Screen Free Week Prep 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

it's here again!
This is our third year participating in National Screen Free week (you can read our first two year reflections here:  20142013) and I am looking forward to it this year.  In years past, I have planned and organized all sorts of events and activities for the kids and I to do together in preparation for a week without screens (you can read about that here:  20142013) but this year I'm taking a more lax approach for it knowing that in our hearts, we have all the tools we need to have a wild, fun, and screen free week.  The kids and I chatted about all the ways we have screen free fun to give us a quick reference next week if we need some inspiration:

Thanks to our participation in Screen Free Weeks past, we have been expanding our own limited use of screens in our house over the past year, and especially within the last three months.  I have been deeply inspired by 1000 hours Outside and we've upped our (already fairly generous) outdoor time with a new-found ambition and excitement!  (I'm not -yet?- tracking our outdoor hours, but I am much quicker to head outside with three kids in tow and sometimes even our two big dogs too!)

And we've implemented in our home, strict screen free zones which include: Mealtimes, Bedtimes, Car rides, and (most recently) Mornings

Mealtimes, Bedtimes:  This one mostly applies to Brandon and I as we have constant access to screens through our cellphones.  So we make concerted efforts to put our phones somewhere away and on vibrate during mealtimes and bedtimes.  The mealtime that is hardest for me is Lunch when I always feel like I'm drowning in butt wiping and lacking serious adult conversation.  The pull of blog-reading and facebook scrolling in strong.  But I've found that usually when I 'forget' my phone upstairs or put it on the charger, it's a little easier to leave it then having it glare at me from the counter.

Car rides:  We don't have any movies or devices in the car because I'm old school and I want me kids to be able to occupy themselves on car rides without dependency on constant stimulation.  Look out the window, kid!  hahha.  We took an entire 1000+ mile roadtrip vacation last summer with a four and two year old without devices!  This one is near and dear to my heart.  Brandon and I also try to be the best models of driving without phone interruptions too for the kids because we know we have future drivers watching our every move (gulp.gulp.gulp).  So we keep our texting to a zero and our calls to an absolute minimum when the kids are with us.

Mornings:  We have been slowly removing screens from our day for the past few weeks.  It started with a task from my 100 small things list:  to remove tv from our morning routine.  Since the time when Grey was old enough to be interested in tv (two-ish?) it seemed like the easiest thing was to let him watch a show or two in the morning when he first woke up.  It became our routine that they'd wake up, come downstairs, sit in the front of the tv and eat breakfast while I thought I was getting a couple extra minutes in the morning to get some things done uninterrupted.

But that just didn't sit right in my creative soul and heart.  I didn't like that the first thing they were doing in the mornings was consuming someone else's creativity.  I didn't like that it was a struggle then to turn the tv off because once they get sucked in, they're sucked in deep.  I didn't like that I wasn't actually getting uninterrupted time at all because they were shouting requests in for me (More drink!  I can't hear it! I need a napkin!) because they didn't want to miss anything from the screen.

So in late February, just one day out of the blue, when the kids came down in the morning and asked for a show, I said we weren't watching tv in the morning anymore.  Then I braced myself for the fight that never came.  Sure, they occasionally still ask when they wake up, 'can we watch something?' and I just remind them we don't watch shows in the morning and that's it.  What surprised me most from this tiny change was the ripples it pushed out through the rest of the day.  Once their little imagination muscles have to jumpstart in the morning to play without screens, then they are working stronger for the rest of the day.  Some days we don't turn the tv on at all -!  With absolutely not a single request from them!

We even took a bigger leap (totally by accident) by losing the iPad charger for a few weeks (seriously, the kids lost it) and then we didn't even have that request coming from them because the battery was dead!  So we were down tv (sometimes for the whole day) and also no iPad access and with almost no whining to account for without them!! mind blowing.  (and quite honestly, I'm pretty proud of them!)

Instead of planning the week out with elaborate activities, I'm going to instead reflect back on the things I loved about my own childhood (thanks for the inspiration, Shelly!) I remember loving to jump on the trampoline while we had music blasting (I'm burning the kids a CD with their favorite songs!), playing freely in the woods, reading, playing outside whatever the time of day or weather (rain! dusk! early morning!), eating outside, writing stories and making books, making messes (!)
 --thank you Mum & Dad for allowing my sisters and I to have such a wild, free, and full of imagination childhood.  love you and forever grateful for that --

But the best and most delighted moments were when Mum & Dad came out and joined us!  Remember how fun and surprising and joyful it was when they jumped on the trampoline or when they organized a Kick The Can game (um, we're playing that this week too, I just decided!)  When they joined in it was like vacation!  It was like our whole perspective on who they were shifted a little bit, like they were real humans!  We looked at our parents like these hard-working people that had grown up tasks to do all day (because it's true, hello adulthood sux), and then they'd come join us for fun and it was like, whaaaaaaat?!  Look how funny and awesome they are!

I recently witnessed this from my own two big kids when I put Violet in the bouncy chair and got on the trampoline with them (the first time in two years since I was pregnant last summer!) and the kids could not stop giggling.  They were like, "Mumma?  Mum?  You're coming on too!" delight in their eyes.  It's not just me, the boring mum grown up who gets burnt out from all the housework, projects, to do lists, appointments...but the kids too tend to forget that I'm a real person, someone capable of fun!  This is my goal for next week - to join in on the fun!  To make it like vacation, to give them full attention and be a part of the play too!

My personal plan for the Mumma's participation in Screen Free week is to limit screens to only when kids are not awake and only grant myself access to gmail (too many projects/commitments to bail on it entirely, wah!) and shutterfly (If i don't finish our 2014 yearbook, I'm going to lose my mind! HAH!)

I'll be steering clear of facebook, pinterest, instagram, and blogs (mine included) for the week.  No doubt a little vacation from social media will do my heart and mind some good.  No tv for Brandon and I but I have some date night ideas for us instead!

Do you have plans for Screen Free Week?  Will you be participating?  Do you already limit screen time at home?  Or is this your first time?   Are you in need of some inspiration?

and if you need more personal inspiration:  look at your own instagram feed.  No one is taking pictures of their kids in front of screens and feeling inspired.  The pictures of your kids being wild & free are the ones with the biggest smiles.  Set the goal that you'll do more of that (smiles, wild & free) next week!  Bring it on Screen Free Week 2015!


Friday, April 17, 2015

Making some new eats and treats these past two weeks.  We've had Pancake Sausage Bites, Brownie Cookies, Copycat Olive Garden Chicken & Gnocchi soupGarbage Stir fry (but with Soy sauce instead of Curry), and Honey Garlic Porkchops!

Celebrating our son's fifth birthday!  We threw a basketball birthday party last Friday night and had a great time.  Even some of the high school Blue Jay basketball team showed up and it made Grey's night that they came to his party (thanks guys!  you're the best!) My first baby is five.  waaaaaah.

Laughing at Gemma Ro.  The girl is endless in her hilarity.  She has decided that saying she wants to marry someone/thing is how she now expresses love for them.  "I'm going to marry Daddy."  "I want to marry that fish on my cup."  "I think I'll marry these fancy shoes."

Saying Goodbye to my Pap.  It's been a long, sad two weeks while he was sick and then after he passed and all the events that comes with that.  We are so blessed though to be surrounded by so many loving thoughts, prayers, and people.  (thank you, all).  We finally said goodbye on Wednesday afternoon with a twenty-one gun salute and Taps played at the burial service.  Rest in peace, Pap Pap.

Thankful for spring officially arriving!  It has been warming up and even the cloudy April showers type days are warm enough for the kids to go out and stomp around in puddles.  It really feels like spring now that the boys are headed out to fishing camp tonight for the whole weekend!  Grey is so excited he can barely stand himself.  I've answered 'When is Daddy getting home from work?' approximately 4583920 times already today.  We have a special running at The Hunting Daddies store in honor of fishing season!  Use Code WETLINES for $2 off any of our Youth items!

Relieved that Violet's bout with diarrhea and subsequent diaper rash appears to be over!  It lasted almost two weeks and I was close to being drowned alive in baby laundry and cloth diapers.  Hallelujah!

Ordering the kids' stuff for our upcoming vacation and got the notice that it's already shipped! I love the sun shirts and the sun skull caps at One Step Ahead and even ordered them some Froggles! They are pretty excited about it.

Reading The Ten Thousand Things still (!) but I am on the very last chapter and have only four pages left (seriously - I should just be reading them right now and getting if over with!!) Wasn't too crazy about the book, but it was very different than my usual books (mostly in writing style) so that's good.  Next up is The Girl with Dragon Tattoo (I know, I'm a little slow on the uptake).

Frustrated about how I've felt sort of in a haze for the past two weeks.  Granted, I know we've had some rough stuff going on (my Pap, Violet sick, Grey's fifth birthday) but not being at regular/top efficiency always makes me feel lethargic.  So, I'm hopeful that I'll get back into regular operating mode soon.  I'm hoping to get better at getting some walking/jogging time in every day, packing for vacation, and finishing up some spring cleaning in the next week!

Regretting teaching Grey how to whistle this morning.  Yeesh, it's been  non-stop all day and he just came up to me and said, "Mum, I can whistle as good as a bird.  Also, I feel like whistling all day because it's so fun to whistle."

Inspired after spending some time yesterday afternoon walking around Lift Johnstown's Project Party that brought together tons of volunteer organizations in the community and surrounding counties.  I was for real like a kid in a candy store.  Gah, so much good happening and opportunities to support or be a part of it.  Obsessed.

This week in interesting internet:

Brandon and I both really resonated with the article from Scary Mommy on why a Mother doesn't want to be touched.  We had a chat about it and both agreed that we understood where each side was coming from.  I was just thinking about it again today when I was feeding Violet in the rocker before her nap and Lola (our cat) was laying on my legs and Greyson was standing/leaning next to me.  So.much.touching.all.the.time.

I loved reading the Moral Bucket List; a NY Times article and loved the thought that there are two different kinds of virtues; resume and eulogy and what it appears that we value in society as a whole.  very interesting and thought-provoking stuff.

The two year old article about the marathon spectators popped up in my TimeHop this week and I re-read it and re-loved it again.  This article was actually some of the inspiration that went into our maid of honor speech in our sister's wedding last year.  If you are a runner or a watcher of runners in races - this article is heartwarming.

Great read from the NY Times about how white parents are becoming less white as families are becoming more diverse.

I was cracking up over this article about some new vocabulary words.  Every night when getting into bed I'm not kidding, I audibly moan in ecstasy (bedgasm) and I'm fairly certain that I nerd-jack most conversations - sorry friends & family!.

Greyson and I laughed and watched this video three times from Dude Perfect about fishing stereotypes.  We are Kiss Fishers in case you were wondering.  Although, Greyson and Brandon would like to ensure that we don't lick them.  HAHAHAHA.

100 Small Things - Quarter Year check in

Thursday, April 16, 2015

At the start of the new year, I set out to complete 100 small things in hopes to bring more intentional living to my daily life.  The months are impossibly slipping by and I've been trying to keep my list in the forefront of my mind to keep me moving towards completing items and also making the most of everyday even when it feels like they can be monotonous.

So far, as of mid-April, I have completed eight small things entirely.

#15:  Take down & wash kitchen and living room curtains - started up my spring cleaning for 2015!  This is really a very small thing but so annoying to me.  Hah!  I was glad to just get it done and having it on my list was good motivation to cross it off!

#17:  Buy new plates - I've been meaning to do this for months!  Finally on a Sunday that I had no kids with me in the car (rare!) I stopped at Walmart and perused their pyrex options.  I picked up some no-frill white with blue trim plates and bowls.  It is bizarre how gratifying it was to both purchase new everyday dinnerware and have a shopping trip with no children.  Welcome to my life, friends - hahahhahha!

#27: Kid play date with Katie and Karpy - my two best friends and I with our kids in tow (6 kids all together) spent a wintery weekend in a hotel in Fredricksburg, VA swimming in the indoor pool and giggling over mini bottles of champagne and take-out food....basically my ideal weekend of all time.  Read more about it on this blog post.

#31:  Serve a meal at the Windber Area Community Kitchen - we completed this task as part of our March 12 Months of Kindness project.  You can read about it more on this blog post.

#45:  Make pysanky eggs - this one is being listed as completed although, my original item was to make pysanky eggs with my Pap who always made them when I was growing up during the Easter season.  I had even set up a date that I was going to go down to his house with all the supplies and eggs so we could do them together.  I was hopeful that somewhere in the recesses of his mind he'd remember right away how to do them even though dementia has taken a lot out of his recent memories.  But the day before we were supposed to get together, he ended up being admitted to the hospital for pneumonia where he stayed for a week before passing away.  It was with a broken heart that I made my first adult attempt at pysanky eggs without my Pap before taking them to be laid next to his headstone after his military burial service yesterday.  They weren't perfect by any means, but it was a good first try again (remembering back to the times I watched him as a teenager) and I'll continue to work at getting better at them each year.  Love you, Pap Pap.

#61:  Take a picture of Gemma in my wedding dress - Gemmi and I got to playing dress up one evening while Brandon and Greyson were at basketball practice.  She was so excited to try on her Mumma's "marrying dress."  It was a tad emotional (hahaha, sappy momma) but also so fun to do this together and to know that someday when she gets to wear her own 'marrying dress' that I'll have these sweet photos of when she was only three years old wanting to marry her daddy just like mumma did.  (okay, bye. crying).

#88:  Camp out under the Christmas tree on Orthodox Christmas eve - a sweet tradition that I hope to continue throughout the years.  The kids loved getting the sleeping bags out and we watched one final Christmas movie before the season ended!

#96:  Remove TV from our mornings - this is one that I was afraid of to be totally honest..but I am happily surprised with how easy it was to remove TV from our mornings and also so proud of what it has done to transform our whole day actually!  We've been TV free in the AM since the beginning of March and the kids have been markedly more inventive, imaginative, and pleasant throughout the day.  I know, I sound like a weirdo hippie, but if this is a weirdo hippie, I don't want to not be one!  If you need some inspiration to remove some screens from your kids' (and your) day - check out these hashtags on instagram:  #childhoodunplugged #wildandfreechildren #screenfreekids

Not fully completed yet, but I've been continuously working on the completion of these six small things from the list:

#6:  Finished 2 of 12 books (one chapter away from finishing book #3!) - I've upped my reading a little bit in the past few weeks because I've been reading aloud to Greyson from my own book to help him drift off to sleep at night.  I'm hoping upcoming vacation and screen free week will knock at least three books off that list!

#18:  I've started a Memory Box for each kid, but I've got a long way to go on their boxes, let alone even starting mine and Brandon's!  This is an ambitious one, yeesh.

#19:  I'm still working on finishing our 2014 family yearbook - I'm about half of the way done which is actually the worst part; just getting to a point where it even feels possible to finish it.  I'm there now, I can see the end, so the second half of completing it is a little bit easier!  hah

#21:  3 of 7 personalized stockings done.  I already had a knitted stocking for myself from growing up, but I ordered a photo stocking for the dogs to share from Shutterfly, and I ordered a perfectly awesome camo and orange sewn stocking for Greyson from one of my amazingly talented blog readers/friends Tara (thank you!!)

#46:  Watched 1 of 5 Documentaries: The Dark Matter of Love was about a family who adopted three kids at the same time to add to their family of one child already.  It was an interesting look into the changes and emotions within the family and their relationships when everyone tries to figure out their place in it.  I really enjoyed the film.

#54:  Watched 3 of 15 TED Talks and I loved them all.  Here they are linked up if you're interested in viewing:
How not to be ignorant about the world:  Hans & Ola Rosling
Connected but alone:  Sherry Turkle
How to overcome your biases:  Verna Myers

So, the recap boils down to the fact that I need to up my game over here!  Already almost a quarter of the year has passed and I'm feeling like I need to do a little better at gradually completing items so I'm not stuck with a mad dash situation come November, eek!

How are you doing on your completion of your 2015 goals?

Greyson Rudy, our five year old

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My Greyson Rudy Booboo, 


We expect so much from you baby, and I know that makes it hard on you.  But you're our oldest and that tends to happen to the first born (me too, buddy).  But the thing is - you deliver, little man.  We ask you to be a helper and a leader around here and you are right there for us nearly every time, being so thoughtful and patient and kind to not only your sisters but to all of us.  
Our little man.
We are so lucky to have you - especially me, my darling, who asks of your own free will sometimes, "How are you doing Mum?  Can I help you so you don't have to do all the hard work and then we can play together?"

You are such an amazing big brother.  It sometimes silences me to see how gentle and patient you are with both of your sisters.  Granted, you tease and fight and argue with them too - but mostly you are more loving to them than I would ever expect or hope.  You jump at the chance to play the hero to Gemma when she feels like being a princess that needs saved, or happy to play as sidekick superheroes with her instead.  More times than I can count, I've walked in on you trying to teach them new words, how to use sports equipment, and offering to share your clothes/shoes/toys so that they can play like you.  They are so lucky to have you, Booboo.  

You are also so foreign to me sometimes; all boy.  You fall into uncontrollable laughter about farts and weenies and poop, but your laugh and huge grins are so joyful that I find my 'sisters-only' mind suppressing laughter most of the time too. A hug from you is to accept a full blown tackle that is delivered at a high speed sprint from across the room with a catapult from the couch arm rest.  It is painful to love you, both metaphorically and literally. You bring exhaustion and new bruises to all of me; my legs from chasing you, my arms from playing catch, my face from taking wrestling blows, and definitely my heart - my first baby, my ever-growing son.

Whatever sports season is currently in session becomes your favorite.  Right now you are baseball obsessed and even better; you're playing on your first real life team for teeball.  So it begins I guess, the years of practices and games and painting your number on our cheeks and the trying to not be the loudest, most embarrassing mom in the stands (don't worry we already designated a secret hand gesture that's meant to let you know that I'd actually really rather be screaming "That's my son!!  I'm so proud of him!!")

You have a body that almost appears to already have somewhere in muscle memory the knowledge of exactly how it's supposed to work.  You, my child, are an athlete at the core of you.  When you are moving your body, you are at your most comfortable.  We are doing our best to try to let you know how proud we are of you without making it seem like that is the best thing about you.  I hope you'll grow to recognize that being a great athlete is awesome and takes hard work, but it's not the most important thing about a person - just like your Daddy - he's a great man because of lots of things even if it seems people associate him with just that one thing.

I am so proud of your eagerness to learn (just like me!) and your ability to make friends (just like Daddy!)  You are constantly trying to make sense of the world; listening closely to everything that is said around you.  You are not only regularly asking us to clarify words and phrases for you ('What does deliberately mean?') but you are also then adding them to your own vocabulary ("Gemma deliberately used my teddy bear without asking me!")  Your huge vocabulary and your manners always have strangers guessing you are actually seven or eight instead of five.  That makes us both proud and weary; don't try to grow too fast, our Booboo!

Last night, you and I took the dogs for an evening walk together - you were happy to come without any hesitation when I asked.  It's unclear if it's because you wanted to spend time alone with me (rare in a house of three kids, one Daddy, and three pets), or if the idea of being in charge of walking Trixie made you feel like a big boy, or if maybe it was just because you were asked and Gemma had to stay home - but whatever your reasoning, we had a comfortable walk together.  We talked about teeball practice and deer trails and how much fun you had playing with your Aunts and Uncles that day.  

When we were about to head home, we stopped and tried to find frogs in a big puddle that was singing so loudly with their chirps it was like we were surrounded by the noise.  The sun was already setting behind a mountain but the clouds were outlined in pink and you were running around trying to use the chirps as frog GPS, and I wasn't worried about your next snack or if you'd be too tired to walk back or if you needed to stop for a potty break or coming up with answers for 35 nonsensical questions.

'Hmm, so this is what it will be like to raise a big kid then', I thought happily.

I will forever be grateful that you were our first, Booboo.
thank you for being our patient, gracious usher into each new phase of parenthood.

we love you.
forever and ever.
even when you keep getting so big.
your mumma.

a Granddaughter without grandparents

Friday, April 10, 2015

My grandfather passed away yesterday.  He was a lot of things in his life, a husband, a Dad, a Korean War Veteran, a magic trick enthusiast, a Pittsburgh Steelers & Pirates fan, my Pap Pap, my kids' great grandpap.

life bookends.
Great Grandfather Al (85 yrs) and youngest Great Granddaughter Violet (4months)

He will be missed.
painstakingly so.
in moments that come unannounced and fiercely.

just as my other three beloved grandparents have been missed everyday for the past five and six years.
painstakingly so.
in moments that come unannounced and fiercely.

My Pap, my Mum's Dad.
He was my last surviving grandparent.
My undeniable tether to the term grandchild has slipped its knot and silently floated away.

What is it to be a grandchild anyway?

In my case it was blind acceptance, encouragement, and pride.
It was knowing that someone loved me without restraint, despite (because of?) all my flaws and uniqueness.
A grandparent's love is unbound from expectations, worry, or the weight of responsibility that a parent must carry as they attempt to both love and raise.
A grandparent just loves;
they delight;
they look at their grandchildren through eyes that are cleared and focused by hindsight and years slipped by too quickly.

With the passing of my grandfather; my Pap Pap, I am now grandparentless. I usually identify myself by the roles of my life, the different lens on which I view my experiences and feelings.  I am a human, a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, I now no longer a granddaughter?  Does that identifier get removed now that I have no living grandparents?

this past week, I visited him in the hospital as he was being treated for pneumonia.  He was drifting in an out of awareness as his dementia has dictated for the past few years.  I don't think he knew who I was, but I could feel that he recognized that I was important to him in some unknown way.  His eyes, as they've always done since any time I can remember, looked at me like I was something brillant; some bright shining star that undeniably gave him joy in some deep down gut way that grandchildren do.

I held his hand and whispered to him to 'just relax and let them help you get better.'  I showed him pictures of his great grandchildren and sang to him to try to keep him breathing steady and calm.  It pained me in the most raw way to see this man, this strong man in both will and body for most of his life (an athlete! a veteran!) to be so weak and restrained by age and illness.  Death, do you give no one dignity?

I feel solace to know that he is strong again, free from suffering in both his mind and body now.  But as all who grieve I feel sadness for us, those left behind.  My Mumma.  My uncles.  My kids who won't grow up knowing him first hand.  Me; this grandparentless granddaughter.

I am clinging to this passage from my favorite book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, as I try to make sense of a world without the unbridled love of a living grandparent;

"If what Granma Rommely said is true, then it must be that no one ever dies, really.  Papa is gone, but he's still here in many ways.  He's here in Neeley, who looks just like him and in Mama who knew him so long...Maybe I will have a boy some day who looks like Papa and has all of Papa's good...And that boy will have a boy.  And that boy will have a boy.  It might be there is no real death." 

Pap is gone in body, but he will live forever in spirit in the funny way that Grey makes sound effects that has always reminded me of him.  He will live on in every time I call my kids my Sugarplumies (as I often do).  It will be him that I will think of when I hear a harmonica play and his tradition that I'll pass on each Easter when making pysanky eggs.

Just as my grandparents who have already passed that live on in all the tiny details of my daily life.  In the bone structures of my children's faces, in the songs, fables, and silly games I teach them.  In the way I yearn to call them and then realize, impossibly, years have passed since I last spoke to them when it only feels like days since I last hugged them.  In the sudden feeling that they are right there in odd little moments when I need someone to just love me, just the way I am in all my imperfectness.

My grandparents are no longer here, but I am still a granddaughter.
because I carry their legacy inside of me.
and I will pass it on down the line.

love you Pap Pap.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Changing plans yesterday while B was off and was doing some heavy-lifting spring cleaning (burning brush piles and cleaning out the garage with the two big ones) I had planned to take Bullet on a jog while Violet napped.  Alas, the littlest one is teething and refused to be put down.  So Bullet and I took Violet for a 2+ mile walk!  Hahah, forget riding in a car to put her to sleep, a mile or two in the baby carrier with fresh air knocks this little cherub right out!  #childhoodunplugged 

Feeling proud that we are doing so well with removing screens from our day!  I honestly cannot believe how easy it has been -granted the weather has had something do with it - although it hasn't been overly warm (or dry!) the kids are still happy to throw jackets on and go outside and play.  But we've entirely removed tv from our mornings and actually for most of the day (sometimes the day completely!) without any whining.  It makes for kids that use their big (hilarious) imaginations and kids that are tired enough to take afternoon naps for the first time in weeks (Gemma) and years! (Grey)

Giggling at Gemma's funny little observation about the world.  Being three is so silly and also tirelessly exhausting.  She calls a mirror's reflection 'my girl' and says that her 'girl does bad things' like play in 'mumma's make ups.'  um, no, that was you, Gem.  She saw Grey fixing his hair with gel today and asked him if he was talking to his boy.  hysterical.

Celebrating our Mimi's 77th birthday and April Fools day this week.  We made Brown E's for Mimi's birthday party and enjoyed cake and pizza with our cousins at her house.  It was such a nice evening with family (good job, Gigi!).  The big kids got to play with Ariel and Grace while Violet got to sit on the floor with her cousin Ben while they fought over toys - hahhaa, so it begins with those two!

Rearranging the kids' toys and moving them from the living room up into the little space upstairs and (by myself!) hauling the big desk and office stuff into the living room instead.  It was a big (still ongoing) project, but it's brought weird comfort to me this past week.  No more looking at the toys the kids refuse to clean up throughout the day and being able to get computer stuff done (blog, yearbook, etc) while the kids play games or color.  And if they don't put everything away with their toys, it's sort of tucked back in the upstairs nook and doesn't bother me nearly as much!

Energized to be working consistently on our 2014 yearbook this week.  I have been sneaking in some time to finish some pages and it has me so excited and my creative blood pumping!  It is such a daunting task, but once I get started I fall in love with all our pictures and memories from the year before that so easily get forgotten as we trudge through everyday tantrums and drama.  I can't wait for it to be finished and published...I'm thinking another two weeks and I should be done if I keep up this pace!

This week in interesting internet:

This post from 1000 hours outside because I'm obsessed.  #sorrynotsorry:  The Importance of How you See those Scarce Evening Hours  

Because I laughed until I snorted about Honest Toddler's Easter Egg Hunt with a Toddler Fiction vs. Reality post.  Whhhhhy so accurate, "4am  You hear a sound.  Even though you're scared, you get out of bed to see what's happening.  You can barely believe your eyes.  Your toddler is standing in the living room, naked except for one sock..."  HAHAHAHAHA

This silly post had me cracking up from The Chive about 90's instagram photos - read the comments on the pictures, even more hilarious than the photos. 

In case you don't already (who doesn't!?!) follow Humans of New York on facebook  (or on the web) - I'm telling you if you need a dose of world pleasantries in your regular newsfeed of negativity and annoyances, please follow them and be inspired daily.  like hourly.

How we try to teach our kids about privilege

Thursday, April 2, 2015

I was reading a great post from a friend about how, as a mom to biracial kids, she is struggling with maintaining the balance between protecting and preparing her young son about racism.  It is a beautifully written and honest post that I was grateful to read even though it contained information that in the raising of my own kids I don't directly need guidance on...

Because my kids come from the ideal genetic gene pool, at least by the current (and let's face it - historical) social constructs. They are on the path to sit at the most privileged social seats as they grow up and learn about their place in our world.  And yes, as their Mom I feel blessed and grateful to be able to basically avoid full categories of lessons that some Moms have to cover.  But that doesn't give me a free pass.  And it certainly does not ensure that my child will grow up to be a decent human being.

Ah, privilege...that word that drives people nuts (and by people, I mean mostly people who look and live like me).  For better understanding of my post, it might be helpful to know that we consider the word privilege to mean 'to have an advantage in society by traits that one is born into or traits that one earns by experiences that they have access to'.  We believe in intersectionality; that you can be privileged in some aspects and also not privileged in other areas.  That not all privilege holds the same weight in every situation.

Our kids are white, physically-abled, mentally-abled, living in a comfortable socio-economic bracket, not hungry, not homeless, 'acceptably' religious (a socially approved religion and not too much/not too little in practice), beautiful (in terms of face symmetry), and loved & supported by an over abundance of family and friends - many of whom also meet some or most of the aforementioned characteristics.

They are lots of other things too that can't be quantified on a census form - like how our kids are kind and polite and funny and clever and good at making up knock knock jokes, and athletic, and great listeners, and really good at digging up worms....but for the sake of this post, I'm not talking about all those things.

All of those non-application form characteristics are things that I have too...says their very privileged Momma.  Things that a stranger can't discern from me when they meet me for the first time.  Things like I have a degree in Spanish and a minor in Diversity Studies.  Or that I first traveled abroad at the age of 16 without family to volunteer in Central America, that I have safely and comfortably lived in Brooklyn, NY (pop: 2,504,700) and in Punxsutawney, PA (pop: 5,934), or that in my life at any one time I've:  had three jobs at once, played collegiate volleyball, been given free food because 'my eyes are beautiful,' knowingly trespassed on private property and was not punished, volunteered at a hospital for fun, been featured on our local news station as a 'Kid You Should Know,' owned my first car at the age of 24, and taught as an adjunct professor to grad students.

I have had a beautiful, wonderful life.  And it's been due to hard work, goal setting, a big imagination, and never giving up.  But it would be an enormous lie and injustice to pretend like those were the only reasons why.

My beautiful life has also been contributed to the fact that I am white, physically and mentally-abled, middle class, straight, socially good looking, and have had the encouragement and incredible support of people that love me. Because of all these things, I have had blessed opportunities to basically do whatever the hell I've wanted.  Literally.  The reason this is called privilege is because I don't have to think about the traits I was born into (race, disabilities, illness, sexual orientation, language, socio-economic status, etc) before doing almost anything.  Granted, there were things that were more difficult because money is not indispensable and there were moments that felt uncomfortable simply because I'm a woman - but they weren't inaccessible or dangerous.

Brandon and I were both raised by parents who expected us to use our abilities and natural leadership to make a positive impact on people around us.  We were not only pushed to do great things for ourselves (both of us are first generation college grads), but also that we had a responsibility to be role models; to give back, to stand up for things that are right and good, and lead by example. This expectation is so deeply ingrained in us that we classify it as fundamental to the people we try to be today.

I say all this not to brag, but to be transparent.  Our privilege is something that we try to keep in focus on a regular basis.  So that when we read news articles, listen to stories, or view images that we remain vigilant to keep our own privileged perspective in check before passing judgments.

We want to continually remind ourselves that for us - the world sure looks easy to fix and judge from our lofty seats up here on the social ladder.  That our limited experience in unfairness and discrimination heavily taints the world in a rose-colored hue.  And to use this focus as a reminder to seek out ways to become better informed and understanding of the injustices and issues in which we have been blessed to have very limited direct experience.

As parents now, Brandon and I are doing our best to raise our kids to recognize their privilege as a responsibility to (at the very least) awareness to it.  It is not a pass for entitlement or permitted ignorance.

Because our kids were born into a life they can, we want to raise kids who stand up for others who are unable to or restricted from standing up for themselves.

Because our kids were born into a life that they can, we want to raise kids who speak up for those who live in fear of speaking out or those who are unable to speak loud enough for the people in power to hear.

We want to raise kids who look across the way and recognize themselves in others; to understand that a single thing that separates us from each other does not eliminate all the things that make us the same.

That the privilege that they were born into does not grant them a camera that only takes pictures from the pretty side of life, but rather one that has access to a panoramic view that can see the disparities in the world.  That this full picture will create a passion in them to bring the light into view for those that can't see it, and awareness of the dark to those ignorant to it.

So, how do we attempt teach our kids about privilege and the responsibility that comes with it?

1. We openly talk about differences.  It is natural for kids to try to make sense of the world by observing differences in the people and places around them.  We don't shh them when they make observations or have questions about differences; we talk about them and sometimes are even the ones that bring up the observation in the first place.  We try to be open with our kids about differences on all topics (things they can see, hear, or worry about).  Even when it feels awkward or unfamiliar (especially then?) We do our best to present the facts and give them a chance to voice their own thoughts on things as well.

2. We try to create a diverse world within our home and direct community.  We try to diversify the people, sounds, and experiences that they have access to through their main points of  daily contact, especially in toys, books, and television/media.  We make an effort to have books and toys in our home that represent people of all colors, languages, disabilities, and backgrounds. We want the inside of our home and circle to look like the world, not a bubble.

We also celebrate and learn about holidays that are both included and not included in our own heritage; we learn about our own background and family tree and try to hold onto traditions that our ancestors celebrated.  We try to be proud and grateful that we are American mutts.

3. We keep a focus on gratitude and kindness.  We don't want our kids to feel guilty for the things that they have access to in life because of the things they received from birth - but we do want them to be aware of it and grateful.  We want our kids to be aware of their advantages by giving them opportunities to learn about and lend a helping hand to situations that we are blessed to not have experience in our own lives.  We also do our best to raise our kids so that their knee jerk reaction is empathy and kindness to others - all others.

4. We give them opportunities to practice positive leadership.  We don't know what school and activities will bring into our lives yet in terms of our kids' place in the crowds, someday we may need to learn about how to approach the situation if our children ever become the targets of bullying. But we can do something right now and that is raise our kids so that they don't become the bullies.  We don't want to believe that our kids could, but we also know being in a position of power simply because you fit the mold for what society wants makes it easy to walk on the shoulders of other people. More so than that even, we also want to raise kids who will stand up in the face of bullying - so we try to give our kids opportunities to practice consent, offer help to those in need, and stand brave when if it is unpopular.

5. We try to live as role models in the way we act, talk, and make decisions with that responsibility in mind. We try to choose kindness in the way we speak and act.  We step outside of our own comfort zones to learn about and experience new things.  We approach topics and conflicts with an open-mind that there are various sides to every story - some of which we have no familiarity with due to the advantages we have in our life.  We talk, answer, and research any questions that our kids come to us with in the hopes of better understanding of how this world works and our place in it.

We are aware that many people (most people!!) are not nearly as privileged in all the ways that my very blessed family has been.  The thing with privilege is that it's easy to focus on the places in which you lack instead of recognizing and taking ownership of all the ways you may experience privilege; of the things that you maybe do not even know you take advantage of.

And we are conscious that some privilege you're born into and other privilege operates on a sliding scale and at any moment we could have an experience that could change our own family drastically (trauma, sickness, job loss, etc).  As those changes come (or don't) we plan and hope to continually grow in awareness, understanding, and to look for the opportunities in which we can use our instances of privilege as a platform to stand for those that don't have access to it.

It looks like an intense intentional way of raising our kids; like a lot of work.

...but that's only because we have the privilege of not thinking about it at all that makes it feel that way.

Some extra reading material:

How Privileged Are You?  (a buzzfeed quiz but will at least spark discussion and understanding of lot of different types of privilege)
How Taking a Buzzfeed Quiz taught me about Privilege (a reflection on the above quiz)
Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person
Black Moms Teach White Moms about The Talk (also linked above)
A Mother's Rules for Being Young, Black, and Male
A Mother's White Privilege (also linked above)
How to Talk to your Kids about White Privilege
My Kid would Never Do That (series from Dateline about bullying)