Solar Eclipse

Are you and your family excited about the upcoming eclipse?

Living in the Pacific NW, we know many families who will be making the trek to see the eclipse as it passes through Oregon. There is a lot of excitement, with talk of the upcoming eclipse on the news almost daily.

My family will not be making the trek. We were fortunate to have a lot of time hiking in the National Parks in July and need to stay put for the time being — though we did pick up some “Eclipse Shades” while we were there, and are looking forward to seeing a partial eclipse from where we live.

My boys asked me what the big deal was about the eclipse. “Why do so many people want to see it?” one asked. “Its rare, the moon will cross in front of the sun’s path and we won’t see the sun for a while” I explained. “The last total solar eclipse that went across the US happened when your mom was a kid.” That caught their attention. “Will we be able to see any of it?” my other son asked. “They say we’ll see a partial eclipse from here,” I shared. That seemed to satisfy them.

We don’t often get excited about seeing the sun and take it for granted. The eclipse has reminded my sons of the sun’s importance and even peaked their scientific minds in better understanding how our solar system works. It’s peaked my curiosity too. I don’t recall anyone making a big deal about the eclipse when I was a kid, and don’t remember making any effort to see it. I will make the effort this time.

Will your family be taking in the eclipse? Are you traveling to see the full eclipse or staying put?

Be Easily Forgotten or a Hero?

Have you ever been embarrassed by a sibling or family member?

My oldest has reached an age where he is becoming embarrassed by his younger brother. While he loves his brother, they get along quite well together, he is starting to be influenced by what his friends think.

We were having dinner and my oldest decided he needed to share with us that his friends make fun of his younger brother because he gets excited over little kid things — mind you he’s a few years younger than his brother, so it’s normal for him to be into the things he’s into, but his older brother was embarrassed none-the-less.

My youngest son was at the table, made a frown and said, “that hurts my feelings and kind of makes me feel bad.” I agreed. I was pretty unhappy my oldest had shared his opinion so openly with disregard for how it might make his brother feel.

My husband and I began to talk to our oldest. My husband reminded our son of a  segment we’d listened to on the radio where a man recalled an experience from his childhood where he’d followed an assignment given by the teacher to write down something you like and then asked the kids to give their assignment to a peer to read aloud. The boy hadn’t realized the assignment would be read aloud and immediately became embarrassed when he knew it would. As he suspected, the kids started to laugh at what he’d written. He wanted to disappear, until one of his peers, a girl in the class asked, “What’s the point of this assignment? To embarrass each other?” It stopped the class, it stopped the teacher, it ended the assignment. He never forgot that girl and how she stood up and ended his humiliation. He ends the story by challenging the listener to consider who you want to be in life — one that flies under the radar and is easily forgotten, or be the hero and remembered forever? We challenged our son to think about who he wanted to be — we’d hope he’d want to (and have the courage to) be the hero. “You stand up for your brother. You don’t ever tolerate someone else making fun of him,” I said. I looked at his younger brother and said, “And you do the same for him. You guys both need to look out for one another.”

We ended the conversation after getting the boys to confirm they understood us and would work to stand up for each other, even in uncomfortable situations. I’m hoping to raise heroes, not those easily forgotten.

How are you raising your child to stand up for their siblings or peers? How are you teaching them to be someone’s hero?

Name in Lights

Have you ever wished for fame?

As a child, I certainly had my moments. I’m not sure how I thought I would achieve my fame, but really liked the idea of being loved by many and being on a cover of a magazine that would be seen by everyone in the grocery store (ah, how the young mind thinks). I was in awe of people who became famous, and curious — wondering how they did it?  There was no obvious answer to me.

My oldest son wants to be famous, well, that’s not exactly true. He wants to be a professional football player (some days professional soccer player) and therefore has fame in his sights. He doesn’t understand the pitfalls of fame: loss of privacy, experiencing trust issues (and realizing not everyone has what’s best for you in mind) and a loss of freedom that most of us take for granted on any given day. He just sees the upside — playing in a big arena, with adoring fans and being on TV (a step up from being on the magazine cover I hoped to be on one day?).

The Academy Awards will be full of famous people. Many hoping their hard work will yield them recognition as being the best at their craft. I am in awe of them, much like I was when I was young. How did fame happen for them?  Hard work, sure. But many of us work hard and don’t become famous.Once someone becomes famous you can trace the path they took to get there, but no two paths are (exactly) the same. You just don’t know when fame will meet you, or if it ever will.

My son has a dream of seeing his name in lights. I get it. I felt the same way when I was his age. I don’t know if he’ll achieve fame or not, but he will set his own path. And while I don’t know how his life will unfold and if fame and he will ever cross paths, I’m excited to see where it takes him.

Is your child interested in fame?  Are they interested in seeing their name in lights?

 

 

Oh Christmas Lights…

What is your favorite tradition of the holiday season?

As a family, my husband and I have worked to create new traditions with our family. Pacing ourselves based on our kids age and what we’ve thought they could handle. A visit to Santa when they were younger with mixed results — when they were very young they had no idea who he was and took pictures without issue, then they became scared of him (but not at the same age — there was a good three year period where one child was terrified of him and the other was completely okay with him), then finally they were okay with Santa, almost tolerant of him — they thought seeing Santa was an insurance policy — I need to visit with him just in case he’s real. As they grew, we added making gingerbread houses, advent calendars, and seeing some of the Christmas decorations around town. Our traditions now include some of the above, though there was no Santa visit this year (sigh…why do kids have to grow up so fast?), added in working a Christmas tree lot (a fundraiser for their school), and seeing the Pathway of Lights (house decorated with lights and the walking path adorned with candles around a local lake). We’ve attempted the Pathway of Lights in the past with mixed results — as babies in a stroller, non-stop crying forced us to abandon the walk early; as toddlers the cold or length of the walk wore them out–they clearly weren’t having fun; as 9 and 11 year olds, my husband and I thought this year they were ready for it.

We headed down to the lake with our plan — we’d walk around the lake for as long as we were all enjoying it (it’s about 3 miles around, and the weather this time of year can be a little dicey — cold, windy, sometimes rainy), and have dinner nearby with friends. We parked the car and headed toward the lake. It was a clear night (yes, I thought, we’re off to a good start). We walked a few blocks and my oldest proclaimed, “Mom, it’s freezing out here!” While bustling to get out of the house, I failed to realize he had grabbed his lightweight coat instead of his heavy one. We walked a few more blocks and my younger chimed in, “Mom, it’s windy out here!” I felt like I was an observation away from being the big bad wolf in the Three Little Pigs story…and then after a brief reprieve (there were a couple of oohs and ahs as we neared the lake and could see all the decorations and lights) it hit, my husband said, “Let’s walk the lake and then get dinner.” My husband knew our friends couldn’t meet us until later and didn’t want us to eat before they could even join us. My kids had other ideas. “Later? But I’m hungry now!,” one said. The other chimed in, “This is so stupid, I didn’t even want to do this.” I went into force-family-fun mode. “We don’t do many things as a family like this. We’re walking the lake and you’re going to enjoy it!” My kids stopped the outward complaining, but their non-verbal signals showed they didn’t plan to enjoy one minute of it. We walked for a few minutes. It was very windy and cold. Then we heard music. Oh, Christmas music, this will get everyone in the mood. Then I heard the lyrics. I can’t get no….no satisfaction. What? I thought, there is a Rolling Stones cover band playing at the lake? This makes no sense. Then my husband confirmed it wasn’t just me, “what in the world are they playing, and why is it so loud?” He was right, they were blasting the music across the lake. In years past I’ve heard carolers and musicians, never a cover band. It detracted from the festive mood. We started feeling like our grand plans of making this holiday tradition we would all look back on fondly were doomed. We proceeded to try to make it work anyways. We walked. The kids complained. It was crowded, there were people everywhere. My kids complaining got louder. I had had it. I stopped everyone, a laugh of defeat escaped from my body and I said in an all too loud voice, “this is no fun. This is something I look forward to every year and you’re making this so unenjoyable. Can’t we just enjoy this? It’s beautiful out here. Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s windy. Yes, you might be hungry. Yes, there is music that is confusing playing. But we’re together and we don’t get to do these kinds of things very often. Can you please, please, please, try to enjoy this for a few minutes?” My kids were silent, my husband was silent and a few people around us were silent. After a few moments my youngest took my hand and said, “Mom, can you keep my hand warm?” I noticed he hadn’t brought his gloves after I had given them to him before he left the house. “Of course,” I said. “Mom, can you hold my hand too,” my other piped in. They were trying. I was grateful. Holding hands with each of my kids, we proceeded to finally walk. No more complaining (even though I knew they were cold and would rather be inside a warm restaurant), no more talking for a while. “Oh, look” I pointed to a group of kayakers who had decorated their boats with lights and were on the water. “That’s so cool!” We all agreed. We walked further. The kids started pointing out neat decorations on house, pets and people. Anytime one of us saw something that we liked we pointed it out. It started to become enjoyable.

The wind and cold forced us to turn around after about 30 minutes. While it would have been nice to be outside longer, it felt like we might be pushing our luck, and we’d gotten to see many of the beautiful decorations around. When we got to the restaurant, we were grateful to sit, rest and warm up. Food did us all good and our friends joining us made for an even more special evening.

The tradition isn’t as I envisioned, but it was a special night, and my hope is that as my children age, this will become a more meaningful tradition (and we’ll laugh at times like this — I still think about the Rolling Stones cover band…really? The Rolling Stones?).

Have you ever had a tradition you were hoping your child would take to and didn’t? What new traditions are you and your child experiencing?

I will be off for the next few weeks enjoying time with friends and family, and will be back in January.

Happy Holidays!

Let’s Go Camping

When you think of summer what comes to mind? Playing on a Slip ‘n Slide, spending lots of time in the pool, going swimming in a lake, fishing, making homemade ice cream or something else?

My boys and I have never camped in the summer, but that’s going to change this year. We’ve camped before (see blogs on our camping trips in the past) but also in cooler months. I can remember camping as a kid and it was almost always in the summer months. Memories of bugs, relentless heat, and sweat come to mind. It’s probably why I’ve avoided it up to this point. Instead of doing traditional camping (and by that, I mean getting in the car and driving to a camping site) we’re going to camp in our own backyard. I realize this isn’t a unique idea, but it’s a first for us. Not having to drive anywhere and still being able to use all of your camping gear is appealing. And if the bugs bite, we’ve got a quick escape (either come inside or I can run to the store and pick up some bug spray). I know, I know…what fun is it, if you don’t have all the hardships that can come with a good old fashioned camping trip? Lots, I’d say. My boys are really excited about the backyard campout, and can’t wait to figure out how to convert of backyard so it is more ‘camp-like’ (I can’t wait to see what they come up with).

I’m reminded of my own upbringing and how the simple things: watching (and sometimes catching) lightning bugs, running through the sprinkler, going to a BBQ and just relaxing with people I loved holds a special place in my heart. These things were fun, relaxing, and created a moment that forced me to pause to appreciate how good it felt to be right where I was, without a care in the world.

When have you experienced those moments? How are you and your family enjoying the summer?

 

Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever

What is the best Mother’s Day present you received? What is the best Mother’s Day gift you ever gave?

Growing up, I recall giving my mother various gifts throughout the years: artwork, small inexpensive trinkets, and as I got older flowers. There never really seemed an appropriate gift, and it never really occurred to me ask my mom what she might like (nor did she offer up what she might like from us). The best gift I ever gave was done collectively with my sisters help. We worked together to decorate my mom’s chair at the table with beads, a crown and banner that read “Best Mom Ever” — we were very proud of our work, and our mom was very surprised that we choose to honor her in this way. I’ve reflected on that over the years and don’t think we ever topped that Mother’s Day no matter what gifts we bought her. The sentiment was from the heart, it was simple, pure and full of love.

As a mother, there’s nothing I want or need anyone to buy for me. A hug, kiss, letter or drawing are great; extra time to sleep and breakfast in bed–a treat; offering to clean the house–a thrill. Any sentiment from the heart–be it simple, pure and full of love–not sure I could ask for anything more.

How do you celebrate Mother’s Day? When have you felt most loved? When have you made your Mom feel most loved?

Happy Mother’s Day.

Parenting is a Team Sport

Have you ever felt like parenting is a competition?

It’s a topic I often cover when speaking to parenting groups–being a parent can feel like many things including a rite of passage to see how we (as parents) can out do each other, or how our kids can. It starts when our child is very young — whose sleeping better through the night, eating better, rolling over first, standing up, walking, etc. We are proud of our child hitting a developmental milestone, and want to believe their success is largely due to our parenting skills, but in reality it is more a mixture of our child’s innate capabilities and disposition, which may or may not have been influenced by us.

While we may feel like competition is only between other parents, a topic that isn’t often spoken of is competition between the parents themselves. Competition between parents can be just as common, and is not limited to couples who are divorced. Competition between a couple can be more subtle in how it shows up: a child feels they can confide in one parent more than they can another and the parent who is left out feels sadness the child doesn’t have (or maybe want) to have the same relationship with them, or competition can arise when one parent connects/relates easily with their child, while the other struggles. There are many different ways the feeling of competition can arise, but parenting is not a competition; it’s about doing what’s right for our child, not us. This can be hard to keep front and center when we have our competitive juices flowing.

My husband took our oldest to his flag football game over the weekend. My younger son and I were going to meet them there closer to game time and were just about to head out the door when my husband called and said, “Don’t go anywhere, we’re coming home.” When they got home I asked what happened. I found out that our son was getting frustrated with what the coach was asking him to do. He was struggling to do the practice drill and was showing his frustration. Instead of being respectful to the coach and listening to what the coach was saying, he was getting more and more angry, and talking back. My husband told my son to calm down and be respectful, or we’re going home. My son jumped at the chance and said, “Fine, let’s go home.” I could tell by the look in my husband’s eyes when he told me that he hadn’t thought his threat would turn out the way it did. He had thought our son would calm down, and listen to the coach, because he wanted to play in the game. But he was stuck, like many of us when we may threats and are kids call us on it (anyone have to leave the restaurant or theatre — places you wanted to go, and then your child starts misbehaving or act up, and you threaten you’ll leave if they don’t calm down and they say basically indicate they never wanted to be there in the first place? Ugh!). I said, “Oh no, you are going to the game. That’s not fair to your team, but you’re not playing. You have to earn the right to play and you lost that right in the way you acted.  You are going to go there and support them — you are going to be their #1 cheerleader today, and you’re going to apologize to the coach for your behavior.” My son looked at me like he couldn’t believe this hadn’t happened earlier, and said, “Okay.” We got in the car and went to the field. He didn’t play, he did cheer and he apologized to the coach — not once, but twice. My hope was that he would understand you can never walk away when things get tough, you can’t let your actions let down a larger group (your team), and there are consequences, sometimes uncomfortable ones like apologizing to a coach, when you behave a certain way.

Later that night my husband and I were talking about what happened. Without discussing it, we easily could have been filed this incident in the competition file, where one parent did the “right” thing and the other did the “wrong” thing (one is a better parent than the other — see how easy situations can have that competitive feel?)…but that’s not the way we viewed it. Instead, one of us experienced, with the best intentions, a misstep and the other helped them recover. We are a team, and need each other’s help. Parenting is a team sport, not an individual one. We have certainly had scenarios where my husband helped bail me out of a misfired threat. We learn each time we experience this together, and allow ourselves the chance to discuss, reflect, and think about how we would handle the situation differently in the future. We get better together.

Have you ever felt like you were competing with another parent or your spouse? How do you parent as a team, versus as an individual?

Go Team!

The Great Outdoors

What is your favorite part of being in the great outdoors?

Growing up I loved swimming in the pool, riding bikes and swinging on our swing set. The times that stay with me about being outdoors are the times when I did something different: having a water balloon fight; or playing baseball on a diamond that sat upon freshly mowed grass; or running through a rain storm to get back to our house after school–it was a bit of miserable (from getting wet) and exhilarating (can we get home before the real downpour hits?).

In honor of Earth Day, we took our boys to help do some weeding and planting in a community garden. It was the first time, in a long time, I had done ‘real’ gardening, outside of clipping back some branches and doing light weeding at home. It was fun to do it with our boys. They, along with the other kids who participated, loved finding earth worms, centipedes, and daddy long-leg spiders all around. Our youngest, who along with another boy, even found a forgotten potato patch in the overgrown garden. They were thrilled every time they found something new: potato, bug, broken piece of pottery or piece of wood. The particular patch of Earth we worked on was ideal — the soil was mainly soft and we someone were lucky enough to be in the shade. It made for hard, yet very comfortable and satisfying work.

What surprised me most while gardening was how far the weeds went down. Several times, I would find a little sprout of the green invasive species that had taken over our patch, and give it a light tug, thinking the roots could only go so deep. But they almost always went deeper, and deeper and deeper. An inch of green above ground could turn into several feet of root underneath. It was amazing. I was also struck with how good the weeds were at hiding. If a wooden board was in place to help separate the sections of the garden, the weeds were almost always thicker, deeper and stronger near that piece of wood. It reminded me of how many of us have our own personal weeds, and how we only like to show so much of ourselves ‘above ground’ (to most), and do whatever we can to protect the weeds or hide we really are beneath the surface. This realization helped me appreciate another benefit of the great outdoors — there are analogies all around in nature for how we live our lives, and how we can (I like the idea of my life being weeded out or weed-free).

We might think we were giving back to the Earth that Saturday, but the Earth was giving my family and I more in return.

What has the great outdoors given to you?

Holiday Cards

Dear Friend,

I hope this card finds you well. Another year has flown by again…

Holiday cards are nice to receive, right? I love getting cards from friends. I really enjoy getting holiday cards from friends, particularly those I haven’t seen in a while or do not speak to on a regular basis, that include details about what they’ve been up to the last year. It seems like getting details lessens every year.

I can certainly appreciate how busy everyone is. There always seems to be something to do: get your child some place, get yourself some place, pick up something, drop off something, make something, do something. The list of ‘to-dos’ seems endless. Getting holiday cards done can seem like one more ‘to-do’ on a very long list.

I appreciate the effort and the thought of being included on friend’s mailing list, but oh, how I miss details of what is going on in our friends lives when they are not included. I know there are many reasons why people don’t do this:

  • They don’t want to be seen as bragging (most letters include highlights vs. low lights — you see more “we took a trip to Hawaii” vs. “Jimmy’s failing math and we’re super stressed about it.” right?),
  • They don’t think others are that interested in what’s going on with them (we are, we really are), or
  • They don’t have the energy to sit down to write the letter–there is just too much to get done, and this isn’t high on the list (we can all relate to this).

Writing a letter, for my husband and I, is a good way for us to pause and reflect on the past 12 months. We are often in awe of all that has occurred–good and bad, and what we look forward to in the New Year. It feels like by capturing our experiences on paper, we’re somehow permanently entering them into our family time capsule (which is made up solely of our memory, and what we capture in pictures, and on paper). The letter is a brief snapshot in time of our family history, that without writing down on paper, we’d too easily forget. When we finish our letter, I normally experience a range of emotions from grateful to sad: grateful we made it through another year and we are all healthy, and sad that precious time has passed.

A friend, this year, sent a simple fold out card with pictures of her kids and family. While it could have stopped there, she made the card even more special by adding text over each child’s picture with what everyone was grateful for. It gave me a quick sense of what the kids were into (grateful for certain toys, or their pets, friends, etc.), and that they were doing okay (when you share that you are grateful, it tells me that things must be pretty okay…it’s difficult to be grateful when you are in a low spot or something terrible has happened).

She shared those details I crave. I really appreciated it.

How do you stay connected with others? What types of cards do you like to send, and receive?

I want to wish everyone safe and happy holidays. I will be taking time off and will return in January.