Little things matter. Along the way you discover they weren't so little after all.

Tag Archives: parenting

I want to tell you about something I’m doing, something worthwhile. You’re probably doing it too, and if you’re not, there’s probably still time to begin.

It’s not a big deal from the outside, except that it can be misinterpreted and look like something it’s not. It can look eerily similar to doing less rather than more.

I’m not the only one doing it, but I know that it can feel like a sacrifice, even while being a worthy, pleasant and chosen sacrifice.

What am I doing?

The school year is almost done and I’m pulling away from some of my own goals in order to be a part of my children’s special school activities.


Elementary School Track & Field Day

Elementary School Track & Field Day

It’s not a huge thing, right…or is it?

It doesn’t look identical to my version, but you’re probably doing this too in your own way, which is why I want to encourage and acknowledge your effort to be a part of your child’s life, education, friends and memories. Sometimes while we’re there, it seems like our kids don’t really care that we’re a part of that field trip or class party. But later on, when things have quieted and you have a moment together, they’ll probably let you know they were glad you took the time to be there.

Of course you want to be there, in theory.

Of course you want to know their teachers and friends.

Sometimes you can shuffle responsibilities and be at that pizza party, other times it can’t be done.

Sometimes doing what it takes to be there leaves you stressed and sweating.

Sometimes being there is a lot like work. And it can take away from time spent in other areas, even compounding tasks you had to leave for later.

It is worth it.

What if your kids are already on a break from school? You can still start doing nothing, or should I say, you can start being with your kids and put other agenda items on hold for a while. Maybe the beginning of summer break isn’t the best time to do that big clean-out-the-garage project. Maybe with all the kids home you don’t want to begin work on that novel you’ve been itching to write. Perhaps training for that marathon could wait a few weeks or until a different season so it wouldn’t have to take away the time spent with your kids and family.

Even if your child just wants to line up toys, doing it together is a gift.

Even if your child just wants to line up toys, doing it together is a gift.

So great job, friends, for doing less in certain areas so you can be more with your family. I know it isn’t easy, but when you reflect on your own growing-up years, most of us would probably have a new appreciation for the work it took to create positive memories and be present throughout the long but quick days of those foundational years. Be that invested parent. Be the parent you hoped you would be before you actually became one. It’s work, sure, but it is so worth it.

How do you best connect with your family? Are you satisfied with your relationships there, or are there steps you can take to foster deeper connection?


Talking Back to Dino

Today I’m so happy to tell you about my sassy son who sasses me while drinking a cold glass of sasafrass in the tall grass. Okay let’s be done with that. I apologize. But I am posting over at my friend’s fantastic blog, Chris Morris Writes. And I really am writing about my son, who is developing a little bit of pre-tween attitude (is pre-tween a term? I should copyright that quick!).

Please click here  to read my post, and while you’re there, be sure to dig into other posts Chris has up. He has a unique perspective and is a real stand-up guy. I know you’ll love his blog.

This post is a part of link-up with Lisa Jo Baker ( Here’s what she says about it:…on Fridays a group of people who love to throw caution to the wind and just write without worrying if it’s just right gather to share what five minutes buys them. Just five minutes.

This week’s prompt was the word “Here” and away we go…

English: Students used LEGOs to 'Build the Fut...My daughter loves to play tiger…or snow leopards or lions or meer cats.Snow leopard

My son loves to play with Legos and create new intricate vehicles.

My other son loves to draw complicated battle scenes.

They all love to tell me about these things in great detail.

I mean exhausting detail.

Mind numbing detail.

It is hard to listen.

It is hard to want to play meer cats again.

But that is a value I’ve tried to cultivate since having kids, to be here, in this present moment together and actively participating in the moment rather than just nodding and saying absent “Uh-huhs” while not really paying attention.There are times when I’m better at it than others.

There are times when I have to tell my kids that I’m taking a break from listening.

They understand my need to turn off my ears for a while.

They also understand that when they speak I listen. I’m all here.

We’ve had bad run of luck here with animals. But before I can tell you about it, I have to tell you about the transformation that’s been happening since we moved to our house two years ago.

We acquired our dog first, nothing unusual about that. Here he is (and yes, despite the scarf and painful cuteness, he is male):

Don't I look sassy?

Don’t I look sassy?

And then this past spring we got chickens.

Two of our chickens prancing around the coop.

Two of our chickens prancing around the coop.

The chickens did well and after a few months we started to get eggs from them each day. We settled into a good pattern.

Then somehow my husband talked me into getting a kitten. It was going to stay in the garage and be an outside cat. We kept her out of the house (except when she snuck in), but I didn’t manage to keep her out of my stupid heart. I don’t even like cats! But she was irresistible. She ended up being fun all the way around for everyone; she had a great personality. The kids loved and hated the way she attacked their feet when they went out into the mudroom for their coats or backpacks. Even when she tripped us on the way out the door, it was because of love.

It was all going so well.

Two weeks ago, our kitty met an untimely demise in our garage. She darted across the garage as my husband slowly entered, and she misjudged her own speed and agility. Her death was quick, for which I was grateful.

When it happened and we realized there was no saving her, it was a study in child development to watch how my kids reacted. After about five minutes, my first grader and preschooler  asked when we could get a new cat. They wanted to pet her and say goodbye, but it was more of a scientific observation. “Here is a dead cat” type of thing. However, my third grade son retreated to his room, where he asked if he could watch a video or read his book. His eyes were watery and he was upset.

I felt the same way. I wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened, and my first reaction was to find something that could distract me from being sad. I’m a happy gal usually, and feeling sadness is…well, a bummer. I noticed again that when dealing with a difficult situation, my gut reaction is to retreat.

When my son felt the sadness of loss, I didn’t want him to have to feel those emotions. I wanted to cheer him up (and myself too). However, rather than ignore or dull the experience, I took a different approach.

When children feel pain, it is important to assure them it isn’t the final thing they will feel.

Feelings can be scary and overwhelming. Parents can help them walk through the intensity.

Here are a couple suggestions:

  1. If you can, try to keep your own emotions somewhat in check. It can be scary for a child to see his parent openly distraught. Sharing some tears is healthy; asking your child to bear your grief is not.
  2. Assure your child that it is okay to feel sad, that it a strong feeling, much the same as anger (which my son and I have talked about in the past).
  3. Kids don’t need to hide from their feelings even though they were kindof overwhelming. The feeling “sad” is not a permanent emotion, and “happy” will return.
  4. I told my son it was good to be sad because he had loved the kitty and when pets we love die, we feel sad and will miss them.

We got through it. We aren’t getting another cat, even though my first grader seems to have one picked out in his mind. In another blog post, I plan to talk about the difference between the way we handle life and death with animals that we have for food production versus pets.

Was this helpful to you? I sure hope so. How do you deal with strong emotions and life lessons with your kids? I’d love to hear about it. But in parting, I’ll leave you with a photo of our kitten (almost cat) climbing up on our windshield:

Fuzzy pic but still cute

Fuzzy pic but still cute

Arracacha - Roots' Colors

Arracacha – Roots’ Colors (Photo credit: CIP – International Potato Center)

Here are a couple thoughts that came to me while I dug out from the garden my first-ever batch of potatoes. I have to admit to some garden nerdery here, but I thought it was so fun to dig them out! It is a bit tedious, but just a treasure hunt with an almost guaranteed promise of finding the treasure that it is worth the slow work of finding the little stinkers. Read on, Dear Reader, and tell me what you think about potatoes (or anything else, for that matter)!

You’re My Little Potato

Have you ever taken a long road trip? Gone a great distance on an airplane? Travelled to the grocery store with small children?

My husband and I once combined two of these activities (not the grocery store part, but the small children part and a long road trip) as a summer vacation. Why we deemed it a vacation rather than a crash course in anger management and patience building, I don’t know. We drove in a minivan from Minnesota to Wyoming with a three-month-old and a two- and four-year old. The baby was nursing. The carseat laws were enforced. It was madness.

Good thing we brought hats. Summer in the mountains is tricky!

When you combine all of this (roadtrip, children, mountain driving, long distances, road construction, unfamiliar sleeping conditions) it could have been a stress filled week. But looking back on it now, I don’t remember the whole thing being stressful. Am I using memory suppression in order to block out this traumatic experience? I don’t think so. I think it was just the way it was. One must accept a certain amount of craziness with three kids ages four and under.

When grandparents or people no longer “in the trenches” of parenting young children talk to those who are still in the thick of it, I think they go to two default positions: one is to romanticize those years as being leisurely time spent lolling in the grass, counting the leaves on four leaf clovers. The other is to demonize that time as being constantly harried, maxed out, never leaving the house, and handling disciplinary nightmares. Certainly there are moments of both, and sometimes immediately back to back, but I think the reality is somewhere in the middle.

If you’ve been a parent for any length of time, and have ventured out in public, you’ve probably been greeted by someone who holds one of the two extreme memory positions. There are those who shake their heads sympathetically and say, “Are you ready for school to start yet?” And there are those who get all quivery-lipped about the kids and dab their eyes while saying, “Cherish this time. It goes so fast.” Without fail, I run into the person who acts the exact opposite of what I feel at that moment. I’m friendly and make a brief comment about leaving a trail of baby socks or toys behind us so we can find our way out of the store, but rarely can I agree with them.

The reality is, life continues. You can’t stop doing all interactions with others once you have a child. You can’t pile an entire cupboard of dirty dishes into the sink while you stare in amazement at the little person who can now sit up for three minutes without falling onto the pillow you have placed behind her as a spotter. (I mean, you can, but eventually somebody has to make dinner around here, right?) The reality is, sometimes you just do what needs to be done and you can’t get caught up in how much work it is or how much patience it involves or how little you’ll actually get done in a one hour period if you bring the kids versus what you could get done in that same period WITHOUT the kids.

(You don’t get an hour without the kids? Well just wait. Once you do, you’ll be flabbergasted at all the things you can cram into 60 minutes.)

Keep pressing on, all you parents! Bust out the sunscreen and the bug spray. Don’t forget your water bottles. Live it up! Enjoy the children you have in your family, even in those moments when the only positive thing you can think about the baby is that she is a human gas decoy (go ahead, use the baby to disguise your own gas. Silently toot then make a comment about how gassy she is, she’ll never know). Even you who are at the point of looking back with astonishment that you made it through, you probably aren’t done being a parent, even now. You just get to be at a different stage of parenting, when it looks a lot more like mentoring or friendship (or heckling — it all depends on your strategy). If you abandon all outside relationships and activities, you might regret it later, either for your children or for yourself.

So take that vacation, even if when you get home you need another vacation just to recover. Luck favors the prepared, dahling, and vacation is for making memories, if only the memories you’ll have to laugh about later if it was a disaster. At least you will have the memories together. Hooray for summer!

(…and I don’t mean in super hero terms)

I once read an article about the life of a suffering woman and her young daughter in an impoverished country. The family had dirty water and barely enough to eat. The reporter have the daughter a piece of chocolate and then captured a poignant moment as the mother wiped an errant crumb from her daughter’s lip and put it in her own mouth. The take-away message emphasized the hardship the mother was facing, the difficulty of her life.


Did the reporter not realize that as mothers our children are, for many years, extensions of ourselves?

The chocolate crumb (which was something the daughter was lucky to even lay eyes on. If it was between me and my daughter and only one of us could have the chocolate, it would be no contest. I would win the crumb. She’s only four and I’m much bigger than she is.) on her daughter’s lip was really in that moment a crumb on the mother’s lip.

It is not until later when they no longer need our help, when they no longer need us to interpret their babble for strangers (and sometimes their own fathers), when they can tell us the sum of 135 and 24 that we become aware of their separateness. Or rather they become aware and we accept it, knowing it is an essential part of their development (thank you, Mr. Maslow).

But as they distinguish themselves from us, don’t we miss it — those un-self-conscious moments when they twirl our hair to comfort themselves, or when we can still carry them on a hip and we must reposition their hand because it rests on our breast? Our bodies were their bodies, at least for a time, and while we wanted a break (“Could everyone stop touching me for three minutes!?!”) from the demands on our bodies (while nursing how many times did you feel bovincial? — and is that a real word?), when we discover it has happened, it is a bittersweet moment. And if we did not physically birth the child, as is the case with so many mothers with the divine calling to adopt, there is still a physical shift, an invisible tether that leashed us to that child when we first held her, whether it be instant or by inches. Maybe that’s why certain people have lots of babies and huge families? because that dependant, needy phase can vanish just as you realize it is only a phase?

This connection is what those grannies must refer to when they tell the disheveled, sleep-deprived mother to savor the infant stage, toddler stage, cranky three-year-old stage, because “they grow up so fast.”

At that moment all we hope is that they WILL grow up fast.

But we can’t arrest time at a certain month or year. What the grannies mean is that after only a few looooong-feeling years, those dependent years will be ones we long for.  Like an amputee feels a phantom limb, we will absent-mindedly do the baby bounce when we stand in line behind a fussy baby, or hurry to dig through our purse for a distraction in church when an impatient toddler squirms in the pew in front of us. Or quick snatch a piece of chocolate out of a preschooler’s hand, because, of course, that’s not a healthy choice…for a preschooler.

But maybe the grannies are right and we do need to be present and appreciative in the years when we feel like we’re under water in a sea of diapers, baby food, naps and very very short grumpy people. After a few more years they may still be grumpy, but they’ll no longer be short. 🙂

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