board games we love.

We love a good board game around here. Especially as we enter into the cold months where it gets harder and harder to spend much time outside, board games are our go-to boredom busters and good-vibes makers. And unlike playing dolls or trucks, board games don’t make me want to gauge my eyes out. Did I just say that out loud? Ahem. Anyway, these are some of our favorites. Continue reading

nature walk bags

We’re pretty lucky to live in an area surrounded by lots of open space and well-maintained trails, so the kids and I take a lot of walks and do a lot of exploring. When I was researching homeschooling methods, one of the things that initially drew me to Charlotte Mason’s approach was the emphasis on outdoor time for kids and the practice of nature journaling.  Even though my kids are still little and we haven’t started formal schooling yet, we’ve started working on developing habits so that they’ll be well-prepared when we do start.  One of the things we’ve really enjoyed is being mindful of noticing things while we explore, and sometimes attempting to chronicle them in our “journals” or with some kind of art project. (God help us.) Continue reading

enjoy every moment.

If you’re a woman with a few kids in a certain age range, you know that you can’t go anywhere in public (but specifically grocery stores, Target, or a library), without someone coming up to you and saying, “Enjoy every moment. It goes by too fast.” Depending on your mood, you may or may not want to throw some choice words their way, hand them your neediest child, and book it to the nearest Starbucks.  Personally, I always try to be gracious to people who say this, because I know it’s true- these years with my children are precious, and I know that’s what they’re getting at. Continue reading

why i let my kids fight (CAPC series)

img_4445*For the past several years, I’ve been contributing to an amazing site, Catholic Attatchment Parenting Corner. (What can I say, I’ve really got a thing for niche-writing, yeah?) Due to all kinds of life circumstances, the site won’t be live for much longer, and the editor and creator of that site will be focusing solely on her other (wonderful) endeavor, Intentional Catholic Parenting.  So I decided to run a few of my old articles as a little mini-series, so they can find a new forever home here. Some of them are recent, and some of them were from a few years ago, but I hope they all speak to the experiences of different stages and moments in motherhood. *

Why I Let My Kids Fight

And no, it’s not because I’m starting a baby fight club. Or because I’m lazy. Or because I think I need to “toughen them up.”

This title might surprise those of you who know me. I’m a pretty gentle parent. I take my kids’ feelings and thoughts seriously. I strive for kindness and peace in my relationship with them and try to foster that in their relationship with each other. So why do I let them whale on each other sometimes? It’s all about forgiveness, baby.

I kind of came upon this concept accidentally. I had a quick, important phone call to make, and left the kids peacefully playing Legos in the living room while I stepped into the bathroom. (What, isn’t this where you go to make important phone calls?) Obviously, as soon as I began this important conversation, I heard shrieks coming from the living room. Yelling. Screaming. Your average toddler and preschooler brawl over the Lego they both want. But I was somewhat stuck — I had to finish this phone call and hope that when I emerged, things would still be salvageable. A minute later, my call ended and I unlocked the bathroom, ready to admonish someone (whoever looked guiltier? whoever wasn’t bleeding?) for being unkind and kiss any booboos, emotional or physical, of the innocent party. But what I saw when I opened the door stopped me in my tracks.img_3638_2

My 4 year old was kneeling on the ground, hugging his little sister, saying in a soothing, quiet voice, “I’m sorry, baby. I know you wanted that Lego. I’m sorry I hit you.” And to my surprise, she replied, “I fine. I fine.” As they sensed my presence, they both turned and looked at me like nothing had transpired. They returned to playing happily until the next argument broke out, as they inevitably do.

But it got me thinking. As a parent, I am constantly putting myself in the position of referee. The moment I hear someone cry, I spring to attention and ask, maybe for the 20th time that day, “WHAT happened?!” I then try to figure out who did what to whom (not an easy task), tend to the victim, chastise the aggressor, and basically, in the end, everyone is angry and crying. But what I witnessed that day gave me an alternate view of how it could be. When I don’t jump in to punish (or even gently admonish them to “be kind”), it takes away the immediate defensiveness of the one committing the error. It leaves room for genuine regret that they hurt and upset someone they love. It gives them an opportunity to make it right of their own accord. It allows them the chance to take responsibility for their actions, without me having to guess exactly what those actions were and respond accordingly.img_3128

And maybe most importantly, it gives the one who’s been hurt a chance to forgive. Because when I step in and deal with the aggressor in these fights, I rob both kids of the chance to be the forgiver and the forgiven. I insert myself in the middle and act as both. And that’s not fair. Because it’s not nice to fight, but there is joy in being merciful and showing mercy. This might seem like a stretch when talking about toddlers and pre-schoolers, but so often, when given the chance, our kids will surprise us when given the opportunity to forgo parental justice in favor of sibling forbearance. And doesn’t it follow that if we give our kids practice in being merciful that they will grow up to appreciate mercy as a very real and vital virtue?

Since I had this epiphany, I’ve tested this theory many times, and the results have been pretty consistent: my kids want to forgive each other. They want to make it right. And I can’t help but notice the other effects it has on them. When they are playing together and my little one gets hurt, instead of immediately turning to me, she will often cry her brother’s name and turn to him for a consoling hug before quickly getting back to their game. Sure, I still kiss my fair share of booboos and break up some fights before they get ugly. Some days it feels like that’s all I do. But giving my kids some space in their arguments and disagreements has been fruitful in a surprisingly real and glorious way. No referee whistle necessary.

hello from baby land.

Oh, hiiiiii.  Remember me? I used to hang around here a lot and write really interesting/insightful/hilarious blog posts. (Ha! Just testing to see if you really remember me.) I’m pretty sure last time you heard from me, it wasn’t such an interesting blog post, maybe just me whining about being super pregnant? Yeah?  Remember me now?

Well, folks, my blog posts might not actually be more interesting/insightful/hilarious now, but they will definitely be more adorable, because…

We have a baby!  IMG_2288 Continue reading

the hardest job in the world (CAPC series)

*For the past several years, I’ve been contributing to an amazing site, Catholic Attatchment Parenting Corner. (What can I say, I’ve really got a thing for niche-writing, yeah?) Due to all kinds of life circumstances, the site won’t be live for much longer, and the editor and creator of that site will be focusing solely on her other (wonderful) endeavor, Intentional Catholic Parenting.  So I decided to run a few of my old articles as a little mini-series, so they can find a new forever home here. Some of them are recent, and some of them were from a few years ago, but I hope they all speak to the experiences of different stages and moments in motherhood. *IMG_1266

“Being a mom is the hardest job in the world.”

I hear this a lot, both from people who are mothers, and some who aren’t.  I even read an article some time ago that said that if a stay-at-home mom’s jobs could be quantified, she would earn $115,000 annually.  When I first read this, I thought to myself,  “Wow! How validating!  My job as a mom is worth way more than any other job I’ve ever had!”

And yet, so many moms feel lost in these important, demanding “jobs”.  I have often felt this way myself.  Even though I knew that these jobs were part of the foundation of love and security that I was establishing for my son, my day-to-day tasks seemed empty.  I would clean the kitchen only to turn around to face a decimated living room.  I’d fold a load of laundry only to have another three appear in the hamper.  I’d finish the dishes from breakfast only to realize that it was time for lunch.  And as if that wasn’t enough, the management didn’t even have the decency to give me a solo bathroom break! I started to think that this job didn’t have the benefits that I had expected.  And where the heck were my vacation days?!

Oh yeah, and you can’t quit.  Ever. Continue reading

a lesson in mercy (CAPC series)

*For the past several years, I’ve been contributing to an amazing site, Catholic Attatchment Parenting Corner. (What can I say, I’ve really got a thing for niche-writing, yeah?) Due to all kinds of life circumstances, the site won’t be live for much longer, and the editor and creator of that site will be focusing solely on her other (wonderful) endeavor, Intentional Catholic Parenting.  So I decided to run a few of my old articles as a little mini-series, so they can find a new forever home here. Some of them are recent, and some of them were from a few years ago, but I hope they all speak to the experiences of different stages and moments in motherhood. *

IMG_3595(My clearly perfect children who obviously never cause a commotion in Church. <insert belly laughter here>)

The Mom and the Sacristan: A Lesson in Mercy

I’m in the narthex of the church again, trying to pay attention to Mass while Grace stumbles around stacking and unstacking the brochures on the display table. Pretty much the same place I am every Sunday, at one point or another. I’m cool with it.

But this Sunday, about 20 minutes into Mass (yeah, we didn’t make it that long in the pew this week. Sigh.), I glanced out the window to see a woman crossing the street, holding the hands of two small children, pulling them along, looking determined and in a rush. She made her way across the street and into the church. But she camped out in the back with me and a few of the other parents of young kids. I gave her a quick, sympathetic smile. I tried to imagine the circumstances that culminated in her pulling her two boys into church 20 minutes late, the hustling and frustration and finding shoes and making sure everyone had breakfast. I noticed her boys, the younger probably around 2 or 3, and the older boy, who was 4 or 5, who had Downs’ Syndrome. She gently took off their coats, found a spot against the wall, and then started to attempt to calm the boys down. Continue reading

7 things I wish I knew about the first time I was pregnant (and one I wish I didn’t)

IMG_4788As I head into the end of this pregnancy, I’ve been thinking about the things I wish I’d known about the first time around. I can’t really call myself any kind of expert on being pregnant, but I’ve done it three times now and I’ve learned about so many tips and tricks from many wise women along the way.  Here are a couple of things I wish I had known about from the beginning that make pregnancy easier for me (or at least less uncomfortable).

  1. Ditch the saltines. Ok, so maybe I don’t even follow this one all the time when I’m feeling sick.  But during my second pregnancy, my midwife told me to combat morning sickness, I really should try to avoid just eating so many carbs (but… but… carbs!) and try to eat protein when I’m feeling nauseous. And the annoying thing is that she was totally right.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it cured me of morning/afternoon/evening sickness, but I really did feel better when I snacked on protein instead of crackers (or cold pizza. or donuts. or mall pretzels.)
  2. Lemongrass oil for Restless Leg Syndrome Who knew?  Apparently the awesome midwife I’ve been seeing with this pregnancy.  She suggested giving it a try after I complained about that tingly, uncomfortable feeling in my legs that was making it hard to fall asleep.  I dilute a couple drops in a carrier oil and rub it on my legs before bed and it seems to really help take the edge off.  I’m no essential oil expert, so don’t sue me or anything if it doesn’t work for you (you should consult and expert), but it worked for me.
  3. Epsom Salt Baths and Arnica for Aches and Pains Dude. Dude. Dude.  Epsom baths were a total game changer for me.  Towards the end of pregnancy I get so achey all over and really the only thing that can make me feel better is getting in a bath with Epsom salts.  As a bonus, the magnesium that you absorb through your skin can help with those pesky leg cramps that are so common in pregnancy.  And if a specific spot (i.e. my back, my neck or shoulders) are getting achey halfway through the day, rubbing a little arnica on the area helps immensely.IMG_4704(Why yes, that is Joey lovingly caressing my baby belly while Grace punches it.  It sums up so much, so perfectly, I think.)
  4. Chiropractic Care I put off going to see a chiropractor for a long time because I thought it was too expensive and looked at it like a luxury.  But after the first time I got adjusted when I was pregnant I changed my tune and was all, “Take all my money!” and “Can I just live in your office?” Not only did it help my aching back, but it eased the migraines that I often get and I’m convinced that it made my second labor a lot easier because I was so well-adjusted.  Another bonus is that if you find a chiro who is familiar with the Webster technique, they can help you get baby into a good position if they are breech or in a sub-optimal position. Chiropractors are my spirit animal.
  5. Papaya Enzyme Chewables for Heartburn I always get pretty nasty heartburn during pregnancy right from the get-go.  The first time I munched on Tums all. the. time.  But they didn’t help a ton, and I wasn’t crazy about all the sugar and food coloring I was consuming. The second time around someone told me about these Papaya enzyme chews and they were a game changer.  They actually worked and they don’t have the yucky stuff I objected to in the Tums.  And they taste pretty good!
  6. Witch hazel Men and children, cover your ears.  Ladies, if you’ve been pregnant, you know there’s just a lot going on down there, both before and after you give birth.  Whatever it is, just put some witch hazel on it. It doesn’t matter what.  Just put witch hazel on it.  You’re welcome.
  7. A Doula  Man, how I wish I’d have had a doula the first time around, I think it would have saved me a whole lot of grief.  I honestly didn’t even consider having one, because it was expensive (I’m SO cheap, y’all), and I kind of thought that doulas were only for hippies who didn’t want drugs. (Which I totally now am, probably as one of the side effects of my terrible first birth experience. Irony.) My experience with my second birth was a thousand times better and I think having a doula was a MAJOR part of that.  Seriously. Get one. If you’re in the Chicago area, look no further- Lindsey is the best. If you’re not, check out doulamatch.net so you can find someone in your area.

Ok, are you ready for the one thing I wish I hadn’t known about my first pregnancy?  This book.  It’s the worst.  It will tell you literally every. possible. thing. that can go wrong in pregnancy with both you and your baby and scare the crud out of you.  If you want the week-by-week of how your babe is growing and all the stuff you really should know, there are plenty of better books about that- or better yet, phone apps.  And if you really want to get excited about giving birth, I recommend reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. It’s encouraging and helpful, and you get to laugh at all the crazy hippie anecdotes along the way.  So worth a read. IMG_5269

So, what things did you discover on your second, third, fourth pregnancies that you wish you’d known about earlier?  What did I miss?  What do I need to know about? Hit me with your best stuff!

 

*Linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum because she rocks and it’s Friday.  Go check it out and see what everyone else is up to!*

 

favorite kids’ poetry collections

IMG_4345When I posted a while back about what we do for “homeschool”, a bunch of people mentioned that they loved the idea of circle time.  A big part of circle time for us is that I let the kids pick a book of poetry and we’ll read a few poems from it.  So I figured I’d share a list of a few of our favorites, some of which we always have, and a few that we check out from the library over and over again.

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The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders– This one is just the right combination of silly and lovely, and just overall really fun to read.

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A Children’s Garden Verses– The classic collection from Robert Louis Stevenson. I crack up a little how many of the poems refer to “nurse” or “nanny”, but lots of treasures in this one.  My kids also really love the illustrations in this one. Can’t go wrong with Gyo Fujikawa, in my opinion.

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A Children’s Book of Verse– This is, sadly, not in print anymore, but it can be found used (and pretty cheaply!) on Amazon. My copy was mine as a child, and it’s fun to read some of my old favorites with my kiddos.  Whimsical illustrations and classic selections- can’t beat it. Joey is obsessed with reading, “The Skippery Boo”.Which is terrifying, but he loves it.  Random.

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Where the Sidewalk Ends For our daily dose of pure silliness, my 4 year old picks out a poem from this one almost every day.

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Favorite Poems Old and New– Not just for kids, this collection is really enjoyable and I often find myself browsing through it, looking for inspiration or just plain old entertainment.  It’s a big book, so if you were looking for ONE poem book to rule them all, this would be a great candidate to take your kids from itty-bittys to adults.

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A Child’s Calendar– If you love John Updike, this is a must.  A short, simple book with a poem for each month of the year.  I like the idea of reading the month’s poem on the first and last day of the month, kind of as a celebration of a new month.

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Outside Your Window– We got this one out of the library, and after the first time we read from it, I went straight to Amazon to buy it, because it was an instant favorite. The illustrations are some of the best I’ve ever seen in a children’s poetry book, the poems about the natural world are truly lovely and the kids enjoy them immensely.  Not only are the poems fun to read, but they’re actually pretty informative, so I can see using these as part of nature studies and such.  LOVE this book.

These are just a few of the poetry books we’ve read from and loved, but I’d love to hear about some of your favorites that we can add to our list!

*Linking up with This Ain’t The Lyceum today. Head over and check out all the other great posts over there!*

*Links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means if you buy something, I get a small commission.  You get a new book, I get like, 15 cents!  Win win!*

I Think I Know Why We Have a Bullying Problem

DSC_0217You can’t pop onto Facebook or read the news without coming face to face with a slew of articles, blogs, and commentary about bullying among kids and teens today- why it happens, how it happens, what we can do to “fix” the problem, and of course,  worst of all, the tales of the tragic consequences of bullying. And it all truly is so tragic and feels so confusing.  It can be so easy to despair when you consider what’s going on.

And yet. The more I pay attention to the world around me, the less confused I am about why this is happening.  In fact, it’s becoming startlingly clear to me.  From where I’m standing, I look all around me and see that our society has become one in which bullying, while being denounced with words, is being perpetuated in almost every aspect of our society.

Think, friends.

Think about the shows that we watch on TV.  How many of them are on the air for the sole purpose of making us feel like we are better than the people we are watching? I can think of several, off the top of my head, that revolve around taking people who are pretty happy with the way they are and then convincing them that the way they dress, act, parent, or interact in relationships is somehow either not cool enough or just downright ridiculous. Or, a perennial favorite, following a celebrity family and picking apart their every conversation and action for us to laugh at and mock mercilessly.

Think about those fashion and celebrity gossip magazines we love to flip through at the beach or in a free moment at home.  You know… the ones that tell us what the cool kids are wearing, which seems to always be different from what we are wearing. Or the ones that maliciously slander people in the public spotlight, as if them being famous gives us permission to say nasty things about these fellow human beings.

Think about the last time you were brave enough to read the comments on a news article, or a well-intentioned Facebook thread.  How the comments so quickly turned into nastiness, name-calling, and mud-slinging. People who do not even know each other spew hatred at each other simply because they have a different opinion on which brand of diapers they use on their baby.  (No. Sadly, that’s not a joke. I’ve actually seen this happen.) Worse, I have seen friendships ruined by these kinds of unkindnesses.

Think about the last time you expressed “concern” over the choices or actions of a friend, relative, or acquaintance (who wasn’t present) to someone else.  What kinds of judgements and criticisms came out of your mouth?  Were your kids in earshot?  Are you sure?  Can you be sure your kids didn’t witness that little eyebrow raise you gave your spouse when that kind-of-weird neighbor walked by? And does it even matter? Because chances are, your kids are picking up on the things you say and do more than you can imagine.

Think about the last time you saw a social media campaign or news article publicly shame a person who has done something wrong?  Or maybe made a mistake?  Or perhaps just made decisions that don’t reflect the mainstream culture?  How often do you hear (and maybe agree with) the statement that, “Sometimes people just deserve to be shamed!”? How about those parents that publicly shame their kids for doing something wrong or unkind? We’ve all seen how many “likes” those Facebook posts get, right?

To some extent, we are all guilty of some or all of these.  We are kidding ourselves if we act like this isn’t bullying.  All of these things have contributed to a culture in which people grapple for the upper hand to be “cooler than”, “smarter than”, and “prettier than”. Just because we are adults, we call this behavior, “entertainment” or even “justice”.  Maybe we can get a laugh out of the silliness or blunders of others via celebrity gossip or TV shows, but can we get any true joy from cutting down others?  No.  We can ascribe to a vigilante mentality of publicly shaming wrongdoers, but are we meting out real justice?  Is that even our job?  No, and no. I think we know this.  We are adults.  Shouldn’t we know this?

So what about the kids?  Why are we all so confused about why they pick on each other mercilessly, exploiting each others’ insecurities, cutting each other down instead of building one another up?  Can we really fairly ask this question of them, when the adults that are raising them are behaving, frankly, rather brutishly? Can we scratch our heads at the increasingly troublesome dynamic in our schools while we, in turn, garner entertainment from making fun of strangers on the internet and gossiping about our own friends? You guys. I just don’t think we can.

Perhaps we think we are somehow shielding our kids from this icky side of our adult culture, where grown-ups are the socially acceptable, real-life bullies.  But I think that’s a fantasy.  Kids pick up on every. little. thing. They are not living in a vacuum.  They see us greedily lapping up those unflattering photos of the “fat” celebrity in the checkout lane.  They see us exchanging meaningful glances with another mom at the PTA meeting. They see the way we laugh at people on TV who think leggings count as pants. They’re seeing it all, guys.  And it’s not ok.

We can’t expect our children to see these things and not carry them with them into their hearts and relationships. We can’t be bullies while telling our kids to treat others with respect.  I know it’s hard.  I’m sure many people will read this and say, “It’s all in good fun, I won’t give up my gossip mags!” or “Just because I watch shows about people who dress poorly, that doesn’t mean I condone my kid beating up on other kids at school.” Of course you don’t. I don’t, either. But as this problem of bullying becomes bigger and bigger, affecting more and more families, we have to talk about the hard things and take a good look at the culture we are creating.  Sure, single actions probably aren’t going to cause a child to intentionally hurt someone else, emotionally or physically. But if we look at our actions as contributing to a culture in which human beings aren’t respected aside from their entertainment value, or the emotional satisfaction we get from them, we can’t ignore these seemingly “little” habits that we, as adults, are perpetuating.  Our kids are just that- kids.  They look to adults for their cues on how to act, examples of how to treat others.  It’s time we give them an example that’s worth following.