.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lesson Eleven: Future Value of Money

I am the proud owner of an MBA.  A degree that I earned as an adult, with much blood, sweat and tears.  While I am thrilled to have the degree, there were definitely classes that I did not look forward to at all.  Finance and Accounting classes were at the top of that list.  I didn't like them, didn't understand them, and told myself over and over again that I would not go into either Finance or Accounting.  (My last job was for a large financial services organization, but that is a totally different story!)

So imagine my surprise when I found myself  having a discussion with my daughters about the Future Value of Money.  My kids, like many, have certain chores that they are responsible for and for which they get paid.  We are pretty strict about chores and if the chores are not completed, they do not get paid for them.  We only pay for actual work completed.  Along with the chores, there are certain things that my husband and I view as just part of living in the house.

In our house, doing dishes is not a paid chore.  It is just part of the deal for living here in the house.  The other day after a quick after school snack, my girls left the kitchen table looking as if a hurricane had blown through the house.  Dishes on the table, garbage on the table, crumbs everywhere.  I asked the girls if they would please clean up their mess and put their dishes in the dishwasher.  While they were at it, there were a couple of glasses in the sink as well and I asked them to put those in the dishwasher as well.

"Those aren't ours."  Yes, well, I understand that, but it isn't going to kill you to put two extra glasses in the dishwasher.  "Is it part of our chores?"  Nope, that it isn't, but still would be nice for you to do.

While my girls sat there dumbstruck, my smart husband says to them.  "Maybe you should do it so you can bank it for the future".  Brilliant!  They are all about money right now so this perked up their attention.

We explained to them that sometimes the cost of doing something now (in this case, 5 seconds to put two glasses in the dishwasher) has the possibility of growing into some larger value later on.  We explained that maybe if they worked on "banking" chores that the next time they asked for something, we might be more inclined to say yes because the value of their going the extra mile would grow.

The future value of money, or in this case, time, had never occurred to them.  They put the two extra glasses in the dishwasher.  Then they went upstairs, cleaned out their closets, cleaned up the play room and made their beds.  Unbelievable!  I'm quite certain we are going to feel the repercussions of their grasp of the future value of money sometime soon.  But for now, I am basking in the glory of getting something useful out of those miserable Finance classes!

Lesson Eleven:  Future value of money

Friday, January 8, 2010

Lesson Ten: Just Say No

My daughters are only 13 months apart, so they are more peers than older sister/younger sister.  Still, my youngest daughter covets her sister's attention and enjoys her as a friend.  Even though this is the case, it clearly isn't a strong enough feeling that she is willing to give in to peer (sibling) pressure.

My oldest daughter (Cailey) had a friend over recently for a sleepover.  They spent the majority of time on their own, patently ignoring her younger sister (Darci).  I know that Darci was feeling a bit left out and would have liked to hang out with the two of them, but was surprised and proud of her when they finally asked her to participate.

The two older girls had decided that makeovers were in order and had done each other's makeup and hair and were looking for a new victim.  Their makeovers involved loads of glitter and sparkly lotion, eyeshadow and anything else they could find.  (Both of my girls currently wear mascara, but that is it for makeup.)  They were relentless in their pursuit of Darci.  I would have thought that since she was feeling left out, she would have jumped at the opportunity, but she resolutely said NO.  The older girls begged, pleaded, bribed, threatened, but Darci didn't want to be part of the sparkly makeover and just continued to say NO. 

I was very proud of her but really shouldn't have been surprised.  She is not my peer pressure  girl.  She is very much her own person and while she doesn't want to disappoint people, and sometimes gets her feelings hurt easily, she is not easily swayed from her own opinion.

When she was a toddler, we were asked to participate in a research study at the University of Washington.  The study was very simple.  There were a series of small plates that were given to the researcher.  On each plate was a "yummy" treat and a "yucky" treat. The idea was to try to see if the child could be swayed from the yummy treat.  Darci "failed" the test because she continued to choose and share the broccoli instead of the graham cracker.  Even though the researcher continued to indicate to her that he didn't like broccoli, she wasn't swayed.   She continued to try to share the broccoli and not the graham cracker.  That's my girl!  It doesn't matter what people try to convince you of....just stick to your guns.

Lesson Ten:  Just say no.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lesson Nine: Cheaper Is Not Always Better

As far as my girls are concerned, the best part of Christmas is the shopping to be done after the holiday is over.  They take inventory of what they received, any cash that was received, collect coupons, gift cards, sale notices and off we go. 

We made a trek to Portland this week to visit with friends and family.  The girls had money to spend so they wanted to do some shopping.  My husband and I were along for the occasional help with discounts and math, and to guard the dressing room doors.

We spent all day on Thursday shopping through downtown Portland.  Well, to be honest, the girls shopped, my husband and I mostly sat and waited....and waited....and waited.  The fact is, they each had a finite amount of money to spend and they wanted to get the most for their money as possible.  They are generally pretty good little bargain shoppers.  They check for sales, shop the clearance section, prowl through consignment stores and do everything possible to go home with a large amount of bags.

The girls are at the age where they can't necessarily just shop for their age, especially with jeans.  They need to try them on for waist size and length.  Since the obsession with skinny jeans continues, they tried on maybe 30 pairs of jeans trying to find the exact right fit.  My youngest daughter found a pair that fit her really well and she loved them.  They happened to be on sale for 18.00.  My oldest daughter could not find a pair on sale despite her best efforts and had to accept the fact that she was going to pay 36.00 for a pair of jeans if she wanted jeans that fit.  While she was less than pleased with the price, she has worn the jeans every day since buying them.

Once the jeans mission was accomplished, it was off to find some boots.  Once again, they tried on every single pair of boots in the place.  After much discussion, they both chose a pair of boots that were on sale for 20.00.  My husband and I took one look at them with their cardboard-like soles and realized that they would be ruined within a week.

We asked them what they would choose if they didn't have to worry about money.  Without hesitating, they each chose a different boot.  These boots were not cheap at a nice round 50.00.  Not wanting to see them waste their money, my husband and I offered to kick in 20.00 for each of them and asked them to make their decision with that in mind.  It was not an easy decision, but in the end they both chose the 50.00 boots, now costing them 30.00.  We were finally able to convince them that cheaper is not always better especially if they were to spend 20.00 on a pair of boots that would be taking up space in the garbage within a week.  Sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

Lesson Nine:  Cheaper is not always better.