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When Divorce, Chairs and Teeth Collide

The hardest day of my life: I hadn’t been separated from Antonia and Jonah’s father for even a month when a horrible accident happened. Jonah, my three-year-old, had spilled his glass of milk all over my dining room floor about a half hour before it was time to take them to the police station, which at that time was the parent-exchange location every Sunday.

In retrospect, I should have left the stupid milk sprawled to lay where it may until coming back home from dropping them off. I should have been savoring that last half hour I had with them. But the milk on the floor bothered me. And I’m not even a neat freak, by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, for whatever reason, I felt it needed to be cleaned up immediately. I would live to regret that small decision for a very, very long time.

As I moved all the dining room chairs into the living room, lining them up like a train so that I could mop, Antonia rose from the couch and tripped over her packed-and-ready-to-go duffel bag, landing directly on the edge of one of the chairs, the caboose of my train. In an instant, she was screaming and covered in blood. She’d knocked out her four front teeth in one fell swoop. Luckily, they were baby teeth, but that didn’t mean any less blood and pain and panic. I put a washcloth to her mouth to stop the bleeding and rushed her to the emergency room, calling her father from the road to meet me there.

Despite the snail-for-cars that exponentially delayed my trip to the ER, everything turned out okay. There was no permanent damage, just a mouth full of missing teeth. But she was still shaken up and hurting. As it was, this was already a painful time for her. Antonia was taking the separation of her parents especially hard.

Emergency room visit all taken care of, it was time for her and her brother to go with their father. We were all still very new to the idea of packing bags, loading up and saying goodbye to one another every weekend. But the goodbyes were by far the worst even under the best of circumstances. She looked up at me with her swollen upper lip and blood-crusted toothless face and asked me to come with her. She said that she didn’t want anything else in the whole world but for us to be together as a family that night. Just that one night.

Baby Banter–A Fun Glimpse at What Your Baby Is Really Thinking!

I’m walking the line right now between pure diaper-wearing babydom and the world of big girl undies. Given, I’m nowhere near ready to potty train, but still, these diapers are driving me CRAZY! I used to just rip them off when mommy or daddy left me in a stinker way too long (which, to their credit, doesn’t happen often…mommy’s pretty on top of poopy diapers). But now, I just can’t take it. Dry or wet, saggy or tight…it’s doesn’t matter. These days, no diaper is a good diaper.

Maybe it’s the incredible rate at which my thighs are currently expanding, but if mommy turns her back for a second, I am overcome with the irresistible urge to rip that baby off and throw it. Apparently, the sight of me naked is disturbing because when I did this yesterday at the food store, mommy ran full speed towards me screaming, “Caaarmeeeeen, Nooooooo!” Whoa there, mama. Take it easy. Taking off my diaper does not make me any less cute. But then there was the puddle of pee pooling at my feet. Ok, I’ll admit that wasn’t too cute.

So I woke up this morning and reached for my diaper and it wouldn’t budge. Apparently the pee puddle at the grocery store drove mommy to opt for the duct tape solution. Now I’m really stuck. I guess there’s a time and place for everything…and I just

Mama Drama: Discipline for Deceit

Dear Mama Drama:

My 11-year-old son has a real problem with lying. He lies about anything and everything – how he got injured, who he was playing with, etc. He doesn’t seem to be trying to cover his tracks but just doing it for the sake of doing it.

My son is also a gifted athlete and is used to getting his way because of his intensive training and competition schedule. I feel like I can’t pull him out of his meets, but want punishment for lying to really hit home instead of ending up as empty threats.

~Deceived Mama

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Dear Deceived:

Current research gives some new information on lying. On the down side, it shows that children lie earlier and more frequently than was previously thought and everyone does it. On the up side, parents can change their interactions to decrease lying and support honesty.

The charge for parents is to set an environment where lying is unacceptable. Often the inappropriate behavior a child is trying to cover up with the lie receives consequences, but the lie itself is not addressed. This inadvertently teaches children that lying is okay. We also sabotage ourselves by sending the message that other activities, such as special activities or sports, are more important than truthfulness.

Children primarily lie to avoid punishment and, ironically, to please their parents. They learn early that punishment is something to be avoided, so they lie to do so. In The Discipline Book Dr. William Sears recommends setting the stage for honesty by clearly telling children, “I don’t get angry at truth. I get angry at lies.”  When children trust their parents will remain calm to solve a problem and apply reasonable consequences, they are more likely to tell the truth.

More than just about anything, children want to please their parents. If they think parents will be disappointed, angry, or sad, they lie to make them happy.  In Nurture Shock, Bronson and Merryman report research indicating that children need to know telling the truth will make their parents really happy, happier than not having made a bad choice. Following through with this teaches children that honesty is of high value in their family.

The questions we ask our children can also set them up to lie. If you come upon your child doing something wrong and ask them in an angry voice if they did it, the child (trying to avoid punishment and please you) will most likely deny they have done anything wrong.

Parents often undermine their own attempts to promote honesty with their own little white lies. Examining our own behavior is an important step in creating an environment where honesty thrives.

Frequent conversations about honesty and what that really means are crucial to fostering a culture of truthfulness. Emphasize that everyone make mistakes and discuss the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions. Telling the truth even (especially!) when it’s hard is a critical concept to teach as well. Find examples in the media and news of truthfulness and lying, examine the consequences, and discuss the short and long-term impact as a family.

It sounds like your son may have deduced that lying isn’t that big of a deal and that there isn’t any reason to stop lying. The pattern of interactions between you and your son related to the lying needs to change in order for his behavior to change. You can offer positive incentives (things he wants to earn) for truthfulness and negative consequences (things he loses -which may need to include his meets), when he lies. Remain calm when addressing the lying and following through with consequences. Be enthusiastic and appreciative when he tells the truth. In the beginning you will need to verify his truthfulness before giving incentives so you do not inadvertently reinforce the lying. He will need to earn your trust by being truthful every day.

Dr. Sears also recommends offer times of amnesty when bigger on long festering issues need to be addressed. Offer a time of no consequences when your son, and his siblings, can tell the truth about any transgressions without fear of consequences. This gets everything out on the table and allows opportunity for discussion of why the lying happened and how parents and kids can handle situations differently to be able to be truthful and feel supported.

Children who have found lying works for them can become habitual liars who lie even when there does not appear to be a reason. Additionally, habitual lying can be an indicator of underlying emotional concerns.  Support from a mental health professional is recommended in these situations.

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.

Life’s Magical Adventure: Aurora Wife of Convicted Ponzi Schemer Shares Her Story, Part III

Editor’s note: Almost two years ago, Denver was caught up in a scandal when it was revealed Shawn Merriman was involved in a $20 million Ponzi scheme. There were many victims but no one was more blindsided by his betrayal than his own wife and four children. In our three-part series, Shawn’s now-ex-wife Andrea shares how she learned the horrible truth, the day the Feds came to confiscate everything and where she is today.

“Adventure: the pursuit of life.” (Daniel Roy Wiarda)

I still can’t imagine what life in prison is like (Shawn Merriman was sentenced to 12 1/2 years). I imagine there is a lot of down time, time to think, and sometimes my children get letters filled with the musings of a lonely man with time on his hands for thinking deep thoughts. Most recently, it was regarding one of my ex-husband’s favorite memories. At the time, he was very angry with me because of it, so it was gratifying he has finally seen it for what it was. Here’s what happened.

Years ago my family went to Disneyworld. We paid an extra fee to stay in the park until midnight. However, that night it rained. A lot. For some reason, not many people wanted a wet adventure in the twilight hours. The park started emptying.

My former husband was one of those who wanted to give up on the magic. But I didn’t. I told him we could make memories in the rain as easily as fair weather, so I thought we should stay. So we stayed, although my children’s dad was mad at me and my unwillingness to leave the park for a good part of the evening.

What a night! Water poured from the sky, and ran, like small rivers, down the streets of the Magic Kingdom. It was so wet,

A Life Reposessed By the Feds: Aurora Wife of Convicted Ponzi Schemer Shares Her Story, Part II

Editor’s note: Almost two years ago, Denver was caught up in a scandal when it was revealed Shawn Merriman was involved in a $20 million Ponzi scheme. There were many victims but no one was more blindsided by his betrayal than his own wife and four children. In our three-part series, Shawn’s now-ex-wife Andrea shares how she learned the horrible truth, the day the Feds came to confiscate everything and where she is today.

They came.

Government representatives, approximately eight of them. Wearing dark jackets and sunglasses, flashing gold badges, they arrived at my home in dark Suburbans with tinted windows–just like in the movies. Only this time it wasn’t a movie, it was my new and unexpected life.

I was embarrassed. I was humiliated. I was ashamed to be associated (by marriage only) with anyone and anything that required government agents entering my home, doing inventory of its contents, and compiling lists of things for seizure. It was surreal.

They were very kind to me. Very polite. They quietly chatted, walked from room to room filming the contents, narrated what they were filming, they asked questions. I mostly stood in one corner of the house, in the dining room, looking out the window, seeing the same view I’d gazed at for the past 16 years so differently. Sadly, I saw everything very differently now. I tried to come to grips with what was taking place in my home around me.

But I don’t think I ever reconciled it. I just endured it, and waited for it to be over.

I had so many questions,

Nationally honored Colorado mom shares the secrets of parenting

The task of naming one couple out of thousands of wonderful role models as “Colorado Parents of the Year” might seem impossible.

But speak with Jenny Davenport as she prepares for a fundraising event at the Davenport Center in Aurora, and you’ll quickly learn why she and her husband, James, were chosen.

“Oh, look how great that looks,” she says, speaking to her teenage daughter, who is busy practicing her face-painting skills for the event.

“She’s just so artistic,” she says under her breath, before going on to talk about the honor.

The Davenports, who earned the award from the Colorado Parents’ Day Council, were among five couples nationwide who received a national-level parenting award from the council.

The couple, both 44, have seven children, ranging in age from

Mama Drama: Monkey See, Monkey Do

Dear Mama Drama:

I have a question about my granddaughter who just turned five.  She literally copies every thing that every one of her friends or cousins does (Monkey See, Monkey Do).  She even copies things that other kids do even when she knows it is wrong!  We wonder that if one of her friends jumped off a bridge if she would do it too.  We all keep asking her why she does this and reminding her that she is a unique person with a terrific personality all by herself and doesn’t need to copy any one else.  We are very concerned and are wondering if you have any tips and advice that you can offer.

Thank you,

~Concerned Grandma

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Dear Concerned:

Imitation is the primary form of learning young children use to acquire new skills and understandings. They imitate adults, peers, and characters from television, books, movies, and video games. While this is a critical part of development, it can be concerning and frustrating when they choose models for their behavior that do not fit with our view of them or with how we want them to behave.

Five-year-olds have an increasing awareness of their peer relationships and how peers perceive them. They want to be liked and accepted by others. Children of this age are also beginning to develop understandings of the give and take relationship of leaders and followers.

Your granddaughter may be experimenting with where she fits into the social structure of her friendships with her peers and cousins. She may see herself as more of a follower or she may just be trying out that role. Her imitation may also be the way she is showing how much she admires or looks up to her peers and cousins. (I had a cousin who I adored as a little girl and tried to imitate her posture, speech, and behavior whenever I was around her!) Teach your granddaughter to think about the consequences (positive and negative) of her choices and model this as well. Being able to weigh pros and cons is an important piece of becoming a critical and independent thinker.

Your granddaughter may also have observed that these other children get attention or reinforcement from their behaviors or noticed that when she engages in them she receives a lot of attention. We reinforce behavior with attention, even if it’s negative attention. Focus on giving attention to the behaviors you want to reinforce and ignoring the behaviors that you don’t want to reinforce. It is not necessarily easy, but definitely effective.

While you see your granddaughter as amazing just as she is, she may not be so sure. As children begin comparing themselves with others, they do not always recognize their own strengths and skills as valuable. As parents and grandparents, we can foster our children’s self-esteem with specific positive recognition of the traits and behaviors we value. Recognize those innate qualities that make her special to you, i.e., her polite manners, her willingness to be helpful, her sense of humor, the empathy she shows for other in need, her determination, her problem solving skills, etc.

Remember that this experimentation is part of who she is and how she is learning. Help her find positive role models, recognize the behaviors you want to reinforce, and help her to see herself as you see her.

Share your ideas for supporting positive social development, self-confidence, and independent thinking.

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.

What didn’t they tell you before you became a mom?

There are many things they didn’t tell me before I became a mom.

To be fair, I didn’t tell many people I was becoming a mom. I was off at college when I got knocked up, and didn’t tell anyone at home. I was planning on giving her up for adoption. I couldn’t choose a family. I couldn’t even choose some finalists. I actually don’t remember much about the whole pre-adoption process, except for throwing up (for the first time in my entire pregnancy) after I walked in the door. I should have known then. But I kept telling myself I was going to do this. Until my contractions started and I went to the hospital and finally held that precious girl in my arms. I don’t remember much of my first labor either. But I do remember the nurse telling me I should not give her up for adoption. She was right.

So who are they, those people who should have told me these things. They know who they are. Those ladies who, in an attempt to be well meaning, tell you all sorts of horror stories when you are pregnant, especially with that first baby. The ones that leave the mom-to-be sweating and on the verge of a panic attack, as she’s listening to stories of three day long labors and months of sleepless nights. Here’s what “they” never told me:

*Sleepless nights continue well beyond the first year. You don’t sleep

Mama Drama: Surviving Children’s Electronic Overload

Dear Mama Drama:

My kids are always watching television and playing video or computer games. They fuss at me when I tell them to turn them off and do something else. They say everything else is boring. I’m exasperated and don’t know what to do to get them off of the electronics.

~ Electrified Mama

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Dear Electrified:

It can be challenging to limit our children’s exposure to electronics and television with the easy access and all the pressure from peers to play. As parents we have to help our children find the balance by

Mama Drama: Staying Connected to Our Kids

Dear Mama Drama:

My children and I are so busy. Between work, school, activities and life, I feel like I am just not connected to them like I was when they were little. How can I find time to stay involved in their lives?

~Disconnected Mama

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Dear Disconnected:

The connection we have with our children when they are little is special and fleeting. Maintaining those bonds while allowing our children room to grow can be a delicate dance, but is an important one to develop.

Begin by taking a look at the