Do I remember how to parent?

Young blond  boy on pony
My son loved to ride the “Snow White Pony” as he called it at our weekly street fair.

I’m talking about hands on parenting. My kids are in their 20s and I haven’t been hands on for years. My son is having shoulder surgery this week and he wants me to take care of him. I leave on Wednesday to be there prior to his Thursday morning surgery. I’ll be staying in an airbnb a few blocks from his apartment so i don’t have to drive. I don’t drive in the Bay Area, period.

He called me this morning and I told him, “I hope I’m helpful.” I haven’t had to take care of anyone since my husband last had shoulder surgery about three years ago and before that when my dad had shoulder surgery in 2014. I guess I do have experience with shoulder patients, though.

My time will mostly be filling the machine with ice that circulates coolness around his shoulder. And giving him meds on a schedule.

I’m a little nervous to travel back to California during this Delta variant thing. I fear they’ll shut down while I’m there! I know I’ll be required to wear masks again after not wearing them since my second shot here in Arizona.

The sweet thing is my son facetimed me the other day. He got his hair cut short and died it blond. He said he wanted to look just as he did when I was doing the full on parenting.

Three year old blond son
My son age three.

I’ll pack a few books, read my fellow bloggers and hang out with him. It doesn’t sound too hard, right? We will see.

Have you taken care of adult children recently? Did your parenting nurturing nature suddenly reappear?

Tips for stress and parenting during 2020

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Morning walks help keep me grounded.

I wrote this last July during the shutdown. I had no idea when I wrote this how hard the year would become. It’s interesting for me to look back on what I was feeling a year ago.

I found my self getting anxious a few weeks ago. It’s a weird fluttery feeling in my chest with my heart beating wildly, my breath getting short and my palms sweating. Why does it come on like that out of the blue? I think it’s all the uncertainty around us. Will my husband ever go back to his office to work? Will we ever get to go to the movies again? Will I have swim practice with my friends? When will this end? Right when we think it’s getting better, it gets worse. The number of cases are going up. We don’t know what will happen with the economy. I have three of my closest friends diagnosed with breast cancer during COVID-19. Yes, there’s lots to be anxious about.

We were fortunate to have our daughter come home to work remotely. She had just moved into a new apartment and didn’t really know her two new roommates. They had a 24-hour notice to shelter in place, so she headed home. I remember her deciding to go to the hardware store to purchase lumber for a bed frame she was making. The very first day she was with us, she was intent on getting supplies. “We could shut down here tomorrow,” she said. She was correct. The next day we were told to shelter in place.

I work in my son’s room and my husband works in our master bedroom. Our daughter took over the guest room. We were a busy bunch until she got laid off due to COVID-19. That was stressful in itself. Also, having a grown up adult in the house took time for us to get used to. We managed to get along most of the time and it’s a three-month period I’ll treasure. Without the pandemic, she wouldn’t have come home and spent time as a young adult. She’s back to building her life away from us, interviewing for jobs.

I read an interesting article called Parenting, stress and COVID-19 by Annie Keeling in The Union, a website with news for Nevada County, Calif.

Here’s an excerpt:

THE EFFECTS OF STRESS

Despite feeling close to their children during the COVID-19 pandemic, 61% of parents say they have shouted, yelled, or screamed at them at least once over the past two weeks, according to a new report from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (https://www.psychcongress.com/article/covid-19-stress-taking-toll-parent-child-relationships)

“For a large number of parents, financial concerns, other worries, social isolation, loneliness, and sadness are getting in the way of parenting,” said lead author Shawna J. Lee, PhD, an associate professor of social work, who compiled the report with coauthor Kaitlin Ward, a doctoral student.

This uncertain experience is asking a lot of parents: full-time playmate, teacher and caregiver can take its toll. What can you do to help yourself? The first step is recognizing that this is a challenging time and that there are ways to ease the effects of uncertainty and stress.

CALMING TECHNIQUES FOR THE PARENT

Take care of yourself. Parents know that they must do this so they can be a good parent, but it’s often easier said than done. The Power of Three is essential: eat well, exercise, get sleep. Put a post-it reminder on your mirror, by the stove, by the screens in your home. Check in with yourself each evening. How did you do with your Power of Three today?

Take a breath. Or five. Research shows that it takes more than one deep breath to really affect the parasympathetic nervous system. Five deep breaths can change your state.

Reach out to others. Phone calls, Zoom, and yard dates with other adults- physically distanced on lawn chairs — are a few ways.

Take (even a tiny) break. Try splashing cold water on your face, stepping outside or planning a parenting partner hand-off. Identify what you might do to take a break before the day starts. This helps our psyche to anticipate the relief that is coming.

List healthy coping skills for yourself and your family. Avoid behaviors such as excessive alcohol drinking, online gambling or taking drugs. Negative coping mechanisms further compound your stress levels and can make your situation worse in the long run.

The article goes on to describe tips to calm the entire family with lots of fun things to do. Keeling also discusses talking about the pandemic and how that can lead to less stress as well.

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My daughter bungee swimming in our backyard. It’s hard but it does help with stress.

Have you had stress or anxiety during the pandemic and what are you doing to fight it?

The art of procrastination

cat upside down
Olive.

There are certain tasks I’ve been meaning to do. But I keep putting them off. I’m asking myself why and this morning I’m trying to tackle a few of them before the day gets away from me. Number one, we’re going out of town and I need to find a place to board Olive.

The closer the day of vacation approaches, the more I hesitate. I’m afraid I’m already too late and the “pet resorts” will be booked. I also know that Olive will hate being boarded, but we have to do it for her own good. Plus, I know my husband will be annoyed with the cost and push me to try to find something with a lower cost or demand a discount. Lots of reasons to not pick up the phone.

Another thing I’m procrastinating about is a recall on our car. The notice came in the mail and I just don’t know when it’s a good time to schedule the appointment. I finally called first thing this morning and got voice mail. We also have to get the car fixed after the hail damage. We filed a claim and talked to our agent. They are supposed to get back to us, but they are overwhelmed with claims. Our friends who live in Prescott, at the center of the storm, had a damaged roof, broken windows at their house and found four dead dear in the backyard.

Will we get all of this done on the car before vacation? Or should we wait?

I’m procrastinating on making some phone calls for a couple of interviews I need to do for stories that were suggested for me to write. I’m now procrastinating on writing. Why is that? Do I want to write the stories? Or not?

Live now. Procrastinate later. sign on bookshelf.
A sign I have on my bookshelf in my office.

My son was a master procrastinator in high school. His college applications were pure torture. I hated the whole process. He’d sit for days in front of his computer and get nothing done until right before they were due. He put off a one-semester Health class until the final semester of high school. It was online. I got a phone call Memorial Weekend that he wasn’t going to be allowed to “walk” because he never completed the course. I told the counselor that he had been named Valedictorian and was giving a speech.

“That is odd,” she said.”We’ve never encountered this before.”

They agreed to unlock the entire class and let him finish it that weekend, so he could graduate and be on stage to give his speech. Apparently, they only unlocked one unit of the class at a time, and he had to hunt down the teacher when he was ready for another unit, which was a hassle, he said.

I’m shaking my head at the memory. But at least he came by his procratsination honestly.

Do you have issues with procrastination? On what types of things? Any tips to overcome procrastination?

My valedictorian son giving speech.
My son during his graduation speech.

Can you work from home with kids?

newborn baby being held by toddler brother
My newborn daughter with big brother.

I wrote this post July 2019. It’s interesting to look back on after COVID forced many parents to work from home while raising kids in 2020.

When I started my Public Relations business, it was June. By July, I discovered I was pregnant. I did pretty good balancing work and life until my firstborn became mobile. Once he was crawling and spitting up on my keyboard, work became challenging.

I saw an article in the Citizen Times, a USA network paper in North Carolina, called “Making it all work: Balancing parenting and working from home” by Marla Hardee Milling. She interviewed several families and asked how they worked from home with kids. I enjoyed reading their stories, because I had plenty of my own!

If you are a parent, working from home can rank as a blessing and a curse.

First up — the pros: creating a business at home allows you a flexible schedule. You don’t have to worry about a commute. You don’t have to keep a well-stocked wardrobe for daily appearances at an office (this means you can work in pajamas if you want to), and you may well find that you are more productive when you are working for yourself. 

But there are pitfalls. 

Interruptions can be aggravating. Neighbors and friends may think they can call at any moment because you’re at home. Kids often have the uncanny ability to need something right in the middle of a business call. And you may be surrounded by nagging reminders of things that need to be done at home — the stacked dishes, the pile of laundry, the accumulating clutter. 

So how do you strike a balance between being efficient running a home business and keeping your sanity? 

Juggling life and work

Stephanie Carol of Asheville works part-time from home, writing a sewing blog and a travel blog.

“I juggle work at home life with family life imperfectly,” she admits. “My biggest challenge is that I would prefer to work in long stretches of time, but with kids, it’s more like bits and pieces. The two solutions I’ve come up with or used in the past include one, swapping child care with friends so we each get a full or half day to ourselves while the other watches all of our kids, and two: trying to break down my tasks into small chunks so I can dive right back in and out of my list and stay organized.” 

It can be even more complicated when both parents telecommute from home. That’s the current lifestyle for Amy and John Saunders who live in Waynesville with their 3-year-old son. Amy’s parents own a highway construction company — A&P Services LLC in Brevard  and she serves as the vice president of operations. John is a software architect who works for a company in Chicago. 

John’s job is structured in a way that he is required to be at his computer from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. But his home office doesn’t have a door, so Amy has to be creative about keeping their son quiet.

“We leave every morning around 9 or 9:30 and then come home for lunch,” she explained. In the afternoon, she fits in work as she can while her son has some quiet playtime. Once her husband is off work, they have a family dinner at 6, go through the bedtime routine and then Amy can hammer out details of her job that she couldn’t get to during the day.  

“As the VP of operations, I do all the scheduling, billing, general project management — I handle everything except estimating and HR stuff,” she said. “As long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter when it gets done.” 

When I worked from home I had two major problems: how to turn off work and how to get clients to understand that I couldn’t run over for a meeting at the drop of a hat. It was all about boundaries. I had clients who didn’t respect the hours I tried to set and would give me a project at 5 or 6 p.m. and expect it to be delivered the next morning, because “I worked from home.” When I was pregnant, I could make it to any meeting at any time. Once I had a child, it was a different story. I tried babysitters and nannies and would make set hours when I was available for meetings and appointments. Invariably, I worked on projects at home while the babysitter was there. As soon as she left, I’d get a call from a client to come over immediately.

Here’s how other families deal with childcare:

What can I put off?

Without close neighbors to rely on for babysitting, Amy and John care for their son almost 24/7 except for rare moments when the grandparents can step in. It’s a challenging schedule and can be stressful, but she says, “I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

What she is trying to change is her mindset that every work detail needs to be handled immediately. “If I get an email, I feel like I have to take care of it right away,” she said. “I’m learning that if I put something off until tomorrow, it’s probably going to be fine. Some things are time sensitive, but the majority of my job is not. I’m trying to find a balance.” 

Altamont Inspections is the business of Eddie and Angela Roberts, of Hendersonville. While Eddie is out making the inspections, Angela works from her home office to carry out all the details of running the business: scheduling, billing, troubleshooting, and setting priorities.

“I have a designated office space, so office work stays in the office,” Angela said. “I have set times to devote to work and I make a checklist each morning of the most important things to do.”

Having that list is crucial since they have two very active daughters — teens Anna and Emma — who are involved in band, gymnastics and other activities. “I always put family first,” she said. “If someone wants an inspection time that conflicts with my daughter’s band concert, I’ll offer them another day or time.”

She’s found it easier to keep separate email addresses and phone numbers for work and personal use, and she checks social media during her personal time. Angela also has learned to say “no” when she runs out of time.

“The PTO can find someone else to help with the dance decorations this time, but I’m happy to bring pre-packaged snacks,” she said as an example.  

Outside help

Her daughters are older now and more self-sufficient, but she also realizes the value of getting outside help to keep her household and business running smoothly.

“I hire help like a bi-weekly housekeeper, a lawn maintenance crew, and a caregiver to pick up the kids from school and help them with homework a couple of days a week,” she said. “I will also order groceries online and pick them up or have them delivered through Mother Earth Foods. A family dinner doesn’t have to be home cooked every night. I like to support local restaurants and order to-go or make a list of grocery stores that have weekly specials, like The Fresh Market changes their $20 ‘Little Big Meals’ that feed four each Tuesday and some Ingle’s delis have Friday steak nights.” 

With planning, dedication, and creative strategies, working from home can be a fruitful endeavor. And just think about all that traffic you don’t have to sit in day after day.

The final straw in my working from home was after I hired a full-time nanny. I watched as she raised my child. They splashed in the pool and walked to the park to play. Meanwhile, I sat at my desk jealous beyond belief. I quit the PR business and changed my work. Instead or writing press releases and newsletters, I began writing for magazines, newspapers and drafting novels and children’s stories. I squeezed my work in between raising my kids. I made way less money, but I have no regrets.

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Now there’s just me, my husband and the cat working from home.

Have you tried working from home? How do you juggle parenting with your job?

And I was so excited….

Mother daughter at Pike Place Market Seattle
Me and my daughter at Pike Place Market during a mother daughter trip before COVID.

Today I had an appointment for a pedicure. The first one since January 2020. I really didn’t miss them that much during lockdown. I wouldn’t have bothered. But, we’re going to be visiting friends soon at Lake Tahoe and hang out at their house on the deck with lake views. We may be out on their boat and swimming. My feet and toes will be exposed for the world to see.

Yesterday when I went grocery shopping, I noticed a nail salon a few doors down. I stopped in and made an appointment for today. I left the salon with a big smile on my face. A pedicure seemed luxurious. It was something I took for granted in my pre COVID life. My daughter and I would often go together. It was quality mother daughter time, sitting side by side, being pampered, chatting and readings books. I was looking forward to my appointment today.

Fast forward to today and I set an alarm on my iphone so I wouldn’t get busy and miss the appointment. While I was sitting in the pedicure chair, my daughter called. She was very upset and had gotten in a fight with her dad (my husband). I explained where I was and that I couldn’t talk, but I could listen. She was sobbing and I didn’t want to hang up on her. Then I got a text from my husband.

At the same time, my left big toe really hurt. It was painful at every touch and especially during the massage.

Needless to say it wasn’t the peaceful “me time” I had looked forward too. I had quite a lot to say to my husband when I got home. He’s the type that has to “win.” I told him he needs to work on listening to his daughter. He doesn’t need to give advice. He doesn’t need to tell her what to do. He just needs to be there, be quiet and let her talk. He did listen to me and finally agreed.

Then I looked down at my pretty bright pink toes. There’s something awfully wrong.

swollen toe after pedicure
My left big toe that hurt to the touch is swollen!

Next time I’ll skip the pedicure and try something else like reading a book on the sofa. I’ve noticed this toe hurting during my 10,000 steps each day and when I push off the walls swimming. Ugh.

What are your ideas of quality “me time?” I need some new ideas.

Should parents monitor their kids social media?

blond brother and sister at Laguna Beach.
My children before there was a thing called social media.

Social media is not going away anytime soon. I’ve read articles where 95% of kids from age 12 to young adults use Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. Those are the preferred apps. In an article called Are you OK? | Teens and social media posted on KING TV5 in Seattle, there’s lots of good advice for parents .

By now we all know that social media can cause depression, anxiety in kids as well as adults. What’s really scary is not only cyber bullying but this shocking statistic: 90% of human trafficking begins on social media.

I discovered that in an article called Mesa-based company creates app to monitor children’s social media in simple format by Georgann Yara on the website AZCentral.

There’s an app developed by two men in Arizona that allows parents to monitor their kids social media sites. Here’s a bit of the article:

Years before they met and launched Cyber Dive, a social media monitoring tech company geared toward parents, Jeff Gottfurcht and Derek Jackson were well aware of social media’s powerful and dangerous side.

Gottfurcht is the first person in the world to summit Mt. Everest with Rheumatoid Arthritis. When he returned home from that trip in 2011, he saw a news story about a young girl who was humiliated and bullied on social media after word got out about her being sexually assaulted.

Around the same time, Jackson was across the globe in the Army 1st Special Forces Group, where he spent time in Kuwait, Jordan and Syria. He was an intelligence officer looking into how U.S. adversaries and radical insurgents used social media to recruit members to their cause and perpetuate propaganda.

In 2019, the two got together and formed Cyber Drive because of that story about the girl who was victimized on social media. They created an app to help parents get meaningful information about their kids online activity, while still allowing children independence.

Here’s how it works:

The software covers all platforms and the free membership option includes monitoring on indicators like recurring themes in language, dangerous or suspicious online activity and emotions indicated by analysis of their data. The $5 monthly premium membership allows greater access to features like friends lists, posts and Google searches. ‍

When parents sign up for either membership, they must enter their child’s email address. Then, their child receives a message explaining that someone will use Cyber Dive to monitor their accounts. Parents are encouraged to discuss this with their child before signing up, Gottfurcht said.

Parents use the app for different reasons. Some for safety concerns while others want to have a closer relationship with their children. You can visit Cyber Dive’s website HERE to find out more.

It sounds like a great idea to me. But do you think teens would figure out away around it? Do you think it’s a good idea to keep tabs on teens social media and why or why not?

Parent tip about the college essay

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I wrote this six years ago today. It’s a tip that I believe is valuable enough to share again. It’s directed to parents of incoming high school seniors and the students themselves. I wish someone would have shared this with me: get that college essay written, now. Over the summer, while you have time. I definitely don’t mean for the parent to write it of course! But, if you have any sway over your teen, get them started on it.

I’ll never forget the agony my son went through trying to write his essays close to the deadline. He suffered from so much anxiety and went through days of writer’s block. He said the essays were the most important thing he had to write in his life.

My son and friend at high school graduation.
My son and friend at high school graduation.

By procrastinating and putting it off until the end–into a busy time when he also had a half dozen AP classes and swim practice to worry about–“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I’VE WRITTEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE” was too big a burden to deal with!

My son told me—during the summer when I suggested he get started—that the questions weren’t out yet. That’s what he said.

I have good news to share with you. The essay prompts for the Common App ARE out in the summer. You can take a look at them, and get some guidance here.  

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If you can “suggest,” “encourage” or “force” your high school senior to get started on writing essays for their college apps, it may be the best thing you do for them all year. Tell them to get a rough draft done. Put it away for a week or two, dust it off and have them do a rewrite. Repeat this process during the summer. Then put it away until it’s time to fill out the college applications.

You should take a look at it, too. If they let you. If not, have them find a teacher or adult friend to review it. My son wouldn’t let me review his essays. Not that as a writer with a degree in editorial journalism and a 20-plus-year career in writing could I have offered him a bit of help. But, no. He had to do it the hard way. He did get one of his English Lit teachers to review his work, though.

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Maybe your kids will take your advice and get the writing started early. They’ll also practice good habits which will serve them well when they are in college!

Writing the essays and taking time for revisions over the summer will definitely lift
a lot of senior pressure in the fall.

If your kids are older, how did they do with college essays? Was it difficult for them or easy? Did they procrastinate until the last minute like my son?