WORKS FOR ME
What makes me sad is realizing that some of the people I love most in the world - my sons, my grands - are people I don't know all that well. I wonder how many children - young or old - feel well-known by their parents. I don't. But even though I'm a different sort of parent than my parents were - I'm pretty sure that's true - I am aware that I don't know the kids in my life.
Sometimes it's because what interests them doesn't interest me. I find it difficult to watch their movies, play their games, and especially - watch them play their games. Talk about DSI games and beating levels makes my eyes glaze over.
Worse, sometimes I make my children into projects and know them only as projects, forcing them to know me as a project manager. Ick. Double Ick.
I want to relish these young people in my life -- to know them as they ARE, to treat them as gifts, to help them discover their particular gifts to the world. That sounds satisfying -- a worthy life's work -- and fun!
Sakura and I each received Kindles for Christmas - both early generation so they don't have a lot of bells and whistles which makes them just right for reading. I was afraid neither of us would like them, but I love mine and she reads hers constantly! For a kid, the Kindle (or Nook or any e-reader, I suppose), is a good transition from screen to book. And I like it because I can carry bunches of books with me wherever I go and I like reading it in bed because it's so lightweight.
Just downloaded and read WONDER by R.J. Palacio. It's won several awards as a middle-school book and all deserved. On arbookfind.com it's rated a 4.8 level (fourth grade, eighth month), but I think it would appeal to good readers in fourth grade up to ... well, me.
Got to get back to the book and see what happens. It's that good.
One blessing of living with children is that life is forced into a certain rhythm. The seasons mean more when there is school and break from school; cold weather and warm weather; even day and night.
Since becoming a Catholic (39 years ago this March) and working in liturgy and music, the rhythm of the liturgical year has informed my day-to-day life. And I like it. We observe not only Christmas, but the weeks before (Advent) and the days after (Holy Family, New Year, Epiphany). It's little things - different candles on the table, different activities.
It doesn't take much effort and the reward is a life that isn't just racing by. Rhythm and ritual help me live a bit more in the moment, appreciate the now -- even if it's a now of freezing rain and reading and writing by a warm fire -- instead of longing for or dreading a future of spring or summer. The future will come. Meanwhile, notice and enjoy the blessings of today.
For a relatively low-tech family, we still have a lot of devices that need to be plugged in: phones, Kindles, DSI, router, battery charger. The kids were always misplacing their AC cords and there were unsightly wires all over the place. So... I created a charging station. (See below for photos.)
I took a small plastic chest of four drawers -- I think I paid about $25 for it -- and cut out a space in the back of each drawer. I then snaked through the wires to a strip on the floor. I find taping down the wires inside the drawer keeps them from slipping out. I labeled each drawer and it's become the home for the devices when not in use.
Note - this does mean the devices cannot be used while being charged, but that has turned out to be a blessing -- a natural stopping place indicating time for non-screen activity.
My thanks to an old friend who wrote and reminded me of a column I wrote years ago about living with depression. I came up with ten rules and, even though depression is not my cross now, those rules still Work For Me. I've reprinted that column on my site. (See menu to the left, hit Reflections, and then scroll down to "Depression.")
And if you are struggling with depression, please remember, there are no shadows without the light. Trust that the light is there, even if you can't see it or feel its warmth, because ... I say so! And so do many others you love and trust. Be humble and believe us. God bless you.
Happy New Year! New Year's Day means little to children for whom every day is a week and every week a season. By the time we explained that now we write 2013 instead of 2012, we could see the look on their faces that said clearly, "And for this we make a lot of fuss?"
Our New Year's Eve has been with grandchildren since the girl was born nine years ago. We were the GoTo Babysitters for their parents and when the kids took up residence with us in 2009, nothing changed.
Except last night we could play games. Matt - the five year old - can now play UNO and a new game, SPOT IT. Before games we each wrote down five things we want to do in 2013. Matt: "How do you spell play?" Nick suggested one resolution for me -- keep my voice nice and even like Mrs. J. (his teacher). She's better at it than I am.
After games we watched Night at the Museum and had popcorn and sparkling cider for a treat. It was fun.
My hopes for 2013: walk more, write more, read more, enjoy everything. Blessings all.
Nick: "Could I have ... what's that stuff that gets rid of lice?"
Nick: "Yeah, could I have mayonnaise on my sandwich ... please?"
I'm declaring this Saturday a non-vehicle day. Even with nothing scheduled on the calendar, we might think of going to the library, or the grocery store for a few items, or a playground, or out to eat. But when we declare a non-vehicle day, it's amazing how long and leisurely and FULL the day becomes. Woohoo.
"Don't yell at your brother like that. I'm the only one who gets to yell at your brother like that."
It was a great Halloween. Maybe because the kids are just the right ages. Maybe because I relaxed about their sugar-intake. Beautiful moonlit night. After visiting a few dozen houses with our costumes and bags of candy, we visited friends who provided very civilized toasted cheese sandwiches and homemade soup. Delightful. See Halloween photo below.
Note to self: Do not tell a boy child that his costume is "cute." Matt's cry through many tears: "I don't WANT to be cute! I want to be SPOOKY!" Thank goodness for Dollar Tree where I found the last knight's shield and breastplate. This was determined to be "spooky" enough. (But he's still cute!)
I have decided NOT to be the Halloween Grinch this year. Yes, they get all sugared up. Yes, they feel miserable later. But my parsimonious, not to mention sanctimonious, "just one more" never works anyway. So ... have at it kids. We'll go roller skating on Thursday and work it off.
Sometimes everything just clicks. Yesterday the kids got home from school just as the weather changed from weird summer to autumn winds and rain. The Bigs did their homework without much fuss. Matt quizzed himself with flashcards. Simple supper of chicken rice soup and grilled cheese. Then they played Monopoly for an hour (see pic below) while Pat and I ate our supper and played Scrabble. After Monopoly (put away without being asked!) Sakura played with magnets and the boys sat with notebooks and pens and drew stories for each other.
I'm in danger of harping about screens, but an evening can feel so deliciously long and leisurely without them (and without soccer practice, choir practice, etc.).
Not so much a thought as an observation.
Our youngest, age five, is pretty good at washing dishes. Pa taught him and he's very careful, very meticulous about washing and rinsing. (We don't have a dishwasher.)
He is the first of the Grands to wash dishes. But now that he does it, the older two don't think it strange that they would be asked to wash. We've started rotating -- one clears and cleans the table, one washes, one adult puts away leftovers and supervises the washer, and one kid is off-duty, usually working math facts or homework with the remaining adult's assistance. It makes for a productive and communal 20 minutes or so.
This is an unsure area for me. My laptop is practically another limb. I like movies and streaming TV shows and checking out Facebook, Googling stuff, writing this BLOG, writing ... all the time.
But games? I don't get'em. Not at all. Okay, Solitaire. But games where one is supposed to chase things or shoot things or make one's way through ... I don't know ... forests or castles or minefields ... I'm an idiot about those. My husband said it best: "When I look at those little screens, I feel like a dog watching television." I'm with him.
I figure playing a game on their DS or Wii has no more or less value than playing board games or doing puzzles. Doesn't fit the Currier and Ives, Little House, Waltons self-image I have, but it's okay. It's just that board games, puzzles, reading, and thinking go together. Screens -- even surfing the Internet -- do not produce readers and thinkers. Screens may be turning us into an ADHD culture where we go from one thing to the next quicklyQuicklyQUICKLY, but never stop to analyze, evaluate, ponder, muse.
I heard an interview with an author who wrote a book about how the Internet is changing us. He admitted that to finish the book, he had to abstain from the Internet for six months.
Hmmmm. More thought needed on this.
When we're not listening to stories, we listen to music. If you have little ones, the Wee Sing series is excellent. They come with a little booklet with all the music and our kids like to follow along. Right now we're singing with Wee Sing for Halloween. The Christmas recording is lovely, too. There is a collection of Bible songs, and another of Patriotic songs for other seasons. Singing makes for a happy journey.
I spend a fair amount of time driving the kids - to and from school, music lessons, soccer, etc. At the library we discovered a set of recorded Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne. This is a woman who found her niche as a writer and her books and recordings are fabulous. We're on book 21 and all three of mine (ages 9, 7, and 5) love listening to them. I do, too.
Do your kids have trouble with scrawling handwriting, sentences with words running into each other, or math problems too messy to follow? We found that qaudrille paper (graph paper, four squares per inch) solves the problem. It's a bit more expensive than lined paper, but after a few months they get the hang of proper spacing and don't need the quadrille anymore.
It's that time of year when church and school sell raffle tickets. We don't like to hit up friends and family (Do I hear a rousing, "Thank you!"?) so we buy them ourselves. Each kid is supposed to sell ten bucks worth, which is 12 per child or 36 tickets.
Last year I ordered a small rubber stamp from VistaPrint.com that includes our name, address and phone number. I think it was about $15 with shipping. Now filling out 36 ticket stubs is the work of a moment. Stamp comes pre-inked and lasts for years.
If you have more than one kid and are looking for an indestructable shoe to hand down - and then sell on consignment - try Keens. Our little guy is wearing Keens that were worn by both big bro and big sis and, after a cycle in the washer, look new. Warning - If a girl is your oldest, avoid seriously girlie colors. That goes for bikes, boots, and other big ticket items, too.