August 2016

Friday Inspiration

August 26, 2016

Chair by the sea

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains,

at the huge waves of the seas,

at the long course of the rivers,

at the vast compass of the ocean,

at the circular motion of the stars,

and yet they pass by themselves

without wondering.

— St. Augustine of Hippo

 

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Travelers

I must say, my kids are good travelers. Of course, one of the first things we ever did together as a family was take a very long flight across the globe. These days we find ourselves flying once or twice a year and each time I get a little better about how best to help them pack for plane travel. Here’s what was in their backpacks this time:

  • Two activity books of their choice
  • Small sketch pad
  • Tiny note pad
  • Small bag of crayons and two pencils
  • Small stuffed animal of their choice
  • Small toy (S chose a rubber lizard and H chose a turtle — they wanted them to be waterproof for ocean play)
  • Water bottle
  • 2 gallon ziplock bag with: bathing suit, flip flops, and full change of clothes. (This was incase our bags didn’t make it and we were stuck in a hotel somewhere. A change of clothes also comes in handy if your little one gets motion sick because the flight is so turbulent, ahem)
  • In their small front pocket: lip balm, package of tissues, and snack bar (In my own backpack, I had a larger bag of snacks to hand out, too, since my girls get hungry a lot.)

This was exactly the right mix for my 8 year-olds. If we had longer flights, we would have added a few more things for them to occupy themselves with, but as it was, they enjoyed watching kids’ movies on the longer leg (our shorter flight had no screens).

Any tips for carry-on essentials for kids when flying? I’d love to hear!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

 

 

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Dad and son

Most parenting advice is worthless. So here’s some parenting advice.

I laughed when I read that headline. And I like the article, too. Well, not the f-word and cussing. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t like when writers use curse words, unless it’s in a novel or they’re blowing off steam on their social media accounts. I’ve noticed that many people under 35 don’t hesitate to use the f-word in their published writing these days. I guess I’m just old.

Anyway, I think the gist of the piece is right on. You know when things start coming your way so often that you know you’re supposed to pay attention? This is part of that for me. I’ve been coming across articles and having conversations lately about how out-of-control the parenting industry has become and how we need to focus more on just being parents, rather than treating our children like projects to manage in order to make them into successful adults.

The author says research shows that genes, friends, and socio-economic status are the greatest determinants of successful adulthood, but I don’t buy that entirely. First, it depends how you define “successful adulthood.” He doesn’t say. Second, if I think about my own childhood, the environment my parents created for me, as well as what they taught and modeled, has made an enormous difference to who I’ve become. (Not that I’d be considered a successful adult by some peoples’ standards — probably not!)

But the author’s point dovetails with a recent conversation I had with my mother, a woman who’s gleaned a thing or two from raising 10 kids to adulthood and was never particularly good at going along with the status quo or following cultural trends that struck her as irrational, unnatural, or just plain ridiculous. She was complaining about how the “cult of the expert” reigns supreme today, and how it has eroded parents’ confidence and undervalued the wisdom of older generations.

This is true, and I think there are many reasons for it. I think one reason we don’t glean much from parents, grandparents, relatives, and more experienced friends these days is that they’re not around much. So many of us live far away from these relationships; it’s a very transient culture. Additionally, many of today’s parents grew up in small families and didn’t help with childcare. When you don’t have your own experiences to draw from, or that of your elders, you turn to other resources to help you figure it out. I had all of the above myself, but then I became an adoptive parent and that added an entirely foreign dimension to my parenting. I’ve not only leaned on others’ advice and experience, I’ve turned to authors, writers, and therapists — all of which are certainly considered “experts” — and I’m grateful for them.

So I don’t think it has to be an either/or, but I totally agree we’ve lost something important in our culture and it’s resulted in a lack of confidence to march to the beat of our own drum as parents. Like the author of the Vox article, I think we’ve become obsessed with getting parenting “right” and agree with his point that “childhood is life, not preparation for life,” which I take to mean that everything we do now shouldn’t simply be to ensure a certain future for our kids, but that childhood should be a wonderful thing in its own right. Our children are not just adults-in-waiting; they are people, living their lives in the here and now.

As parents, we’re often anxious and fearful, calculating so many decisions we make. We all want what’s best for our kids, of course, but what if half the things we do and worry about aren’t going to matter much to their future success one way or another? I suppose we don’t want to take the chance, right? But we’d probably do well to realize that too often what we’re doing is more about us, and that we’re approaching parenting as project managers rather than as loving parents who enjoy our kids’ childhoods and who trust that it’s a whole host of factors — many of which are out of our control — that will determine our kids’ futures.

What do you think?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

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H and S

The photo above pretty much sums up how S and H felt on our 8 day trip to Nova Scotia last week. They are generally happy girls, but I don’t know that I’ver ever seen them having more fun — endless playing with cousins, swimming and beach time, and running around outside without supervision. They didn’t want to come back and proposed we stay so that “all the cousins can live together.”

While I always like to come home to my own life, I can’t say I was entirely opposed to the idea. If you want to get away from a hot and humid city, work deadlines, stressful news stories, American politics, and anything that makes you weary, the north shore of Nova Scotia is a pretty great place for that. We happened to choose a week of perfect weather — high 70s and 80s with little humidity and lots of sun. One small thunder storm came through which filled the sky with amazing clouds and light and produced a fantastic fully-arched rainbow over the woods.

We also had more sugar, dairy, and refined flour in one week than we did all year. But it was vacation time and we were in the land of delicious homemade baked goods so how could we resist? Not only that, many of my siblings are great cooks so we were the happy recipients of many delicious meals, including an authentic outdoor-made Spanish paella and the best smoked fish chowder I’ve ever tasted. And then there’s just all those crazy Canadian potato chip flavors like ketchup, smokey bacon, “all-dressed,” etc. — and cookouts with smores. I’m more motivated than ever to start a new exercise routine, I tell you.

Mostly, it was just so good to be with family, by the ocean, away from everything for a little while. Towards the end of the trip I found myself thinking up new projects and feeling inspired to do things I’d lost motivation for — all because I had a break from my daily deadlines and commitments. Each of us needs such breaks — they’re so important to our well-being.

Re-entry is proving hard, but while I make attempts, here are a few photos from our trip. (Check out more on Instagram: @slowzoe):

Baked goods My mother’s cinnamon rolls and my sisters chocolate-filled croissants.

See, you wouldn’t have been able to resist either!

 

Paella Spanish paella in the making

Honestly, I think my brother’s paella was better than the one I had in Spain! He had all the authentic ingredients thanks to my Spanish sister-in-law and did it right.

On the sandbar Sandbar races

These cousins like to run and they’re fast!

Roasting marshmallows Roasting marshmallows

A few smores may have been had right before bedtime…

Sunset One of many gorgeous evening skies

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul

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It’s August!

August 1, 2016

Photo by Olivier Miche

When August arrives I begin to feel that familiar pressure to cram all the summertime stuff into my schedule that hasn’t happened yet, before it’s too late. But I also find myself eager to be done with the sauna-like weather that greets me every time I step outside the door these days, and there are so many things I love about fall, I don’t mind that it’s around the corner.

On my agenda this month is: vacation! And a couple special gatherings with friends, a lot of preparation for a new school year, and getting our house ready for some renovations this fall.

How’s your summer going, friends? (Or winter, for that matter, if you’re Down Under, which I know some of you are!) Any plans for August? Any items on your to-do list you are determined to check off before Labor Day arrives?

Image: Olivier Miche at unsplash

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