Saturday, February 26, 2011

Family Identities

Tonight we watched Ratatouille as a family while eating popcorn and licorice. Brandon and I rarely stick around for an entire "kid" movie, but for whatever reason it just felt nice to all sit down together and do nothing but watch that silly movie.

That was after a surprisingly well received dinner of "Hoppin' Joe" which everyone liked but Rachael.  (She didn't even try it.) It's a southern dish made with black eyed peas, collard greens, rice, other veggies and smoked turkey. Well, traditionally it has less veggies, plus bacon and cheese, but I got this recipe out of an older (1996) cookbook that I came across on Amazon a few months ago which just happens to be published by The American Diabetic Association. (Translation: it's healthy!)  

My cooking has really gone by the wayside in the last little while, but I woke up today feeling rather domestic, took Kate to the grocery store with me, enlisted her help in choosing a menu for tomorrow's dinner, and also got her and Will to help prepare the Hoppin' Joe for tonight and the marinade for tomorrow's Carribbean pork kabobs. This cookbook is unique in that it's full of recipes and menus for all four seasons, each section of the book focusing on ingredients that are in season at that time of year.  

Why am I blathering on about this? Because it's been settling on me little by little over the last while that we are creating a wonderfully unique family identity that we shouldn't feel compelled to mess with too much. All families do (have an identity of sorts), and while it's always good to get out of our comfort zones, try something new, and challenge ourselves to do things we normally wouldn't, there are probably some "ideals" and expectations we should just let go of in order to be true to who we really are and excel in ways that come naturally to us--a much more enjoyable way to spend life.  

For instance, Brandon and I have had about a million and one conversations behind closed doors about how our kids "should" be involved in some kind of sports. For the health of it, for the social skills, to learn teamwork and discipline, and all that other jazz. But the fact of the matter is, Brandon and I could care less about sports, neither of us were particularly athletic back in the day, and we never ever ever watch sports at home, so it's hard for us to get really excited about spending every free weekend moment and many afternoons and evenings driving to and from various practices and games. It just doesn't appeal to us. Now, if our kids were begging to join the soccer team we'd be the first in line to sign them up, but really, it looks like our preferences have probably rubbed off on them. And I'm starting to get okay with that.  

For the health of it, we like to hike, swim, ski, bike, skateboard (Will), dance (Elizabeth), golf (everyone but me) and other non-team "sports." That's fine! For social skills, well, you can get those a lot of ways at home, church, school, community. Teamwork and discipline? Again, plenty of opportunities at home, church, school and in the community to learn both. I can't help but think that earning excellent grades and practicing musical instruments counts for exercising self-discipline. (Speaking of which--maybe you think your child "should" learn a musical instrument. Believe me, when I was a piano teacher back in Iowa City, I had mothers who should have left well enough alone when it came to making their child learn to play the piano.)

Do you see where I'm going?  There are a lot of ways to teach our kids the principles we think are important, and it's probably best to do that through the things that inherently interest us rather than force ourselves to do things we think we "should." 

And the things that inherently interest us are the things we choose to do in our free time. I like to read, write, take pictures, cook and play piano. Brandon likes to read and learn about all sorts of crazy stuff like the history of language or Japanese culture. He also likes to backpack when possible, but mostly he works on his bonsai. In what should be the formal dining and living room of our rental home (why furnish and decorate if we most likely aren't going to buy?) are a piano, a cello, a harp, a puzzle table, and another small table with an easel on it for Kate's painting projects. It looks ridiculous as far as home decorating goes, but it's what we like to do around here. Recently there was a telescope set up in our bedroom for weeks, and our bedroom floor is constantly littered with our bedtime reading material.  

So our home may never be featured in Better Homes and Gardens, and our kids most likely will never win any MVP awards, but I'm liking what we're creating around here. I think we've got a pretty good thing going.  


  1. Wow Kate is such a beautiful young lady now. They grow up so fast!

    1. Yes! Way, way, WAY too fast! Thanks for the comment, Kari. :D

  2. You make such an excellent point here! Your home sounds nurturing and encouraging of personal growth and family unity. Thanks for the inspiration, and *Bravo* to you and your family!

    1. Thank you so much, Diane! I really appreciate that kind of positive feedback!


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