Worth All the Money in the World

18 Jul

“I wanna do a craft project,” said my 3-year-old. He pointed out the supplies that he wanted and I observed quietly. He was on a mission.

Grasping all the change his small palm could hold, he wrapped it up, carefully and purposefully.

“Why does Daddy have to work so much?” He asked as he prepared his present to him.

It was a small gesture but its message was clear and loud. It’s like I could hear what this small mind was thinking: “If Daddy works to make money and I give him some money, that means he’ll get to spend more time with me, right?”

Americans work more hours and accumulate more stuff than those in other countries but we aren’t happier for it and neither are our children. I’ve started thinking about Christmas already and asked Adam what he might want from Santa this year. Looking around and frowning he says, “Nothing, I like all my old toys.”

Instead, Santa bestows on him other gifts, he says, such as the presents of insights, strength and other knowledge. “How’d you know that?” I’ll ask when he does or says something I find amazing. “From Santa” is always his response.

While toys are fun, they are almost a cruel joke when compared to the real life skills that even a 3-year-old knows are more important to navigating through life. But then, my philosophy since I’ve had a child has been based on the fact that I honestly believe that children know all sorts of things instinctively that we, as adults, may have forgotten as we manuever our way through paying bills and living up to expectations.

Balancing time at work with spending time with the family is hard for everyone. We are lucky enough to have only one parent working fulltime, while I stay at home and work during my “extra” hours: early mornings, late nights etc. In the last 3 years, I can count the times we’ve used a babysitter on one hand. The things I’ve learned from my child during that time are countless.

So, taking another que from him: let’s all try to remember that there is nothing more valuable than that time together. Saying “no” to that overtime or that extra project at work will be worth it. Take a day off from the babysitter and hang out as a family, you’ll still get the important stuff on your to do list done, I promise.

Trade some money for some time, and you’ll be spending that time wisely. Nothing will ever be worth more.

 

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Kinda Cool Daisy Blue

28 Jun
A quick activity perfect for this time of year; dying roadside daisies couldn’t be easier.

I really like picking a few flowers outside in the summertime. Sometimes the picking is the most engaging part of the process, other times it’s bringing those blooms indoors and seeing their joyful and fragile smiles daily as I pass by.

Just Once? Why?

Having already picked a few daisies  this year when they first started popping up, I was surprised to see they were still standing strong in bursts of white and yellow along the roadside.

That’s when I found this simple idea of doing a little at home science project.

Getting Daisied Up

The day I actually picked our second set of daisies it was rainy and dirt had splashed up on them, but I didn’t mind.  They were all bent up by the time I got them home, so I wasn’t sure whether the experiment would still work, but we gave it a shot.

With a sentence or two about how flowers suck up the water up through their stems, I plunked the buds in an inch of water mixed with a couple of drops of blue food coloring.

Allowing other things to take my attention and time, just an hour or a few later, the tips of the petals were seeped with color.

Overnight, the flowers kept drinking and by the next morning they had absorbed the bright blue coloring to catch my child’s attention.

“Huh?” he asked with his head cocked to the side, walking towards the flowers as if he was drawn to the oddity like a magnet.

“Isn’t it cool how the flowers sucked up the water?” I asked, pleased by his voluntary interest.

“Kinda” he responded.

“Did you know they did that?” I probed.

“Yep” he said, nonchalantly.

I ran my fingers along the tips of the blue petals and walked over to him, whispering with a shrug, “I didn’t know that when a flower drinks water it collects at the tips first.”

My casual demeanor mirrored his and he gave the flowers a second look, noticing them differently, and learning.

 

 

Batteries Required but Not Included

6 Jun

Energy…we make it and we spend it. It is completely under our control.

“I wish I had his kind of energy” elderly onlookers comment as they watch my 3-year-old run around shouting and skipping.

 “If we all had his kind of energy the world would be a completely different place,” I respond.

It would be a world filled with people experiencing excitement and awe on a daily basis. What a wonderful world that would be…

While life can extinguish some of our childlike wonder it doesn’t have to, and even if it does, it can be re-discovered with constant brain training.

Training? That sounds like work.

I’ve been doing the battery limbo at my house for quite some time. When I need batteries in one toy, I steal them from some other toy. Later, when we want to play with that other toy, we have to shuffle the batteries around again. On my list of things to do is to take all of my childs toys that require batteries, gather them up in one place and buy the right size and number of batteries for them all.

That would be me reaching battery nirvana. It’s a ways off.

This little story about energy in battery form is a perfect example of building up positive energy within ourselves so that we can experience the world with the awe and innocence of a child. The intention is there, but for now, we can only expect some of our toys to have power in them. Finding out which ones they are can be a pleasant and unexpected surprise or a bit of a disappointment.

Instant Energy

The one most important step to building up this positive energy in your own brain? It’s to focus on what IS and not what ISN’T.

For example: we were planning on seeing the launch of some hot air balloons followed by a fireworks show this weekend. The balloon launch was cancelled due to rain. We waited around and then went out to where the fireworks were scheduled to be.

Getting a bit soggy and our energy dissipating by the moment, we looked around, wondering if we should leave. Just then, the announcer, over 500 feet away and positioned behind a crowd of umbrellaed onlookers announced, “Don’t leave, the fireworks are still on!”

And we were rewarded with big explosions of energy, something everyone can enjoy.

 

 

A Third Eye and Dr. Seuss Shocks Again

23 May

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss

I just found myself in an unexpected place.

“If you read with your eyes shut you’re likely to find that the place that you’re going is far, far behind.”

And there it is. In Dr. Seuss’s I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!, on a road sign listed among far off lands of Tokyo and Naples, the small nearby city of Schenectady, NY.

There is nothing quicker, easier or more enjoyable than reading Dr. Seuss if you want to understand more about the world and the way that we work.

I didn’t grow up with Dr. Seuss but I am very glad to be reading him now to my own child. They are books that he loves to listen to, with characters that he enjoys. For all of you familiar with these classic stories, this is not news to you.

While we’re working to see the world with at least one eye open as Dr. Seuss suggests, we’re also working on developing our third eye to see into ourselves.

Here’s Adam’s that he’s been picking at all week and that band-aids refuse to stick too. I have one also. Mine’s been there as long as I can remember. A smooth bump, a little high of center. Do you have one too? Where is it and does it reflect how you see?

 

I Drew That!

15 May

 When others see in our art what we intended it’s so reassuring and self-affirming. That’s why we go to museums and appreciate art. To see if an artist can twist our mind to see the world in the way they do, in a way that is new to us, is exciting.

We are expressing ourselves and communicating and being understood. We are being heard. Feeling heard is so powerful for anyone. We all just want to be heard.

Being 3-years-old and not feeling heard often go hand-in-hand. Finally acquiring enough of the language to tell your caregiver what you want and then being told “no, you can’t have it” has got to be such a constant source of frustration. We have to always keep that in the front of our minds when guiding our children’s behavior and their communication with us and the rest of the world.

I was so happy for Adam when he started drawing figures in the last

few months because now he gets to experience the joy of recognition that comes with unspoken communication.

It’s just at the right time too, because it so clearly contridicts the negative ways that he resorts to when he’s not feeling heard; like hitting and throwing.

Are there any ways that your children have found their voice? How do you express your own?

 

 

 

Seeing Stars

10 May

Let creativity fly! It inspires imagination and empowerment.

 This is our ceiling. On a recent rainy day I was working on it. The constellation placement isn’t perfect but it encourages us all to look up. We are getting out of our box and seeing the possibilities all around us.

What can you see around you where there once was just a blank space?

Enjoy.

 

 

Cooperation Parenting

26 Apr

Hidden connections are like a signal that we’re on the right path. “You look familiar, I think I know you”, are some of the most awesome words to incorporate into a conversation.

It’s like you’ve converged on this path before, cooperated in some way to get to where you currently are, together.

Creating connections with those that we live with seem like a given but are often the most overlooked. How long has it been since you looked at your child and thought, “hey, you look familiar, didn’t we cooperate on that project well together this morning?”

Fox’s television program Touch is about a father trying to connect with his son. His son does not speak and instead sees the world through a pattern of numbers which the father must then figure out. He knows he’s on the right path when he pays attention to the people and things that keep reappearing in his life.

At the end of a recent episode, the narrator is discussing how the human isn’t the fastest or the strongest species on earth but we have survived and thrived because of our ability to cooperate and to help each other out.

“…We’re programmed for compassion, for heroism, for love and those things make us stronger, faster and smarter. It’s why we’ve survived. It’s why we even want to.”

I’ve had the opportunity to teach Adam more about the joy of cooperation this week. We worked together, he operated the net and me the stick, when we fished rocks and other interesting tidbits out of the lake water.

When he didn’t want to clean up some milk that he had spilled, “later, mom, later” he said.

“How about we do it now, together,” I responded.

“YEAH!!!” He shouted and ran to help.

Successful parenting isn’t a dictatorship, it’s cooperation for the sake of developing memorable connections.

Compassion As Compass

22 Apr

“Compassion is not a luxury, it’s a necessity” said the Dalai Lama in an interview this week.

There’s no other way than with compassion to parent a child, be a good friend or exist as a successful social creature. Having been hit by a sneaky cold, I had the good fortune to have a good book by my side and was given time to nurse the cold as well.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg talks about how habit forms all sorts of routines in our personal and professional lives. You may remember it from the news that Target is like many other stores a Big Brother data collector that analyzes our shopping habits to such a degree that if you start buying stuff like loads of vitamins, unscented body lotion and washclothes they can deduce that you’re likely pregnant and even predict with high accuracy your expected delivery date.

Target’s tactics weren’t any real big revelation to me, although I was definitely talking about them at the time too. What did hit me was how Duhigg describes yelling at your kids as a habit. Duhigg only mentions it among a list of other habits that can be changed if you are aware of them and want them too enough, but each time he did, it struck me.

We fall into communication patterns with our children and regardless of if they are successful and satisfying, they can quickly become habit if we aren’t aware of them.

Because of this head cold, the screen is blurry as I type, my nose is stuffed and my temper was short. It is not my usual state of being but cannot be an excuse either. Compassion is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It was no secret that I am not right now, the playmate  that he’s come to expect.

Sometimes, secrets create a connection between us that is more powerful than if the information had been shared openly. This amazing video is one example.

This blog is an exploration into all the secrets that children share with us everyday, straight from the source.

Today’s secret: My three-year old blessed me with a armload of kisses and then he asks “You feel better already?”

“Of course I do,” I tell him. “How could I not?”

 

 

Natural Easter Egg Dye Results

10 Apr

As this was my first year attempting the natural Easter egg dyes, I decided to let you all know how they turned out.

The first step was to prepare the dyes and boil the eggs. I was so excited about trying out the natural Easter egg food coloring dyes that I forgot to boil the eggs so this step took twice as long as it needed to be, but alas, it all got done in the end.

From left to right: blackberries, paprika, dill weed seed and turmeric. I also used purple cabbage to make blue, which is not pictured here.

The general recipe is 1 cup boiling water, 2 TBSP spice and 2 tsp white vinegar.

As you can see, the dyes look very bright in the cups. I’m lazy so I didn’t actually measure anything and didn’t strain the dyes after letting them soak for a bit.

Next we colored on the cooled eggs with crayon. I made the mistake of  telling Adam about the dyes coming up next, so he rushed through the coloring part so that he could get down to the real fun part; the dye.

The cool thing about artificial Easter egg dye is that you can just touch the egg to the dye and it will immediately saturate it with bright colors. This is not the case with dyes. The eggs really need to sit in the dye for quite a while (except with the turmeric which really gets the egg a nice yellow fairly quickly).

Adam likes to take the eggs in and out over and over so they all got to sit in there for about 20 minutes in between his eager scooping.

The one thing I noticed with the blackberries is how quickly the berries dyed my fingers when I plopped them into the water. The red color did wash off easily, but next year I might try dabbing the newly colored eggs with the solid blackberries to see if I can’t get a couple of bright spots on a few.

The Results

As you can see, the natural Easter egg dyes resulted in a set of pastel colored eggs.

Many sites suggest leaving the eggs in the natural dyes overnight for deeper, richer colors, but Adam wanted to see how they turned out right away.

He was pleased with them, and I was too, especially when I saw him slobber over the entire surface of the egg before it was peeled.

We immediately took turns playing the Easter bunny, hiding the eggs and finding them. I peeled off three-quarters of the shell and we ate them for snack afterwards, using the remaining section as a holder until we had eaten down that far.

A little sad that I had to dump out all the beautiful dyes I had made, I took out some coffee filters and let him soak those in the natural Easter egg dyes as well. They dried very quickly and I smooshed them together with a pipe cleaner in the center and taped them to a bamboo pole.

Adam loved this impromptu flower and immediately went out to plant it in the ground.

Overall, our experiments with natural Easter egg dyes were pretty fun. Because I happened to have all the ingredients on hand already, I couldn’t resist. We had fun doing it and I felt good about the results. You can’t get much more Zen then that.

 

 

Easter Basket Blunders

5 Apr

Caster oil in Reese’s Cups and Twix? Chalk in Lemonheads Jellybeans? Petroleum preservatives and colors? What’s really in your Easter basket?

It was the jellybeans that started it off for me this year. Kmart had a million kinds: Sweettart, Lemonheads,  Nerds, Sour Patch etc. and I wanted to try them all! I bought one of each, way before Easter. Such an influx had me questioning my choices so I looked on the back to see what was in them.  Adam loved the Nerds jelly beans which to my surprise had Tapioca. Tapioca, go figure.

It sparked my interest so I looked up the rest of the ingredients to some of the most popular candies that we had on hand and found out that Easter looks very different than I thought it did.

easter

(click to see picture)

A mound of sugar and a river of milk I knew. Fueled by petroleum, yes. The amount of corn, soy and palm tree products, nope. The impact on others that my little Easter basket would make: I pretty much didn’t think about it at all. I mean, it’s once a year and we’re just one small family. Then it started nagging at me and wouldn’t let go.

So I decided to make a change to a more natural Easter this year. I stressed myself out yesterday trying to come up with some creative Easter ideas. I frowned at how cheap the junk candy that I normally would have gotten was. Easter was going to cost me a lot more than it normally would’ve this year. (But the cost on the planet, my karma etc will be less I tell myself.)

I despaired because as we pressed our faces against the windows of the still closed new natural food store we saw that it didn’t appear to sell any food, only lotions and junk. Three stores later I sat discouraged as I repeated the name of the candy store I was looking to call for the billionth time to the automated 411 operator.

Finally got the number and they weren’t going to be open for another 3 hours and since I’ve never been there I have no idea whether they use natural local ingredients or not. I gave up on trying to buy local and did with what I could find at Hannaford. They have natural gummy bears and fruit snacks, Annie’s crackers, different kinds of chocolate and dried fruit. Not the special Easter treats I was hoping for but it was going to have to do.

Adam felt my pain and picked up some chocolates: “No coloring in these, Mom” he said. “Yes but they have chalk and that’s not what Mom wants you to eat,” I said.

So this is what I’m going to do to fill an Easter basket this year:

Make chocolate covered raisins: Bought the individual packets, a packaging waste but eh, it’s a holiday. Melt chocolate chips (which are just cocoa and sugar essentially, though not organic: organic chocolate makes us very sick even with only a little), dump raisins in, while chocolate hardens decorate mini-boxes, refill with chocolate raisins and put boxes in reused plastic eggs from last year to hide around yard.

The basket will also have the natural Annie’s crackers and fruit snacks shaped like bunnies. Putting fruit snacks in the eggs too along with little toys Adam can’t ever get enough of like pop bullets for his gun, stickers etc.

Going to fill some of the eggs with confetti that I’ll make from cut up pieces of paper and he can throw around and make a huge mess with. We’ll hop around like bunnies in the bunny ears we’ll make and plant some seeds in containers with the shovel I put in the basket and that he’ll use all summer at the beach.

For today we’ll try dying eggs the natural way: boiling red cabbage, tumeric, paprika, dill seed and squooshing blackberries. It should help get out all that frustration from the stress of trying to buy a natural fun Easter basket.