Music Around Town

Right now in my head is a little jingle.  If I share a few words with you, it may get stuck in your head too.  “Wayfair, just what . . . .”    I bet you can finish it.  And if you ever lived in Chicagoland, as I did for most of my life, you know the phone number for Empire Carpeting, too..  It starts 5-8-8. . . . .

Everyday music is all around us. It may be in the background of a movie, a video game, or a commercial.  It serves a purpose there.  It may include vocals or just be instrumental. 

Music is an emotional language and as we connect with it, it can help us therapeutically identify and manage our own emotions.   It can soothe a troubled heart.  It can remind us of times past.  It can summon memories and feelings.

There are many places around town where we can interact with music for free, or at a minimal or reasonable cost.  I wish to point out a few, all of which can be appropriate for children. 

  1. Electronically at home.  Radios, CD’s, iPods, Alexa and Google provide easy access to any style of music or artist.  In December I asked Alexa to play various genres of Christmas music such as country, Christian and oldies.
  2. The local library. Many genres of music CD’s can be borrowed.
  3. At church.  Worship services usually involve music to be listened to and with which to engage vocally.
  4. Park concerts.   Often bands, various style groups, and even local orchestras will perform in parks.
  5. Community Festivals.  These may have a specific theme or ethnic flavor.
  6. Colleges and universities.  Most schools have an online schedule of students and professional artists offering a wide variety of performances from which to choose.
  7. Civic Center or library.  Again look online for a schedule or ask at the front desk.
  8. Your own television.  All movies, not just musicals, have music.  Practice listening to the emotion of the music and how it enhances the movie experience.  Learn to identify the climax or scary scene by the music.   The music often prepares the watcher for the scene.
  9. In Educational settings.   We learn more easily when information is set to music.  How did you learn the alphabet?   I have also heard jingles for multiplication facts and U.S. presidents. 
  10.  Own or borrow small musical instrument to experiment with at home.

Help your children embrace music.  This could lead them to desire learning to play an instrument or study voice.  Maybe they will develop a strong appreciation for musicians and performers.  Perhaps it will just enhance their own conversational skills as people do enjoy talking about their favorite music, style, and performers.  Possibly you and your child will learn to love a music style or venue that you have never before considered.   New worlds can be explored together.

There are many creative artists in every genre.  Some artists fill their songs with lyrics which do not benefit our children or us.  Pay attention to the words and teach your children to be discerning.  The words we listen to do impact us. 

Music Around Town is my fifth blog in my Around Town series. If you missed the others, you may find them in the Around Town category. Thanks for reading and sharing.

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Parenting Insecurities

In your parenting role, about what do you feel insecure?  Whether you planned to have children or it just happened, the insecurities begin while they are still in utero.   It starts with unanswerable questions and a lack of experience.  We don’t even know how we will handle labor and delivery, much less nurturing a child for the next eighteen plus years.

Many of us entered parenting with strong convictions of what we will do like our parents did and other things we will not do as our parents did.   After all, “we are much smarter than our parents were at our age.  We have lived and learned through their mistakes.”  ….I wonder how many generations of humanity have thought this.  Maybe, every generation has.

I recall telling my parents, as a seventeen year old, that I thought they had been good parents. But there was one area which I wish they had done a bit differently.   I told them I wished they had given me more information about male and female anatomy and sex.    At 11 years old, after the topic was introduced to all the 6th grade girls (only girls) by the school nurse, I was given the basic information a girl needed to enter puberty.   My mother told me more than her mother had told her.

As I look back on this setting, I am rather ashamed (insecure) by my teenage boldness and audacity.  My comments to them were unnecessary and unhelpful.    The irony of this situation is that plus twenty years later, I did sadly better with my own daughter.

13432330_991497890963103_517149806296911717_n Also, I look back with wiser perspective at my own parents and am amazed at the extraordinary job they did at parenting and juggling two full time careers.  My mom chose to work the third shift so that either she or my dad were always at home with us.  They were incredibly sacrificial parents.  I wonder when she slept.

Parents continually make sacrifices of which their children have no knowledge.  Nor do they have any understanding.   It is not until we are parents ourselves that we can fully appreciate our own parents.

As parents we probably will have one or more of our teenage/adult children boldly proclaim or gently describe what a mess or a mistake we made while parenting them.   Even after our children are grown such a confrontation adds to our insecurities.  They may describe how badly we managed some situation.   Of course they are looking back on it and don’t have full knowledge of all that was involved.  We too, can examine the setting with hindsight and perhaps decide a different action should have been taken.

When our children are critical of our parenting, it often is really more about them and whatever they are dealing with than it is about us personally or our parenting.  But we project onto others what we cannot resonate within ourselves.best in people

Just as we made parenting decisions based on the knowledge and experience we had at the time, some day they will do the same.   Then they will have a new perspective on our decisions.

Every stage of parenting has its challenges and we may not feel confident in our ability to handle those challenges.    About the time when we do figure things out and implement our strategies, the needs change.   In addition to this, every child is an individual and has different needs and a different temperament.    I have frequently heard my parents say a stern word was sufficient to change my sister’s behavior, but I usually needed a spanking to receive the message (another area where parenting has changed).

If you feel anxious or apprehensive (insecure) about parenting issues, then start by praying about it. Pray for yourself, the need and your child. Keep praying until it is resolved.

You may discover your own parents to be quite insightful and pleased to be consulted about parenting. Other parents can be empathetic and might share a creative strategy that effectively helped them.   Parenting books, blogs, podcasts, and even radio programs can be helpful.     My parenting was heavily influenced by the Focus on the Family radio program.   It was always encouraging, inspiring, and challenging.

The best thing you can do for your children is love your spouse.  Strengthening your marriage and making it a higher priority than your children, gives them a secure home where love is demonstrated and expressed.                                                                               (see my post:   dianesergeant.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/guarding-marriage/)

No one is a perfect parent.   No doubt you won’t be perfect either.  You don’t have to be.  Just be loving, patient, kind, selfless, gentle, persistent, understanding, wise, . . . . . . .and when you’re insecure, ask the Lord to help you.

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I Procrastinate

Confession Time. Here is my hidden secret.  I am a closet procrastinator.  Because, in general, I am a well- organized person and productive I can hide my procrastination. But there are many things/tasks that I put off, delay, or postpone.  Of course, I would rather talk about someone else’s struggles than my own.  Yet, I think I must examine why I procrastinate and what I can do about it.laundry

Why do I procrastinate?  Sometimes I just don’t want to do it. If it was a request from someone else and I had an option, then I should have said NO up front.  Saying NO can be difficult because I don’t like to disappoint people.   Sometimes I am just uncomfortable with the task.  I actually hate making phone calls to ask others to do stuff, or even to make appointments.

Sometimes I am afraid.  I am afraid that I will fail or even do a poor job.  It is a fear of how others will react or maybe even reject me.   Sometimes I delay because I don’t know where to start or I need an idea but don’t have one.

IMG_5249I can even procrastinate at writing, which I love and do all the time.  I have written daily in a journal since 1984 but there are days I don’t want to do it. I also write Bible study lessons, communion meditations, sermons, and this blog.  I write a lot.  Yet I often postpone working on one of these by addressing a smaller or easier assignment.

Some of my children are proficient at procrastination.  I can commiserate with them. It is much easier to point out their struggles than to admit my own. I have failed at helping them get a handle on their struggle with procrastination.   I have learned that encouragement is more effective than nagging.  Nagging shuts down communication and builds up defiance.

 

The following are some things that help me with procrastination:

  1. It is okay to just say, “No thanks”.
  2. A feared outcome is seldom as bad as expected.
  3. Finishing a task/project feels SO GOOD.
  4. Provide a reward as incentive for completion.
  5. Or maybe rewards for steps towards completion (frequently used).
  6. Make lists for daily, weekly and monthly goals (I love checking them off).
  7. Prioritize tasks and set deadlines.
  8. Pressure and stress melt when tasks are completed.
  9. Just start somewhere. Make some progress.  Any progress.
  10. Tackle the hard tasks first or early in the day to get it over.
  11. Remember what I have accomplished in the past and that I am capable.

I believe that these can be useful tools for teens and children. If you see procrastination in your children, I hope these tools can sideline a lifestyle of procrastination.

 

“You never know how courageous you can be until you face your fears.”

Watching the Olympics?

Is your family watching the Olympics?  Why or why not?  Some families have no interest in any sports and other families can’t get enough. I am not a huge sport fan.  Generally, the only sports I watch on TV are the Chicago Bears.  I enjoy watching high school and junior high sports live when I know a student on the team.  Of course, I watched my own children play team sports and consider it a special treat to watch any of my grandchildren play their sport.

downloadBut the Olympics rate in a category all their own.  Watching the Olympics happens in the comfort of my own home, usually in a recliner and without insects, or sunburn, or someone hawking food or raffle tickets. I don’t have to cart around a child or children to weeks of practices and games or pack healthy snacks for 20 other kids. It’s also FREE. All of these are simply a matter of convenience. There are many positive reasons for being an Olympic spectator.

The Olympics provide tons of opportunities for conversations on topics not often addressed. Don’t just dish out information, but do some research with your children to discover where Korea or the current host country is located.  Do you know anyone who served in the Korean War?  Ask them about the country and their experiences. North Korea is a current event in politics.  Do you know what that is all about?

The Olympics are filled with symbolism and tradition. Its history goes back to ancient Greece where the earliest champions were awarded laurel wreaths. What do today’s winners receive besides the medals?  What do the torch, the flame, and the rings mean?  Explain the differences between amateur and professional sportsmen/women.  How are Olympians a bit like both?

When I watch the Olympics I am always amazed at the perseverance of the athletes.  Their dedication can be an inspiration to us not just in athletic endeavors but also in other areas of our lives. Perhaps your child will discover an interest and desire to explore a new sport. Do you want to build a curling rink in your back yard? (Frozen Disney tune in my headMaybe you simply become a fan of ice hockey and discover the fun and excitement of the game.field day events

The Olympics have 3 top winners in every competition but that means there are hundreds or thousands who return home with an incredible experience but a defeat.  Maybe they fell on the ice or lost a ski or some other fiasco.   We can all relate to failure. But how is it handled? That is another great conversation starter.

How about the winners? How does their life change? They have not all handled the success successfully.  How many past Olympic winners can you recall? Sports and training have value and we can learn much from them but the character and integrity of a person outlasts the strength and skill on a snowboard or skates.

One summer when our four oldest children were between the ages of 13 and 6, we decided to turn the TV off for the entire summer.  I thought it was a good move until August rolled around and the Summer Olympics were being televised.  There was sadness in the house. Reflecting back I think a 2 month hiatus would have been sufficient.

Schools often have Olympic studies planned. The Olympics can be addressed in theDan basket ball subjects of history, geography, literature, writing, math, spelling, and current events. Why not read a book about an Olympian?

One more Olympic idea is all about food.  Strength and health come from physical activity and nutrition. Discuss a healthy diet.  Look up what Gold medalist, Mark Spitz, ate for breakfast when training. With the Winter Olympics in Korea, it is the perfect time to try some Korean food at home or in a restaurant.

I would love to hear if your family does anything special related to the Winter Olympics.

Kids and Resolutions

Resolutions involving kids usually have to do with one’s desire to in some way be a “better” parent. They often are something like the following:  I will read aloud more to my kids, I will be a better listener, I will be more patient with my kids, or I will do a better job of monitoring screen time.   I propose a different kindof resolution for 2018.

Goals, Smarat How about a family resolution? Together, make a plan that is S.M.A.R.T.  (see goal setting chart).   School age children (5+) through teens probably will be willing to participate in such an experience.   Start the exercise with some brain storming where all ideas are recorded and none are evaluated.     After collecting all the ideas begin to evaluate and eliminate.    Try to shrink the list down to two or three that everyone agrees upon.  Then further examine those to discover if each is truly a S.M.A.R.T. goal.   If your family is a democracy, then vote.  Perhaps parents could each have two votes so that the children don’t overrule.

A secondary idea is a family focus or theme for the year.  This is not my original idea, but I really like it.  This could also be chosen through the family brain storming and elimination method.    The possibilities are endless.  Here are a few ideas: Year of Joy, Year of Gratitude,  or  Year of Grace. “Grateful, Thankful, Blessed” is a popular saying.  Perhaps it could be a springboard for ideas.   The theme does not have to be a character trait or a virtue but could be something fun such as, the Year of Color or  the Year of Running.

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Once the theme is chosen, a placque or banner could be created to be a daily reminder.   Perhaps a scripture could be chosen to be memorized.   Play an on-going game of who can most quickly identify references to the theme in music, movies, audio books, sermons . . . .    Commend each other for living and practicing your chosen theme.  Plan some activities, adventures or experiences to understand and apply the theme.

Use your creativity to discover ways to incorporate the theme in your family life.  Establish some fun reminders to keep everyone on track.  Don’t become rigid or legalistic.

January is a great time to establish a yearly family theme or resolution.   But they can happen at any time. Some other “start” times might be the beginning of summer, a new school year or school semester, any holiday, the first of any month, or whatever time works best for your family. January is not the only time we can begin something new.

We all appreciate a fresh start or a do-over sometimes. I think this is the appeal of a new year.   God, by his grace, gives us this when we confess our sin and He forgives us.   A tangible way to demonstrate this to our children is to forgive or do away with the punishment our children deserve. Yes, it is important for them to learn about consequences and be responsible for their behavior. But, I also believe that somewhere in their learning there is a prime opportunity to offer forgiveness so that their hearts can be softened rather than become more rebellious. This could happen in the Year of Grace.

May this be a great year for your family.

Out of the mouths of babes

Do your kids crack you up? How many times have you chuckled at the amusing things they have said?

When my children were little, especially ages 3- 8 they said funny things every day.  They were often comical because they arrived at conclusions based on their observations and their very limited knowledge.  They were trying to make sense of their world.   The world is very complicated with words which have multiple meanings.   Sometimes this results in uproarious declarations.IMG_3410

Parents of young children have very busy lives.  Even as a twenty-something I knew if I did not write it down, no matter how amazing or endearing it was, I would forget it.   I frequently wrote notes or information on slips of paper and threw them in the drawer containing their baby books.  Later, sometimes much later, that bit of information would actually be entered into the baby book, but without the notes, their books would have been rather empty.

I had the same problem with “funny things”.  I knew I wanted a record of them.  I kept a small journal easily reachable in the drawer in the kitchen.  My bedroom nightstand would have been a safer location, but it would have gotten lost under a stack of old greeting cards and random stuff.   The one and only unstuffed kitchen drawer worked well.

I would write in the journal as soon as possible.  Repeating the saying to spouse or grandparents also helped me retain the information and they enjoyed hearing about it, but I would still forget unless I wrote it down.   As my children aged they enjoyed and laughed at the things they said when they were younger.

The following are a few of my favorite entries:

4 kidsJan. 14, 88 – Momma told Tommy (age 4 1/2) he was good looking and someday the girls would be after him.  He said, “I’ll go out with them and then dump them with a dump truck.”    (Tom married his first girlfriend after dating for 5 years and they are presently expecting their 6th child)

July 21, 88 – David, age 5, said to momma at bedtime, “Men know more than women.”  “What do you mean?  I asked.  “Men know more about women than women know about men.”  (David married at age 21 and has two daughters)

1/8/89 – Debra, age 4, looking out the window at the big pine trees said, “Look, Ma, hotdogs in the trees.  We can climb up there and eat them. “    (Debra is still willing to climb a tree or eat hotdogs.)

1/4/87 – Danny, age 8, said, “Tonight was the best church service  I was ever in.” “Why?” asked Mom.  “Because I could read all the words in the hymnal.”      (Dan is a pastor in a church without hymnals.)

Mar. 2001 – Seth, age 5, said, “I know when I want to get married – June 1st when I am in college.” Why, asked mom.  “It’s close to Christmas.”  ( Seth is 21, in college and single.)

I wish I had written down more of the great things my children said.  Perhaps you would like to record more than just the witty announcements.  Outlandish statements, anecdotal examples of their character, or maybe declarations of future careers could be included.  You probably are already taking lots of photos with your phone, write some notes too.

There are numerous online sources through which one could inexpensively and simply print quotes and add adorable pics in a bound book format.   It could be a sentimental keepsake, golden or teen birthday or high school graduation gift

The format is inconsequential, just write it down somewhere.  You will always be glad you did.

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Did you hear what he said?

He walked past our house twice a day.  He was a businessman who rode the commuter train to Chicago.  He always smiled and said hello as he passed.  One day he stopped.  Pointing to our infant son in the stroller he said to me, “It is very important that you always talk to him.  And never use gibberish or baby talk.  He needs to hear you speaking clearly and correctly.  He will learn to talk from listening to you.  Good day.”  That is the only conversation I recall having with that neighbor.  I don’t know if he was a father or perhaps a grandfather.  I appreciated his wisdom.   He made a lasting impression on me.  That baby in the stroller is now a 38 year old father of four.baby

It often seems that expectant or new moms wear a sign.  It says “WANTED: Unsolicited Advice.”  Unsolicited advice is freely given from family, friends, and even complete strangers. Be gracious as you listen and be discerning.  It may be useless information, but some of it may be very helpful.   Anyone may know a better way to do something.

Talking and listening are important skills in parenting. Children must learn to do both and you are their primary teacher.   Talk to your infants all day long.  Tell them what you are doing as you do it.  Tell them about the objects in your/their environment.   Talk about everything and anything.   They are always listening! By the time they reach the age of three they will be doing lots of questioning.  This is all part of the learning process.  Try to be patient as the majority of their questions will begin with the word, why.

Here are a few ideas for teaching your children to be attentive listeners:

  1. Ask your child to look at your while you are talking to them.
  2. Be clear and direct so that there is less opportunity for misunderstanding. Most young children do not understand subtlety.
  3. Ask them if they understand what you have said and maybe to repeat any given instructions.
  4. Young children need to be told one thing at a time. As they age they can manage a list of instructions.
  5. Clearly define the time expectation connected to any order or requested action with words such as; now, soon, today, after, tomorrow….

Learn to attentively listen to your child. Pay attention to their choice of words, tone, body language and facial expression.  Ask clarifying questions.  Do not be critical or condemning.  This can shut down communication.  Two of my children were very sensitive to what they perceived as a loud or angry voice.   Sometimes I had to whisper to prevent them from completely shutting me out.   Each child’s temperament is different.1240127_10153310501223342_8421696981290091493_n

Ask your child not only about their interests, desires and needs but also engage your child in age appropriate conversations about things outside of their typical sphere.  Ask their opinions.  Commend their ideas and strategies.  Question how they feel or what they think about a topic or a specific problem.   Request their suggestions when you are facing a difficulty.  You may be amazed at their thinking and suggestions.  They can learn to problem solve and even compromise.  These types of exercises engage and expand the mind.  They are also developing incredible communication skills, which will make them a better spouse, parent and employee.

As our children grow into teens and young adults our conversations with them become more vital not less.   The topics of conversations may change but conversing needs to happen every day. Parents need to listen to their children and children need to listen to their parents.   Smartphones and technology may be a distraction from truly listening to each other in the way their grandparents did with us.

I encourage you to think about who you have really listened to today. Were you genuine? Did you have a phone in your hand? Did you make eye contact?  Did the person talking to you walk away frustrated? Listening is an important skill we can continue to improve upon, even as adults.

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