My sister-in-law posted a link today to a blog post regarding the "boys will be boys" mentality that has allowed young girls to be told that boys chase them around and pull their hair on the playground "because he likes you" and calling proper BS on the fact that it's not okay for kids to do that to each other no matter the gender or the amount of love they might or might not feel for each other.

My oldest daughter just turned 14 yesterday and has been taking Tae Kwon Do for almost 8 years now. This is actually one of the primary lessons we've hoped she's learned from her martial arts classes and is the first mental requirement for every rank: Respect for yourself, your family, the school, and all the students. It's been a battle for many years for her to understand what it meant to respect yourself and most of her school-yard issues dealt with words rather than actions, but it was still tough having her come home so upset at what boys would tease her with. Never mind that we thought that the boys came up with some pretty funny lines (like calling her Tae Kwon Cookie Dough), but if she didn't like it she had to learn how to diffuse the situation so they would understand that it wasn't okay. Once she learned to respond with humor ("That's Tae Kwon Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough to you!") rather than tears we thought we were on a better track, but it's still a struggle even in middle school.

As a parent of three girls, I can only hope that they all learn that it's not okay to let someone treat you in any way that you don't want to be treated, but I also know that it will come up for all three of them more than once. It's not okay, but it is something that they have to learn. I've had bosses that acted like schoolyard bullies and I didn't like it, didn't put up with it, and didn't stay in that situation for very long because I couldn't respect an adult who would treat people that way. But I do have to say that thankfully, none of the teachers that my daughters have had have used that dreaded phrase to my knowledge. The "oh, that just means he likes you." Um, no. That means he's immature and doesn't know how to treat other people respectfully. If he wants my child's attention, that is not the way to get it and yes, my children know the flip side is true as well. There are not specific gender lines when it comes to this kind of treatment and it all needs to stop. But I have great hope - maybe it's the fact that marriage equality was just signed into law in my home state, but I think each generation is teaching more tolerance and not perpetuating the cycle.
 
 
I really try to not give too much additional press to some of the more sensational stories that come out of the 24/7 news feeds (*coughCharlieSheencough*), but there was one last week that I can’t let by without giving some of the other side of the story and rambling/ranting a bit.  What am I talking about?  The author of a new book who discusses how she was a better mother when she left her 20-year marriage and two young boys behind.  Um, excuse me?

I realize that people can be misrepresented in the quest to get better book sales or hits on their website (Yes, Tiger Mom, I’m talking about you), but seriously? There’s no way that someone should be making the abandonment of your family into a book.  A blog maybe, but not a book to take on the Today Show circuit. All parents know there are ups and downs to the “job” – no one signs up for the tantrums of 2- or 13-year-olds, but we press on because like it or not, that’s part of being a parent.  I used to say that I never really knew what the term “forever” meant until I gave birth to my twins.  I was FOREVER in charge of the well-being of these tiny little humans and for the rest of my life I was a mom! Holy moly! And there have been many days between then and now where I wanted a weekend off or even just one night, sometimes life just doesn’t work that way. It’s called something that I’m working on with my own kids: responsibility.  I completely understand that women (or men) shouldn’t have to give up their life for 18 years so their kids can grow up in a loving home, but my goodness – how selfish can you get?

I want to read her husband’s side of this story because I’ve seen first-hand how the children fare when Mommy decides she doesn’t want that responsibility anymore and it’s not an improvement for anyone left behind.  My 13-year-old step-daughter was “abandoned” by her birth mom when she was barely two years old. Her birth mom decided she wasn’t really ready to be a mom and left. My daughter grieved and does have some continuing things that she’s working through, but she’s been able to have a fairly stable life provided by her dad and has done okay for herself. There has been more than one occasion over the years where she has questioned if she did something to force her birth mom out or if her birth mom loves/remembers her. No kid should have to go through that. Luckily my husband was able to get help from his family and make sure that his (now our) daughter was cared for and loved. He could handle whatever came his way, but when it came to it, he couldn’t protect his daughter from that pain and that was the hardest part for him.

I realize that parents leave all the time due to all sorts of reasons, but at least when the reason is that the parents aren’t compatible, the kids can (someday) rationalize that it wasn’t their fault. How does the kid that was abandoned because their mom or dad didn’t want to be a parent anymore work through that? And yes, it is abandonment. A child who has had two parents in their life and suddenly doesn’t have one anymore due to a parent’s free-will decision (and not a tragedy) has been abandoned. That is not something that we need to be writing books about – I think every parent would know that not having kids anymore would be a freeing exercise; we don’t have to pay you money to read about it. And if you feel the need to justify your decisions by writing a book, keep it in your journal. Parenthood isn’t for everyone, but please make sure you figure that out BEFORE you become a parent. Maybe that’s her intent? To be a form of birth control by saying that parenthood isn’t for everyone? I think maybe there’s a better way to market yourself without seeming like a selfish b*tch if that’s the case.
 
 
My oldest has recently stated that she would like to be a vegetarian and I had to laugh - she really is reaching her adolescent milestones earlier than I did; I didn't actively go veggie until high school and here she is at middle school making that decision. I think that is largely due to peer experiences, since today's general population is jumping on the green bandwagon which would trickle down to younger kids more than it did even 10 to 15 years ago.  I stopped being a true vegetarian when I married my husband and got pregnant with twins, because it’s certainly possible to get enough protein in your diet to grow two babies, but it’s MUCH easier to have animal proteins in the mix.  Now that the twins are out and getting a little older, I’ve been bugging my husband about having fewer weekly meals with meat in them to save money.  When I was hanging by a thread at my last job it made sense, but now that I’m working more hours, it’s hard to argue with the guy getting dinner on the table every night. Since I’m full of random thoughts and musings, I thought this would be a good blog topic to cover off and on over the next few months – of not necessarily going back to being a strict vegetarian, but being more conscious and limiting what meats we are willing to eat and with what frequency.

I’m not sure what it is about the teenage years that spawn a need to be a vegetarian in an otherwise omnivorous household, but that seems to be an American rite-of-passage.  I’d be curious to know if this is common in other cultures – it’s probably similar in other countries that have a base diet similar to American’s, but I haven’t done much research on the topic yet.  Is it just an American, middle-class, white girl thing?  Regardless the reason, having gone through those internal arguments myself, I couldn’t really see any reasons for saying that my daughter couldn’t, other than telling her that if we were providing a meat-based entrée that she chose not to eat, she’s in charge of finding/making herself another protein source.  Basically, with twin 4-1/2-year-olds, I didn’t want to turn into a full time restaurant with different food for each individual at the table.  If the twins are willing to eat something, then that’s good enough for me and the 13-year-old can manage in the kitchen just fine if she’s motivated to do so.

Other than the environmental impact of consuming less animal proteins, as an engineer I’m ever the practical one and if a meal works without meat, then it’s cheaper and it works for me!  The only issue at the moment is that when I do our grocery shopping and plan out our meals for the week, I typically ended up coming home at least once or twice to ground turkey having been added because that’s the way the cook (dear hubby) likes it. But Honey, we don’t have to have meat in every meal! *sigh*

I thought this battle would continue even after my oldest’s recent veggie decree until my husband read an article regarding the training methods of some MMA fighters.  They have found they recover from their workouts faster if they don’t eat meat, so he’s finally willing to have that conversation even though he’s not a pro MMA fighter.  He also brought up a point that I agree with completely – we don’t want to impose upon anyone else that feeds us.  So when the Thanksgiving turkey is getting cut, we’re not going to staunchly state that we are vegetarians and won’t eat it (“we” meaning my hubby and I, who knows what my oldest will do).  We’ll eat it just fine, it will just be something that we won’t actively seek out for our own home anymore.  We’re going to use up what’s left of the meat in our freezer (mostly boneless, skinless chicken breasts and ground turkey) and then go veggie from there.  I’m sure I’ll have lots to share about all of this as we go, including adding new recipes to my index that suit our new preferences.  We’ll see how far we take this and I’ll be researching and documenting more about where we’re starting from and how far we make it in having our household go veggie.

Any helpful tips or recipes to start our adventure with?  Most notably ones that a 13-year-old would be willing to prepare? 
 
 
I’ve been a bit quiet on here lately – first I was out of town for work most of last week and this week my computer has decided to not allow me to access the weebly site!  I’m going to have to look into why it’s forever loading on sites with the Google analytics.  The other main reason I haven’t written is that I haven’t felt inspired by a topic and since this isn’t my paying day job, I feel okay with not forcing myself to write.

I decided to start my holiday brainstorming and shopping early this year, so I’m almost done at this point.  I threw my oldest for a loop last night when I told her that she’d better get her list to me soon since I’m almost at my budget – she was amazed that she’d have to do it before Thanksgiving.  The biggest reason I’m almost done is that we did cave in and get the Wii console that I pondered about here.  I started the wonderful Craigslist slog through various listings and finally found one priced a bit higher than the typical console, but better for my family since there was four of every controller and the Wii Fit for me.  I’m fairly confident my oldest doesn’t read this blog, so I can post this surprise family gift; otherwise, her surprise will come sooner rather than later!  We’ve got quite a few games already that the twins can play, but I’m still hoping to track down the Disney DDR for us.  I have a feeling my oldest is still operating on the presumption that we will never have a video game console in our house since we’ve been telling her that for years.  Any good ideas out there for limiting/monitoring video game usage?  I have a feeling it will just be integrated into any TV time that they already get, but I have a feeling the demand will be a bit higher - at least to start.

My husband and I also broke down and bought iPhone 4’s.  Our last phones were really frustrating to use with turning themselves off all the time, so we got ourselves our own birthday gifts and went for it.  The twins love playing with Daddy’s – I don’t let them near mine much.  I’m only getting free apps so far since I’m sure I can spend way too much getting 99-cent apps all over the place.

Between the Wii, iPhones, Ninjabread Men Cookie Cutters, and a shirt from Woot, we’re pretty well done with big stuff for my family.  Now I just need to figure out my mom and I’m all set!  The grandmas are getting pre-made meals for their freezers again which I did last year and it worked out well.  Of course, that really only works if we make it down to my mom’s house for the holidays which is the plan, but you can’t assume anything with air travel these days.

My in-laws are a different story, so we’ll see what we figure out for them this year.  They also typically get some sort of food from us.  We’ve done (all homemade) canned pears, applesauce, pancake mix, bread mix, and I don’t even remember what else.

The other technology that I discussed in my last post on the topic was regarding our computers.  We’re still down one desktop computer, but now that we have the iPhones, the laptop and netbook are enough for us.  I still have to get around to clearing out the old desk so we can get a laptop station there to hook into the existing monitor, keyboard, and mouse, but that’s not a huge deal at this point.

We’re also back in firewood season, so if you know anyone in King, Pierce, or Snohomish Counties that needs some dry, split firewood – let me know so I can pass along his prices.  Do you have a working fireplace?  Up until a couple months ago we didn’t, but our insert is now the primary source of heat for us.
 
 
I realized I haven't been writing much about the twins on my blog lately.  They're very much enjoying life as 4-year-olds, figuring out the way that the world works and making sure the world stays the way they think it should be.  We're constantly asked "we're still 4?" by both girls ever since their birthday a month ago.

This weekend I had the opportunity to take them to the Wilcox egg farm for a look around the farm museums, a tour of the farm while riding on a tractor-pulled wagon, a fresh omelet, and they were also able to ring the schoolhouse bell.  High times for a preschooler!  They enjoyed seeing the free-range chickens as well as sitting on the hay bales for the tour around the farm.

Since I now work more than full-time with a long commute, I haven’t been able to do as much with them lately outside of tucking them into bed at night.  This farm tour was a way for me to take them out again and give their dad a good block of time to himself – he even got to take a nap while we were gone, the basic need for any parent of young twins.  :)  The other reason I wanted to spend the extra energy time with them was because I’ll be leaving early on Wednesday morning for a business trip to the Mid West and won’t be back until Friday afternoon.
 
 
Sunday marked a turning point for our little family: my oldest daughter got her first cell phone.  We’d been debating the issue for quite some time, but finally gave in after she spent the summer in our good graces and got a job helping out with a friend’s dogs everyday that gave her enough income to chip in for the monthly phone costs.  Since we already had a family plan for my husband and I, it was only another $10 per month to add her.  We also decided to add texting which we never had before, so she’s chipping in $10 of the $30 for that monthly cost.  Luckily she was desperate enough that she immediately agreed to the terms: parental controls that turn it off during school and after 8:30p, spot checks on texts just like emails, and notice to any friend that she gives the number out to that they can and will be blocked if they send her inappropriate material.  We’ll see how that last item goes since I know full well that she’ll be deleting a lot before I get to it, but she’s on the honor system for now.

Of course, it didn’t hurt her cause to have her mother really needing a new phone and lusting after a smart phone.  I’m ready to chuck my old flip phone out the window for how many times it’s decided to not be a phone for a little while until I can pull the battery and get it restarted again.  I still haven’t gotten a new phone yet, but now that I’ve taken The Kid in to get hers, I can just order mine online and save some money and time.

How’s the experiment going so far?  Well, she’s averaging about 65 texts per day which occur in the one hour before school starts and the 6 hours after school gets out that she’s not doing homework, riding her bike to her “job”, playing soccer, or going to tae kwon do.  She pumped out almost 35 texts this morning just while waiting at the bus stop.  Not the ideal scenario, but I’m hoping she calms down a little next week.  And so far other than her parents and other relatives, she’s really only texting with 3 or 4 of her classmates, most of which we know and are nice kids.  Phew!  Good start.

And what of my search for a new phone?  I still want that iPhone 4, but may go with a cheaper android phone that doesn’t require a data plan.  The whole reason we got cell phones in the first place back in 2001 was because we’d gotten jobs and were commuting across Lake Washington to work.  Now I’m not commuting across the Lake, but I am driving almost 45 minutes each way now – about 10 times longer than I’d prefer my commute to be.  This morning there was a tanker that fell over and blocked all lanes of the major highway I take to get to work – it certainly would have been nice to have a smart phone with traffic maps, but at the same time, it wouldn’t have been safe for me to use the phone while I was driving to find the best alternate route since speeds never got slow enough for me to pull out my phone.  Plus, I can check traffic before I leave home or the office on the way to the other.

I titled this blog post the technology in my family’s life because I was also going to mention that my desktop computer finally dinosaured out and will be used no more.  We’re down to one laptop and one netbook for the family.  I’m tempted to get a docking station so I can hook up the netbook to the bigger monitor that we had been using on the desktop computer, but we’ll see when I can find the time to research that!

Also of note is the fact that my husband and I might finally be caving in on getting a gaming console in the house.  I’ve been wanting a Wii since they were first released a few years ago and now we’re thinking it might be a good “family” gift for Christmas this year – much like the digital piano we got last year has been fun for everyone.  We’ll see if that one actually happens, but it’s in motion.

Anyone have any great words of wisdom for me in my quest to find just enough phone for my needs and not go over my (small) budget?  And where’s the best place to get a Wii when I know I’ve got months before I need it to actually arrive on my doorstep?

 
 
Like most of the population, my life is not a fairy tale.  My husband will fully admit that he’s not Prince Charming and I’d like to think that I’m not the Wicked Stepmother.  I certainly have my moments, but it has nothing to do with the fact that I have a stepdaughter; it’s because I have bad days just like everyone else. 

Have I ever wished that my stepdaughter’s birth mom could be in her life so we could get every other weekend off while she visits her?  Sure.  Have I ever wished that she would disappear down a river or at a school science fair?  Not a chance. 

I’ve been in my stepdaughter’s life for 10 of her 12 years and I’m not about to quit while I’m ahead.  I was incredibly lucky to be involved in her life at such a young age – she decided on her own to call me “Mom” after I married her dad when she was 4 (“Mommy” was saved for her birth mom).  I’m not sure at that point that I had really earned the title, but she sure put me to task to try.

Stepmoms have a hard job because we have to be a mom to kids without replacing their birth moms (for better or for worse).  We have to start and maintain a relationship with our husbands while also forging relationships with his children – which are all on completely different levels depending on the age and personality of the kids.  I used to dream for the day my stepdaughter would turn 18 because I’d finally have “alone time” with my husband.  Then we decided to have a child of our own and “reset” the clock by 8 years.  *facepalm*

As tough as it has been to raise my stepdaughter with my husband as primary parent, I know I’m one of the lucky ones who was able to remove a toxic birth mom from our daughter’s life.  Though we did try to maintain contact for many years, we don’t have to deal with her birth mom on a regular basis anymore.  We certainly keep tabs on her so when age 18 does roll around we can let them have contact on my stepdaughter’s terms, but that’s about it.  I do get a small kick out of the fact that if/when she does make contact with her birthmom, it will be a role reversal of her birthmom not being able to replace her stepmom as an important part of her life. 

One of the hardest aspects of being a stepmother is knowing that I missed out on the early moments of her life.  Things that happened when she was a baby I only know through hear-say and a handful of photos, and the things I was around for I hardly remember now because of the introduction of the twins into our lives.  I think I’ve been able to teach my stepdaughter a lot though, and as long as she safely graduates high school, I’ll know that I really did contribute to the life of another.

What’s funny is that I think of her as my kid, but at the same time get a little defensive when it comes to distinguishing her as a stepdaughter – because I guess certain appearances are more important than I ever thought before – but I don’t really want people to think that I was pregnant at my high school graduation.  ;)

I’m not afraid of what the teenage years are going to bring because I can deal with her on a more mature level now.  I survived taking her to Kindergarten, middle school orientation, and many Saturdays standing in the rain watching her play soccer.  It took a while to get here, but the package deal when I married my husband was well worth the journey.  I don’t recommend being a stepmom to everyone, but it can work out without putting the stepkids into domestic slavery, feeding them poisoned apples, or any of the real-life horror stories.

Does anyone have any fun step-parent stories to share?  Bring it - the good, the bad, the ugly.  I've probably heard them all in the last 10 years.
 
 
I just read an article about how the federal government is debating about banning peanuts on commercial airlines.  I can understand that it would help people with peanut allergies, but it's fairly standard for me to have PB&J's when I travel.  I have small children who eat a lot of "P-Jellies." 

I'm totally fine with requesting the airlines to not distribute peanuts, but from the wording, it almost sounds like they'd ban them entirely and have a "peanut-free zone" like they do in classrooms now.  Please don't take away peanuts from the passengers, it's not something like cigarette smoke that can drift.  I bring it, I eat it, I clean up after myself.  I'm not going to smear peanut oil all over the tray and seats, but I think it's a slippery slope for all the other nut allergies - I know more people allergic to almonds than to peanuts.

My husband is allergic to animals, and yet he can travel just fine even with small pets in the main cabin.  It's like any allergy - you just have to come prepared.  He's also allergic to apples and pitted fruits, so it would be great if no one brought fresh apples on the plane to eat either.  I understand it's tough for parents of kids with the peanut allergy - my oldest had an apple juice concentrate allergy for many years; do you realize how many drinks have apple juice as filler? - but let's not make it any tougher for the rest of the parents than it has to be.  There's already
 
 
I've been thinking about why some parents seem to shut out the obvious signs of their kids' drinking or unsafe driving or whatever.  Why parents are in denial about their kids participating in dangerous behaviors.  Statistics show that kids *are* doing these things, so don't assume that it's "not my kid" because it very well could be.  My best guess is that parents don't want to hear what their kid is doing from other parents because they think it shows failure or weakness as a parent.  Get over it.  If my kid is making a choice to do something that is wrong or illegal or whatever - PLEASE tell me.  I know my child has to make their own choices out in the world, but that does not mean that I don't want to know what they are (while they are minors and living at home) and that I don't want them to take responsibility for those choices when needed.  I'd rather know that my kid is underage drinking so I can have the appropriate conversation with them rather than have them try to hide it from me and think that another adult is helping them.

It's okay to tell your kids "no" when they want to do something that you're not okay with.  You will NOT be the only parent that doesn't want their kids out drinking or at prom parties.  Your kid will survive the embarrassment - they might not survive the drunk driving accident.

The job of a parent is to make sure your kid becomes an independent individual who can make choices for themselves and take responsibility.  They have to learn these things when they are a teenager.  I can't remember how the saying goes, but it's along the lines of parenting is like no other job in the world - when you're successful at it, you make your job obsolete.