Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Tater Tot goes to the beach!

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Sweet little Tater Tot went on her first vacation, and what a great vacation it was. We all left home around 2 p.m. Aunt Ry-dee rode with Tater to help keep her occupied during the long ride. They spent the majority of their time watching movies. We arrived in Daytona Beach at 4:30 a.m. After checking in at the hotel and opening up the doors between our adjoining rooms so Tater could roam back and forth, we headed down to the beach.

In the dark, the ocean sounds like a scary monster. The loud roar of the crashing waves frightened her, and she wanted no part of it. The sun started to make its way over the horizon, and she watched the sun rise over the Atlantic. The dolphins always appear at sunrise. She spotted a couple leaping out of the silvery water. Tater saw the birds skimming the water. She got her feet wet after she was able to see what was making all the noise. A crab came scurrying past her. It was time to grab breakfast, but she had to make a snowball out of sand before we left. In her first two hours at Daytona Beach, she watched the sun rise over the ocean, saw dolphins and a crab, watched birds skim the water for their breakfast, stuck her toes in the water, and played in the sand. How great is that?

Mama & Dada Tater and sweet Tater at sunrise

Our adopted son arrived, so we headed out for a bit. After grabbing a quick bite, we headed to Ponce Inlet to walk the boardwalk over the jetty. Uncle Cade grabbed a few seashells for her, and she saw a dead stingray down on the rocks. Surfers for Autism was holding an event, and she saw a surfer. She also saw someone parasailing in the distance. Tater waved at the people on the boats as they headed out of the inlet and out to sea. We hopped back in the cars and drove around through the park so she could see the lighthouse. It's the tallest one in Florida, but I don't think she was very impressed.

We headed back to the hotel to greet our extended family. Little Tater had not yet met her Uncle Cade, Uncle Lane, Aunt Savannah, and Miss Lori. She loved them all right away. They all headed down to the beach to play in the water while Gran (who had not slept in about 24 hours - #teamnosleep) grabbed a quick nap. Tater watched planes dragging banners across the sky and Uncle Lane surfing the waves on his boogie board. She had a great time. We were all sad to say goodbye to Lane, Savannah, and Lori at the end of the day. Her uncles, Caleb and Cade, decided to hit the mall, so the rest of us headed out to a thrift store and some souvenir shops. I scored an Aigner purse at the thrift store. How lucky is that? Two years in a row I have found Aigners at Daytona Beach. When the sun set, everyone but Gran and Pappy headed to the boardwalk to ride the rides and play games. They also caught the fireworks show over the ocean near the bandshell. (Every Saturday during the summer there are fireworks over the ocean and over the river.)

The entire group slept in on the second day. We were tired. We drove half the day and all night before spending a very busy day at the beach. Anyone who knows Florida knows it rains every day during rainy season. Most of the time it rains for (seriously) five minutes, and the heat and sun dry it up in no time. A rare cold front dipped down into central Florida, so the rain was going to stick around. Flash flooding was forecast. Not a problem. You head north or south to another beach. Since we have been both north and south, we already knew all the places to hit. A quick check of the radar showed the front staying over Daytona Beach and south of it, so we headed north up A1A. Yes! Tater got to ride up A1A (Beachfront Avenue!) 

She loved seeing the ocean alongside the road on the trip. We stopped at Marineland Beach in Flagler and rushed some family pics before the rain started. 

Tater at Marineland Beach

Mama & Dada and little Tater

Tater's family

The full bunch...with a distracted Tater and a wild-haired Gran

Once the rain started, we headed further north to Saint Augustine - the oldest city in the U.S. Mama Tater saw the pirate ship in the bay as we crossed the drawbridge over the Matanzas. One more trip over the Matanzas and we were headed to one of my favorite spots - Vilano Beach. Vilano Beach is situated on the inlet, so the waves get pretty big. Mama Tater was surprised by it. Vilano was always where we went to hunt seashells since the entire beach was covered in shells. Gran was saddened when she saw that Hurricane Matthew had destroyed its coastline and took much of it out to sea. There were still shells, and there were plenty of sea turtle nests along what was left of the beach. Tater managed to get a bag full of shells before we left.

Vilano Beach on our 2015 trip (Note the blue house in the far left corner)

The remaining Vilano Beach 2017 trip (And there is the blue house from the first pic)

Turtle nests on Vilano Beach

Uncle Caleb and Uncle Cade grabbed the skateboards out of the trunk and skated the strip like they normally do. We all met at the pier. 

Our normal pic at Vilano Pier, but Tater's first!

Mama Tater spotted a shell in the water, and she had Dada Tater climb under the pier to retrieve it. 

See? I wasn't kidding.

Tater saw the Saint Augustine Lighthouse across the bay and made friends with a cute pup on the pier.  

Saint Augustine lighthouse

Our quick lunch was gone, so it was time to head to one of our favorite restaurants - the 180 Vilano Grill. Tater tried calimari, and she likes it. (Gran never did care for it.)

Tater enjoyed 180 Vilano Grill.

I have to commend the staff at 180 Vilano Grill. When we first arrived, the lady gave Avery a plate of dough and told her to make five balls so she could bring her a surprise. They took the plate and brought out this after she was finished with her dinner. They took her dough balls and made donut holes, covered in powdered sugar and served with whipped cream and syrup. She was a happy Tater.

It was dark. There is an upside to being in Vilano after dark, and it is what makes it one of my favorite places. I always say it's like Route 66 meets beach town. The sidewalks are adorned with mosaic tile. The pier and the pavilion at the beach have turtle designs in mosaic tile. The buildings? They have their original neon, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I always hear the song "Life Is But a Dream" in my head, thanks to the movie Cars. Mama Tater said the same thing.

The rain had moved out by the time we made it back to Daytona Beach, so we all headed to the boardwalk. Mama Tater and Tater rode the kiddie rollercoaster. Pappy and Aunt Ry-dee rode the swinging pirate ship. Dada Tater, Uncle Cade, Uncle Caleb, and Pappy took turns throwing money away at a basketball game. Dada Tater ended up making a shot in the oval hoops and Tater nabbed a stuffed dog. Uncle Cade scored a red jalapeno pepper. We all worked on getting tickets to add to Tater's stash from the night before. She walked out of the arcade with a ton of items. Uncle Caleb and Uncle Cade stayed at the boardwalk while we headed back to the hotel. 

It rained between the hotel and boardwalk, but, as always in rainy season, it had stopped before we got to the hotel. We decided to take Avery out to hunt ghost crabs. She grabbed her bucket, and Pappy grabbed the flashlights. She was terrified when she first saw them scurrying toward her, but Pappy gave her a flashlight and she started hunting them down. She started telling everyone not to hurt the babies (the little ones). Tater would lean over the bucket and talk to them. They caught a bucket full. Two were pretty big and really angry. That didn't stop Dada Tater from picking some of them up with his bare hands. 

It was after 2 a.m. when we finally made it to bed. The next morning was tough for everyone - time to start making our way back home. Tater was very upset when Uncle Cade left to go home to Georgia. Mama and Dada Tater wanted to stop by the Daytona International Speedway before we left. She walked around with Uncle Caleb. She really needed uncle time after she said goodbye to Uncle Cade. She adores Uncle Caleb, so it cheered her up a bit. We pointed out the pace car, but she quickly informed us it was a police car because of its light bar. 

We hopped back in the cars and headed toward Jacksonville. There was no way we could go through there without going to Whataburger. Not one of us was ready to leave the beach, and we had talked about stopping somewhere in the gulf to play for an hour or two before we continued home. We were running late, and we wouldn't have time. Mama and Dada Tater decided to head to Jax Beach and play. They took Aunt Rylie with them, and they found a nice hotel on the beach and spent the night. Pappy, Gran, and Uncle Caleb headed toward home and ended up sitting still in five lanes of traffic when we hit Atlanta. We rushed the rest of the way home so they could make it to work at 5 a.m.

This was their view from their balcony. Mama and Dada Tater, Rylie, and Avery had a great time in Jacksonville.

Little Tater Tot's first trip to the beach was great, and she had a really good time. She keeps asking when we're going to the beach, and she asks Mama Tater if Dada Tater is at the beach when he goes to work. She still misses her Uncle Cade. Gran, Pappy, Uncle Caleb, and Aunt Rylie may return during Christmas break, but Tater's brother or sister is due not long after Christmas and they won't be able to make the trip with us. Hopefully they'll be ready to travel next summer. 

Wrapping it up, Tater loves being a beach bum. Mama and Dada Tater are pretty fond of it, too. They're ready to make the move when we are. 

Best Wishes,

Friday, July 07, 2017

I get knocked down, but I get up again.

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What do you do when your adult child makes a mistake? You help them get back up, let them dust off, and hope you taught them well enough to learn from their mistake. As a parent of an adult child, that’s as far as your job goes. It’s no longer your job to fix things for them. It’s important for them to learn how to ‘adult’ on their own. Help them get up off the ground when they fall, but let them stand on their own. That’s how you encourage a child to become an independent adult.

This isn’t easy to do. Your instinct is quite the opposite after taking care of them their entire life. It’s not easy, but it’s important. I know it’s hard, but we’re not doing them any favors if we run to the rescue every time they stumble. Fixing their problems promotes dependence, and that’s not the goal of parenting. We want them to learn to be responsible adults capable of handling whatever curve ball life throws at them.

Making mistakes is part of the transition process. Show me someone whose kid didn’t make a mistake during the teen years, and I’ll show you a lying parent. It’s not about keeping them from making mistakes; it’s about teaching them to assess and adjust. It’s about teaching them to correct their own course to meet their goals. It’s about teaching them independent thinking and problem-solving. The only thing you can do is hope they can figure out what happened, why it happened, and how to fix it.

One of my adult children recently took a fall. Smacked the ground pretty hard, really. We helped that child back up and stepped back. As a mother, you worry that your kid is going to keep making the mistake. You worry they’re going to totally screw up their future. You worry they’re going to do something that will affect them for the rest of their life. You worry. It’s what mothers do. My kid made a mistake. I had my say, and I backed off completely. You know what happened? My kid stood tall like a boss.

As a parent, when your kid makes a mistake you take it personal. You feel responsible. You wonder if you failed. You wonder where you went wrong. I did. I just wanted to sit in a dark room and bawl my eyes out for days. If that is where you are right now, let me tell you this: It’s not about whether your kid makes a mistake, because your kid will. It’s about how they handle the mistake. That’s where you see what they are made of, and you’ll likely be surprised.

Yes, you’re going to worry. Yes, you’re going to have self-doubt. Yes, you’re going to wonder if your kid is ready to take on the world. Sit back and watch. I did, and I saw everything I needed to know as a parent. I did my job, and I did it well. My kid knew how to handle the situation. My kid knew what needed to be done. My kid made a mistake, owned it, and adjusted course to ensure future success. I didn’t have to lecture. I didn’t have to be the overbearing parent. I just let my kid handle it, and I saw the kid was now an adult. It happened in a single moment, just like that. It was bittersweet. I was proud (even after such a mistake), but I was also sad. The kid was gone. An adult stood before me.

♫I get knocked down, but I get up again. 
You are never gonna keep me down.♫

You see, being an adult doesn’t mean avoiding making mistakes. It means learning from mistakes. It means owning mistakes rather than passing the blame. It means fixing mistakes. My adult child took ownership of a serious mistake. My adult child learned from the mistake. My adult child really learned, and I don’t think I ever have to worry about a recurrence. That’s what adults do, and that is what my adult child did.

Is it odd to say you’re proud when your adult child makes a mistake? Maybe it is, but I am proud - proud of how well a mistake was handled, without me. I’m not proud of the mistake. I’m proud of how it was handled. Isn’t that the best you can hope for? We raise our children to become independent adults. I haven’t failed at that.

My children are not perfect. No child is. They are perfectly flawed individuals with their own personality quirks and thought processes. They stumble, and they hop right back up and try it again. Sometimes they fall, and they still stand up and keep going. It’s not about the fall; it’s about the climb. I think I have equipped them with the right climbing gear to make a good go of it in this world.

Best Wishes, 

P.S. Ladies, this does not apply to the adult child also known as ‘husband.’ Feel free to act like an overbearing parent of a tween when needed. ;-)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Guiding Children to Success

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Parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever have, but the perks are great. Over the years, I have learned by trial and error. Here is how I helped set my children up for success.

1. Read to your children.

Start reading to your children as early as possible. I can’t say this enough. It helps build vocabulary in young children and encourages a love of reading. Reading is the foundation of education, and giving them a head start is a great way to start your child on a path to success.

2. Stress the importance of education.

Education is key. In my house, education is not an option. It is a requirement. Nothing short of high school graduation is acceptable, and my husband and I have stressed how important it is since our children were very small. As a result, my children have never thought of dropping out of high school. The graduation rate in our house will be 100% because our children expect no less of themselves. They don’t see it as optional. Make education a requirement.

3. Give your child responsibilities.

We buy each child their first car. They know insurance is a requirement, and this gives an opportunity to teach responsibility. Our children are taught that driving is a big responsibility, and they know they must get a job to have this privilege. After they find a job, they begin to pay a portion of the increase in insurance. It teaches them to be responsible, and it teaches them important life lessons about budgeting and paying bills. Give your child age appropriate responsibilities when they are little, and they’ll learn how to be a responsible adult.

4. Allow your child to learn consequences.

Don’t rush in to fix your child’s mistakes. Guide them toward a solution, but allow them to figure out solutions with as little interference as possible. Your child will learn there are consequences for their actions, and they will learn from their mistakes when they must correct them. It is important for children to make mistakes and learn from them. It gives them an opportunity to learn how to deal with things on their own, and it shows them they are responsible for the consequences of their actions. They begin to think about their actions and develop important life skills for adulthood.

5. Shield your children, if needed.

My father was disabled and suffered with chronic pain. When pain management failed him, he became an alcoholic and an addict. I loved my father. I took care of him for much of my youth. I saw addiction up close. When I had children, I knew they did not need to be exposed to his addictions. I did not want this to be something they considered normal. When my father died, my children barely knew him. It was necessary, and I don’t regret my decision. Hard choices have to be made to protect children. Be mindful of what your children are exposed to. If a child grows up in a home with an abusive parent, they think that is normal. It’s the same with everything else. Be mindful, and don’t allow unacceptable behavior to become normalized.

6. Encourage your children to consider options for college.

Our children have always been encouraged to consider their long-term goals. College talks began in middle school. While their career interests changed over the years, college became a part of their personal expectations. Starting these talks early gave them time to reflect and weigh their options. It allowed them to decide what was right for them. College is not right for every child, and that’s okay, but make sure they know they can go to college. Make it an available option.

7. Teach your children it is okay to fail or falter.

Children need to understand that it is okay to fail. They also need to learn that you can always pick yourself up and keep trying. My daughter was set to go to college after graduation. A new graduate who moved out and got her first taste of true freedom, she got pregnant over the summer. Now that her daughter is 2 1/2, she has started college and is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree. She understood it was okay to falter, because she had learned it was okay to fail. She knew she could still pursue her dream, and she is doing just that. She’s strong enough to weather a storm, because she was taught how to pick herself up and keep going. Teach your children it’s okay to fail, and they’ll be prepared to face whatever curveballs are thrown at them in life and keep going until they have accomplished their goals.

8. Spoil your children if you want.

It’s okay to spoil your children. Don’t let anyone tell you different. You just have to balance things. Teach them it’s fine to treat themselves after they have taken care of responsibilities. Reward them from time to time. It shows them there are things to look forward to in life, and it encourages them to strive for greater things beyond just existing. Use it to guide them down a path to success and motivate them to achieve their full potential. My son had a partial nephrectomy. He had seven surgeries in eight months, and he endured a lot of pain and suffering. His dad decided to buy him something he wanted - a BMW. He did not ask for the car. He doesn’t feel entitled because his life has been well-balanced. He feels invigorated for a long ride of pre-med and med school. Why? He wants to be able to afford nice things, and he has a plan to achieve his goal. Our children have been well-loved, and their dad loves spoiling them. They’re not brats. They have been taught balance, and they are motivated to do well so they can live well. It has provided so many teaching opportunities. They learned not to settle for less when they can work hard and achieve more.

9. Instill morals and values, and teach them to stick up for themselves.

Teach your children compassion. Teach them respect. And teach them it is okay to stand up for what they believe to be right, when needed. We raised our children to be polite, but we also taught them to stand up for themselves and others. My children are generally well-mannered, but assertive. They tend to do the right thing as they stick to the morals and values they were taught. However, they’ll never be doormats. We have taught our children that it is okay to question anyone when they feel they are wrong or being wronged. Be respectful, but it is okay to recognize the need to question the motives of your elders or speak out when something is not right. Children need to know from an early age that no adult has to be respected when they are wrong. Teach them morals and values, and teach them to recognize things that are not right. Encourage them to speak out. If someone approaches them in an inappropriate manner, they’re more likely to speak up and less likely to be victimized.

10. Give them great memories.

Have family traditions. Play silly games. Travel when you can. Just hang out as a family, even when they become teens. Make it a priority. We are all here for a short time, and once we’re gone there is nothing more than memories left behind. Give your children plenty of memories. Give them traditions to pass along to their own children. Give yourself memories to live on once your children are grown and gone. Cherish them. Time passes quickly. Make the most of it, and make it memorable.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Never Doubt Me

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This is not a complete portfolio of my work, but it shows I am exactly what I say I am.

Never doubt me.

I am paying the equivalent of 7 months of the typical SSI payment in taxes...just as I do every year.

I have 26 books available in 13 countries. Several of my books have been on the bestsellers lists in four countries, including the U.S. (Make that five. One moved onto the bestsellers list in the U.K., so now they have been on the bestsellers lists in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, and Japan.)

This is my author profile page on Amazon:

Here are links to each and every book I have published:

Published piece in Voices of Bipolar Disorder

Grown & Flown

Huffington Post

My bio page on HuffPo

Links to each article:

Interviews & Bios

Health Magazine


USA Today under pen name Amy Kingston (my byline confirms this) - 25 articles

San Francisco Gate under pen name Amy Kingston (byline confirms) - 159 articles

 under pen name Amy Kingston (confirmed by byline) under pen name Amy Kingston (confirmed by byline), formerly published on, under pen name Amy Kingston (confirmed by byline) under pen name Amy Kingston (confirmed by byline) under pen name Amy Kingston (confirmed by byline) under pen name Amy Kingston (confirmed by byline) under pen name Amy Kingston (confirmed by byline) - 10 articles

 under pen name Amy Kingston (confirmed by byline) under pen name Amy Kingston (confirmed by byline) - 103 articles

My contributor profile at eHow

Links to each article: