Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Resolutions - revisited

We published this blog entry 6 years ago. It is still as relevant to us as it was then, when our five kids where all younger than 12 years old... time flies!
Happy New Year 2013!
With only two more days left in the year, we start to think about the things we did, the things we didn't do, the projects we accomplished and all the things we want to do next year.

Every year we guide our kids through a little exercise that my father taught me: we sit down in the living room, put on good music, have a warm drink like hot chocolate and a bring a notebook so we can start writing down this year's accomplishments and our new goals for next year.

Some questions we use to get them started:

Did I do enough sports and exercise? Did I do my best in my team? Am I eating right or am I having to much junk food? Did I stop biting my nails? Have I done good to others? How have I treated my friends, my brothers and sisters, my parents?

How did I do at school? What can I do to improve my grades, my reading level, my math skills? How is my handwriting? Can I do better? Am I learning new languages and music? Am I being challenged?
How did I treat God this year? Have I forgotten Him? Have I read good spiritual books?

It is important to always remind them that good intentions are not always enough to accomplish our goals. The most likely reason that we did not achieve our goals is that we lacked perseverance, lacked motivation or we simply set unrealistic goals.

Usually we like to see results right away and we fail because we want to run a sprint instead of a marathon. Sometimes we don't want to move from the comfort zone we are in now. We need to persevere with strength; the continuous effort on the things we set out to do, is something that will help us be different, to stand out from the crowd. With a little effort every day, we can accomplish our goals.

In order to persevere, we must set realistic goals and be clear about our motivation. Even if the goal seems far away, the fuel that keeps our perseverance going is what drives us in the first place: it can be that somebody is counting on us, or that somebody has put their trust in us. Only we have the ability to produce a change inside of us.

Our next year resolutions must be realistic and very few. They cannot be impossible, they must be attainable, so we build confidence in ourselves first and later, as our confidence and strength grows, we can accomplish more demanding goals. Plan ahead, and keep track of your progress.

Finally, we encourage them again to don't give up, to persevere. We remind them that their parents and brothers and sisters will help them along the way to their goals as best we can.

These year-end meetings are getting better every year and we have made them a tradition, brought forth from my parents' home into ours.

Happy New Year!!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas to all our subscribers all over the world!

United States
United Kingdom
South Africa

Thank you!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What can we do?

We believe that we should raise our children teaching them virtues, good values, good habits - preventive and positive education.

When the country seems split about forbidding guns and on its way to legalizing drugs. When marriage between one man and one woman is being attacked as the main building block of our society. When mothers are allowed to kill their unborn babies inside their own uterus; it doesn't mean we have to follow this path. Even when something can be legal, it does not mean it is right.

What can we do so our children will make the right choices and help steer this complicated world in the right direction?  One thing we must do: We can bring up children who can make good use of their freedom, who become compassionate, understanding, responsible adults. More on this later...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lost Generation - excellent video!

A palindrome reads the same backwards as forward. This 1 minute and 44 second video reads the exact opposite backwards as forward. Not only does it read the opposite, the meaning is the exact opposite...

So simple and yet so brilliant!
Take a minute and watch it with your older kids.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Parenting the Youngest of Many Siblings

I am forty years old and parenting a 6 year old boy - the youngest of five - and even though I have the knowledge and experience of parenting the other four, it is hard to juggle the rules, norms, independence and age while raising a young healthy, fun, beautiful six year old. I get tired more often than before and I have less patience.

Sometimes I find myself doing more for him and demanding too little; my own more complicated schedule gets in the way, so it is faster if I pick-up his dirty clothes, or dry the wet floor in the bathroom, than explaining, teaching, supervising and enforcing. Often I ask myself: how did I do it with my first girl? I was so good at enforcing, supervising, teaching and explaining back then.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are few tips that have helped me: you get organized, you use your experience and involve older brothers and sisters into enforcing and supervising while you do the teaching and explaining. The older siblings are great at it because they don't forget to tell you: "Mom: I remember you would never let me do that and you are letting him get away with it".

We have to set and maintain high standards for all our children. We have to have high expectations and treat them with the confidence that they can do it, just like their siblings did a few years ago!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Open Letter to a Teenager

Open letter to a Teen-ager
Always we hear the plaintive cry of the teen-ager. What can we do?...Were can we go?
The answer is GO HOME!
Hang the storm windows, paint the woodwork. Rake the leaves, mow the lawn, shovel the walk. Wash the car, learn to cook, scrub some floors. Repair the sink, build a boat, get a job.
Help the minister, priest, or rabbi, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army. Visit the sick, assist the poor, study your lessons. And then when you are through - and not too tired - read a book.
Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your city or village does not owe you recreational facilities.
The world does not owe you a living...You owe the world something.
You owe it your time and your energy and your talents so that no one will be at war or in poverty or sick or lonely again.
Grow up; quit being a crybaby. Get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone, and start acting like a man or a lady.
You're supposed to be mature enough to accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years.
They have nursed, protected, helped, appealed, begged, excused, tolerated and denied themselves needed comforts so that you could have every benefit. This they have done gladly, for you are their dearest treasure.
But now, you have no right to expect them to bow to every whim and fancy just because selfish ego instead of common sense dominates your personality, thinking and request.
In Heaven's name, grow up and go home!

- Judge Phillip B. Gillian,  South Bend Tribune, Denver Colorado, Sunday, Dec. 6, 1959.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


"Character" is the constellation of virtues possessed by a person. "Character education" is the deliberate effort to cultivate virtues.

Several years ago, I was trained and worked for five years as a counselor at my old school (my eldest daughter's new school). Trained by Mr. David Isaacs and the IEEE, we focused on working with the students helping them to develop virtues such as prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance.

I also had the opportunity to help them develop work-related qualities of character: self-discipline; persistence; dependability; diligence; and responsibility, including making the most of one's education.

I also help them confront the most fundamental human questions: 
 -How should I live my life? 
 -What qualities in human beings are admirable and worth emulating? 
 -What goals are worth pursuing? 
 -What leads to fulfillment in life, and what does not?

Our goal as parents should be to help our children be able to answer this fundamental questions, What qualities in human begins are admirable and worth emulating? Our society pushes us to consume, to buy stuff, to try to be like a movie star; and rarely do we think about what are the important virtues that we should have in order to succeed in life: courage, order, discipline, responsibility.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


A great saint once wrote:

"Allow me to remind you that among other evident signs of a lack of humility are:

—Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say;

—Always wanting to get your own way;

—Arguing when you are not right or — when you are — insisting stubbornly or with bad manners;

—Giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so;

—Despising the point of view of others;

—Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan;

—Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honour or esteem, even the ground you are treading on or the things you own;

—Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation;

—Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you;

—Making excuses when rebuked;

—Hiding some humiliating faults from your director, so that he may not lose the good opinion he has of you;

—Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you;

—Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you;

—Refusing to carry out menial tasks;

—Seeking or wanting to be singled out;

—Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige...;

—Being ashamed of not having certain possessions..."

Have your kids read this!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Am I Over-Parenting?

We are trying to be the best parents, studying and reading all we can and still we can be doing it all wrong! I think it brings out one of the worst fears a parent has and allows us to ask a not-so-simple question: am I over-parenting in sports and in life, or am I challenging my children enough so they accomplish more in life? Finding this balance is the key and for most of us parents,  there have been times when this balance is lost and we don't even know it!

One day, a few months ago, my daughter, after 8 years of serious Olympic gymnastics training (since she was three years old!) told me she was quitting.  She liked doing it and was good at it but what she had never told me was that she did it mainly because she thought that it made me happy. She liked the sport and was excellent at it, but there was a point when she would have to choose between playing soccer or flag football with her friends in a more relaxed environment or training for the upcoming regional championships. I was willing to stay with her as many hours at training as she needed and travel as far as she had to go for a competition. There were no emotions comparable to the feeling I had of coming back with the trophy or gold medal after 5 hour at the competition: I was having fun.

I did gymnastics when I was young, but I was never as good as she was. I was heavy and tall so I couldn't jump so high, so seeing her jump and turn with such perfection was beyond anything imaginable. One day, someone in the family told me that she thought my daughter didn't like the sport as much as I did, and that she did it because I loved it. Those words struck me, but I dismissed them; I felt all the love she had for me and how hard she was trying to demonstrate it to me, but at the same time we never talked about it. Until that day a few months ago, when we had the conversation, she was now twelve.

She told me (and I thought she was so mature when she said it) that she knew that at this level she would have to sacrifice her friends, play time, free time and more on training and that she rather enjoyed being with her school friends and play team sports for fun even when they didn't win much.

I felt happy we talked, and sad that it ended. I told her I was proud of all her accomplishments in life and proud of her, just because of herself as she is. I asked her to never do things for me, to do things that she knows are the right thing to do, and do them for herself.

I love you Clari!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Why Won't My Children Listen ?!?!?

Sometimes we give orders to our children and they don't obey.  Why is it that they don't get it? There are many things that influence obedience: the perception of Authority, Prestige, Service, characteristics of our demands, age of our children, etc.

Children disobey for many reasons:
- to call our attention, or they want to do something with you and you might just want him to go and do something on his own.
- because they are distracted on doing a more pleasant activity; they are watching a funny TV show, or playing at the back yard, they don't feel like changing activities.
- they simply didn't listen to the order or didn't comprehend what we said.
- they could have received many orders at the same time, like: "go call your dad, tell him to pick up your brother at baseball, and buy milk, and tell him that the doctor called and said to call him back, and please take a shower, and pass me my purse, and hurry up, dinner is almost ready."  The poor child might call dad and tell him to buy milk, but he most likely will forget the rest.
- if you prove to be not firm regarding your orders, they know that by the time you said that order 5 times, you will end up doing it yourself, so they simple don't do it.
- we as parents might not know how to enforce authority at home.

Next time before you scream in despair:
1. stop!
2. observe, ask yourself how? or why?
3. inform yourself, ask them what they are doing? what happened? when?
4. be objective not emotional; think, should I be firm or flexible?

Work on your communication - tone of voice and chosen words - be clear; don't repeat the order.  Positive reinforcement, organizational skills, routine, just a few norms and rules on important matters, in accordance with their age - this will do.

A good idea is to post a chart with rules and chores, so they can see it and know what you expect from them and at what time. This will make them work on freedom of their time, but respecting house rules and routines.

Also: enforce obedience with incentives, rewards or punishments, according to their age and with justice.

Good luck!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A new year - what can we do?

St. Josemaría puts it best when he says that in every new year "...let us take a good honest look at our own lives. How is it that sometimes we just can’t find those few minutes it would take to finish lovingly the work we have to do, which is the very means of our sanctification? Why do we neglect our family duties? Why that tendency to rush through our prayers, or through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? How are we so lacking in calm and serenity when it comes to fulfilling the duties of our state, and yet so unhurried as we indulge in our own whims? You might say these are trifling matters. You’re right, they are, but these trifles are the oil, the fuel we need to keep our flame alive and our light shining. (Friends of God, 39-41)"

 All the best to you and your family in this new year 2012!