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S’mores

The campfire is lots of things: stove, dryer, story circle, match-lighting and whittling studio, science lab, heater, living history place… But maybe none so rich as the culinary kitchen.

With a loose definition of “whatever yummy thing you can melt between two graham crackers, generally using roasted marshmallows as a binder” we have a lot of variety around our campfire. It is an investment to allow for that sort of experimentation. But the whole process is fabulous for everyone.

You’ve done the important work of teaching about fire safety. You’ve done the awesome work of making a memory. You’ve done the fun work of sharing a sugary, messy snack right before bedtime. Well done.

We toasted marshmallows.

Reference

“What is this called?”

There are so, so many things we parents do not know. This is a complicated time wherein there are some things we CANNOT know. The questions that are answerable are a no-brainer. Look it up. Find an expert. Ask Google.

Remember Middle School science class? where we learned The Scientific Method? Introducing the world to your child has a lot to do with modeling an approach to everything with that sort of strategy – question, research, hypothesis, experiment, conclusion, report, new questions (begin again!)

In finding something out together, you’ve taught even more than the singular fact. Your shared inquiry is shared learning, shared memory, shared wisdom. This is awesome parenting!

We figured out the name of that shell.

The Great Outdoors

True confessions – the first time I took my family camping was unintended. The place we were staying was unsafe and we had to camp. In the 30+ years since we’ve all (almost all) become campers.

The natural freedom and consequences of outdoor life are unique and brilliant. Fire, the sea, the weather, real tools are all amazing teachers – and also levelers. Even as I write, under a shelter in the rain that is ruining dinner plans, we are figuring it out. We’ve all got books for now and a new card game for under the lantern.

You put in the big effort: you prepared and over-packed, you were uncomfortable and maybe wet, you endured the boredom and opinions. But you also reaped the shared views, laughs, meals, stories… and so much more. Well done – this lasts forever.

We camped (And we are still camping!)

Apology

Building a relationship, building a community, building a family, takes a lot of bumbling work. That work is full of missteps which necessitates confession, forgiveness, growth, mercy, and loads of communication.

I was so short with them over, what ended up to be, my mistake. There were several things in that failure to own up to. Being a parent means I set the stage for the inevitable and constant slips in my home. I continue to strengthen my ability to apologize since I continue to make mess up.

“I am so sorry. Would you please forgive me?” Every single honest word is important. This humbling work is vital to constructing a safe home where everyone can try, adjust, and grow – a home where we are all learning.

I was wrong.

Tools

Can you recall the smell? Do you remember the sharpener in the back of the big box? How did you organize yours (I’m a color wheel person from way back)?

Regardless of how your Fall will look, new art supplies will give it a boost. Crayons, the under-valued tool in the studio, are always in order. You might even pair them up with a fresh pad or blank book.

Happy back-to-school shopping! May it bring confidence, excitement, and joy. May it bring remembrances and stories and new traditions. Good on you for being sure there are some perfect, sharp, unbroken, still-wrapped, bright crayons in everyone’s mix.

We got new crayons.

Pompoms

I have cheerleader pompoms in just about every color. It is my mom-thing to show up with them – to graduations (in school colors), recitals or airports (with your favorite color), weddings (white of course!)… With equal parts embarrassment and pride, my kiddos know I am present and, all out, for them.

Sometimes, on days like today at my house, they turn the tables. I had a thing and my gang was there for me. I got reminders to eat a good breakfast, coffee refills, extra peace to get it done, and check-ins all day. It was a momma paycheck!

Dad? Mom? You know you are doing a great job encouraging when they start encouraging you. There really is no better measure of the effectiveness of your positive influence than when they turn that favor on you. Well done.

They gave me a pep talk.

Unspoken

Sometimes I advise parents of teens that their greatest strategy could be in biting their tongue. This is some of the hard work of parenting.

Much of the time our children understand what must be done. We have invested years in teaching and modeling. In the stress of a challenge, choice, or crisis may not be the time to lecture. You are near to encourage, to observe that there may be some further work to be done, and to provide help or advice – but only as needed.

Good for you for your timing, for your restraint, for your meaningful silence. This is not a gift given in anger or superiority or manipulation, but rather in trust and respect. You know the best of your child and allowed them a chance to come to themselves.

I didn’t say it (and I didn’t need to!)

A Break

There is a delightful children’s book by Jill Murphy called “Five Minutes’ Peace”. It is one of the books my whole family cherishes as we can all relate to, at least, one of the characters. Mrs. Large, the mother and my hero, is exhausted but resilient and patient throughout. I want to be like her. The wisdom of Mrs. Large is in stepping away, self-care, and ultimately compromise.

During this difficult year and most acutely as you face this looming back-to-school season, it is super important for you to find time to think, regroup, be… Perhaps you cannot take time off, but you can choose a time and spot where you can find balance in your own way.

Kudos to you, dads and moms, for creating a space for yourself. You are doing more than ever and you needed that break. Your kiddos need you to take that break too – for your sake and theirs. Kudos to them too for being settled enough that you could step away. (P.S. If it hasn’t happened yet today, it is just about bedtime!)

I had a few moments of peace.

Product

My favorite chore is folding laundry, followed closely by ironing. I know it’s crazy, but I think it is because I get so much satisfaction from the pile of neatly stacked, pressed, clean clothes. Unlike the fabulous dinner that is eaten right away or the floor that inevitably needs to be vacuumed again, I like seeing the product of my work.

My children like that too – not laundry, but seeing the fruit of their effort. It is why we make stuff together (besides the obvious life-skills, eye-hand coordination, STEM concept development, creative outlet, and mentorship involved.)

At the end of our work today, we sat back and admired the tangible progress we’ve made on our project. Each thing we build is a little neater, straighter, and sturdier. It is so gratifying. The joy will be even more so because we are working on presents.

Congratulations! You and your child created something and there was so, so much learning and bonding involved. You will have the product to admire and use and share. Well done.

We built together.

Plans

Sometimes it is important to shake things up. We had friends who taught us about Pajama Ice Cream Runs (a surprise trip to get cones AFTER bedtime!) The memory of those rare treats is as precious decades later as it was on those giggly nights.

This is a difficult season. Routines and schedules are in the toolbox that gets us through. But we mustn’t forget that surprise and silliness are super valuable as well. Though counter-intuitive, you might even need to plan for a little chaos.

Today you were spontaneous. You haven’t lost control (or your mind!) But instead, you chose to go with your gut and take a happy break from the agenda. You’ll get back to it soon, you probably need to – but you’ll be better for the respite.

We ditched the schedule.