The Love of the Step

April 23, 2011

I have been trying to write this post for over a month now.  Sometimes, the words just won’t flow the way you want them to.  Although I’m still having a bit of writers block, I’m going to give this a shot…

This blog is geared toward raising productive, happy, well-mannered, grateful children.  There comes a time, however, when we need to realize that we adults are also grateful children.  We have parents, biological and step, who raised us and loved us and we will forever be their babies.

My parents divorced when I was 18 months old.  Over the years, I have been blessed with not one or two, but with three of the most amazing step-parents anyone could ever ask for.

My Daddy married a wonderful woman, Sharon, when I was about 7.  She is a loving wife, Mom, and Grandma.  Ma & Daddy live several states away and I pray that they move closer soon, so we can spend more time with them.

My Mom married George about 10 years ago.  He is wonderful to my Mom and adores me and my kids.  I’m blessed that they live close and I get to spend lots of time with them.  The kids call him Papa, I call him Pop.  🙂

Before George, there was a man my mom was with for many years, though they never married.  His name was Dale, and he is the subject of this post.

I met Dale when I was 18 months old, so most of my memories from when I was young include him.  My favorite thing about him was that he was hysterically funny.  We would sit for hours and just laugh.  He is the father of my younger sister.  Unfortunately, Dale had a drinking problem and would get mean & violent at times.  He never laid a hand on us, but my mom wasn’t so lucky.  Finally, when I was 13, she gave him an ultimatum; the booze or us.  He chose the bottle and moved back up north.  I know this will sound weird, but there were never any hard feelings and he and my Mom remained very close.

I talked to Dale occasionally up until about 9 years ago, when we finally got back in touch on a somewhat regular basis.  These past few years, we would talk several times a week.  Dale was my buddy; he had been all my life.  Dale knew everything there was to know about me and I looked forward to our conversations knowing that great advice and lots of laughter would be in store.  We kept each other in check and neither one of us had any qualms about telling the other when we were acting like a moron.  There was nothing that was left unsaid between us.  He repeatedly told me his favorite thing about me was my ability to find the positive in any situation.

Dale was very sick, suffering from advanced COPD and cancer.  Last month, he went into the hospital for leg pain, only to discover cancer throughout the tissue in both of his legs.  He suddenly took a turn for the worse and I was desperately trying to get to New Hampshire to be with him.  I was about to book my plane ticket when my Mom (who was there with him) called to tell me I wouldn’t make it in time.  At that point, I asked to talk to him and had what would be my last conversation with Dale.  I think that was the only conversation we ever had that didn’t include peals of laughter.  Instead, there were tears and many “I love you’s”  He passed away peacefully the next day, with my sister at his side.

If I could have one more chance to talk to Dale (without all the crying), I would tell him (again) how instrumental he was in my life.  That I learned from him how to have joy & silliness, and how hard it is to battle addiction.  I would thank him for all the words of praise and encouragement, and for helping me see that anything is possible.  Most of all, I would thank him for his unconditional love and for providing the opportunity for me to be a grateful child.

Pardon the Interruption

December 6, 2010

How many of you have ever looked around, see that your child is happily engaged in an activity, and decided that now would be a great time to return that phone call?  Do I even have to explain what happens as soon as we hear the person on the other end say “hello?” It is usually at that moment that your child wanders into the room with an endless string of questions and complaints.

I can’t tell you how many conversations my kids have interrupted.  I tried everything to get them to wait until I was finished talking, from pleading and threats to downright bribery, all to no avail.  Well, it may have halfway worked for Miss Broadway, because she is pretty good about this.  Swan Lake and Super Mario, on the other hand, well…  I think their goal in life is to drive me insane…  However, there is hope.  🙂

Several months ago, I was at the mall with my kids when I ran into one of my cousins.  As we stood there talking, Swan Lake grabbed my hand and gave me a gentle squeeze.  In return, I placed my free hand on hers and gave a gentle squeeze of my own.  As I continued my conversation, my cousin looked from Swan Lake to me and back again and suddenly asked me if Swan Lake was okay.   “Of course she is, she just wanted to ask me question, but knows not to interrupt when I’m speaking to another adult.”  Needless to say, my cousin was dumbfounded at the politeness of Swan Lake and I spent the next 15 minutes explaining what we call the Interrupt Rule.  I am now going to share this piece of wisdom with you, which we learned from a parenting course we took at church.

When a child rudely interrupts  a conversation by jerking on a parent’s arm or repeatedly calling their name, it is usually followed by the parent dropping the conversation in complete disregard for the other person.  While you may not be able to break your child of the habit of interrupting, you can teach them how to do it politely, which is what we did.  When your child feels the need to interrupt, they should gently put their hand on your hand (or side, arm, or shoulder) and just stand there with their hand on you.  This is the signal (we call it the “secret signal”) that your child wishes to ask you a question.  Take your hand and gently squeeze theirs.  This lets them know that you are acknowledging their presence and in just a few seconds, they will have your full attention to ask you their question.  I leave my hand on theirs until there is a break in the conversation, so they know I haven’t forgotten them.  As soon as there is a small pause, I bend down and look my child in the eye and ask them what their question is.  They ask, I answer, and then I return to my conversation.

Waiting can be very difficult for children, so be patient when teaching this.  We made it into a game and did a lot of role-playing the first few days.  You may want to start with wait times as small at 10-15 seconds and work up from there, but do not expect your child to be patient for more than a few minutes.  I have a rule that I never make my children wait longer than 45 seconds and they may not ask me the same question over and over.  The only time this rule is out the window is when someone has been injured.

I hope you find the success in this that we have found.  Life is so much more peaceful and kids are always grateful to not have Mommy and Daddy exasperated at the endless interruptions.  🙂



Home of the Brave

November 12, 2010

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to sing in a show honoring our veterans.  My Step-dad, (Pop) and my beloved Grandfather, (Poppa) were in the audience.  As I stood on the stage singing the Armed Forces Medley, I felt so much gratitude for the men and women who have ever worn a uniform.  I was close to tears to see Pop stand during the Army song, and my Poppa stand during the Air Force song.  It was a moment I will never forget.

Of course, all this pageantry led to the kids asking a bunch of questions about veterans and the military.  “What is a Veteran?”  “Why do they march?”  “How do they stay so still?”  “Why do they salute?”  You get the picture…

My brother-in-law is a Marine and set deploy again in January.  While my kids understand that he goes off to war, they don’t exactly comprehend what that means.  How do you explain war to a child?  Honestly, I still don’t have that answer.  Unless you have been there, I don’t think there are words to describe it.  War is hard to grasp when it is so far away.

I will be the first to admit that, to a degree, I shelter my kids.  I just don’t believe that they need to be exposed to every little detail of every little thing.  They are fully aware that bad things happen and sometimes soldiers don’t come home, but what good would it do to dwell on the negatives?

Instead of giving the gory details, I choose to focus with the kids on the positives of war.  The end of tyranny and oppression.  The spread of democracy.  Most of all, the videos of soldiers coming home and reuniting with their families.  My kids also know that honor should be bestowed for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and for those who came back a different person.  Our service men and women (& their families) deserve our respect, love, support, and prayers.  I sincerely hope that I could at least, teach that much to my children.


I want that!

November 3, 2010

As parents, we are urged to give our kids what we never had.  I’m starting to wonder if maybe this is a bad thing.  Are we creating a generation that expects every little thing they desire to be handed to them on a silver platter?  Sadly, I am seeing more and more evidence that this is the case.  More parents should be saying “no” and teaching their kids a thing or two about money.

My sweet husband is a manager at a fast food restaurant.  Not exactly the most thrilling job, but it pays a lot more than the electrical work he was doing and in this economy, a job is a job.  His primary function is to get the “young people” to do the job that they were hired to do.  Day in and day out, he battles them in things as simple as washing their hands.  The overwhelming sentiment is that if they just show up, they should be handed a check, no “work” involved.  We affectionately call it his Glorified Babysitting Job.

I work as a Merchandiser for a greeting card company.  I am very blessed to work for an exceptional company that allows me to make my own schedule.  I have 8 stores that I am responsible for and I LOVE my job.  The only drawback is that after the summer, there is a tremendous increase in my workload.  During the summer months, I will work at most, 10 hours a week, with very few deadlines.  The week after Halloween is when I being working almost 30 – 40 hours a week, with a lot of deadlines, and that lasts until after Mother’s Day.

My biggest account has their card department next to the toy department and every time I’m there, I overhear a child throwing a tantrum over a toy.  The bad thing about this is that this behavior is usually rewarded with the toy in question.

My husband and I work not to give our kids everything we didn’t have, but what we did have.  A roof, food, and clothes.  Now, that’s not to say that my kids don’t have any extras.  We limit those things.  My kids are like others and want new games and gadgets, but they also want to do things like dance classes and skating and summer camps.  We gently tell them that they cannot have it all, and then we let them help make the decisions on how best to spend the budgeted money on their “extras.”

Miss Broadway was recently in a skit a church that demonstrated the difference between our wants and our needs.  The prevailing attitude these days is “I don’t really need it, but I certainly do want it.”  Look where this attitude has gotten us as a nation!  We are in serious debt and there is no work ethic.  Our children have no idea of the difference between wants and needs.

The Ice Cream Man and I feel that the best “gift” we can give our children is the gift of time.  Time doing things together, such as picnics in the park.  Time teaching them the value of money and instilling a strong work ethic.  Time for them to just be kids without the gadgets that have taken over our lives.  Time to be grateful that they have parents who love them enough to say “no.”

A Nation of Bullies

October 26, 2010

I apologize for the long absence from this blog.  I had several health issues come up that had to be dealt with.  The good news is that now I feel fantastic and the bad news is…  Well, there really isn’t any bad news.  🙂

I have had it on my heart since this blog was started to write about bullying.  Growing up, I was a pretty popular kid.  I was able to be friends with almost anyone and had an easy time moving through the different “cliques.”  I still had my share of bullies and I realized at an early age that no one was immune to this problem.  With all the national media attention going on right now concerning this subject, I decided that now would be a good time to approach this touchy subject.

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook asking for help in how to deal with a little girl in her neighborhood that has been bullying her young daughter.  Although she received a lot of good feedback, it broke my heart to know that her little one was in the position of someone hurting her.  There is a lot of information on the subject out there and a lot of really good programs.  Below are just a few tips on dealing with a bully.

It is imperative that your children feel safe telling you things. The lines of open communication are never more important than when your child is in trouble.  (My next series of posts will be on how to open up those lines of communication for children of all ages.)   Instead of coming right out and asking “are you being bullied?” ask you child about their friends.  Who is their favorite friend and why, who do they like the least or feel like they don’t have a connection with?  When you ask the first question, you are starting with something positive and it really gives you a chance to see what qualities your child values in a friendship.  The second question is the one that will tell you if your child is dealing with a potential bully.  If they respond that a certain person is mean and calls names or if your child seems nervous talking about someone, then it is safe to assume that on some level, whether they are the target or simply a witness, they may have been bullied.  If your child reveals they are a target,  it is important that you let your child know it isn’t their fault.  Try to find out what has been done to try to stop the bully and whether it has worked or not.  Teach your children not to be afraid to come to the aid of a child that is being bullied.

Don’t be afraid to go to school authorities to discuss the situation and come up with ways to make sure there are fewer opportunities for bullying to happen.

You should also teach your child to either avoid the bully or stay within a group at all times, as there are safety in numbers.  Bullies are less likely to attack when a child has a lot of “back-up.”  Teach your child to be assertive and don’t be afraid to role play with your child so they have responses ready when they confronted with a bully.

There are all different types of bullying.  Let your child know that it is never acceptable (nor funny) to harm someone, either emotionally, verbally, electronically, or physically.  Just because someone has different views than we do or looks different doesn’t mean that we can make judgments and hassle the other person about it.  Make sure that you yourself are not a bully, children will mimic what they see their parents doing.

If you feel that your child is a bully or has been told as much by teachers or other parents, you must do everything in your power to stop the behavior as soon as possible.  While it may be difficult to accept, you need to take it seriously.  The best course of action is to find an counselor at your church or school to help determine why your child behaves the way they do.  Once the root of the problem is discerned, you can make a way forward to deal with the issues.

While bullying cannot be completely eradicated, I hope and pray that it will become a rare event.




I remember one morning not too long ago that just happened to be “one of those mornings.”  After Super Mario’s fourth trip into my room to inquire about breakfast, I came to the conclusion that staying in bed for more than another minute would ensure that chaos would soon reign.

Already, I could hear Super Mario and Swan Lake beginning to argue over what I would make for breakfast.  I jumped out of bed and on my way to the kitchen, I slammed my leg (yet again) into the foot board, tripped over the dog, and stepped in a present our puppy had left us in the hallway.  While making my through the living room, I noticed that Swan Lake had once again gotten into the markers and the room was full of pretty pictures.  By this time, Miss Broadway is now awake from the commotion and standing in the kitchen, looking at the clock, utterly bewildered that she is up before 9am.

There is an unspoken rule in our home that whoever is up first makes the coffee and leaves enough for other half of this tag team to have at least two cups.  That particular morning, The Ice Cream Man did not follow this rule.  All noise stops when I walk in the kitchen and once the kids realize I’m on the coffee hunt, they continue their argument, though now it is whether they will watch tv or play on the Wii.

So here I am, finally in the kitchen and desperately making a pot of coffee while the battle over what to do after breakfast is about to escalate into physical violence.  Miss Broadway is now in the argument, telling the other two to be quiet because “she doesn’t want to hear it.”  I’m pretty sure she’s a coffee drinker in the making…  In Super Mario’s fury over wanting to play on the Wii first, he makes the mistake of choosing to bop Swan Lake on the head.  Again, there is a split second of silence before she starts wailing.  Slowly, I turn around to face them while taking a very deep breath…

I know that we have all had mornings like this.  The alarm doesn’t go off, we can’t find our keys, something spills on our shirt,  the kids are slow in getting ready and out the door, ect.  Nothing will put a parent in a bad mood faster than a bad morning.  What is your own reaction to these times?  Do you stay irritated and upset everyone else with your snippy attitude?  Do you spend all day complaining about what rotten luck you had earlier that morning?

If your child sees you in a complete state of panic and anger, what message is that sending to them?  Worse, what if you direct that anger at your child?  Do you think in that moment they are feeling the love and gratitude you have for them?  Yes, we all have bad days, but in those moments are opportunities for extraordinary growth for ourselves and a perfect teaching moment for your child.

The next time you are close to blowing your top and as soon as you realize you are near that state of mind,  I want you to stop everything you are doing.  Just stop, close your eyes, and find 5 things to be grateful for that have to do with that morning.  Take big deep breath after you name each thing.  It’s never too late to start with a fresh attitude.

Here is my suggestion for kids, after you have done the exercise above, announce that you are going to play a quick game and have everyone name one thing they are grateful for that day.  To those of you with teenagers – this may the point in which they roll their eyes at you, but they will secretly be happy if they don’t have to deal with an upset parent.  If you have little ones, let the older kids make up something for the younger ones.  You never know what answers your children will come up with.  It will give you insight into their little minds and I can almost guarantee, that whatever it is, it will have the ability to bring a smile to your face.

A few years ago, my friends Valerie, Robyn, and I set out on a journey to make our lives more fulfilling by practicing the Attitude of Gratitude. The Attitude of Gratitude Project was founded by Valerie in honor of her voice teacher, Dr. Vernon Boushell. Everyday, we would post the things we were grateful for. Some days, it was a struggle and our posts were simple things like being grateful for cookies and coffee (which we are still grateful for, by the way…) Then some crazy and amazing things started happening.

My husband and I had just decided to move from FL to NC and I was terrified of having to move so far away from my friends, most of whom were closer to me than family. By this time I realized how much the Attitude of Gratitude Project meant to me, as I could see how I was beginning to find the good in every situation.

Our site that we were using to blog on caught a virus and we were unable to post. Then it was fixed and this cycle continued for several months. Since the 3 of us were on Facebook, Valerie decided to make a page for us there so we could once again, post what we were grateful for. Now the page has almost 12,000 fans. People from all over the world are posting all the wonderful things they are grateful for.

A few weeks ago while I was working in one of my stores, I was stunned to hear a young girl screaming at the top of her lungs. I honestly thought someone was hurting her. I was horrified to discover that the root of her anguish was that her grandmother, who was easily in her late 70’s, had denied her something that she wanted. This child was no older than 13 and her little grandmother sat there silently while a string of obscenities was directed at her. I had never seen such a tirade and I pray I never see anything like that again.

When I got home from work, I relayed the story to my hubby, who said that most of the kids he worked with didn’t want to actually work. They thought that because they showed up, they deserved a paycheck. We spent the evening discussing what had happened to the values and work ethic in this country. It was then that it hit me. Children are no longer concentrating on being grateful for what they have.

In this busy world, they have learned that it isn’t about what you have, but how to get more. As parents and educators, it is up to us to teach the true meaning of gratitude, in a way that children can apply it to their daily lives. I have experienced how this can be life-changing. I pray you will join us on this journey, as we try to save the next generation from all the negativity in this crazy world.

We here at The Attitude of Gratitude Project want to take upon ourselves the task of teaching our children how to develop their own attitude of gratitude. In this blog, I will give tips and advice to help steer children in this direction, by using quotes, the bible, and experiences from my everyday life. This is a learning process and I hope that you will not only accompany your child down this road, but be their guide.