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I guess I expected bigger topics to become a source of annoyance as a parent since something like boys and baby dolls never crossed my mind. Why would boys and baby dolls be an issue? It shouldn’t be… but to some it is.

Sucks for them.

Years ago at the early stages of my blog I wrote about my son wanting a baby doll for Christmas. Nothing has changed about my position on parenting that kids should be free to choose their interests and it’s my job to encourage them no matter what. Over the years my son’s baby doll has been on most of our road trips and camping trips. I say most because there was this one camping trip where “Joshy” was not to be found the day before we left. He was upset. We ended up making a stop along the way to welcome JJ to our family… but as soon as we found Joshy when we got home JJ was replaced. Sorry, dude.

Joshy the baby doll has been loved, nurtured, cared for and adored like any baby doll should. What my son’s baby doll has also experienced was riding down a huge hill on a skateboard and almost getting sucked away with the waves at the beach. My son has taught his baby doll how camp, fish, build stuff with his tools, ride a bike, fly off of the back of the bed of a truck with a makeshift napkin cape, how to scare his older sister, how to “spin in circles until he pukes” and many more awesome things a Dad or big brother would teach a little boy.

Boys and Baby Dolls

boys and baby dolls hiking

boys and baby dolls at the park

Why would any of this be a bad thing? What exactly is wrong with boys and baby dolls, again? Oh yeah… nothing.

Kids Are Mean

Then this happened… I shared this on Instagram

Boys and Baby Dolls - It Can Hurt

At school they had a celebration to have a pajama day and a movie. The kids were allowed to bring a stuffed animal. My son chose his baby doll. I admit… I was hesitant to support that but I left it up to him. I was concerned kids would make fun of him. Unfortunately, they did. He has been having a hard time dealing with this since then and it’s breaking his heart. It makes me completely angry on a  - hulk smash want to high five people in the face – level.

He asked me with tears in his eyes, “Is something wrong with me because I’m weird and I like a toy that other boys say I’m not supposed to like?”

I got so mad I replied with, “Well those kids are jerks that suck at life and are just suppressed because someone didn’t love them enough to let them play with dolls…” and he laughed hysterically…

then I said “Okay, please don’t repeat that.”

I’m not perfect.

I told him “You are not weird. You are awesome. Joshy is awesome. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise”

They Are Toys – End of Story

We had a long talk about how some kids are not allowed choices and are told something is a boys toy or a girls toy. I also told him some kids may just not be into playing with baby dolls. I explained, as I have many times before, there is no such thing. Things are simply things. Toys are toys. If you have an interest then seek it out and make the most of it. There is what is typical and common but that doesn’t define right or wrong. Some people are just sheep who follow one line of thinking and don’t branch out. For some reason boys and baby dolls is a controversial topic… which is just so silly to me.

Gender stereotypes for toys are complete nonsense and I am very against them. There are no boy toys or girl toys – they are just toys.

Toys do not define our children – Our children define themselves.

My daughter used to run around with fairy wings and a tool belt on. Our oldest, who is in High School, has tried multiple times on his own to get into sports trying to “prove” himself and he only ends up feeling worse because it’s not his thing. One of his favorite stuffed animals when he was younger was a pink poodle that he was teased for it. Like most, all of our kids have struggled with their own identity on one level or another. All I can keep trying to instill in them is BE YOURSELF. You won’t be happy pretending to be someone else.

People are simply who they are and toys are just toys.

That is that.

Who The Hell Are YOU To Say What Defines MY Son?

There is nothing wrong with a boys and baby dolls. NOTHING. There is nothing wrong with a male not being into sports. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a guy being sensitive, nurturing or loving. We need more loving, affectionate and doting fathers in the world NOT less. Embrace and accept your sons for who they are. Allow your boys to grow into the confident men they should become based off of what THEY want to be and not who you choose to mold them into. We should be raising our sons to become awesome Dads one day.

Do you know what kind of man is more desirable? One that is confident, is domestic, can be handy and is nurturing and loving towards his kids. That is the kind of man that is desired in a partner. Nothing is sexier than a man doing dishes. I’m not even kidding.

No one ever says, “Wow, when I look for a man I want a macho jerk who has no feelings, is detached and emotionless towards his kids who would prefer watching sports over entertaining his princess with a tea party. I want a man who spends his life beating his chest trying to prove his manliness rather than picking up after himself or expressing any sort of care for our family. Yeah, that is the man for me.” Okay, some people may feel that way and there are obviously MANY men to choose from who are like that. Have fun with it.

I want our sons to know that it doesn’t matter how anyone else defines what a “man” is. They should be who they are. They don’t have to mimic my interest and I have absolutely no desire to mold them into anything.

I expect them to be honest, confident, kind, thoughtful, true to themselves and embrace everything that truly defines them. I would only be disappointed in them for conforming, lying or pretending to be someone they are not.

I’m looking forward to my 6 year old becoming a big brother this year because I know exactly what kind of brother he will be. He is going to be amazing at it.

And I have his baby doll, Joshy, to thank for that.

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Ninja Family And a Baby

When you have a big blended family of four kids, ages 6 – 14, it may seem crazy to add one more.

But, who cares?! hehe

In June we will be bringing another little ninja into the world and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been wanting to announce it for awhile but couldn’t think of how I wanted to go about it. I do plan on doing another trashy preggo photo session but I’m not quite rockin the pregger belly, yet, to make it entertaining enough.

If you missed these pictures from before here is my favorite:

Funny Face Friday : Pregnancy Pictures

I started writing this weeks ago and got caught up on the visual part of it. Do I want to take some picture with a bunch of shoes? What about wookiee slippers? Ninja masks? Oooo Ninjas! I thought about how I wish I was able to use illustrator so I could make a family of ninjas.

Then I realized that I love learning new things, the internet is a free resource of information and I spent hours, while sick with a cold, learning how to make ninjas in illustrator.

I officially had no more excuses to procrastinate on the announcement! I’m terrible at making announcements like this. It’s a somewhat obvious quirk of mine. Plus, look at those cute ninjas!

Look, I just got around to officially announcing my engagement that happened well over a year ago so I know I kinda suck at this whole announcement thing. I probably would have waited even longer had it not been for the ninjas.

I also broke the news to my Dad about the baby in an e-mail because that seemed like an okay thing to do, if you are me. Yes, in an email. In my defense I hadn’t seen him much lately because he’s been crazy busy and I had my head in a toilet for months. Apparently, this is not a normal way to break the news but it was better than a text, right?! I know… I’m not right. Sorry, Dad!

Now… before I get a bombarded with texts, emails and calls with “How could you not tell me!?” let me explain…

Honestly, this pregnancy hasn’t been easy and I don’t like to make anyone worry. I waited to say anything because there was genuine concern that something may happen, or, may not happen depending on how you look at it. I felt like the first couple months or so were a blur living each day trying not to get horribly sick and trying to think positively. I’ve lost a lot of weight. I haven’t felt right physically and emotionally. I’ve been more hormonal than I am used to (I am usually below zero on the hormonal meter) and I’ve just been kind of processing, dealing and trying to stop vomiting every time I think of food.

Do you know how difficult it is to be online when the mere sight of food makes you barfy and everyone is constantly sharing pictures of food? Pinterest and I had to break up for awhile but, we are better now.

Anyway…

I was terrified. Genuinely, terrified that something may happen. I don’t like to be a downer and this pregnancy has been a difficult road.

This made me feel a level of vulnerability that I just wasn’t dealing well with. I go into shutdown mode. On top of all that there were a lot of people trying to bring unnecessary negative mojo and drama into our lives that I just didn’t want to deal with. So, I also went into apathetic towards stupid people mode. I had to back out of some commitments and took a break from blogging. We also had a lot going on personally that made it feel like there was an avalanche of wtf-ery falling on top of me.

Mostly, I just puked a whole lot.

The news started to trickle to friends and family. And by trickle I mean I took every opportunity to spring it on unsuspecting friends and family. Everyone has been so supportive. A few of my friends literally almost fell over in shock. I have blindsided others with blurting out “I’m pregnant!” … “What?! Who… you?!” “No, I’m just kidding… wait, no I’m not!”

I also learned that if I go to a Girls Night Out and don’t order wine right away that some of my friends immediately pick up on the fact that I’m growing a sea monkey.

I have the raddest people in my life and I am so sorry they have to put up with me.

Going into my second trimester was a sigh of relief… and some panic because I must plan all things. All the time. Always. As well as have backup plans to my plans and know every variable of possibilities. I spent months getting through my puke-a-palooza and now I feel like I am running out of time to get things sorted. Then again, I kind of always feel like that.

Looking at our situation it can seem a little crazy. Between us we have four kids. Two that are biologically mine, two that are my step-kids, three live with us full-time and all we consider our own no matter the biological connection or not. It’s just our family and how we roll. And now just one more. JUST ONE MORE. After this… one way or another… my sweetie, will be getting fixed.

You heard me.

Lucky him!

This year was the first time in years that I can remember not waking up insanely early on January 2nd to purchase camping spots for the summer. I couldn’t even talk about how I wasn’t planning camping trips and I avoided all the “where are you camping this year” questions during the holidays because we hadn’t made the big announcement yet. This is how much I don’t make sense… my pregnancy is messing with my usual camping routine and I could spend hours rambling about just that.

Yes, I do plan on camping with an infant. It’s actually easier than you may expect because they are super portable at that age. That is a post for another day.

Anyway, I wanted to share our great news and ask that you all please keep happy and healthy baby thoughts coming my way. I’m hoping for a girl (though some days I wonder if I am insane for that) but either way I will be happy. I just want another happy, healthy and fun little ninja to fill our lives with insanity and awesomeness.

Thank you all for being a part of the awesomeness, too.

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I honestly don’t think anyone has noticed but since I (finally) announced my engagement I’ve been more active online and I’m creating funny content again. I didn’t plan to start the year off this way. It just became the right time to ninja kick my writers block and get back to blogging.

Soooo, yeah. I took a break from blogging. I didn’t feel the need to announce, explain or justify it. It organically happened and I didn’t fight it. I also don’t get why people announce when they are taking a blogging break… but, that is just me.

I needed to take the break for many reasons.

I wanted to really focus on my family after going from a single Mom to a working things out and getting my family back together blended family Mom. Sure, there was a lot I wanted to share during the transition but I chose to sit on it all and just be in the moment. Oh, people noticed which was honestly lovely. I missed it. Some days I missed it more than I expected to. I just needed to be with them.

I also needed to learn how to live with another adult and factor in his feelings and not just do what I want. Thankfully, he is very understanding of my quirks, gets my insanity and happens to be really sexy with all the housework he does. Yeah, I needed to focus on that too.

I read a few months back how a blogger friend was feeling guilty about not sharing some things that were going on in her life. I wondered… why are we obligated? We choose what to share, how to share it, when to share and why we share it.

I chose to not share until I was sure on what I wanted to share in case what I was sharing was share worthy and not a flop of sharisms.

Uh, I hope you could follow that… I just confused the crap out of myself! hehe

Plus, what the crap was with all the blogger internet drama?! Please, tell me we aren’t going in the direction of cat fighting on the internet from jealousy and gossip! Please, tell me that we are going to utilize our spaces for something other than mudslinging. Can’t blogs be more than just fuel for smack talking fodder? The mob mentality of creating internet uproars over differences of opinions are really stupid.

Yes, stupid.

I don’t care what the topic is. We aren’t angry mobs of blogging sheep. Well, we shouldn’t be.

I don’t do the drama game. If someone dislikes what I’m about or I dislike what they are about then they simply fall off my radar. I’m not going to care what they are doing and they shouldn’t care what I am doing. Just because we can be all creepy up in someone’s blogging window trying to find something to talk smack about does NOT mean we should. I will never quite understand why people who loathe me will follow my every public internet move. It doesn’t keep me up at night. I probably laugh about it with my friends more than I should… humor helps me get through the things that make my head hurt. I seriously do “Live, laugh and ninja kick.” in life. It’s a formula that works for me.

The way I work is simple:

Things/people make me mad, sad or insert-negative-reaction-here.

I change them, accept them or laugh at them.

Or a combo/all of the above.

Actually, at some point I will always find a way to laugh at it.

Then I move on.

Rinse and repeat.

I’m not insensitive. I have empathy. I am very compassionate. I’m also not without anger. Quite the opposite, actually. I get all super hulk smash angsty and need to vent and process. I do that on my own time and not with keyboard courage. To be perfectly honest, I spent a lot of my life being angry and hostile and it’s draining. I choose not to waste my time staying angry and hateful. Life is just too rad.

The name of my blog is the core of my beliefs… and I truly feel you either have to be enjoying the radness of life or working damn hard to get there. I don’t see how whining is involved in the equation of awesomeness.

I like the internet to be funny. I like it when it’s inspiring. I like communicating and walking away with some kind of positives. I know it can’t always be that but there should be a balance.

It was hard to find that balance most days.

It wasn’t just all the drama that caused me to take a break. That was the smallest part in comparison to my family or what I have taken from my break.

I also needed to take time to focus and figure out what I wanted to do with this amazing space and network I created. Words cannot convey how much this platform means to me and what ripples of awesomeness has come from it.

I’ve been told by many that they love my blog. The fact that my words mean something, make someone laugh or inspire is indescribable. It’s been said that I do sponsored content differently and better because I have a story behind it which is what I try to achieve. I’ve helped others with food allergies and having a not so typical family. I’ve made friends and I’ve pissed people off (hehehe) … I’ve traveled… I’ve expanded my knowledge and skills… This blog and journey has given me so much. Most of which I still can’t wrap my head around because I’m not trying to be awesome, inspiring or anything really. I just wondered if a Mom like me dealing with things in an almost crazy way would be well received.

I want to continue to give back, give more and expand. I do want to focus more on my writing and less on the marketing. I want to get my book projects done and launch my philanthropy project. I may do a spinoff blog for all the sponsored content and use Don’t Speak Whinese as a sponsor-free zone or change the design of my site to make it more segregated. I’ve got plans and now it’s time to put them all in motion rather than obsessing over planning.

I see so much content out there about how to make the perfect blog. I’ve seen lists and tips on how to “do it right”. I’ve read articles about being a perfect blogger. I’ve listened to panels debating how to do it right.

You know what I realized after getting some clarity in stepping back? Just like parenting, there is no one right way. There is simply what is what is right for you. There are best practices and things that are frowned upon. Ultimately, do what you love because that is what feels right. Oh, and just like parenting there will always be people who think they know better, do it best and think you are wrong…

But, who cares!?

Without a doubt I can say that I have stayed 100% true to myself, my word and my intentions with this space. I’m just me. I’m kind of (okay, really) weird. I am too smart for my own good at times while being a total jackass at others. I just needed a recharge, a solid direction and a fire up my bum to get me going again.

So, I’m back.

Let’s rock.

And… I’ve missed you all.

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Nothing About Us Is Typical

I’m strange and peculiar.

I know that is an understatement but it’s something I have to put out there before I continue. My life is anything but ordinary but that doesn’t make it wrong despite what some may judge. I’ve never believed there is a set path to live your life in order to be a model citizen.

I feel that you should make the best with what you can and live life fully without being an intentional jerk-face all the time.

I’m good being a jerk-face. I’m not going to lie. It is situational but I don’t live my days living up to ultimate jerk-facedom.

While I am a very open book I also happen to suck at talking about important details in my life that, I suppose, most people are better about divulging.

The love of my life and I have had a very long and somewhat crazy journey. We met when we were both already single parents and I had moved to New York, we fell madly in love, we lived together, we blended our family, it was like our kids were meant to be siblings, we found out we were having a baby… and things fell apart. I became a single mother again but with two kiddos and moved back to California to be closer to family. We had a very long road over many years of repairing what had almost been damaged and lost completely.

That isn’t the typical love story… and I make no apologies for it. I do not care how it may seem to some that we had such a strange story getting to the point we are now. Life is full of unexpected turns and unpredictable choices along the way no matter how perfect anyone tries to play it up. We went through a lot and some were the hardest times of my life… but, we are here now and truly better than ever. Our four kids are happy and life is mostly the way it should be.

And all those hard times are distant memories. We are happy now and our lives are so completely blended again I often forget we had dark times. It wasn’t without work but I’m glad for us and our children that we chose to work on it.

Oh Yeah, That Engagement Story… Thing

It feels silly to announce an engagement when we live together, consider ourselves married and have a child together in addition to our blended brood. His kids.. my kids… they are all “our” kids and we are a family. That isn’t something a piece of paper defines.

Our engagement story is worth telling… if you like that kind of mushy crap…

Side Note: He is very lucky to have a woman like me who is very sentimental and romantic. That was dripping with sarcasm. Poor guy.

We had a date night and I had no idea what we were doing or where we were going. I usually plan everything and he relies on me to make the decisions. It was kind of exciting to hand that over to him. I dolled myself up. Heels, hair done and make up with a fancy dress. It’s not something I do often because I prefer my usual comfortable clothes. But, I was being fancy… for him.

We ate at the Sky Room which the ultimate romantic spot in Long Beach. He knows I love the beach and our view of the ocean was amazing. It was also a full moon that night which made the nighttime sky glow even brighter. The food was delicious, the wine (for me) was plenty and we enjoyed our kid free romantic dinner for two. It was the first time we had a night like that.

After dinner he insisted we walked along the beach. We went to the first beach we had been to together. I had to take off my heels, he took off his fancy shoes and we held hands and walked under the full moon.

Two things I should mention here. I’m not a naturally affectionate or mushy person except with my kids… and him. When we met we fell in love and it was constant hand holding, public smooches and mushy crap that I usually don’t like. The other thing I want to mention is this man hates being dirty. He hates dirt. Stains make him freak out. He cares more about keeping his clothes flawless than I ever pay attention to. I’m the outdoorsy dirt on the face camping chick while he is the guy who falls apart over ketchup stains and avoids wrinkles. His fancy pants were getting dirty and damp from the sand and he wasn’t even complaining.

So, I started to think something was up… but, he knows I don’t like surprises.I told him NOT to propose to me in some kind of weird mushy way that would make me uncomfortable. I didn’t expect it at all.

Of course, he ignored what I said about not proposing and the threats that followed… he got down on one knee and said a lot of loving, wonderful and mushy things that… sorry everyone, but those are for us. He had a beautiful ring and he looked up at me with a smile on his face. His expression was one that seemed like he was worried I was going to hit him and wanting to throw up from stress.

I called him a jackass and said “Of course I’m going to marry you… stand up right now, dammit.” and we kissed. I, affectionately, kind of smacked him on the arm… multiple times… and hard… during the whole thing. He swears people were watching us probably wondering if he was going to retract his proposal after the AFFECTIONATE arm slap beating I gave him.

I’m romantic.

We have both been married before and our previous marriages were more about our first born kids, being young and all that stuff rather than love. I bring that up to preface what I’m about to share. When we got in the car I, affectionately (I love that word), smacked him in the arm again and demanded to know how much he spent on the ring. I’m a very frugal person and don’t like spending a lot of money on myself.

Him: I’m not telling you exactly… but a LOT more than I’ve spent on one of those before…

Me: Did you really just say that?

Him: Uh… yeah… I’m NOT smart!

Me: I know… and I love you anyway, jackass.

We laughed. I still make fun of him for that. It was hilarious, and no I wasn’t the slightest bit offended.

It was perfectly us.

He then told me how nervous he had been all night and how he had been trying to hide the ring in his pants. He was also worried that I was going to say no… because I’m unpredictable like that and he was worried I was going to say no just because I told him not to propose.

We told the kids right away and they were happy. His oldest actually knew and had helped him pick out the ring which meant the world to me.

This engagement happened before he moved across the country from New York to California to put our family back together. That was over a year and a half ago. Yeah, I know… forever ago!

Our engagement was a promise and commitment to moving forward… not just to me but to all of us.

More Proof that I’m an Unintentional Jerk-face

I also kind of forgot to tell my friends (and family too, I guess) about the engagement. I told some but then I got all uncomfortable when they would get all weird and girly about it. So, I think I just stopped talking about it because I figured everyone would assume and that was enough.

I totally see the flaws in my logic.

When we were in Big Sur this past summer I was there to see one of my best friends be proposed to. I loved it! Another friend said later to me, “Oh! You are going to be next!” … and I replied with, “Uh, oh that already happened! I’m just not wearing the ring because we are camping!”

I thought they were going to bury me in the woods. Women friends can be scary.

Months ago I put up a video on my Facebook page of newly hatched leopard geckos making weird noises and you can clearly see my ring in it. That resulted in my phone and messages blowing up with “OMG ARE YOU ENGAGED?!”

Basically, I’m really bad at announcing major life events. I’m very thankful I have wonderful friends who accept me. See, what I said earlier about living life not being an intentional jerkface?! Prime examples of that.

No, we still aren’t married. We will be one day but the journey getting to that point is, truly, more important to me than having a ceremony.

Plus, I don’t actually want to plan a wedding and I am hoping we can just elope and throw a big party later or something. ;)

And I am sure that once that happens it will take me awhile to officially announce it…

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Theme Park Camp Spooky logo

Disclosure: I have received tickets to attend a media event in return for this post. No compensation was received. All opinions are 100% completely my own.

I cannot go anywhere this time of year without getting ideas on how to transform my home into a Halloween maze. I’ve seriously been considering making a “creepy kitchen” or scary bathroom.

If there is any place that is appropriate to scare your house guests it would be the bathroom. Just saying. hehehe

This time of year is always my favorite. I love scary stories and horror movies. I happen to mostly wear all black and my idea of dressing up has to do with halloween costumes rather than formal wear.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed I’m kind of a big kid. I would rather be out having fun than sitting at home. Well, unless I am obsessing over a book I can’t put down.

One thing I have heard often is “Wow, you really like going to theme parks!” and I think, “Well, why wouldn’t I??” Despite how easily I get motion sickness I still love roller coasters. I also love that a theme park like Knotts Berry Farm offer family fun for all of us. Our four kids range from 6 years old to 14. However, their ages have nothing to do with what they enjoy the most at a theme park. The 6 year old thrill seeker would go on the fastest and craziest rollercoaster at any theme park out there if he was tall enough to do so. He terrifies me. Our oldest likes the more mellow rides and isn’t fond of heights. We are even at the magical age where we are planning our first family Knotts Scary Farm night with the older kiddos and their friends. While this milestone feels like a huge jump towards their adult years I can still hold on to some younger kiddo magical theme park goodness – Camp Spooky!

Every year we attend Camp Spooky and my kids always look forward to it. Who wouldn’t love to go to a theme park decorated with Halloween awesomeness and enter in costume contests? They also trick or treat within the park. Camp Spooky runs weekends October 5-27 from 10AM to 5PM and it is geared for kids ages 5 – 11. I know my 11 year old plans on making the most of it this year and, of course, the costume preferences for my 6 year old change every few minutes.

While I love the dark and creepy side of Halloween I do love to enjoy wholesome (not so creepy) funsies with my kids. Those times combined with our favorite theme park creates an annual tradition that I love dearly.

Random tidbit of awesomeness: I’m going to try to convince the kids to dress up in a Doctor Who theme this year. I love themes! They probably won’t go for it but I’m going to kick and scream and use my scary Mom voice if I have to. Okay, maybe not but I have to try. Happy Halloween everyone!

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When I was a kid I spent a lot of time in Tokyo visiting family. I wish I could make it out there regularly and am already longing to see the Sakura again. There are a lot of things about my personality and stuff I say that is greatly influenced by my time in Japan.

My main philosophy in life is “Live, laugh and Ninja kick to happiness” and I mean that with every fibre of my being. A lot of people think of me when anything Ninja related comes up… and when I was a kid Power Rangers was my thing. Along with a ton of other strange obsessions but we won’t get into that… for now.

I’ve always loved action movies and shows. I never saw martial arts as violent. I’ve always seen them as a form of physical power, way of life and entertainment. Some martial arts scenes are like a masterpiece of beauty that most would see in dance.

Besides… it’s just fun!

I’ve followed the Super Sentai series (where Power Rangers came from) since I was a kid and was borderline obsessed with them. The problem was that I was following shows like “Go-Renger” “Fiveman” “Changeman” and “Turboranger” that was only shown in Japan. We used to record the shows when we visited and bring them back to the states. They were all in Japanese. My Japanese is terrible! So, I could only understand a small portion of the dialog… but I was hooked. There was a “bad guy” who always peed his pants when the rangers showed up and he would have to mop it up.

That was hysterical. I obviously have a very very mature sense of humor.

And yes, I bought some Power Rangers goodies while I was in Japan this year! I had to!

Then Power Rangers came to the states and while I was a little too old to be into them but I still was. That’s how I roll! I also enjoyed that the fight scenes were often the same that were filmed in Japan for the Super Sentai Series but they were completely different storylines. I would try to figure out which scenes were the same in the different series… because I’m a nerd. What?

Lately we have been watching a lot of Saban’s Power Ranger Megaforce. Actually, it’s the only DVD that I have let the kids watch in the car on road trips. I rarely let them use that thing but it’s become our travel DVD ever since. It’s one of those shows that my older kids pretend that they are just watching it because their 6 year old brother wants to. Sure, our almost 14 year old young man would probably not like me saying he laughs at all the jokes on Power Ranger Megaforce but he does like it.

I find this series of Power Rangers to be very entertaining. The characters and personalities are great. The dialog can be very cheesy but that’s what I love! I love that kind of comedy for kids because it’s not obnoxious. The grossout obnoxious humor shows for kids make me cringe! Give me the cheesy one liners, witty bantering dialog, meaningful messages, some downright fun kick booty action and save the world in the process.

If you know me then you have probably heard my really loud, startling, issomethingwrongwithher, laugh that occasionally bursts out of my face uncontrollably when I find something really funny! I also laughsnort when something is hilarious because I have the tiniest nose on the planet and insignificant nostrils. Why am I explaining all of this? I have no idea now… but, my point was going to be that this new series of Power Rangers makes all my horrible laughing traits come out. That, in turn, makes my kids laugh AT me which is always a fun time.

I feel strongly that humor is an important key to making life rad. The humor in these shows balance out any kind of perceived violence. The fighting isn’t the focus its the empowerment of it all. The way a child can fantasize and dream about being a modern day ninja, with his or her very different friends, and save the world is a powerful message and one I’m happy to enjoy with my kids.

 Disclaimer: I was invited to be a Saban Brand Ambassador. I do not take on many sponsored relationships these days and when I do I am very picky about them. I’m not compensated for my post and all opinions are my own. My children occasionally receive Saban goodies for my participation in the program.  

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Teens and Instagram is a huge topic right now and many worry about how to make it work. One of my daughter’s first pics she put on her new Instagram account is of me giving her little brother a huge wedgie.

He Deserved this Wedgie!

She obviously learned from my example of silly Instagram use. I have to say, I was proud.

I remember when she was a baby I would make all these assumptions on how it would be when she was a tween. Obviously, when we reach those timelines a lot of preconceived notions fly out the window. Our expectations of our children have to evolve with what is current as well as their personalities vs what we knew “back in our day” because of what we did.

The world of teens these days is more exposed and they are potentially vulnerable to more negatives. Daily life is shared online in a way never before. It’s not like it used to be where teens just had to worry about what someone may see when they are in the same room or what is gossiped about.

When you are different than the way some people think you should be some will go out of your way to put you down. This isn’t a teen issue but a life issue, unfortunately. Maybe it has to do with a person’s insecurities or maybe they just cannot fathom how amazingly unique humans are. Maybe they just suck at life. Ultimately, you cannot control how a person chooses to perceive a situation but you can control how much access they have to your life.

Gossip, hate, judgment and jealousy are, to me, a complete waste of oxygen. As a grown woman I am told some of the gossip that goes around because of my blog, Facebook or Instagram from those who don’t like me or who have strong opinions about who they think I am. With kids it’s so much worse. I cannot imagine how much worse it would have been if the interwebz had become a daily part of everyone’s lives when I was a teen as it is now. But, no matter how much we wish it wasn’t an issue we cannot shelter our teens from it. We just have to empower and educate them on these topics.

On the flip side of the social networking coin Instagram is a fun way for anyone to connect with others. For my daughter, who has chronic illness, it’s a way for her to have a social tie with her friends even when she is spending days in bed. I’ve noticed that teens use Instagram very differently than most adults. They upload a lot of pictures of memes. They shoutout like crazy. They share what they are reading, music, shows and movies. Of course there is an abundance of pictures of celebrity crushes.

It’s also a lot of fun. I’ve often asked my kids permission to share pictures on Instagram. Sometimes they pose for silly pics or even tell me “Oh you gotta put that one up on Instagram!”. When I have shared some of the pain my daughter experiences, as she suggested, she enjoys seeing the feedback and support.

Instagram Isn’t For Everyone

My almost 14 year old stepson and I had a long talk about Instagram a couple months ago when he got a new iPhone. We looked at my Instagram, discussed what kids his age typically do with it and how he would utilize it. In the end he decided he wasn’t ready for it and it didn’t interest him much. He is painfully shy at times. When I talked to my 11 year old daughter she weighed all the options and felt enthusiastically ready for it.

It isn’t about age but it’s about different personalities and maturity.

The biggest concerns I have about Instagram for kids have to do with safety and emotional well being. Come to find out they are as equally concerned about it as I am. That was a relief.

Tips for Teens and Instagram

Safety: Keep Instagram private. Don’t use your full name (which isn’t something most people follow but I’m extra cautious) and do not say where you live. Obviously kids should know not to give out personal information but when they get comfortable those things start to slide. Kids like to post pictures of their class schedules. I told the kids I don’t think this is wise when the name of the school is visible.

 

No Creepers: They can’t allow people they don’t know (or I don’t know) to follow them. They can follow some accounts that are just related to bands, shows or photography after I have scanned the content. The general rule for the kids is if we don’t know them, don’t want them to know what we are up to then there is no reason to add them.

My daughter is funny and plans on taking embarrassing pictures of me for Instagram so naturally my friends wanted to follow her. It’s only fair as I have done it to her for many years.

I will win this battle.

My point is that her Instagram account is more than just about her but about our lives together which we share with many friends.

 

Are they REALLY Friends: There is a huge difference between people you know and people you are friends with. I advised the kids that they shouldn’t add people just because they know them. Sure, they know a lot of people but if they know that person but don’t really reaaaaally want to hang with them then why add them? However, they could get to know more about someone they know at School through Instagram and discover they have a lot in common.

Ultimately, they just have to really think about their decisions.

It’s not a popularity contest… which leads me to….

 

It’s NOT a Popularity Contest: It’s just not. Some Instagrammers will add a crapton of people but have no interaction with them. I told the kids not to get caught up on numbers of followers or number of likes. It’s about quality vs quantity.

Of course my Instagram came up because I use it very publicly and have people who follow me exclusively on there but not on my blog or twitter. I do not know everyone on it and I do try to connect with many people through it. I like to connect with people. It is different because I’m an adult and they get that.

If all or none of their friends “like” something it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. It’s more important to reflect on “Am I sharing this because I want to” instead of “Am I sharing this for likes”.

Jealousy: A big topic I harped on was that they need to be emotionally secure when they see what their friends are up to. They may see two of their friends hanging out and doing something fun which may make them jealous. My daughter doesn’t have a jealous streak, however, my stepson does. He knows this about himself and is consciously working on it. He recognized that Instagram may interfere with that progress which I felt was very mature of him.

Because the 11 y/o princess of doom has had to opt out of so many things in her life because of her health hurdles she doesn’t have the typical teen jealousy. She gets sick often and just can’t participate in a lot. She accepts this and it really empowers her.

Jealousy is a part of typical growth and age appropriate so I hope to utilize Instagram to teach the kids how to overcome it, be happy when they see their friends having fun and not think about their lack of involvement.

Any negative is an opportunity for a lesson but it’s about getting to that point.

 

Flaming, Judgment and Internet Jerks: I explained, “There are a lot of jerks in the world. And when those jerks are behind a screen or keyboard they become very brave. You can’t change that about them but you just have to prepare yourself for it. I get hate comments and email often… I just kind of make fun of them and laugh it off. It will take time for you guys to be able to do that if it ever happens to you.”

We discussed how some people create fake Instagram or Facebook accounts just to make fun of someone. They will steal their pictures and write hurtful captions. They will use what has been put out there already to make someone feel terrible. Be mindful, I echoed to them.

Inappropriate Behavior: I showed them some examples of inappropriate pic on Instagram, we discussed why it wasn’t appropriate and how people would react. If I post a selfie I’m pretty much always making a face or have something substantial (aka what I think is funny) to add to it. I’m not a fishing for compliments kind of person so I’ve noticed that my daughter, thankfully, isn’t either. That may change or it may not.

We also discussed how what one persons deems as inappropriate another may not. While I think cute duck face pics showing off the day’s outfit aren’t my thing others may look at my feed and wonder if I am on something. I prefer funny over sexy. I also think I look funny if I try to be sexy. While I say “Don’t be that girl who posts pictures of them looking cute all the time” another Mom may be saying “Don’t be like that weirdo Leila who only posts pictures making faces all the time.”

To each their own.

Teens and Instagram: Focus on the Fun

Ultimately, I want them to use apps and platforms like Instagram for the same reason I do: For fun! It is something to use to connect with others in a positive way.

If it becomes more of a negative than a positive then it isn’t worth it.

That advice isn’t just for teens!

There is a lot of debate out there about Instagram, what kids are exposed to online and what is the right age for all that online freedom. I feel strongly that everything is an opportunity to discuss boundaries with my kids and I slowly have to give them space. I do enjoy that I can banter with my daughter through Instagram and she has my sense of humor.

Instead of the the fear I had of “Teens and Instagram” it’s become something else I can bond with my kids over. I do enjoy seeing the world through her eyes and this is another platform for that.

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Teens Worry About Self Image… Often

Having two kids in the house, ages 11 and 13, makes for a lot discussion about self identity, insecurities and concerns over who they are. This age is an amazing time when young people start to figure out their identities. It is also when they are the most vulnerable.

Sidenote: Hormones are going to be the death of me.

I was having a discussion with the kids about self esteem, the stupid things kids try to do to fit in and how to not fall into social traps. I told them one of my favorite quotes from Joss Whedon, “Always be yourself. Unless you suck.” It’s true and it makes me laugh.

They looked at me curiously. My eleven year old daughter chuckled and my thirteen year old step-son looked insulted. I elaborated.

Sometimes the saying, “Just be yourself” is an excuse for crappy behavior. I know grown adults that do that! “Sorry, I’m just like this so deal with it.” Uh… there is a reason you don’t have friends, dude.

Do not try to be anyone other than you are. Don’t try to pretend you are into things that you aren’t. Don’t agree with everything peers say just to seem cool. Embrace your differences, hope that you find some people who dig you and don’t allow yourself to be liked for things you aren’t. Be who you are. Finally, don’t allow yourself to be defined by the things you suck at.

Here is the honest truth about our own self image:

We are not perfect.

We are all flawed.

We suck at a lot of things.

Just accept it and also embrace these truths:

Perfection is bullshit. (yes, I said that to them)

We are individuals because of our flaws.

We can change the things we suck at.

We are not defined by our negative traits unless we allow them to consume us.

I do not believe in the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” I believe that practice makes permanent and if we keep practicing the things we suck at then it can become a permanent fixture of who we are. Perfection is a flawed concept since everything can change and progress. There is always room for improvement. Always.

Separately, I had them write down what they disliked about themselves. We went over different ways to change our habits and behaviors. We also wrote down what the cause and effect of some negative habits are: Procrastinating: Stressing about the task + Keeping it secret/lying + Not completing it the best of my ability = Damaging everyone’s calm.

I also had them write a list about the things they love most about themselves. I have been encouraging them to journal positives about the day to help maintain a healthy perspective. A lot of people fall into the habit of focusing on the negatives.

You know that person who you hang out with and only has things to complain about?

There are people who can have so many wonderful things happen and will only focus on the one thing that didn’t go as planned that day.

Those people that, no matter what, they are emotionally draining because of their negativity and people tend to avoid them…

Yeah, I told the kids not to be that douche. (Not in those words exactly… okay, in those words exactly. I’m not the most filtered parent.)

To be perfectly honest I was that negative douche when I was a young teen. When I discovered that about myself I chose to change it and work through it. I changed the people I was surrounded by and changed my habits. People who complain too much truly bother me… maybe it pokes at an older image of my former self that annoys me. Maybe it’s simply because it IS annoying.

I’m not perfect in any way. I’m sure all of my friends would have a long list of things they find absolutely douchey about me.

I also didn’t intend to write douche so much in this post. Hmmm…

I keep explaining to the kids to really evaluate a situation they are upset with and ask themselves:

Is it really a big deal?

What can I learn from this?

Who caused this to happen?

Who has the power to change this?

And I then encourage them to change it. And I keep encouraging it every single time no matter how frustrating. Practicing the changes will become permanent.

I often have to say the same things to myself when they are doing idiotic things that make my eyes go wide and I want to flip out. Oh, and I do flip out but less often now. As much as I love all of my kids and want to see them thrive I have to slowly take steps back and allow themselves to figure these things out. I can continue to guide them but when will they learn self worth? If I keep telling them how to resolve these things when will they learn to do it on their own? If they constantly look to me for acceptance when do they learn to just accept themselves? If I make excuses for their douchey behavior and it continues how will that harm them amongst their peers?

I’ll tell you something… after many candid and open conversations I’ve really enjoy the changes I am seeing in the kids. Sure, its going to take time but even a little bit of progression is amazing to see. It does make me cringe when they take things too far when they are trying to be funny. I try to treat them more like young adults than children.

I give them that space to grow, make asses of themselves and hopefully grow from it.

I’ve always hoped to raise very independent, self aware and open minded people. What it really comes down to is this: They have to want to be independent, self aware and open minded people.

All I can do is simply give them the tools, encouragement and the occasional figurative ninja kick of reality when they need to get checked. All I can do is remind them that it is up to them to define who “Being Yourself” really is and no matter what they always have the power to change it.

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What is your definition of Summer?

by Leila on June 21, 2013

Summer

I believe that life is what you make of it.

I also believe that no one can define how you live your life.

Everything we do is our choice to define. We are often faced with a crapton of unexpected obstacles as well as surprise gifts of awesomenss and we have the freedom to choose what we do with it all.

My single motherhood trio of a family became a large blended family again last year when I chose to create my own happily ever after. Going from being single to merging our families back together again hasn’t been the easiest of tasks (it never is!) but it’s given me an immeasurable appreciation for what I have now.

Next year our oldest is going off to High School, our girls are off to Middle School, and our youngest is no longer a kindermonster. The kids are getting older and the conversations have gone from talking about diapers to periods, from first steps to first crushes, from first teeth to first, um, body hair!

The harsh reality of our babies growing up is this is we start to lose them to their friends and their own lives. They have become their people and want to do their own things. We hope that we have instilled enough in them that they will still come to us and make the right decisions when they are faced with tough crossroads of their own.

Until then… they are stuck with dealing with my insanity as you may have seen on Instagram!

Summer IMG_7231

Summer is a time when our schedules are not overrun by homework, school events or extra curricular commitments. It’s a time when we can plan those family activities that we couldn’t during the school year. We can make time for the friends we had a hard time seeing. We can make new memories.

Summer

This summer is one I hadn’t had in many years when I was a single Mom… when all my kids (step kids included) are together as a family. I’m choosing to define it as the summer of new adventures and, naturally, making the most of it.

Summer

And when these moments start to fade as they grow older and hanging our with their crazy Mom becomes really lame I will simply take a lesson from my youngest and his enthusiasm crossing any bridge he finds. Life is about overcoming obstacles from one adventure to the next… And how you choose to enjoy those bridges…

Summer

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Appreciating moments with your kids

When we live in a constant cycle of getting to the next thing, feeling overwhelmed to accomplish the next task or trying to hurry up to do more we often miss some very important moments.

We are within walking distance to our elementary school. Next year my 11 year old is going into middle school, my youngest is in Kindergarten and my step-son is off to High School.

This is the only time the younger kiddos will ever be in school together. Next year I will have to drive my daughter to school which means I won’t be walking my youngest as often. They will all be at different schools next year.

This seems like such a small thing and maybe it’s a nuisance to walk instead of drive. I sometimes think about how I need to carve another hour into my day to get things done. I drive them to school some days and then drive off to check off my ToDo list one by one by running errands, going to events or meeting up with friends for breakfast.

Realistically, so many of that can wait. The last several years have revolved around learning to truly prioritize things. We stress, fuss and prioritize events and tasks that should be on the back burner. We get caught up trying to squeeze what we can in the day that some things get missed.

What I am missing out on those days are more than just walks…

They are some of the last moments my 11 year old daughter wants to hold my hand…

They are the moments where I see my son learn by example by watching his sister look for cars before crossing.

They are the moments where the kids laugh the whole way because they are brilliantly creative and come up with new games along the way…

The moments where we all play “I’m going to stomp on your shadow!” and my son, usually, takes it one step further by saying “I’m going to pretend to pee on your shadow!” or “I’m farting on your shadow!”

They may be the last moments where they laugh like that, in that way since my daughter isn’t “too cool” for her baby brother yet.

They are the last moments where their walks to school involve bickering and resolution … and they always end with hugs and “See you at the bike racks!” …

In a few weeks these moments will be gone. Yes, they will be replaced with new and different special moments but we won’t have many more opportunities for these ones.

They are moments that seem easy to just push to the side so I can do other things, but, these are the moments I should be appreciating, taking in and enjoying.

So, I’m doing just that and I hope you do the same… in your own way.

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