About giving unsolicited advice….

brother and sister playing at the beach

My kids when they liked to eat chicken fingers.

When my kids were young, I’d often get unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family members — and even complete strangers. I read with interest this article by Meghan Moravcik Walbert called Keep Every Single Parenting Opinion to Yourself for a website called Lifehacker.com. 

We’re living in a particularly divided country right now, but we are lucky to still have one great rage-inducing unifier among parents: We do not want your unsolicited opinions about our parenting. This is especially true if you do not have children of your own. (Dogs don’t count.)

I have to believe author Jill Filipovic simply wanted to argue about something unrelated to the literal end of our democracy when she tweeted this sparkling gem of an opinion recently:

Jill Filipovic
@JillFilipovic
I know the thing parents hate most is when non-parents assert what they will do as parents which is inevitably smug and incorrect, but I am 100% sure I will never assent to a “kid’s menu” or the concept of “kid food.”

In a follow-up tweet, she rhetorically ponders, “Do you think children in most of the world order off of a ‘kids menu’ and survive primarily off of chicken fingers and plain pasta?”

It seems her argument is that kids should have more variety in their diets, ignoring that kids’ menus exist to offer smaller, significantly cheaper portions of food for children to make it affordable and less wasteful when families go out to eat. But see, this is why parenting opinions from non-parents is so universally grating: They’re blind to fundamental aspects of parenting that are obvious to those of us who have actually done it.

Yes, you’re very smart, and you’ll introduce your kids to lots of flavors, and they’ll always eat exactly what you eat because there’s no way you’ll cook one meal for you and a separate meal for them. If you become a parent, what’s more likely is that we can look forward to hearing you say, “No, honey, you have to buy the dinosaur-shaped nuggets; he doesn’t like the regular ones.”

I have one dear friend, well more than one, who constantly criticized the bland
“kid food” I served my children. We would go to a friend’s and stay for a long weekend and I’d bring food for my kids to eat — things I knew they’d like. Yes, my groceries included chicken fingers. My friend didn’t understand why my kids wouldn’t want to consume her kale with quinoa or homemade chile rellenos. She’d point out another friend of hers who had kids who loved to eat all her veggies and her adult-flavored dishes. My kids liked carrots, snap peas and the like — especially dipped in ranch dressing. At a young age, their taste buds were more sensitive to spice. It wasn’t long before they grew into more adult diets and indulged in sushi and spicy Mexican food. As adults they love to eat vegetables and they cook healthy and interesting meals. No, they are not living off of chicken fingers — it was a temporary thing.

The point is that I’d get criticized by friends and family members who didn’t have kids, or had children who were infants or teenagers. They weren’t dealing with kids three to seven years old and they either hadn’t been through those experiences or they forgot about those glorious days.

I used to ask my kids what they wanted to eat. My daughter always said chicken. Once I made pan-fried sole for dinner. She said, “Now THIS is the chicken I like!” That was eye-opening to me, because I didn’t realize that she was calling most foods “chicken!”

That reminds me of when we went to a small Thai restaurant with another mom and kids. My daughter, who was three, threw a tantrum and said, “This is the worst Chinese food I ever had!”

One of my friends had a son a couple years younger than my kids. We were at a family-fun restaurant and her toddler son kept jumping out of the high chair. She said, “I really owe you an apology. All of those things I criticized or tried to give you advice about — I had no idea!”

There’s more great examples in the article about unsolicited advice and how parents think they would NEVER raise their voice at their children (who aren’t born yet). Read the entire article for yourself here. It’s an entertaining read.

Here’s another article I’ve written about unsolicited advice. Read it here.

children climbing on me at the beach

Life at the beach with two young kids.

What funny experiences have you had with people giving you unsolicited parenting advice?

Highlights From Three Days of Hikes

view of Lake Pleasant AZ

Lake Pleasant view from the bridge that didn’t make it across the water. 

To celebrate a Martin Luther King and a three-day weekend, we hiked Saturday morning in the preserve across the street — the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. We ran into a couple finishing a hike as we were starting. “People!” they called out to us. We asked them for ideas of where to go. They told us to hike to Granite Mountain, which was a mere six miles away. Nope. Twelve miles round trip was more than we could handle. Maybe we can work up to it?

saguaro growth

I’m learning so much about my new environment.

They suggested Dove Valley Trail, which we did for a bit, but it was more of a road than a trail. We saw a trail called Old Camp that fascinated us, so we veered off on it. I got a little nervous wondering where we would end up. Funny thing. Each time we leave for a hike, I print out a map. I even subscribed to All Trails. So far, the maps have never made it with us. They are left on the printer. Anyway, the Old Camp Trail crossed Stagecoach, which is the trail that leads home. So we made a nice loop without even trying.

The next day, we tried Stagecoach going in the opposite direction. We didn’t see any other hikers, but a hunter with a bow and arrows. We asked what he was hunting for and he said javelina. I wonder if javelina are friendly to humans? Or do they charge? The hunter told us the matted down brush we see under the trees is where the javelina sleep. I was happy to hear that the squashed down grass and brush wasn’t due to mountain lions.

man standing next to ancient saguaro

My husband with an ancient saguaro. I didn’t get the entire cactus in the photo. My guess is 175 plus years old — the saguaro, not my husband!

Monday morning my husband had the day off work. I told him early that morning that I had big plans and he better get ready. “Oh really?” he asked.

“Yes, we’re driving to Lake Pleasant. There are hiking trails with water views.”

Off we went for to explore a new area. The trailI I had selected was closed off by a Sheriff’s truck for “training.” We were told to turn around and go to the main entrance of the park and that there were other trails there. We went on a short hike on Pipeline Canyon trail down to the lake only to find the bridge across the water didn’t extend the entire way. We had to turn around and climb back up the trail. We looked for other hikes but mainly explored a beautiful lake, visitor center and made plans to return on another day. Then we hit The Thumb for barbecue!

hiking in the desert

Smiling at the end of a hike at the preserve across the street.

 

Tips for Parents of Teens During COVID-19

Prom photos in backyard

My daughter’s senior prom night a few years ago when things were normal.

I’ve been thinking about how teens are feeling — stuck at home with mom and dad. Normally, they’d be seeking independence from their parents and are ready to fly from the nest — which usually means college. But with COVID-19, some universities haven’t opened in close to a year and are offering online classes only. There may be no end in sight for these teens that they will ever leave the nest. Top that off with missing milestones like graduation and prom, the normal every day social life with their friends — I wonder how the kids are surviving? They have been away from their peers for close to a year. I remember how important friends were to me at this age — friends were my world.

In the Los Angeles Times, I read an article called Teens are feeling lonely and anxious in isolation. Here’s how parents can help by Lisa Boone. It offered advice from several mental health experts with tips of how parents can make their kids feel less anxiety during these crazy days of shelter in place. I suggest you read the entire article here.

When my son was a senior in high school, we really had a rough year. He was desperately wanting to be an adult, live his own life, and I was hanging on to motherhood and wanting him to be the child I had loved and known for 18 years. Of course we clashed. I can’t imagine what that year would have been like for us to be stuck at home with each other day and night!

Valedictorian speech

My son at the podium giving his graduation speech.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

As tens of millions of us continue to shelter in place, the most tractable of teens are feeling frustrated and anxious. They miss their former lives. They are uninterested in online classes and don’t want to follow quarantine guidelines anymore. And who can blame them?

Living in seclusion can produce quarantine fatigue, according to South Pasadena-based psychotherapist Noelle Wittliff, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with children, families and adolescents. “Many of the teens at my practice are hitting a wall,” Wittliff said. “They are over it. They want to go outside and connect with their friends. The online connection is just not cutting it.”

Normally adolescence, a developmental period marked by impulsivity and feelings of invincibility, is a time in which teenagers separate from their parents and bond with their peers. Now that families are confined at home, parents are in a peculiar position in which they have to balance the seriousness of the novel coronavirus with their teen’s desire for social interaction.

“Many of our teens are experiencing tremendous loss, and grief is an appropriate response to loss,” Wittliff said. “Depending on the age and school year of the teen, these losses can include proms, graduation ceremonies, end-of-year sports events, dances, parties, school activities, yearbook signings and simple proximity to beloved friends, teachers or significant others. The school shutdowns happened so abruptly that many of the teens that I work with did not have the opportunity to gather belongings from their lockers or classrooms, let alone say meaningful goodbyes to teachers and classmates.

“As parents, it’s important to hold space for all of these feelings and to recognize that teens don’t always communicate sadness in expected ways,” she said. “Sadness is often masked by frustration, irritability, anger or disconnection. These are protective reactions that mask vulnerability. The goal isn’t to take these defense strategies away but rather to be curious about what other feelings might be hiding underneath.”

For teens struggling with maintaining distance from their friends, Wittliff encourages parents to validate those feelings with empathy while reminding them this quarantine is temporary. Also, as a parent or guardian, manage your teenager’s expectations and don’t make promises that won’t come true.

Wittliff offers this advice: “Tell them, ‘I hear you and I know how hard this is. I know how much you miss your boyfriend or girlfriend and your friends but this is what is going on. The entire world is going through this. We are all taking precautions to stay safe.’”

Among the advice offered by experts in this article is to establish a routine — that you let your teen help develop. Try to have a fun activity every day plus get exercise outside. There’s many more tips in the article that are so helpful like practicing mindfulness, cooking, drawing, etc.

Although my daughter has left her teen years behind, she came home to shelter in place and work remotely rather than being in a tiny apartment with two other people.  For the four months she was home, I learned to give her space. I no longer walk into her room unannounced like I would have when she was a five-year-old. I let her come to me instead. We enjoyed an outdoor activity each day like tennis, a walk or smashball in the backyard pool. She rode bikes with her dad in the evenings. We had some great memories, but enough was enough of her life with mom and dad. She moved back to the Bay Area where she could hang out with our son and girlfriends family. Back to life with peers, although still isolated from the life she was used to.

Structure and predictability will help with the passing of time and give teens something to look forward to. “Every day and week that they get through sheltering in place brings them that much closer to getting back to their lives,” Wittliff said. “This is hard, but our kids are resilient. And they will get through it.”

Backyard prom photos by pool

My son’s senior prom. They had a catered dinner in our back yard before the dance.

How are you helping your kids with COVID-19 fears and isolation from friends? What are they missing the most during shelter in place?

 

Is it a gas station, car wash or BBQ joint?

We discovered The Thumb in May 2018 — featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives — when we visited the Phoenix area with our daughter. She was going to graduate college in August and move to Arizona for a career in the financial world (which she despised.) Anyway, during our trip to Arizona, we discovered a gas station, car wash, gift shop, wine shop — that also serves the most unbelievable barbecue.

Yesterday, after a hike at Lake Pleasant, my husband and I were starving. Our car was filthy….so we remembered The Thumb. What a perfect way to top off a hike.

view from hike at Lake Pleasant AZ

Ready to hike Pipeline Canyon trail at Lake Pleasant.

I wrote this after discovering The Thumb in 2018:

peach cobbler sign at The Thumb Scottsdale AZ

Inside The Thumb gas station.

While spending the weekend in Arizona, our purpose was to check out where our daughter will start her career. While driving to dinner one evening, our car told us to get gas and directed us to the closest gas station. (I love that feature on our car because I get busy and don’t realize I’m close to running out of fuel.)

The car sent us to The Thumb. While my husband pumped gas, I noticed the two-story building that was unlike any gas station I’d ever seen before. I witnessed a stream of people leaving the building with white plastic bags with red lettering. Waving in the breeze were banners that said “BBQ.”

What kind of barbecue is found inside a gas station, I wondered.

Inside the Thumb Scottsdale AZ BBQ gas station

The BBQ counter next to the gift shop at The Thumb.

I left the car to check it out.

I was surprised to see a gift shop filled with all sorts of fun items, from Pug cha cha to lots of cactus cookie jars, shot glasses, cards and miscellaneous stuff.

There was a pretty extensive wine section plus a bakery that looked so mouthwatering. I should have tried the snickerdoodles or homemade pop tarts! They looked scrumptious. One side of the building had a huge chandelier with tables for those eating in, plus a patio with more tables for dining al fresco. A huge aquarium had several people entranced.

Then there was the barbecue. People were lined up to order and people were stocking up on the six flavors of sauce.

We ordered a pound of brisket, some coleslaw and tried a few sauces. We both decided the original was best. After getting our gas we headed back to the condo we were staying in and surprised our daughter with an amazing dinner from the gas station!

The Thumb’s website says it’s  “Just your average gas station…”
It’s been featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on Food Network, too.

Inside dining at The Thumb Scottsdale AZ

The inside dining area of The Thumb.

If you happen to be driving through Scottsdale on the 101, I highly recommend a stop at the Thumb for a car wash, bakery, bottle of wine, barbecue, gifts — and oh yes, gas.

What unusual gas stations or diners have you discovered during your travels?

When Things Go Bump In the Night

patio with pool

This is the chair we found laying folded up on the patio.

Have you ever heard things go bump in the night? Last night I woke up at 2 a.m. to a loud crash. I heard other noises, too. I stayed up until 4 a.m. listening. Listening for more noises. I heard more. I wondered if I had locked the door to the casita? The front door? The sliders to the patio?

I didn’t dare get up to check it out. My husband slept next to me, soundly. I shouldn’t let my imagination take over in the middle of the night, I thought. No, Marco, our homeless man who slept in our yard most certainly didn’t follow us from California to Arizona, right?

Another thing niggled at my brain. Returning from the grocery store yesterday afternoon, I parked the car in the garage. While I was unloading my grocery bags, I heard the sound of someone bringing up the recycling bin from the curb up our driveway. It was recycling day, after all. And the garbage truck must have come by while I was at the store.

I hit the garage remote and lowered the electronic garage door, shutting myself inside. The noise of someone dragging the bin up the driveway stopped. I convinced myself that it must have been the next door neighbor returning his recycling bin to his own home.

At sunset my husband and I left the house to walk down the street for our evening show of  brightly colored pink and red skies highlighting silhouettes of saguaros. I stopped noticing the recycling bin outside the garage catawampus, not put away where the trash cans belong.

“Bill, why did you leave the trash bin out here?” I asked. “I heard you dragging it up the driveway when I pulled into the garage.”

“I never touched it,” he said. “Who would do this?”

Hmmm. While I listened for strange noises going bump in the night, my mind drifted to the strange thing with the trash. Was a neighbor doing us a favor? I don’t think so. I mean have you ever heard of someone returning your trash bins from the curb to your house?

First thing this morning, feeling very tired, I looked out into the backyard. The patio chair was folded up on the ground. My husband noticed it, too. I asked him if he had accidentally knocked it over when he cleaned the barbecue after our grilling burgers last night. Nope. He did not.

Maybe it was a bobcat, coyote, or a human? But I know for a fact that it wasn’t a bobcat or a coyote who brought our trash can up the driveway.

Arizona sunset saguaro

The incredible sunset view at the end of our street.

Have you heard strange noises go bump in the night? What caused the noises? Also, has a neighbor ever taken care of your trash cans for you without you asking?

When we were told to “shelter in place”

pug with sad face

Waffles resigned to shelter in place.

Do you remember early 2020? We were caught up in the impeachment drama in January and February (deja vu). Our family traveled by plane to Colorado for one of our best friend’s daughter’s wedding. It was before COVID was much of a thing. We weren’t worried about flying the kids in from San Francisco to Denver, or renting an airbnb for all of us together.

But on the flight home to Palm Springs it was upsetting. The man in the seat directly behind us was groaning, moaning while coughing up phlegm and blowing his nose constantly. It was so unsettling. A month later, I’m sure nobody would have allowed this man on a flight!

family at friend's wedding

With the family at a wedding in CO. The bride was friends with both kids and her mom is one of my best friends.

Little did we know the groom’s father had COVID at the time. He was a doctor and most likely got it at work in the hospital. Thankfully, after a serious case he got better and we didn’t hear of anyone else at the wedding getting infected.

Turn the page from February to March and we were told to shelter in place. Here’s what I wrote about DAY ONE:

IMG_5009

Views from my neighborhood park.

I was pretty shaken up yesterday after the order to shelter in place, but I’m pleased to report that I’m doing better today. I got my full walk in around the park and neighborhood before the rain started. I got to see a favorite neighbor of mine and chat while standing six feet apart. He said, “We’ll get through this.”

I got assigned a couple magazine stories by an editor and I think that helped me the most. I have a tight deadline and had to get busy. That kept me from turning on the news, watching the diving DOW, and reading all the headlines on the web rather than writing.

Life is pretty much the same for me as it is most days. I walk and then work from home. It’s nice to know my daughter is in the guest room working from home, too, right down the hall. My son is in the Bay Area and he’s under the same orders to shelter in place. He’s calling everyday to let me know he’s okay. I really appreciate that.

We will get through this. We have so many uncertainties ahead of us. That’s what gets me anxious. I try work through all the possibilities of what COULD happen and it gets me scared. It’s much better to stay busy at home while we are “sheltering in place.”

IMG_2544

This cutie pie came home with my daughter. He and the cat are practicing social distancing.

What do you remember about the first day you were told to shelter in place? What were your thoughts and feelings?

Exploring my new hometown

standing next to saguaro

This saguaro must be 200 years old.

I walk every single day and have for at least six years — except for 2018 when tore my ACL and meniscus skiing. I had surgery and months of recovery. Other than that lovely experience, I get out seven days a week without fail.

In Palm Springs, I’d walk downtown among the shops and restaurants or around the neighborhood and park. In my new Arizona home, it’s a wilder landscape full of saguaro, brush, shrubs, hawks and quail. At first I walked every morning in our development but that soon became boring. So I ventured outside to a sidewalk between our development and wild federal land.

saguaro in the sun

The wild views across the street.

I made a pledge to myself that every weekend, my husband and I would explore a new trail and go hiking. I was excited to get off the sidewalk and see more, but not willing yet to do it on my own. Moving into a new area during a global pandemic makes hiking the perfect way to explore safely. The first weekend after getting somewhat settled, we drove 10 miles to Cave Creek Regional Park for our first hike, which was challenging and gorgeous.

To find more trails, I googled moderate hikes in the county and discovered our house was across the street from a conservancy with trails — the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. We’re miles from the main entrance but there are trails literally across the street. A trailhead is two miles down the street from our house. We decided to drive to the trailhead instead of wasting four miles round-trip on the sidewalk. The other choice is to cross the street and walk through the brush and cactus until we ended up on a trail. I nixed that.

During the hike, as we got further into the wilderness, I felt a little anxious as we passed coyote scat and other signs of wildlife. I told my husband that next time I’ll bring my pepper spray or a hiking pole. My husband, of course, thought I was silly.

The hike was easy and we marveled at ancient saguaro and wanted to learn more about other cactus and plants. The landscape is so different from what we’re used to, it’s breathtaking. I wonder if I’ll get used to it and take it for granted? We missed the trailhead that led to our car. We kept going thinking it would be around the next bend. Pretty soon, we were close to our house. So we backtracked — adding more than a few miles to our hike. Not so easy, after all.

Saguaro

It takes a saguaro 100 years to grow an arm. I wonder how old this guy is?

Do you hike or walk during COVID-19 to get exercise? Where are your favorite places to go?