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Mama Drama: Homework H-E-Double Toothpicks!!

Dear Mama Drama:

My nine- year-old daughter takes an excessive amount of time to do her homework every day. If she would just do the work, she would be done in thirty minutes to an hour. Instead, she whines, complains, cries, fights, distracts herself, etc., for hours on end. By the time she is done we are all angry and exhausted and her self-esteem is in the toilet.

(photo credit)

She does have a significant amount of homework assigned, but it all should be work she is capable of completing on her own.  I know she needs to go out and play, but she spends so much time avoiding her work that she never gets outside.

I am at a loss and hate the way this homework issue is impacting all of us. I don’t want to bother her teachers because they always seem so busy already.

~ Homework Hating Mama

(Send your Mama Drama questions to

Dear Homework Hating:

The homework battle often feels like a big vat of quicksand for parents to fall into.  The more you struggle, the more it sucks you down.  The trick is to remember that you are responsible for providing a place and time for your daughter to do the homework, but the responsibility for completing the homework is hers.

When your daughter is feeling calm and relaxed, take time to talk with her about the homework issue. Does she feel overwhelmed by the amount of homework? Does she feel like she doesn’t have the skills to complete it independently? Is she exhausted from the school day and doesn’t have the energy to do the work? Does she need to eat before she works? Does she need to burn off some energy and play before she works? Are there too many other things going on around her while she is trying to work? Does she want more attention from you and is using this issue to get it? Having her perspective will help you understand how to support her better.

Take action on the things you have control over from this conversation such as changing the family routine, where the homework is done, creating a consistent schedule, adjusting how you respond to her, and giving her positive attention just for being her.

While you are right that teachers are busy, contacting them is a critical step that needs to be taken. If you are not communicating with them, they don’t know how much your daughter is struggling. Let them know the difficulties she is having at home and how she feels about the work. Meet with them and your daughter to create a plan to support her in being successful.

The teachers can provide an understanding about how long this amount of work takes your daughter at school and help her set expectations for how long she should work on it at home.  Based on the information you share, they may decide to modify the homework assignments for her.  They may also want to explore the possibility that other learning difficulties are impacting her ability to complete the work, especially if she is also struggling at school.

Set up a plan to reinforce her for meeting the expectations set. Your initial agreement may be recognizing her for working without all the drama you described even if she doesn’t complete the assignment. You may want to create a sticker chart at home where she works toward a special outing or activity with mom or dad or it may be something she earns at school such as lunch with her teacher or even a “homework holiday” where she has no homework for a day. Let her have input into the “rewards” and focus on ones that involve time and positive attention rather than buying material items.

Be sure to set her up for success by making the initial goals very achievable. As she becomes more successful, you can increase the expectations. Have a contingency plan for what will happen if the homework doesn’t get done as well and have this consequence occur at school.

What tricks, tips, and strategies have work for you and your child? Please share your successes!

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Simple Pillowcase Dress for Easter

A friend recently sent me a photo of a beautifully made pillowcase dress for a little girl and asked if I might be able to duplicate the pattern. She’s expecting and, already having three adorable sons, is thinking she may be having a daughter this time around. If so, she’s anxious to adorn her in lovely dresses and bows!

When mom is a poor sport, everyone loses

Over Spring Break, our family traveled to the capital of Colorado’s left coast and my hometown, Grand Junction.

One of the biggest attractions in the region is a family fun center called Bananas. It has a mini golf course, go-carts, a huge enclosed pavilion packed with bounce houses and slides, batting cages, an arcade, laser tag, and a snack bar. Because Grand Junction doesn’t boast Denver-levels of things to do, we always visit Bananas when we visit.

The kids get windblown, sticky, drenched, and dizzy from go-cart fumes. In other words, they have a blast. Usually, I stand back, watch, snap photos, and fret about injuries. This time, I was inspired to join in more of the fun.

“Inspired to join in more of the fun” is one way to translate the phrase “I am not pregnant during a visit to Bananas.” Our previous visit in July? Pregnant. Before that? Pregnant. Before that? Pregnant.

It wasn’t particularly warm when 9 of us climbed into the colorfully bobbing bumper boats. Temperatures were in the upper 60s with a slight breeze. The baby stayed ashore with my mom. Our toddler rode in my husband’s boat. Our preschooler tagged along with our oldest son. The other 4 kids and I had our own boats.

I envisioned zipping around the large pool, bumping into the kids, maybe squirting them with my water cannon. Good times, happy smiles, lotsa laughs, this not-being-pregnant-at-Bananas thing is awesome!

I motored out into the open water.

I didn’t know I was a tender, succulent medallion of medium rare tenderloin.

I didn’t know my children were wolves.

I felt a stream of water hit my side. And then another stream hit the back of my head. Another hit my face. With slight panic and disbelief, I realized my children had completely surrounded me. On every side, they blasted and cackled as I screamed. The water was cold, the wind blew, and there was little room for escape. I was so wet, I couldn’t see as I powered my little boat out of the ambush to the far side of the pool. Mistake! Mistake! Mistake! My offspring, the people I bore and tenderly rocked at 3am and endured Alvin and The Chipmunks for followed me.

I begged them to leave me alone. I couldn’t believe my folly. Of course kids would seize the opportunity to Drench Mama when it was presented to them. If I was going to join in their game, I was going to be an equal.

I don’t expect them to go easy on me when we play UNO or Mario Kart or Apples to Apples. I don’t let them win, either. But for some reason, I expected a 3-hour cruise.

This time, I got the shipwreck. The tiny ship was tossed.

I’m sorry to say I wasn’t a very good sport.

They cornered me. I invoked my authority and loudly snarled STOP IT NOW! Through sheets of water running down my face, I saw them turn away. It was less about mercy and more about remembering I’m the one who decides bedtime and is nice enough to buy Macaroni and Cheese in cartoon shapes on occasion.

I was no fun. No fun at all.

My bumper boat carried my shivering body back to the edge of the pool. I grabbed a rope, clipped it to the boat, and hoisted myself onto dry land. The kids continued assaulting each other with chlorinated water. My husband and toddler stopped shortly after me. They were mostly dry.

I stood in the sun to dry off, feeling ashamed.

If one of the kids had a meltdown because they were sent to jail (do not pass Go), I’d send them away from the Monopoly board. If they flung a controller down because Toad launched a Koopa shell at their Kart, I’d announce the end of the race.

Be a good sport! It’s one of life’s many lessons. Nobody likes poor sports, but our society seems to have a rather large contingency of those types.

On that drippy day at Bananas, I remembered how awful it feels to be a winner at losing. Maybe it will give me more sympathy when my kids express frustration at their own defeats. There’s a graceful way to handle life’s trompings, but it’s not always easy to muster.

Now hand me a towel.

Obama cited letter from Longmont mom in speech on budget compromise

The Washington Monument will be one of the first things 13-year-old Adam Schane sees after landing in Washington, D.C., this morning — it’s one of the sites he is most excited to visit.

But Adam’s chance to clamber to the top of the towering monument seemed in danger of being lost as lawmakers came close to a government shutdown Friday night, so his mother decided someone had to speak up.

Longmont mother Shalini Schane gained national attention Friday night when President Barack Obama cited a letter she sent him in his remarks on the budget compromise Congress announced less than an hour before the midnight deadline.

“I received a letter from a mother in Longmont, Colorado,” Obama said. “Over the year,

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Walking together for stronger, healthier babies

March for Babies is the nation’s oldest and biggest event for mom/baby health. It’s also the largest annual March of Dimes fundraiser. Money raised funds a range of March of Dimes programs that work to improve the health of moms and babies. Thousands of Coloradans get involved in the event in their communities each year.

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Your opinion: Do you pay your kids for good grades?

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Kids learn accountability and responsibility from their grades; good or bad. In most cases, grades are a direct reflection of efforts and when kids work hard and do their homework they get good grades. When they slack off, fall behind and don’t do homework the result is bad grades.

I think paying kids for good grades teaches them a

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When I was a little girl, I would sit under the old round wooden claw foot kitchen table at my grandmother’s house. The smell of red chili and homemade tortillas filled the air, while the music of laughter from generations of women (mothers and daughters, aunts and an occasional male voice passing through to steal a warm tortilla) let me know that life was happening just above my hiding spot.

This is where life lessons were learned: how to care for a colicky baby, how to handle unruly teenagers, what to add to make the tortillas rise just enough, and the whispers of jokes not meant for me or my cousins (or sometimes the men in the other room).

With constant changes in our world, finding that small town familial support, “consejos” (advice) is hard
to come by. But, not when you’re a member of The Highlands Mommies, a parenting support group in North West Denver. We have recreated that missing comfort through our online parenting community. Our lives have been forever changed by social media and we ensure that it is for the better.

Highlands Mommies is North West Denver’s largest online parent organization. We are simply tied by
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