What I Learned About Perspective from a Bruise

What I Learned About Perspective from a Bruise. (Photo: Young white boy's head with a bruise in the middle of his forehead)

“What’s this? Is it a bruise?” my mother-in-law asked, looking at my eighteen-month-old’s forehead. She rubbed it with her hand, to get it off in case it was dirt. It wasn’t. It was in fact, a gray-yellow, very distinctive, bruise.

At first, it was hidden under his ragamuffin blond hair. But a haircut a few days later made it much more prominent. Like Ash Wednesday ashes that won’t wipe off.

“What will people think?” I worried. “Will they think we neglect him? Will they think I’m a bad mom? It’s right in the middle of his forehead!”

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How to Prevent Raising An Entitled Kid

How to Prevent Raising an Entitled Kid. Want to raise a respectful kid who doesn't think they deserve everything? Try these seven things our family is doing! (Picture: Victorian illustration of a little girl asleep on the floor, clutching a box of chocolates with a dog next to her)

“Why did he think he was better than everyone else?” my four year old asked as we were reading the picture book Little Blue Truck. In the story, a huge construction truck comes barreling through a farm, proclaiming, “I’ve got important things to do!” As a consequence of his pride, he slides into a mud puddle and his huge tires get stuck. In the world of trucks, he’s a bit of an entitled brat.

Answering my son’s question was tough. Why do some people think they’re better than others? Why do some people think they deserve more or better than other people do? As challenging it is to answer these, they’re essential questions to figure out if we’re going to raise kids who respect and value other people. In other words, to prevent raising entitled kids.

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Finding Peace in the “What’s Next?”

Finding Peace After Miscarriage in the "What's Next?" Photo: White family of man, woman and one baby standing in front of red cliffs (top); White family of man, woman, and two kids blocking the woman standing in front of red cliffs (bottom)

The last time we visited Red Rocks National Monument, we were in mourning.

Two and a half years ago, my husband and I were reeling from a doctor’s appointment the week before as we were visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Las Vegas. At that appointment, we found out that the child-to-be I thought I was pregnant with had stopped developing. I was supposed to be ten weeks pregnant; the child-to-be’s heart seemed to have stopped at seven weeks. Rather than delaying our vacation, I chose to wait to get the D&C.

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The Difference Between Being a Kid on a Trip and Being with Your Kids on a Trip

The Difference Between Being a Kid on a Trip and Being with Your Kids on a Trip. (Photo: White man holding one child with his arm around him and holding the hand of another child facing away from the camera in front of red cliffs.)

Nothing makes you feel more like “The Parent” than bringing your kids somewhere your parents brought you as a kid. Last week, we visited Zion National Park with our four-year-old and 18-month-old. The last time I was there, I was 17 years old on a trip with my own parents.

Needless to say, there was a world of difference between the two trips. The last time, the trip had gorgeous scenery, tough hikes, and lots of driving. This time, the scenery was pretty much the only similarity. Here’s what was different then and now:

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Why I Love Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm Box

Why I Love Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm Box. (Photo: Box saying "Fresh Vegetables" with vegetables in front of it)

Poking at his dinner, my son eats around his vegetables, going straight for the tortellini. Examining the colorful array on my plate, I ask my husband, “Is everything here from the garden or farm box?”

“Yeah, except for the sun-dried tomatoes,” he responds.

Pointing out the vegetables to my son with my fork, I say, “It’s zucchini from our garden and mushrooms and peppers from the farm box.”

He hestitates, then stabs a mushroom and puts it in his mouth. “It’s good,” he says with a full mouth.

“Isn’t it?” I say and smile.

The “farm box” is the weekly delivery we get from our community supported agriculture (otherwise known as CSA) program. For those not familiar with it, a CSA involves pre-paying at the beginning of a season for produce and sometimes other farm goods, like meat and eggs. Throughout the season, you pick up a box of food each week that the farm delivers to a specific location. LocalHarvest has a list of CSAs around the country.

While I love local food, I had stayed away from CSAs for years. The last time we subscribed to one, I was in graduate school ten years ago. Because we lived in England, it was full of root vegetables that we had no idea what to do with. Sometimes that was great. I did learn to love parsnips and still use them. Other times it was disastrous. When I tried to use up the beets, I ended up burning a borscht soup that was already pretty bad. Despite pretending “it wasn’t that bad,” it was one of the worst things I have ever eaten in my life.

This year, we thought it might be time to try a CSA again. While we love how locally-grown is fresher and connects you to the farmers, we were finding it harder and harder to get to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings.  Here’s why I’m glad that we subscribed to Bending Bridge Farm’s community supported agriculture program:

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Learning to Love My Son Exactly Where He’s Standing

Learning to Love My Son Exactly Where He's Standing. What happens when your music loving kid doesn't want to go up front to a concert? (Photo: Kids standing on stage with a musician with the words "Mister G" in balloon letters above them.)

The crowd of kids in front of the concert stage were singing, jumping, and dancing, frenzied and joyful. At the edge of the crowd, next to the chairs for the parents, stood my four-year-old son. He watched and occasionally bounced his head a little, like a kid at homecoming who feels uncomfortable dancing. Other times he wandered to me in the back, seemingly missing the music altogether.

“Who is this kid?” I wondered.

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What is Sustainability?

What is Sustainability? Sustainability is about a lot more than what we buy - it's about community. (Photo: A tree with red berries)

Pushing my son on the biggest tree swing I’ve ever seen, he declared, “This is fun!” As I half-listened to a talk on medicinal plants, I had to agree. We were at the second annual Paw Paw Festival at Long Creek Homestead, the home of a local family who grows much of their own food based on ecological principles. While we go to these events because they’re fun, it’s much more than that. I bring my family to these events so we can have a little glimpse into a possible potential, beautiful future. That’s because these kind of community events embody social and environmental sustainability to me.

Sustainability has become such a buzzword it’s easy to lose the true meaning. Companies sell us “green living” via labels on products that promise they will be safer for your family. (Never mind anyone else’s family.) But to create a just world that offers opportunities to all people in a way that’s environmentally sound, we have to go deeper.

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How to Talk to People Who Disagree With Your Parenting or Lifestyle Choices

How to Talk to People Who Disagree with Your Parenting or Lifestyle Choices. Have family & neighbors questioning what you're choosing for your family? Try these science-based tips to help reduce conflict while still stating your mind. (Photo: A set Thanksgiving table.)

Sitting around the Thanksgiving table, I struggled to describe my job to my conservative aunt and her even more conservative neighbor. I wasn’t in the mood at the moment for a throw-down on climate change. More importantly, I wanted them to see my job – telling people about fuel-efficient and electric cars – as a good thing.  I finally settled on the energy security angle.

“I tell people about how they can use less oil in their cars. Eventually it’s going to run out, so it’s best if we can use as little as possible,” I explained.

“Well, you know, some of those old oil things, they go back to and there’s more there,” the neighbor responded.

As I stared at her and my husband tried to explain that away, she continued, “Oil has to build up faster than scientists say it does to get the amount we have, since the world’s only 8,000 years old.” I was so surprised that I had nothing to say. To put it lightly, that’s a very rare situation for me.

While this conversation was about science and my job, it could have easily been about parenting choices, green living, or politically progressive points of view. Eating a vegetarian diet, choosing not to use time-outs on your stubborn or strong-willed kid, or attending a climate change rally with your family are even more likely to draw unwanted commentary. It’s easy to want to avoid people who hold radically different perspectives, but that’s not always possible. Plus, if a topic is near and dear to your heart, you may want to try to change their mind on a topic, even if you have to talk people who disagree on it.

Here’s some tips for talking to people who disagree with your parenting, lifestyle or just point of view. Most of this is from the social science literature, so I’ve tried to link to good summaries of that literature when possible. Just as a warning – this may not be relevant for all situations. There may be times when you want to straight-up call someone out, like if they tell a racist or sexist joke.

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The Fleeting Memory of Childhood

The Fleeting Memory of Childhood. What happens when your child forgets a memory you shared? (Photos - Above, Christmas lights at the entrance to Sesame Place; bottom: Giant cookie monster
“You remember Sesame Place, right? Where we met Cookie Monster?” I said to my four-year-old casually. I was in the middle of contemplating going back sometime this fall.

“No,” he responded and shrugged.

“Really?” I said, tilting my head and squinting at him. His answer completely derailed my train of thought. Visiting Sesame Place had been his first long-term memory, or so I had thought. In fact, it was the one single event he had remembered before his brother had been born, when he was still an only child.

And just like that, it was gone.

That surprise struck me again a few weeks later. We were walking to a pedestrian bridge near our house to watch the trains pass under it. While we used to walk this route daily, Sprout has been more interested this summer in riding his bike or running around the playground than watching trains.

Walking past our neighbor’s house, we spotted their dogs, who are always outside if the weather is decent. Pointing them out to Sprout, I blanked on their names.

“Look, it’s – uh, what are their names again?” I asked.

“I don’t remember,” he said, looking confused himself. While me not remembering their names wasn’t surprising at all, him forgetting them left me with my mouth open. He and Chris walked this route every day for months. Every time, he’d stop and say hello to the dogs. He knew their names as if they were our pets.

After a few mental stumbles, I retrieved their names  – “Cupcake and Boo Boo, that’s it.”

“Oh, right,” he said. I couldn’t tell if he was remembering them as well or just affirming me.

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