Friday, May 27, 2011

Frantic Friday #23 - Mom...I'm Bored!

It is inevitable, like death and taxes, all parents will hear at least one rendition of, "I'm Bored!" This lovely phrase will usually be accompanied by a whiny voice and a dramatic plop on the couch.  If your child is really gearing up for an Oscar nomination, then it will be followed by a long list of reasons that life isn't fair and why all of their friends have better activities.  You may also be told that because you as the parent are the most boring person in the universe, your child is doomed to have the worst summer ever...and oh by the way, can I have a friend sleep over?

I wish I could say I am the best summer event coordinator ever, but I'm not. When I was a kid I spent my mornings picking blackberries, my afternoons reading books, and my evenings watching fireflies. I spent time with my parents working in the garden, went camping and boating, and even threw in a few picnics for good measure.  It wasn't fast paced, but it was perfect.

Now I live in the land of scorching hot, without a blackberry bush to be found. Outside activities are relegated to past midnight when it cools down, and fireflies spontaneously combust...if they are silly enough to venture anywhere near here.

So what is a parent to do? How does one keep the kids entertained (as they seem completely unable to do so on their own) and maintain their sanity? Shipping them out of state is not an option, although the temptation may be overwhelming by the time we make it through this summer.

Have you noticed this is not a blog where I offer advice?  This is a shameless begging blog, the kind where I throw myself on the mercy of strangers and hope that some other parent has figured out the magical answer to "I'm bored."  So please, comment below and let me know what you think.  Today is the first day of summer vacation, and I am already digging through the junk drawer looking for my earplugs. AHHHH! Save me!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm Not Raising Children

One of my favorite parenting quotes is, "I'm not raising children.  I'm raising adults.  If you are still kids when I am all done...well, we will all have a big problem!"
I have no idea who said it, but I love it.  In fact, my kids have heard it so many times that I have had my little ones look at me and say, 'Why are we doing this mom? Is it because you are not raising kids?"

So if we look at raising our children in terms of what it takes to be adults, what are some of the most important things we want to teach them?  I have a few of my favorites listed here.
  1. Honesty
  2. Integrity
  3. Compassion
  4. The Value of Hard Work
  5. The Ability to Advocate for Themselves
  6. The Importance of Quality Relationships
  7. The Desire (and Ability) to Manage Money Well
  8. The Clarity to Separate Needs from Wants
  9. The Joy of Giving
  10. The Discipline to Prepare for the Future
Did I mention I am raising adults?  You might be a little overwhelmed by this list, as they are the 'big ticket items' in life, but I really think this is what I want to leave my kids with.  While it is important for them to cook, clean and take care of themselves, they could always pay someone to do those things...if they had to.  The things on the list are core values I want to pass on. They are things you can't buy, sell or trade.

I think the items on the list prepare them for life.  What would you add to the list?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Motivational Monday #46 - Seize Control...Where You Can

For the first time in a long time, the weather man may actually have the most interesting job on the nightly news. I have lost count of the number of tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and fires we have seen in the last year.  Just yesterday a tornado ripped a town in two.  They already have 89 casualties, and they aren't done looking.  You can imagine the new storm forming has them a little worried.

Many of us may look around and say, "Well, I don't live in tornado alley, or earthquake county, or in a flood plain...." Maybe that is true, but mother nature has an amazing ability to find "issues" in every region.  As many people know right now, a broken dam can mean massive flooding. A broken pipeline can disrupt water services and utilities. Earthquakes can damage buildings, roads and utilities. Drought can reduce crop yield, while too much rain can erode hillsides and foundations.

I guess what I am saying, is that Mother Nature has a plethora of ways to ruin your day.  Nice gal, huh?

So what do we do about it?  How do we keep our family safe but be practical at the same time?  I don't think sleeping in a rowboat tied to your backdoor is a practical way to protect against flooding, nor do I think sleeping in your bathtub is a practical way to protect against tornadoes.

There are some things we have control over, and other things we do not. The disasters I mentioned above fall into the "do not" category, so let's look at what we do have control over.
  1. The Plan - We all have control over our own plans.  We can decide what is important to us and what we intend to do in an emergency. All plans may not work in all situations, but we have control over the plans we make.
  2. The Supplies - We can decide what we need in each situation. We have control over the quality and quantity of equipment we want and the amount to purchase.
  3. The Support - We decide where we are going for help, where we will shelter and how we will "ride out" the emergency.
  4. The People - We decide the people we will be responsible for and how we will support them.
So while watching the news, I suggest we take a look at what we do have control over, and focus our energies there.  Hopefully the weather man will never be standing in your town talking about the devastation, but if he is, I hope you were able to do everything possible to keep your family safe.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Frantic Friday #22 - Summer Is Sneaking Up On Us

It is! It is, I tell you! Summer (or at least the break from school we call summer) will soon be here. While visions of vacations, lazy days by the pool and cool breezes may dance in your head like visions of sugarplums, the truth of the matter may be quite different.

Summer break, for many, is not the land of beaches and is the hectic time of year when everyone is home, routines have been thrown out the window...and accidents happen. Kids break bones, family cars break down on road trips, and luggage gets lost on the flight to grandma's house.

Craziness, huh?

I know when you want to be poolside is not the time you want to be organizing paperwork, so do it now.  Sit down and write out your family medical histories, then organize your insurance policies and contacts.  Having this taken care of will take one thing off your worry list this summer, and maybe, just maybe, you can grab that luxurious day in the sun...and really enjoy it!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Special Needs Mean Special Plans

Being prepared is important. Being prepared for emergencies is very important.  Being prepared when you have someone in your family with special needs...well that can be even more important.

Catching a theme here?

Special needs can fall into many categories, and can range from food allergies/sensitivities, to limited mobility. Being medicine dependent is a special need, especially when talking about emergencies. Being pregnant or breast feeding is also a special need in this case. Obviously there are the standard special needs, such as disabilities, illnesses and physical limitations.  There are also special needs revolving around mental illness, impairment and medical condition.

Have you noticed the list of special needs is pretty long?

When looking at your family's plans for emergencies, you need to take into account the needs in your household.  Here are just a few things to consider:
  1. Do you have medications that are required?  Do you have current prescriptions and do you have a way to get an emergency supply if needed?
  2. Do you have medical equipment that must always be with you?  Do you have extra batteries, replacement parts and a contact for repair if needed?  Do you have contact information for replacement equipment if needed?
  3. Do you have support materials used to assist the special need? Items on this list could include favorite objects, foods, clothes, books, medical supplies, walkers, pillows, etc. Do you have an extra of these items?
  4. Do you have activities to keep people calm? For many people with special needs, changes in routine can be hard. Do you have familiar and calming activities and games ready to go?
  5. Do you have a plan to stabilize the person with special needs? Do you know where you would go during an evacuation?  Do you have medical contacts at your destination? Have you checked to see if your local pharmacy has a branch in the relocation area? Do you have a copy of medical records?
As you can see, some of these topics are a little more in depth than your regular preparation needs. Taking the time to work through these details will make the transition of change much easier for your special needs family member, and thus, a lot easier for you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Motivational Monday #45 - It's Time to Purge!

I'm not sure why, but the word 'Purge' always gives me the willies.  It just isn't a pretty word.  Some words, like 'butterfly' or 'seashore' bring happy and peaceful images to mind, but 'purge' does not. Not even a little bit.

Some times in life we have to deal with things we do not like to do...and today that thing is 'purge.' We need to eliminate that which does not belong or brings us harm. Oh my! Did you just get the image of skyscrapers of junk towering over you? Never fear, this won't be too painful...I promise.

In the quest to purge, I want to give you a few simple ways to start.
  1. Don't collect any new stuff. I really think the best way to control what you have is to stop getting new things to hold onto. This means get rid of paper when it enters your home (school art, bills, newspapers, magazines, fliers from the store, etc.). It also means reducing the amount of things you bring home. If you can't eat it, or if it won't keep you from being naked, don't buy it. Until you have gotten rid of the old things, don't get new things.
  2. Sort as you go. I know most of us get all fired up to start a project, and we rip through a room, dumping drawers, emptying closets and upturning storage boxes.  This is a huge no-no. There is no quicker way to sabotage your efforts on any project than to go too fast. If you make an overwhelming mess then you will stop.  In this case it means you will not only still have a ton of stuff to get rid of, you will also have a huge mess.  Not good.  So start slowly. Open your junk drawer and throw away all the dried up rubber bands floating around in there. Put all of the paperclips in a baggie and collect the paper to either shred or recycle. Then close the drawer. Whew, progress!!!
  3. Ask the tough questions. In this case, those tough questions are not too bad. If the answers to these questions are 'No,' then find a new home for it...and by new home, I mean not your home.
    1. Do I Use It Now?
    2. Will I Use It This Month?
    3. Have I Used It In The Last 6 Months?
    4. If It Is Sentimental, Do I Have Room For It? 
  4. Sell It, Donate It, or Pitch It. There are some obvious pros and cons to each of these options.  If you sell it, there is work involved, but you get cash.  If you donate it, there is a little less work involved, you get no cash, but you may get a tax benefit. If you pitch it, there is little work, but no cash or tax benefit either. To make this call you will need to decide if the item is worth any money, if it has value to others, if anyone else could make use of it, and how much time it is worth to you to sell it. Whatever you decide, give yourself a deadline. It does you no good to know you want to get eid of something, but never actually get rid of it.
  5. Embrace the freedom of less stuff.  Somewhere along the line we decided more stuff made us happier. Who sold us that line of nonsense? I have found the more stuff I have, the more burdened I feel.  Every time I get rid of stuff I feel lighter.  When my closet floors are clear, my drawers only half full and my cupboards well organized, I feel more relaxed and able to focus on the priorities in my life.  I also find that I want to buy less stuff after I have purged the stuff I have. How interesting, when I have less stuff, I spend less money on buying new stuff.  I can get used to that!
So there you go...the steps required to purge. It may not be the most fun you ever had, but it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family. Use it, and then pass it on. Keep the memories, but not the weight.

Do you feel lighter already?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Frantic Friday #21 - Late Today

Today's post is very late in coming...maybe I should blame it on Blogger being crazy for the last few days...or maybe I should blame it on my foot getting smashed...or maybe I should just be honest, and tell you I took a nap.

Yes, a nap. A long awaited, luxurious nap. ahhhhh.  Trust me when I tell you I needed it.

But Wait! Lest you fear I did nothing today, you need to know I frantically worked on the re-update of my blog.  (I did it all once, but blogger 're-set' everything and I lost my work. grrrr.) If you take a look at the top you will see click-able links allowing you to easily navigate to the Prepared Binder website.

In addition, I have added my BlogFrog community directly into my site.  This means you can join in the community conversation at any time.  You can see other blogger's posts and you can jump in with comments and information of your own.  Over time, as the community grows, you will have access to a lot more information and conversation. I am looking forward to seeing you all there!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why Organize Your Bills?

Bills. (Did that word just make you shiver?)  We all have 'em...but I don't know many of us who like 'em.  They ebb and flow like a great cosmic joke coming to steal away our hard earned cash.  My favorite bills are the ones I didn't know were coming. I just love bills.  NOT!!!

When I sat down and put together Prepared Binder, I added a section about bills. I wanted each family to itemize the bills they receive.  I have had some questions as to why I did that, so here are the answers:
  1. Many people don't really pay attention to what bills are coming and going each month.  It can be a bit of a reality check to know exactly what you have commited to pay each month.
  2. Usually only the person who pays the bills each month has any idea of what is being paid.  If that person is unavailable, knowing what bills to expect can be vital.
  3. Not all bills are paid the same way.  A good example is insurance.  We have our life insurance automatically withdrawn each month.  The auto insurance is paid by check on a six month rotating schedule, which of course is different for each of our vehicles, and the homeowner's insurance is paid annually. If you didn't know that, you wouldn't be looking for a statement, you wouldn't know what has already been withdrawn, and you wouldn't know what policies to cancel, should the need arise.
  4. If you die, and your estate needs to be wrapped up, knowing what bills should arrive, and when, can make a huge difference to your executor.  I know this is a tough thing to think about for many people, but it is a reality. My sister used to be a banker, and she said one of the hardest parts of her job was to sit down with families who had lost a loved one.  Very often they had no idea what bank accounts their loved one had, what financial obligations they had, or what outstanding debt they held.  It made wrapping things up very hard.
  5. If you have to evacuate your home, having a complete list of bills will help you contact the services you do not currently need.  For example, if your house is flooded, it is likely safe to cancel or suspend your water/gas/electric/cable/internet/yard service/pest control and newspaper. Having quick access to those company's contact information will save you valuable time and money.
So that is why there is a bills section in Prepared Binder It is one of those details we don't think about until we need it, and by then...well when things are crazy, it is not the time to be organizing bills.

Being prepared often means looking at the thing you enjoy least and organizing the information so you can use it in an emergency.  I think bills fall into that category, but even if you love bills, having a complete list of your bills, the company contact info, the billing frequency and the way the bill is paid will leave you feeling more in control, and better able to handle an emergency.

And isn't that what being prepared is all about? So tell me, have you organized your bills?  If so, how?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Motivational Monday #44 - Are You Prepared?

You have 15 minutes to evacuate your home....Go!  Okay, time is up.  How did you spend your time?  What did you take with you?  More importantly, what did you forget?

With the continued natural disasters around the United States, we are reminded that sometimes an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

As the focus of my blog is preparation, (you forgot that didn't you?) I thought it was time to once again remind my readers about being prepared for emergencies.

There are many things we need to take into consideration when leaving our home.  Some are obvious, such as:
  1. Our family
  2. Our pets
  3. Food (for people and pets)
  4. Medicine
  5. Clothing
  6. Shelter
Some may not be so obvious:
  1. Our important paperwork (insurance, financial, and vital records)
  2. Cash
  3. Evacuation Plan
When I asked you to evacuate, did you grab everything on the list? Did you have all your important documents ready to go?

Often I hear people tell me they have everything in the filing cabinet. My question to them is, during an emergency can you find everything you need?  The likelihood you will be able to load your filing cabinet in the car is small. I have never met a person so organized that in an emergency they can find everything they need in the filing cabinet.

During and emergency your mind will begin to race, you will be focused on protecting your family, and you will forget what seems obvious when you are calm.  After the initial burst of adrenaline is over you will realize you have overlooked some things.  Unfortunately those things can be important.

Having your important documents with you can be a big deal. Having contact information for family members, insurance agents, doctors and schools can save you a lot of time and energy.  Knowing medical histories can help you get the medical attention you need sooner.  Having a way to access money from you bank or credit account, even when you are not near home, can be the difference between sitting in a shelter and sitting in a hotel. It really is important.

Prepared Binder is my solution to this problem. I developed it after watching Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  I saw so many people on the news say they had no money because the had no bank account numbers or ID to prove who they were. I saw people who were struggling to get insurance money because they had no way to contact their insurance company.  I saw families trying to enroll their kids in new schools with no immunization records or birth certificate.

It wasn't the "stuff" they were missing, it was the paperwork.

So I challenge you to get prepared. Take the time now to get your paperwork together. Organize it and put it in a portable format.  You can use Prepared Binder, or you can find a method of your own...but do it!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Frantic Friday #20 - Errands

Errands.  Not a fan of even the word, let alone the action it requires. Just saying the word brings visions of endless stops and starts, whiny kids in and out of the car and large chunks of change being spent. Wouldn't a day at the spa make more sense?

Fridays are my new errand days. Due to recent kid scheduling changes, I don't have a day I need to be out and about, so I have had to create a day.  Once again, NOT a fan. In fact, right now I am doing everything I can to avoid the inevitable. Just because we are out of milk and eggs does not mean I should have to do errands...does it??

So how do you handle errand day?  Do you group it all together or make little trips? Do you take the kids or use preschool time to get it all done?  Or, do you just bag it all and starve?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teaching Responsibility

Responsibility is one of those things we learn over a lifetime.  I remember thinking I was very responsible in High School.  Ha! If I only knew what was coming down the road...

It used to be that kids got up before the sun, completed chores, then went to school, came home, completed school work, then finished up the day with chores.  Now, they role out of bed before school, come home, argue about school work and refuse to do chores.

What happened?

Without moving to the farm and asking our kids to milk the cows, how do we teach our kids responsibility?  Knowing how to finish what they start, how to put effort into their labors and how to be proud of their work are all important lessons.  If we can't teach those things, we will send our children out into the world without being ready to take it on.

So that is the question for the day...How does one teach responsibility?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Motivational Monday #43 - Change

We live in a world of change.  In the last week alone, we saw our current US president defend his birth, we watched a royal wedding, we gathered for the beatification of a pope, and we learned of the death of a great opponent. There are no signs of a slow news week here.

As the famous quote states, "The only thing constant is change." How very true.

As a nation, we are also facing natural disasters, hardship and unemployment. Unfortunately, the changes we need to correct these situations are not coming as fast as we would like.

I have also seen the phrase, "Be the change you want to see." Now seems like a good time to test that idea.

Each of us have something we would like to see change. I challenge you to find a way to make it happen. Start small. See what happens.

We all know things will may just be time to take control of how.