Children, Family, Kids

What To Do with Children (no, seriously, please tell me)

I clearly do not know how to handle children that have been put into my care. Surly teenagers, that’s my jam. Even pre-pubescent pre-teens I can handle. But young children, I haven’t a clue. I can’t even play Clue with them. I can’t play most games with them and the youngest is nowhere near ready for jigsaw puzzles. Those are my go-to moves and I can’t even use them, but at 6 and 3, there’s not much I can do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love these kids, but I think sometimes it’s hard to tell in the way I show it. They are my boyfriends’ girls and the most important two people in his life, even though we don’t get them often. They are adorable and funny, but also stubborn and annoying. They laugh, they cry, they puke, they sing, they dance, they whine, and they won’t eat the food we put in front of them (which, my sister says is total karma).

I probably come off surly around them, but I don’t mean to be. I don’t feel surly. I just want them to be good kids, and I tend to go over-board controlling on things that I feel responsible for (thank you responsibility strength). So, I end up telling them don’t do this and stop that more than I say good job and keep it up. I don’t mean to. Really I don’t. I just want them to be good kids. But what defines a good kid?

Just like in the classroom, I think what I need is a set of definite expectations and rules for the kids to be successful kids. That can help a lot with using positive language instead of negative language. Instead of saying “don’t complain” I can say “is that being grateful? No? Then let’s try being grateful instead.” I swear I did more of that last time we had them for more than a few days, but I think it may have taken a few days to get there. My boyfriend has even said, “I know you don’t like the girls” to me before, which hurts because it isn’t true at all and I hate that I might come off that way. I swear I don’t mean to. It’s hard for me to try and rationalize with a human or is unable or barely able to rationalize. How else are you supposed to interact with someone?

I think a lot of it is the blatant selfishness of the kids. But it’s not just them. It’s all young children. And they really aren’t that bad compared to other kids I’ve seen. It’s in their nature and enforced in our culture. With this land of plenty, they have room to want things because all their needs are met and then some. So, being a tiny, adorable human that the world clearly revolves around, they want and want and want. Then they are so disappointed when you say no, it makes it seem like they don’t care at all about what they do have and everything that you have given them and done for them. It’s hard to be nice to someone like that. It makes you not want to do things for them. So, I’ve been saying don’t whine and don’t be selfish instead of be grateful, and I come off like I don’t like them.

But they do like me. They shout my name and run when they see me. They give me random hugs that melt my heart. They call mean ‘aunt’ because they want to feel connected to me more than just some girl in their life. And they love for me to do things with them – when I can figure out what to do with them. I suppose they are quick to forget the “don’t do this” and “stop that”s that I feel like I am constantly saying to them. But I don’t. I hate feeling like I have more negative interactions with them than positive ones. In the classroom, it’s good to have a least a 3 to 1 positive to negative comment/interaction ratio. I wan’t to apply that with these kids, too.

Back to needing expectations. Expectations will help me keep the important stuff in mind and let everything else go. They’re still unique humans after all, and I need to let them be them instead of being so controlling. Below I’m going to try and sketch out some expectations and what they mean in order to be successful and happy children.

  1. I expect them to be respectful. This means saying ma’am and sir.
  2. I expect them to be polite. This means saying please, thank you, you’re welcome, and bless you.
  3. I expect them to be grateful. This means showing appreciation for the food they get, the things they get, the people they get to spend time with, and the places they get to go and things they get to do.
  4. I expect them to want things, but to be graceful about it. This means politely asking for something and then saying yes sir or yes ma’am and moving on when told ‘no.’
  5. I expect them to be healthy. This means eating a good portion of the vegetables and meat we serve them and staying away from anything with sugar.
  6. I expect them to be children. This means playing, laughing, singing, blowing snot bubbles, crying, falling, puking, and giving random hugs that melt your heart.

I understand that number 4 may still be unrealistic for the younger one. Maybe even the older one. Or maybe we just haven’t gotten a chance to work on it enough. At least with these expectations in mind, I can use more positive language to steer them towards expected behavior and away from negative behavior, instead of just telling them to stop the negative behavior.

I still have no idea how to handle the younger one when she completely ignores me telling her to do something. But her dad doesn’t seem to fare much better, so maybe there’s not a good way. Or maybe we’re both doing it wrong. Suggestions?

How do you interact with children this young? Do you have any games or activities that an adult could do with a 6 and a 3-year-old? We take them to parks and play places and the pool, but I want something indoors that I or we can do with both of them that doesn’t involve watching TV. Do you have any suggestions or insights for someone who isn’t used to interacting with young children? I clearly need some help in this area and would love to read your input, insight, and suggestions. Thank you.

Self Growth

Our Need for a Purpose

A friend of mine recently made the comment that she was wanting to “find a purpose”. I think that’s something we all share. We all want to find our purpose in life. We all want to find a way to make a difference, to better ourselves, and to better the world. Sometimes we feel this desire so strongly that it feels like a need, like we might die without it. But where did this need come from? I guarantee you that my cat has no such need or desire. He could care less about finding his purpose or bettering himself in some way. He just wants food, water, belly rubs, head scratches, and to finally catch that elusive red dot. He is purrfectly content playing, napping, eating, and grooming all day long. So why aren’t we?

While it certainly seems like we are content working just enough to pay the bills and watching Netflix all day, deep down inside most of us aren’t. We may enjoy it at the time, but there’s that nagging voice deep within us telling us we should be doing more. We should be reading, writing, creating, exercising, and planning in order to improve ourselves. We look for our purpose in the things we make, the ways we improve, the volunteer work we do, and the career path we choose. We want to find a way in which we can contribute that will give us that sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

Where does this come from? What part of our brain developed this inner voice pushing us to do better instead of being satisfied with just enough? Where along the evolutionary trail did we develop this need? And why do we have it? What purpose does this almost primal feeling serve that drives us to work harder and nags us when we relax?

Perhaps it’s sociological. Improving oneself and the community is rewarded with praise, admiration, and increased social status. Whether it’s having a fit body, working with a charity, or being knowledgeable in trivia, we are impressed by skills, knowledge, and selfless acts shown by others.

Or perhaps it’s instinctual. When the community is improved, it improves our own lives as well. Being fit or talented can help when threatened. And when people are in awe of someone, it’s easier for that person to manipulate his/her fans for self-gain.

Whatever the reason, we all have this drive to find that sense of purpose. That one thing that will give us a sense of fulfillment and help leave our mark on this world. Have you found yours?

What do you think causes this need for purpose? Why do we need this type of fulfillment? What purpose have you found for yourself? How did you discover it? Or are you still searching?

Me? I want to be a teacher, a writer, a mentor, and a mother.

Self Growth

Impressive Talents

What is it about seeing others’ success that makes us want to be able to do the same thing? I always feel more motivated to work out after watching an action movie with a lot of skilled fighting than I do from reading about how exercise is good for me. I feel an urge to learn how to grind a pipe on my roller blades after watching someone else do it. I even feel more inspired to write after watching a TV show with a successful author than from daydreaming of a new story or poem idea. Nothing makes me want to study more than watching Bones or Big Bang Theory (when they actually talk about their research, anyway) so I can strive to be as smart as those characters. This also applies when I see friends or colleagues show off knowledge or a talent, such as doing a hand stand, describing how different chemicals react together, playing an instrument or singing, or explaining how something works. Often times when I wish I was better at something, it stems from me feeling a sense of  awe as I watch someone else showcase a talent or knowledge. This makes it difficult to determine what hobbies I genially enjoy and what hobbies I just want to get good at in order to show off. Piano, for example, is something I used to care about getting good at to show off to others, but now I only play for myself, because of how much I love it. Jigsaw puzzles are also something I enjoy, although I do love showing off my skill at those. Knitting, while I enjoy making things and I enjoy the Zen in it, I believe is a talent that I enjoy showing off what I make more than actually making things. But that’s still something I am trying to figure out because I also do enjoy making things for other people. I am no good at drawing and gave that up years ago because I never felt like I would be good, even though I used to love to draw. Writing is always something I have loved, and certainly not something that I show off, although I do enjoy sharing my writing. I’ve never found a good enough reason to really get in shape and get strong. Anytime I want to, it’s to be able to show off, and I never stick with the work outs for more than a few months. I’ve just never found a good enough personal reason to stick with it. But I always get motivated after watching Black Widow kick butt in the Avenger movies. Or Bones, for that matter. She’s a much more realistic goal too. But back to the main question: why does feeling awe at someone else’s talent make us what to also possess that talent? (I’m assuming I’m not unique in this, although I recognize that probably not everyone feels this way.) I suppose it would have to do with what we personally hold value. I see the value in being able to fight, in case I was to be assaulted. Therefore, I’m impressed by awesome fighting skills. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe I’m impressed by a skill, so I decide it must have value. One way to get someone to like you more is to ask them to do a small favor for you. Social convention will oblige that person to say yes, and they will subconsciously justify doing you a favor by deciding that they must like you. So perhaps I am putting value into skills I see others do that impress me in order to justify being impressed by them. After all, what practical need would I have for doing a handstand or taking out 10 guys at once who all have on body armor?  What need would I have for being able to pop a wheelie on a motor cycle or be phenomenal at Mario Cart? Both those talents impress me, but that doesn’t mean they are valuable or that I need to accomplish them (as much as I may day dream about accomplishing them). After all, I am impressed by doctors and dentist, but have zero desire to do either of those jobs. I suppose the trick is to consciously separate things that impress me and things in that I am genially interested. That way, I can stop day dreaming about fighting with the Avengers and start actually doing things that bring me joy and satisfaction.

Self Growth

It Takes a Day to Break

I imagine those of you who suffer from chronic, oh so persistent, depression will relate to this the most, but maybe everyone will.

This is going to be a personal post, and possibly a bit depressing, so Mom you might want to skip this one.

It feels like my life is a cycle is pulling myself together, getting my life on track, being on a good streak, and then falling. It’s annoying a best and completely discouraging at worst.

B-Ravin, what are you talking about?

I’m talking about how one day can set you back so, so much. It takes three days to form a habit, and one day to break it. Lets say you feel like you’ve got your life finally on track. Or, on track for your situation. You’re in college, developed a good study regiment, a good workout routine, and you’ve been sticking to your new diet for two weeks now. Great! You’ve probably worked really hard to get to that point. Then you have a day where you get sick. You don’t work out for a few days due to exhaustion and you break your diet because you only feel like eating jello. You study the minimum amount so you can spend the rest of the time sleeping and watching tv and hope that this illness only last a day or two. Your whole routine, the one you’ve worked so hard to establish and perfect, is ruined. Once you feel better, you first have to catch up on all the studying and homework you put off. This leaves little time for cooking and working out, so you get take out and skip the exercise. Slowly, so slowly you may be able to force yourself to get back on track with studying, get off the junk food and back to cooking, and eventually back to the gym. For a few weeks. Maybe even a few months. Then you get sick again.

B-Ravin, I know exactly what you’re talking about.

While most everyone can relate to this if I’m talking about a cold or an ear infection, not everyone realizes that depression is just as bad. You spend one day where you just can’t force yourself to get out of that bed, and everything falls apart. The next day, it’s hard to get up, but you may eventually do it. Then you’ve got to set what’s priority and focus on catching up on those priorities. Then slowly break all the bad habits you formed while playing catch-up, and replace them with new ones.

That’s the cycle of my life. At least, that’s how it feels. I still haven’t managed to get back into a regular workout routine after a few months (I’ve worked out on and off, but haven’t formed a habit). Granted, part of that is because I’m not in a great situation at the moment – many things in my life are very unstable right now – which causes more frequent days of not getting out of bed until noon, if at all, because hey – why bother? But even when things were good – nearly perfect even – I had sick days that would just throw off everything.

I’m not even sure what happened. I had a regular work out habit, diet, chores, and job hunting routine that I followed daily. After a while, they just feel apart, and I have been struggling to get them back together ever since.

What do you do to get back into the swing of things once that swing has been thrown off? Do you struggle going back to set habits & routine after you spend a few days with a cold or depression?

New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions

It’s been a while since I’ve made New Year Resolutions, so I thought I would this year. I used to find the idea of these annual resolutions a little silly because I didn’t like the idea of waiting until the new year to set goals for yourself. I still don’t. However, a lot of my goals have taken a long break due to a nasty break up, general discouragement, and the holidays. So, I thought I would use the new year as an excuse to revamp my goals and get back on them. And maybe add a few new ones. Like, go a full year without smoking a cigarette.

Anyway, it seemed like a lot of people would put off making a goal until the New Year, and then they would only stick with it for a few months, give up, and say “maybe next year.” Which is the reason I have not done them in the past. If I wanted to set a goal, I just set it at the time. But there is some romance in the idea of making a new change with a new year. Similar to a new start to a new semester at college (those didn’t last either). It also makes for a good excuse when someone asks about a new habit of yours – everyone understands a New Year Resolution. So, in the spirit of the new year, I will make some resolutions of things I have been wanting to do or goals I had been working on, but have drifted away from. The rest of this post is more for me than you, but feel free to skim through if you need or want ideas for your own or are genuinely interested in my resolutions. Also, please comment and share your own resolutions, if you’ve made any.

1. Get a job in my field of interest.
This is a big one. I’ve had a Civil Engineering job doing general work (sidewalks, drainage, piers/boardwalks, boat launches, and dredging – so much dredging) and I didn’t like it. I learned a lot, but I have a passion for water and wastewater treatment and reclaimed water. So, that’s what I’m looking for. I currently have business cards (for me), a list of companies to look into, and some networking with some of the companies. I think my first step getting back into the job hunt is to organize what companies I have done what with – either applied for a job or the contacts I have gained from Networking with contact info and notes. The next step is to re-check job postings in companies I have already looked at to see if anything new has been added with the new year. Next will be to continue through the list of companies, making network connections and looking at job postings, keeping notes all the while.

2. Blog More (writing and reading blogs)
My brain is constantly running and I enjoy writing a lot, so blogging makes sense, however I just don’t make the effort to sit down and write it out. So, for the new year, my goal will be to post at least twice a week, and read a least two blog entries a day.

3. Go the whole year without smoking
With an allotted 10 slip-ups (because, reality).

4. Publish a Cook Book
I have an idea for a cook book a want to do, and I love cooking, so I want to make one this year. Nothing big – 20 to 30 recipes, but they will be themed. Step one is to see if there are any copyright or patent things with cook books and recipes, since so many books have very similar recipes. Step two is to actually write out the amounts and cooking steps for the ones I know I want to do, and try them out the way I’ve written them to make sure it works. Step three is to come up with new ideas to add and try them out as well. Step four is to look into publishing and all that it entails. Step five is to publish. I think I can do all that in a year. If I set monthly goals.

5. Set Monthly Workout Goals
And follow-through.
January’s goals will be to complete a 30-day plank challenge and be able to touch my toes without bending my knees.

6. Learn Spanish
No, I don’t expect to get fluent. My goal would be to do a Rosetta Stone lesson at least three times a week and find a Spanish learning buddy to learn and practice with.

7. Make and Stick with a Sleep Schedule
This includes a daily wake up time, a bed-time ritual, and a morning ritual.

8. Cut the Caffeine
Limit to one caffeinated beverage a day. I’m looking forward to this one the least.

9. Spend at least 10 min a day in the sun
Considering the fact that our society is built to avoid the outdoors as much as possible (A/C, heaters, indoor activities, vehicles to get us from one building to the other, etc.), some days I just don’t get outside enough. Obviously I’d love to get more than 10 min of sunshine a day, but some days I know that just won’t happen.

10. Keep in better touch with friends and family
I don’t have a lot of close friends, so a voice or video call once a month shouldn’t been too hard to incorporate. And that will be my goal. Parents and sister will be once a week (at least). Close friends and relatives once a month. Slightly less close relatives once every other month. And for every one else, there’s email.

This does seem like a lot at one time, especially because I have other goals such as working on sight reading (for music), make more time for hobbies (including reading/writing), read more educational articles, keep up with the news better, and general health goals, but I think with some planning and organization I can at least do the big 10 and then slowly incorporate the others.

What (if any) resolutions are you making for 2016? What do New Year Resolutions mean to you? Do you make resolutions every year?

Community, Self Growth

The Evils of Pride and Judgment

There’s a reason Pride is one of the 7 deadly sins: it pins us against each other. It leads to judgment, disrespect, possibly hate, and even discrimination. And yet, pride is pushed in our society. “Be proud of who you are,” is a popular slogan, with alterations such as “be proud to be black,” “be proud to be educated,” and “be proud to be an American.” But being proud of who we are often means we look down on others for not being us. For example: If I’m something to be proud of, and you’re nothing like me, then you must not be something to be proud of, which means I judge and ridicule you for not being me. It sounds ridiculous when said that way, but it’s what happens. Even though that’s not what we are consciously thinking, that is the story we are really telling ourselves when we judge others based on their looks or actions. “I can’t believe he’s doing that. I would never do that.” “Why in the world does she think it’s okay to dress like that? I would never dress like that.” “I can’t believe how fat that person let himself get. I would never let myself get that fat.” “Ew, look at how buff her arms are. They’re huge. I would never let my arms get that big.”

We have a hard time understanding why someone would do something or look a certain way when it’s different from what we like or believe. It’s hard to understand why someone would want to go out to a noisy bar instead of curling up at home with a good book. It’s hard to understand why someone would stay at home and read a boring book when they could go out and have fun at a bar. It’s all about perspective. And pride. Since we’re proud of the way we do things, proud of the things we like, and proud of the way we look, we can’t fathom why someone would want to do, think, or look differently. We truly believe that if we don’t like doing something, we can judge others for enjoying it. We truly believe that if we don’t feel comfortable showing off our legs, we can judge others for showing off their legs.

Before I realized why I was doing it, it used to judge and look down on others a lot. Probably about the same amount as the average person, but it felt like all the time. Being fit and physically healthy is important to me, so I looked down on others who are obese. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let myself go like some people do (for now, ignoring the fact that some obese people really do have a serious medical condition). I was horrified at those that do let themselves get obese and wonder how they can even stand it. I thought of them as horrible people for letting themselves be that way. I looked down on them because I have PRIDE. In reality, we just have different values. Physical fitness and health isn’t a priority to them like it is to me. It’s a simple matter of lifestyle CHOICE and neither is better than the other. They are simply different.

Another example is that my sister enjoys going out to bars and clubs with her friends even though she doesn’t drink. The reason she doesn’t drink is because she has a drinking problem. She has been through rehab and attends AA meetings daily and is very involved in the AA community. However, she is a very social person and makes friends of all kinds. A lot of people might judge her for going to bars and clubs with her condition. Most people can’t fathom a bar or club being fun without alcohol and they wonder why she surrounds herself with that temptation. Well, from her perspective, alcohol is no longer tempting to her. Yes, sometimes she has bad days and it is tempting, but she doesn’t go to bars on those days; she spends extra time with her AA friends. From her perspective, she has a lot of fun at bars with her friends. Just because you or I don’t understand it, because we’re different people, doesn’t mean we have the right to judge her for it. It’s her life and she enjoys going out and being social. (I should also point out that she is in college, and most people go out to be social at bars and clubs at that age.)

If we are going to be unified (or just happy), we need to stop separating ourselves from one another by judging each other based on  differences. The easiest way to do this is to let go of pride. By letting go of pride, you can more easily accept that it’s okay to have different views and lifestyles than your own. If you’re fit, it’s a lot easier to not hate someone for being fat. If you like to stay at home and read, it’s a lot easier to not isolate yourself from friends or family who prefer to go to bars and clubs. If you like to dress modestly, it’s a lot easier to not judge those who like to dress to show off their skin. By just letting go of pride and accepting the fact that other lifestyles are no worse or better than your own – simply different – then we can let go of hate we didn’t even know we had. We can bond with others more easily and more deeply because we have removed this invisible barrier that we weren’t even aware we had put up.

I used to have a hatred for those very different from me. It used to hate and be disgusted by obese people, girls who wore a lot of makeup and showed off their legs, and anyone who was very promiscuous with many partners. I wouldn’t have even classified myself as a very judgey person (I think most people don’t). I didn’t have any idea why I felt this hate or disgust towards certain people. I finally realized it was because I was proud. I was proud to be [somewhat] thin/fit. I was proud that I didn’t wear makeup. I was proud that I didn’t wear super short shorts or have sex with people I’d just met. I shouldn’t be proud of any of those things. Being proud of those things was leading me to judge and hate others for not being those things.

In order to let go of that silly hate, thus leading me to be a happier person overall, I am letting go of pride. It’s a work in progress. The most important thing to letting go of pride is to not let go of your self-esteem or self-worth. I don’t think I’m any prettier or uglier than girls who wear a lot of make up. I don’t think I’m a better or worse person for watching my weight. I don’t think I’m any smarter or dumber than people who want to spend there night at a bar instead of reading at home. I don’t think I’m any greater or lesser than those with a different skin color or different sex than me. I’m not “proud” to be a woman. I’m not “proud” to be white. I’m not “proud” to be an American. Because as soon as I am proud to be one of these things, I am isolating people that are not one of these things. Don’t get me wrong, I like being a woman, I like being an American, and I like my Irish heritage, but I’m not proud of any of those things. I think that is an important difference to recognize.

What are your thoughts about pride? What aspect about yourself are you proud of? Thinking back, have you realized any time when your pride in that aspect may have isolated someone you’ve seen or been in contact with? Has it ever made it hard to be really close friends with someone or accept someone they way they are?

Poetry, Relationships

The Change

What I wouldn’t give to be with you before
you changed. To enjoy the holidays together before
you changed. To make love with the passion we had before
you changed. To go outside and play like before
you changed. To sit at a bar and read together like before
you changed. Oh the love I felt for you before
you changed. So much so I couldn’t contain it all before
you changed. How was the sun so warm and the colors so bright before
you changed? How now the clouds are darker unlike before
you changed? The holidays are cold and lonely unlike before
you changed. Doubt and darkness has replaced the love that existed before
you changed. And though we hate it, we go our separate ways because, after all,
I’ve changed.