It’s just a Phase

My first baby is now 17.  When he used to sit behind me in his car seat kicking the back of my own seat I used to get very irritated, but he made up for that as we sang songs together waiting in traffic, or planned his future as a firefighter.  The thought of a teenager was so far away.  I had no clue.

And then as middle school came and went I remember dreading the thought of him actually driving one day.  But now he is driving and it is awesome!

Although, I was reminded by a friend that when your teen starts to drive you lose that array of conversations able to be had while driving from one place to the next.  This is true.  I value that time.

But it also means potential for increased responsibility, freedom, growth, experiences, and gained confidence.

As I teeter back and forth from my driving, 6 foot, 17 year old who just arrived home from school unassisted, to my 3 year old who insists I help him pull up his underwear, yet not dare flush the toilet for him, I am reminded that everything about parenting is just a phase.

Be Kind

Summer is nearly here.  Have you been thinking about exactly how you will fill the upcoming l-o-n-g days with your kiddos?

One thing I have been thinking a lot about is not necessarily how to fill the days of Summer, but what is it that I want to accomplish within these days of Summer.  I don’t want to just pass the time.  I want to make it count – especially when the kids are home and watching.

Our family is going to create a Random Acts of Kindness Challenge.  Our Summer break is 10 weeks long.  So for our family the goal will be 1 random act of kindness per week.  Part of the fun will be brainstorming a list of ideas to choose from throughout the Summer and then planning an act each week.  Will you join us?

If you need some inspiration start with my previous post on random acts of kindness.  Or search for ideas at http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas.

These are a few of my favorites:

1.  Make dinner for your local fire station.

2.  Create Ziploc bag care packages to give to the homeless.  Include things like toothbrush, gum, socks, chapstick, wet wipes, chewy granola bars.

3.  Write a kind note or quote on the sidewalk in chalk.

4.  Write a thank you note to let someone know you appreciate them.

5.  Bake cookies for a neighbor.

6.  Host a Free lemonade or popsicle stand on a well traveled walking path or playground.

7.  Set up a community library for book swaps.  An old bookshelf at the end of your driveway would be perfect.

8.  Leave a coloring book and small pack of crayons in a waiting room.

9.  Carry an extra leash or umbrella in your car for the next time you see someone who really needs it.

10.  Leave a kind note or special treat for the community helpers who often go unnoticed, like the garbage men, mailman or school janitor.

The possibilities are endless.  What will you do?

Morgan Freeman

Photo credit unknown

We have a Lego problem

How long has it been since you were vacuuming, or better yet, walking into your child’s room at night trying to be ever so stealth – and you step on a Lego?  Ugh.  It hurts just thinking about it.

Don’t get me wrong, Legos are awesome.  I love them.  Legos are one of the very few plastic toys I actually appreciate.  I love the fact that after the initial build (and loss of the instructions) Legos are a tool to inspire unlimited imagination.

But, it seems the number of children in the home correlates with the mass of Legos one owns.   We have a huge Lego issue in our house.

I think I am feeling inspired…

Check out these great ideas by Modern Parents Messy Kids for getting your Legos off the bedroom floor.

I have seen countless ways to organize Legos and really I have yet to decide which way is best.  But getting them off the floor is at least a start.  I like the idea of using many clear containers to store the Legos.  I especially like the idea of choosing shallow containers so that they are easy to transport and easy to locate pieces (as opposed to a deep container you would have to dig through).

Also in this post is a pattern for creating your own Lego storage mat.  I have called these storage mats Swoop Bags.  And I am thinking they wouldn’t just have to be used for Legos – Playmobils also come to mind.  Or, if you would rather skip the sewing part, you could also order a Swoop Bag from this Seattle based company.

And if you would like to organize further than just getting it all off of the floor, this is the advice I received after an interview with my very own Lego Maniac.

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Tips from Cam, The Lego Maniac:

  1. Definitely use clear containers with good snap on lids.
  2. Sort your containers in the following categories: Bricks, Mini Figures, Axles & Wheels, Plates, Motors, Tracks, Roads
  3. Sort Bricks by color.
  4. Build a shelf to display built projects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Steps to be a better parent by Monday

We all parent in different ways, yet we all want to be a “better” parent.  Fortunately there is always room for improvement – for everyone.

I find it is so easy to be distracted and consumed in this high-speed, internet driven, mobile World in which we live.  Sometimes it is important to just take a deep breath, step back and realize what really is most important.

This weekend try these tips to be a better parent:

1.  Listen.  Have you ever talked to a child about something really important?  Something you really wanted them to understand?  Remember how you leaned down low so that you could be on their level and insisted they look you in the eyes so that there were no distractions?

Next time your little one wants to talk to you, try this same thing.  Stand or sit in a place where you can really connect, get down to their level.  Look them in the eyes and stop everything else you are doing.  Allow for no distractions.  Yes, that means put down your cell phone.

After all, this is someone who is really important.  Someone you really want to understand.  And someone you want to know feels understood.

2.  Encourage.  It is easy to point out mistakes and poor choices of behavior.  Make a point to acknowledge the good things.  Tell your little one you are proud of them for something they have accomplished, acknowledge how hard they worked on achieving a certain goal, recognize their efforts in a time when you see that they did their best, even if unsuccessful.

When our children know we see their choices and behavior this not only builds them up when we recognize, it encourages appropriate actions and reactions in the future.

3.  Give hugs.  Never forget to hug your child.  Now, I know of a certain 8 year old who is way too cool to get a hug from his mom, but even he likes a pat on the back or high five ever so often.  Maybe just sit close to, or be more intentional about tucking them in.  Don’t be hands off, no matter what the age.  Definitely be aware of their comfort level with affection as they get older, but never stop giving hugs.

These ideas are pretty basic, but things so easily taken for granted and overlooked.  Give it a try this weekend!

 

Just Let Them Play

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For us today is Opening Day for Little League Baseball.  While I hope Little League is an exciting experience that my child looks forward to each Spring, and looks back on over the Summer as an achievement and something to be proud of, I enter the season with much hesitation and concern.

Fortunately, the kids don’t always see what goes on beyond the dugout – at least not for the first few years.

Why must we (the parents of these children) apply so much pressure?  Why do so many coaches and parents act like they are paving their child’s path to Major League Baseball?

Did you know that even if your child continues beyond Little League to play on a High School team only 11.2% of those players will continue to play baseball in college (Scholarshipstats.com)?  And then if your Little Leaguer continues to MLB he will be 1 of the 10.5% of college players to do so.

Odds are not in your favor to be a professional athlete.

So how about we just let them play?  Perhaps in doing so our children will learn a little about character, courage and loyalty, and grow to be superior citizens rather than superior athletes.  After all, this is the Mission of the Little League Baseball.

Encourage your child to always do their best.  That is the only thing that matters.  And after the game praise your child equally whether the game was a win or loss because in the end those statistics are not really important.

But I want a cookie…

May I have a cookie?

No, not now.

But, I want a cookie.

Not now, we will eat dinner soon.

I want a cookie.

Not now, later.

But I want a cookie…

Have you had this conversation before?  If you have a toddler I am sure you have.

Well, bad news is there is no convincing your toddler to wait until after dinner for that cookie (or whatever else it is they are transfixed upon at that moment).

Good news is that your toddler is not really an evil little thing that knows if they just ask one more time you will be broken and give in.  Often that is the way it works out, but really, that was not a plan schemed by your 3 year old.

The fact is that a toddler really cannot make the connection or understanding that he cannot have the cookie now but perhaps sometime in the future.  He also cannot move beyond the desire for that cookie.

I attended a VERY interesting discussion this week on children and brain development.  At birth until about 2 years old a baby’s brain is still quite undeveloped.  All of the parts are there, but there is still much room for growth.  Until the age of about 2 years a baby’s right and left hemisphere is only partially connected to one another, and throughout infancy a child primarily functions according to the right side of the brain, which is known to drive social, cognitive functions, like feelings, touch, play and emotions.  After about age 2, a child’s brain begins to form a fibrous connection between the right and left hemispheres, although this connection is not fully complete until sometime after age 4-5.  Think of this connective fiber as a system of power lines used to connect functions between the Right, social, feeling, emotional side of the brain and the Left, analytical, numerical, thinking side of the brain.  Until this system of connective fibers is complete a child’s response simply cannot be formed using both his feeling and thinking functions, yet is based mostly on purely a need created by emotions.

So… you have two options next time you hear, “May I have a cookie?”

First, you could wait about a year for the brain to grow and you receive an agreeable response.

Or, you can attempt to distract your toddler from this topic and move on to something else.  Good luck!

If you would like to read more about infant brain development check out the book, Bright From the Start by Jill Stam.

Our Family’s Family Night Top 10

In discussing creating a family culture I have mentioned our family’s “Friday Family Night”.  Usually we stick to board games or a movie night, but sometimes we get a little creative.  Have you planned your next family night?

This is our Top 10:

1. Make pizza together.  If you like to get really messy you could make your own pizza dough.  I really like this recipe.  We often buy pre-made pizza dough from Whole Foods along with all of the toppings of choice.

2. A picnic and bike ride in the park

3. Make fancy desserts together.  I’m not really sure if this dessert qualifies as “fancy,” but it definitely was time consuming and not a cake for any ordinary day.

Rainbow Layer Cake

4. Board games  Our favorites are Qwirkle, Blokus and Animal Upon Animal.

5. Movie Night.

6.  Dinner at a favorite restaurant.  Or maybe try something new like an ethnic restaurant.

7.  Make something together.  We made birdfeeders once.  It was a mess, but loads of fun.

8.  Work on a puzzle.

9. Get take out and picnic at a local playground.

10. Hold a family meeting, maybe to plan something exciting like a summer vacation.

And the winner is…

Last week the winners were announced…  My favorite book  wasn’t the winner, but it was an Honor Book!

Check out this list for the great children’s books of 2014.

“Locomotive,” illustrated by Brian Floca, is the 2014 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Brian Floca and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named: “Journey,” written and illustrated by Aaron Becker and published by Candlewick Press; “Flora and the Flamingo,” written and illustrated by Molly Idle and published by Chronicle Books LLC; and “Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesner and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

 

I now know why I sometimes feel like a crazy person

Last week I was part of a discussion with other mothers of preschoolers.  The group was asked, “What do you enjoy most in this season of your life, and what prevents you from enjoying this thing you love best?”

After thinking about this for a moment I realized it is no wonder I feel like I am going crazy on most days.

I have two things that really make me happy.  Well, really there are several things that make me happy, but these first two things are pretty elemental in allowing anything else to happen.

One of the first things I could think of that really makes me happy is organization  and cleanliness -although you would never guess this about me based on the condition of my house on most days.  The second thing I really enjoy is being with my kids and allowing them to be kids.

Awesome.

But then I pondered the remainder of the question.  This is where I realized there is an absolutely rational reason for my moments of craziness.

The very two things I enjoy are also the same two things which prevent me from enjoying them.

Let me explain, I love a clean house, everything in its place, fresh sheets, spotless windows, clothes folded neatly on so on.  The main reason my house is not this way is, well – five kids.  But, I also love allowing the kids to have fun, play and make a mess.  I enjoy allowing them to play uninhibited.  Often this means I will find paint on the walls, mud on the floor or something strange in the freezer.  But all the while they are exploring, learning and growing in ways they could never otherwise be taught.  This I believe is very important.

So now I know, yes I have a rational reason for my feelings of craziness induced by the conundrum I have created.  Fortunately, this is only a “season” of my life and there will be another time in the future when I am not questioning my sanity – at least not for the same reasons.

 

 

 

Raising a Reader

School has started and the homework begins…  And so do the required reading lists.

My littles are required to read and record at least 20 minutes of reading per night.  And I think this is great.  Yet this alone is not going to create a reader.

I believe it is far more important to teach your child to love reading, than it is to teach them how to read.  Everyone learns how to read, but not everyone will continue to read.

We read A LOT in our house.  This alone I believe to be the first and most impactful step to teaching your child to be a reader.  Children model behavior, especially behavior of those that they love and look up to.

For a while I was very interested in purchasing a Kindle or reading from the iPad.  I never really got past the fact that I truly enjoy holding my book.  I like the feel of the pages.  I like to write notes in the margins.  I like to see how far along in the book I am and anticipate what comes next.  I even like the smell.  Yet I still considered the ease of instantly downloading my next book.

And then I realized that if I am reading from some sort of electronic device my children will never really know that I am in fact reading and not just browsing emails or meandering through Pinterest.   I would fail to be a model reader and provide them with the foundation to become a reader themselves.

So instead I still buy paperbacks.  I throw them in my bag and fold my pages to mark my spot.  And there is no question about it, my kids see me read – a lot.