Top Tips For Creating The Perfect Small Family Yard

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You all know how much my garden means to me, but some people aren’t so fortunate. Whether you’ve got an apartment with a balcony, or a small inner-city townhouse, sometimes outside space is at a premium. When you’ve got little ones, it can feel a little bit claustrophobic keeping them indoors all the time, so it can be liberating to make the most of the outside space you have, so that they have room to run around or just get some fresh air. The size of an outdoor area can be restrictive, but it’s not impossible to make a child-friendly garden which is only a few square feet, it just takes a bit of imagination. Check out these top tips for creating the perfect small family yard!

Make space

First things first, you’ll want to get rid of all the clutter. When you’ve got limited space, you need to make sure every inch is accessible. That means finding alternative arrangements for anything you’re storing there, at least when the garden is in use, and trashing anything which is just there for the sake of it. The more space you have available, the more space there is to play with.

Bring in some grass

Every garden should have some sort of grass, even if it’s a tiny balcony garden. Grass is a far safer surface on which children can play, unlike asphalt or concrete, and it can bring freshness and life to your yard. If your yard gets no sunlight, or the space just isn’t big enough to justify turf, why not consider an artificial grass such as Multiturf instead? They look and feel like grass, add softness for children when they’re playing, and they require far less maintenance than real turf, and they can be installed anywhere.

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Create a vegetable patch

However big your garden is, you’ll always have room for a tiny vegetable patch. It’s a great way to get kids outdoors, engaging with their food, weeding the yard, but also learning a bit of science in the process. You don’t have to dig up your entire yard, just a pot with a couple of tomato plants, some strawberries, or even a trashcan full of compost for growing potatoes is a fun way to get your kids interacting with the yard.

Use fold-away furniture

Chances are, mom and dad are going to want to use the yard too, but yard furniture tends to take up valuable playing space. Using fold-up furniture allows you to store it handily so that children can play in the yard, without the risk of tripping over or limiting their playing area.

Keep it safe

Whatever type of yard you have, there are going to be security concerns if your children are using it for recreational purposes. Keeping it safe from intruders, and ensuring they’re not able to get out onto any roads are a priority, so suitable fencing and a gate is an absolute must. If you’re using a balcony, ensuring that your children are not able to climb to the height of the barrier is essential, so avoid placing any garden furniture near to the edge that they can climb on. Keep water away too – even the smallest puddle can be dangerous when a child is around it unsupervised.

Making the most of your yard can be tricky when it’s tiny, but with a bit of imagination, it can be the perfect kid’s playground.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Aren’t You Tired Of Seeing People Die?

White America, aren’t you tired of seeing people die?

I made a mistake of watching the news today. I tuned in to see the first videos released of Alton Sterling being put to the ground and shot to death

I made a mistake of watching the news to see his widow behind a podium speaking about raising her children knowing they had watched every moment of their fathers death. They couldn’t escape it.

And I made a mistake of watching when I saw Alton Sterling’s 15 year old son collapse in grief and cry out for his daddy.

I wanted to wrap my arms around his sobbing body and whisper that it’s going to be OK, even when I know for him, that is a long, long way away. He’s just one year younger than my own son. And the differences between them? He’s black. My son is white. His daddy is dead. My son’s daddy isn’t.

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Why are these American boys living such polarized lives? Why, in 2016, are we watching a repeal of the work of the Civil Rights Movement?

Why are we waking up once again to another story in our news feed about a black man being stopped by police and shot? Aren’t you tired of seeing people die?

Why are black lives so expendable?

I’m well aware of my white privilege. I’m aware of my ability to walk down the street without fear, of being able to shop without suspicion or drive down the street in my safe suburban oasis.

I’m aware of my ease in parenting two white children who don’t need to be taught that people in their country will question their worth. I know I have nothing on black mothers who not only have to teach their children they are worthy just for being who they are, but also must figure out how to teach their sons and daughters to be aware that others think just the opposite. And that their opposition could get them killed.

Oh yes, I understand. I just don’t know how to balance it with what I see on the news. I don’t know how to make the black community see that I’m devastated, horrified, embarrassed and ashamed for what I see happening to them.

I’m also well aware of my ability to speak out. I know I have a voice, and a platform, and an ability to use my words to make public this insanity that we can become numb to what is going on in our black communities.

I’m aware that by speaking out I may offend someone, but to be honest, I don’t care. Maya Angelou taught me that to be silent is to accept, and I surely don’t accept what is happening in Baton Rouge, or Minnesota or South Carolina…at this point, I could name every state in the country.

So here I am, laying it out. A white woman speaking out for black women, for brown women, for all women who are trying to figure out how to raise our children to understand that their lives matter, that they are worthy, and that their life is not expendable.

Teaching children is my specialty, but I cannot fathom the challenge these mothers have when trying to teach their children in the racist world they see around them. .

But, honestly, the children aren’t the ones doing the killing – the adults are. That’s who we need to focus on now. The kids I teach tell me they are comfortable with the topic of race- they don’t judge or define or see it as a factor in how they treat each other. We’re doing a good job raising them.

But aren’t you tired of seeing people die?

Now, we need to speak out to the adults in our lives who don’t understand. To the fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters who make racial slurs and then shrug it off as a joke. To the neighbors and people in the grocery store who carelessly comment with a protective code of white privilege. To politicians and powerful people with an audience much larger than mine, who with one tweet or post can share their ignorant  vitriol with equally ignorant followers.

Oh yes, I understand my power. I understand my privilege. And I understand I must use it to speak out, to start the conversations and end the racism in front of me.

And I understand there are many people in America who will disagree with me- the data shows that. I am aware that I will start disagreements, lose friends and anger people who view the world only through their privileged lens.

Thanks too bad, but I’m willing to risk it. Just imagine, if we used our power and our privilege together, what a difference we could make.

What can you do? What can WE do-white America, how can we stop racism if the majority of Americans think it doesn’t exist?

All you need to do is check the news to know that is 100% NOT true.

Enough is enough. Speak out today. Start by listening to what these women have to say about their experience mothering in America.

Just do something. And do it today.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Turning 50: My Transformation Into Wholeness

Two little girls nestled into their father in the pew in front of me, catching my eye as they jostled for position. The littlest one, no more than two years old, bounced on her daddy’s sturdy leg while her older sister, closer to five, curled her chubby fingers around his arm. The littlest one, blonde, wearing leggings and a pullover top, looked like she insisted she dress herself. Her undone back button and slightly mismatched outfit screamed, “I can do it myself”. Her sister’s sundress was a bit more pulled together, her honey-colored hair was gently braided to the side, and I watched as she fiddled with her headband during the sermon.

I wondered how long they would last, while at the same time, smiled silently in solidarity with a dad who could get two wiggly little girls not only to come to church but to sit quietly.

They honestly didn’t make a peep.

Within a few minutes of their arrival, the eldest removed her purple hairband and began running her fingers through her mid-length hair. Fascinated, I watched as she attempted to re-braid, then twist and contort her tresses into one up-sweep after another. When she tired, or when her hairband gave out, she would so tenderly stroke her sibling’s head as she laid on her father’s lap. I found myself wanting to reach out and braid their hair myself, to recall the memories of running my own fingers through my baby girl’s hair as she wiggled and struggled to get free.

Instead, I sat quietly and watched. I wondered what their story was. Where was their mother? Who helped them get where they were? How was their father, sitting so calmly, going to handle their squirminess when it got physical, as most siblings do?

It was their tenderness with each other that stunned me, really. As we sat, part of a bigger collective of people, I closed my eyes and listened; I thought about all that we humans do to each other when we get ‘tired’ of the way we are, or the way we look, or how our neighbor is acting. I thought about the lack of tenderness in our society and the blatant disregard many people have to simply stop, pause, look, and listen to others.

I thought about the common goals we all have, and how I see them in my middle school classroom every day.

The search for wholeness. For identity. For belonging. For authenticity.

When my kids were little, I remember often wondering what would be the measure of a successful day; sometimes, the simplest acts of survival were filled with such satisfaction. Getting up, getting dressed and figuring out how to balance mothering and teaching and marriage were my survival tasks. And on the days when it was good, I tried to set an intention to enjoy it.

And on the days when it wasn’t, I felt alone. I felt as if I must be missing something – that here I was, this educated, white woman living in a safe home in a peaceful state with two healthy babies, a job, and enough money to buy the food we needed, and yet still, my story wasn’t complete. I was now turning 50; this transformation into motherhood, I felt, should have been simpler.

Some people told me I was thinking too hard.

Some told me to relax, not to worry.

But I kept telling myself that someday, I would get there. That all I had was all I needed. That this transformation to the next chapter in my story would take time.

I was impatient. Like the five-year-old in front of me, I twisted and twirled and wrapped myself into all sorts of shapes, hoping that with any luck I’d find the one that stuck. I didn’t realize that what I was right in the middle of was what I needed. I was in the process of shaping wholeness; I just wasn’t seeing it.

Salt Lake City hike, half-way up.
Salt Lake City hike, half-way up.

Turning 50 has felt like a tipping point this year; mid-life, I can see the horizon in front of me with such an acute clarity. I feel firmly planted in my life. I’m learning to pay attention, to not only listen to my story but to share it, to pay it forward.

Maybe that’s why I reached out to help the little girl in front of me, clumsily attempting to part her hair and twirl it into a messy bun. My whispered offer of assistance denied, I sat back and breathed in. The hidden wholeness I wouldn’t have seen, couldn’t have seen, when my baby was five years old settled around me like a warm shawl. I felt it as the memories radiated through my being, resting so comfortably, so comfortingly, around my heart.

A daily reminder to be a possibilitarian.
A daily reminder to be a possibilitarian.

And in that moment, I set an intention to look for signs of transformation around me, to twist myself outside of my comfort zone, to make myself acknowledge the wholeness that I’ve been searching for, and that is right here in this ordinary day.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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You and Your Teen = A Perfect Partnership

Do you partner with your teen in accomplishing the tasks or day-to-day needs of the household? Do you and your teen = a perfect partnership?

Of course, you do.

In many ways, teens are treated as a household partner. For example, when we require them to take out the trash, help with dinner prep or cleanup, take a sibling to practices, and so on. What I just described is a kind of a youthadult partnership.

Technically, a youthadult partnership is one in which adults work in full partnership with young people on issues facing them and/or on programs and policies affecting youth. It is a common approach used by coalitions, networks, schools, faithbased entities, and others to address specific issues adolescents face in local communities. This approach works just as well in our homes and can be effective in helping to shape what our kids do outside the home.

parent teen partnersAs adults, we can share the power to create strategies and make decisions with our teens. This helps to show them that we respect and have confidence in their judgment, which is something so important to them. Additional research data from formal organizations (e.g. 4-H clubs, locallevel school based parent-student (PTA), and Girl/Boy Scouts) has found that youth-adult partnerships help young people resist stress and negative situations.

Specifically, youth-adult partnerships can help *:

Social competence including responsiveness, flexibility, empathy and caring, communication skills, a sense of humor, and other pro-social behaviors

Autonomy, including a sense of identity as well as an ability to act independently and to exert control over one’s environment

Problem-solving skills, such as the ability to arrive at alternative solutions to cognitive and social problems

Sense of purpose and future, including having healthy expectations, goals, an orientation toward success, motivation to achieve, educational aspirations, hopefulness, hardiness, and a sense of coherence

* Pittman KJ, et al. Youth Development and Resiliency Research. Washington, DC: Center for Youth Development and Policy Research, 1993.

I would be willing to bet that these factors are also present in teens who have youth-adult partnerships at home.

Building effective partnerships with our kids is really quite easy:

Work together to develop rules and consequences about risky behaviors and decisions. Develop agreements about risky behaviors that reflect your and your teen’s beliefs and values. Be specific on how their bad decisions affect the family as a whole, especially an impact on their younger siblings who often look to them as a role model for how to act. One of the most important things about rules and consequences is to use them as a response to your child’s behavior, not as a response to your child in general. All kids (including teens) need to feel your love. By co-creating agreements and demonstrating your love, your child will feel precious and safe – even when you’re using consequences.

Lead by example. Don’t come home from work and say, “I had a rotten day. I need a drink”. Instead, show them and, even better, engage them in healthier ways to cope with stress, such as exercise, listening to music, or talking things over. Likewise, be honest and tell your teens about risky choices you have made (without glamorizing them) and the consequences that occurred as a result.

Role-play with your teen on how to handle alcohol, drugs, distracted driving, and other risky behaviors. This can help your child can learn how to resist alcohol or anything else he or she may feel pressured into. Work on more than just saying “no” – for example, discuss how to say “no” an assertive manner (stand up straight, make eye contact and say how you feel). It’s also important to accept that your teen may need an “out,” so develop a strategy together – for example, have them text you a sign so you know to call them with a reason to come home.

Respect your child’s feelings and opinions. Try to tune into your teens feelings. Take their opinions seriously, but be prepared for the fact that their views might differ from yours. You can use this situation as a chance to talk about how people often have different perspectives.

Being a parent is so hard. We want to protect our kids, keep them close and safe, but also give them wings at the same time. Developing familybased, youth-adult partnerships is one way we can do both.

Need help getting started? There are several parent resources and toolkits that can help, start here:

Talk2Prevent

Parent Toolkit

Stop Medicine Abuse

Parent Engagement

If you have any of your own suggestions on youth-adult partnerships at home, let us know! It truly takes a village!

This guest post was written by LeeAnn Weniger-Mandrillo, the mother of her young son, James, and raised her nephew Andrew, who is now 23. As a social marketing and media leader, she has worked in prevention for over 15 years, with the past seven years focused on educating parents and adolescents about substance abuse, tobacco, and alcohol. LeeAnn is passionate about empowering individuals, healthy families and communities through her work with Stop Medicine Abuse and the Five Moms.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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The Transfer of Mothering

There’s no denying it’s been a tough winter. Since December we’ve been battling injuries, experiencing traumatic loss, and watching people we care about learn how to live with a new normal.

It’s been five months of deep, belly-filling breaths, long moments of silence and staring into the horizon, and valiant attempts to trust the journey we are on.

And it’s been a month since I found myself waking up on the floor of a restaurant, not quite sure how I got there; a month since the transfer of mothering took place, right before my eyes.

I remember seeing my daughter’s face as I came to; next to her, closest to my head, was her boyfriend, calling my name and asking me if I knew where I was and what was the name of the president. The looks on their faces signaled that something had gone wrong. All I could think about was my daughter, watching me lying there on the floor, and I was helpless to sit up and hold her, to reassure her that mommy was OK, even though I wasn’t quite sure that I was.

In fact, I wasn’t. But I am, now.

About five minutes before I hit the floor
About five minutes before I hit the floor

I’d never been on a gurney, never ridden in an ambulance, never been a patient in an ER. Sure, I’ve brought my son to ERs all over northern and central America (true statement), but I was always the mom on the side, asking the questions, making the decisions.

This time, it was up to Lily.

She was the one listening to the directions and handing over the insurance card. She, with her quiet control, was reminding me that it was all OK, that I would be fine, and not to worry. That things would all work out.

Her voice echoed mine, the words I’ve whispered to my children in times of crisis, in moments when fear tried to pull the strings.

Turns out, she was right.

This transfer of mothering was nothing short of magical.

I watched my daughter as she will be as a mother. I saw her ability to think on her feet, to quietly comfort, to do the right thing at the right time, even if she wasn’t quite sure.

Even if she didn’t have a handbook to tell her what to do next.

As I lay there in the ER, IV pumping fluids through me, I felt comforted knowing she was sitting beside me. I’ve always known this would happen someday – I just expected that it would be when my hair was a bit grayer, my steps a little shakier, and when my hands would look less like hers and more like my mother’s.

I found myself having to relax into the moment. I needed to be brave, to surrender my fear, loosen my grip on her and trust that all would be well.

And it was.

A snap of April's calendar by Kelly Rae Roberts, reminding me to embrace the change.
A snap of April’s calendar by Kelly Rae Roberts, reminding me to embrace the change and hold on to what matters.Kinda perfect, isn’t it?

On this Mother’s Day, I’ll spend the day like most other Sundays; I’ll walk my dog through the arboretum, breathing in the cool morning air. I’ll listen for the egrets flapping their expansive wings as they relinquish their perch, startled by my presence. I’ll write in my journal, and maybe go outside and feel the warm spring dirt crumble through my fingers as I scatter morning glory seeds along the back fence. This Mother’s Day, like every day, I’ll write words of gratitude for the life I have, for the children that bless me with such joy. I’ll try to smile with thankfulness that my baby girl is testing her endurance nearly four thousand miles away along La Peregrinación del Camino de Santiago de Compostela’.

This Mother’s Day, like every day, I’ll write words of gratitude for the life I have, for the children that bless me with such joy. I’ll try to smile with thankfulness that my baby girl is testing her endurance nearly four thousand miles away along La Peregrinación del Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I’ll warm with indebtedness for my son’s healing body, for my husband’s steadfast reassurance that we are on this journey together.

And on this Mother’s Day, I’ll set an intention to remember that every day is Mother’s Day, and that things are going to work out.

In fact, they already have.

Mantenerse a salvo, de la niña. Mami te ama.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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