Which side makes you talk nicely to your child?

Which side makes you talk nicely to your child?

Being organized is something we agree we should do, promise ourselves we'll start doing each and every December 31st (or next Monday, or when school starts, or when the stars align, or when the pigs are flying).  But why?  Why be organized?  If we dig deep and think about how being organized makes us feel, how it changes how we talk to ourselves and how we talk to our children or our partners, we find a well of inspiration and energy. Once we get started (the hardest part), energy and motivation magically builds on itself as our closets become tidier our meals start planning themselves, and the car is always gassed up.

What happens when we get organized?  Here's what you can expect:

Cuts down on friction: Ever notice when you are early for something there is no traffic?  When you are late for something everything goes wrong?  I don't know about you, but I'm a blamer, under stress I start hurling blame, shame and pain at anyone and everyone.  My poor family.  If time is managed more effectively there are not as many angry triggers. I act and speak more respectfully to everyone (including myself).   If I get gas every Thursday, no matter what the gauge says - well then every Saturday I'm ready to drive to soccer practice, no checking, no panicking, no pushing the limit, no looking frantically for a credit card, no swear words as I pass a long line at the pump on the way to the field Saturday morning.

Let's your core values shine through:  If a core value is education we create a homework area where supplies, papers, laptops and books can be kept.  We organize it regularly.  We are consistently plucking out the comic books, the Chipotle receipts and the general crap that inevitably, naturally and habitually creeps in.  We right size our kids extra curricular activities and social life to accommodate down time before homework and ample down time after homework to be ready for sleep.  We are consistent about family quiet time in the evening to set the scene for quiet and thinking endeavors.  We model reading and learning and planning ourselves.

Changes your brain: Routines change your brain.  Once you have routinized something your brain does not have to put much effort into completing the task.  Think about diapering a baby.  I don't know about you, but day one diapering my baby took 20 minutes and a lot of thought.  By day 512 I could diaper my baby, while issuing orders to my toddler, all while talking to my sister on the phone. No sweat.  That's the power of routine. Routines work best when you start building one by one and at the top of the list are things you do EVERY day.  When a routine is lodged in your brain it overpowers your fleeting thoughts and feelings of, "I don't feel like it, I'll wait until later" and you find yourself making your bed without even thinking about it.

Helps during stressful times:  When you swipe and swish your bathroom every day (now that's just taking a damp rag and running it over your bathroom, it's NOT getting out cleaners or sponges or scrubbers or toilet bowl cleaner) - then when someone gets the stomach flu they can pray to the porcelain god without being grossed out by icky gross bathroom stuff.  A surprise guest can use the bathroom without you elbowing them on the way up the stairs to be sure it's all flushed and yuck free.  Best of all, you get to use a fresh-ish, hotel-ish, clutter free-ish  bathroom every day, every SINGLE day.  You deserve it!

It's Fun!  With the right attitude,  some practice, and some peppy music, a reasonable time limit and enough trash bags - organizing is fun.  It really is.  It's also a strangely satisfying endeavor -- think of organizing as a cheap thrill for your brain and eyes.  

Mindful Parenting

We don't need a years long meditation practice, a week long silent retreat, or peace like a river in our soul to try some Mindful Parenting. What I LOVE about these tips is that they 'do no harm'. When I put my head on the pillow at night I know I have not blamed, shamed or pained any of my beloveds.

1. Square Breathing: Teach this to your family TONIGHT (we learn what we teach, we teach what we need to learn). Breath in for two counts. Hold for two counts. Breath out for two counts. Hold for two counts. Repeat until there is a sliver of calm. Slowing your breathing slows your heart rate and can help your brain find creative and relationship plumping solutions. You never know when your kids will come home and tell you it HELPED them (think ACTs/SATs!).

2. The Waves ARE the Ocean: The journey IS noisy, chaotic, unclear, angry, messy, loving, unpredictable. When we are in a wavy bit, remember we are STILL in the ocean. It's all the same.

3. The Middle Path:  When I'm in a parenting spiral of indecision, I think to myself, what's the middle path? I WANT the child to give me the phone NOW. The child wants the phone into eternity. The middle path might be phones are turned in at dinner time and doled out again when everyone is ready for the day the next morning (fed, dressed, shod, brushed).

4. Mantras: Here's one I used, "I love you just the way you are today." Works wonders for tantruming toddlers, science fair procrastinators, and eye rolling teens. The mantra cloaks whatever I do in compassion and love.  I can uphold the limit or re-direct the behavior calmly, rationally and with love.  Other useful ones, "This will pass." "I don't love this, AND I can handle it."  

5. Simplify: Seriously, for real, I'm not joking, we will FEEL better if we get rid of 50% of our crap. e-mail me if you need help on this or see the button below. Why do we like hotel rooms? NO CRAP! 

6. Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast: Thank you Phil Dunphy of Modern Family. When you are feeling stressed and rushed, slow down. Is it counter-intuitive? Yes! Is it really hard to do? Absolutely! Should I give it a try anyway? Yes! Yes! Yes!



Protest + New Action = Change

Current events, personal events, getting older has been leading me to this nugget of truth. Outrage and protest is an important FIRST action. It comes with a lot of energy, a lot of conviction, a lot of emotion. And not much gets done if we keep trying to fix our problems with outrage and protest. 

PROTEST: I can protest and be outraged that my tween won't get up. I can lecture, I can nag, I can yell - all protest moves. Usually, the tween will endure our nagging, yelling and outrage for the special service of being woken up by us.  (Think about it, if we had someone that would BE SURE we are up so we don't miss work, well, why not hit snooze? Why not tent our head under our comforter and read for a delicious extra 20 minutes. We are offering our free waking up service to the tween, the price they pay is our anger, which always dissolves.)  The protest alerts us to the problem BUT does not SOLVE the problem (so frustrating!).

ACTION: I can stop being willing to serve the tween in a way that is unnecessary. I can state this to the tween in a respectful low-key way, "I'm sorry, I've been treating you with disrespect. I have faith you can handle waking up in the morning to the alarm clock." I can give the tween a grace period of a week where the alarm clock goes off and I am willing to come up and turn the light on at an agreed upon time. I can help tween problem solve, IF they are interested. I can train tween to use public transport. I can research with the tween the school policy for being tardy. I can let the tweens life unfold and SEE how the tween feels about being tardy. I can watch how the tween responds to having to use allowance to uber herself to school. 

The protest guided me to new action, the new action showed me something new about my tween AND gave me a much needed break from being angry and protesting.

Lather, rinse, repeat!

Where DID That Darn Solution GO?!

I am always really busy this time of year, and I love it! New clients, old clients, everyone wants to get organized. The number one thing that gets in people's way of getting organized is thinking there is A SOLUTION! 

PERFECT SOLUTION: We walk into our 10 year olds room, here is our brain talking. "I need to know the PERFECT bookcase to buy that will last, that the kid will like, that I know is a good value, that I can fit in my car, that will look good, that my mother in law will approve of, that will organize and hold ALL the crap, that will make me feel good, that will match the existing carpet."

This thought is tiring. I am defeated. I am small. I am overwhelmed. I turn on my heel, I go and click on Amazon and re-order my book wish list. THAT I can manage.

INSTEAD. . . . 

I DON'T GOT NO SOLUTION, AND I'M GONNA STAY IN THE GAME: We walk into our 10 year olds room. "This room needs something. Maybe a book case. I think I'm gong to sort some the stuff that's in here. Clothes, stuffed animals, toys, knick knacks, crafts, books, crap that isn't hers. Wow, that's a lot of categories, I think I'll keep only clothes, stuffed animals, books in here. I will move crafts and toys to the playroom. I'm going to put all the knick-knacks on her desk and we can sort and purge. Looks like she needs a new book case, I'm going to measure that blank wall for now and see what they have at Ikea that would fit in that space." 

This thought is empowering, energizing, solution oriented, non-judgmental. I can complete this task in under an hour. I can make progress. I don't have to THINK so hard for a solution, I can sort and arrange and the solution bubbles up from the mess!

Genius, relieving, sublime!

Problems, Problems, PROBLEMS!

What are YOUR 'go to' problem solving tools?

What are YOUR 'go to' problem solving tools?

A man is on a journey to the mountain top for enlightenment.  He finds himself on one side of a wide and deep lake.  He looks around, builds himself a raft and gets across dry and safe.  So pleased with himself and his problem solving, he straps that raft to his back and continues his climb.  Although he finds nary a lake, river, stream or creek, he does not let go of the raft.  The raft is heavy, cumbersome and slows him way down on his road to enlightenment.  
Adapted from a Buddhist tale.

Here's what we do people, we find one fabulous way to solve a problem and then we do that over and over and over. We keep lugging our metaphorical raft,  in spite of the fact there are tools that are more nimble, efficient, use less effort and are more effective.   Do you spot your particular raft from the list below?  

(I group them in pairs because I have found if we do one, we usually AVOID the other.  In times of stress we do even MORE of the one and stay FURTHER AWAY from the other.  A better, saner, more effective solution usually lies somewhere in-between our go to and our must avoid.)

NICE / MEAN -  If we want something we over nice people to get our way.  We nice, and nice, and do favors and are kind, and extend ourselves, all thinking that one day all those people we have been nice to will repay us in niceness (or good grades, or affection, or clearing the dishwasher, or picking up after themselves, or admiration, or a bonus).  We are extra nice if we feel totally devastated and hurt.  Alternately - if we want something we are aggressive and mean to get our way.  If we are hurt we cut off ties of communication, cloak ourselves in righteousness.  We yell and scream and think people will do what we want because we are so superior and scary.

WORK HARDER / PROCRASTINATE:   If we have a problem we work harder, we burn the midnight oil, we dig in, we try and try and try.  We add more hours to the task, we give up pleasure and exercise and fun because if we work harder we can solve the problem. We focus 174% on the PROBLEM.   Alternately, we pretend the problem isn't there and we procrastinate.  We'll surf the internet until we feel like working on our problem (hah!).  We avoid, we deny, we pretend the problem doesn't exist.  We take a break, we relax - HEY, we deserve it, it's such a BIG problem after all.

GO IT ALONE / HIRE HELP:  If we have a problem we feel a slight sense of shame for having a problem and we go it alone.  We become a one person research team to figure it all out on our own. We don't ask for help, we don't let people know we need help.  We only like the perfect versions of ourself so we white knuckle our way, we act like an expert, we don't MOVE until we have all the answers, got it figured out, know our final destination.  Alternately, we hire people, coaches, gurus, buy books, join seminars, listen to podcasts, consider alternatives and talk and talk and talk.  We figure if we purchase a coach then we can go back to relaxing because that investment should just grow and multiply and solve the problem on its own.

What's your poison?  What's your go to raft?  Let's take a minute and look at the actual terrain we are on, unstrap the raft off our back, give ourselves a break and try something new.

Paradox and Ambiguity

Say What?!

Say What?!

Yes, it's the worst! Paradox and ambiguity are here to stay, whether we like it or not. Who else needs a good long suffer before they accept reality?

Here's what I'm talking about,  people:

Paradox: If you want to get really serious about something, lighten up.  Especially with kids. If we want them to clean their rooms we need to make cleaning up easier (de-clutter), a habit (yo! we are in charge of routines), and not-stressful (no yelling that you are donating every gosh durn thing that is still on the floor when you come up to check on them in 5 minutes).

Ambiguity: When we decide NOT to do things for our child that they can do themselves (get dressed, finish homework, make their own lunch) they may or they may not end up doing things the way we want them to. We can never be sure if the message we are sending is the message they are receiving, for a refresher check out People are Prisms.

Paradox: When we START  working out (or doing our taxes, or tidying our house or de-cluttering our basement) when we don't EVEN FEEL like it, we often find that 10 minutes in we FEEL like keeping going. When we WAIT until we FEEL like it, we keep on waiting, and waiting, and waiting, anyone, Bueller?

Ambiguity: Wendy Mogel, author of Blessing's of Skinned Knee,  describes children as unmarked seed packets. We might flourish in a harsh weather environment, with hot summers and cold winters. Our child might flourish in an equatorial hot and humid climate. Remember, an easy 8 year old might hit some speed bumps at 15. A tantrumy 4 year old might be a delightful tween. Again, we just don't know for sure.

In my experience, when reality has been accepted there is a new energy source, a new creativity and some new solutions to my problems. I'm not saying you are going to like, but after you practice and accept, you just might! (See what I did there? I used BOTH paradox AND ambiguity).


Same PEP Info, new PEP Format!

Same PEP Info, new PEP Format!

Join me for a journey into parenting with the Parent Encouragement Program new format of PEPI: Bootcamp. It's for those of us who WANT 8 weeks of parenting information and support and are short on time!

Description: Do you wonder how to raise your children to be responsible, respectful and trustworthy—all while getting dinner on the table? Do you worry about cyberspace, peer pressure and other facts of modern life? Parenting, while it brings much joy, is hard work. This class will make it easier and much more satisfying by giving you a sound framework for positive parenting and proven skills to correct whining, backtalk, defiance and the whole range of misbehavior. Learn how you can be closer and have more fun as a family while also motivating your children to be more cooperative, self-disciplined and successful.

The Top 5.5 Reasons We All need Parent Education!

1. Parenting classes remind us that raising kids IS challenging, and we aren't the only knuckleheads out there confused and frustrated.

2. We learn about a variety of resources - books, workshops, classes, online seminars, podcasts that can infuse our parenting with inspiration and new ideas.

3. We see the universality of all our experiences. Rarely is a parent educator surprised by a question or a problem, because it's the same stuff over and over - messy rooms, problems with friends, picky eaters, no sleepers, homework avoiders.

4. We laugh together, because it IS funny. Seriously - it's funny the parent/child dance. Now, it's not funny when it's you, but it IS funny when we can see together the hilarious things we do to try to get a four-year-old shod and fed before 8am.

5. We can see ourselves more clearly - and that's where change happens. Change happens when we are in the middle of our very own lives - no excuses, no over-dramatization, no soft focus. In the safety of a big group we can quietly notice where we might be too demanding or too permissive.

5.5. It gets us out of the house and aways from the children (tee hee - but seriously, you deserve a break today.).


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5 Tips to Getting Seriously Organized this Year!

Yo!  People, you make organizing too hard. I don't mean to hurt your feelings, but SERIOUSLY, we need to lighten up if we are going to get the job done. It's one of those paradoxes in life, if we are going to get extremely serious about being organized and de-cluttering this year we gotta loosen our clench, dial up our humor and creativity so we want to come back for more.  Here are 5.5 (I had one more thing I just had to say!) tips to get you on your way.

1. Do not try to save the planet WHILE you are getting organized. Please, please, PUH-LEASE just trash the trash. The best way to help our lovely planet is to simply NOT buy stuff. You will be less compelled to purchase things to fix your life if your home is a big clutter-free hug. PRACTICE throwing things out as a solution (keep recycling and donating, but add in simply pitching stuff to). 

2. Stay inspired.  The thing about organizing is that your accomplishment, especially if you have small children at home, lasts 43 seconds. To stay organized you must stay inspired - Pinterest pages, refreshed and cleanly labeled files, some good music and a delicious cup of tea with the timer set for a small amount of time will help. 

3. Zone It Out.  Get out your metaphorical thick sharpie and draw clean and fat lines around the rooms in your house. Toys in the basement, games in the family room, books & stuffed animals in bedrooms, legos at the big craft table. Our brain is more efficient if it doesn't have to decide stuff all the time. It's not that their books aren't going to always be all over the place, it's that when you clean up it's easy to evict the squatters.

4. Kids stuff:  You guys, it's not our job to memorialize our child's every move. Edit! Get one of these Container Store boxes for each child in your life (color code them) and then what fits in the box, fits in the box. Of course little, cute stuff will take up more space, but be realistic. Good rule of thumb, if it's a worksheet, throw it out. One more time, say it with me, EDIT.

5. Be realistic. The Fly Lady says (Who is the Fly Lady? I love her - check her out) "You can't organize clutter." Time clutter, head clutter, kids clutter, memorabilia clutter, photo clutter, kitchen gadget clutter, pantry clutter, re-usable bag clutter, book clutter. Get it out! I am not saying it's easy, you won't feel like doing it, yet when it's done, OH the freedom it will give you!

5.5 Books & magazines. I can't help myself. Keeping books & magazines does not put the knowledge in your head. Your bedroom is worth being a relaxing and calm hotel room. Have you ever walked into a hotel and seen 28 unread Oprah magazines, 12 New Yorkers, various catalogs and that darn book club book staring at you? Consume books and magazines as they enter your house, then release them into the wild. Otherwise they become stinky fish that stare at you and make you feel bad about yourself.

8 Device Tips To Save Our Sanity

Time for a review .  . . screens make us crazy!

Time for a review .  . . screens make us crazy!

Seriously, what the heck to do about screens, devices, phones, laptops, tvs, handheld games, X-Box, Playstation, YouTube, YouNameIt.

It's one of my most hated parenting tasks - monitoring, AND setting, AND upholding limits on the screens.  Ugh, Ick, Groan!  It's the worst.  And yet -- here we are. As we head into the holidays the kids scheduled time ramps down, and their begging for the screens ramps up.  To keep you sane here are 8 tips and thoughts.

1.         Screen Free Zones and Times – Make the rooms in your house uphold limits for you.  Create screen free zones and time – no screens upstairs, at meal times or at bedtime.  Yo! Limits work best if parents (ahem, that’s YOU) are working within the same boundaries.

2.         Communication, creation, consumption – Not all screen time is created equal.  Be aware if your kid is spending hours and hours consuming (avoid), or communicating (fine, within limits) or creating (yay!).

3.         What are YOU doing? -  Seriously.  If we are constantly texting or we need to have our phone on for work (I hear you whining), what message/modeling are we sending? Children do as we do, not as we say (Darn IT! But true).

4.         Get OUT! - Not in the Elaine Bennis kind of way (Seinfeld fans click here, you are welcome) but in an out of the house kind of way. Plan activities where kids can’t have a phone or device.  Water activities (so genius!).  Active activities – hiking, biking, skiing.  Act super duper generous with the device until you get them on the mountain, in the water, on the trail and then -  HAH! Device free 5 hours.

5.         Ask Questions - Begin a series of open ended conversations. Need a refresher on WHAT an open ended conversation is?  I got you, click here.  To get started try some of these -- What’s your favorite game on your iphone? How much time do you think you should be spending on a screen? How much time do your friends get on their phones (don’t believe everything they tell you)? Would you show me some of your favorite YouTube videos (Instagram posts, Vines, etc.)? What new app are all you kids using these days (it changes hourly)?

6.         Then LISTEN -  Underused parenting tool – listening.  Click here for a refresher. LISTEN to what their answers are to the above questions. Do not comment, do not give them statistics, do not tell them what life was like when you were young, just listen. You got it?  Zip your lip, sit on your hands and learn what your kids actually think. 

7.        They Are Gonna Sneak:  Kids love these devices passionately. Screens make them feel soothed, keep them in contact with their friends, and make them feel connected and productive. I am NOT saying this is accurate, but screens are seductive. Please do not freak out WHEN they sneak.

8.         We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know:  Nobody has the answers yet to the screens and children. We are pioneers, we simply have to do the best we can with the information we have. Chill AND uphold limits. Then gather your family and watch ELF, because that movie is HYSTERICAL!





First a Dream

*Originally published in the December 2016 Glove Park Gazette

Short days make for longer dreams . . . . 

Short days make for longer dreams . . . . 

Like any work of art, families need inspiration, fresh infusions of hope and imagination.  Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting

As we head towards the winter solstice, the days are short, plants are dormant, the holidays with their twinkling lights and traditions call us to dream, imagine and conjure.

We forget that a delicious, and important, part of parenting is dreaming, imagining, and conjuring up lovely and beautiful scenarios in our head about what is possible. Remember before you had kids what it was going to be like? Go back there for a bit. Sure, the cold hand of reality has woken you up, and yet those dreams are important, informative and inspiring.

I know, I know, I hear you. “Paige, the holidays are toooooo busy, the kids are ALWAYS around, WHAT TO DO about the devices?” I understand AND, don’t let this season of slow growth, short days, chilly temperatures go by without experiencing some life renewing dreaming, imagining and conjuring.

Dream about being on time almost every day. Dream about no diapers. Dream about set tables. Dream about polite and tidy-ish children. Dream about made beds. Dream about eaten vegetables. Dream about family hiking or camping or biking or a luxurious family vacation. Dream about full college funds. Dream about a renovated basement or a spruced up front yard. Dream about a regular date night with a beloved (including yourself!). Dream about life after the kids are launched when you can travel again in October, when all the money is yours and the house has a chance of staying tidy.

Ask your kids to dream, “How could 2017 be magical?” Years ago one of my kids ‘dreamt’ about the family watching a tv show every evening. I had a strict no tv during the week policy. My instinct was to shut it down, no way, I KNOW best! Instead, I gave it a try. Turns out his dream was delicious, relaxing and cozy.

Invite the power of dreaming and resting and conjuring and imagine what could be in 2017.

Pitch, Toss, Donate - Lather, Rinse Repeat!

Tis the Season to De-Clutter!

Tis the Season to De-Clutter!

In this season of buying gifts it seem counterintuitive to think about purging, but stick with me here. If we decluttered our houses and our calendar, think how many parenting problems would solve themselves.

The magical art of tidying up is truly magical in a family setting.

Declutter the kids room and -- badaboobadabing --they can clean it up themselves in under 15 minutes (they won’t all the time, but they CAN!). Declutter our calendar and when (NOT if) it takes our four year old forever to walk to the car, we can handle it, we can enjoy it, we can embrace it.

I know none of us has time, however, meditation can help purge your brain and emotions of negative spirals. Headspace is what I use and I think it slowly, tortoise-like, has altered my brain. Not in an instant and not in an earth-shattering way, but noticeably and meaningfully.

Next time you are in a parenting pickle, STOP. Don't try to fix the kid, clean out your closet. Throw out all the yucky hangers, take out the half-torn dry cleaning bags, and pitch all the clothes that are stained and don’t fit or make you feel bad about yourself. I can practically GUARANTEE a new, interesting and innovative parenting solution will bubble up from the process.

*Expectations, A Practicum

Is this what Thanksgiving is going to look like at your house?

Is this what Thanksgiving is going to look like at your house?

Expectations: Cozy car ride talking to each other and playing the alphabet game and singing Raffi songs.  Delicious home cooked nutritious meals where children try new foods and eat yellow and green and orange things.  Getting to that pilates class & long walks after meals.  Playing board games and doing puzzlesCombed hair, none of it in eyes, all of it in a hairband and no squabbles over styles or washing. Wearing the fancy & nice clothes Nana bought, all of it ironed, most of it unstained.  Loving and understanding relatives who honor, cherish and cheer for each other.  Sleeping in, oh I'm not crazy, I read that other post, Expectations 101just a couple of mornings of uninterrupted sleep will do.                                             

Uh oh . . . . is this what we are really doing?

Uh oh . . . . is this what we are really doing?

Reality:  Traffic, she is on his side, they don't like that song, every 35 minute bathroom breaks.   Carbs, sugar, booze, caffeine, carbs, more carbs. More booze, caffeine, carbs, lethargy, complaining, fat pants.  Begging and pleading and even crying to get them off screens and standing up.  Lice.  Wrinkled shirt, I took that darn PEP class and let them pack, they forgot their khakis and now there is no choice but sweats for Thanksgiving dinner.  Snarky and gossipy relatives who judge the kids, the parenting, the lice, the sweat pants.  Four year old who wakes up at 4:30 am, urgent care, strep throat.

Expectations 101, Read it, learn it, try it, live it.                

*Originally posted in 2014. Still makes me giggle.

The Holidays!

Oh geez Lousie, it's coming . . . . 

Oh geez Lousie, it's coming . . . . 

1. Buy some gift cards TODAY. We KNOW we will have that last minute gift we have to give. Have a stack of easy, peasy goodies ready to go.

2. Buy a few bottles of 'good enough' wine. You don't want to go empty handed, you don't want to have to run out all season and the the wine for the hostess gift. 

3. Create a budget - you'll be glad you did. Sale items can get us into just as much credit card trouble as full price items bought with cash.

4. Start freezing shit. Double your Cincinnati Chili (recipe below!), make cookie dough and freeze it in little balls to be whipped out and bake later.

5. Plan some self-care. An afternoon at a movie YOU want to see, a housekeeper to come before the guests arrive, massage, yoga, sleeping in. Ain't nobody happy if Mama (or Papa) ain't happy.

Pseudo Cincinnati Chili

Cook’s note: For five-way chili, sprinkle raw diced onions on top.

8 ounces thin spaghetti

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 pound ground beef (93 percent lean)

1 large onion (for 1 cup chopped)

1 large green bell pepper (for 11/2 cups chopped)

2 small cans (8-ounces each) tomato sauce

2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

cayenne pepper to taste, optional

salt to taste, optional

1 can (15 ounces) red kidney beans

1/4 cup already-shredded sharp cheddar cheese


1. Bring 2 1/2 quarts of unsalted water to a boil in a 4 1/2 -quart Dutch oven or soup pot. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add the spaghetti and cook until tender, 7 to 9 minutes.


2. Meanwhile, heat the oil on high heat just until hot. Using your fingers, crumble the ground beef into the skillet. Immediately wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap and hot water. Peel and coarsely chop the onion, adding it to the skillet as you chop. Stir the meat occasionally. Rinse and seed the bell pepper and cut it into 1/4-inch dice. Add it to the skillet.


3. Cook, stirring frequently, until the ground beef is finely crumbled and completely browned, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium.


4. Add the tomato sauce, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Stir to mix well. Reduce the heat to simmer, and continue to cook, stirring from time to time, until the pasta is done. Season with cayenne pepper and salt, to taste, if desired. Meanwhile, rinse and drain the beans, and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a paper towel and microwave 1 minute on high or until heated through.


5. To serve, divide the drained spaghetti among 4 serving bowls. Top each serving with chili, 1/2 cup kidney beans and 1 tablespoon shredded cheese. 


Serve at once. Serves 4


Approximate Values Per Serving: 589 calories (20% from fat), 13 g fat (5 g saturated), 75 mg cholesterol, 42 g protein, 76 g carbohydrates, 11 g dietary fiber, 1,011 mg sodium






Whoops, Did You Accidentally Wreck the Kids?

You guys . . . do you ever feel like you accidentally wrecked your kids? We all do and PEP's Noted Author's Series is here to give us help, assistance, advice and in the good hands of Alyson Schaefer, plenty of laughs.

Below are the details, and if you want some juicy tidbits of her wisdom, read When Being Too Nice Is Not So Nice. I've been teaching and using the new parenting paradigm Alyson describes in the article with GREAT success!


Parents of Tweens and Teens: The Joys and Fears of the Teen Years

Parenting teens today requires a unique and empathetic parenting approach. Alyson speaks candidly about the joys and challenges that face teens, pre-teens and their parents during the transition to adulthood. Parents will learn brain-based research on teen behavior, interpersonal solutions to teen problems, a refreshing understanding of how great teens can be and a reality check on the real issues for which we need to be prepared.

Thursday night, November 17, 7:30-9pm

Landon School, 6101 Wilson Lane, Bethesda, MD hor-series/


Parents for Kids of All Ages: Moving from Conflict to Cooperation

Whether it is sibling bickering or parent-child power struggles, conflict is a part of family life. Navigating conflict constructively isn’t always intuitive. Fortunately, kids give us endless opportunities to both improve our skills and help them develop their own. Using a four-step approach, you’ll learn: to recognize the difference between conflict and rivalry; how our parenting can stimulate conflict or cooperation; and to manage conflict without feeling bad about it or avoiding it.

Friday morning, November 18: 9:45-11am

Bradley Hills Presbyterian, 6601 Bradley Blvd., Bethesda, MD hor-series/


Tickets are $35. Register today at or 301- 929-8824.


P.S. If you’re not familiar with PEP, it’s an amazing organization that provides classes, events, and other educational resources to parents and all who care for children, toddlers through teens. Participants of the classes often call it transformational. In the past 30 years, PEP has served more than 35,000 parents in the region, and more than 4,500 parents attend classes and events every year.


How to Communicate! Part Two: I'm Listening!

It's hard WORK to listen . . . . 

It's hard WORK to listen . . . . 

This is, by far, is the hardest parenting tool for most people to master, nay, the hardest relationship tool for people to master.  Why? Because guys, we live in our heads, we think our thoughts are reality and we really believe if people did it 'our way' the world would be fruitful and peaceful. Am I right?

We all act according to our beliefs. If people understand our beliefs they would discover that we are the long suffering HEROES of the story. Ya with me? And that's each and everyone of us. UGH!

Listen up, people share things with us only if they feel heard. Meaning, if we don't listen, then people don't share, then we don't understand the motivation behind the behavior, then we get pissed and give a lecture, and then we don't listen, and then they clam up and the behavior continues. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Listening is a relationship builder, not a productivity tool. Meaning it takes time, it shouldn't be a task on our to do list, we should not listen with the goal of being able to talk to change their minds to think the way we do. Here are a few tips . . . . 

1. Listen with an open mind, we don't have to agree, we don't have to approve, we are only listening as a way to show love and support.

2. If you must (and I often must), sit on your hands while your beloved is talking. It will remind you to zip the old lips.

3. When the beloved is done talking we are DONE. We give a hug, we walk away. If we train people that once we've been super duper generous and listened and THEN we've earned the right to lecture, well they ain't gonna come back to share anymore.

4. Notice who the good listeners are in your life. They are usually quiet, they frequently do NOT problem solve, they are patient, they reflect back to you what they have heard, they let you hear your own crazy in a safe place, after they have listened you feel better, clearer and understood.

5. It takes practice. We will make mistakes, we can always start over, sit on our hands and listen.

Listening is really and truly one of the MOST underused parenting tools. When you find yourself in your next parenting pickle, try out listening. Then, tell me what you learned because . . . "I'm Listening!"

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