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Archive for March, 2012

“How your child (and you as their parent) fares during their adolescent years is determined by the years that [precede] the first rush of hormones. It’s at least partially predicted by those moments of pause that you have shared as they grew up…Such moments of security and ease form a well-worn groove of connection.”-Kim John Payne

I know I’m not in the adolescent stage of my parenting yet but, with my oldest daughter entering the double digit birthdays this year, Payne’s words remind me that I am already laying the foundation for how my relationships with my children might fare once we find ourselves in the teen years together.

Immediately after this passage above, quoted from his book Simplicity Parenting, Payne is quick to point out that this “well-worn groove of connection” formed through hanging out with our kids when they are young, does not necessarily make their adolescence a breeze. (Shucks, if only it were that easy!)

Our children’s developmental job during adolescence is often to push us away as they move toward greater independence as an adult. It would seem our parenting job during this time is to become like “an old shoe”, as Payne puts it.

By being a parent who commits to regularity-reading books to our children each night, eating dinners as a family, playing as a family, or exploring the outdoors together-“we become by extension, a parent kids can be with doing nothing.” In this way we prove ourselves to be regular, dependable and trustworthy. The hope is that by the time the turbulence of adolescence does arrive, our children can continue to feel comfortable doing nothing around us, particularly when their interests can become very different from our own as they grow.

Put this way, I like the idea of becoming an old shoe. I believe I have just developed a new aspiration in life. Fetch me a shoe lace, I’m preparing for the long walk of adolescence and beyond!

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A Piece of PI

At school today Ashley’s class were celebrating with each student learning and reciting the first 15 digits of PI. Afterwards they would enjoy a tasty slice of pie in honor of the day.

Unfortunately, Ashley didn’t get to attend school today. She came home from school early yesterday because she was sick. (In fact, evetyone except Caitlin was sick yesterday.) Poor Ashley even threw up on the way home from school, so no slice of pie for her today.

Ashley had been so pleased to have learned the first 21 digits, and disappointd to have missed PI Day at school. She did however record her recitation at home this morning with her Dad, who then emailed the video to her teacher. That helped a little.

I love that a little mathematics brought a big cheery smile from a sick Ashley this morning. Here’s her video.

Happy PI Day everyone!

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Each week I share my weekly menu plan with you as I find menu planning and using my menu board very helpful to me and the rest of the family during the week. Having a plan, even if it changes over the course of the week, helps keep late afternoon chaos low, maintains a well-fed crew and keeps food bills and food waste low.

I used to use to change my menu board for each meal. Now I find that if I write the list of dinners for the week on it I can glance at it quickly during the day and remember what I need to do for dinner prep. James and the girls like to look at the board to get a feel for what to expect for the week ahead (both to anticipate and steel themselves depending on whether the meal is a favorite or not!)

Note: Meals are subject to change at the chef’s discretion or whim.

Monday
Spaghetti Carbonara, Garlic Green Beans

Tuesday
Salmon a la Foil, Mashed Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts, Carrots and Corn

Wednesday
Chicken Pot Pie, Homemade Chips (Fries), Normandy Blend Vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Carrots)

Thursday
Broiled Lamb Chops, Rice, Carrots and Corn

Friday
Pan-fried Potatoes, Poached Eggs, Fruit and Veggie Smootie

(This is one of the children’s favorites. There is no school on Friday, so I want to keep the day, and the dinner, easy and enjoyable for all.)

Saturday
St. Patrick’s Day Dinner: Dublin Stew, Irish Brown Soda Bread, with Irish Apple Cake and Vanilla Ice-cream for dessert.

(Contrary to popular international belief Corned Beef and Cabbage, although a traditional dish of Ireland, is not widely eaten on Paddy’s Day in Ireland. I will make my mum’s traditional Dublin stew for our family and some friends to enjoy. I will be on the look out for reduced priced corned beef and put some in the freezer for future dinners :))

Sunday
Sunday Roast (Lamb), Sunday Veggies (Mashed and/or Roast Potatoes, Baby Peas and Brussel Sprouts.)

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“Music is as much about the spaces between the notes as it is about the notes themselves…In parenting, too, it is often in the intervals-the spaces between activities-that relationships are built.”- Kim John Payne

You may have noticed on my Reading 2012 page that I am reading Simplicity parenting by Kim John Payne. This is becoming on of my favorite parenting books. Lately I have been rereading sections that are particularly striking to me. Currently it is the chapter on the importance of rhythm in our parenting.

According to Payne, we can get a sense of how our kids are doing by observing them in the “moments of pause” between activities. However, we read reports and see in our own community that many children have very little pause between activities.

James and I try to limit the number of extracurricular activities or scheduled social get-togethers (those planned playdates). We like to have some flexibility in our schedule to just hang out after school or on the weekends, or to be able to say yes to spontaneous get-togethers with friends.

We try to have lots of down time at home and, sometimes, we hear cries of “I’m bored!” I love to remind the girls that it’s okay to be bored. We once made a Bored List with Caitlin-a list of things she came up with that she could do when feeling bored. It was a long list. Interestingly, I’ve rarely seen her consult it when she’s bored, and the couple of times I have observed her, were shortly after we made the list. I take it as a sign that she is learning to be comfortable with having nothing to do, and/or she has realized that she can figure out ways to occupy herself.

Creating down time at home for children means that we are at home. I spend a lot of time at home! Home is both where I live and where I work. Even when the kids are doing their own thing and savoring their down time, I seem to consistently have something to do around the house. I have realized that although we have created spaces in our children’s lives I need to create more space in my life.

It’s time that I built some spaces between my activities! From time to time at the end of the day, when the children are in bed, I find myself feeling sad that I didn’t get to interact with them more in a way that had nothing to do with the logistics of parenting: hang up your coat, put away your things, wash your hands, did you brush your teeth?  Sometimes I’ll remember the request to play a game or engage in some activity and my response of “not right now” or “in a little bit”. The day is usually over by the time I realize that I never did get around to playing the game or just hanging out with my children.

Yes, there are many responsibilities involved in parenting four children.

Yes, there is only a finite amount of time in each day.

Yes, I am around my children a lot and yes I do read to them and play games with them.

What I’m craving is just hanging out with them: resting on a sofa or floor as they do their thing, reading my own book as they read theirs, or taking a walk without a planned destination at the end.

I have been able to carve out some predictable thinking time in my life. Now I want to create space in my time and attention so that I can hang out with the kids without thinking about what else needs to get done.

Let’s see if I can incorporate a little of this down time for myself with the family each day over the next week.

Wish me luck! Wish me action! I will actively do nothing 🙂

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Illness delayed the posting of this week’s menu plan but not the eating. Monday and Tuesday’s dinners were delicious 🙂

Each week I share my weekly menu plan with you as I find menu planning and using my menu board very helpful to me and the rest of the family during the week. Having a plan, even if it changes over the course of the week, helps keep late afternoon chaos low, maintains a well-fed crew and keeps food bills and food waste low.

I used to use to change my menu board for each meal. Now I find that if I write the list of dinners for the week on it I can glance at it quickly during the day and remember what I need to do for dinner prep. James and the girls like to look at the board to get a feel for what to expect for the week ahead (both to anticipate and steel themselves depending on whether the meal is a favorite or not!)

Note: Meals are subject to change at the chef’s discretion or whim.

We have three pasta meals this week, but I use lots of different types of pasta when cooking Italian food so it keeps the meals interesting for all of us.

Monday
Chicken Garlic Alfredo Pasta, Broccoli

(The pasta I use varies but this time it will be Penne, as will the next two times we eat this because I am bulk cooking this meal this week.)

Tuesday
Crispy Top Cod, Homemade Chunky Chips (Fries), Brussel Sprouts and Corn

Wednesday
Chinese Feast: Orange Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken and a third dish TBD, Steamed Rice, Stir Fry Veggies

(Ashley has a project on China due Friday and we are celebrating. We had a lot of fun turning last week’s Swedish Meatball dinner into a Swedish celebration. So we are doing repeating the format with China this week.)

Thursday
Italian Meatballs, Farfalle Pasta (Bowties), Green Beans

Friday
Ham Bean Soup, Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

Saturday
Pasta with Pesto or Parmesan, Chicken Nuggets or Fish Fingers, Fruit and Veg Smoothie

(We have a number of things happening on Saturday so this seemed a simple option that the kids will enjoy. I have some shamrock pasta that I’m planning to use for fun. It’s somewhat bizarre to me using an Irish themed pasta given that I didn’t start eating Italian food until my late teens. Not a morsel of pasta was to be seen in our household when I was growing up. Same for rice actually, and look at what a world cuisine lover I have turned out to be!)

Sunday
Sunday Roast (I’m trying to decide between Beef or Chicken), Sunday Veggies (Mashed and/or Roast Potatoes, Baby Peas and Brussel Sprouts.)

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A little late, but after a week of illness at chez emperorp I’m pleased to finally post this last installment (for now!) on The Art of Loving.

“To have an idea of what patience is one need only watch a child learning to walk. It falls, it falls again, and falls again, and yet it goes on trying, improving until one day it walks without falling. What would the grown-up person achieve if he had the child’s patience and its concentration in the pursuits that are important to him!” – Erich Fromm

For Fromm patience would seem to be inextricably linked to the development of concentration, which is fully in the present, in the here and now, not thinking of the next thing to be done while in the middle of doing something right now. Patience is an absolute necessity for this level of concentration to occur.

When I last wrote about Concentration and the Art of Loving I touched on how our industrial system, and with it the ongoing development of machines and technology, impacts our human values by fostering the belief that quickness is important in daily life: getting something done quickly or getting where we need to go quickly so that we can move on to the next thing in life. Not only does this way of living make it difficult to concentrate fully on present moment, Fromm goes so far as to point out that this mode of living is completely opposite to the fostering of patience, and concentration in life, and in theory, is therefore opposite to the ability to love. We cannot act lovingly toward someone if we cannot concentrate on them in the present moment.

Yikes! So where does that leave us if we wish to master the Art of Loving in our lives. Well, delving into Fromm, it would seem that the ability to truly love in our society is not impossible but complicated to bring to action. It requires understanding the fundamental difference between love and fairness and their place in capitalist society (okay, I promise this is going to be understandable!).

Fromm sees capitalist societies as incompatible with the ability to love. I need to condense this next part in a very simplistic manner. The art of loving requires we develop a loving attitude and engage actively in loving actions in society. If we are to truly love we must bring a loving attitude into our relationship with everybody, not just our family and friends (a core teaching in both Christianity and Buddhism). However, and as Fromm states, “while a great deal of lip service is paid to the religious ideal of love of one’s neighbor, our relations are actually determined, at their best, by the principal of fairness. Fairness meaning not to use fraud or trickery in the exchange of commodities and services and in the exchange of feelings. ‘I give you as much as you give me,’ in material goods as well as in love, is the prevalent ethical maxim in capitalist society.”

The religious ideal of brotherly love is very different from this fairness ethic. To love your neighbor is to feel responsible for and one with your neighbor. The fairness ethic means not to be responsible for the other person, but to be separate. It means to respect the rights of your neighbor but not necessarily to love them. Truly practicing the art of loving requires that we understand the difference between fairness and love.

So, Fromm is convinced that the principle of  love and principle of ‘normal’ life in a capitalist society are incompatible in the abstract sense. He leaves room for hope by pointing out that in practice modern society is a complex phenomenon. He sees capitalism in itself as a complex and constantly changing structure which still permits a good deal of non-conformity and of personal latitude.

While he allows some room for hope he is, perhaps disappointingly for some, very clear that there is no prescription to how to master the art of loving. There are only requirements: discipline, concentration and patience.

Given that I am very interested in how to engage in action that will develop these requirements, I can use some of Fromm’s work as a springboard and look to others who have focused on these areas. Remember, Fromm was writing on this subject in the 1950s and while modern capitalist society still functions on the fairness principal, many people have been actively involved in how to develop the art of loving in the west.

This will be  the direction of some future posts, and will no doubt involve the work of, amongst others,  the Dalai Lama, whose writings and teachings I have studied on and off for the last decade. There is also a lot more to be gained from Fromm’s writing on concentration and where we can look to for role models in society. I also want to pursue the thought that the ability to love requires some level of non-conformity to the capitalist society in which we live. Oooooh, lots of musings ahead!

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