Jun 25, 2015

7 good excuses to not {have to} involve your kids in organized sports

My son will be starting 7th grade in several weeks and he has never played on an organized sports team. My 10 year old daughter is also "sports-free".  It sounds like a confession, but it isn't a secret or something I am embarrassed about. I am not against my kids participating in organized activities, we keep our kids busy during the summer months with classes and camps.  Nor am I inexperienced in the world of competitive sports.  I spent more than 7 years of my life on a team.  As a child I swam on a competitive swim team and in High school I was a swimmer and Water Polo player. 

Peer-pressure is a real thing with adults as well as kids!  Only with adults they pressure you to sign your kids up for soccer, football or little league so you too can find your evenings and weekends taken over by sports.  I am surrounded by friends and family that started their little ones at age 5 and 6 on little league and soccer teams.  Some even encouraged (pressured) me to put my kids on a team, spouting the well know "facts" that kids on teams get along better with other kids, are better students, have higher IQs, are more likely to go to college, have better sportsmanship, are more confident, are more physically fit, are less likely to be obese, etc. etc. et al.

I do have a confession to make: I don't really enjoy watching sports.  I REALLY don't enjoy watching 3-9 year old kids play sports.  I often feel like someone is going to throw me out of America for saying it, but it is true.  I don't get the idea of competition and the pressures associated with it as a healthy developmental choice to make for your kids.  But just because I didn't want to do it, doesn't mean I am immune to peer pressure.  I found myself lying to people, saying we were going to sign our kids up "next year" to just get them to stop telling me all the reasons why I was missing out.  If you are like me, and you are seriously considering giving in to the peer pressure by signing your little person up for soccer or little league to get your friends and family off your back,  let me help you out with some great "facts" of your own.

1. It may not do what you think it does
Most of the research findings about sports helping school work, IQ and mental health was done on adolescents over the age of 13.  Mostly in High school and school sports. Not on children. Which means that sports may not have this type of impact on your kids at all.  If 35 million kids are playing organized sports in America, we should have the most intelligent and well adjusted kids in the world, the fact that we don't should indicate that the "positive" results of organized sports may be a little overstated.

2. It limits time for free-play
 There are multiple studies that show that family culture (how active parents are with the children) as well as the amount of free-play kids participate in are better indicators of physical health and development than organized sports.

3. It infringes on family time
The one thing that has the greatest positive impact in regards to confidence, self-esteem and healthy interpersonal skills, is actually sitting down as a family at the dinner table consistently. This is especially important between the ages of 5 and 15.  Ironically, sports often interfere with that practice. 

4. Ain't Nobody got time for that!
Let's face it, sports can take up an obscene amount of time.  It becomes your everything.  The more involved you get, the fewer hours you spend at home.  Your child becomes comfortable eating every meal in the car, as well as doing homework in between practice and games.  If you have more than one child you will never be home.  Ever.  In my humble opinion a child's primary jobs are healthy emotional development and school work.  Sports often take priority over both of those things.

5. You don't want your kids to get hurt
Statistics show that sports related injuries are the second leading cause of emergency room visits for children. Protect your child's joints, bones, muscles and tendons and let them wait until High School to start damaging their body.

6. Your kid is not likely to make it a career
This is my favorite cited reason for parents justifying spending literally 20 hours a week at sports related activities... to get that scholarship or to consider a future in the sport.  The odds of getting a college scholarship in your sport of choice really isn't all that great, as in, only 1-2% of high school athletes get those scholarships.  In 2012 there were around 15,000 professional athletes in America.  Take a moment and consider those odds... 35 million kids playing and 15,000 professional athletes with jobs.  Those aren't good odds. 

7. Your kids can learn cooperation and teamwork somewhere else
Your kids can learn how to cooperate with others and the value of teamwork in many places other than a competitive sport.  At home, at school, at church, in a club or other organization like Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, in a band, any place where children have the opportunity to practice cooperative play, they can practice teamwork.  

Maybe you personally LOVE watching your kids play on the field and don't mind all of the drawbacks of sports... and most importantly, your kids LOVE playing!  Well, more power to ya, if you like it... have fun!  If like me you prefer a less chaotic existence, or maybe your kids don't love a sport you are forcing them to play... there are many good reasons to not push it.  Be free!! Let your kids ride their bikes around the block instead, take them to a park to run and climb and use their imaginations, buy a giant trampoline and let them bounce to their hearts' content in your backyard.  Playing a sport is not a "must do" for children.  But, that is just my opinion.

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Dec 6, 2014

The Great Santa Debate

The Great Santa Debate
Resolving Santa in 5 simple steps

I love Santa, and our family celebrates Christmas with Santa as a central figure, but not THE central figure of Christmas.

Trends in parenting come and go, and when I had my children many a moon ago, the current “parental discussion” about Santa was that parents should not lie to their children, even if it is about Santa.  Many parents at the time decided that the trend of “truth in parenting” should include Santa. Some Christian families I am friends with have also asked how I resolve “Santa” in our home, feeling that Santa is a secular symbol of Christmas.

Christmas is centuries old and full of different traditions and celebrations, and each family has traditions that are unique to them. I grew up with the tradition of Santa and also happen to love the tradition of Santa.  The wonder, the magic, the awe and  imagination.  But most of all, with three young toddlers, I was NOT and I mean NOT giving up the good and naughty list.

BUT, it did give me pause and cause me to think and ask “How would I raise my children with regards to believing in Santa?”

You see, I did not want to lie to them but I also did not want to take away the childhood wonder and magic of Santa.  But, upon reflection I realized that what I truly wanted to GIVE them was something they could hold onto for their whole lives.  I wanted to give them the JOY and LOVE of Christmas.  I wanted to teach them what Christmas really meant to me, in my heart, and how to carry that love all year long and NOT just at Christmas time.  I wanted to give them a smooth transition from the Santa of childhood to the Santa of adulthood and what that all means.

So I launched project St. Nicholas.  I researched and read about St. Nicholas and decided that this would be my transition, my reason for Santa in our home.

St. Nicholas, (and this is brief) was a man who dedicated his life to living in honor of Jesus.  He was orphaned at a young age, and gave his inheritance to those in need.  His generosity and love of children is what inspired him to be the first “Santa Claus”.  

This way I am not lying to my children, they are learning history, generosity, acts of service and why we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and why St. Nicholas honored Jesus by giving gifts to the poor.

Here is how I did it in 5 simple steps.

  1. Santa is a nickname for St. Nicholas:  pretty simple right?  Kids get nicknames and love nicknames.  They have a million nicknames for each other and can relate very quickly. This is easy.

  1. Who is St. Nicholas:   This one is fun because when the kids were little we kept it simple.  St. Nicholas was a man who lived a LONG time ago who loved Jesus and children so much he wanted to help people and gave them gifts in secret.   Kind of like “Secret Santa”.  Most kids get that really quick, so be warned this can lead to giggles, little knocks, running footsteps and opening your bedroom door many, many, many times to toys wrapped in blankets.

  1. Acts of St. Nicholas:  Many families during the holiday season adopt a family or do acts of charity for others.  We started participating in these types of charities.  We would go shopping for toys-for-tots or adopt-a-family drives.  When we were shopping, I would explain we were acting as St. Nicholas would and buying gifts for those in need in “secret”.  This has been a tradition we have been able to carry forward each year.

  1. Beyond the Magic of St. Nicholas:  As the children became older we moved to the fact that St. Nicholas was a real person who lived over a thousand years ago. Now, we as living examples of Christ and need to carry on his St. Nicholas' love of Jesus by acting as “Santa” for other people and giving them the “Magic” of Christmas.

  1. St. Nicholas through the whole year:  What we learned when I researched St. Nicholas is that he celebrated Christ’s birthday by giving gifts to poor children, but also he celebrated Christ’s love and lessons on a regular basis through daily acts of kindness and charity.  

I thought what a great way to extend the Joy of the Christmas all year long.  As a family, we give and talk about the secret gifts we can give others beyond Christmas.  These can be as simple as opening a door for someone or donating food for a food bank.  But, these are “gifts” we give all year long.  

So Santa, aka St. Nicholas, is big in our house. Santa is Big for the little ones, and he is BIG for the adults and as a way to “Believe” because to be a person of Magic and Love for Others, is the greatest gift of all.

Happy St. Nicholas day!
For further information on St. Nicholas below is a great website:

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Oct 10, 2014

Finding Grace in Exhaustion

So I would be lying if I were to say it hasn't been a long week.  I. Am. Exhausted.  

But tonight at dinner I asked, after grace, for each of us to share something we are grateful for in our day.

I started with I am grateful I had an easy dinner and that they, the children, helped get it on the table.

The next child said “I am grateful we have a house and Daddy has a job.”

The second child said “I am grateful that our neighbor bought cookie dough for our school fundraiser”

The last kid who had a REALLY long day today said: "I am grateful I am tired".

Wow.  My world stopped.  Just stopped.  Talk about perspective shift.  I started to tear up.  Mostly, because right there and then I   Was   Exhausted.  

Lets be honest, most evenings and nights I am exhausted for a wide variety of reasons. 

Quite frankly they are not exciting reasons, like I was hanging out the opening of a hip new bar exhausted.
Or we just flew in from Bali, Hawaii, or Manhattan exhausted. 

NOPE, my reasons for being exhausted are probably the same as most mothers.  A child was up last night with nightmares, or I have to drop kids off at 3 different places at the same time across town, or the loads of laundry which may or may not be clean, or the dinner that still isn’t defrosted, the “MOOOMMMM! Hurry I stepped in DOOOOGGGG PPPOOOOOO” style emergencies that never seem to end.  Now, I acknowledge these are average little everyday things that just tend to add up.  But that is the point.  

NEVER in all my life have I ever equated being tired with something to be grateful for, rather it was something to be complained about, bemoaned, and begrudged.  But, certainly NOT thankful!

Well, at dinner’s grace out from the mouth of my child comes “thanks” for being tired.  Because, that means they had worked hard that day.  They packed a lot in and it was a good day.  

Talk about mind blown, perspective change and shift.

It truly made my life flash before my eyes of all the reasons I am tired.

I am tired because I have 3 great kids.

I am tired because we are fortunate enough for my husband to have a job that he loves so the hard work and long hours he puts in is "fun" for him.

I am tired because of our laundry, food, and dirty dishes after having dinner together as a family.

I am tired because I am pursuing intellectual challenges outside the home, such as professional designations and licenses, as well as, trying to be actively engaged in my children’s lives so that when they want to whisper a problem in my ear I truly try to listen.

I am tired, because I am BLESSED to have a full day.

Thank you child, I am grateful to be tired.

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Aug 18, 2014

What a computer virus taught me about Grace in Marriage

I was faced with buying new Anti-Virus Protection again this year and was deciding between McAfee and Norton.  McAfee was significantly less expensive.  So knowing they are a major competitor to Norton, I thought they were just trying to gain market share, so I read the online reviews and thought GREAT!  My husband, "Computer Guy", just looked at me with raised brow and said "OK, but I like Norton".  Well little Miss Independent that I am, I decided to save the dollars and purchase McAfee.

To Computer Guy’s Credit, he let me spread my digital wings.

To Norton: I will NEVER, EVER stray again.  I am so sorry, and thank you for graciously accepting me home despite the error of my ways and for cleaning up my mess.  

GROAN, big GROAN....

Then came this:

McAfee total found in scan before Norton: 0 

Norton total: 72, YES 72 at risk items.
OF WHICH, 8 yes 8, were HIGH RISK items, ie:  back door trojan programs, spybots, and other various virus concoctions.

And I was actually wondering why I was getting email Spam to contact Russian Mail Order Brides?

TRIPLE GROAN to infinity and beyond.

Hours spent working as tech support in my own home:
This crash:  7+ hours
Previous crash 1: 4 hours
Previous crash 2: 5 hours
Total hours it has taken me to fix my computer this summer: 16 hours of sheer unwelcome summer “stuck in house fun” as Mommy tries to fix the computer.

So thanks to Norton, my computer is now back up and running with improved performance because no ugly little virus’s are using it in the back ground.  I am grateful my old-on-its-last-legs laptop has lived to see another day.   Do yourself a favor, get decent virus software, of course I am now recommending Norton and not McAfee!

Also, if you are suddenly getting spam ads in your emails for things you would never want, like Russian “Brides”, (that is the G version for family friendly blogs mind you!) Please make sure your device is up to date on virus protection from a good company, or as Computer Guy graciously put it last night...

"Well, at least you are back to Norton, now go change all our passwords"

So what did I learn from all of this?  And where is the Grace you ask?

1) Not once did Computer Guy deride me or demean me for my decision to switch Anti-Virus software, despite this being his expertise and his domain.  He let me research, learn and make my own decision.

2)  When that decision went horribly wrong, he stood by my side and encouraged me to learn to fix it ON MY OWN.  He did not do it for me, but rather encouraged me on my journey of learning.  For this I am grateful.

3) After 7 hours of process, when I finally received the green light to restart my computer from Norton, my beautiful laptop would not restart.  In near tears, I looked at Computer Guy.  And his answer is “give it time”.

3)  After the computer did restart and reload Computer Guy said “Okay let me double check” and he came over to double check the logs and teach me more on what to read and how to do it.
 After which he recommended that after all the work I did, to make sure all the virus definitions were up to date and to run another scan overnight to get a clean scan with no “fixes” in the logs double check my laptop is up and running for the mornings work.  Of course I said YES Please.  If someone offers help in their area of expertise do not be so stubborn or independent not to accept.  Even more so if it is your spouse.

4) He stood by my side even with making a mistake in his area of expertise, so that I could learn something new, and then helped me learn to fix the problem with no “I told you so’s”

5) I said “Thank you for your help” and listened.  Sometimes we need to be humble and gracious and accept help, even when we don't feel like it.

It is okay to be independent and learn new things in life and in a Marriage, it is how we grow as human beings.  But we need to give each other space to learn, space to grow and then be there for each other as we grow and learn.  Computer Guy did not sigh, or roll his eyes, nor did I get a “lecture” of I told you so.  Rather, I received encouragement, and a gentle guide to help me.  It took time, a lot of time out of my summer.  The biggest lesson in this debacle?  I learned that Computer Guy respects me enough to help me learn new things, and stood by my side to help me undo my mistakes.  The least I can do is repay the favor to him and our children as they approach teen years.

Disclaimer: this is a true life experience and I have not been paid by or received any sort of compensation be it monetary or in the form of free products from any company mentioned.  

Aug 17, 2014

Paper or Plastic? 3 GOOD Reasons to use Re-Usable Bags

 This morning I went grocery shopping and as usual I carried along my pile of reusable shopping bags.  {I have been using reusable shopping bags for my weekly grocery shopping for more than nine years.}   To read more about my tree-hugging ways and why I believe in climate change you can read this archived post.

Back to this morning.  As the checker painstakingly prepared each of my bags to receive food on her little bag turnstile, she rolled her eyes and asked me frankly "I've been noticing a lot of people seem to dislike plastic bags, I wonder what the big deal is?"  I smiled at her and said "Oh, I am sure there are a lot of really good reasons."  She looked genuinely confused, "A LOT?  Why do YOU use these re-usable bags?"  So I told her.  And I'm telling you.
1. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Did you know that there are several large patches of plastic waste floating in the oceans of the world? By large, I mean the size of the state of Texas.  The generally held belief is that if we were to stop using so many plastic bags and just throwing them in our dumps, the large island of trash (also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) might start to shrink, and may even eventually disappear.   Why should we care about this?  Because it is beginning to impact our environment in a serious way.  To read more about it, you can check out this post from the National Geographic website.

2. Less trash, less guilt, JUST LESS.
Without hundreds of plastic bags taking up space in my garage (before I went to re-usable bags I saved my plastic bags to be "re-used"), I have more space to store the stuff I want to keep.  Honestly, I have never needed a plastic bag and been unable to find one, there are enough plastic bags that come home from trips to other stores, or those times I don't remember my bags, I STILL have never run out.

I have also cut down on the amount of guilt I feel for not being a better steward of the Earth.  Every time I throw away a plastic bottle or a dirty plastic bag I felt awful, like I WAS A PART OF THE PROBLEM AND NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION.  I need to "be the change I want to see in the world."  Now, my kids embarrass me regularly by asking the parents of friends if they are "planning on recycling that" when they see adults throwing recyclables in the trash.  {Though my pride might be stronger than my embarrassment}.

3. Living "Green" is important.
It shouldn't just be important to organic eating, composting, farmers market visiting, natural cleaner using people.  Especially if you consider yourself a Christian.  The Earth needs our help.  We are meant to be stewards of our natural resources, of our environment, of our planet.  Living your life in a "green" way doesn't make you a "hippy", it makes you a responsible citizen.   If remembering to bring re-usable bags to the grocery store decreases my carbon footprint or helps in even a small way, I am HAPPY to help!!

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