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 🙂

010: How to Choose a Dance Studio for Your Young Child with Suzanne Lock, Dance Instructor

Do you have a young child, especially a daughter, who desperately wants to dance – but is totally uncoordinated, or whose body doesn’t look like a dancer’s? If so, then you probably know already how cutthroat the world of dance studios can be.

Today’s guest teaches dance in a unique studio, one where the focus is on dance as a fun way of expressing yourself, and where it doesn’t matter what you look like for if you’re a good dancer or not.

In addition to spending her days with tutu-clad young girls, my guest is Mom to very active tween-and teenage boys… As a result, evenings and weekends are all about cheering them on at sports, supporting them in their academic work, and enjoying a great relationship with her husband Rob (a guy who happens to be my brother 🙂

Listen for:

  • some really great tips for choosing a dance studio; how to know you’ve got the right one, when to keep looking
  • Sue’s take on raising children with special needs, and how important it is to work closely with their other parent – you both need to be on the same page to give kids with extra challenges the support they need
  • how to truly enjoy life, even when it’s super busy or throwing challenges at you; for Sue, teaching dance has helped her care for herself, so she can be a more supportive Mom and spouse

If you take just one thing away from this episode, I hope it is this: knowing yourself and what you need to enjoy life makes everything better. And not just for you – but for your loved ones and the people you care for. My awesome sister-in-law is really hitting her stride with this, and as you listen you can hear the enthusiasm and love in her voice… She is a great example to follow, and I know you’re going to love this episode!

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.

009: 3 Lessons My Kids Have Taught Me

Do you ever find yourself so stuck in the daily grind that you forget what’s really important in this life? Then you are going to love today’s show, all about the three most important lessons my kids have taught me. Usually, we think of this in the other direction – we are the teachers, they are the learners.

But here are three key lessons my boys have taught me:

1) Humility – how my then eight-year-old taught me to look at a homeless guy, and see a real person

2) Adaptability – how my then five-year-old aced a grueling surgery and months-long recovery

3) Experience Wonder – how my youngest’s mind-blowing questions reminded me that wonder is everywhere, and we need to revel in it

If you take just one thing away from this episode, I hope it is this: we parents are not the only people in our families with valuable lessons to teach.

What have your kids taught you? Please share by going to weturnedoutokay.com/contact, or find me on twitter@StoneAgeTechie.

Thanks so much for listening, and I can’t wait to hear from you!

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 🙂

008: Parents ARE Leaders: Talking With Dr. Bob Nolley of The Labrador Leadership Podcast

Do you think of yourself as a leader? Maybe not, but as parents, the decisions we make every day – resolving conflicts, allocating money, making decisions that involve our kids – call us out as leaders whether we think of it that way or not.

I used to think of leaders only in a public or corporate sense; the president’s a leader. Heads of corporations are leaders, but certainly not me! Dr. Bob Nolley’s Labrador Leadership Podcast completely changed my views on leadership when I first heard him in January 2015, helping me realize that to lead has much more to do with our hearts than the size of the group we lead.

Listen for:

  • the Big Rocks exercise (Dr. Stephen Covey’s idea) to help you figure out what’s most important to you
  • how to make a list that will help you relax while also getting done what needs to be done
  • two examples of leaders in unusual places: one runs a quick-oil-change shop in Richmond, Virginia, and the other is Dr. Bob’s cohost on Labrador Leadership
  • conflict resolution and the art of apologizing

if you take only one thing away from today’s episode, I hope it is this: you are a leader! Thinking of yourself that way will help you both support the people in your life you care about most, and enjoy the life that you share with those people more.

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”

007: When Siblings Attack: Stopping the Rivalry

Can you think back on your own childhood and come up with some crazy sibling-fight stories? I’ve heard some doozies, people being hung out windows or tied to trees by their siblings, the time a brother put green dye in a sister’s hair – so the sister retaliated by pouring glitter into the brother’s bed! Today, we talk about the ups and downs of brothers and sisters, both in our families growing up and in our homes as parents.

Siblings can hurt each other in lots of big and small ways; sometimes it feels like there’s no good intervention. Today, I share about a book that I first read while pregnant with my second: Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. This book is the second of The Fabulous Five, five books which will transform your relationship with your children, so get reading them ASAP (here’s the blog post detailing the Fab Five)! It made the list because, quite simply, if you have more than one child – or if you grew up in a family where you had at least one sibling – you will finally understand how to help when siblings fight.

  • Listen for how to:
    • make peace with childhood hurts of our own, in order to be better at handling sibling rivalry with our kids
    • be fair without being equal
    • handle when an older child says “can we give the baby back?”

Your one take away from today: it is possible to alleviate sibling rivalry! You don’t have to live with fighting, jealousy, the mean tricks that siblings play on each other… Siblings Without Rivalry will help you fix it.

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.

006: How Do We Learn What We Need To Know?

Today’s guest Daniel Wolff has, among many other things, produced a documentary about Hurricane Katrina, been nominated for a Grammy in 2003, and written 10 books on all different subjects including the one that we spend most of our time discussing today, How Lincoln Learned To Read. Written in 2009, this book is a go-to for me whenever I need to make big decisions about about the boys’ upbringing; because Mr. Wolff tells the stories of the childhoods of many prominent Americans throughout history, I learn something different from each one. Plus, a great read that’s fun, interesting, historical – and makes me feel a little smarter each time I pull it off the shelf.

During today’s’s show, listen for:

  • the importance of fun in education; all these years later, we may think of Ben Franklin as old and stodgy, but almost right from the moment he could read, Franklin was quite the mischief maker
  • how author and scientist Rachel Carson’s girlhood, during which she stayed home often from school to play and walk in the woods, helped her grow up into the advocate for national environmental change she became
  • a great piece of parenting advice – my guest shares that decisions became much easier for him when he to “think like a grandparent”

Key Links:

Daniel Wolff’s author page at Four Way Books; here is his new book, The Names of Birds

How Lincoln Learned To Read, a great read that has helped me be a better parent

Amazing poet-four-children-of-all-ages Shel Silverstein

If you take just one thing away from today’s show, I hope it is this: we parents must play a crucial role in helping our children understand about fighting hard for what they want to become; there will always be someone around to knock an idea down, or discourage our kids… for them to truly succeed in life, we must be their true support.