Family Coach. Mom. Teacher. Lover of Life.

Archive for the ‘family’ Category

What is Space Camp like for a unique kid? Awesome!

Our sweet daughter just returned from Space Camp. In fact, she went 30 years after my husband went to there in 1986.

Fiona, 2016 and her dad, 1986

Fiona, 2016 and her dad, 1986. She was so excited to recreate these images!

 

It is always somewhat of a risk, both financially and emotionally, to send a child with special needs off to camp. I’m happy to say, this was a big hit! In fact, it was so good I wanted to share, and she agreed to let me share, this entry from her blog about how she felt there:

As I write this I lay in my bed my 4 roommates fast asleep around me and I am so happy I’m bursting at the seams. This week at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama has been the best week I have had in my entire life. Our team Isidis of 14, 16 if you include the Crew Trainers, is a family after this short time. Even with people from India, Denmark, Norway, Egypt, and the USA we found home in Huntsville.

The camp has been everything I dreamed it would be and more. The food was banging, the adults in charge were kind and understanding and felt like your friend, and on top of that we got to do the coolest things next to actually going into space. In the first of 3 mission simulations I was paycom, a position that boils down to the hole control room of the ISS. It was amazing. I had to help the crew on the ISS solve anomalies that ranged from waist water leaks to failures in the CO2 pumps. The second mission I was pilot of a orbiter called Enterprise. It was amazing. Me and my commander flew a spaceship whilst 2 EVA offices did space walks out side our windows.

On our 3rd final, longest, most ambitious, and most fun mission I went to Mars. It is without a doubt the most fun I have ever had. I was EDT2 I was in charge with my EDT1 of getting the computer systems on the Mars base up and running. Simple right? I would have been if it was not for our Crew Trainers medical anomalies witch ranged from the muteness of our commander to the drug addict botanist to me thinking I was the president (dictator) of Mars to a person on the Mars moon have who lost both of their hands to hypothermia. 

Not only did we do these amazing missions with amazingly inventive detours. When you sign up for the camp you choose a track Mission Specialist (MS) or Pilot (PLT) (I was PLT but wanted MS it’s a story for another day) depending on witch one you get to do one of 2 amazing trainings. For MS they went scuba diving in the indoor tank. And PLT we went to Aviation Challenge (another camp that is linked to Space Camp) and learned about survival training we took a tour of the numerous planes and other aircraft and then did multiple flight simulations.

We did so so many other things such as engineer a rocket, build a Mars rover, and decontaminate water form Mars. I don’t think I could ever fit everything we did into a post but really this week has been so amazing I could never put it into words.

 

To hear that the “adults in charge were kind and understanding and felt like your friend” was all I needed. But there is more; a super nice kids sent her a text (or social media message, probably) thanking her for being so awesome, and giving her credit for the success of the team. Did I mention her team won the spirit award? So much positivity! I love it. It is so nice to know that there are places that do youth development right. Thanks, Space Camp, for making a kid that rarely feels great and included feel great and included!

 

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Dad, 1986 and Fiona 2016

Huntsville, Dad with girls.

Huntsville, Dad with girls.

That smile says it all!

That smile says it all!

How Do I Get My Kid To…. (VIP BLOG)

As part of my job, I get to run a program called VIP, or Very Important Parent Program. As part of VIP, we have started a weekly blog on and about all things parenting. Today is my blog called How Do I Get My Kid To….

This one is all about getting my kid to be nice. Which she really needs to work on. Probably as much as I need to work on building my relationship with my kid and working to help her meet her needs. So, here is that blog.

http://www.bevip.org/uncategorized/how-do-i-get-my-kid-to-2/?utm_source=hootsuite

 

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My family is in a funk

IMG_2601I picked up my 14 year-old from the bus stop, something I do on occasion [read: when I am procrastinating getting important work done].

She asked, “how was your day, Mom?

Bad. How was yours?

What did you say? (she’s clearly not used to that answer)

I said it was bad. How was your day?

What happened?

Well, I just told a phone rep that I hope she has a terrible, horrible, awful day.”

It is true. I was talking with an American Airline rep, the third time this month to attempt to utilize a companion ticket; something I had tried two other times to redeem with no luck. This time I not only had no luck, but she told me I was irresponsible and that I needed to take responsibility for my own incompetence. So I lost my cool and told her I hope she has a terrible, horrible, awful day. It might sound bad, but truthfully, I wanted to say worse.

This came a day after Sofia was home sick for two days with the flu, after Fiona spent a day in such a bad mood she nearly lost her chance to be in the same house as her dad, and after a few months of my husband hating his new job.

Yes, the Allen family is in a funk. What do you do when the whole family is feeling down and out? Well, I tried to schedule a fun weekend get away, but AA totally let me down (and called me irresponsible). So nix that idea. But I have to do something. We are all really bummed, and it is time to make a change.

My good friend and colleague, Dr. Debra Farr, did research on this. Sort of. Her research is on the importance of family vacation on family cohesion and bonding. Her research, in a nutshell, says vacation and family fun is really good for a family. And in reading her paper, I am once again reminded of the importance of leisure, family togetherness, and simply having fun together.

We are a family that is often focused on fun times, but in all honesty, our funk has led to lethargy and than has lead to a lot of screen time for each of us. Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE SCREEN time. My children come by it naturally. I would watch TV all day if I could (even though it makes me feel kind of crappy). My favorite is watching TV all together, cuddled up on the sofa as one big happy family.

Screen time, even screen time spent together, is not really helping us feel better. In fact, it could be contributing to our funk. Research shows that too much screen time makes you tired, grumpy, and depressed. Yikes. That sounds familiar.

So, if I were working with my family as a family life coach, I might think the answer would be simple. Turn off the screens, go out and bond as a family. If only I had the energy to get off the couch, turn off the TV, and get the family out of here, I’m sure we’d all be better off for it. Like I say, do as I say, not as I do.

I ran this idea past the family, and they were against the idea of turning off the TV and doing something. Anything.

So what did we do? We got up, went for a walk, and then came home to brainstorm where we might go next on family vacation. Looks like UK, Hawaii, Norway, or Toronto are the winners. Fingers crossed we figure out how to get that amazing vacation to become a reality soon. In the mean time, just dreaming about and planning our dream vacation made us all feel a tiny bit better tonight.

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Where Have You Gone, Darling Summer?

Summer has come and gone. But what a summer it was! I got to take some vacation time to spend with the girls. Sofia made a list of things she wanted to do, and we made our way through the list as much as possible.

 

Paint an art piece. 

Back to school shopping. 

Mani-Pedi. (my first ever!)

Mermaid tail. (made it myself after seeing they cost over $100)

Redecorate bathroom upstairs.

Lunch at art museum. (Not nearly as good as we hoped).

Friends over. √ √ √

Furniture shopping. 

Party for friends. Nope. Not yet, but we are working on it still.

Horseback riding. Nope.

 

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While Fiona didn’t have a list, she reached what I can only image where her goals of sleeping and screen time. (No photo as she says it is creepy for me to take pictures of her sleeping. I still take them, I just don’t post them (yet).

We all got sick, and thus spent quality time snuggling in bed. We went to Niagara Falls and Toronto. We swam, ate out, and spent a bunch of lazy time together.

Summers are mixed bag. While I adored having time to be with my girls this summer, I haven’t always had the luxury of taking time off. Like many parents across the country, I’ve leaned on family and piecemeal-ed care for the girls. That’s probably what summer means to my girls-lots of time with Grandparents, some time with their parents, time to exert independence and yes, some lazy days of summer laying around, sleeping late, and watching TV.

I realized this was my 14th summer as a mom, and I only have seven more. That’s 2/3rds of my summers as a mom over. Part of me wants to celebrate, but a lot of me is sad that my kids are growing up. One is now in high school, the other in middle school. It all happened when I blinked my eyes.

Here’s to a great school year, for all us parents and our children! My we find that balance of cherishing every moment and getting through those moments that simply should not be cherished. May we we find time to put down our phones and take a walk. May we be firm and kind in our parenting, and may we celebrate making it through one more summer.

 

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Back to School! Podcast 6

The Allen kids are back in school this week. Unlike times in the past, back to school is changing, especially for college students. The days of going to a brick and mortar school for the first year of college is no longer the only option. Is doing a non-traditional option, such as community college or even doing early college high-school a good option? We will tell you our opinion in this week’s podcast.

Book reviewed: College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students by Jeffrey J. Selingo. (2013).

Article reviewed: How to Make Stuff in Wired, March 29, 2011. http://www.wired.com/2011/08/big-diy/

A story about Limor “Ladyada” Fried, the first woman on the cover of Wired and one of Fiona’s role models.

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Key words: back to school, college alternatives, welding, early college, kids

#MuslimLivesMatter Essay: There is a Muslim in My House

There’s a Muslim in my house

By Kim Allen

(Originally written in 2010; update below)

A Muslim is in my house and it makes me so happy. I got an email from my alma mater saying that there was an international student from Turkmenistan that needed a place to stay. I had a place for her, so I quickly Goggled Turkmenistan to see exactly where it is and how well this might fit for our family. After a family conversation that included a vote from each family member, we sent an invitation to Zoe to stay in our home.

Zoe arrived at our home in mid-August, just at the start of Ramadan and all the talk of burning Qurans that comes with 9/11. Before Zoe arrived, it never even occurred to me to consider what kind of religion Zoe belonged to or that she even belonged to a religion. We soon found out that Zoe is a Muslim, although to her pronouncement, “not a good Muslim” since she didn’t fast or pray regularly. Having a Muslim in our house did, however, make the conversation about 9-11, Quran burnings and the ground zero Islamic Center debate much more personal. In fact, having Zoe in our house has been hands down the best education on religion and living our principles that I could have asked for. Ever! Now that we have a Muslim in our house, our whole family has experienced acceptance and encouragement of spiritual growth.

I sometimes fail, but I try to raise my kids to see people as people, and not as their religion. This may stem from my own religious upbringing– the whole time I grew up, I didn’t even know what a Muslim was. For that matter, I didn’t know what a Jew was and I barely even knew what a Methodist was. I was raised Baptist; not any kind of Baptist, but Missionary Baptist. The kind of Baptist that is so Baptist that that any other kind of Christianity is seen as being “modern” and wrong. So Baptist that we didn’t even learn that there were other types of religion besides Christianity.   So I find it very interesting considering where I sit now, with a Muslim in my house.

There is so much I can be doing as a parent to show my child religious tolerance, or better yet, religious acceptance. I can, and do, talk with them about how important it is to be open-minded and open hearted for differences in beliefs. I can talk with them about how important it is that we respect others no matter what our thoughts and traditions are. I teach them about the importance of accepting others for who they are and how they treat others, rather than their ideology. I could go one step farther and listen to my children as they express what’s important to them and explore what qualities are valuable as human beings, neighbors and community members. We could even go and visit other churches, synagogues and mosques, so that they can see and learn from experiences about how other think and live and believe. I don’t do that, and probably won’t. But I could.

This, however, is what I know to be true. There is no more powerful teaching tool than fostering  a deep and meaningful relationship with someone that believes differently.

This is something I did on accident. I would love to say that I asked Zoe into our home to foster religious growth in my children and to help them open their eyes to differences. But like most times when our children really learn from us parents, I stumbled into this moment. Someone needed a room; I had a room to give.

But the beauty is…the result is far more amazing than I could have planned. We are the ones that have been on the receiving end of this situation. We are the ones that now understand a whole new culture; my children can now listen to the stories about far away places and have not only an open heart and mind, but a deep seating connection that they will take with them as they become the next generation of leaders.

Zoe is our Muslim and we love her. In the six weeks that we have had her as a guest in our home, we have discovered that being Muslim isn’t a whole lot different than being Baptist or being Methodist or being Unitarian for that matter. Zoe, like the rest of us, lives her life trying to be the best person she can. She makes us laugh, helps us grow and teaches us daily.

You know what else? Zoe, our Muslim guest, is a peacemaker. My children are consistently greeted by a calm, understanding and patient friend in Zoe (even after eternal moments of begging for one favor or another). Although she has only been here for six weeks, she has shown grace, poise and humor in a way that has made her family. So the Muslim in my house has taught us an important lesson: as we listen to the news and hear of people wanting to burn a Quran and spread hate, we know that being a Muslim isn’t awful. In fact, it is great. I’m glad there’s a Muslim in my house!

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Follow up: 5 years later.

Zoe lived with us for two years, and has been a part of family for five years. I have had the absolute honor of calling her a friend and a member of our family. She has given us all the gift of her kindness, compassion, and world views. She has introduced to people from all over the world, many of them Muslim. She is a gift, and in light of the horrible shootings of three Muslim young people in Chapel Hill, I wanted to share a bit of the light my relationship with Zoe has brought. #‪#MuslimLivesMatter

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Zoe and my girls running a 5K.

Parenting in the Future Episode 5: Teens, Technology, and Mental Health

Welcome to the 5th episode of Parenting in the Future Podcast with special guest, Fiona Allen! Fiona, our 13 year old daughter, joined us and gave us information about the apps all the teens are using, and told us her take on mental health, technology, and what it is like to be a teen. Chris reviewed the book, Age of Opportunity by Lawrence Steinberg and helped us better understand adolescent brain development. Kim responded to a quote image she read on Facebook that read:

 

Nostalgic Parenting Judgement

Nostalgic Parenting Judgement

My curfew was lightening bugs. (OK–works for younger kids probably more than teens)

My parents didn’t call my cell, they yelled my name. (Too much to say about this; better listen to the podcast)

I played outside, not online. (Did you have friends from all over the world? Do you want your children to have 21st century tech skills? Do you struggle, like we do, to have appropriate boundaries for your teen and their technology use?)

If I didn’t eat what mom cooked, I didn’t eat. (First of all, that is sexist. Second, my mom cooked with a whole lot of lard and bacon grease. Third, I’m happy we all share in the food prep. Last, I hope I’m more respectful to my kids than that).

With nostalgia aside, this really isn’t true for our family. In face, we embrace technology. Want to know more about all of our reactions? Listen in!

 

Fiona and her Dad doing a podcast. She's a typical teen in that she didn't want her picture taken. This is the compromise.

Fiona and her Dad doing a podcast. She’s a typical teen in that she didn’t want her picture taken. This is the compromise.

Fiona's one and only time wearing a dress. It is a COSPLAY costume from her beloved Anime.

Fiona’s one and only time wearing a dress. It is a COSPLAY costume from her beloved Anime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the joys of parenting: podcasting with my kid.

One of the frustrations of parenting: hearing my child’s cell phone go off every 2 seconds during the podcast.