December 15, 2014

Parenting With Intention

I've been feeling really good lately. As I shared a few weeks ago, the decision to spend less time on-line and more time in real life - and actually taking action to make that happen - has really made a difference. I feel the room, the space that has opened up in my life, and I'm more relaxed, less stressed, and happier...sort of.

I say "sort of" because I expected my interactions with the boys would reflect my rediscovered sense of peace - more fun, more quality time together, less tension and head-butting - but they didn't. At least, not as much as I expected or wanted. 

I especially noticed it with my oldest. For months I have been wondering: Where was the sense of playfulness I had a few years ago, when he was younger? Why did his antics send me into immediate discipline mode, instead of laughing along with him? When did Hubby and I get so uptight? Have we lost perspective on kids being kids? When did it become so challenging to be the loving, adoring mother I want to be?

Why do I struggle to be as great a mom to an 8-year-old as I was to a 2-year-old? 

December 8, 2014

And Turtle Makes Six: How We Ended Up With A New Pet

It was a gorgeous fall afternoon, just after Labor Day, when my mom took Zip on an afterschool outing to the park - the park he chose specifically because it has a creek and "Daddy caught turtles there when he was a kid." I armed Zip with a small plastic aquarium and my mom with instructions not to let him bring anything home. Please.

Grandmas being grandmas, they returned with a tank full of muddy creek water and a tiny turtle.

"Zip said you are going back to the park in a couple of days, so you can just return the turtle then."

As if, Grammy. As if he wasn't going to get totally attached to this reptile. And I have to admit, it was pretty stinkin' cute.

We searched on-line to figure out what kind it was: a map turtle, most likely, given the spiky ridge down the center of its shell. Zip carefully arranged rocks in the tank to give it a place to rest. He checked on the turtle obsessively at bedtime, making sure it was okay, full of a tender concern that melted my heart. I found our old aquarium filter in the basement and promised Zip I'd run to the pet store the next day to get turtle food. Yep, I was caving. By the time I crawled into bed, I was thinking, Maybe we can just let him keep it. 

And then I awoke, bright and early, to my almost-8-year-old standing beside my bed, the tiny turtle in his outstretched palm, lips quivering. "Mommy, I think the turtle is dead." Oh. No. No no no.

November 26, 2014

5 Ways to Find Joy & Balance at the Holidays

How can it possibly be December next week?! Didn't November just begin? This fall I've felt like I'm in one of those movie scenes where you see the pages of the calendar turning in fast motion. Each morning I wake up, notice the date on my bedside clock, and think to myself, No way! It can't possibly be Sept. 15...or Oct. 29...or Nov. 23!

It hasn't been a bad thing though. Such is life when things are busy, in a good way, humming along at the pace of parenthood, where the days occur in real-time but months and weeks seem to happen in fast-forward.

And now here we are, on the cusp of Christmas season. Last year we hit the holiday sweet spot and really, truly enjoyed the season as a family. So I've been thinking about how I can make sure that happens again. How do we ensure that this time of year, which has a tendency to get so chaotic and possibly stressful, is one of slowing down and taking the time to really enjoy traditions and time together? How do we ensure our time and energy during the holiday season goes into things that fill us up rather than leave us feeling depleted?

November 24, 2014

Diversity & Big Hero 6: One Momma's Thoughts

We don't often take the kids to see movies in the theater, but I was really eager to take them to see Big Hero 6. We caught a glimpse of the trailers over the summer and the short bits we saw had us cracking up. That alone had me interested. Then I started hearing talk of how Disney had broken new ground with a truly diverse cast of characters. I was excited by the possibility. I'm perpetually troubled by the fact that, when my boys turn on the tv, characters rarely look like them or their dad.

I wanted to see for myself but I admit I was skeptical. Would the diverse cast really be diverse? Would Big Hero 6 live up to the hype?

When a friend who saw the movie opening weekend told me, "I think the main characters were supposed to be Japanese, but they looked white to me. I'm not sure..." I felt  my hopes sinking. She tapped into the root of my skepticism: Sure, there are a decent number of kids' tv shows and movies with diverse characters, but what we see is pretty narrow in its scope. Black characters rarely have dark skin and Asian characters are identifiable only by name and a very slight change in eye shape. It often seems to me that characters are intentionally depicted as racially ambiguous (Sofia the First, anyone?) and perpetuate colorism rather than fight it.  Much like in the toy aisles.

And yes, I totally get that people of various races and ethnicities often don't look like the prototypical images in our heads. But when 99% of the African-American characters in kids' movies look a particular way, we don't have true diversity and we aren't doing justice to the darker-skinned kids out there who need to see themselves on screen too! (Yes, I pulled that statistic out of thin air...but it's probably about right.) Then there is the fact when people of color do show up in movies they are all too often the bad guys. (Rio is a great example of this - besides the little boy in the movie, the two human "good guys" are white and the black guys are smugglers.)

But enough of my ranting...back to Big Hero 6!

November 19, 2014

5 Fabulous Chapter Books for 8 to 10-Year-Olds

This post includes affiliate links.

It never fails. Every birthday and Christmas we end up giving the boys more gifts than intended - and often it comes in the form of books. Piles of books that neither Hubby or I can resist buying, which we end up putting into one big gift bag so they are technically one gift instead of ten. I'm okay with our over-giving of books though. What parent is going to look back and say, Darn, I really wish my kid hadn't had so many books?

So just in time for holiday shopping, here are five of my 8-year-old's favorite chapter books and series from the past few months - books full of adventure, fantasy, magic, and friendship. He's a pretty voracious reader, so many of these books would still be great choices for late elementary and middle school.

I wish I could tell you more about what these books are about, but now that Zip is reading independently he devoured many of them before I had a chance to flip open the cover. All I've got to go on is the book jacket synopsis and my kiddo's promise that they are really good.