Posted in Children, Relationships

Children ~ Future Heirs of Imperfection

A black and white illustration of a mother and...
A black and white illustration of a mother and son reading a book on a chair. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good Afternoon All,

A quick recap on life before I delve into the subject of my post.  Since my last post much has changed–as is inevitable in life.  Circumstances beyond our control mix  and mingle with those that we can exercise control over.  As one of those American‘s beginning furlough yesterday, I chose to spend it on the operating table & recovery.  Yes, finally, I was able to have the operation to repair my tendon which suffered a vertical tear on my right ankle back in January when I slipped on black ice.  One of my challenges is to determine what to do with my furlough days (one day off per week for the next 11 weeks!)  besides recovering.

Journaling, blogging, gardening and quilting are on the menu for my enjoyment/entertainment, as well as, as the subject infers spending more time with the family.  I’m writing this post today because of a great article I read from an individual I follow on LinkedIn named Michael Lazerow.  His post was titled “Entrepreneur’s Choice:  Is Your Kid Worth $100 Million?”

I found his article well thought out and extremely thorough in navigating through the thought world of priorities one faces as a parent.  The challenges he addresses are especially important for the entrepreneurial sort of parent(s).  If you are married and one of you has or is planning to operate your own business–be “the boss” then there’s a lot at steak and many choices to weigh.  Here’s an excerpt from his post:  “For me, at least, the hardest part of being a working parent is not the long road trips or long hours or frustrated clients. It’s the internal struggle I fight between two equal and opposing forces – the time I invest creating shareholder value and the time I invest building family values.”

Considering now the thoughts you might have about the circumstance/situation, what are “WE” doing about the circumstances, the questions, and what choices are we making to bring these thoughts into social debate; and useful assistance to those faced with the challenges?  Michael ends his post with the following:  “Ultimately, the best present you can give your kids is your presence. Your full and undivided presence. And, just like earning $100 million, that’s not always easy.  What decisions would you make differently if you truly valued your children more than $100 million?”

As believers in a faith, we “attend” church to congregate with others who practice their faith in similar ways to us.  As writers; we join reading a writing groups; as collectors, we join stamp clubs, auto clubs, quilting guilds, and others who share similar interests…..but where oh where is the group for Parents in our day-to-day rhythms?  Online seems to be the only place where this topic gets the attention it deserves, but its too often a one-to-one relationship (the individual reading the article or post–and the author)  Child Care facilities are hardly the place to meet the need, however, a modification to the model would be ideal if psychologists and other family care professionals were to facilitate.

For those that do work for others, parenting issues are water cooler and lunch room discussions if at all.  Besides your co-parent, who do you talk to, ask questions of, and share these experiences/challenges?  It can only be that much more of a challenge to those who are single parents.

This topic is what I believe a LOT of men could really use.  Parenting isn’t traditionally attributed positively in association with men…. unfortunately our society places topics/activities into gender categories.   A movie with a great plot, relationship intense dialogue, and focused on an individual struggling with a major life issue is put into the category of chic flick.   Ask a group of married men their druthers whether to spend a Friday or Saturday evening watching a chic flick or watching/attending a sporting event or online gaming…most will NOT choose the chic flick–especially if asked in front of a group of guys.

For years I have hoped for/wanted a men’s group that meets to help each other be better men, fathers, and husbands.  I have felt in order to even get attendance, it would have to be a covert operation whereby I started a monthly night our for guys with our home schooling or back in the day when our daughters were younger, at the Twins Club.  I’m going to give it a try with our current home schooling group when I’m back on my feet–but, I just wonder if anyone else out there sees the same thing that I do?  There is power in numbers!  Parents (both men & women) should be able to join a group “FOR PARENTS” without having to pay a “family counselor”…to discuss and share things that work, things that didn’t work so well, and just be able to provide general support for each other.    Most groups that exist are for individual aspects of parenting (La Leche League–for breastfeeding; special needs, troubled youth, etc.)  Support groups need to exist for those without a chronic medical or mental issue, where parents can encourage each other to make better choices!

My wife has done an excellent job as a home schooling mother at creating some family traditions.  Reading aloud to the children during meals has helped to distract the kids from normal “Mom, he’s looking at me!” spats that normally arise from close proximity.  It has worked well and she’s continued the habit–the twins are now almost 18 and our son will turn 14.  It has helped them develop a voracious appetite for reading on their own.  Each Thursday, the kids go to the library and check out new books–they get through and read almost everyone they check out!  They all enjoy the reading time!  So, being able to share something as simple as that little coping mechanism a mom has during lunch times adds to the quality time spent together and teaches many important lessons.

These are the types of exchanges and ideas that can be helpful to new or struggling parents.  Fitting time into life’s schedules to create new/better habits and develop deeper relationships with our children beyond the logistical or parallel entertainment (TV watching) is what parents crave/need.  You don’t know it until you experience a pocket of it here and there…but when you have those moments, its like a “I could’ve had a V-8!” moment.  But we must consciously chose  to reprioritize HOW we spend our time and then develop consistent habits.

Children need and find structure comforting, even if they don’t seem to be appreciative, boundaries are what gives children a sense of stability and trust for their environment and caretakers.  If we don’t provide it for them, they will seek it out, even if it comes with great risk.  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about choices you’re making to improve your quality time with children/grand children; or even with establishing a group for the purpose of becoming a better parent.

The practices we put in place (or don’t), the traditions we build (or don’t), the value we create (or don’t), the choices we make (or don’t) all end up being the legacy we leave behind.  Whatever you do (or don’t) are behaviors your children witness and observe (learn) internally as a way to do life–most proudly pass on to their children these behaviors and choices (both good and bad). What example are you setting?  Whether you like it or not, parenting is teaching, and what is taught, is learned and carried on to the next generation!

Cheers All!  Again thanks to Michael Lazerow’s post about parenting to help trigger this post!

 

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Posted in Relationships

Part 2 – What Does it Mean to “Be a Family?”

Part 2

Well, the results are in.  I printed out these three questions from previous “Part 1” of this blog post for each of my children to answer.  Their responses have been included with minor editing:

  • What does it mean “being family?”
    • Response 1:  “Having a loving connection of understanding and compassion for another human being. Having a spiritual connection with another person(s) that helps you learn to better yourself and just plain learn.”
    • Response 2:  “Being connected to each other, caring for each other. Being a group of related people who share in each others interests and passions, and supports each other in them.”
    • Response 3:  “Its more than being related to individuals by blood.  Friends may care for you, but they don’t nurture you like family does (unless you live with friends because of a bad family).  Family teaches you about home, how to live & work with others, and dealing with the world around you.”
  • How should people in a family behave toward one another?
    • Response 1:  “Trustingly, compassionately, lovingly, and understandingly.  Not like your families are strangers because they share something special that you wouldn’t with someone else you don’t interact with.”
    • Response 2:  “They should be responsive and attentive to one another.  Not to mention respectful and open.  When they’re involved in things that family does that the person doesn’t like doing, they should do it with their best attitude.”
    • Response 3:  “Kindly.  If there’s a problem, everyone must cooperate on how to fix it instead of setting it aside and telling people to “get over it.”  They should consider the feelings of others in all situations.  They shouldn’t discount someone because “that’s just the way he/she is.”  Every member of the family needs to know that he/she is loved.  A family member’s dreams and aspirations should be explored, not put down.  Everyone should feel like they belong and if they don’t, they should be brave enough to talk about it.  Everyone should be open to discussion and debate because in a family, everyone’s ideas should be heard and considered (even if they aren’t always accepted.)  But most of all, each member should treat each other well so that when kids head off into the big world, they have people to comfort them and a place where they’re always welcome.”
  • What can/should you expect by being a member of a family?
    • Response 1:  “Being able to communicate with another on the deepest personal and spiritual level that you wouldn’t be able to with any other person.  To be able to express yourself without being ridiculed.”
    • Response 2:  “I expect to be heard when I’m speaking without interruptions and with full acknowledgement.”
    • Response 3:  “Being considerate to others, having good common sense. More importantly, getting a good start in the world, because when you grow up with people who love you and treat you well, they give you almost all of the lessons of life you’ll ever need to know:  kindness, patience, helpfulness, confidence, tolerance, love and a bunch of other good things.

I was very touched to read their responses.  As a parent, one of the best things you can do is get into the habit of asking questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response.  You’ll never understand how they are connecting the dots about relationships, much less the world around them, unless you involve them in discussions/thoughts you want them personally exploring.  Another reason why, as much as parents need a break…its time to banish “the kids table!”  Inter-generational conversation is necessary to gain healthy perspectives in the world.

To conclude from my last post what I could have stated before returning to work: “Okay, we know that mom has just recovered from being sick…she’s still not 100%!  Please be aware of her needs, and look out for her.  One of you take care of the dishes, all of you work together to make lunch and prep supper, everyone pay attention and be responsive to your mother so that if she needs you to do something, she doesn’t have to go looking for you or try hollering to find you with her sore throat.”  Instead, I assumed that three teenager’s focus would be to automatically be in that frame of mind.  If you read “Positive Discipline for Teenagers” you’ll know that’s just “not normal.”

I realized that all too often, just because our spouse/partner is a colleague in that aspect of life,  they are competent, and independent enough to take care of things—but if there are two parents, neither should feel alone (Cinderella Syndrome).  Being a family is truly a team activity!  Like football, chess, or any other game of strategy, you must be vigilant and remain aware of all activities at all times.  The individual parts of the team can fail if not supported and integrated with the others.  Communication is critical to success!

Due to generations of societal/gender behavior “norms” women tend to take care of too much (of the load) for the family, and men tend to “stay out of the way” (and help out only when asked/told/nagged)  This paradigm suggests that the woman is always the strategist (planning, preparing, predicting, investing, etc….)  This key aspect of the core relationship for keeping the family a “true family” must be shared.  Men, don’t forget your ideas can be helpful, your strengths are different but just as useful.  If you’ve made mistakes with your “involvement” in the past, talk with your partner acknowledging that you may not always get it right, but that you want to share, you want to help, you want to participate.  But if you are serious about being a better husband, father, friend….you’ve got to get your head in the game–this game…the family.

Family can be and is fun…but not if you’re fighting it.  Yes, family means giving up “me time!”  You can’t just continue all of your normal pre-children habits (unless you want a relationship that suffers fracturing).  If you chose to have children, that choice isn’t the end of your obligation/necessity–it is the beginning.  If your perspective on what it means to be family is all twisted around, look for other real life quality examples–they are around! Husbands, you are necessary, especially as fathers and the example you set for your children about what it means to be a man….to be family.

This post was just as much for me as it was for anyone reading who feels convicted.  Seriously, we have to get our heads in the game–think about your partner and ask how you can help.

Cheers to all, and thanks for reading!

Posted in Relationships

What Does it Mean to “Be a Family?”

Part 1

This is the question I posed to my children tonight.  It was an interaction with my wife today that made me realize that in some ways, I’ve been negligent and haven’t done the greatest job at being a nurturing partner.

My wife was sick last week!  Remember, she’s the stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of our three children!  In her usual way, she said she’d be fine, she knew that I have a lot on my plate with my full-time job and pursuit of my degree in Business!  I said “That’s why I accrue sick leave…to take care of family; nonsense, I’m staying home!”  Last week was the week she had chosen to begin the kids school year (we homeschool year round to be able to accommodate for times when either she or the kids are ill, if a crisis arises in the family or we want to take a short family vacation.)  Anyway, I ended up taking two days off…one was definitely not enough!  She still wasn’t completely recovered, but feeling better than two days before.

She, like many stay-at-home moms, has a passion for our children and tries her best to ensure she’s providing the best education for them. Due to my past military career, she learned to “go-it-alone” for so long that she doesn’t often ask for help for anything, and she always puts the needs of everyone else ahead of her own.  Where I failed on the nurturing end is, she still wasn’t at the top of her game, and I didn’t leave any instructions for the children….several things I could have stated (like most men, I assume too much!)

I won’t reveal the things I could’ve/should’ve said because I want to wait until we have our family meeting and hear what the children have to say about my question….but the experience and a few other interactions with my wife recently has caused me to think about what being a family means.

My mind raced quite a bit this afternoon pondering this question–weaving together bits and pieces from books I’ve read about relationships, parenting, family, love, and loss.  So, I’ll just leave you with these questions and look forward to your responses.  Stay tuned!  Later this weekend I’ll share with you the answers my children shared and the conclusions I’ve come to that I plan to share with my family during our family meeting later this week.  Here are the questions I’ll answer in Part 2!

  • What does it mean “being family?”
  • How should people in a family behave toward one another?
  • What can/should you expect by being a member of a family?
  • In your own family, do you feel that you’re doing everything you can to help your family be at its best?
Posted in Education

How to Recoup Bookshelf Space

Okay, call me a throwback for suggesting that people still like hardbound books and magazines.  I am one of those who will always treasure the look, feel, smell and tactile experience of page turning.  No matter how technologically advanced we get, I’ll always prefer the portability of a nicely bound window into another persons view of the world without worrying about my ability to read due to dying batteries, a virus, or electronic dependencies. Consuming Shelf Space

So, if you’re like me and my family, bookshelf space is a valuable and limited commodity.  Since we recently moved, I have found several boxes of year’s worth of magazine subscriptions to some of my all-time favorites like Handyman, Organic Gardening, Mother Earth News, GRIT, and others.  However, as you can see from the picture I’ve included, just one season alone can consume a good deal of bookshelf real estate!  So, I’ll share with you a simple, yet practical solution to save what you treasure about your magazines and allow you to reclaim some of that shelf space!

Take those stacks off the shelf and bring a few with you the next time you have to go to the dentist office or the emergency room with a sick child.  Make sure you also bring along an empty folder with pockets.  Your task is simple, as you go through each magazine, tear out the pages that have articles or pictures that you know you’ll use or refer to later.  Here are a few examples of pages I’ve torn out and saved from several of mine:

  • Cute pictures that you may use to make homemade cards, embellish pages of a scrapbook, or craft projects for the kids
  • Recipes that you want to try
  • Pages with instructions, parts lists, supply sources and pictures/diagrams to help you build projects for your home

In the process of performing this task for myself I’ve discovered that for many of my magazines, 80 percent or more of the pages are filled with advertising or articles that I don’t wish to keep.  I chose the articles that I know will be of benefit and relevant to how I spend my time.  Buy a couple of binders to hold those reference articles, how-to instructions, pictures, and recipes.  You’ll quickly increase shelf space, eliminate years of accumulation that you won’t have to store and move anymore, and have what’s important to you at your fingertips.

Posted in Writing

Back in the Saddle

Victoria's world famous Butchart Gardens are a...
Image via Wikipedia

I’m not going to write much this entry–I’m just trying to get back into my writing routine.

Our move to Papillion, NE is finally really at an end and a rhythm has worked its way into our family routines.  There are just a few things from the old place to move to our new home but my morning routines find me putzing in the yard with existing landscape or planting fall garden vegetables.  Our Border Collie demands her daily walk through the neighborhood to sniff traces of all the other new four-legged friends.  Robyn started the fall 2011 homeschool regimen with the kids again today.

With so much room in our new house, there are so many places to escape and gain privacy and quiet.  There’s also places to find writing inspiration outside on the front porch watching neighborhood children, squirrels and birds…or in the back yard with the stone walls surrounding the basketball court.  My goal is to someday have our place looking as beautiful as Butchart Gardens in Canada!  I am in awe with that style of formal gardens that both invites and sets at peace all who enter.  So, of course, I found a great sale at Lowes on Boxwood and purchased ten 2 gallon sized specimens to begin framing the gardens that some day people will drive by just to gawk!

I’m thankful to be in a position once again where I can create, dream and share with you!

G’nite all!

Posted in Uncategorized

Garden Treasures ~ Don’t leave it all behind!

Tips on how to take some of your hard-earned garden beauties with you to your new home location.  I’m moving from almost 5 acres in a small town of 1100 people to a suburb of Omaha with a population of close to 23,000 people on less than a quarter of an acre lot!  Urban/Suburban gardening is my future…edible landscaping, square foot gardening, making use of vertical space…this is what I’m in for!

Tomatoes grown from Seed
A little patience a viola!

As an avid gardener, I cannot see walking away from four years of sweat equity for someone else to enjoy without me taking a least some of it with me.  I’ve done it before, many times and I’m about to do it again.  That’s right!  I’m going to transfer several types of shrubs, woody florals, and fruit.

Because I’m not going to stay in this present location, but want a salsa garden at my new home towards the end of June., I have purchased 3 varieties of tomatoes (Better Boy, Brandywine, and a Russian heirloom) and Jalapeno & Bell Peppers.  These have been transplanted once to the next size larger pots until we close on our new home and move in!

Three years ago my daughter and I rescued some beautiful irises that were inappropriately planted under the shade of a Black Walnut tree!  First off, juglone is a toxic chemical released from the roots of a Black Walnut tree and few things grow successfully under them.  They didn’t bloom , they didn’t produce additional rhizomes, and looked quite miserable.  We dug them up and planted them in newly created beds in full sun.  Since transplanting them, each rhizome has multiplied at least four times.  The beds are full and have bloomed beautifully the last two years.  I’m going to cut the green tops off of several rhizomes and dig up at least 1o to bring along with me to our new home.

There’s also a barely surviving mass of lilac twigs someone planted too close to several other trees which have never bloomed.  I’ll dig up quite a bit of root mass, transplant into a pot this weekend…and in three weeks, they’ll be planted in full sun in our new yard and we’ll see blooms about two years from now.  The Forsythia is another woody floral that grows easily from cuttings…just cut five inch cuttings off of your current branches, shove them in a pot of Miracle Grow potting soil, keep watered well, and you’ll find they’ll be rooted in a few short weeks.  You can also start these in a jar of water just like you can with Pussy Willows.

I’m also taking about 15 – 20 Red Raspberry canes with me.  This process is similar, I’ll dig up plenty of the root system around the new growth at the edges of the patch of raspberries after cutting the canes back to about 10 inches.  I’ll have to make sure the moisture in the soil mass remains consistent through the coming 90 degree days without being too soggy.

Some of the other plants I intend to transplant are herbs:  Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Tarragon, and Lavender.  I also have a patch of Horseradish and Rhubarb I’ll take starts from and bring to my new garden as well.

In spite of my limited ground space at my new home, I will evaluate the existing landscape and make conscious choices to change the specimens currently in residence to a more fruitful/productive form of vegetation.  There’s a group of ferns growing on the South side of the new house…they’re quite healthy and have spread into the yard.  I plan to dig up a couple of patches of these and plant them into decorative urn-style pots to display on the front porch.  It will class up the curb appeal and help me create more garden space!

Just one last note before I close.  If you haven’t tried growing your own garden plants from seed–you really should try.  Its far more cost effective, fun and your kids and neighbors will get to explore the journey from some barely visible seeds to amazing and delicious beauties.  Herbs germinate easily and as long as you’re careful with your watering and light exposure, you’ll have a beautiful herb garden to compliment your culinary creations all year long.

Enjoy!  Please share your green thumb therapy…go ahead, tell us what exciting inner-city or suburbia gardening projects you’re working on.

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing

Tales & Adventures of the Sale of a 100 Year Old Home!

Acreage For Sale
100 Year Old Home for Sale By Owner

Here’s just a peek at what one home-owner goes through in prepping a 100 year old house to sell.  If the chore list isn’t long enough for the work that needs done outside a home….goodness, you just can’t believe the list for inside!  They say timing is everything, but yeah…no kidding, who has the answer to that cliche?  No time is ever perfect to begin such an endeavor.  If the economy isn’t in the toilet, then its the toilet that needs work!  Now we’ve watched our share of Home & Garden Television (HGTV.)  But after seeing the incredible transformations on TV, you look around your own house and wonder, where’s all my enthusiastic supporters?

So, starting off with that simple and fresh coat of neutral paint…who knew that the perfect blue tape you use to keep from painting parts you don’t want to are just going to rip the old paint you want to keep right off?  I mean really?  Who designs this crap…or maybe I just didn’t read the fine print.  Another thing about the walls–they tell you to “de-personalize” the walls so the prospective home buyer will be able to visualize their stuff in your space…its also supposed to make the room look bigger!  Of course they don’t mention the impact–moods of teenager occupants of these rooms your de-personalizing. Sighhh–who knew you’re making them put away their icons of comfort?

Bambi and Her Mother
Bambi and Her Mother in the Orchard

It just never seems to end! You finish one room and it looks so good you just can’t leave the next room like it is…its like potato chips–can’t stop with just one!  So the saga continues and today I broke down and bought $150 in 12X12 ceramic tiles to lay in the laundry room to get rid of the cheap sticky-backed linoleum tiles.  With that project yet to do and the repair to the front steps, hanging a new ceiling fan in the living room and planting the front flower bed–I’d say all of my free time is booked until our first Open House scheduled for 8 May…yes, that’s Mother’s Day!  You gotta strike while the iron is hot.  We’re getting all sorts of gawkers coming by our place now that Spring has decided to grace us!

One thing I must say I’m grateful for is YouTube! Amazing resource for anybody looking for answers and how-to demonstrations for all those odd tasks/jobs.  You can find a lot of professionals who do construction or remodeling for a living who share their ideas/expertise.  One site I found with a lot of helpful videos and information is AskTheBuilder.com.

Well, I really wish I could spend more time sharing with you, but the rest of the plastic Easter Eggs need to be stuffed for tomorrow’s hunt, and I’ll be getting up early to make French Breakfast Puffs for the kids.  Take care everyone and Happy Easter!

The pictures are ours…. of our house that we are selling ourselves and of deer in the orchard (orchard has nine fruit trees).

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