4H Versus Girl Scouts

We really enjoy both, but so far, the verdict is…

4H is better.

To be fair, this is our third year in 4H and only our fist in Scouts, but it’s not for lack of trying. I tried to contact the GS for over a year to try and get my daughter in, but without a school contact it was ridiculous—jumping through hoops, multiple calls and emails only to be told to call this person or to email that person. It took some complaining and even more pushing to finally get us into a meeting—and after that meeting, another two months before we even had a troop. What gives?

I figured the Girl Scouts would be super organized, but so far, it doesn’t seem to be that way. Our troop leader—it’s her first year, by the way—is fantastic. She is well organized, kind, and open-minded, and the kids love her. I couldn’t ask for a better person to lead them. That said, the city or county or whatever group doesn’t seem to be so organized. We’re always getting invites to do this or that, and these consist of a piece of paper telling you what and how much the event is, without any other details, expecting us to just fork over a check to do something when we have no idea what it entails! From getting our troop off the ground to cookie sales, background checks to more, everything takes for-ev-er and just doesn’t run very smoothly.

I am happy to report that our own troop runs smoothly, however, and we are happy with that! 4H, on the other hand, is so easy. There’s only one piece of paperwork for the entire year, if you want there to be, and there’s SO much freedom. Of course, it’s coed, which we like, and it’s so organized. I had my volunteer training the week I requested it! They are totally on top of everything, and like our Scouts leader, I absolutely love our coordinator.

The thing is, the activities are really similar. They’re both based on the kids’ interests, which I love. The Girl Scouts costs a little less to sign up, but they cost more in the long run between projects, group dues, and other fees. 4H only charges one fee for the whole year, which includes insurance, and they have all kinds of things—banquets, trainings, leadership days, etc.—where they pay for not just all of the activities, but the food, too! And we don’t even have to sell cookies or anything.

Both groups are great for kids and I recommend either to families wanting to make friends and get more involved in the community.

Maybe your safety is too safe

Gonna let your 13-year-old wear water wings to the pool party, are you?

Recently I wrote a piece about safe water games for kids to play and someone commented that my ideas—such as diving for toys or swimming to boundaries made with ropes and floating bottles—were not safe. I am thinking that this commenter is either:

A) A helicopter parent

B) A parent who doesn’t want to monitor his or her own kids

C) Someone without kids entirely

These are all perfectly fine games to play at the beach. We play them at my parent’s beach at their lake, which has a nice, level beach with well-defined boundary lines before you get to the deeper end for boats and adult swimming. I think when people think of “safe,” they must either think of their kids not being able to do anything at all, or perhaps not needing to supervise their children as they play. Just as with cars, safety is in the hands of the driver—or, in this case, the parent. If you’re going to booze it up and ignore your child, don’t take him to the water in the first place!

George Carlin often made jokes about the safety levels in America, and while I don’t agree that we need kids to die due to “natural selection” when it can be avoided, I do think he was right on the matter that we just have too many safety laws in this country and NOT enough common sense. In fact, if we had more of the latter taught in public schools, we wouldn’t need the former so much.

It’s natural to worry, and it’s also important; I know people who have lost children to sickness, to car accidents, and I know they run over what they could have done differently in their minds every single day, consumed by the guilt and grief. We cannot agonize over “what ifs,” but those senses of worry that we have are responsible for keeping mankind alive since mammals began. If a sleeping mom doesn’t worry enough to keep one ear open at night to protect her baby from a hungry lion, after all, where would we all be?

But like everything, you can take it too far—and then one day you wake up and your high school graduate doesn’t only not know how to drive, but also how to swim, skate, or even use the signs to walk around the block because he’s been so sheltered his entire life. And that, friends and neighbors, is the most unsafe thing of all—sending an unprepared child out into the world.


A Take Away From Psy's Protest Debacle

Is there a hidden lesson for America's youth in the mess that is Psy's past protest song "Dear American" coming to light?

This week, Psy, the South Korean YouTube sensation that brought "Gangnam Style" to the US, is catching some serious, career-damaging heat for past performances of music with strongly worded, threatening anti-American themes. I don't care to get into the politics of the situation, or whether or not he had a right to say what he did. This post isn't about Psy or his music. It's about what I hope our children will take away from it all.


When "Gangnam Style" hit took hold of American, everybody loved it. The beat is fun and the accompanying video is hilarious, making the fact that the only thing English speaking folks could understand “Gangnam Style” and “Heeyyyyyyyyy, sexy laaaadddddiiie,” perfectly acceptable. It caught fire from coast to coast and Psy's international celebrity was born.


Since, “Gangnam Style” has been getting air time on American radio and Psy has been enjoying ridiculous amounts of media attention from teaching Britney Spears to do the Gangnam dance on Ellen to joining MC Hammer on stage at the American Music Awards. We loved this guy, and he clearly loved the spotlight.


But, when the news of his 2004 performance of “Dear American” quickly spread, it took no time at all for fans' accolades to come to standstill and angry fists to be raised all over the Internet.


I think there is a valuable lesson in this for the younger generations that made “Gangnam Style” the sensation that it was: you can't escape what you put out there for public consumption. Sooner or later, no matter what you do, past actions can come back to haunt you, and the damage can be irreparable.


I certainly hope that none of our kids ever commit an offense as unsettling as the lyrics of Psy's song of protest, but even using foul language or posting questionable photos can come back to nip them in the tails when it comes their time to find jobs or apply to colleges. I hope they learn something from how fast people's opinions of Psy changed from harmless spectacle to offensive anti-American performer. The Internet really is a web and everyone is connected...forever. If they don't want it getting out, it doesn't belong on the net. People will find it, and it can change everything overnight.

Do you really need to have the last word?

Perhaps if you don’t improve the silence, you shouldn’t open your maw.

We all know this person. Whether he or she is the relative you dread, the family friend who knows everything, or the mommy at the playground who thinks you’re an idiot and tries to get every other mom on her side, too, it’s the person who just has to have the last word.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve proven yourself to be correct; he or she will just sniff and say, “That’s a questionable source,” or “That’s disputable,” or even, “Well, I guess you know everything!” You take to tiptoeing around this person to avoid trouble, sticking to subjects like the weather—which is even tricky now that we have so many record temperatures—or your clothes or anything else that might not make this person start spewing their righteous blather.

The thing is, you really can’t avoid it because he or she is probably already planning on bringing up some new thing to dumbfound you—and everyone else with—for attention. It will be something they saw Jesse Ventura mention, for example (my uncle loves to talk about “Obama death camps”), or something Fox News had on that they’ve decided is pure gold. And it doesn’t matter what you say; not only will you not change their mind, you will also not satisfy them with your “Let’s agree to disagree” or your rationalized arguments with evidence. They will not be happy until you say these words exactly: “You’re right and I’m wrong.”

This silliness is insanely petty and features a grade-school mentality that a first grader could surpass, but unfortunately there are plenty of people who simply think this way. So what do you do to still enjoy your day (or even your holiday) while not fighting and getting angry over a person who wants to convert you to their religion, politics, or even news station?

Honestly, I don’t have the answer. So far I’ve unfortunately resorted to rudeness, such as dining in another room or making an excuse to have to attend to something or another—another relative to visit, an appointment, whatever—rather than have to stomach such company. I’ve tried discussions and humor before, but those haven’t seemed to work with most people. (With some, it worked after a bit of tension and apprehensive “not my friend anymore!” type feelings) I’d rather not do this, but what alternatives are there to an all-out war with such persons?

Stop saying you’re confused

Because really, you’re just obnoxious.

For years, my biggest pet peeve was when people would retort, “True.” That’s just so obnoxious to me, like they’re validating what you say because obviously it might not have been true! Thank you for acknowledging that my statement wasn’t false. I know it’s a silly thing to get miffed over but it was mine.

Now it’s when people say, “I’m confused.” The thing is, they don’t say it when they are really confused; they say it when you say something against whatever they consider the “truth”—there’s that “true” element again!—and they disagree with it. “I’m confused,” a mom will tell me when I tell her of a special running at a venue she previously thought was closed or something. “I’m confused,” a relative will say when I tell them no, we didn’t go to X because we went to Y instead, even though we said we might go to Y the day before. (That’s irritating, too—when people act offended that you change your plans even when they aren’t involved in them.)

You are not confused. You’re just obnoxious. Why can’t you just say, “Oh, I thought X,” instead of whining, “I’m confused!” Save it for calculus questions, sweetheart.

Self education

Increase your horizons online.

For many of us, the demands of day-to-day life (kids, career, volunteering responsibilities and household needs) make a return to college an unsavory option. If you're like me, you may not even feel the urge to go back for a second degree or to advance an existing one. Honestly, I have no need for a doctorate in my career field and I have no intentions of switching fields.


Yet at the same time, I do want to know more. Learning and discovering new things is both enjoyable and it adds to the quality of life. Since I don't care about a new fancy degree or need transcript credit for classes, I have chosen instead to spend some of my free time pursuing education for fun. You know, as a hobby.

For example, I struggled with math in high school and college. I took the minimum number of credit hours and called it good. Now that I'm helping my older son with math, I am finding it easier and more enjoyable. This lead to an urge to understand more. Thanks to Khan Academy, a free online education initiative, I am reviewing my algebra and getting ready to move into pre-calculus.

I'm also taking an astronomy course for free through Coursera. I love Coursera. There are tons of courses, on almost any subject, put together by professors from top schools. Many classes are self paced although a few are instructor led so you must study the material and turn in assignments on time.

Another awesome and free self-education option is MIT's EdX program. Although still in the beginning phases, you can take free instructor-led courses online. For a small fee, you can even get a certificate of completion. Learning really is a lifelong proposition!

Lazy days aren’t just for summers

It’s perfect for the colder months, too!

When trying to picture a lazy day of doing nothing, it is all too easy for your mind to conjure up images of a hot summer day in which you lounge by the pool endlessly.  And as nice and relaxing as that might sound right now, there is no need for you to wait until next year to enjoy a lazy day.  You can have a perfectly good one right in the midst of the cold-weather months.

Instead of sitting by the pool like you would during the lazy summer months, try sitting by the fireplace.  It keeps you nice and warm.  Plus you can easily find yourself staring at the flames for hours on end. 

Then instead of drinking a cold glass of lemonade or margarita, opt for some hot cocoa with fluffy marshmallows or a fine glass of wine.  To add a little something more to the ambience, try putting on some soft music.  It is sure to help you to relax into your lazy winter day.

Staring at the fireplace for hours not your cup of tea?  Then how about adding a great book into the mix?  Read the latest novel from start to finish as you sit by the fireplace.  Or if you are interested in having a human companion, call up a good friend or a romantic interest. 

Then chat away as you both enjoy the lazy day together.  However, do keep in mind that if the person you called over is a romantic interest, lounging by the fireplace together can easily lead to things getting a little heated up between the two of you.

Your goofiest mummy moment

Share it here!

As I was putting the remote in the refrigerator, I stopped to think about how motherhood has changed my brain. It’s not temporary, though it is worse when your child is a baby, at least from my experience. I forget words—I’ll point at the couch and say, “Get your jacket off the—um, the…” and snap my fingers as if it will come to me. My husband, who has never missed a night of sleep from post-hospital parenting, prods, “Couch?” and sometimes I just want to smack him.

He knows I love him.

We do some pretty goofy things as scatterbrained moms, and if you have multiples, you work, or you have school—all full time jobs, by the way, whether you have one child or more—it’s probably even worse. I remember getting annoyed when both my grandmother and my mother would shout out names to get our attention—“Gale! No, Cynthia! Argh, you, you there!”—and they’d list every child except the one they want. Now I totally get it, ladies. And I only have one!

So what’s your goofiest mummy moment? No judgment here! Feel free to share among other moms who find their keys in the cleaning closet or their cell phones in the laundry basket…

Spending time with family

It’s the true holiday highlight.

The holiday season is hectic in many ways.  There is so much that requires your attention.  For instance, there is the holiday shopping list, the dinners that need to be prepared, and invitations that need to be mailed out.  With so many tasks to complete it can be hard to focus on the most important thing about the holiday season.  That is spending time with your family.

So what can you do to help you better focus on the people that are truly most important during the holiday season?  You can learn to relax and take a breather.  Being overstressed or overworked can cause you to become snippy towards those that you care about most. 

Therefore, in order to avoid that from happening, learn to take some time to pamper yourself during this holiday season.  Take a bubble bath or read a book to relief your stress from all that holiday planning.  Solicit some help from friends and family if it is possible to do so.  Not only will it make things easier for you, but it will also help you to spend time with those you love in the process of it all. 

Serving the tastiest food is not the most essential thing when it comes to having a great holiday party.  If you want your holiday guests to have a blast, you should make sure to chat with them.  So if making the food is prohibiting you from doing that, you should think about catering.  It might just be what you need to have the greatest holiday party.

Potty sanctuary!

Where pit stops meet rest stops

I have a confession: My bathroom is my safe haven.

Don't get me wrong, I used to have the problem of my sons popping in every two seconds no matter what I was doing, just like every other mom. But, now that my boys are getting older, we've been working really hard on teaching them that privacy is important.

While it's true that there are drawbacks to being the only gal in a family of five--like action flicks ALWAYS being chosen on family movie night--there are some perks. The biggest pro to being so drastically outnumbered is that I get to go to the bathroom by myself. And, I'm not going to lie, I've abused the privilege...a lot.

When the boys are having a mega energetic day...everyday...I can find sanctuary in the throne room. Sure, it's not as posh as the living room, but when I close that door behind me for a “bathroom break,” I know I can steal a solid few minutes to myself--and, I like it.

It's amazing how many activities I've learned to squeeze into three minute snippets. Sometimes I'll thumb through a magazine, while others are spent catching up with my pals on Facebook. If I'm feeling super saucy, I might grab a pair of tweezers and a hand held mirror and take care of those rogue chin hairs the boys left behind when they made their exits from my uterus--“temporary” my eye.

Yep. When I need a quick time-out, I head to the bathroom. It may not be glamorous, but it helps me to retain my sanity, and that's all that matters, right?