Tag Archives: parenting

Want to Live a Long, Healthy Life? Phone A Friend.

I recently read an article titled, Why Millennials Are Lonely. In it, author Caroline Beaton cites a number of potential reasons for our increasing sense of isolation and one cause, no surprise, is that social media has taken the place of what Beaton refers to as “offline” socialization. In other words, many people are spending time communicating through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and texts, rather than sharing face time with friends. In the short-term, electronic communications can make us feel more connected to our peers; however, because the interactions are fleeting and lack depth, with time they can leave us empty.

That is especially sad, because loneliness is shown to increase our risk of heart disease and early death.

Conversely, a longitudinal study on health and happiness, conducted by researches at Harvard University, found that good health and longevity are strongly linked to building and maintaining positive relationships. People who have a close-knit group of friends and family members, will live longer and healthier lives. If you’d like to learn more about this 80 year project, check out Director Robert Waldingers Ted Talk here.

As the mother of a child who will grow up in a world even more consumed with electronics and Artificial Intelligence, I want to ensure that I am teaching her to value and sustain social connections. At seven years old, she already shows a deep interest in texting and Facebook. She loves the real-time conversations she can have with relatives across the world, even if they are limited to a few lines of text and some well placed emojis. And who doesn’t? Let’s face it, social media is convenient and instantaneous. However, she also loves hosting sleepovers and special events for her close friends. She finds joy in doing kind things for people, like handwriting thank you notes and gifting favorite books to younger children. Those are the interests I want to nurture.

How can we role model friendship for the young people in our lives, and in the process alleviate loneliness we may feel? Here are some quick and easy ways to connect with loved ones and build a deeper sense of community.

1.) Take time away from social media

When we step away from our phones, ipads, and computers, we become aware of something really interesting. Life is happening all around us! And when we take time to connect, life flows through us. If we just look up for a few moments, we might find something beautiful staring us in the face.

2.) Invite a friend on a walk.

Every evening after my little one has been tucked in for the night and my husband is relaxing with a good book, I take a walk through my neighborhood. Seeing other people out and about, walking their dogs, or chatting with friends on the front porch makes me feel connected to the place where I live. I will often invite one of my closest pals to go along with me. This is an easy way for us to get exercise and fresh air, but more importantly, it is a way to connect without any distractions. We talk about work, family, plans for the future. Nothing is off-limits. Those walks are therapeutic and they are something I look forward to them during my work day. Here’s another post we wrote about this topic.

3.) Host a “game night”

I grew up in the 90s when board games were still a big deal. From Trivial Persuit, to Pictionary, to Scattergories, you could usually find my family “gaming” around the dinner table on Friday nights. There is something lighthearted and comforting about the shenanigans that ensue as you play one of these classic games. Invite a small group of people over to share a bottle of wine and hunker down on the living room floor for some friendly competition. It is a great way to bond.

4.) Perform a selfless act for someone in need

Whether you bake cookies for the young family down the street, cuddle kittens at the local Human Society, or volunteer at Bingo night for the nursing home in your community, give selflessly to help others. As we take the focus off of ourselves and think of our neighbors, we can eliminate some feelings of isolation. Better yet, build community service, volunteerism, and regular acts of kindness into your life and model it for the children you know.

5.) Throw a cocktail party

Of all the parties you can put together, this one is the easiest. All you need are two cocktail choices that you mix ahead of time, and maybe a bottle of red and white wine. Put out a couple of simple snacks and ask everyone to bring a favorite wine or beer to share. Create a fun play list, and then mingle for a few hours. Cocktail parties are a great way to bring new people together. You can invite work colleagues, college friends, and some acquaintances that you’ve wanted to get to know better. It is a great way to build your social network.

6.) Pick up the phone

There is something melodic about the voice of a loved one. When I’m feeling lonely, there is always one person who can make me feel better. It’s been that way since I was a kid. After a hard day, if I can hear my brother’s voice, all is well with the world. We text an awful lot, but there are days when listening to his jokes and hearing is laughter is the only thing that will do. Next time you reach for your phone to text a friend, give them a ring instead.

Finally, this post was written to people who may have let personal connections slip away, or who may be looking for ways to prioritize their friendships. If you are feeling more than lonely…if you are depressed or despondent, it isn’t because you haven’t tried hard enough and we encourage you to seek help. Depression can’t be fixed with a cocktail party or a nature hike. And finally, because it can’t be posted enough, here is the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)

To My Daughter On Her 7th Birthday


My Strong Willed, Spirited Girl:

Thirteen years ago, if someone had asked me about the best day of my life, I would have told them about the moment I met your father. From across a crowded room, we fell in love at first sight and I knew my life would never be the same.

Twelve years ago, I would have told them about the day I married your dad on a pink sand beach. Looking into his eyes as the ocean waves rolled upon the shore, I saw a future of endless possibilities. I still do.

Seven years ago, of course, I would have told them about the magical day that you were born. Now that I know you, I’d say it was a perfect entrance. Quick and timely, right on your due date. I know how you hate to be late to a party! That was the day I realized how far my heart could stretch and how deeply and fiercely I could love.

Today, if someone asked me about the best day of my life, my answer would be different. Today I would say that the best day is the one that I am blessed to be living right now. Each and every minute that I get to love you and your dad, and feel your love in return is a celebration. My life is no longer defined by single, once-in-a-lifetime events, but instead measured by the beauty of ordinary moments that bring us together.

Your laughter, your smile, your dad’s bad jokes, our hikes in the woods, our dinner table conversations…those little things have become the most extraordinary pieces of my life. And every morning when I wake up and I see your faces, I know that THIS is going to be the best day I have ever known.

I am a lucky woman. You have transformed my world and taught me so much. I am constantly in awe of your capacity to love, your ability to learn, and your desire to work hard. You are thoughtful, hilarious, and creative beyond belief. You inspire me to live my best life and to reach further than I ever thought possible.

Happy birthday, my love. Thank you for making every day the best day of my life.

-Mom

Happy

Making A Day At The Art Museum Fun For Kids

Art museum security guards tense up as soon as they see my six-year-old coming. She is a disastrous mix of loud, bouncy, and unpredictable. I, of course, delight in her spiritedness and curiosity, but not those who have been entrusted with protecting national treasures worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. They do not find her the least bit adorable.

But listen here, friends! Those suspicious gazes and narrowed glances won’t deter us from developing my daughters appreciation of art! After all, the security guard is just doing his job, right?

The Milwaukee Art Museum 1

So, before we go any further, allow me back up and explain why art appreciation is important to me as a parent, and as a person….

I am someone who has always been surrounded by art. My family is a motley crew of painters, designers, writers and toilers. When I was a child, my mother’s favorite line was: “Creative children are never bored. If you’re looking for something to do, go draw.” Best. Advice. Ever.

As an adult, I apprenticed under a master artist, learning to draw and paint in a classical style. Eventually I studied art in various parts of the world before getting my master’s degree is in Art History with an emphasis on ancient Chinese archaeology. Because art has been such an important part of my existence, I want to share this passion with my little one.

However (and maybe you’ve noticed this, too) very few art museums scream “kids zone!” Many have hushed hallways, objects that MUST NOT be touched, the aforementioned scrutiny of security guards, and artwork that is hung for people 5 feet and taller. Some art museums do have children’s galleries and art stations, which are lovely and appreciated. But, at the same time, I want my daughter to experience important collections from Egyptian antiquities to Flemish portraits – from German Post-Impressionists to American modernists. I want her to walk the same halls that I do, with a shared sense of wonder. And so we have learned how to create a kid-friendly day at the art museum!

Here are some tips for making an art museum visit engaging for your little one:

The Milwaukee Art Museum 3

Move at your own pace.

Some people feel that they need to take in the whole museum in one day, or view a gallery frame by frame. Not in our family. We believe in quality over quantity. If our daughter only has the attention span to take in three paintings and a photograph, that’s fine with us. I would rather have her passionately study a few works, than mindlessly take in a thousand. At this age, it is not about teaching her to distinguish a Rembrant from a Renoir – it is about developing her inquisitive mind.

Feel it (but don’t touch it).

I once had a boyfriend ask me what he was supposed to feel when he looked at a painting. What in the world? I thought to myself. After all, feelings are deeply personal. Your reaction to a painting and my reaction to a painting may be incredibly different. I can’t tell you WHAT to feel. We broke up.

Learning from that experience, I encourage my daughter to get emotional about art. I ask her to walk through the gallery halls until she finds a piece that moves her. When she sees it, she stops. Then we talk about the artwork, how it makes us feel, and why.

Laugh.

If you want a child to remember an experience with a certain level of fondness, make it fun! On our trips to the museum, we like to create silly background stories for some of our favorite works. Or see how many paintings we can count that have an apple or a crow as part of the subject. Or sometimes we choose to recreate a pose from a Rodin sculpture. Little ones deserve to have fun and play injected into everything they do!

Be kind to the security guards, even if they don’t trust your kid.

“Hello! How are you today? You spend a lot of time in this gallery – do you have a favorite work of art?” Nothing wins someone over like a little bit of kindness. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try.

Share your enthusiasm.

In advance of our trip, I choose one masterpiece to show my daughter on our visit. I will do research on that piece and then, once we get to the museum, share what I’ve learned in the form of a story (so that it holds her attention…no lectures, mom). It is rewarding to be able to share my passion with her.

The Milwaukee Art Museum Art Center

Do take advantage of the kids spaces.

If your art museum offers a kid’s gallery or activity center, take advantage of those areas. After exploring the galleries, there is nothing that our family enjoys more than creating an art project inspired by our favorite masterpieces.

Follow up at home.

Sometimes my little one will ask me a question about symbolism or style, and I don’t know the answer. We will make a note of it, and then do internet research when we get home. Other times, we may be moved by a style of art (Fauvism or Cubism, for example) and then go home and create artwork inspired by that creative movement. It is fun to continue the adventure in our own space.

We obviously also let her wear a princess crown to the museum, which never hurts! I must say that most places become extra-extraordinary when you’ve got a crown…

I hope these little tips will help you on your next trip to the art museum. If you move at your own pace and tailor the experience to your child’s interests, you won’t get tantrums and boredom – you will get engagement, excitement, and active learning. Most importantly, it will be a trip that is enjoyable for both children and adults.

For more parenting fun, check out this post on inspiring books for children.

Finding Balance in Life: Coffee Meetings With My Kiddo

I’ve always been a working mom, and at times it has been incredibly trying to juggle all of the demands of my life. When my daughter was a toddler, she’d often ask me why I couldn’t stay at home with her. “I don’t want to go to school. I want to be with you!”

Her protests would break my heart, but I was confident that going to work was the right decision for me, and for our family. I just hoped I’d find strategies to make it easier.

In those early years I had a really stressful job and on most mornings I’d be racing around our house getting dressed, rushing through breakfast, and trying to get out the door to make it to my first meeting on time. My little one would look up at me with her big brown eyes and ask why I had to leave so soon.

“Mommy has another coffee meeting,” I’d respond, kissing her rosy cheek and giving her a reassuring smile.

One morning my daughter gave me a very stern look and in a loud voice shouted, “I want a coffee meeting with you!

That demand made me stop in my tracks. My two-year old had no idea what a coffee meeting was, but she knew that it must be important – and she was missing out.

So from that moment on, we began scheduling regular “coffee meetings”. They are on my calendar, highlighted in my daughter’s favorite color. They are never cancelled or rescheduled. Hand in hand we head to a neighborhood cafe before school, on a vacation day, or after a ballet lesson. I usually order an almond milk latte while my daughter gets a flavored steamer. We sit for an hour or so, talking about our favorite things and making plans for the future. Sometimes we color or read together, play My Little Pony, or explore a book store. Our meetings focus on the important work of childhood.

Having these special moments with my daughter is something that I cherish. It has definitely helped me find more balance in my life. Now my daughter is fine when I say Mommy has another coffee meeting, because she gets coffee meetings, too.

Coffee time

Ready to order

The perfect steamer

Enjoying my life

Coffee Talk

Mom drink & kid drink

 

 

 

 

Vegan Hot Cocoa and a Hike in the Snow

In the Midwest, we’ve just celebrated the first snow fall of the season!

There is something dreamy and ethereal about the first dusting of snow. It makes the world look and sound different…colorless and hushed.

For kids, the first snow represents an opportunity for magical play and exploration. Snow: a cold substance that can be packed into balls, sculpted into figures, or moved into angels. Oh, what fun!

When my daughter found out that flurries were moving into our area overnight, she made me promise to take her on a winter hike the next morning. That evening, as she was getting ready for bed, she asked me to write the promise on her hand so we wouldn’t forget.

A promise is a promise

She woke up before the sun, squealing with joy that the world had been painted white. “Mom, mom, let’s go on our hike!” she cried. “Honey, it’s not even 6:00 a.m.,” I replied, folding my head deeper into my pillow. But she wouldn’t take no for an answer. As a compromise, I helped her get dressed in all of her winter gear and let her run around outside while I sipped coffee in the comfort of our warm home.

Eventually, the sun was up, I was caffeinated, and we were all ready to go. My husband, daughter, and I set out on a winter wonderland adventure!

Girls hiking

After hours spent hiking in frosty woods, there is nothing better than relaxing with a mug of hot cocoa. Today’s easy recipe is for all of my vegan friends!

Vegan “Almond Joy” Hot Cocoa – serves 2

3 cups of unsweetened coconut milk

1 tablespoon of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of baking cocoa (dairy free)

1 teaspoon of almond extract

1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Vegan marshmallows

In a pot bring the coconut milk and brown sugar to a simmer. Next, mix in the baking cocoa, almond extract, cinnamon, and cayenne and stir until smooth. Serve in a mug with vegan marshmallows.

The coconut, chocolate and almond are divine! The hints of cinnamon and cayenne pepper turn it up a notch. Enjoy! And stay warm.

Like what you see? Check out this vegan recipe from Entertaining Family.

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