Fostering Resiliency

The Center for Human Development in our area offers a “Healthy Choices” program, called “PEP” (Parent Educators Program), which the parents bring to some of the schools. Maya’s school is fairly small (under 200 students) and fairly new (this is their 6th year), and we are working to implement the PEP program in the school. Back when I was on the school board, when we realized this charter school experiment of bringing Montessori Education to the public schools might actually ‘take’, and we were probably going to stay open, we started looking past the immediate needs of getting a permanent location, running water, a principal, and funding to pay the teachers, and toward our future goals for the school. Many of the larger goals have yet to be met…they are expensive and time consuming. Many of the smaller goals have yet to be met, for the same reasons. But one by one, we’re ticking them off of our list, and it’s an exciting time. One of the goals that we came up with as a school board was to look into this PEP program, and see if it might be a good match for our school. That task was assigned to me, and here I am, having finished my 21 hours of training, ready to go into the classroom and start imparting my wisdom to the kids.

The training is about a lot of things, ranging from nutrition and safety, to medicines vs drugs, empathy, conflict resolution, advertising, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, marijuana, bullying, coping, alcoholism, on and on and on. The major thing we are hoping to foster in the kids, though, above and beyond any skills and knowledge that they might gain from our lessons, is resiliency. We want to give our children the skills that they will need to face adversity in their lives, to be able to cope when life is difficult for them, because we all know that it will be difficult at times for all of them. For some much more so than others, but for everyone at some point. One thing that we learned about was called the Resiliency Wheel, which was developed by Nan Hendersen and Assoc.

Caring and support: Listen to students’ concerns and answer their questions in direct, factual, age-appropriate ways. (Be careful of giving TOO MUCH information. especially with younger children.)

High expectations: Express your certainty that students can cope with the situation and faith in their strength and inner resources.

Opportunities for participation: Help students come up with ways they can address the crisis themselves: i.e.. raising money, sending cards and letters, forming a Peace Club.

Pro-social bonding: Provide students with positive activities to do together that give them a sense of purpose and mastery in the situation.

Clear, consistent boundaries:Strike a balance between addressing concerns and getting back to a normal schedule. Young people need the safety of familiar rules and routines.

Life skills: Encourage students to communicate their thoughts and feelings. (But balance is again the key: Don’t let the talk escalate and overwhelm students).

This seems like common sense stuff, really, but for some people, I suspect that it isn’t. And when I looked a bit deeper, I realized that there are many things here that I am doing right, but also those that maybe could use a little work. For example, when discussing ‘set & communicate high expectations’, our instructor mentioned that she sometimes forgets with her own children to slow down and enjoy what they are doing now. Her children are grown, and her son recently completed his first triathlon. She was very proud of him, but the words that rushed to her lips, with him still exhausted from crossing the finish line, were, “What’s next? Are you going to train for XYZ?” Luckily, she remembered her training, and stopped herself…allowed herself, and him, to just enjoy the triumph of what he had worked so hard for, without always looking forward to the next goal. That’s a good lesson, I think. I tend to be the type of person who has a mental list of things I want to get done, things that I want Maya to accomplish, and when one thing is finished, I’m ready to move on to the next thing. I think it’s important to not always do that. We need to keep the expectations high, but attainable, and to celebrate when we acomplish one. After all, isn’t that what life is about? Stopping and enjoying ourselves sometimes, rather than rushing from one thing to the next? If it isn’t, I think it should be.

If you’re interested in some examples of these facets to building resiliency, here’s a quiz to get you on the right path.

I entered this post in the Carnival of Family Life, because though it’s not specifically about MY family, or our daily lives, it is about what families can do to help each other through the tough periods in life, which seemed pretty vital and important to me. I hope you agree.

Thirteen Thursday Tidbits

1. I had a dream the other night that I died. The good news is that there is an afterlife, and everyone I know and love was there. The bad news is that apparently we still have to work, pay bills, and buy groceries. WTF?

2. Maya and I have been fighting lately about her getting out of bed in the morning. Meaning, I go in and try to wake her up with kisses, then words, and finally I give up and yell. Don’t tell me, because I know, she should use her alarm clock. She turns it off and goes back to sleep. It takes her about 1/2 hour to get out of bed. I’ve tried starting her earlier, so that 1/2 hour gets her out at 7:00, but then it turns into 45 minutes, and she’s still not up until 7:15. What works is to yell at her. I don’t really like that, and neither does she. So, I decided that instead of waking her up and letting her doze for a few minutes, from now on the rule is, when I say get up, she has to get up right away. Then I read something on Tabitha’s blog, about her struggles getting her daughter to sleep at night. I decided to apply her same method toward getting Maya up in the morning. Slow down, enjoy a cuddle. After all, Maya’s 10 1/2, who knows how much longer she’s going to even WANT to cuddle me. So, yesterday morning, I got my OWN butt out of bed 10 minutes earlier, got ready without reading too many blogs or answering too many work emails (the downside of having your office in your bedroom), and then at 6:50, I went in and climbed in bed with her. I started rubbing her back and gently telling her it was time to wake up. She woke up slowly, we had a bit of a cuddle, and she got out of bed at 7:00. Hooray! Success! So much nicer way to start the day. I hope it works again today. UPDATE: It worked again today.  Two days in a row, out of bed at 7:00!  YAY! Kind of a nice way to wake up, too. πŸ™‚

3. I have to give a demo class tonight for the resiliency training I’m going to be doing at Maya’s school. I really don’t enjoy getting up in front of people, and it’s kind of stressing me out. I’ve been dreaming about teaching classes, and my jaw hurts, which means I’m grinding my teeth. Thank goodness for the mouth guard.

4. Maya’s decided she doesn’t want to take guitar lessons anymore. She likes it OK, but not enough to put in the practice time every night. I’m glad we rented the guitar instead of buying one.

5. Ted’s right #1. I like the wordpress better than blogger. I like that I can have categories (could do that with blogger beta, I know), I like that when blogger is down I can still see my blog and work on posts. I like that I can set posts up to post in the future, and they’ll automatically do so. yay! Though WordPress does do some odd formatting things that get on my nerves…

6. Ted’s right #2. I bought the new Panic! at the Disco CD, and he’s right, the songs do all kind of sound the same. So far my favorites are “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” (link over there on the sidebar, under lyrics), and “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage“, (click to hear the song) which is the second song that I heard on the radio, and the one that made me want the album. Might have been better to get those two songs on iTunes, though, rather than the whole album. Sigh.

7. Ted’s right #3. I kinda like having a cell phone. Shhh. Don’t tell. I don’t talk on it to chat with people, because I don’t like the quality of cell phones, but gosh, it’s CONVENIENT to have that sucker with me when I’m out and about.

8. Ted’s right a lot, isn’t he? He might (JOKINGLY) say, “I didn’t get a PhD to be wrong all the time.” πŸ˜‰ Because that PhD thing can be good for a laugh sometimes.

9. I’ve been paying Audible.com so that I can download “This American Life” to my beloved iPod, and listen to it while I’m walking the dog. They’re going to be offering it for free now, so that’s pretty groovy.

10. I’ve been coveting a new leather jacket, since my old one is pretty worn out and sad looking (it’s about 15 years old). The one I want went on sale for 40% off yesterday, plus another 10% if I used my Macy’s card. Guess who has a new leather jacket?

11. I’m down to 2 diet cokes a day. That’s from 4 – 5 a day last week. I’m thinking that by the end of next week, I’ll be done with them entirely. Bye bye, diet coke. I hope the 25 years I spent drinking cola didn’t ruin my bones completely, and that I can build them back up again over the next 20 if it did.

12. Py Korry wrote the other day about the earthquake in ’89. While it was nowhere near as bad as it could have been, that day scared me quite a bit, and I don’t like earthquakes anymore.

13. Tracy, Ally, and Autumn’s mom have all revealed their Yahoo Avatars to the world. This is mine. Her sari looks kind of like the one I wore when I got married, and we honeymooned in Paris. Pretty groovy, huh?

Yahoo! Avatars

Parenting Landmines

The other day I wrote a post about Maya saying she hated her face. She has since read the post, and told me that she doesn’t USUALLY hate her face, she really only hated her face that day because it had mosquito bites on it, and they were ugly. That’s a relief, and really, who wants to walk around with mosquito bites on their face?

Thinking about all of this brought up another issue to me….the issue of our intentions vs. their effects. How we try our best to be supportive, loving, encouraging parents, and sometimes, we just can’t quite get it right. Sometimes I think that’s because the advice we get, or read, or figure out for ourselves, is in itself faulty. Other times, I think it’s because there’s really nothing that you can say that is going to work as well as you want it to, that some issues are just minefields, and the best you can do is duck and cover, and hope to come through with at least one limb still attached to your body.

In the comments to the face post, my mom wrote of how she dealt with these issues when they came up for me:

With you, I mostly did exactly what you are doing. Told you what I liked about your looks, never told you that you were pretty, just that I felt good looking into your eyes or liked the way the sun reflected off your hair Ò€” things that you could accept without putting you in the position of having to defend feeling ugly or feeling like I expected you to be beautiful.

The theory, as I understand it, is that when you tell your child that they are beautiful, it puts pressure on them to be beautiful, and then if they don’t feel beautiful all of the time, or if they look around and see that someone else is MORE beautiful than they are, they feel like they are letting you down, which only adds to the feeling of crappiness that they’re already going through. Or maybe it would make them feel like they always have to look their very best, like it’s never OK to run around looking grubby and unkempt. Or like a zit is the end of the world. Or, if the child feels truly ugly that day, and you tell them they are pretty or beautiful, they feel like you’re just NOT HEARING THEM, which is one of the biggest complaints of being a teen anyway, how you feel like no one really understands you, and if they would just listen, just try, maybe they could get it. It’s using what’s called an “I statement”, making statements that the child doesn’t have to argue against, can’t really argue against, because if my mom tells me that she likes my eyes, she’s not saying that anyone else does, just telling me HER feelings, which is non-threatening.

However, when I heard my mom say to me that she liked my eyes, she liked my hair, but never told me that I was pretty, I felt like she was looking at me and thinking, “Well, she’s not as pretty as the other girls, but at least she has shiny hair. I’ll tell her that.” Like she was compensating. So you see? Here she was restraining herself from telling me that she thought I was pretty, and what was the result? I felt ugly. Worse, I felt that she was confirming my uglyness. I felt like SHE thought I was ugly. Being a mother now myself, I know that nothing could be farther from the truth, I know that she was trying her best to make me feel good about myself and that there was nothing wrong with who I was, who I would grow up to be. But it wasn’t what I needed to hear at the time. And really, who knows. If she had told me I was pretty, I might have dismissed it with a different internal thought…”She’s my mom, she HAS to think I’m pretty. Doesn’t mean I am.”

Moral of this story? When you’re the parent of a teen, you can’t win. You will get some things right, and others wrong, and all you can do is your best. I wonder what I’m doing wrong already with Maya, you know, besides the ritual beatings and ridicule?

My Horse Picture

When I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, my mom worked as both a Montessori school teacher, and because we all know how well teaching pays (esp a private school), she also worked at a local restaurant. The restaurant, as I remember it, was next door to a small art gallery, where they sold paintings by local artists. I’m not sure how we ended up going inside the gallery, but we did, and I fell in love with one of the paintings. It was of two horses, running in a field, and it was painted on a piece of wood. My love of horses knew no bounds, and this was the perfect painting. I was in love. The problem? The painting was expensive. It was $16.55. This was the early 70s, and $16.55 was a lot of money. My allowance was $0.75 a week.

My other love at the time was a dessert that they served at the restaurant where my mom worked. It was called a “European Iced Chocolate”, and I think it was a tall glass with chocolate ice cream, chocolate milk, and some whipped cream. Sort of like a chocolate chocolate float, maybe. I’m not sure what made it ‘European’, but I sure loved them. Yummy. (That’s when I was in my chocolate phase…all chocolate, all the time!) They were $0.50, and if I bought one with my allowance, I had to leave the other $0.25 as a tip for the waitress. My mother didn’t want to raise stingy children. πŸ˜‰

I was definitely in the habit of taking my $0.75 to the restaurant every week. But I also REALLY wanted that picture. My mom decided that $16.55 was just too much for a 7 or 8 year old to have to come up with, so she paid $10 to the gallery, and they put the picture on layaway for me. For you whippersnappers who may not know what layaway is, you put down part of the money up front, and then you make payments towards your desired object. I don’t remember if I saved the $6.55 up and paid it all at once, but I kind of remember going in every week and giving them my $0.75. There I was, right next to the restaurant. The European Iced Chocolate was CALLING to me. I had to have it. But I also had to have that painting. So I resisted. For over 2 months, I resisted. It was a difficult two months.

Finally, the day came, and I was able to purchase my painting. I was SO proud of myself. So proud that I had saved that long, an eternity to a child. That I had foregone the delicacy that was a European Iced Chocolate for over 8 weeks. Amazing.
On the day when we finally went to get the picture, the woman behind the counter wrapped it carefully for me, and treated me with as much respect as any adult customer. Then my mom took me next door, and bought me a European Iced Chocolate to celebrate. That was probably the best one I ever had. πŸ™‚

A year or so ago, I realized that I could probably make them at home, seeing as how they sell chocolate ice cream, chocolate milk, and whipped cream at Safeway. Not sure why it took me this long to figure it out, but c’est la vie, eh? So, just the other night, we had them for dessert. Yum.

Jupterian*


Did you know that Maya was born on Jupiter? Perhaps that would explain why she’s so darned smart and beautiful and yummy as well. I love this picture. She’s just so pretty. πŸ™‚

When she was a baby, she had a birthmark on the back of her head. It was a large red hemangioma (sometimes called a ‘strawberry‘), which looked remarkably like the big red spot on Jupiter. So we decided that she was FROM Jupiter, and thus, a Jupterian.

When she was little, and asked where babies came from, we gave her a couple of answers. We sometimes told her the truth, and we sometimes told her that she was from Jupiter. That all babies are on different planets in our solar system, and they get transported into their mother’s womb just before birth. Well, maybe a few months before. Don’t try to tie me down with logic here, OK?

Anyway, this never caused any real confusion on her part…she knew the truth, and she knew the fun, and she liked them both. (Though she always thought the sex part was kind of gross…)

One day, when she was maybe 4, we were shopping at Lunardis (grocery store near us), and she was sitting in the cart, and suddenly her friends on Jupiter transmitted some secret code to her, which caused her to overcome her debilitating shyness long enough for her to tell everyone we passed that she was from Jupiter. What I liked best about that day was that not one person blew her off, or said, “Oh, really?” and looked at me in that semi-superior way that some adults have, and that sensible children find unbearable. No, they all played along. She got answers like, “Really? I’m from Saturn. Aren’t Earthlings STRANGE?” or, “That’s great. My sister’s from Jupiter. Have you met?” She must have told 10 people of her intergalactic heritage, and not one person batted an eyelash.

My summation of all of this? Apparently, not ALL people suck.

*This post is really just an excuse for me to share this picture, because I love it so much. And it’s a cute story, and I didn’t have a blog when it happened…

More Later…

Why 8 year old daughters are superior to 8 year old dogs:

My then 8 year old daughter, at 4:50am about a year and a half ago:
“Mama, I threw up.”
“Where?”
“In the toilet.”

My NOW 8 year old dog, at 4:50am this morning:
“barf”

Right.by.my.bed.

Oh, you have to know, the carpet cleaner died awhile ago, and the vacuum cleaner died on Sunday, and I’ve had 4 days off from work, so really don’t have time to go shopping for new ones right now. But you will have to wait for my regularly scheduled post, because I kind of have to deal with the barf this morning. I’m gonna try Oxy.

More Later, I promise. Can’t promise it will be GOOD, but there will be something.

Sunday Morning Thoughts…

I just got up, looking at a few blogs, and the first two I came to had some interesting coincidences…

1st, my mom’s blog talked about the sexualization of children, about how dressing young girls in adult’s clothing, and visa versa, is dangerous because it sends very confusing messages to the world. This reminded me of when I was a girl, and I wanted to get my ears pierced…I wasn’t allowed, because my mom said that earrings were a symbol of being a certain age and maturity, and so I didn’t get them done until I was 16. I’ve put a lot of thought into when to allow Maya to have her ears pierced. I understand my mom’s point when I was young, but I also look at a lot of other cultures besides our admittedly WASPy one, and so many cultures pierce ears at a very young age. Mexico, India, Italy, etc. So, I decided awhile ago that if Maya wanted to have her ears pierced, I would allow it. Thursday, she decided she wanted to have it done. Ted wasn’t sure about this, he was thinking maybe she’s too young, so he did a poll at work, and pretty much everyone had had their ears pierced when they were very young, and it was no big deal to any of them. So, yesterday, Maya got her ears pierced.

 

Bbmchallenge_1

2nd, Black Belt Mama has put up a fitness challenge. It’s a reasonable one, and also one with pretty decent timing…I went to my annual physical a few weeks ago, and Maya went to hers last week, and they both talked about getting enough calcium in your diet. In addition to that, when we were on vacation, I was talking to my step mom about weight bearing exercise, and how I would like to do some yoga at home to build my bone density, but I find it hard to make time for a one hour session, esp. since I also walk a couple of miles on most days, and I have a full time job, child, house, blog, etc. She said, don’t try to do an hour of yoga a day. Do 10 minutes. Do some stretches, and then some downward facing dog and plank pose, and you’ll be doing those bones a big favor. So, in response to BBM’s challenge, I am going to start taking calcium supplements again, and do 10 minutes of yoga a day, both with the goal of toning and getting my body ready for menopause. Which isn’t tomorrow or anything, but hey, I’m 40, and the sooner I get ready, the better off I’ll be when the time comes.

My other thoughts so far are more in the category of, “why is it that I take my contact lenses out at night, and THEN go looking for my glasses?” I’m pretty blind, and um, that’s not so smart. And, “Is there grape kool-aid in my new face cream? Kinda smells like it.” And, I think I need to start wearing my mouth guard, because the whole left side of my face hurts again, which is what happens when I grind my teeth. And, “hmm…I went to the farmers market yesterday and got some nice tomatoes for bruschetta…wonder if I have time today to go get some more and make a nice pasta sauce?” I have to get school supplies for Maya, take her to the mall (she wants a back to school outfit for tomorrow) go to the grocery store for food, and celebrate a birthday tonight over ice cream (so superior to cake!) So, I think I’ll get started, and leave this blogging business behind me for now. Happy Sunday!

Uh Oh…


I just saw this article. If signed, children under 8 need to ride in a booster seat, and children under 12 need to ride in the back seat. What’s the big deal? Well, Maya’s been riding in the front seat for a little while now…the Volvo doesn’t have any airbags (too old), and on the Camry, we have the passenger seat pushed all of the way back. Ted reasoned that many small adults are in the front seat, so she would be OK. I read some reports that said that there is no proof that kids who have been harmed by passenger side airbags in the front seat were ‘properly restrained’, meaning, they weren’t wearing their seat belts. Maya ALWAYS wears her seat belt. To be honest, I’ve never been completely thrilled about her riding in the front seat. But to legislate it, and give us a ticket if she rides in the front? Ugh. I’m not so sure about this.

Do Your Kids Eat Only Crap?


I have issues with this stuff. Not for the maybe 2% of children who really need it…I know of some families with children who simply WILL NOT EAT, and they must resort to drastic measures to get nutrients into their children. Believe me, if your child is this way, I feel your pain, and I’m NOT talking about you here. Nor am I talking about the children with health conditions that mean they must go on a temporary liquid diet while they recover. This stuff is probably perfect for that.

But the way this stuff is marketed, and the way I suspect it is most often used, it’s a supplement to give your kids because they will only eat junk food, and nothing healthy. Sorry, but I don’t think that’s such a swell idea. What do you think the chances are of you raising a healthy eater, someone who enjoys food and is willing to try new things, if your idea of keeping them healthy is a Pediasure with the burger and fries? It’s like the folks that say, sure, Frosted Flakes are cool…they’re fortified, and therefore healthy. Frosted Flakes are tasty, and they’re fine for a treat, but don’t kid yourself that you’re giving your child healthfood here, OK?

My cousin was raised by a mother who only gave them very basic foods, because they were “picky eaters”, and she regrets not growing up with more variety now. She wishes that her palate could enjoy a greater selection of yummy treats, but she really doesn’t like very much. She is the one I think about when I see this stuff. I think of her and her limited options, and of crappy parents who would give their children Pediasure and nothing else, because it means no cooking, no dishes, no worries. I’m not talking about most parents here, don’t get all offended, I’m talking the crappy parents, and maybe the kids are actually better off having the Pediasure rather than just the Frosted Flakes, etc.

I have several friends who tell me that their kids won’t eat fruits or veggies. WON’T EAT THEM. Will only eat chicken nuggets and mac & cheese. I have these kids over, and instead of asking them if they want any fruit with their lunch, I just slice up an apple and some grapes, and plop it in the middle of the table, so if they want it, they can eat it. No pressure, no discussion. Just, “here’s some food, help yourself”. Know what? It’s ALWAYS the first thing gone, usually before they’ve even TOUCHED their mac and cheese. I know, the same can’t usually be said for the veggies. But give a kid some corn on the cob, and they’re into it. They don’t want to eat their broccoli? I used to take Maya’s broccoli off of her plate, and say, “I’m a dinosaur, and I’m eating a tree!” She would laugh and gobble the rest of it down.

I will admit that with Maya, we got lucky. She’s pretty open to eating new things, and while she doesn’t like the same variety of things that an adult will eat, she can pretty much find SOMETHING on any menu to please her, and the only veggies she really hates are green beans and Brussels sprouts. And she’ll eat green beans if I toss them with some gorgonzola cheese and it gets all melty and yummy. πŸ˜‰ So maybe, having gotten lucky, I’m a bit ‘holier than thou’, and I should shut up. But somehow, I truly suspect that most parents who are feeding their kids this stuff on a regular basis are just giving up too easily, and that if they just put the food down and said, “That’s dinner, eat it or don’t”, most kids would come around in a day or two.

Post Waste

If you’re going to let your beautiful 16 year old daughter, who for some reason only LOOKS 10, get married…you may want to make sure you meet the groom before the big day. Otherwise, he may turn out to be only 6, and you’ve spent all of this money on something really weird and creepy.

That’s what I learned from my dream this morning. Hope it helps you out in YOUR real life situations. Actually, no, I hope you NEVER need this advice. πŸ˜‰

Children Who Feel Empty…

I found this article in my SF Chronicle Magazine, from Sunday’s newspaper. It’s pretty long, but worth a look if you have some time. Really, there’s nothing here that I haven’t thought before…too many kids today are overscheduled, over-pressured, and very unhappy because of it. One thought that came to me, though, is that this story is about upper-middle to upper-class kids…what about the lower-middle and lower-class kids. When their parents push them and push them, isn’t it supposed to be a sign of caring? And conversely, if they DON’T push them, isn’t that a sign of failure? Where’s the happy medium?

The article, which is really exerpts from the author’s forthcoming book, talks in detail about the difference between healthy involvement, overinvolvement, and intrusion in your childs life. To be sure, children need a lot of involvement from their parents. The amount of time we volunteer at Maya’s school is proof of that, as well as time spent together cooking, helping with homework, etc. Here is a quote that discusses the differences between these three terms.

“Appropriately involved parents know the importance of stepping back as soon as is practical, and of respecting their child’s striving toward independence. Overinvolvement is not simply “more” healthy involvement; rather it is involvement that can get in the way of child development….It is usually, but not always, ill advised, and some children can be remarkably forgiving about this sort of behavior. I tend to think of overinvolvement as the things we do for our kids – the forgotten dishes we wash, the unmade beds we straighten, the editing we do on our child’s writing assignments. But overinvolvement stops short of psychologically manipulating the child. It is more likely to slow progress than to damage children. Intrusion, on the other hand, is always unhelpful, if not damaging.

It invades the child’s developing psychological space, and blurs the appropriate and necessary boundaries between parent and child, invariably to the child’s disadvantage….”I know you tried hard, but I can’t understand why you’re not ashamed to hand in a paper that still has errors,” says the intrusive parent, mistakenly believing that shame will motivate her child to try harder. Promoting guilt and shame invariably works against progress – and, more importantly, they weaken the ties between child and parent.”

At the front of the magazine was an Editor’s comment, by Alison Biggar, which I felt was worth including. Here are 5 tips to raising a well-adjusted teen, with my comments as well, because duh, you know I can’t NOT have an opinion:

1. Love the kid you get. Knowing you’re lovable is one key to future happiness.
This seems like a no-brainer to me, but then when you watch Shalom in the Home and the Nanny and other stupid reality shows, you realize how many kids are not getting that message. Often because the parents are just too overwhelmed, and don’t know what the hell they’re doing when they try to parent effectively. And also, Love the Kid you get….really, we so often expect something different, a child who loves to read or loves math or who isn’t afraid of the dark, or who excells at sports or debate or spelling…whatever. It’s sometimes hard to let go of these expectations and appreciate the wonderful child that one has. It’s imporant, though, for them to know you not only love them, YOU LOVE THEM AS THEY ARE.

2. A happy mom raises happy kids. Moms need to take care of themselves.
It goes without saying to me that this applies equally to dads. And marriages. A happy marriage has a much greater chance of producting happy children than an unhappy marriage.

3. Discipline is crucial. Kids need a sense of limits and boundaries. It helps them develop self-control.
Can’t say enough on this one, and no, I don’t think it has to be spanking vs. doormat. Too many people think those are the only options.

4. High standards are great, but guilt and shame are no way to enforce them. Let kids make mistakes so they learn to pick themselves up and become self motivated.
This is a hard one. Not the guilt and shame…I HOPE we don’t put that on her. But the idea of letting them make their own mistakes is sometimes easier said than done. I’ve gotten better at not reminding her that she has homework, and letting her take the consequences if she forgets to do it. But it’s not easy. Better have her learn to be self motivated now, rather than just be starting on this skill in college, I’m thinking.

5. Leave kids alone. An internal sense of self – an inner life – comes from quiet, uninterrupted time to think and dream, not from an intense calendar full of scheduled activities.
This one makes me think of a couple of Maya’s classmates. D, for example, has ballet 3 days a week, girl scouts twice a month, violen lessons, piano lessons, and swimming lessons. I have read of the benefits of music lessons on math comprehension, of sports on learning to work as a team and physical fitness, of second and third languages learned earlier rather than later being of great benefit. So, am I somehow failing Maya by not pushing her into more activities? Maybe not so many as D, who has at least one activity every day, but more than her current one at a time? That’s been our solution so far…she has taken Spanish, Hip Hop, Soccer, Ballet, Karate, Swimming, and Girl Scouts, but really, only one thing per semester or whatever. She doesn’t fall in love with any of these activities, so she moves on to the next one. Maya is fiercely protective of her “down time” (so much so that she once tried to get out of vacuuming the floor by stating, “I have my whole life to do chores – I want to enjoy my childhood!” Don’t worry, she vacuumed. πŸ˜‰ ). If she weren’t so protective of her time, and if she were as enthusiastic about activities as D is (and I’ve seen her, she LOVES all of these activities), then I’m not sure what we would do to slow her down. I hope we would stick to the “One, maybe two” activity rule, but it’s not easy sometimes. Of course, we couldn’t AFFORD all of those activities at once, so really, it’s probably a non-issue anyway.

So, if you’re interested in what looks to be a good read about why certain children, especially those who seem to “have it all”, are increasingly feeling empty and isolated, start with the link to the article, and for more depth, move on to the book. Looks like a disturbing read.

Ode to Vegan Lunchbox

Inspired by ‘Jennifershmoo” and her Vegan Lunchbox, and requested by Cherry, here is yesterday’s lunch. Maya takes her lunch every day to Girl Scout Camp, and I ordered one of the cool Bento Lunchboxes that Jennifershmoo turned me on to. We’re not vegan, so there’s dairy in here. Lunch is a homemade bean and cheese burrito, rolled like a wrap (with pineapple/mango salsa in case she wants it), apple/apricot sauce, grapes and cherries, and a Costco brownie bite that came with the lunch Cherry and I had at a new Japanese place near Kohls. Who ever heard of brownie bites at Japanese restaurants? Not me, but Maya will be glad, anyway. On the side are a saturn peach and some Mango Tango juice. The girls are pretty active at camp, so she gets extra hungry. πŸ™‚

Verdict: Everything was gone but the cherry pits and the salsa. She said that she really liked the burrito, and she agreed with me that it was strange that there were brownie bites for dessert at a Japanese restaurant. Now I have to think of something creative for today’s lunch. 5 stars out of 5 for this meal.

No More GUILT

The worst, worst, WORST part of parenting, at least of mothering, is the guilt that society tries to push upon us. L at Homesick Home wrote a wonderful post the other day about her feelings after reading a New York Times article titled “Breast Feed Or Else“. I read L’s post, and I was horrified…horrified that people are actually equating not breastfeeding your children with smoking while pregnant. With going to a bar, riding a mechanical bull, and smoking while pregnant. Give me a fucking break. (Sorry, I tried not to swear there, but no other word worked for me. Get over it.) The current culture has really made a 180 from when our parents were babies, and you know what, THEY turned out OK. (Some women probably smoked while pregnant back then, come to think of it.) The pressure that is put on women today to be the PERFECT mother is insane. You have to breastfeed. You have to wear your infant in a baby sling. You have to co-sleep with your baby in your bed. Every moment of every day (and night) has to revolve exclusively around your baby. No wonder parents get all weird and enroll their children in 17 activities per week, pressure them to be the best, and do everything they can to promote a high self esteem. (Just read another post at Rockstar Mommy, talking about how all of the kids on the softball team get trophies…I’m not surprised that the one her stepdaughter received ended up broken on the floor…if the worst kid on the team gets the same reward as the best kid on the team, then the trophy is pointless. If you don’t want them to be broken hearted about not getting a trophy, maybe don’t give ANY trophies out, but giving them out for participation seems kind of goofy to me. Sorry…back to my main point, about breastfeeding.) I don’t think these are bad practices. They are all wonderful practices, normal and right for many people. It’s not wrong to wear your baby in a sling, or to co-sleep, or to breastfeed. These are all practices that go back to the beginning of human history, and it is our modern ideas of autonomy and fierce independence that don’t really mesh with these parenting styles, which is probably why so many families are mixed-up and stressed out these days. What is wrong, however, is the PRESSURE. It’s hard enough to function on 3 hours of sleep a night, or deal with a colicy baby, or or or…without people telling you how wrong you are for making the choices that you have made.

I’m not really talking about women who cannot breastfeed for one reason or another, but want to. I think those women are in a very bad situation, because they surely feel that they are somehow failing their children. I’m thinking about the women who could breastfeed, and choose not to. You know what? I know many of them. You know what? Their kids are fine. In fact, they’re (almost) as good as mine. (And the almost has nothing to do with breastmilk, just the undeniable superiority of my child. OK, sorry. All done.) I know kids who co-sleep with their parents. I did as a child. I turned out fine. But when Maya was born, we needed time to be a couple, I needed time that I was not “attached” to my child 24 hours a day. And she’s fine. Does she hog the bed? Yes. Will her future significant other WISH she had coslept, so she would have some idea of how to share a bed without whacking someone in the face? Probably. But that’s another issue entirely.

I have a friend in PA who did not breastfeed her children. When her oldest came down with his first ear infection at 6 months of age, she was convinced that it was because she had given him formula. That if she had breastfed him, he would have better immunities, and would not have had the ear infection. But it was too late, and here she was, doomed for all eternity to be a terrible mother. Guess what? I breastfed Maya, and she got ear infections. Chronic ear infections, one after another. While she was still being breastfed. (My friend was SO happy to hear that, made at least SOME of the guilt go away…)

It seems to me that the answer here is to go easy on each other. We need to educate people of the benefits of breastfeeding their babies. We need to make it easier for mothers who DO breastfeed to do it. For example, maybe if new moms didn’t have to go back to work so soon , they might have an easier time of it. (But our society doesn’t TRULY value having a parent home with the children, no matter what the rhetoric is. If we did, we would fund it. End of story.) We need to tell women what some of the benefits are. 1. As L said, it’s FREE. 2. You don’t have to warm a bottle in the middle of the night. 3. Until they start solid foods, their poop doesn’t stink. (MAJOR BONUS!) These are pretty good benefits to the mom. And the benefits to the baby, the health benefits, are well researched and documented, though in all honesty, I still cannot say that my child is any healthier than children we know who were formula fed from day one.

Really, what we need to do is stop with the pressure. How someone else feeds their child is none of my business. Wanna breastfeed? Great. If you choose to feed your baby formula, more power to ya. Honestly, I have bigger fish to fry than to worry about other women’s boobs.

Black Diamond Mines


Maya’s class had a fieldtrip today to the Black Diamond Mines, in Antioch, CA. (That’s Maya’s BEST friend, Jackie, in the picture to your left.) I had never been there before, so I was happy to volunteer to drive some of the kids, and go check it out. The mines were for coal in the mid-1800s, and many men who came to California looking for gold ended up working in the coal mines instead. Actually, though we found out that CA coal is inferior to coal from Washington State or China, so when that coal started coming into CA, the mines closed down, and the cities disappeared. I kind of expected to find little ghost towns, but they took the houses down and took the wood with them.

Interesting. In the 1930s, they found silica in the mines, which they used for making glass. The mine shafts were modernized, and stayed in use for many years.

After we went into the mine, we came out and had some lunch. Then we hiked up to the Rose Hill cemetary, where the inhabitants of Somersville (one of the towns that supported the mines) buried their dead. It’s a pretty small cemetary by today’s standards, and a lot of the gravestones have been broken, but it was also pretty, with the oak trees and the rolling hills in the background. It was sad to see how many young children there were in the cemetary, and how many families lost several children.

Overall, it was a fun day, with some serious themes. The kids got to learn about child labor in the mines, black lung disease, terrible working conditions, etc. My main thought was, how desperate would people have to be to work in these conditions…to travel all of the way to California to work in mines so small that they couldn’t even stand up straight? Amazing. Amazing the things that people have to do in order to have a better life. Like the people who come to America in container ships, hoping for something better.