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How (Not) To Teach a Boy To Drive -- or Why I'll Never Be a Driving Instructor

Thu, 18 Apr 2013 16:00:00 +0000

When those hospital nurses place that baby in your arms and wheel you out to your car, they give you all kinds of health tips and safety checklists. They warn you about lead paint. They warn you about tummy sleeping. They even tell you to count how often he poops.

What they do not tell you on all those checklists is that you might want to begin preparing yourself right now for the fact that you will someday teach that tiny little creature how to drive a car.

And when that moment comes, even though you have a full awareness that your child is maturing and becoming an adult, there is another part of your brain that feels like it's been ten minutes since that hospital checklist, and why, why did I just hand car keys to a six-pound baby who eats every two hours?

Credit: shward.

(Come to think of it, he still eats every two hours. It's easy to see why I would be confused.)

Anyway, here we are. Driving. With my Adam. He has a learner's permit, so all his driving hours are with Hubs and me. God bless that poor child, because there could not be two more polar opposite driving teachers on the planet. Let's hope it makes for some well-rounded learning and not to a tendency to tune out my voice for the rest of his life.

Hubs is calm. He ascribes to the philosophy that experience is the best teacher and our boy will rise to (and learn from) whatever driving challenges Hubs put in front of him. He pushes him, gently, with minimal interruption except when it's critical.

I, on the other hand, ascribe to the philosophy that I should share every bit of automotive-related knowledge that has ever been inside my brain, all the time, at every opportunity, pausing only for enough breath that I don't hyperventilate:

It's time to change lanes. Check your blind spot. Did you look over your shoulder? I didn't see you look over your shoulder. People have been KILLED because they didn't look over their shoulder. Okay, good job. Now, do you see those brake lights in front of you? Back off a little. Back off. BACK OFF. That's better. [Phone beeps.] Ah, did you hear that? You just got a text but we are not checking it, NO SIR WE ARE NOT, because just remember that if I ever learn you have texted while driving I will nail your bedroom door shut until you are thirty. Hey, that was a nice turn, but did you see that guy roll through that stop sign next to us? He's an idiot. You must assume everyone around you is an IDIOT, ALL THE TIME, and they are about to make every driving mistake known to man, and if you think this way, then perhaps you will survive.

I'll leave it to you to decide which parent he'd rather drive with. He's too respectful to say it, but it is noticeable that when he is driving with Hubs he is confident and capable. When he is with me he is jittery and tense, and we both end our driving sessions with wild-ish eyes.

(While it is true that I may not have a future career as a professional driving instructor, let the record show that when they handed that pooping, hungry, crying six-pounder to us in the hospital, I had my wits about me and it was Hubs who was in danger of hyperventilating. It takes all sorts.)

Adam is a great kid -- cautious and responsible. If were to trust any kid with two tons of accelerating steel, it would be this one. His mother may have gray hair and permanent knee damage from stomping her imaginary brake on the passenger side, but Adam? He's going to be just fine.


Shannon @ Rocks In My Dryer

Discovery Health Features BlogHers' Birth Stories

Fri, 12 Jun 2009 18:48:11 +0000

Next week, June 14-19, is Baby Week at Discovery Health, home to nightly stories of remarkable births.  Shows such as Twins By Surprise, Little Parents Big Pregnancy, Births Beyond Belief, and Obese and Pregnant will air nightly at 8 pm Eastern/Pacific.

BlogHer is pleased to announce that our community will be lending its voice to the storytelling next week, with many BlogHers sharing their own birth stories at their blogs.  You can visit this page for a complete list of our community's posts, including stories such as Catherine Connors' dramatic dash to the hospital:

Mad vehicular dashes to hospitals with women in labor are usually played for laughs on film and television. Let me tell you: there is nothing funny about racing toward a hospital that seems to recede ever further into the horizon as you speed forward in excruciating pain, your body completely out of your control, medical disaster ever more imminent with every passing second. Even when the toddler in the back seat starts shouting MOMMY YOU NEED MEDICINE YOU NEED MY TOADSTOOL? it's not funny. It's stone-cold terrifying.

Lindsey Ferrier shares how she unexpectedly became a moaner:

But after about 40 hours of intensifying contractions, my moaning philosophy went out the window. I was in pain, people. Yet I still had my wits about me enough to be deeply embarrassed by the primitive howls coming from my mouth as my entire family sat in the den, silently watching me on the sofa.

"Don't look at me!!" I hissed in between moans. "Don't just sit there looking at me!"

I am ashamed to admit I actually glared at my 80-year-old grandma, owl-eyed and frowning on the Barcolounger.

Discovery Health is also featuring these BlogHers and others at their special Baby Week landing page.  Stop by and read these compelling stories, and learn a little more about the stories Discovery Health will be airing, too.

Shannon Lowe blogs at Rocks In My Dryer and The Parenting Post.

Creative Ways To Find Sitters

Sat, 06 Jun 2009 01:00:00 +0000

Finding reliable babysitters has always been a tricky issue for parents, especially during tough economic times, when budgets are tight.  I've been a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom the whole time I've been a parent, so I've never had to look for regular, daily childcare.  But for finding occasional, hourly childcare help, I've had to get creative.

If you Google the phrase "find a sitter", you'll find more links than you know what to do with.  Many of these sites have great reputations, but I'm still a fan of finding sitters the old-fashioned way: word of mouth.  Over the years, when I've needed sitters, I generally turn first to my fellow mom-friends for suggestions and recommendations.  They've seen the sitters in action and can often vouch for their reliability.  But sitters hired by your friends may be already booked well in advance.  Here are some other options to try:

Check your local colleges.  Many colleges have career centers for helping students find part-time jobs; consider posting a listing with them.  Or just post a notice in a student center or organization.  

Talk to adults who work with kids.  Know any high school teachers or youth ministers?  They work with young people daily, and they might be able to offer some names of reliable kids interested in babysitting.

Get to know your neighbors!  Many neighbors, whether young people or not, might be interested in some occasional part-time work.

(Of course, anytime you hire a sitter you don't know personally--and even if you do know them personally--it is ALWAYS important to ask for and check references.  For safety's sake, this is not a place to cut corners.)

Once you find someone you feel you can trust, it's important to be clear about your expectations.  Perhaps you can have a conference (in person or on the phone) before her first time to babysit for you.  Let the sitter meet your kids, and discuss the specifics of the job.  Lay some ground rules (in our family, those include leaving the house in the general condition you found it, never opening the door for anyone, and NOT using cell phones or iPods while caring for our kids).

The million-dollar question (no pun intended) is what to pay.  It's been discussed at great length elsewhere (I've written about it on my own blog before, with wide-ranging responses).  I don't think it's a one-size-fits-all question.  There are many things to consider, including:

Where you live.  Just like housing prices vary geographically, sitter rates will vary too.

The size of the job.  I personally pay a "base rate", but I add onto for multiple children or more demanding responsibilities (such as a fixing a meal or handling bedtime).

The age and experience of the sitter.  I think it's completely reasonable to expect to pay more for experience--most jobs work that way.

However you figure it, my best advice is to settle on amount ahead of time.  Some sitters, especially teenagers, feel uncomfortable naming a price.  In this situation, I try to put them at ease by asking one of their parents or simply offering them what I've paid in the past. 

Most importantly, it bears repeating that we should be thorough and careful in hiring sitters.  Our kids are our treasures, and we need to do what we must to find caregivers we can trust.

What about you?  Have you found any other creative ways to find sitters or establish an hourly rate?

Party Planning On a Dime

Fri, 08 May 2009 11:23:21 +0000

I have four children, which has been a lot of birthday parties to throw (and attend) over the last several years.  In the interest of keeping a reasonable budget, not to mention my sanity, I've had to come up with my own set of time-and-money-saving tips over the years. I should start by noting that kids' birthdays seem to have taken on a life of their own for the current generations of kids.  When I was a kid, my mom threw a handful of M&Ms on a homemade cake, and we called it good.  There were no goody bags, no inflatables, no farm animals or clowns.  And yet I never felt cheated or unloved; my parents found plenty of ways to make birthdays a big deal in the ways that do count.  So yes, let me publicly confess that I don't think every kid needs a giant, elaborate birthday party every year.  Or, for that matter, any year.  Birthdays are fun and meaningful because they celebrate a child's life.  When we get wildly elaborate with birthday parties, I wonder if we're actually depriving kids of the opportunity to appreciate the little joys.  For example: Awaken the birthday girl on her birthday by singing "Happy Birthday" to her, and bring her breakfast in bed. Have every member of the family make a list of ten things they love about the birthday kid. Let the birthday kid plan the day!  They can take the family to their favorite park and choose a movie to watch as a family. With all due respect to The Big Giant Pizza Place With Singing Animals, such places are outrageously expensive.  Yes, they're convenient.  But a parent can easily spend multiple hundreds of dollars on a party like that, and it seems there are plenty of smarter ways to spend the money, especially in tough economic times.  Parties at home do not have to be complicated or nightmarish.  One year we pushed all our living room furniture up against the walls and set up a tent in the living room.  It was enough to entertain the partygoers for hours.  Another year we set up inexpensive Slip 'n Slides in the backyard.  Yet another year I spent $20 on glow sticks at the dollar store (and that's a LOT of glow sticks)--the kids ran around happily in the backyard, all aglow. Sometimes, of course, it's fun to do something special for a kids' party, but even then, you don't have to spend a fortune.  One year we held a party (for free!) at the local fire station, and the firefighters enjoyed showing the kids the hoses, sirens and ladders (I baked them an extra cake as thanks!).  Municipal parks and swimming pools often offer affordable rental fees for simple parties--it's a fraction of the cost of an expensive party place.  Always remember Rule Number One of affordable birthday parties: the dollar store is your friend.  Instead of putting together "goody bags" for guests to take home (and let's just be honest, those things are usually filled up with junk), I buy a one-dollar toy at the dollar store for each guest.  Surprisingly, a dollar can still go a long way, especially for something like this.  For a summery theme one year, I sent home one-dollar beach balls.  After a princess party, I sent home one-dollar crowns.  Other great dollar store goodies include sidewalk chalk, bubbles, water guns, jump ropes and more.  The kids love it, and the other parents will love you for not sending home a junky little bag.  Additionally, dollar stores tend to offer great options for party supplies like plates, napkins and invitations. Basically, give yourself (and your checkbook) permission to keep kids' parties simple.  Children have been living for generations, feeling loved, affirmed and celebrated on their birthdays without the help of Sparky, Your Personal Birthday Clown.  You can do it! Shannon Lowe writes at Rocks In My Dryer and The Parenting Post. [...]

This Mom Loves Pacifiers (and Evidently, the Squirrels Do Too!)

Wed, 22 Apr 2009 04:56:20 +0000

This week Parenting Magazine offered up these photos of a "paci tree" in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Fifteen years ago, in my pre-baby days, I probably would've scoffed at those pictures--"Look at those overly indulgent and sentimental parents," Pre-Baby Me would've said.  It's amazing how much I knew about parenting before I had children. Since those days, I have managed to wean four preschoolers off a pacifier, and I know that it can drive a parent to almost any method:  cold, hard cash, anyone? First, let's back up, and I'll make it clear that I'm a big fan of the pacifier.  I know, from my own experience, that a mom who uses pacifiers with her babies will hear plenty of well-meaning advice from friends, strangers (and occasionally a dentist) about how awful pacifiers are for a child's mouth development.  Certainly, I'd advise any new mom to do her research and listen to the professionals.  But I will also confess that I never planned to use pacifiers with my kids.  My mom gently suggested it might be a good idea to have one in my house anyway, "just in case."  I held out for only a few short days into my son's young life, and all caution about future orthodontia vanished as I looked for ANY possible means to catch a few minutes of sleep. Maybe I was unusually fortunate; I know many women report that pacifier usage can harm early breast-feeding efforts.  I didn't have that experience at all.  A lactation consultant could give you specific pointers on how to integrate paci use with breastfeeding. So, clearly I'm a fan, but what about the back end of the paci experience:  weaning a child OFF?  I won't lie to you; this can be hard.  We usually began the transition sometime after the second birthday, telling the child that the pacis lived in the bed.  If he wanted his paci, he could have it, but he had to sit in his bed.  This might be enough to motivate an especially social two year old, who would prefer to be in the main room with the family. Not mine, though.  They were all plenty social, but that paci was their GOLD MINE.  It was going to take a much bigger motivator for my crew. So as my eldest child's third birthday approached, we planned a big event.  We packed up all the pacifiers in the house, put them in a big box, gift-wrapped it elaborately and gave it to a friend who had just given birth.  It was purely symbolic (I wouldn't let that sweet new baby anywhere near our gunky old pacis), but HE didn't know that.  It was a nice mental nudge for my son to realize that pacis are for babies, and he simply wasn't a baby anymore.  He grieved for a day or two, but he quickly got over it. The subsequent kids had similar experiences.  We tried to make the paci weaning a tangible event in which they had some control.  And--this is the important part--they had the concrete experience of removing the pacifiers from our home.  I think that was an important psychological boost.  For my youngest child, who loved to watch the squirrel families play in our backyard, we suggested that we should package up her pacis and give it to the baby squirrels.  To our surprise, she was actually quite happy about this, and we made a big production of it.  (Animal lovers, never fear--as soon as my daughter trotted off to bed, we brought the pacis back inside!)  The next morning, our groggy daughter stumbled out the back door to see the results, and the pacis were gone.  "They took them!" she squealed in amazement, and she never asked for another paci again.  So there you go.  If your baby shows no interest in a pacifier, don’t sweat it, but if she does fancy one, then don’t sweat that either.  It can be a lifesaver to a sleepy parent, and someday your Squirrel Pacifier Party will make a great family story! Shannon Lowe writes at Rocks In My Dryer and The Parenting Post. [...]

Room Cleaning: My Efforts At a Balanced Approach

Fri, 10 Apr 2009 23:09:08 +0000

Somewhere, at this very moment, my dad is laughing hysterically that I have been given an assignment to write about room cleaning.  Cosmic irony, and all that.  It was the single best source of conflict between my dad and me during my teen years (certainly I could've caused him much worse trouble, as I pointed out often).  He is orderly; I am not, and my bedroom reflected this, generally remaining a cesspool of clothes, cassette tapes and (very blue) eyeshadow.  The results of our conflict often ended in a whole host of creative punishments, including the day he grounded me from all electricity.  Because it was the '80's, and a smokin' hot curling iron was a critical ingredient in The Great Bang Tease, I felt my self-esteem would surely never recover.  Before I went to bed that night, I made a list of Things I Would Never Do When I Was A Parent (oh yes, I did), and at the top of the list was "I will never punish my kids for having a messy room." How much money would I give to have a copy of that list today?  The fact is, I understand now, that my dad was not unkind or unreasonable.  He was trying to teach me some self-discipline, and he wanted me to learn to organize my stuff before I left home.  He wanted to help me become a neater, tidier person--a lost cause, I'm afraid, but he did his best. I'm a parent of four now, and I understand my dad’s frustration.  I am still not a spectacular housekeeper, but I keep things generally moving forward (the Health Department has never had to intervene, as I remember my dad once cautioning).  Two of my children, however, are naturally inclined to keep rooms that I completely deserve for them to keep, considering the grief I caused my dad.  The messiness level gives me a run for my money.  Truthfully, though I consider myself a strict parent with high standards, I don’t know that a constantly-tidy room is a hill worth dying on.  I understand the idea of teaching them self-discipline, and I do that in plenty areas, but I’m inclined to give a little freedom about their own space.  We’ve worked out a good set compromises with the kids (and my husband, who, speaking of cosmic irony, is also a neat freak): Once a week the room gets a good cleaning.  Between cleaning days, they can keep it however they’d like (though they’re learning if they stay on top of the mess, they don’t spend as much time cleaning it on the big Cleaning Day.) No food in their room.  Seriously.  I realize the teen years will be here in about ten minutes, and I may have to compromise here, but for now, I stand my ground. They’re responsible for their own dusting, vacuuming, sheet-changing, etc.  I don’t require it weekly, but when I do, it’s their job, not mine. Regardless of whether or not it’s room cleaning day, they CANNOT have guests over if their room is a dump.  It’s a great motivator when they want to have a sleepover. I listen to their reasoning.  My oldest child is very artistic.  He actually keeps a pretty neat room on his own, but the top of his drawing table is a disaster.  He insists that he knows where everything is and he needs that mess to think best.  I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, especially since he’s so responsible with the rest of this room. So far, we have not been bitten by any small animals or lost any children, so I’m pleased.  Thus far, (and I say this with fear and trembling), we’ve not had any major head-butting over the issue of room-cleaning.  I hope that balancing reasonable standards with personal freedom will help us avoid the tear-filled fights I shared with my dad.  Ask me in a few years how it’s going—or, better yet, ask my dad.  You can be sure he’ll watching closely, with a grin on his face. Shannon Lowe writes at Rocks In My Dryer and the Parenting Post. [...]

YouTubing With the Kids

Fri, 20 Feb 2009 18:11:15 +0000

I'll admit it; we're YouTube junkies in this family.  As I recall, it all started a few years ago when my husband thought it might be fun to show my Star-Wars-loving young sons the video to Weird Al Yankovich's spoof about Anakin Skywalker.  Then a friend showed my oldest son the flute-playing beat-boxer.  The deal was sealed for good with Peanut Butter Jelly Time, easily the most annoying song ever created, and yet my sons (and, I'll confess their mother) cannot look away.  Now we all seem to find the phrase "peanut butter jelly with a baseball bat" creeping into our conversations at completely random times. Plenty of other families are developing inside family jokes from funny YouTube video clips.  Angela of Diapers and Stilettos writes about her own introduction to Charlie and the Unicorn: When I first watched it I thought, "This is the lamest thing ever." I almost got up and walked away. But I wanted to see the video the boys had been quoting ceaselessly for the past few weeks. And somehow watching it with them made me laugh. And then laugh more. And then we watched it again. And now I quote it with them. So, be warned. But, be relevant. YouTube clips are usually pretty short, of course; this can make it tricky if you have a young toddler who can't re-click "play".  Jenni of Peace and Carrots stumbled onto a solution for this problem: Then I discovered YouTube's playlist feature. I was able to put together a playlist of Wendy's favorite clips, and get about twenty minutes of continuous Wiggly action! I set her up with the laptop on the kitchen floor last night, and it was fantastic! LomaGirl posted this video to her blog, under the heading of "Bedtime Story Fun".  Not a DIY Life reports that she has used YouTube as a tool for teaching her baby sign language. What about the objectionable preview pictures that pop up after a video is over?  That's a real issue for parents, and it's the reason I only let my kids on YouTube under close supervision.  Kim of Gray Matters found a way for parents (who use Firefox) to block those previews.  Christy Matte of has another practical way to keep at least some level of control: When watching videos, adjust your browser size (by dragging the bar at the bottom up and down) so that just the video is showing. Then you won't have to worry about inappropriate comments and suggested movies. Other family-friendly alternatives to YouTube are popping up, to help parents navigate this problem of questionable content.  Tangle, KideoPlayer, KidsTube, KidVideos, and (for younger kids) TotLol are some alternatives.  Parents can also choose browsers, such as Glubble and KidZui, which have been designed specifically for kids. Just for grins, leave the links to your famiy's favorite YouTube video in the comments section! Shannon Lowe is a BlogHer contributing editor (Mommy/Family). She also blogs at Rocks In My Dryer and The Parenting Post. [...]

What (I Hope) I'm Teaching My Kids About Love

Sun, 15 Feb 2009 07:27:16 +0000

Often our extended family will vacation together: my own husband and kids, plus my parents, and sometimes my brother and his family.  But this summer, my parents went somewhere just the two of them.

While they were gone, my brother and I worried about them.  What will they do?  Won't they get bored without their noisy brood of grandchildren to keep things interesting?  I felt so sorry for them. 

The afternoon they came back, we all had lunch together.  The trip was great, they told us.  It was quiet, and they had lots of time for resting and talking and enjoying each other.  And, hopefully in a way that was not too skeptical, I asked my mom, "Really?" 

"Really," she said.  "It was wonderful."  And then she turned to look at me squarely.  "You know," she said.  "in 38 years I've never loved your Dad as much as I do right now." 

And you know what?  I am a grown woman with four kids, a husband, a mortgage, stretch marks, a PTA membership card and a mini-van.  I'm just as grown up as I can be.  But when my mother said that to me, when she looked me in the eyes and told me how much she loved my father, I felt about eight years old again--in a good way.  Happy and safe.

It reminded me what I already knew, what I try to live, some days better than others: one of the best things I can do for my children is to love their dad, and to make sure the kids know it.  My husband and I both make a concerted effort to build each other up verbally in front of our kids:  "I love that your dad is such a hard worker."  "Isn't your mom creative?"  We want to enjoy each other, and laugh together, and be physically affectionate around our children.  We want to lay the groundwork for them to settle for nothing less than this in their own marriages someday.

And I don't mean that we've contrived some false picture for them--there are two sides to that coin.  There are plenty of conversations that stay between my husband and me, but we also make it a point to talk through some (appropriate) things in their presence.  They need to see compromise, and meeting in the middle. 

It isn't always easy.  Marriages--even good ones--are hard work.  Building a family, and walking together in the ins and outs of daily life, can get messy.  But when we give our kids a healthy glimpse into our marriage, it makes us want to be better, and I hope it teaches them a thing or two about what real love is.

Shannon Lowe is a BlogHer contributing editor (Mommy/Family). She also blogs at Rocks In My Dryer and The Parenting Post.

Valentine's Day: Getting Creative With the Kids

Fri, 13 Feb 2009 17:18:06 +0000

I'd say it's a good time to be a kid.  There seem to be endless clever and creative ideas available to parents for celebrating Valentine's Day.  I remember using store-bought Scooby Doo cards with my friends (because nothing breeds third-grade romance like a picture of Shaggy).  These days, however, the bar has been raised.  Here's a round-up of creative ideas for making this holiday special for your kids: (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel like I should share that I sent my own offspring to school with packs of Fun Dip for the friends, and we're calling it good.) Princess Spanky Pants of Gather has written out step-by-step instructions for how she and her kids made homemade valetines for the class.  I'm especially impressed by the fake iPods! If you're not feeling particularly skilled in the craft department, Living Locurto offers some easy (and free!) downloads you can simply print out and customize however you'd like.  I love the little owl! Learning by Living offers up instructions for an especially boy-friendly craft:  a barn-shaped "mailbox" for depositing Valentines! Kiddio shares instructions for making cute (and even edible) conversation hearts out of salt dough. Peoples Online shares the Valentine love with our feathered friends, giving instructions on how to make heart-shaped bird feeders. No Time For Flash Cards has a brilliant and simple idea:  she's making heart-shaped pizza out of tortillas.  The kids can easily get involved with this hearty (oh, the pun!) idea. Kaboose is keeping it simple with downloadable coloring sheets, many that can folded down into actual cards. Scrumdilly-do shares an idea that is do-able for even the least crafty among us: using cardboard and scrapbook paper for making a heart-shaped memory game.  (This is a great idea year-round, actually--it could be adapted for any holiday celebration by just changing the shape!) Amazing Moms gives a long list idea for Valentine's celebrations, including some video instruction for party planning.  There are some great ideas for games and recipes. Twig and Thistle has an elegant idea: pastries in a custom box.  And she even offers a free, downloadable box for the gift (the link is just under the first photograph.) Homespun Oasis shares ideas that even the youngest toddlers can do:  homemade valentines using crafters foam and simple embellishments. Who says hanging decorations are just for Christmas trees?  Not Bread of Angels, who offers a variety of suggestions for Valentine's-themed ornaments. Martha Stewart, of course, has plenty of lovely suggestions for Valentine's crafts, and she shared some video tutorial on The Today Show.  (If Matt Lauer can do it, so can you.) Simple holiday sugar cookies are always perfect, and Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles shares a favorite family recipe for this sweet treat. Homemade doesn't have to mean complicated, as Blessed Femininity shares a photo of her simple homemade valentines, using construction paper, suckers and a printer! Life to the Fullest not only made cute valentines for her kids' friends, she included an extra-thoughtful gift for the teachers. Inchmark created these dainty little boxes to fill with treats.  She used, of all the clever ideas, matchboxes. Have you found any Valentine's ideas on-line that have especially tickled your creativity? Shannon Lowe is a BlogHer contributing editor (Mommy/Family). She also blogs at Rocks In My Dryer and The Parenting Post. [...]

Kids' Room Decor: Finding Ideas Online

Fri, 06 Feb 2009 13:36:27 +0000

The subject of kids' room decor has been on my mind a lot lately.  For my oldest son's 11th birthday this past summer, we gave him a "new" room, redecorated to reflect his pre-teen sensibilities.  A dozen loose ends, though, have kept it an on-going project. Additionally, my two middle sons share a room, and it's a small one.  This means I'm constantly looking for decorating ideas that will make that room seem larger and more efficient. As if all that's not enough, my four-year-old daughter has, for several months, been in need of a room fix-up, thanks to an unfortunate (and mischievous) encounter with some acrylic craft paint.  Let's just say that new bedding and wall paint were required and leave off the remaining painful details (*cringe*). I could spend hours checking out decorating ideas for kids' rooms online.  Maybe it's because kids' decor seems to allow for extra whimsy and creativity than decor for something as practical as, say, a kitchen.  The ideas abound. This excellent post by Nesting Place offers some very practical advice for decorating kids' rooms (and if you've spent any time browsing her blog, it's clear she knows a thing or two about putting together a homey and beautiful room).  I especially love the way she involves her kids in the decision-making process, while still keeping a fair level of control for the grown-ups: I pick the furniture and supply the lighting and bed linens, they get to do the rest. Right now, my boys have strung Christmas lights and taped up 25 of their favorite race car drawings. They love it and so do I. Similarly,Little Urbanites provides a list of 12 tips for decorating a kids' room, including the sensible advice of not marrying yourself to a particular theme: She’s alway steered away from both babylike décor in her kids’ rooms and rooms with a theme that calls for everything to match. “Kids grow so fast,” she says. “By 7, most boys are no longer interested in little trains; they’re already into sports and ‘boy’ stuff.” I think that's excellent advice.  My own experience has taught me to steer clear of "themed" rooms and perhaps point more toward a color scheme.  My middle sons, for example, have denim-blue quilts on their beds.  I bought them with the full intention of those quilts following them until they leave my house, however their interests change.  The simple, theme-free bedding gives us lots of growing room. There is a giant treasure trove of decor ideas to be found at Better Homes and Garden's Kids' Rooms page (a "special offer" page will pop up if you click that link, but close it down and you'll head straight to the good stuff.)  This great article by Jody Garlock is especially helpful for designing a room that will grow with a kid. Decorating a teen's room is a different project altogether, of course.  Teens will want more input in creating a room that is a reflection of their own tastes.  I like this suggestion by  Suite 101's Kristin Abraham, that parents can use room decorating as an opportunity to learn budgeting skills as well: So encourage your teen to take an active part in their decorating, in fact parents should really take a backseat and act as helper rather than advisor. This said, encourage your teen to learn some important life lessons by giving them a budget for their decorating project and let them figure out how to work within the budget. Here are few more excellent blog posts on the subject of decorating kids' rooms: The Inspired Room writes about creating a memory shelf.  This is an idea that's inexpensive and meaningful--not to mention really cute. Dooce shares a photo essay of her daugher's adorable (and oh-so-organized) room, though she admits it might not stay that way long! Small Treasures shares a beautiful woodworking project [...]