What we’ve been up to AND Reading goodies

We spent last week visiting family and friends in our home town. We enjoyed lots of good grandparent time and friend time. We arrived just in time to see everything in bloom. We got to experience true KS weather (dramatic temperature changes, 50 mph wind gusts). We got to celebrate my big kids’ birthdays (12 and 10 now–wow!). These weeks home are jam packed full of fun and love.

And this week we have been sick. Maybe no surprise there. We were anxious to catch up with our new friends, but instead we get a quiet week at home. I remember I wrote about a sick week last year. Such good memories! This week looked similar, though unfortunately no fort building. This week, from my couch, I coached my big kids on some household chores so that the household could continue running while I was down. A big advantage to having some big kid helpers! I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Peter and the Shadow Thieves for as long as my voice held out. I snuggled and helped kids with math practice. We watched documentaries on Netflix. I helped one of my littles write a book. I played games with my littles. And I coached my bigs through making homemade chocolate pudding. Sewing, drawing, sculpture, outdoor play, puzzles, extreme dot-to-dot, and other activities happened without my assistance. Again, a wonderful benefit of having kids who are growing up and no longer completely dependent on me!

Additionally, I did a bunch of reading, and I will share some of it with you:

  • This is a wonderful short article about parenting through connection rather than control. If you are interested in a whole book on this topic, this is a great one.
  • We always enjoy learning about artists and cartoonists at our house. Check out Mo Willems’ story here and consider this quote:

“You’ve said that part of the reason that you write these books is that there’s no such thing as a good childhood — what did you mean by that?” Braver asked.

“It’s a terrible time, a terrible time” Willems said. “We’re born into a world where none of the furniture matches you. You walk into a room and the room is saying, ‘You, you’re nobody,’ right?

“Let’s say we’re having a good time, right? Imagine if a giant hand came down, plucked you out of the room and said, ‘No, now we’re doing something else.’ And if you complained it was your fault for getting fussy, for being angry about the hand dragging you out of the room.”

  •  I spent some time cruising around Roger Schank’s blog, a blog about education reform. Lots here to think about, including this and this, but much, much more. I don’t know that I agree with him all the time, but he does make me think. I also suspect he does not worry about offending people or feel concerned about what people think of him (ahem, and I do ALL THE TIME). That in itself is a bit inspiring to me.
  • The book I am reading now is Quiet, by Susan Cain. I have wanted to read it since it came out. An important book for introverts, you will certainly walk away feeling validated and perhaps you will come to understand yourself better. Even if you are not an introvert, you are certainly either married to one, raising one, working with one…..something! For you, it will help you see the balance that introverts provide and help you learn how best to interact with the important people in your life.

How doing less can be the hard thing

City living has given me an exposure to the hustle of family life. In the process of making new friends, I keep running into this: many families are so busy with activities, they do not have time to get together with friends. It is not at all uncommon for families to have to schedule a play date out several weeks because their schedules are so packed.

I get a little panicky at that point. So many questions come up for me: When is there time for an ordinary family life? What about family dinners, board games, walks around the neighborhood? Is there ever time to experience the joy of putting the kettle on for an unexpected visitor? What about time to be alone? To read a good book? To get bored and then come up with a fantastic idea for some creative project? What about time to just relax, to NOT be hurried? To just be present with one another? To enjoy slowness? To snuggle and laugh together?

I’m sure people wonder about me too and worry about all the things my kids are missing out on because I don’t make them play one sport and one instrument and take an art class besides. I have my moments when I worry about the same thing. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. I know I probably have something wrong. But I’m not worried about right or wrong here. There is a different right for every family.

What has struck me about all this is that it probably looks like I am doing the easy thing. It might even look like I’m lazy, like I just don’t want to bother with taking my kids all over the place. In fact, I often feel like it is the hard thing. It is going against the crowd. It would be easy to be swept up and do what most people are doing. It would be all too easy to give away our family time, our friend time, our leisure time one little piece at a time. There are so many really cool opportunities for kids these days! For me, the hard thing is to be careful and intentional about what I say “yes” and “no” to, to protect the family life I have created and value so much.

How do you decide what to say “yes” and “no” to? How do you know when your family is doing too much?

Down the rabbit hole

My very dear friend and I often sit together over a cup of tea and process the tough moments of our lives. I remember many occasions when she has told me of something big going on for her, usually a situation that gave her a sense of impending doom that she did not yet have all the facts about. And as she was waiting on facts, she would say every time, “I’m just not going to go down the rabbit hole yet”. Not YET. Because she knew she was still waiting for facts and she didn’t want to drag herself through a big emotional mess without really knowing all the facts.

I understand that idea of the rabbit hole. I have spent some time down there. It is quite a ride to the bottom. It can be a swirling and whirling ride that starts with a statement like, “I think your child may have a serious illness. We’ll run some tests today and I’ll call you by the end of the week.” The brain starts asking “What if?” and “Then what?” and “How will I ever survive that?”. Or perhaps someone says something and I find myself hurt and angry. Then the swirling thoughts look something like “She must think…”, “If she loved me, she wouldn’t…”, “I don’t see a way to move beyond….”. And then there’s the arrival of “bad news”, a situation that I think at the time could be nothing but bad. That ride is just like an elevator ride to the bottom floor, a quick descent to a very dark place.

I think my friend is brilliant to choose not to go down the rabbit hole before it’s time, and yet I find that I am usually at least half way down before I even realize where I’m headed or I wake up in the night to find myself already at the bottom. At this point, I feel like it’s a win that I can recognize where I am and find my way back out, that I can have a sense of humor about the time I spend down there.

This weekend I read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. This part in particular really stood out for me: “Fear to a great extent is born of a story we tell ourselves.” All of my observations from the rabbit hole lead to this. Most of the pain I experience in the rabbit hole is a result of my mind jumping many steps beyond where I am at the moment. Just nearly always I am imagining horrible outcomes that never even come to pass. In fact some of the “bad news” I receive, turns out to bring many blessings I never saw coming. If fear is only a story, it seems possible to tell a different story, or to at least pull out of the story and recognize what is real right now.

Reading goodies

A good article about why kids should not sit still.

A lengthy, but well worth reading article full of thought-provoking ideas about playgrounds and why trying to keep kids safe all the time might actually be hurting them.

This book about leadership education has been on my “to read” list for some time, and this article gave me the push I needed to pick it up.

Because my son and I loved it so much several years ago, my girls and I are now enjoying the Peter and the Starcatchers series.

If you need a motivational book or a true kick in the pants, I just finished The War of Art. It was good enough that I am going to read it again. My favorite quote from the book: “Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”