Togetherness

I had the best weekend!  I went to bed on Sunday night feeling so content. It’s funny, because we didn’t do anything big. It was a healthy balance of work and play, all with the three people closest to my heart.

My son and I cooked dinner together on Friday night. We tried a recipe for a pizza crust made from cauliflower that he had chosen. It was good!

He and I also worked on his bedroom. I rearranged his furniture in a way that I think will be more practical.  He went through and indicated which toys and books he is ready to part with. They’re bagged up and ready to donate so a younger child can make use of them.  This also makes the things that he still wants to use so much more visible and accessible. We worked hard, and he is happy with the result. I’m happy too!

Our entire family, including our dog, walked/biked/scootered to our neighborhood park and played together.

Then we played a board game that we hadn’t thought about in quite awhile.  Funny how going through the toys and things reminds us of certain items that we loved but haven’t played with lately. 

We saw The Good Dinosaur at a local theater that serves food, so we ate dinner while we watched.  (I love that in theory, but the food is mediocre at best.)

My daughter and I hit up a couple more parks together.  I often just watch while my kids play, especially if we’ve met friends there and I’m chatting with the other parents.  This weekend, though, I played a lot and had SO MUCH FUN!  I haven’t done so much climbing in years!

We typically have various obligations and planned activities, which is fine and often better than fine. It is great to spend time with friends and extended family and to participate in structured activities that we enjoy. It is so refreshing, though, to have a quiet weekend like this. Without having to run off in opposite directions for activities, my husband and I had more time to connect as well.

My biggest takeaways are:

1) I am definitely not too old to have a blast playing at the park! 

2) Household work can be fun with the right company!

How was your weekend? Do you prefer to be busy or to have plenty of unscheduled time?

Happy Happenstance

We’ve just had a week off for spring break.  As homeschoolers, we certainly could have kept up the normal routine while our public school counterparts had the week off, but we decided to take our own break.  We didn’t travel.  We just enjoyed some simple pleasures at home.  We played a lot of Pictionary.  We played outside.  We anxiously waited for a forecasted snowstorm that never came.  We went to a movie.  We read books.  We spent a lot of time at the YMCA.

We happened to be at the pool when a Multiple Sclerosis Water Exercise class was about to begin.  Not all participants had MS, but most of them were older and had some limitations in mobility.  Side note:  I love that the YMCA offers classes and exercise options across a huge range of ages and fitness levels.  The family feel, the whole community feel, is largely what drew me to the Y over other gyms.

A gentleman who was waiting for the class, Bob, approached me to ask about my tattoo.  I told him about my Ragnar Relay experience and that several from the team had gone to get tattoos together after the race.  He told me that he had had a stroke six years ago and had been coming to this class for about 4 1/2 years.  He told me that after his stroke he could only speak two words and had to relearn to speak, walk, everything.  He remarked that now he “can’t get himself to shut up”.  He was delightful.  His zest for life was contagious.  I can understand his enjoyment of his gift of gab.  I imagine it is something he does not take for granted.

At times, I feel a similar sense of gratitude and enthusiasm to that of my new acquaintance, Bob.  It took years after my heart surgery to really appreciate the gift I’d received.  I resolved to make the most of my healthy heart, and for a while, I did.  Then I began to let it slide, caught myself, and renewed my efforts to keep up healthy habits and do my best to hold on to this gift of good health.  I was so happy to meet Bob, and I hope that we will see each other again at the Y.  I think he gains something from sharing his story.  You should have seen how he lit up talking to me and my children.  He certainly gives in the course of sharing his experience.  Inspiration.  Encouragement.

Coincidentally, when I met Bob, I had just started reading The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s massive stroke and locked-in syndrome.  His cognitive function remained excellent, but his brain could not communicate to the rest of his body, essentially leaving him trapped in his own body.  His only means of communication was blinking his left eye.  It was a touching book, heart-rending really.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to enjoy good health, let us not take it, or any of our other blessings, for granted.

Example of youth

So… sugar.

I grew up with ice cream nearly every night for dessert, candy here and there, and once I was a teenager with some money to burn, I was regularly drinking soda.

With my kids, I didn’t want to have quite so much sugar around.  I didn’t tend to have candy on hand very often, although I filled Easter baskets with candy and have always taken my kids trick-or-treating.  While I am not thrilled about the volume of candy on Halloween, I thoroughly enjoy this occasion when I see almost everyone in the neighborhood in one night and ooh and ah over the kids’ costumes.  To be perfectly honest, we go through phases when we have ice cream around pretty regularly, then go for a period of time without it.

I also like to bake occasional treats at home.  I enjoy the process of baking cookies or some other goody together with my children and enjoying the fruits of our labor.

If we could keep it at the level of occasional treat, I would be okay with it.  I quickly found, though, that sugar was being offered to my kids pretty much everywhere they turned.  Rewards from teachers, birthday parties, treats from friends and neighbors, donuts at church, the “snacks” offered at activities, fundraiser items being sold by neighborhood kids, grandparents…

Before long, I felt that the sweets from everyone else had crowded out our own baking at home.  It made me sad.  I felt that I couldn’t be the one to share treats with my own children.  I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by saying my kids could not accept the treats they were offered.  Even when limiting what we had at home, I still felt that the sweets had gotten way out of hand.  I regret letting it get to that point, but it is hard to change what we’re already accustomed to.

I’ve talked to my children about some of the concerns of eating sugar, especially eating a lot of sugar.  I wanted them to understand that there are reasons why I try to limit sweets, but I never did require them not to eat the candy from teachers, teddy grahams from friends, and so on, and so on.

I was thrilled when my son announced in late January that he was going to go the entire month of February with no junk.  Eager to encourage him, I told him I would join him.  In the end, our entire family took on this challenge together.

1 Timothy 4:12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

I am so proud that my ten year old son set this positive goal all on his own and that he inspired the rest of us to follow his lead.  It is so true that the young can set a good example.

A little more about the February challenge.  I realize that “junk” is a subjective term.  Since this was my son’s plan, I followed his rules.  No pop.  No desserts.  No chips.  No cereal.  Not much bread or crackers.  Check the label and avoid anything that has a bunch of unrecognizable ingredients.  This meant that he was willing to eat a serving of Triscuits (wheat, oil and salt), but he would not eat Wheat Thins, which have a much longer list of ingredients.  He would eat a Larabar but not a granola bar (we didn’t find any granola bar that met his approval).

How did a junk free month affect us?  Personally, I had gotten back into the soda habit (after giving it up for 2 1/2 years at one point), and I haven’t had any since sometime in January.   Making homemade pizza sauce, pasta sauces and the like has become more routine. I’m getting used to using plain yogurt instead of flavored.  I even lost a few pounds.

My son decided to have dessert on his birthday in March, but not to have sweets regularly.  He has said that he will probably have a dessert again in May.  Again, this is his thing.  I am not an enforcer.  I am, however, an encourager and an enabler.  I am ready and willing to support him in his goal to eat better.  I think that this will go far better as his choice than it ever would have had I forced it.

You know how else he has set an example?  He owns his choice and makes no apologies.  He doesn’t eat the thing he has decided not to eat just to be polite.  He simply tells them that he has decided not to eat sweets at this time.  No thank you.  And it has not been a big deal.  Why was I so worried about hurting feelings?

What about the candy-themed holidays?  As I am stashing away items to put in Easter baskets, there are no sweets involved.  Something that will be going into the baskets this year are packets of seeds, so we can plant and grow food and flowers together.  I don’t know about Halloween.  We will have to talk about it as a family and decide how to handle it.

If you see us, please don’t be surprised or offended if we decline an offer of food that doesn’t meet his criteria.  It is nothing personal.  It is just a boy trying to stand up for his health and a mom who supports him.

 

 

 

 

Boundless

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Image: NASA

I have been reading a book called The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen by Lloyd Alexander with my children.

I found the following passage worth jotting down so I can read it again and again. The characters noted below were high in the air, looking down at the world.

“Are we still in the kingdom of T’ang?” Fragrance of Orchid said. “Have we left it and crossed into another kingdom?”

“The first thing to understand,” Niang-niang said, “is that there is no Kingdom of T’ang, nor any other realm. Do you see borders? Is one countryside so different from another? Is not a mountain a mountain, a tree a tree, wherever it may be? Kingdoms? They are pitiful inventions of humankind. They mean nothing to us. We see there is only the world itself, nothing more, nothing less.”

Truly. Look at that image of Earth. There are natural boundaries formed by oceans, rivers, varying climates. There are not lines denoting ” us” and “them”.

There is so much division in our society, in our world. Different religions. Different political ideologies.

I became a mother after 9/11 and just two months before the U.S. launched its War on Terror. It saddens me that this has been the state of our world for my children’s whole lives. It saddens me that these patterns repeat again and again throughout history.

Radicals aside, isn’t the average person simply trying to live a happy, safe, healthy, meaningful life? Are we really so different from one another?

Long time, no blog

Wow, I see my visits here have become few and far between. It has been nearly a year since I have updated, with the exception of my ongoing book list. Glancing back at several of the more recent, however non-recent, posts, I see a lot of focus on child-related issues. That is no surprise. As a homeschooling mom, a huge part of my time and attention is directed toward my children. I do give a lot of thought to how our culture, and how our own parenting and educational decisions, will influence them. In fact, the infrequency of my posts here is largely a result of my effort to be more available to my kids. As homeschoolers, we do spend a lot of time together. I found that it is pretty easy to let other things overtake our free time – my free time – and I don’t want all our time together to be about doing schoolwork. I want to have time to play together and work together on meaningful things other than school.

Since I spent a lot of time talking about running in the past, I will update briefly. After an injury in 2012, I have to admit, I fell apart on the fitness front. If I couldn’t run, I wasn’t going to exercise at all, darn it! I didn’t consciously decide that, but it turned into my reality.

One great thing I’ve noticed when I am in a good exercise routine is that I also tend to eat well. I called it my virtuous circle.

virtuous circle

noun

A recurring cycle of events, the result of each one being to increase the beneficial effect of the next:
‘economic expansion would itself produce a virtuous circle of increased productivity, increased exports, and increased growth’

Sadly, when I wasn’t running, I didn’t make an effort to eat well. I was very lax about my food choices. It’s not by any means as if everything was bad at that time, but I certainly put my health on the back-burner.

When I saw people running, I felt a longing. For a long time, I thought I could just dive back in at any point once my injury had resolved. I would decide to start running again, run a few times per week for two or three weeks, then fizzle out. Boo. Finally, in 2014, I acknowledged the reality that I needed to start over. I did Couch to 5K all over again, and was so pumped to participate in a local 5K as the culmination of that training program. I’ve also joined a local chapter of a national women’s running group – Moms RUN This Town – and the community has gone a long way in encouraging me to keep it up this time. I have been running pretty regularly again since July of 2014. I’m slower than I used to be, but I have run several 5k’s, a 10k, and even a half-marathon last fall. I have enjoyed getting to know some great mother runners in my community as well. How did I do it without community before?

I have no races coming up, but I should pick something out and sign up! While unnecessary, I feel that races add a lot of FUN and motivation to things. I did enjoy a four miler today. A sunny 60+ day in Minnesota in March? I’ll take it, with gratitude. My virtuous circle also seems to be functioning fairly well again. It’s hard balancing work, parenting, health and all the rest. I am a constant work in progress in all aspects of life.

How about you? Have you dealt with injury with more grace than I did? Do you notice virtuous circles in your life? Do you have any advice on balance?

Point of View

It’s all in how you look at it.

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Taken from the same little perch next to the river.

I came to look at the beauty here. When I noticed the trash-ridden shore, the more lovely image I had captured felt a bit fake.

I prefer to see the beauty. Must I also acknowledge the ugly?

I’m All About That Self Love

As often as I’ve been hearing it, I think I can assume that many of you have also heard a song called “All About That Bass.” Oh, so catchy. Such a strong singing voice. Such a positive message. Wait, what?

I do think that Meghan Trainor has a fantastic voice, and I love the sound of the song. But, positive message?

Consider:

“Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size.”

Okay. Don’t worry about your size. Period. Or, since I get a little wordy, I might say:

“Don’t worry about your size. Your worth, your beauty, are not bound up in your size or your appearance. If you are healthy, make good choices to take care of yourself and treat others with kindness and respect, that is what matters.”

I might even throw in something like this:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV)

Instead, the song goes on to say, “She [Mama] says, ‘Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.’”

What does that have to do with loving yourself? Are girls supposed to model themselves after whatever it is that boys want at night?

No. That is not what I want my daughter to learn. Or my son, for that matter.

It’s really too bad. I do love the sound of this song, but I cannot support lyrics like these.