Monday, November 30, 2015

Every Parent's Nightmare: A Kid's Grocery Store Meltdown

The meltdown-free zone

Over the 25 years in our married lives with kids, I estimate that Julie and I have spent almost a full year engaged in the activity of "grocery shopping." This entails driving to and from the stores, actual shopping in the store, taking phone calls on the way out the store from frantic spouses saying, "We're out of diapers!" and dashing back inside, as well as other assorted grocery-shopping related ventures.

Seriously. Almost a full year of our collective lives in the gathering of food-related items to feed this tribe of Sabos.  It's at least in the neighborhood of 325 days based on some highly-scientific, even mathematical, big data gathering and algorithms. (Ok, ok ... the highly-scientific, even mathematical, data gathering and algorithms consisted of the following conversation.)

Me (to Julie, who is reading her Bible on the couch): "Hey babe, how many hours a week do you think we spend grocery shopping."
Julie: (Pauses...) "I don't know. Six. Or seven."
Me: "Sounds about right." (Whips out iPhone calculator to do some math.)

Virtually every trip to the store involves traveling with one or more Sabo wee lads or lasses, typically the youngest variety who like the adventure of modern-day hunting and gathering in a mostly safe setting. Not to mention that they hope to convince Mom or Dad that a bag of chips is essential to survival. I say mostly safe because one of the grocery stores in our range of foraging includes a Farm Fresh that has these nifty little carts that you see in the photo above. The kids love them. My heels don't. My last trip to Farm Fresh very nearly resulted in me becoming roadkill as Seth is still working out the kinks of staying in his lane, proper turn signaling and distracted driving. Next time I'm going to Farm Fresh it's in body armor and a helmet.

But as many parents know, grocery store shopping can bring out the worst in kids. It's more unusual for me to be in a store and NOT hear some kid having a total meltdown than to be in the store and it's a total-meltdown zone. So is it possible to take your kids grocery shopping and not be embarrassed? How have we at Sabo central survived all these years without being routinely embarrassed by one of our kids going max-unhinged in a shopping cart?

Good questions. For answers I turned to the resident family expert: Julie Sabo. Here's her cogent, insightful answer to grocery shopping with your kids and avoiding the inevitable meltdown in a Q&A format.

Julie: "If you are consistent with your training and discipline at home, you won't have a meltdown at the store."
Me: "Can you elaborate on that?" (As I'm taking notes...)
Julie: "Most parents aren't consistent at home with their discipline and training and the only reason they're bothered by a meltdown at the store is everybody is watching."
Me: "I agree. The meltdown-kid at the store is like a traffic accident. You can't help but look. And everybody looks."
Julie: "If you took the same care at home as if you were in a store you wouldn't have a public meltdown in the store."
Me: "So how does this training look at home?"
Julie: "Love them and train them consistently and they won't embarrass you at the store. These events aren't the kids' fault, but it's a message to the parents."

Here's my take on this: Consistency in discipline and training. That's the key to enjoying the shopping experience. Even with your kids.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

When Kids Bicker: A Mom's Solution

Peace, love and no bickering

For some reason, I still get surprised when our kids at college say how much they can't wait to come home. They love being home and soak it in. There's playing with the younger kids -- "Hey guys, let's wrestle," says Ethan -- and there's home cooking -- "Mmmmmm. Mashed potatoes," says Evie -- and movie nights -- some serious laughs when "The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!" is on the TV.  Games, telling stories about the crazy things the older kids did when they were little, soccer matches in the front yard, impromptu music sessions, eating ... check that, LOTS of eating, are all in the mix when the family is home together over a holiday or weekend when the collegians return.

But it's not always peace, love and family harmony. Sometimes the Sabo family kids experience a dreaded condition called "bickering." Perhaps you are familiar with this condition as well. It can be highly contagious and very debilitating. It has the potential to be deadly as well, killing any and all joy in the house.

Are you familiar with this `bickering' disease? Well, we're here to help. At no cost to you we have interviewed a world-renowned expert in the field of child bickering and sat down with a very brief interview with this noted authority. Here's a transcript of the interview.

Me: Good morning.
Julie Sabo: Good morning.
Me: You look great by the way. I love you.
Julie Sabo: Um, thanks. What do you want?
Me: Oh, nothing babe. I just wanted to ask you a question if you have a minute in between getting Seth dressed, fixing breakfast, answering a million questions from little kids and settling an argument over the ownership of that toy sword that seems to be causing some sort of internal family conflict.
Julie Sabo: And the question is ...
Me: Well, it seems to be particularly apropos at the moment. But I'm wondering how you solve bickering between children.
Julie Sabo: Just curious, but how many kids do you have?
Me: Same as you my love. Fourteen.
Julie Sabo: And how long have you had kids?
Me: Uh, well if my math is right around 26 years.
Julie Sabo: And you don't know the answer to this question yet?
Me: Well, I just thought it would be best to hear from you. You have a way with words, not to mention being an expert in child psychology.
Julie Sabo: I see.
Me: Soooooo, the answer is ...
Julie Sabo: I try to get to the root of the problem. I'm training and working on character. So instead of just training behavior in the moment, I'm thinking bigger picture. I want to be training and teaching in non-conflict moments. So I work on patience, kindness, sharing, love and forgiveness.
Me: Wow. That's really good.
Julie Sabo: Thanks.

And there you go. Some key points to highlight from my perspective include these quotes:
--Training in non-conflict moments
--Working on patience, kindness, sharing, love and forgiveness

I tell you. I'm going to start writing this stuff down!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Good Housekeeping gets advice from a Sabo on Christmas

Happy Thanksgiving! We are so stoked about Thanksgiving in the Sabo house. It's the best holiday, from our perspective. We bake, cook, eat, play a friendly game of family soccer, relax, watch movies and basically downright own the holiday. Hashtag dominatethebird.

A couple of days ago, however, my lovely bride Julie Sabo was quoted in an article in Good Housekeeping. Yes, that Good Housekeeping. You can find a link to the story in down below, but it was an article on Christmas shopping for a big family. Like the insider's take on how to save money doing Christmas shopping for the kiddos. The actual title of the story in is: "11 Christmas Shopping Tricks to Steal From Moms With Big Families."

I noted in the story that Julie leads the pack with 14 kids. One other woman who was quoted has 14 kids so kudos to her. I will say that Julie was absolutely unstoppable for a stretch in the mid- to late-90s. She was just cranking out kids like no one's business. In a span of 7 1/2 years her womb yielded six offspring -- a really impressive feat!

I won't spoil the fun by telling her secret to Christmas shopping. If you're reading this I imagine you can read the article for yourself with one handy-dandy click on the link. But I will say that Christmas is a beautiful thing in our house. There's a tremendous amount of joy in being together, of giving each other gifts, in seeing the kids' eyes light up when they open their presents.

Most importantly, it's another opportunity to acknowledge how blessed we are to have so much love for each other and to have the time together. My family is a treasure and a gift from God. I am so thankful the Lord has given me such a wonderful wife and all these marvelous kids and that holidays are such joyous occasions. article

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Of Words and Soccer Balls

We had traveled somewhere around five hours across the searing semi-arid desert of northeastern Nigeria, timing our journey to beat the crowds pouring out of mosques on Friday afternoon prayers. That's because, in all honesty, as an American it's better to keep a low-profile on Friday afternoons in the vast swath of Muslim-dominated northeastern Nigeria where Boko Haram is known to operate. Through villages we dodged kids and livestock, stopping for lunch at a roadside food stand where we picked up two women and a child who squeezed into the back seat of our SUV for a lift to town.
At our "picnic table" beneath a fraying tarp, slender young boys hovered around us, smiling and hungrily eyeing our lunches of boiled fish and rice. I left some of the rice and fish on my plate and as I headed to our SUV watched the little boys pick up our plates, only to have them commandeered by older boys who had swooped in. My last sight of our roadside eatery was a group of teens wolfing down the scraps as the little boys watched. 
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