Archive for August, 2011

Guys, Gifts & Grief

Posted on August 29, 2011. Filed under: Couples, Relationships |

Dear Lora,

Why is it that certain holidays (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, etc.) have men all wound up when it comes to making a statement of love and appreciation for their significant other?

I get completely stressed every time a “special day” rolls around.  I’m awful at buying gifts.  I find myself picking up something stupid, instead of something my wife might really like.  Do you have any suggestions on how to navigate these important days without looking like a heel?

Harried Hubby

Dear Harried Hubby,

Wow, is your wife a lucky gal or what?

The fact that you’re aware your gifts aren’t up to par is HUGE!  I have to say, my ex-husband gave me the strangest stuff, all of which came from a one of those warehouse stores…a back massager, packets of flavored hot chocolate mix, luggage, yes, a set of matching gray and paisley luggage!  I packed my bags all right, and headed straight for divorce court.  I’m not saying bad gifts lead to a bad marriage, but it certainly doesn’t scream “you’re the love of my life” either.  In my case, my ex didn’t have a clue, and worse, he didn’t care or even include a card.  No thought, along with no card, usually equals well-deserved wife whining.  Here’s what you can do to combat present panic:

Step 1:  Never underestimate the power of a great card.  It may seem cheesy, but cards go a long way with chicks; we dig them.  Most women spend a crazy amount of time looking for the “perfect card.” We take the greeting card section of a store very seriously and appreciate it when others in our lives do as well

Step 2:  Ask her what she wants. I know it takes the surprise element out of it a bit, but I’m willing to bet she’d rather receive something she really wants versus being unpleasantly surprised. Nothing ruins a moment more than letting her unwrap a shop-vac because you think the kids have left too many goldfish crackers in the car seats.

Step 3:  Keep in mind, when it comes to gifts, women are usually not looking for “practical,” nor are we looking for something that will benefit your wants.  As a general rule, we are hoping for something special.  It doesn’t have to be expensive; in fact, most budgets can’t afford anything too fancy these days.  Compromise is the name of the gift-giving game.

Here’s what my husband Scooter does – based on the occasion, he tells me what he can afford to spend and asks for suggestions based on that amount.  That way, neither one of us is disappointed. If he can, he will allocate more for milestone birthdays and anniversaries. However, he does not give a great allowance for what he calls “Hallmark Holidays” and is just as annoyed by them as you are.  If there is something truly significant I’m hoping for, he will ask if he can combine occasions.

One year, he was able to take care of Christmas, my birthday and our anniversary with one gift. I was totally fine with that, as I’d rather have one thing to cherish, versus several things I don’t want. More importantly, he asked me if that was okay before he did it.

Setting expectations is the key here. Like it or not, women are notorious for putting pressure on men when it comes to presents. I’ll admit, we’re not always the greatest at reciprocating, but, honestly, dudes don’t care about this category as much…this is one area women get a hall-pass.

Pre-planning is hard for many men, especially since guys usually “buy,” they don’t “shop.”  Having a strategy will not only help with your gift giving stress, it will also keep you out of the doghouse – the one you gave your wife for her birthday last year.

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2 Dads & A Daughter

Posted on August 22, 2011. Filed under: Couples, Family, Parenting, Relationships |

Dear Lora,

My 3-year-old daughter has been asked several times to go on a play-date with another classmate. Even the other girls’ babysitter has aggressively been trying to arrange this play-date as well. I don’t want the child to be excluded, but the little girl in question has two dads and no mom. I am not prepared to answer any questions about homosexuality – what should I do?

Not so modern mama

Dear Not so modern mama,

After reading this question, my first reaction was “Man, oh man!” Then I realized that wasn’t the best reaction for this topic. However, I’ve never said “Woman, oh woman!” I digress…

Sister, I don’t mind telling you, this is a doozy!

As if talking to your kids about the Adam and Eve wasn’t difficult enough already, then you toss in and Adam and Steve, right?

This adds a layer of complexity that most of us aren’t ever ready to tackle.  It’s similar to making baked Alaska – you have to brown the top without melting the ice cream…it’s tough!

Before plunging into this parental problem, let’s put the sexual orientation issue aside for a minute and ask this question:

Would you react the same why if the girl lived with a single mother or single father? Maybe…maybe not, but it’s something to ponder.  These days it’s more and more common to come across “non-traditional” families. I’m even willing to bet, in some areas, it’s easier to find them than it is to find good old Mom and Pop unions we remember from our childhoods.

I know this, because I was a single mom for a decade before meeting and marrying Scooter.  After my brief first marriage crumbled – actually it was more of an implosion – it was hard being the “single mom” at school; it’s almost like you’re a leper, like your “singleness” is contagious.

Those who considered themselves the “perfect” couples/families didn’t really give me the time of day anymore, thus my daughter Betsy didn’t get invited to some things she might have otherwise, nor did I.  There are no invites to parties for single parents, there’s never a “ninth” chair at the table.  It’s isolating and lonely.  Now, this isn’t a pity-party, we were not victims and our lives turned out just fine.  I’m sharing this to let you know how challenging it can be for those who don’t “fit the mold” in society for whatever reason, especially for the kids of the so-called lepers. There are exceptions to that rule, and for those who didn’t treat us like outcasts, I truly appreciate it.

So you see, even those of us who were raised and believe in the traditional family unit, may find ourselves outside the mold once in a while.  Thus, I feel for this child and her two dads.

No matter where you live, you’re not going to be able to shield your child from others who are different than you.  Even being from small-town Kansas, I ran across my first knowingly gay couple while in middle school.  We were on vacation at Disneyland, yes, gays, as well as single parents are allowed at the happiest place on earth, imagine!  There they were, two guys holding hands, strolling by us as we stood in line for the “It’s A Small World” ride…ironic, absolutely!  Thankfully, my mom, good old Norma Jean delivered this line without any hesitation or judgment:  “You can’t help who you love.”  It was the perfect line then and it’s still the perfect line today.  I think it needs to be a bumper sticker.

For various reasons, you may or may not accept that others have different orientations, but they do and you’re not going to be able to “change them.”  I don’t know about you, but I have enough on my plate.  I don’t have time to get my laundry done, let alone worry about someone else’s personal business.

I say, if they are loving, nice parents, there’s no reason your child shouldn’t be able to have a play-date.  Just as divorce isn’t contagious, homosexuality isn’t contagious either.  Your child can’t catch it and neither can you.

Go with your daughter on the play-date, that way you can answer any questions that may pop up.  I’m guessing it’s going to be way more mundane than you think.  I’d be more worried about my child ending up in class with Hugh Hefner’s kids…I mean, explaining two girlfriends and a backyard grotto would be as much fun as explaining why Barbie dolls don’t come with underwear.

At the end of the day, I’d still rather see a kid with two loving parents, versus a child who’s been neglected and has ended up in the foster care system.  Not that that isn’t a wonderful option for the kids who need it, but you get were I’m coming from.

Listen, it’s very easy to think we can all protect our children from things we’re not keen on, but the reality is, they’re evidentially going to be exposed them.  I’d rather be the one to explain those things to them, instead of You Tube or MTV.

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Passive Parents

Posted on August 15, 2011. Filed under: Family, Parenting, Relationships |

Dear Lora,              

Last weekend my niece, who is 3 years old, came over to visit, along with a large family group.  The mother (my brother’s wife) was standing next to my niece and my young daughter who is 3 1/2.  As I walked into the room where the three of them were, I was appalled to see her child grasping my daughter with her two hands full of my daughter’s hair and was trying to bite her on the face!  My sister-in-law, too busy in her own world, did nothing to stop this.  How should I deal with this inattentive mother?  

Anti-bullying Aunt

Dear Anti-bullying Aunt,

Sweet mother of Pearl!  Where have all the parents gone? Honestly, where are the good folks who still keep an eye on their children and discipline them for their actions?

Here’s how bad it’s gotten – when I actually see a parent being a parent, I’m pleasantly surprised – how did we get to that point?  Why do we praise people for doing something they are supposed to do?

With that said, you are in a tough spot sister! And I do mean sister, as being related to the inattentive adult makes this much harder. If this were simply another parent in your playgroup, that would be easy, you just wouldn’t hang out with them anymore. The fact that your brother is biologically attached to the biter means you must handle this situation with kid gloves.

Although I don’t know your sister-in-law, I’m pretty sure one of the following applies:  She may not be aware of what she’s doing.  (I’m constantly shocked at how unconcerned some parents are these days – about anything!)  She may feel disciplining her child will take away from his/her “emotional growth.” Or worse yet, is more concerned about being a “friend” to their child versus being a parent.  Then you have the “my child is perfect” syndrome, dealing with the moms and pops of those tots is as much fun as chipping dry play-dough off wicker patio furniture.

No matter which one describes her best, she’s not allowed to stand by and let her kid clobber yours!

To keep the peace in the family, I’d first start by talking to your brother (her husband) about it. Approach him in a way that you’re “seeking his advice.”  Men love that stuff and are usually more responsive to conversation when they think you “need them” versus coming at them with a complaint. He’s married to the careless caretaker and is more than likely aware of how she is. However, he may not want to tackle the problem for the same reason my husband Scooter avoids issues, they’re afraid they’ll get stuck handling the situation alone. For example, he will never complain about the way I fold his boxers, no matter how I do it as he’s smart enough to know that one foul word and he’ll be folding Fruit of the Looms forever! That same logic applies to just about every situation for men. Tell him you truly need his “help” negotiating a toddler truce. Hopefully, he’ll volunteer to arbitrate the tyke tiff.

If that doesn’t work, then you’ll have to take the issue straight to the mindless mom herself.  I know, it sounds like taking coal to the mine, but your daughter’s humility and hair are at stake, so you’re going to have to be the bigger person.  Take her to lunch, let her super-size her order, and then say something like this:

“Your little niece asked me why you didn’t pull “Sarah” off of her the other day when she was biting and hitting her. She asked me if you didn’t see it and was worried you didn’t love her anymore. “

That brings the issue up without being too controversial. Hopefully, that will open the conversation and her eyes to what’s going on. Also ask her to let you know if your child ever does anything she’s concerned about.  Forming a maternal bond with her will not only strengthen your relationship with her, but will hopefully lead to some sort of team parenting, just like our folks used to have.

Personally, I want to go back to the days when every mom on the block was allowed to discipline all the neighborhood kids.  It was like we all had a dozen extra parents. No one called and “asked” if it was okay to send a kid home early because they were caught skateboarding on their neighbors’ roof.  Whoever caught the kid in action were both judge and jury.  If we had that kind of legal system in place for our little angels today, we might have less devilish behavior from everyone.

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Tubby Hubby

Posted on August 8, 2011. Filed under: Couples, Relationships |

Dear Lora,

My husband is trying to drop a few pounds.  I support that, but luckily, I’m not in the same position he is.  I admit to having a bit of a sweet tooth, and I usually indulge in a little sugary snack in the afternoons.   I don’t indulge in front of him, nor do I keep those kinds of snacks out on display to tempt him.  Should I really have to participate in his weight loss endeavor by sacrificing right along with him? 

Candy Craver

Dear Candy Craver,

It’s hard not to respect a woman who will go to battle over a brownie!  Believe me sister, there are times when the choice between a spouse and a sprinkle cookie is an easy decision.  In fact, just reading your question caused me to break into my own emergency stash of dark chocolate.  I keep it on the top shelf of the pantry behind a can of refried beans, which, by the way, is a super safe place to store just about anything.

However, when it comes to picking brownie battles, let’s refer to a line in your wedding vows, the “in sickness and in health” one.  I’m pretty sure this is where “health” comes into play.  As his wife, you do need to support him on this.   However, I also think it’s unreasonable to expect you to toss out all of your treats because he’s worried about being tricked.

My husband, Scooter, packed on the pounds a few years ago after he had to take steroids to save his hearing – ironic, considering he’d give anything for a little silence in our house.  While the drugs decreased his ear issue, they increased his waistline – imagine how much fun that was, a husband with both a medical and vanity issue all at once – good times!

When it came to losing weight, he tagged my Kansas-based cooking as the culprit.  I say it was the second helping that did him in.  Whatever it was, it certainly was easier to blame something or someone else rather than take the heat himself.  This is true for pretty much of all us; it’s super hard to own up to any issue and take responsibility for it, whether it’s losing weight, or admitting the dreaded “you were right, I was wrong.”   I swear, just uttering those words makes the hair on my arms rise, but still, on occasion, it has to be said.

If both of you stick to your guns, nothing is going to get solved and you’ll both feel like your needs are being neglected.  Here’s how you can reach some middle ground to this mid-section issue.

Find out what treats your husband can’t stand – for instance, you could put a thousand Milky Way bars in front of me and I’d never touch them.  I’m not sure what that nougat is, but I can’t stand it. I also feel that way about 3 Musketeers for the same reason.  To do this day, I’m bummed when either are dropped into my kids trick or treat bags.  Those were, and still are, the first bars traded when we get back to the house.

However, I’m hard pressed to pass up a peanut butter cup or Kit Kat.  That would mean Scooter could bring an entire galaxy of candy bars into the house, but would have to “give me a break” and skip the Skippy.

You need to set down with your spouse and find out what he does NOT like when it comes to sweet treats.  This should be fairly easy, if you haven’t noticed, guys are usually pretty set in their ways.  Scooter could eat red velvet cake all day long, but won’t touch any sweet that contains fruit or has fruit in its name – Fruity Pebbles are his only exception – which means I could keep an entire arsenal of Fig Newtons and cherry-filled donuts in the house.

Tell him how supportive you are of his weight loss and that you’re willing to make changes in your life to help him achieve his goal.  At the same time, explain that making drastic adjustments on your part is likely to make you irritable or even cranky, trust me that will get his attention.  If he understands that your little piece of chocolate every afternoon keeps you from calling him with another “to do” item, he’ll be more likely to let you keep your Klondike bars in the freezer, rather than the trash.

P.S.  Scooter lost the weight he had gained.  Turns out it was the potato chips and pastrami at lunch that were doing him in.  Once he ditched the Doritos and switched to turkey on wheat, he was back in his pleated Polo shorts from the 80s in no time – the jury is still out on whether that’s necessarily a good thing or not.

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Kids & Ca$h

Posted on August 1, 2011. Filed under: Family, Parenting |

Dear Lora,

I’ve heard that tying allowances to chores is a no-no because the kids could always say they don’t care about the money and refuse to do the chores.  What is the best way to handle kids and money?

Puzzled Parent

Dear Puzzled Parent,

Can you imagine telling our parents we refuse to do chores?  It’s such an insane notion that I’m laughing out loud just thinking about it.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have been able watch The Flintstones for a month had I talked back to Norma Jean like that!

Speaking of the Stone Age, back in the Mesozoic era, when I was child, I used to get 75 cents a week.  Yes, less than a dollar for seven days of service.  In elementary school I saved those three quarters for over six months just to buy two purple and white pom-pons.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered in high school you get them free when you make the squad.  I’m now the proud owner of 4 dust collectors, or dusters, depending on how you look at them.  Although they’re worth nothing today, to me, they are still worth every penny.

The funny part is, I can’t exactly remember what my actual duties were, but I sure remember the “saving money” part.  That’s the takeaway – I remember the part my parents wanted me to remember – the value of a dollar…or in my case, less than a dollar!

Of course that doesn’t mean I’ve always been able to implement that in my life.  I have spent plenty of money on stupid stuff.  Last year I bought one of those hair bumpit’s you see on TV and haven’t used it once – can you imagine me, looking like a blonde Snooki from that Jersey Shore show?  Ridiculous!  The good news is I do have buyer’s remorse over those insane purchases, most likely due to my parent’s persistence.

Personally, I think there are two topics you need to start discussing with your kids as early as possible: the birds and the bees, and that money doesn’t grow on trees!

If your child says they don’t care about money, you need to come up with a creative way of making them care.  If you attach the allowance to something that interests them, like going to the movies with friends, buying the latest video game or getting an overpriced iced mocha with their buddies, they’ll care.  Trust me, they can only mooch off their friends for so long.

If they don’t complete their tasks, not only should you withhold the cash, I suggest taking away something they covet until their jobs are completed.  For example, with our oldest, Betsy, all you had to do was threaten to take away her hair conditioner.  Now, that may not sound like that big of a deal, but to a teenage girl, it’s the end of the world!  Especially if your child is “hair-orexic” like Bets is.  Honestly, she’d rather give you the keys to her car before parting with her Pantene!

Now I’ll admit, when it comes to bucks, I could have done a better job with Betsy, also known as my “starter child.” The reality hit me when she went to college last year.   Within a couple of days, she called from a cash machine asking what a PIN was!  Imagine my surprise when I realized she truly didn’t know how to use an ATM.  Wait, it gets better, after I walked her through how to pull out cash, she wanted to know how to write a check!  What?  How in God’s green earth did she make it all those years without cracking open a checkbook?  To you and me, it seems mundane, but to a child of the 90s it’s down right archaic!  It was my fault.  I spent too much time focusing on the “how to make and appreciate money” line that I forgot some of the more simple, yet just as important tasks.  Take a tip from me, make sure you cover those areas as well, otherwise, you’ll get a call from campus at midnight because your kids needs to super size their fries, but are out of dough.

If I were Queen, we’d have a class were our kids learned valuable life lessons, like how to rent their first apartment, how to have utilities turned on and how to balance a checkbook.

Instead, they are required to a resurrect a model of a mission, build paper-mache dragons and take four years of a foreign language, which they won’t remember a lick of once you actually take them to said country for a visit.  I should know letting Betsy order in Spanish is more dangerous than putting Mentos in your Mountain Dew.

My take – making your kids labor for extra loot is positive.  Yes, it is a chore for us parents, but a very important one.  These days you can’t afford to short change your kids when it comes to educating them on cash.

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