Monday, March 29, 2010
March was on odd month for us...we've been back from India now for one whole year. Last January we lived in Bangalore and traveled to Rajasthan. Last February we traveled to Oman and started saying our goodbyes to India. Last March we visited London, moved back to Minneapolis, lived in a hotel and my Dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. Dad died this past October. So, yep. It's been quite a year since that time. Feels like 10. In all honesty, I can say that I do not recall a good part of the past year with any clarity. And so it is. Some parts of life require more of us. Some days are all about breathing and not asking more of ourselves than that. Life is sometimes about, deeply felt, letting go and that is harder than it might look on the outside. But we're all okay. Growing. Breathing. Attuned to small joys. Grief and love and breath woven into the larger pattern we are constantly creating as a family and as individual human beings. I'm glad for the grace of my children...who don't allow me to lock myself into a hermitage on some mountain top...who require us to live openly with intention and no small amount of humor. Sometimes when I am sad or angry (whether from grief or the general state of the planet) I only have to look at them to feel such profound happiness and hope and to *know* that the Universe knows exactly what it's doing even when I don't!
Here's what we've been up to this past month:
Looks like Blogger won't let me post more than four photos directly from Picasa... I'll put some others up in a new posting...
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
So last night when Owen appeared coughing and sneezing, blowing his nose all over the place (when DO they learn to blow their snaut responsibly? Without sharing?) I was unprepared for sleepless thrashing and the silent wimper (if you're a mom, or a night parenting dad, then you know what I mean...no one else can hear it...but it's clearly apparent, a sign of distress, and if unattended to, generally lends itself to much louder pursuits.)
Our dialogue went something like this:
Owen: "Mama (hack, blow) I wanna be in da midda." (Um, no...the middle is no place for a boy who kicks the covers off of everyone in his sleep).
Owen: Da Midda (L, R, and T or Th disappear from his pronunciation capabilities along with the arrival of a virus or when he's upset). I wanna sweep UP!
Me: "Huh?" (Did he break something? Did I miss it? What the hell is going on, anyway?)
Owen: "I wan the piwwows so I can sit UP and sweep! My eaw huwts."
Me: "Oh. OHHHH...You can't sleep? You want to sit up and SLEEP and your ear hurts? NOW I get it. (we are awake, that's what we are!)
We tried it...the sitting up sleeping thing. No such luck. So up we crept. Down the basement steps. Pillows, blankets... Mommy made tea and rubbed his back. Kleenex in the dark. Super hero dvd. Snauty cuddles...and some quiet words from my baby..."Mama, I wish I stiw had nummies, wight now. I might wike wawm miwk again" He lay his head against my chest. "Mama, I wuv you vewy much."
And I love you. Yes, I do.
How could I forget the pain and pleasure of middle of the night mommy? I was her for so many years and it was brutal but also, so very often, sweet.
I wonder if I'll feel that way when he stops asking me to wipe his butt?
Hmm. Maybe I should have another baby?
mama to Owen
the boy who went back to bed from 6 am to 10 am...while I poured coffee down my throat and hoped for the best!
*This post is part of Steady Mom's 30 Minute Blog Challenge
Sunday, February 21, 2010
There is nothing I like better than a good book. Or sometimes even a bad book, if that's the only choice I've got. I've been known to desperately read things like aged "Popular Mechanics" or the fine print on the back of a medicine bottle just to have *something* to read while waiting. One of my proudest parenting moments was the time that Grayce told me she "needed" to read and could not go to sleep without it. Some people might call that a sleep disorder. Me, I'm convinced it's a sign of creative genius ;-) Owen doesn't read on his own yet but he loves to listen.
Now that we've got that established, it stands to reason that some of our favorite family traditions surround books. It is a rare day that we don't find ourselves cuddled up together in the Big Bed starting the day with a story. These days it's usually a chapter book (We're reading "Peter and the Starcatchers" at the moment). On our best days, there is herbal tea for the kids and coffee for mom and we end up eating breakfast at 10 am because we just couldn't stop. On the worst, the kids have to hit me over the head with the book and Owen can be counted on to turn on all the lights and helpfully prop my eyelids open with his fingers. Once in a while we tell made up stories. The dog usually makes repeated attempts toward easing himself unnoticed on the end of the bed until I give up. At which point he promptly jumps into my lap.
Since we're homeschooling, we get the added benefit of calling all this "school."
It's a fine tradition :-)
at one with words
in Minneapolis, MN
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Either way, there has been a lot of turmoil. Crabby Mom. Crabby Kids. Crabby Husband. Even the dog is getting in on the action. And the wine. That's getting in on the action, too. (No, not for the kids, of course...)
But the 5 year old. Well he is just beside him self. So far this week there have been emotional outbursts, slammed doors, kicked toys, frustrated yells. "You just don't like listening to me!" on Monday. "You are hating me!" on Tuesday. "I'm not listening and you can't stop me!" on Wednesday. "I think you are just trying to be the Ruler of Me, Mama! Grrrr!" today. I've chuckled a bit at some of those...but maybe it's not funny.
And the 8 year old. The girl child who inches ever closer to adolescence with each passing day. The shy child who is suddenly practicing her own version of independent thought. Independent thought that doesn't conveniently coincide with mine. And emotional variability...wow..."Maybe you wish you didn't have any kids!" followed by bursting into tears and stomping violently off to her room.
Gulp. Not pretty around here.
So, I sat down to think about it. What in the world is going on? We are a basically peaceful family. We attachment parent. We embrace non-violence. We're child-led, unschoolish, holistic, eclectic homeschoolers (I know, it's not short...but it does describe us and it's what we've settled on.) I have a tendency to yell at my kids when I'm frustrated but that's a conscious work-in-progress that we've talked about alot. If you asked me, I'd say that I respect my kids as unique individuals.
It would be so easy to blame this week on all the processed, sugary crap they ate on Valentine's day. Or not enough sleep. Or the basic (and warranted) neediness of children. And all of those things do have an impact.
But if I'm trying hard to live with intention and if I'm openly honest, here...than I have to admit that my kids are picking up on something true. I haven't been listening well and there has been a growing authoritarian ring to both my parenting and our homeschooling. And this week isn't an isolated week but a week we've built up to. The truth is that this has been one of the hardest years I can remember. And when things are hard we all do the best we can to get through...even when that means living less up to our ideals than we'd like. I forget sometimes that my kid's lives have been as bumpy as mine this year and they've soldiered on bravely and with great kindness and love.
And I forget that they are older now. That the parenting we do needs to grow along with that. Which is a place I'm finding I need to grow into, as well. I've been well equipped to parent my babies, toddlers, preschoolers but I struggle with where to take the attachment parenting philosophy after that. (Somehow, "suddenly" the sling and the boob are over!) All along I've been raising my kids to ask questions, to form opinions, to stand up for themselves, to live with flexibility and compassion. And recently, when they've been doing just those things...well, I've been utterly resistant and not very nice.
Despite that, I so do NOT aspire to being the Ruler of My Kids. I stand behind the beliefs of peace and compassion we've embraced in child rearing. Even when I've fallen a bit away from them. Part of being a Conscious Parent...a conscious person is seeing where we truly are and noticing any mismatch between our values and our actions. And then changing or letting go of that which does not serve us.
So, instead of being mad at my kids for acting out I'm going to be thankful for the wake up call. And attentive to the message being sent...
What parenting moments have you had that redirected your focus back on to your kids? How has your parenting changed as your children have left the baby and kindergarten years? What resources have helped you parent in a way that is true to your values?
Attila the Mom
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Nothing too esoteric about Pizza. I love it. We make home made pizza every Friday night and have a "Chew and View" with the kids, watching a family movie. Typically a sweet treat is involved (usually home made hot fudge sauce over ice cream...couldn't be simpler...bittersweet chocolate and butter). Bob and I usually split a bottle of wine. We actually adopted this practice after moving back from India, where we often spent Friday evenings with our friends at their weekly "Chew and View." We missed our friends and it made Fridays seem more normal. Now, it's our family tradition, too.
This lovely specimen has a whole wheat crust with tomato sauce, carmelized onion, sauteed kale, sauteed mushrooms with rosemary, feta cheese, mozarella, and nitrate-free pepperoni topped off with a gremolata of fresh parsley, garlic and lemon zest (an accidentally terrific pizza topping...I'd made it and forgot about it as a garnish for braised lamb, and thus threw it on our pizza...delish!)
Home made pizza is SO good and SO easy that I no longer even like most delivery pizza.
Our entire family looks forward to this time together and the week feels incomplete when we have to skip it. Which led to my thinking more about family traditions (and how much fun it would be to post about that on a regulare basis) and how important they are at solidifying family relationships. It might *just* be pizza but it isn't. It's nourishment, which is a whole 'nother realm.
What traditions keep your family connected?
Pizza freaks in Minneapolis
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Should be fun. And in the end it probably won't look much different...but what the heck.
Why am I out of half-n-half when my coffee so clearly needs it??
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Happy Birthday to me... 38 years old. I'm trying to decide if I feel old or not. It's been a hard year and this is the first birthday I have ever had without my Dad...which feels really odd and sad. I was born at home with my Dad as babycatcher. I wonder how he felt at that moment? 20 years old and ready to change the world. It never occurred to me to ask him that particular question and I wish I had. It wasn't something I was thinking about till last night when I had the sudden realization that I couldn't call my Dad up to tell him I was calling so he could wish his favorite daughter "Happy Birthday!" (There are a lot of daughters in this family and we all claimed to be the favorite. The answer, regardless of which one of us was asking, was always..."Yes, you are." He had an awesome, rather dry, sense of humor.) Dad could bake a mean chocolate birthday cake...and I miss him.
Last year, for my birthday, I was in Agra, India visiting the Taj Mahal. It was a topper as far as birthdays go, though I do recall a cockroach in the ice bucket, but by then, we were on a first name basis with *those* creatures. The day after my birthday found us on the roof of a local Agra restaurant called "Stuffmakers," drinking Kingfisher and watching the sun set perfectly over the Taj. January 26th is also Indian Republic Day, which I never knew till we lived there. With an Indian name and an Indian birthday, surely I might consider myself to have at least a little Indian soul?
So, 38, missing my Dad, missing another continent. I'm mom with two terrific kids and a husband who is my best friend (even though I'm amazingly, right, all of the time! Really! At least, I'm sure he'd say so!) A dog who loves me even when I act like a lunatic (oh. the kids and husband, do that too.) I am older (though I really don't feel old). Today, I was so happy to be woken up to a lit birthday cake (I'm told, my mom helped the kids bake it last Sunday) and a cappucino. We had cake and ice cream at 7:30 am. It's not the Taj Mahal, but it is my heart. I may not be wiser, but I do know that I love how different my life looks than I ever imagined. I really love it. That we have all these dreams and plans and that many of them *do* come true...we birth them into being, both figuratively and literally, and yet they are never exactly how we imagined them to be, and if we allow it, allow ourselves to surrender a bit to the mutability of the universe, to the "wrinkle in time" that keeps us always changeable, they turn out to be even more powerful. Not always perfectly wonderful or perfectly happy, but, a better reflection of who we are continually becoming.
So, we don't go for perfect around here. My birthday wish today, is for you (whoever you are) to try and live with Intention, letting your actions flow from that. Hug your partner or/and your kids. Forgive someone, somewhere. And don't stop dreaming your life just because your 38...or 108.
Happy Birthday to Me.
38-year-old mom in Minnesota
Thursday, January 21, 2010
7.5!!! HOURS! A! DAY!
Additionally, the article goes on to say that, not only are kids spending 7.5 hours a day awash in media, but that with the ease of technological multitasking they are actually getting over 10 hours of media packed into that time frame. Leaving, mere hours, of unplugged time.
Here is a direct link to the Kaiser Foundation that undertook the 10-year study cited in the article: http://www.kff.org/entmedia/mh012010.cfm
Okay. I understand that there are numerous reasons why this is so. I am no stranger to the pull of visual and technological media (blogging, for example...or facebooking...or surfing the net). I enjoy occasional tv shows and our family has a weekly "chew 'n view" in which we eat homemade pizza in front of a family oriented dvd. Like many parents, I've used the computer or televison as an electronic babysiter. My kids clamor for webkinz time and tv time, (we limit the kid's media mostly to Fridays,) and I somehow gave birth to a child who, given half a chance would most likely jump right in to *more* than 7.5 hours ( I like to think that given free reign (which I've seriously considered), this would taper off, but maybe not). I have often toyed with the idea of getting rid of our T.V. but my husband has not and I would never ever think of getting rid of my computer. Technology, in and of itself is not the culprit and I am grateful for its blessings...but I suspect that a great deal of this has to do with the fact that parents are also spending a great deal of time "linked in." We are busy people and all this technology makes our jobs and daily lives easier. But it shouldn't be our parenting strategy. Or the fallback for our fatigue. Our kids tend to live by our examples and the example our culture seems to be setting is one fraught with unthought consequence.
Life is to be lived. Engaging in the world takes connections with other human beings. Developing the capability to *see* the world and its people and think and act critically about the teeming and complicated lives lived HERE (and by that I mean, on this planet, rather than on your street, though that may be so,) requires interaction. With actual PEOPLE. In my experience, "hands off" also can mean "hearts off." Or at least a buffered heart. One that is insulated from real experience and actual emotion. This buffering leads to an "us vs. them" mentality which doesn't serve much.
Children have always been the world's great free thinkers. Full of creativity and passion, they have the capability of showing us the way forward, when we've forgotten. My kids are forever reminding me how to be open to my daily experience and how to stay fearlessly present in each moment. Hours spent in screen time, often being "told" what to do or think and how to do or think it, tends to obscure that kind of creativity.
Now, I am not you. I don't live in your family. I won't tell you what media balance is right for you or your kids. I am not a scientific expert on children and media. My children are young yet and I have yet to face many issues that parents of older children and teenagers do. But I am a mom and I am troubled by the kids I see that are unable to play creatively. Or by the kids whose creative play contains only the story line of the latest and greatest children's television show or video game. I challenge you to take a closer look at media time. Consider turning off and tuning out for a period of time. Institute an old fashioned family game night. Go skating. skiing. sledding. Visit a museum. Volunteer at a food shelf. The kids may balk a bit, but we all need the kind of connection that doesn't involve a media screen...
muddling along like anyone.
in Minneapolis, MN
Saturday, January 16, 2010
I hope my kids are always this close. That they grow to appreciate how siblings can be great friends and supporters of one another. That a sibling as friend means you will never be lonely, but always have someone you can reliably lean on.
One of the foundations of my life are my brother and sisters (1 brother and 4 sisters). We don't always agree. We are all imperfect. We've had periods where we grew apart. Growing up we fought at times. We've been angry or irritated by one another on more than one occasion. But we are woven together with the strongest thread and that means more to me than all the cappucino at Starbucks (and that, given my obscene coffee dependence, is saying alot). Our closeness didn't happen by accident but was nurtured along (despite the screaming catfights of adolescent girlhood) by our parents. I belive that this closeness is all about connection and a collective heart and that it we learn it by example... It isn't about perfect parenting or being perfect people. Instead, it's about openness and the willingness to stay present with one another, even as the ship is sinking and all the lifeboats are full of holes.
Maybe my kids will know this, too.
wherever we are
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Honestly, though, I love this blog. I loved writing about our move to India and our life there and I love that all of that is captured for us. Not just a private journal, but a public celebration of our family.
When I first fired my "pen" up in the blogosphere (wow, there's a word that emphatically did NOT exist when I was...say, 10 (not to mention, 25!) ) I wasn't all that convinced that blogs were such a good thing. Kind of self-serving. Sort of obnoxious. But I figured that since we were moving to India...I might have some interesting things to say that I wouldn't here. And it was a great way to keep people who loved us up to date with our adjustment to life in a foreign culture. All of that proved true. I wasn't thinking of it as writing practice but that turned out to be the case as well... It helped my writing to get it off of the hidden or absent page and set free on the internet. I've been a writer pretty much since I could hold a pencil because that is the way I quantify the world... I wrote daily for years and years. Journaling. Poetry. Fiction. Loads of it crap, but my version of it, at least. And then I had kids.
I have always wanted to be one of those people that claim a swell of creative impulse birthed forth along with said babies. Except I can't. A large part of that is probably because my births were unexpectedly traumatic, for me. And I was deeply sad, and deeply angry that this was so. Denying the existence of those emotions was an occupying force in my life for a time and denial is a sure fire way to repress your creative impulse in a very direct way. Good writing is truthful writing and writing truthfully wasn't an option for me, at that time. Channeling that denial into healing happened over time and it changed the trajectory of my life but it also got me out of the writing habit.
Additionally, what creativity I did have was poured into my children and my parenting. I did not feel inspired to write on little sleep and more coffee! Add birth advocacy, starting midwifery school and working a part-time job into the mix...and in my case, you have a writer who doesn't write.
Moving to and living in India rekindled my creativity in a big way. Growing kids with new needs rekindled my creativity. Jumping into Homeschooling rekindled my creativity. And blogging about all of that put the pen back in my hand. At the same time, I started to actually read Blogs and found a pleasureable fascination in reading them. I discovered that while they could certainly be self-involved they were also often intelligent, honest, compelling and funny (a guideline I often use in reading books, as well). And as a parent, it felt a bit like having the chance to peer into the real lives of other parents...a truthful conversation about parenting and living that didn't always happen "IRL".
Upon moving back from India, life got hard. My dad was diagnosed with liver cancer and eventually died on October 18th, 2009. I needed to focus on my family and our transition and I needed to do so privately. So, I let the blog go and it was the right thing for me to do. I also struggled with where to take it...we were back. What was there to write about? No more exotic travels. No more dissing of dysentery. Just us. In the places we were raised. No Adventure.
I've changed my mind about that, too. What I have here is my own little corner of the internet. I can spout off into the ether and it may reach no one. I can write badly or very well and it doesn't really matter. Somehow, I feel less compelled to perfection here. I do it because I like to. Because our lives may reflect someone else's experience or Not. Because I'm redefining my understanding of Adventure...
I was delighted to read this the other day in Yoga Journal, in an article written by Matt Walker, "Adventure isn't something that's reserved for the extreme athlete or the daredevil. It is an expression of of your heart's intention and passion for life. It's the ability to think big about who you are, how you live, and what you can do in the world, whether you're climbing mountains, practicing Sun Salutations, or listening to a friend. It is the willingness to embrace challenge and move toward success. it is the acknowledgment that total committment does not mean blind faith or brazen disregard, but confidence and belief in the face of challenge." I couldn't have said it better, myself.
Embracing the Adventure...
in Minneapolis, MN