What I’ve Been Reading

Spiderweb

I was going to post a photo of one of the local rabbits, but it was too blurry. So here’s a spider.

Lately, my mood has often wobbled between “exasperated” and “vaguely aggravated.” The world’s political situation is definitely affecting it. But on the other hand, I also got some amazing encouragement for my writing, so that rocked. I won’t say it all equals out in the end, but it’s nice when something pushes down on the scales a bit.

For this week, our articles cover why kids should talk to strangers, teaching kindness, truth telling around racism, and the beautiful challenges of parenthood.

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How to Introduce Kids to Political Activism

How to Introduce Kids to Political Activism. With all of the talk of activism, what's the best way to introduce the ideas to children? (Photo: Two kids walking next to each other; one has a sign on her back that reads 'We march for our wild and wonderful world.')

“Mommy is going to let the people in charge know that we need to respect all people,” I told my son on the morning of the Women’s March. While I’ve been politically active for a long time, he never really knew about it. Because I so rarely miss weekend time with the kids, I wanted to let him know what I was doing and why it was important. As I and two of friends gathered snacks and pinned posters on our jackets, seeing my kids reminded me why we were doing this in the first place.

Explaining what’s going on is even more important if you’re bringing your kids along to a political event. In the case of the People’s Climate March, I knew that I had a responsibility to explain to Sprout why he was there.

From explaining why I’ve missed dinner to testify to our City Council to marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, here’s what I’ve learned about introducing kids to activism:

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How to Make Your Day at the National Zoo Awesome

Text: "How to Make Your Day at the National Zoo Awesome / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Photo: Zebra eating grass

Washington D.C. has never felt hotter than when sitting on a bench at the National Zoo, holding a baby who won’t sleep and wondering when the hell your spouse will show up with some water. This was me two years ago at our first trip with the kid to the zoo. Despite grandparental support, it was a disaster.

But since then, we’ve had many successful, fun trips to the zoo, both to see the animals and ZooLights, their annual December extravaganza. Thankfully, we learned from our experience. I’m going to share those lessons learned so you have a better first (or second or third) experience!

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Just Streetcars: The National Capital Trolley Museum

Photo: A Dutch electric streetcar with a Dutch and American flag on top; Text:

“I love things that drive and move and moons,” Sprout announced to me the other day. When you’ve watched trains and ridden the Metro so many times you’ve lost count, what’s the mom of a transit-loving kid to do? Bring them to the National Capital Trolley Museum in Colesville, MD!

While the D.C. region has a wealth of museums, none of the others have trolleys (aka streetcars) you can actually ride on. If the idea of a 15-minute trolley ride through the woods doesn’t thrill you, this museum probably isn’t for you.

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The Power of a Hug

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I know this is kissing, but we seriously have zero photos of us hugging.

My arms wrapped around him, grasping him, clutching him. I squeezed his sides as hard as I could. His back straightened under my arms. I closed my eyes and pressed my cheek against his chest.

This scene has played out over and over again between my husband and I throughout the 16 years of our relationship.

In a park before a high school make-out session on a picnic table. In my college’s parking lot, just before he drove away for another six weeks. In our kitchen next to a sink piled high with dishes.

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Green Parenting: Eating Vegetarian with Kids

Text: "Green Kids: Eating Vegetarian" Photo of multi-colored peppers on a checkered cloth

“Come on, try a broccoli tree,” I say, my voice taking on the edge of a whine. Sprout pokes at his broccoli with a finger. Most of the time in this situation, he tries at least one. For a three and a half year old, that’s not too bad. While I love the health benefits of eating your vegetables, I also want to be eating vegetarian more often for the sake of the environment.

Meat and dairy production contribute to 15 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. In addition, many livestock farms also have negative impacts on the air and water in their local areas. Fortunately, you don’t need to go full-on vegetarian or vegan to make a difference. Not eating meat once a week – such as meatless Monday – can reduce your carbon footprint.

Since many kids are resistant to trying anything new, here are some ways we’ve found to eat vegetarian food and make it more appetizing.

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My Top Five Parenting Posts of 2016

2017 is in full swing, but it’s worth looking back on the good times of 2016. (Yes, there were some!) As part of a group of parenting bloggers, I’m participating in a round-up summarizing our most popular parenting posts of 2016.

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Admittedly, almost none of mine are “tips.” Unless you count “don’t bring a three-year-old to a wedding when it’s a zillion degrees outside.”

So what was popular in 2016? It was all over the place, from getting outdoors to contemplating the personal in the political. One caveat – a lot of my popular posts in 2016 were actually from my archives. I’m leaving those out and just including the ones that I originally posted last year.

  1. A Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Families: Even though Christmas is past, this is still a great list of gifts for your outdoor-loving kid!
  2. Green Kids: A Toddler’s Guide to Starting Seeds: I’m hoping to order my seeds this weekend, so I’ll be looking back on this soon to see how our experience this year is different from the last.
  3. Weddings, Threenagers and Grace: People love a good story about bratty three-year-olds.
  4. To My Children Upon the Election of Donald Trump : I stand by every word.
  5. The Agony and Ecstasy of the Third Trimester: It’s not all bad, especially when it’s three and one-half weeks shorter than it’s supposed to be.

For more bloggers’ top parenting posts from the year, be sure to check out The Most Popular Parenting Posts of 2016 on The Jenny Evolution!

 

How to Be More Present and Mindful with Your Kids

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Recovering from the chaos of the holidays, “improve mindfulness” or “be present” may be on the top of your New Years Resolutions list. I know it’s on mine! It’s especially hard to be present as a parent, when we’re pulled in so many directions – sometimes literally. As someone who gets stuck in her head a lot, I’ve worked on this quite a bit. Here are some approaches that have helped:

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My Blogging Best of 2016

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2016 was an interesting year, if you mean interesting in the “old curse” sense. While 2016 was the year where democracy apparently went to die (and not just because of Trump), I had a much better personal life than last year. It was damn hard, but good in so many ways.

We welcomed Little Bird into the world, watched Sprout go through a lot of transitions, and missed out on a shit-ton of sleep. (My children don’t hate sleep so much as love everything else in the world so much more, especially driving their mother and father slightly bonkers.)

Plus, my blog readership grew substantially! Thank you so much to everyone who has read and enjoyed these posts in the last year. Although it’s dinky compared to a lot of other people, I’m still proud that I’ve nearly hit 10,000 views this year.

Looking back, many of my favorite posts were the ones where I was honest and vulnerable about my struggles as a parent:

 

I also messed around with format and structure a bit, which I hope was as much fun to read as it was to write:

 

Some of my most important posts described lessons learned, especially as connected to a lot of the awful events of this year:

 

Others reminded me of some of the more off-the-beaten path places we visited in Washington D.C. and beyond:

 

And last but not least, I greatly enjoyed both doing and seeing people’s reactions to the Outdoors Family Challenge and my profiles of biking families for Bike Month!

If you want updates and more articles, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Better luck to us all in 2017!

What Worked and What Didn’t For My Parenting in 2016

Text: "What Worked and What Didn't for my Parenting in 2016 / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Picture of a calendar by Freepic from FlatIcon.com

Before we can look forward to our New Years resolutions, it’s useful to reflect back, examining what worked and what didn’t this year. In the best case scenario, you know what to continue; at worst, you know what to stop doing. For us, we had such big changes this year that we had to learn a lot just to keep up.

Here’s what worked for us and totally failed this year in parenting. Hopefully, some our lessons learned will help you too!

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