Friday, June 27, 2008

The Christmas Tree Project

Christmas in July, what? Actually yes, now is the perfect time to be thinking about Christmas trees. Now is when we go through our basements and attics and get rid of our junk, clutter, and things we just don’t use anymore. So we find the Christmas tree we have not used in years, it takes up to much room, or we have a new one, or now that the kids have moved out we don’t need such a big one, or we go away every Christmas so we just don’t use it. There are 1000’s of reasons why people have unused Christmas trees in storage.

Most of them get put out into garage sales, donated to charity or get put into the garbage. Most Christmas trees don’t sell at garage sales. I have seen what happens to the trees donated to charity, they are found all over the second hand shop, usually one piece here and other over there. They usually get wrecked and end up in the garbage anyway.

One lady in Hamilton Ontario, Jackie, has made it her mission to stop the waste and keep the Christmas trees out of landfills and into homes that would not have a tree. For the last few years she has been going on Freecycle and taking any trees that don’t find homes and storing them until they do. Check it out here:
She has also been rescuing trees from garage sales. Her friends and family keep an eye out for trees for her project. In the first year she helped 7 trees find new families and 10 trees the second year, however there were more families looking to adopt trees then there were trees. Every year the number of trees that find new homes increases but so does the list of people looking for them.

I find that she has inspired my family; we are now keeping an eye out for trees and decorations that can be given to families in need. It would be great if we could all pull together and take the Christmas Tree Project to a new level; world wide. I know there are Christmas trees sitting around in storage that still have life and can be used. If you have one, or know of someone with one get yourself and every one else involved in the Christmas Tree Project.

If you have a tree then post it onto Freecycle or any free ad site. If you don’t feel comfortable with people coming to pick it up, drop it off. Often families who need the trees don’t have a way to pick it up, so dropping it off helps a lot. Rescue trees from garage sales and second hand shops if you can afford it. Spread the word. Christmas does not only have to be in December, we can have it all year round by getting unused Christmas Trees to people who will use them. This is also a good thing to do with those unused Christmas decorations. Jackie is currently adding Christmas Decoration to the Christmas Tree Project. It makes sense, people who cannot afford trees probably cannot afford the decorations.

You may ask how I found out about Jackie and the Christmas Tree Project; She gave me a tree a week ago, one that I could not have afforded. I appreciate what she is doing and hope this can grow to be a huge Christmas Tree Project this year if we all pull together. As she said, there are always more people looking for a tree then trees. Lets try to change that this year.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why we fear our kids drinking alcohol

Why do we not want our kids drinking? Simple, we don’t want them doing what we did as kids, or what our friends did, or even just kids we knew did. Drinking makes you stupid. When drunk you don’t think strait and do stupid things, like having unprotected sex with someone you don’t know, jump off a bridge to go swimming, play chicken with a train, try drugs, and that is just what adults do. I don’t want to think of what underage kids do when drunk, probably the same type of things.

Some parents fear that their kids will be the ones that don’t survive what some consider a right of passage. Others see no problems giving their kids alcohol. My understanding is that most teen accidental deaths involve alcohol or drugs, and some that are not accidental do as well. I don’t want it to be my kids found dead from alcohol poisoning, or because they did something so fundamentally stupid it killed them.

Alcohol is legal but it is also addictive. It does kill brain cells so it is actually making us less smart. It changes how we think. It also changes our bodies so we need alcohol. All you have to do is see someone detoxing to understand how strong of a physical hold alcohol can have. Then you add the psychological hold, that it makes things better, its fun, cool, and you have to drink to fit in, it is easy to see why there are so many people drinking.

I don’t want my children drinking, underage or after. So why do I not want my kids to do something that is legal and considered for the most part harmless? My personal fear is that once my kids start drinking they will not be able to stop and that it will take over. That these two wonderful kids with the potential to do anything and be anything become nothing, or harm themselves or others or even die. I have seen it happen.

I already know that they are biologically predisposed to addictions such as drugs and alcohol. On one side their Grandparents were both heavy drug and alcohol users, and on the other side their Uncles are heavy drug and alcohol users. On top of that their father was an alcoholic, luckily clean and sober for two years before our first child.

It would not be a good idea to expose them to alcohol at any age. I hope to avoid the drinking by teaching them early on that drinking is not good for them. I don’t actually hold much hope that they will not drink. It is too much a part of our society. They are going to end up trying a drink once just to fit in. What happens after that is going to depend on them. I cannot stop them from drinking if they really want to. I can only do my best to restrict their access to it until they are of legal age to drink.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Dealing with death and young children

When someone close to your family dies you have a lot to deal with. First you have your own grief. At the same time you need to be aware of how the death is affecting your child or children. How do you explain death to them? Do you let them say goodbye? Do you take them to the viewing and or funeral or keep them away from it all? It all depends on the child.

In the last year I know several families all dealing the deaths. They all handled it differently. Several different scenarios occurred, all with upsides and downsides.

1) Grandma died. It was explained to the children that Grandma was in heaven. They decided not to take their kids to the funeral or the viewing. The little girl keeps asking when Grandma is coming back from heaven. The little boy is angry because he did not get to say goodbye to Grandma like everyone else. Looking back the family thinks that they should have taken the kids to the funeral and possibly to viewing so that they could see that Grandma was dead and say goodbye.

2) An uncle died. The three boys want to go to the funeral and say goodbye. They did not get to say goodbye when other family members had passed on and they are upset about it. Mom is concerned about dealing with inappropriate behavior at the funeral. That they are going to be asking a lot of questions and are not going to be quiet and respectful. She is expecting to be embarrassed because her boys are disruptive of others morning. She would like to keep them home in respect for others at the funeral. It is a conflict because she also knows her boys don’t just want to say goodbye, they need to. They have had a real time understanding that other family members are dead, they never saw the body, and did not get to say goodbye. The older boy is actually angry that he did not get to see and say goodbye to Grandpa when he died a year ago. He needs some type of closure, and talking to him about it is just not enough. At this point she is planning to take them to the funeral because her boys need this and other people will just have to understand that they are children dealing with a loss as well.

3) Grandpa died. The boy wants to go to the viewing and say goodbye, the girl does not want to see the body. He wants to go to the funeral she does not. The single Mom had to decide what to do, leave one home with a babysitter, make both stay or both go. She decided to take the boy to the viewing, and both to the funeral to say goodbye. She felt it gave both kids closure and that if the girl had not gone she would have regretted it latter. Both kids had questions about death and the funeral, all of which the Mom tried to deal with before they got to the funeral. She decided to talk the kids through the funeral before they went. She told them what to expect, what people would be doing and what was expected of them. This helped out a lot. It took away the girls fear, and answered the boy’s questions. It gave them time to be comfortable with the funeral. There were a lot of what happens when you die, and why do people die questions. The pre talk actually helped a lot, and started to give the kids closure even before they went to the funeral. It was very hard on the Mom.

As much as we would like to protect our children from the reality of death, it seems that they need closure as much as we do. In our own grief it can be hard to see that. We don’t want to have to deal with it, and think our children will be unable to deal with it. That dealing with death will harm them somehow. We think that we are protecting them by keeping them away from viewings or funerals.

Yet we already know that kids need to say goodbye just as much as we do. Look what happens when a pet dies. Often we will have some goodbye ceremony, a funeral (if possible) and some type of morning. If this is what we need to do for a pet then we need to do the same when it is a person. It is a type of closure. Many children are unable to accept that someone has died until they see the body, or the funeral.

That does not mean it is going to be easy. I heard quite a few horror stories of kids being scared of the body and having nightmares for weeks. Another kid kept asking when Grandma was going to jump out of the box and yell surprise. She was quite upset when they actually buried the casket because Grandma was in there. How was she going to get out? Another kid yelled boo and wake up at the body and tried to poke it. Grandpa was just sleeping and he was trying to wake him up. It is all very stressful for everyone involved. You cannot give into your grief because you have to deal with your kids and that just makes it even harder on you.

So in one way it may be easer on us the parents to leave the kids at home. However, it seems not going to the funeral is more stressful for the kids and possibly more stressful for the parents in the long run. It is all going to comedown to what you the parent thinks is going to be best for your child.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Finding 5 minutes to play with your kids

We are all good at finding reasons for why we cannot find time to play with our kids. There is never anytime to get everything we need to get done in the day let alone play. I personally find this to be my weakness as a parent. I can supervise with the best of them but struggle to make time to play with my kids.

Yet I know that just taking the time to play with them has way more benefits then not. I know giving them five to ten minutes of playtime with me a day increases their positive behaviors and actually frees more time for me. But I still struggle to remember to make the time. It is difficult for me to play, not instruct or supervise.

At one point I actually scheduled playtime in my day timer. That worked for a bit and then other things started to interfere with it. It is summer and all the kids want to do is play outside with their friends. By the time the come in it is dinner, bath, story, and then bed time. When do I fit playtime in there with out disrupting the routine? They get hyper when we play and it is not conducive for an easy bedtime, they just want to keep playing. Now 5 minutes is not a lot of time and should be easy to fit into the day.

I realized today that I have the perfect opportunity for playtime several times a day. We wait for the bus every morning for 10 to 15 minutes. We play pirates on the bench at the bus stop. Today they each took a stuffy with them and we played a game with them. It was easy to do and it was a lot more fun then just sitting there. What do I care about what the other people at the bus stop think; I am spending time with my kids. Added bonus was that because the kids were playing with me I did not have to worry about them getting to close to the road or picking up who knows what off the ground. It made it easer and fun for all of us. This is gong to work for us.

I finally figured out that it does not have to be formal playtime on the floor with toys or at the table with play dough. We can play anytime and any place. I think it will be easer to go shopping with them because we can now make a game out of it, and play. Instead of me telling them to keep up, keep your hands to yourself, get back here, don’t touch that. We can play I spy, pirates looking for a treasure (some item on the shopping list), or just about anything the kids can come up with. Trust me they can come up with way better ideas then I can. Bus rides and waiting for the bus, or standing in line are now times to play.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Single Mom’s Fathers Day dilemma

So what do you do when you are a single Mom and Fathers day comes along? Things are fine if the Dad still has consistent positive contact with their kids. Unfortunately this is not always the case.

As a child I had limited contact with my Dad. My Mother never had me do anything for Fathers day. Eventually I chose to make and send my Dad Fathers day gifts. I made that decision on my own. It was my way to reach out to my Dad. It did not change a thing and eventually I stopped, again my decision. It could not have been easy for my Mother to let me do this year after year only to be let down by my Dad yet again.

I have several friends who are single Mothers having to deal with difficult Fathers day decisions. The fathers are either absent, abusive or not reliable; i.e. say they will show up and don’t.

The ones with the absent or abusive Dads cannot let their kids see their Dads for obvious reasons. With the unreliable Dads do you make plans for your kids to spend Fathers day with him? You know that there is a higher chance of him canceling or just not showing up then there is of him actually spending time with his kids. Is it better to have no contact or to not make planes or live with the possibility of him rejecting and hurting your kids again?

This is an incredibly difficult situation to be in. If your child wants to do something for Fathers day let them, even if you know that Dad is not going to respond. The truth is that at this point it is not for the Dad but for the child. Let them be just like their friends, making something for Dad. It is also a good way to let kids express themselves and deal with their feelings.

As a parent it can be heartbreaking to see your child reaching out to someone who is just not there. Kids are not stupid. They figure it out eventually. They will make cards that ask, “Why don’t you play with me, like me, love me?” Let them say what they want. No matter what you will still have to find a way to be there for your kids and let them know that it is not them, their Dad is the one with the problem.

How to deal with it? Don’t force your kids to make Fathers day anything and don’t stop them if they want to. Then make the day about them, not their Dad.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Who is to blame when it comes to underage drinking and sex?

There are underage boys and girls getting ID’s that gives them preserved legal ages. They use these to get into clubs, bars and buy alcohol. This is bad enough. They are out drinking and partying and doing everything we as parents don’t want them to be doing. Now for the most part it is kids 16 and older doing this but there are kids as young as 13 getting into bars. They look older then they are and the have the ID to back it.

There needs to be some changes with whom we hold responsible for the results. Do we need to start cracking down on the stores that are selling the ID, the bars and stores selling the alcohol, the parents or the kids? Usually it is the bar or store selling alcohol that pays the price, or fine. What about the store that made the ID for kids in the first place. What consequences do they have to face? These kids are not blameless; they are the ones who get the fake ID in the first place.

Then you have the poor smuck who thinks the kid is of age and has sex with him or her. Who pays the price there? Sure there are people praying on the underage, but if you think you are with someone who is legal, and they have the ID to prove it, who is responsible here? Who gets the label pedophile and jail time? Not the kid. This is where an innocent gets to pay the consequences. There needs to be a change in the law to respond to this type of instance. There is a large difference between someone knowingly having sex with a minor and someone having a one-night stand with someone they think is 21. They should not be treated the same.

So who is responsible? Those that provide the fake ID should be hit the hardest. Making it harder to get the ID that tricks people makes sense to me. Clubs, bars and stores that sell alcohol should be next if they knowingly sell to a minor, the fake ID should not be held against them if it is of good quality. You should not be penalized for selling to someone you think is legal. Same for the person who has sex with the 21 year old who is actually 14 but looks 21 and has the ID to prove it. How can that person be held responsible for having sex with a minor when all the information they had said otherwise?

That leaves the parents and the kids. How much blame should be placed on the parents of kids who are out at bars, clubs or buying booze? Should they not know what is going on and where their kids are? Sure ask that of the parent whose kid slips out of the house once everyone is asleep or the one who’s kid is supposedly at a sleepover or working. There is a point where you just do not have the control and yet somehow you, the parent, are being held responsible for your teenager’s actions. This one I have a hard time with because in one way a parent is responsible for their children but at the same time I feel that there are circumstances that the parents have done everything that can be reasonably expected and then some.

So whom should the responsibility fall on, the teenagers getting the fake ID’s in the first place! They are knowingly breaking the law and should be the ones to deal with the law, not the people they are tricking. This is not some innocent kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. They had to go out and get the ID made with the intent to use it to break the law. There should be some consequences for these kids to face, Juvenal jail time or something. It is fraud and should be treated as such. These are not innocent victims and should not be treated as such. The bars, clubs, stores, sex partners and parents for the most part are the victims here.

From the time I was 12 years old I could get into bars, clubs and buy alcohol at the liquor store with out ID. I looked as if I was in my 20 with out make-up on. I was not carded once until one week before my 18th birthday. In Canada 18 years is legal to buy alcohol. At age 13 I had 20-year-old guys and older trying to date me thinking I was the same age as them, and I was not in a bar or club at the time. If I could do this without ID think about how much easer it is with fake ID. The irony is that I don’t drink, then or now, nore did I go to clubs or bars when I was under age. At 12 I went into the liquor store to pick up some brandy for the Christmas cakes I was making and was able to get help picking it out and then bought it with out being questioned or carded. So my Mother would send me in to get her alcohol well she went shopping. A few times she took me to bars and clubs and found it funny that no one thought twice about letting me in. What could I have gotten away with at that age today with a fake ID?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fathers Day Gifts for the BBQ king

A brand new top of the line BBQ with all the bells and whistles would be the best gift for the king of BBQ. There are lots of new BBQ’s out this year so it should be easy to find one that fits your budget, and his back yard.

A portable BBQ is also a great gift, this way he can be the BBQ king whereever he goes. There are some outstanding new portable BBQ’s out this year, both in the propane or charcoal styles. It is just a matter of shopping around and finding the right one for your father.

Propane and BBQ accessories such as a rotisserie add on for his current BBQ can also be good gifts. I did find some interesting accessories on line. I found two different companies that make personalized branding irons for the BBQ. This way he can put his mark on anything he BBQ’S. I thought that it would make an unusual gift, but a fun one. I also found a wireless talking BBQ and oven thermometer. This is a useful and cool gift for the dad who likes having the newest techno gadget out and loves to BBQ.

I am sure the branding iron and thermometer can be found at lots of places here are the links for where I found them. I think it may be someone’s affiliate link to the different sites because they were on a page of ads. It still gets you to site though so you can see what I am talking about.

Barbecue Branding Iron
Personalized Branding Iron for the Grillmaster
wireless talking bbq + oven thermometer

A BBQ or grilling tool set also makes a nice gift. There is lots of grilling tool sets available at almost any store so it should be easy to find one for any budget. There are some quite elaborate sets to simple basic ones. I found all kinds of sets online, some with things I had no idea what they were used for, but my husband thought they were grate and wanted them all.

The BBQ gift basket is always winner. I have to admit that this is what I would give my Grandfather every year. I had a lot of fun with it. We have some local specialty shops that carry every type of sauce and spice you can think of from hot and spicy to sweet and sticky and every combination known to man. I would go grab a couple of different bottles of BBQ sauce and marinades for him to try out. I always put in new BBQ mitts as he always in need of those. If a funky new BBQ lighter out I would put it in. One year I did not use a basket but got him this great carrying/serving tray and put it all on that. It was big and he used it all the time after that. I would also look for fun theme plates, cups or BBQ accessories to add in. He ended up with some of the strangest things, but he liked it and I had fun getting it all. Every year was different, and what he got depended on my budget but it was always fun.