5. Books (for kids)
Often the biggest challenge to committing to something over time is the size and scope of our expectation. For me, regular exercise has always posed such a challenge. If I felt that I didn’t have enough time for a yoga class or run followed by a shower, I’d bail. But it was assuming that I needed a big chunk of time to make it worthwhile that kept me from exercising on a regular basis.
The shift that has worked for me is to shoot for a shorter amount of time, i.e. to make exercise “doable,” such that consistency and commitment is manageable. Most days I can find 30 minutes. With that time frame in mind, I’ve discovered a few ideas that have created a more reliable (read: more likely to happen) workout. They include:
- Mapping out running/walking/biking routes that are 30 minutes out and back from my door
- Getting timed workout apps, such as the 7 minute workout app. (Click here for a list of others.)
- Using yoga or pilates videos with 20-30 minute sessions, such as Rodney Yee AM/PM Yoga for Beginners
Hooray for “doable!” -n
My cousin and his wife just had a baby! In deciding what to send to welcome her, I thought back to the gifts that brought our family the most lasting enjoyment: music and books. When my first child was born, a friend whose kids were a few years older sent us a CD of their family’s favorites songs. At first it seemed like a long time before this gift would be relevant, but soon we came to love the songs their family introduced us to. It’s an idea I have borrowed many times since. Similarly, when I was fighting to keep my head above water in the early days of new motherhood, enjoying books together seemed a long way off. Yet in the following months, each time we read a book we received as a gift, I thought about the sender and was grateful.
So today I’ll share the 5 books I’ve sent to welcome the new baby (spoiler alert to my cousin who occasionally reads this blog)–some of my family’s favorites:
- I Know a Rhino
- Is Your Mama a Llama
- Farfallina and Marcel
- Tumble Bumble
- Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball
Wishing you many hours of snuggly reading together, -n
I love my whiteboard. It’s hangs on the refrigerator in the kitchen, and is our family’s place for the running grocery list, the most critical to-dos, the place to find the daily schedule when things need to get done with a high degree of coordination. It’s where we can all Get On The Same Page.
I’ve recently added an additional smaller whiteboard that holds new lists: things for each of the kids to get done or remember. Of course I could have added these lists to the main whiteboard, but, well, there isn’t really room.
I am now loving this other whiteboard for different reasons. (Why did it take me so long to figure this out?) If there is a job in the house–or other things–for each kid to be responsible for (e.g. empty the dishwasher, return a permission slip, practice violin), there it is on their list! Every time they go to the fridge for a snack or a drink, there it is. A reminder! I feel disproportionately unburdened by this small white rectangle that allows me to not have to be the one who has to remember, remind, and yes, occasionally nag to get things done. –t
I am a sentimental crier. I was crying off and on while watching A Dolphin Tale with my kids. And, um, also during We Bought A Zoo. I well up almost every time I see a parent struggling to do their best by their kids, when I bear witness to someone going through a tough time with grace, or at pretty much any moment that highlights acts of true humanity. There are a couple of children’s books that, no matter how many times I read them, I hear my voice choked with emotion at certain points as I struggle to get to the bottom of the page. (For me these stories include The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson, Lobstering with My Papa, by Billie Hancock and Joan Walsh, and Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney.) These are all stories of aging, kids growing up, the passage of time–themes that resonate deeply with me as a parent. My kids’ reactions have been varied, sometimes they’ve just looked over and said nothing, other times they asked, “Mom, why are you crying?” This has given me a chance to share what I find moving. I am glad for these opportunities with them. They get to see me cry not because I’m hurt or experiencing loss: just because I’m moved. It gives us all a chance to think about the emotions and how we experience and express feelings…good for everyone. –n
For anyone with an upcoming road trip, here is a fun idea that may even keep your children off of screens for a short while (no promises). Create playlists for your car ride with a theme in mind. Themes like weather (songs that mention rain, sun, cloudy, etc..) or Colors, People’s names or States. Don’t tell them what the theme is, but let them listen to a few songs and guess. Once someone figures it out, listening to the rest of the songs can be about trying to find the “theme” word. -n
I remember the first time my daughter saw a ripe strawberry on a small plant we had in a garden box on the roof of our apartment building. She was so excited as she slowly and tentatively picked it and ate it. And then, I kid you not, she thanked the plant. While I wasn’t–and still am not–a knowledgeable gardener, I want my kids to know a little bit about where food comes from. I think it’s generally good to know and care about these things, and so each year we’ve planted a little garden.
Of course teaching kids about how things work is one of the jobs of being a parent–we are constantly helping children to make sense of their world and the things in it. Sometimes it’s with a short explanation, sometimes with an interpretation of a comment or joke, sometimes with a commitment to a garden for a few months, sometimes with a fun “lesson” on a theme.
One summer day, in need of a project and a goal, proved a perfect time to do such a “lesson.” This time our theme was ice cream. We made a day of it by going to the library and finding a couple of books on how ice cream is made (among them, Ice Cream: The Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons). We read the books together, then, woo-hoo! went out for ice cream. Simple. Educational. Extremely satisfying and fun, and a terrific way to spend the afternoon. A winning combination.
Does your child love buses? Make it a day with a trip to the library then a bus ride. Or maybe it’s trains. Or a bakery, a farm, even the airport to watch planes take off. Slower days of summer for parents can allow time for creating these kinds of experiences, where kids have the opportunity to learn and preview something in a book at a slow pace, then connect the information to something real in their world. –t
The Bake-off: Brownies, chocolate chip cookies, 7- layer bars, let your kids pick one and find a couple of recipes for it – online or in cookbooks. Depending on the number of kids you plan to include, let each make a different small – batch version. Have discussions about the differences in the recipes and predict what effect each will have. If it’s a smaller batch and your kids are up to it, work through the math to halve a recipe. And then when the oven timer goes off, have a taste test – blindfolded if your group is up for that. Kids can record what each tastes like and even guess which went with each recipe (if they looked enough alike going into the ovens). -n
Watching my older children do their homework is fascinating. And a little frightening to me, too. They will routinely have music or something playing through headphones, email or chat windows open, some kind of snack in one hand all while writing a paper. They are, what I guess I’d call, “multitasking.” Funny, though, I feel like I don’t hear that word as much anymore. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think it’s just become the norm.
I don’t believe that that kind of distracted studying is as good as more focused, uninterrupted engagement. I just don’t. And I’m sure that there are plenty of studies to show that I am right, just as there are probably plenty of studies that show that they, too, are developing and practicing useful skills that will serve them well in the future landscape of technology and work. Who knows?
Enter: focus and mindfulness. While I don’t want to be the grumpy older generation suspicious of All Things Progress, I know–I KNOW–that the swirl and busyness that the velocity of our days has created for adults and kids alike is not a good place to be all of the time. Such frenetic activity requires balance. Periods of constant distraction and quick shifts of topic need to be balanced with quiet and stillness. Quiet and stillness, which is not the same as sleep.
For anyone who gets caught up in the buzz of the multitask, here I’d like to make the case for, once in a while, just doing one thing. Just do one thing. For kind of like, a long time. Read a book. Fold some laundry. Go for a walk. Write a paper. Cook something without needing it to be on the table in 25 minutes. It’s amazing how short attention spans can get when we become accustomed to email intrusion at work, Snapchat during study hours, or even the shorter chunks of time new parents get used to with the demands of a new baby. Restore and fight back every so often by just doing one thing. Try to do it without worrying what is coming next or what you’re not doing instead. It’s harder than it seems, and more satisfying than it looks. –t