Family Coach. Mom. Teacher. Lover of Life.

Posts tagged ‘PARENTING’

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!

Three years since Sandy Hook…How to Talk with Kids About Violence and Terrorism

Today is the 3rd anniversary of Sandy Hook. I remember when I first heard about the children of Sandy Hook being killed. My heart broke, and the tears rolled and all I wanted to do was watch the TV and read the blogs to better understand what was going on. It was like the car accident where I couldn’t turn my head away. My kids were 11 and 8 at the time, and I sure didn’t want them to see it. I tried to behave normally, but of course they could tell something was wrong. That night, I sat down with them at dinner and their dad and I gave them a child-appropriate explanation of what was going on.

A child-appropriate explanation of Sandy Hook…how I can even say that is mind-boggling. Unfortunately, gun violence and terrorism has become a common factor in the American way and while I don’t want to talk about how to talk with children about violence and terrorism, I feel I have to. Our children are having lock-down drills at school, are hearing stories of violence from other children, and many of our children are experiencing gun violence in their neighborhoods and personal lives. So while I wish I wasn’t writing this, I’m writing to talk about how to talk with children about violence and terrorism, with the hope that this blog will never need to be read.

 

FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

  1. Be age appropriate. Ideally, young children will not be exposed and will not need a conversation about this topic. Sometimes children catch a glimpse of a story on the news or overhear adults talking about violence and terrorism. If you know you children have been exposed to the information or find that children do have questions, it is important to talk with them in a way that answers their questions without providing too many details.
  2. Be Affectionate. Violence can make each of us upset, and for children, we can help them feel better by offering lots of kind, warm interactions. Snuggling, hugging, holding hands, and kind words all help the child feel loved and safe.
  3. Let children know that you and your community are doing everything possible to help them be safe. Reassure them that most people are good, and that it is OK to just play and not worry.
  4. Avoid Media. If at all possible, keep the news viewing away from children. Sometimes commercials or adds will show violence and if so, use the steps above to help explain the situation.
  5. Encourage Communication. Let them know you are always here is they have questions. Answer their questions as honestly as possible but with a tone of encouragement and reassurance.

Here are a few examples of what you can say.

 

I saw that you watched some of the news with Grandpa. Do you have questions about what you saw?”

“Sometimes people do bad things, but we are doing everything we can to keep you safe.”

“Hey, I have an idea…let’s turn off the tv off and play a game or you can go outside.”

“That was really scare what we heard today. I want you to know that I love you and we are working really hard to be sure that doesn’t happen to any of us.”

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My girls last night, showing us all love.

 

For older kids, it is harder to shelter them. They know what is going on. Right after the Paris bombings, both of my girls came home with stories about how children in their schools had been targeted as terrorists. My 14 year old said, “I heard this one kid tell another that the Muslim kid was probably a terrorist”. My 11 year old said that the teacher yelled at the whole class “you do not call any of my students a terrorist. Do you understand?”

They were both upset, and clearly wanted to talk. And we did, and we still do. One of our very best friends is a Muslim. This hits us hard, but all children are affected by violence and terrorism to some degree. Older children and teens are more likely to be exposed to violence and terrorism or conversations about them and as such, parents need to know how to respond.

 

FOR OLDER CHILDREN

  1. Be Available. One of the best predictors of positive outcomes in youth is the quality of their relationship with parents and family. Open, on-going communication will help the youth process the information, and will help build positive relationships.
  2. Validate Feelings. How often do we say “don’t worry about that…”. While we naturally want our children to not fear terrorism or violence, the truth is that violence is a part of their reality and validating their feelings is a good way to help them feel supported.
  3. Answer Questions. With the Internet at the tip of their fingers, older children and teens will find answers on their own. However, if they can get information from you, chances are the information will be more credible and accompanied by an open communication. Let your child know you are always there if they have questions or want to talk.
  4. Be Affectionate. We might not think of teens needing affection, but the truth is, they do. Despite what they tell us, youth need encouragement, love, hugs, snuggle, and pats on the back as much as younger children. Especially in times of tragedy or when dealing with highly emotional events. Be sure to let teens know they are loved, valued, and important to you.
  5. Plan for Emergencies. While planning is important for all ages, older children and teens will feel a sense of relief if there is a plan in place for what to do in case of an emergency, including violence and terrorism. Knowing where to go, who to call, and what to do in times of trouble can help youth feel reassured.
  6. Focus on the positive. It can be easy to focus on what is wrong in the world, so it is critical that parents take time to focus on what is right. Even in times of trouble, there are positives, so taking time to focus on what is going well can alleviate stress. Reassuring youth that the chances of them being targets is low and letting them know you and your community are doing all you can to keep them safe can help reduce stress.

 

Here is what you could say:

 “It is scary to think something like this could happen to us or your friends”

“I understand why you are upset. This is a stressful topic”

“What do you think you could do or say next time? Want to practice”

“Let’s make a plan for what we would do if there was an emergency. You know that probably won’t happen, but we can still have a plan.”

 

Bottom line, we all wish we didn’t even have to think about this. However, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the kids at Sandy Hook, and the many other children that have died in gun violence or terrorism. With young children, it is about monitoring exposure and offering reassurance. With older children, it is about open communication and validation of feelings. With all children, it is about working to help them feel loved, safe, and listened to.

 

Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want more information, feel free to check out the following resources:

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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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.

Controlling the Future: Goal setting and New Year’s resolutions

Happy New Year:

This week we interview our daughter, Sofia Allen. Sofia shares her opinion  about life as an Allen kid and talks about her Wildly Important Goals (WIGS) and her New Year’s Resolutions.  We all talk about the Allen Family New Year’s Resolutions, including more balance in our non-nutritional use of technology and food.

 

Sofia and Fiona signing a book with Muriel Summers, AB Combs principal and the person that introduced us to WIGS.