Thursday, April 23, 2009

Worriers Anonymous

Thank you all for coming the the first meeting of Worrier's Anonymous. No, no don' are all welcome. You don't have to be on time, and you don't have to worry about what you are wearing. I won't make fun of your tattered bathrobe (but...ehem, Mother's/Father's Day is coming, you could ask for a new one...)

You know why we are all here. We worry, and we worry a lot. I like to tell my husband, "Worrying is a mother's job and I just happen to very good at my job." Lately though, I am worried that maybe I worry too much.

Is it just me, or have you noticed that a lot of the things you worry about NEVER happen? You too? Thank goodness I'm not alone, because I was worried about that.

You have probably noticed then that while the things we worry about rarely happen, the bad stuff blind sides us! There's no preparing for that, ya know? All that precious worry spent on the wrong things! If only we had known, we could direct our concerns better.

I remember worrying that my grandmother was getting old and would soon die...years before she passed away. And yet, I was totally blind sided when I got that call that a beloved niece had a brain tumor. (Oh, but yes all my nieces and nephews are beloved, especially one that blogs...hi Tyler.)

Oh, and have you worried about things that later didn't seem so important? Me too! I used to worry about dating (or my lack of dates). I was sure I would end up a spinster, and yet about the time I decided that being single indefinately was not the end of the world, I met my husband, who thinks I am the world.

Years ago, I heard an interesting quote: "You wouldn't be so worried what other people think of you, if you knew how seldom they do." Ouch!

I think more likely we would be surprised to learn all the good things people think about us. At least, I hope so. Sometime ago, I decided to work on the hypothesis that everyone needs love and acceptance, even those people who seem to "have it all together". The plan was to focus on making the other people in my life happy, and try not to worry what they thought of me. I reasoned that if I did that everything else would fall into place. After all, how could you not like someone who makes you feel good about yourself? It has worked beautifully by the way. One less thing to worry I can make room for other worries.

You have probably heard about the idea of a Gratitude Journal, a place where you write all the things you are grateful for to remind you of the good things in your life that you are worried you will overlook. I wonder if for those of us die hard worriers if a Worry Journal is in order. If we did that and saw page after page of things we worried about that never came to pass. . .well, I just wonder.

Some worry has it's place I suppose. Worrying about being late, for example, helps me work harder at being on time. I have made some great progress in that area. Still it seems that it would be healthier to replace worry about being late, with desire to be on time. Wouldn't that get the same results with less stress?

Well, now I am worried that I have taken too much of your time, so I'll end this. Thanks for coming by, you've given me a lot to about.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

EIGHTEEN: What It Means For Foster Kids

Remember when you moved out of your parents home, your first dorm room or apartment, first roomate, the thrill, the fears? Remember calling home for cooking help, laundry tips and money?

Unforunately, for many foster kids, this transition time is much more complicated. With no parents of family to fall back on, many end up on the streets homeless or in jail.

Of the kids who age out of the foster care system:

One in four will be incarcerated within the first two years after they leave the system.

Over one-fifth will become homeless at some time after age 18.3.

Approximately 58 percent had a high school degree at age 19, compared to 87 percent of a national comparison group of non-foster youth.

Of youth who aged out of foster care and are over the age of 25, less than 3 percent earned their college degrees, compared with 28 percent of the general population.

Statistics courtesy of a website written specifically for kids in foster care.

I stumbled upon these statistics while doing research for a newletter for work. They are troubling, and what is even more troubling to me is I don't know what the answer is. The teenagers that I work with have very poor attendance at school. As staff, we try to motivate them to go to no avail. Homework hour is a regular part of the schedule. "The system" tries to leave them in the same schools when they are moved to different placements.

And yet, those things are just band-aids on the greater problem. They have other needs that have to be met before we can begin to think about these issues. The whole issue underscores for me the importance of family, the importance of parents and unconditional love.

A family is a powerful thing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Move over Candyland....Games Families Play and LIKE!

I have bad news today. My muse has gone on vacation. . .without me. How rude. The little voice in my head reminds me that in all those writing classes (from eons ago) say that when you have writer's block you need to just sit down and start writing. Well, you see how well that is working for me, sorry to put you through this.

Let's see how far we can get without the muse. This week is Spring Break and I had these illusions of spending a lot of time with the kids playing games and doing fun things. Don't ask me how that is working out, ok? (Best laid plans of mice and moms...grumble, grumble, mutter)

Speaking of games, I confess I have absolutely no patience for some of the "classic" children's games like Candyland, Hi Hi Cherrio and Chutes and Ladders. I dislike them so much, that we don't even have them in our home. How did such mind-numbing, parent-torturing games become "classics" anyway? Classics are supposed to be good things. (oops, sorry this is why the muse left me. I'm grumpy.)

I was fortunate to stumble on "Max", many years ago. I still like playing this with my kids. Even very young children can play this game with a parent or older sibling because it is a "co-operative" game. This means that all the players work together against the game. This is great for those little ones that can't deal with losing yet.

In Max, there is the cat and there are three little animals: a squirrel, a mouse and a bird. Everyone playing the game works together to get the three little creatures safely to their homes, so Max won't catch them. Sometimes, you get all the little creatures home safely, sometimes you don't! Kids of all ages get a kick out of this game. Even adults will find this game enjoyable. It's a great way to spend time together.

If you try Max and love it (as I know you will), there are other co-operative games available as well. My family has tried others. Some we like, some not so much, but Max is by far the favorite. Any one of them is hands down better than Chutes and Ladders! One worth checking out, if you have girls, is Princess. In this game the players work together to come up with imaginative solutions to obstacles. My daughter loved this one, but the draw back was she played it with her brothers who had a vastly different idea of how things should go. For example, when the obstacle was to wake the sleeping princess, and the "tool" card was a bottle of magic potion, my daughter wanted to pour some in the Princess' mouth, her older brothers thought it would be more effective to bonk the Princess on the head with it. Since all the players need to agree on the solution, this game didn't work so well for them (unless of course laughing is the goal!) My daughter, having no sisters, had better luck playing it with her girl friends.

You can see more co-operative games, tons of other games and best of I love being able to read reviews of a game before I buy. This feature alone is enough to make Funagain my favorite site to buy games.

While you are at Funagain, you might want to check out Rat-a-tat Cat. This is a darling card game for kids approx. 6 and up. We found it a couple years ago and it has been a favorite in our family since then.

For kids who are older, say 10 and up we love: Man Bites Dog, and Fluxx. They are card games that are quick to learn, and fun to play.

If my fourteen year old read my blog, (he doesn't - no loyalty in my house), he would say I MUST mention Munchkin. He and his friends love this card game. We even had a Munchkin night once (kind of like Poker night for the younger generation.) One word of caution, there are all kinds of add ons for this game, which my son thinks are fabulous, but I think they bog things down. Munchkin is a Knights/Dungeons themed game, but they also have SuperHero Munchkin, and Ninjas, Space etc. If you like a game that makes you laugh, you must try this one!

While I am waiting for my muse to return, I think I'll go play a game with the kids! Enjoy!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Budget Anniversaries

These days, it seems everyone is concerned about the economy and tightening their financial belts. With that in mind, I thought I would share my wedding aniversary plans...on a budget.

Tomorrow is my 15th Wedding Anniversary. I won't bore you with mushy love notes. I'll just say I would marry him again in a heartbeat and he feels the same about me.

Every "big" date...5 years, 10 years, and now 15 years, I have this idea that we should do something really special, say a romantic weekend away. Alas, thus far my budget has not allowed for this and this year is no exception. So we are going with "nostalgic" rather than extravagant.

A little background is necessary here. My husband and I met on a blind date, set up by his mother. She and I lived in Bethel, Alaska together (I'll tell you more about Bethel another time.) One day we ran into each other in the Anchorage airport both on our way to Portland. She was going to visit family and I was going just to get some sun.

I realize Portland is not known for the "sun" factor, but you have to take into consideration, that I was living in a part of Alaska where we only had sun for a couple hours a day that time of year, and working overnight shift, I didn't see it. I had limited funds, and limited time off, so Portland was the destination of choice. I also chose Portland because of the temple. (Richard and I were married here later.)

So future mom-in-law said, "I hate for you to spend time in Portland alone, why don't I call my single son and see if he will be your tour guide?" The rest is history as they say, except to add that this took him by surprise and so he was short on funds. Thus our first meal together was at Burger King, something I have teased him about ever since. You notice it didn't stop me from falling in love and marrying him though.

So, kind of as a joke and partly nostalgia, we always go to Burger King for our anniversary (thank goodness they have veggie burgers, because hamburger is not my thing.) This year being our 15th anniversary we decided to splurge! We're going to Red Robin! The hamburgers will be in keeping with tradition, but a step up (and they have veggie burgers too!) We think this is hillarious.

I really want to go see Crime and Punishment in the Seattle Theater, but in keeping with the budget I think we will go to the dollar movie theater and hopefully catch a romantic comedy. (When we first dated we saw Sommersby and Untamed Heart.)

For an anniversary present, I have requested a long mushy love letter. I don't plan to write one back though, I don't write romance well. Maybe a foot massage will do instead.

So there you have it, anniversary on a budget. And you know what, we are going to have a blast. We always do. It's not hard for us to have fun together because we make each other laugh.

If you are one of those who are accustomed to having more and are now living with the stress of financial woes, remember romance, fun and laughter don't have to carry a price tag. Romance on a budget does require a little more imagination, but it is so worth it!