Friday, February 21, 2014

love is an open door

Music from the movie Frozen is always in my head. The girls want to listen 24/7, and I can't blame their passion. I can still clearly recall the gusto with which I belted out the soundtrack to Footloose. Exhausted was the needle of my record player when I was five and six-years-old.

These songs do make better little girl ballads than Kenny Loggins' catalog. But on the flip side, earworms are a less pleasurable side effect to the album's constant rotation. They randomly and unexpectedly burrow into my thoughts throughout the day. Doing dishes, folding laundry, sitting at my computer, I hum the catchy tunes. Soon enough, I find myself musing about how accurate and poignant the message is behind "Love is an Open Door."

[LOL. I'm sorry, I've never rickrolled you before, and I simply couldn't resist. Here's the real link.]

True, exhorting the enlightening merits of my children's music is downright nutty sentimental of me. But you must already know about my sentimentality. If not, allow me to introduce myself: I am a complete and total sap.

But sometimes being sappy gets the job done! I have been a much more productive writer in the past few months, signing up to contribute essays in several places. I am also helping my dad with a project that is teaching me much about the writing craft.

In that vein, here's a book I recommend: "Several short sentences about writing," by Verlyn Klinkenborg. True to its title, it is a collection of short, powerful sentences about writing. Not so much advice as little snippets of truth, this book is what might happen if you turned Jack Handey on his head so he actually made sense.


My bed: a favorite place to write. Just me, the cat, and the sun.
{and sometimes laundry}
{ok, always laundry}

Earlier this month I submitted an essay for a collection of doula stories. Ever the romantic, I contemplated including John Lennon's quote about love and fear in my composition. You know the one. It goes like this...
"There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life."

So here's my sappy conclusion. When we let love drive, it is an open door. We say yes, even when we are afraid. New opportunities pop up. Some might seem too good to be true; I probably don't need to tell you how those turn out. But all in, life could be a better ride this way.

p.s. Here's Charlie singing Let it Go, another of the Frozen songs:

video

Thursday, February 20, 2014

as usual, I refrained

Chucks for Chuck.

I was typing my grocery list into a note in my phone the other day. My old way of grocery listing was the ubiquitous pad and ballpoint pen my dad taught me to carry always; those trusty partners have served me and my lack of short-term memory well over the years. But lately I'm getting into this smart phone thing, and my new method of listing is to scribble needed items on the white board then transfer them into my phone. I have no idea if this process saves or costs me time, but it does keep me from ever losing my list.

So anyway, I'm typing the list, and I get to refried beans, which my phone autocorrects to refrained beans. This accidental correction cracks me up for way longer than it should, perhaps because of the irony of the autocorrect in telling me what I already know. Yes, thank you phone, maybe refried beans aren't such a good idea after all.

Somehow this typo got me thinking about restraint. Another contributor was Becky's tweet wondering when we're all going to be rewarded for our ladylike behavior. Yes! I wonder this all the time, and the only answer I can ever come up with is that at least we get to laugh later?

Take, for instance, a family I encountered yesterday while the kids and I were sledding (please!). We're at that giant hill in our neighborhood with the view of Boston, the same one from last weekend. As you can see in that video, there are lots of families all sledding at the same time. We, each of the families, follow some kind of unspoken Yankee sledding protocol.

Boot-height snow. It's a doozy. 

I am a quick-study on the social order of things, so I'm pretty good at the rules already: stay to the right if you're faster, yell "look out!" if anyone's about to bite it, make sure your kids aren't getting in everyone's way, keep to yourselves and talk amongst your own--unless of course one of my kids wipes out, then I flash a grin at the family next to me because all grown-ups appreciate a good kid wipe-out. The best yesterday was when I sent the girls down on separate sleds at the same time; at the exact moment Vivi wiped out, Charlie veered off in Vivi's direction and sledded OVER Vivi. It was fantastic.

I'm getting to the refraining part, I swear. As I was saying, we encountered the most bizarre family yesterday. The family is made up of a few kids, a few adults, and a grandma figure, and they relentlessly, comically get in everyone's way. The kids will stop midway down the hill and just seem to lay there forever; no one in the family offers assistance. The adults mill about in the walking path, talking amongst themselves and generally ignoring all of us. But they seem to be sledding for the first time, so I let it go. Plus, if you know me, you know I will let a situation get incredibly ridiculous before I say anything. Even then, I might not say anything.

I should mention a contributing factor in yesterday's comedy of errors was that surprisingly few locals were present. I know this because I was giving a dad sledding tips, and I am NOT the sled guru by any means. Because it's February vacation week up here (a kind of mid-winter spring break, only with more snow), I figure most of the locals are up north skiing somewhere. The absence of locals is notable because, as I've often said in the past, Bostonians don't let anyone get away with anything. If you make any errors, you're going to hear about it posthaste.

In this case, the lack of locals means that just as it seems like this family couldn't be more annoying, the grandma pulls out a bag of disgusting-smelling snacks (dried fish, maybe?), and the ENTIRE FAMILY sits down right in the middle of the big hill to eat them. If that weren't enough (and it is), the sleds of the two young boys periodically roll downhill by themselves. Following sledding etiquette, the other children present offer assistance by lugging the sleds back up to them, which is no easy feat, only to have it happen again moments later.

Finally, a type-A New Englander walks up, grabs the sleds, and hurls them uphill. They do not seem to notice even this act of silent aggression. As I told Nate the story later, I realized it was like watching a silent Charlie Chaplin movie. Fortunately it was the kind of bad that is funny, which allowed me to share plenty of empathetic glances with other families. This feels like a big win for me, as these Yankees are a tough nut to crack, y'all.

Have you encountered anyone lately who refuses to follow social rules? What do you do when this happens?

Stay warm! xoxo ~J

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

{6/52 & 7/52}: surreal

I didn't post the weekly update pic last week partly because I wasn't sure if I wanted to share that we were in a commercial. It seems like no matter how I phrase it, that kind of update drips with exaggerated conceit, almost too "Hey look at this impossibly cool thing I'm doing!" even for a self-important blogger like me. Then we got more snow, and I didn't want to be that person who is all "Poor me! It is snowing AGAIN!" so I stayed away for that reason too.

But then my family shared the commercial on Facebook and said such sweet things about us, and I thought okay, reality check. We are all fine, yes. And I do want you to know about the new Family Breakfast Project, which is how we got in a commercial in the first place (note: you can see the commercial in that link). Remember when I posted about the Family Dinner Project last year? They are the same organization sponsoring this new program.

So basically, last week was surreal in a few different ways.

{6/52}: Eating cheerios while watching themselves in a Cheerios commercial. A weird unplanned coincidence.

The snow isn't even the surreal part, although it has been a huge amount. I mostly don't mind the snow; it is magical when falling, and after that you dress for the weather and get over it. The unfortunate part of this weather isn't in fact the snow but the cold; it has been almost too cold even for Charlie to play in the snow, but Vivi is determined to play no matter what the temperature and will stay out there by herself for an hour or more, just digging and rolling around.

But here's the truly surreal part. We took them sledding over the weekend, and after just a few rounds with us at the helm, the girls decided to sled on their own! They are true New Englanders. I feel the need to mention that the first time I saw this hill covered with snow three years ago, I was hesitant to go down it. Me, a grown human. And now my three-year-old is solo-traversing it. Life, man, it's weird like that.

{7/52}: Fearless Yankees
video

video

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

{NPN carnival}: don't fear the tears

Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears.
***

Before I became a mother, there wasn't much I feared. Who needs fear when I knew everything already? For instance, I knew that by being calm, my baby would be calm. I knew that because I have always slept like a rock, I'd of course have a baby who slept well.

But I didn't. Instead of sleeping, my baby preferred to cry for three months straight from two months old to five months old. When people used to cite the incident where Michael Jackson held his baby upside down as evidence of his eccentricity, I would dryly reply they must not have ever had a "colicky" child. Like Chris Rock once said, I'm not saying he shoulda done it, but I understand.

If my experience taught me one valuable lesson, it's that you can't always control whether your child cries. 

You can cut out dairy, breastfeed on demand, co-sleep, burp the baby only while perching her at a 90 degree angle, swaddle her, un-swaddle her, use an amber pacifier, hand-knit diapers made from wool spun by Tibetan monks, add a humidifier and a noisemaker, and wash all your linens in vinegar or your own tears. You can do all that, and you might still end up with a baby who cries at all hours of the day and night.

Here's what I learned: it's okay to let them cry. 

I'm not here to judge any parenting style. I'm simply suggesting you can let your baby cry at times without applying a title to what you're doing. There's a fantastic article on Natural Parents Network that suggests allowing crying is not necessarily the same thing as the dreaded moniker "cry it out" (CIO).

You can't always prevent your toddler, preschooler, or kindergartner from crying either. You won't always understand why they are crying or be able to comfort them. That's certainly been true for my second daughter, who went from being one of the most content, sleepy babies I've ever seen to a three-year-old who cries at the drop of a hat. Literally, her hat could fall off her head, and she'd cry.



Speaking about parenting styles, there's a style referred to as RIE, Resources for Infant Educarers, that has been highlighted recently in a Vanity Fair article. [Update (2/11/14, 5pm): I added a link to the Vanity Fair article that was missing. When I first read it, I felt like the author sensationalized RIE, making it seem like a fad and conflating different notions about what RIE is and isn't. But you should be able to make up your own mind.] It will likely mean RIE will be in the limelight for a while, and some RIE principles apply to this discussion.

The foundations of RIE are built upon awareness and respect. You could say it's the opposite of helicopter parenting. Instead of making snap assumptions, interfering, and rescuing, RIE followers let their sensitive observations guide their actions and listen closely before responding. What would you call that, drone parenting? Okay, so maybe I'm not all that good at describing RIE either. But lucky for you, Janet Lansbury is; her RIE parenting basics (nine ways to put respect into action) is particularly useful.

I haven't always handled my children crying well; sometimes I interfere and attempt to rescue them or even try to silence them. And hey, I'm not judging you if you've done that too! But what works better is if I treat my child the same way I'd treat a doula client if she cried during labor, with patience and respect. I'd let her struggles happen because they bring her strength.

The important distinction here is the same as one I teach parents in a childbirth education class: There is a difference between pain and suffering. To prevent suffering, we must not numb or avoid pain but be mindful of its motivation. Just as there is physical pain in labor that serves a purpose, there is emotional pain in childhood that serves a purpose. Painful emotions can be self-correcting and self-healing. Trying to quell the expression of the pain won't make it go away, and indeed it could serve to stifle their ability to self-regulate their emotions. Part of childhood is learning to express and control emotions without our interference.

[A note for new moms: If you're anything like me, on days your baby cries you might end up crying too. Take heart. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are normal! You can relieve them gradually by seeking interaction with other new moms in a support group, yoga studio, or free library music class. Friendship is just around the corner.]


***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama
Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (list will be final around 5pm PST February 11):
  • When Parents' Fears Escalate — If we didn't self-doubt, we probably wouldn't care enough about our children to struggle with understanding them. But how do we overcome self-doubt? Read advice from Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., guest posting today at Natural Parents Network.
  • What ifs of addiction — After seeing how addictions of adult children is badly hurting a family close to her heart, Hannah at HannahandHorn shares her fears for her own child.
  • Sharing My Joy — Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares her fear that others think she is judgmental because she makes alternative choices for her own family.
  • Building My Tribe Fearlessly — A meteorite hit Jaye Anne at Tribal Mama's family when she was seven years old. Read the story, how she feels about that now, and how she is building her tribe fearlessly.
  • Fear: Realized — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen shares how her fear of car accidents was realized and how she hopes to be able to use her efforts to overcome the remaining fears to help her children overcome their own.
  • I'm a Negligent Helicopter Parent — For Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow, the line between helicopter parenting and negligent parenting is not so cut and dried.
  • My Greatest Fear For My Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama admits that she has struggled with not allowing her fears to control her and how the reality of this was blown wide open when she became a mother.
  • Proactive Steps to Calm Parenting Fears — Every parent has certain fears related to dangerous situations, That Mama Gretchen shares ways she is preparing herself and her children for emergencies.
  • Homeschooling Fears – Will My Children Regret Being Homeschooled? — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares an interview with her now-adult children that answers a question she had throughout their homeschooling.
  • An Uneasy Truce — Homeschooler and recent convert to unschooling, Tam at tinsenpup shares just a few of the things she tries to keep in mind when fear and insecurity begin to take hold.
  • Fearing the worst, expecting the best — Tarana at Sand In My Toes writes about fears that come with parenting, and why we must overcome them.
  • Can I be the parent I want to be? — Amanda at Postilius confronts her struggle to peacefully parent a preschooler
  • Out of Mind, Out of Fear — How does Jorje of Momma Jorje deal with her pretty steep, long-term fears regarding her son's future?
  • I Don't Homeschool to Manage My Kids' Transcripts — One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama's fears of parenting is that she will get so caught up in the monotony, the details of homeschooling, the minutiae of everyday life, the routine of taking care of a household - that she will forget to actually be present in the moment with her children.
  • Beware! Single Mom Camping — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her first adventures as a single mom. She laughed, she cried, she faced her fears.
  • Parenting Fears And Reality Checks — Luschka from Diary of a First Child shares her three biggest fears as a parent - that most parents share - looks at the reality behind these fears, and offers a few suggestions for enjoying parenting.
  • Parenting fear : to kill a pink rabbit...Mother Goutte tells us the story of a pink rabbit that disappeared, came back, and became the symbol of her worst parenting fear...
  • Roamingsustainablemum considers whether allowing your children freedom to explore the world safely is harder now than in the past.
  • Meeting my parenting fears head-on — Lauren at Hobo Mama had many fears before she became a parent. Learn how they all came true — and weren't anywhere near as scary as she'd thought.
  • Don't fear the tears — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger worried that letting her children cry when going to sleep was tantamount to the dreaded parenting moniker, CIO. She discusses what actually happened after those teary nights, and how she hopes these lessons can carry forward to future parenting opportunities.
  • Will I Still be a Good Mom? — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot worries about her mothering skills now that breastfeeding is no longer the top priority.
  • Pregnancy Fears: It Happened to My Sisters, It Will Happen to Me... — Kristen at Baby Giveaways Galore discusses the difficulties with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding that the women in her family have had and how she overcame them.
  • Fears — Meegs at A New Day talks about how her fears before parenting led to a better understanding of herself and her desires for her daughter.

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