Handy Family Tips: How to Peel Avocado

Special peeler for avocadoI love avocado. Always have. And I am very happy that my kids love avocado as well. I love avocado, but do you know what I do not like? Waste, clutter and buying products that only fit one specific purpose (well, that is a kind of waste).

A few weeks ago, I spent a week running workshops at a conference in the north of the country. The conference organizers booked for me into a serviced apartment, because they thought I would be more comfortable making my own food. Since I worked most of the day, I hardly had time to cook for myself, but in the evening and at night, when I felt hungry, I could make myself simple, yet tasty, things to eat.

When I checked what was in the apartment’s kitchen drawers and the cupboards, it hit me that everything was so organized. I compared it to my own kitchen cupboards and drawers. Ouch! That hurt!

No, they did not have all the utensils I had at home, but I could manage with everything just fine.

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Happily Wealthy Family: No Flights Policy

clip_image004[4]_thumbMoney is very tight in many families. We want so many things for our kids and for our family that it seems like there is never enough. This week, I had sessions with many clients who wanted to improve their financial situation. One of them earned $50,000 a year and owed $42,000. One was a single mother who had spent all her savings on tutoring. Another one spent a fortune on supplements and health professionals, and all the rest told me variation of the same story: money is tight.

Every family may reach a point in life when there is just not enough money to survive the next month. It is inevitable that some life circumstance will change the flow of money that we count on to manage our daily life. If you go over your life and ask yourself when your supply of money was at risk or when it stopped entirely, you are likely to find that it happened a lot.

We were in this situation many times in our life. It happened when Gal’s company had a wave of redundancies, whenever his contract ended somewhere in the world and we had to move ourselves from one county to another (no income, lots of expenses), after September 11 2001, when Gal had cancer and took time to recover and when we had something big and special that ate into our savings, like going overseas to see our families. Every time we stopped working, our family was at risk of not having enough to pay the bills.

Saving for a rainy day was always our solution for those situations, but saving is never enough. Sometimes, a big wave comes along and wipes you out. Gal lost his job twice after we had bought a property. We are not fortunetellers.

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Mother: The Best Job in the World

Ronit Baras and the Be Happy in LIFE familyMother’s Day is just around the corner and many things happened to me in the last month that made me wonder about the hardest thing I have ever done, the most important thing and the best thing of all.

I have done a lot in my life. Luckily, although some things were incredibly challenging, my life has been very rewarding overall. I am the kind of person who goes to work and it does not feel like a work, more like serving a purpose. I am an educator in every cell of my body. I teach parents how to be the best they can be and how to raise happy kids by being happy themselves and I have changed the lives of thousands of children. Still, the best of all my talent, I have given to my own children: Eden, Tsoof and Noff. Being their mother always seems to bring out the best in me.

All this wondering started when one of my clients had a daughter. She had given up her career and the search for a partner and with her mother’s help, she had gone through the journey of having a child on her own. I saw a photo of them and it reminded me of the first day I met my daughter Eden, my happy thought. Her birth was the birth of many new feelings and since then, I have been a different person. A better one, I think.

Then, Gal was talking on Skype with a man who wanted to do business with him. I was working next to him when they had a very serious discussion about web developers. The other man talked about “them” as being a bunch of stupid people who could not see that working with him would make them part of a network similar to Facebook or the companies owned by Richard Branson. After a while, Gal felt uncomfortable with all the judgment and asked him, “Do you have kids?” The man hesitated and said, “No”. Gal tried to say to him politely that when people have children, they think twice before giving their time to someone they do not know in exchange for promises. This made me think about the feeling I had when Eden was born – pure joy and happiness, hope and excitement, mixed with a heavy burden of responsibility. Kids cannot be sent back to the manufacturer for a warranty replacement! You can only truly understand this when you have your first child.

Read the rest of my Mother’s Day post…

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Little girl enjoying a mirrorRaising kids with confidence has been my goal ever since I started studying education. It was funny to discover along the way that teaching my kids knowledge was not going to make them successful and happy in life. At first, I was a bit disappointed to discover this, but as I have chosen to focus on the role of the most important agents – parents and teachers – in raising happy, confident, successful, healthy and friendly kids, I kept searching for ways that work.

I have 3 kids of my own and they are everything a parent can dream of. They are “the full package”. One of my friends told me that if she did not know them, she would think I was making them up. Almost every person who meets my kids asks us, “How did you do it?” Modestly, we say we were lucky, and we were. I am convinced that some things were just lucky, but no one wants to know about your luck, because luck is not something you can bring into your life. So these people say, “Come on, Ronit, tell us how you did it”.

I think I am using this parenting blog to say how I did it. As of today, there are 911 posts (is this a sign?) explaining how 3 kids in big differences in age, each born in a different place in the world, who each went through many changes in their life, can all be their parents’ bliss.

Today, I want to share with you a very easy trick to raise such kids. I call it “the mirror trick”.

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Kids’ Declaration of Independence: The Choice Muscle

Happy toddlersAs hard as it is for parents to imagine, one day, their baby is going to sign their own declaration, leave home and be independent. Kids strive for independence from the age of 1½ to 2 years old, when you try to dress them and they say, “No, no, me”, and keep trying to do things themselves.

Much like many countries around the world, kids can get their independence after war and “bloodshed” or after signing a “peace treaty” with the society around them. And much like the independence of countries is mainly the result of what their leaders do, with kids, it is a mainly the result of what their parents do.

Do you feel it is a heavy responsibility? Well, it is! But if you think deeply about it, you will find that power goes hand in hand with responsibility. Parents have lots of power in leading their kids to design their declaration of independence and sign it.

The confusion between chores and independence

If you talk to most parents (when they are calm), they will tell you that independence is very important. Yet when I ask them how if they teach independence, they talk about chores. My mom did the same. She said, “If you do the dishes from the age of 10, when you live in your own home, you will be able to do the dishes”. We told her, “No, Mom. If I wash the dishes from the age of 10, by the time I am grown up, I will hate and resent it so much I will avoid washing the dishes”.

Even though my mom did not think that fun and motivation had anything to do with the kind of grownups we would become, she still wanted us to be independent. I think that much like many other parents, she confused doing chores with independence.

Read more about how to raise independent kids

Handy Family Tips: Laundry day

Washing piled highUnless you are raising celebrities that wear underwear once and make money from selling them to the highest bidder and unless you have a maid that allows your kids to put their clothes in the laundry basket and find it all ironed in the closet, you are a normal parent who must do the dirty job of washing the laundry. Luckily for us, we do not have to do it by hand and we have washers, dryers and chemicals that make life easier, although I may not appreciate the luxury of it because I hate washing or, I should say, I hate the thought of washing.

I do not know why, but for years, I hated doing the laundry. When Eden was born, I was amazed how many clothes a tiny baby could change. When the kids started going to school, with the need to have their uniform clean for school, I hated it even more. I think I always had this feeling that I was constantly washing clothes. No, I did not have to do it by hand or spin the washing machine by hand, but it sure felt like it. If you hate laundry too, this tip is for you.

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Handy Family Tips: Make a Note

Sticky notesWhen I took a course in journalism, one of the tips in the course was to have a writing pad everywhere. Since I am a very good student, I did whatever they said. I had a writing pad in the car, in all my bags and even next to my bed. It is funny that only after you use a handy tip for a while, you realize how much you need it. Originally, this tip was meant to help me with my work, and it did, but I never thought it would be so beneficial for us as a family until I realized that the note pads I had put in so many places around the house were being used by all the members of my family.

With the very hectic and full lifestyle that we have today, remembering everything that needs to be done occupies a very important and limited space in our memory. If you ask parents to sit down and write the entire to-do list for the week, most of them could do it for 3 hours straight.

Of course, the more kids you have at home, the more memory space you need for your timetable and tasks. You need to remember the dates of rehearsals, what to bring to school, when to pay for the dance class, to call your sister, say happy birthday to your friend, coordinate an outing with your partner, get a babysitter, have enough money in your wallet/purse when you go to the market, to buy a gift for the party your daughter is invited to on the weekend, go over the spelling with your child before the exam, send the right uniform on the excursion day, change the pickup time, dentist appointment, add turmeric to the shopping list for the Moroccan dish planned for Friday and … the list is endless.

We have a good friend that says, “The opposite of forgetting is writing down”, but what happens when you need to remember something while you are driving or when you are in bed, ready to go to sleep?

Read more about how to be more organized

Parents Doing Business

Happy familyI had my first business at the age of 25. I finished my Special Education studies and opened an Early Childhood Center that became a very successful business within a short time. I was a mother and a wife and had a mortgage, a car and a personal loan for my business.

If you hear parents tell you that kids are an obstacle for them, I can tell you that having kids is a bad excuse for not doing business. When the kids grow up and leave the house, they will be left with their excuses. So when they have to explain why they have never done what they have always wanted to do, they will start saying, “It’s too late now”, which is just another excuse.

If you are thinking of starting a business and will need to juggle business and family, it is a good idea to discover what you will have to do to succeed at it. Some people are not cut out to own and operate a business. Others do not know how to balance a home and a business. Managing your business, your home and your parenting well requires some skills and attitudes that will determine the success of your business, the quality of your family life and even your health.

Unlike people who do not have kids, business parents risk a lot more than their own time and money. They risk their relationships with their partners and with their kids, as well as the quality of preparation their kids get for life. You go into business because you want a better life for your kids, not to destroy your relationship with your kids, so do it right!

Read more about how to be a good business parent

Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Gender

Girls in a theme park rideWe live in a society with many stereotypes regarding boys and girls, men and women. Unfortunately, I believe that these stereotypes are not good for our society and that they are a big obstacle to social justice.

I was a discriminated as a girl. I was one of four girls in a family with one son who was considered “the prince”. As funny as it may seem, he was considered the prince by my mom and not by my dad. The boys in the neighborhood did not want me to play soccer with them, until I took a group of girls with me to challenge them in a soccer match and we won. Once, when I wanted to learn ballet, my mom said no dance school would accept me because I was bruised all over from playing soccer and fighting with the boys on the street. I certainly did not live in a place with a lot of gender equity. There were things that boys did and things that girls did and I did not like it one bit.

When I designed my parenting bible, after studying about the psychological development of babies and our social gender trap, I made a decision (I think a brave decision) to raise my kids to respect the other gender and to think they are free to be whatever they want to be without being confined to what boys or girls are expected to do. Acceptance and freethinking starts from a very early age and I am very happy that my kids never talked about “boy germs” or “girl germs” and they are all proud and happy with their gender.

I have to say that I have learned from my dad many of my gender-related bible commandments. He was an awesome role model for social justice and gender equity. He cooked, cleaned, took care of us as babies and later on as kids, when my mom left home very early in the morning. My dad helped us with homework and was (still is) a very arty-crafty man who enjoyed doing woodwork, jewelry, cross-stitching and silk paintings and scarves. Whenever my mom gave my brother exemptions from cleaning, dishwashing or doing laundry, my dad always said my brother must do his fair share.

When I had time to think about gender equity, I used my dad as a role model and decided to add to my bible some do’s and don’ts that will help me raise kids who think their gender was not a way to be superior or inferior.

Read more about how to teach your children gender equality

Escape of the Rats

Man running in hamster wheelThe world today is a rich, technologically advanced, ever-changing, interesting, exciting, confusing, demanding, fast-paced, interconnected, stressful, cold, impersonal and sometimes abusive place. We live a different life from any other period. What does this mean?

To many of us, it means we feel trapped. We often hear or read the term “rat race” as a description for the way we live – like rats in somebody’s lab, running around, trying to find a way out or get to the reward at the end of a confusing and frightening maze. Trouble is we do not even know whose lab we are in and we feel helpless and out of control.

In his excellent book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell describes some fascinating events and research about how our environment affects our behavior and the behavior of those around us. Sometimes, it can drive a man to kill, but when managed well, it can lower the crime rate and improve the lives of many people. He calls this “The power of context”.

The book highlights some things that we can all use to regain control of our lives, improve the quality of our time on Earth and make the world a better place for our children and even for other people around us.

Read more about how to escape the rat race