Grateful

What are you thankful for?

I practice being grateful daily. Not because I have to, but because I learned a long time ago I have a lot to be thankful for and when I acknowledge it, even in the littlest of moments, it makes me feel better.

I have worked to instill this practice in my sons. I point out the beauty around us, comment on our blessings (food on the table, warm beds to sleep in), and have taught them to¬†give thanks for all the things in our lives at meals — it’s common for my boys to give thanks for what’s top-of-mind: they’ve given thanks for Lego, candy, napkins and anything in eyesight that catches their attention. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day.

We love Thanksgiving in our house, but thankfully it’s not the single time of year we pause to give thanks. I recently found an old art project one of my sons — a turkey’s body made by the shape of his hand. He colored the turkey, put a pilgrim hat on it and wrote the turkey saying, “Happy Thanksgiving!” (ironic, eh?). ūüôā I’m thankful I still have this piece of artwork, and the memories that come with it.

There is much to be grateful for.

What are you grateful for?

I will be off to celebrate the holidays with family and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving!

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?

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!

Grab a Blanket and Snuggle Up — its Time for Favorite Fall Traditions

What part of Fall do you love the most?

There is a reason so many of us love this time of year. There is a nostalgia for me¬†around Fall’s of old and the¬†warmth and comfort that goes along with the¬†season. I hope my kids are developing similar memories.

One of our favorite traditions is going to the pumpkin patch. We go each year with family and enjoy all the pumpkin patch has to offer: hot cider, Halloween decorations, pumpkins (of course) and fields upon fields of farmland to explore. Our boys love running through the fields with us or their cousins to find the perfect pumpkin or explore the corn maze.

Another is watching the leaves change color. From green to a bright yellow, fire orange or deep red–the leaves changing invokes such an appreciation inside¬†for the beauty around me–even when it is getting colder and a little drearier outside. I point the change in color to my boys each morning when we are outside. I hope they are appreciating this magical change as much as I am.

Hot apple cider or hot chocolate. A cup of one provides a warmth beyond what the beverage is providing. When I take a sip I experience a memory of being loved and safe. Those of pretty powerful things to feel from such a simple drink. My boys love the drinks, but prefer their drinks not-so-hot. With these drinks being much easier to get year round than when I was growing up, I wonder if they will enjoy them as much as I do, or if they will ever have the same effect.

Decorations. Each year our kids eagerly await getting the decorations out. We don’t have many, but that ones we do have we all treasure. Haunted Houses that light up. An animatronic haunted tree that sings a spooky song, and a lamp that casts jack-o-lantern faces on the wall. The kids love them all, and so do my husband and I.

Pumpkin Carving. This is a tradition my sister started. Instead of carving our pumpkins at home, she gathers friends and family together to carve our pumpkins together. There is a house full of people, with plenty of food and good conversation to go around. It’s fun to be creative and inspire each other in what we carve and watch our kids go from observers to expert carvers over the years.

The Fall hold so many wonderful memories for me–its like wrapping yourself in a warm, soft blanket–comforting and joyous.

What are you and your family’s favorite Fall traditions? What do you love the most about the season?

Stormy Weather

Does your child get upset by thunder and lightning?

When I was a child, I hated it and would run to my parents room whenever thunder clapped or lightning flashed. The loud noises scared me and I coveted the safety of my parents arms. I just wanted to know everything was going to be okay.

This weekend in the Pacific NW they are forecasting stormy weather–high winds, power outages and lots of rain. My boys are anxious about what the weekend weather will bring, but instead of waiting for the storm to approach and wanting my husband and I to comfort them, they are proactively preparing for it. Our youngest instructed us to keep everything plugged in that we needed battery power for, in case we do lose power. Our oldest made sure we have enough food to hold us over¬†for a few days, I filled up the car with gas and my husband cleared the storm drains as precautions. The kids have even come up with¬†ideas for ways to pass the time should we need to stay indoors without electricity: watch a movie on the DVD player, play board games, or tell each other stories. While I’d prefer to not lose power, there is a part of me that is looking forward to wreathing the storm together as a family.

Stormy weather can be unsettling, unpredictable and scary. While the thought of volatile weather isn’t fun to think about, I feel like my family is as prepared as we can be. It’s comforting to know we’ll weather whatever the storm brings together.

How does your child handle stormy weather? How does your family weather the storm?

Pok√©mon Go Will Save Us?

Are you competitive? Is your child?

I learned about competition when I joined my neighborhood swim team when I was in elementary school. It only took one meet for me to recognize that if I was going to enjoy being on the team I needed to be competitive. The transition from not being aware of the benefits of being competitive to understanding them was quick. By the next meet, I was in it to win it. I was going to swim my fastest, I wanted to win!

My oldest son has also embraced his competitive side. He enjoys sports and is always looking to try something new to test his skills and capabilities. He is passionate about winning and struggles with defeat.  I have questioned why we place such a high value on competition based on seeing the highs and lows my son has experienced, and I have in competitive situations.

I came across the documentary, I Am, several years ago thanks to Oprah.¬† Tom Shadyac was exploring happiness after experiencing great success (winning!) but not feeling happy. He invited scientists and other subject matter experts to explore the topic with him and the output was the documentary. One idea that emerged was that the long-term survival of species (ants, for example)¬†depended largely on¬†cooperation. In these species cooperation¬†is highly valued and competition has low/no value. Being a competitive ant doesn’t serve the colony well. It would in fact, be counter to¬†a colony’s survival. Humans still have a ways to go. Our children aspire to be elite athletics, movie starts, singer or someone ‘famous.’ Competition to be number 1 is still fierce, but what if cooperation became more highly valued and easy (or easier) to achieve?

My oldest son loves Pok√©mon Go. It’s become something he and I have connected over. We take walks together so he can play, and I play Pok√©mon Go when I travel so he and I can stay connected. He asked me to take him to a local park that is known for having lots of Pok√©mon. When we got to the park, I was amazed. There were literally hundreds of people–mainly kids but also teens and adults, of all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds–all working together to catch Pok√©mon. Pok√©mon present themselves to you on your device, if you and other Pok√©mon players are in the same location, it presents the same Pok√©mon to all, not a select few. So instead of people fighting over who is going to catch the Pok√©mon, everyone has an equal chance. It then becomes a matter of what technique you use (candy, great ball, ultimate ball, etc.) to catch the Pok√©mon. In the park, not only were the players sharing information about where the Pok√©mon were that they were finding, but what techniques they were using to catch the Pok√©mon so others could catch¬†them¬†to. It was cooperation at it’s finest. Observing everyone working together was really inspiring. While I was reluctant to embrace Pok√©mon Go when it first launched based on some of the initial press the game was getting, I’ve become a fan. And after seeing what I did at the park, I’m an even bigger fan. If something like this game can bring people together, just think of the possibilities for the human race.

Where have you seen people working together in an unexpected place? Where have you, or your child, found cooperation outdo competition?

Pok√©mon Go(ing for a Walk)

You’ve heard of the Pok√©mon Go craze, right?¬†The game¬†allows¬†people¬†to hunt for Pok√©mon in real life using their smart devices.

I learned about the craze early on. Not because I’m a super fan (though my oldest likes the card game and cartoons), or I’m generally in the know on these kinds of things, but because I happened to be in a store the Saturday following it’s launch and the person I was working with shared the news. “Have you seen people walking around outside that can’t look up from their phones? They’re playing Pok√©mon Go. It’s everywhere,” he shared. How true it was, people inside and outside the store literally couldn’t take their eyes off their phones.

After learning of this game, my son really wanted me to download it. I had my reservations (particularly since you have to turn on your phone’s camera and location-based services to play the game), and I wasn’t sure I wanted my son to play another video game where he was ultra-focused on the screen and not on his surroundings. Then the news stories started coming out — people using Pok√©mon Go to rob people (frightening), people walking off cliffs and driving their car into trees. There were lots of reasons to say “no” to my son,¬†yet, I could see the appeal of the game for him. How cool would it be for a game you like to come to life? Pok√©mon Go is the closest I’ve ever seen. My husband and I discussed and decided our son could play Pok√©mon Go if he could follow certain rules. 1) Pok√©mon Go can only be done with one of us accompanying him and only for a limited amount of time each day, 2) He would have to look up from the phone when crossing the street, if¬†he can’t, he’ll lose privileges for a day (and if he does this repetitively he’ll lose them for good), and 3) Pok√©mon Go will not dictate where we go. Our son agreed to our terms, and he began to play.

What I wasn’t expecting was all the walking. In order to catch Pok√©mon you have to find them out in the real world, which means you’ve got to move. It’s become a ritual for us each night to go for a walk around the neighborhood to find Pok√©mon. It actually is fun for all of us. We get to walk and enjoy the nicer weather, see new parts of the neighborhood (or local park) that we haven’t been to in a while, point out things going on around us, catch up on how our days were, and catch Pok√©mon. My husband and I have talked in the past about walking more after dinner but didn’t have anything that really motivated us to get out of the house. Pok√©mon Go is motivating the kids, which is motivating us. I never would have thought this game could bring us together the way it has, but¬†am grateful for this very unexpected benefit.

What games (board, card, video, etc.) connect you and your family? How are you enjoying time together this summer?

 

Hawaiian Rainbow

Have you ever sang a silly song with your child?

My son was in a music concert a few months ago. His class sang the song, “Hawaiian Rainbow.” It had a catchy tune, and told my son when he was finished, “We’re going to sing this song the next time we see a rainbow!” He looked at me like, oh, mom!

Sure enough when we were on Spring Break, we saw a rainbow and I burst into song, only I couldn’t remember the lyrics, so I improvised.

Here is how the song is supposed to go:

Hawaiian rainbows white clouds roll by
I see your colors against the sky
Hawaiian rainbows it seems to me
Come from the mountains down to the sea

And here is how I sang it:

Hawaiian rainbows white clouds roll by
You show your colors against the sky
Hawaiian rainbows it seems to me
That I’ve got two boys who are very wiggly

My boys squealed with delight. “Mom, that’s not how the song goes!” “It isn’t?,” I protested. They knew I was kidding. That was the¬†beginning of singing Hawaiian Rainbow numerous times over the next several days. Every time getting the lyrics just slightly¬†wrong. It¬†always made us laugh, and it made the trip that much more memorable and enjoyable. I know I’ll think of it¬†every time I see a rainbow.

How do you make your family trips more memorable?

So Very Thankful

As Thanksgiving day arrives, and you reflect on the good things in your life, what comes to mind?

We have a practice in our home where at dinner, we say grace. It mainly consists of saying what we’re thankful for. It’s a daily¬†tradition we all enjoy. For my boys, it’s an opportunity for them¬†to share with us what’s top of mind (sometimes they are most thankful for what is in their field of vision — a napkin on the table, a food on their plate they are grateful is being served for dinner, or a toy or book left on the table. Other times its memories from the day — things like doing well on a math test, playing well in a game or playing with a friend), or what’s in their heart (sometimes they surprise us with the most amazing comments — thankful for people in their lives, or for nature, or acts of kindness they witnessed from others). For my husband and I, it’s an opportunity for us to share what we’re grateful for, and¬†keeps what we consider blessings–healthy kids, our own health,¬†good friends and family who care about us, jobs and a safe, warm place to rest our heads each night–front and center.¬†¬†There is much to be thankful for, and it feels really good acknowledging it every day.

Thanksgiving isn’t¬†the only time of year we remember what we are thankful for. It’s a day with friends and family, where you appreciate¬†all the good things in your life. It’s special and I’m thankful for it.

What practices of gratitude do you and your family practice? What makes your Thanksgiving special?

I’ll be spending time with family and will return in December. Happy Thanksgiving.

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?