How to Engage Your Kids on the Ride Home From School

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Our pace has really changed since the kids started school again. After we get home, the kids have to do their homework. Then they need to practice drums and guitar, and after that they are usually begging to go outside and play with the neighbor kids while I assemble dinner. Before we know it, it's bedtime, and it's easy to feel like I barely connected with the kids before they have to head to bed.

I've been trying to be intentional about using our car ride home from school as a time to reconnect with the kids and get information about their day. I like the car time for a few reasons. For one, I have a captive audience. There are no distractions - there is nothing else they are trying to do. I also like trying to glean info about their day while it's fresh in their minds.

We've established a routine around the car ride home. We call it "Highs and Lows." (I didn't make this up and surely we aren't the first family to do this, but it works so well for us that I wanted to share.) Highs and Lows is exactly what it sounds like . . . each child takes a turn describing their favorite part of the day, and their least favorite part of the day. We've done this so often that my kids start in as soon as we are pulling away from the school parking lot.

What I love particularly about this routine is that it's an open-ended question that can lead to much more revealing information than the old "what did you learn at school today?"  And to be honest, while I think it's wonderful if Jafta learned the difference between stalactites and stalagmites during science, I also want to hear about the non-academic aspects of his day. I want to know about the social and emotional parts, too. Case in point - the other day, on the way home, I learned that one of my kids had been excluded from a "club" that all of their friends had formed at recess. They were devastated and hurt, and I would have missed it entirely if I'd only asked about what they learned.
The Highs and Lows routine has provided me with some really valuable information about how my kids are faring at school. I love hearing their successes but I also love hearing their struggles and being able to offer empathy and support. I also love having this conversation as a family, because I feel like it affords the siblings an opportunity to attend to each other's feelings and know where they are struggling as well. Many times, one of the kids has mentioned a low, followed by a sibling offering help or support.

It's a simple thing, but it has a big impact for our family. Even though our car ride home is only about 10 minutes, I feel like this time is a great bonding experience for us before we arrive at home to the chaos of after-school activities.

Do you have any rituals you do in the car on the way home from school? Any ideas for capturing that moment as a family connection time?
This content was created in partnership with Ford to help make creativity a part of every drive.

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What I want you to know about what it's like to have a missing loved one

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Anita Davis Sullivan.

Those people you hear about on the news or see flyers of? They have real families behind them and people longing for them, missing them. I'm one of them. My brother has been missing since June 2007. You should know what's it like. Not those few cases that get lots of media and FBI help, but those every day cases like ours, the other 99.9% of them.

Let me tell you what it isn't like first:
- It isn't like TV
- There are few officers involved
- There is very little, if any, media attention
- There aren't big rewards offered

Here's what it is like:
- Forcing law enforcement to take you seriously
- Begging news stations to show your loved one's face for a moment
- Organizing searches yourself
- Spending your money on flyers and gas and searching and time off

When my brother went missing, he was an adult. A cute, dimpled-faced, sweet, young man of 26. He was depressed. We feared for his life and couldn't believe that the police would do so little. He lived with me at the time and so I was the one who filed the report. I remember standing in my kitchen with the officer believing that he'd walk in the door and be mad at me for making a big deal of him being gone a few days. I prayed he would. But he didn't and never has. We were told by law enforcement that their resources were limited and it would be mostly up to us to find him.

We spent the first days posting flyers, making calls, and searching woods. We had family come to help and friends we'll never forget who walked beside us through those dark days. We spent the next months fielding possible sightings and organizing searches.

We once had a detective tell us, "This looks like something on TV." He was talking about our search, one he visited but did not participate in. No law enforcement did. We realized then that we had garnered more experience than our big city missing persons unit had.

It's now been almost six years. Austin hasn't come home. My 9 year old still misses his Uncle Austin, and my 3 year old never met him. 

But what else should you know?

You should know that we still have HOPE. We have hope that we will have answers one day, and that even if they aren't what we want, that we're not alone through this and that good will come.

You should know that we go on. We still live and laugh and celebrate.

You should know that we still cry. We still hear his laugh and see his smile, but only in our dreams.

You should know that we still feel guilt over not seeing how much pain he was in.

You should know that we're not alone. You should know that each year, about 700,000 people go missing. And many of them come home, but over half do not. Most of them never make the news.

You should know that you can help. Post a flyer, share a story, give some encouragement. Give some hope. 

Check out CUE (Center for Missing Persons)  for information on what you can do to help.

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That's what SHE said: kids ruining marriage, the ills of homework, giving crap to the poor, Africa and Ebola paranoia, and more . . .

Dear World: Let’s Stop Giving Our Crap To The Poor | We Are THAT Family
The poor may not have wealth, but they have dignity. I’ve met people without electricity or running water who swept their dirt floors daily, pressed their clothes neatly, walked miles to work on muddy roads, dodging sewage and never had a speck of dirt on them. They value their own worth, we should too.

Our Ignorance Of Africa Is More Dangerous Than Ebola | The Grio
The narrative about Africa has always been a simple, singular picture of the poor helpless, disease-ridden child with mosquitoes all over it. The continent is seen as one huge Sally Struthers commercial pleading for help, and the media will not let go of that depiction. While Africa does need aid, Africa is also rising. However, right now it’s seen as the Ebola zone. Like my shero Chimamanda Adichie said, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

God In Adoption | Mommy Means It
It is damaging to tell a child that God called you to adopt her. This sets you up as a God-ordained savior to your child. It tells your child that she needed saving and that God did not choose her family of origin to do that saving. If your child comes from poverty or oppression, the message that God called you, an outsider, to adopt her, says that God didn’t care enough about her family or country to solve its problems so that families could stay alive and stay together. Instead, God played favorites and called you to swoop in and get her out of there, leaving her family and people to suffer while God figures out who to call for the next adoption. 

Houses in Murnau on Obermarkt by Wassily Kandinsky 

What Autism Has Taught Me...So Far | Little Miss Momma
I cringe when I think of the shame I projected onto him in an effort to help him fit better into a mold I had created in my mind of what my quintessential child would most certainly be like. A few weeks after our doctor gave us the news, I felt that mold shatter into a million tiny pieces. And I remember feeling relief. Screw the mold.

Under The Volcano | Anthony Bourdain

Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people—as we sure…

These are your crossfit friends. Source:

Questions For My Son: Is It Hard Being The Only Black Boy In Your Grade? | Los Angelista
"The teachers talk to you more slowly and more simply, like they don’t think you’re going to understand what they’re talking about—like you’re slow, or like you don’t have any kind of vocabulary. For example, I notice when Mr. ___ talks to white and Asian kids, he talks to them in a normal way, but when he talks to me, he talks to me in a slang-ish way, throwing in all these other words. And I don’t talk like that. I don’t talk in slang. But they assume that because I’m black, I talk like I’m a rapper or something. People are also surprised when they find out I’m in the gifted program."

Paul Klee watercolor on paper Via Alongtimealone

How To Tell If Having Kids Will Ruin Your Marriage
If you were thrown into a bootcamp-style training situation with no idea how long it would last, how do you think you would fare? Because I think really the ability to weather the trials and tribs of parenting all comes down to this. You have no idea how it will be, so the only thing you can do is be ready to take whatever gets flung at you (ha, poop) for as long as it will be thrown. And like it and generally try to still be an amiable person others want to be around and talk to. Can you do that? Can you do that without being a total dick all the time? Can you do that and still laugh and love and change and improve yourself and all that other real adult crap?

Homework: An Unnecessary Evil? … Surprising Findings From New Research | The Washington Post
This result clearly caught the researchers off-guard. Frankly, it surprised me, too. When you measure “achievement” in terms of grades, you expect to see a positive result — not because homework is academically beneficial but because the same teacher who gives the assignments evaluates the students who complete them, and the final grade is often based at least partly on whether, and to what extent, students did the homework. Even if homework were a complete waste of time, how could it not be positively related to course grades?

In order to create actual changes to the sensory system that results in improved attention over time, children NEED to experience what we call “rapid vestibular (balance) input” on a daily basis. In other words, they need to go upside down, spin in circles, and roll down hills. They need authentic play experiences that get them moving in all different directions in order to stimulate the little hair cells found in the vestibular complex (located in the inner ear). If children do this on a regular basis and for a significant amount of time, then (and only then) will they experience the necessary changes needed to effectively develop the balance system–leading to better attention and learning in the classroom.

Let Me Make Your Kid A Buddhist | A Life Overseas
And we shrug a simple story like this off, but I wonder if this is the position we put parents and children in too often in pursuit sharing the gospel? And while we’ve had conversations here about offering humanitarian aid and it’s relationship to missions, we haven’t yet talked about the ethics of engaging with children in another culture– particularly without parental authority present.

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Friday Finds

1. Alan tee by Scout | Gilt 
2.  Hand block printed pillow cover | Toms 
3. 3/4-sleeved striped jersey dress | Old Navy 
4. Round live moss wreath | Zulily 
5. Pair of Mid-Century hairpin wire plant stands | Etsy 
6. Organic succulent ornament | Gilt 
7. Open-front cardigan | Old Navy 
8. Thai chicken quinoa bowl | How Sweet Eats
9. Printed canvas tote | Gap 

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What I want you to know about being a girl who Mrs. Hall would blog about

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Emily.

I was the second born of three and grew up in Southern California. I have been blessed with blonde hair, blue eyes, a thin frame, and my breasts fill a D cup. I now love my body but I used to hate it. I remember sitting on the top bunk that my little brother and I shared and feeling little bumps underneath my nipples, I was terrified that I had breast cancer, but I later figured out that those squishy bumps were boobs. I was nine years old when I started my period. By sixth grade I had a B cup and I hated my body. I wore thick, heavy sweatshirts in 90* weather because I didn't want anyone to notice my figure. My sweatshirts betrayed me though, coming home from sixth grade camp I remember sitting on the bus and looking back towards giggling boys as they air mimicked squeezing boobs right to me. I was caught. As I am writing this I can still remember the blood rushing from my body, feeling so embarrassed and violated and dirty. All feelings I knew too well because I was continually molested by a neighborhood kid over the course of a few years. Thankfully I have gone through many years of therapy with an extraordinary therapist who worked with me to overcome the abuse I went through. But before that, I rebelled. Oh boy did I ever become a rebel.

In eighth grade instant messaging was incredibly popular, and digital cameras were just beginning to become the photography norm. Instant messaging + digital cameras + hormonal pre-teens= naked pictures. I was bombarded with requests (non-stop begging and threats) to take these special pictures and send them to a couple boys, and because I wanted to be liked, because I had a history of abuse, because I was used to being used, because I was also hormonal and thought this was the way to interact and get boyfriends, I took many, many of these pictures. I am horrified to think of how many pictures of me are out there in cyberspace. I think of all the celebrities who are constantly getting their private pictures leaked, and think "Guess I can never be famous! Or if I do get famous, I need to make this a platform for educating teens!" You guys, there is no reason why I would be famous so don't worry.

I took naked pictures. I freak danced with a lot of guys. I drank. I smoked weed. I hooked up with guys. A lot of guys. I consensually lost my virginity at 15. I gave oral sex in cars. At 15, I had sex in a port-o-potty at Coachella. Let's all collectively gasp/shudder/go find a loved one to hug and tell them you love them. I was a Miley Cyrus. I was Mrs. Hall's WORST nightmare. If I was hanging out with a son of Mrs. Hall, I am pretty positive she would delete me from his life with no hesitation. Even though most of these guys went to my youth group, and we all went to a very prominent mega-church in the area, I would be the one called a slut. But guess what, I was still worthy of love, kindness, grace, friends, a healthy committed relationship, people who would have a conversation with me without telling me to put a sweater on because my boobs were making my brothers in Christ stumble.

My case seems extreme (yes, it is pretty crazy), but one in three girls in America have been sexually abused. I'm not saying that all abuse leads to this type of behavior, but it does lead to unhealthy habits in one way or another. Many of these choices were mine. Yes, I did physically take pictures of my boobs and send them to boys. Yes, I did consent to the sex I had as a teen. But I did so because that is how I was showed affection when I was little. Because the world is continually begging me to be sexy but then turning around and calling me a slut or skank because of my sexy behavior. Because the Church was always accusing me of causing boys to stumble or being an immodest girl for wearing a one piece bathing suit and showing my arms, legs, and neck at the beach when the boys weren't wearing shirts (plenty of crushes and fantasies started because of this... yeah girls notice that kind of thing too). Girls have it hard. In this culture we shove so many different expectations down their throats and ridicule them when they act in a way that is not what you prescribed. We need to be having an open dialogue with girls AND boys about healthy consensual relationships. We need to be talking to girls AND boys about what happens when you ask for a picture, send a picture, or receive one from a third party. We need to be teaching boys that girls are not responsible for their raging hormones. We need to be teaching girls that their raging hormones are not abnormal.

Last year I got married to a guy who was a virgin. I was worried when we started dating that he would never think I was worthy of being his wife because of my very sexual past. When I told him of this he seemed dumbfounded. He embraced me and told me that my past is what made me who I am, and that his admiration for me was immense. I'm so thankful that he was raised to know the worth of a human being based on the fact that they are human. He was raised to love without judgement or hate, and for that I am thankful. I want to be friends with the girls who Mrs. Hall shamed. I want to hang out with Miley Cyrus. I want to sit with them at a coffee shop and exchange life stories, and laugh with them, and tell them that they are beautiful.

I am currently getting my Masters in Social Work with the hope of working with incarcerated women with mental illnesses. I go to a wonderful tiny church where the congregation calls me sister even when I wear a tank top.  

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