Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Just some random thoughts about life.

Celebrating Memorial Day with Your Children

Celebrating Memorial Day with Your Children

Our younger son Dylan was involved in Boy Scouts for many years.  One of the traditions his troop did every year was to place flags at the gravestones of fallen soldiers at a cemetery near our home.  The troop carried out this task every year for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  I always tried to go with Dylan and his troop because I feel it is important to honor those who have served our country in the military.

With Memorial Day being the official kick off to summer and a huge shopping weekend, it is easy to forget what the holiday is all about.  The day was originally known as Decoration Day – a day to decorate the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers killed during the Civil War.  By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in military service.

Celebrating Memorial Day in the traditional way of honoring these fallen soldiers is a good way to teach your children about the value of service.  Here are some ideas on how to celebrate the holiday with your children:

1. Many of us live near national cemeteries that usually have formal ceremonies on Memorial Day.  Local cemeteries may also have an event planned for the day, check the events calendar in your local newspaper and plan on making it a family outing.

2. Attend a parade and bring along an American flag to wave.  Before you go explain the different branches of the military to your kids, as they’ll most likely see soldiers, sailors and Marines during the parade.

3. Check out some kid-friendly books from the library about American history and talk about the various ways the military has protected our country throughout the history of the United States.  We are lucky to live near the Flying Heritage Collection where historic military aircraft are displayed.  Perhaps there is a similar museum near you that your children would enjoy.

And lastly, remember to fly the American flag on Memorial Day in honor of those who have fallen in the service of our country.

5 Lessons about Marriage for Your Daughter

5 Lessons about Marriage for Your Daughter

5 Lessons for Your Daughter About Marriage - Dot Girl ProductsThis past weekend, my husband and I attended the wedding of one of our daughter’s high school friends. Hayley was a bridesmaid and it was fun to see her walk down the aisle, even though she wasn’t the blushing bride. It made us realize though that her wedding will some day be upon us (we hope!) and there are some lessons we would like to make sure she knows before she embarks on the marriage road. Note that we want our two sons to learn these lessons too!

Lesson #1
Once you take those marriage vows, your spouse becomes the person you check with on decisions, large and small. Yes, your parents are still available for guidance and feedback (and love of course) but a married couple is a unit unto themselves and decisions should be based on what is best for that unit.

Lesson #2
Communication is the key to a successful marriage. A couple should be able to discuss anything and everything with each other. Being afraid or unwilling to talk to your spouse about health issues, money, or relationship concerns can lead to months if not years of unhappiness and spending too much time wondering what the other person is thinking instead of working out the issue.

Lesson #3
Be ‘OK’ with each other having ‘mad money’ that can be spent with no recriminations from the other spouse. Budget carefully to allow for this – i.e. monthly bills paid on time, money set aside for retirement or education needs, and a rainy day fund – and then set aside the ‘mad money’ with no questions asked.

Lesson #4
My mother always used to say ‘If momma ain’t happy, then no one is happy’. In today’s day and age, the same goes for dad. Child rearing is a joint task and duties should be divided on the parent’s strengths. One might be better at organizing and making sure that the kids get to school on time, the other might be better at helping with homework. Talk about it and review frequently to make sure both of you are enjoying the child raising, not just enduring it. And remember, take time for yourselves away from the kids. It ensures that you’ll still like each other when you end up ’empty nesters’.

Lesson #5

This goes along with taking time out for yourselves with each other. Develop a common hobby and have friends in common. Whether you center your life around a faith community, a volunteer organization or an active outdoor activity, do something together and develop a close knit group of friends who share your values. You’ll appreciate the support if there are times of trouble and appreciate a group to grow old with.

What do you say to the children about violence?

What do you say to the children about Violence?

How do you talk to your kids about violence?With today’s horrific events in Boston, MA, we are once again reminded of how fragile life is. We place ourselves in random every day events and wonder what would happen if a bomb went off or a shot rang out. Life must go on though, we cannot hide from it in our homes and hope that tragedy never happens near us.

As parents, we also have to decide how to discuss these events with our children. Our 21 year old son Dylan feels that his generation will be marked by the events of 9/11. Among his friends they divide themselves into those who remember what happened that day and those that don’t. Just as I’m sure another generation marked themselves by the attack on Pearl Harbor.

And it’s not just large scale bombings or terrorist attacks that need to be explained. There is always war news on TV and there are mass shootings of innocent people and the fear that we are not safe in our schools, shopping malls, theaters or other public gathering places. This can cause anxiety in children, an anxiety that could last a lifetime if not handled properly.

When the Newtown school shootings occurred, a wonderful story about Mister Rogers was in the Washington Post. The concept is so simple to understand, especially for young children – “Look for the helpers”. This is what I would tell young children – look for the people who are helping, whether they are in uniform or not. And those people will always be there, as witnessed today when video of the Boston Marathon explosions showed people running toward the source of the explosions. Those are the helpers. Knowing that there will always be someone there to help in an emergency will make a young child feel safer.

For older children, it’s not letting them get too caught up in the media frenzy that happens after these types of events. The constant attention paid on cable news, social media, and newspapers can be overwhelming. Know when to turn it all off and try to be there with your child to discuss what they are seeing on the news and how they feel about it.

Many people say we live in dangerous times, that things were better when they were kids. And yet, I have a friend in her sixties who remembers drills in case of nuclear attack and backyard bomb shelters. The 1960’s were marked by political assassinations and bloody civil rights riots while the 1970’s saw the Vietnam War played out nightly on network news.

Learning how to help our children understand and handle violent events will go a long way in helping them feel secure in the world.

Find other good advice from:
Parenting Press
American Psychological Association

Chocolate Matzah for Passover

Chocolate Matzah for Passover

Tonight marks the first night of Passover and is celebrated by a Passover Seder, a dinner with family and friends to retell the story of the Jews liberation from Egyptian bondage.  This story is told in the Book of Exodus.  Since the Jews had to flee Egypt so quickly they were not able to wait for their bread dough to rise.  Later, when the dough was baked, it was Matzah.  Traditionally Jews eat Matzah in place of bread during the eight days of Passover to remember this story.

In our house, we celebrate my husband’s Jewish heritage with a family Passover Seder where friends are always included.  A favorite treat for us to share is Chocolate Matzah.  I’ve included the recipe here for you all to enjoy.  Matzah may usually be found in supermarkets around Passover time, especially in areas with large Jewish populations.  Forewarning, this treat is addictive, you may end up eating the whole batch yourself!


4 – 6 Unsalted Matzohs

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat over to 375 degrees.  Line a large cookie sheet with foil.  Cover the bottom of the sheet with baking parchment paper – on top of the foil.  This is important since the mixture becomes sticky during baking.

Line the bottom of the cookie sheet evenly with the matzah, cutting extra pieces as required to fit any spaces.

In a 3 quart, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar.  Cook over medium heat stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and pour over the matzah, covering completely.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350 degrees.  Bake for 15 minutes checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chocolate chips.  Let stand for 5 minutes then spread the melted chocolate over the matzah.  While still warm break into squares or odd shapes.  Chill still in the pan in the freezer until set.

Celebrate Pi Day 2013!

Celebrate Pi Day 2013!

Girls and MathToday Pi Day is celebrated around the world.  Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.  Pi is learned by most school kids and then quickly forgotten as how many times in life are we called upon to state the ratio of the circumference of a circle to it’s diameter?

As I was thinking of Pi Day, I took a walk down memory lane and remembered the math contests my 7th grade teacher used to hold every week.  She would put a problem on the blackboard and the class had to work out the answer.  Once you found the answer, you stood up and who ever stood up first was the winner.  She would do several problems so several students would have the chance to come in first.  Being very competitive I always wanted to come in first, and I also always wanted to beat the boys in the class, which I did many times.  Before the start of 8th grade many of the boys transferred from the small Catholic school I attended to the public middle school in town.  This made math competitions far less fun and over time, I lost my interest in math.

This is typical of girls, around middle school girls somehow get the message that math is for boys and they move away from the subject.  But according to an article by Kavita Varma-Whit, a TODAY contributor, girls just need to stick with it, especially in math competitions.  Ms. Varma-Whit quotes a study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.  The study found that in math competitions with more than one round, girls performed as well or sometimes better than boys.  Read the whole article here.

What is the lesson here for you as a parent and for your daughter?  The same lesson that can be applied in so many situations – stick to it!  Whether that be a math competition, a sports competition or just sticking to a new habit for more than one day.  Trying once, not being successful, and then stopping can lead to a sense of frustration at never accomplishing anything.  And we all need to know we can be successful at something.


Raising Your Daughter in a Multi-Religious Family

Raising Your Daughter in a Multi-Religious Family

I am a born and raised Catholic.  12 years of Catholic school, church every Sunday, and no meat on Fridays.  My family could not have been more traditional.  My husband is Jewish.  He was raised with Hebrew School, a Bar Mitzvah at 13 and Hanakkuh candles.  Needless to say, when we decided we were meant to spend our lives together, there had to be a serious discussion on how we would raise our children in a multi-religious family.  We settled on a compromise – both and then let the kids decide for themselves.

As they matured, our three children each decided they were more comfortable in the Jewish faith, but didn’t want to give up the celebration of Christmas.  Perhaps to honor me their mother, or perhaps they just wanted the presents!  Which makes for a very busy December holiday season with the Eight Nights of Hanakkuh and Christmas Day.

There are many ways Jewish/Christmas interfaith families can deal with the issue of what my husband calls the December Dilemma.  There are two that are more common – separate but equal and blended.

The separate but equal option is to celebrate both holidays as we do.  This strategy works if both partners are comfortable with it although compromise still may be necessary.  A plan also should be in place for extended family members.  Being sensitive to the mingling of Hanukkah lights and Christmas presents under the tree when grandparents come to visit is something spouses should discuss.

The second option is to try and blend Hanukkah and Christmas traditions.  It is not unusual to see Hanukkah-themed Christmas ornaments in stores.   This option also allows for some creative thinking. For example we send New Year’s cards to our family and friends instead of the traditional Christmas cards.  Making up your own family traditions gives the holidays a specialness your children will always remember.

Christmas is everywhere in our society and a major money maker for retailers.  At Target yesterday I wondered through rows and rows of Christmas decorations and wrapping paper while there was one end cap devoted to Hanakkuh supplies.  However, both spouses working together and respecting each others religion not only during the December madness but throughout the year can help instill a love and wonder in their children about their faiths.


Pumpkin Bread Recipe for Halloween

Pumpkin Bread Recipe for Halloween

Pumpkin Bread Recipe for Halloween

Happy Halloween!

It’s Halloween and it’s raining, not surprising for the Pacific Northwest.  I remember scrambling on rainy Halloween’s when my kids were little to keep them dry while still showing off their costumes.  I learned to use saran wrap very artfully. I also learned an excellent pumpkin bread recipe that soon became a family favorite.  Even today with the kids all grown up, I still make loaves and loaves of the bread to distribute at Halloween and Thanksgiving. I thought I would pass on the recipe for you to share with your family.

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

2/3 cup shortening

2 2/3 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 lb canned pumpkin

1/3 cup water

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3 1/3 cups flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2/3 cup crushed pineapple, drained

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two loaf pans.  Blend shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time to mixture.  Then blend in pumpkin and water. Sift together baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and flour and blend into wet ingredient mixture.  Fold in chopped pecans and crushed pineapple.  Bake approximately 55 minutes.  Bread is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.






Team vs. Individual Sports for Your Daughter

Team vs Individual Sports for Your Daughter

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a big Olympic sports fan. I have tried to watch as many hours as possible and even though I missed the gymnastics and swimming competitions I’ve been able to watch many other events, especially volleyball and water polo.

And as I have watched all these elite athletes competing I have remembered how much my daughter Hayley enjoyed her years playing basketball. Being part of school and select teams helped her gain confidence in herself, built skills for working in a team environment and kept her in shape. Which got me to thinking about whether it is better to participate in a team or individual sport.

Certainly both have their advantages. Team sports require constant communication during play which can especially help an introverted girl. Team play also fosters a sense of belonging, a ready group of friends, and a shared experience. If there are personality conflicts between players, the conflicts have to be worked out or set aside for the team to succeed, which teaches so many lessons about dealing with life’s adversities in order to reach a goal.

Individual sports requires a commitment that always amazes me. To watch Gabby Douglas or Missy Franklin excel means admiring all the many hours that they put into training because they themselves wanted to succeed. There was no team to lift them up when they were down, no one to disappoint if they didn’t show up to practice one day. They relied on themselves to achieve their goals. Of course, they had coaches and trainers and family members to support them. But when it came time to compete, they were alone on the floor or in the pool.

Both individual and team sports have their advantages depending on what suits your daughter’s personality.  And as a parent, I was just glad to have my daughter interested in something that inspired her and let her have fun.  In the end, that is most important, whether it be sports, music, art or other activities.

National Girlfriends Day is Today!

National Girlfriends Day is Today!

National Girlfriends Day is celebrated on August 1st each year.  I personally think we should celebrate our girlfriends every day.  However, having one nationally recognized day does make it a bit more fun and official.

Where would we be without our girlfriends?  The women that hold us when we cry and laugh with us when we are happy.  And always tell us the truth, even when it hurts.  Those are the girlfriends you can always count on in a crisis.

I am not the best at keeping girlfriends.  I have moved several times in my life and each time I tend to leave friends behind.  I think it is because without face to face communication I tend to lose touch.  My three younger sisters hang on to their friends much better and luckily they passed that gene on to my daughter. Even though her friends have scattered from our town for college and jobs, Hayley still manages to visit them and keep up on their lives.

What does friendship mean in today’s digital age and how do you encourage your daughter to keep friends that will support her throughout the life? I think the first thing to stress is that friends are not kept to be used.  In other words, there has to be a genuine interest in the other person and a willingness to be there for each other.  If one friends always takes and never gives, then the friendship will probably not last.  This is true of any relationship.

I also believe that friends need to speak up when they sense a friend may be heading for trouble.  This should be done in a non-judgmental way that conveys support and concern. Staying in touch in times of crises is also important for friendships to thrive.

And lastly, stay committed and connected. Dating a new boy does not mean not seeing your girlfriends.  In high school, Hayley and her friends would frequently have ‘Girlfriend Nites’.  Boyfriends weren’t allowed and the girls were able to keep girlfriend connections intact.

And as far as the digital age is concerned,  Facebook does make it easier to stay in touch.  But nothing replaces picking up the phone to hear a friends voice or getting together for a walk in the park to catch up.

Should your daughter have a dog?

Should your daughter have a dog?

Should my daughter have a dog?

Pearl with tail in motion

Last year my daughter Hayley and her boyfriend Andrew went to the local animal shelter and picked out a dog to take home.  Pearl is a Jack Russell mix who came nicely house trained and eager to please her new owners.  Over the past few months I have had the pleasure of dog sitting while Hayley and Andrew went out of town.  My last dog sitting gig over the 4th of July holiday lasted a week, much longer than usual but still enjoyable.

Growing up my family owed a German Shepard, Fritz.  He was primarily an outdoor dog. My siblings and I shared ‘walking the dog’ responsibilities.  Fritz died when I was in college so I was not home for his last days.  When our children were young, we brought home a black Lab puppy, Kelly.  She was also an outdoor dog, as Kelly grew older and calmer though she became a family room dog and would quietly lay on the carpet while we watched TV.  Hayley was in high school when we lost Kelly and it was a difficult experience for her.  But that didn’t stop her from getting her own dog once she had her own apartment.

Which is my long winded way of saying that it’s good for your daughter to have a dog or other kind of pet.  Why? The number one reason usually heard is that having a pet teaches children about responsibility.  However, my number one reason is that it teaches children about love and loss.  It is often said that humans are the only species that loves another even though we know the object of love will one day die.  Dogs and other household pets have much shorter life spans and so a child will often learn about loss in their adolescent years when a family pet dies.

The lesson learned though is that it possible to love, to lose, but to love again.  Whether that be another pet or another human being.  Life does go on and we must adjust while still honoring the memory of those we have lost.  Which I think is an important life lesson for any child to learn.