Should I get a dog for my kids to learn responsibility?


This question came in over the weekend and I have a few thoughts for our readers. NO- you should never get a pet for your kids to learn responsibility. YES- they can learn responsibility having to take care of a pet but as a family you must first really want that pet. A dog needs loving, walks, food, vet care and approximate annual care for a dog is $1270 and a cat is about $1000.   If your family is all- in then it is a great way to learn how to take care of someone else.

As I found out- if you own a dog be prepared to take care of it. I also advocate for adoption vs. puppies at the pet store or breeder. We went to Animal House Shelter to find our dog, Snickers, in October of 2016. She is a medium sized dog, about 50lbs but due to her anxiety issues her annual care is more than average. She requires socialization with dogs and people so she attends Doggie Playhouse’s Doggie Daycare once a week in order to become a better more socialized dog. This adds approximately $1500 a year in annual cost- that is a LOT of money to extend. I never sent my kids to daycare and yet I send my dog! Plus if you are a traveling family you have to add boarding into the mix. I use Doggie Daycare’s boarding as well because it’s crate and run free and she’s happy there. It’s $45/night so if you are gone for 10 nights- then yup- $450.00 another big expense.

Dogs and cats require veterinary care and food. I always recommend spending more money on quality food because that equates to less money on vet bills and a longer living and healthier pet. We personally buy Taste of the Wild Dog Food which lasts Snickers about 6 weeks at a cost of $48.99 a month. We either buy it off Amazon or Chewy online and it’s a fast and easy way to ensure we have healthy food on hand that is of good quality.

I also love Dinovite because it helps keep your dog and cat’s gut in balance. Snickers came to us with pink, raw and chewed on paws. We spent several hundred dollars at the vet bandaging them and putting salves on them and low and behold by googling a few things we learned it was a yeast infection on the pads of her feet and in between the folds. She chewed on her feet because they itched. Thirty days into Dinovite and her paws are no longer raw and she stopped chewing them. It costs about $45 every 60 days for that but worth every penny and a huge savings on her vet bill.

I also recommend- more food in the bowl and less treats unless you are buying high quality treats. Be sure to find out what weight your dog/cat should maintain and see how much food they need to keep that healthy weight. Dogs need to eat more as puppies. Snickers turned 2 and she suddenly wasn’t as hungry and that is totally normal so we cut back and she’s now on about 1 1/2 cups of dog food a day plus a few Chicken Jerky Treats.

Speaking of responsibility if you do decide to get a dog it’s a good idea to assign a dog/cat caretaker for each day. So if you are assigned you know it’s your job to change the cat litter or walk the dog or feed the dog/cat. It’s important that chores are a way to earn trust in the family and to become a team player. We have never paid our kids to do chores nor will we- we do however establish the “Team” mentality. We are all members of a team so if one of us is on the Disabled List (sick, away from home etc) the rest of the team needs to pitch in. Being responsible is a mindset from taking in the mail to washing the dishes or cleaning a bathroom- if you take the team approach- you divide and conquer. I advise this in any situation be it a pet, keeping the house clean and organized and yard work.

So get a pet if you the parent wants a pet and if your kids chip in then it’s a bonus but otherwise know (like I found out) that your dog might have to pee at 4am and it will be YOU not your child taking them out at night.

To Birthday Party or Not to Party?


When the kids were little we had Birthday parties. We’d send out the 24 invitations to school and we’d have a smattering of kids. We’d do games, and give out goodie bags and when they got sick of house parties we had them at those game zones, or Sports clubs. It was upwards of $280 to reserve our space, party room etc. Plus you had to add on cake, and juice boxes, and pizza and also goodie bags. It was a huge expense.

When we moved from Massachusetts to IL we had a 7, 8 and 10 year old. They were still at Birthday party ages but what to do? Thankfully we moved after the boys 7th and 10th birthdays and they always had combined parties because there birthdays are both in mid to late August. So the next Birthday we had coming up was Meghan and she was turning 9. Without new friends to invite- being homeschooled and no longer sending in 24 invites- we opted for a small home-party. She has a December birthday which always robs her anyway. There was a year that even after sending out the 24 invites to school- nobody RSVP’d and 2 kids showed up. It was awful and she felt the pang of sadness over it.

Well the home birthday small thing worked that year for her and one big gift since we didn’t have to spend a fortune on a party. That was the kids gifts in years prior- we always told them that their gift was the fancy party. So that following August we took the boys to the Red Sox game against the White Sox here in Chicago. It was fun- it wasn’t superbly expensive and it was special. We have continued to do special events just for them. My daughter might want a sleep over with 2 good friends this December and I’m all for it or whatever she opts to do. I’m actually considering getting tickets for Hamilton. I asked the boys if they’d want to go and they said NOPE which as much as it was disappointing to learn this I realized I’d save about $500 if they chose not to go so there’s that! Whatever we do it will be special and be meaningful for them.

Do we ever regret not having a party? Maybe. This past August my youngest gave his brother “laser tag” as a gift. So one night we called up several of his friends and asked if they were free to go play and we got in the car for Cole and Meghan to take Quinn to play laser tag and all of a sudden our van stops at one of his friends house and then another and Quinn’s like “What is going on??” and he was so happy- Laser Tag and Culver’s Custard after and it was like a mini-party without all the work, hassle and cost.

So- it’s up to you and your family if you want to do Birthday parties or not but what I do want to share is you should make the Birthday child feel special and feel like it’s a pretty amazing day. If you have a December birthday like Meghan does and you want to have a big party – I’d suggest having a 1/2 birthday party and celebrating in June. That will allow more folks to be able to attend or have it early in November or late in January because quite frankly people will not show up on a Saturday in December for a party when there are so many family obligations during the holidays.

So have a GREAT BIRTHDAY everyone- have fun! I’ve got a December one to plan and I think I’d better get on it- especially if I want to score Hamilton tickets!

* and if you want some professional advice – I always go to and find answers there.

Why I love White Vinegar


I love White Vinegar. I use it for all types of household cleaning. I use it to clean my windows, mirrors and counter tops. It kills a lot of germs and is biodegradable. I also use it in my laundry to brighten whites and colors and as a replacement for smelly and carcinogenic fabric softeners. There are so many amazing uses for white vinegar.

I first discovered white vinegar when my youngest was born. He was put into a hospital onesie and his skin that came in contact with the onesie peeled off. The pediatrician came in and said “Wow he’s really sensitive. I suggest you do not use bleach in the home. Instead try white vinegar and replace it for bleach.” I was so surprised but not really. I never liked swimming in a chlorinated pool because my skin would itch and peel after. Now I knew why.

White Vinegar can freshen you fridge, mixed with baking soda it can bubble up and be used as an alternative for a bleach type cleaning scrub. It can clean stoves, countertops, and shower stalls. If you do not like the vinegar smell simply add a few drops of lemon or orange oil into the vinegar and put it in a spray bottle. You’ll never realize you are using vinegar to clean. I love the lemony smell and how streak free all of my house is. Mirrors never looked better!

Give White Vinegar a try! And if you like White Vinegar for your household needs give Apple Cider Vinegar a try for your whole health. It’s quite amazing too.

Extracurriculars- how much is too much?


With 3 kids ages 11, 12, and 14 – we are knee deep in after school and evening activities. I was going to limit each kid to one activity a season but it’s just not possible in today’s world and quite frankly if you are not in a bunch of activities you do not have as many friends or chances to meet people because the days of playing in the yard, in the neighborhood and on the street are gone.

Our oldest is a Freshman in high school and as long as he can manage his grades I didn’t give him any advice except to say “Join a few clubs, it’ll be fun!” and So he did. On his own he knew that Monday nights was Scouts, so he joined Tuesday afternoon Gaming Club and Wednesday afternoon Scholastic Bowl and early Thursday’s Political Action Club. Fridays – he kept free to go to Football games or just hanging out at home. This schedule works for him and our family. It’s all inclusive to the school. He has competitions for Scholastic Bowl and weekend activities for Scouts but none of that interferes with each other and it’s not every weekend. Wednesday nights he does participate in Fencing and that is a great physical activity and a great night with friends as well. With RE on Sundays at church he’s got a full schedule.
My middle child- daughter- is in 7th grade. She joined Art Club and she does Fencing too. She has Violin lessons after school and she also has Occupational Therapy every Monday afternoon. She seems happy with her schedule and it was self imposed as well. She purposefully didn’t do a ton of activities because for her the transition from homeschooling to public school was a huge change and the workload is a lot for her. She likes to finish everything and has a hard time with math so homework time carved out daily is a must. It’s interesting to me that she has more homework than my oldest who is in all honors classes. Although he does have a 1 hour study hall each day so maybe take that and add another 90 min of homework a night and they perhaps do have the same amount.

Our youngest is in Scouts and that’s it. I know he wants to do more but he hasn’t found his niche yet. He is making new friends and having them over. He’s handling things well at school but there weren’t any clubs he was interested in and not that many offered. I am thinking that once Scouts picks up and he begins camping he’ll be very busy.

So how much is too much? I think that unintentionally we raised our kids to be busy but also to self-regulate their time. My oldest likes down time so he made sure he’s got some time to himself each and every day. My middle loves friends but she loves drawing more so she carves out time to have a friend over about once a week and drawing- 2 – 3 hrs a day is a must for her. It’s great because that’s her passion and I admire her for sticking to it and becoming a great artist. (Shhh…I just may have printed her art work onto pillow cases and canvas’s and 8×10 prints that I plan to frame- that will be her Birthday or Christmas presents- this is the December birthday girl so it’s hard- she’s gotta get some groovy stuff for her Birthday!)

I would say my advice to you is let your children be your guide. When our kids were younger and we homeschooled (Did that for 5 years- last year being our last) we offered them the local park district classes. They opted to do dance, and acting, and a drawing class here and there. We discovered a neat pottery place and my daughter enjoyed taking a year’s worth of classes there too. We had a homeschool meet-up every Friday and we met up with friends on occasion. We were not super busy. We spent probably 3 hrs a day on school, and then visited the library. We enjoyed fun library programs when they were offered and we went to museums etc. but we were not superbly busy. I think this gave the kids a grounded sense of control over their social/activity life.

If your kid is new to after school activities I’d say start out small. Kindergarten (when my kids were in school) we opted for 1 fall sport and 1 winter activity and 1 spring sport or activity. It was enough for me especially because by the time my 3rd kid was in Kindergarten it was like every Saturday was either spent on the baseball/softball field or the soccer field. I did not enjoy those days (not a sporty mom and I hate the sun- being in the sun- I do love sunny days though). Now that they are more self sufficient and can walk home from school I feel like they need to have the reigns and lead their own way. If it becomes to much and we see grades suffer or their mood change we’ll talk to them but for now we are letting them find their way and I think they are doing a mighty fine job of it. So get involved it’s fun!

get involved.jpeg

Healing can happen

Healing is an important part of adulthood. (trigger warning) We must overcome adversity and move beyond the pains of our teen years. I think it’s time to get rid of the shame for what some of us have done to ourselves in the past and hopefully we aren’t doing it anymore but if you are self-harming, or not eating, or whatever it is you might be doing please read. You are never alone.

I grew up like anyone else. I was a bit awkward- never popular- and I dealt with some trauma. As a 10 year old I was sexually abused and I did not tell anyone instead I began to reduce my food intake at age 13 and I truly had no idea what it was I was doing. I was not diagnosed with anorexia but I can tell you I went from 145 pound 5’6 to a skinny 111 pound girl. I would exercise constantly. I would drink skim milk til it was going out of style- I felt full and that was all that matter. I didn’t have an ounce of fat on me in the fall of 1986. By November I was hospitalized for threatening to kill myself and they forced me to eat there and I began the long road to recovery.   The Anorexia Workbook is a book that might prove useful if you suffer from Anorexia.

There are many ways to  to self harm. Self Injury is a real thing. I personally do not think I did that. I never cut myself but I was self injuring by not eating and I recall I used to peel my toe-nails off as a small child when I was upset. I know it hurt so I guess that was a form of self injury. What I read about now is kids/teens/young women who are using small knives or razors and carving into their bodies to express how much pain they are in. If you self- injure , you are not alone but please do get help. This book on Self Injury can help.

Whatever it is that you do to yourself or whatever reason you feel shame or unhappiness in your life know you are not alone. Talk to someone, get help. Call someone. It’s never too late to heal from the troubles in our childhoods and it’s amazing where the world can take us when we are healed.  Moving on doesn’t mean you forget the pain of the past but it does mean you are healing and giving yourself the opportunity to live.


Find some helpful resources here.

How to Survive Flu Season

flu season

Nobody wants the stomach flu but if it hits- you’d best be ready. Stainless Steel Bowls – YES- they are the safest place to puke in and you can sanitize them in your dishwasher post-use. Amazing and I have a stash. Next you want to ensure you have a good brand of Probiotics on hand. Taking them daily helps promote good gut health and growth of healthy bacteria. I double up on them when I have the stomach flu. I also take Oregano Oil soft gels when I am sick and often all flu season long. Oregano oil is a natural anti-biotic and germ fighter. 

If you get the traditional head-cold flu- then my go to is Oscillococcinum .  It’s a homeopathic flu medication and for us it worked better than when we were given Tami-flu. Drinking plenty of fluids, steering away from dairy so it doesn’t create more mucus. Sleep, rest, and a good cup of chicken noodle soup is my go to for the flu.

I am a homeopathic follower but I also value and use traditional medicine too. I get the flue shot annually and every 5 years I personally get the pneumonia vaccine (I used to get pneumonia annually) and I see my doctor for my annual physical exams. I am a new Chiropractic patient and am excited and look forward to newfound flexibility. I think we should utilize the resources we have around us- what nature has provided to us for hundreds of years. I believe that homeopathic remedies are an option for me and I use them as needed. I have seen them work for myself, my husband and my kids.*

See what nature can do for you and what you can learn about yourself. Meditation can help our bodies stay healthy and connect us with our minds. Reducing our stress can help us live better and healthier lives. I’ll never forget when my primary care doctor asked me “So what are you doing to ensure your stress is reduced?” I was shocked. She wasn’t trying to just treat my cold or my toenail that had gone funky- instead she was asking about how I could help myself feel better. Since then I have done a lot of research. I tried to meditate and for me – it wasn’t a huge success but what I did find was that if I listened to music and just sort of zoned out it was like a mini-mind-clearing for me. It was my form of meditation. I was consumed by the music, my body would relax and I would practice mindful breathing.

You have to find what works for you. But keep in mind especially during flu season to stay as calm and relaxed as possible. Get enough sleep, eat well and steer clear of germs as best you can and don’t forget that chicken soup too. It always makes me feel better to drink a cup of herbal tea with lemon and honey or a cup of soup. Let’s all have a healthy winter. I know I want to stay healthy and feel good too.

*Please note any and all information and advice provided is not from a medical professional. Use at your own risk and talk to your doctor before taking anything or changing your lifestyle. Advice from Allie is not responsible for any advice you choose to follow.

Kindess Matters

No matter what you do each day – please remember to be kind. You may not see the real reason why someone has a handicapped plate- so don’t judge someone who runs out of their car and “appears” fine. I found out recently that a church friend had a handicap placard because it saved her energy for real life vs. running in and out of stores. It allowed to her to be able to walk with her husband (down the driveway) or walk her stairs at home. If she got tuckered out just walking into a store she would have trouble in the store. MS is what she has going on, so don’t judge if you see someone who doesn’t appear to have a disability. Be kind because Kindness Matters.


Smile- kindness often begins with a smile.  It’s important to remember that how you interact with others can often change your and the other person’s day. A smile given can become a smile received. You may have just smiled at a woman who lost her job, or a man who lost his dog, or a kid whose parents are mad at them. You never know how a life can be changed with as simple a gesture as a smile.

Boy Scouts has taught me to do one thing- “A good turn daily.” and I take it seriously- I look for things to do. Put back a cart in the parking lot. Open a door for the senior citizen walking into the store, carrying bags for someone or offering a neighbor a ride home on a cold brisk day. I try to do one good thing a day and if I can do more great- but try and be kind and remember that being kind matters.


We can do anything


So recently the Boy Scouts of America has voted to include girls in Boy Scouts. (hmmm will they change their name to “Scouting USA” or “Scouts” or ? ) No matter what I have a girl who would LOVE to be in Boy Scouts with her 2 brothers. WHY? you ask- because she wants to learn all the amazing skills that Boy Scouts has to offer. She’s happy that finally the BSA has decided to include the entire family into their organization.

Meghan has always tagged along with her brothers to Scout activities. In Cub Scouts she was really like any other Cub Scout except she could not get recognized.  When her brothers joined Boy Scouts she even asked if she could join too. Of course the answer was no and she didn’t think that was very fair at all. Shortly after joining her brother told her that Troop 209 Palatine started a co-ed Venturing crew and Meghan laid her sites on joining that in December of 2018 when she turns 14. (Venturing crews are co-ed and are for ages 14 +)

Meghan first became interested in joining Boy Scouts when her older brother, Quinn, went off to Camp Napowan. When he returned she said “WHY does he get to go to a fun summer camp? Why does he get to camp in a tent? Why can he learn first aid and all these amazing skills and I can’t?” There were no easy answers. I hoped that eventually someday Boy Scouts would also be co-ed just like most of the World Scouting organizations around the globe.  Girls and Boys have been involved in World Scouting as early as 1910 when Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes Baden-Powell introduced the Girl Guides. 

The BSA wanting to include girls is a welcome decision in our house. Meghan in just the short time it’s been announced already has her Eagle project idea and is beginning the process of organizing her ideas and putting together a presentation. She realizes her earliest hopes of becoming a Boy Scout will be January 2019 (or whenever the month in 2019 that they decide to open it up to girls). She will have to swiftly rank up from Scout, to Tenderfoot, 2nd and 1st class in order to have enough time to get to Life and then of course Eagle. I’m not sure the program will remain the same or not- there is a chart which you can find here to learn more. What is apparent in the chart is that there will be a separate “Girl Unit” and perhaps a separate program for girls but it’s unclear at this time.

What I do know is it’s a welcome change. Meghan is 12 yrs old and patiently waiting to join the Co-Ed Troop 209 Venturing Crew. She hopes that her year in Venturing prior to 2019 (when BSA welcomes girls into Boy Scouts) will give her time to learn many of the needed skills for Boy Scouts. So the Gillies family welcomes the change. What will it mean for Troop 209? I do not know? Who will lead the girls? I do not know? Will the Troop be allowed to be co-ed? I do not know but no matter what- in my opinion it’s a good thing for girls of all ages.

Scouting  Magazine’s Article on Girls Joining Boy Scouts of America


Race- and why it matters

I grew up in a very white community in Massachusetts- where kids were bused in from Boston to add some diveristy- supposedly to help those kids but I don’t think it did much for any of us.
What I do know is that I was very conflicted. I wanted diversity and I did not know where to find it. So when I went to college I studied Anthropology and African American Studies. It was interesting. For the first time in my 1st African American Studies class I was singled out “What? Are you the token white chic? Who made you come here? Why are you here!?”
It was the weirdest thing and then I realized- I am the only white person in the room. From the professor to all the students in our small 24 person class I was the only white person. WHY? I let them know that I grew up in a white town and I wanted to understand.
It was the first time I’d been singled out for being white and I began to understand slowly that this was an every day, every hour occurrence for my black classmates. We attended Northeastern University in Boston and although it’s a large school 47.6% of the student body is white and the smallest population not even given a # on the pie chart are Blacks/African Americans.
I learned so much those 2 years I was at Northeastern (I had done my Associates at a local community college). Had I not met my husband and moved I think I would have pursued my PH.D and tried to understand more.

What I chose to do instead was teach our children that race didn’t matter and that they should see people for people. The unfortunate reality is that race does matter to a lot of people and the prejudices in this country still exist and are fiercely ingrained in our communities. I did not fully appreciate until our last President was elected. It showed the ugly side of our small Midwest area and I was shocked to realize how many people referred to the low income Mexican Americans as “spics” or “those people.” I was horrified. I realize that I needed to do more.

But what do we do? First we educate ourselves and we teach our children diversity and tolerance. Our children can change the world. I never know who my kids will bring home for friends. I do not care if they are Black or White or Latino or any race. I want kind people in my home, funny people, sweet people. So far my kids have delivered. From my daughter’s first Black friend, Henry, when she was in 3rd grade to her current gaggle of friends. We purposefully moved to an area of town that had diversity. I do wish in our little neighborhood that there was more diversity but we had to buy where we felt at home. Our street has old and young, Japanese families, and some Korean. The neighboring apartments have a lovely Iranian family as well as other cultures. I am happy that the “vanilla” town I used to live in is long gone and that my kids have friends of all races.

If you want to change things in this country you have to be willing to put yourself out there. You have to join community groups that are diverse. We joined Troop 209 in Palatine and it’s a great Boy Scout Troop. There are varied religions and varied races and varied ethnic backgrounds. It’s an awesome tribute to the area we live in and provides a real sense of what makes the world beautiful- differences.
I do not know what I can do but what I do is continue to try and learn so when we were offered to go to a local Mosque to visit we went. Cole and Meghan joined me at the visit and we learned the local customs and learned about Islam and it was very educational and opened up my eyes to a religion I truly knew nothing about. There is nothing to fear about Islam. It’s like any religion- there are beliefs and traditions and like any religion there are religious extremists that give the religion a bad name. I was happy to learn more and what I learned was that it’s okay to ask questions.
People that are ostracized due to their race or religion do not mind innocent and politely asked questions. Once they realize you are asking to learn more and to be more tolerant and to understand and especially if you have your kids with you – trust me – ask your questions. I learned how to put on a Hijab and how to properly wear it. I learned that Muslim women do not wear their Hijab’s around other women or their family. It was very eye-opening to me. I found out that Muslim women are not 2nd class citizens and that in fact they have had more rights than American women for years. They were voting before we were, they were given the right to own property before American women were. I misunderstood the dress code to mean they were subservient to the men but in fact they are leaders in their family and in their community. It was truly a life-changing moment for me. I will never underestimate someone’s culture again.
So take a moment and learn more. Join a discussion group at church or join a diverse group in your community or be bold and crazy and just MOVE and get out of your comfort zone and move into a diverse and culturally alive area. Indian food is amazing and Indian people are so hospitable. Mexican food is really good too and boy is the family unit in Mexico super important. I have seen more girls celebrating their Quinceneara in Chicago than anywhere else I have lived. So take a moment today to think about your biases , your prejudices and your views.
Maybe- just maybe you do not know the people you judge. Maybe just maybe you need to expand your world view. Minimally only talk about things you truly know about and learn about everything and everyone else. Make a new friend who is not of our race or culture and learn about them. I bet you’ll be surprised to find out that we are all the same. We all love our families. We all love to cook and eat our families traditional foods. We are all human and we all have hearts and lives and jobs and families and communities. I just found this book,Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (National Book Award Winner), on Amazon and I am buying it. I hope I can learn even more and share it with my kids. I want racism to stop today and I want my children to help make the world a better place.



Making friends is not always easy for people. I have 1 super shy kid, 1 hesitant kid and one super social kid (she’s having a friend sleepover at the moment). My oldest just went off to high school after being homeschooled for 5 years and he’s my really shy kid. He feels like a friend is someone you have gotten to know over time and have had over your house. Convincing him that the people he smiles at and talks to at events, social clubs, or classes are also his friends boggles his mind. “I have no friends!” he says. WHAT?? So last weekend we went off to Scholastic Bowl Competition. We had no idea no other parents went to these things. So we were there- waiting in the hallway for the round to end and we peeked in the window- Quinn was engaged and really into it. When the group broke up he was chatting with HUMANS and they were laughing and smiling and he saw us- pulled the typical- MY PARENTS ARE HERE and I’m EMBARASSED thing, nodded at us and moved down the hall chatting with his peers. “He has friends!” my husband exclaimed and I was like “Yeah he sure does.” And we chatted with him and he really didn’t think they were his friends. We had to explain that you meet people and you smile and you laugh and in high school or at work you are friends until you learn otherwise. If you jive with people that are friendly they are your friends. Mind you there are levels of friendship but for now I think he understands that he does indeed have friendly people he interacts with at school.

If you have trouble making friends I highly recommend the book,How to Make & Keep Friends. It’s a goofy book but it’s ideas and recommendations are good. It tells you to make eye contact and to say HELLO to people when you greet them. It sort of tells a person all the social norms we used to automatically know before we had a smart phone in our faces. Now for our oldest the smart phone has actually saved him on occasion. When nerves hit, he can sit at lunch and play a game, read an article or watch something. If you use it for a distraction or ways to cope I am okay with smart phones but I also wanted to always make sure Quinn knew how to cope with his anxiety. The first book we got on this was when he was in 5th grade and it was called What to Do When You Worry Too Much.  It was a great book that went over why we worry and coping strategies about how to overcome worry and anxiety. This book has stuck with him and he remembers to look at it on occasion if he needs a boost. We also took him to therapy at the end of 5th grade to help him build a “coping toolbox” so that he would have all the resources he needed at his disposal. I think that anxiety might run in families or has some genetic links. I am anxious (way too much) and his Dad has had episodes of anxiety so we know we have to be vigilant. It can really weigh you down if you don’t manage it well enough.

So what do you do to ensure your kids are social enough and out there enough and doing enough? I think you need to understand their personalities. My middle child, Meghan, is the one who asked to go back to school this year. She’s in 7th grade (I recall it was a brutal year socially for me) and she is loving it. I was so fearful. Will she have friends, people to sit with at lunch? Does she have people to sit with at lunch? Let’s just say that those people are amazing and she is inviting her lunch table to our house next Saturday night for a Halloween party. It helped that we were very active in our local park district before she began school. It helps that she knew an 8th grader who is at the school now and knew 2 younger girls walking into 7th grade. But the rest is all Meghan. She helped build her lunch table up with people that she met randomly or people that just needed a place to sit. A majority of the kids that sit with her are not even in her classes. They are friends she made on her own. This boggles her older brother’s mind. How does Meghan do it? First off- Meghan doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks of her (I kinda wish she did more so she’d comb her hair more often or be concerned about what she wears). Meghan could care less what the social norms are but what she is fiercely passionate about is fairness, equality and being nice. Those qualities have attracted others like herself to her lunch table and she is truly loving her new found social life at school.

Cole- is my youngest- and is having a decent time at school but still feels he is behind the 8-ball at finding friends. He’s made a great friend- who happens to be the son of one of the book club ladies- so it’s a bonus (nice mom, nice kid). He has interactions with other kids at school that he likes but so far just the one boy, Ben, has come to the house. I keep telling him that it’s one friend at a time that is important and that it will be so nice to have him in middle school. They could even walk together. Cole can walk to Ben’s house and they can meander to school together. It will be great and on bad weather days I can drive the boys (and Meghan). So life is good. It takes longer for some of us to establish friends but we are all capable.

I am a firm believer in having no more friends than fingers. I have many acquaintances but only a few friends. I can count on one hand my “lifers” the people that I have friended along the way who will be with me forever. My first one is my friend, Rachel, we met in Mommy group when our babies were just weeks old. She is my dear friend and we will always catch up via phone. She lives half way across the country now so we don’t see each other in person much but I think we are over-do for a girls’ weekend. The 2nd friend that I adore is my good friend, Julie- we let time pass as life has gotten busy- too busy as I didn’t even know she just had a baby (the last year we have let things lapse but NO MORE OF THAT!). She and I met when I was dating my husband and she and I just hit it off like nobody else I know. It’s always good to talk to her and to hear what she is up to. I have a few more and some amazing local gals that are my close friends as well. I am blessed to have a few girls I can count on but it’s not a huge gaggle of friends and I am okay with that.

I want friendships that can get ugly. I want friends who do not care if I showered or if my house is clean. I do not want to be judged. I’ll never forget a playdate back when the kids were little and I got judged for having pictures taped to the wall- “Your husband lets you do that? …and “WOW- you have a lot of stuff on your counters!” Well guess what ladies- I have 3 kids under age 3 and I am not going to stress about my walls or my counter tops. My house was not dirty but it was sure as heck not organized either. I only recently due to stress have cleaned up my act but it probably won’t last and my friends do not care. Those are my real friends. The friends that drop by with soup if you are sick, or call you and force you to go for a walk because they know you are down in the dumps, invite you over to have home-made scones or bring you chocolate or a muffin or a coffee just because. I sat with another good friend at McDonald’s the other day- yeah date night LOL- and we just sat and talked for hours. It’s not where you are, or what you do it’s who you are with and that is what real friends do. Heck I even went to Target with my good friend recently and it was just awesome. Desperate friends do that too LOL- so desperate to have friend time you do your household errands together.

So be sure to make a friend and if you just moved into town be sure to join something and smile at people. I made friends in Palatine, IL through Boy Scouts. My friends, are amazing and they are moms of some pretty amazing boys as well. I will keep my circle of friends small knowing that my friends are good enough to keep my heart full 365 days a year.