Hard as I (pretend to) try, I just can't seem to make a single one of my New Year's resolutions stick. As of today, things are already on the downhill slide, and I know I probably won't be eating five servings of fruits or vegetables a day (don't tell me it's five of both, please), exercising more regularly, or keeping up with the ever-Sisyphean task of folding laundry by months' end.
The only New Year's resolution I've ever managed to keep much past February was the commitment I made to lowered expectations back in 2008. I've really rocked that one.
But my inability to stick to a self-improvement regime has in no way kept me from asking my kids to consider what goals we should set as a family for the new year. And each and every January 1st we all sit down to dinner and come up with a group resolution.
This year we are all going to volunteer more.
I'll admit, I've struggled with the best way to get my kids involved in service activities in the past. Sure, they've grudgingly done what little volunteer work I've required them to do, but it's always been done out of a sense of obligation (and not wanting me to yell) as opposed to genuine altruism. I guess I had always hoped that I'd have the kind of kids that bounced out of bed on a snowy morning to help the elderly next-door-neighbors shovel out from the storm before settling into a Simpson's marathon. Instead, I need to threaten to delete the fifteen-plus Halloween episodes they have stored on TiVo before anyone budges from the couch to do the right thing. And while my two younger kids have been accompanying me on Road Home shelter overnights for years, I think they keep returning for the gooey cinnamon rolls fellow volunteers always bake for breakfast. I was genuinely hoping bringing them along would help them develop compassion for homeless families, and it has to some degree. But what they've developed even more of is the desire to play video games all evening with some of program's younger guests.
But this year I've decided to revisit my resolution, and lower my expectations, this time with regards to the kids' motivation for volunteering. Isn't it more important that they just do it? Do I really need to stress about why? Isn't it possible, that if they volunteer enough, even if it's for a Bar Mitzvah project, or a school service requirement, or simply because they want to eat baked goods for breakfast, that they might develop enough of a taste for it (volunteering that is) that they'll continue giving back long after they've been required to do so? I guess I've accepted that while it's might be outside forces, namely me, that is making them volunteer, the work they are doing is still valued by those on the receiving end.
My oldest and I will be kicking-starting our family resolution in just a few weeks by volunteering at Lily's Luau, an inspiring fundraising event that benefits epilepsy research at UW-Madison. I've been involved with the Luau ever since its inception and I'm psyched once again to don my grass skirt and lei to help organize the registration table. And my son is actually excited to help out with the silent auction this year. Sure I think a large part of the thrill for him is the chance to eat unlimited coconut shrimp and flirt with the cute teenaged volunteers wearing coconut bras. But I do think, in some ways, he might be starting to "get it."
Lily, for whom the event is named, is a dear family friend and fellow classmate at West High. My son has known her since the very first day we moved to Madison. He's seen her struggles and seen her triumphs when it comes to living with epilepsy. He is looking forward to hearing other people affected by seizures share their stories and watching the video that explains how the money raised that evening funds important scientific research.
It's pretty great to see his desire to get involved with a good cause ratcheted up a notch. And wouldn't it be wonderful if this were just the beginning? Perhaps this might be the year that I can shift my expectations meter, at least when it comes to my children's volunteering, from "lowered" to "great"?
It's a resolution I'd be proud to see broken.comments powered by Disqus
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders " 10 boys and six girls " enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.