Celebrating Valentine’s Day, Family Style

Valentines heart shapes in red and pink glued like balloons on a red background

It’s February and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.  While many of us think of Valentine’s Day as a time to celebrate our romantic relationships, it doesn’t have to be just for grownups.  Celebrate Valentine’s Day family-style and share the spirit of love and affection with your kids this Valentine’s Day with these ideas for including the whole family in Valentine’s Day festivities.

Set the Mood

Decorate! Invite the kids to help you create paper hearts and chains to hang on walls and in windows. Make Valentine-themed placemats.  If you’re feeling adventurous, feature a Valentine tree where your Christmas tree sat! 

Your family can even put small gifts from the heart underneath to help create a sense of wonder and anticipation. Gifts can include small treats and useful items, or consider including handmade gift certificates. “Read aloud time”, “Walk the dog”, or “Help in the kitchen” are all great ways to model selfless giving.

Love of Food

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like special foods! Have a heart-filled menu for the day. 

The tools to make valentine cookies are gathered together, flour in a red ramkin, eggs in an egg carton, two heart shaped cookie cutters and a rolling pin.

Break out the heart-shaped cookie cutters and heart-shaped muffin pans and have some fun! Serve waffles, pancakes, toast, and sweet muffins in heart shapes along with a side of sliced strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.

For a gluten-free start to the day, use heart-shaped cookie or biscuit cutters in a shallow frying pan to create heart-shaped eggs.  Or blend up a red breakfast smoothie made with beets.

If you’re packing lunches, Your cookie cutters come in handy to create heart-shaped sandwiches or pieces of cheese.  Serve them alongside red fruits or bowls of their favorite soup. Include a special Valentine card to make them smile.

Pull out all the stops for a romantic Valentine’s Day family dinner. Light candles or turn off overhead lights and use lamps. Put out fresh flowers and play soft music.  During dinner invite each family member to tell something they love about the others. Ask questions and really listen to the feelings beneath the answers. Finish the sharing with a funny story to lighten the mood.

Make the grand finale special by including chocolate or another favorite flavor in the form of brownies, cookies, or even ice cream. The kids can help create the menu and help you bake or assemble the goodies.)

Love of Play

Nothing says family like spending fun time together. Gather up the electronics, turn off the screens, and enjoy some good old-fashioned family fun this Valentine’s Day.

Break out the craft supplies and create Valentine cards. The Victorian era was the high point of exchanging Valentine’s cards. Print out some frilly Victorian images to cut and paste onto construction paper. Add ribbons and lace plus a warm sentiment or verse of poetry. (You can even exchange the cards at dinner.)

Take the family out for the evening.  Head to a movie, a family adventure center, or even the animal shelter to love on the puppies and kittens. Enjoy your time together by choosing something you all love to do together.   

adult and child hands holding red heart on aqua background,

Love of Family

Spend some time looking through photo albums and invite questions about the pictures you see together.  Use the opportunity to tell stories of loved ones and past adventures to help your kids feel like a part of your extended family.  The tale of the time Great-Uncle Paul got to ride an elephant will spark lively conversations and ignite wonder in your kids’ imaginations.

Another way to show love of family is to exchange chores for the day. Each family member takes over one chore from another, and dad or mom can help younger kids complete a grown-up chore for the other parent. Kids feel a special sense of pride when they’ve done something for someone else. Use dinner time to announce the chore and gratitude for the other person’s efforts.

Love of Life

End your family Valentine’s Day with a book about love from the library and a cuddle on the couch.  Reading together, sharing thoughts, and being grateful for the day of love and family can make a perfect ending to your family Valentine’s Day celebrations.  

Let this Valentine’s Day be a time of love, giving, and reflection. Fun foods, celebrating together, and sharing thoughts can build a sense of connection and unity.   A little planning can make this the very best Season of Love ever.

What are your family celebration plans for this Valentine’s Day?

 

Lynne Brown is a freelance writer, former Montessori teacher, and mom to seven amazing kids, some of whom now have kids of their own.  You can learn more about her at www.lynnebrownwriting.com.

Family Traditions Build Strong Families

Traditions are an important part of family culture.  The things we do together routinely, over and over, become our family’s traditions and define our family’s unique family culture.  Family traditions can be big (the Thanksgiving meal or family reunions) and traditions can be small (saying grace before dinner or sharing a hug when parting).  

Big or small, family traditions help define a family’s culture and help strengthen families in a number of important ways.  

What is a tradition?

What do we mean when we say ‘tradition’? Webster’s dictionary defines ‘tradition’ as “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (such as a religious practice or a social custom).”  

Simply put, a tradition is something that is done the same way over time.  The holidays we celebrate and the way we celebrate them are often traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation.

Following traditions that have been passed down from previous generations contributes to a family’s unique family culture.

What is ‘family culture’?

Culture is the way a group of people collectively thinks, feels and acts. We often think of countries, or regions of a country, as having a culture that is unique and different from the country or region next door.  

But families also have a culture, whether they intentionally set out to create one or not.  The things you do as a family, the values you hold and demonstrate to your children by your actions, and the daily, weekly, or annual rituals of family members all form a family culture that is unique to your family.

Why are traditions important?

Those habits we form together in a family can provide each family member with connection, comfort, and the security of being part of a like-minded group.  Shared activities strengthen the connections between family members and provide a source of identity and feeling of belonging.  

Traditions, and family culture, are also a way to pass along the values you hold dear to your children.  

When we form family traditions, we create opportunities to build connections within our family.  The things we do together regularly as a family- daily, weekly, or even annually – give children a sense of belonging.  

Daily traditions are small things you do each day to reinforce your family values and connection.  A high-five as kids leave for the school bus. Or the commitment to sit and eat a meal together around the dinner table.  

Weekly traditions can also be small activities you do together as a group to build strong, supportive relationships. Family game night on the weekend. Attending religious services together each week.

Life Change traditions celebrate family milestones – the beginning and end of a school year, birthdays, graduations, and weddings. 

For more on the importance of family traditions – and how to create them – check out Creating a Positive Family Culture.  

 

In our family, we have a simple birthday tradition that involves hanging streamers from the chandelier over the dining room table.  The streamers are hung after the birthday person has gone to bed the night before their birthday. The next morning the whole family is part of birthday excitement, seeing the table festooned with birthday streamers. The streamers stay up all day, and sometimes beyond the day if I forget to take them down!

Another family tradition at our house is the advent wreath in the center of the dining room table right after Thanksgiving each year.  Each Sunday in Advent, we read from a script that we brought home from church in 1984. It’s looking pretty tattered at this point, but it’s a family tradition we all cherish.  

One of our more recently implemented family traditions was started by my 17-year-old, who a few years back began baking massive amounts of cookies throughout the month of December.  By Christmas, we have platters of cookies, in an assortment of epic proportions. 

This goes to show that family traditions, while enduring and often passed down generation to generation, can also be begun, or even stopped, at any time.  

Family traditions can also be implemented at any time.  And can begin spontaneously. Our streamer tradition started that way.  The first time I hung them, it wasn’t in a conscious effort to start a tradition. But when the next birthday rolled around, someone asked where the streamers were.  And a tradition was born.

What family traditions define your family’s culture?  

Family traditions work together with a family’s values and norms to form a family’s culture.  They provide family members with a healthy sense of belonging, security, and connection – contributing to everyone’s well-being and healthy emotional development.

 

 

 

Holiday Stressbusters: 10 Tips for Reducing Stress

As we wind up for the holidays and anticipate a break from the school routine, here are 10 Quick Stressbusters, scientifically proven to help your body fight the chemical overload caused by stress and anxiety.

1. Belly Breaths

Get into a comfortable, relaxed sitting or standing position.  Put one hand on your belly, just below your ribs. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, allowing your belly to push your hand outward.  It sometimes helps to count slowly to 3 as you inhale. Exhale slowly. Repeat at least two more times. Belly breaths send messages to your brain to calm down and will reduce muscle tension throughout your body.  To learn more about belly breathing, see Breathing Exercises for stress management.

2. Take a walk

A brisk walk sends messages to your body to produce more endorphins, the chemical that makes us feel good and reduces feelings of anxiety and depression.  Stepping out of a stressful environment, even if only for a few minutes, also provides space for your mind and body to regroup.

3. Skip the nightcap

As a depressant, alcohol is sometimes viewed as a stress-reducer.  But when alcohol is added to the mix, the body releases higher amounts of cortisol, which is the hormone that triggers our ‘flight or fight’ response in stressful situations. This change to the balance of hormones changes the way the body perceives stress. Thus, alcohol prevents the body from returning to its original hormonal balance, which actually adds to feelings of stress and anxiety in the long run.

4. Drink water

Dehydration also increases cortisol levels in the body.  So when we don’t drink enough water, our body responds by releasing cortisol, increasing feelings of stress.  Says Gina Shaw, on WebMD, “Stress can cause dehydration, and dehydration can cause stress. It’s a vicious cycle. You can break it by building more water consumption into your day.”

5. Check your posture

Studies have shown that posture – how we sit and stand – affects not just our bones and muscles, but our emotions as well.  Sitting up straight, standing with shoulders back and relaxed, contributes to the body’s sense of well-being. A study on slumping, performed by the Department of Psychological Medicine, The University of Auckland, found that “Adopting an upright seated posture in the face of stress can maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and increase positive mood compared to a slumped posture. Furthermore, sitting upright increases the rate of speech and reduces self-focus. Sitting upright may be a simple behavioral strategy to help build resilience to stress.”

6. Turn on some soothing music

Music has long been known to directly connect to our emotions, so choosing some calming classical music can help your body deal with stress hormones.  As a side benefit, listening to music can be done while you are busy with other things – like getting ready for work or preparing the evening family meal. Combining the soothing effect of calming music with an activity that can be typically stressful can help balance the impact of the stressor.

7. Take a cuddle break with a loved one

Hugging has some surprising physical benefits, with stress relief being just one of them.  Studies have found that people who received more hugs were less likely to catch a cold, saw their blood pressure decline, and felt better emotionally.  According to one study, “volunteers felt better than usual on days on which they had received at least one hug.”  So counter those negative feelings by wrapping your arms around someone you love (with their permission, of course!).

8. Try some yoga

Yoga combines physical and mental discipline – bringing together mind and body.  Combining poses and controlled breathing, yoga can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure.  While there are many different styles of yoga, the popular Hatha yoga provides a slower pace and easier movements. Relaxing into a series of yoga poses sends good vibes to your brain, increasing endorphins and lowering cortisol levels.

9. Write it down 

Journaling doesn’t release muscle tension from your body, like some of the other options for reducing the physical effects of stress and anxiety, but keeping a diary can help vent stressful emotions.  Spending quiet time alone, writing down your thoughts and describing your feelings can help process those emotions and provide relief. A journaling practice can take many forms – a daily gratitude journal, occasionally writing down feelings and strong emotions, or even a bullet list of goals, memories, or other things we want to remember.  And it’s a practice that can be restarted at any time if life gets in the way and derails regular journaling. 

10. Talk to someone

Telling a friend or willing listener about the stress you are feeling – talking through your feelings – can also help reduce the physical effects of stress and anxiety.  In a Forbes article on talking as therapy, Dr. Marian Margulies explained, “When I think of the process of engaging in talk therapy, I think of the analogy with writing.  The more you write, the more you know what you are trying to say – it clarifies your thinking. Similarly with talking and with talk therapy, one becomes more aware of what is making one feel anxious, sad, angry or frustrated. And then one is freer to decide how to manage these feelings or take action to alleviate them.” 

 

Lynne Brown is a freelance writer, former Montessori teacher, and mom to seven amazing kids, some of whom now have kids of their own.  You can learn more about her at www.lynnebrownwriting.com.

Summer in Albany

This week’s post is by guest contributor Jessica Magnani, who compiled this information on free and low-cost Summer events for families in Albany. Last week she gave us activities in Corvallis. Thanks again, Jessica!

Concerts in the Park

Monteith RiverPark

489 Water Avenue NW
Albany, OR

July 9- Paul Revere’s Raiders (oldies rock)

July 16- Razzvio (electric string pop)

July 23- Eagle eyes (eagles tribute band)

July 30- The High Street Band (swing, funk)

 

Festival Latino

Sunday, July 29

12-4 PM

Monteith Riverpark

  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Children’s Activities
  • Cultural performances
  • Health and resource fair

 

Fun in the Park!

Free! All ages. Wednesdays, 10 AM- 12 PM

Diggin with Dinos- 6/27- Doug Killin Park: Excavating dinosaurs, crafting your own puppets, and playing prehistoric games.

Trains, Trucks and Tires- 7/11- Kinder Park: Build your own mini ride and then compete in a racecar showdown!

The great outdoors- 7/18- Bryant Park: Digging for bugs, learning about poisonous plants and lots of water/forest activities. Come prepared!

Secrets of the sea- 7/25- Lexington Park: Learning about the high seas through crafts, games, and science experiments!

Passport to adventure- 8/1- Takena Park: International obstacle course, trivia, crafts, and interactive story time!

Everyday heroes- 8/8- Gibson Hill Park: Come meet local heroes and get to know how their jobs help our community. Crafts, obstacle courses, and games!

Movin’ Music- 8/15-Timber Linn Park: Celebrate the end of summer with a community BBQ. Instruments and dance battles!

 

Albany Farmer’s Market

Saturdays, 9 AM- 1 PM

SW Ellsworth St & Southwest 4th Avenue, Albany, OR 97321

Stretch your SNAP benefits by shopping for fresh foods at the Albany Farmers Market!

While most of Oregon Farmers’ markets accept SNAP benefits, many also offer a matching program, which doubles SNAP purchases dollar for dollar up to a certain amount — meaning you could get $10 worth of food for only $5 from your SNAP account.

 

Art & Air Festival

August 24-26, 2018

Timber Linn Park

Watch hot air balloons take off at 6:45 AM

and then enjoy a day of amazing art and food!

Each night has a different performance!

For the schedule of each day go to: https://nwartandair.org/schedule/

 

Carousel and Museum

Admission free. Ride tickets: $2

503 First Ave West

Albany, OR

Monday 10am-5pm
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 10am-5pm
Thursday 10am-5pm
Friday 10am-5pm
Saturday 10am-7pm
Sunday 10am-5pm

 

Summer Book Sale

June 17, 2018: 11 AM- 3 PM

2450 14th Ave SE, Albany, OR

All kinds of books, DVDs and CDs:

$.50 to $3.00 each.

 

Jessica Magnani is an intern at Family Tree Relief Nursery and is completing a degree program at Oregon State University.

Summer in Corvallis

This week’s post is by guest contributor Jessica Magnani, who compiled this information on free and low-cost Summer events for families in Corvallis. Thanks, Jessica!

 

$1 Swim Day

Osborn Aquatic Center

1940 NW Highland Dr.

Corvallis, OR 97330

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

1:00pm to 4:00pm

Celebrate Otter Beach seasonal opening on Memorial Day, cool down on Independence Day, and relax on Labor Day with a special price for open recreation!

 

Free Concerts

Corvallis Central park

650 NW Monroe Ave

Corvallis, OR 97330

Repeats every 2 weeks every Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018 – 7:30pm

The Hilltop Big Band presents another summer of free Central Park concerts.  Bring lawn chairs and blankets.

All ages welcome.

 

Penny Carnival

Corvallis Central park

650 NW Monroe Ave

Corvallis, OR 97333

Thursday, July 26, 2018 –

1:00pm to 3:30pm

Come play and celebrate community at the annual Penny Carnival! It’s just pennies to play! We’ll have music, wacky relays, old fashioned carnival games and much more! Buy a bundle of tickets for 25 cents each at the event and each activity costs 1 ticket! Concessions available for additional fees.

 

Movie Night at Avery Park

Thursday, August 16, 2018 –

5:00pm to 10:00pm

Enjoy an outdoor cinema experience with family and friends under the stars in beautiful Avery Park. All ages welcome!

 

Chintimini BBQ & Music in the Park

Celebrate summer with a community cookout, games and great music by local folk singer Cassandra Robertson! Cassandra is a local favorite whose original melodies are meant to inspire us to dream of a future that works for all!

The live music will be a great accompaniment to the burgers, chicken and hot dogs coming off the grill, plus potato salad, fruit salad, and dessert! Vegetarian options available upon request.   

All ages welcome!

Chintimini Senior & Community Center

2601 NW Tyler Ave

Friday, August 17, 4 – 7 pm
Tickets: $8 per person

 

Hiking & Parks

  • Fitton Green: 980 NW Panorama Drive Corvallis, OR 97330
  • Central Park: 650 NW Monroe Ave, Corvallis, OR     
  • Chip Ross: NW Lester Ave, Corvallis, OR 97330
  • Bald Hill: 375 NW Monroe Ave, Corvallis, OR 97330
  • Finley Park: 26208 Finley Refuge Rd, Corvallis, OR
  • Peavy Arboretum:  NW Peavy Arboretum Rd, Corvallis,   OR 97330
  • Siuslaw Forest: 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331
  • Avery Park: SW Avery Park Dr, Corvallis, OR 97333
  • Jackson Frazier Wetlands: 3460 NE Canterbury Cir, Corvallis, OR 97330

 

Beginning Reading Programs on Campus

4 years old & Entering Kindergarteners: In this fun summer program, your child will learn how to read! Children will learn letter recognition, beginning phonics, and easy sight words!

1-5th grade: Your child will learn strong phonics and decoding skills, build sight vocabulary, learn how to read fluently and rapidly, and develop strong comprehension skills!

On campus: Oregon State University

4 year-old & Kindergarteners: June 24-July 22: 9 AM-10 AM

1st grade: June 24-July 22: 10:30 AM- 12:15 Pm

2nd grade: June 24-July 22: 1-2:45 PM

3rd grade: June 24-July 22: 3:15-5 PM

4th grade: June 19-July 17: 3-5 PM

5th grade: June 19-July 17: 12:30- 2:30 PM

For more information or to register, call (800)570-8936

 

Corvallis Farmers Market

The Corvallis Farmers Market happens Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 9am to 1pm, April through November, on First Street between Jackson Avenue and Monroe Avenue, in downtown Corvallis.

The Saturday Corvallis Farmers Market has a changing lineup of 50-70 vendors per week, and the Wednesday market usually offers 20-30 vendors.

 

Da Vinci Days

July 21, 2018- 10 AM- 8:30 PM

Saturday activities at the Benton County Fairgrounds run from

9 am to 8:30 pm, and will include Day 1 of the ever-popular

Grand Kinetic Challenge (pageantry, road race, and sand dune),

the Children’s Village, various exhibits by OSU and local artists and makers,

food, and great local musicians throughout the afternoon. Festival

exhibits and activities go until 4 pm, while entertainment continues

until 8:30.  As the exhibits end, grab dinner from our food vendors,

find your spot on the lawn, and enjoy the evening entertainment!

 

Second Saturday Art Days

Join the Arts Center every month for art making and

activities for the whole family.

March 10, 2018-December 08, 2018

Admission: Free

Location: The Arts Center
700 SW Madison Avenue, Corvallis, OR 97333

 

Jessica Magnani is an intern at Family Tree Relief Nursery and is completing a degree program at Oregon State University.

The Episode One

Hello, parents and caregivers! I just wanted to check in from my vacation to let you know that the unthinkable has happened. No, not that. And not that either, although…

I’ll tell you. What happened is that, contrary to the vow I declared upon first seeing it in June of 1999, I gave Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace another viewing. I’m not sure how much my perspective on the film has changed since then. Let’s just aside the considerable baggage of how George Lucas’ revisit of my childhood myths felt like a airless and tone-deaf repackaging (what helped me with this, as you may remember, was the much more airy and pitch-perfect repackaging of my childhood myths in the two recent films).

No, I understand that in the new Disney Lucasfilm reality, the prequels are canon, so I’d better learn to appreciate them. I still think that Episode I is muddled, flat, overplotted, undercharacterized, unevenly acted, and full of pointless connections and diversions (midichlorians, anyone? Plus, Anakin owned R2-D2 and built C-3PO but later, as [spoiler] Darth Vader, doesn’t seem to recognize them? Also, the kid was immaculately conceived by the Force? How did I miss that line? Etc).

Whatever. The difference this time is that I watched it with my kids, so I watched it with their eyes. And their eyes found it engaging and exciting and loved the expansion of the universe of the series. More crucially, they eyes found Jar-Jar Binks both hilarious and charming. And there is nothing I can say to that.

Just move on with my life and be a grownup.

The Case of The Pillow

Here’s something that happened.

My second youngest daughter, the quintessential middle child, was turning nine. I, who have never walked by a Star Wars branded product I didn’t stop to examine, came across a pillow case that I thought would be a perfect addition to her bedroom array which includes the following:

One (1) poster from the Whiteside revival showing of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl;

One (1) giant poster of a kitty from a kids’ magazine that reads “Keep Your Head Up,” though my daughter doesn’t understand why it needs to say that;

One (1) color copy of the cover of a Princess Leia comic, given to her by her dad, depicting the character standing over a dispatched storm trooper with a smoking blaster;

One (1) drawing of Legolas the elf and Gimli the dwarf from The Lord of the Rings, wrought by her second oldest sister;

Twenty-three (23) assorted stuffed kitties–including one (1) tiger–in a pile;

One (1) completed coloring page depicting Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia on Jabba’s sail barge.

Like I said, I thought that this pillow case I found at Target, featuring artwork from the original Star Wars: A New Hope film poster (the one that randomly added a pommel and cross-guard to Darth Vader’s lightsaber, I guess because it didn’t look enough like a sword?), would fit in nicely.

So, when the day came, I put the case on her pillow and left it for her to discover. When we got home that day we made up a pretense for her to enter her room. She came in, saw it immediately, said, “Hmmm,” and went about her business.

Later she sat next to me on the couch while I paged through a National Geographic. She began to cry softly. I have been parenting four daughters long enough to not overreact to this and just snuggled her closer. But I already had a pretty good idea of what was up.

Later I came into her room with her toothbrush and, gesturing to the pillow case, asked, “Do you like it, honey, or is it a little much?”

After a moment she replied, “A little,” and burst into tears.

For goodness’ sake, I said, it’s okay if she doesn’t like it. It doesn’t hurt my feelings!

I emphasized that if she got a gift from some other adult it was best to at least pretend that she liked it, but that she didn’t need to worry about that stuff with me. I appreciate that she likes what she likes. Once she understood that this was true, she felt better.

And really, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. What could be better than knowing that she takes our shared fandom very seriously?

 

Give and Take

Among the nearly 2 billion humans* who observe Lent, there is an imperative, or at least an ideal, to which to aspire: to give as much as possible during this time. The idea is that all those fewer hamburgers and milkshakes (or whatever else you may be giving up) should free up extra funds for those less fortunate.

That’s always a good idea, and it’s certainly needed in these difficult financial times. There are over 20,000 charitable organizations registered in the state of Oregon, and all of them can use our help. There’s nothing wrong with a tax deduction, either.

But what if I were to suggest that it’s at least as important to use these services for your own family, if you have a need? Is there any point to accept help at the same time we’re offering it? Don’t these actions cancel one another out?

Consider that all of those organizations, whatever their size or focus, depend on the reporting of numbers for their continued operation and expansion. We know the need is out there, as 45 million Americans are still living below the poverty line (the measurement of which has itself been criticized as failing to present the extent of American poverty). But in many of these organizations, the resources are not finding themselves in the hands of families that need them. This is particularly true of food, much of which is wasted as it expires or otherwise fails to reach its intended recipients.

The way it works, in the economics of nonprofit, is that the more people they serve, the more they are able to serve. After all, they are built to serve, and they succeed when the families who need help know about their services and partake of them.

So, if you are a family, like mine, that sometimes finds it challenging to make ends meet, there are two imperatives to follow: give what you can, and accept what you need.

 

*Current estimate is 1.29 billion Catholics and 250 million Eastern Orthodox. This is not to mention between 14 and 18 million in Judaism ,  1.8 billion in Islam,  or 1.15 billion in Hinduism, all of which place a special emphasis on charitable giving.

Friending

Being a parent can be…absorbing. So much so, in fact, that it’s possible to lose track of the things that make up a non-parenting life. Case in point: today I am home with the kids while my wife left to spend the afternoon with her friend, who had managed to find someone to watch her own. Our kids were genuinely puzzled by what was happening. “Where did Mom go?”

“To hang out with her friend.”

“But…what are they doing?”

“I don’t know. Going to lunch. Going to a bookstore. Whatever they want to do, I guess.”

“But…why?”

Etc.

Clearly we don’t spend enough time with our friends. Outside of church or other family-related functions, it just doesn’t happen. For our first several years as parents, it was just hard to manage. One is busy, what with the children and all. It’s hard to spend time with other adults who aren’t also parents. Eventually, it got easier, but I guess it just hadn’t occurred to us until recently. And we’re both relatively (and happily) antisocial anyway. Evenings in this house are a flurry of knitting and book-reading.

And yet…friends! They’re kind of important, aren’t they? From a parenting standpoint, it’s good to model this kind of social interaction (as became clear when my daughters were baffled by the idea of adults hanging out together away from children).

But there’s more! Last night we had accepted a long-standing invitation for dinner at the home of some people we knew from church. It was fun. I forgot. Other people: fun! On the way home, the 12 year-old pointed out what a different sort of household this was, with an open invitation to whomever needed a place to go. People in and out all the time. Long dinner table, guest bedrooms. Stay as long as you like. Definitely different from our rather more insular household (plus, short dinner table, no spare anything).

But again, good to model the interactions. And good for kids to know about other kinds of family.

Sounds like a project! In the new year, I resolve to have some friends. Wish me luck.

 

Boxed In

As my daughters run about the house dressed as denizens of the Star Wars galaxy (last mention I will make of Star Wars, I promise!), I am thinking about the run-up to the Holiday, which begins in earnest now that I am home for vacation. Granted, my lovely wife broke out the Christmas music I believe actually prior to Thanksgiving this year, which to me constitutes the crossing of a red line. But I was not bothered. In fact, I did not even complain when the melodies stuck themselves inside my head, and did not attempt to stop myself from humming them. What’s wrong with me? Dunno.

I was reminded at work today about the truism that, however impressive a gift may be to a child, it will never be as impressive as the box it came in. The parent in question told the story of having learned this at his child’s first birthday. For his second birthday, he got smart. Instead of spending money and brain power on toys, he invested in as many boxes as he could find. When his two year-old woke up that morning he discovered that the living room had been turned into a multilevel cardboard wonderland: box after box, laid end to end to form tunnels and bridges, platforms and overpasses.

Similarly, when I came home tonight I found the house transformed by Winter. While it rained and gusted outside, within all was white and crystalline: dozens upon dozens of cut-out paper snowflakes everywhere. Magical. And then the eight year-old, evidently done with snowflake engineering, moved on to drawing storm troopers as targets for her rubber band blaster (I lied about the Star Wars! Sorry). Then it got louder.

Still, the magic.