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Pam McKee

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Shared Interests: A Leap of Faith and a Lesson Learned

Posted on Sep 16, 2014 6:00:00 AM by Pam McKee

smiling horse

When my daughters were tiny infants I looked forward to their upcoming childhood, watching them grow and doing activities with them, having a good time together as a family. I don't think I ever thought about it being something my husband and I would have to creatively plan for and schedule. Our family...having fun together. It would just happen. Naturally. Right?

Well I was so wrong. As each daughter was born into our family, a new little personality was added to the mix. As they grew, especially as they got into the elementary school years, we began to realize that we had to create some Shared Interests for our family to take part in together.

So...we bought a horse.

Now, many girls, as they were growing up, went through a phase in which they loved anything horse related. I was not one of those girls. Neither my husband nor I had ever ridden a horse. We had never put a saddle on a horse. We knew nothing about how to care for a horse. Nor did we have a great desire to. But still...we bought a horse. Candy was her name.  horse saddle

Our friend, who had given us this creative idea of buying a (cheap) horse in order to have a shared interest with our girls, taught us how to feed Candy, put the saddle on her, and ride her. Sort of.

Usually when parents are teaching their children a skill, it is something that they themselves have already mastered, at least somewhat. Well this wasn't the case with Candy.

So on Saturdays the four of us would entice Candy in from the pasture where she was boarded, attempt to saddle her, check her feet (like we would know if something was wrong?), and then we would take turns "riding" her.

When we first began this Shared Interest adventure we thought:  How will four of us take turns with one horse?  Will one horse be enough for four of us?  Oh yes. One horse was plenty.

As I look back on this experience I wonder - What were we thinking?  We knew absolutely nothing about what we were doing.

But, you know, that wasn't the goal. The goal was to do something together that everyone in our family could take part in and enjoy. Not only did we spend time together out in the pasture with Candy, but many hours were also shared together in the tack store figuring out what we needed for this horse of ours.

As you might try to come up with a Shared Interest for you and your kids, remember it does not have to be something in which you are the expert. Learning about it together with your kids is half the fun!


The Carpool Advantage: A Captive Audience

Posted on Aug 23, 2014 6:00:00 AM by Pam McKee


The summer has been lovely, hasn't it?  Kids playing with friends, leisurely family time spent at the beach, no homework to complete, no hectic schedule to stay on.  And now we're about to rev our engines, line up at the starting line, and begin the nine-month race to the finish line of yet another school year. I'm panting just thinking about it.  

Sometimes in the heat of the race, in other words the busyness of everyday school life, we start zooming along so fast in our effort to get each project completed on time, that we forget to have calm, quiet conversations with our kids. And when, WHEN could we possibly do this?  

Maybe the breakfast table is not a place for easy conversation - "Did you put your lunch money in your backpack?"   "Honey!  Please come downstairs, we're leaving in 5 minutes!"

Or possibly the dinner table is not an opportunity for peaceful conversation - "Have you finished your math homework?"   "Please do not toss the soccer ball in the air while we're trying to eat. "


And while carpooling to school or soccer practice or dance rehearsal, in our effort to successfully run this daily school race, could be used to review spelling words, see how fast we can say the "9" times tables, or practice our poem for the Speech Meet, it could be used instead to have calm, quiet, relational conversations with your kids. Oh, there's a thought.

Now this might not happen naturally.  We, Moms and Dads, have to be intentional about this.

  • Don't talk on your (hands free) phone.

  • Don't make a mental grocery list.

  • Don't plan the next piece of information you want to share with your co-worker at your job.

Give your child your attention.  After all, isn't your relationship with your son or daughter one of the most important things in your life?  And, one more thing... Don't appear as though you are working at this.  Even if you are.

Here are a few conversation starters you might try:

  • Name two reasons you are glad to be alive today (during morning carpool you could receive a blank stare, but during afternoon carpool this could be a good opener instead of the usual ‘How did school go today?’).

  • What do you think the difference is between being wise and being smart?

  • How does this school year compare with last school year (This is a good one for the first week of school, the middle, and the last week of school)?

  • What hurts your feelings? How do you act when your feelings are hurt?

  • Who is your best friend?...What qualities do you look for in friends?

  • Name two things you really like about yourself that have nothing to do with what you look like.

  • And of course there are the usual sports, fashion, or video game related questions. These are for days when it's obvious no one is in a relationally sharing mood.

Granted, sometimes it might be quiet, no one saying a word.  And that’s ok.  But when they talk, listen to their answers. Reflect back what your child is saying in a way that he/she knows you have heard and understand.  Use questions as a jumping off point to begin a two-way conversation.

What questions we ask will depend on whether there are others in the car and how old they are.  You know your kids. If this is a group of kids who have been together for a few years and are

comfortable with each other, you could even put a question out there and see who answers! 

Being together in the car for a period of time creates the opportunity for interaction among family members and with other kids who are part of your carpool. Don't underestimate the ways you could be an encouragement to other children simply by listening to them.

Here’s the thing:  You have a captive audience in your carpool. Use this time with those kids God has given you (your own and maybe others, too) to begin to develop and nurture a positive relationship with them.



Back-to-School Belly Butterfly Busters

Posted on Aug 19, 2014 6:00:00 AM by Pam McKee

baby with butterfly

All across the dining room table, scattered between Target and Staples bags, were packages of pencils, pens, notebook paper, a protractor, a ruler, a label-maker and labeling tape, graph paper, multi-colored dividers, scissors, crayons... You get the picture. And as we attempted to assemble the contents of each brand new binder, carefully labeling each divider with correctly spelled subjects, the frustrated student let out her feelings:  "This is just so confusing. I'm dreading starting school. It's scary."

As the beginning of a new school year approaches this might be what's going on inside many kids' hearts and minds, whether they are teens coming back to the familiar or little ones just beginning their academic life. Being nervous about transitions is fairly normal. Lots of butterflies in our tummies. Here are a few Belly Butterfly Busters:

1.  It might help if you share your own past experiences with your child. Let him know that you understand and empathize with his fears by relating your own experience of first day of school jitters. Also make sure you include coming home after the first day of school, flying high from the great time you had. Remind your child of his own positive accomplishments during the previous school year.

2.  After your child receives a written schedule, verbally walk through it with her so that she can mentally see herself in the classroom, at lunch, at PE. Having a visual picture in mind, knowing what to expect, usually helps to minimize and calm butterflies in the stomach.

3.  Our children often react to situations in the same way they see us, their parents, react. No matter how positively we are verbally promoting an activity, such as returning to school, if our body language looks fearful, our kids will be fearful too. If our tone of voice reveals that we are nervous or sad about the beginning of school, chances are our kids will pick up on that emotion and reflect it back to us. Ask yourself why you might have these negative feelings. You don't want to pass them on to your child.  Honestly help your child to have the most positive back to school experience possible. messy room

4.  If, during the summer, you have let your child become lax about keeping his bedroom neat, now is the time to bring your organizational and leadership skills to the forefront. Even though there will probably be much complaining on the part of your child (and maybe from you too!), he will feel much more confident about re-starting the school routine knowing that each day he can come home to a somewhat neat and organized place to put his book bag and do homework.

These are only a few ideas to relieve some of your child's anxiety about going back to school, some basic things you can do with your child at home that will be the beginning of giving her a positive, expectant outlook on returning to school.

Girl in butterfly costume




Topics: Back-to-School

How to Become an Out of the Ordinary Family

Posted on Aug 12, 2014 6:00:00 AM by Pam McKee

kids with pink wigs

Have you ever noticed that your kids get excited when they see you get excited? If you think something is boring (even if it's not) they will probably think so too. If you think something is interesting or exciting (even if it's not) they probably will too. This can be true even of teens..... at times.

So if your family is hitting the doldrums it might benefit everyone's mental attitude if you, Mom and Dad, take the ordinary and turn it into an event.

Ok.  Let's think through a few examples of what this could look like:

The ordinary:  Watching a movie on TV outdoor movie time

THE EVENT:  Have a movie night in your backyard.  Set up a tent or drape some sheets or blankets over some lawn chairs (check the weather forecast first), crawl into your sleeping bags and watch a movie on your laptop.  This could also take place on your living room floor if the weather isn’t working for you.

The ordinary:  Taking a walk

THE EVENT:  Take a flashlight walk in your neighborhood.  This would be best done after dinner in the winter when it gets dark earlier.  Each person needs to have his own flashlight and the only ground rules are:  stay together and don’t shine your light in someone’s eyes.  You could make it even more of an event by running it like a scavenger hunt with a list of things to see or collect.

The ordinary:  Eating breakfast

THE EVENT:  On Saturday, get up early.  All family members have to remain in their pajamas.  Head to Dunkin Donuts Drive Thru to pick up donuts and coffee.  Then go to a near by park, have breakfast on a picnic table or bring a blanket to spread on the ground.  Enjoy.

The ordinary:  Reading

THE EVENT:  This has been done in schools for years but I don’t ever think of making it an activity for home.  Set the alarm on your phone to go off at random times during the day.  When your hear the alarm each person must grab the book they are currently reading, run to a niche in the house and read for 10 minutes.  This could also be done where Mom or Dad read an ongoing chapter book to the family

The ordinary:  Cooking dinner

THE EVENT:  Today almost everyone is a fan of Giada or Rachel on the Food Network.  Let your kids video their own cooking show.  Have one child be the videographer, or let them take turns.  They should create a name for the show and of course a menu of what they will prepare.  As they prepare dinner they have to talk to their “audience” explaining the step by step instructions for what they are making. Watching their own cooking show on your tv or computer, while you eat this specially prepared dinner, ought to be really fun.

family cooking

Usually, anytime Mom or Dad becomes involved in a positive, fun way in an activity with their kids, it becomes an event.  I would love to hear some of your creative ideas, ordinary things that you have (accidentally or intentionally) made into an event with your kids.