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?

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

image

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?

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.

Girls, Dirt and Play

I can vividly remember taking my precious toddler girl out to play in the backyard. This was about nine years ago. If she happened to sit down on the ground, perhaps lose her balance and end up on her bottom, she was distressed by the dirt that she got on her hands. Rather than dig in and play in the dirt, she sat there holding her hands out as if unsure what to do about that dirt.

At four, she wore dresses almost everyday. (She had been the lucky recipient of a lot of very lovely hand-me-down dresses.) She certainly had other options in her dresser and closet, but she literally wore dresses almost everyday. I should add, it didn’t stop her from playing. She was into Polly Pockets and Littlest Pet Shop around this time, but she also enjoyed playing outside at the playground (in her lovely dresses).

By the time she was six, she was in self-imposed superhero training. She very seriously informed me that one must be eight years old to actually be a superhero, so she was in training until that day. This involved a lot of strength and agility work. Many goals and checklists.

At ten, she is now a full-fledged superhero. And a musketeer. And she plays in the dirt. That little girl who once held out her hands in dismay when they touched dirt now comes in from an afternoon of play absolutely covered in mud.

So why am I telling you this? I ran across this interesting blog post on peggyorenstein.com about girls’ footwear and the old practice of foot-binding.

My two kids and I had read the biography of a missionary to China named Gladys Aylward last year. One of the things she accomplished there was helping to eliminate the practice of foot-binding (the mandarin made her a foot inspector), which would literally deform the girls’ feet and greatly limit their mobility. As you would expect, all three of us were horrified by foot-binding and couldn’t imagine anyone choosing to do that to their children. We shook our heads, thinking how enlightened modern people are in comparison.

The Peggy Orenstein article cites a study showing that parents take their boys outside to play more than their girls. It also shows the vast difference in marketing for boys’ and girls’ shoes. Whether to sparkle and shine or to help you run fast. Whether to be looked at or to be used. I must say, I hadn’t ever really thought of footwear choices as reflecting the same attitudes as foot-binding, but I can see her point.

I’ve never been one to wear high heels often. Occasionally when dressing up, sure, but not regularly. Since I started running, though, I almost never wear them. I noticed that my ankles bothered me when I would go for a run after a night out in high heels. Not worth it to me. My feet are for getting me around, not for looking at. Contrary to the shoe industry’s apparent marketing strategy, I care more about utility. I have a few pairs of high heels that mainly collect dust and that I probably never should have wasted money on for how seldom I actually wear them. Am I unusual? I don’t know. I don’t pay that much attention to other people’s shoes. Is the shoe industry out of touch? Again, I’m really not sure.

I have nothing against dressing up and wearing pretty things, for myself or for my daughter. I draw the line when looking pretty and shiny becomes more important than being active and doing what we enjoy. If we can’t work or play for fear of messing up our shiny shoes, what’s the point?

What do you think? As a culture, are we unintentially (or intentionally) telling our girls to be still and look pretty?

(I hope not. There is SO MUCH MORE to life than that!)

Coincidence

I wish I could remember all the times when I read an article or passage of Scripture that absolutely spoke to me exactly where I was. There have also been numerous times when I heard a song that was perfectly suited to my situation.

Sometimes these coincidences speak words of comfort, sometimes conviction, sometimes simply let me know I am not alone in my particular situation.

Coincidence is defined as follows:

co·in·ci·dence
[koh-in-si-duhns]

noun
1.
a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance: Our meeting in Venice was pure coincidence.

2.
the condition or fact of coinciding.

3.
an instance of this.

I am not convinced that all these occurrences are mere coincidence. I think they may be one way that God speaks to us.

I recently shared a Maya Angelou quote that I appreciate. “When you know better, you do better.”

The very next Bible study I attended included the following:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
~Ephesians 4:22-24

Another way of reminding me to keep moving forward and doing better as I learn. Whether providential, or simply coincidence, I appreciate these moments, and I think this message is worth repeating.

Machiavellian Mom

Machiavelli for Moms

Did anyone else see the piece on Suzanne Evans over the weekend? Here’s a link to the article I read, which is quoted below, if you’d like to take a peek. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323646604578400804035071688.html

Author of Machiavelli for Moms: Maxims on the Effective Governance of Children, Evans applies principles from Machiavelli’s The Prince to child rearing.

Some of what I read made me feel sad. Pitting the children against each other in a competition for better grades?

“Excellent!” I praised Teddy when she brought home a nearly perfect second-grade report card. I then rewarded her with a celebratory family dinner at the restaurant of her choice. On the other front, Daniel, whose report card wasn’t so stellar, got nothing, other than the shame of losing the competition—to his younger sister no less, as I reminded him.

I favor respecting all family members as individuals, with different gifts and interests. Family relationships are more important than grades, in my opinion. It is not worth putting that kind of wedge between siblings in an attempt to provide more motivation. If a family member struggles with a given subject, then support, don’t shame. And accept that not every person will be equally gifted in a given area. The idea of intentionally shaming a child upsets me. I’m a big believer in each person working to his or her own potential. Do your best. Don’t worry about what the person next to you is doing.

I also can’t get behind this:

So, to minimize resistance and feelings of unnecessary abandonment (“You’re going golfing? Can we come?!”), I told my kids that their dad and I were going away for the weekend on a business trip. And I didn’t feel a bit guilty about it. The result: When I returned home, I was well-rested and relaxed, and my kids, who had worn out their grandparents, were thrilled to have me and their dad back home.

In other words: Don’t feel guilty for lying to your kids if it makes you happy and relaxed…because having a happy, relaxed mom always benefits a child.

It might be easier in the moment to avoid a confrontation (and believe me, I hate confrontation), but I don’t think it is worth damaging the trust between parents and children in order to get away for a weekend. I see nothing wrong with taking that weekend away, only with lying about it.

While it sounds like Evans does offer some advice that I would agree with (such as providing children with a set amount of money and letting them decide how to use it ~ it’s great to teach the value of a dollar!), there is too much emphasis on results over relationships for my taste.

Parenting is hard work. I make mistakes. All. the. time. Even in my imperfection, I want my approach to be from a place of respect. I show them how to show respect by modeling respect in my treatment of them and others. I teach them how to be kind by modeling kindness. I teach them diligence by diligently going about my own work.

Whew! I am suddenly feeling overwhelmed.

It’s a work in progress.

Even if modeling my parenting style after Machiavelli results in high-achieving, well-behaved children, the cost is too high if it means breaking trust within the family.

What do you think?