Month: May 2015

Radio Interview: Radio 1 “Alberta @noon”

I was on CBC Radio 1 that is carried across Canada. I tip my hat to our neighbors to the North. It was on May 8th and preceded Mother’s Day.  The question the host asked listeners was “What was the best advice your mom gave you?” or “What do you wish she would have given you as advice?” One of the responses I loved was “Play the hand you are dealt.” What would you have said?

Here’s the full program podcast. I come on after the first guest at around 8:00.

Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day approaching in 2 days, I’d like to share my 2 latest videos about parenting. They are completely funny, touching, and real. The first one is “Ten things you wish you would have known before having a baby” and I’ve watched it over and over and always tear up at the end.

The 10 things are:

10. “Don’t listen to anyone else. You’ll know how to take care of your baby. Don’t care one ounce about what other people think about you.” While I DO agree with most of this, I would also say to keep an open mind. We sometimes get in a rut or don’t see clearly the damage we are doing from inheriting unhealthy behaviors from our own parents. So while we shouldn’t be paralyzed with worry about what other people think, we should listen to wise people, especially those with more experience and expertise, to see if maybe they have something better we could be doing.

9. “Get on a schedule.” Yes and yes. Although some parents can do this earlier in the infancy stage because their babies respond to sleeping through the night. I’m always amazed when some mom says her 3 month old is sleeping 6 hours straight. I think, “What drugs are you giving him?” Sleeping was always a hard thing for me. Some of my infants were terrible sleepers and that made me a terribly sleep-deprived Momzilla at times.

8. “Parenting is hard. Take time out to revive and find yourself.” Amen and amen. Ideas they suggested were to get out and treat yourself to ice cream, go to grandma’s and drop the kids off, take a 20 minute nap, and have a weekly date night. I would add that parents need to get away for emotional, social, and physical health. I am SUCH a better mother when I return from a brief (or sometimes lengthy) absence. I think, “Okay you little buggers. I guess still love you after all. I missed you!”

7. “Discover who your children are and let them be.” When we clash with our kids, it’s often because they don’t measure up to our expectations or they don’t agree with us. So what? Most of the time (unless it involves taking drugs, stealing the car, stuff like that…) they are just figuring out who they are and that’s probably going to be different than who we are. Let’s be okay with that.

6. “Be prepared for the unexpected because it WILL happen.” And it usually involved bodily fluids. Like the time my daughter hurled vomit across the isle of the train in Chicago and hit us, the windows behind, and our bags. Just before be boarded the plane. Awesome.

5. “Make room for the baby.” The video talks about the physical needs of a baby. Stroller. Crib. Tons of diapers. Stuff like that. But I would add to make room in your heart for the baby. Especially if this is the first one, our lives are completely turned upside down. It was all about us before having a baby. Not any longer. Now the baby should be our primary focus and we need to give up and sacrifice to be there and meet all his or her needs. That might mean we drop or put aside some personal interests for a time. Change our priorities. Stop watching so many reality TV shows so we can spend time bonding with a new person who is ours to keep forever.

4. “Memories will be the only thing you’ll have so keep these fleeting moments in your heart.”

3. “Be grateful for your kids. It’s ALL worth it.” We may not think this while having to change the sheets in the middle of the night because a child wet the bed while sleeping with you because they were too scared to sleep in their own bed.

2. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. The house can wait. Some days you just won’t have the patience.”

1. “There’s going to be one thing you cannot prepare yourself for, that you cannot know until you experience it is the love you are going to feel. Overwhelming, powerful, consuming love.”

Here’s the link. You gotta watch it. Bring your hankie.

The second video clip is one I found a year or so ago. It’s brilliant! I show it in class to my university students in the parenting class I teach. I have them write a newspaper ad job description of a parent. We share them and then watch this. I hope you still have your hankie from the last video. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

5 Star Book Review on “My Love For Reading Keeps Growing”

I am not usually a “self help” reader, but I have read a few for reviews, and I have loved each of them.  I don’t usually love reading about parenting, because it usually makes me feel like a horrible mother.  This book on the other hand made me feel like “I might be doing something right”, and “Dang, those are awesome ideas”.  It was a great book.

The author is funny.  She shares “real” life trials about raising kids, and shares some great solutions, examples, etc on how to handle them.

I think one of my favorite parts of the book is when the author talks about how we don’t have to “reward” every kid.  She was referring to sports.  My kids are not in sports, thank heavens, but they have done some church sports at times.  I laugh every time when they say “we have to reward everyone so no one feels left out”.  WHAT?  Seriously.  I love how she addresses this issue in the book.  How are we going to teach our kids the importance of good sportsmanship, how to be competitive without conflict if “everyone” gets recognized for the same effort.  No.  There are some kids that do more, and deserve the recognition of doing so.  If others can’t handle it, too freaking bad.  I do not want my kids growing up thinking they don’t have to put any effort into anything because they will get rewarded regardless.  What she does say is how we should recognize each thing that they did do during their sport.  If they made a goal, point, etc. or met or beat their previous best then it’s important to focus on those efforts.  Letting them know we are proud of how much better they did and how proud we are they keep trying.  It’s okay if we are not the best at everything, but to try our hardest at everything we do.

I love how she tackles how to approach every day battles we may have with our kids in a more productive way.   There are just so many great ideas that I intend to apply in my own life.  I love how she talks about each stage of a child’s life.  There are trials with every age, and she has some wonderful ideas on how to approach them.

I really enjoyed this book.  I love the humor that was in this book.  As a parent there are times when I either have to laugh or cry.  I wish I could say I always laugh, but that is not the case, but I try to.

It was mentioned so many times in this book about how we will miss the days when our kids were young.  I can attest to that.  I was such a nervous nelly mother that it was hard for me to enjoy the “little” years like I should have.  I cannot tell you how much I wish I could have been able to relax a little more and enjoy my kids when they were little.  I have to admit that I don’t always “love” the teenage years, but I am trying every day to appreciate my kids because now, with one in college it has hit me in the face about how much I missed so many opportunities with our kids.  I had to get something done.  I had to do so and so.  The author address this many times, and I loved each and every one of them.

This book was inspirational and so insightful.  I loved every minute of it.  Not once did I feel like I as inadequate as a mother.  Instead I found great ideas to hopefully make my household run more smoothly.

5 Stars Book Review on “Mel’s Shelves”

This is a parenting book that is FUN to read! I have read some parenting books where I have felt like such a failure, especially when my children were younger, and this one didn’t leave me feeling that way at all. I was glad to see that I already implement some of the ideas she gave. There were plenty more that I want to try to see if they will work for our family.

There’s a broad range of topics and not all of them applied to me but I still enjoyed hearing her advice in those areas. For example, co-parenting after divorce and parenting blended families. I also no longer need to worry about kindergarten readiness or potty training (thank goodness!). I’m starting to head into the teenage years and am open to advice in that area so I enjoyed what she had to say about that.

One of my favorite chapters was the one on positive v. pirate parenting. They are two different parenting approaches. I started out more authoritarian and “pirate-y” but either my children or my age has mellowed me out quite a bit and I try to use positive guidance these days. I still need to work on this in certain areas (like practicing the piano) and liked the examples she gave which will help keep me on course.

I liked the multiple chapters on how to enjoy children in each phase of life and make tons and tons of memories through games, traditions, mealtimes, hobbies and any other way you can think of. She gives plenty of suggestions so there’s no reason to feel stuck in any of those areas.

I also enjoyed her writing style–it was full of humor while still getting her point across in a succinct manner. If you’ve been parenting for several years now or are just starting out, there is something for everyone in here. This is a parenting book I highly recommend!

by Melanie Valderrama

the full post can be found at:

Get a PhD in Parenting (for free!)

I have a bone to pick with my high school math teacher. Contrary to his promises, I have never used the pythagorean theorem or cared to find the value of X since graduating a hundred or so years ago. That is, unless you count helping each of my 5 children struggle through their math homework.

What I have used, however, is relationship and parenting skills. Every day, all day. So where was the required Parenting 101 class in high school or college when I needed it? How ironic (and sad!) that virtually all adolescents and young adults, who will someday be a mom or dad or at least have to relate to another human, are not formally taught how to succeed in relationships.

Licensure varies across states, but to become a beautician it requires around 2,000 practicum hours in addition to coursework. To drive a car? Forty roading hours plus passing the test and class. To become a parent? Nada. In comparison, what knowledge and skills matter most to children, family life, our community and nation?

This is where voluntary, continuing education steps in.

Parents today have ripe information for the picking. Endless resources are at our fingertips to help us navigate this most important career of raising children. Websites contain information about family health, making kid crafts, homeschooling, parenting children at different stages of development, taking online parenting classes, and marriage and relationships skills, to name a few.

Best of all, most are free. Thank you, Mr. Google and Mrs. Pop-up Ads.

Here is a list of some of my favorite parenting sites. Many of these I have contributed articles to and have enjoyed those written by others.

The downside is we need to be aware of how to navigate through so much information. I’d like to share 5 tips for being a wise consumer and using internet information successfully.

  1. Keep an open mind.

It’s not enough to say, “I’ll just do what my parents did in raising me and hope for the best.” That’s like keeping the bar so low that if no one ends up in jail, it’s a sign you’ve been a successful parent. Too often we are blinded by old habits, bad attitudes, and cultural trappings with which we were raised. We only see what we are used to, even if that means perpetuating abusive behaviors that seem “normal” to us.

Every mom and dad can and should be actively looking for ways to improve through motivating and informative content. If you were raised by terrible parents, you have some distance to cover in a short period of time. If you came from adequate or even excellent parents, you can always do better.

  1. Trust your instincts.

There will be lots of advice in cyberspace, but as every mother has learned from listening to birthing stories at baby showers, no two kids are alike. They all come packaged with their own special temperaments, personalities, talents, and interests. Therefore, not all advice may be what’s right for your child. Follow general, sound principles, but if a specific practice doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut. Even if something works fabulously with one child, another one may need something different.

  1. Filter, filter, filter.

Do you sometimes feel like you’re hooked up to a fire hose when all you want is to drink a glassful of information? It can be overwhelming. There’s just too much, and even sometimes, conflicting information on the internet. Read and apply in small doses. Let’s not spend endless hours surfing websites and replace it with spending time understanding our children and building a relationship him or her.

Use your filters when looking at airbrushed photos of perfect children, flawless table settings, or crafts that most certainly were created by professionals, not preschoolers. It’s not real, folks! There are also plenty of mommy bloggers who love to shock and disturb with their latest episode in the series of Disasters of Being a Mom. Yes, we all have bad days, but let’s not revel in rudeness. It feels like jumping into a pig sty and rolling around the muck to be part of the “feel-sorry-for-ourselves mommy club.” Be wise instead, and choose websites to be inspired, laugh, and learn.

  1. Let this be a start.

The cyber community is a great gathering place, but it is, after all, a virtual world. Use websites and discussion boards as a safe place to ask questions and find answers and then follow up with live connections in the real world. Talk to trusted family members, friends, pediatricians, and other parents in your community who can offer irreplaceable emotional, physical, and social support. If there is another parent involved in raising your child, share what you are learning so you can both be on the same parenting page. Go to classes together and read books to further your education.

  1. Keep trying.

Methods shared on parenting websites are usually fairly reliable. Responsible experts base their findings on research and extensive experience. When you latch onto an improved parenting approach and try it out with your child, it may be a complete failure the first time or two.

Changing both ourselves and our children is a process. By being consistent, you will show your child that the “new and improved” parent is not going away just because he or she threw a tantrum when you didn’t give in to that cookie right before dinner. When you make a mistake and fall back on a former bad behavior, admit your mistake. “Honey, mommy forgot that she is trying not to slam doors every time she gets mad. Please forgive me. I’m going to do better tomorrow.” Let’s work on getting an advanced degree that requires classes in kindness, forgiveness, love, unity, and respect.

Now that’s a PhD I’d like earn.

Book Review from Rachelle’s Writing Corner

As a mother of five kids, this book definitely looked enticing and I’m so glad that I got the chance to read it.

I liked the format of this book because it was easy to read in chunks here and there in between diaper changes, feedings, piano lessons, homework, etc., etc. Each chapter was short but chock full of great information, anecdotes, and scenarios that help teach the principles that Julie has collected. These 25 Tips are definitely on the top of my list of areas where I could use some extra help. I found myself marking and highlighting several tips and passages as I went along.

One of my children is four, but it still feels like we are in the terrible twos. He’s extremely difficult and headstrong, goes 100 miles an hour all day long and has complete freak-outs about the littlest things. My husband and I have pulled our hair out trying to figure out how to work with this child. Many days I have been in tears over the latest trouble he has gotten into and how to keep my cool and still show love to him. There just aren’t words, so in short, I’ll tell you that this book is so refreshing because I can tell that Julie really does understand the dynamics of parenting. She shares these tips in a way that doesn’t make me feel guilty because I haven’t always got it right, instead I feel hopeful and excited to try out the ideas. I’m already implementing them and in some cases, just a different way of looking at the situation has helped me immensely.
Here’s one thought that helped remind me of where we’re at with this kid:

“Prekindergarten children have difficulty understanding and putting labels on feelings and, therefore, can feel out of control. They don’t know what they are feeling or how to deal with problems. Parents increase a child’s self-awareness by allowing the child to express emotion in a safe situation, labeling the emotion, and letting the child know that you will be ready to talk when he or she calms down. I like to say, “When your voice is calm like mine, we can talk.”

This would be an excellent Mother’s Day gift, or for any day kind of gift as a parenting pick-me-up. The other day I was on the phone changing my baby’s messy diaper with a kid in the background yelling, “Mom, come wipe me!” If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, this book is for you. 🙂

By Rachelle Christensen

The full post and review can be found at:

Stepparenting: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

This article I wrote was carried by 4 news agencies. Here are the links.

Book Review at Wishful Endings

The first, short chapter immediately drew me in to this book and made me think: “Okay. I can do this.” Some parenting books feel like one huge long research, discussion, and/or lecture. Keep it Real and Grab a Plungerfrankly did not. Each chapter was concise, but also chalk full of great things, examples, ideas, definitions, etc. It’s definitely a book I’ll be keeping on my shelf to pull out when I need a little parenting lift or a reminder of what I should be doing when I fall into a rut or become frustrated.

Let’s talk a little about subject material. The author tackles some tough and can-be-frustrating (at least to parents) topics. There’s a chapter on potty training (I am so glad I’m done with my own children!) where one line sums it all: “Staying emotionally disengaged and putting the responsibility and internal reward on the child is fundamental.” Then she shares a rather humorous story that was unbelievable, but true. There’s another chapter on co-parenting after divorce that has some points for those not in this situation as well, primarily with “gatekeeping.” There is also a chapter on using technology wisely, which is definitely a hot topic these days.

You’ll find the usual topics as well, but presented in a way that I easily connected with and understood, which made them much easier to apply and implement. I loved the encouragement and praise chapter, the eight values that are common to strong families section of the values-based parenting chapter, the chapter on lifting children who make mistakes, and found the chapter on helping children overcome their fears especially helpful with one of our children. I could go on and on because I basically found gems of knowledge and applications for my own children in every chapter.

Keep it Real and Grab a Plunger was informative, enjoyable, but most of all gave me a lot of things to think about and implement as a parent to enrich my children’s lives. I liked that I didn’t feel each topic was repetitious or overly discussed, but got the point across in a way I could relate to, understand, and easily apply. This is definitely a parenting book I would recommend!

By Tressa Sherman

Find the original review and other post information in the link below:

Boogers, ABC Gum, and Gut Flora

My husband and I often took road trips with our children to distant places which meant we spent a lot of the time in the car together, eating Happy Meals at McDonald’s, and filling up at gas stations. My husband tried to plan our trips around the most sanitary pit stops and fast food restaurants with the best playgrounds. More than once, however, we needed to make an emergency stop because a small child couldn’t “hold it any longer.”

You know what that means.

You turn off the freeway and hope to find a toilet, quick. If not, at least a bush or deep ravine. This time we found a sketchy gas station that Time forgot. I think the Heath Department forgot it too. It had one of those unisex bathrooms you enter from the outside that you have to beg the cashier for the key to open. We all held our noses and took turns using it. We were lucky the toilet still flushed, but there was no hand soap. I reminded my kids to put toilet paper on the seat and at least to rinse their hands to drown the germs if we couldn’t kill them with Dial.

I crisscrossed over the maze of discarded toilet paper squares on the wet floor like I was in a mine field. I remember the overflowing garbage and the dilemma of deciding how to avoid touching the door handle to open it.

When we packed the kids back in the car, I noticed my toddler, Rachel, was chewing gum. I never give gum to my toddlers because they usually have no concept of chewing without swallowing. So I knew this was not something I had given her. I asked where she got it, but the look of alarm in my eyes must have warned her of danger. She refused to talk or divulge her sources.

We drove away with Rachel still chewing gleefully.

Miles later, a sibling wanted some gum too, and asked for some. It was after I said I didn’t have any that Rachel bragged, “I got mine in the bathroom.” The car jolted a bit from my husband stepping on the brake. As more information leaked out, we discovered she found the ABC gum in that germ-infested gas station bathroom. Toddlers are built low to the ground so they see things that we adults miss. I wanted to yank it out and spray Lysol inside her mouth, but realized the damage had been done.

What else can a parent do at that point?


I’ve heard that every child needs to digest at least 10 lbs. of dirt by the time she is 8 years old to survive in this world. Besides, eating boogers may be the only GREEN food they’ll eat. It is organic, after all. So is poo.

Before you rush for the hand santizer, I have to report that Rachel is now 19 and arguably the healthiest of my 5 children. Was it heavy doses of germs early on that made her so robust? With each child, I became more relaxed in my antiseptic approach to parenting. With the first child, if the pacifier dropped on the floor, we boiled it for 5 minutes to de-germ it. By the fifth child, if the pacifier dropped and the dog licked it, I wiped if off on my pants and stuck it back in the baby’s mouth.

No harm done.

I recently listened to a radio interview with the co-author of “The Good Gut” which is all about how our bodies are made up of microflora in our digestive systems. We need good bacteria, like ABC gum and boogers, to help our bodies build immunity and fight the bad bacteria. Kind of like inoculating our children against measles. We give them little doses of bacteria every day when we let them play in the sand mixed with cat poo, make mud pies, and kiss the dog.

If we wonder why so many children are sensitive to foods, the air, and contact with plants, it could be answered by a scientist who studied the Yanomami people in the Amazon. He found that “the microbes from their skin and gut were 40% more diverse than those of modern, urbanised people…the more exposed a group was to modern life, the less diverse the microbiome.”

I’m all about diversity. And I’m all about microbiomes because they sound cool. Imagine a bunch of foreign germs, like Goodwill Ambassadors, from Angola, Tonga, Korea, Canada, and Slovenia meeting in your child’s gut, sharing drinks, swapping stories, eating Chex Mix, and playing Charades. When an intruder tries to crash the party, all these foreign friends band together and bar the door.

Speaking of cool, here’s a great NPR article and accompanying video called “The Human Microbiome.” It reports how gut flora wires our brains and alters our mood. Research done by Dr. Faith Dickerson suggests that introducing good flora in the microbiome “may contribute to an improvement of psychiatric symptoms.”

Of course that makes sense. If there’s a party happening in our gut, it’s going to make us feel better all over.

Pass the piña colada, please.