Surviving Sixteen Years and Six Kids

I recently celebrated my 16th wedding anniversary to Daddy-o. When I say “celebrated,” I actually just mean that we both “remembered.” It has been a busy sixteen years and I’d be lying if I said we’ve actually remembered all of our anniversaries. Usually we are reminded of this special occasion when his mother calls to offer congratulations.

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People have asked how we’ve survived 16 years and six kids. I could say all the usual healthy relationship tips: don’t go to bed angry, appreciate each other, say “I love you”, make time for each other, communicate honestly and often, blah, blah, blah. All this marriage advice is useful and we probably do them for the most part.

What I really think has been useful is some of the advice that was given to me.

Before we were married, Daddy-o’s mother sat us down and said this: “Just so you know, there are not going to be hard days, hard weeks and hard months – there are going to be hard YEARS. If you can just work through them it will all be worth it.”

I also remember what my brother says: “If the grass is looking greener on the other side, try taking better care of your lawn.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually think people should be miserable with their spouse for years, and certainly some people take very good care of their lawns and still can’t avoid those poisonous weeds. Ending a marriage can sometimes be the very best thing for a family. Only those in the marriage are qualified to make that call and decide how to fix a relationship. But, I think these messages have been good reminders to me that relationships were never meant to be easy all the time and that part of my responsibility is to work on it.

One thing I do know is that the guy who posted his dissatisfaction with his married sex life online last week should have kept this dissatisfaction to himself. I doubt it helped his marriage and I’m certain it won’t lead to him getting more action in the bedroom. So if nothing else, my relationship advice is DON’T DO WHAT THIS IDIOT DID.

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You’re welcome. You can thank me for saving your marriages henceforth.

What keeps your marriage/relationship going strong? Did you get any good dating advice that has helped your partnership?

 

Julie Cole – Founder Mabels Labels


Sticks and Stones -The Power of Words

Words are powerful. My dad was an English teacher and word junkie so we were always taught to use our words carefully. The lesson has stuck with me and I have found that in raising my kids, I’m careful about not using vocabulary words that I don’t like. There are certain words not in my personal dictionary, that I’m pretty sure they’ve never heard me use. The short list includes:

“Best friend”

I just don’t like this term and never have. It feels exclusive and it inevitably leads to annoying sentences like “I’m not your BEST FRIEND anymore” and “Sorry, but Jenny is already my BEST FRIEND”. I find the newer terms like “BFF” and “Bestie” far less annoying because they seem to be used more generally and don’t seem so serious. The term “best friend” feels like it should have a ring and commitment ceremony attached to it.

“Tomboy”

Just because a girl is sporty and adventurous does not make her like a boy. It makes her sporty and adventurous. These kinds of gender stereotypes have no place in my home (or society).

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“Fat” and “skinny”

As a general rule, I don’t speak about appearances in front of my kids. I specifically try to stay away from comments regarding body shape when describing how someone looks, and particularly these two very loaded words.

“Diet”

My kids have never heard me say this word and certainly not in the context of me going on one. My hope is that my daughters will never feel like they need to diet. I like to think that I will face most parental challenges with a certain level of comfort and confidence. I know the exception is eating disorders. I have three girls and if any of them were sticking their fingers down their throat, you would find me in a corner rocking in the fetal position. The thought of facing eating disorders horrifies me and my heart goes out to families raising girls and dealing with it.

“Waitress” and “Mailman”

My kids never hear me use gender when describing a job or career. Yep, this PC mama says, “Server” and “Mail Carrier”, to name just two.

“I hate you”

My kids have never heard me use this term nor has anyone else. I don’t think I’ve ever used this phrase. Words cannot be taken back, even when you are sorry you said them.

Do you have parenting tips on any words that you keep out of your personal dictionary? What words are on the “no say” list in your house? Do you hear any words that make you cringe or that you try not to use in front of your children?

Julie Cole – Founder Mabels Labels

 


How To Tell Kids They’re Not Getting What They Want With Positive Discipline

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I have a busy house full of my kids, their friends, neighbourhood kids, and an assorted number of random drop-ins. I’d rather not sound like the meanest mommy on the block, so I have a few key phrases that allow me to say “NO WAY” to my kids, without using those exact words. Here are a few of my favourites:

“Asked and Answered”

You know that annoying habit kids have of asking you the same thing over and over again in hopes of wearing you down so they get their own way?  Rather than saying, “NO” a hundred times, I simply answer the question once. If the nagging child continues asking, I respond with, “asked and answered.” It shows them that I’m unwavering and saves me from saying, “NO” repeatedly.

For example:

Kid: “Mom, can Addie sleep over?”

Me:  “No, not tonight.”

Kid: “Mom, PLEASE can Addie sleep over?”

Me:  “Asked and answered.”

(End conversation)

“One per Customer”

One of the downsides of giving a kid a treat is that they don’t just appreciate that one treat, they always beg for more. When I have a houseful of kids and I have them all screaming for more of this or another of that, I feel like going all “Soup Nazi” on them and screaming, “NO WAY, you greedy brats!” Instead, I use positive discipline to smile and say, “Sorry, it’s one per customer.”  In other words, take whatever is being served up and move right along.

“Try Again With Your Cool Voice”

You know that whiney voice kids use whenever they possibly can? Rather than disciplining children by telling them what NOT to do (i.e. “Stop your whining, it’s driving me CRAZY!”) I try to be proactive and tell them what TO DO (i.e. “Can you try asking again with your cool voice?) That way I’m not whining, about their whining.

“No Opinion Shopping”

Opinion shopping is when kids go to one parent for permission to do something and when they don’t like the answer they get, they go to the other parent hoping for a different outcome. When my kids or their friends try this, rather than screaming, “No, you manipulative little freaks!” I smile and remind them that there is no opinion shopping allowed.

All these phrases tell my kids they’re not getting their way, and allow me to appear calm, cool and collected while delivering the message. Do you have any parenting tips or “go to” key phrases in your family?

 

 

 


Finding Autism Support For Parents

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It has been 10 years since my son was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.

Back in those days, you got your diagnosis and you were sent on your way to deal with it. Very little information regarding treatment, agencies, education or help of any kind was provided. It was pretty much a “Yes, your son has autism… don’t hit yourself with the door on the way out” kind of an approach.

I didn’t even know where to get started. Keep in mind – this was long before social media. Finding autism support and connecting with other families was not a click away. Even in those early days, I learned quickly that my very best resource was other parents. I stand by that today. And with so many kids affected, there are more and more parents with experience that you can turn to. For example:

  • Other Moms. You can find moms everywhere. School is a great place to start. If you can find moms with a child on the spectrum who are attending the school your child will be attending, connect with them.  They can give you the ins and outs of the special education resources available, how to negotiate support for your child, which teachers are best to deal with and basically how to work the system in the best possible way for your child. Going to school is a big move for our kids (and us!) so connecting with school moms prior to school enrollment is key.
  • Support groups. I wandered into an autism support group and truly found my people. But you have to find the right group. Some groups are for parents to share in their concerns and maybe have a little cry and get support that way. My support group suited me because we were a group about action. The facilitator was fierce – we were all there because we wanted the best outcomes for our kids and we left with actual tasks to report back on at the next meeting. There was no “There, there, everything will be OK.” And that was fine with me. Make sure your autism support group has the same goals as you do to get the most out of it.
  • Online groups. There are countless Facebook groups, Yahoo groups and online communities. What I would have done for that resource 10 years ago!  These groups are a great place to have discussions, ask questions and get answers. And who isn’t blogging these days? There are amazing blogs written by parents of children with autism who share their journeys.
  • Find some you connect with and you have instant community.

You don’t have to do this alone. We are here waiting to help you. Find us.

ECHOage Guest Blogger – Julie Cole

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Kids are NOT Mean

 

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There’s a general statement I often hear about kids, usually when there has been an incident of bullying or unkind behavior. That statement is “kids are so mean”. I cringe every time I hear it because:

a)      It’s not true

b)      Generalizations don’t serve anyone well and usually end up making me feel twitchy.

Unlike the bullying stories you often hear, I recently had an experience with my 14-year-old son that left me completely overwhelmed with how kind and supportive teenage boys can be.

He was out of town with his hockey team participating in a tournament.  I worried that it might be a bit awkward socially, since the boys on the team didn’t know each other very well heading into the tournament.  I was sure to send Daddy-o and son off with the Xbox and a load of junkie drinks and chips. That way, my kid’s room would be the “cool” place for them to hang out. When you’re raising a child with autism, you are always thinking about setting him up for success socially.

Daddy-o was giving me e-mail updates throughout the second game of the tournament, and what I was reading brought me to my knees. Here’s what happened:

  • My kid got his first goal of the season. The bench cleared and his team went crazy congratulating him. In fact, our coach had to let the other coach know that it was his first goal and that they weren’t in fact rubbing it in that they had gotten so far ahead;
  • Then my kid scored a second goal. More hysteria ensues. With one minute of play left, our coach was sending out the last lineup of players. One of the boys getting sent onto the ice asked coach if Mack could go out in his place so that he’d have a shot at getting a hat trick. Yes, a teammate gave up his own ice time for my son.
  • After the game, his teammates decided he should be the tournament captain. A white “C” made of hockey tape was applied to his jersey, and he was given the game puck.

So you see why I don’t believe that kids are mean. We can’t forget about the coaches either. Any coach who can create an environment of support and peer encouragement for a bunch of testosterony 14-year-old boys has clearly worked some magic.

 


Roughing it in the Bush

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My family and I just had our annual week at the cottage. Now that my kids are getting older, cottage life has gotten easier. No longer do I wish for a baby gate around the lake and gone are the days of me following toddlers around the entire week.

But we certainly don’t have this safety thing all wrapped up just because they’re older. Older kids are more independent and mine like to go off exploring and visiting little friends around the lake. This year I felt like I had to keep an eye on my headcount. The thought of one of them getting lost in the woods makes me shudder.

So, I set up a few simple rules & tools that helped keep my stress levels down and my kiddos all accounted for:

  • If going exploring, don’t go alone. Always bring a sibling and if you happen to get lost, you STAY TOGETHER.
  • I reminded them of the “Hug a Tree” program. When a child is lost in the woods, they tend to wander, bringing them further away from home.  I advised my kids that the moment they feel lost, they find a comfortable tree and stay with it. Chances are, they are not far from the cottage and it’s easier to find a non-moving target!
  • My kids don’t have cell phones, but even if they did, we are so far in the bush that there’s no reception. We use walkie talkies, which are both fun and a great way to stay connected if there is a problem.
  • When you hear the bell, you head home. We have a big dinner bell that echoes through the lake. When I feel like I have not seen a child for a while, I ring the bell and they wander back. I count six little heads and send them back off to their adventures.
  • If a kid is going off exploring, have them wear a whistle around their neck. It’s a great way to locate them if they go off track, and whistles are good for scaring off the bears as well.

In the end, we survived the week and I managed to bring home the same six kids I left with.

Are you a family that camps or cottages? What measures do you put in place to ensure their safety in the bush?

About the Author:

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 Julie Cole is co-founder of Mabel’s Labels Inc., the leading provider of kids’ labels, and a proud mom of six. Back to school is around the corner – have you got your school labels yet? The Ultimate Back-to-School Combo is here!


This Mama of Many is Getting Ready for Back-to-School

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The time has finally come. I can hardly believe it. This September, all six of my children will be in school.

Many years ago, I said I was going to host a champagne breakfast on the day that my last child goes to school. It shocks me that my champagne breakfast is in the very near future.

So this is the lay of the land. My little guy starts JK, and the others are going into grades 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8. Six kids in elementary school.

Getting them ready for this season is always a bit of fun. And by fun, I mean not fun. At all.

But, being organized is a must in my busy house. Here’s what we do to get ready.

On the last day of school in June, we salvage what school supplies can be used again the following year. The pencil crayons get sharpened and other items get inspected and cleaned up. I also avoid the back to school shopping when everyone else is doing it. It’s not an August activity for me. Buying off season means you’re more likely to get the items you need without being met with “Sold Out” signs.

For obvious reasons, my kids are extremely well trained at labeling their school gear and also knowing how to hunt things down when they go missing. They pride themselves on never having lost anything to the lost and found closet for more than a few hours. And as this back to school season is upon us, I now have my last little person to train in the labeling department. Six kids means a lot of gear and a lot of expense, so my Mabel’s Labels are my cheap insurance policy.

How trained are your kids about labeling? What have been your lost and found experiences? Share a lost and found story or simply let us know you’d love to get some labels in the comments and you’ll have a shot at winning an Ultimate Back-To-School Combo.

 

Guest Blogger: Julie Cole, Founder, Mabel’s Labels