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Archive for the ‘Personal Realizations’ Category

I run downstairs to write and surf the net for five minutes. I’m in need of a little respite from mothering. Bella is getting in her top two teeth at the same time and is just absolutely miserable. I feel sad that she is suffering and understand her clingyness, but… I also feel annoyed and frustrated that I can’t set her down for any reason or length of time. She is in her crib crying as I type this little paragraph…

… Max’s birthday parties went over very well. Friday night we had the family at our house for dinner and b-day cake. Saturday morning, Max partied hard at the playground with his friends. It was a beautiful day on Saturday, the weather was just perfect. Everyone who came had a lot of fun. As Hal and I were driving home we were glowing with happiness. Our little boy is growing. Each age is so exciting and new.

I still muse over how I got to this very special place in life.

Our back yard is slowly becoming kid-friendly and worthy of adult lounging. Today, we had someone remove a batch of five dangerous (with their threatening six inch long thorns) reclinata palms. Later this week a pest control dude will give us an estimate on ridding the ground of those pesky red ants. I have been enjoying afternoon hours outside while Max plays. Bella watches him prance around and laughs at the birds flying overhead while I kiss and hug on her warm sweet skin.

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We play a game of stationary tag with Max. Bella and I being the stationary party in the rocking chair as Max charges us from across the yard. He starts at the banana tree a neighbor planted in his yard, until we put a fence up and discovered it actually fell on our property line. His little legs move so fast and his hands are stretched out far in front of him. His face smiles with anticipation of tagging Bella’s and my hands. It’s a fun game that we play often.

The weather is so beautiful these days. It sends me into fantasy mode. I have visions of plants, fruits, flowers, and vegetables adorning our home and yard. I also have fantasies of back yard barbecues, parties, and camp outs. I have pushed moving-to-Sarasota fantasies far to the back of my mind in order to enjoy where we live now. I’m sick of anticipating a move that isn’t realistic for us at this time. I want to live in my house and make it a home. It was hard for me to do that when the space felt temporary.

Max’s birthday party brought out about 13 kids and 20 adults, many of whom drove 30 minutes to be present. This put things into perspective. My friends will drive the distance. Distance doesn’t prevent friendships and I’m always making more friends as the years go on. And as a result… as the years go on… mothering gets easier and less lonely. If the time ever arrives where it feels right to move we will know and it will happen. However, I’m done planning for it. I want to enjoy my home right now.

PS: CONGRATULATIONS LIZ!!! My friend Liz gave birth at home, Sat., November 10th, to her second daughter, Sage. I am so happy for her and her beautiful family!!!

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Written Friday 13th, 2007

My MIL picked Max up today around 1:30pm, and is keeping him until… any minute now. My house was a disaster when she arrived to take The Bossman. The bathroom smelled like piss, there were dirty dishes in the sink, it looked like a bomb went off downstairs, upstairs was riddled with toys, and I had tons of laundry to do.

Five hours later…

The house looks the same.

I napped with Bella, ate chocolate and almond butter, read my favorite blogs, watched TV, and I’m writing this post. Some days, ya just gotta indulge.

I think a lot about the philosophy of parenting that shapes my actions as a mother. I’m always tweaking it to fit what is practical and working on learning how to put my ideals into practice.

I often spend time pondering the question, how much control do I really have over how my children “turn out?”

Yes, as the mama I play a huge role in shaping who my children will be in the future. However, it is not so much me as a mother, individual, and adult that plays a roll in shaping my children as it is their experiences in life.

My power lies in the quality of their experience with home life, in the environment I create for them with my actions and words, and in teaching them to listen to their inner voice. My power does not reside in their perception.

This is really hard for me to understand and even harder to explain. I think on the most basic level, I want my children to grow up in a home where they are free to trust their intuition. So, if this is a skill that is already within and only needs encouragement, how do I become part of that encouragement process instead of a hindrance to it?

If you watch a toddler, they don’t take very many things personally or hold any one feeling for very long. They are the perfect people in a lot of ways. They experience life as it is in the moment and not through the lens of judgment, scrutiny, contemplation, or too much analysis (point taken).

I don’t obsess over this, really. Its just that being around children is so new for me that I’m really getting into understanding them.

Lately, I’m paying special attention to the words I use when speaking to Max. My body language and tone is (usually) in check but I think word choice is important, too. I’d like to be a mother who guides her children instead of the mama who tries to mold them.

Observing Max has made me realize that my children perceive life from a place within that runs deep to who they are. Layers of confusion (read: many future therapy sessions) can be added by mistreating them, attempting to make them into a smaller version of my ideologies, lying to them, attempting to mold them, or misguiding them. However, the core of who they are will always be pushing to reach the surface. They will either live life to experience their true selves or they will live life on the surface – superficially. I think I can help them to live as their true selves by guiding as oppose to controlling.

I do not believe that we are blank slates waiting for our guardians and the world to write who we are into the emptiness of our minds. However, who we are as an adult has a lot to do with what we experienced as a child. And although those last two sentences may seem conflicting, they are not. I am going to try to give my kids the power of insight, perception, and inner strength.

How am I going to do this kind of parenting? With my interactions with them. My voice. My actions or inaction. This is something that is different for every family dynamic. Though, I imagine for everyone it is a constant work in progress.

I believe in sitting back as much as possible and enjoying my children’s mind unfold – their likes and dislikes, their observations of others and of the world. It is hard to parent a child this way. It means parenting without judgment. It means parenting/guiding my kids as separate individuals from myself. It means as a parent I have to learn how to talk so my children grow from the inside out. All of this is really hard and I do screw up a lot. But I am trying.

I want my kids to learn to listen to their own inner dialog and I want that inner voice to grow because I have stepped back and allowed it to be.

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I’m downstairs enjoying my time alone, but I can hear Max and Hal upstairs fighting about something. Oh well, Hal can handle it.

We had our first pot luck dinner party since Bella’s birth this past Sunday, from 5-8pm, and it went rather well. It was actually a birthday party for Hal. Normally, when we have a party everyone I know gets invited. This time, I decided to only invite Hal’s friends and family. I was very pleased with the turn out and the flow of conversation. Everyone showed up on time with the exception of Hal’s brother and his family. They arrived at 7:55pm. However, they were a joy to have over and only stayed for about 1 1/2 hours. They even picked up the toys before they left. I’m looking forward to hosting more dinners!

I had a couple “ah ha!” moments last week.

One – involved boundaries and how to set them without others even knowing that I’m setting them. Whereas my original focus on boundaries with loved ones was about letting them know that I have limits, my focus has turned to more subtle boundaries. These kinds of boundaries are what I have to set with people who I love whose values and ethics are straying too far away from my own. I have never once considered this a reason to place some space between myself and another – not on a conscious level, anyway. These kinds of boundaries are actually meant to preserve my relationship with someone but allow a change to occur that will prevent us both from being hurt.

These kinds of boundaries are tricky because I often become addicted to people that I love. This addiction sucks me in and takes my power of choice away. Instead of choosing to not talk to someone because they are doing/saying/living in a way that I don’t like or affects me negatively, I become even more involved with their life. Becoming more involved has inevitably lead me to getting hurt and then “dumping” my friend. Unfortunately, the dumping doesn’t stop my love for them and hurts us both pretty badly. So anyway, I’ve been chewing on this for a few days, now.

My second ah ha! moment has to do with discipline. Discipline is about giving direction, guiding, helping another to learn. My ideal has been to discipline this way. However, the language I am using is not fitting my goal. For example, something as simple as teaching manners to Max… when he asks for something without saying please, I would correct him by saying, “How do you ask mommy, nicely?” The word, nicely, is a judgment word. So instead of teaching him to actually “be nice” I am only teaching him how to “act nice.” Big difference and NOT what I want. He may eventually get that he is suppose to “act” a certain way to please others, but he doesn’t really care about how what he says affects another – or himself, for that matter.

What I need to do to correct his “rude” way of asking for something is “model” the language I want to hear from him, then let him figure out through life experience that what he is saying is “nice” – he feels nice when he says it and those that he says it too respond by being nice (ideally). To model, I need to get eye level with him and say it the way I want it to be heard:

Max: Gimmie some more cookies!

Me: Can I please have another cookie?

At first he would answer me and say, Yes! You can have another cookie, mommy! I had to repeat myself before he got it. Then he decided to ask me for the cookie the same way.

I don’t always get to his eye level (not really practical) but I am trying to be consistent with the language I use. Often, I will say, “what is another way you can as mommy for a cookie?” And then I sit back and watch his mind work.

There is a whole world of judgment language that I have to become aware of. This is going to take hyper sensitivity to what I say to Max, lots of time to re-learn how to talk to him, and lots of forgiveness when I fuck up.

I have had two people recommend, “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen….” I finally asked Hal to bring it home from the library. This book is all about the kind of gentle discipline that I am wanting to learn.

My first step in learning how to be a good guide for Max was to learn to manage my own feelings (the hard to handle ones like rage, annoyance, ect). The second step is learning how to talk to him so that he can become the person he is meant to be.

I’ve finally made it to step 2!

The big ah ha! moment was realizing on the deepest level of my being that Max is already the person he is meant to be and that he is completely his own person – a person that I can not control and should not try to control.

My days with Max have become more enjoyable, less intense and way less frustrating.

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This post is about Saturday.

Breakfast: banana
Lunch: hummus, corn chips, white pita bread, carrots, green bell peppers, rich delicious chocolate cake
Dinner: two sandwiches made with millet (gluten-free) bread with hummus, salad mix (a variety of veggies), and avocado
Snack: home made French fries

I cheated big time today. Living wheat-free is tougher than living without soy or dairy. I had no idea! I ate several slices of pita bread before it even dawned on me that I was eating wheat. Then the birthday chocolate cake, oh my, I couldn’t pass up that home made (scratch, baby – not from the box) goodness. Max loved it, too. Good choice of birthday cake, Banyan!

We are really poor right now so we can not afford to by Max’s friends birthday gifts. However, I don’t like to arrive without baring a gift of some sort. I like teaching Max these kinds of generous giving traditions. I also like teaching him that gifts don’t have to cost money. We made his friend, Owen, a robot bank and when it came time for me to think about what we should get (or do) for Banyan’s birthday, I let Max decide.

I got down on my knees, looked into Max’s eyes and explained to him that today is a very special day. Today is the day that Banyan was born! And we are going to celebrate his birthday, today! Now, we can’t afford to buy a gift for him, but mommy thinks that you can pick out a gift for him yourself. Would you like to give Banyan one of your toys?

Uh huh. He said with his eyes wide open and mouth forming that little smile it often bares.

Okay then, that would be very nice! Go into your room and pick out a toy for Banyan. I was anxious to see what he would pick. I expected him to find a toy that he isn’t too fond of and wouldn’t mind parting with. Project much, Michelle?

Max picked out three dinosaurs. His dinosaurs are his FAVORITE toys. I know this because he tells me all the time. I went over with him how he would be giving these toys to Banyan and that we would no longer have them in our home. I did this without trying to push him into the opposite direction of his choice. He told me each time that he was okay with giving these toys to Banyan. We decorated the wrapping paper and wrapped the gifts together. He was very excited.

As we were leaving the house Max was poking around my stuff and then said to me, “You got the dinosaurs, mommy?”

“Oh my!” I said, “I left them upstairs! Thank you for reminding me, Max, good memory!”

He has shown no signs of missing those dinosaurs. And they were really cool dinosaurs, too. I am so proud of him for being so genuinely generous.

*edit* He did ask about those dinosaurs, today, but was content when I reminded him of where they were. Oh, and I also let him know that he will eventually get new dinosaurs.

Banyan’s birthday part was awesome. It was held at Red Bug Slough. The kids played on the playground and we all went hiking through the woods on a bug hunt. I had a moment where I was like, “Oh my god! I am out alone with both of my kids AND keeping track of them! I CAN do this!” It was great. Though, I wasn’t really alone. I had all my sister friends there helping me.

There are no bugs in here, yet, but a really nice miniature (temporary) home for some lucky bug:

Max refers to that stick in there as “my poop.” All Liz had to do was point out that it looked like poop and he was all over THAT joke.

After the party, we were so close to Liz’s house that I couldn’t pass up a quick visit. Max loves Liz, too. We were there for a short while when Max abruptly cut the visit short. He was playing with Liz’s cat’s strawberry kitty cozy (not the exact one in the link but something similar) – putting it on his head for laughs and such. Ten minutes later, viola! Max is scratching his face and eyes while simultaneously puffing up like a red strawberry himself. He is allergic to cats! Well, not too surprised, so is his papa.

He cleared up within minutes of getting back into the car for the drive over to his Lola’s house. Once we got to my MIL’s, I gave Max a bath and spent about 1 ½ hours just hanging with the in-laws. MIL was very happy to see Bella’s skin healed. We talked and laughed and she doled out our share of the vegetables she bought for us from the flea market. As I was getting ready to leave she slapped a bill into my hand and said, “the lotion works, its worth the money.” She told me earlier that she would help pay for Bella’s lotion which cost close to 50 bucks ($130 if we didn’t have insurance that helped pay for $90 of it). I thanked her and then looked at the bill. She gave us $100! I looked at Grandma with tears starting to form (I get emotional when people are surprisingly generous) and thanked Grandma, too. Grandma said, “We love you, Michelle, and we really want to help you guys out however we can.”

Wow. I feel like I can be pretty petty sometimes. Yes, its understandable considering all that has been on my plate this year. But damn, I think I learned that being petty – even in the face of difficult times – really is not worth my energy.

I drove home with Bella in the back, the groceries in the front, and 100 bucks in my pocket that would help pay for the things our family needs.

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Max is now sleeping with papa and Camus. He has shunned his own room and settled for the bed closest to mommy. I don’t mind because at least he’s no longer in my bed cramping my joints. Papa doesn’t mind because he never got to co-sleep with Max as a baby and feels like he is bonding with him even more so as a toddler. All is good.

However, Max is either very clever or the sweetest kid ever.

Last night after story time and lights out we heard Max whimpering. Then came the tears. We kept asking him, “what’s wrong sweetie? What’s wrong, Max?” All he could get out between tears was, “Bella.” So Hal asked, “are you sad that Bella is sleeping with mommy and you can’t?” He either said no or didn’t answer so we kept asking him, so what is wrong, then? Why are you sad?

Finally he said in his sweetest voice, “I’m sad.”

Okay. What are you sad about? Hal and I were both moved by his tenderness and his communication of feelings.

“I’m sad about Bella.” We consoled him some more and asked, what about Bella makes you sad?

“I sad about Bella’s skin.” And then the floodgate of tears opened up in him.

We assured him we are going to help Bella get better and then…

He asked to crawl into mommy’s bed because he wanted to hug.

Once he was in he instantly fell asleep. Hal had to carry him back into their bed. So I’ve concluded, Max is both very clever and the sweetest kid ever.

Max in his ponies (and what we imagine Bella will look like at his age):

Max is well aware that Bella is uncomfortable and itchy. He knows what “itchies” are like because he too has eczema. He knows mommy is very sad that Bella is itchy and that I don’t have the magic cure for her, yet. He also knows that while him and Papa are going to the movies today (Max’s first movie theater experience!), mommy is taking Bella to the doctors. He knows all of this because I talk with him about what happens in our home.

One thing I make a point to do with my kids is to talk about life and feelings. When stuff comes up, we talk about it. Toddlers may not understand the abstract ideas behind what makes people “feel” but they do need a language presented to them to start the education of learning about their emotions. An education that I think generations before us neglected. I try to weave this education into our daily life without it seeming like some kind of weird classroom lesson that needs to be repeated and memorized. Saying something as simple as, “mommy is so sad that Bella is suffering but we will find a way to help her.” And then move on to what ever is next – playing with toys, cleaning a poopy butt, ect.

If it is a big feeling that Max is having – usually anger – I talk with him like this, “Max, I know you are very angry right now because mommy won’t give you any chocolate but please don’t hit me.” Then I give him an alternative, “You can scream, I’m angry!, or hit something soft like your pillow – but we don’t hurt people when we are angry.” This conversation happens several times a day. Sometimes he remembers to say (with force), “I’M ANGRY!” and sometimes he doesn’t. Eventually, he will remember all the time. It is the same thing with him having to be reminded about “manners.”

The tricky part is when I’m angry. I need to appropriately express my anger as well. And when I was angry at him and dealing with 5 different life crises, I didn’t do so well. So, I have figured out that hitting/hurting my kids doesn’t work on ANY level – duh, right? There was a part of me that was *hoping* that Max would “get it” (re: hurting Camus or Bella) after being spanked. This hoping (mixed with being at one’s wits end) is probably the reason many of good and loving parents resort to spanking their child.

Where does this lead? On the whole, when the day only presents it’s usual list of challenges, I’m pretty laid back and rarely raise my voice. I am very proud of this personality trait, but my pride stops there – at “when the day only presents it’s usual list of challenges.” I need some more “tools” in my box for those extraordinarily difficult days – because I’m sure there will be many more to come. And you better believe I’ll get those tools sooner rather than later – for both mine and my kid’s sake.

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I’m about to leave my house with Bella to attend a Vegan BBQ party at a friend’s house who lives about an hour away. Max is spending the entire day and night with his Lola. Hal can’t go with us to the party because he has to work so he’ll be treating himself to Spider-Man, tonight.

I’m excited to be going out. I will be the only parent (as far as I know) at this party (it would be nice to find out I’m wrong about this). However, I don’t mind so much with these folks because I’ve known them for years. They are the kind of folks that when they ask me, “so how have you been doing these days?” I feel like I can be honest (if I wanted) with my answer and they won’t want to gouge their eyes out from boredom. Okay, maybe they would – but they’d probably still show interest in what I was saying. *wink*

I plan on taking pictures so that I have proof that I actually have a varied social life. That all of my social interactions aren’t about play dates, shopping, or doctors appointments. It will be a nice reminder that there is life after kids. Yeah, some days I do forget this fact.

I’m feeling giddy excited right now.

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I woke up in excruciating pain in my right hand because we switched up our sleeping arrangements last night. This means that the way I normally position my hand to avoid pain was changed. It took me 40 mins this morning to change Bella’s poopy nappy. And of-course she had to have one of those blow-out poops that need hardcore cleaning. Blah.

Then, Max thought it would be fun to hide under the bed and squeeze half of Bella’s VERY expensive skin medicine out of its tube. I totally freaked out on him in a uber mellow dramatic way so he’d know how bad it was (and because he has been told at least four other times to not squeeze/play with products that are not toys). I popped him on the cheek and sent him to his room. He was crying and saying that he wouldn’t squeeze the tube again but I still made him go to the room – I needed to collect myself, finish changing Bella, and follow through with the time-out/cool down period for him. When I opened the door he was laying in his new big boy bed with his Elmo comforter pulled up over his body – he looked like he was just hanging out waiting to be able to leave the room. We talked about what he did again and how it was wrong, hugged, kissed and made up, then carried on with our day.

I don’t believe in perfect parenting. I don’t believe that reading all the right books will guarantee that my kids don’t turn out to be drug addicts or convicts. I read all those books to arm myself with knowledge so I can understand why my children behave in the ways that they do. And every-now-and-then I still commit offensives (according to the experts) – I yell, I loose it, I slap, I cry… I’m human. Sometimes I have felt bad for the way I’ve treated Max, leading to an apology and sometimes I have felt like my actions were necessary for the situation. My son watches TV and he eats junk food. Sometimes, he’s allowed to do these things because I need a break from him and TV or M&M’s are the only people in my village available at that moment. Sometimes, I let him just because he enjoys it.

Things were so different when I had one child. It was still tough. I still had difficult days. But things were different and I now can see how. I can see that it was actually easier and I feel so humbled by that. Don’t ask me how it humbles me but it does.

I used to be so righteous about my natural parenting. I used to think that if everyone employed the same parenting philosophies as I had, they would also be raising the ideal adult. Many of my convictions were based on this underlying need to be right, to always be doing right by my children, to be perfect, to raise perfect kids (even though I would have never used the word “perfect” to describe how I felt – I’m too smart for that – I think that was the goal I had in mind).

So much goes into this raising kids business – so much of myself, my husband, those around my kids, our extended family. I no longer feel solely responsible for how my children turn out. I play a huge role in their lives right now, I know that; I take that role very seriously, but they are still so young and will meet so many people that will have a larger than life affect on their perceptions. I feel less pressure to always do the right thing, to always be right in my parenting.

My imperfect parenting and my honesty about it is what will teach my kids that it is okay to be imperfect, to fuck up, to say you are sorry, to feel bad, to eat a bag of chips because you are depressed – all these things will happen but you will still always have the love of your mama, papa, and others in your life who have chosen to walk that path with you. You will always be forgiven by those who love you. Those who love you will not hold a grudge or attempt to make you feel guilty. You will always feel that the home you grew up in will always be your home – even when you have your own families and only visit on occasion. You will always be able to grab that remote control and turn the channel (even if I do snap at you to put it back on the show I was watching!).

It’s not my job to mold these kids. It’s not my job to carry the weight of their lives on my shoulders. Its my job to not put that weight onto their shoulders and to always be available when the weight is too much.

Having two kids has really humbled me the fuck out.

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