If you've been reading my work, you'll know that there are many places I feel kids belong in, such as outdoors and in trees. Kids also belong at the beach. It's where they can immerse themselves right in nature -- you know, beach mud, water, and the like.
From building sand castles with their mommy's used Mountain Dew bottles (yeah there's unfortunately enough to go around) to collecting shells on the shore or squishing sand in their toes from the ocean floor, my kids thoroughly enjoy beach time. Being in Denver, we haven't had any of that in a while and these are older pics. But I can't wait until our next visit to New York state -- and finally our move there in the future. They'll get some much needed beach time there, for sure. There's a man-made reservoir not far from us, where ironically these photos were taken. But it's not the same and has been getting dirtier and dirtier over time so we haven't been going there anymore, unfortunately.
Back to my point, beach time is both fun and necessary. Humans have a special bond with dirt. We like to get dirty. But that's really not the whole of it. Mud and sand is actually good for our skin -- and our soul. It has important nutrients that smooth our skin. But maybe more importantly, that feeling of squishing beach sand between the toes is irreplaceable, as is sifting the dry sand through our hands. Splashing in the water, feeling the ripples of the waves, and even feeling little fish swim between your legs is all a part of the experience as well. It's sad to think that some kids will never experience these things.
Watching boats, duck families, fish, and more from the pier is also a peaceful action that satisfies the soul. Kids these days are so stressed out and I firmly believe that it's because many of them are so immersed in television, video games, and other manufactured forms of entertainment that their brains never get a rest. Kids need nature, such as the beach in order to truly be at peace. I'm not saying they can't have a little fun with those other things -- mine do. But make sure your kids to a beach or other form of nature often. Let them get right in the thick of it, get dirty in it, meditate in it, explore in it, just have fun.
As I write this, I am at a park with my kiddos and their friends and they are relaxing out in a field of sand on some large rocks but were disappointed that the water in the small creek bed has dried up. It's a natural thing for kids to do to gravitate toward sand, water, and nature in general. Kids belong at the beach and elsewhere outdoors. When we can't get to the beach, we try to create that scene in other ways by getting out in nature the way we can. Before we had an apartment, we even built a mock beach in our backyard.
Have your kids been to the beach lately? If you are like us and don't have one near you, what other things do you do to replicate it?
*I originally published this elsewhere (no longer published there).
Ever bought your kid an expensive toy only to have the box be the best entertainment? Of course you have. There's a reason for that. Kids belong in boxes.
Boxes hold a treasure trove of possibilities for kids. They can use them for lemonade stands, dollhouses, playhouses, cars, circus tents, posters, and so much more. If you haven't let your kids play with boxes, they're missing out big time – and you are missing out on some long-lasting busy time for them that you can take advantage of.
About a month or so ago, a new neighbor moved into our building in the apartment complex. The kids were fascinated watching them come out with so many boxes to leave them on the patio. Since they appeared so interested, I suggested they go ask if the neighbors needed help.
Turns out they were going to take all the boxes to the dumpster. So the kids offered to do it for them. But I suggested they actually bring all of the boxes inside for some fun. Well of course they were thrilled by that and invited their friends over to build for hours on end. It was the weekend so the fun went on for a few days straight.
Even though a few rooms in our apartment were filled with cardboard box concoctions (including the living room), I let the fun go on until the boxes were pretty much unusable. Even the pets got a kick out of this and could be found lounging in a few of the playhouses.
Am I a "ghetto” mommy? Some might say so where things like this are concerned (I prefer “resourceful” or as my friends affectionately call me “Black Martha” – yes, they mean Martha Stewart). But am I a fun mommy? You bet. So give me all the labels you want. My kids (and all of the neighborhood kids) love it.
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
Positive discipline consists of more than disciplining your child in a calm manner. Positive discipline for children should consist of steps that lead to the child's well-being and development, teach a lesson about the issue at hand, and not be condescending in nature. In positive discipline for children, the action taken should lead to the child understanding why his or her behavior was wrong, as well as teach that child a life lesson that will help to prevent similar incidents in the future.
First, there are a few things to remember about positive discipline for children. Every family will not follow the exact same methods, as every family is different. Also, different methods should apply to different situations. A child who has hit another child should not be getting the same form of positive discipline as a child who forgot to make his bed before breakfast.
Different misbehaviors have different consequences and the discipline should fit accordingly. Also, remember to always follow through. Any form of positive discipline for children that is discussed, yet not carried out, will be ineffective. Not following through shows a child that he or she can do certain things without consequences and that isn't a good idea because that is not how the world works.
Daily Chore Add-Ons - One good form of positive discipline for children is to add on an extra daily chore for a week. Doing this can teach a child responsibility. At the same time, it also teaches a child that there are consequences for actions.
Misbehavior Journal - Another good form of positive discipline is to have a journal for each time a child misbehaves. The child should write down what his or her feelings were during the time of the act, as well as why he or she committed the misbehavior. This should be a private journal between parent and child. None of the children should ever see each other's journals. Once the child has written down the thoughts, the parent should in turn, respond to those thoughts with understanding, as well as a way for the child to resolve that type of situation in the future.
Behavior Money Jar - I also like to keep a jar for each kid in a place easily accessible by older children, but out of reach of younger children. In each kid's jar is any money they have that isn't for savings. Each time one of the kids does something that hurts another in some way, they have to take out a pre-determined amount (depending on what they've done) and place it into the child's jar who they've hurt or offended. Each time they do something good for someone, I might place a certain amount of money into their jar, but not always. This form of positive discipline for children reflects what may happen in adult life. In adult life, if we hurt someone, we are likely going to be paying for it in the long run. Likewise, if we do good deeds, eventually they will come back around. However, it doesn't work that way every single time, which is why I only give the money sometimes.
Volunteering - Volunteer work is also a great form of positive discipline. You never want to insinuate that the volunteering is a form of punishment because that sends the wrong message. You instead want to say something like, "I noticed that you were unhappy about some of the food choices we made in the grocery store. How about we go together and donate those foods to people who don't have the same type of choices we have?” Then, go from there with the volunteer work. This will likely trigger the child's thought process and let him or her realize that they cannot always have everything they want. It hopefully will also cause them to think twice about complaining when they know there are kids out there who don't have a fraction of what they do.
Good Deeds - Similar to the volunteer work, another great method is to elect the offending child as "Favor Giver of the Day." For one day, this person has to do at least one requested good deed for each member of the household. This form of positive discipline for children is good for when the child has disrespected one or more family members. This lesson usually teaches a child that it's more fun to help others than it is to mistreat them.
Note: The author's positive parenting method has evolved into what she calls Upstream Parenting.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Green parenting has definitely become a trend. But, as a parent who has been committed to living green for quite some time, I'm here to tell you it's much more than just a trend. At least that's true for our family. I started down the path of living green not because of a trend, but because of a commitment to making the Earth a great place for my kids to be in the future and for generations to come.
I don't know the exact date I started our family on this journey and don't really recall there being any sort of epiphany. It seems that I've always instilled at least some green habits. As we discover new things, I add more and more to our lifestyle. I don't base our green living habits on what so-and-so is doing or on the latest fad green products. Instead, I make conscious choices on what's good for the environment and what is not. I consider the impact each time I make a purchase or commit an action. Being a green parent is less about special products and more about minimalism and reducing waste and chemical usage.
Believe it or not, everyday activities, like visiting the park with the kids, can make a huge negative impact on the environment. This is especially true if they are regular activities or a parent is not thinking green at the time. Of course, no one is perfect. Even I participate in activities that are not Earth-friendly. We all do both consciously and subconsciously. But if we can be green as much as possible, this beautiful planet will stay pretty even longer. Just because we may not be around to see its demise doesn't mean we should be careless. Our kids and their kids and so on need a healthy place to grow.
Try cleaning the house with homemade solutions that are both cost-effective and better for the environment. A bonus is that the kids can also help you clean and they and your pets will be safer. Use homemade shampoos and natural haircare alternatives for the family. Kids like to be messy, so let them join in making some of these items.
Teach kids to be green with lessons that will last a lifetime. Teach them by doing, but also explain what you are doing and why. Be creative in instilling the lessons. Play games, incorporate it into the chores, and just have fun! Green parenting is important, but it certainly does not need to be boring.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Shine
A few weekends ago, the kids had some good friends over and being a holiday (though, not one we celebrate in the most popular way), I had promised I wouldn't work too much. I never promise a whole day off because I'm a workaholic and a single mother. I also work at home so my work is readily available, but I digress. An opportunity presented itself to wing it, so I did.
Forming A Brilliant Idea
Because we had nothing better to do, I get this brilliant beyond brilliant idea to take all of my kids, both of our dogs, plus some of their friends and an extra dog to the park. I don't have a vehicle, so of course the plan was to walk on the trail that led us to the intended park. Our nature trails can take us to several parks, depending on which way we choose to go. We chose the largest park and headed that way. Yes, I am insane enough to take a walk with six kids and three dogs with only me as the sole adult. Us single parents know how to work it whatever it may be.
Learning the Many Ways To Wing It
The kids wanted to play on the way, of course. So who was going to walk the dogs? Why me, of course. Yep, winging it because I had never walked the extra dog before, nor had she been walked with our dogs and here I was about to hold all three of their leashes together. Thankfully, it worked out well. They had been introduced briefly a few times and apparently that was enough to satisfy them all. In some situations, you just have to go with the flow and let the chips fall as they may.
The restroom and drinking fountain were closed and of course the kids needed both so we made use of a nearby store for both purposes and went right back to playing. The dogs wanted to run around and the kids wanted to use the playground so I found a spot in the field that was next to the playground so I could run with the dogs while watching the kids.
Life Lessons In Winging It For Everyone
Throughout this walk and park visit, many interesting situations came up where I had to wing it. But that's life. No matter how much you plan things, sometimes you just have to wing it and in the end, you may find out that winging it is the both the best lesson and the best fun you've had in quite a long time. It's quite fine to plan things. You have to have goals. But it's also good to just let it go and let it flow.
All of these scenarios could have been stressful and some may not have gotten involved in the whole thing, to begin with. But I've quickly learned in many experiences that if you have an open mind and are aware of your surroundings (and all the many ways you can use them to your advantage), life can lead to some fun adventures.
Just wing it! Your life is waiting for you!
“She's so cute! (pause) Oh...that's a boy (strange look that quickly turns into an awkward smile).” This is a typical reaction some people give when I take my son (who is an aspiring clown) into public with one of his clown outfits on. Dressing like a clown is a perfectly normal activity, especially for a kid who is developing his own clown show. This makes most people smile. But some are confused and others are rude. It was baffling to me why some people have such a hard time understanding a boy dressing as a clown. Many clowns are boys. Following are the common questions and sources of confusion, along with my thoughts and feelings.
It's not Halloween or a birthday party
I can somewhat understand some people being confused by my son dressing as a clown for seemingly no reason. I mean, I do let him go out in public that way if he chooses to do so – and not just on “appropriate” occasions, such as Halloween.
Sometimes we are out and about doing filming for various music videos and his web show. But sometimes, he just wants to wear one of his clown outfits. Before whispering snide remarks, it might be wise (and possibly educational and fun) to ask us about it. Most people are cheered up by my son's clown outfit and some are anxiously awaiting his next performance.
But some are just plain intolerant. Even if my son were not planning on doing this as a profession, he's a kid – 8 years old to be exact. Let him have fun and dress as he wants. Childhood is one of the best times for that.
Why is a boy wearing makeup?
Makeup is not just for girls. While girls may dominate media portrayal of a typical makeup customer, boys often wear makeup too. This can be especially true in show business. However, boys use makeup for many other reasons as well. Clowning is one of them.
My son is very secure in who he is and he would be whether he wore clown makeup or not. How do I know this? I teach my kids to always be themselves and command respect for the person they are, not another person's vision of who they should be. Besides, who wrote the book of rules on who can and can't wear makeup?
If a boy wants makeup on, for whatever reason, he should be able to put it on. If you're wondering (not that t matters), my son only wears makeup for his clowning.
Aren't you making him gay?
This is one of the worst questions I have received about my son dressing as a clown. Stereotyping is not OK in any form or fashion and is often incorrect anyhow. Sure, you can find gay clowns – just as you can find straight clowns, bisexual clowns, transgender clowns, and more.
My son is not gay. However, if he was, I would still love him. A person's sexual orientation has nothing to do with who that person is as a whole and has no bearing on whether I should love that person or not. That said, dressing as a clown and being gay are not synonymous. This is no better than the stereotype that all male dancers or cheerleaders are gay.
I am also offended by that question in general because it says that person believes I am trying to make my son something he is not. Yes, I encourage his clowning, but not because it's what I want – and certainly not because I want him to be gay (stifling a laugh here, sorry). I encourage and support him because when he dresses as a clown and puts on his acts, he is doing what he loves.
Yes, my son dresses as a clown. Yes, I am proud of him for doing what he loves. Yes, I will continue to “allow” this for as long as it makes my son happy. Have issues with that? Looks like those are your issues, not ours.
"I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician." ~Charlie Chaplin
QUICK UPDATE 10/20/2016: Yes, my son still dresses as a clown at 12 years old and so does my 13 year old daughter. They are still working hard at producing their clown web show and sometimes I dress up and participate. Have a problem with that? STILL not our problem.
When other moms are dishing out the latest gossip, making date night plans, and getting excited over the latest fashions for moms and kids, I can't help but feel out of place. The things I want to discuss seem so different and I am often way out of touch with what everyone else is interested in. I'm not like many other moms. In no particular order, here's five reasons why.
I don't look forward to dropping my kids off at school -- or anywhere. I'm all for quality education. In fact, that's one of the main reasons I eventually chose to be a homeschool mom. You'd think after all those years of seeing my kids all day every day, I'd be glad to drop them off at school every morning. I'm definitely glad they are getting a great education, be it at home or elsewhere. But I'm never excited to spend the whole day without them. I can't relate to that relief many moms seem to experience when dropping their kids off at school or with the sitter.
I'm so lost with the latest gossip. I'll never knock those who are into it because we all have our own things. But I never know who the heck these famous moms are everyone is talking about. I don't even get into the business of the people I know all that much, let alone people I've never met. So when all the other moms are gossiping about each other and celebs, all I would have to offer is what I've done with my own kids -- and firsthand gossip is just, well..not really gossip. So generally I am sitting there with a blank face nodding and pretending I know what they're saying.
Date night? What's that? In our home, it's more like family night, but with a plural. When the other moms are talking about getting all dolled up and going out for a night on the town with their husbands, I can't relate. But wait, don't feel sorry for me yet. Our family values are just a little bit different and they work for us. We believe in doing things together, but that means all of us - not just me and the hubby. We used to have date nights without the kids but all we did is talk about the kids and wish they were there. So now they are. Problem solved.
"Play dates" are unorganized and don't have a formal name. When other moms are discussing Jimmy's play date with Sarah and Sam, again I cannot relate. We don't call it a play date when the kids visit with their friends and they are not planned and scheduled. It's more like this: "Mom can we go to the park? James says they'll be there." "OK, Honey, let's go" While other moms seem to be checking schedules and planning out specific play dates and activities, my kids and I are on the nature trails, playing games we invented, or going to the next thing planned at the last minute. We have never been to a "Mommy and Me" class, but we sure happen to have lots of mother and child time. I think those things are great for those who are into them, but they just aren't for us. As they say "to each their own."
I don't have a professional photographer. That's me. Some moms constantly ask me why we never go to a professional photographer. "Photos you take yourself are just not the same as professional ones," they tell me. I know they aren't. That's why I prefer them. When I look back on our old family portraits, I don't want to think of crying kids trying to straighten themselves in a studio. I want to think of all the fun we had together while I set the camera on auto to snap whatever we were doing that day. The picture you see in this post? Professional, right? Wrong. That was taken with our camera on auto while we were walking a nature trail.
I'm not like some other moms in these and other ways -- and I'm perfectly fine with that. I appreciate all moms for who they are. At the end of the day, we all may be different in various ways, but we all have the same goal - to raise happy, healthy kids and that can be done in so many different ways. Are you like other moms? Whether you answer yes or no, you can still be a good mom. At the end of the day, it isn't about where we go, what we're interested in, and what we do. It's about the love we all give to our kids. If you do everything in parenting with love, you're a good mom.
More from Lyn:
Say What? That Wasn't the Plan...
Raising Kids Who Love The Outdoors
Positive Parenting: Why Doesn't My Teen Trust Me?