What Brings Us Together

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. An American tradition of coming together with family and friends and watching the big game, while enjoying rich food and celebrating competition.

Our family found the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet in recent years which airs at the same time as the Super Bowl. In the Puppy Bowl they do an animal take on the big game with puppies of different breeds playing together. And while there is some competition (e.g. which dog will finish the task first) it is more about watching these adorable animals interact. My youngest son loves puppies and anything ‘cute’ so the Puppy Bowl is a hit for him. My oldest son, husband and I found it quite cute ourselves after watching it for a few minutes. It is much more enjoyable for us than watching violent hits, boasting players and beer commercials, and I should note I actually like watching football normally. The Super Bowl just seems like a game on steroids (literally and figuratively?).

With all the chaos of the last week the Puppy Bowl got me thinking. Animals don’t differentiate between people. Animals are eager and willing to meet (and play) with people they have just met happily (unless, of course, they have been mistreated). We should take a lesson from the animals playbook.  Our pets and our love for them bring us together.  People from all races, religions, and countries love their pets. People’s love for these creatures is universal. Animals have a magical quality of meeting us where we are, and excepting us how we are without judgement. They provide love, comfort, companionship, and joy (and much more). My sons love animals and are asking us for a pet (and we’re hoping there may be some in our future). My husband and I grew up with animals and remember how important they were to us.

Puppies aren’t the only cute critters having a bowl game today. There is also the Kitten Bowl on the Hallmark Channel. My youngest is looking forward to seeing both the kittens and puppies play, and so is the rest of my family. We might tape the ‘big game’ and fast forward through to see the commercials later, and while either the Patriots or Falcons will become the Super Bowl Champions, the animals are winning out this year.

How is your family celebrating it being Super Bowl Sunday?  What do you and your family love most about animals?

 

Cast Away

Has your child ever tried out for something–position on a sport, part in a play, chair in the band, part in the choir –and wished they had tried for another later?

My youngest son has been in his school’s play every year since kindergarten. Each year, the students in grades K-2 are given support roles, for the most part, they are background characters that participate in small, but meaningful ways — singing songs or milling about as if they are part of a larger crowd.  The older kids, in grades 3-5, get priority for the roles with speaking parts with the highest grade getting highest priority.

My son, who is in the third grade decided to try out for a speaking part, but was clear he didn’t want to be a main character in this year’s production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He and I practiced the lines he was given. He put extra effort into playing a convincing Mr. Bucket (Charlie’s dad) for his audition, but when the cast list came out he learned he would play the part of an Oompa Loompa. He was very disappointed. I asked him ‘why?’ He gave me a look that said ‘give-me-a-break-mom-you-know-why.’ After I stayed quiet for a few moments he said, “It’s embarrassing. I’ll barely have any lines.”  “But I didn’t think you wanted many lines?” I said. “I said I didn’t want to be a main main character like Charlie or Willy Wonka,” he shared. “Okay, well, we’ll have to let the director know that next year so she knows you’re interested in a role with more lines,” I finished.

Our exchange reminded me of times in my life when I held myself back from really going for something — trying for a top position/seat on a team, or singing a solo at church to name a few. I often regretted not going for it afterwards. While there was some relief in knowing I wouldn’t be embarrassed if I failed, I was disappointed I didn’t push myself to try harder and show the talent I really had — not so others would understand my potential, but that I would.

My son will have another opportunity next year to try out for a part in the play, and I will encourage him to really go for it and see what he can accomplish. I’ll be able to remind him of what happens when you hold yourself back — you just don’t know what you’re capable of.

What do you do when your child tries to ‘cast’ off really going for a tough role or part? How do you encourage them to work through their reluctance so they can see their full potential?

The Return of the Pause Button. Thanks Summer!

What are your best memories of the last day of school? About summer vacation?

Memories flood back for me: the excitement of the last day, field day activities, leaving school, starting swim team practice, riding bikes and hanging out with my friends. My kids are excited about school being over and things being more relaxed. There always seems to be a flurry of activity leading up to the end of school, it can be overwhelming to any parent trying to keep it all straight. I always take a deep breath and think ah, we made it when I pick up my kids on the last day of school.

We’re looking forward to warmer weather, more sunshine, and time to rest and just be. In our fast paced world, we sometimes need to hit the pause button. Summer is the pause button for our family.

How do you and your family relax during summer break?

I will be taking some time off to relax with family over the holidays and will be back in July. Happy Fourth!

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?

 

What, no TV?

It’s summertime, and our kids have more free time on their hands. They are in camps during the week, but when they are not at camp all they want to do is watch TV.

When I was a kid, I wanted to watch TV 24×7 if my parents would allow it. I can remember one particular summer my mom told me that my sisters and I that our TV time would be limited to three hours a day. Three hours a day, that’s outrageous! There’s so much we’ll be missing! I thought. I can remember discussing this decision with my neighbor friend whose mom was trying something similar with he and his sister. “It’s not fair,” we both agreed. I can’t recall how closely the TV time was held to, but do recall we were prompted to play outside more, and it was okay to be bored.

With my own kids, my husband and I were noticing a trend…if allowed, our sons would watch TV 24×7. The TV seemed to be on any time we were inside the house. It was becoming a problem. While I hated the idea of restricting my kids TV time to three hours (because I could remember how much I hated it as a kid), I knew it was what we were ultimately going to have to do.

My husband and I sat down our kids and talked to them about limiting their TV time. Our conversation was met with “What?” “That’s not fair!” “You’re so mean!” “We’re going to be so bored!” This was expected, but still not easy to hear. “Guys, we’re not doing you any favors by letting you sit around and watch TV all the time, there is too much life to live, and you’re not living it if you sitting on a couch.” My sons may not have liked our message, but they understood it. “What are we going to do to pass the time?” my son asked. “You’ll have to figure that out. You can ride your bike, play out in the backyard, create something with your Lego, there’s all sorts of things you can do, it’s really up to you.”

We started our new schedule, and it was hard for everyone. It took some getting used to. It’s still taking some getting used to, but what I found was when my husband and I were firm with what would be allowed (e.g. if you watch three hours of TV first thing in the morning, that’s it.) we saw that our boys could adjust…it might be done begrudgingly, but they could do it.

I’ve seen them be more creative with their time since we implemented the change. There have been days when the three hours have been exceeded, but it’s been the exception. With summer vacation here, our timing feels right — there is so much to do, explore and see, it would be a shame if it were mostly spent inside.

Have you ever had to limit screen time? What worked for you? What helped your child make the adjustment?

Happy Fourth! I’ll be taking time off with the family and will be back following.

Rock Around the Clock

Springing forward always reminds me how precious time is. When my sons were born, time went from normal spend to slow-motion. Sleepless nights, feeding, clothing and changing seemed like an endless cycle. I couldn’t wait for time to get back to “normal” speed again. What I’ve noticed is the more independent your child becomes, the faster time seems to go. You don’t have to hover over them to get them ready or be beside them each second to know where they are and what they are up to.  My husband and I made this observation the other day, while the kids were busy playing with their toys by themselves and we were having a conversation in the other room. It’s nice, I thought, they are able to do more on their own. And the more they are able to do on their own, the less they will need my assistance. It made me momentarily sad. It reminded me of the precious time I have left with them before they go out and live life on their own.

This realization made for a great ‘live-in-the-moment’ opportunity. As a family, we watched a movie together. During the credits, music played that we couldn’t help, but dance to. It was silly, but exhilarating. While my boys are still relatively young, I won’t always get to do this. It made dancing with them in that moment that much more special. I could have danced all night like that.

How has time changed for you as your child grows? What event(s) helped you to pause and appreciate what was going on in a moment of time?

Puppet Show

What do you do to jumpstart your activity in the New Year?  No, I don’t mean what exercise regiment have you started, but how do you rebound from all the activity around the holidays and then those few days of calm between Christmas and New Years, where things seem to slow down, things become calmer, and you have some time to breathe?

It’s not uncommon for my ‘jumpstart’ to take place sometime several weeks into the year. I yearn to hold onto the slowness and peaceful state-of-mind I feel those days at the end of the year, and look ahead to the next time I’ll get to experience that feeling again. Thinking of future vacations helps.

My kids are much more eager to get back into the swing of things than I…seeing their friends at school and resuming activities seems to get their energy back up.

On a workday morning not long into the New Year, I was overwhelmed with everything that had to be accomplished in the day ahead. I was eager to get the kids going so I could start getting through my lists of “to-dos”. My youngest son didn’t want to get ready, and was adamant about not getting out of bed.  As I assessed the situation two choices came to mind: 1) I can get frustrated, and start to dole out consequences (potentially ruining my day, and my sons), or 2) do something different.  As I was assessing the situation and deciding what to do next, I happened to notice a puppet on the floor in my son’s room.  Hmmm…could a puppet help me do something different to prompt my son along? 

I picked up the puppet, a fluffy plush cat puppet and brought the cat to life. “Hmmm, I don’t want to get ready, I just want to sit in bed all day long and do nothing,” I said in a cat voice, “I’ll just sit here all day. I don’t care if I get dirty, I don’t care if I don’t learn anything. I’m going to do what I want.” My son was amused. Using the puppet brought a smile to my face. Engaging him in this way was helping me experience a creative energy I hadn’t felt since before the holidays. I continued, “Too bad I’ll only be known as plain old Fluffy, but at least I get to stay in my bed.” I had the cat pause for a moment and then had Fluffy take on a new and improved persona. “Hmmm, maybe I will get dressed after all. I’ll brush my teeth and make my bed. I’ll go to school and I’ll learn and I’ll do BIG things. I’m going to be Fluffy the Fabulous,” I added with gusto. Fluffy was going places, and my son was eager to follow.  I asked my son, “which Fluffy are you going to be today? Plain old Fluffy or Fluffy the Fabulous?” He considered my questions momentarily and replied, “Fluffy the Fabulous, of course.” We both giggled and he finally started to get himself ready.

Sometimes it just takes a moment to wipe away the dreary and get pep back in your step. Who knew a simple puppet could make that happen?

What is giving you energy in the New Year?