March 2016

Boy

The head of the 28 year-old Lego Foundation says adults don’t understand the value of play, therefore kids are being denied something really important in their development today. In a piece in The Guardian, Hanne Rasmussen says all over the world parents are working hard to do best what’s best for their children, but they’re unaware of a substantial body of research showing that children should be learning mainly through play until they’re about 8.

Even if this makes sense to a parent, it’s hard to actually put it into practice when the surrounding culture doesn’t buy it. Generally it’s expected that once your kids hit 4 or 5, they should be moving into academics. Additionally, I’ve noticed that young children are often very scheduled, with school, various lessons, sports activities, and play dates. One reason for this is that parents are on tight schedules themselves, so in order for daily life to go half-way smoothly, it’s better for everyone to be on a schedule.

There’s more to it, though. As Rasmussen points out, there are concerns world-wide that in order for children to be competitive and succeed in the future, we must push them into academics, lessons, and schedules at younger and younger ages in order for them to gain the advantage. Again, though, people are unaware of the growing body of evidence that shows that the future, if it continues along the trajectory it’s currently on, will most likely belong to those who are the most creative, innovative, adaptable, and flexible. (Just read a few of Daniel Pink’s books.) Early childhood play is crucial for developing these things.

It’s normal to see play as a natural part of a 2 or 3 year-olds life, but when they’re 5, 6, or 7, it’s harder. I wrote recently about a little girl who came over not long ago and wasn’t interested in imaginative play so much anymore with S and H because she missed her digital devices. Playing computer games is not the kind of play Rasmussen is talking about here. In order for sustained imaginative, active play to occur, adults have to understand its value and not see it as a waste of time.

So, what’s the answer? I guess the people at the Lego Foundation have their work cut out for them trying to change the mindset of parents around the world. In the meantime, we parents can check ourselves when we start stressing out that all our kids want to do is play.

Image: Unsplash

 

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Good Friday

March 25, 2016

Lukas Budimaier

Image: Lukas Budimaier at Unsplash

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It’s Holy Week so I’m doing my best to be a little more reflective, a little more focused on the “lasting” things. The L’Arche community, for which I volunteered years ago, always reminds me of this. In a world of many tragedies and great sufferings, it helps to remember that while hardship inevitably comes our way, love surpasses it all.

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Are You A Superfan?

March 21, 2016

Springsteen with fans

I have six sisters, and one of them is a self-proclaimed super-fan. From the time she was a young teenager, she has loved Bruce Springsteen. Lots of people love the Boss, of course, but if you were to meet my sister, you’d never peg her for the “super fan” type. Truth to be told, she’s way too balanced and sensible to be completely irrational in her love for Bruce, but the evidence is still there: She has most of the albums he’s ever put out, managed to appear (via audio) in the recent movie made about his life, and has sacrificed a lot to be at his concerts — I’m talking flights, hotels, and babysitters. In fact, for a recent birthday, her dedicated husband worked some connections and they managed to get front row pit seats in Boston. To say that made my sister’s entire decade is probably an understatement.

Springsteen in Bean Town

I told you they got very close.

While I’m a fan of various artists, actors, and musicians, I can’t say I’m a super fan of anyone in particular. Not to that kind of degree, anyway. But I find it fascinating and I’d love to hear if you can relate. Would you consider yourself a super fan of anyone, or do you know anyone like that?

While you’re thinking about that, I need to share this video the Huff Post ran. If you’re a Springsteen fan, you’re especially going to dig it. Guess who sent it to me?

Images: O & D

 

 

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Pull Up A Chair

March 18, 2016

Green Waterfall

Were you wearing green yesterday? Whenever St. Patrick’s Day rolls around I realize how few green pieces of clothing I own. But I did manage to make Irish Soda Bread! I used a colleagues’s recipe and switched out a few things so I could live up to my reputation of being a health-nut, and it still turned out really well.

Yesterday was also the birthday of my mother-in-law. I’m one of the lucky ones out there who has a great relationship with her husband’s mother — I really lucked out in that department.

So in honor of my mother-in-law, who doesn’t drink much alcohol, and to celebrate St. Patrick a little longer, I think this matcha latte would be perfect. It’s green and creamy and healthy and yummy, so what more could you ask for? have you had matcha before? It’s a finely ground powder of a specially grown and processed green tea with supposedly many health properties.

Any plans for the weekend? Ours is full, but some fun stuff to look forward to, and we are heading into a spiritually significant week — Holy Week, the seven days leading up to Easter.

I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Andrew Coelho at Unsplash

 

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Inspiration & Laughter

March 15, 2016

The time change is kicking my butt this week — I feel so behind and it’s only Tuesday!

If you’re having a week like I am so far, here are two videos I thought might help.

First, some inspiration: I don’t know if you’ve heard of this man — Narayanan Krishnan. CNN named him one of their “Heros” in 2010 so I may be the only one who hasn’t seen his story, but wow:

And then, this. Totally happens to me and I’ve seen this happen on the subway myself. (Oh, and the same thing happens with crying… (not on the subway)… I’m not much of a crier, but if someone else tears up, that’s it for me. You?)

What’s inspiring you or making your laugh this week?

 

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Pull Up A Chair

March 11, 2016

Tasja Brewis pic

It’s been a whirlwind week and all I have for you today is a little story that might amuse you.

But first, grab one of these classic margaritas from Epicurious… I could really use a refreshing drink right about now. Plus, we’ve had 70 degree temps here all week —  crazy for early March! But a nice break from the cold.

So yesterday morning I was sitting in downtown traffic with one of my daughters trying to get north of the city for a 9 a.m. appointment when I suddenly realized: I need a bathroom and I need one now.

We were driving down a notorious city block called “The Strip” — for reasons that should be clear —  so there was no way I was hauling my child inside any establishment there for a restroom, even at 8 a.m. I can make it another 15-20 minutes — I just won’t think about it, I convinced myself. We could not be late for this appointment . I just had to bite the bullet.

Then we got on the highway and I realized that no, I really wasn’t going to make it, so I took an exit, stopped at a 7-11, and went in with my daughter, “Sorry, no public bathroom,” the cashier said, “You might try McDonalds, half a mile up.” So, we ran back to the car, and as I was about to close the door, a woman (who had been in the 7-11) came out and said, “I know what it’s like to have a kid who needs the potty so you might want to try that breakfast restaurant across the street there with the yellow awning — they’ll probably let you in.”

“Right!” I said, “Thanks!” (Having kids can be so convenient sometimes!) We hopped back out, made out way across the street, and the restaurant was closed. By now we probably could have been at the office where we had our appointment, of course.

We got into the car and once again, I thought, Okay, I think I can make it another 10 min! But two minutes down the road again and I knew that, nope — wasn’t going to happen. By now we were driving through a tony part of town, and I remembered a café in a swanky plaza that would surely be open for breakfast. I drove in like a mad woman and parked. At this point, every second mattered. I grabbed my daughter’s hand and we ran up the stairs to the cafe and I could tell as we approached that it was closed. In desperation, I tried the door anyway and… it was open! We ran in, past the kitchen (where a light was on), and found the bathroom. Once inside, my daughter said, “Mom, are you sure you’re allowed to do this?”

“Mommy sometimes breaks the rules” was probably not the best answer, but I did offer a better explanation when I was calmer. We ran into a busboy on the way out, who — when I said “I’m sorry we’re patrons here sometimes and really had to use your restroom!”  — looked at my daughter with a knowing smile and said, “Oh, sure, no problem!” Did I mention there are advantages to having kids? And also, thank heavens that door was open, as I had very clear visions of myself behind one of the manicured bushes under the balcony of somebody’s fancy condo and my daughter having to watch her mother get taken away in handcuffs for lewd behavior.

Speaking of which, any plans for the weekend? Haha. A few things on my agenda that I’m looking forward to,: including a Lenten event tonight at a friend’s church, a night out tomorrow with a friend, and a gathering with other families at an Ethiopian restaurant on Sunday. All of it will help my feel better about trying to get taxes done over the next few days.

Have a lovely and slow weekend and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Tasja Brewis at Life of Pix

 

 

 

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Mom and daughters

Before I became a parent I used to hear a lot of adoptive parents say that their kids were — to their great surprise — so much like them. Some children certainly look just like their adoptive parents: Friends of mine adopted a baby boy and I’ll never forget the day I laid eyes on him — he looked like a “mini-me” of his adoptive dad. Every time I get a Christmas card from another family I know who adopted a son and a daughter domestically, I’m struck by how much the kids look like the parents.

Of course, when you’re a white couple and your adopt internationally, looking like your kids is far less likely (unless perhaps you’re adopting from Eastern Europe or Russia). Still, it’s funny how I occasionally get the comment that one of my daughters in particular looks like me. Really? She has short, black, curly hair, dark brown eyes, and brown skin… and I have, well, pretty much the opposite of that. But apparently, there’s a resemblance in our features and mannerisms.

What I’m really surprised about, though, is how similar my daughters are to me in other ways. B likes to say that S and H are me, split in two. (They’re also a lot like him, but I’ll stick to talking about myself here.)

Each of our daughters is uniquely herself, of course, and I only wish I had some of their traits and talents, but it really is odd how many similarities we share. I know some of this is bound to happen over time as we live and share our lives together, but many of these things were there from day one. I mean, how can two little girls, born on the other side of the world in a completely different culture, think the same (very subtle) things are funny, or do things exactly the same way I did them when I was little? There are too many things to list, and some of them are hard to explain, but it’s these quirky things that amaze me the most.

There’s no guarantee that adopted children will be anything like their new parents, and I know parents with birth children who say they’re so different from each other that sometimes they don’t even feel related. But it’s a real gift when adoptive parents and children discover and experience similarities in each other. It fosters a strong sense of belonging, as well as destiny — the sense that it was meant to be, even ordained in some way. Which is extremely helpful when it comes  to family bonding.

Do you share a lot of similarities with your children — whether they’ve come by birth or adoption? What has surprised you the most when it comes to what you share — or don’t share — with your children, or even with your own parents or siblings?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

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Pull Up A Chair

March 4, 2016

Paul Itkin at Unsplash

Last week I was sitting at lunch with the girls at our homeschool academy and one of their classmates came along with his ding-dong, which he was munching on with great gusto. He held it up to the girls, who have never seen a ding-dong before, and spoke about it for a bit.  Then he left and I said, a little apologetically to the girls, “I’m probably never going to buy you ding-dongs.” To which H responded, “That’s okay, mom, I prefer dark chocolate.”

Heart swell.

Then S said, “Mom, are there any healthy ding-dongs out there?”

I’ll have to make something for that poor girl.

How has your week been? I don’t know what’s been going on the past few weeks, but they’ve been whirlwinds. A total slow mama fraud over here. The one thing I like about winter is it tends to be slower, but I can’t say that this one has been like that and now we’re looking at spring, when everything typically speeds up. I am taking some time away tomorrow for a personal retreat with a friend of mine. I really didn’t want Lent to go by without intentionally taking a day away for prayer and reflection so I’m looking forward to that. What about you — any exciting plans for the weekend?

I don’t have a drink to offer today… how about a cup of warm raspberry tea? My girls have been making that a lot for all of us these days.

I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Paul Itkin at Unsplash 

 

 

 

 

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