Happy 3rd Birthday, Aria

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I write letters to my children on their birthdays. Here is last year’s letter to Aria.

Dear Aria,

Happy 3rd birthday!

We celebrated your birthday during a weekend camping retreat with our church community, with your requested dessert, cake and berries. Now, in your parlance, “I FREE! I not a baby, I a toddlah.” You have said that to friends, family, and strangers in the grocery store.

It seems like everywhere you go, you find magical moments that delight you. You are our unicorn child, spreading infectious joy around you. You hear songs, and exclaim, “Oh, I LOVE this song!” even though you haven’t heard it before. You meet a new person, and immediately call them your friend. You tell knock-knock jokes that don’t make any sense at all, yet still manage to make people burst out laughing.

You have so many things that you love. Puzzles, picking out books at the library, playing at the park, getting chased by our dog, splashing in the waves at the beach, and dancing to Michael Jackson songs.

Sometimes you run too fast and fall right onto your face. But what’s childhood without a few bloody noses and scraped knees? Keep running. I love your wild, free spirit.

My favorite thing to do with you is to give you tight squeezy hugs, kiss your chubby toddlah cheeks, and soak in the moment that I already know I’ll miss when it’s gone.

There is a special place in my heart for you, my daughter.

I love you a whole lot.

Mommy

 

Be Prepared With An Emergency Supplies Kit – What and How to Pack

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A few weeks ago, residents in Hawaii were alerted to a ballistic missile threat, and ordered to seek immediate shelter. Fortunately, it ended up being a false alarm. Whoops! Just kidding! Hooray!

Emerging from this experience caused me to confront the reality that our family needed to be better prepared for emergencies. Even if a ballistic missile never comes our way, we still live in a place where hurricanes and tsunami warnings are an annual seasonal occurrence. Based on those possible emergencies, I decided we needed to prepare to survive on our own with no electricity and running water for two weeks.

I made sure our house is stocked with water, food, and other supplies that will last us for at least 14 days. At one gallon of water per person per day, that is a lot of water! Thankfully we have a garage where we can store most of that stuff.

In terms of food, we have a variety of non-perishable food, including:

  • Canned goods
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Granola bars
  • Freeze dried meals – This stuff has a really long shelf life (20-30 years), is very portable, and just needs water to make a meal. We have meals from Mountain House and Augason Farms. I researched options for a while, and decided on these brands that were highly recommended.

Additionally, I put together two emergency kits – one large bin to keep in the garage, and one backpack to keep in our van.

I happened to post a photo of our emergency bin on Instagram and Facebook, and received a bunch of requests from friends to share my emergency supplies lists. Apparently I wasn’t the only one feeling underprepared for emergencies. So I decided to put together a post on how to pack an emergency kit of basic disaster supplies. This was a large task that took me hours of research and planning – but I’m sharing it with you so you can be prepared as well.

My list fits the needs of our family of five plus a dog living in Hawaii. You will need to consider your unique needs, and adjust your emergency supplies accordingly. Think about your family’s needs, and also the most likely emergency scenarios in your geographic area.

We had lots of these items stored in random places in our garage or drawers, but had to buy a few things. Now everything is in one easy-to-find place.

This list includes what I packed in the bin for home, what I packed in the grab-and-go backpack, and what other essential things to grab in an emergency, such as our wallets and cell phones.

Emergency Supplies Kit

Print this list

Store supplies in a plastic bin that is easy to carry, and won’t get water damaged, like these Sterlite bins. For a grab-and-go bag, use a sturdy backpack or duffle bag. Print out your inventory list, and keep a copy in your bin so you know what you packed, and date it with the date of when it was put together. Maintain your bin by replacing expired items as needed, such as food, medicine, and batteries. Assess your supplies once a year, and update your kit depending on your changing needs.

What’s in the bin:

What’s in the grab-and-go bag:

  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle
  • Cash in small denominations
  • Radio with extra batteries
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Multitool
  • Important documents in waterproof folder – identification, birth certificates, etc.
  • Food
  • Water
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Sanitary wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Duct tape
  • Poncho
  • Carabiner clips
  • Mylar thermal blanket
  • Matches
  • Bungee cords and rope
  • Tarp
  • Travel towel
  • Pencil, pen, and notebook

Additional supplies to grab in emergency:

  • Wallets
  • Cell phones and chargers
  • Keys for house and cars
  • Folder of important documents
  • Non-perishable food and water (in garage and storage closet)
  • Sleeping bag or blanket for each person
  • Prescription medication
  • Extra clothes and shoes
  • Pet food and dishes for dog
  • Grab-and-go bag (in car)
  • Camping stove, propane, and pot
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Wrench to turn off utilities

For more resources on emergency preparedness, visit ready.gov.

Let me know what else you’d add to your list!

How to Apologize

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Yesterday I apologized to my 8-year-old son, Aaron. I got angry, and spoke to him with a tone that was mean and harsh. Immediately after, I knew that my reaction had been unkind and ungracious, and had hurt his feelings. So I apologized to him.

I’ve had many, many times of needing to apologize. With my friends, with my kids, with my husband. And I can’t even count the number of times on any given day that we are coaching our kids to apologize to each other and reconcile conflict. I’m no expert, but I do have the experience of what a good apology can do to repair and strengthen a relationship. In contrast, I have seen how an incomplete or non-apology damages relationship and allows pain to fester.

We all mess up and hurt people. Conflict is inevitable. And when conflict happens, we have the power to choose whether we’ll allow the damaged relationship to stay that way, or to work toward reconciliation. In my marriage, I’ve experienced the messiness of conflict, but also the deep joy and intimacy that follows a good apology.

When we apologize, we open dialogue with the person we hurt, take responsibility and acknowledge the pain we caused, and ultimately, seize an opportunity to do better next time.

A good apology has two key elements:

  1. It shows remorse over your actions.
  2. It acknowledges the pain your actions caused to someone else.

It is not easy to apologize well. It is simple, but not easy. An effective apology takes courage and humility. Oftentimes, we react to our own wrongdoings with shame, fear, or defensiveness, all of which don’t aid us in good apologies. We’ve all probably heard (and perhaps spoken) non-apologies.

Here are some examples of non-apology apologies:

“I’m sorry that you feel that way.” A non-apology that doesn’t admit that there was any wrongdoing.

“I’m sorry that your feelings were hurt, but…” The non-apology that shifts blame to someone else, or essentially says that the other person is being overly sensitive. Adding a “but” to any apology basically ends up being a non-apology.

“Sorry to whoever feels offended.” The generic, vague non-apology that doesn’t require taking responsibility.

“Sorry.” Followed by a “Let’s just move on.” Another vague non-apology that doesn’t take responsibility for any specific wrongdoing, and doesn’t do any repair.

The Pre-Step: Listen

To truly apologize well, one must first seek to understand how the other person was hurt or affected by the wrongdoing. That means listening with empathy. Before apologizing, it may be helpful to clarify what the wrongdoing was. If I hurt someone, I usually first ask the person something like, “How did I hurt you?” or “What did I do that caused you pain?” Then I shut up and listen. Without protests or justifications. Only after getting to a place of understanding the pain I caused, I can then truly apologize. Listening also creates a pathway for the person to receive my apology, because they know that I am clear about my wrongdoing.

Now let’s look at the steps of a good apology. A good apology will communicate three things: remorse, responsibility, and remedy.

How to Apologize

Step 1: Express Remorse

An apology needs to express remorse (or regret) for the actions that caused pain. Use the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.” These words are simple, yet powerful. There is no apology if these words aren’t said.

In my apology to my son, I said this, “I am sorry that I snapped at you yesterday. I reacted too harshly, and wasn’t gracious.”

Step 2: Admit Responsibility

Take responsibility for your actions, and the effects they had on the other person. This step involves empathizing with the other person (no matter what your original intentions were), and demonstrating that you understand how you made the person feel.

“I know that I hurt your feelings, and made you feel bad. That was wrong.”

Step 3: Remedy the Situation

When you remedy the situation, you repair what has been damaged and make it right. You also commit to do better next time.

My words caused Aaron to feel bad. To repair that, I told him, “You are important to me, and I love you. I want to treat you with kindness. I’ll work on speaking more gently to you. And if I speak to you harshly in the future, you can call me out on that.”

Remedying the situation leads you to consider how to treat the person better, and not cause them the same pain as before. Remedying the situation means assuring the person that you will change your behavior, and following through on it. This is a commitment on your end to rebuild trust through doing better in the future.

A few other thoughts on apologies…

  • If apologies don’t come naturally, prepare your apology. It may help to write out what you want to say. You can also role-play your apology with a trusted friend.
  • An apology needs to acknowledge the truth of the other person’s feelings. It’s not a matter of who is “right” or “wrong,” since we all experience and interpret situations subjectively.
  • Express your intentions, but don’t excuse your behaviors. This takes nuance and thoughtfulness. You may express that your intention wasn’t to harm the other person, and that you value and care about him or her. But keep the focus on the wrongdoing, and take responsibility for it.
  • You can ask for forgiveness, but you can’t force it. Our family considers forgiveness to be an crucial part of repairing damaged relationships. But forgiveness isn’t always instantaneous, and is sometimes a process that may take time. We encourage our kids to ask for forgiveness as part of the Remedy the Situation in Step 3. The kid being asked for forgiveness is allowed to take time and space, and forgive the wrongdoing when they are ready.

If we’re willing to do the hard work of apologizing well, we’ll reap the benefit of deepening relationships with the people in our lives.