Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Being home: from homework to hunger

Lenten Reflections #23

They are home.

Elementary school kids are home with their parents learning to tie their shoes, tell time, count money. Tweens are spared from what can be tumultuous middle school moments, and high school students are navigating Chemistry labs, Rhetorical Analysis, and document-based questions (DBQ’s). All at home.

DIFFERENCES

I called to check in on my students and their families today.

The gamut ran from,

“We’re doing well. He just finished working on sequencing and now I’m teaching him how to tell time from an analog clock.”

TO

“I haven’t heard from my social worker, I don’t know how I’m going to feed my two children, my parents are quarantined and I have to have surgery on Thursday.”

My gosh. Just when I started to grumble about making dinner, I thought of the families who have nothing…NOTHING to bring to the table.

Note: I was able to contact our administrators and they connected the family with MUST Ministry who would help provide meals for the family.

This was true testimony that while some grapple with studying, some are trying to survive. As parents we simply want our kids to be happy, learn and sidestep struggle. We want to do our best…and make them their best selves.

LET THEM LEARN HOW TO LEARN…

Just today, I felt like a rock star when I was able to help my youngest son with his 8th-grade Algebra, yet completely useless when my daughter was working on her Physics lab. One child asks for help, another tackles the work until every eraser in our home is worn.

My son who is a Sophomore incorporates breaks into his studies. Every 30 minutes or so he rides his bike, walks the dogs or works on projects in the garage. His brother shoots baskets outside or plays fetch with the dogs. A stark difference from a 6-minute transition between one-hour and 45-minute classes.

My daughter stays the course, she should wear a t-shirt with Einstein’s words: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

They each know how they learn best. They have to know.

As they made their lunches today I asked them to pray for those who are hungry or sick or lonely…and Seniors everywhere who are longing for the proper graduation they deserve, but may have to sacrifice for the betterment of all.

The majority of kids truly miss school. They long for their friends, the guarantee of meals, the routine. 

After prayers tonight I reminded them to count their blessings.

As we all should.

Be smart. Be kind.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

A worldwide crisis: how are you handling it? Your kids are watching.

Lenten Reflections #22

Now more than ever. We’re home. Everything we say, do and react to is being watched. By our kids.

We’re not only working from home, but now we are also homeschooling, prepping meals, and parsing out necessities, as to not run out of what we need.

We’re calling family, checking in on friends, discovering Zoom.

We’re trying REALLY hard not to go to the grocery store, yet dash in, hold our breath (maybe just me) and grab a gallon of milk.

We’re anxious, scared, and unsure.

As we set up our offices on kitchen counters and stumble over saxophones in our closet which is now a makeshift practice studio, we can still be positive, we can still be hopeful.

More importantly, we can be honest and patient and vigilant. Because our kids are watching, and learning from us.

Homeschooling is not just about knowing the correct password to log into a website loaded with lessons and videos. Oh no. It’s game on. They are learning from us. Our kids are watching and they are looking for hope and joy and normalcy. 

The blessing is we are doing this together. Building memories and waiting calmly until it is TRULY safe to move forward.

Until then, stay home, stay safe, and stay strong.

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Time for church! In the living room…

Lenten Reflection #21

This morning at 10:00 we all gathered in the living room for “mass”.

Our dear Irish priest live-streamed (or whatever the past tense of live-stream is) mass for the parishioners at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Since we’ve been dipping our toes into the homeschool pool, I thought we were definitely ready for mass at home. The increased cushion in the seats and pillows as kneelers was a welcome change, but what stayed the same was the kid chatter and nagging.

There was constant shushing coming from our daughter, and at one point our youngest was doing push-ups as we were praying for the sick. In retrospect, the one thing we should have banned was holding hands during the Our Father. Not only for social distancing purposes but why…WHY! do our kids have to try and crush each other’s hands while ironically praying God will deliver them from evil?! Every Sunday. 

I remember when the kids were little and we practiced going to church during the week aiming to be the model family on Sundays. It didn’t work. But they were comfortable in church, perhaps a little too relaxed?

When we first moved to Georgia I thought I’d walk the kids to Lowe’s…it was less than a mile away and we loved walking. So as we were checking out, an older couple initiated a conversation with the classic “you’ve got your hand’s full” line as they stared at me pushing a double stroller with our youngest strapped on my back like I was backpacking through Europe.

We chatted for a moment, and as we turned to leave, they candidly asked: “Does your family have a church-home?”

Wait. A what?

Oh! I broke it down in my head contextually and said, “Yes, we’re Catholic.” That’s all I had. Yup, Catholic. They invited us to their church and I said thanks and began the longer than anticipated journey home.

My take away from our at-home-mass was the fact that our kids are just as comfortable at church as they are at home. I’m going to call that a win. Sure they poke at each other, always have the church giggles, and get antsy once their 45-minute internal alarm goes off, but they are there. We are there. Together.

Yes. We found our “church-home”…at home and church.

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

“Best Lent Ever”

Lenten Reflection #10

The last three years I’ve watched many of the “Best Lent Ever” episodes by Mathew Kelly, a Catholic Guru.

Here’s a snippet from his first reflection this Lenten Season:

In our journey with God, there are many different seasons. There are some times in our lives when we’re hungry to pray, we’re hungry to learn, we’re hungry to be with God. There are other times in our lives when we’re not. There are times in our lives where certain types of spirituality engages us, and there are other times in our lives where those very same things that brought us great enthusiasm and great passion leave us dry and desolate. And so it’s important to recognize the seasons in our spirituality.

What are your spiritual seasons?

May they be fruitful and plentiful.

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Teenagers: 6 funny reasons for bad grades

40 Days of Lenten Reflections

Day #7

I’ve read numerous articles about why we should let our kids fail. So I gave it a try.

For a few months, I was the hands-off mom. The cool, “Study…um…or not…up to you” mom. Turns out, it worked. The failure part, that is. 

Some parents regard any failure by their children as a crisis. James Lehman, MSW with Empoweringparents.com said,

“In a crisis, parents see the danger part very clearly, but often don’t see the opportunity part. They don’t see that their child has the opportunity to learn an important lesson. The lesson might be about the true cost of cutting corners, what happens when he doesn’t do his best at something, or what the real consequences are for not being productive.”

Or in some cases, the lesson may be to craft clever reasons for why they failed. Here are some popular examples I compiled based on experience and research:

1.  “SHE didn’t give me a study guide.”

Typically teachers give students tools and strategies to study for tests, but there are those kids who think their teachers should hand deliver the said study guide to their home, place it on the kitchen table, and maybe even complete it for them.

Trust me, under the crumpled paper, broken pencils, and PE clothes in their backpack lie a study guide.

2.  “EVERYONE did bad on the test.”

To be executed correctly, this excuse should be said with backbone. Stress on the word EVERYONE while holding onto evvvvvvv——eryone should help their case. Teenager’s pre-frontal cortex has convinced them that if the masses failed, it clearly wasn’t their fault.

Maybe the class is full of slackers or maybe, well, nevermind.

3.  “He hasn’t put in the grades for the work I did REALLY WELL on yet and he takes FOREVER to grade!”

(except for tests, apparently)

This excuse is usually coupled with “There’s only one grade in the grade book, so that’s why it seems like such a bad grade.”

Nope. It’s actually a bad grade.

4.  “I had THREE OTHER tests to study for!”

Helping students develop good study habits is insanely hard. Teaching them to prioritize and manage their time is even worse. Ultimately it’s up to them what they study for first if at all, but if this is their excuse, make your follow-up the classic:

“Well, you should have started studying earlier.”

5.  “It’s not my fault the teacher doesn’t know how to teach!”

Once your kids get into the harder subjects, like AP Calculus and Physics, using the ignorance of the teachers bodes well as an excuse and is surprisingly convincing…I mean the reason for not doing well is coming from a child who qualified to be in the class, so…

NOPE! Don’t fall for it! They should have studied.

6.  “I THOUGHT I did well, but I didn’t.”

This is my son’s favorite. It’s the moment when parents have two choices: admit their child did not study enough or at all; or worry they don’t understand any of the content and cancel the family’s summer vacation.

So it turns out failing is an important ingredient in life, but learning from failure is a natural consequence we can all benefit from.

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Puzzles: why seniors benefit from these brain boosters

Lenten Reflections #6

Nowadays, the thump of a newspaper hitting porch steps is about as rare as hearing the beeping drone of a telephone’s busy signal.

Up until a few months ago, you could hear both sounds at my parent’s home. (They have caller ID now which they completely ignore).

Every morning, nestled under coffee cups and bowls of Cherrioes lies the Albuquerque Journal spread across the large table (which once sat six) as if poised for a large art project. Dad takes the front page, Mom pores over the local news, they both rotely read through the obituaries. Then Mom starts “the puzzle” as they call it. She nearly completes her half of the daily crossword effortlessly (depending on the day) and passes it to Dad. Inevitably they finish it together.

Crossword puzzles, jokes, riddles, and intermittent episodes of Jeopardy are a huge part of my parent’s lives.

According to wordwealth.com,

“When it comes to senior people, the daily crossword puzzle is a game-changer. The benefits of solving puzzles for the elderly are innumerable, including enhanced memory, better cognitive skills, improved concentration, and much more. It can even reduce the chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s in the elderly.”

Mom and Dad are no exception to this rule. So when my sister sent the above picture of our parents with a beautiful puzzle they had recently finished, I had to share it with you all. The text attached, read “FINISHED!” Yet another successful puzzle solved and completed by Mom and Dad.

These jigsaw cardboard conundrums remind us to take time to sit and search for the tangible corner pieces, edges and crazy pieces we try so hard to force-fit into a spot, but also, help us to weed through our own lives and piece together who we are, what we are destined to do, and how we can gracefully arrive where we belong.

Thank you kindly for reading.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Reuse and recycle it all!

REDUCE

I grew up in a no-waste home. Bones were given to our dog Dusty, and our “compost” was a bucket filled with the wilted iceberg lettuce and corn cobs which we dumped into the lamb’s pen. Every stray branch was used as kindling for the fire. And newspapers with nearly completed crosswords were laid out and used for serving hot popcorn while we watched Jeopardy or Johnny Carson’s monologue.

RECYCLE

Water is priceless in New Mexico. In the summertime, water drips from the side of my childhood home where the swamp cooler runs. Alongside the brick, my mom has nestled a small McCoy planter in the gravel to catch the water. This oasis serves as a resting spot for what might be the most robust toad in New Mexico. When the planter is filled, mom shares the water with her tomato plants and returns the toad’s tiny home to its spot to refill.

REUSE

I’ve picked up a lot of these no-waste habits from my conscientious parents and yesterday found myself practicing another one of their tricks.

Here’s how it goes:

It may sound crazy, but I try to vacuum daily. We have two dogs. TWO. That’s one away from crazy. And, they are NOT the purebred, never shed, well-behaved type. They are the insanely lovable, loud, shed-like-crazy mutts that are so cute you can hardly stand it. So I vacuum and vacuum and then I do it one more time.

Yesterday I was about to go over the carpet and realize I had completely surpassed the mark on the vacuum bag that says DO NOT FILL OVER THIS LINE. The bag was so full, the vacuum itself felt significantly heavier. I glanced down at the carpet and saw mud from someone’s shoes they “forgot” to take off and spots where the dogs decided to roll so they could spread the dirt in the neglected areas.

Time to clean up the mess…

Unfortunately, I thought I was ahead of the game and gleefully opened the closet and saw every type of bag EXCEPT what I needed. Of course, I did the logical move and tried to force a Hoover bag into a Riccar vacuum. It didn’t work last time, but I had to try again.

In this case, one size did NOT fit all so I thought…what would mom and dad do?

Well, if they had not picked up extra Electrolux bags at Sears or the last yard sale they went to, it would be DIY time.

I reluctantly fished out the used vacuum bag I flippantly tossed in the trash barrel and knew what I HAD to do. With no time to go to the store or use Amazon, I pulled up my sleeves, stood over the trash bin and removed all the yuck (and one missing sock) from the bag. The garage looked like a scene from the Grapes of Wrath.

After emptying the bag (and dusting myself off), I finished my job and marveled at how well the vacuum worked with the “new” bag.

My parents continue to teach me so much about reusing, recycling, saving, and being a smart consumer. From watching This Old House with dad growing up or using YouTube now, I am convinced DIY jobs are worth a try and recycling is ALWAYS the right thing to do.

I know this vacuum hack produces a lot of dust, but I saved a few dollars, found a sock and saved one more bag from going into a landfill.

Do you have any clever recycling/reusing tips? Please share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading 🙂

BONUS INFO:

I later researched a clever way to empty and reuse vacuum bags.

Here’s what I found:

To empty a vacuum bag multiple times here is a suggestion from the  Do It Yourself Website.

  1. Get a strip of duct tape and tape it vertically along the back of the bag (the opposite side of where the bag opening is) that covers about 2/3 of the bag’s length. Cut a slit through the tape and through the bag, taking care not to cut all the way through to the other side of the bag. Leave about an inch or so at either end of the tape uncut. Empty out the bag.
  2. Cut another strip of duct tape long enough to cover the slit. Add another inch and fold over the end of the tape onto itself about ½ inch from the end. This will provide for a handy little non-sticking end that will make it easier to pull off. Affix this new strip of tape over the slit.
  3. Replace the bag in the vacuum. Next time you have to empty the bag, merely peel off the top strip (using the end that has that neat little handle) and empty out the contents.

Happy cleaning…

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

From pre-k to the president – why we all need a pacifier

When I was working in a pre-k class last week, I noticed a behavior pattern among the students. As soon as the cleanup bell rang, little Nathan caught my eyes and defiantly dumped all the dinosaurs out of their bin. Knowing it was wrong, he instinctively stuck his thumb in his mouth.

His eyes said he was sorry, and his thumb squelched the potential protest looming. His four-year-old brain was cued to know just when to pacify himself in lieu of screaming.

Hand over hand, we put the dinosaurs away together.

It happened again with a kindergartner. I could see in her gulf-coast blue eyes her struggle to decipher why she is suddenly ONLY spending Saturday and Sunday with her dad and the rest of the week with her mom.

When she approached me for a hug she pulled the end of her “Be a Unicorn” t-shirt out of her mouth to say hi. After the squeeze, she grabbed the comforting seam of her shirt and ran off to play.

Any other day she would have told me something about her and Emma having the EXACT SAME strawberry yogurt at lunch or how she collected the shiniest rocks EVER during recess…but it was a Monday and transition from dad to mom was exhausting on her little heart.

What struck me about these and other kids was their ability to know when to stop. When not to complain, or rant, or argue. I’m not saying they shouldn’t share their worries and wonders, but somehow these two knew it was not the right time.

Their little minds told them to listen instead of talk. Move on instead of stall.

I find in today’s world, we each have our own pacifiers. Maybe it’s not a thumb or shirt we’re using…it’s more likely to be a cell phone or earbuds drowning out the noise.

Unfortunately, when I listen to the news I notice most people forget or neglect their pacifiers and still spew out hurtful, divisive, and hate-filled words. When I drive down the road, bumper stickers scream at me and tell me who NOT to vote for, how they define the word “great” or how I should feel about guns and whales.

Freedom of Speech is priceless, but all of us, whether we’re president or in pre-k, need to know when to pop our thumbs in our mouths and search our hearts for kind, appropriate words to use.

Like my dad says, “even if you think it’s a LITTLE wrong, don’t say it…(and mom would chime in)…and DEFINITELY don’t write it down!”

Bottom line: Use your inside voice, think before you speak and be kind to others.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Daily blogging – keep reaching, keep writing

In my home, there’s a “blogging season” as my husband calls it. For the last few years, I’ve been blogging during the 40 days of Lent. I’d tell a story and include a prayer and workout at the end of each post. It was rewarding. It was hard. It was what Lent should feel like.

At the beginning of 2020, I started blogging every day because life seemed to be moving faster and since I still haven’t located a PAUSE button, I knew I’d better share my story. Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“A man is what he thinks about all day.”

I think about writing and the sunny feeling I get when I help others or touch their lives. (With three kids going to college soon, perhaps I should think a bit more about tuition money).

Let’s just say I’m like a Border Collie with a constant head tilt completely engrossed in 50- shades of everything, and the nuances of nothing. I think of stories constantly. Not in an Emerson “Self-Reliance” kind of way, more in a Seinfeld “show about nothing” kind of way.

I am always thinking about how all of us are linked and how sharing our stories helps us celebrate our milestones or hold each other up in our toughest moments.

Maybe it’s commiserating on how tricky it can be to shuttle three kids to three different practices starting at the same time.

Or maybe it’s about trying to help your children with homework as you pretend to remember what ‘slope-intercept’ or ‘rhetorical writing’ means.

Or maybe it’s listening to your own 80-something parents on speakerphone as they recount their day going from church to the doctor and then the grocery store, all the while wishing you were there to drive them, hover over them and hold their hands for balance and warmth.

Perhaps it’s a middle school story about our kids being too shy, too needy, too weird.

Or maybe like me, it’s when you hear the news about a mom you worked with for years on PTA who died in her sleep and how she was too young and won’t get to see her children graduate.

Blogging reminds me of writing my fears and favorites in my childhood diary. It had a green satin cover and that little tiny key I hid and lost, and used a bobby pin instead. Writing to me is a chronicle, proof, opinion, and vulnerability…the more I do it, the easier it is.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Outliers, he claims the way to achieve world-class mastery in any skill is to repeatedly doing something correctly for 10,000 hours. It’s this deliberate practice that leads to expertise.

I’m certainly not an expert — and 10,000 hours of anything sounds just awful. My goal instead is to help, share, connect, and tell the funny, sad and wacky moments I know I’m not the only one out there experiencing.

So I’ll try and write every day and build my muscle memory. I may not press PUBLISH daily, but I trust there will ALWAYS be something amusing or amazing to jot down and share with you.

What’s your daily practice? Please share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Are parental decisions laced with selfishness?

Our kids didn’t attend pre-school. There. I said it.

We did, however, visit one in Virginia back in 2006.

It was off of Columbia Pike, a big commuter thoroughfare in Falls Church. The fancy, stone building looked more like Hogwarts than a preschool. SUV’s and minivans loaded with all the latest screens and cushy car seats lined the parking lot. Once inside, children’s Picasso-inspired artwork lined the walls and kid-sized water fountains dotted the hallways. Outside each doorway stood joyful, young pre-school teachers greeting students and when we visited the classrooms, they were filled with building blocks, endless art supplies, and dress-up costumes so kids could pretend to be whatever they could imagine.

After the tour, we figured we had to do it. We couldn’t possibly deprive our children of the chance to play and learn with kids in this amazing setting.

Or could we?

Back then, the thought of packing up my three pumpkins in the car, driving in rush hour traffic, unloading all three, leaving one and turning around for pick up in a few hours sounded as fun as running barefoot over a lego laden floor.

Simply exhausting. For me.

But as parents, don’t we sometimes lace our decisions with a little selfishness?

For instance, the other day I bought ‘cheezy’ pretzels “for the kids”…but I secretly love them and could eat the entire bag. Another time I signed all of the kids up for year-round swim tryouts slyly knowing my daughter would be the only one who MIGHT want to join the team. Deep down, I knew there was no way she would have put one toe in the water unless her brothers were suffering alongside her. Now she’s on her way to the High School State Swim Meet. Yet another decision made for the good of the group. (Ha!)

Turned out before we had the chance to try the stone-covered kid sanctuary, we moved to Georgia and much like DC and Virginia, most kids attended preschool.

Not us. We were new in the suburbs and stuck together…at home, the library, book stores, museums and lots of parks. We kept our kids home until kindergarten so they could “bond” i.e: fight, cry, laugh, play, nap, sing, learn, grow, read and just be together. Was it always easy? Heck no. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Plus, I could barely find my way to the grocery store much less a preschool.

In retrospect, best decision ever. For ALL OF US.