Managing Screen Time: Teaching Kids To Disconnect To Connect

Manic:  The sheer amount of our electronics these days.  It seems that all ages are connected to a cell phone, the internet, email, an electronic game, etc. most of the time.  So connected that we become disconnected.

Managed:  Happily welcomed Dr. Lisa Strohman‘s guest article on this very important topic.  Dr. Strohman is a clinical psychologist who specializes in educating parents and children on the effects of technology overuse or addiction.  Connecting with our children is very important, and believe me, especially so when they reach the crucial teenage years, which is exactly where we are now.  So read on for her very helpful advice on this tricky topic.  And be sure to look at the information at the end of this article to see how you can attend a free seminar to hear Lisa talk more about this.  Her seminar is a very beneficial tool for parents.

Lisa says:

Managing Screen Time: Teaching kids to disconnect in order to connect

By Dr. Lisa Strohman JD, PhD

Parents are overwhelmed, unsure of how they can gain control. They frequently ask, “How much screen time is too much? And how can we get control or even know what our kids are doing online?” earphones-friends-hand-

Many parents find it all so daunting they give up before trying. Feeling overcome by the amount of time their children are spending online is becoming a common concern. We see news stories discussing the good, bad and ugly of technology and our increasing connection to screens.

The first step in determining if technology is negatively impacting your kids is to pay attention to how your kids act during and after watching TV, playing video games, or spending time online. If they are watching and using age appropriate media, their behavior is positive and their screen-time is balanced with plenty of healthy screen-free activities, there is little reason for worry. If you find them constantly glued to a screen, making more friends online than on the playground and sneaking behind your back to log online, you have reason for concern.

There is research that supports a link between heavy media use and health and behavior issues like:

  • Obesity
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Academic challenges
  • Aggression

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), one of the only established organizations to make recommendations on screen time, advises parents that children under two-years-old should have no screen time. For older kids, the AAP discourages screen time beyond two to three hours a day.

To protect children from the negative impact of technology, parents should consider creating a  technology use schedule and adopting rules for the entire family. To gain control, I recommend a few initial steps:

  1. Reduce the number of devices or screens kids are allowed to use
  2. Determine guidelines on the types of online games or activities they can use
  3. Preview programs they can watch and games they play
  4. Set enforceable screen-time limits
  5. Keep an open dialogue with your kids about the dangers and pitfalls
  6. Include the whole family in conversation to determine household rules and consequences

Take time to learn what your children like watching and playing. Try to understand why they use the apps they are using and what shows and games they are interested in. Most children will go through periods of heavy and light media use. Parents need to focus on teaching the importance of balance and encouraging activities offline.

We know technology is ever changing with new apps, games and social media platforms being introduced almost every day. Setting limits and gaining control is not an easy undertaking, but there are resources available to parents that can help keep children safe and healthy. Before giving up on, learn what you can do to manage and monitor your kids’ activities on their smartphones, game consoles, computers and tablets. It’s never too late.


About our guest writer:

Dr. Lisa Strohman - Black topDr. Lisa Strohman is a clinical psychologist who specializes in educating parents and children on the effects of technology overuse or addiction.  Visit to learn more and to take her proprietary Technology Use Continuum (TUC) assessment to gauge a child’s risk for technology addiction or overuse.  In addition to counseling, she hosts free educational seminars for parents and educators. To learn more visit


Scottsdale Psychologist Tackles Technology Addiction  

Free Seminar Identifies Four Major Areas of Impact 

 Wednesday, March 4th

***Free seminar for parents on Wednesday, March 4th

WHAT:           Are your kids glued to their smart phones, hooked on their iPads or attached to their gaming devices? Dr. Lisa Strohman, clinical psychologist and founder of Technology Wellness Center, is inviting the public to Minimizing & Monitoring:  Combating the Four Areas of Impact.  The seminar will focus on how technology overuse can impact a child’s physical, emotional and behavioral well-being, and threaten interpersonal skill development. Dr. Lisa will provide tips for monitoring children’s exposure to suitable content and offer tools to help manage and minimize screen time.

Dr. Lisa is an expert in technology wellness issues and is dedicated to providing resources to combat the social and emotional issues resulting from technology use.


WHEN:           Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 9:30 – 10:30 AM

WHERE:         LifeScape Medical Associates @ 8757 E. Bell Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85260

      WHO:         The event is open to parents, educators and adults working with children.

     COST:         FREE to attend, but seating is limited. Attendees must register at       


CONTACT:       Phone: (480) 220 -4702 or Email: [email protected]  

Being Accountable To My Kid With One Simple Behavior Change

Manic:  That time of day every day when school lets out and I rush to pick my teen girl up and get her to the next thing on the schedule….a rehearsal, dentist appointment, voice lesson or whatever that day brings.

Managed:  Really listening to her and honoring her frustration that I was typically 5 to 10 minutes late…and then doing something about it.  Apologizing, being accountable and being on time, consistently.Gift of Time

The funny thing is that I was usually late because I was caught up at home doing something for my kids, like the mountain pile of laundry that contains the needed clean PE clothes for the very next school day.

Although I want to blame the cat for slowing down my folding because I didn't want to disrupt her cute nap, it is my fault that I let the laundry pile make me late on some days.

Although I want to blame the cat for slowing down my folding because I didn’t want to disrupt her cute cat nap, it is my fault that I let the laundry pile make me late on some days.

Or I may have been in line at the grocery store with an overflowing cart so that I can continue to cook more from scratch and to make her school lunches instead of buying the unhealthy cafeteria fare.

But that doesn’t let me off the hook.  The fact is that I would expect her to be on time for me so my actions must reflect my words.  And I want her to be an accountable human who apologizes and accepts responsibility when she makes mistakes, so the apology had to be my first step in righting my bad habit of being late to her school pickup.

I would also like her to be a person who is punctual and an employee that her boss will know is reliable with a strong on time record, both on the clock and with her assigned projects.  So again I must walk the talk if I expect her to be all of these things.  Being a parent is an honor and a big responsibility and I believe that our kids also teach us lessons as we take this journey of raising people to be caring and responsible adults who give back and then raise their own future humans.

So I have not been late since I looked her in the eye and gave her my word that her expectations of me matter to me.  That it is important to show respect to someone by being on time.  That I will model the behavior that I expect from her.

The next day when I was on time, she greeted me with a big smile and told me thank you.  And one more thing to note….since I have now been on time for three consecutive weeks, she makes her way to my car faster.  Mutual respect!  It is so true that you have to give it to get it whether you are the parent or the child.

Parenting is tricky and I’m absolutely loving the ride :) me and Lexi Xmas 2013 pics


Guest Post: Teen Online Privacy Issues

Manic:  The fact that my teens pretty much have to be online nowadays to check homework, team emails and more.  And of course, they have social media that I keep an eye on but it is all overwhelming yet it is the way of today’s world and I want to keep them as safe as possible.

Managed:  When guest writer and former social worker, Amy Williams asked me if she could write an article about teen privacy online, I readily agreed because she has some good and important information to share so read on to work together to try to keep our kids as safe as we can online….

Amy says:

 Teen Privacy Online

image_child_4Image courtesy of

With as many as 40.5 million of tweens and teens accessing the internet using smartphones, issues like cyberbullying and teen privacy have become not just occasional issues, but necessary for parents to understand in our current landscape. Deciding how much privacy your teenager should have online is unfortunately not a black and white issue–a multitude of factors must be taken into consideration before making an informed decision.

 The Realities of Teens Online

Teens are in a tenuous position, as their brains are not fully developed, yet seemingly have access to the whole rest of the world with a touch of a button. This dichotomy can lead to teens posting embarrassing photos of themselves or others online, giving out personal information to strangers, or participating in or falling victim to cyberbullying.

Don’t Wait for Cyberbullying to Happen

Conversations about cyberbullying need to occur once your child has been given access to online technology. These conversations need to continue on a regular basis, allowing parents to check in with their teens regarding their online activity, including cyberbullying.

One preventative strategy is maintaining a cell phone contract with teens that outlines expectations, responsibilities, and consequences regarding smartphone use. The second element is establishing a monitoring system, which may be difficult but is oftentimes necessary–especially to keep younger teens safe online.

Manage Access to Electronic Devices

image_child_tech_3Image courtesy of

One way to help teens keep information private is to limit their access to electronic devices, like smartphones and tablets, during certain times of the day. If a teen needs to surrender the device to parents by 6 pm on weeknights, for example, then chances go up dramatically that this teen will be working on homework and going to sleep at a reasonable hour.

There are many helpful ways for parents to manage technology in their homes, including:


  • Take time outs from technology – not every room needs an electronic device. It is increasingly difficult for kids to find peace and listen to their inner voices, and banishing technology from certain areas of your home can help correct that.


  • Model the behavior you want to see – Not every moment needs to be captured or every email and text answered within seconds or minutes of being received. Show your teens that you can put your smartphone away and live in the present.


  • Bear the blame – Kids want to be “cool” in the eyes of their peers and may resist limits on technology because they don’t want their friends to know that they need a break. Offer to be “the bad guy” so that your teens can tell their friends it is your fault that they are not online.

Above all, communicate with your kids. Keeping lines of communication open with teens can help parents be aware of how their kids are dealing with an increasingly mobile world.


About today’s guest writer:

amy guest writer

Amy is a journalist and former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health. Having spent several years working one-on-one with teenagers, she has seen the impact that social media and the internet has on their minds and emotions. We live in a digital age and Amy believes that it’s time for parents and educators to let this truth impact the way we raise our children and students. Amy is passionate about this subject and works to inform and motivate others through her writing.

Introducing A New Cat To Resident Cats

If you are considering introducing a new cat to your resident cat or cats, this article is for you.  Our vet told us that sometimes, even with all of the proper steps taken, cats may never completely accept each other, but may learn to coexist by avoiding the other.  We are happy to report that our end result has been a happy one with all being feline friends.  And be sure to read this article all the way through to see some additional safety tips for the cats and the humans at the end of this post.

Will this playful stray kitten fit in with our happy and lazy trio of resident cats?

Would this playful stray kitten fit in with our happy and lazy trio of resident cats?

Yesterday I wrote about how we ended up having a household with felines that equal the number of human residents.  Although we never ever planned to be a 4 cat family, the story of our fourth and FINAL kitty cat rescue is here.

We took our time, about six weeks, to be sure that our three cats truly accepted our new stray kitten that my hubs named Sadie.  It did help that she was brought in as a kitten.  Adopting a kitten may make the process a bit easier with adult cats who don’t feel as threatened with the new kitty’s tiny size, although I don’t want to discourage you from saving an older cat because that can work with the proper steps and patience.

The one time that we just couldn’t get our brood of cats to adopt a new one was when we fostered a big tomcat.  Since we already have a big tomcat, he just couldn’t accept another male that was his size and stature.  So we haven’t always been successful, but we were able to find him a very good home. However, little Sadie has been a success, so here are the steps we recommend you try if you are considering bringing in a new cat…

1.  First keep the new kitty in a totally separate and safe room until you know that she is healthy with a visit to your vet.  We are big fans of Foothills Animal Hospital, especially Dr. Alex MacKenzie.

Baby Sadie in her safe room.

Baby Sadie in her safe room.

2.  Next let cats play paws under the door, but don’t open the door yet.

3.  Move new kitty into a new safe room and let resident kitties visit the room that new kitty had been in for a few days.  Let them smell her scent and leave a blanket or toy behind for them to get familiar with that had new kitty’s scent on it.  Don’t let them see each other yet.

4.  Although I’ve never read this in the guide books, I brought Sadie out and held her in my arms so that the existing cats could see that she was wasn’t threatening and was already accepted by the humans in the house.  I also let them smell her while she was in my arms, being careful not to let them get too close.  And if they acted aggressive, I put Sadie back in her safe room, for everyone’s safety, including my own.

5.  Next slowly introduce new kitty to resident cats in a large and open space with items that cats can jump up on to escape meeting when needed. Sadie & Lucy

6.  Supervise the cats closely and you will know if it is time to integrate the new cat or if you have to go back to the previous step, which happens a lot and is normal.  One step forward, two steps back.  Light hissing and growling is normal.

7.  Play with cats with cat toys so that they associate fun playtime with each other.  You can try feeding them together as well, but place bowls far apart so that they enjoy comforting feed time with each other while not feeling like they have to compete for food.

8.  Once cats groom each other, you know that acceptance is 100% complete and you can enjoy your multi-cat household that will keep bugs and critters away (a real perk here in the desert with the scorpions) and give your family lots of laughs and cuddle time!

Here a few fun pictures that captured some of the acceptance moments….

At first, Lucy didn't want Sadie up in her sleeping space, but with time she accepted her and even cuddled....slightly I must add.

At first, Lucy didn’t want Sadie up in her sleeping space, but with time she accepted her and even cuddled….slightly I must add.

Stanley was the first to accept the new resident kitty.  They each took their own time doing so, which was interesting to watch.

Stanley was the first to accept the new resident kitty. They each took their own time doing so, which was interesting to watch.


Tucker adjusting to Sadie girl.

Tucker adjusting to Sadie girl.

And this is when I knew that acceptance was complete!  Seeing them squeeze together in a hamper gave our family a big laugh.  Success!

And this is when I knew that acceptance was complete! Seeing them squeeze together in a hamper gave our family a big laugh. Success!

A few other points that I should make is that it may be easier to bring in an opposite sex cat, although we have two males and two females, but our two males were adopted together from the shelter when they were both kittens.  Make sure that everyone is fixed.  Neutering and spaying is essential.  Also when your resident cats…..or the newer cat for that matter…..become aggressive with each other, calmly tell them no without extra stress or yelling coming from your voice.   Throw a towel over the aggressor and then separate them. Never ever try to pick up an angry cat or you may end up with a bite or a few scratches. Our cats didn’t like the towel action and learned to quickly back away when we said no.  Then we were able to move the kitten back to her safe room.  It took time, but this all worked well.  We took a full six weeks to fully incorporate them and to leave our fab foursome alone at home, all together, when we went out.

So if you are considering adopting a companion for your house cat, have patience and be gentle with the process and it should eventually pay off for you with double (or four times in our house!) the cat love.

Disclaimer:  I am not a vet or a trained cat expert.  I did a ton of research before successfully introducing two new cats in the last three years and I have adored felines since I could first crawl, my Mama tells me :) 


Sweet Sadie Makes Four Felines

Some of you know (and some of you don’t know) that we are now a FOUR cat household.  I know, I know….it sounds a little crazy and like we are running a cat farm.  Well, we are not but the little Tortie kitten sweetie that my hubs found made her way into our Harris hearts minutes after we rescued her from the coyote ruled desert that is our neighborhood.  I have waited a while to write this post so that I could report on the successful integration of a 4th cat into a 3 cat household.  Now two months later, I can share that Sadie is fully incorporated into the household and it is pretty peaceful around here for the most part.  I will post my blog article about how to successfully introduce a new cat to your existing cats tomorrow.  But first the story of sweet Sadie, the little kitten who became a Harris cat over the holiday season.  It is truly shocking to find a stray in our neighborhood with all of the coyotes.  It never happens….except to us, I swear! Sadie

First, how we went from two cats to three and then on to Sadie.  Eight years ago we went to the pound to adopt two little boys that our kids named Tucker and Stanley.catsThey have been very good boys for us and pretty easy to care for.  So….when our girl asked for a pet of her own three years ago, we finally heard her case after a full year of her having to prove to us that she was ready for that responsibility.  She chose to rescue a black female because she told us that “everyone walks right past the black cats because they think they are bad luck” and with that statement (that is sad but true) she had me and off we went to the shelter find little Lucy girl.  See the cute kitten pics at this  Lucy’s story link. lex kisses lucy

Lucy has also been a good girl for us and boy is her black fur so silky and pretty.  Plus we’ve had a lot of good luck since her arrival, so take that any black cat naysayers out there!  The myth is simply a mean spirited myth when it comes to black cats and I’ve heard that some black dogs are also ignored.  So sad. lovely lucy at 2So we were good and done adopting cats for now….so we thought.

And then the first time that we almost became a 4 cat household…..

A sweet boy named Oliver appeared at our front door over a year ago and he acts more like a smart and very affectionate dog than he does a typical aloof and independent cat (although our current household of cats are way more social and affectionate than they are aloof). Oliver the beautiful sweetieSo we took Oliver in and were successful in finding him a good home….twice due to some heartbreaking circumstances that occurred with his first very loving adopted family.  You can read that story here. Thank goodness for that because Tucker (who is the same large size of Oliver and looks similar just would not accept him and scratched up his face once).  Fostering Oliver was a wonderful and warm experience for our family, but I quickly learned that my heart gets in the way and when he left I teared up.  ollie me

So when hubs spotted sweet little Sadie, I was thinking “oh no” to myself and I was wondering how these cats keep showing up at our front door when stray cats are truly NEVER ever seen in our area due to the very high population of coyotes.  But hubs happened to look out the window one early evening in October and she appeared.  A teeny 1 1/2 lb starving all skin and bones little kitty cat.  She was easy to catch because she wanted to be saved and was probably on her last skinny leg at that point so we took her in and had her checked out by the vet that evening.

This sweet kitten had hubs wrapped around her paw within hours of her rescue!

This sweet kitten had hubs wrapped around her paw within hours of her rescue!

Within a week, she had gained weight and sported the most beautiful coat and markings and the sweetest loving personality.  I have since read that torties really bond with their humans and boy has this been true.sadie kissesbaby sadie with lexIMG_6009

Hubs named her Sadie and he was off to the pet store to buy cat toys the day after finding her, so I knew at that point that we were destined to have a household with equal cats to humans.  We waited a long time to introduce her to the others and we have been very successful, I’m happy to report. Tomorrow I will give you those tips on how to do that.  We took our time to make sure that sweet Sadie was here to stay.


Stop, Drop & Roll Is My #1 Tip For Parenting A Teenage Boy

Since my son is now 17, I feel like I’ve been in this teenage boy stage for long enough to look back and to share my #1 tip when it comes to parenting a teenage boy.  I share this with 100% conviction that this advice has made a difference in some of the decisions that our boy has made when he is out there on his own. Has he made the right choice every time? Of course not.  But he has made enough of the right ones (so far, knocking on wood right now) to convince me that this is absolutely the best advice that I can share with my friends who are or will be parenting a teenage boy.  And since my girl just turned 13, I will get back to you on that one in a few years.  But here it is and it is such simple advice….

Stop, Drop & Roll…

when he wants to talk!

listen mom
Yep, just like the fire advice, these three words are essential.  If your son asks to talk or just starts sharing with you, believe me….take the time to Stop to really listen to him, Drop what you are doing and Roll with what he wants to tell you, especially if you want him to really open up to you.

This happened just last week when my son arrived home early before the rest of the family.  I was a busy bee, as always and he started following me around telling me about a fitness test at school that left his stomach queasy.  At some point, my motherly instinct told me to stop, turn around and face him so that I was really listening.  It is a rare occurrence these days when my teenage son really wants to have a chat with his Mama.  That is in part due to a very busy schedule with his sports, studies, job, girlfriend and buddies and part that it’s just not that cool to converse with Mom at this point in his life.

And just when I thought he was done conversing with me, the unthinkable happened!  He followed me into the kitchen and said that he would like to visit a little more.  So that is when I realized just how cool this day would be because my son and I were spending some quality time together and I for once was the listener. Not the nagger, the rule enforcer, the cook, the nurse, but the listening parent and friend.  I do believe that one can strike a balance of mostly parent, but a friend, too.

So I stopped what I was doing again, and this time I dropped everything for a bit and I rolled with whatever he wanted to talk about.  And when you try this with your own teenager, be ready for a few shares that begin with a request to not be mad or to “freak out” with a topic that he wants to share or ask about….hence the roll with it part of this advice.

We ended up talking about a lot of different subjects, some I could predict and some that took me by surprise.  I was eager to discuss these topics with him as he chatted and I listened.  But I stayed quiet and reserved my comments, thoughts and advice until he was finished sharing.  And we also shared a few laughs and that was nice.

But first I had to listen, really listen….stop, drop and roll :)

You can also create opportunities for a good discussion by going on a hike together hiking with my boyme and jack at dbacks gameor taking in a ball game, both things that we did the last couple of years.  When he got his driving permit, I turned down the radio when he started to talk because that learning to drive time can be hectic but can also provide some good talking time as well.

So if you try this with your son, don’t be disappointed if the very next day he returns to his usual quick “hey” with not a lot of chatter.  Believe me, he will remember that you had a chat and that you really listened to him.

Me and my teenaged boy.  Over a year ago I snuck in a rare kiss during our holiday photo shoot.

Me and my teenager. Over a year ago I snuck in a rare kiss during our holiday photo shoot.

Our Family’s Annual Memory Jar Day

Manic:  The many memories that our family made in 2014, some difficult and many joyful and I want to remember these days.

Managed:  For the second year in a row, we kept our family’s new tradition of placing happy memories in a memory jar throughout the year.  Then we open the jar together, on New Years Day to recall the experiences one last time before we officially move on with 2015. memory jar

Well as plans go, this New Year’s Day we couldn’t get our schedules coordinated (this happens when you have busy teens) to come together on Jan. 1st, so we decided to do it tonight, right before the holiday break ends so that we could take our time and enjoy the moment….and the moments of 2014 that each of us held dear.

We decided to enjoy one last calorie splurge, so off we went to dinner (one of our family’s favorites, Charleston’s) to savor the food and the jar’s delightful contents as we reminisced about days gone by this last year.

It is really fun to see what each of us deposited in the jar last January through this past December and to relive those moments with some laughs and discussion about the events of the past year.

Last year’s jar was all about the fun of it being the first time to have such a jar and teasing about how the guys didn’t participate with the jar filling! We got a good laugh out of that.

This year held a little bit of a different experience for me.  I realized this later after all had gone to bed and I started to write this post.  I had snapped two pictures of the jar for this article.  With the second shot, I didn’t look at what little memory papers were exposed until I emailed it to myself and copied it into this post.  Then I looked at the picture that you see below.  Talk about getting perspective.  I took one look at this picture below and I had to pause and think for a minute. memory jar noteYou may note that the paper shown celebrates both of my kids getting straight As.  You will also note that I dated that paper.  No others were dated.  The good grades happened early in the year, or I guess I should say late in the prior year since the grades were received in the mail in late December.  Well this hasn’t happened again and you know what….it doesn’t matter to me like it had before.  That is because the following weeks after this note was written would test us like no other time before when our son had to undergo multiple medical tests and a biopsy for a mass on his bicep.  The day after his biopsy he became ill with pneumonia.

A big life reality check when our boy has to have a biopsy for a tumor, that proves to be benign.  SO THANKFUL!! and we will never forget this experience.

A big life reality check when our boy has to have a biopsy for a tumor, that proves to be benign. SO THANKFUL!! and we will never forget this experience.

So he missed a lot of school last Spring, resulting in his first B instead of his usual straight As.  I want my kids to get good grades, but those letter grades no longer hold the same meaning to me as they had before. This is because when I got the phone call telling us that the mass was benign….well…that straight A report card just wasn’t as important to me that it had been before the big health scare with our son that will always make 2014 stand out in my mind.  Memories, perspective, gratitude.

The jar contents also made me laugh out loud with my family as we recounted funny memories and the cute ways each was expressed like our girl jotting down “big hole dug in yard for our new pool…no turning back now” and my son wanting praise for even contributing to the jar, even though his paper simply said “Happy New Year”….which by the way, son….is actually a 2015 memory, but that is OK because I appreciate that he put something in our little family time capsule.

It was sure fun to read single words that made us all smile with happy memories like “Maui” and “Nationals” which were two trips that were both incredible.  The Maui trip was planned out to every exact detail and we spent six months saving, scheduling and planning our Hawaii vacation.

Our view from our kayaks in Maui.  So pretty.

Our view from our kayaks in Maui. So pretty.

The Nationals trip was a complete surprise when our son’s hockey team won the State games to get to represent Arizona in the National competition, which happened to take place where my Mother and all of her family live.

We come home Silver medalists, but also winners because we got to see most of our Maryland family at the USA Hockey Nationals...what a gift!

We come home Silver medalists, but also winners because we got to see most of our Maryland family at the USA Hockey Nationals…what a gift!

Plus we came home almost undefeated, earning a hard fought 2nd place and a lot of respect from hockey teams around the nation that were shocked that these Arizona boys could play hockey so well.

Other family member memories mentioned included a special anniversary dinner out for hubs and me, a big part in the beloved Christmas Carol show for our girl, a surprise freelance gig that sent a film crew to shoot me cooking in my kitchen, a first job for our son, a new kitten, a quick summer trip to California to deliver our foster cat to his new home with our niece….and so many more cool moments that were special to remember buddies

Lexi on stage CC pro picnight out with hubs bday

First day of another schoolyear

First day of another school year


Birthday cupcakes that my daughter made for me :)

Birthday cupcakes that my daughter made for me :)

Taking an hour together to recount the memories of 2014 was as cool as it was last year.  Then we each shared our #1 favorite memory from the previous year. Last year I had to think about the many options, but not this year.  Without hesitation, my #1 was no contest for any of the other amazing experiences and that was getting the phone call that my boy would be A OK.

My daughter had the exact same favorite memory (bless her heart).  Hubs called Maui his favorite and our boy told us that getting to start for his Varsity golf team was his favorite.  Now I would have never guessed that, which is another reason that I love doing the memory jar.  Jack DV golf 2014The jar gets your teens to talk and that is a pretty nice benefit of this family exercise.

So I am reminded that life is a journey and as we dive into 2015, I’ve got my seat belt on and my eyes are wide open so that I remember to truly take in the ride and to carefully navigate the unexpected turns and twists with the love of my family around me.  And if I get lucky, the jar will be as full as it was tonight, when one night next January, we once again sit down to open it together.

We keep our memory jar by the toaster and anytime one of us wants to toss a memory in, we do it without telling each other what was written until we take a look next year.  Try it because it is a cool and fun family idea that reminds us to take it all in and to embrace each day with love, patience, faith and gratitude.

Happy 2015 to you and to yours :)



My Annual Tribute To My Baby Brother

January 4th has come around again and, like every year, I am reminded that today is my baby brother’s birthday and today he should have turned 35 years old.  Since we lost him in a tragic accident in 2002 at the young age of only 22 years old, it is hard for me to imagine my younger brother (quite younger, by 13 years) pushing 40.

It pains me that I don’t get to see that as he was an absolute joy to be around at all ages.  As a baby who I got to help care for, which was great fun for a young teenaged girl.

Me holding my baby brother in 1981.

Me holding my baby brother in 1981.

Shane was a smiling and cheerful toddler who stole hearts with his cute bowl bangs hair cut and big bright eyes.  I was gone during his teen years since I was so much older, but thankfully with my Southwest Airlines Marketing job, I was able to fly him to see me quite a bit during those years.  On those visits, he would ask for my sisterly advice on girls, getting rid of the occassional teenage pimple and college planning tips.

As a young adult, he reciprocated my kindness more than once by dropping everything to fly 2,000 miles to care for me first when I broke my ankle and had my own toddler to chase after…and then again in 2001 when mastitis struck me during my daughter’s newborn days.  I was so sick (since this type of infection mimics the flu) and since my hubs was out of town on a business trip, my little bro came to the rescue to help care for me, my toddler son and my baby girl.  shane with my babesThat trip was a gift as it would be our last visit.  I cherish that visit, even though I was so sick, but I was well enough to lie on the couch and watch my sweet Shane care for and dote on his little nephew and baby niece.

For those of you that have suffered a recent loss (and there seems to be many of you that I have observed on Facebook in recent weeks), I highly recommend a soothing little book that gave our family great comfort during that very heartbreaking first year of loss.  I can tell you that 13 years later you don’t get over it, but you do get on with it and you move forward with your loved one firmly entrenched in your heart.

The other peculiar thing is that most days all is fine and then sometimes, out of the blue (even 13 years later) something will remind you.  A song may move you to tears with a memory of your loved one or a smell or a taste may take you right back with unplanned tears streaming down your face.  When that happens, embrace it, let the tears cleanse you and visit with your person.  I look at those times as a visit with my sweet Shane when perhaps we are connecting in a magical way until we see each other again.

At times I feel him over my shoulder cheering for my boy during an exciting hockey game or applauding my girl on stage when she nails a much rehearsed part in a play that means a lot to her.  I embrace that feeling of him being sort of a guardian angel to the niece and nephew that he adored.  My hubs said it best last year when I expressed out loud my heartfelt wish that Shane could see our boy play hockey since my brother loved sports.  Hubs answered me with the touching reply, “Shane has the best seat in the house” and that gave me great comfort.

The book that I recommend is called Healing After Loss:  Daily Mediations For Working Through Grief by Martha W. Hickman.  bookThis little paperback is filled with daily words of comfort.  The author of the book lost her own daughter, so she truly understands the grieving process.  Each page is dated and contains messages that help with the healing.  One message that resonated with me discusses how the pain is so great, but hurts this much because I loved this much.  And for that I am grateful.  I did love and still love him THAT much.  I continue to purchase copies at Barnes & Noble for my friends and family who experience a loss.  It sells for around $8 a copy.

So on this today I say Happy Birthday to my sunshiny Shane (he was always bright, positive and smiling).

Me, my helpful brother to the rescue and that broken ankle, that I didn't know at the time, would be a gift since it resulted in a month-long Shane visit to help me get around!

Me, my helpful brother to the rescue and that broken ankle, that I didn’t know at the time, would be a gift since it resulted in a month-long Shane visit to help me get around!

You are missed more than words can express and I celebrate you today and the gift that you were in my life and still are in my heart.shane winter



The Gift of Unscheduled Time

Manic:  Life on a super busy schedule, that has me feeling like a hamster on a speeding treadmill at times.

Managed:  Scheduling some unscheduled time.  It is a gift.

Our fam Xmas 2014

Hoping for a little more of this in 2015 :)

Happy New Year out there to my awesome readers.  As Jan. 1st approaches, I make and take the time to reflect, to relax and to truly enjoy the gift of unscheduled time.  This time will be short and very sweet as we will soon be thrust back into our busy lives, appointments, deadlines, due dates, tax season (ugh) and more.  But for now, I am quite thankful for the gift of unscheduled time.

Yesterday, upon our arrival home from a wonderful Christmas with my husband’s absolutely amazing family (I know how lucky I am) we actually got a lot of organzing done.  And this time, I didn’t ask this of anyone.  I didn’t put it on a schedule.  We just did it.  My teen boy took it upon himself to completely clean out a room from ceiling to floor that will become a hobby/train/model building room for his Daddy. My hubs (who unfortunately, is not on unscheduled time and, is right back at work) came home to a wonderful surprise to see this room emptied out and ready to launch a man cave room for him and his hobbies.  Nice son to do that for his dear ol’ Dad!

My teen girl worked just as hard and took it upon herself to clean out her Mama’s very cluttered kitchen cabinets, utensil drawers and more and she filled a big box with helpful kitchen items that was ready to go Goodwill.

The only thing wrong with this picture is the phone in my hand.  Let your phone go when you schedule your unscheduled time.

The only thing wrong with this picture is the phone in my hand. Let your phone go when you schedule your unscheduled time.

And just when I thought I was done pinching myself from these good deeds from my kids (that feels amazing since the house is being decluttered), that teen boy of mine surprised me yet again with a clean garage. That garage was an eyesore that had me shutting the garage door as quick as I could so the neighbors wouldn’t see in whenever I had to back my car out of the messy and embarrassing space!

And to top if off, my driving boy took it all to Goodwill for me!  Loving that he drives.

So we celebrated with dinner out and a double feature at the movies.  My girl had never been to a double feature before, which surprised me a little.  But that’s right, an overbooked calendar doesn’t allow for lazy hours at the cinema.  Scheduling unscheduled time did and it was very nice.

My New Year’s wish for all of you is sort of an oxymoron.  First take out your calender and then put it away for a few days.  Schedule some precious unscheduled time.

I am reminded of what my Mama told me as I held my newborn son 17 years ago and agonized in those moments about my upcoming career decisions and balancing my newfound love with this baby boy that my heart fell deeply in love with at first sight.

My wise and loving Mama with me and my the new love of my life, my firstborn.

Mother with me and the new love of my life, my firstborn.

My wise and loving Mother looked at me and gently said that I would know which decisions would be the right ones for me and to just remember “that the one thing you can’t get back is time” and her words have stayed with me ever since.

Good advice, Mom....cuz the days of climbing on me and to now working on their climb away from me which is a wonderful and exciting time for my kiddos.

Good advice, Mom….cuz the days of those kids climbing on me have now become their current climb away from me and into the world. This is also a wonderful and exciting time that I’m taking in and enjoying as we work on their wings now. And it is bittersweet for sure.

Go get yourselves some unscheduled time as you wrap 2014 and dive into 2015.  Cherish those moments because this happens very fast….

Happy :)

Happy :)


Keeping Kids Entertained At The Holiday Table

Manic:  Restless kids at the big holiday table resulting in stressed parents, bored kids and chaos.

Managed:  Brainstormed with the folks from Shamrock Farms and one of my gal pals about how to keep kids entertained at this holiday season’s big meal and we came up with some good stuff for parents everywhere.

It’s hard to believe that my teenagers are past this stage now, but I do remember those days!  Recently, one of my gal pals with younger children asked me for tips to keeping kids entertained at the holiday table so that they are not disruptive.  Here are a few tricks that I put to use with my son and daughter, as well as other clever ideas from my friend, Suzie.  Take a look…

*Consider a Kids Table – I know some of you want your children to learn dinner table etiquette (and I agree with that), but having a separate and nearby kids table can work well.  This way both the kiddos and the adults can converse with their own age groups about topics that all will find fun. Have their table set ahead of time with kid themed plates, holiday napkins and a drink that will make them cheer, like Shamrock Farms Chocolate Milk.

*Crafty Crafts for Festive Fun – Have a fun holiday craft ready for the children to do right after the meal.  Kids typically finish eating first, while adults may want to linger and enjoy the holiday fare and company.  Lexi gingerbread manOffering the kids pre-baked mini gingerbread cookies that they can frost and decorate to their hearts’ content gives them something fun to do while the grownups continue with dinner.

*Letters to Santa – Invite children to write a letter to Santa while they wait at the table before or after the meal.  Give them fun decorations, stickers and washable markers to decorate their note.  The letter will also make a great keepsake for the child’s scrapbook.

*Make Christmas Cups – Give the kids red or green Solo cups and materials to decorate the cup.  This becomes their drinking glass during dinner and they will be proud to show off their creation.  milkFill the finished cups with fun and festive Shamrock Farms Santa’s Choice Calcium Plus milk for their own special occasion drink.

*Older Kids Read – Ask the older children to read a holiday story to the younger kids.  And don’t forget to videotape to have this memorable record of the kids at different ages.  It goes by so quickly!

*Sing Along – Let each child select their favorite holiday tune and ask everyone at the table to sing it together.  This gets everyone in the holiday spirit and kids will love leading all in song.

*Holiday Eye Spy Game – Eye spy is a great game to keep kids engaged while also staying put.  Ask them to look for holiday themed items in the room, such as a wreath, something red and white or something sweet.

*Holiday Share – Whisper in the child’s ear to ask everyone at the table to share what they like most about the holiday.  Festive, fun and memorable.

What are your ideas for keeping kids happily busy and content at the holiday table?  Share in the comments section because we like to share ideas and help each other out when it comes to taking the manic out of the holiday season to make it more managed and enjoyable for all!


This article was sponsored by Shamrock Farms.  My opinion about how much I love Shamrock Farms foods are 100% my own.