Family Coach. Mom. Teacher. Lover of Life.

Summer has come and gone. But what a summer it was! I got to take some vacation time to spend with the girls. Sofia made a list of things she wanted to do, and we made our way through the list as much as possible.

 

Paint an art piece. 

Back to school shopping. 

Mani-Pedi. (my first ever!)

Mermaid tail. (made it myself after seeing they cost over $100)

Redecorate bathroom upstairs.

Lunch at art museum. (Not nearly as good as we hoped).

Friends over. √ √ √

Furniture shopping. 

Party for friends. Nope. Not yet, but we are working on it still.

Horseback riding. Nope.

 

collage

While Fiona didn’t have a list, she reached what I can only image where her goals of sleeping and screen time. (No photo as she says it is creepy for me to take pictures of her sleeping. I still take them, I just don’t post them (yet).

We all got sick, and thus spent quality time snuggling in bed. We went to Niagara Falls and Toronto. We swam, ate out, and spent a bunch of lazy time together.

Summers are mixed bag. While I adored having time to be with my girls this summer, I haven’t always had the luxury of taking time off. Like many parents across the country, I’ve leaned on family and piecemeal-ed care for the girls. That’s probably what summer means to my girls-lots of time with Grandparents, some time with their parents, time to exert independence and yes, some lazy days of summer laying around, sleeping late, and watching TV.

I realized this was my 14th summer as a mom, and I only have seven more. That’s 2/3rds of my summers as a mom over. Part of me wants to celebrate, but a lot of me is sad that my kids are growing up. One is now in high school, the other in middle school. It all happened when I blinked my eyes.

Here’s to a great school year, for all us parents and our children! My we find that balance of cherishing every moment and getting through those moments that simply should not be cherished. May we we find time to put down our phones and take a walk. May we be firm and kind in our parenting, and may we celebrate making it through one more summer.

 

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Back to School! Podcast 6

The Allen kids are back in school this week. Unlike times in the past, back to school is changing, especially for college students. The days of going to a brick and mortar school for the first year of college is no longer the only option. Is doing a non-traditional option, such as community college or even doing early college high-school a good option? We will tell you our opinion in this week’s podcast.

Book reviewed: College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students by Jeffrey J. Selingo. (2013).

Article reviewed: How to Make Stuff in Wired, March 29, 2011. http://www.wired.com/2011/08/big-diy/

A story about Limor “Ladyada” Fried, the first woman on the cover of Wired and one of Fiona’s role models.

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Key words: back to school, college alternatives, welding, early college, kids

There’s a Muslim in my house

By Kim Allen

(Originally written in 2010; update below)

A Muslim is in my house and it makes me so happy. I got an email from my alma mater saying that there was an international student from Turkmenistan that needed a place to stay. I had a place for her, so I quickly Goggled Turkmenistan to see exactly where it is and how well this might fit for our family. After a family conversation that included a vote from each family member, we sent an invitation to Zoe to stay in our home.

Zoe arrived at our home in mid-August, just at the start of Ramadan and all the talk of burning Qurans that comes with 9/11. Before Zoe arrived, it never even occurred to me to consider what kind of religion Zoe belonged to or that she even belonged to a religion. We soon found out that Zoe is a Muslim, although to her pronouncement, “not a good Muslim” since she didn’t fast or pray regularly. Having a Muslim in our house did, however, make the conversation about 9-11, Quran burnings and the ground zero Islamic Center debate much more personal. In fact, having Zoe in our house has been hands down the best education on religion and living our principles that I could have asked for. Ever! Now that we have a Muslim in our house, our whole family has experienced acceptance and encouragement of spiritual growth.

I sometimes fail, but I try to raise my kids to see people as people, and not as their religion. This may stem from my own religious upbringing– the whole time I grew up, I didn’t even know what a Muslim was. For that matter, I didn’t know what a Jew was and I barely even knew what a Methodist was. I was raised Baptist; not any kind of Baptist, but Missionary Baptist. The kind of Baptist that is so Baptist that that any other kind of Christianity is seen as being “modern” and wrong. So Baptist that we didn’t even learn that there were other types of religion besides Christianity.   So I find it very interesting considering where I sit now, with a Muslim in my house.

There is so much I can be doing as a parent to show my child religious tolerance, or better yet, religious acceptance. I can, and do, talk with them about how important it is to be open-minded and open hearted for differences in beliefs. I can talk with them about how important it is that we respect others no matter what our thoughts and traditions are. I teach them about the importance of accepting others for who they are and how they treat others, rather than their ideology. I could go one step farther and listen to my children as they express what’s important to them and explore what qualities are valuable as human beings, neighbors and community members. We could even go and visit other churches, synagogues and mosques, so that they can see and learn from experiences about how other think and live and believe. I don’t do that, and probably won’t. But I could.

This, however, is what I know to be true. There is no more powerful teaching tool than fostering  a deep and meaningful relationship with someone that believes differently.

This is something I did on accident. I would love to say that I asked Zoe into our home to foster religious growth in my children and to help them open their eyes to differences. But like most times when our children really learn from us parents, I stumbled into this moment. Someone needed a room; I had a room to give.

But the beauty is…the result is far more amazing than I could have planned. We are the ones that have been on the receiving end of this situation. We are the ones that now understand a whole new culture; my children can now listen to the stories about far away places and have not only an open heart and mind, but a deep seating connection that they will take with them as they become the next generation of leaders.

Zoe is our Muslim and we love her. In the six weeks that we have had her as a guest in our home, we have discovered that being Muslim isn’t a whole lot different than being Baptist or being Methodist or being Unitarian for that matter. Zoe, like the rest of us, lives her life trying to be the best person she can. She makes us laugh, helps us grow and teaches us daily.

You know what else? Zoe, our Muslim guest, is a peacemaker. My children are consistently greeted by a calm, understanding and patient friend in Zoe (even after eternal moments of begging for one favor or another). Although she has only been here for six weeks, she has shown grace, poise and humor in a way that has made her family. So the Muslim in my house has taught us an important lesson: as we listen to the news and hear of people wanting to burn a Quran and spread hate, we know that being a Muslim isn’t awful. In fact, it is great. I’m glad there’s a Muslim in my house!

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Follow up: 5 years later.

Zoe lived with us for two years, and has been a part of family for five years. I have had the absolute honor of calling her a friend and a member of our family. She has given us all the gift of her kindness, compassion, and world views. She has introduced to people from all over the world, many of them Muslim. She is a gift, and in light of the horrible shootings of three Muslim young people in Chapel Hill, I wanted to share a bit of the light my relationship with Zoe has brought. #‪#MuslimLivesMatter

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Zoe and my girls running a 5K.

Welcome to the 5th episode of Parenting in the Future Podcast with special guest, Fiona Allen! Fiona, our 13 year old daughter, joined us and gave us information about the apps all the teens are using, and told us her take on mental health, technology, and what it is like to be a teen. Chris reviewed the book, Age of Opportunity by Lawrence Steinberg and helped us better understand adolescent brain development. Kim responded to a quote image she read on Facebook that read:

 

Nostalgic Parenting Judgement

Nostalgic Parenting Judgement

My curfew was lightening bugs. (OK–works for younger kids probably more than teens)

My parents didn’t call my cell, they yelled my name. (Too much to say about this; better listen to the podcast)

I played outside, not online. (Did you have friends from all over the world? Do you want your children to have 21st century tech skills? Do you struggle, like we do, to have appropriate boundaries for your teen and their technology use?)

If I didn’t eat what mom cooked, I didn’t eat. (First of all, that is sexist. Second, my mom cooked with a whole lot of lard and bacon grease. Third, I’m happy we all share in the food prep. Last, I hope I’m more respectful to my kids than that).

With nostalgia aside, this really isn’t true for our family. In face, we embrace technology. Want to know more about all of our reactions? Listen in!

 

Fiona and her Dad doing a podcast. She's a typical teen in that she didn't want her picture taken. This is the compromise.

Fiona and her Dad doing a podcast. She’s a typical teen in that she didn’t want her picture taken. This is the compromise.

Fiona's one and only time wearing a dress. It is a COSPLAY costume from her beloved Anime.

Fiona’s one and only time wearing a dress. It is a COSPLAY costume from her beloved Anime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the joys of parenting: podcasting with my kid.

One of the frustrations of parenting: hearing my child’s cell phone go off every 2 seconds during the podcast.

Happy New Year:

This week we interview our daughter, Sofia Allen. Sofia shares her opinion  about life as an Allen kid and talks about her Wildly Important Goals (WIGS) and her New Year’s Resolutions.  We all talk about the Allen Family New Year’s Resolutions, including more balance in our non-nutritional use of technology and food.

 

Sofia and Fiona signing a book with Muriel Summers, AB Combs principal and the person that introduced us to WIGS.

 

 

 

Similarities Attract

It is no secret that compatibility is really important for a healthy relationship. The misnomer that opposites attract has gotten lots of us in trouble, so I was really curious to see just how compatible my husband’s character strengths are with mine.

I LOVE a good survey, and the VIA Character Strengths survey was a fun self-learning activity. I wasn’t, however, so sure that my dear husband would be so eager for a little self-reflection. Being the good guy he is, he agreed to take the survey. He agreed on one condition—I couldn’t peek at his screen as he went through the questions.  He also made it clear that he didn’t need my help, so I sat by quietly letting him do his thing. Once he was done, he was ready for us to compare notes.

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Not to toot my own horn, but that’s right…4 our of 5 of our core strengths are the same! Research shows that when people pick partners that share values and interests, they are happier in their relationships. No wonder we have made it 17 years and are going strong!

Even bus rides are fun in Hawaii!

Even bus rides are fun in Hawaii!

I’m pretty sure that if we had completed a movie genre compatibility survey we might not have been ranked as compatible. I’ll watch a Sci-Fi film to make him happy and he’ll happily surf the web next to me as I watch realty TV, but it turns out we are not compatible in all things. That is human. There are lots of couples that are highly compatible that have very different strengths. At the crux of a happy relationship is shared our values and interests. I was pleased to see that our character strengths lined up so well, and I think that speaks to our shared values.

What does this mean to me? I’m not sure there is research specifically about this, but I’m pretty sure it means that we are compatible and that I made a good choice 17 years ago. More importantly, though, it means that we are both making choices every day to make our relationship a priority and that over the past 17 years, we have grown closer and possibly more alike. And taking the VIA Character quiz with my husband was fun—it created a romantic moment and helped us feel connected.

http://www.viacharacter.org/www/

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Dr. Kim Allen is a Family Life Coach and Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University. She has been married to her husband for 17 years and they have two girls together.

Gun Show:

Kim and Chris talk about their muscles; mental muscles, that is! In this episode, we learn about Kim and Chris’  expertise: parenting, relationships, technology, and family coaching. They talk about smart phones and children, life balance wheel, and happy relationships.

Referenced article:

http://www.thecoaches.com/docs/resources/toolkit/pdfs/18-Wheel-of-Life-Exercise.pdf