Blog Posts by Melanie Myatt

  • Parenting Guru: a Letter to My Husband at Christmas

    To my Dear Husband,

    Christmas is your favorite time of year. Although you like to deny it, we all know that nothing can bring tears to your eyes like watching the kids put up the Christmas tree ornaments, watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special, frosting sugar cookies as a family (though sometimes I suspect, in this instance, those are tears of frustration) and watching the kids unwrap their Christmas presents.

    This year, I know that underneath the holiday joy and excitement runs a current of stress and fear about finding a job within the next year. You do your best not to show it, but I can tell that worries about our family's finances and future are always on your mind.

    If I had the power and ability, the gift I would most love to give you this Christmas is peace about the future and certainty that a job lies on the horizon. In spite of the economy and the job market in the collegiate world, I would love to be able to declare to you that by this next time next year, you will

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  • Parenting Guru: Learning from My Mistakes in the Toy Room


    This is how our toy room looked about month ago. Then I got absolutely fed up. Knowing that everyone would whine and complain if I asked them to help me clean everything up, I cleaned it all up myself. Within two days, it went right back to looking like this.

    Never again.
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  • Talking to Kids About Death

    Granny, before she passedNearly two years ago, "Granny," my husband's grandmother passed away. We knew the end was near for her, and, frankly, we were glad that she passed as quickly as she did with no painful complications. As much as I miss her, I am so thankful that the timing was perfect and that she was surrounded by those who love her.

    Unfortunately, our family was unable to be included in the gathering around her at the time of our passing. We told the kids what was happening, as she began to fail, in order to give them plenty of time to prepare themselves for her absence.

    The night she passed, I answered the phone, then handed it to my husband and went back to sit with the kids at the dinner table. They were joking and laughing about something, and I hated to interrupt their joy with my sad news. I waited for a break in the conversation, and then I said, "Granny is in heaven now."

    My seven-year-old asked, "Did she die?" I nodded. She took some time to take in that information. My four-year-old

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  • Parenting Guru: 4 lessons I've learned from my toddler

    I have four kids, so it often feels like I rarely have time to focus on just one, or even myself for that matter. This fall, since my three oldest kids are now in school, I have a little extra time.

    Or so one would think.

    Somehow my toddler is managing to take up as much of my attention as the other three do all together. Instead of focusing my attention on all that isn't getting done with the help of my eighteen-month-old, I'm choosing to focus on the valuable lessons she is teaching me in these moments we share together.

    Lesson #1: Set small goals. When I was getting ready for the school year to start, I was so excited about all the housework I would be able to accomplish while the big three were away at school. Now I'm learning that getting even one thing done on my "to-do" list is a really big accomplishment. When I get up in the morning these days, I try to pick one small thing that I hope to get done that day. Bonus for me if I pick something that my daughter can actually help

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  • Parenting Guru: At Halloween, I've given up doing it "my way"

    This is a picture from Halloween, 2010. What you see is the hodge-podge of costumes (or not) that my kids put together based on what they really wanted.

    My baby, of course, had no say in the matter. She got dressed as an elephant simply because that was the costume someone gave us that fit her at the time. The bonus for me was that her costume kept her nice and warm during our frosty Halloween celebration.

    My son was happy to find the Spider-Man costume in his size at the thrift store. The fact that we had no mask to go with it didn't bother him at the time. He was happy to wear a homemade paper mask along with the suit.

    My next oldest daughter, kneeling in the back, had several decent costume options to choose from. At the thrift store, she had found a Barbie veterinarian costume. Somehow by the tenth time of trying to explain that she was going to be a Barbie veterinarian for Halloween without having a good explanation for her choice seemed to take the luster away from her

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  • Help! My nine-year-old has a job...

    Throughout my daughter's nine years, we have tried different allowance policies. Somehow either we parents couldn't remember to follow through and pay her, or she couldn't follow through with her chores. We finally decided that, until she was older, we would just pay for her clothes and other needs, with an occasional special "treat" thrown in.

    I knew that we weren't really giving her an opportunity to learn about money. At this point in time, we have little in the way of finances ourselves because my husband is a student. All of our kids know that we don't have much money, and many of the things that they want to have (a dog, a Disney vacation, a new car, etc.) need to wait until "Daddy gets a job." I'm pretty sure that this is not a great way to teach kids about money either.

    To my daughter's delight, she recently worked out a situation with our upstairs neighbors. She would clean up each day after their three dogs, and they would pay her $5 a week. While this isn't a huge amount

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  • Parenting Guru: My top five tips for surviving a week at the beach with kids

    As soon as the kids finished school back in June, we hopped in the car for a week-long vacation on the gulf coast. Now we are getting ready to spend another week on the shores of Lake Michigan, which we have done every summer for the past 4 years. Thankfully, since we have done this so often, planning and packing are not nearly as stressful they used to be.

    My first trip felt like a lot more work than vacation. Now that I know better what to expect, I can actually look forward to our time at the beach. These are my top tips for making a beach vacation a true vacation...

    Tip #1 - Pack light. As soon as the kids get up in the morning, they can't wait to get to the water. We usually change right from pajamas into our swimming suits. By the time we are done at the water, the kids are just as happy to put on their pajamas again. When we go to the beach for week, I only pack a few outfits for each kid since I know that most of our time will be spent in swimsuits and pajamas. This means,

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  • Parenting Guru: Chicago is our family's kind of town

    Chicago SkylineChicago SkylineOur family just returned from a family vacation to the gulf coast in Alabama. We had such a wonderful and relaxing time with extended family. The weather was ideal and the swimming was wonderful; one would think that we would hate to leave.

    No matter how sad we feel about leaving family, every time we drive into Chicago, and we see the awe-inspiring skyline, we remember how much we love living in Chicago.

    This time as we drove into the city, we started making our family's summer "to-do" list. The problem for us was not figuring what we can do around here, it is trying to figure out how to make time for all the things we are excited to do.

    For a long time we have wanted to ride the 150-foot Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. What our kids do not realize is that both of their parents are scared to death of heights. Plus, we are not quite sure we trust the kids to stay seated and safe that high up in the sky. I'm not sure how much longer we can keep coming up with excuses not to ride the

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  • Parenting Guru: How working at summer camp changed my life

    When (it seemed like) everyone else in college was working at summer camp, I was working hard to earn more money at one of the most boring jobs in the world. When I discovered I had a full scholarship to graduate school, I decided to take advantage of my financial freedom to participate in the (enviable) role of camp counselor.

    I ended up spending four summers at that summer camp, and I would not trade that experience for any other that I have had. Don't get me wrong--it was one of the most grueling and most demanding jobs I have had, but it was also one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as well.

    I didn't have a good summer camp experience when I was growing up, so I underestimated the impact that a week of camp can have on a child. Spending that concentrated amount of time with a group of six to eight kids offers phenomenal moments to speak into their lives and offer them support, encouragement and praise that many of them do not receive elsewhere.

    Spending an entire

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  • I'd rather drive a MINI-Cooper...

    When we were expecting our first baby, we decided it was time to act like adults and actually purchase a new car, instead of waiting to get someone's cast-off. We researched and planned and shopped around before settling on a Mazda Protege.

    For three years, this was a great little car for a family of three. With the birth of our second child, we had to be creative with packing. Two kids fit easily in the backseat, but the small trunk space meant carefully loading only the barest essentials when we traveled to visit family.

    Then our third child arrived. Everyone told us we needed to purchase a bigger vehicle. At that time, we knew my husband was going to be going back to school and money was going to be more than tight. The last thing we needed was to add a car payment to our financial situation. Miraculously, we were able to fit a booster seat, a car seat and a baby carrier into the backseat of our Protege. With some Houdini-like contortions, the girls even learned how to buckle

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