Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Is the Truth Over-rated?

Written by Eileen Wacker

As parents, my husband and I have always insisted that telling the truth is critical. It is one of our most important rules. No lying. Lying is a sure way to get your phone taken away or earn some other dreaded consequence. But now that my four kids are teens and tweens, I want them to stop telling ‘their truths’ sometimes. Keep things in a thought bubble instead.

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Last night, we decided to go to a local restaurant for dinner. I quickly changed into a casual sundress. My oldest daughter, Olivia, asked, “Are you going to wear that?” I almost responded, “No, I just put this on for fun. I’m going back into my closet and put on the outfit I’m really going to wear. This is my trial outfit.” This would only earn me a remark like, “Did you really say ‘outfit’? Really Mom? No one says that. Not one person.” Then I would be a dinosaur in a lame dress. She was not neutralized by my silence. She went on. “Ethan, do you see what mom is wearing? She’s wearing the nightgown again.”

I protested, “This is a sundress. It’s not a nightgown.” They ignored me and tween Ethan chimed in, “Yah. And she’s wearing the nightgown with a blanket.” I’m insulted. “It is not a blanket! It’s a sweater.” They start laughing. “Mom, sorry but you’re wearing a nightgown with a sweater blanket.”

In the restaurant, my tween daughter, Natalie grabbed my hand and looked at me earnestly. “Mom, your hair is about eight different colors. You need to fix it.” I took my hand back before she could see my bitten cuticles. I ordered a glass of wine. My teen daughter Olivia said, “You’re going to end up in jail if you drink that and that would be so embarrassing for me. Plus, I need a ride to Jen’s party this weekend.”

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Then my teen son Christian said, “No offense but…” I cut off his sentence because I don’t want to hear the rest of it. Inevitably what’s coming next is something negative. He had already said, “I’m just saying…” after making the observation, “That dress makes you look a little big.” I yelled at him for using poor grammar (‘little big’ is not a phrase) and made a mental note to never wear this dress again.

I don’t take it personally. Anyone can be the subject of their ‘observations’. My husband and I went to Napa for our anniversary. My parents came out and stayed with the kids. Everyone allegedly had an amazing time while we were gone.

But last night during the dinner, Natalie said, “to be honest, I think Grampy has to work on a few things.”

Ethan agreed, “Grampy is really fun and we love him but he breaks promises. You need to tell him we can see PG 13 movies. He promised to take us to the movies and then we didn’t go.”

Natalie said, “That would make him the oldest liar in the world and I don’t think he wants to be that.” Wow, tough crowd. She nonchalantly bit her mozzarella stick as I winced under her truth. Because she’s right. My dad would never, ever want to be thought of as the oldest liar in the world.

No one is safe from teens’ and tweens’ observations. They had a conversation about two iconic figures. Their opinion was Justin Timberlake is old and they had never heard of Clint Eastwood. The only connection they made is that both have trees as part of their names. And they thought this was hilarious.

Why do they tell the truth about my mommy flaws? They are constantly evasive about their own situations. I asked if anyone was sneaking electronics into his or her bed. I asked my son if he followed up with a teacher over a bad grade to see what can be done. I asked my other son how he ended up at a night beach party. “I don’t know what happened. We just ended up there.” I asked, “So you blinked your eyes and all of a sudden there was sand under your feet.” Blank looks were the response to all my queries. My sweater blanket had become a wet blanket.

Then it dawned on me. They tell the truth about my mommy flaws because they love me. This is their teenage way of teasing me, of trying to be funny. They are including me. I’m in the circle. And we are laughing and hanging out as a family.

Driving home, there was a fight over a song on the radio. I felt like my head might explode. I called Olivia a pill. She countered, “Did you hear what mom said?” Of course everyone heard what I said. We are all sitting together in the car. That’s the set up line. Because the follow up was, “Mom said I‘m acting like a pill! Hah! A pill! As if a pill acts like anything!” Then they all laughed so hard I thought we might drive off the road. I laughed too, treasuring this as a fun and memorable night.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Humans Are Lucky

Written by Eileen Wacker

Today like every day, I wake up and think, “I’m lucky. I’m happy. I’m not going to get mad at my husband, my four kids or our two dogs Buster Brown and Chewbacca (“Chewie”). But usually I’m fighting the urge to yell before breakfast is over. The morning routine never gets easier. I try to run a full inspection of clean teeth, hair and clothes, a dose of sunscreen, a refreshed water bottle, completed homework, and shoes. My son states, “I don’t have PE so I don’t need any shoes today.” I sigh, “Well, we’re shoe people. Get your sneakers!” Next, my daughter shows me video evidence of the puppy eating half of her homework. I jot a quick note to the teacher on the shredded sheet and tell my little girl to hand it in.  I wonder why she filmed it all happening without stopping it. I can hear her chuckling in the background of the video.

As I walk out in my exercise clothes, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I have not yelled at anyone. I’m not squinting my eyes in a menacing way either. Two kids have the right clothes and gear for the tennis tryouts after school. As I’m dropping three of the kids, my daughter looks up from her phone and announces, “I wish they had school buses in Hawaii so I could ride with my friends and not a bunch of losers!” My eye twitches.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

I just spent an hour in traffic to drive eight miles to the school. In our family of six, we have more electronics than the FBI. All eyeballs and thumbs have been on their devices the whole ride. I don’t know where the loser comment is coming from. Since my kids consider all their content to be strictly classified and highly confidential, I pass on asking. Instead I wink at her and say, “Have a nice day, happiness hijacker.” She rolls her eyes, smiles and says, “I was just kidding. You too.”

After drop off, I squeeze in a hike. I love the views in Hawaii and they help me put things into perspective. Time slows down for that small window and I feel grateful. Then I’m ready to solve a million small issues thrown in my path. As a working mom, I’m in constant motion and always tired by the time I start the afternoon pick-ups.

Today, when I pick my son up from school, he asks, “Mom do you know how lucky we are? If we were predators we would have to run after our food to catch it every day. That would be very tiring. My friends and I think that the adults would get sick of chasing the fast running grown-ups and start to eat the unguarded babies. Would you do that? Also, imagine if there were lions at our school and we had to run our very fastest to class so we would not get eaten? We are so lucky to be humans. I like today.”

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I start to laugh. I’m energized. As I cook three different dinners on the stove for my particular eaters who need their food prepared in specific ways, I just smile, appreciating I did not have to catch it. Then I notice that there are no tigers in any closets waiting to take me out as I put the last bits of laundry away. I leave the day, despite all the machinations and challenges, with the same basic sentiments I started with. “I am happy that I don’t have to catch my food. I’m lucky to be a human. And, I’m not mad at anyone.”

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Halloween Costume Ideas for 2015

Written by Eileen Wacker

Trick-or-treating and Halloween weekend parties are almost here. So is the chance for every child (and many adults) to be whoever he/she wants to be for an evening. They may look up to an idol or love to make a political statement in a funny way. Here’s my list of Halloween costumes based in the biggest trends out there:

Donald Trump for president. Mr. “I want to make America great again”

The comb-over will rule on Halloween night. Even little kids will want to go out on Halloween as a billionaire mogul. has great costumes such as a "Mr. CEO Election Wig." Another: has an "Adult Billionaire Wig". Watch for a Hillary Clinton Vacuform mask too. 

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Running around on Halloween night will be as many minions as they were in the movie. Easy costumes and fun. And it doesn’t matter if everyone else is wearing the same costume. An army of minions is perfect. Anticipate Minions in overalls. Minions in dresses with overalls. Minion goggles, Minion legwarmers and Minion gloves. Minions. 

Inside Out - Disney
This Disney movie was one of the most successful movies of the year. Expect to see the emotive characters such as sparkling blue Joy, scowling green Disgust, and boiling red Anger. We're thinking a pinch or two of glitter makeup wouldn't hurt.

Back to the Future inspired
Embrace your inner Marty McFly. He wore light up sneakers, a sure hit with any child. Oct. 21, 2015 is Back to the Future Day, the exact date that Emmett "Doc" Brown and Marty McFly traveled to in what was then considered "the future." Kids will also love the hoverboard accessories or a Doc Brown wigs. Other hot trends are hoverboards and time machine tinkerers. 

Jurassic World(s)
"Jurassic World" raked it in at the box office, which pretty much guarantees an entry for Halloween 2015. Little boys will rush to be a t-rex whether they saw the movie or not. Boys as dinosaurs is timeless! For older Halloween celebrators, has a tall, inflatable "Jurassic World" T. rex costume with a fan inside — the wearer peers out from the dinosaur's neck — while suggests a tribute to the Chris Pratt "Pratting" who kept his pet raptors from attacking in the movie. 

Caitlyn Jenner ... and not Caitlyn Jenner
In recognition of one of the major moments of the year, some costume sellers, like Spirit Halloween, have opted to go with the much-talked-about Caitlyn Jenner look, modeled after Jenner's bombshell Vanity Fair cover. For our younger trick or treaters, wearing rainbow colors has been a sign of support modeled after FB rainbow campaign.

Left Shark
The standout of the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show was not Katy Perry! It was the dare I say clumsy backup dancer dressed as a shark. Left Shark has become pulp fiction, a rock star and one of the year’s best costumes.  It is an easy to wear costume. For little kids, it is conveniently pulled over the child’s clothes.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Turtle power is alive and kicking! The cool, shelled heroes were a big deal last year, and they're still going strong. Spirit Halloween has a whole in-store shrine to all things turtle power. Whether you're partial to Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello or Raphael, there will be lots of turtles roaming around.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

TV costumes
If you chant "shame!" loud enough, someone will walk the "penance walk," and is suggesting that it would also make a good costume for two (one person can be Cersei, and the other the "shame!" nun.)

Frozen not only reigned supreme it was the only game in town for many little girls wanting to be like Ilsa. Another show from the Disney Channel movie is "Descendants," a film starring characters who are the sons or daughters of classic Disney villains and heroes. Costumes modeled after the Mal character, who is the daughter of Maleficent, are flying off the shelf.

Star Wars
The debut of "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens" is still all the way in December, but the force is strong with this one. There's been an explosion of "Star Wars" attire tagged to the movie, for both adults and children and Halloween is the perfect excuse to buy it. Adults would love to see their children donning the Star Wars attire, letting them live the good old days again.

Superheroes and villains
Superheroes and villains remain the go-to category for Halloween, and "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" give us Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow and more to choose from. There's also Ant-Man, whose suit is his superpower. If you are super current, the harlequin Batman villain who can be seen in the upcoming "Suicide Squad" movie could be a sleeper. 

Social Media inspired pairings
If you were on social media in 2015, there's a good chance you know the next few.
Pizza Rat is a little rodent (ugh) who was captured on video dragging his slice of pizza down the subway stairs in New York. In recognition of this true occurrence, you can get yourself a rat costume and a slice, or convince someone else to be a pizza slice and making it a pairing.
If you have a contemporary sense of humor, we might have an idea for you. "Netflix and chill" is more of a teenage trending costume. The saying has gone viral with a person stating he/she is just going to watch a movie or TV and proceeding to do something else with the watching partner. Perfect for a pair - one is Netflix and the other "chill."

Friday, October 9, 2015

Puppies, Passwords and Parking - Part 1 of 3

Written by Eileen Wacker

Most days, my husband asks me, “What did you do today?” I think really hard for a minute because I want to list things I accomplished. We left the house at the same time so he knows I drove the kids to school with the new puppy in the crate, but that doesn’t rate as an accomplishment. I hiked and made it home before 9am, carrying the puppy who fought against the leash and then sat, refusing to walk at all. I tried pulling him but dragging the cutest puppy ever as he looked like a confused plush toy being abused by a toddler wasn’t buying me any fans. After the hike, I barely had time to rinse off and no time to wash my hair, all the while watching the puppy christen every rug in the house. Our other dog, Buster Brown, howled and whimpered over the injustices.

Today, like many days, I forgot all my passwords. I needed one for Apple and it was as if I pulled at a thread and everything unraveled. Sounds silly. I should just use the same one for most accounts, right? Have a journal and write them down. I do that. Problem is many require a Capital letter or a number or at least eight characters. So my passwords have evolved into a maze I cannot decipher. When I’m on my desktop the cloud remembers them for me, but my phone or a child needing the Amazon password sinks me. Other moms confess that they can’t remember their passwords either. I have 72 passwords between social media, airlines, shopping sites, email and music accounts, my computer, banks, my business, and more. Those are the ones I remember. I’m sure I have dormant accounts such as retail ones that I use on late night shopping sprees for last minute Christmas gifts. I don’t have a bad memory yet (although my husband claims it is quite selective). It’s that the whole password culture has gotten out of control. I’ve thrown up the white flag on passwords.

Click here for Part 2 of Puppies, Passwords and Parking

Puppies, Passwords and Parking - Part 2 of 3

Written by Eileen Wacker

I have two blogs that I need to write and an article to edit. Puppy training is non-stop but I manage to finish one thing. I try to print and there is no ink or paper. The kids print all their homework out on my work printer in vivid colors so every month at some point I run out of paper and/or ink. I drive to Costco to get more supplies. I have to park in the shade because I have the puppy with me. I see about fifty handicap spots near the entrance and most are empty. Shoot! I end up parking about a mile away. Costco parking lots do not bring out the best in people so I walk carefully, avoiding angry looking drivers.

As I enter Costco, my senses are assaulted by Christmas decorations – it’s only the first week in October. What’s going on? I have a mountain of things to get done before the holidays! I can’t have the holidays thrown at me now. I’m so overwhelmed by the Christmas decorations that I forget to buy the ink. I do buy enough fruit to feed an army although we have never, ever finished a Costco size package of fruit. I’m hungry so I sample the foods and buy the Angus cheeseburgers, granola bars and Saimin noodles. I’m not sure who’s going to eat any of this.

Click here for Part 3 of Puppies, Passwords and Parking

Click here to re-visit Part 1 of Puppies, Passwords and Parking

Puppies, Passwords and Parking - Part 3 of 3

Written by Eileen Wacker

When I return home, our new adorable little puppy morphs into destructo-puppy, when I open the crate. He scampers up the stairs looking like a clumsy rabbit. He pushes through the railing openings, intending to jump down a story. I yell, “stop puppy!” He chews my child’s dirty sock and the chair legs. He even chews the carpet. He bites my feet and barks at me for attention. It’s puppy pandemonium and he is still not house-trained. I put him back in the crate and set off. The kids have three piano lessons, two tennis lessons, one basketball clinic and a tutor. My son ripped another sneaker so I have to replace those. My daughter gets in the car and rants about how terrible clowns are for almost five minutes.  I don’t dare ask how the clowns came up. Instead, I check to see if my ears are bleeding.

I clear the dining room table for homework. My son feels that homework somehow violates his rights and he does not want to spend any more time on it. Everyone wants to play with the new puppy and we still have to vote on his name. The puppy is completely wild, excited to see the kids. He has an accident on my dining room rug. I grab him, push his nose in it, and say, “This is not for puppies. NO!” Then I bring him to his puppy pad and put him on it. My daughter rushes over, picks him up, and says, “Stop being mean to the puppy. Let’s name him Bear.”

It’s six o’clock. The caller ID is my husband. He asks, “Hey Sweetie! What did you do today?” I smile into the phone, not really having any answer. “Nothing much.”

Click here to re-visit Part 2 of Puppies, Passwords and Parking

Click here to re-visit Part 1 of Puppies, Passwords and Parking

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Nighttime Routine: Offense versus Defense

Written by Eileen Wacker

Most nights, the four kids and I arrive home, exhausted from another busy day. October seems like a long month. Sports, activities, and homework have kicked in and there are no major holiday breaks. I want to use everyone’s time wisely. I really don’t want to yell or berate any of my kids although I could easily come up with a thousand reasons to do so. Food left in the car, forgotten homework, late for a pick-up that made all the other pick-ups late, bickering, and a hundred more. So many things do not go as planned every day that it’s unproductive to dwell on them and instead push through.

I think, “What do I wish someone had said to ‘child me’ in this moment?” and I channel that big picture approach. What will motivate them to do their homework and get ready for another big day tomorrow?

Here are the Top 5 things I wish someone had said to ‘child me’ as I approached another night of dreaded homework and school routine.

#1 Take a risk on your interpretation of Whirlygig or the Merchant of Venice or whatever book you are reading. Think outside of the box and look at the other side. Then prepare to defend your idea. Knowing what the majority will say strengthens your premise. If you can argue both sides reasonably well, you can argue your own points even better.

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#2 Plan to do something unexpected tomorrow. After you complete all your homework, look up a cool Spanish phrase. Approach your teacher before class and tell her the phrase. It will make her day. It shows that you are invested in the class and motivated to learn.

#3 Be memorable. Compliment someone, state an opinion, be happy (it’s contagious), or just be a little louder than usual. People are attracted to interesting people. And every child is interesting. But many times, they don’t show it. We need to encourage them, especially when we are dragging them through an assignment, like studying for a spelling test. Ask them, “Which word is the coolest word on the list?” and “Which word should be thrown in jail for being so boring?” They will absolutely remember these words on the quiz tomorrow.

#4 Be kind to someone, especially a sibling. Under roofs across America, there is too much bickering among siblings. They say mean things to each other and, if tone police existed, most children would be arrested. Home should be a safe place where kids are comfortable and find support. But it is also a safe place to express frustration over a tough day. It’s a fine balance of allowing them to vent, but not at each other.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

#5 Remember to be an observer of things. Notice something. The most innovative people are ones who notice and embrace changes. This evolves into seeking out changes and finally starting to create them. Children have this natural inclination. We just have to nourish it.

We are building too many little robots today with all the pressure on them and on us, the parents. I want to teach my four kids to live life with more offense than defense. Have you ever seen a football team with a big lead that doesn’t want to lose? So they start to play safe, make conservative calls. They lose their energy. Yes defense if critical, but childhood should involve parents rooting them on as they play offense. Because we all know we are constantly on defense!