Family Life Archives - Page 5 of 22 - Eva Varga


January 23, 2017

When my children were toddlers, I recall our pediatrician giving me his sage advice, “You have one child of each sex. When they are young, your son will cause you the most frustration. When they reach their teen years, things will change. Raising teens is different. Parenting your son will become remarkably easier than your daughter. Your daughter will cause you the most concern and frustration when she is a teen.” These words have swirled about my head often since then.

When my son was climbing up the shelves to reach the garage door opener, I recalled his words.

When I found my son atop the kitchen counter digging into the used coffee grounds and observed a dozen raw eggs smashed on the floor below him, I recalled his words.

When we found him inside the dryer, I recalled his words. When our babysitter found him inside their dog carrier and she later shared her revelation, I recalled his words.

When I found him atop the rubbermaid tubs playing with the baby powder, I recalled his words.

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Struggles of Raising Teens

Now that they are both teens (or nearly so – my son will be twelve next month and my daughter is fourteen), I expected things to change. To be sure, I am no longer finding him in precarious places. Yet, the tides have not yet turned.

My daughter dutifully does her lessons without a lot of nagging from me. She keeps her room organized and tidy. She helps around the house, often doing the laundry or putting away the dishes without prompting.

She helps keep me on my toes, reminding me of appointments and lessons outside the house. She rarely ever complains about having to go to swim team (when she does, red flags go up as I realize she is coming down with some bug).

My son, on the other hand, is a different creature all together. His life motto is, “If it isn’t my idea and also fabulously fun, I want no part.”

We constantly butt heads over accountability. I have become a nagger. But don’t take my word for it …

I came across a great post on Facebook recently, encouraging us to sit down with our child, ask certain questions without any prompting, and then to repost the questions and answers along with our child’s name and age. My friend posted her 12-year-old son’s answers. They were so funny and endearing that I decided to do the exercise with my children.

Here’s an excerpt from my interview with my 11-year-old son:

What is something I say all the time?
“Go do your schoolwork”

What makes me happy?
“When I do my schoolwork”

What makes me sad?
“When I don’t do my schoolwork. No. Actually, when Prince died.”

Do you think you could live without me?
“No, because I’d never get my schoolwork done.”

What did I tell you? I am a nagger. I must admit I am at my wits end. I am frustrated and perplexed. I have begun to question if homeschooling is the right path for him. Would he be more successful being accountable to others?

 Raising Teens While Saving Your Sanity: 12 Must Read Books for Parents @EvaVarga.net

12 Must Read Books for Parents Raising Teens

I have thereby been doing a lot of reading lately. Here’s my top 12 list of must read books for parenting teens while maintaining your sanity. Admittedly, I have not yet read all of them. I have provided a little snippet for those I have, while the others came highly recommended to me by a dear friend. (Thank you, Aubrey!)

Parenting Teens with Love & Logic by Foster Cline & Jim Fay ~ I have had a lot of success with the Love & Logic techniques, especially when the kids were toddlers. As they’ve gotten older, however, we have not been as consistent, evidenced by the attitude and behaviors that are now magnified. This is one of the books I own and revisiting these strategies every now and again has been really helpful.

Queen Bees and Wannabes, 3rd Edition: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boys, and the New Realities of Girl World by Rosalind Wiseman ~ I first read this book when my daughter was about five years old. She wasn’t dealing with cliques or gossip at that age but it really helped me to better understand my own experience as a teen. I want to read this one again.

Odd Girl Out by Rachael Simmons ~ Similarly, I also read this one years ago. It was actually a book club selection and it provided a great opportunity to reflect on and share our own experiences.

Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World by Rosalind Wiseman ~ Having read her previous title (noted above), I was very eager to read this one. I found myself constantly taking pictures with my cell phone of passages I wanted to remember and/or discuss with my spouse. Ultimately, I made the decision to purchase this book along with Queen Bees and Wannabes.

The New Strong-Willed Child by James C. Dobson ~ My son is indeed strong-willed and is skilled at wearing us down to get his way. I look forward to reading Dobson’s advice for creating a home filled with love and how to discipline a difficult child while making it evident to the child that they are loved, special, and cared for.

In Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, Lisa Damour outlines seven transition phases that girls experience as they progress from childhood to adulthood. The phases are relatively self-explanatory. They are 1) parting with childhood, 2) joining a new tribe, 3) harnessing emotions, 4) contending with adult authority, 5) planning for the future, 6) entering the romantic world, and 7) caring for herself. These phases aren’t necessarily experienced at specific ages in one specific order, but Damour offers a general guide for how most girls mature. I recommend it for parents who have a preteen daughter so they can be prepared in advance to handle situations as they arise.

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon & Michael Thompson ~ This title was actually recommended to me by our pediatrician years ago and I recall enjoying it. Now that my son is nearly a teen, it warrants another read. As children age, they undergo many changes – both physically and emotionally. What I gleaned from this book when my son was a toddler will not serve me well now that I am raising teens.

Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons by Meg Meeker ~ I have not yet read this title but from the synopsis, I am very intrigued. The author explores the secrets to boyhood, including why rules and boundaries are crucial–and why boys feel lost without them as well as the pitfalls parents face when talking to their sons.

Meg Meeker has authored two additional titles that strongly interest me. The first, Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men, acknowledges that raising sons presents a challenge that raising daughters does not. After all, I as a woman can remember being a girl and young woman; I can never fully understand what it is like to be male. We still have a very important role to play in our son’s development, however. We “lay the foundation for how he will relate to women for the rest of his life.” 

The second, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know, is a powerful book for fathers. As one reviewer on Amazon stated,  “If you want her to grow up emotionally healthy and able to face the pressures that our parents never knew and therefore didn’t know how to equip *us* to deal with, read this book, it will tell you how.”

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively by Gary D. Chapman has been all over social media this past year. Though I haven’t read the book, I have read numerous blog posts and even asked each of my family members to take an online quiz to determine our individual love languages. This one is definitely on my “books to read list”.

This last title is more for your teen, than for you as a parent. Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens: … Helping You Manage Mood Swings, Control Angry Outbursts, and Get Along with Others by Sheri Van Dijk will help teens find new ways of managing their feelings. Based on dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a type of therapy designed to help people who have a hard time handling their intense emotions, this workbook helps teens learn the skills necessary to ride the ups and downs of life with grace and confidence.
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You’ll find more lists of Must Read Books at the iHomeschool Network linkup.



January 16, 2017

There has been a tremendous amount of discourse regarding the current political climate in our nation. I have abstained from getting involved in these discussions as I do not wish to offend or make anyone uncomfortable.

The other day, however, my sister-in-law directly asked me for my opinion. In response to her question, I admit I was vague and I didn’t go into any detail about my political opinion. I did state though that it is my hope that through the events of the past year, perhaps our youth will be more engaged in politics and causes for which they feel impassioned.

“I have never been interested in politics myself,” I stated. “Yet, what I observe is that people are beginning to realize their voice – their vote – makes a difference. They are finding the courage to speak up and to speak out rather than stand by as ideal observers.”

What Are You Doing for Others? Inspiring Youth to Make a Difference @EvaVarga.netWhen we were traveling through the East Coast this past fall, we visited numerous national monuments and historical landmarks. Famous quotations were often inscribed in the granite and I would read these aloud as we walked. My daughter photographed many and copied her favorites into her journal including,

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I had carefully coordinated our history studies prior to our departure to align with this trip. Much of our family discussions thereby revolved around historical events and the impact of our nation’s past leaders.

Study Rhetoric and Fallacies of Logic

In the evening, we would watch some of the presidential debates. We also watched snippets of previously recorded presidential debates as well as speeches delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. We made note of their speaking style and the way in which they interacted with the other debaters and moderators.

When the kids were younger, we enjoying reading together The Fallacy Detective. It is fascinating to witness them continue to recognize these fallacies in others. It is especially humorous when the catch their own father special pleading.

Now that they are a little older, I look forward to incorporating more lessons on debate and rhetoric, a skill I feel is significantly lacking in most school curricula. As such, I have ordered a copy of The Discovery of Deduction which uses methods such as Socratic dialogue, discussion, and other subjects areas to teach dialectic students the art of rhetoric.

Legacy Dr MLKTake Action & Get Involved

A few years ago, I wrote a post for Multicultural Kid Blogs entitled, He Had a Dream: The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Throughout my post, I explore ideas and opportunities for today’s youth to get involved and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Consider also the example of Dr. Jane Goodall who stated Every individual matters, every individual has a role to play, every individual can make a difference

 



December 31, 20162

For several years now, I have considered choosing a “word of the year”. A word to focus on throughout the year can at times be simpler and easier than a long list of resolutions. I started thinking about my word a couple of weeks ago.

The first word that came to mind was grace. I find that I can be easily frustrated – particularly with the shortcomings of others. This past year, I have been working on patience for others and also for myself – essentially extending grace. I hadn’t really adopted it as my “word of the year”, however. Even so, this wasn’t quite the word for which I was looking.

Hygge is Love | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netRecently, I’d liked a link shared on the Sons of Norway Facebook page, 20 Pictures that Explain ‘Hygge’, and a friend commented, “Gee, now I am hooked on “hygge!” I’ve known about hygge for a long time but as it happened to appear in my newsfeed simultaneously with posts about the new year, it struck me that this was my word.

Hygge is a lifestyle concept that comes from Scandinavia (specifically Norway and Denmark) and is not easily translated into English. It is about an atmosphere more than one thing in particular. The atmosphere is a combination of not just the place, but the companionship and the situation. It could be your own home, but also a cafe, a walk in nature, a casual meeting with a group of friends, or even by yourself.

Hygge has no real English translation, but essentially describes the feeling you get when you’re comfortable.

Hygge is something that happens in every season, but winter can be pictured as more hygge filled season with details like candlelight to brighten the dark evenings. In the summer, eating outside with friends is a great example of hygge. As I contemplated this word, I was very inspired to take the time to include more hygge in our life – both in homeschool and our daily routines.

Hygge is Adventure | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Adventure

When the kids were younger (elementary years), we had a very relaxed approach to homeschool. We completed our lessons early and had the rest of the day to play and explore passion projects. I would typically reserve one day a week for adventures – nature study outings, field trips, and leisurely days at the lake or up the river.

No matter where you go or what you do, you can bring the hygge. It’s a state of mind.

As they got older and more involved in outside activities, our leisure time began to erode. Lessons take longer and we have less time to freely explore. Not to mention, we’ve all gotten more distracted (do I dare say, addicted?) to our devices. It’s harder to motivate the kids to get outside.

I miss our adventures. I miss spending a leisurely afternoon on the beach watching them swim and dig in the sand. In 2016, we made it a family goal to get outside more – to go camping and to hike more frequently. We aimed to complete hike 52 different hikes in the calendar year. I’ll be writing a recap and reflection of this goal next week.

Hygge is Companionship | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Companionship

Spending quality time with family and friends has always been very important to me. I have very fond memories of large family gatherings for holidays and reunions – granted my mother does have six siblings so our extended family is very large. Click here for A Dozen or So Ideas for Family Time. 

When something is hygge, you say it’s hyggelig (“HOO-gah-lee”): “That was a hyggelig evening.”

We’ve moved twice in the past five years. As a result, it is easy to lose connections with friends. I often feel lonely and disconnected. While I realize that not all friendships are “life long”, I know I need to make extra effort to keep the friendships that are dear to me alive. I can also reach out more in an effort to create new friendships. As an introvert, this can be a challenge.

Hygge is Joy | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Joy

I love getting outdoors. I love watching my kids smile and delight in the wonders of nature. Spending time in nature is also rejuvenating for one’s soul. In 2016, I made it a personal goal to become a certified Oregon Master Naturalist. As a mother and homeschool parent, it is important to take care of me. Achieving Master Naturalist certification was rewarding both intellectually and personally.

The concept of hygge is very nostalgic: candlelight, anti-technology, and comforting traditions are all “hyggelig.”

This coming year, I look forward to renewing our weekly practice of nature journaling. Slowing down and reflecting upon our outings will be hyggelig. As will curling up with a book more regularly.

Hygge is Motivation | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Strength

One of the things that has brought me joy is strength and good health. I haven’t been consistent in my fitness these past few years. Exercise may not sound very hyggelig to most, but returning to a training program will bring comfort in knowing I am taking care of myself and in turn caring for my family.

“Hyg dig!” or “have hygge!” is a popular way to say goodbye.


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How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen is already a top-seller on Amazon even though it won’t be released until January 3rd. It promises to be a fresh, informative, lighthearted, fully illustrated how-to guide to hygge. How to Hygge is a combination of recipes and helpful tips for cozy living at home. Pre-order your copy today.

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Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hangman will warm you up and teach you to embrace the art of hygge, no matter where you live. This is a beautiful book of Scandinavian comfort food and the recipes are absolutely delicious. The recipes are very modern and healthy.



December 27, 2016

I grew up on the Oregon Coast in beautiful Bandon by the Sea. I spent many a day on the shoreline investigating the marine invertebrates under the rock crevices and walking the sandy beaches. My brothers and I longed for the minus tides, providing us the rare opportunity to go spelunking in the sea caves just off shore. These rocky islands are now protected areas for marine bird nesting habitat but back in the 70s, it was our playground.

dune geology tunicates
Dune geology features: foredune and deflation plain

Tracking Marine Debris

In all the years I have spent on the beach, I have found a diverse amount of debris and organisms in varying states of decay. I probably spend an equal amount of time sifting through the wrack on the high tide line as I do in wave zone digging in the sand looking for mole crabs.

I have found marine debris from Japan evidenced by the kanji script. An occasional flip flop or fishing net remnants are not uncommon. While immersing myself in marine biology courses at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology one summer, I even found several squid egg cases that washed ashore after a winter storm, providing my peers and I an opportunity to observe the development up close. Yet, once in a while, I am still surprised at what washes ashore.

tunicates
Walking along the ATV trail across the deflation plain

This past holiday weekend, my family and I enjoyed a leisurely walk on the beach near our home. Our goal was to field test a new marine debris app, a joint initiative between the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative. The tracker app allows you to help make a difference by checking in when you find trash on our coastlines and waterways.*

We drove out to the North Spit and thereafter began our excursion through the deflation plain. We soon discovered, however, that there was too much standing water to stick to the trail that meandered through the wetland area. We thus walked along the ATV road until we reached the small foredune. Just a few feet up and over and we arrived on the sandy beach.

No sooner did we arrive at the shore and we immediately were captivated by the presence of a strange organic material that was strewn across the beach for miles. Upon first glance, it looked like a hard plastic tube resembling a sea cucumber. My first suspicion turned out to be incorrect, however. Upon returning home, I learned that what we had found were actually colonial tunicates. Fascinating!

tunicates rare creatures
Planktonic salps, Pyrosoma atlanticum, strewn across the beach.

What are Tunicates?

This bizarre and rarely-seen creature is called a pyrosome, a species of pelagic colonial tunicates. Their scientific name, Pyrosoma atlanticum, is derived from the Greek words pyro meaning ‘fire’ and soma meaning ‘body’ which refers to the fact that they are known for bright displays of bioluminescence.

Pyrosoma atlanticum are one of the few pyrosomes that make it to the west coast of the U.S. The species found here are less than a foot but can get as long as 24 inches. Largely colorless, they can show up as pink, grayish or purple-green.

tunicates invertebrates
A specimen of the colonial tunicate, Pyrosoma atlanticum 

These massive colonies of cloned creatures are related to a kind of jellyfish called a slap. A tunicate is a marine invertebrate animal, a member of the subphylum Tunicata, which is part of the Chordata, a phylum which includes all animals with dorsal nerve cords and notochords.

Each individual organism is about 1 cm long – less than a third of an inch. They are all connected by tissue and in turn form this colony that looks like a plastic tube. The recent winter storms have caused them to strand on the shores and have been found in all areas of the coast.

Usually found in temperate waters as low as 800 meters. The colony of animals is comprised of thousands of individual zooids and moves through the water column by the means of cilia (an organelle found in eukaryotic cells that project from the much larger cell body).

As they move through the water column, sometimes close to the surface and sometimes as far down as 2600 feet, they filter plankton out of the water for food. As it sucks water in, it then pushes it back out, thereby propelling it through the ocean. It does all this via one opening only, so it moves incredibly slow.

For more images of Pyrosoma, check out Bob Perry’s photographs. Included in his work are a few pseudoconchs (false shells) of the pelagic mollusk Corolla which we similarly found.zoologyIf you are interested in learning more about invertebrates with your students, I encourage you to look into the Amazing Animals curriculum unit I have written to introduce middle level students to zoology. This 10-week unit is full of inquiry-based activities and lesson plans fully outlined for you.

Due to our fascination with these rare creatures, we didn’t spend as much time with the debris tracking app as I had intended. We’ll give it a go another time.



December 23, 20162

I wanted another little something to put in my kiddos stockings this year. Then I remembered the fun coupon book I had made for my parents when I was a teen and my creative juices got flowing.

teencoupons2I opened my digital scrapbooking folder and was quickly underway. It only took a few minutes to put these together once I had a workable template.

teencoupons3

To download a PDF copy of each page for yourself, simply click on the image. It should open a new window whereby you can download and print. teencoupons1

Please leave a little note of gratitude in the comments. 🙂



November 7, 20162

As a family we love to travel. For the past few years, we have enjoyed a road trip in the spring and a holiday abroad in the fall. Most recently, we spent two weeks in New England exploring our nation’s history and many of the iconic landmarks.

Over the years, our style of travel has evolved. Yes, much of this is due to the fact that the kids are getting older and we no longer have to worry about diaper bags, strollers, and carseats. There have also been many minor changes that we have made along the way that have made a huge difference in how we get along and how smoothly things come together.

Arguments & Frustrations

We’ve all heard family travel horror stories. You likely have a few tales of woe and angst to share yourself. Who doesn’t? Noting spoils a vacation day faster than arguments and spats about little things that we often have no control over.

Family Travel Hacks: Vacation Debriefs for When Things Don't Go As Planned @EvaVarga.netA Day in Manhattan

We enjoyed good weather on most of our days – many were overcast but only one day brought rainfall. We were in Manhattan on this wet Monday and our plan for the day was to spend the morning at the Natural History Museum and then walk through Central Park to the Guggenheim where we would spend the afternoon.

We had pre-purchased tickets via CityPASS and as it was a Monday, we envisioned exploring the museums at our leisure. We often travel in September when most children are in school and have thereby become accustomed to this luxury. My daughter, the budding artist, had been particularly looking forward to seeing the Guggenheim Museum as she had previously visited Peggy Guggenheim’s collection in Venice.

The rain, as it turned out, changed the plans of many other in the city that day. We arrived at the steps of the Natural History Museum before they opened and very quickly, as the rain intensified, the crowd on the steps grew. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long before the doors opened and we funneled into the galleries. We soon came to realize, however, that with so many people it was difficult to really see the exhibits at a comfortable pace.

We saw what we could and then headed over to the Guggenheim. A special event closed off much of Central Park and thus we were forced to circle around the perimeter – extending our walk much farther than anticipated. When we reached Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic building, we were soaked. Frustrations rose – we were all very hungry – and tempers began to flare. We quickly grabbed a bite to eat from a street vendor and proceeded indoors.

Huge crowds were here as well and to make it worse, the spiral gallery was closed due to changing exhibits. We were thereby confined to one temporary exhibit, But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise.  We even opted to skip Maurizio Cattelan’s gold toilet as there was a two hour wait.

Family Travel Hacks: Vacation Debriefs for When Things Don't Go As Planned @EvaVarga.netWhat are Vacation Debriefs? 

One of the most effective tools we use to improve how well we connect with one another is the family debrief. When we are home, this generally is a short conversation at the dinner table whereupon we each share what we are grateful for and give kudos to another for their support and our inspiration.

Daily Vacation Debriefs

When we are traveling, our debrief is more in-depth. In addition to expressing our gratitude, we also discuss a series of questions. Here’s a peak into our responses over dinner that evening in Manhattan.

What did you like most about the day?

  • Unanimous agreement: Natural History Museum

What did you like the least about the day?

  • Jeffrey: The crowds
  • Geneva: The crowds – I wanted to sketch the wooly mammoth skeleton at the Natural History Museum but I couldn’t.
  • Eva: The crowds
  • Patrick: The Guggenheim – I was disappointed. There wasn’t much to see and the temporary exhibit we did see was just too weird for my taste.

What could we have done together to make it a better day?

  • Jeffrey: I wish we had brought snacks
  • Geneva: We should have checked the museum websites
  • Eva: We could have communicated better
  • Patrick: Let’s try an impromptu huddles next time things go awry rather than plowing forward with our plan. We may want to make a change.

Holiday Wrap-up

In addition to our daily debrief in the evening, we also wrap-up our family holiday with a more extensive debrief. This conversation typically takes place during our flight layover.

  • What’s the highlight of trip?
  • What’s most surprising about the trip?
  • If you were to recommend this trip to others, what words of advice would you offer?
  • Where would you most like to go next? 

Strengthening Family Bonds

We have all come to look forward to these family debriefs. My daughter says,

“They really help us to connect better with one another. We learn what things make each of us frustrated. We help each other find strategies to overcome these frustrations and we learn to let things go. We can then focus on the fun and better enjoy the experience.”

Looking Forward

This post is part of a series entitled Family Travel Hacks whereby I will be sharing tips and tricks we have learned over the years for successful family travel. You’ll find ideas for:

  • trip planning
  • packing
  • airports
  • car rentals
  • improving communication

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