Parenting Reboot


5 Steps to overcome a Miserable Parenting Day

NO one is happy. Everyone is crying. Someone hates you–they all hate you. You left the house a mess. You started off late, continue to be late and spilled your coffee.

It is OK to not be your best all the time. We all have those days — days when we would rather binge watch Netflix and eat M&M’s and Kettle Corn…(mixed together BTW).

If today is not turning out to be an award-winning, memory making day, hit the reboot button. Shift your focus–recharge, restore and renew. How does one do that? First, turn off the tech…(after you read this of course.) Next, focus on the golden nuggets that are hiding in the mess.

Here are Five simple things to turn your day around

NOTICE the Light

If you look at some of the great artists, like Rembrandt, his paintings are dark at first, and they could be called ugly. But, the beauty in a Rembrandt is found in the subtleties of light. If you observe the painting long enough you will see it: the very faint touches of light on the side of a face, on an arm, on a sleeve, or a piece of fabric. Rembrandt’s predominantly black masterpieces are a study of light.

When you take the time to see the beauty, you begin to notice the smaller things you may have missed if you had rushed by. As an artist I can tell you, those values are important to making a composition work — the contrast of light to dark. The darkness allows us to see the gentle light which we would not otherwise notice.

In life, there is always some light. Even in the murkiest of times, hiding in the muck, there is something that you can find to hold onto and give you hope. Hard days, just like difficult phases in life, are an opportunity to see situations with new light. We simply need to shift our thinking by weeding out the clutter. Sometimes, we have the opportunity to do that for ourselves, sometimes life does that for us.

One of the greatest things you can learn when you’ve been stripped down to nothing is that what’s left in front of you is often what’s most valuable. (from Crushed:When Parenting is Hard)

If life has hit you hard and you feel like darkness surrounds you, stop to notice — what do you have left? You have the gentle light — the small joys– that’s what is most important. If you’re too busy, you could miss those little morsels of gold. Choose to notice. Look at your schedule and cut out anything that isn’t a top priority today.

Start there today. Begin again. What is left in front of you is where you need to focus.


Are you holding your breath? Stop that!

Take some deep breaths — in through the nose [1, 2, 3, 4,] and out the mouth [4, 3, 2, 1.] Count 4 in, and 4 out until you feel yourself relax. Stress has an awful side effect that causes some of us to hold our breath. I noticed myself doing so when out older kids were teens, in the middle of the suicide cluster that hit our community and after our son’s night in the ICU from binge drinking. I had to intentionally recognize when I was holding my breath, and force myself to breathe. If you haven’t heard of the APP Headspace, check it out. I wish I had known about it back then.

Reflection and quiet are important for your outlook. Hard times or hard days, if you see them as an opportunity to readjust your sails, could end up being powerful and pivotal moments in your life. It is usually in the quiet that we give ourselves the space to learn. Stress is the pull from what our reality is, and what we are expecting it to be, reflecting on what our focus should be is very helpful. It’s human nature to learn from our wrong turns in life, so take advantage of the teachable moment for yourself. 10 minutes could redirect your whole day.



Get out of the house, change your surroundings. Go outside; go to a coffee shop, stop in church, mosque, synagogue, or the beach and say a prayer. If you’re at work, take a break and change your location. There’s something about fluorescent lights that will make you a little nuts. Keeping yourself if one spot for too long isn’t good for you. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that make you feel good! Boost them naturally, go walk. 20 minutes of walking makes a

Your body-brain connection is real. Be attentive to how you take care of your body, and ultimately how you feel. Exercise boosts endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that make you feel good! Twenty minutes of walking makes a HUGE difference in your brain function and how you feel.


Find Joy

It’s the small things. I’m sure you all saw the Chewbacca mom. Find joy: watch something funny or reach out and talk with an old friend! Jolting the good things in your life lets joy take over the negative. Do not keep to yourself. People are socially connected, we need one another. Reach out and make a connection.

Oxytocin is the relationship bonding hormone, and like endorphins, our brains need Oxytocin —  another “happy” neurotransmitter. It’s secreted during childbirth, nursing a baby, intimacy, and by simply laughing or hugging someone. A good long hug, 20 seconds or more, could change  your whole mindset. Try taking that kid, who is driving you nuts lately, (maybe even out of school) out for ice cream.

Sometimes our lives are so cluttered that we miss the small moments. We need to stop the full steam ahead craziness long enough to recognize the simple, small, golden nuggets in the day.


Be Grateful for Something

One thing!. Be grateful for one small thing. You may look around and see piles of mess or a laundry list of tasks, but be grateful for that one bowl that made it to the sink. It’s one less thing on the counter! Score! For me, I hate laundry. We have 10 people in our family…. I

For me, I hate laundry. We have 10 people in our family…. I really hate laundry (and shoes, but we’ll talk about that another time.)

An attitude of gratefulness can change a morning of mess into one of peace.

I had a mom who was about 10 years ahead of me in the family journey help me shift my attitude about my detest for laundry. She suggested that I pray for each child as I fold their clothes. She told me to pray for every aspect of their little lives; for their friendships, character, sadness, joys, and future. Slowly, folding laundry turned into a time to focus on the gratefulness I have for the lives of my children.

So GO! Take a break. Call a friend, go for a walk. Read that cranky kid a book, take the disgruntled teen out for food, put your feet up and breathe.


You will find yourself — Recharged. Restored. Renewed.

NOW it’s ok to turn off the tech.

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I’m disgusted, as you all are, by the news this week. I am proud of my feminist activist friends (Go girls!) using this news story to discuss a topic no one wants to address. But on a deeper level, are you outraged enough? Let’s be honest, the Stanford story is the end result of years of entitlement and bailing out a kid who was ‘special’ and above the rules of society. That is a parenting issue. If we want the disregard for others to stop, we must take back parenting.You Can NOT Be Replaced

Peel back the layers.

Consider this, the rape can not be the first time this young man has been bailed out by his parents. Their language flowed too easily playing down his ‘bad decisions’ and shifting blame. As a community of adults, what we need to recognize is, they are not the first parents to attempt to erase their kid’s actions and consequences. This kind of parenting or lack of parenting is an epidemic.

Zamboni parenting.

Smoothing out the impact of a child’s bad behavior so they feel no pain, is a serious issue in parenting that has to be addressed. We’ve seen parents, whose child had broken the school’s athletic code, by getting arrested for underage drinking, go after the school for suspending their child from a team. They even went so far as to sue the school board to remove the policy. They didn’t want their child’s college scholarship impacted. The child signed the school policy contract, and so did the parents, but that didn’t matter in their eyes. We have a similar contract we have read with our kids, discussed the seriousness of, and signed as well. So- my child would have had the consequence enforced, but yours is ‘special’?

We’ve seen school administrations let entire athletic teams off from a 2-week suspension after getting arrested for a house party, saying ‘let’s hop over this one’ because states were around the corner. The team was ‘special’. We’ve asked parents in other communities, who have had several student deaths, to have zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol at graduation so as not to trigger hidden emotions and increase the chance of a repeat. Only to have found out weeks later their community had several parties with ‘the keg flowing’ and ‘copious amounts of alcohol everywhere’, graduates and underclassman, it was a ‘special’ occasion.

I had a teen reach out to me for service hours from You Can NOT Be Replaced after getting arrested for creating thousands of dollars in damage to a property with friends, only to turn down the few hours I offered because ‘I have football’ and was ‘much too busy’. I never to heard from him or his parents again. Did he ever do his hours? Too bad, volunteering with our organization is fun and an opportunity to have a strong mentoring experience with some great people.

A missed opportunity- A lesson in entitlement.

“The rules don’t apply to me, I’m special.”

Teens have told us they drink at home, their parents allow it. Parents tell us, ‘they are honor students and work so hard, what the harm in letting them drink?” Have you ever stopped to think the hidden message you are teaching? You know it’s developmentally inappropriate, against the law, tell them don’t get caught, but you allow it, why?

Too often parents think getting angry with their kids, and showing them how disappointed they are when they have done something stupid, is lesson enough. That is not enough to teach what they need to learn. There needs to be an act of reparation with a life lesson. If not they begin to learn…

“I’m above the law, those rules don’t apply to me.”

Until parents are all outraged, it won’t stop. We have to shift focus. Stop this movement within our culture of the ‘special’ kid. Parenting goals have to stop being to raise a kid who gets a full ride to a division one college. It’s too easy to excuse illegal behavior because they ‘work so hard’, ‘getting the scholarship is their job’. We are allowing the ‘whatever they please attitude’, regardless of the wake they leave behind them, as long as they achieve for us.

The goal for parents needs to be character focused.

What kind of adult are you raising?

All parents think their kids are special. My kids are special. All eight of them. I have three who are over 21, highly functioning, bright, funny, compassionate and contributing to their community with their gifts and talents.

Yes, a virtual pat on the back.

That didn’t just happen! It was work!

The sacrifice of our own wants, focusing on cultivating strength of character and being willing to have them hate us for doing what ‘no one else’ ever had to do! Chip and I worked to intentionally form their moral compass, provide outside influences that supported our goals and used incredible tenacity to enforce the consequences to that needed to be imposed when they failed.

I’m “that mom’…the crazy one.

The mom who says NO! The one who will not allow drinking, who makes their friends come to the door, look us in the eye and shake our hands. Chip and I call other homes to make sure parents are home (we draw straws, it’s hard to do!). I’m the mom who sent a letter on social media to all my son’s friends when he almost died from binge drinking and I’m the annoying mom who tells you stats of student loss at a cocktail party.

Yes, I’m that mean mom.

I’m the one who is the kill-joy, the fun-sucker and the buzz-kill (seriously, friends call me that). But I’m old enough that I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. My job is to raise kids that are self-aware, have a developed conscience and empathy towards others, not care what anyone thinks. And I don’t care if the information I share makes you uncomfortable or squirm just a bit. Because I would rather piss you off now, have you make some ‘adjustments’ while hating me a little, than have you call me in tears in the aftermath of a crisis. I’ve met too many parents who are Crushed.ebook

Our job as parents is to raise highly functioning adults.

Our job is not to raise D1 Athletes, Rhode scholars, music or movie stars, and Wall Street billionaires. It is our job to raise good people, who understand that each person is worthy of being treated with a deep level of dignity, integrity, and respect. Our kids need to learn that we treat people that way regardless of whether or not we like them, agree with them or know them. If emotional strength and character are the focus, then regardless of their career path, we have accomplished what we set out to do. We have raised a highly functioning adult.

My kids are leaders, all eight, and have been since they were little.

Other kids follow them. It’s their call in life, and our job to cultivate. I make them all a little nuts reminding them that they are visible, athletic, attractive, artistic and talented and being watched. They are ‘special’. So are yours. But, they are NOT above the code of conduct. They need to understand and appreciate the power of their influence in the lives of others.b16 (1)

It’s our job as parents to show our kids ‘how’ to be a contributing member of our larger community by modeling what it means to be a selfless and responsible adult. All of us have a responsibility to impact others for good, and through the visibility of our gifts, we can do that. Our gifts make us special, but not entitled and above the basic goodness that people are capable of.

What makes me sad is, I have actually had other parents leave the athletic field their kids were playing on to stop and watch one of mine, then proceed to apologize for their kid’s lack of talent. How tragic for their kid, gifts aren’t always visible. My kid’s gifts only give them more responsibility to act with integrity. Not to mention 8 kids is a visible thing, we stick out anyway, gifted or not.

We have worked VERY hard to make sure our kid’s character comes first. There’s no excuse for lazy when it comes to the formation of character. Mediocre has to stop. If we can demand excellence in their athletic and academic life, why can’t we demand it from their character? That means obeying the law too.

That effort to consistently remind them of this responsibility has worked for our family so far, we are often stopped by teachers, store owners, people who have met our children at work or out in the community who have told us that our kids are exceptionally polite and kind. They’ve won leadership and character awards and Emily was even a Coach Wooden Citizen Cup award semi-finalist as a sophomore in college. That award was won by Tim Tebow and Mia Hamm. A happy and proud parent moment.11356449_1461444864174252_1963355944_n



Guess what?

My highly functioning, bright and compassionate adults


Multiple times.

We have had the call from the school, the letter from the superintendent (oops), the call from the screaming parent, the police station, and a hospital visit that ended in a miracle. We’ve had semesters home for bad grades and even had to kick out a kid for spending so much money on clothes that he was getting hand written notes from the sales people. We did that because that money was supposed to be paying off students loans. Integrity and keeping one’s word is an essential successful adult character trait. He had to learn the lesson before that bad pattern was cemented in him.

As parents, those failures are hard to watch, hard to discipline and hard to follow through with consequences. We wanted so much to make the uncomfortable situations go away, and it was a pain in the tail to have to enforce those consequences. We had to suffer too. But it was our responsibility to do so and raise kids that were aware that their choices impacted others. They needed to learn through the smaller situations so that they didn’t continue with the bad behavior into adulthood. We all know undisciplined adults, that just doesn’t happen either, that takes years to form.

They need to fail while still in our home to learn:

Life is not about them
Choices impact others- good and bad
They will be held accountable for their actions

So are you outraged? Are you pissed at me? That’s ok.

Harness that emotion and stop. Reevaluate. Set goals, goals for you as parents, for your kids and for your family that are established to create core values. Continually evaluate how you’re doing. If you are unsure of how to strengthen your family, look for an outside support system to help you. Take the steps to find a community of adults who will support you in the character development of your child, so that one day you can look at your adult children and be proud of not just the job they have, but the people they are.

Take back parenting!

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You Can NOT Be Replaced December Campaign #BeAGift 2014

You Can NOT Be Replaced Board of Awesome Hurricane Sandy

Chip and I found this old notebook with one of our stickers on it from our Hurricane Sandy days a couple weeks ago. I thought it would be appropriate to tell the story of the sticker now as we head into the holidays full force.

The holiday season is a time when we all put some effort into giving; to our loved ones, friends, neighbors…and also ‘people in need’. During Sandy, we had an intimate view into the lives of ‘people in need’ and how it feels to be given help.

Receiving help is not easy.

‘UR the one’ is what we said to each person who came through those doors and would tell us ‘save that for someone who really needs it’. We would say, ‘that’s YOU! You are the one!’ Not one person was comfortable receiving help. NOT ONE. To lesson the blow of an already stressful situation we all would ‘personal shop’ and take things off the shelf for them, remind them the items were already theirs….day after day.

Hurricane Sandy Campaign UR the one

Hurricane Sandy Campaign UR the one

Its a very difficult thing for people to be flooded with ‘stuff’ when they are in crisis mode. Whether people need the items or not cant be the focus. We need to stop and reflect on how some people.. not all…feel receiving help.

People on the receiving end can feel guilty, not worthy, like failures for not being able to provide those ‘things’ themselves. Grateful, but embarrassed…it goes on. The hurricane experience was a very interesting lesson for all of us. There needs to be an emphasis in sincere and gentle giving.

During the holdiay’s we often have surges of self reward as we put that $5 candy land game in the toy bin as if we done something extravagantly awesome. We need to stop and think. How would it feel if I was on the other end of that gift… very different for a child vs an adult.

When we give, when we help ‘people in need’; remember that they are often in some kind of crisis, life transition, or turmoil. Their hearts are burdened, heavy and stressed. To truly give, to give with all your heart means to do so with sincerity, gentleness, kindness and to so quietly. We show the ultimate gratefulness for our lives when we show empathy for others, when our gift is sincerely from the heart.

The real gift we give others is in HOW we give. If we truly are to #BeAGift to others, it means our focus is them…not us.

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This is ‘Molly’

molly1molly brain scanmolly2

Be careful not to measure you child’s experience in high school and college to your own. While developmentally behavior hasn’t changed that much, the substances available to our kids has. While Molly is a new name for Ecstasy or Acid, which isnt new, the current version- Molly- is refined and more powerful.

Also be careful not to think that it’s a rare few teens/college students who try it. Or that taking down a business that sells it in the back will keep it out of your kids hands. That might help but it wont take it away. Molly and Blues (heroin) are everywhere. Ocean county has already had over 80 deaths this year, more than double of last year. Our kids in this area start drinking before high school. By the time they’re in high school many are already smoking pot and trying pills. We talk with them, they tell us, we know.

Molly not only can cause death, it can cause psychosis. We have a team member who works on a psych floor at a hospital and says one of her saddest days was having to tell the parents of a handsome 17-year-old boy that he would hear voices for the rest of his life.

Think about it; Mylie Cyrus was popular when our college students were pre teens. They still relate to her. But she’s along way from Hoe Down Show Down. Her current song “We Cant Stop’ got tons attention at the VMA’s and is all over the radio. They know what the song is about, they have seen it. Dont think they havent.

Are you noticing your singing it in the car, or are your little 11 year olds singing it? Be careful,  take it as an opportunity to talk with your kids. Remember, the average age drinking begins is 11. We’ve sat with Freshman in high school who could tell us all stories about Molly. Those little steps do matter, use those moments as an opportunity to talk. Be the one to give them the right information, not the 14-year-old down the block.