We’re Going to (Virtual) Summer Camp!

My brothers and I, toys to attack with water :-)
My brothers and I, toys to attack with water 🙂

We Turned Out Okay is spending the month of July and August on vacation – and we’re taking you with us! Each blog post, every podcast during the next two months will be spent sharing great memories, making great memories, and soaking up the sun. We are talking with some amazing guests and hoping to hear your stories too – share here at the website (in the comments below or at weturnedoutokay.com/contact), friend me on Facebook (Karen Lock Kolp), or share with me on twitter @StoneAgeTechie or #Oldschoolsummervaca

Cheers to a great summer!

A Book You’ll Love

Author Mark Brown and illustrator Amy Brown's new book!
Author Mark Brown and illustrator Amy Brown’s new book!

Gratitude has been a huge part of my recovery from my mystery tendon illness. Listeners to the podcast, especially episode 000, will know that for nearly 4 years I’ve kind of randomly had limbs that just stop working; I spent some of 2011 and 2012 needing a wheelchair when I left the house, stopped being able to use my elbows in 2013, and then devastatingly lost almost all the use of my hands in 2014.

But it turns out that it wasn’t really random, that I’ve had trouble with tendons where the muscles around them are weak. Tendons, for those of you who’ve never had to think of them, are what hold our muscles to our bones. Unhappy tendons scream with pain, as anyone who’s ever had tennis elbow knows. Also, unhappy tendons take a really long time to heal, sometimes years. That is certainly been the case with my tendons!

So what you do when you lose the ability to shave your legs standing up, or walk, or twirl your spaghetti?

You learn.

You learn patience, teamwork, that you are valuable for more than what you are physically capable of.

You learn gratitude.

Of course, we do not want our children – we don’t even want our worst enemies – to learn lessons this way! It really sucked.

So then the question becomes, how do we teach gratitude?

Well, here is what the husband and wife team of Mark Brown and Amy Brown did: they wrote a book about a pig. And not just any pig; this guy has a lot to teach about patience and gratitude, and being in the moment… My 10-year-old called the book “awesome” and especially loved the pictures. I love those, and the sweet poetry that accompanies them.

Additionally, Mark and Amy have partnered with a charity called Know. Think. Act., And through this charity every copy of Zen Pig sold provides 10 people with clean water for a whole year.… So in purchasing this book, not only are you helping teach these principles that, as parents, we really care about. You are helping people in need of clean water get it.

As the pig says: “care for each other/as much as yourself.” I’d love to hear your stories of how you are teaching your children this! Leave a note in the comments, or email me at Karen@weturnedoutokay.com. And then, go hug your little ones and be grateful together 🙂

What’s Really Important In Your Life?

I want you to drop everything and go watch the following YouTube video, which is kind of long but really worth it:

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.

Back? Great.

I blogged about The Last Lecture in my homeschool blog, The Stone Age Techie, years ago – before I had my run-in with mystery tendon problems.

Then, as now, I felt that Mr. Pausch was the universe telling me to really think about the most important aspects of life. I love his concept of building a safety net, and really thought about my blog as part of that safety net, because, when my boys are all growns up, they’ll be able to look back on that blog and realize how very much I loved them and strived (strove? well, anyway, worked really hard) to support them as they grew.

But now, having been through these years with the mystery tendon problems, I recognize something else in Mr. Pausch’s lecture: a sense of gratitude. He is so vibrant and full of life that idea of gratitude is communicated through everything he does, there is just the sense of a real zest for life, even as he is dying. It’s clear that he is thankful for every moment he’s had and will have, that he’s grateful to have had the chance to fulfill his dreams, and especially that he’s grateful for the chance to help other people fulfill their own dreams.

I feel like that is the essence of gratitude: it’s not just about me, it’s about what I can do for others.

So that’s this week’s homework, friends and folks: answer one of these two questions.

1) What are you grateful for? What has someone done for you, or given to you, that you feel a true sense of gratitude about?

2) How are you helping others achieve their dreams? And, who are you helping achieve their dreams?

Tell me about it here at the website (in the comments below or at weturnedoutokay.com/contact), by friending me on Facebook (Karen Lock Kolp), or sharing on twitter, where I’m @StoneAgeTechie… Who knows but that we can help each other achieve our dreams? The universe is a funny place.

How the 5 C’s of Leadership Will Help You Be a Better Parent

As a Mom or Dad, do you think of yourself as a leader? I never did. I thought of the president as a leader, or the heads of corporations as leaders, somebody with CEO, COO, CIO attached to their name, but surely not me!

That was before I heard the podcast Labrador Leadership with Dr. Bob Nolley. Prior to starting the podcast, Dr. Bob spent years as a leader in the corporate world, and then moved on to teach about leadership in a university setting, always with a view toward helping the people around him get what they want out of life. With specialization in subjects such as negotiation and conflict resolution, or emotional intelligence, listening in as Bob speaks with his millennial cohost (some of my favorite shows, thanks Alex Mossa!) or interviewing entrepreneurs and leaders in diverse fields, Labrador Leadership has become a favorite show with insight into how to make family life better.

One such leader, Rich Rierson from episode 5 of Dr. Bob’s podcast, spoke about the idea of the 4C’s:

  • Calm – so you can think clearly and keep from saying things you’ll regret
  • Confident – so the people around you know you can help them
  • Courageous – speaking up for what you believe in
  • Consistent – so you become known as trustworthy

In episode 5, the conversation is mostly centered around the 4C’s as you might hear about them in a corporate setting. But I kept thinking about how thoroughly they apply to family life!

One recent example (of probably a zillion) from my own life involves a week in which each boy attempted to lie to me. They don’t often lie, and thankfully they’re not very good at it, but for whatever reason this week each tried to look into my eyes and pull the wool over them.

I found out about the second one at 9 o’clock at night on a Sunday, after a weekend in which I’d been away with my dear friends – the ones from episode 000, go back and take a listen because they’re awesome – and got about eight hours’ sleep total the entire weekend… All I wanted to do was take a cup of tea into my bedroom and read for the three minutes until I fell asleep. But instead I found myself thinking about the 4C’s because:

I got up the courage to go to my guy and calmly discuss the lie with him. I confidently explained that I knew about it, and consistently gave him the message while we talked that he’s a good boy, and that while I’m disappointed in his actions I know that he will learn from his mistake and be honest from here on out.

No yelling, no drama, no sarcasm, no “how could you be such a bad boy?” Of course, all of these things went through my head – but I was able to recognize them as either counterproductive or, in the case of that last question, completely untrue. My boy was very upset and disappointed in himself, but I think he was relieved at not having to lie anymore, and especially he was relieved because even though I knew the worst of him, the message he got from me was that I love him so much and that he is a worthy person.

We all make mistakes, and we all deserve the chance to learn from them and be supported by the people we love.

Which brings me to a fifth C: Community.

Our little family of four is a community, and in our way each of the rest of us supported my boy that night: one of the toughest parts for our son was when he had to tell his Dad what he had done, and to have a calm response – to have his beloved Dad tell him “thank you for telling me this, it was brave of you” meant so much to him. You could see him visibly relax!

His big brother played a part as well, in allowing me to share with his little brother about the lie that he told earlier in the week, and what happened about that. Little brother, it turns out, has been feeling jealous of big brother, views him as perfect in every way and could not believe that big brother would ever have told a lie.

And when I told little brother about the time I took money from my mom’s wallet when I was about his age, told him about the note of apology that I wrote and signed Stupid Karen, he sat up a little straighter. When I told him about his Uncle Rob’s theft of a candy bar at age 3, and about how our Mom made him bring the wrapper and money back to the store, apologize and pay the manager – he couldn’t believe it. All these people in his life, he sees as perfect and honest, all these people have made mistakes? You could see him thinking, “if they’ve all done it and learned from it and turned out okay, maybe there is hope for me.”

There is definitely a place in leadership for the fifth C of Community.

Thanks Dr. Bob for helping me use the 5 C’s of leadership!

What about you, dear reader? Do the 5C’s come into your life at all? Have you ever caught your kid in a major lie, or committed one yourself? Please share! Leave a note in the comments, or email me at Karen@weturnedoutokay.com, and thanks for sharing 🙂

Stuffed Animals Are People Too

At age 10, my youngest is coming closer to the end of his stuffed animal days. But you wouldn’t know it looking at his bed:

Each one of those guys has a name and a history, each has a unique voice – some of them have French accents! (Because, of course, they come from France or French-speaking Canada. Why else?)

Over the years they have helped my son through lots of tough situations, everything from being left out of big-boy activities to those times when no human is available to play. It’s funny to walk into the boy’s room and see a board game set up – like Risk – and three or four stuffed animals each in control of their own part of the board, each taking turns.

Right around the time that Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014, just after the Sochi Olympics, he my son happened to watch Red Dawn, the movie about the USSR invading the US. We do talk current events in our home, as well as history, but I think because we had just been so invested in the Olympics, this movie resonated a little bit more strongly with him than it might have otherwise. Still, we didn’t realize the true impact until late that night, when he asked if I would come and “speak to the animals – they are scared that Putin is going to invade the US.”

When I went to speak to them, I found them all set up in a circle up in my boy’s bed; they had been having a conversation among themselves about “their” concern that Putin was going to invade the US. I told them that Putin was not going to invade the US, answered “their” questions, and just tried to be a good listener, all the while knowing that it was really my son’s fears and questions that were coming through via the stuffed animals.

I’ve come to think of the stuffed animals like puppets, each making up a part of my son’s world and through which he can express fears and show empathy. Since he was small, this child has had an incredible ability to see events from another’s point of view, to see how someone else might feel differently than he does in a given situation. This is a rare quality, and definitely one to be supported – his sense of caring pervades all his friendships, and kids are really drawn to that. I believe it’s the stuffed animals that have helped give him this perspective.

As he grows out of them, and moves on to the things that tweens and teens do and love, I know he’ll take that empathy with him. Continue reading “Stuffed Animals Are People Too”

Books That Will Change Your Parenting: Meet The Fabulous Five!

“If there were one way to do this, there would be one New Baby Owner’s Manual.” – A labor and delivery nurse, to my husband, just after our first child was born

Whenever I find myself in a new situation, or up against a new challenge, pretty much the first thing I do is run and find a book to help. Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at discerning which books will help and which won’t. Also, around when the children were born, I gave myself permission to start a book – and not finish it. Or, to scan quickly to see if it will work for me, or even to pick the chapter that sounds most interesting from the table of contents and go right to that chapter.

Between working toward my degree in human development, my graduate degree in early childhood education, and questing as a mom for that perfect Owner’s Manual, I have read a lot of books. The books I want to introduce you to today have been the most influential books in my parenting life; they’re funny, they’re thought-provoking, they’re anxiety-reducing, and if you want to have a better relationship with your kids you need to read them:

How Lincoln Learned To Read by Daniel Wolff – we all know about the achievements of great historical figures such as Ben Franklin, JFK, Elvis Presley. The genius of this book is that we get to find out how they got to be the adults they became, how they learned what they needed to know. I still look into this book when I have a big decision to make about Max or Jay’s education. Click here to listen to my podcast interview with author Daniel Wolff; we discuss the book and how our society is shaping kids “for a future that no longer exists.” Plus Daniel gives the best piece of parenting advice I’ve ever heard.

Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish – this renowned book has helped millions of parents figure out how to stop sibling rivalry. Often the solutions given seem counterintuitive, but they are explained – both in print and in comics – so that you feel like a parenting ninja even just a chapter or two in. If you would like children who feel like they are on the same team, if you want a family life that includes laughter, friendship and love, you need this book.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein – when her young daughter considers every moment wasted that is not spent dressing as a Disney Princess or playing with pink toys, the author decides to look into gender identity in young children, and how marketers take advantage of it. The result is a hilarious and truly frightening tale which includes a run-in with a Bratz doll in an airport, and a discussion of how Miley Cyrus’s journey from innocent cutie to brash slut is impacting your daughter’s growth and development. Even if you have no girls, you have to read this book.

Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy – how young is too young for a kid to have some independence? The author makes a really persuasive case for letting even quite young children do things that frighten us, like letting them use the stove or bike to the park on their own. With chapter names such as “Know When to Worry – Play Dates and Axe Murderers: How to Tell the Difference” and “Ignore the Blamers – They Don’t Know Your Kid Like You Do” this book will have you feeling better about all the great things in store for your children. I talk about how this book helped me relax when Max and Jay were young in episode 005 of We Turned Out Okay; Lenore Skenazy saved my life with this book.

You Just Don’t Understand! by Deborah Tannen – the author’s background in linguistics and communication, combined with a warm and supremely readable writing style, make this a must-read book for anyone who communicates with anyone. Reading it will give you insight into more than just parenting, but all our relationships, and may very well start you off on a Deborah Tannen book binge… You’re Wearing That?!? will probably come in really handy when your kids are teens.

I’ve been trying to decide if I should recommend that you read The Fabulous Five in any particular order, and have come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t. We are all at different points in our parenting, with different worries and different needs. The Fab Five are each quite practical, but about different things, so I think what you should do is read the one that grabs you right now first – and then come back to the others. I love my hard copies and return to them again and again, but if you would rather listen to them in audio format, or try-before-you-buy by getting them from the library, go for it!

The time you invest in reading these books will come back to you a hundredfold, in improved relationships with your kids and in your enjoyment of them, and of your life.

How and Why Standardized Tests Hurt Our Children

Sometimes, the howling frustration that we feel can only be expressed in comedy. I don’t know if you ever watch John Oliver, but he seems to be a person who feels very similar frustrations to mine, and rather than curl up in the fetal position with his thumb in his mouth (as I sometimes am super attempted to do), John Oliver makes great points with great comedy.

This 18–ish minute clip is a classic example. There are so many things that drive me bananas about standardized tests, like:

  • how many of them children take by the time they graduate high school
  • how preparing for them makes it so that kids don’t have much time for anything else in school
  • how they can make or break the rest of a kid’s life depending on what kind of test-takers kids are – what happens if you’re smart, but not a good test-taker?
  • increasingly, well-educated adults attempt to pass these tests, and cannot
  • sometimes the questions make no sense to anyone, but yet they’re included and have an impact on the rest of a kid’s life
  • test-takers and administrators must sign a contract saying they will not speak about any of the questions or answers, no matter how absurd they are…

John Oliver addresses all these wrongs, and so many more. Best of all, I don’t end up wanting to hit the liquor cabinet by the end. Instead, I want to share and be a part of the conversation about how to fix this huge mess. Standardized tests, while perhaps conceived to help Leave No Child Behind, have gotten us stuck in a huge quagmire. It is up to us – regular people, parents, grown-ups – to pull our children out.

005: Four Risks To Our Kids’ Well-Being That We Take Far Too Often

Sometimes as parents, we think we are limiting the risks to our kids by taking an action – or backing away from an action – when instead, their well-being and happiness would be better insured by doing something completely different. In this episode, I highlight four common things parents do (I know this, because I did them too!) where it would be better to go in the exact opposite direction.

Listen for:

  • the dangers of sticking close by your child’s side at all times; when we do this, we take away his or her chance to develop independence, creativity, and problem-solving capabilities
  • the risks of using antibacterial soap; this one keeps me up at night, and it’s pretty clear that it also keeps scientists and other super-smart people up at night too
  • how we fail our children when we don’t question a teacher or other authority figure who insists that our child has ADHD or ADD; while there is some risk that our son or daughter may have these or other learning disabilities, I share that during my years of teaching young children – and earning my Masters in Early Childhood Education – these diagnoses are given out far more often than they should be; increasingly, kids are put in an environment that is far too restrictive… In short, it is my opinion that schools, and not children, are often the problem when it comes to kids’ misbehavior
  • the importance of comics – yes, cartoons, graphic novels – in a kid’s journey towards becoming a reader; when adults ban comics, or even disrespect them, we run the risk of limiting our kids’ ability to thrive as readers

Whether you agree or disagree, I encourage you to really give some thought to the above Four Risks. Reasonable and intelligent adults can disagree, but the biggest risk of all that we can take is not giving consideration to any big issue that affects our children while they’re young, because the effects of our choices compound when they are grown up.

Why We Must Let Our Kids Do Dangerous Things

As parents, we all have our comfort levels about risk. Where do you draw the line? Does your one-year-old navigate stairs by herself? Is your six-year-old ever out of your sight at the playground? Does anyone drink from the hose at your house?

If you had asked me those questions when my boys were younger, the answer to each would’ve been “no!”… with a hint of “are you INSANE?” I really felt that the best way to keep them from harm was to simply prevent them from doing things I thought were risky, but looking back, I wish I had encouraged a little more risk. While I thought I was keeping them safe, mostly what I was doing was communicating to them my anxieties about the world, while simultaneously giving them the message that their abilities weren’t enough, that they had to rely on me at all times for everything.

This happened especially with my oldest; by the time his little brother came along, I had eased up a little and realized the harm in preventing them from trying their own strength. Once I realized that I was doing such harm, I made some conscious changes; we have all felt the benefits, believe me.

Fast-forwarding to today, the boys have done some amazing things! They’ve used power tools to help build both a gaga pit and a tree fort, they safely use large knives as they help with cooking, they walk home from a friend’s alone.

And they are always finding new ways to test themselves! When my Jay saw this TED talk, he immediately began a subtle but determined campaign to get behind the wheel of a car… At age 10. And you know what’s crazy? I just might say yes.

Launched!

“Perfectionism is destructive… Beating the sh*t out of yourself is a killer.” – Henry Winkler, a.k.a. the Fonz

That quote has been on our fridge since I heard Henry Winkler interviewed by Marc Maron a few weeks ago. Really, I don’t think it could’ve come along at a better time!

I had no idea how much launching a podcast would be akin to having a new baby in the house; sleepless nights, missed meals, that kind of thing. But when it all comes together – when you go out to your website, click a link, and hear it sounding so great, out for real on the web – well, that is like baby’s first grin.

And then, you are able to download it in iTunes, see the cover art, read your words in the description – for me, that is akin to baby’s first real giggle.

And then – you don’t even know how this could’ve happened, with the show out there less than 24 hours and the world almost completely unaware of it – more than 20 people have downloaded it! That is like your baby, born yesterday, now taking his first steps.

But, back to the Fonzie quote… There are mistakes here, that’s for sure. I can’t for instance figure out how to get the contact page up and running. Sometimes comments are working, sometimes not… Sometimes I end up on a page of my website called Podcast, and I cannot figure out why it is there, how to change it/get rid of it, very weird. Sometimes clicking on the words Leave A Comment brings me to the Podcast page! Riddle me that, Batman.

But this baby is laughing and walking, and that is what is important.

I’m not beating the sh*t out of myself, quite the opposite – we did it! The goal was to launch by May 1, and we did.

I call that a good day 🙂