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January 2008

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SNOW DAY ACTIVITIES

            Last week I sung the praises of Snow Days. And although “doin’ nuttin” can be great fun, if you’re looking for some suggestions to “while away the hours, cuz you can’t converse with flowers” here’s a few. Have fun!

 

Outside Activities:

            So, it’s a snow day, and as the name implies, you probably woke up in the morning to abundant snow accumulation. Unless you’re in the middle of a blizzard and fear losing sight of the house, wrap up warm, and get outside and enjoy nature’s frosting!

 

1.      I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest the traditional snow activities like snowball fights, sledding, and building the ubiquitous snowman. Mundane, perhaps, but there’s a reason these activities have remained staples over the years…they’re great fun! For something a little different, try dressing your snowman in different attire. If you’re craving the summer, how’s ‘bout a straw hat, lei, and Hawaiian shirt? Or, instead of a snow man, what about a snow lady, a snow dog, a snow sheep, or get silly and create a snow alien?

 

2.      Trouble getting the little ones dressed to go outside? Try playing “The Hokey Pokey” while getting dressed. (i.e. While putting on snow pants, “Put your right leg in, take your right leg out, put your right leg in, and shake it all about…”) Continue with the left leg and the rest of their outdoor gear. Sure, it might take a little longer, but heck, it’s a snow day. What’s the rush?

 

3.      Play “Follow the Leader”. One person sets out and makes tracks in the virgin snow. Everyone else must try to stay in the same steps. Mix up “baby steps” with “giant steps”. Throw in a few jumps, and for those not faint of heart, roll or tumble. Take turns being leader.

 

4.      Ok, as a female, I must admit I’m jealous of the ability of males to “write their name” in the snow. I’ve personally never seen it done, but I’ve yet to speak to a man who hasn’t claimed to have done it…at least once. As an alternative…make a gallon of Kool-Aid, without sugar, or tint water with food coloring, then pour into a squirt bottle, and head out-of-doors to practice your penmanship! A variation is to make several different colors, pour into spray bottles, and go outside and decorate a snow mound! Try not to get carried away or your yard will look like a scene out of Dr. Seuss!

 

5.      This activity takes a bit of fore thought, but well worth it to add a bit of magic to any snow day. Save the white plastic containers frosting comes in. Collect small “dollar store” toys that can fit into the containers. Using permanent markers, have children decorate the outside of the containers. (If you have more than one child, have them decorate a container for a sibling.) Make sure to include the recipient’s name on the outside of the container. The children pick a gift to tuck in the container. Taking turns, play pirate, and go outside and bury your “treasure” in the snow. (Eye patches and pirate hats would add to the fun!) Then, when they are near forgotten, and the inevitable spring thaw comes, the children can look forward to hunting for buried treasures in the defrosting yard! Nice consolation gift for saying goodbye to the snow! 

 

Inside Activities:

            Okay, you’ve stayed outside so long you’re experiencing snow blindness, or the unthinkable, the weather is too unfriendly to get outside in the first place, and you find yourself indoors. There are always the “tried and trues” like watching an old movie, staying in your pajamas all day, doing a super gigantic jigsaw puzzle or curling up with a good book. If you’re looking for something a little more energized, try one of the following activities.

 

1.      If you’re stuck indoors, there’s no reason not to create some of the winter beauty indoors. Make some paper snowflakes and hang them up around the house. Remember, snowflakes have six sides, not eight, so if you’re shooting for a bit of “realism”, fold your paper in sixths, not eighths! Try these websites for some great suggestions. The first shows you how to make a standard snow flake…great for kids who can handle scissors. The second site is for older kids and adults, and gives great instructions for making beautiful 3-D snowflakes!

 

             http://highhopes.com/snowflakes.html

             http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-3D-Paper-Snowflake

 

2.      If you haven’t done so already, read The Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which gives a wonderful child’s perceptive of growing up in a family experiencing the westward expansion. I didn’t read these books as a child, but spent many delightful days reading them out loud with my daughter when she was in second grade. The Long Winter and The Little House in the Big Woods are especially appropriate books to read in the winter. In one of the books a recipe is given for Molasses-on-Snow Candy. If you’re feeling adventures, try this recipe with your children. (The obvious warning…the cooking syrup is extremely hot…although the children can initially help assemble the ingredients, the cooking and pouring should be reserved for adults.) Excerpt from The Little House in the Big Woods:

 

Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas.

 

One morning she boiled molasses and sugar together until they made a thick syrup, and Pa brought in two pans of clean, white snow from outdoors. Laura and Mary each had a pan, and Pa and Ma showed them how to pour the dark syrup in little streams onto the snow.

 

They made circles, and curlicues, and squiggly things, and these hardened at once and were candy. Laura and Mary might eat one piece each, but the rest was saved for Christmas Day

 

MOLASSES-ON-SNOW-CANDY

1 cup dark molasses

1 cup brown sugar

4 9-inch pie pans

                       

Fill the 4 pie pans with clean fresh snow. Leave outside until you are ready to use.            

 

Mix molasses and brown sugar in a large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Boil (mixing frequently to prevent burning) until temperature reaches 305 degrees. Pour the mixture into a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup and drizzle in prepared snow pans. When the candy hardens, break into pieces and enjoy!

 

3.      If you want to muck about in the kitchen but not sure you want to tackle something as grand as Molasses-On-Snow-Candy, try one of these “snowball” cookies!

 

SNOWBALL ICEBOX COOKIES

1/2 c. butter

1/2 c. milk

1 1/2 c. sugar

3 c. rolled oats

1/2 c. coconut

4 tbsp. cocoa

 

Add butter, milk and sugar together. Boil in saucepan. Remove from heat. Then add rolled oats and cocoa to the heated mixture. Form 1 1/2 inch balls and roll them in coconut. Place in refrigerator.

 

Or

 

SNOWBALL COOKIES (RUSSIAN TEACAKES)

1 c. butter

1 t. vanilla

2 1/4 c. flour

3/4 c. finely chopped nuts

1/2 c. confectioners sugar

1/4 t. salt

 

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla thoroughly. Stir flour and salt together; blend in. Mix in nuts. Chill dough.

 

Roll dough in 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet. (Cookies do not spread) Bake 10-12 minutes in a 400 oven or until set but not brown. While still warm, roll in confectioner's sugar. Cool. Roll in sugar again.

 

4.      Spend some time on-line trying to track down old friends you’ve lost contact with. It’s amazing how many people you’ll turn up on Google.com, FaceBook.com and MySpace.com.

 

5.      Finally, no matter how wonderful your day, you may well find your “relaxing day” really wore you out. After the children have toddled off to bed, treat yourself to a nice warm cup of “Friendship Tea” or if you feel your day has warranted a decadent and yummy libation, try a steaming mug of Hot Buttered Rum!

 

FRIENDSHIP TEA

1/2 c. Instant tea

3/4 c. Presweetened citrus flavored powdered drink like Tang or Kool-Aid

1 c. Sugar

1/2 t. ground cloves

1 t. cinnamon

 

Mix and store in an airtight container. For each cup of tea mix 3 heaping teaspoons into 8 ounces of boiling water.

 

HOT BUTTERED RUM

3/4 cup Boiling Water

1/4 cup Spiced or plain rum

1/4 cup Brown Sugar

2 teaspoons butter

Nutmeg (optional)

1 Clove

1 Cinnamon stick to stir

 

Boil the water and pour it into a mug. Mix in the rum and brown sugar. Add the butter, stirring until the drink is a golden brown in color and butter is melted. Add the clove and cinnamon stick, then, if desired lightly sprinkle with nutmeg.

Hope you have a lifetime of wonderful snow days! Have something special you like to do? Please share it with us…and stay warm!

SNOW DAYS

            It’s funny, but after your children have grown and left home…I use the term “left home” loosely here…it’s amazing the things you find you miss. Like, say, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sure, I could make myself a pb&j anytime, but I don’t…it just wouldn’t taste the same. Or cartoons. When I was a kid we watched Popeye the Sailorman, Alvin and the Chipmunks, (if you’re old enough, do you remember Clyde Crashcup?) and Rocky and Bullwinkle. My children and I watched Scooby Doo, Ducktails, The Smurfs and Rescue Rangers. Long before they could tell time, we used the Scooby Doo time standard…

 

Child: Are we almost to Nanas?

Me: Yep…just two more Scooby Doos.

 

They didn’t understand “an hour”, but they could understand the duration of 2 Scooby Doos! Through sheer commercialization of Sponge Bob Square Pants and Dora the Explorer I’m aware of their existence, but I’m clueless as to the shows’ content and totally unaware of other pop culture cartoons. (Hmmm…maybe from now on, instead of

a lovely leisurely breakfast at our favorite diner on Saturday mornings, Tim and I should curl up on the couch, with bowls of Coco Puffs and Trix and watch cartoons…or not!) Also, while looking out my window this morning, at the snow covered panorama, I find I sorely miss Snow Days! 

 

            The words “Snow Day” can catapult a child into sheer euphoria. Sadly, it’s been quite a while since I’ve had to concern myself with snow days, either in the role of parent or teacher, or transcending time...as a child. I’m not talking about “snowy days”, but rather those magical days all school aged children dream of when it’s announced that school is closed due to snow. (BTW…this may come as a surprise to students who think their teachers live by a modified postman’s motto of “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can keep a teacher from her classroom” to learn that their teachers are equally excited…if not more so…to be given a snow day!) Now, if you’re from the south, you may never have heard those words as you were growing up…but I’m sure there are other weather conditions, like ice and fog, that close schools and give children, what can only be described as “A gift from God!”

 

            Throughout the winter months, school aged children are ever vigilant of the weather. The first few snowflakes begin an optimistic anticipation for “serious accumulation”. All children become apprentice meteorologists. They stick their tongues out and assess the relative weight of the flakes, they turn their faces to the wind and try to discern velocity, and they note the time of day the snow begins. The most promising weather conditions are heavy flakes and a stiff westerly wind commencing in the late afternoon/early evening. (Snow too early in the day gives the road crews too much time to clear the roads, thus jeopardizing the need for school closings!)

 

            I can remember as children, my brothers and I would assess the snowfall as night approached. Before going to bed we’d watch the weather for accumulation predictions. And throughout the night we’d listen for the unwelcomed scraping sound of snow plows. But when the gods were smiling, and the planets were aligned, upon awakening we’d discover your town was blanketed by a downy comforter of snow! Oh the joy, oh the rapture, oh the awesome power of Nature humbled us! Most parents assume children will sleep in on snow days…but to a child that would be like sleeping in on Christmas morning. The day looms before you with boundless possibilities and as a child you have no intention of wasting a single minute of it!

 

            I found as a mother, I looked forward to Snow Days with almost as much enthusiasm as when I was a child. I loved the change of pace, the unexpected time to spend with my children, and the carnival like atmosphere that filled the air. Time was as frozen as the outdoor landscape! On Snow Days Nature gives you permission to play hooky, to indulge in frivolous pursuits, and to a guilt free “slow down”. It’s bloody Brigadoon! As a child it didn’t really matter what you did that day, the point was you were not in school, and no one had any expectations of you. Snow Days equaled total freedom! 

 

            Today it’s snowing…hard. They are predicting “serious accumulation”. The pine trees that surround my yard are already laden with enough snow to make their branches dip. The birds are lining up at the multiple feeders in nearby trees, which may require refilling before the day is done. And my three dogs’ paw prints are erased minutes after they return indoors. I’m tempted to step outside to tongue weigh a flake! It is a beautiful day, but despite the Norman Rockwell scene, there is something missing…and that is anticipation…anticipation of a Snow Day! If the snow continues like this throughout the day, schools may well be closed tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’ll miss out on the excitement that results from being given a Snow Day. Guess I’ll sit back with a cup of coffee and just enjoy a glorious Snowy Day!

 

Hmmm…I wonder if my grandson’s preschool will be closed tomorrow…

 

Okay, so you’re given this “gift” of a free day, but what are some great Snow Day activities? Read next week's blog!


THE INVISIBLE LOCKET

            Think back to your first kiss…your very first kiss from a potential suitor. (We’re not talking about Mommy or Daddy tuck-in kisses here!) Perhaps it was a stolen kiss on the playground, which you promptly wiped off with the back of your hand, or it was that long awaited first kiss, clumsily planted on your brace laden mouth at your first dance. Although the quality of the kiss varies, most of us remember it, and remember it well.

 

            Mine came at the ripe age of 8. His name was Dennis. He was my brother’s best friend. Cute, brush cut, always got in trouble at school, even “flunked” a grade…my first bad boy! Anyway, I was madly in love with him. One day I was in his backyard playing with his sister. She was 4 years older than me, but would hang out with the younger kids if we let her play “Beauty Shop”. She had just gone into the house to get her supplies, and I was sitting on the picnic table awaiting her return. Enter Dennis…

 

Dennis: I just beat Keith at Buster Brown, and he said I could kiss you.

 

(Background…First, Keith was my older brother, and second, Buster Brown was a game played on a teeter-totter. The object was to get the other person up in the air so they couldn’t get down. When that happened, the suspended party chanted, “Buster Brown, let me down.” And the weightier participant responded, “What will you give me for me crown?” It was then the responsibility of the gravity impaired contestant to offer something suitable in exchange for his return to earth. Obviously, that day my brother the pimp, offered me!)  

 

Me: He can’t give away my kisses. They’re mine, and I’m not giving you one!

Dennis: “Well, then I’ll just take one!”

 

At this point he wrestled me to the ground, pinned my arms, and while looking directly in the eyes…

 

Dennis: Now I’m going to kiss you.

 

He kissed me long and tenderly. Even at 8 years old I knew it was an incredible kiss. He rolled off me. I lay there, staring up at the clouds, my head whirling, and holding onto the grass so I wouldn’t fall off the earth! He started to run out of the yard.

 

Me: Wait! Where are you going?

Dennis: Back to the park to get another kiss!

 

            After all these years I remember that kiss, (today I'm afraid he would have been labeled a sexual offender!) but more importantly, I remember what it felt like to be “in love” at 8 years old. In the eyes of adults, childhood love is often reduced to trivial proportions, warranting nothing more than amused smirks and good natured teasing. When a child’s heart is broken, consolation often comes in the form of trite platitudes…


“It’s only puppy love.”

“You’ll get over it soon.”

“You didn’t really love him, it was just a crush.”

 

            I will go on record of saying I think the most important secret to effective parenting is to truly remember how you felt while growing up. Love at 8, 12, or 16 is every bit as real, and inarguably purer, than love experienced at 23 or 46! Age is not a justifier of intense emotional conditions. And if, as a parent, you truly wish to communicate with your child then validate their feelings, and REMEMBER what would have helped you.

 

            I remember one New Year’s Eve, when my youngest was around 11 years old. He was going to a “lock-in” at our community’s roller rink. A few weeks before that, he had met a girl while skating. She was from a different school, so they would meet at the roller rink, skate together and began talking on the phone. She became his girlfriend. He had bought her a Christmas gift, and New Year’s Eve was his first opportunity to give it to her. He had put a great deal of thought, and allowance, into the gift. The emerging romantic had purchased a necklace and teddy bear. He placed the necklace around the teddy bear’s neck, put a bow on it, and set off from home with a gift that would have melted the heart of any grown woman!

 

            We dropped him off at 11:00 p.m. with plans to pick him up at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. At 11:45 we got a call from my son asking to be picked up. His father and I went to collect him, and when I saw him, I knew something was very wrong. “Let’s walk”, I suggested. It was snowing heavily, but the two of us trudged through the mostly abandoned parking lot. His father followed along behind us in the car, shining his headlights on the path we were forging. After a while of walking in silence he told me that his girlfriend broke up with him…after he had given her his gift. He looked to me for explanations. Why had she broken up with him? Why did she call just hours before to make sure he’d be at the party? Why did she except the gift if she was going to break up with him? And why were her and her friends so mean to him after she did? I couldn’t give him the answers he was seeking. All I could do was feel his pain. We walked for half an hour. I held unto the invisible locket that hung from my neck, holding the pictures of Dennis and every other boy I had ever loved. I told him I was sorry he was hurting. I told him I’ve been hurt like that before. And I told him I didn’t know why she behaved like she did. I didn’t tell him that he’d get over this soon, or that he’d find a new girlfriend, or that this was the first of many heartbreaks. (BTW…I also did not share the word that I hence forth attached to the memory of this girl!)

 

            Of course, he did get over it soon, but the point being, at the time, his feelings deserved to be validated. His pain was real, as was his affection for the girl. Over the years I would have many of these types of discussions with my children. At other times, they choose to keep their emotions tucked away, and my job was to give them room to decide on their own course of action, and to honor their privacy. Raising children is an opportunity to relive our own lives; to revisit the wondrous, and sometimes painful, experiences that help mold our adult form. Stay in touch with your own childhood…it will help you be a more successful parent!

 

What pictures do you keep in your invisible locket? Remember to wear it and open it often!


VEGETABLE BEEF SOUP WITH DUMPLINGS

            Back in the mid 80s my big brother was working on his Ph.D. at Cornell University in Ithica, New York. Being young and reckless, hmmm, more like young and abounding with ample energy, we often made the 8 hour car trip to visit him and his family. On a Friday afternoon, we’d strap the little ones into car seats, and head east. It was nothing for us to roll into town at 1 a.m. then turn around again on Sunday afternoon and head back. Although the trip itself was exhausting, my children were good travelers, and we always had a wonderful time, justifying the whirlwind trip.

 

            My favorite time of year to make the trek was in the fall. Sure, you’re thinking, the autumn foliage must have been stunning. While that was true, the thing I looked forward to the most was the fields of cabbage. (I know, at this point you’re thinking I need to get out more!) But, growing up in the Midwest, I was use to viewing miles of tall corn stalks or the over crowded soybean fields. I’m not sure why, but surveying the rolling hills of rural New York, dotted with uniform rows of anemic green spheres fascinated me. Plus, as an added bonus, the roadsides were littered with wagons, piled high with cabbages. In what I considered the epitome of human virtue, little wooden boxes were attached to each wagon, and you could jump out of your car, select a basketball sized cabbage, and purchase it by stuffing a measly dollar bill into the box. The trust in human nature captivated me. Why, anyone could pull up and make off with a cabbage or two and not pay! Later in life, when I was older, and probably more pragmatic, it would occur to me that cabbage theft probably wasn’t a huge problem. I’m willing to bet there was never an APB alerting local law enforcement personal to be on the lookout for an individual absconding with a “hot” head of cabbage! But at the time, I loved the quaintness of purchasing cabbages in this manner, and would always buy 2, one for us, and one to leave with my brother’s family.

 

            Now, my brother’s family lived in married housing, which, at a world renowned university like Cornell, was like setting up housekeeping at the United Nations! Coming from a cloistered Midwest community, the exposure to diverse ethnicities was enthralling. The most notable time to observe global diversity was dinner. With cinder block apartments, and almost no ventilation, resourceful cooks prepared homeland dinners, leaving their kitchen windows open a bit to allow steam and heat to escape. Wander up and down the sidewalk at six o’clock and your nose was accosted by pungent aromas. Curry and cumin, basil and oregano, cinnamon and nutmeg…each bouquet tantalizing and intriguing, and it took a great deal of self restraint not to barge into each apartment, demanding “just a taste, please!” As for my sister-in-law, she prepared many typical American dishes but as their three year tenure progressed, she was exposed to many interesting entrees shared by her neighbors, and privy to many ethnic nuances. For example, one of their friends from Sudan, besides making the strongest cup of espresso I’ve ever had in my entire life, put cinnamon in many of his dishes…including hamburgers! (Try it sometimes…half a teaspoon of cinnamon in a pound of ground beef adds an interesting and delicious twist to this American classic!)

 

            As I mentioned earlier, my favorite time of year to visit them was in the fall. Besides the cabbage patch appeal, one of the dinners that often awaited us was Vegetable Beef Soup with Dumplings. This was a common dish prepared by my sister-in-law’s mother, and became a favorite with her family. After tasting it for the first time, it became a favorite with ours, too. Since then, nothing in our family signals the arrival of fall like the first bowl of Vegetable Beef Soup. We over crowd the pot with dumplings, bake up a fresh pan of corn bread, and reach culinary nirvana. I hope this was a recipe that she shared with her multi-cultured friends, because I’ve yet to serve it to anyone who did not thoroughly enjoy it! Although I never received the “official” recipe from my sister-in-law, this is the facsimile I’ve made throughout the years and has become a family standard. Not only is it a fall favorite, but it helps us get through our long, snowy winter days!

 

VEGETABLE BEEF SOUP WITH DUMPLINGS

 

Ingredients

Soup:

1 28 ounce can sliced stewed tomatoes, plus 1 can water

1 28 ounce can tomato sauce, plus 2 cans water

4 - 6 beef bouillon cubes

4 bay leaves

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoons oregano

1 medium onion

4 - 8 stalks celery, chopped

8 - 12 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 package frozen vegetables (mixed vegetables work well)

1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil

2 pounds cubed beef (stew quality)

1 beef bone (optional, but adds a lot of flavor)

 

Dumplings: we like lots but you can easily cut this recipe in half!

1 dozen eggs

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Flour - use enough (cups) to make into lumpy play dough

 

Directions

Soup:

Heat the oil in a large stock pot. Brown the meat, onions and celery. Add stewed tomatoes, sauce and the water. Bring to boil. Lower the heat to medium low. Add additional ingredients. Cook for 3 – 4 hours.

 

Dumplings:

Break eggs into a bowl and mix with a fork to break yolks. Add seasonings. Add flour, a little at a time, and mix. Continue added flour until the dough sticks together and looks like sticky play dough.

 

Bring soup to a boil, being careful not to burn. Drop heaping teaspoons full of dumpling mixture into soup. Stagger where you drop them so they do not stick together. After all the dumplings have been put in, lower temp back down to medium and continue cooking, with top off, until dumplings are cooked all the way through...probably about ten minutes. Watch the soup and mix from the bottom to prevent burning. Test a large dumpling to make sure it is thoroughly cooked.

 

BTW…in an effort to tie together my whole story…the problem with buying a cabbage the size of a small planet is coming up with ways to use it! Besides the obvious corned beef and cabbage, cabbage makes a wonderful addition to many soups. If you’re looking for a low calorie version of our Vegetable Beef Soup with Dumplings, omit the dumplings (blasphemy to my children!) and add 2 – 4 cups of chopped cabbage. It’s wonderful!

 

Do you have a favorite soup recipe? Please share it. Soups are a mainstay in our family, and we’re always on the lookout for our next favorite one!


NEW YEAR’S RESTITUTIONS

            Ah, the New Year is upon us and the self-improvement industry is staffing up to accommodate the onslaught of the well-intentioned masses. We are all encouraged to become introspective and to scrutinize our lives and to resolve to “improve” over the coming year. I’m not here to dis the tradition, but rather to applaud it. Heck, who couldn’t benefit from a little personal housekeeping, HOWEVER, what I would like to do is question the yardstick we are using to measure ourselves.

 

            Let’s start by traveling back in time, maybe a couple of years, maybe, in my case, 30 something years, to high school. For some, it was a wonderful experience surrounded by many friends, stockpiling beaucoup memories to recount over the years, and transcending the acme of personal accomplishments. For many, however, it wasn’t a utopian society. It was a time of uncertainty and self doubt. If you weren’t a part of the “in” crowd, you aspired to be, or at the very least, tried to stay below the radar, hoping to avoid persecution and social faux pas. You looked forward to the day when your happiness wasn’t so grievously impacted by a handful of people with the power to elate with a compliment or crush with an insult. You clamored for the “real world” where your every move wasn’t scrutinized by self appointed deities! But, once in the real world you discovered a whole new clique coercing you to adhere to standards being set for you and you found yourself feeling like an awkward teenager, just trying to fit in!

 

            The new “in crowd” is the omnipresent media, telling you to be a size 4, to live in a multimillion dollar home, and to have aspirations of being the CEO of your own company. Compared to this perceived standard, how can any of us feel accomplished? Having all the laundry done and put away seems rather trite compared to a dream home makeover. Beating your 4 year old at Candyland is not on par with orchestrating a hostile takeover of a failing bank. Being able to zip up your pre-preggo jeans (we’ll ignore the extraneous flesh overhanging the waistband for the minute!) won’t get you on the cover of Glamour. Still, to the average person, these SHOULD fill us with pride and a sense of self accomplishment and worth. News worthy, no, financially rewarding, hardly, valuable, most definitely!

 

            So, with a pensive appraisal of last year, and a hopefully optimistic glance at the coming one, shun the values set by others, and establish your own set of standards worth pursuing. Is there a waning friendship worth rekindling? Has your life lost all spontaneity? As crazy as it may sound, sometimes you have to PLAN free time so spontaneous activities can occur! If you’re gainfully employed, is your career complimenting your personal life or subverting it? What can you do to better align them? Do you and your spouse need more, uh, how about SOME, alone time? Is your lifestyle, including diet, exercise and stress levels, helping you to live life to its fullest? Are mornings always stressful in your house? How can you make them more serene?

 

Interjecting an apropos anecdote…back when my children were 8, 6 and 3, I drove them to school every day. Mornings in our house were comparable to releasing a pig in Grand Central Station! Chaos ensued, with wild searches for misplaced backpacks, gobbled down breakfasts, and frequent tears of frustration (usually mine!) as we scurried into the minivan. A rushed kiss at school and a vow to improve tomorrow; an intolerable routine was established. On one particularly frenzied morning my six year old made no discernable forward progress. Finally, with just enough time left to get to school on time…

 

Mom: “Get in the car.”

Son: “But, Mom.”

Mom: “No, But Moms, just get in the car!”

Son: “But, Mom.”

Mom: “What did I just say? Get in the car!”

Son: “BUT, MOM.”

Mom: “GET IN THE CAR, NOW!!!”

 

We drove to school in silence. The roads were slush covered, and with pounding temples, and an annoying twitch under my left eye, I navigated the 2.3 miles to the school. My daughter gave me a quick peck on the cheek before leaving, but my six year old remained affixed to his seat, unwilling to leave.

 

Mom: “Will you PLEASE give me a kiss and go to school?”

Son: “Mommy, I can’t. I don’t have any shoes.”

 

In our morning rush he had been unable to find his shoes, AND, most importantly, I had not given him a chance to tell me. I realized, as he sat there with a single tear traversing his cheek, that this was not his fault, but rather mine. I was the project manager of mornings, and I was failing terribly. (Or, should that be failing marvelously? Hmmm, not sure!) Anyway, I leaned over, kissed him on the forehead, and told him I was sorry. We drove back home, and I made us both a cup of hot chocolate, which we drank leisurely. We found his shoes, drove back to school, and I walked him into his classroom. When I got home, I rethought our mornings and came up with a plan. From then on I made sure we had all the “school stuff” together the night before. We started getting up half an hour earlier, and I had breakfast prepared before waking up the children. Just making these small changes completely changed the tone of our mornings and set the mood for the rest of day.

 

            This year, instead of making a bunch of doomed resolutions that are established by external media deities, perhaps it’s time to make some New Year’s restitutions. Are there personal or family values that have been diluted and corrupted over the past year? Are there relationships or kitchen cabinets that need revamping? Decide what is really important to you and your family and resolve to see them through to fruition. (These needn’t be huge changes either. Just a wee bit of tweaking of our mornings went a long way to changing the quality of our day!) Just remember, there isn’t just one “life race” with mandatory participation. You are judge and jury of your life’s trial. With those odds in your favor, how can you lose?

 

 When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, think small! Please share a change that you would like to make that would positively impact your family!