Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Support System

Each day my life is enriched by the supports around me. Some of those supports are real life human beings and some are just items that provide something for me. For me the biggest one is my husband Keven, next I would say my family as a whole, then I think I would have to say american comforts such as internet or my phone.

Keven is my biggest cheerleader. We've been through thick and thin together but some of that has been us taking turns being in the back seat so the other can shine. Every "big thing" I've done in my life started out as a conversation with him where he encouraged me to go for it. Without him, well I just don't really want to think about that to be honest. This past week when the gun threats entered the 45minute radius of the college we live on, I thought too much about that, and it's not a good place to go.

My family is pretty awesome, just saying. I've got 3 incredible kids, my parents are amazing, I have a sister whom I LOVE laughing with, and my in-law siblings are all some of the most caring people I've ever met. I also have some wonderful friends that are a lot like family. Most of my family is far away, across miles and state lines, but because of technology they don't seem as far as they really are. They keep me grounded and bring so many joyful memories. Without them, well I'd honestly be so lonely and not laugh nearly as much as I need to. And my memories and bucket list would be pretty pitiful.

And of course who can forget the american comforts of the first world: the good ole internet and cell phone. Tonight the internet was shut down on the campus I live on and it kind of felt like the world stopped (ok not really that was exaggerated, but seriously what did we do before the internet). And in a sheer panic of oh no my homework is due tonight how am I going to do it without the internet?!?!?! I drove to Dunkin Donuts where they give it away for free (and have really good pumpkin donuts). But seriously internet and my cell phone bring me closer to people that encourage me, slap me upside the head, and love me regardless. They also allow me to share with you, which is an incredible outlet of mine.

Without my supports I wouldn't be me. Thankfully I know that my strongest support is a God whom will never disappear, so regardless if the others do, I have Him as my foundation to help me create new ones. But I really like the ones I have already (even if I am a little addicted to the technology ones).

What does your support system look like? Could you function without them?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Thoughts on the Pope's Visit

There was a time in my life where seeing the Pope was on my bucket list. There was also a time that I was very Catholic and acutally had a convent picked out where I would attend to become a Nun.

Well 1 protestant pastoral credential, a marriage and 3 kids later, that was a very long time ago.

Still when I heard Pope Francis would be visiting our neighboring city, there was a piece of me that wanted to go. I really dislike large crowds, they make me nervous, but there's a thrill to being a part of history, something that will be marked down and remembered, something that seems important. That's why going to New York City for New Year's Eve and attending the Winter Olympics one day are still on my bucket list.

We had briefly considered going until Keven got a letter in the mail from our insurance company asking us to cancel any possible appointments in the city. He took that, and the immending closure of alot of the major highways, as a sign we should avoid the city. So we are.

I may not be Catholic anymore, but there's still an intrigue about the Pope coming to visit. I hope it makes a positive impact. But I also hope we don't feel the traffic patterns from it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Let Our Children Play

"Creative play is a central activity in the lives of healthy children" Joan Almon

Play was a huge part of my life. For me play ranged from owning the neighborhood outside with my friends to playing cards with my grandma to board games with my parents, and of course who could forget the piles of barbies that I played with constantly. Play was who I was, playing by myself helped me figure out how to solve people problems and playing with other people helped me figure out how to connect with them. 
Playing dress-up in my neighborhood
Then I grew up.

In highschool I still played with my barbies (shhhh, it's a secret) and well I still played cards and board games too. I also played clarinet and instead of running the neighborhood, we drove to the mall. 
Six Flags in 12th Grade
Then I moved.

In college my barbies didn't come and board games turned into kamikaze spoons (most epic game ever) and we still drove to the mall but we also played outside in the mud (and river), but we also took finals and tests.

Beating Keven at Kamikaze Spoons
Then I got married.

And now I still play. But not every minute of every day, because well someone has to be the adult. I get to play with barbies again, but now they're my daughter's. Now I'm the one teaching the card games and board games, but we still play them. And we're still running, but now it's between cheerleading practice and flag football, and occasionally through the back yard. 

Micah playing dress up
Creating a Fly Boat with Abbey
Bike Riding with Ally

Play is an ever changing force, but it always exists. In our younger years it's in the fore-front a huge moving force and as we age it switches positions and moves to the background. But it's still there. Play is still our friend, it's still a way that we learn and grow, a way that we practice new skills and gain confidence in our language skills. As a young child, play is what molds us, it helps us to figure out who we are and who we might become. But as an adult, we need to never forget that play exists. 

We need to remember the importance of play and when a child asks us to join them, we need to enter their world. We need to boil the pretend tea, redecorate the living room with fort blankets, or put on the closest costume and dress up. Because through those moments our children are learning, growing, and bonding with us. 

Put down the phone, push back dinner, and play for just a few minutes, it's really important, for you and them.  

"The ability to play is one of the principal criteria of mental health." Joan Almon 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Relationship Reflection: Relationships in our Immediate Family

Relationships are a key component in our lives. They are what make us stronger, although sometimes they are what weaken us too. They are also what puts us back together, even when they are sometimes what breaks us a part. Relationships are interwoven into our daily lives, even when we try to avoid them. Even anti-social people have to interact with others from time to time.

To me, relationships are one of the most important parts of my life. My life is full of amazing people who have impacted and inspired me and shaped me to be who I am. Relationships are an ever changing aspect though, some people stay for a season and others stay for a lifetime, but regardless of the timeline, their impact is felt.

At this present moment the relationships that I value the most are those of my immediate family. Each of those relationships looks a little different and takes a lot of work, but each has had a huge impact on my life.
My family: Husband Keven, and children: Abbey, Micah, and Ally
My husband Keven and I have been married for 9 years. He was my best friend before we started dating, which laid a very strong foundation for our relationship. We've chosen to see the best in each other. When we believe the best in the other person's intentions we are choosing to put them above ourselves and that sacrificial love goes further then anything else we can do.

My oldest daughter Abbey is showing me that as she grows up she will not only be my daughter, but also a friend. Abbey has challenged me to get rid of my yelling habit, although I'm not perfect at it, I've grown a lot in that area because of her. I've also learned the importance of teaching our kids how to say they're sorry, by modeling it for them.

My son Micah is teaching me how to loosen up a little. He reminds me that spontaneity still lives inside me and I'm not as far from my fun youthful days as I sometimes think. Micah teaches me the importance of dropping my "important things" to play, even for just a moment.

My youngest daughter Ally is reminding me how fast time goes. I can't hold on to time, I can't capture it into a jar, but I can embrace it. The days are going quicker with her then they did when Abbey was little. And when I look back it seems like so long ago when Abbey was as small as her.

The biggest challenge in having relationships with your family, is remembering that we have a relationship with our kids. It's not just a "I'm the mom and you're the kid" atmosphere, but our kids change us and we change them. We are making a larger impact on them based on how we view our relationship with them. We need to treat them with respect and teach them what it means to have a relationship with someone else. By modeling positive interactions with them we are teaching way more than what we could ever say.

We need to recognize that each person in our relationship sphere is different. They have a different love language, a different mode of giving and receiving love then maybe we do. They have different needs to be met and expectations of what your role is in their life. But when we realize that and embrace those factors, our relationships will be fuller, healthier, and happier, especially when those relationships fall in our immediate family.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Child Development Quote

"It takes bad days to have good ones"-Tracy Little

I think this quote really sums up being with kids. Children develop at many different rates, sometimes they excel and sometimes they're behind. And if we're honest sometimes they are amazing and sometimes they get on our nerves. 

But to be able to have good days, we have to have the bad ones. We have to know the difference. We have to be able to look straight through the bad days and see the good ones coming. This happens in our own lives, it happens in children's lives, and if we have our own children (or work with them) this happens a lot.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Standardized Testing

Standardized testing in schools can be such a hot button topic. Some schools get it right and other's don't. I personally think that the nation's government has put so much pressure on our teachers to get our children to perform in ways that maybe they just aren't able to.

When we look at standardized testing my heart goes out to the kids who have test anxiety or a test taking disability, and honestly can't test well. It's not that they don't want to, they just aren't made that way. My heart also goes out to the ones who have dyslexia and can't read the best. We're throwing these kids into a timed environment where they have to rush and try to comprehend what they need to do on the test. Yes for some there are modifications made and assistance given but they are still in a pressurized environment.

In some schools and homes the kids who test well are celebrated and the kids who test poorly are left feeling deflated. However those same kids who received low test scores, may be exceptional in art, music, or sports. They may not be able to read well but that does not mean they aren't intelligent.

In Ireland they have standardized testing as well, but it's done a little differently. It is limited to only English reading and math, they do not compare it to intelligence tests, and it is done only twice. The first test is done either at the end of 1st grade or the beginning of 2nd grade and again either at the end of 4th grade or the beginning of 5th grade. Not all children have to take the standardized test, if the child has a learning disability or English is not their first language, they are opted out of the test. School's funding does not seem to be tied to their standardized testing scores, instead the teachers use it to formulate their teaching plan for their students and use it as a bench mark for where they are.

I personally like Ireland's idea on excluding those that have a learning disability or do not speak English as their first language. I also like how Ireland uses the results for their teacher's planning, instead of a flag to wave for the school's performance level.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Stressors in a Child's Life

There are many different stressors that could impact a child in his or her lifetime. War, famine, racism, natural disasters, hunger, isolation, disease, abuse, and unfortunately others. I've thought back through my childhood and I was so lucky and fortunate to not have to deal with any major childhood stressors. I had moments that impacted my life or might have caused a little stress or change: my sister moved out when she got married, one of my uncles passed away, my dog was put to sleep, we moved twice, had an alcoholic family member, and my cat had to leave us for a few months when we moved. But really, in the grand scheme of life, those are not major stressors. I always went to bed full; filled with food, water, and love and I never doubted that tomorrow would be any different.

However as I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed I know several people who are foster parents. These people see children all the time come through their doors who have seen and experienced the ugly, horrible side of life. They have gone through moments/weeks/months where they were not full; they were hungry, thirsty, and unloved. Some of these children thought you only loved them if you hurt them. Some of these children did not know what it meant to spend time together as a family. Some of these children only had a garbage bag to put their few possessions in. Some foster parents try their hardest to put these kids back together, to give them stability, to teach them about love, to give them hope for their future. Some of these foster parents give and pour out so much love only to have the court slam the door shut on their love. Some of these foster parents get to welcome these children into their family and change this child's life. We need more people in the foster care system to truly change a child's life for the better. And we need more people in our society to be advocates for the children in their own lives.

Across the ocean, in the middle east, I think one of the biggest stressors is war. When war hits a country or when terrorists attack a community, children are the most affected. Last summer when Isis started attacking Christians, it was children, who were impacted tremendously. They had to flee and run for their lives, they starved to death, and unfortunately some where even killed.

Another large stressor for children overseas is the lack of education, especially for young girls. In Liberia, Katie Meyler and More Than Me is trying to change that by starting a school for girls in Liberia. Since 2006 they have helped 105 girls, in Liberia, get off the streets and get in school. When we educate the next generation, we are changing the world and that's exactly what More Than Me is doing.