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Photo by: Pete Wilgoren

The Time I Went to Target and Didn't Spend a Dime

July 28, 2014

It’s the sweetest picture ever. The sweetest! Well not the picture itself. Truthfully it doesn’t show much. It’s kind of boring and out of focus. But look closely. You see that in the middle? That’s my daughter counting out cash to buy a toy at Target. Her Own Cash. My kid saved up her own money and used it to buy her own toy. THIS is a victory. Why did it take so long…

Truthfully, a lot of the fault is ours. All of us. We want our kids to have everything… everything we didn’t have. We buy, and charge, and debit, and buy, and charge, and debit, so they can have the toys they want, and the parties they want, and the extra curricular activities with all the matching uniforms, and gear, and practice equipment they want. Well screw it.

If it’s so important to them, then why shouldn’t they learn about saving, and sacrifice, and financial responsibility to be able to help buy some of the things they so desperately want. WHY should we buy it all? And WHERE does it say in the parenting manual (a nonexistent book) that kids are entitled to parents who buy everything. I’m done. Today we helped rewrite the book.

Why not? When I was a kid I worked at a deli for four bucks an hour. I babysat and mowed lawns too. My dad made a deal with me — kept a quarter of whatever I made, and the rest went in the bank for college. I hated that deal. I hated handing over three quarters of everything I earned. But I did it. The rest was mine to spend on whatever I wanted (within reason).

Fast forward to today.

My kid wanted a toy at Target. Fine. She’s been asking for a couple of weeks. We told her to use her own money. Both these kids usually look like loan sharks rolling out a fistful of dollar bills they saved from presents or allowance or whatever… so why shouldn’t they use them?

Our 6 year old went to Target today and got the My Little Pony whatever whatever she wanted. First, she priced it out, and then went to the cash register. The lady gave us an annoyed look because our girl sat there and painstakingly took out each dollar from her change purse and then counted out that money. But she did it. Dollar by dollar she parted with her own cash. Dollar by dollar she counted it out. And then she handed the money to the clerk, and the clerk handed over the toy. It was parent magic.

And I left Target with my wallet full. My wife and I left Target WITHOUT spending a dime. And I loved it. And I don’t feel guilty one stinkin’ bit.

How do you teach your kids about money? Do you have rules and things you make them buy?

Pete Wilgoren is an Emmy award winning journalist who writes about his often surprising, embarrassing, and educational experiences surrounded by a wife and two little girls. Find Dadmissions on Facebook and on his blog Dadmissions.

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Because I Feel Like I'm Just a Glorified Housemaid

July 27, 2014

I’m not even out of bed before the breakfast demands begin. I half roll, half slide out of my resting spot, and before my feet hit the floor, I smell something musty. I’m pretty sure it’s the laundry that’s overtaken every bedroom in the house, which doesn’t make sense, because I was all caught up last -week- month.

I shuffle my way to the kitchen, fumble around to make my morning coffee, but where our coffee mugs should be resembles Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, so I rummage through our overloaded, encrusted, kitchen sink for the cleanest of the dirty mugs.

On my way back to the coffee pot I step in mystery goo. It creates a sort of ripping sound with every other step I take. I step-rip-step-rip around, filling cereal bowls and pouring juice into sippy cups, and I notice the clock says 7:35 am.

I take a deep breath and sigh. Is this it? Is this what I was destined to be? A glorified housemaid? And not a very good one at that?

I know this is where I’m supposed to pull out a Bible scripture about “counting it all joy” or “trust in the Lord”, but the truth is, I’m still a glorified housemaid. And I’m still not a very good one.

That’s when the evil thought surfaces… I don’t want to be a mother anymore. I hate that I’ve sacrificed all my dreams to be a mother. I sink under guilt — what Jesus-loving mother thinks such things? Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”. Well, spoiler alert, this isn’t abundant living.

So, how do I find abundant life in the mess? In the mundane? In the life I didn’t plan?

I’ve read several self-help books lately; all trying to encourage people to find that abundant and wealthy life. The more books I read, the more I find one common thread throughout all of them. Gratitude.

Brené Brown in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, writes:

“I always thought that joyful people were grateful people. I mean, why wouldn’t they be? They have all of that goodness to be grateful for. But after collecting stories…Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life,…actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice”.

Wallace Wattles in his book, The Science of Getting Rich, dedicates an entire chapter to the practice of gratitude. He writes:

“Many people who order their lives rightly in all other ways are kept in poverty by their lack of gratitude. Having received one gift from God, they cut the wires which connect them with Him by failing to make acknowledgement”.

Melody Beattie in, The New Codependancy, writes:

“Things don’t make us happy. But some things are also gifts. When we’re in the Codependent Zone, we don’t enjoy the gifts we’re given. We’ll sit and obsess about what we don’t have and not appreciate what we have”.

Standing on a hill facing a mob of hungry people, “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks…” Then he fed those 5000 people {John 6:11}.

There it is. All the things my heart desires:

Joy.

Greatness.

Wealth.

Abundant life.

They all come in the wake of the wave of gratitude. The life I want, desire is the direct result of a lifestyle of thankfulness.

Brené says that it’s not an ‘attitude of gratitude’, but the practice of gratitude, because I can have an attitude of yoga, but unless I practice yoga, I’ll never see the results it brings.

So, how does one practice gratitude? Write sappy posts on Facebook about being thankful for my perfect husband? Or post 1 million pictures of my “little blessings”? That’s a start, I guess. Brené continues with, “keeping gratitude journals, doing daily gratitude meditations or prayers, creating gratitude art, and even stopping during their stressful days to actually say these words out loud: “I am grateful for …”

So I’m going to do it. Will you join me?

Let’s hope for a better tomorrow… but give thanks for today. Let’s dream big, but standing in the messy middle of right now. Let’s appreciate the gifts we have. Let’s stay connected to the one who gives abundant life.

Let’s practice gratitude, and watch our lives become abundant.

Charity blogs the broken and messy pieces of her life at The Wounded Dove. She has four young children who inspire her to be a #GoodEnoughMom. When she’s not wiping sticky children and sticky floors, you’ll find her taking pictures of her sticky children or writing about them.

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10 Reasons Having a Strong-Willed Child Makes You a Better Person

July 26, 2014

As my son was approaching 3-years-old I began to discover that his behavior was a little different from most children in our circle of friends. He was extremely emotional, and had difficulty being still. He was exceptionally defiant, and had absolutely no regard for boundaries no matter how we altered our parenting style. As he grew, so did these tendencies.

We thought pre-school would make a significant difference, but he acted the exact same there as well. We have sought outside opinion and support to arrive where we are today. We are the parents of a very strong-willed, energetic little pain in the ass who has taught us more about life than any Internet search ever could.

Here’s why these children make us better people for having them:

1. They improve our Self-Care:
I can’t tell you how many times I have been out in public with my son (chasing him no doubt) and someone says, “Wow, if only I could just bottle up that energy”, or, “Gosh, I’m tired just from watching him”. I answer back with my teeth grit, and a little laugh,“Ha, yeah really.” But they are right. And because my son is on the run, I started running too. I wake up feeling better in the morning, and he no longer runs away from me looking back with rabid eyes and tongue wagging. Because now I’m too far ahead, taunting him relentlessly as he tries to catch up.

2. They clear the path to self-discovery:
Recently, we started seeing a play therapist with our son. He began hitting himself, among other things, when he became frustrated or upset and we were concerned. During this process I was asked not so much about my son’s behavior during a public tantrum, but about my anxiety when it was happening. I had the astounding realization that I may have made the situation worse because of what I was feeling inside. They say you are a mirror for your children, but it works both ways. They are a mirror for us as well. And it’s amazing what you can learn about yourself when you take an honest look.

3. You always have an excuse for an exit:
Taking a strong-willed, super-hyper dude to a birthday party is quite the experience. Many public outings can go south quickly, and in fact they have. I try to prepare him the best I can by setting limits and rules, but sometimes I don’t always notice that the chocolate brownies were within his arm’s reach and he consumed the entire plate. Then the fun starts. Total meltdown. Then comes the impossible round up of the child as the partygoers look on. On the bright side, when there is an event you need a quick exit for, this always does the trick. They probably don’t want you there anyway with your crazy kid, and you’re over it, so it all has a way of working out.

4. They inspire a search for balance:
When you have a high-energy child, some days just aren’t like a Pamper’s commercial. My son can have a day of non-stop, high-speed fun until it ends with a fiery crash. You need balance in your universe to get you through. I never really understood yoga until having my son. During a pre-natal yoga class I referred to it as an activity called try-not-to-fart-in-a-tiny-room-full-of-people. But now I get it. My son’s wild side forces me to seek out the amazing power of nothingness. I take hot lavender baths. Put on facemask and some soft music. Even lighting candles through my house at night makes me feel calm. I no longer feel guilty about doing nothing.

5. Because you wouldn’t want it any other way:
How many times have we complained about our children or discussed difficult times with them and at the end added, “But I wouldn’t want it any other way”. Before I had children, when I heard people say this, I thought they were delusional liars. I knew for a fact their children were monsters. But it is actually true. We have been through so much with our son. Evaluations, therapy, tantrums, blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t matter. This is the chance we take with the decision to have children. We never know whom we will get. It’s the ultimate game show. And it’s exhilarating! I truly, from the bottom of my heart, feel content with the complete understanding that I would not change one damn thing about my son if I could. He is my beautiful mess who somehow makes everything more clear.

6. Because you don’t know how lucky you are:
Oh my God! If I complained too much my husband used to tell me we had no reason to complain because there are starving people, or homeless people, or people suffering somewhere. It used to drive me insane. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to complain. But there is truth in this. When you see life through this scope, it puts things in perspective. There are children who can’t run around and be wild. While being realistic, and knowing humans need to vent, we should all be grateful.

7. They take your ego down a few notches:
I had no idea what it felt like to live with a hummingbird. The child moves so fast I can’t even see him moving. Sometimes, the embarrassment I feel in public is beyond words. But what I have discovered is the world we live in thrives on our egos, and less attention is paid to what is real. My son looks adorable on Facebook, but he has really bad moments. And what I have also come to realize is that all children have bad moments and that’s real. I try to remember that when I am hesitant to take my son to a birthday party or outdoor event. I always try to remember to be authentic, and run over my ego as we pull out of the driveway.

8. Because we owe it to them.
My son was not born thinking he was going to make my life difficult. Sometimes I question this, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. I actually see my son struggle with his emotions frequently, and I know it’s not what he wants to be doing. The other day I watched him secretly from afar as he became anger over his Legos falling apart. First, he threw his arms in the air, searching for something to hit. He began to yell and grit his teeth together. Then his eyes met mine and he began to cry. I realized this is not easy for him. It is our job to help them navigate through the rough water, even if we nearly drown.

9. You have a greater appreciation for the good days.
I don’t care how messed up you think your life is we have all experienced that “perfect day.” The one where you connect with your child in a way you can’t express in words. I have had days with my son where I was so fed up I tried to give my notice as mom. But just when you think you can’t handle any more, you have that “perfect day”. And you feel it. You soak up every second, and forget everything else, because when you have a magical day with a child whom can be difficult, it makes every hard day make sense. Like there is a purpose to it, and a realization that all the things you have been doing, and sacrificing for… are completely worth it.

10. They strengthen your will.
Our society is changing. We are pummeled with information about everything. Our world is competitive and tricky at times to navigate. The personality our children display will serve them well when they are adults. They are the creative ones, the people who are not afraid to try new things and enjoy life. They are not going to back down when someone tells them they will fail. What a minute? I am an adult now. I often back down when I feel intimidated or bombarded with information. I need to start taking some advise from my wild son. Be who you are and find your strength. You may need it one day.

Jenifer is a full-time mom of two boys and was desperate for an escape. So she started a blog. She is not super-mom. In fact, she’s usually late, missing a shoe, or having some kind of meltdown, but always ends up okay with a unique story to tell. You can read more about her wild children at Bugs, Dirt, and Mommy.

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Evolution's Big Fail, or, Why I'm Mad at My Girly Parts

July 25, 2014

Many of the body parts shared by both genders makes sense. For example, the face; being able to see, smell, hear and taste is indisputably wonderful, and having all of these sensory organs positioned at the highest point of our bodies is logical, because we’re predators, and bitches gotta eat. Arms, hands, opposable thumbs? Genius. Bipedalism? The earth is ours.

But I feel like my ethereal awareness, or soul – however you prefer to think of it – entered the human race at an awkward crossroads where most of the shared characteristics have had their kinks worked out, but the gender-specific ones need to be thrown back into product development. In simpler terms: I’m mad at my girly parts.

Boobs, for example. While I would never question the biological imperative of feeding one’s young, must our baby-feeders degenerate so rapidly into ungainly floppiness? Honestly, does Mother Nature hate jogging past the age of 20? After a certain number of years, even the most eye-catching pairs of milk-makers succumb to gravity and splay themselves across their owner’s abdomen creating what amounts to an extra set of sweaty armpits. Epic fail, Evolution. No creature needs two sets of armpits.

And I don’t understand why breasts have to be right out in front, filibustering everything from platonic hugging to eye-to-eye conversation. For Pete’s sake, some of them are so impressive even I can’t help but stare.

Wouldn’t boobs be so much better if they were retractable? Imagine how fantastic life would be if our boobs only made an appearance when we really needed them and the rest of the time we could have non-jiggly, sweat-free chests and adorable, dainty nipples just like men do. This might seem far-fetched, but it’s not; uteruses and penises do it, so why not boobs? Just think – no more bras! My personal Shangri-La. ((sigh))

You might be thinking, Well who’s forcing you to wear a bra? And you’re absolutely right, nobody’s putting a gun to my head and forcing me to wear a bra. But there’s this thing called society, okay? Sometimes a girl wants to shop at other places besides Walmart.

But back to the original purpose of boobs, which is supposedly for the feeding of one’s young. Let’s not even dwell on how dreadfully wasteful it is to evolve two major appendages that are only used for a small fraction of one’s lifespan (and yes I know cave people probably breastfed a lot longer than we do, and probably had kids hanging off their boobs like alllll the freakin’ time so it made more sense back then for boobs to be in constant ready supply. Yeah. I know.)

But let’s, instead, focus on more important things like how, ohmigod, boobs are so insanely delicate. WTF, evolution? If we’re gonna excrete life-nectar from a body part, could that body part maybe be a little tougher? For example, perhaps the milk could come out of a finger, or possibly an elbow? Or maybe we could regurgitate pre-masticated sustenance into our babies’ mouths a la birds and Alicia Silverstone? Anything is better than bloody nipples, okay?

Well I’ve spent enough time railing about boobs. Let’s turn now to vaginas. Yeesh. Talk about an extra armpit. The irony of burying the female body’s ultimate physical pleasure zone between hard-working sweaty legs and covering it up with a giant bush of coarse hair is almost too much for me to handle. Mother Nature, why do you want our vaginas to stink? Why would you do that to us?

And also, why, in the name of all things holy, must vaginas look like pecans? Or, conversely, and perhaps even more pressing: Why do pecans look like vaginas?

(Um. Yeah. Thaaaat’s embarrassing.)

But the thing that most bothers me about vaginas is this: Why are they so damn small? Is it just so the penis can fit in there all snug as a bug in a rug? Are you trying to tell me, Mother Nature, that just as with everyotherfreakingthing in life, it’s all about him??? I suppose I sort of understand the logic in the “tight fit” concept because, ya know, reproduction and propagation of the species and all, but HELLO, the tiny vagina hole completely throws off the whole childbirth thing. No animal on earth has a harder time squeezing out their screaming progeny than a human. Wouldn’t it make more sense if either penises and vaginas were as big as babies or babies came out as small as penises? (I vote for the latter, oh please oh please oh please I vote for the latter.) I just really can’t wrap my head around the huge size discrepancy among the only two things on earth that spend any amount of time hanging out in the vagina.

And lastly, in our discussion of female anatomy gone horribly awry, let us not forget buttholes. I realize men have buttholes too, but they don’t have theirs placed right next door to another super important and easily infectable hole. It’s just a bit surprising to me that although humans have had tens of thousands of generations to evolve a clean, non-disgusting method to rid our bodies of waste, that – no seriously – quivering anuses and poop was the best we could come up with.

((sarcastic slow clap))

I have tons of other questions about tonsils, appendixes, wisdom teeth and superfluous body hair, but I’m a little too pissed off right now to process any thought other than the unrelenting compulsion to get off my computer and go find some diaper wipes to do something about this gross vagina of mine. (And ladies, always remember to wipe front to back, because buttholes don’t make sense!)

Yeah, I think it’s abundantly clear that anatomically, women have gotten the short of the stick. Actually, wait a minute… we got no stick. We got a hairy, stinky, pecan-looking, disproportionately tiny hole. Right around the corner from our poop chute.

Thanks for nothing, Mother Nature.

Kristen Mae is a devoted wife and mother, ADHD momma-warrior, violist, health-nut, and writer. She is the voice of Abandoning Pretense, where her goal is to provide a community where women are free to be honest about their struggles with marriage, parenthood, and life. In addition to her blog, Mae shares hilarious and heart-warming tidbits of her life on her Facebook page, Google+, and Twitter.

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Watching Television with My Husband... Buckle Up!

July 24, 2014

If it weren’t for my husband’s need to hold a clicker, and constantly bounce around channels, we would have long ago cut the cable cord and watched television programming strictly through a service like Netflix or Hulu. As it is, the mere mention of not having hundreds of channels at his disposal to watch on demand, bouncing between a half dozen different programs at once makes him break out in a cold sweat of fear.

This past Friday night we settled in for that classic, old, boring couple’s night of television watching and relaxation. We have not had an evening free in several weeks so I was eagerly anticipating some relaxation time with the television lulling us into a near comatose state.

Apparently, it had been so long since we’d been able to have an evening of relaxing in front of the television that I managed to somehow forget what it’s like to watch television with my husband.

He’s watching no less than a handful of shows at once including, but not limited to:

Any sports event being broadcast. And I do mean absolutely any sports event on television. Any! (On Saturday morning when I came downstairs he was watching women’s collegiate level lacrosse.)

Any television show on about life in Alaska. If there are people hunting animals, or better yet animals hunting other animals, that’s a bonus!

Anything that might pass as educational. If it is on the Discovery channel, he loves it. It’s automatic. Tell him how something is made, built, invented or bust a myth and he’s all in!

Hunting shows always get his attention. Could be anything from hunting for rodents (yes, there really are shows about that) to big game hunting.

Shows about rednecks acting like, well, rednecks. Lawnmower racing, keg stands, chasing alligators, big fat slobs with unreasonably hot wives!

Any show about guys eating really gross and disgusting food while talking about eating really gross and disgusting food. Last week I heard a guy on a show he was watching say “This smells and tastes remarkably like dirty sneakers” and yet the man KEPT EATING! It boggles my mind. Oh, and also a bonus if these shows are on while you might actually be eating something. Yum!

His idea of an ideal relaxing evening is flipping through all of these programs as often as possible. Basically any time there’s a commercial break, we’re changing channels. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left the room, or been distracted by a kid and looked up to wonder “wait, is this the same show?” because it suddenly makes no sense to me!

But wait, we’re not finished yet! Should his phone go off, or he has to go to the bathroom or even just leave the room to refill his drink or grab a snack, the television is paused until he returns. Doesn’t matter that he may get distracted and not return for 30 minutes or more, don’t unpause the TV! This part particularly drives me crazy, because even though he now has 30 minutes of paused television to fast forward through and skip commercials, if the show begins to lose his interest, we’re flipping channels again!

Just to give you some idea of the level of contrast between the two of us, I usually leave the television on the same channel for the entire day, or evening. I’m usually looking for the remote when the ‘the television is about to turn off due to inactivity’ message comes on the screen.

I’ve learned to enjoy watching TV with him even if I don’t always enjoy the exact programs that he chooses. More than once I’ve had to cover my eyes and say “Okay, new channel please! Uncle! Uncle!”

Is watching television with your significant other this crazy or is it just me?

Angela is a social media and online community professional who has always dreamed of being a writer. Blogging combines two of her passions, social media and writing! She blogs about anything that strikes her fancy and is always thrilled (and a little surprised!) when someone lets her know they enjoy reading her work. You can find her on her blog www.writermomblog.com, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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