Tag Archives: Life

Time – A Thrive! Dinner Review

Sept. 30th beginning at 5pm, a group from Essex County came together for a Thrive! Dinner.  It began by making quesadillas.  This was actually a new experience for some.  In fact, one person admitted to googling it ahead of the gathering.  As I think about it, we never had quesadillas when I was growing up either.  It is something that we have come to enjoy thanks to increased exposure to Mexican food.  Life changes as we open ourselves to new experiences.

Eating together

As we sat for dinner, we shared fellowship offering insights into the highlights of our summer and our dreams.  At times the room grew quiet as we munched away.  It was a mirror of family dinners with their ebbs and flows of conversation.  Sometimes we need a little help to keep everyone engaged.

We actually finished the meal early.  Knowing that one family would be late, we took the time to be a little silly as participants paired up and took turns trying to empty a bucket of balls that was tied behind our backs by shaking it like Shakira.  While there is video of this, we have opted not to include it here to protect the dignity of our participants  😉 If you want to see this in action, you’ll have to come to a dinner!

Playing with time

Once all participants had arrived, we broke up into teams and began a kind of obstacle course which explored the challenges of trying to manage time within families.  Stations included “last minute science project”, “I can’t find my…”, “slow eater”, “dinner dilemma”, “homework”, “quiz prep”, “late for the bus”, “walk the dog”, “two places at once”, and “scheduling”.  Each activity sought to mimic a reality in the life of families.  Click here for a description of these activities.

Going deeper

Breaking off into our groups, we took some time to talk about the activities.  When asked which resonated most with our lives, the parents recognised the scheduling as a regular challenge.  We also acknowledged the struggles getting children to school on time and dealing with homework.  It is frustrating that the way some subjects are taught are so different from what we remember.  Sometimes we need to admit we don’t know and tell our children to ask their teacher.

Homework help

Enter the Internet – did you know that the Ontario Ministry of Education offers free, live online math tutoring from an Ontario teacher?  Check out http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/elearning/homework.html for more information.  It is also possible to find videos and other helpful tools when you google a topic.

Time challenge

Family life today is surrounded by many challenges.  From busy schedules, to meal planning, to seeking to balance work and life, it is easy to become overwhelmed.  Still, as we gathered together at the end of the evening we recognised that there are those incredible moments when we are in our ‘happy places’, gathered together doing meaningful things.  Our prayer is that we continue to make time for those moments so that our lives continue to include the joy, grace and wonder that comes with being family.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Busy Schedules

Now that school is in full swing, many families have returned to the hectic schedules that fill our

We interrupt your regularly scheduled life to bring you your child’s hockey season!

calendars. Meetings, appointments, lessons, practices, work, competitions and games can keep us busy from the beep of our morning alarms until the time we collapse into bed.  As a result, our priorities as parents often shift as we attempt to negotiate how to meet these demands.  Sometimes it feels like we spend hours of our day playing chauffeur to our children as they go from one thing to the next. At times, it can feel overwhelming, trying to ensure that our kids’ needs are met while also making sure that we get done what we need to do.

We have a calendar to track who is where when.  Our house doesn’t live 9am to 5pm as was once the norm.  Work requirements have both hubby and me at evening meetings and events.  The kid also has evening priorities.  We had dinner together Saturday and Sunday evening but Monday, hubby has a meeting, Tuesday the kid is in school until 6:30pm, Wednesday the kid has a dinnertime meeting, Thursday the kid is in school and at lessons until 8:30pm and I have an evening meeting.  So, it will be Friday before we can have dinner as a family again and we are only 3 people.  I can only imagine what it is like negotiating the calendar for more children!

Still, we try to make the time we have together meaningful.  Every effort is made to ensure that we have at least a little time each day to reflect together on what has happened.  Sometimes this is essentially limited to the moment before bed where we pray together, identifying something which makes us mad, glad, sad or scared, something for which we are thankful and what we hope to achieve tomorrow.  This typically provides some insights into our journeys individually and as family.  It is a moment in time, but remains something important for all of us.

We also pair off and connect.  Time in the car going from one event to the next is spent in conversation giving us an opportunity to hear from the kid about the challenges and blessings of life.  Hubby and I take time each day to share the challenges and blessings of work.  Sometimes these are small moments, but, for us, these moments matter.

I know, our schedules are not unique.  Families today face similarly hectic days that make it difficult to connect.  How does it work in your home?  How do you try to ensure that the needs of all family members are met?  In what ways do you try to connect with every person, catching glimpses of life as they seem to fly by?  What commitments does your family make to be together at least for some moments throughout the week?

Share your thoughts and practices in the comments.  Who knows, it might inspire something new for someone else.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Screen Time

Fun fact: there were a couple of years when our television mysteriously ‘broke’ during summer and my parents were ‘too busy’ working to get it fixed.  In reality, my parents had simply cut power to the television in an effort to ensure that we would not spend our summer in front of it. 

Unplugging today

As a parent, I didn’t have the opportunity to ‘pull the plug’ on television in the same way.  While we have only ever had one television set in our home, we have accumulated computers, a tablet and cell phones.  The number of screen options has grown exponentially over the years making it very difficult to surreptitiously eliminate the possibility of screen time.

That being said, following the pediatric guidelines we did try to minimise screen time while our child was young.  We have also taken a technology-free vacation where only one cell phone was allowed for emergency purposes.  This led to a particularly wacky weekend where board games had us laughing uncontrollably.

The reality of Screen time

With a cell phone and computer readily available, our teenager spends a lot of time in front of a screen.  During the school year, (as I wrote about here) we recognise that technology is a vital tool for research and development of projects and notes.  I know from my own experience that a fair bit of my work is spent on the computer – researching, writing, connecting with people and so on.  We would not want to get in the way of our teenager developing the necessary skills to use technology.

The challenge of summer

Summer, however, provides a time away from the rigours associated with school and thus the use of technology changes.  For our teen, some time is spent reading and being creative on Wattpad or writing music with MuseScore activities which we think should be encouraged.  We also know there are social media accounts to review including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.  We seek balance in the process but recognise that there is still work to do, including regarding the importance of validation via impersonal social media accounts.

Modelling balance

Balance is encouraged when it is also modeled by other members of the family.  Parents who are overly focused on technology and zone out while watching television or working on the computer, validate these actions for their children.  Banning technology during meals and at other meaningful opportunities can create space from which interpersonal interactions can take place reinforcing these skills as well.  This doesn’t require a special pepper mill to do so, but does need a commitment from family members to use this time together for conversation.

What do you do?

So then, how does it work at your house?  Do you place limits on technology and screen time for your children?  How do you balance positive use with potentially problematic usage?  What advice would you give to others in regards to the use of technology in youth?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual

Is our value in what we own?

Minimalism: Consumer Culture and the Family

A long-time friend (we were roommates in University) has decided to simply her life.  After moving from a large home to an apartment, she is now moving a second time and simplifying again.  As a result, she posed the question on Facebook: “Who is it that decided that we needed different types of drinking vessels? I have 23 glasses of 4 types plus 13 mugs/cups. I’m pretty sure I don’t need 36 vessels from which to drink. ‘Tis a sign of successful marketing for certain. I’m now debating how many to purge without my friends thinking I’ve gone over the edge in my embracement of minimalism (or my use of the word vessel).”

How many glasses are enough?

She has a point.  Through effective advertising, social norms evolve.  These norms suggest that different glasses serve different functions and, depending on the meal, you may need more than one glass per person as illustrated in these table setting guidelines.

There is considerable pressure for people to conform to social norms.  We want feel a part of the group and desire the approval of others.  This, then, influences the choices we make, including what we choose to buy.  Thus, we may have wine glasses with ones suitable for white wine, others for red and others still for champagne because advertisements have told us the differences matter.  We have juice glasses, water goblets, mugs, highballs, shot glasses and more depending on our drinking style and preferences.  Indeed, I wonder what might happen if we stop to consider how much cupboard space is used by vessels whose primary purpose is for beverages.

How much stuff is enough?

If we are honest with ourselves, we might have to admit that the number of drinking vessels we possess are merely one example of the plurality of things we buy because we think we need them.  What might happen if we challenge ourselves to consider how much we really need?  What we could do without?

While it seems trivial to even have this conversation, the fact remains, wartime homes are far smaller than what is popular today.  We have amassed so much ‘stuff’ that we require more space to store it.  There are those who have garages that are filled with stuff to the point where it is impossible to park a car.

What are we teaching our children?

This is the norm today.  We are told over and over again to buy our happiness.  In the process, some complain that Millennials are an ‘entitled’ generation because they expect to have things.  To some extent, they are merely conforming to the expectation that we all have a role to play in consumerism.  Have we considered what this might mean for the next generation?  How will our children relate to ‘stuff’?  What pressures will they feel to buy?

Listening to our children…

How often do we hear from our children that they ‘need’ this gadget or that piece of clothing?  How often do we recognise when they reflect back that willingness to conform to a norm that says we must buy and buy and buy?  To what extent do we want our children to see our ability to participate in consumer culture as a sign of our value in society as a whole?  What might we do to introduce values which focus more on the gifts our children have within themselves so that they can find value in sharing their talents, time and treasure in meaningful ways?

There will always be advertisements telling us to buy.  What can we do/what are we doing to teach our children that their value is about something other than what they own?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Heat Wave

On July 2nd, a portion of highway 3 near Windsor was closed after the road had buckled in the extreme heat (click here for the article).  Reports at that time indicated that the temperature had reached 34C with a humidex of 43C.  Environment Canada continues the heat warning proclaiming that this is the most significant heat event in the past few years.

Windsor is hot

I grew up in Windsor. I remember hot humid days. I remember begging our teacher to have class outside because we didn’t have air conditioning in our school.  I remember unbearable nights before our home had air conditioning.  And I remember the powerful storms that often signalled relief.  Windsor is at the top of the list in Canada when it comes to heat and humidity.  This has been the case for decades.

Is it getting hotter?

Climate change models indicate that the average global temperatures have been increasing since the onset of the industrial age with each year being hotter than the last.  In fact, 2013-2017 is the hottest five year period on record and while, technically, the average temperatures for 2017 were not higher than 2016, they are the highest on record for a year without an El Nino current to influence the temperatures.  See here for visual representations of this change.

In this article the National Collaboration Centre for Environmental Health suggests that by 2050 cities across Canada will experience four times the number of very hot days as compared to 2012.

How is it dangerous?

Complications from extreme heat can cause dehydration, dizziness, behaviour changes, headaches and more.  At the extreme, one could suffer heat stroke which requires immediate medical attention as it can be deadly.  Pets and other animals are also susceptible to the effects of extreme heat.  It is important to be diligent in monitoring ourselves and those around us to make sure everyone is comfortable and safe.

What can we do?

Water is life in these conditions.  Drinking plenty of cold water, a dip in a pool or cold bath or shower can be vital ways to help cool off.  Where air conditioning is available, it is a ready source of escape from the heat.  This means that as our children are off for summer, a large portion of their time will be spent indoors, at least until this heat breaks.  Board games, puzzles, books, movies, video games, crafts and more can help pass the time at home.  Trips to the library and other public venues can also provide access to cool environments that engage the mind.

What do you do?

We been through these conditions before.  It’s Windsor.  It gets hot in the summer.  So, what are you doing to keep cool?  What are the kids doing?  How can this still be a meaningful time during this break?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Inter-generational Families

My grandmother turns 98 today.  What a wonderful gift it is to be connected to generations before us.  I have been blessed to have a relationship with all of my grandparents well into my adulthood.  In fact, three of my grandparents and one of my husband’s all met our child.

Getting older

The 2016 Canadian census discovered that, for the first time since Confederation, the number of seniors 65 and older is actually larger than the number of children 14 and younger.  This change includes a significant increase in the number of those over 85 and in the number of individuals over 100.  (Click here for more information)

The times are changing…

My grandmother was born in 1920.  She was a child through the roaring 20’s and a teenager through the Great Depression.  She married during the Second World War and began to have children as it was ending contributing to the baby boom. She was alive when Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon and when JFK and Martin Luther King were shot.  She remembers when Trudeau senior was Prime Minister of Canada.  Her family is in the Guinness Book of World Records as one of two families where 11 children celebrated 50 years of marriage or more.  A lot has happened over the life span of my grandmother, the changes are incredible.

Honouring our story…

It is a blessing to have four generations come together to celebrate milestones.  From our grandparents we glimpse our past and connect to a story that is larger than ourselves.  Perhaps this is why there has been considerable interest in exploring our history through sites like ancestry.ca.  Having someone available to fill in the blanks for us can be a meaningful resource in discovering who we are in this larger picture.

Sometimes it helps to get creative in our efforts to keep family close.  Years ago, our child entered that phase when there are monsters under the bed around the same time as we lost my maternal grandparents.  As a result, one night I simply explained to my kid that it wasn’t monsters under the bed, but rather it was great grandparents visiting.  This became a fun game as my kid wanted to know what these individuals might be doing.  It created space from which to share a bit about my grandparents.  One of my grandfathers played piano, they were both teases.  I would say they were kibitzing around until my grandmother would yell: “Harold, Bernard, stop that! Don’t you know the child’s trying to sleep”.  That’s exactly what she would have said.  These conversations have helped to keep one generation close to another.

What do you do?

What do you know about your family’s history?  How is that shared from one generation to the next?  To what extent are you able to connect to the generations before and after yourself?  How has this proved meaningful for you?  Recently we hosted an inter-generational BBQ to celebrate graduation milestones.  Click here for a video of participants sharing their wisdom.  Watch for more opportunities to include all of the generations at our Thrive! Dinners.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

School’s out!

No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks…

I remember how much fun it was on the last day of school both as a student and as a teacher.  It signaled that moment when the responsibilities of the school system could fall away into the background as we shifted our priorities and energies to other things.

School’s out for the summer!

The next day was often about sleeping in.  After weeks of assignments or marking, exams or report cards, rest became a priority.  It was nice to not have to worry about anything at least for a short while.  Soon enough, however, the question arose: “what next?”

What next?

Summer vacation for students is typically two months long.  While there are those who are content to sleep and relax for a large part of that time, there will always be moments when restlessness creeps in and challenges us to do something.  This is the struggle of many parents who hear that mantra “I’m bored”.

Summer expectations

The fact remains, just because students are out of school, doesn’t automatically mean that parents are off work.  In fact, even teachers are known to take courses and prepare for the next school year during the summer break.  Still, young children (and perhaps not so young children) need supervision and, all too often, parents are expected to be some kind of cruise director, determining what children will do during their time off.

At the same time, some parents (and perhaps some forward thinking young people) see summer as an important opportunity to learn and develop skills in alternative ways.  Released from the expectations of the formal school system, it becomes possible to explore different experiences.  Sports teams like baseball and soccer help to keep young people fit and teach sportsmanship and other important skills. Differently themed summer camps can have children making robots, learning to cook, exploring nature and more.  Family vacations can create space to explore new places and be family.  Job shadowing or taking on a summer job open the door to explore employment skills and routines while potentially earning a bit of money.

How will your family use this time away?

The opportunities over summer are limited only by our creativity.  How will you use this time off school?  In what ways do you hope that this time will be meaningful for the family?  What do you think the role of the parent is in planning summer activities?  What role should children play in entertaining themselves?  We would love to hear your thoughts.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Graduation Day

Today my kid graduates from secondary school.  There are many parents on my timeline who are acknowledging similar milestones for their kids.  To all of these young people I say Congratulations!

So how does it feel?

The important milestones in life are not celebrate alone.  Birth, entry and graduation from school, weddings, funerals – these are moments which affect families and communities as a whole.  At the centre of these events are individuals who are experiencing changes.  A child anxiously starting kindergarten, a teen wearing cap and gown as they say ‘good bye’ to the routines of high school, a spouse tearfully saying ‘good bye’ to their partner.  Simultaneously, there are those who are directly impacted by the ways life has changed for someone we hold dear.  In fact, a parent may remember far more vividly than the child that first day of kindergarten.  Whether we cried or didn’t, the fact remains, we all had feelings about that moment and these feelings matter.

Graduation Day

To watch our children step up to the platform and receive their diploma signals a significant shift in the lives of the family.  While the diploma might indicate that the child has achieved what is necessary to complete an education program, it also symbolises an expectation that the child has reached a new level of maturity.  When teenagers graduate from high school, the world assumes that they are prepared to make life-decisions.  With that moment, they are expected to decide what happens next.

What are the options?

Secondary school programming begins to explore the options with teenagers beginning in grade 10.  For some this is experienced with anxiety as they assume that failing to make the ‘right’ choice could somehow lead to a disastrous life.  In reality, for decades we have come to recognise that we don’t have to choose a single path: that we can walk a long and winding road, shifting and changing, remaking ourselves at each turn and still live a life we love.

What do you want to be right now?

For years, when asked what I wanted my child to be, I have said ‘happy’.  I believe that the best job in the world is the one that you love and provides you, at a minimum, with sufficient resources to meet your basic needs.  This is something that may change over the course of a lifetime and I would say that is OK.  Of course, this is my opinion.  I would love to hear others.

What do you think?

What are your priorities for your children?  What role do you think parents should play in helping teenagers make decisions after high school graduation?  How will you be there for your child as they navigate through the next stage of their life?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Learning the Basics

The education platform for the Progressive Conservatives included a commitment to “…focus on the fundamentals and that includes proven methods of teaching.” .  This includes the proposed scrapping of ‘discovery math’ as test scores for Ontario have shown a lack of improvement for this area.

What are the fundamentals?

While there are many who would agree that getting back to basics is important, few take the statement one step further and ask what the basics are.  What should students know and be able to do when they graduate from elementary school; from high school?  What steps are needed to achieve these goals?

Arithmetic vs. ‘Discovery Math’

There are generations of students who made it through a school system where arithmetic was taught by route.  Doing worksheet after worksheet of calculations to ensure that students knew how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  These are important skills and continue to be included in the curriculum.  The change is that now students are encouraged to learn through manipulatives which also help to develop problem solving capacities.

Why does it matter?

Learning arithmetic by route may mean that, at least for a time, students are able calculate 12 x 9 without assistance.  In life, however, there are no worksheets asking people to calculate basic questions.  Instead there are problems that we have to solve that may ultimately lead to a calculation.  For example, someone may need to calculate how many tiles are needed for a new 12 foot by 9 foot floor, someone might want to tip 12% or someone may want to calculate how much food is needed for a dinner party with 12 people.  While 12 x 9 can be calculated using calculators, calculator apps or even a cash register for those who are cashiers, people need to have sufficient skills in problem solving to know what to calculate.

Who likes math?

Compounding the issue is that, for some reason, mathematics is one of the few things that people are proud to say that they are not very good at doing.  In fact, math anxiety is widely accepted as a reality for a portion of the population. This includes parents, grandparents, teachers and students impacting confidence levels across generations.

What do you think?

Whether we like math or not doesn’t change its value to the education process.  So, assuming it is necessary, who do you think should decide what aspects of mathematics are foundational skills necessary for learning?  What resources should be used to decide how these skills are taught?  To what extent would you be willing to review these skills in order to assist your children as needed?

Tools for Life

Voting

This week, my family did something in unison that we hadn’t done before.  We all voted.  It was the first opportunity for our teen to mark an ‘’x” adding to the voices of millions as we seek to elect the government officials who will make decisions on our behalf in the next few years.

Nurturing responsible participation

As parents, we are gifted with the task of seeking to raise our children to become responsible adults.  There are many skills required to do so from basic housekeeping, to problem solving, to money-management, to participation in society.  It is not uncommon for young people to ask their parents advice about job interviews, education programming and relationships.  These may shape and form some of the conversations we have over the years.  Our children expect us to know things and, hopefully, value our advice for a long time.

Sharing our views

To what extent do our conversations also include our attitudes about the policies and practices of our governments?  When the minimum wage was raised at the beginning of the year, did we share our feelings in front of our children?  Do we talk about the potential trade war and its impact on Canadian families?  Have we expressed our opinions about legislation to reduce climate change?

For a long time people were taught not to talk about politics or religion.  Perhaps this unwillingness to share our views has contributed to poor voter turnout and declining church attendance.

One example

In our home, we don’t shy away from political conversation.  Policy and practices are continually discussed through the lens of our beliefs and ethics.  We don’t always agree but we do listen to each other.  As a result, our teen has been looking forward to voting since the age of 12.  In fact, as teachers encourage those who are 18 to get out and vote, our kid tells them to focus on everyone else.  Tonight our teenager is keen to watch the results, understanding that whatever happens will have implications for all people in Ontario.

What about you?

Do you talk politics in front of your children? With you children?  To what extent has the election been discussed in your home?  What have you done to encourage your children to vote?  What tools have you nurtured in them to help them explore the platforms and their implications for your family and others?  Do you have children interested in voting?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/