6-things-you-should-do-when-your-kid-has-a-smartphone

Who’s bright idea was it to think that giving our youth iPhones was a good idea?

And why have we continued to follow along knowing that giving our kids iPhones isn’t smart?

I’m not sure how our family fell into society’s technology trap, but we did. Our teenagers have personal smartphones, but they don’t come without limits, rules, and restrictions.

6-things-to-do-when-your-kid-has-a-smartphone

1. Have a family cell phone contract

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The-Essential-Summer-Calendar-Helps-Parents-Purposely-Plan

Summer fun doesn’t plan itself!

With our busy family schedule, I was thrilled to find The 2019 Essential Summer Vacation Calendar. It’s the perfect tool to help me visually lay out how we are going to spend the kids’ nine weeks of summer break.

When do we have scheduled summer camps or organized activities?

When do we have time to fit in some family adventuring?

What about time away alone as husband and wife?

Do we have pockets of downtime in between organized activities for boredom and free play?

The Essential Calendar- Summer Vacation Edition- is a perfect tool to help anyone who wants to be organized and make memories this June, July, and August.

The-Essential-Summer-Calendar-Helps-Parents-Purposely-Plan

The 2019 Essential Calendar Summer Edition runs from the weeks of Memorial Day through Labor Day. Featuring easy-to-read bold type on lightweight 18″x 24″ sheets, this simple calendar runs $15 and allows you to purposely plan your precious summer season.

9 Ways to Deliberately Design Your Summer

I had so much fun sitting down to colorfully decorate our calendar with what our busy family of seven already has scheduled. It’s perfect to post on the wall for all of our family members to see so no one has to keep asking me when they leave for summer camp or when we’re headed to California. It’s all there for them to see. They can also add anything to the family calendar as well!

Save Your Sanity with a Screen Time Strategy

The Essential Calendar owners, Crystal and Lindsay, are graciously giving away a summer vacation calendar to one of you, my lucky readers! Just comment on this post WHY you need this calendar to help you purposely live out your 2019 summer for your chance to win!

One winner will be randomly selected on June 9! Winner must reside in the United States for shipping purposes.

Happy-Campers-Book-Revew-Kanakuk

Our screen-obsessed, competitive society makes it harder than ever to raise happy, thriving kids. But there are tried-and-true methods that can help. Instead of rearing a generation of children who are overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, and who struggle to become independent, responsible adults, parents can create a culture that promotes the growth of important character traits and the social skills kids need for meaningful, successful lives.

There are many reasons my husband and I choose to send our teenagers away to overnight camp far from home for a few weeks each summer. I love that Camp Owner and Mother of 5, Audrey Monke compiled the most important lessons gained at summer camp into her book Happy Campers: 9 Summer Camp Secrets for Raising Kids Who Become Thriving Adults. Whether you send your kids off to camp or not, Audrey gives us the secrets to live out the camp ideals in the comfort of our homes.

5 Reasons We Send our Kids to Sleep Away Summer Camp

summer-camp-kanakuk-Happy-Camper-Book-Review

Research has proven that kids are happier and gain essential social and emotional skills at camp. A recognized parenting expert, Audrey Monke distills what she’s learned from thousands of interactions with campers, camp counselors, and parents, and from her research in positive psychology, to offer intentional strategies parents can use to foster the benefits of camp at home.

In Happy Campers, Audrey shares nine powerful parenting techniques- inspired by the research-based practices of summer camp- to help kids thrive and families become closer.

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Screen-Free-Week

Screen-Free Week brings awareness to the most significant battlefield we face as parents raising children in popular culture today- Technology. However, technology is not the problem- our time and habits on our screens are the real issues.

I know the importance of purposely providing kids with a screen detox. It’s one of the reasons we send our kids to tech-free sleep-away summer camp, and since our teens will soon be living in the woods without their beloved devices, we will not be shutting off their screens this week.

How can National Screen-Free Week empower us to create healthier screen time habits?

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4-tips-for-giving-kids-an-allowance

Don’t pay your kid for scoring goals in a game.

Don’t pay them for achieving A’s on their report card or for eating their vegetables.

Don’t pay your child for doing the dishes, sweeping the floor or scrubbing their toilet.

Instead pay your child a consistent allowance because he is a contributing, valued member of your family and you want to raise a financially responsible person.

The pay-for-performance debate has been a subject of discussion for families for generations. If we don’t tie the money we pay our kids to chores, grades or other accomplishments, then why give them an allowance at all? 

One way we can teach children financial responsibility is through giving them a consistent allowance and then helping our son or daughter learn how to save, spend and give their money away.

4-tips-for-giving-kids-an-allowance

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Promposal-Production-Is-it-Modern-Day-Chivalry-or-Nonsense

It’s that time of year when teenage boys around America are expected to put on a production to ask a girl to the traditional high school dance.

Is the Promposal modern-day chivalry or plain nonsense?

After a long day of school and varsity baseball practice, my son and his friend trudged through our house carrying an armload of art supplies and poster boards.

When my son should be spending time on his physics homework or hanging out with his grandparents who are visiting from out of town, he has to design a sloganed poster to invite his girlfriend to the upcoming junior prom.

Promposal-Production-Is-it-Modern-Day-Chivalry-or-Nonsense

My parents, who attended high school prom together, can’t believe this is what’s going on today. Knowing teenage boys don’t naturally do this sort of thing, my Dad asked his grandson and his friend if they feel like decorating posters? 

“Not really. But, the girls want us to do it.”

Sure they like the girl. Sure they want to take her to the dance. It’s been a high school rite of passage through the generations. Neither my Grandpa, my Dad nor my husband ever had to invite their date to prom with anything other than their words, so why are our sons now expected to conjure up a themed presentation to ask a girl to the dance?

As if teenage guys don’t have enough on their plate today, they must now come up with a cheesy proposal production as is the societal norm. He’d better not think of asking a girl to the dance without at least a decorated poster board in hand or he would be considered unthoughtful, uncaring or rude.

Why are our sons expected to put on a proposal production to ask a date to prom?

What happened to just a good guy asking a sweet girl to the high school dance?

How come that’s no longer acceptable?

Why do we insist on turning what should be a simple invitation into a production today?

Because there wouldn’t be anything post-worthy for social media if there weren’t a production, and we all know how much everyone loves a good curated photo for the feed.

And forget the decorated poster board. Some take it to another level buying oversized teddy bears, shoes, jewelry, and the list goes on. I’m sure the bigger, the better. Check out this post or your kids’ social media feeds if you don’t believe me.

The promposal production seems like another great way to try and one-up each other too. Oh, your guy only decorated a poster for you? Well, check out what my man (or his Mom) did for me…. and the comparison game is on. Just what our youth need.

I’m having a tough time wrapping my head around the concept and why we’re accepting this nonsense to be commonplace now.

What type of marriage proposal are girls going to expect one day if they need a song and dance to accept an invitation to a high school dance?

Our daughter said she thinks the promposal idea is “cute.” I explained to her that it’s adorable when she and her girlfriends make posters for one another’s birthdays and bring them to middle school to celebrate. There is nothing cute about expecting a young man to design a presentation to ask you to prom.

Let’s stop putting pressure on kids to have to put on a post-worthy show for what should be a simple invitation to a timeless high school event.

Let’s put our efforts into raising confident and kind young men and women who don’t need a showy production to feel good about themselves or to enjoy their lives.

Let’s begin to tell our kids that a post-worthy promposal production is not necessary.

Family-Christmas-Blessing-Jar-Tradition

See a penny pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.

Or perhaps the copper coin can instead bless another as you drop it into your family Blessing Jar.

For years, I wanted to start a Christmas Jar in our family. I loved the idea, wanted to do the tradition, but I constantly forgot to start it…. until last year. And now this particular tradition is one of our family favorites.

We renamed it our family Blessing Jar and use it a little differently than is expressed in the Christmas Jar book, but the overall purpose is the same- to take the time to think of giving to others throughout the entire year.

Family-Christmas-Blessing-Jar-Tradition

How to Start your Blessing Jar Tradition

While raising my five children, I seek out ways to naturally teach my sons and daughter how to think of others before themselves and regularly be a blessing to other people in simple and significant ways. The Blessing Jar is a perfect way to authentically teach the values I want my kids to have as well as build an overall giving family culture.

What You Need to Begin Your Blessing Jar Tradition

Grab a random empty glass jar and set it in a prominent area of your home where your family members frequently reside. Designate the jar as your 2019 family Blessing Jar and begin dropping coins and bills into the glass jar all year long.

Fill the jar with unexpected money you find or receive throughout the entire year.

We fill our Blessing Jar with coins that we find laying on the ground in parking lots; bills that were accidentally left in pockets and appear in the dryer; unclaimed piles of coins left around the house and money received for helping people who wouldn’t accept our help for free.

This year’s jar reminded me of precious moments like the time when we were vacationing in California, and two of our sons pushed a dead golf cart up a steep hill to get it home for a group of stranded girls. The boys tried to refuse the cash the girls insisted they take for helping them. So, they gave it to me and asked me to put it in our Blessing Jar.

Without this intentional tradition in place, I guarantee that money would’ve just gone right into their pockets because there would’ve been nowhere else for it to go. We must intentionally give our children opportunities to bless others before themselves and the Blessing Jar does precisely that.

Family-tradition-Christmas-Blessing-Jar

At the beginning of the year, my husband came home from the gym and dropped this crumpled one dollar bill into our jar. He said no one was around to claim it, so he picked it up to add to our Blessing Jar. If we didn’t have this tradition, I guarantee he wouldn’t have cared even to grab that money. I most certainly would’ve never heard about it even if he had.

Make One Purposeful Choice

Each year, I purposely don’t purchase or do something I would usually do in December and instead gift that money to the jar instead. For instance, this year is the first time I didn’t send out a photo Christmas card of our family and instead put that money I would’ve spent in our Blessing Jar.

The Blessing Jar is a simple family tradition that gives us an avenue to authentically talk with our children about our spending choices and our giving. It’s so much fun to watch the jar organically fill up throughout the year and even more meaningful to gather together as a family the week before Christmas and decide who we want to receive our Blessing Jar.

4 Ways to Create Meaning in A Glass Jar!

A Blessing Jar is an intentional way for your family to have a small, collective purpose throughout the entire year.

It’s simple traditions like this that teach our children the values we want them to leave our home with one day. If you’re looking to begin a meaningful family tradition that will last all year long, consider starting a Blessing Jar of your own come January 1!

Drivealogue-Adam-Brooks-Amy-Carney-

Want to know what your child is dealing with out in the world when it comes to peer relationships? Their self-concept? How about their thoughts on difficult topics like sexuality, social media, technology, or drugs and alcohol?

Thanks to Adam Brooks new product, Drivealogue, parents now have a more natural way to discuss tough and timely issues with their kids. His conversation starter packs get us adults intentionally talking to our children about topics more meaningful than what we ate for lunch or what grade was achieved on that math test.

Drivealogue-Family-Communication-Parenting-Tool

Adam Brooks’ new product, Drivealogue, challenges parents to have brave conversations with their kids.

Brooks, the founder of Youth Awareness and Safety, was concerned about the heightened rate of youth suicide in Arizona and wanted to make a product that would allow parents to engage in tough conversations with their children proactively.

“My cards were designed to have meaningful, brave conversations that we may not even want to have, but that we desperately have to have if we’re going to keep our kids safe today,” said Brooks.

5 Things Parents Must Tell Their Children

Brooks came up with the concept of using his card game in the car because he had read that kids were more likely to open up and freely communicate with adults if they didn’t have to make direct eye contact. Not only that, but today’s reality finds parents spending more time in the car shuttling kids around to activities, so why not make a product to help us forge more meaningful conversations during our time on the road together.

Drivealogue-Family-Communication-Parenting-Tool

Drivealogue features three unique card decks meant for different age groups- for elementary, middle and high school-aged kids.

The cards feature questions like:

“What would you do if someone sent you a nude photo?”

“What would you do if someone who you were friends with in elementary school started ignoring you in middle school?”

8 Ways to Combat the Stress of Growing Up in Today’s Competitive Culture

There are also many lighthearted cards scattered throughout the decks as well, with questions like “What if you started a video channel. What would it be about?”

Drivealogue-family-conversation-starters-product-parents-communication

At $20 each, Drivealogue card decks make the perfect family hostess gift this holiday season! To order or learn more, click HERE!

 

November is National Adoption Month and a perfect time for this weekend’s release of the new movie “Instant Family.” I was able to recently preview the film and shared my thoughts on why you should go see “Instant Family” over at Raising Arizona Kids Magazine.

As a foster-adoptive parent, I laughed and cried my way through the entire movie so I wanted to share some of the main takeaways from the movie that resonated with me.

5 Truths ‘Instant Family’ Exposes About Foster Care, Adoption

1. Imperfect Parents Needed

The movie “Instant Family” is not only funny, but it is full of heartwarming and heartbreaking scenes about the imperfect realities of navigating the journey of foster care and adoption. The film brilliantly shows that it doesn’t take perfect parents to do this, only loving and willing ones who preferably have a sense of humor. 

AdoptUsKids end their public service announcements with the tagline, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent,” reassuring parents that even if they are not perfect, they can provide the stability and security that children in foster care need and deserve.

Check out my “Instant Family” movie review HERE.

2. Foster Youth Transport Their Belongings in Trash Bags

In the movie, you see the children carrying their belongings in large black trash bags, which is exactly how it happens the majority of the time.

Thankfully, there are organizations nationwide focused on providing bags for foster children to use so that they can move and transport what little they have with dignity. Check out these organizations who are working to change this- Together We Rise, Suitcases for Hope, and Foster Love Project.

3. Teenagers Are Often Overlooked

Even though Anders did not actually adopt a teenager in real life, he did an excellent job in the movie of portraying the truth that teenagers who currently live in the foster care system need and deserve a loving home and family too. Of the more than 5,000 children in foster care actively photo listed on adoptuskids.org, 43 percent are 15–18 years old.

I used dialogue journals to communicate with my teenage mentee. This is not only her truth but the unfortunate truth of many teens living in foster care today.

4. Community Support and Loving Relationships is Key 

The orientation and support group scenes in the movie were some of my favorites as I related to the importance of being in community with others who were going through similar scenarios in their home. I loved how the movie showed the same adults moving through the orientation, to the licensing classes, to the support group and on to the courtroom for adoptions, yet I know reality tells a different story.

Clint Williams, Family Resource Development Specialist for AASK – Aid to Adoption of Special Kids in Arizona tells us that only 7% of the people who contact the agency for information about community foster care, end up getting licensed.

For 2017, AASK shows:

  • 1206 people inquired about foster care-adoption by telephone call or through the website
  • 523 people attended an information session
  • 205 completed intake application process
  • 120 individuals started classes 
  • 86 actually became Licensed.
  • Even fewer go forward to take in a foster placement or adopt.

The kids need more people to persevere through all of the requirements so that they may get a chance at growing up in a secure and loving home.

5. You Can Meet the Children at Adoption Fairs

In the movie, husband and wife (Pete and Ellie) meet the teenager they would later adopt, along with her two siblings, at an adoption fair. This is exactly how director Anders and his wife, met their children, but not every state has adoption fairs as depicted in the movie.

In Arizona, we do not have ‘adoption fairs’ but if you have a level one fingerprint clearance card you can volunteer at Children’s Heart Gallery and hang out with the kids who are legally free for adoption. But, you will have to be licensed to adopt any of the children.

I met our son at a Children’s Heart Gallery event in 2016.

The agency Christian Family Care does “match events” where they invite certified/licensed families (who all have clearance) to attend a bowling party or celebration at the zoo and have kids in need of a forever family attend the event as well.  “It’s an informal way for these families to meet the kids and also get to see them in a fun environment and not just read about them on paper and determine if they are a good fit or not beforehand,” said Lisa Marks, an Adoption Recruitment Specialist in Arizona. “It’s also a way for people to get to know how great the older kids are as a majority of certified families/licensed families are hoping for babies, toddlers or little kids.”

If you are interested in learning more about how you can get involved in helping a foster child in Arizona, check out AASK’s schedule of upcoming information sessions HERE.

For resources for foster care-adoption nationally check out: https://www.davethomasfoundation.org; https://www.adoptuskids.org

 

What would it look like to be a happier parent this school year?

Is it really possible for us to find more happiness amidst the chaos of the hectic school morning routine, the homework, the sibling drama and once again telling your kids to put away the screens while eating breakfast?

My friend, Lori, exudes happiness in her annual back-to-school photo tradition! Isn’t she the best?

New York Times contributor and writer KJ Dell’Antonia’s tells us HOW we can regain our happiness in parenthood in her brand new book, How to Be A Happier Parent- Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute.

As a mother of four, KJ found herself wondering if this whole parenthood thing had to be so difficult on most days. She wanted to enjoy motherhood more than she was. But, the workload was overwhelming. She questioned why she wasn’t more satisfied with her life as a parent. So she set out to find out how we can bring more happiness, and even fun to the ordinary days that make up the measure of our lives.

I consider myself overall to be a happy parent. But, I learned long ago that getting in a school pick up or drop off line was not setting me up for success in the parental happiness department. Neither was helping with math homework or making school lunches for my capable 16-year-olds. So, instead, I taught my people long ago how to be in charge of their own existence.

And low and beyond this is #1 on KJ’s list of what happier parents do well.

  1. Shift from heavier involvement to fostering independence in their children as they become more capable. (Stop doing these things for your teen this school year)
  2. They don’t put their children’s everyday needs before their own. (Can I get a hallelujah?)
  3. They look for the good in the day to day experiences. (Yes, you too can find joy in the pb&j sandwich. Dig deep.)
  4. They know what’s really important and what’s just noise and fury. (Yep, we gotta remember not to major in the minor.)

I love everything about this book- from the cute cover design to choosing the chapter I need right now to help with a problem area in our family. If it’s meal times, chores, sibling rivalry, discipline, screens… you name the thief of your parental joy and it’s most likely in here.

Through interviews with educators and experts along with her personal stories, KJ gives us lots of helpful tips, strategies, and inspirations to shift our mindsets and create new habits in order to find more happiness in our role as Mom or Dad today.

And just because my capable children wouldn’t want me to be too happy, they continue to leave me plenty of reminders that I am still dearly needed.

With a new school year upon us, How to Be A Happier Parent is a well-timed reminder that a satisfying family life isn’t about hauling kids around and eventually dropping them off at destination success. It’s about finding real happiness during our journey of parenthood, and this book will help you figure out just how to do that.

COMMENT TO WIN – HOW TO BE A HAPPIER PARENT BOOK

KJ sent me a copy of her brand new book How to Be A Happier Parent- Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute. to give away to one of you lucky readers!

Comment below on why you want to be a happier parent for your chance to win! One lucky winner will be chosen at random on October 19. Must be a US resident to win.