Raising brothers, raising family pals

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Oh, my two boys. These brothers. Brothers! Having gown up with a sister I'm fascinated and honored to be raising brothers and I want to raise them to be family pals, as the saying goes in Chris's family. 

Of course I hope that my boys will grow up to be best brother friends and have a secret handshake and go on adventures together and live together in college. But we can't control the personalities our children will have and how they will mesh with a sibling. What I do earnestly hope for and want to guide my boys towards is feeling they can always count on their brother and that they will respect and support each other, even if they don't see eye to eye.

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Before I was raising brothers I loved a post from Joanna on raising siblings and at her recommendation read Siblings Without Rivalry, which I enjoyed (although it did discuss some tough sibling situations which was sad to read about). And of course now I have my own experience of raising brothers and it's something I think about often and so here are our parenting practices for raising siblings:

+ Enforce the rules with both boys, even if one is too young to fully understand.

When Cedric was born Dashiell was old enough to understand the rules of "no hitting" and "honor my words please" but of course Cedric was clueless :) But we didn't want Dashiell to feel he was the only one being corrected and so since Cedric was tiny we have been gently reminding him of the rules when he hits, grabs and takes toys. We use the same language that we use with Dash but also explain to Dash that Cedric is still learning and so we are patient with him. As a result, it seems, Dash has shown so much patience towards Cedric, even when his hair is being pulled, poor guy!

An added benefit of reminding Cedric of household rules and respect even before he understands is that our language will remain consistent with him as he enters toddlerhood. We won't be making a sudden shift of hitting being OK because he's too young to suddenly saying "no hitting." Cedric has already started showing us "gentle hands" which is adorable and is also a huge credit to our wonderful daycare.

+ Avoid casting defining roles for children such as "the happy one" or "the rambunctious one".

Reading this in Siblings Without Rivalry was so insightful to me and it's applicable to all children, not just siblings. Casting children in roles is something we probably do without meaning to and it likely comes from wanting to praise our children, such as telling a child they "are so smart!" all the time. But a "happy child" will also feel sadness and anger and of course that's normal and healthy! An "energetic child" will also want to sit quietly and read at times.

The book made the point that if a child sees their sibling identified as the "musical one" or as the "smart one" they may feel they cannot also be those things. Casting a child in a rigid role can be confusing for the child in that role because when their feelings or actions do not conform to their role they may feel they are doing something wrong. I think this is also so important to remember in terms of casting gender stereotypes.

+ Involve both children in encouraging and praising each other.

We try to make the accomplishments of one child something the whole family feels proud of. During Cedric's first year there were so many milestones to celebrate and I loved hearing Dash say, "I so proud you Dredric!" At the same time we encourage Cedric to clap for Dashiell's accomplishments, too! Over the years the boys will have different passions and talents and I hope they can feel pride in the accomplishments of the other without feeling that it takes away from their own accomplishments.

+ Include the older sibling in caring for a young one but don't make it their responsibility.

When we hear Cedric stirring in the morning Dashiell loves to be the first to enter his room and greet him, "Good morning sweetie," and often asks for us to kneel down with Cedric so that he can hug and kiss him. (I know!) I love for Dashiell to be involved in caring for Cedric but I try to make sure we don't treat Cedric as Dashiell's responsibility. If Dashiell wants to be involved in something we are doing for Cedric, we welcome it, but if he's busy playing or simply doesn't want to then that should be his priority.

+ Include the brothers as a team. 

 I love referring to the boys together as "the brothers" and encouraging them to be a team. We ask, "Are the brothers ready to go for a bike ride?" Or say, "OK, brothers, bath time!" I've heard Dash tell people, "That's my brudder!" or to spontaneously kiss Cedric and say, "I love my brudder." Heart melted.

+ Include the boys individually.

An awesome brother team is made up of two awesome individual boys. Individual time with each of the boys happens naturally here and there during the week and it's something we will be intentional about as they grow.

 

I'd love to know if you have any insights about raising siblings, whether it's something you are doing or have seen or maybe something your parents did!


A simple trick for an uncluttered home

A simple trick for an uncluttered home | RISING*SHINING

I thrive in uncluttered environments. They are my jam. A tidy, uncluttered environment lets me breathe and think; I feel more creative and energized. An uncluttered home is even included in our ideal life manifesto

As we've minimized and minimized some more our home has become the bright and uncluttered environment I've always wanted to live in. And I've implemented a simple trick for maintaining a home with an uncluttered feel: maintain clear horizontal surfaces.

This brilliant idea isn't my own, I read it years ago in a post at Small Notebook. Like the idea of the Sunday home the concept of keeping horizontal surfaces clear has stuck with me, although I'm only recently implementing it in full. Now I'm nearly obsessed with finding horizontal surfaces we can keep clear.

Maintaining clear horizontal surfaces goes along with the idea behind the warning in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that clutter attracts clutter, which is so true! Now that I know the power of clear horizontal surfaces I find myself looking for more and more surfaces in our home that we can keep uncluttered.

A simple trick for an uncluttered home | RISING*SHINING

For example, I used to keep a couple of potted plants on the kitchen island. I love the idea of having houseplants but the reality was that everyday I was shoving them to the side to make room to cook and to prep snacks. Instead of looking ready for use the island was always partially occupied and the plants kept the kitchen from ever looking truly clean. Now we have nothing that "lives" on the island and the large, empty surface is full of potential and energy instead of being a collecting place of things and tasks to be completed.

A simple trick for an uncluttered home | RISING*SHINING

Our bedroom dresser was another horizontal surface that was perpetually cluttered with clothes and everyday items. I used to keep a small jewelry organizer there and who knows what else. What I do know is that since there were already a couple of things on the dresser we discarded clothing, papers and other random items there and they blended right in. There was no urgency in returning items to their proper home because the dresser top was a catchall. The space was not designated as a clear surface and so anything could find a home there. 

We have since designated our dresser as a stuff-free surface. Like the kitchen island the dresser surface is not home to anything. And so when there is something on the dresser Chris and I both know that a true home must be found, it can't stay on the dresser. It's was so easy to let clothes pile up on the dresser, and then to take over the chair and then the bed. Clutter attracts clutter! Having the dresser designated as a surface we keep uncluttered gives our whole bedroom a more tidy vibe. It keeps stuff from piling up and thus keeps the rest of the room tidy. 

A simple trick for an uncluttered home | RISING*SHINING Diningtable A simple trick for an uncluttered home | RISING*SHINING

On Friday we had the house professionally cleaned, as we do once a month, and I was taking notice of all the clear horizontal surfaces throughout our home. There are surfaces in every room awaiting use. There are side tables where I can put a mug of coffee as I read books to the boys in the early morning. My bedside table has room for my water bottle each night and the book I set down before I go to sleep. Our dining room table is ready for a boisterous family dinner or to be transformed into a podcast studio.

A simple trick for an uncluttered home | RISING*SHINING A simple trick for an uncluttered home | RISING*SHINING A simple trick for an uncluttered home | RISING*SHINING

We've found that clear horizontal surfaces are perfect for a home environment for young, curious children. We avoid many "no's" simply by not having as many things out in the house. The toys that we do have out see lots of play time because the boys aren't overwhelmed by choices. Plus we can tidy the house in a snap because we don't have many toys to put away and everything has a home. 

I realize that our aesthetic tends towards the minimal and isn't for everyone. But the photos in Rachel's post show a home that does not look minimal in the least and yet has an uncluttered feel because of the clear horizontal surfaces. So I think it's a concept that can work for any style of home.

Also, please know that my home does not always look this clean and tidy!! Surfaces become cluttered with stuff during everyday living in my home just as they do in yours. The power in a home with clear horizontal surfaces is that the clutter that temporarily accumulates doesn't stay; everything has a home to return to and we are motivated to clear surfaces and return to an environment that is ready for life and living.


Things that are awesome no. 3

Love our dark grey front door | RISING*SHINING

An occasional series of small things that bring some awesome to my life. 

Our dark grey front door. I can't believe it used to be white, which seems so plain now. All credit is due to Erica who painted the inside of her front door dark grey at least a year earlier. When I saw the impact it made in her house I was eager to try it next door at our house. Erica used Peppercorn and ours is Kendall Charcoal. I loved the way our door looked with a Christmas wreath and so we left the Command hook and are hoping to find a spring wreath.

P.S. The magic of new paint colors.


Goals - February 2016

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I'm mostly used to writing "2016" on Cedric and Dashiell's daily sheets at daycare and to typing out the year at work. With February it feels like the year is really getting underway and I welcome it. Hopefully this month we will once and for all kick the one-thing-after-another sicknesses being shared around our family. Even this evening we were remarking how Cedric seems to have definitely turned a corner (RSV last week) just as we heard Dash begin to cough in his sleep. And we started comparing work calendars to see who has flexibility this week.  

We are enjoying chilly weather in the mornings and evenings but bask in the mid-day sun at the park, on bike rides or in the backyard. I bought a new hummingbird feeder for one of our ash trees in back and we have several consistent visitors. Cedric signs "bird" and points "dah!" and Dashiell says, "Hi!" We had winter grass overseeded in the back for the first time this year and the thick, green lawn has seen a lot of play time.

When I'm in the back I can't help but think of all the changes and improvements I wish we could make to create a backyard retreat. Perhaps putting a few more plants in this spring would quell my eagerness. Spring is right around the corner here, I know, but for now I'm trying to stay in "winter" just a bit longer (not that the picture above from a recent weekend looks wintry at all).

 Big things happening this month:

+ Plan a big celebration with my sister-in-law to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday and my in-law's 49th anniversary!

+ My mom comes for a long weekend visit!!

February goals:

+ Go on a creative field trip. Going on creative field trips is one of my 2016 goals.

+ Brave the 4 AM hour at least once a week. 

+ Catch up on my snail mail correspondence. I love snail mail and try to be prompt with thank you notes or notes of sympathy and well wishes. I have several things in queue to put in the mail and I'm behind. If I can finish these things up I'd also love to send a few notes to my best gals for Galentine's Day

Recurring monthly goals:

+ Exercise at least twice per week. I'm feeling strong and fit going to Orange Theory twice per week. I'd really love to fit in a third workout but I'm just not sure where yet!

+ Publish to RISING*SHINING on Mondays and Wednesdays.   

+ Record and produce new episodes of The Girl Next Door Podcast and Matrimoney on schedule. 

+ Download photos from my phone and collect photos for the 2016 Team Wharton photo book.

Happy February! 

 


Conversations with Dashiell

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Awesome words and phrases lately:
Fighter-fighter = firefighter
Pinecorn = pinecone
Rocketnaut = astronaut
Forth and back = back and forth
Scorpi-ant = scorpion
Got-for = forgot/forget
Last week = any time in the past, from 5 minutes ago to several months ago to, actually, last week.

Dash, handing me something: Here you go.
Me: Thank you.
Dash: Thank you for thank you.

A typical exchange
Me: I love you.
Dash: Thank you.

After Dash comes inside from bike riding with Chris
Me: What have you been doing?
Dash: I been working so hard!

Dash: One day, when I'm bigger, I go to the gym.

Noticing the full moon
Dash: The moon is whole!

After being served eggs and toast
Dash: This looks yummy, Chris. You make things great.

Chris: Wow you got in your carseat really fast.
Dash: I’m like a squirrel!

Talking to Cedric, who he currently calls "Dredric"
Dash:
Dredric, look at my body.

Pointing to an unnamed character in a book
Dash: What’s his name?
Me: I’m not sure, maybe John?
Dash: It’s Parrot.

Dash: Red light means go.
Me: Is that a fact?
Dash: It's a Dashiell!

After loading up the trunk of a his pedal car with all the toys at Nana and Papa's and heading down the hallway
Me: Where are you going?
Dash: I'm taking all this stuff to Goodwill!
(we've never been so proud)

On the way home from daycare
Dash: I just want to go to Coffee Shop and get a cupcake. Let's do that!
and so we did :)

 

More conversations with Dashiell.