Monthly Archives: November 2014

Sunday Morning Shout Out


Most parents I know, throw myself in the bunch, are in a bit of a small panic at this point in the holiday season. –Or so it seems. There are those lucky few that seem very excellent at taking things in measured stride. –You know, those moms you meet that planfully buy things throughout the year.  I even have a dear friend who keeps a running spread sheet and does this bold feat.  I have other friends who start baking in the beginning of November and have it done, along with lasagna for their Christmas meal just waiting to be pulled out to eat.  To some extent, I wish I was like these amazing friends.   Yet natural tendencies and a heart and mind that get caught up in the excitement of the holidays, and the daily demands of living, prevent such organization.  Yet, even if this be my proclivity or yours, there are things we can all choose to do to make the holidays more meaningful and sane.

There are some wonderful blogs and articles that discuss this very issue.  For those who are more into the sacred sense of Christmas and Hannukah, the article “40 Ways to Keep Christmas Simple and Meaningful,” by Victor Parachin offers some inspiring, lovely, and practical ways to keep the sacred and spiritual in Christmas.  From reminding the reader of scripture verses to hold on to and encouraging the “spirit of the innkeeper” to rethinking habits; exercising the word ‘no’ to all the shoulds and have to’s that we impose upon our lives this time of year; and doing more to keep it simple, there are some great things here for the traditional Christmas soul.  The “Jewish Woman Magazine” offers some tips for keeping Hannukah more meaningful and sane.  From tips on establishing limits to suggestions for meaningful gifts, experiences, and sharing of beloved traditions, there are many helpful nuggets for the stressed out Jewish parent.   For the more secular family, there are great article and blog offerings to read on this subject.  The “Frugal Girl” blog offers some great ideas and ways to maintain a simpler and saner Christmas.  In fact , she has a whole series on the subject.  One I particularly enjoyed was “Making Christmas Merry, More Experiences, Less Stuff.”   She discusses what she remembers most from her childhood. While she recalls liking her stocking and the presents under the tree, what she most cherishes are memories with her grandparents making pfeffernusse and stringing cranberries and popcorn around her tree with her family.  Indeed the latest video game and plastic toy may seem exciting, but what lasts are the intangibles: the things we hold meaningful and time well spent with the ones we love making memories…..

 

 

 

 

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


We all say it and feel it from time to time.  We have become people who are “crazy busy” living in crazy times.  Is it because we multitask; are media saturated; have our children in 200 activities; work two jobs; or just want to do a lot in too little time?  Perhaps it is a mix of these factors or none of the above.  The point is we’ve seemed to have reached a place where only being “crazy busy “is acceptable if we are to be deemed productive and successful.  At what point do we rebel against this craziness and define for ourselves a more sane life?  At what point must we/should we circle the wagons for our families and our homes?

A conversation I had with a dear friend; random exercises in stupidity; and a generalized feeling of being “crazy busy” have called me to do some self-examination.  Like any house and family, there are things at stake and issues to be addressed with our children and the need for increased family time and time with another, as partners in marriage.  Without purposefully delineating such time, it goes by the proverbial wayside for another day when things perhaps aren’t so “crazy busy.”  Time and activities are a choice, fellow mama, parent, friend, and reader, I am to the point where I am trying a lot more carefully to say yes when demanded, no when needed, and be a compass for myself and our children, as opposed to a conduit for time slipping away to an empty sink hole.

For me, as goes my vehicle, so go I.  When I have had flat tire and other car issues, it always seems like its busyness, thoughtlessness, and the mad rush to nowhere or somewhere ill-equipped that leaves me hung out to dry and literally broken down.  I have had two flat tires in the past 10 years that were directly linked to preoccupation and rush, as opposed to being present to my circumstances.  Running out of gasoline on a cold winters day last week was no exception.  I “thought” I could make it to my destination with just enough time and gasoline.  Stupid, stupid, stupid,!  Rush, force, cram, obviously doesn‘t work. —-Forethought, planning, another story. –The less packed the day, the better.

Yet sometimes life seems to take on these qualities all by itself or perhaps because life is not singular, especially as a parent.  Even though we “police” are children’s schedules and activities so they are not over committed and overbooked, the demands of life can still make it feel that way.  When school events intersect with life events, crossed by a toddler with inordinate (okay wonderfully healthy, just abundant energy (insert your own circumstances) energy, a sense of well-being can get away.  It can feel like an attack, although time is only really time and not a mortal enemy.

While this may be the case, we are still trying to take measures to be proactive and protective of our familial space.  For us, this means emphasizing certain things and de emphasizing others.  Yes to rest; quieter activities; and family time –nuclear and extended, over too much time for our children outside of our home and within events and places not entirely pertinent to our best functioning as a family. Our children do not need to “experience it all” by 12, at the expense of time to just be a daydreaming child.  They continue to have wildly abundant opportunities, but will not be overscheduled and committed to any cause or activity, other than their own childhood and family. Our time does not look like something off Pintrest, but it hopefully looks like unadorned childhood, where they run through the yard; play both loudly and quietly in their rooms; find quiet places to read a book; and help out in our home and also find respite.  I do not pretend to have all the answers or reasoning, but for us this helps; this strengthens; and this protects our wagons and home…..

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Monday “Think About It”


Image Source:  http://justaskva.org/

Image Source: http://justaskva.org/

The snow is falling, Christmas music has started to play on the radio and I’m working on my Virtus annual certification.  A bit of information came up that is a bit eye opening.  According to the US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report from 2006  it was estimated then that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually.

The same report suggests that the United States of America is principally a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons.  However, this comment that the USA is ‘principally a transit and destination country’ is probably a bit wishful and misleading.  I say this because the primary victims of trafficing and human slavery are women and especially younger girls (i.e., tween and teen) who are exploited for sex and prostitution.  According to the FBI, sex trafficing of teens is the second fastest growing crime in the USA.

It is a big issue and one that we as parents need to learn more about to help us talk to our children about it and know the warning signs.  A great site for more detailed information is JustAskVA.org.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


dinnerIt was a poor end to the week.  At a family event, let me just say our children showed their less than precious sides.  Unfortunately, this has happened a few times recently.  Something needed to be done to address these matters.  The usual course did not seem to be bringing meaningful or long lasting results.

We are riddled with many stressors and tensions, along with some great stuff!  Our households are no different.  Before your household resembles Mt. Vesuvius or your family unit feels like it is lacking cohesion and running amok, consider holding a family meeting.  They can be a great way to resolve household concerns and strengthen the foundation of your family organization.

Like a business, an organization, or a team, a family unit must work together to run efficiently; have a united front and vision; and share concerns and successes.  There are some great tips for having a successful family meeting at numerous websites like ehow.com; verydaylife; and  lemon-lime adventures.  From encouraging a set scheduled time once a week for meetings to actual templates to follow, there are some suggestions as to how to proceed.

I can tell you how ours proceeded.  It occurred during dinner time.  This does not always work in our house as a certainly vivacious three year-old can dominate dinner time with his less than proper meeting antics (A certain little boy happened to be sleeping during this dinner.  Ahead of time, I came up with an agenda.  I encouraged my husband to add anything he wanted to the agenda.  Before we broke right into the issues that needed to be addressed, I told them a story about their great- grand parents and their grand-parents, to stress the character points we were focusing on at that meeting.  This seemed to work very nicely on many levels, at keeping them engaged.

There was some discomfort when it came to bringing up specific behaviors that needed to be looked at and improved upon, to the point we had to ask the girls to keep focused and not duck the conversation.  Ahead of time, I had written down certain goals for each girl.  We reiterated what we expected and told them these meetings will be a regular occurrence in their lives.  They will be used to check in and assess where we are all at as a family.  We also made it clear that they needed to hold up their end of the bargain, in terms of behavioral changes and doing expected chores, if they wanted us to do the “extras” with them.  Without mincing words, they were told being taken to and from, and quite frankly even being part of clubs and activities were a privilege they had to earn.  There was room for them to voice any concerns or questions they had for us. It ended on a lighter note with some old, funny stories being rehashed.

While this “formula” might not work for all families, it seems to have helped ours.  I have noticed a change this week.  Now they must stick with the behavioral changes; refocused dedication to pitching in at home; and in terms of my husband and I, holding meetings weekly to address behavior concerns; motivate the children; keep them accountable; come together as a family, and hopefully get stronger and more cohesive…..

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Hardly a week goes by without a news story about a school shooting or other act of large scale heinous violence.  On a smaller, yet no less of an important scale, school bullying and just meanness seem to run rampant at times in our schools.  Do we live in a society that stresses personal happiness and one of self –fulfillment at the expense of compassion and kindness to others?  Is this trickling right down to our children?  Like all things for our children, emphasizing and modeling the later qualities start early with our children.  As a parent, I often wonder about what concrete things or examples my husband and I showing our three little ones when it comes to be a kind person.  How do we teach these principles?  How does our family live the ‘Golden Rule’?

An article that appeared over the summer in the “Washington Post” Parenting Section offers some concrete examples of teaching kindness to our children.  In her article, “Are You Raising Nice Kids? A Harvard Psychologist Gives 5 Ways to Raise Them to be Kind,”  parenting writer Amy Joyce discusses this issue.  She talks about Harvard Psychologist Richard Weissbourd’s ” Making Care Common Project” and what he teaches with his initiative.  They include: 1) Making caring for others a priority;  2) Providing Opportunities for Children to Practice Caring and Gratitude;  3) Expanding Your Child’s Circle of Concern;  4) Being a strong moral role model and mentor; and 5) Guiding Children in Managing Destructive Feelings.  From letting your children know kindness is an important value you hold dear and strongly in your household and emphasizing kindness and respectfulness in all their transactions with others, to expecting and having your child help around the house; volunteering as a family; helping the vulnerable in our population; relating the problems children in our society and less developed countries can face; and helping them appropriately deal with their feelings, particularly the anger variety, there are many opportunities to emphasize empathy, kindness, helping others, and treating others just, plain well!  Children must see it at home; practice it routinely; and embrace it as they way in which to live…..

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Monday “Think About It”


So what do you think about New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s interview comment about a public education monopoly?  In the NY Daily News he is quoted as saying:

Vowing to break “one of the only remaining public monopolies,” Gov. Cuomo on Monday said he’ll push for a new round of teacher evaluation standards if re-elected.

Cuomo, during a meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board, said better teachers and competition from charter schools are the best ways to revamp an underachieving and entrenched public education system.

“I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term,” he said, “to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly.”

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


This week has left me with a hodge podge of thoughts for a variety of reasons.  Last weekend, a blog at Washington Post.com I enjoyed provided a link for this article.  This combined with thoughts from the girls’ school lockdown drill, followed up with my 10 year-old’s questions about ebola.  It leaves me with my own questions and ruminations about childhood and parenting.  For me, it comes down to the statement, that neither are for the faint of heart.  Neither are for a wussy.

Yes, this is the age of iPod everything. Those who have read my blog posts for awhile know I have personally wrestled with the issue of technology and balance since my children became interested in technology.  The writer from the “Washington Post” offers no real answers for a parent, other than her example of trying to strike a balance for her children.  Technology “ain’t” going nowhere, friends!   And it is not that I am technology adverse.  I just want our children to know its limits alongside its possibilities.  Like the writer in the “Washington Post” article, I so hope they notice the river outside their window and look away from the screen (any screen) when life is there to astound and provide wonder.

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Our children had their annual (biannual?) lockdown drill at school this week.  I wonder if parents sadly shook their heads in the 1950’s and 1960’s during air raid drills, chagrined at a world that made such drills a necessity.  With my girls telling me where they practiced hiding in the event of an lockdown, I cringed.  But I could also cry.  Yet I am thankful that our district practices for such awful contingencies, if there ever was a school attack.

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Lastly, I write of ebola.  As I type, the first case in New York State was found today, in New York City.  While we have protocol and basic knowledge of the disease, it seems that we just aren’t completely there in being ready for it in this country. —Or perhaps it is my fear as a mother…

Upon following asleep the other night, our oldest peppered me with questions about ebola.  Anxiously, she asked if we were at risk and what the common symptoms are.  Funny, but not funny, she asked if any of her relative had been in Liberia recently.  She wondered at how far Texas was from here.  I tried to answer her as best as I could, but fear I fell short.  I came upon an article that discussed how to answer questions about the illness, when talking to children.  Looking at different, similar articles, this article in the Washington Post seemed to take the best most commonsense, yet comprehensive approach with children.

As I finish writing this, I am left with this final thought.  Sometimes, I wish I didn’t have to go there.  But times they aren’t a changing, they have change!.  Better to be prepared, reflective, and ready as ready can be…..

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