A Brief Discussion of Gratitude in a San Serif Style.

posted by Beret. To the two of you who also subscribe to my personal blog, Bad Parenting 101: apologies for today’s simulcast!

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I wanted to take a moment to think about gratitude.

If that sentence gave you the heebie jeebies, join the club. For some unknown reason, I have a deep-seated repulsion for Chicken Soup-y type aphorisms and daily meditations.

Perhaps it is accentuated by the cliché art and bad fonts which typically accompany such things.

Don’t get me wrong. I love sunsets. In fact, I would be thrilled to be present for the moment depicted above. But what’s great about the setting sun over the lake is definitely not the cloying overscript on a two-dimensional reproduction.

Moreover, just because I won’t hang that poster doesn’t mean I have a beef with fostering gratitude. On the contrary! Gratitude is essential. I’m working on this often, striving to be a better person, and I certainly don’t want my kids to grow up to be selfish brutes. So…presenting…

A brief discussion of gratitude in a sans serif style.

A memorial billboard for mca from www.freshnessmag.com.

A memorial billboard for Adam Yauch, aka MCA from http://www.freshnessmag.com.

Semi-recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, the Atlantic Monthly, and Family Circle once again outline that teaching gratitude to your kids is important. Do it.

Why? Fostering gratitude doesn’t just make more tolerable people; it makes happier people. Jeffrey Froh (PsyD) did a study with middle schoolers. He asked one group to list up to five things for which they were grateful everyday for two weeks. Another group listed hassles, and the last group filled out surveys. The first group showed a marked jump in optimism and overall well-being that extended for a while, even after the study was completed. Those students also had a more positive attitude about school in general. Feeling grateful boosts happiness, gives people better perspective in life, and improves relationships at home, school, and work. (from Family Circle)

To sum up what I’ve learned…most experts recommend:

  • Model gratitude. Big surprise. Thank your kids. Thank your significant other. Thank friends, cashiers, relatives, teachers, baristas, maybe even the DMV clerk. After all, it must be a sucky job.
  • Give positive reinforcement. Even just “hey, thanks for noticing.” or “I appreciate your comment,” can help the set a pattern of behavior.
  • Give them less. Have kids work toward something they want, do chores, earn money. Let them know the value of an item. I could buy you those shoes, but then we can’t order pizza tonight. Lost a backpack? Help earn a new one. Talk about how work hours translate into garbage pick up, electricity, gasoline, vacation. Read aloud Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In addition to being a humorous and vivid story, it discusses hard work, chores, about wasting nothing. There is also a great discussion about the value of a silver dollar that Almanzo would like to spend at the fair. Another book recommendation: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter. If that doesn’t make you appreciate having heat and food on the table, I don’t know what will. Amazing.
  • Volunteer as a family. We’ve started very small. We collect our change and bring it to CoinStar periodically, which allows us to select a charity and send it electronically. What could be simpler? It teaches them that even pennies and nickels can add up to something significant. We’ve also baked cookies and given them out to homeless people, sold cupcakes to raise money for charities, and currently we foster kittens for the SPCA.
  • Coach when appropriate. I often have my kids make their own purchases, even when they are using my money. I remind them to say thank you (before or after the transaction, not during. I try to avoid barking at them while they are mid-transaction) and ask them to leave a tip when appropriate. They need little nudges along the way. “I was disappointed that you didn’t seem more grateful after I helped you with your homework. I could have been doing other things.” Reminding them of opportunities to be aware and thankful is not cheating.
  • Structure a moment of gratitude into the day. Practice, practice, practice! Gratitude is a muscle that needs exercising. Examining life for the positive helps lay new pathways in the brain, creating a positive mindset. That explains why Jeffrey Froh’s experiment had such an impact. This is big! I grew up saying grace at the table, so it feels natural to ask my kids, “What are you thankful about today?” when we sit down to eat dinner. I answer the question, too.

I highly recommend Shawn Achor’s TED talk on Happiness. Don’t be put off by its title: “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” It actually includes the happy secret to better life. There are amazing nuggets tucked in amongst some amusing anecdotes. Among them: “90% of your longterm happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.” In other words, by your MINDSET. Further study has shown that increasing positivity increases creativity, energy, and intelligence, because the dopamine released not only makes us feel happiness, it turns on the learning centers of our brains.

In the last two minutes of his talk, he outlines five quick and easy ways to increase happiness–based on research and not hopeful speculation. Guess what comes in at number one? Write down three new gratitudes each day for 21 days in a row. That is why I now have a gratitude journal, though I can’t call it that, of course. The phrase “Gratitude Journal” makes me gag a little. I have a crass name for it which I can’t repeat here, but which makes me laugh every time I take it out. I figure that makes me happier, too.

GLOW IN THE DARK PUMPKIN BOWLING!

©2014 Beret Olsen

©2014 Beret Olsen

posted by Beret.

Halloween approacheth.

In anticipation, we have bobbed for apples. “Self-waterboarding-type pilgrim game,” my friend observed, which feels accurate, though no kids drowned and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

leila bob

We also had a creepy blindfolded “touch this gross thing” activity:

  • ramen noodles = brains
  • jello = liver
  • peeled grapes = eyeballs
  • warm applesauce = vomit
  • pumpkin guts = intestines

brains smWhen it got dark, we pulled out all the stops for: pumpkin bowling.

What you need:

materials sm

  • Plastic water bottles. We used 20-ounce ones. Drank them at the party, then used them as bowling pins. Some water inside is helpful as weight.
  • A round pumpkin. Maybe more than one…ours didn’t survive past the 30-minute mark. You could drill three holes for an accurate grip or just roll that thing. We did the latter.
  • Glow sticks. Any sort would work, but we wanted to have super bright ones to look groovy and then hang around the neck for trick or treating. Illumisticks are apparently particularly awesome, but so expensive. Instead, I ordered some off-brand I found on Amazon, $15 for a box of 25.

Voilà! Put the bottles into formation at the end of a hallway or somewhere outside. Take turns hurling a pumpkin down the lane. Enjoy.

sm bottles

FYI: I first read about glow in the dark bowling on My Kids Adventures. Click this link for information about what makes glow sticks glow, how friction, gravity, and momentum make bowling possible, and links to math activities to accompany your bowling fun.

Happy Halloween!

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Halloween!

 

posted by Beret.

Hey. It’s almost Halloween! I’ll have a new post up ASAP, but I wanted to remind you all of a few fabulous ideas from the past:

Ghost Cake with Flaming Eyes!

©2013 Beret Olsen

©2013 Beret Olsen

Extreme Pumpkins!

This, and many other fascinating ideas at www.extremepumpkins.com

This, and many other fascinating ideas at http://www.extremepumpkins.com

Halloween books!

3b42f-froggy1

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid: Part II

posted by Beret.

Ring of Kool.

Ring of Kool.

Several weeks ago, I posted a few project ideas for that strangely bewitching chemical tonic called Kool-Aid. As my friend Peggy explained to her uninitiated daughter: “Kool-Aid is a hair dye that people drink sometimes.” Cheers to that.

For your enjoyment and edification, here is Part Two. Included are:

  • Better-smelling volcanic eruptions
  • Moon Sand

There were supposed to be a bunch of other fabulous projects included in this post, which I will explain in my sob story at the end. On to the successful projects!

Continue reading

Things To Do With A Cardboard Box – Part One

posted by Gina

I am inspired to write about cardboard this week for three reasons. One (1): There is a stack of boxes outside my apartment door, patiently waiting to be recycled, since I have gone a little bonkers decorating for Halloween. (AMAZON HAS EVERYTHING Y’ALL.) Two (2): My cat’s favorite thing to do is to sit in a box. He is doing so as we speak. And Three (3): This fabulous photo from my esteemed colleague Beret:

small-box

copyright Beret Olsen 2014

Continue reading

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid: Part I

posted by Beret.

koolaid

I never really cared for the taste of Kool-Aid, but oh, how I have always loved the smell of it. That aroma smacks of childhood, warm days, and cheerfully destructive running pitchers:

I don’t really want my kids drinking Kool-Aid, either; luckily, there are plenty of other things to do with it. For the first installment of this two-part series, I hereby present the following projects: scented play dough, hair dye, tie-dye, and slime. Continue reading

Too Cool for School (Supplies)

From Kojo-designs.com.

From Kojo-designs.com.

posted by Beret

Wait. What? It’s September?

My nine-year-old spent the last couple of days of summer vacation in bed, eyeballs glued to Youtube. I was pretty busy having an aneurysm about how to drop off and pick up my kids on opposite sides of town–simultaneously–so I had no clue what was going on up there. But while I tried unsuccessfully to tame my logistical beasts, she taught herself how to do absolutely everything else.

When she wandered downstairs to ask, “Can I make lip gloss out of Vaseline and crayons?” I just stared. “I don’t know if that will work,” I finally said, and she rolled her eyes. “Of course it works,” she responded. “Also, it’s completely non-toxic.” During the ensuing silence, I realized she meant “may I?” not “can I?” which made me feel a bit better. Perhaps she hasn’t completely eclipsed my knowledge base yet.

In all honesty, I had noticed it was September, but being aware and being prepared are not the same thing at all. So when the 11-year-old started complaining about her boring, clunky binders, it was Miss 9 who had all the answers, not me. “Just paint an ombre in a chevron pattern,” she said. “All you need is some acrylic paint and some tape.”

Voilà:

Miss 11's binder project. Whether this is really an ombre effect, or more of a gradient, is up for debate among word fiends.

Miss 11′s binder project. Whether this is really an ombre effect, or more of a gradient, is currently up for debate.

Miss 9 discovered the binder project during her Youtube binge. You can find directions for it about 3 minutes into this video. It was fun, easy, and made all the difference in the cruel world of middle school. We started rooting around, looking for other, cool school-related projects.

What follows are a few of the awesome things we discovered.

Metallic magnets for your locker:

From: http://kojo-designs.com/2013/11/diy-metallic-alphabet-magnets/

Soooo cool and so very simple. From kojo-designs.com.

Book covers with special bonus from the indefatiguable Martha Stewart:

Thanks, Martha!

Thanks, Martha! A way to keep the assignment notebook handy.

She's unstoppable!

Book jacket with pockets. Same link as above.

Got comics? or old calendars? or outdated maps? Slap some clear contact paper on that and go! Awesome.

Got comics? Old calendars? Or outdated maps? Slap some clear contact paper on that and go! Awesome.

Washi tape-covered pencils. Now that Target and Amazon and Walgreen’s are all peddling washi tape…might be time to try it!

Image and idea found on mashable.com. Directions here.

Image and idea found on mashable.com. No-brainer directions here.

Adorable bag for miscellaneous supplies:

Awesome lined bag tutorial from The Creative Place. Please note: I'd advise you to just buy satin cord to serve as the drawstring, unless you like impossible challenges. The rest is easy.

Awesome lined bag tutorial from The Creative Place. Please note: do yourself a favor and just buy satin cord to serve as the drawstring, unless you like impossible challenges. The rest is easy.

Also, I saw directions to make monster bookmarks that were waaaaaay too complicated. Here’s the super simple way I posted a while back:

The easy way.

The easy way.

They did it the hard way, though I love their accessorizing ideas:

From Tally's Treasury.

From Tally’s Treasury–obvi!

Oh and p.s. If you want to make the crayon lip gloss, click here for directions.

Feel free to post links to other interesting ideas in the comments!

Lobestir’s Gone A-Fishin’

We’re taking a much-needed break until Labor Day.

In the meantime, why not revisit some former fabulousness?  Mummify a chicken! Make a cloud at home! Find DNA in a strawberry! Read something fabulous while you wait for Mockingjay to come out!

Please let us know if you could use book or activity advice – we’d love to hear from you, and to meet all your needs come September.

Love, Gina and Beret