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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

REVIEW: How to Have a New Teenager by Friday

When my older kids were small, I stumbled on a book called How To Make Your Children Mind Without Losing Yours. The author, Kevin Lehman, touted the theory of Reality Discipline, or as he put it, "Pulling the rug out from the little buzzards." It was extremely helpful in the raising of Madame and the Boy, especially when I was parenting solo. 

Over the years, Dr. Lehman and I haven't always agreed. We most certainly don't agree on homeschooling, that's for sure! Fortunately, Dr. Lehman is not one to force his advice on others; in fact, he states in several of his books that if one doesn't agree with him, to go as far as ripping out the offending pages.

With those caveats in mind, Dr. Lehman has recently (4 months ago or so) published a new book called Have a New Teenager by Friday. Dr. Lehman, having been a slacker teen before slacker was cool, has also raised five (count 'em) children, and one is still at home. By and large, it offers a great deal of practical advice for dealing with teens.

This is where the good doctor (psychologist, not MD or psychiatrist) and I don't agree in his most recent book:
  • I think children need to be paid for chores, and face the consequences of not being paid. Most of you already know I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey and Phil Lenahan (Dave is more entertaining, doesn't believe in obtaining credit excepting the mortgage, is dead-set against whole life insurance, but isn't Catholic). I am all for turning over the portion of the family budget to older kids and teens to plan their purchases such as clothes and other necessities for the year, but I am NOT a fan of the allowance. Dr. Lehman is. Get sufficient information, know your teen's strengths and weaknesses, and proceed accordingly. Belle is getting her portion of the clothing budget and doing quite well with it, by the way. It's also not a stretch to let kids handle some of the bills from the family budget, by looking them over for mistakes, and allowing them to log into ebanking to pay said bills from the family checking account.
  • He seems to like to blame the parental figure for the behavior of the teen. This seems to conflict with Reality Discipline, or for that matter, the free will choices adolescents exhibit. Dr. Lehman does mention parents who have done everything right, yet the teen or adult child has free will that allows them to be stupid and make horrible choices. 
  • Dr. Lehman's section in the back of the book called "Ask Dr. Lehman" has a section on pregnancy. I agree strongly that babies should not be aborted, and that babies of young teens should be adopted into loving homes with two mature parents, a mom and a dad. I think it's nice that some families actually consult a psychologist, pastor or other Christian person when this reality occurs. Obviously, Dr. Lehman doesn't realize that if a third-party counselor is used at all to discuss a teen pregnancy in the United States, it's too often a school counselor, and too many of them aren't up to the task, certainly not from a Christian perspective. The choice is usually left up to the mother, not the grandparents, not the father. The teen mother is supplied then with a myriad of information on collecting various forms of welfare and free medical care. Older teens and young adults need to decide what to do about that, but they aren't so close to the child years. Dr. Lehman doesn't go into detail on what to do when a young teen decides, against the pleadings of her boyfriend and parents, to keep her baby, then more or less abandons said baby. He certainly doesn't go into what to do when an adult child attempts to kill her own children, no longer babies; or beats them; or as if often the case, neglects and abandons them in favor of sex, drugs and alcohol, forgetting everything they learned at home in their growing-up years. I certainly hope he wouldn't recommend allowing those grandchildren to go off to foster care because Grandma and Grandpa already raised their children as a form of reality discipline! I don't know. But it is a book about teens and parents, not adult children and parents. Perhaps Dr. Lehman will favor us with a book about grandparents who raise grandchildren. While we wait, don't read this and look upon it as an indictment of grandparents raising grandchildren if you are in that situation on either side. 
  • Dr. Lehman warns parents of divorce NEVER to mention anything bad about the ex- EVER. While I think fixating upon and harping about the ex, and in this case, the parent(s) of the grandchildren, is a very, very bad idea- Sometimes it needs to be said. Not all the time. Not constant harping. But if the kid comes to a conclusion, if the adult child is skipping massive amounts of visitation or not visiting at all, if Lulabelle sends one kid enough toys for a day care center and a pack of Uno cards to the other, then yes, I think it's OK to say something. I think times have changed from the 80 and 90s where custodial parents were told by experts NEVER to say anything bad about the Absent One, to the point where care takers were told to buy presents for the kids and put the Absent One's name on them!   
 Now then, there is a LOT on which I do agree. I certainly agree that parents, whether retread or first-run, get in the habit of seeing their children as children, and don't tend to notice that they need to be treated differently at different ages. 

I agree teens need to be trusted whenever possible, need to be caught doing good instead of constantly nagged, need much more freedom than their younger siblings, and need a strong foundation in good morals and habits that will see them into adulthood. I know the hormone group, as he refers to teens, has trouble seeing the forest for the trees, see every little imperfection in themselves, and therefore everything in their lives is magnified. 

I was certainly thrilled with the idea that if one is going to turn a teen loose on the road with a car, then one better trust that teen! I've known too many kids who expect to receive their own set of keys at 16, when they are nowhere near ready to drive. I also know too many parents who feel it is a must to give a kid a car. I was also pleased to see a tip I figured out long ago: Hire a driving school if at all possible, instead of taking your teen out to drive. Saves nerves, saves lives.

The section on the Internet and social networking is certainly worth a perusal. One segment of Society would have us believe social networking is the work of the devil, while others would have us believe teens should have access to everything and anything. Dr. Lehman has a balanced approach that makes sense.

Retread parents of all persuasions would benefit from reading Have a New Teenager by Friday. My advice on this advice book is to check it out of the library first. If you find yourself with the desire to break out the highlighter on the library's property, by all means, get yourself your own copy, paper or Kindle. If you disagree more than agree with the book, take it back to the library. You're then not out the $12 that you could use someplace else.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Frugalities, Frugalities

My little piece on Extreme Cheapskates triggered the imaginations of several quieter readers. I have a couple tips of my own to add. When retread parenting, every penny helps! These are little frugalities that won't hurt and could help, although on some of them might have people looking at you twice:

  • HOMEMADE SOUP. Kate is a big supporter of homemade soup. She shops the close-out rack in the produce department of several of her local supermarket. She also is not afraid to ask for soup bones from the butchers in these stores, rather than pay for them. Kate keeps a plastic container in her fridge for leftovers that might work in a soup.
  • SPEAKING OF THE CLOSE-OUT PRODUCE CART...If you are not squeamish about bruises and bumps on vegetables and fruit, the close-out produce cart is great for fruit salads, fruit for school lunches, veggie snacks and smoothies. Bananas, berries, even peeled oranges freeze well, as do onions, bell peppers and a host of other vegetables and fruits. 
  • CHEESE AND LUNCHMEAT ENDS. Linda suggests asking at the deli counter if your local supermarket sells the ends of cheese and lunchmeat (deli meat) logs. Aside from making great school lunches and afterschool snacks, both can be used in casseroles, on homemade pizzas, etc.
  • THE BREAD THRIFT STORE. Shirley swears by her local bread thrift store. I say it all depends on the thrift store in question. I live near an IBC Hosstess/ Wonder Bread thrift store, and the prices are great, currently 59 cents a loaf for complete close-out, $1.09 for the fancy "nutritious" breads, and 45 cents for a Zinger or Ding Dong pack. I used to go to a Sara Lee/ Market Day thrift store, and the results were hit-or-miss on savings. There was also a Pepperidge Farm Outlet that was cheaper than Pepperidge Farm in regular stores, but not all that cheap in the long run. But it's certainly worth a look. 
  • LEFTOVER BREAD. Shirley turns hers into bread crumbs, dried and fresh, or bread pudding.
  • SUN DISHWASHING DETERGENT. I've been saving coupons and trying to get Finish and Cascade as close as I can for free. Cascade's coupons are miniscule, at 25 cents to 50 cents in an area that doesn't double coupons consistently. Finish coupons are better at 75 cents to $1, but Finish also costs more. I was walking through the local Dollar Tree, and decided to try a box of dry Sun at $1 for a 26.5 ounce box, making the cost about 5 cents a load. IT WORKS WELL. The Sun Gel doesn't work well at all, and is very watery, but the powder does just as well as Cascade or Finish. 
  • RECYCLE FOIL. Foil is a lot more sturdy than plastic wrap. Foil is washable, dry-able and folds nicely to store it. I would avoid using foil that has seen previous use on frozen, raw meat, but uses such as bread, cookies, etc.- well, it's no big deal. 
  • DRIED BEANS. They aren't just northern, pinto and kidney! Sheila likes small red and Jacob's cattle beans. Garbanzo beans can be soaked, cooked and turned into hummus. Black beans give food a dash of exotic flavor. Boston baked, in chili, in soup, they add protein and are cheap. Yes, they take work, but not that much. If you haven't cooked dried beans in quite awhile, look on the Internet for modern, shorter cooking methods. 
  • BAG 'O BACON. The brand name at Walmart is Wright Seasoning Ends and Pieces. The flavor is just as good as Wright regular bacon. You might have to slice some of the slices down, and make them more regular to fit into the skillet. But if you like bacon, this is the way to save money on it while still enjoying a good brand.
  • ROASTS, WHOLE CHICKENS, TURKEYS AND HAMS. Margo and I both wait for big sales on roasts, whole chickens, turkeys and hams. Big sales for turkeys, hams and certain beef and pork roasts come during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Roasts that can be cut into steaks and whole chickens also go on sale before Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. There is no reason these can't be frozen and kept all year round. Buy only what you'll use within the specs of the USDA if you are afraid your meat will spoil, and be sure you wrap it well to guard against freezer burn. You'll find big cuts of meat on sale don't mean just a Sunday roast. Leftovers make great lunch sandwiches, casseroles, hashes and snacks. Bones can be used for stocks and broths for soups and gravies.
  • THE JULY SCHOOL SUPPLY STEAL. In July, stores compete for your back-to-school dollar. You might not think about buying ALL your school supplies for the year in July, but Sheila, Shirley, Becky and I all buy them then. In the case of younger children, most schools put out a supply list in May, then send it to the stores again in July, where the lists are placed on a carousel display by school and grade. Last year, Walmart offered crayons for 15 cents, 50 cent scissors and rulers, dollar compasses and calculators, 15 cent folders and notebooks. Don't think it's limited to the little ones. While older kids might not know exactly what they need for high school classes, it stands to reason that taking certain classes will require certain equipment. Walmart, Best Buy, Target and others offer programmable calculators, flash drives, memory cards, printer ink and more tech necessities (and they are today's necessities!) at deep discounts in July. Buy it in July, and the odds are good you will save at least $100 over buying it when your kid runs out. 
  • THE SAVING JAR. If there is an activity, charity or desire that you want as a family, consider the saving jar. Sit the kids down and talk about the reason for the jar. Set a goal and allow all hands to contribute to the jar. When the goal is reached, it's time to set a date for the activity or purchase, or to celebrate goal for charity. You'd be surprised at how even small children will scour the house and yard for coins, and it all adds up. Just be careful, if you collect on some bad habit. It could result in children who think it's fun to swear or not clean in favor of putting money in the saving jar!
 Think of your own ways of saving, and don't be afraid to share them with me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How far IS too far when it comes to saving money?

Grandparents raising grandchildren usually need to save money. If it's not something the kids need, it's court and attorney fees, car repairs, or something else. Most will do whatever they can to stretch those dollars for a good cause: Make bagged lunches, even sign up the grandkids for free or reduced lunches. Recycle for money. Sew clothes, sofa covers, pillows, quilts. Shop at the dollar store. Shop at the thrift store. Cook instead of going out. Find free leisure activities.

But when I recently watched Extreme Cheapskates, even I was a bit blown away at the lengths some people will go to save a penny! The tales of four people who are considered cheapskates for good reason and their activities surprised me. 

The alleged cheapskate who surprised me the least was Jordan, the last individual presented in the hour broadcast. Jordan simply uses a method of exchange called barter. Barter has existed since the beginning of Time, and while Jordan barters to an extreme (hence the name of the reality show), he does no more in bartering than those of us who try to get a good deal for cash. I wish I could find more bartering opportunities, but being older, perhaps I'm not as good at seeking them as I used to be. I would have never thought to use my ability to recite poetry to get a doughnut, or vocal ability in exchange for bakery goods for an engagement party (not that it would be much of a bargain in my case), or cleaning up a salon for a free haircut. Jordan did. Personally, I feel Jordan deserves a hearty WELL DONE.

I also have no problem with Angela, her foraging for salad, and her going to the expired food close-out store. Angela and her husband wanted to eliminate credit card debt, an admirable goal. 

When my older children were small, I belonged to a baby-sitting co-op. I recommend Big Lots and Dollar Tree, and if I lived near a store that sold expired food, I'd so be there! There was one in my husband's hometown, and my late mother-in-law made frequent use of it. Provided unknown pesticides aren't being used and one has a knowledge of plant life, which Angela does, I see no problem with foraging for salad. Little kids all over the world have re-used each other's bath water. 

I do have a bit of a problem with rags cut to fit for toilet paper. It's a prejudice, I know. I used facecloths on the bum of my youngest as a baby, and cloth diapers. I don't know if I could handle washing adult feces off toilet rags. Call me prejudiced, but I would rather coupon and wait on sales for toilet paper, so I could combine the two, getting t.p. for almost nothing. I think I would revert to using newspapers and magazines as toilet paper before I would use cloth. But that's me. 

That leaves us Roy (first individual) and Jeff. I didn't like either one of them. They lacked the character trait of generosity, despite Roy's work with abandoned large dogs. There was no real goal with either of them, and they seemed to be purposely conniving and well, cheap. In a bad way. They seemed to want something for nothing, and to be praised for it. Not good!

Jeff (third individual) is simply an old hippie. I have to wonder if he learned to scrounge being homeless at one point. He made it clear he hates to work, and his goal (small as it was) consisted of saving enough so as not to work. He had a goal. Good! He's achieved his goal and is happy enough, and his wife appears to work, so she is fine with it. Go Jeff. Rah. Go ahead and scrounge, spend your days riding your bike around the few phone booths left in the US. He makes a great househusband, and isn't hurting anybody. I did like his "soap on a rope" with pantyhose, though. 

It's my opinion that Roy thinks he's cute and clever, and his wife does too, in spite of her protestations. The whole segment seemed phoney and rehearsed. If he'd come over to my table begging scraps, he might have gotten them- on his head. 

If he wants to hang his used paper towels on a line, and beg ketchup packs to refill his ketchup bottle, fine. I often wonder what to do with the piles of Taco Bell sauce packets I get, most notably the too many I received recently for a $12 order. I just put them in a drawer and drag them out when I get low on ketchup or taco sauce. Dump them into a bottle? Why? Is somebody going to come to my house and be bothered with using a packet?  

Roy could have done better in the gift department for his 25th wedding anniversary, but he didn't even try. There are many, many frugal people out there who are still generous. What Roy gave his wife wasn't generous. It was rude and mocked their marriage. He could have cooked an elegant supper at home, dressed it up, and not spent a penny beyond their budget. He could have made his wife a card, heartfelt and sincere. He didn't have to bring the teapot to her in a plastic bag, and there were other ways to recycle the roses. But no. For the camera, he had to play the jerk.

If Roy was not actually playing to the camera, he doesn't care what I think about him. This is probably the best thing about him, and the best money-saving tip to come from the whole show: The less one cares about what people think, the more one is going to be willing to try extreme ways to save money. That might be a good, self-reliant trait. That also might be pure nutso. 

I recycle foil that hasn't been used for wrapping meat. I make everybody squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube, and I then cut it to get the last of it. I cook roasts, which I then use as lunch meat during the week. I gave up a long time ago on buying furniture brand new, and if I can find good quality at Big Lots or HOBO, I'll buy it there before going to a brand-name store. I keep my Android phone in a plastic sandwich bag, as covers don't work well with me and I am hard on cell phone faces. I buy books used when I can. I above-average coupon not just for my immediate family, but for my parish food pantry. I don't think I'll be watching if this is made into a series, but I got a few good ideas.

You will have your own idiosyncrasies when it comes to saving money. But please don't stop being generous in your giving when it comes to presents and special occasions. Please don't let saving money turn you to behave as Roy appeared on camera. Presents can still be wrapped, even if they've been scrounged or purchased from the thrift store. Don't beg for people's leftover at restaurants.

And if you use toilet paper, please, please leave the 2-ply alone. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Were were YOU?

I've heard from a person who claims to be an adult child who lost custody of the children to his or her parents, as well as somebody who claims to be my Ex. I can almost guarantee the adult child is not anybody I know, and can't be sure one way or the other about the alleged ex-husband. 

I still maintain control here, so I won't expose you to the full diatribe by either person. Both are tending toward arrogant verbiage, the kind that makes me glad indeed that I decided to censor the comments here. 

The adult child wants to know why I didn't work to assist my adult child in reuniting with her former children. This individual would also like to know why we insisted on adopting my grandchildren, why I got assistance from the government when my husband and I could afford to pay our grandchildren's way, why I'm punishing my adult daughter by doing this, and why the court simply "gave" us our grandchildren. I sorted this from the invectives, accusation, vulgarities and misspellings. 

The pattern of writing suggest to me this other soul might possibly be my ex-sister-in-law, not my ex-husband. I can't be sure it's either of them. The alleged Ex has accused me personally of being delusional; of being unfit to raise any child, let alone the ones we had together or the grandchildren who are now my children; of the Mister and I mistreating our eldest child, to the point where we browbeat her into surrendering custody; of having had an affair that ended the prior marriage, as well as being "at fault" because I entered the petition for the dissolution.

I suppose I could offer an explanation to both of them. 

However, I don't feel I owe either person an explanation. Quite frankly, I'm tired of offering explanations of why the Mister and I adopted our grandchildren. Some of the information is already here, in past entries. Why should I give into their lazy reading habits, simply because they render malicious demands against me without proof?

I will pose a question to both of them: Where were you?

Where were you, alleged ex-spouse, when our daughter and son were four and three years old, and you decided you hadn't had a sufficient adolescence at 25, and that you planned on having one? For that matter, where were you when you and I were both in military service, and you sampled the wares of the young women in your unit? Want to talk about why you couldn't re-enter the military after discharge? 

I ask because, if you don't remember, I do. I have proof of infidelities, as well as your helping yourself to government tools and the money in the coffee fund. I've stayed in touch with the women who told me they indulged you during our marriage, and intend to stay in touch with them until the day I die. I expect that someday the adult children who share our biology might ask for real proof, instead of choosing to believe you. And I'll be ready to give them that proof.

I do believe it was the Mister who stood beside me when the son of your and my DNA was hospitalized no less than 8 times. It was the Mister who went with me to all those sports games Madame claims we never attended. The Mister was also there when Madame didn't come home one night in high school until 3:00 AM, when she flunked out of college the first time, when she became pregnant prior to marriage, when she chose to marry her now ex-husband via elopement. Where were you? You were off riding motorcycles and spending your money as any man who was married without kids might. He isn't the cravenly, henpecked coward you and Madame attempt to paint him. The coward would be you

By the way, the Mister paid for all of that, and private school, and classes, and party dresses, and driving lessons, and hospitalizations, and everything else that these adults had as children from the time Madame was 10 and the Boy was 9. Prior to that, I paid for it. As you owed child support for seven years from the date we divorced until the Mister adopted our mutually-biological children, you paid for nothing during their growing-up years. You managed to pay off the balance owed in another six years. It took you a total of 13 years to pay off about $25,000, which came to $297 a month you were an absent father. During that time, you changed jobs, from a big-box toy store manager to work in semiconductors during the personal computer boom. It was the only money you spent on our biological progeny. A lot of it was money either I or the Mister and I paid long before that in basic housing, food, clothes, day care. When the last payment came, Madame was in college. 

By the way, that divorce I petitioned because you left- it contained a visitation schedule. Why did you think you were exempt from that schedule? Why did you think you could skip visitation dates without letting me know, and in the converse, when we lived in the same town, show up at my front door unannounced, demanding your parental rights? Why did you fade off into the sunset so willingly, and stay so well hidden until your father faced cancer and wanted to see the kids?

Why did you tell my mother that our marriage ended because I had an affair when it wasn't true? Why did you write my beloved aunt a letter on sheets of toilet paper? And just how many marriages did you have after you left me and the children? Is your present wife #3 or #4?

As for our "stealing" the children we now legally claim as ours, Madame instigated the adoption. We suggested it in a letter to her. She was living with a couple as a roommate. Prior to that, she'd had three roommates, each of whom kicked her out, one with the help of the police; and then in what is known as a SRO. We hadn't seen her in months, almost a year. Her response to our letter was to contact our attorney, to whom we had spoken once on the matter, and demand he set up a date for her to go to court and terminate her parental rights. 

Yes, you get to play Grandpa now with Madame's child born after we adopted these children. Big deal. You didn't raise Madame or the Boy, you weren't there. So, guess what? You and your family have absolutely no right to judge me or the Mister. She's an adult now, a diagnosed bipolar adult. If you'd been there, you'd know. Legally, you are still not her father. Your parental rights were terminated. That boy who calls you Grandpa is legally the Mister's and my grandson. You are no legal relation to him, to the children here, to the Boy or to Madame. Even if you were to rescind the Mister's adoption somehow, or to adopt her and the Boy as adults, it wouldn't change the legal status of the children here. 

As for the adult child: If you were as neglectful of your children as my daughter was of hers, I can only hope your parents took the precautions we did. Parenthood is not creating a child, and showing up to take credit later on. The person who claims to be my ex-husband seems to think that's true, too, so it's not an unusual thought. It's simply wrong.

Children need permanence, a sense of security. They need to know that they aren't going to wake up in a strange bed in the middle of the night, hungry, or in a dirty, dangerous place. They don't need to be afraid they are going to be suddenly taken away from that familiar world and dumped into another strange one at the whim of the adults who are supposed to love and protect them. So yes, we obtained legal guardianship, and yes, we adopted them.

A judge I know deals everyday with whining, demanding noncustodial parents who want the judge to order the other parent to send photos to the noncustodian, to write letters to the noncustodian, to make airline arrangements, to put small children on air flights alone, to pay for the custodian's airfare and that of the small children. You know what she tells those noncustodians? "It is not your ex-spouse's job to have your relationship with your children. Use your visitation to get to know your children, to take photos, to learn about them." 

I conjecture it's not your parents' job to have your relationship with your children, any more than it was my job to have my adult daughter's relationship with her children. 

If you have not done what is necessary to regain custody of your child or children, don't expect your parents to do it for you. Haven't they done enough for you, and yet they are doing more on behalf of your children? When was the last time you paid actual support for your children, not $25 here and $10 there, as if you were giving a friend gas money for a ride? Do you realize how much it cost for a week at day care for small children? When was the last time you bought not a pair of pants or a top but your child's whole school wardrobe? 

When did you honestly take care of your children when they were ill, walked the floor with them, took them to the doctor? When was the last time you obtained health insurance for them? Went to school for them, and didn't make an jerk of yourself in the process? Helped with homework not one time, but on a consistent, constant basis? Made them eat veggies instead of "spoiling" them and allowing them to eat junk food?  Staying night after night after night, instead of giving in to your own "need" to go out, do drugs, drink or have sex, leaving them alone the minute they fell asleep or even before that?

Your parents have been doing what is best and more for your children. You should be down on your knees grateful your kids are not part of the System, being shifted from foster home to foster home. Good foster parents are luck of the draw, and even the best are subject to the whims of child services. 

It is not your parents' fault you have chosen to abdicate your parenthood. It is not my fault, or my husband's fault, that our adult daughter chose not to actually be a parent to her older children, or make the effort to retrieve her children; any more than it was my fault my ex-husband preferred other pursuits to parenthood, only to regret his choices later in life. Let's face it. It's a lot easier to whine, complain and blame than to admit our major transgressions and attempt to correct those. Better to blame the ex-wife, the parents, the courts, the lawyers, Society.

Thomas Paine is quoted as saying, "Reputation is what men and women think of you; Character is what God and the angels know of you." Say what you will about me. I will challenge your assertions, and ask for proof of them, presenting proof of my assertions against you. God and the angels were there, both Ex-husband and somebody else's adult child, when the Mister and I did what we did. Our consciences are clear. 

The questions remains, where will you tell God you were when explaining all this to Him, someday? He knows. He knows. You can push it away from your mind now, but sooner or later, you will meet Him. And someday, He won't need to ask you. And you'll know where you were. And you will be ashamed if you didn't rectify the situation. Your excuses won't do.