Category Archives: Parenting

Talking to Your Teens About Sex

This was the post I wrote that was featured on KludgyMom last week. 

teen sex

Talking to your teens about sex starts way before the teen years. I never had a conversation about sex growing up. I don’t even think we talked about periods, pregnancy, or boys, for that matter, so everything felt like a mystery to me.  And a dirty one at that, but I was curious and had these feelings I didn’t know what to do about. So, I experimented and got into situations I didn’t want to be in and found myself with a pile of regret in my teen years.

And you can bet that these experiences shaped my stance as a parent when it comes to talking to my own kids about sex and body image and feelings. I made a vow that I would discuss it all, without shock or horror or disgust. What I never anticipated though, was the depth to which our conversations would go during these teen years.

It’s safe to say that in our current world, kids are introduced to sex, in some version, much earlier than we want them to be.  As a parent, you must be willing to engage in the sex topic at every level and every age, no matter the circumstances surrounding it.  As a mom of 15 year old boy/girl twins I started having body and sex discussions when they were in 2nd grade! Not by choice, but by circumstance, so here are my must-do’s when it comes to kids, especially teens, and sex and making it a normal topic of discussion.

1. Teach your kids about their bodies-

Having been a Registered Nurse, it’s easy for me to discuss things about the body from a clinical perspective, but get an anatomy book if you have to so you know how to answer questions.  Show your daughter in elementary school that she has 3 holes; one to pee, one to poop, and one where a baby can come out.  Teach your son about his penis, testicles and the function of them.

As they get older, these body parts aren’t some secret part of their bodies that you haven’t ever talked about. It becomes OK to have frank discussions about how they’re changing and trust me, the whole menstrual cycle talk won’t be scary for them.  Even for the boys.

2.  Use real body part terms-

I beg you not to make up kitschy terms like wee-wee, wee-nus, feef, choochie, or bum.  Use the words vagina, breasts, penis, & testicles. I know how uncomfortable it feels to read it, let alone say it, but we call other things by their real names like, eyes, hands, nose, and toes.  Calling our sexual organs by their real names removes the taboo around them and veil of secrecy about being sexual beings.

By the time your kids are teens, you (and them) can have rational, normal talks about their body parts in the same relaxed manner that you chat about a turkey sandwich!

teen love

3.  Don’t have “The Talk”-

Stay with me here.  The idea of having a one-time discussion about everything sexual around the middle school years is, as my teens would say, so last year!  Instead, start the dialogue of sex as you see things come up.  When my daughter was 9 she was reading a book written for 9-12 year olds, but the author chose to create a rape scenario.  Yes, I was very surprised by this, but I addressed it from first a clinical standpoint and then a talked about why boys and men do this to girls.  It was a hard discussion and I didn’t want to do it, but it came up, so we had to.

During middle school my son pronounced that he was “going through puberty”! When I asked him how he knew that, he quickly clammed up, so I asked some point blank questions and then discussed what he had learned in school.  Again, hard and uncomfortable, but necessary.  My friend Debi suggests that you answer the questions they ask and only offer more if they ask more. Keep having an on-going dialogue and as they grow, their questions will grow.

4.  Help your teens pre-decide what they stand for-

Now, I approach this from our faith base, but no matter what you believe, the time for your teen to decide what he or she will do in a situation is NOT while they are in the situation.  We have had numerous discussions about what our family believes is the right thing when it comes to sex, but we also know that our teens will ultimately have to decide for themselves.  Still, start talking about kissing, touching, and sex itself to help them navigate and form their own boundaries and beliefs BEFORE they are ever in these situations.

teens holding  hands

5.  Teach them about respect-

I know every parent that cares tries to instill this virtue from the time kids can toddle around, but again this isn’t a one time thing. Often, virtues get forgotten during the teen years as they struggle to find their identity, fit in, and be accepted.

When my son started texting a girl this year saying she was “hot”, it opened up a discussion about how we respect others, view their sexuality, and either add or take away from their reputation.  We want him to know that girls are not objects to be called “hot” and that she is someone’s daughter, and he has the responsibility to respect her as a such.

But respect isn’t just about others. It’s about respecting yourself and deciding what you will and won’t take part in, what you will and won’t say, and what you will and won’t allow others to do to you.

In a nutshell, talking to your teens about sex starts early, never ends, and always involves lots of surprises! Don’t shy away when it gets uncomfortable because some of the best teaching moments happen when you least expect them!

 

 

live even better:

The Advent Calendar: History & Ideas

One of our favorite family traditions around Christmas is the Advent calendar. I thought everyone knew about or had an advent calendar each year, but when I delivered one to a friend the other day, she had never seen one and didn’t know the story. Here’s the story behind the advent calendar some fun ideas.

mumsgrapevine.com.au

mumsgrapevine.com.au

So, I thought it would be fun to share the story with you and show you some different styles of Advent calendars.  Remember, we are no Martha Stewarts around here, so I’m not going to tell you how to hand craft one (except for one easy one).  I always buy ours and then I have one that is more decoration and not really used.

The Advent has German roots and is “a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas.”  Most modern Advent Calendars count down from December 1st to December 24th, but the true Advent period is 4 weeks and ”starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25, which is the Sunday from November 27 to December 3 inclusive.[2]”  (Thanks Wikipedia)

That’s the fancy and official definition, but basically any Advent calendar starts December 1st to mark the days leading up to Christmas.   There is a lot of history with the Advent and it’s a fun lesson to share with your family.

Here are several types of Advent Calendars you can get, but my favorite is from Trader Joe’s.  It has chocolate squares behind every door! Yum.

Alright, this one is from Martha Stewart.  Sorry.

Our simplest Advent calendar to date, this is a minimalist take on the holiday tradition: Form the shape of a Christmas tree with envelopes in various sizes, and mark each with adhesive numbers. Stuff them with thin, lightweight presents, such as gift cards and stickers. (You can also see more of our advent calendar ideas.) Use painters’ tape to secure the envelopes to the wall.

Vinyl numbers, 1 1/2″, $4.25 per pack (4 of each number), and Rouge envelopes, from $5.25 for 25, paperpresentation.comPillows, Eep! in Cocoa, and Herds, in Deep Red; 19 1/2″ square, $55 each, by Skinny LaMinx.

Amy, over at The Idea Room, has a really special and re-usable Advent Calendar.

Look at this one from Better Homes and Gardens.  It has the 12 days Christmas instead, just in case you forgot to start on the first, you can start on the 12th!

Finally, this is the one I use as decor.  I got it at Target a few years ago and you could fill it with treats, messages, bible verses, or anything that will fit behind the little doors.

 

live even better:

The In-Between Day

It’s an in-between day around here.  Not a holiday and not the weekend, I never know what to do with this day.  It has so many possibilities, but the only ones that sound good are hanging out around the house.  I actually wish there were more in-between days on the calendar!

candle burning

I’m not a Black Friday shopper (OK, I did do some online shopping). I did toy with the idea of starting my Christmas decorating, but I only got as far as putting the fall and Thanksgiving decorations away. The tubs of Christmas stuff seems daunting because once I start, I HAVE to finish.  I’m not very good with half-way, which is why I’m not very good at these in-between days.

Still, these in-between days are good for me. No agenda.  No schedule.  No expectations. I actually ALLOW myself to do all the things I normally don’t do: nap, eat pie, search the internet just because I can, putter around the house, and sit.  Seriously, I just let myself sit.

family relaxing

sugar sleeping

So, on this in-between day, I’m relaxing with the fact that as my teens play video games and hang out, my in-laws watch football, my dog and husband nap, and left overs beckon another round, my world is safe right now.  It’s a good place to be. Home.

black friday

leftover pies

What’s your family’s post-Thanksgiving traditions? Do you have something you always do on this in-between day?

 

live even better:

What November Means to Me

There is something about the calendar rolling over to November that stirs something up in me.  I’m not sure I even had real words for it, but more like feelings and memories.  With the days short and the nights earlier, this is what November means to me.

1. Feels like I should be home more-

You know, starting dinner earlier, fireplace going, music playing, sitting around the dinner table a little longer. It feels like family. November feels cozy and safe and happy.

2.  Soulful food-

I’m not a foodie and if you’ve followed my writing very long you know I’m a Paleo eater. But November means I can indulge in heavier foods like chili, stew, sausage, more things made with sweet potatoes and pumpkin.  It feels like food for the soul and it reminds me of my Nanny’s cooking at Thanksgiving.

thrillist.com

thrillist.com

3.  Everything pumpkin-

Ok seriously, I can’t think of a flavor I love more than pumpkin. Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin pie…. and while I’ve done away with most baked pumpkin treats, I am still indulging in this horrible-for-you coffee creamer.

coffeemate

Don’t talk to me about it! I know it’s anti-Paleo and even anti-food, and is made with things that could fuel my car.  But it’s so good and it’s just a teeny tiny bit!

4.  Celebration-

Not just Thanksgiving and Christmas, although I love both these holidays. November feels like I get to start celebrating another well-lived year.  Another year is closing out that had fantastic highs and fantastic lows, memories of some traveling, lazy summer days,  hope that Spring brought, the ending and beginning of another school year for the kids, and for me, anticipation of Christmas decorating.

gocanada.com

gocanada.com

5.  Boots & Sweaters-

I grew up in Arizona, people.  That meant we wore the same kind of clothes all year with the exception of a sweatshirt or light coat on extra chilly days (less than 55 degrees). When the Navy sent me to Virginia in 1992 I fell in love with the change of seasons, which really meant a change of clothes. I’m unapologetic about my love for boots and sweaters and also scarves.

fashionfreax.net

fashionfreax.net

6.  Finally, November means I get to organize more-

Now this seems like a no-brainer for me, right? Well, even for me, large projects like my attic, garage, and closets take more planning, more time, and more manpower than just me.  These are great fall and winter projects because I’m indoors more. I tend to tweak these areas every year, purging a little more, organizing what we acquired, and making things a little more simple.

atticmaxx

I’m installing these this winter from AtticMaxx.com

So, as the first week on November closes out I’m reminded about what is good in life and all that I have to be thankful for.  What does November mean to you?

 

live even better:

How to Make a Boo Bag {Halloween}

boo bag banner

Have you ever been Boo-ed at Halloween? It’s one of those annoying, yet fun things that happens during this season and we just got it yesterday. Here, I’m going to teach you how to make a boo bag so you can surprise you own neighbors!

Getting Boo-ed is when someone rings your doorbell and leaves behind a cute pumpkin or bag filled with candy and junk for your kids.  You also get a secret message about what being Boo-ed is about and a sign to place on our front door.  This is to alert other neighbors that your family has already been treated to a Boo and not to do it again to you.

boo-game-bags-cg

When you are Boo-ed, you are supposed to turn around and Boo two more houses within two days!  What?  Seriously, two days?

Now, I love the idea of neighborly love and the cuteness of it all makes it tolerable, but can I just tell you that it feels a little stressful to produce two more Boo’s in two days.  But, I’m a woman up for a challenge and so I fulfilled my Boo responsibility.

One boo bag goes to the new family in the ‘hood with two little kids and the other to a family with school age kids.  Here’s what you need for your own Boo-ing:

1.  A container.  These pumpkins are cheap and cute.

2.  Candy, of course.

3.  Cheap junk.  You know this one really kills me because I can’t stand junky, unpurposeful stuff, but go to the Target dollar isle or the Dollar Store and get some junk.

4.  A boo poem like this.

5.  A boo door sign like this one.

Put it all together and then do a ring-and-run.  Then you will have passed on the madness to your neighbor to repeat!  Happy Halloween, ya’ll.

boo bags

live even better:

Three Things You MUST Do With Social Media and Kids

social media and kids

I consider myself to be fairly savvy when it comes to social media.  I use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest everyday for my business as well as keeping up to speed with friends.  I also do quite a bit of vlogging (video blogging) and so I use You Tube and occasionally, Vine, for posting videos.

I love social media and I’m OK with my teens using it to a degree.  A degree.  Part of that degree is that I am friends or a follower of ALL their social media accounts and because of that, they have asked me on more than one occasion, to “please not like their photos or comments” when I see them! As if.  I also posted a while back about saying no to them about having a Vine account and I felt pretty good about being “up to speed” with the social media world.

So, imagine my shock last week when I discovered a few new things about social media that I didn’t know.

One was Ask.fm.  Now before I go any further about what this is, Cecily Kellogg posted a mighty fine piece about it over at Babble.com today and I would not try to add a thing to it.

what-parents-need-to-know-about-ask-fm

But be warned parents, your kid, my kid, anyone’s kid, should NOT have an Ask.fm account, yet I found a 10 year old girl on Instagram with a link to her Ask.fm account on her profile! I’m sure she’s one of many thousands of young girls who have one. This sweet girl is 10. TEN. And has 281 followers on Instagram. I’m pretty sure Instagram’s terms of use is a minimum age of 13, by the way.

isabellajj IG

As Cecily points out, Ask.fm has been used for major bullying activity and is linked to ask least 2 suicides in teens so far. I beg you to search it out for yourself.

Let’s talk Instagram. It’s probably one of my favorite platforms because it’s quick, fun, and very visual (And just so you know, my teens informed me that NO respectable teen is using Facebook anymore, but instead have turned to IG).  So, there I am, with a colleague, discussing a social media course and I pull up my son’s Instagram profile to brag about how “secure” I made him make it and BAM! He’s all exposed. Well, not THAT kind of exposed, but this kind.

teen instagram

Yep, a cute picture of him, the high school he goes to, his phone number, and the place he works out at!  All there for the world to see!  I texted him immediately and said, dude, remove your phone number and turn off geotagging.

Geotagging? Oh yeah, geotagging.

The process of assigning geographic location to a photos’ data…The geographic information can include details such as the latitude and longitude coordinates or city and state details for the geographic location of the photo…Geotagged photos, when shared online, can also be linked to several map services including Google Maps, Microsoft Virtual Earth, Yahoo Maps and other applications.-Webopedia

In other words, when geotagging is on, your online photos can and will show up on a map that goes exactly to the street and house in which they were taken. As in, I can find out where you live by clicking on your photos. So, when I pulled up my sweet friends Instagram profile to look at her baby’s daily photo, I stopped breathing. I realized her geotagging was on EVERY picture of him.  And she didn’t know it (see the map in the background?).

baby

If I wanted to, I could click on a photo of him and keep clicking through it until it zeroed in on her street name. This is how bad things happen, people, so turn off your geotagging on your cell phones! I know, I know.  That means you can’t check in with Four Square at PF Chang’s for dinner but it also means your kids will still be in their bedrooms when you wake them up tomorrow morning!

To wrap this up, here are three things you must do with social media and kids:

1.  Be diligent. Monitor, track, snoop, investigate. Stalk, if you must.

2.  Follow terms of use as closely as possible.  It won’t stop bullying, but it will prevent young kids from being exposed to potentially harmful content.

3.  Get on social media yourself and friend/follow your kids.  You must.  You absolutely must. You can argue with me later.

amyvolk.com

live even better:

Quitting and Saying No

I hate quitting and I hate saying No, but not long ago I had to walk away from being part of something that I dearly love and am sad to leave.  I spent two months trying to figure out how to remain a part of it, but every angle ended up in the same place…too busy.  Over committed and stressed about not giving it a 100%, I made the painful (and embarrassing) decision to put it on the table and tell the truth.  I quit until further notice.

In order to “practice what I preach” and live better, I had to remove something and that something was this lovely thing I was a part of.  In doing so, I discovered that long lost friend named Peace.  I suddenly felt a lightness when I examined my schedule and the wiggle room that I now have.  I know I’ve disappointed a lot of people and truth be told, I feel a little disappointed in myself for not counting the cost of what I said yes to.  And there is always a cost of YES, which often can be greater than the cost of NO.

Keri Wyatt Kent’s book, Breathe, helped me confront this over scheduling in my life and made me realize I needed more margin in my day and in my week and in my month.

keri wyatt kent

I see moms do this all the time; saying YES to everything asked of them and then stressed at the demands of it all.  Yes, I will do the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, work a job, manage the kids, do the laundry, serve on a committee, volunteer at the school, & ____________ (you fill in the blank).  Yes, I will do my best at being super human, when what we are really agreeing to is an overloaded schedule at relationships expense.

And we don’t ask our kids to do enough around the house, but that’s another topic for another post.

What is the cost of you saying YES right now?  What about saying NO?

How do we say No?  How do we walk away?  Here is the only way I know: “I’m sorry, that doesn’t work for me right now”.  OR, “It’s no right now, but I will let you know when, and if, it’s a yes.  Thanks for asking me, though”. And for the harder one: “I have examined what I am committed to right now and I have to lay this _____ down”.  Is it messy?  Sometimes.  Are feelings inflamed?  Sometimes.  But you’ve go to own that and also own the courage to say NO and walk away.

abc.net.au

abc.net.au

The art of saying no is a gracious gesture that honors not only you, but allows others to find freedom in doing the same.  What do you need to say NO or NO MORE to today? What do you really need to quit?

 

live even better:

The Value of a Second Opinion

This is a sponsored post from Invisalign. However, all stories, opinions, & thoughts are mine and they’re true!

Three years ago part of our house flooded after a 3-day Nor’easter blew rain straight into the front our house.  With trash bags around our windows, we caught rain at the rate of a trash bag an hour.  Per window.

wet drywall after flooding

wet drywall after flooding

Guess what we learned? We needed new windows.  Do you even know how much windows cost? Me neither, but I called the window company that has the really great commercials on TV for a quote.  Ready for this? $43,000 for 29 windows! Forty-Three-Thousand Dollars! We were told we needed ALL the windows replaced and that we needed the triple-pane, argon gas-sealed, vinyl wrapped windows that you could easily clean.  I didn’t care how easily you could clean them because this was not going to happen.

That’s when I learned the value of a second opinion.

I called a less-known, but well established window company for a second opinion and quote. Turns out, we only needed the front windows replaced and because we don’t live in Alaska, the double-pane, vinyl wrapped windows that are easy to clean would do just fine. And at a price tag of just over $5000.  Done deal.

What do windows and braces have in common? They both make things look pretty and both serve a functional need, but getting braces for you or your child can be a significant expense (just like windows!) and the outcome will last a lifetime, so it’s important to fully understand your options. That’s where Invisalign comes in. Not everyone is aware that they have a choice for straightening their teeth that don’t require wires and brackets. And a second opinion can be extremely valuable for folks who face complex, risky, or costly treatments because you may find that a simpler, less expensive and more effective treatment option is actually a better fit!

invisalign second opinion

Invisalign is a series of nearly invisible, removable “aligners” that are used to gradually straighten teeth without metal or wires and both adults and teens can wear them! I wore regular braces, but if this had been around, I would’ve wanted it!  No food restrictions and you can still floss and most people can’t even tell you’re in treatment!

So, before you think that metal braces are your only option, get a second opinion with a certified Invisalign dentist by visiting the Invisalign Doctor locator. To bring awareness of the importance of a second, Invisalign is giving away $50 a day in instant win prizes through October 15th PLUS a chance to win a $1000 grand prize in their Second Opinion Sweepstakes and Instant Win! Enter each day until you’re a winner!

Invisalign Instant Win Second Opinions (1)

 

Have you ever regretted not getting a second opinion? I want to hear your story so leave a comment and be sure to enter the sweepstakes!  I have NEVER regretted getting a second opinion for my windows!

live even better:

Mom Moments-Learning to Say Sorry

mom moments

I’m learning to say sorry.  Not that I haven’t done it before, but I’m learning that as a mom, I don’t have all the right answers.  And I don’t always do the right thing in a moment. And that sorry is OK and necessary.

Over the summer I wrote a blog post that Parenting is Really Hard.  We are in the beginning teen years and the twins just started high school (did I mention we switched from private to public school this year?) and I’m already sensing that there are going to be lots of moments when I am both wildly unpopular with my kids and saying sorry a lot.

Being wildly unpopular with my kids isn’t something I want, but there are two things that continue to steer the direction of my parenting:

1) I am NOT their friend.  I love them and cherish them and want more than anything to have wonderful, deep conversations and lots of fun, too, but I’m NOT their buddy.

2) My job is to help them grow into adulthood being respectful, responsible, confident, gentle, kind, caring, and compassionate humans.

parenting spiral

When we left Christian education this year for public, my kids knew that that decision was painstaking in the making and yet, they didn’t like our decision. I knew that and my heart broke a little for their disappointment.  Still, I wasn’t prepared for my daughter’s reaction this past week.  After spending the night with her good friend (who still attends said Christian school) she hopped into my car chattering away about how much fun she had and how much they laughed.

“Mom, I miss *****Christian school so much!  I want to go back.”

“Mallory, I know. But we made our decision already. Plus, your memory is short. Do you remember all the things you struggled with while you were there? They still exist”.

“I KNOW Mom! I didn’t like *****Christian, but I HATE ________!”

“Wow, that’s a strong word.”

“WELL, I do!”

At this point I wanted to be sarcastic, yell,and lecture. I was annoyed. But in a moment of clarity, I remembered what a mom of older kids had shared with me recently when she faced a similar situation.

“Mal, when you have prayed about this as long as your dad and I prayed about this decision, then we’ll talk.  You pray about school and what God has for you and see what He says. And that is a 6 month time period.  Until then, you’re staying put.”

***Silence***

***Silence***

***Silence***

Not a word was spoken between us the rest of the car ride home,  And I knew. I knew I hadn’t said what she wanted me to say and she was mad and again, disappointed. That silence turned into tears followed by a wordsmith competition between us later that night and we both went to bed angry.

“…Don’t go to bed angry.  Don’t give the devil that kind of foothold in your life.” Ephesians 4:27

In the morning, I found this note tucked inside my iPad.

mommy note

It was enough to crack the callous that had formed on my heart over night and I realized once again that she is my only 14 and learning.

But, I’m 44 and I’m still learning.  Still learning to say sorry. And that standing firm in my principles and being unpopular doesn’t mean that I have to have the last word and lose compassion. Again, I am learning. Ever learning to be a Mom and trust God and not go to bed mad.

text message with mom

 

Just like that she forgave me and I, her.

Saying sorry can’t heal everything, but sure can teach us a lot.

live even better:

Simple Tips to Maintain a Home {video}

organize your life

Sometimes we need the basics.  No fancy organizing tips.  No long projects.  Just the simple tips to maintain a home, day in and day out.  On this vintage segment of Organize Your Life from The Hampton Roads Show, I show you my tried and true tips to maintain your home and get your family involved.

It all started when my son whined one night about all the things he has to do each morning, like shower, eat, and do his hair. He couldn’t understand why I also made him make his bed! “I just get back in it at night” , is what he said to me!  What?  Have I taught you nothing, son?

There are 4 Simple Tips to Maintain a Home and these are things that everyone that lives in the home should be contributing too {OK, I’ll give the babies a break, but that’s it!).  Moms, we need to expect everyone to help maintain the home.  Not just you!

 

 

4 Simple Tips to Maintain an Organized Home

 

1.  Make your bed each morning!

Get in the habit of having everyone in your home make the bed each day.  It will set the tone for a tidy home.

 

2.  Put things away!

Each time that you take something out & use it…put it back.  When you buy something new…find a place for it!  When you take off dirty clothes…put them in a hamper.

3.  Do the 5 Minute Clean Up-

Place a basket in a central location in the house.  Each night, set the timer for 5 minutes.  Everyone in the house gathers their things they have left around and puts them in the basket.  When the basket is full, it’s time for everyone to grab their own things and put them away.

 

4.  Deal with the mail-

Toss junk mail immediately, have a basket for things to shred, and place “keep” mail in a single place. 

 

 

live even better: