Sunday, February 27, 2011

9 Lessons from 9 Years of Marriage

Vector image of two human figures with hands i...Image via Wikipedia
This month, I celebrated my 9th wedding anniversary. As my husband and I sat in a dimly lit, romantic and way too expensive restaurant with our 3 kids in our laps, I started to wonder what makes this or any marriage work.  It has been a very eventful 9 years and I can't say that the years have passed quickly. We have experienced all the joys and pains of sharing your life with someone and we have experienced some major life changes - we moved twice, the most recent was a life altering out of state move which took us away from close friends, we had 3 beautiful children in a 5 year span, and both of us have changed jobs several times. Lest my life continues to move so quickly that there is little time for reflection, I decided to write down a few things that I have learned. 

1. Marriage is a Good Thing - As the fairytale goes, we are married to our best friend, life companion, guardian of our hearts, protector of our darkest secrets, deepest insecurities and vulnerabilities, and champion of our dreams. More realistically, you and your spouse are walking hand in hand, stumbling through the maze of life, avoiding obstacles, overcoming challenges (foreclosure, job loses, altered expectations of marriage), stopping occasionally to smell the roses and savor the desserts but stumbling many times, each hoping that the other doesn't let go. Somehow, both of these descriptions excite and inspire me! It is not a perfect union but a rewarding union and there are moments when the fairytale is very real.

2. Think Long-Term - Most of us repeat the vows "for better or worse" but don't think much about what "worst" means. Well, it could mean infidelity, grave illness, financial instability and a wealth of other things that you just vowed to love your way though. No one should stay in a marriage that is unsafe, however, bad things happen in good relationships.  Talk to someone who has been married for 50 years and you will hear them say to each other "Honey, remember back in 1968 when we barely spoke for 6 months, remember when you thought that you were in love with that guy from the office or remember when we had to move in with your mother because you quit your job." I think about these stories when I start obsessing about the crisis of the month.

3. Speak What is in Your Mind and on Your Heart - Remember the song "if you don't know me by now, you will never, never know me?" The truth is that after 10 long years, your spouse, still won't be able to read your mind, still may not remember your anniversary or your favorite restaurant and still won't know why you are upset.  We still have to say "I am angry/happy/sad/dissappointed and this is why." If we ask for what we want in a marriage, we just may get it.

4. Praise Floweth Like a River - Don't save your praise for coworkers, babies and the nice bus driver, pour it on your spouse.  My favorites are "great job with dinner", "you look like Halle Berry's prettier sister, today", "Baby, I am so proud of you", "I am going to miss you today". Praise is like filling a piggybank with love and goodwill and when you make a mistake, like we all do, and have to withdraw $20, your spouse hardly notices.

5. Kids Change Everything! - At some point during the marriage, you start to think "we are blissfully happy, the only way this could be more perfect is to complete our family by having kids." Yes, you can add to your wedded bliss by starting a family, but savor your current state of bliss because once you have kids it will be a roller-coaster of highs and lows for the next 18+ years, so grab your spouse and hold on for the ride.  Be prepared for the frequent diaper changes, toys everywhere, all nighters, broken china, 2a.m. run to the emergency room and reduced time with your spouse.  If you are mentally prepared, all the challenges will be overshadowed by the sweet smell of a baby, the cooing, the heartwarming smiles and hugs and hearing "mama" or "dada" for the first time.

6. Intimacy is Not Optional - Hugs, kisses, gazing into each other's eyes, and holding hands all establish and help to maintain a connection. It says, "I know that you are here, and you matter to me."

7. Fight Fairly and Always be a Soft Place to Land - Focus on feelings when you argue because feelings are always legitimate whether or not we agree with them. Don't accuse, just state how your partner's words, action or inaction made you feel. Studies show that spouses who don't argue actually are more likely to divorce than those who fight fairly.  That said, the outside world is challenging so home must be a peaceful place. Try not to argue the minute your spouse comes home from work. Save it until after dinner and try to make up before bedtime.

8. Remember your Wedding Day - It was the happiest day of your life and you have the pictures and video to prove it. Remember what brought you together.  If the joy has faded, look at the photos, watch the video, get marital counseling, just do whatever it takes to reclaim the magic.

9. Grow Together - I have heard people say that they haven't changed in the past 10 years; well that is not true because every new experience changes us in a small way. Since we are not with our spouse all day, those changes are not always evident.  Four years ago, my husband decided to become a Vegan and that not only changed the way he ate but the way that the entire family lives. If you don't connect daily, soon you will not recognize the person at the dinner table.  

After 9 years of marriage, these are the things that I know for sure. I also know that life is unpredictable and it is important to keep learning. Wouldn't it be great to to stay mostly happily married for another 9, 18, or 36 years?  I would love to get thoughts and suggestions from others who are on the same journey.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Breast milk ice cream, anyone?

Two samples of human breast milk.                          Wikipedia
Having nursed 3 boys for over a year each, I am a huge fan of breast milk. However, I have to admit that the idea of sharing the milk with others give me pause. I applaud mothers who are willing to share their milk and  mothers who value breast milk enough to give their babies donated milk.  Many think of breast milk as just"bodily fluid". Maybe, the best way to open minds and hearts about sharing milk is to think of breast milk as what is - FOOD.

A company in London is taking sharing to a new level by adding breast milk to ice cream! I won't be first in line to try this new ice cream however, I would be interested in hearing comments from folks who would be open-minded enough to give it a try.
BBC News - Breast milk ice cream goes on sale in Covent Garden.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Greatest Toys of All Time

A Lego CityImage via Wikipedia
Do you remember your favorite toy? Time magazine has published a list of the greatest toys of all time. It includes classics such as Barbie, the Yo-Yo, the Radio Flyer, Hula Hoops and Water Balloons.  We could not afford a Barbie but I remember enjoying hours of fun with a hand-made Yo-Yo.

So what is the greatest toy in our house? An empty cardboard box!!! My boys can play for hours in an empty box. They turn it into a house, they go camping in it, they decorate it and play other games that only kids can conceive. A close second are pots and pans.  If you don't mind your pots getting a little banged up, the kids can organize them, make imaginary meals and turn them into drums and other musical instruments.  Kids love to play grown up so the best toys are often already in your home.  I could write about how much fun it is to play with mommy's shoes and make-up but I covered that in another story.

This past Christmas, my 6 year old asked for a hamster, to which I responded, "sorry honey but mommy is afraid of rats."  He laughed and told me that he wanted a "play" hamster and the rest is history. I discovered the Zhu Zhu (best from the 2000s) pets (about a year late) and they have taken over our house. These crazy critters, along with the trusty Legos (best from the 1940s), are the only toys that the kids play with over and over again. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Boys and Guns: How do you feel about kids playing with toy guns?

Do you allow your kids to play with toys guns? In the wake of the Tucson violence, many parents are having a conversation with their kids about guns.  Where does a non-violent society start? Is taking away our kids toy guns, swords and laser beams an overreaction? I don't like to hear the boys running around trying to shoot each other, even if it is just play, so we just keep guns of all kind out of our house. The boys don't care because there are so many other fun toys to keep them engaged. Every parent has to do what is right for their home and child. This is not an opportunity to judge but an opportunity to provide constructive comments and thoughts. Below is an excerpt from an article by Bethany Hardy on Boys and Guns, What's a Parent to Do.

"Here are six things parents can do to ensure that a child’s interest in toy guns doesn’t get out of hand:
  1. Talk with your kids.
    Instead of talking at your son about guns (“Guns are dangerous!” “Don’t do that!”) talk with him. His understanding of guns is probably less sophisticated than you think.
  2. Limit your child’s exposure to violence on TV or in video games.
    “I think exposure to violence on TV or video games should be a greater concern to parents than gun play,” says Weiner. “Repeated exposure has been demonstrated in studies to desensitize kids to violence. It is important to limit this exposure, especially in younger kids.”
  3. Monitor, don’t necessarily prohibit, your child’s gun play.
    As long as playing with toy guns doesn’t dominate a child’s time, it’s okay to let him explore it, says Weiner—provided a parent or trusted adult is watching.
  4. If you’re going to buy a toy gun, make sure it really looks like a toy.
    I try to limit the toy guns we have in our house to those that look nothing like real guns—the more colorful, the better.
  5. Encourage “target practice.”
    Achieving the simple goal of hitting a target with a foam-ball gun can be extremely satisfying for an active little boy, and it helps develop hand-eye coordination to boot.
  6. Teach proper gun safety.
    This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth pointing out: if you choose to have real guns in your home, it’s imperative to help your children understand and respect their power."

Here is the complete article.

Please add your comments and suggestions for parents.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reactions to 3 year old suspended for too many potty accidents

Decorative toilet seatImage via Wikipedia

A few months ago, I wrote about the pressures that I felt to potty train my almost 3 year old because his daycare didn't want to move him to the 3 year old class until he was fully potty trained. I decided to just let him stay a few more weeks with the 2 1/2 year old kids because I didn't want to pressure him before he was ready. I know that when kids are pushed prematurely, they end up acting out. Have you ever found your child hiding behind the sofa or in a corner because he wants to find a quiet place to poop in peace? I know that some babies are potty trained at 18 months but not my boys. I give them instruction and encouragement and then let them go at their own pace. Even with that laid back attitude, the pressure from outside sources can intrude and make the process very stressful.  Below is one mother's experience, recently published in the Washington Post.
 I have also posted a link to the comments. You may be surprised by the position taken by the majority of those who commented on the article.

"Zoe Rosso, who is 3 years old, likes to bake brownies with her mom, go to tumbling class and make up elaborate worlds with tiny plastic animals and dolls. Like many children her age, she sometimes has difficulty making it to the toilet on time.  That's why she was suspended from her preschool. For a month.
Arlington Public Schools' Montessori preschool at Claremont Elementary "removed" Zoe in December, asking her parents not to bring her back to school for a month, or until the child learned not to have any more "accidents.""

Posted by BoysRising

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