June 30 & July 7, 2019
Humans are social by nature and our “villages” are vital to our well being. I have been thinking a lot about this lately and how thankful I am to have it. Recent happenings in my household have forced me to look beyond and see who I can depend on when the going gets tough and it’s made me realize just how important the people around us are. It’s not that I didn’t know how valuable my people were, but I can admit that I have taken some of them for granted a time or two.
The idea of community has changed a lot in recent decades. I can still tell you the names of the families who lived in the neighborhood I grew up in. I haven’t seen or heard from them in over 20 years, but I remember those days and the people vividly.
I remember all the parents on our road taking turns carpooling kids back and forth to school when it was too cold to walk. And when it was warm, we all walked home together. We built snow forts in the winter and in the summer, we swam in the creek. It was literally the end of my world if I was in trouble and couldn’t go outside and play.
Back then, the entire neighborhood kept watch over the kids. If there was an unrecognized person or car around, everyone knew within the hour and many had probably made their way to question the circumstances and it was done all without social media. We knew the rules and we followed them. And if we didn’t, someone would let us know, whether it was our own parents or other parents. Children respected the adults in the neighborhood and the adults knew their boundaries.
I know that many people will say that the difference between now and 30 years ago, when it comes to how we raise our children, is the crime rate and I can’t completely disagree. I hear people say that we didn’t have all the “crazy” in the world back then, but I think it’s always been there. We haven’t always had breaking news delivered directly to the palm of our hands. We were blissfully ignorant, and it was magnificent. I miss the days where I didn’t constantly question everything because of what I read or saw online. I trusted myself and others around me a lot more. With the rise of technology, we have seen a downfall of face to face human interaction. This is undeniable.
Community is so very important. The neighborhood I described above is like the one that many of us grew up in. They were our “village”. How close are you with the people who live around you? Developing a relationship with them can make all the difference in the world when you face a hardship, in how your children are brought up and when you celebrate victories. It surprises me to think about how many people I see daily without even knowing their names. Even though it’s very hard for me to admit, I’ve let the world scare me into believing to keep my family safe I should hold them at arms length and to question before assuming the good in anything or anyone. I think there are many people who feel the same as me, though they would rather not admit it.
I keep looking out at the streets around me wishing that my children could experience the same sense of community I had when I was younger. And some days it feels very similar. But it isn’t. Because the sense of safety I felt and that my parents felt doesn’t exist anymore. I have made it my goal this summer to get to know as many people around me as I can. The first step in creating a sense of security for my family is to create a large and loving village and we will begin at home, in my own neighborhood.
Wishing you and your family a happy and safe Independence Day, from Me & My House!
June 16 & 23, 2019
Hello, I hope everyone is enjoying the warm weather. VBS is this week and is a great opportunity to welcome our new RE Co-Directors.
It’s been a pretty busy summer break at our house so far. Every time I think things will slow down a bit, it never seems to work out that way. There are always high hopes of relaxation in the sunlight and somehow, it’s thwarted by outdoor projects, summer sports or lessons. I am starting to find out that quality time together doesn’t come as easily as it should.
This past Mother’s Day my youngest son filled out one of those “All About Mom” pages. You know the one. How old is your mom? 167 years old of course! What’s your mom’s favorite food? Macaroni & Cheese which just so happens to be his favorite food. And what’s your mom’s favorite thing to do? He answered: work. I didn’t feel like I worked that much but in the eyes of my 5-year-old, it’s one of my preferred pastimes.
Just a few weeks later we brought two sweet little boys to live in our home through emergency kinship care. We received a call and had only a few hours to make the decision. Within 24 hours they were with us. They are 1 and 2 years old. We thought having one adventurous, high energy filled little boy was hard; having three exactly alike and at the same time has been challenging.
Just a few days ago we took a long walk to a new park we hadn’t visited before. We had spent most of the day inside doing housework and had three little boys itching to release some energy. So, what better way to get them ready for bed than to let them run and climb for a few hours? While we were watching them play, I began to think about how quickly our lives had changed. Instead of scheduling time together, we have to block off time to get work done. Keeping three boys aged 5 and under entertained while simultaneously providing mind stimulating experiences daily isn’t easy. Especially when we went from a 6 member to an 8 member family basically overnight. I used to go to bed sometimes feeling a little guilty because I spent the entire day working and missed out on some family time. Now, I go to bed wondering if I will have enough time the next day to get all my work done. The difference is that I don’t feel guilty about it. The work will still be there tomorrow. But seeing the look of accomplishment on my son’s face after climbing a rock wall may not happen tomorrow.
The boys haven’t been with us for long, but I am already beginning to see the benefits our family will gain from having them with us. Playing more and working less is the one I will value most. Most adults will tell you that their most cherished memories from childhood are the ones that were spent with people, not receiving an expensive gift because of all their parents hard work. And if you ask them if quality time is the most important, they will say, yes of course!! But how many people live by that rule? I challenge you to count your hours of awake time for one week. How many hours are spent working your job, doing housework, yard work, or extra projects for other people? And how many hours are spent doing things you don’t have to do and spending quality time with your loved ones? It may surprise you. At the end of my life I don’t want someone to talk about how hard I worked; I want them to remember how hard I loved.
With this being Father’s Day, I cannot say it enough. Spoil each other with presence instead of presents. Happy Father’s Day from Me and My House!
Email email@example.com with any thoughts, ideas, and opinions you have.
May 19 & 26, 2019
Spring has finally sprung! We’ve had a few days of actual May weather and it feels better than I ever thought it would. Have you ever watched something grow in the spring? I am always amazed each year at how quickly the trees and flowers grow. Nature is truly amazing and resilient.
When is the last time you thought about self care? We had a long Winter and Spring is a wonderful time to commit or recommit to something. Go outside and take a deep breath and think about things that bring you joy. Maybe it’s something creative like drawing, painting, or journaling. Get outside and go walking, hiking, biking or kayaking. Try something new or bring something old back. Whatever you decide, make sure that its something that makes you smile. Happy Spring!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts, ideas, and opinions you have.
May 5, 2019
In Matthew 18:20-22 it says: ‘“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”’
Have you ever noticed that we have a few more people join us in Mass throughout Lent? On Easter Sunday our attendance nearly doubles. Over the years I’ve heard a lot of different mumbles and grumbles regarding our friends the C & E Catholics (Christmas and Easter Catholics). I’ve even been guilty of some ill thoughts myself. Mostly when I have to sit in the Social Hall while the people who rarely attend Mass fill up the Sanctuary.
I began Easter day being a little annoyed thinking about all the extra people who would be at Mass. This actually drove the decision I made to skip Mass. I just didn’t feel like fighting the crowd. I had that guilty feeling in my gut. I was torn between feeling annoyed with the extra people at Mass and with myself for not being there. I started making excuses to myself. I went to every other Mass during Holy Week before Easter Sunday. Shouldn’t that make up for it somehow? But when I came across Matthew 18:20-22 my thoughts changed completely. It made me realize two very important things.
One: how could I ever be annoyed with the fact that our church is full of people gathering together in His name? This is a wonderful thing! Easter is for rejoicing and having an overflowing church is a truly awesome problem to have. Two: we are all sinners. Here I am thinking ill of someone who doesn’t attend Mass very often while I’m sitting at home not attending Mass. On Easter we are literally celebrating the man who died on a cross for our sins. And just a few weeks before that I read the line: “Am I like Jesus right now? Or am I like one of the Roman Soldiers?” I was acting more like one of the soldiers that morning.
It’s hard to be kind with your thoughts. Just because you didn’t say something bad about another person out loud, doesn’t mean that God can’t see and hear what’s in your heart and on your mind. I think that’s easy to forget, I know I do. People are sometimes very quick to form an opinion about others based on such trivial things. Maybe someone is doing something a little or even a lot different than how you would do it. This doesn’t mean they are doing it wrong. Having differences is something to celebrate. How boring would the world be if everyone was the same?
I believe that if you ask yourself, “Am I like Jesus right now?” Or “What would Jesus do?”, when making decisions or are tempted to pass judgement onto others-it will most generally lead you down a good path. Jesus looked for people who were different than him, on purpose. And then he went and hung out with them! I challenge you to do the same.
Happy Easter from Me & My House!
April 21, 2019
We are at the end of my relationship series. We have talked about your relationship with God, yourself, that special someone, and your children. I am not an expert on the prescribed order of relationships or what they should consist of. I can only tell you what has helped and what has been a complete train wreck in my own life. While I am talking about friendships last, that doesn’t mean that they should be put on the back burner. Having real friends is so important. Let’s talk about it!
Relationships Part 6: Friendships
Aristotle had the best descriptions of friendships, in my opinion. He talked about there being 3 types of friendships in our lives: having friends of pleasure, utility and goodwill. When we are young, we tend to lead our lives by our emotions so it’s no surprise that we look for friends who give us pleasure of some sort. We tend to look for things that matter to us “in the moment” and don’t really have good sight of the bigger picture. Remember your best friends from middle school or high school? The ones you thought would last forever. I had a friend when I was young, and we were inseparable for at least 4 years. But even though we continued to live in the same town and go to the same school our friendship fizzled out. We grew older, our interests and the things that pleased us changed. It can hurt at the time, but I can look back now and be thankful for that relationship while it lasted.
The next kind of friendship is one of utility or one that is useful. Think about high school and the extracurricular activities. Maybe during the fall, you had one group of friends and then it changed as the year went on because of whatever sport or activity you were involved in next. Or maybe friends that you make in college because you’re both in the same class and can study together. A roommate because you both need each other to be able to live comfortably. This kind of friendship often comes from necessity and sometimes, they aren’t even pleasurable relationships. In fact, many times they are forced friendships that end up draining you in the end. This is not to say that you are intentionally trying to use someone, or that these friendships cannot turn into a greater one-but generally they don’t last. Think about your friendships with the people you work with. I worked in the same office for 10 years. After a major life event I left that office and that field completely. Since we have social media, we can stay in touch, but these are people I saw more than my family each week for 10 years. We knew each other very well. We shared life celebrations and pains, but now 5 years later-we are nothing more than acquaintances. Aristotle described this as friendships for the old. A friendship that we gain some sort of profit from.
While friendships of pleasure and utility are not wrong, they can be shallow and fleeting. They have their time and place in our lives but are not built on something that lasts. The other type that he wrote about, a friendship of good and virtue can stand the test of time. He explains that “To be friends, therefore, men must feel goodwill for each other, that is, wish each other’s good, and be aware of each other’s goodwill, and the cause of their goodwill must be one of the lovable qualities mentioned above.” Basically, this is the best kind of friendship to have. It’s not just about what interests you have at the time, where you work, or having kids in the same school. A true and lasting friendship is built on loving each other for the other persons sake, not your own.
How many friendships of goodwill do you have? You may feel like you have a lot of friends, you are not lonely or are lacking “having a life”. Like I said before, every type of friendship can be good even if they are for pleasure or utility. But having a good friendship that will last for a lifetime is important to your health and well-being. If you find yourself in a place where you do feel lonely or lacking, begin to seek others with the same moral standards as yourself. That is where you will find the truest and most lasting friendship there is to have.
April 7, 2019
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…
Relationships Part 5: Children
I have often said that raising children is the single most wonderful and terrifying thing I’ll ever do in my entire life. Since there is no manual that comes with the tiny humans, what I offer are my thoughts based on the experiences I’ve had. Sometimes it’s easy, other times I feel like a complete failure. My children are all so different from each other with varying strengths and abilities. But even with their contrasting personalities, there is still one way that I can parent them all equally. The best advice I could ever give is that children deserve the same respect that adults. An environment of respect fosters love and mutual understanding. And in my opinion love, respect and understanding are the best qualities of any relationship.
Say it with me: children are people too. They are going to act inappropriately often, because they just don’t have the experience adults have yet. They don’t really like to be told what to do, so sometimes they are going to protest. They are going to get upset, act out, and make mistakes. But they should be treated like any person, with respect.
At our house we focus on communication and collaborative problem solving. The fact is that if they are having a hard time doing something they may behave in an unsavory way. But there is likely a problem that’s causing their difficulties. And problems can be solved. Solve the problem and you stop the unsavory behavior from happening at all. We do this by sitting down and talking about the struggles. Then we help each other come up with a solution that meets everyone’s concerns, the parents and the children. This works the same with all ages. If a 3-year-old is throwing a tantrum, there is likely a reason why. Find the reason, eliminate the tantrum. Are they hungry or tired? Do they have a hard time going into a store because they become over stimulated? Do they find it difficult to transition from one thing to another? We have that issue at our house, so I give a 5-minute warning and set a timer that goes off when it’s time to move on to the next task. I find that when they are younger it’s also easier to do thumbs up or thumbs down to yes or no questions rather than trying to have sit down conversations.
If one of my older children are failing a class, we figure out why by asking as many questions as necessary to get to the bottom of what’s causing the problem. Maybe he doesn’t like to write and there is a lot of writing to do for this class. So, how do we solve that problem? Not with 2 weeks of being grounded. That is not likely to change the fact that he doesn’t like to write. Together, we can come up with a plan to solve the problem and make the class easier for him.
There are exceptions of course, we have our non-negotiables and we still have to handle each of our children a little differently. But since we began using this method not only have our relationships grown stronger and deeper, we are all happy more often than not. And of all the things I want for my children, their happiness is at the top of the list. It may not be the best way to parent, but it’s certainly not the worst. I cannot take credit for it either. I can only attest to the fact that it works really well. If you would like to learn more about this method, pick up a copy of The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross Greene (even if you don’t have an explosive child). Or check out livesinthebalance.org. It has done wonders for the parent-child relationships in our house. No matter what don’t forget that it’s the hardest job on the planet and there is no instruction manual. You will have bad days so cut yourself some slack, and don’t forget to celebrate the good days!