21st Century Parenting

Before Bea was born, we wondered what kind of parents we’d be. Would we fall into the traditional ideas of scheduling, parent-led raising or would we end up with a family bed and attachment style ideals? We’re only two years in, but I’ve learned that it’s hard to fall neatly into one category. We co-slept with Bea until no one was sleeping and then we sleep trained. We wore her everywhere in the Ergo until she became mobile and squirmy and then we used the stroller (and now the wagon). It takes effort and resolve to embrace one methodology in its entirety.

Babywearing

Babywearing

There’s a lot of information right now about teaching kids 21st Century Skills – inquiry based, student led learning. These skills are meant to help our kids become excavators of knowledge, not just passive recipients of facts. In many ways, 21st century teaching is more intensive than the old, lecture-based format. A teacher has to know her students and know of a variety of resources to guide them to certain outcomes. There are new ways of teaching and of learning and completely different paths to discover ideas and facts. The push-back to all of this is that the old ways were just fine – that adults today have managed to succeed in various professions using the old methods. Some schools are even advertising a return to traditional, desk-based learning.

I’m not sure the old ways were the best ways. Maybe people were able to achieve success through them, but shouldn’t we always be learning, tweaking, and revising our methodology? Isn’t it a great thing that our kids will be educated in vastly different ways than we were? I’d be concerned if Bea’s teachers were using the same methods that mine were, thirty years ago.

I feel that parenting is much the same. There are different camps of advice and methods, from attachment to free-range to traditional and every conceivable combination in between. Both Frank and I value the ways in which we were raised. I feel like we turned out to be fairly successful, well-adjusted adults. That being said, we have chosen to explore different methodologies than our parents used as we raise Bea. I don’t view this as a condemnation on how I was raised – I feel that if we didn’t learn from and tweak what our parents did, we wouldn’t be learning about the art of parenting.

A Facebook acquaintance posted a parenting quandary the other day. Skimming through the comments, a range of advice was issued: Remember that they’re only little a short time; If they don’t obey, spank them until they listen; Process your desired outcome with your child; Toddlers have no reasoning skills…. Fortunately, most of the advice concluded with, You know your own child best.

Maybe we’ve been lucky so far with the “terrible twos,” but I have been able to talk with Bea about my expectations and desired outcomes. Sometimes, in the midst of a temper tantrum, it’s not the best time to negotiate. I usually tell her I’d love to chat and then walk into a different room, allowing her to decide when she’s ready. We’ve used time-outs a couple times, but it’s been more in the spirit of cooling off before we discuss. Often, I find distraction works best. How can I redirect Bea’s behaviors to a more positive action? Mostly, I’m learning to pick my battles. What is it that I really want to teach Bea about being human? Is my being right in this particular moment going to teach a particular skill or is it simply a power struggle? It’s hard, but I try to remember that I’m the adult and have nothing to prove by being right in the midst of a heated moment.

I wonder if it’s because I had training as a teacher, where corporal punishment is not an acceptable form of correction and even time-outs are tricky in the midst of corralling twenty-five learners. I used a Peace Corner in my classroom – an area where kids could go to try and work out conflict before I was involved. Of course, some behaviors meant missing recess or a visit to the office, must most often, kids could figure it out themselves or with guided conversation.

As Bea navigates what it’s like to live in community and Frank and I try to model the behaviors we most want to instill, inquiry-based discussion seems to be how we best get the outcomes of desired behaviors. And, as one solution works one week and mysteriously doesn’t another week, I need to remind myself that, as we learn new ideas and gain access to more resources, the ways in which we learn and grow change. As I guide and teach my toddler, I need to remember that my own resources as a parent are constantly changing to fit her needs and the new ways in which she is learning.

How do you parent? Do you strive to model your own style after your parents or have you developed your own way of parenting?

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Because

Because it had been sitting in our fridge for a few weeks, waiting for a special moment. Because September flew by in an unexpected flurry, and special moments seemed hard to find. Because Thursday night is just as special as Saturday night.

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Opening the Champagne after bedtime, talking and laughing, not reading or watching Netflix, not discussing big decisions but just chatting about life. Champagne on a Thursday night was what we needed to remember ourselves. Before marriage and kids, people told us to keep our relationship at the center, and some days and weeks seem harder to remember that advice than others.

So, maybe we need more Thursday night Champagne nights to remember what we love and how we started as newlyweds: Celebrating for no reason, chatting and laughing into the night (or, now 9:30…) and remembering why we choose to do life together.

How do you celebrate in the midst of the mundane?

Linking with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

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Overdressed

I love books that challenge me to not only think about my choices, but to actually change my lifestyle because of what I’ve learned. After reading Michael Pollan, we planted a garden, have thought more about our shopping choices, and have ventured more and more into the world of homemade foods over convenience foods. Really, in the grand scheme, we are activists-lite. We garden but I don’t preserve; I make some foods from scratch and others I buy – chemicals and all – because I can keep them in the car as snacks without worrying about spoiling. We buy mostly local and organic, but sometimes it’s just out of our price-range to do so.

I debated reading Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline. Do I really need another cause to change the way we view our purchases? As I thought about it, I decided that if I’m committed to making this world a better place, I need to continue to add lifestyle changes. Not all at once, but as we become more confident in certain areas of change, I do think it’s important to evaluate other areas.

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Overdressed was not necessarily an a-ha book, but it does reinforce what we all know on some level: Cheap clothes come at a cost. Cline not only explores factory conditions, but the environmental impact of cheap clothes and the economic impact among small designers in the United States of competing with disposable clothing.

I’ve definitely fallen into the fast fashion trap. Before having Bea, I would spend my money on nicer, classic styles and buy a few cheap items for fashion. When Bea was born and clothing was measured in three-month increments, I definitely looked for deals and justified the throw-away mentality as she outgrew items with in two wearings. Now that her growth has (somewhat) slowed down, we’ve bought better made, higher quality items. And, they last so much longer! Not only do they withstand washings, but they seem to grow with her in ways the cheaper clothes didn’t.

While I’m not ready to stop shopping at Target, this book did highlight a few areas I can easily change my buying and discarding habits:

1) Same Budget, Fewer Clothes
This one isn’t going to affect me as it may others who truly love to shop. I’ve never been much of a browser – I’ve always had an item in mind and wouldn’t settle for something different. Now that I shop with a high-energy toddler, well…. I don’t really shop…. I do want to be more aware of the clothes I actually need and save my clothing budget for higher quality items. (Including items for Bea.)

2) Tailoring & Shoe Repair
We have a tailor down the street and the prices are amazing. They charge $5 for simple patches and under $10 to hem. I used them more with my work clothes, and they allowed me to continue to use otherwise perfect items for much longer. I also frequent our shoe repair shop, in the same area. I take my boots to be polished several times a year. Once, they noticed the soles wearing thin and resoled them for under $50. All well worth the money, especially on classic items that I don’t want to replace quickly.

3) Sewing Classes
When I took Home Ec in middle school, I won the “Super Sewer” award two times. While others were making locker caddies and pillows, I tackled a fleece jacket. I was so proud of my accomplishment to make something wearable. Cline recommends learning to sew, if only to know how to alter your own mass-produced clothing into something more individual. I liked the idea of knowing how to take in and repurpose some of my nicer items that I just don’t wear any more. I signed up for a refresher Sewing 101 class at the Fancy Tiger, a local sewing school, hoping to reignite some of my super sewing skills.

4) Awareness
As I said, I don’t see myself never shopping at Target again (nor does Cline suggest that) but I do want to be more aware of why I’m choosing to buy cheap, fast fashion. If I feel that an item fits a need and I’m ok with the impact of that choice, then I’ll continue to buy the occasional item at those stores. Cline suggests that even if we shop at big box stores half the time, the impact could be enough to cause the fashion industry to shift practices.

These are only four ways I could see myself embracing immediately. I didn’t even touch on thrift shopping or making all my own clothing. I love books that inspire me to make changes to my lifestyle and I’m excited to see how this plays out in our family. Which practices will be sustainable and which will simply not work for this time in our lives? In any case, I’m much more aware about my fashion choices and I think that’s a good place to begin.

Are you a fashionista? What are your thoughts on buying cheap clothes instead of fewer, more expensive clothing?

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Perfect Timing

Sisters

Sisters

A few months after our wedding, Frank and I decided it was the perfect time to add a puppy to our family. We had talked about wanting to be a dog family before getting married and, since we wanted our puppy trained before tax season began in January, we decided September would be a good time to start looking. Right after our conversation, Frank noticed a sign in the coffee shop by his office. A backyard breeder on the north end of town had puppies that would be ready for a home in a couple weeks.

We made an appointment and drove up to look at the puppies. They were beautiful! Some sort of shepherd mix, we fell in love with a quiet female. She was old enough to go home right away, so we brought her with us and spent the weekend getting to know our newest family member. Frank’s office is in a Victorian house on a double lot with a large fence around the grassy area. We decided that we would train our dog to go into work with him. She would be a mostly outdoor dog, but we thought being with Frank and outside all day was better than having her stay inside.

Frank brought her to work that first Monday – before we had taken her to the vet or even gotten tags for her collar. After an unproductive morning of playing with her in the yard, Frank went in to meet with a client. He heard her whimpering and barking outside, but was told by a dog-owning friend to ignore her cries – paying attention to them would create a spoiled dog.

After his meeting, Frank went down to check on our pup, only to find that she had disappeared. There was no sign of how she could have gotten out of the fenced yard. We searched the neighborhood, made signs, and spent weeks visiting shelters after work. Our only thought is that someone heard her cries and came into the unlocked yard to take her.

It was our first tragedy as a young family and I wondered if we would ever get another dog or if we would be competent parents with our own human children. After lots of processing and finally accepting the reality that we had lost our puppy, we decided to start thinking about a new dog. The more pragmatic side of me wondered if we had missed our window of opportunity to train a dog before tax season. Frank, who is far more optimistic, said we would figure out the timing – we wanted a dog, and we should look for a dog.

Daisy's first day home

Daisy’s first day home

This time around, we went to Lifeline Puppy Rescue, where I fell in love with a bear cub-like, energetic, jumping puppy. Frank wasn’t as sure, but little Daisy and I bonded as she snuggled into my lap. We took her home with us that day and before we made it to our house, had stopped at Petsmart for ID tags.

Daisy Deux never went to the office. We kennel trained her to stay at home and she happily became a one-family dog. We did a puppy training class that ended a week before the craziness of tax season began, and now, five years later, I can’t imagine better timing for our first “child.”

The past few weeks have been a lesson in timing for me. I am reminded that any time I have made plans for the perfect timing of something, life happens and things usually don’t go the way I planned. From professional opportunities, marriage and family, to kids and pregnancy, opportunities and interactions come along that are completely out of my control. And, in hindsight, the imperfect timing of it all is actually more perfect than I could have planned.

I’m not sure I’ll ever stop planning my life – it’s part of who I am. But, I can learn to adjust as I go. I’m slowly learning to hold my plans loosely and to go with the flow when twists and turns occur. And as much as I love planning, I love looking back on the imperfections of my plans to realize how amazingly everything has fallen into place.

Are you a planner? How do you go with the flow?

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Poets Anonymous: Life

Welcome to our monthly Poets Anonymous!

On the 15th of each month, I’ll post a poem. If you have a blog, post a poem on yours and share your link in the comments. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to share part of a poem in the comments. Or, I encourage you to simply read a poem today.

Some things that fly there be, -
Birds, hours, the bumble-bee:
Of these no elegy.

Some things that stay there be, -
Grief, hills, eternity:
Nor this behooveth me.

There are, that resting, rise.
Can I expound the skies?
How still the riddle lies!

Emily Dickinson

Share a favorite poem (or segment of one) in the comments!

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Ready

We woke up to the heat going on today. The high is going to be something in the mid-50’s, which seems too cold for September 12. This is just a snap – next week will be pleasant again. I love autumn and the coziness of winter, but am not quite ready to put away the water table and sandals.

Too cold!

Too cold!

Last night I wrapped our tomato plants with sheets, preparing for the worst forecast of snow, though we woke up to drizzle. It made me think about other areas of my life right now. I may not be ready to make certain decisions, to let go of ideas or hopes, to move on just yet, but it’s important to be ready, to prepare myself for the inevitable.

Wrapped tomatoes

Wrapped tomatoes

On the flipside, I am very ready for some things to start happening, to move to the next stage of a journey, to start new routines. I need to prepare for those, too. Now, it’s by waiting and resting in the moment. Sometimes it’s a more active waiting, but often it feels too passive. I’m trying to embrace the stage of waiting so that, when the times comes to get going, I’m ready.

As a natural planner, this small season has been a good challenge for me: The tension of being prepared, being ready, and letting things happen naturally in their own time.

Are you a planner? How do you prepare?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

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Camping with a Toddler

We finally went camping over Labor Day weekend. Even though we had thought out exactly how we were going to Introduce Bea to Camping, we threw our carefully scaffolded ideas out the window, tossed more gear than we needed into the car, and headed up to Wyoming for three days of rainy camping.

Even though it was chilly, rainy, and we only saw one bison in all of Yellowstone, Bea had an amazing time, so I count it as a success. She loved our campsite, she loved sleeping in the tent, and she loved the caldera of Yellowstone. (An obsession of the moment is volcanoes, so Bea was thrilled to spot the geothermal activity in bubbling mudpots and steaming geysers.)

Checking out Dragon's Mouth mudpot

Checking out Dragon’s Mouth mudpot

We stayed at Flagg Ranch, which is located between Yellowstone and the Tetons. It was the perfect spot to visit both parks easily. After a day in Yellowstone, we went down to Jenny Lake in the Tetons, took the ferry across the lake and did a half mile hike up to Hidden Falls. Bea was able to do most of the hike herself, and loved being on a boat for the first time.

Even though we are nowhere near experts in the field of camping with kids, here are a few things we learned:

1. Bring Squeezes
Before becoming a parent, I hated fruit and veggie squeezes. Now, I appreciate their ease on park trips and playdates. On a long road trip, they are a necessity! We often drove through lunch, eating peanut butter and jelly or even stopping at a fast food restaurant. Giving Bea a veggie squeeze, while not an ideal replacement for actual fruits and veggies, made me feel a bit better about our lax diet.

2. Audiobooks
We wanted to limit screentime anyway on this trip and poor reception in the Tetons and Yellowstone made this goal easy. We turned off our phones and relied on imaginations and spotting animals for entertainment. During the long stretches across the fields of Wyoming, a selection of audiobooks from the library came in handy. (Our favorite was Bad Kitty.) I know in the future, we may change our goals on road trip screentime, but for now, I’m glad we set the precedent of audiobooks and conversation.

Bad Kitty during a long drive

Bad Kitty during a long drive

3. Ice Cream Stops
Bea comes from a long line of ice cream connoisseurs. We try to limit our dessert intake at home, but finding a daily ice cream stop became a fun event and a special camping treat. National Parks are filled with lodges carrying special ice creams and having a huckleberry ice cream fix made hiking and constant activity more fun.

4. Pack n Play
For Christmas, we bought a gigantic tent that has a room divider and space to set up Bea’s pack n play. This helped immensely in keeping bedtime routines at the campsite! Though bedtime was pushed back to sunset, having a familiar space helped Bea go down and get a good rest. Even though she ended up with us every morning, she started out on her own and stayed in her bed for a good portion of the night. Bea won’t use her pack n play next summer, but I’m glad for a tent with two “rooms,” as it makes it easier for us to come in later without disturbing her.

5. Finding Adventures
As soon as camp was set up, we went in search of the amphitheater near our site. For some reason, we couldn’t follow directions and between a walk with me, with Frank, and with our friend who joined us for the weekend, we didn’t find the actual amphitheater until the last day. I think this turned out to be a good thing because it gave us an adventure and a goal each day during a key time – dinner prep, packing up, or other times when it was easier to have Bea away from camp.

Finding the amphitheater

Finding the amphitheater

We are definitely still novice campers! What advice or tricks make road trips and camping easier for your family?

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