Practicing Yes

I’m thinking about two types of Yes practices. The first is in regard to parenting (or any interactions with kids). There’s great writing and photography out there about saying yes – like this post from Hobo Mama, and the Play at Home Mom “Yes” photo features.

Here were some of our own Yes moments this evening:

  • We can stay longer at the playground.
  • You can go barefoot.
  • You can eat as many plums as you want.
  • Yes, I’ll give you another underdog push on the swings.
  • You can take a lights-out bath with just a scuba flashlight.
  • You can stay in the bath as long as you want.
  • We can read more books.
  • I can tell you one more story.

I think there’s an important distinction between saying yes and being over-indulgent. Part of the distinction for me, is saying yes to intangible needs and wants, rather than just material requests. I guess it boils down to saying yes to taking the time for meaningful engagement, and I don’t believe that’s ever over-indulgent. I hope that when our kids are adults they’ll remember the underdogs on the playground and the bedtime stories, not just which Lego kits we bought.

Through the course of our evening there were definitely moments that didn’t result in yes responses. We had to wear our seat belts in the car, family peace was better maintained by sharing the plums, and my voice finally reached the story telling limit. But when the balance of the evening involves saying yes more than no, it’s not such a big deal to finally turn the lights out and say goodnight.

I’m also practicing saying yes on a personal level. I’m trying to slow down a little in my mind in order to get clear about what even warrants saying yes. I tend to be way too good at saying no to social events, so I’d like to break free of that. But in a thoughtful way, so that I’m still staying true to my own interests and values. I’m not going for the indiscriminate yes, like Jim Carey in Yes Man.

How about you? Is there anything you’ve been wanting to say yes to, that you could do this week? 



DHA Levels: Rising

Today that stands for Daily Hug Allotment levels. You definitely want to keep your DHA at a level that helps you maintain your own feelings of love, gratitude, and joy. Sources of DHA are common and varied: friends, family members, kind-hearted strangers, dogs, trees, and even your own amazing self.

Hope you got your DHA today, and that you shared some with others if you felt so inclined!

Give it Time

When we left Isabel’s preschool this afternoon, she was devastated because she was leaving her friends behind. We’ll be back tomorrow, and the next day; we’re not planning to switch schools or leave the country. Despite all assurances, she maintained a persistent wail from the back seat, “My friends! My friends! I want my friends!” Each night she sings goodnight to every family member and every friend she’s ever met in the past two years. The song can go on for quite a while – sometimes Michael and I fall asleep before she does.

Sam is the opposite. When I picked him up, after his first day as a first grader, he couldn’t remember the names of any new friends. Not even his locker mate, who also happens to be named Sam. It’s not a memory problem, since he can give me detailed descriptions of practically every play date he’s ever had with old friends.

He reunited at recess with a few friends from last year, which is apparently all he needs to be content. While Isabel can become best friends forever with someone she met yesterday, Sam needs more time. I can relate, since it takes me about ten years to really get to know someone. Maybe longer now that time to spend with friends seems so short. This article by Alex Williams was making the rounds in July and it definitely struck a chord with me.

So even though Sam and I didn’t really make new friends today, I think that stepping back and allowing ourselves time to build more meaningful friendships is a fine beginning.

Make a Wish

I wished to make the best chocolate cake ever, and boy did it come true…

I was going back and forth about what recipe to use – my step-mom’s best-ever chocolate bundt cake, Julia Child’s Bombe Aux Trois Chocolats, or Molly Wizenberg’s Winning Hearts and Minds cake. Molly’s recipe won, and we’re all very happy for that, because the balance between deliciousness and simple instructions was so perfect.

If I’d chosen Julia’s Bombe I’d probably still be sweating in the kitchen. It’s on my list to try someday soon because of my very vivid memory of the amazing-ness of it, when Susan baked it in 1985, for my brother’s high school graduation. If the memory of that cake still makes me swoon twenty-seven years later, it deserves to be made again, no matter how complicated the recipe.

But back to Winning Hearts and Minds. It did exactly that. True to form, I changed the recipe just a little by adding an extra ounce of chocolate, and by substituting a few tablespoons of olive oil for part of the butter. I didn’t have any parchment paper, so I just baked it plain, in an 8-inch cake pan greased with butter and dusted with flour. I couldn’t neatly pop the cake onto a serving dish, but it tasted perfectly wonderful, cut straight from the baking pan. Finally, instead of whipped cream we sprinkled it with powdered sugar and then topped our slices with black walnut ice cream.

We’ve decided that we’ll bake this cake every year, on the eve of school beginning. We added a candle, and Sam made a wish for the new year when he blew it out. Unlike birthday wishes, it’s okay to share back-to-school wishes out loud – they will still come true. Here are some of our wishes:

  • Sam: I wish that this year at school will be fun. And that we can make this cake for my birthday too.
  • Elise: I wish that we’ll all keep making new friends this year, and that we’ll get to know old friends better.
  • Michael and Bella: We wish we could have some more ice cream on our cake.



So there you have it – the best chocolate cake and some very reasonable wishes.

What are you wishing for?

Real. Funny. But not real funny.

What’s funny is that Thursday was marked on our scavenger hunt calendar as a day to make someone laugh. It was also the date of Sam’s back-to-school night. This is where the real part kicks in.

Everyone is fine now, there were no physical injuries, but it was a night of drama and tears.  And in retrospect, I should have known better. All the elements of the afternoon were pointing us straight toward drama and tears, but me and my stubborn monkey brain just had to go to the back-to-school picnic. Here were the warning signs that I willfully ignored:

  1. Both kids were tired after a long day at school.
  2. Both adults were tired after a long day at work.
  3. All four individuals were very hungry.
  4. A few of the key players don’t like large crowds of people.

Then there was an added mix of “factors” that took the situation from bad to worse. These involved sweatshirts (or lack of), food trucks, a bloody lip, and sunglasses (a story for another night). The bottom line is that by the time we made it home for the night, both kids were weeping and both adults were on the verge of running away from home.

No jokes were told. Nobody laughed. We were all sent to bed without baths or stories. Because this is real life. The image in my mind of our happy family enjoying a picnic dinner before meeting new friends and teachers didn’t become the reality. But there were some subtle lessons that I have to remember the next time my monkey brain is taking over.

  1. If we’re all tired, it’s okay to opt out of the event, no matter how important the event may seem.
  2. Make sure everyone eats something before heading into an unknown dinner situation (and keep more granola bars in the car).
  3. Figure out ways to avoid situations that are overly crowded – arriving earlier or later can sometimes help.
  4. Pack sweatshirts.
  5. Always have cash on hand if food trucks are involved, preferably lots of cash.

Lessons learned? Maybe. We’ve got birthday parties and get-togethers with friends on the agenda for the weekend, so I might need to come back and read these points a few times.

In the meantime, I’m on the lookout for some good jokes. Here’s a little College Humor that made me laugh. And some silly pins. And the photo below gets me every time.

So now you know that it’s very easy to make me laugh; I’m hoping that rubs off on the kids eventually. Of course kid jokes are a very special genre – if you’ve got some funny jokes for kids we’d love to hear them, in order to be better armed for next year’s picnic.

Making Stuff

The making of stuff has mostly been in our imaginations, because it’s been a crazy busy week. We’re just going to double up and make strawberry shortcake and chocolate cake this weekend. I still wanted to share some links, that might inspire you to make something.

Making Science Activities: Zoom at PBS Kids

Making Stories: A recent episode of This American Life

Making Videos: Mini Movie Makers

Making Strawberry Shortcake: From Orangette, because I just started re-reading A Homemade Life

Have you made anything interesting lately?


The View from Two

We’ve talked about this before, but I’m wondering how you’re feeling about letting your kids (at home or in the classroom) use your camera. Yes, you’ll end up with shots that are random, fuzzy, and repetitive, but you’ll also get some interesting perspective.

I feel pretty comfortable when Bel and Sam use the iPhone to snap shots, but I haven’t graduated to letting go of my lovely Canon EOS 5D. Maybe because the camera is new to me, I feel a lot more possessive. Plus there are so many more parts that could break. And I’m just working on my own understanding of aperture and ISO, so I’m not really ready to teach someone else.

For my own learning process, I’m finding inspiration and practical tips from:

Sam and Bel just get to take as many photos as they want, when they’re interested in taking photos. Down the road we’ll probably revisit some of these tips from Darren Rowse.

Finally, Fotokids is a site worth checking out. This organization supports Guatemalan kids as they learn photography skills as a means to escape poverty. The perspective these kids bring to their photography is incredibly inspiring.

Metal + Light + Lego = Sculpture!

He was really into making these temporary sculptures tonight. The flashlights were key – he would hold them at different angles while I took photos. He might try to make something more permanent tomorrow, but he seems to like the process of making and re-making more than keeping an end product.

In other exciting art-related news, he got his first commission tonight. Angela asked if he’d make a drawing or painting for her, based on the one-eyed alien from his sketchbook. When I asked him if he’d be interested, the look on his face was priceless, and the answer was an immediate YES!

He stayed up late to work on the new drawing and on a piece of origami sculpture for me. All is well in the world; the artist is back.