The Struggle to Raise Independent Kids

independent kids

Last weekend, my five-year-old asked to show her elementary school to a dear friend, a ten-year-old visiting from out of town. The girls wanted to walk to the school themselves. The ten-year-old is the most responsible kid I know, an independent sort who walks to school each day on her own through her New York City neighborhood. I trust and adore this girl and know that she would make smart decisions, keeping an eye out for my daughter.

Yet, I hesitated.

My daughter’s suburban elementary school is a ten-minute walk (seven if you avoid getting distracted by squirrels). Each school day, we walk there together, along with her brother, crossing only one street at an intersection with a clearly marked crosswalk and easy sightlines in all directions. Together, the girls would be safe; I wasn’t worried.

But, still, I hesitated.

Long gone are the days when my brother and I, especially my brother, would disappear for hours in the woods behind our house to play and explore, without our mother hovering about or even knowing exactly where we were. We were 1970s and 1980s kids, raised with lots of love, not a lot of television, and a push to be outside and be happy. Today, you might call that free-range parenting. I don’t raise my kids the same way my parents raised me.

Oh, I love my kids the same, and I restrict their television viewing, suggesting books instead, just like my mom did. I also want my kids to be outside, exploring, learning, and having fun. But I’m more aware of where they are at all times. I don’t let them go off by themselves. I worry a lot more than my parents did. I admit it: I hover a bit—maybe even a bit more than my husband would like. Free range describes the eggs I buy at Whole Foods, not the way I parent.

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Books I’m Reading in 2015

Last week was a quiet week for me here on Red Shutters, and that’s because I was reading. Reading three books at once. That’s a new one for me; I’m a monogamous reader, a one book at a time kind of a girl. But now that I’ve discovered audio books, I found myself listening to a book on the commute to work, reading e-books on the Kindle app on my phone, and curling up with good old-fashioned paperback each night before bed. Three books at once is enough to make any good reader’s head spin. It’s been hard enough to take all that reading in; I couldn’t manage to share any of my own words. (For another take on this “problem,” check out this post from Sarah at This Here Now.)

Books, books, I love you so! I have so many books to read in 2015. My goal is to read 45 books in this year—in addition to dozens of blogs, magazines, and newspapers. I’m a bit intimidated by the volume, but since I put my reading goal up on Goodreads, I’ve got to follow through. So far, during the first three months of the year, I have read 12 books and have two more in process. So far, so good.

As I sit at my kitchen table, eating way too many of the leftover Easter M&Ms (why are they so delicious?), I thought I’d tell you about what I’ve been reading and what I thought about each story:

  • The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant – I read this for my book club, and I had such high hopes (Diamant’s The Red Tent is a favorite of mine). The Boston Girl is a great story, rich is Boston history, with memorable characters, but, overall, I felt it was too short and missed opportunities to get as deep into the main character’s story as I would have liked. I wanted more—which, really, is a compliment to the author.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – I “read” this as an audio book, which is a great format for this novel. Three different readers narrated, strengthening the storylines and adding an air of unease that served the story very well. I enjoyed this book, and recommend it.
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon – Part of my immersion in all things Outlander, this book explores the adventures of one of the series’ secondary characters, Lord John Grey. Several Lord John Grey books have been written, and this one was recommended to me. I liked it, but will stick with the main Outlander series, preferring the storyline of the two main characters, Jamie and Claire Fraser, to that of Lord John.
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler – Another book club book, Kindred was written by a female African-American science fiction author, which is very unusual (science fiction is often perceived of a boys’ club). A challenging book, Kindred leaves the reader unsettled by virtue of its rejection of a neat and clear ending.
  • The Secret Life of Book Club by Heather Woodhaven – I reviewed this book on Red Shutters; learn more here.
  • Me Before You by JoJo Moyes – Oh, did I love this book! I read it on the plane to our vacation in February, alternating between laughter and tears. And the best part is that a sequel is the works!
  • The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simison – Another audio book, this sequel to The Rosie Project didn’t grab me as much as the first book did. I might have connected with it better had I read it instead of listened to it; sometimes, audio books aren’t the best fit for every reader (I hated the way the narrated presented the female voices in the story and therefore couldn’t fully embrace the book).
  • The Space Between and A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon – These two Outlander novellas (more Outlander, you say?) are offshoots of the main series and fill in gaps of the complicated stories explored in the primary eight books. Super short reads, they are best for those already immersed in the Outlander mythology.

In this post from January, I discussed Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah, the first three books I read in 2015, all of which I recommend—especially Crossing to Safety.

What am I reading now? I’m in the middle of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, listening to it on the commute to and from work. It’s a compelling read and made all the more captivating by the excellent narration of Zach Applebaum. At night before I bed, I’m reading Katherine Graham’s biography, Personal History, which I am so appreciating; it’s a dense book, though, and I have a feeling I’ll have it on my nightstand for months to come.

What’s next up? Two book club books are waiting for me: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand and Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. Additionally, my husband is reading the first Harry Potter book to our kids, and I am hoping I to take over for book two. It’s too much fun to experience those books for the first time with the kids, and I want in!

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Kimberly has
read 12 books toward her goal of 45 books.
hide

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links; learn more here.

Oh My Yog!, That’s Good!

I often joke that if you looked into my kids’ veins, you’d find yogurt.

When they were toddlers, they each went through a stage when yogurt was the only thing they would eat, so it was yogurt, yogurt, and yogurt all day long. Blueberry, strawberry, and banana. I always wondered if the cashiers at the grocery store thought there was something wrong with us—or that we owned a lot of stock in a yogurt company—when I’d pull my cart into their aisles and place container after container of yogurt on the conveyer belt.

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The Secret Life of Book Club Review

secret_life_of_a_book_clubAs a longtime member of a book club (my current one is made up of moms from my town), I was intrigued by the premise of Heather Woodhaven’s new novel, The Secret Life of Book Club: women in a neighborhood book club take a break from reading books to try a series of new experiences—adventures that force them out of their comfort zones.

While the idea is unorthodox—a book club that doesn’t read books?—the idea of trying something new, something unfamiliar, with a group of friends is appealing. After all, it’s easy to talk ourselves out of doing things—things that we find scary, intimidating, or different—but, as the women in The Secret Life of Book Club find, taking the leap with others gives you someone to whom you’re accountable, which makes you less likely to shy away from the challenge. Perhaps it’s easier to take a risk or be open to change when you know someone is looking out for you.

As the novel opens, each woman in the book group featured in The Secret Life of Book Club is facing some kind of stress or uncertainty, some of which becomes more apparent as the adventures develop. The experiences they share (which I won’t tell you about so as to not leak any spoilers) help them clarify their life priorities and learn more about themselves. They also have a good time together and strengthen their friendships.

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What’s in your Easter basket?

easter basketDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links; learn more here.

Shhh! Don’t tell my kids, but I’m the Easter bunny in our house.

There: the secret is out.

I keep my duties on the low-down. I don’t “hop on down the bunny trail,” but I do load up the Easter baskets and find the perfect hiding spot for these treasures so my little people can search for them on Easter morning.

Having pulled together the goodies for the kids’ baskets, I thought I’d share what R and G will be opening up next Sunday—in case you’re taking on the bunny duties in your home and are feeling a bit stuck.

My Approach
My general philosophy about Easter baskets is that less is more. The traditions of the holiday are, for us, about being with family, going to church, and (ideally) welcoming spring (though, this year, who knows when spring will really come to New England). The kids get a basket of carefully curated items—and some candy (of course). Extravagant, it’s not, but that’s fine; it’s the holiday that matters after all.

So what will R and G get in their Easter baskets this year?

For My Son
My son, R, is seven, and loves all things Lego, as well as books and sports. He’s also working on perfecting his joke telling skills. So, for my budding comedian, I’ve selected Easter Eggstravaganza Mad Libs, guaranteed to dissolve him into giggles (and a great distraction for the car ride to Nana’s house for Easter dinner). He likes Playmobil, too, so his basket will include this red (his favorite color) egg with a pirate and rowboat inside (arggh, matey!). He’ll have a new book, too, LEGO City: Follow That Easter Egg! Finally, a big Star Wars fan (do you know a kid who isn’t?), R’s basket wouldn’t be complete without this Disney Star Wars Milk Chocolate Stormtrooper Bunny (he’s going to love it!).

For My Daughter
G, my five-year-old firecracker of a girl, loves writing stories, skiing, and playing with her brother. For her, there will also be Playmobil; she will get a princess in a pink egg (I also found this egg with a Native American Girl with forest animals, which I would have purchased had been available). G, too, loves books, so Pinkalicious: Eggstraordinary Easter will be waiting for her. She’ll receive an activity book, Invisible Easter Magic Picture Book, and a chocolate bunny (which she won’t have to share with her brother).

For Both
Bowing to convention, both Easter baskets will have jellybeans (which my kids adore) and mini chocolate eggs (delicious!). Each child will also receive a new set of markers and a blank notebook, which they will use for drawing, writing, and passing each other notes.

The Cost
The items total about $30 for each basket, a bit more than the $25 budget I had originally set, but still within my let’s-not-go-crazy approach to Easter.

Other Ideas
Some of the other items I considered adding to the kids’ baskets included: band-aids (the kids love the ones with their favorite characters on them), a coupon for a trip to the local frozen yogurt place, Easter-egg shaped chalk (spied at the Dollar Store), and practical things like underwear and socks (I know, such a Mom idea, right?). No cost items were also on my list such as a coupon to select the movie during our next family movie night and a date with Dad to go bike riding.

Final Thoughts
If you’ve noticed that we have a Peep-free Easter, yes, you’re right. I’ve never liked them, preferring good old-fashioned, never-lets-you-down chocolate instead. Being the Easter bunny means you get to pick the candy, right? It’s my favorite perk of the job.

New Addition to My Library: Cape Cod Modern

One of my most favorite things to do is to read interior design magazines, blogs, and books. After sleep, it’s my favorite stress management tool. When I am overwhelmed with all I have to do, I can be found standing at my kitchen counter in front of my laptop, scrolling through blog after blog of dazzling light-filled spaces, stunning homes, and unusual buildings. On Instagram, I follow interior designers, museums, and artists so my downtime is filled with beauty. When the work-a-day life is too much, I dream about a new career as an interior design. I hoard Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Domino, and other shelter magazines in my guest bathroom, stacking them up in a tall pile that threatens to break the countertop on which they rest. When my husband once innocently suggested I recycle the ones I “didn’t need anymore,” I looked at him, aghast. Having never forgiven myself for getting rid of the original Domino magazines, I hold on to these new ones like they are solid gold.

Interior design books are a new addition to my collection. Not only do they fuel my wishful thinking, but they are gorgeously published, perfect for displaying in color-coordinated piles in my living room and den. The newest addition to my library arrived at Christmas, a gift from my husband (and a gift I gave my brother for the same holiday, our family’s twist on The Gift of Magi). The book is Cape Cod Modern: Midcentury Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape, written by Peter McMahon and Christine Cipriani.

cape cod modernThe book first piqued my interest because of its focus on two things I love: Cape Cod, the place where my husband grew up and where we were married, and midcentury design. For the past four years, I have lived with my family in a home designed in 1959 and built in 1960, at the height of midcentury movement. (For a quick primer on midcentury modern design, see this summary.) I have long gravitated to this period and was looking forward to exploring Cape Cod Modern to expand my knowledge and to find inspiration as we prepare for renovations to our home.

It’s a fabulous book. Stunningly photographed and rich in history, the book captures a time of artistic expression that is not especially well known. Consulting archives from libraries, universities, the Cape Cod Modern House Trust, and other sources, McMahon and Cipriani uncover never before seen stories, personal photographs, and information about the rich midcentury architectural legacy of the outer Cape, with a focus on Wellfleet and Truro.

In a fortuitous stroke of luck, I was able to attend a lecture about the book given by the authors last week. Sponsored by the Friends of Modern Architecture in Lincoln, the talk was held on a rainy Sunday afternoon in the Lincoln Public Library and had a great turnout. Everyone present had a real appreciation of modern architecture, with enthusiastic support for the book and its goal of capturing a special time in the field of architecture and design.

What I love best about design and architecture is that they speak to more than just pretty spaces. They capture the philosophy and asethetic of a time and place. They tell the story of people who may no longer be with us, giving us a window into our shared past. And they inspire and encourage new ways of thinking and living.

My homework now that I have read the book is to take one of the modern home tours sponsored by the Cape Cod Modern House Trust; it’s on my 2015 bucket list!

If you’re interested in architecture, Cape Cod, or midcentury modern design, I encourage to check out Cape Cod Modern: Midcentury Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape.

Disclosure: I love this book and just wanted you to know about it! This post does have an affiliate link; learn more here.

Shades of Sound

When the invitation from the Boston Ballet arrived, it took me about a nanosecond to decide. “Would you like to be our guest at the opening of Shades of Sound, the Ballet’s brand-new show?” the message read. Yes!

View More: http://nikkimyersphotography.pass.us/2015-03-08-bostonballet-dressrehearsalPhoto Courtesy of Nikki Amara Myers of Nikki Myers Photography

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The Puppet Showplace Theater and a Giveaway

Recently, my kids and I were invited to attend a performance at the Puppet Showplace Theater in Brookline, MA. We took in “Raccoon Tales,” a series of three short pieces about a wily raccoon and his adventures tricking other animals he encounters in the woods. The show was performed by Brad Shur, the Theater’s Resident Artist.

As we approached the Theater, which is tucked into a side street in Brookline Village, across from the subway stop, I realized that I had never taken my kids to a puppet show before. They had seen puppets in school, of course, but we had never taken in a professional show. That may have explained their excitement!

Puppet Showplace Theater

Who knew puppets were so small?

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Hello Friday (and some great reading!)

Daylight Savings Time

Ahhh… Friday. I don’t know about you, but the arrival of Daylight Savings Time on Sunday threw off my week. I was more tired than usual, going to bed at 9:00 and 9:30 PM two nights! Despite my exhaustion, going to bed early felt…luxurious. What a state my life is that going to bed early equals luxury! (I’m not alone in that, am I?)

Sunday was also International Women’s Day, and coincidentally, it’s also when I started a new book, “Personal History” by Katharine Graham, an autobiography of the woman who led The Washington Post for two decades, including during the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. I’ve wanted to read it for a while, and so far, even only a short way into her story, I’m finding it fascinating.

In other reading news (and, thankfully, there is always other reading news), I’ve been gathering items from around the web to share with you. I hope you enjoy them and, as always, thank you for reading for Red Shutters!

1 || Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in your house? Although I’m part Irish, my celebrating has typically included wearing something green (if I even remember!) and eating some green vegetables. However, now that my kids are getting older, I may have to up my game to make the holiday a bit more special. Thankfully, the Internet comes in handy on this front. I may make this fun treat for their lunches, give the kids these printables to do, make my own (healthy) version of the Shamrock Shake, or make our dinner “green.”

2 || Do you play Monopoly? Ever think about who created the game? The story may surprise you.

3 || As a parent, I am always intrigued by the stories of other parents and how they shepherd their children through life. This one is especially moving.

4 || The ViewMaster is back! (Confession: I still have mine from childhood.)

5 || Are you a Wes Anderson fan? I loved “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Royal Tenenbaums,” so this “what-if-Wes-Anderson-had-directed-X-Men-short” had me laughing.

6 || Did you know there’s a new Frozen short–and that Frozen 2 is in the works? My five-year-old is going to flip out when she hears the news!

7 || Vaccines save lives. And the US Surgeon General is taking questions from parents about the MMR vaccine in an effort to encourage parents opting out from vaccinating their kids to rethink that choice.

8 || I recently came across this piece about the healing power of toast (no joke there) and it’s profound.

9 || And, finally because we can never, ever have too much Star Wars in our house…

Happy Weekend!

Photo Credit

We Need to Do More Than Apologize

In a recent article on Fortune.com, titled “I’m sorry to all the mothers I used to work with,” Katharine Zaleski, a co-founder of a start-up that matches skilled female executives with positions they can perform from home, laments her younger, insensitive self. The commentary has since gone viral, provoking an array of responses, including this one from me.

I read the piece when it first came out, having discovering it via a post on Facebook. Friends subsequently sent me a link to the article. “Thought of you when I saw this,” they wrote, referencing the working parent bit, not the selfish twenty-something Zaleski describes as her former self.

At first, I hated this piece.

Portraying herself as a successful professional, Zaleski recounts stories of showing up at work at 10:30 AM, hung over from an evening of fun with colleagues (which is not my definition of a successful professional), and of judging other women negatively just because they were parents.

“I was there to meet with Time.com’s then managing editor and pitch a partnership idea, but once I took a seat and surveyed the endless photos of her small children spread across the airy space, I decided this editor was too much of a mother to follow up on the idea…She wasn’t the first and only mother whose work ethic I silently slandered.”

She gives examples of how she was a selfish and self-absorbed manager and colleague, without an appreciation for coworkers who had lives that were very different than hers.

 “I scheduled last minute meetings at 4:30 pm all of the time. It didn’t dawn on me that parents might need to pick up their kids at daycare. I was obsessed with the idea of showing my commitment to the job by staying in the office “late” even though I wouldn’t start working until 10:30 am while parents would come in at 8:30 am.”

As a working parent, I found Zaleski’s actions short sighted, frustrating, and, unfortunately, not at all, surprising. I’ve been there. I know people who thought I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take on a big job because I was a mom and others who made assumptions that, because I’m a parent, my career was unimportant to me.

As someone who was once (but, thankfully, no longer) in my twenties, I understand the complete self-absorption that befalls a person who really wants to get ahead in her career and will put in the long hours to do so. She plays the game the way the game has been written, not questioning if it’s unfair. She is likely too junior to do so. That was me: I regularly worked 12-hour days in my twenties because I wanted to advance and face time at the office was the way to do that.

But that was (gulp!) 20 years ago and the world of work has changed—though there’s still much to do to make the workplace as supportive of working parents as it could be.

As Zaleski shares in her article, since her twenties, she grew up, too: she had a kid and she changed her thinking about working parents, largely due to her own experience. She accepted that becoming a parent doesn’t mean you became a failure at work. In fact, she now understands that it’s often the opposite:

“I wish I had known five years ago, as a young, childless manager, that mothers are the people you need on your team. There’s a saying that “if you want something done then ask a busy person to do it.” That’s exactly why I like working with mothers now.”

And

“Moms work hard to meet deadlines because they have a powerful motivation – they want to be sure they can make dinner, pick a child up from school, and yes, get to the gym for themselves.”

It’s her apology, though, and the general tenor of the piece that I felt was so self-serving. While Zaleski might very well have felt compelled to share her mea culpa publicly, she’s doing so to promote her new company and its embrace of the challenges of the working parent. She’s selling flexibility and achievement, an attractive combination that entices working parents (like the women she writes about who used to commute to a job in London from Bulgaria, but who now can happily work from home thanks to Zaleski’s company) and companies looking to cut overhead (we’ve paid our workers more than $1 million, she writes, portraying her company as a successful entity that should be hired to help others). This isn’t a thought-piece about advancing working parents (and I use parents advisedly; it’s not just moms who struggle with balancing career and family) as much as it’s an advertorial with a “make me feel better for once being a jerk” bent. Shame on Fortune for not seeing through that.

(Interestingly, the article now includes a short interview with Zaleski in response to the widespread interest her piece has received; in it, Zaleski comes across as defensive and impatient more people don’t agree with her.)

But, after the fifth (or sixth) read of Zaleski’s piece, I found myself agreeing with her—in some ways.

Managers do need to be open to hiring people who are different than them. This means hiring working parents and people who come from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and perspectives. That diversity enriches and expands our ability to achieve our goals—and have successful lives. To that end, Zaleski makes an excellent point in which I am in complete agreement:

“There are so many ways we can support each other as women, but it starts with the just recognizing that we’re all in different positions at different times in our lives.”

I’d tweak it only slightly:

“There are so many ways we can support each other, but it starts with the just recognizing that we’re all in different positions at different times in our lives.”

Women and men need to take up the call to change the view of working parents in today’s workplace. We need to do more than apologize; we need to work together, we need to think differently together. That’s the only way real change will happen and will be sustainable.