Saturday, July 30, 2011

Seeking the Sync

What do you do when you fall out of sync with your child(ren)?

I for one have noticed a definite rhythm, an ebb and flow in my relationship with my child. There are times when I feel so gosh darn connected, so in step, so perfectly in kind with my child- I understand where she's at, I feel able and willing and that I am meeting her needs the way she needs me to (and liking it!) and everything just flows. However- these times are usually followed by subsequent other times, periods of time where parts jut out and mash together and make funny noises and jam- times when I'm feeling out of whack, or she is, or we both are- when I don't know what she needs, or how to give it to her, or doing so makes me feel taken advantage of, or wiped out, or whatever. We're just not jiving.

That's kind of where we are now.

DD is in a funny place- pushing her limits, testing people's love, testing her ability to influence others, to make them feel happy, angry, sad- to make them laugh or cry or be short or cross. And it's a hard place for me, as a Mom- when I hear her call me or others "stupid" (a word she learned originally from a neighbor friend she adores), part of me wants to minimalize the effects of a word and maximize the manner the word is used- but the other part of me is going, "oh my gosh, my child's calling me/someone else stupid, she can't do that! I have to make her know that this is 'not okay'!"

It's this tug of war within myself- to accept her at all costs, and to "keep her" from becoming a self centered person unaware or unconcerned with the effect her actions have on others, and subsequently shunned by society.


Writing that down, seeing that out loud, makes that fear look pretty silly.

My daughter- my lovely, exuberant, loud, wild, passionate, gentle, rough, silly, sensitive child- is at little (true) risk of becoming a "self centered person unaware or unconcerned with the effect her actions have on others". That I know in my heart, even if in the moment the way she is behaving seems truly selfish and hurtful- and maybe even is.

Not only do I have a good heart-sense of who she is and why she's doing things (when I dare to tune into it) but I've read and heard enough to know that this is true- she is a developing small person with lots going on and there are a lot of developmentally sound reasons for this behavior.

Even if it is- inconvenient, scary, and possibly socially unacceptable.

These, I think, are the real issues. My real issues.

I am bothered by the inconvenience. It simply "looks bad" to have your child acting in this way- saying "mean" (or as my cousin says, "naughty") things- yelling- hitting- throwing sand. It begs the question- "why are her parents (her mother) allowing her to behave this way?" Our culture is not child-friendly to begin with, nevermind when a child is having a moment that is not pretty, quiet, and picture- perfect.

I am bothered by my own fears about her behavior. That it represents a bigger picture, a bigger problem, the tip of the iceberg, a symptom of a massive and capsizing illness threatening to explode from beneath her surface at any moment. A mere example of how I've failed her. That, because of my ineptness as a parent, she has become a (now here's a phrase to make all my fellow AP-ish parents recoil) "bad child". You know, the kid no one wants their kid playing with.

And probably- well, screw that, most likely- I am even more worried about this because DD is the daughter of a teenage mother- of teenage parents. She was at birth a horror story waiting to be written. Of course, there was none of that, but I feel that stereotype hot on my heels at every difficult moment- at every less-than-wonderful moment of my own- that judgement from others; "Well, how did you expect that child to turn out? Her mother had her at seventeen, for God's sake."

So much of how I see my daughter is really about ..... Me. My fear, my insecurities, my lack of courage.

- Deep breath.

Maybe in order to help my daughter be more loving, more secure, more calm and trusting in the innate rightness of her world, I need to develop myself in the same areas. Maybe I need to love myself, trust myself a bit more- and loose sight a bit of how my parenting, my child, are being perceived.

In ten, twenty, thirty years, I know I'm not going to care how the "world" rated me as a parent.

There's only one person who's judgement is going to matter.

And we all know who she is.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


For some time now, I've felt our family shift along it's fault lines as it tried to find it's right balance.

We've had a tumultous past six months, in more ways than one. We've all suffered from that unbalance. My heart aches as I think of the difficulties DD must feel, as a toddler who is trying to find her balance anyways, with less-than-stable ground to walk on.

Oh, nothing crazy, nothing awful- but not the safe solid feeling I want to provide her, and have for the majority of her life.

In the past month, I've felt balance return to our family. Or, should I say, I've felt us return to balance. And it feels so, so good.

But while I was out of balance- while I was attempting not to stumble or fall as things whirled around me- I have slipped a bit in my parenting. It takes guts for me to say this, but once I saw it, I could never again ignore my shortcomings.

The other day the little and I were yet again driving- in the car- something I've realized we've been doing far, far too much for her. Yes, we had a great destination in mind- but does the end justify the means? Does a great breakfast justify a forty minute slot of time that could be spent playing used up by frusteration, being strapped into a carseat? Given our amazing apartment- surrounded by land, playthings, a pool, animals, shade, etc- I think not.

Anyways, I was driving, and Nat was complaining and whining- and my child does nothing worth doing quietly. Frankly, she was pissed. And as I was about to tell her she "needed" to be quiet, we would be there soon, I realized what an awful kind of way to respond to her this was- so out of touch with my parenting ideals. I realized, in a flash, how far from my path I'd wandered. I realized I'd begun to see her more as a problem to be dealt with than my beloved girl showing me what her needs were and asking me in her own way to help her meet them.

It felt awful. It still does. I get a dark and sinking pit in my stomach just thinking about it.

But it's honest. And sometimes, honesty is what we need to clear our viewpoints, get real, and move on in the direction we truly, truly want to go.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Return to Nursing (A Toddler)

Today was nearly a perfect day.

I woke up a little groggy. Bedtime was a struggle last night- I had foolishly put the little down to nap in the evening, and as a result she didn't go to sleep until after 11pm- a record for her, I'm sure.

She woke up well-rested, but I sure wasn't. No matter- her upbeat mood and the beautiful, almost autumnal weather soon put me in a right mood! The house was in dire need of cleaning, and so we headed off to Wal-Mart for cleaning supplies. DD was amazingly patient. We hit the gym after for a short work out, and then headed home to spend the rest of the day outdoors.

My younger cousin came over and splashed in the pool while I washed the floor, and then we sat out in the sun and had a picnic lunch. After some more out-of-doors fun we headed inside to prepare the much-celebrated brownies, which have been in the pantry and much-eluded to for quite some time.

DD did an amazing job of baking the brownies pretty much herself. She saw on the box we needed two eggs, and cracked them into the bowl herself (no small feat!) She poured in the brownie mix, placed muffin cups in the tin, helped me preheat the oven, and stirred in the applesauce and walnuts.

Then we sunned out and read while we waited for them to cook.

When they'd finished, she was so, so excited. I expected her to gobble her first muffin up as soon as they'd cooled (I know I wanted to!) but she was showing unexpected restraint! When I asked her why, she said she wanted to wait for her friend, who soon appeared... we decided to share the twelve muffins amongst her four friends. It felt so good to walk with her outside, distributing them amongst all of her friends at her decree, my little girl making sure no one was missed. The sharing seemed to her just as great as chocolate brownie muffins!!

Later, as we lay in the beautiful-but-brisk-for-summer day, reading and basking, I realized she seemed a little out of sorts. When our dog ran by and clipped her accidentally, knocking her over, she burst into tears and was super frusterated.

For the first time in weeks- maybe months- I asked: "Do you want to go have some boobies?"

And, almost relieved, my almost-three year old breathed, "Yes!"

We collected our things, snuck indoors, and arranged ourselves on the bed, me with pillows propped behind me, her draped across my lap. We nursed on one side, then the other. She told me she was a baby, and motioned that she was going to bite my nipple- "Oh no," I told her, "Babies don't bite! They don't have teeth!" "Oh!" My girl said, thinking. She made sucking motions with her mouth. "Like this?" "Yes, like that."

On her second side, I fell into peace. From our bedroom I can see our kitchen window, a bit of a shrine to our life- pictures tacked up, driftwood I hand painted with a reminder, "Be Here Now." I was at home, at peace with the life we've created. I was at peace. I was so thankful to be exactly there, and looking down, my girl's eyelids had fluttered shut, and her sucking fell into that familar rythm, just as she had countless times since she was first born.

It is a timeless ritual, a comforting scenario, one I don't see dissapearing from the patchwork of our life anytime soon. One I don't want to go.

Today, I experience a return to - and a new peace with - nursing my toddler. Instead of reading a book, or having a bath, or watching an episode of something, I'm going to return to this soft timeless tool with her... I wonder if some of her out-of-touch tantrums and general frusteration will be solved by the salve that is breastfeeding.

I'll keep you posted :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Redefining 'Me-Time'

It has been raining, hard, all day long.

DD is asleep, napping away, and I sense her impending wake- the thud and couple odd off-balance footfalls, the cursory attempt at opening the door (really just a jiggle of the door knob), and the oh-so-predictable fuss: "Maaaaama!!", ending in a hoarse unhappy groan.

And I'll go in and lay with her, cuddle her, stroke her hair and tell her I love her. We'll get up, play, dance, talk.

But I'll admit, I cling to these last few moments of self-time. Even though I've had two hours of them, and mostly I didn't do much: swept the floor, organized laundry, ate a lot of bread, and (here's the main truth) surfed the internet.

There's nothing wrong, specifically, with any of these things. (Okay, maybe the excessive carbo-binge is a bit on the 'wrong' side.) But I know, as I linger at the keyboard under a false pretense of importance, that I could do so much better for myself, for us.

I could be meditating. I have a new Mariane Williamson meditation CD that I've been meaning to devote some quiet time to.

I could have been writing, and not reading someone else's writing.

I could have been sitting- just sitting, quietly and with myself.

All of these would have been whole heartedly better than what I do, and what I've done during naptime for a long, long time- naptime, my beloved naptime, my only break from the day until bedtime- eat and surf the Web, with the occassional cleaning spurt thrown in for good measure.

Pretty sad, huh?

I tell myself it's Me time, but truly, I am not being respectful, mindful, of what Me-time would best consist of. I am not honoring the time and allowing it to blossom, within and around me.

It's a lie I tell myself, that what I 'need', what I 'deserve', is to stuff myself with unhealthy foods or overeat, and spend two hours sitting in a chair staring at a screen.

And in lying to myself this way, I am giving root to the falacy that my day with my child, my relationship with my child, my child, is something I need to escape from, something to seek respite from, something to avoid.

My daughter is what I love most in this world, what I believe in most, what I care for most. Her needs, her interests, her growth, her development, and all that is best about motherhood, childhood, life... she is my love. My life.

(And don't think I'm suggesting that mothers, that I, don't need a break and an oppertunity to recharge batteries and have time spent away from the very exhausting experience of mothering; I spent two hours last night trying on clothes, and eventually, a rare $50 bill on half a Spring wardrobe- I am certaintly not denying the wonder of childless time, when it's desired.)

But I need to be honest with myself. My time with my daughter is not a hardship- it is a gift. I know this, I feel this, but somehow I have lost touch with this truth in my living.

Somehow I've convinced myself that my daughter is what sucks energy from me, and that I need time alone to ignore the signals my body and my true desires.

The truth is much closer to the opposite of that statement- living in ignorance of my true Self sucks the energy from me, and coming back to Love- choosing to be Here, with my daughter in this moment, every moment, is what I really 'need' and 'deserve'.

Here's to the end of Naptime.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Magical, Today

I've been striving for the magic.

You know, the magic. That rythm, that feeling, that flow- when everything just goes, whoosh, and there's no pressure or stress?

Okay, so maybe I'm dreaming. Maybe I'm an idealist. Maybe I'm not grounded in reality at all... as was evident today, when the magic was distinctively missing from a couple of my interactions with my toddler. Mainly, the issues of cookies, and bedtime. Serious enough stuff, right?

Anyways, in all of the hubbub of moving, as we emerge into this new way of life, this new living space, this new start, magic has been weighing on my mind. Of course, I want to have a magical relationship with my child, I want to have a magical way of life, and above all, I want her to have a magical childhood. I spend a good deal of time reading about how to make this happen- toys, games, crafts, activities, places to visit, ways to interact, general mindsets.

But how much of this is lost in translation?

How many activities, crafts, etc. seemed sweet and amazing and clever and fun at the time when I first read or saw them, but were quickly lost to the depths of my incouragable imagination and pauseless brain?

My resolution (because resolutions are for every day, any day, not just that one first day of the new year) is to put all that I wish to be, all that I wish to create, into action. Beginning now.

What do I want to do for February?

I want to finish our calendar. (We bought a calendar at Whole Foods in December, with room to create your own picture for every month. The Monkey did January with a little help from me, and it was adorable.)

I want to tape big peices of drawing paper up on the walls at toddler-height, and let her go at it and make art. We've done this before with huge success.

I want to cut out hearts out of construction paper, and punch holes in them, and decorate them, and string them up across one part of the ceiling for Valentine's Day.

I want to get those cardboard blue-and-red-and-yellow blocks for her.

I want to get a tunnel (which I think we have, somewhere.)

I want to get a big playrug.

I want to make this for VDay.

I want to plan a beautiful, simple, affordable, green wedding. Mine.

I want to really grow into our new space, make it a home. Ours.

So there you go. Just some of what on my mind. But, understanding my difficulty putting thought into action, I'm going to go now, and practice what I ... well, think.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Welcome Home

We Moved.

The Monkey, the Bodyman and I have all moved to our new apartment.

It's smallish, it's bareish, but it's sweet- and it's comfortable. It's got a lovely kitchen and we have pots and pans and dishes, and forks and knives, and as of this evening, curtains. Mostly.

And the bedroom is one- but we have two beds, and they fit. Wonderful.

It's been a very stressful two days, really. Lack of planning on my part means that I was moving mattresses and adjusting the toddler and going all day AS I was detoxing and dealing with Candida-die-offs... not the most fun. Basically, I've felt like crap. Still not back to normal, but I'm working on it.

Tonight's the first night I've had time alone- baby in bed early, hubby off watching the big game at my family's house- and I've spent it in front of the computer, researching, reading, and typing. Just like any other night in any other house, really.

And it's gotten me thinking. About new starts, really- for the longest time we've looked forward to this, to this freedom and fresh-slate-ness, for this seperation.

And now we have it.

I think of all the crafty things, all the decorations, all the games and projects and writing and books and beautiful ways of living that I thought of, or saw, or talked about or read about but "couldn't" do because we didn't have our own easel on which to create them- and now we have it.

I know if I'm not careful, I'll let this blessing slip away, unnoticed. It's time to act.

First, I should probably sleep. And then think, and plan. But oh, boy, there's some action coming this way. This darling little burrow won't know what hit it.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Grain-free, Sugar-free Challenge!

I've been vegan for over a month now.

And I love it! Truly, I seldom miss cheese or dairy, and I never crave meat- if I did, I'd reach for yummy Quorn products. De-lish.

But I still struggle with binge eating, and it's a major drag. For a week weeks there I was doing great, eating only when I was hungry, eating only grapefruit for breakfast, fruit smoothies for lunch and vegan whole-grain/veggie fare for dinner. And not feeling deprived.

But that didn't last long. Case in point: I made a batch of whole grain vegan coconut-oatmeal cookies this afternoon, and probably consumed 3/4 of them myself. Yucka.

I've been questioning my addiction to grains for a while, or at least wheat. Toast with Earth Balance butter is a favorite binge food.

When I feel my best, I'm eating minimal grains, a lot of fruits and vegetables, and some raw nuts. That's pretty much it.

And I need to get back to that, to feel my best and to do my best as a mother.

So here it is: my three week, 21 day journey to better health and mood.

No sugar (need we say why this is a good idea? I think not), no wheat. (Still vegan- no dairy, meat, or animal products.) And more fruits, veggies, and raw nuts.

Yippee! I'll be starting this Sunday.

Are you up for the challenge?

Monday, January 31, 2011

To Procreate, or Not to Procreate?

When DD was concieved, I was seventeen and (obviously, I think) unwed.

This was not a first for my family, Irish-Catholic rebels that we are. There had been babies concieved out of wedlock before- but few made it through those nine months, and of those, all were given up for adoption, for various reasons and by various women. They are the hushed-whisper ghost children of mothers who went on to bear other, more valid babies to properly wedded husbands.

I was the first to lay claim to my baby, to lock my hands before my blooming abdomen and say "back off". And, for the most part, my family ended up being wonderfully supportive. Really. There were the couple aunts or uncles who judged, who put up walls and let loose words and phrases that scalded my heart, but overall I was so comforted by the wave of love that came my way.

However, this is not to say everyone neccessarily 'celebrated' my pregnancy. My daughter, yes- as soon as she was born, we all fell in love. How could you not? And I soon proved to be a dutiful and obsessively nurturing mother, so any doubts in that department fell away as well. (No, I don't blame anyone for having their doubts- teenage motherhood is a hard pill to swallow, no matter how much you believe in the mother-to-be.)

But I was still seventeen, unwed, and pregnant. And that just isn't something that's applauded in my family- nor am I sure that it should be, in my case or anyone else's.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed my pregnancy- I was a big, glowing, healthy, shiny tribute to fertility- there was a bit of a dark shadow lurking behind me, behind the appraising glances I got in the midwife's waiting room, behind my teacher's eyes in the classes I completed, behind it all. And I get that.

But since DD was born (it's been two and a half years now), as her father and I's relationship has sustained and even bloomed over the bumps and hazards of life, as we have grown in adoration of our amazing, spirited daughter, I've realized that there is a deep part of me that wishes, among other things, to have a pregnancy that is valid in the eyes of the world.

No, I'm not saying I want to have another baby to be accepted, or to be congratulated. For a long, long time, I was certain I didn't want a second child at all, even looking down (I admit) upon mothers who had children back to back, seemingly on purpose. The Monkey was my only, my angel, my everything. And I believe, for the first child, a lone and coddled infancy is a gift.

But the Monkey is no longer an infant, and I no longer the mother of a babe. And she has new needs, new desires, and is growing in new ways. As I look down the road she's traveling on, bending my head this way and that to see around it's hairpin turns and culverts, I anticipate that, with her high social needs and ravenous appetite for actitivity and movement and sound and laughter and play, she would appreciate a sibling.

I was an only for the first six years of my life, and enjoyed it thoroughly. By the time my half-siblings came along, it was all a little too late, and though I love them and appreciate them now, they did muddle with my shine for a bit there. The Bodyman is an only, and he was starved for siblinghood as a child. His parents were older, and boring, and angry, and he told me how he begged them for a brother or sister, even asking them to consider adoption. He compensated by becoming hyper-social, which both served him and screwed him, depending on the situation.

So there's that. I would love for DD to have a siblings, brother or sister- I think it would be excellent for her, and I think she had plenty of time as the beloved Only, time to nurse and play and Be. That time wouldn't end, but it would be changed, and I think she'd love it.

I do have concerns, though.

I'm scared we'd wish we hadn't- of course we'd love this new child, but what if things are perfect now? What if this is the perfect balance, and by bringing another life into the picture, things become so stressed and hectic and crazy that we realize we'd done each other a disservice?

What if I favor DD over the second child, or what if DD feels resentful that her new sibling is here- not in that initial, expected way, but deep inside?

What if it's all too much of a strain on DH's and I's relationship?

Then there's financial worries, space worries, time worries ..... the list goes on.

Deep down, I want an easy decision. I want it to be natural, like nursing or co sleeping or whatever. I don't want to "make" this decision- I want it to Be. Does it work like that?

I'm not sure.

For now, we're Not Trying. When we had DD, we were Not Not Trying- which is to say, we were Allowing. Obviously we know firsthand it's better to be real with yourselves. Either Try, or Don't Try. Either Go For It, or Avoid It. This is my point, really.

If we do decide to concieve a second child, I want it to be a decision. A real, firm, said-out-loud, happy, joyful, excited, LET'S DO IT. I'm waiting for the desire to go 'all in.'

For now, I'm happy to Go All In with the child I have, with my spouse, with our new apartment, with my scholastic goals, and with our upcoming wedding. All of this, and more, are the gifts that are mine- the small moments and long hours of each and every wonderful day.

And while we talk about the possibility of another embryo, while we talk of spring flowers and nuptuals and patterned rugs, I cuddle my daughter on my lap, press my face into her hair, and inhale her scent, no longer baby-sweet but just as lovely, for sure.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Starting Fresh// Raw Choco-Nut Frosting

So I'm on day numero uno of my 21 day totally-vegan-mostly-raw-no-refined-sugar-proper-food-combining Kick. And about an hour after lunch (avacado, hummus, and Vegenaise sandwich on toasted Ezekial bread with a side of Kim Chee) I had the hankering for something sweet. Imagine that.

Let me just explain here: my 21 days was supposed to start Wednesday. Maybe even Thursday. I'm planning a big food shopping trip to Whole Foods on Wednesday and the good-for-you-vegan-pickings are slim until then. But after last night's 'run in' with totally-non-vegan-and-certaintly-not-good-for-you brownies (really, it was more like a date, one that I was quite excited for at that) I woke up this morning feeling sick to my stomach and really just gross, a feeling that has become all too familar to me. And I said, what the heck? Why prolong my misery? It's going to be just as hard in two days. Let's start now.

I had to modify my requirements a bit, given what my pantry is looking like. Instead of raw til dinner- it's raw til lunch. Other than that, it's pretty much the same. All vegan, as much raw as possible, no crap food (read: refined sugars and grains), and as little processing as possible. So, ixnay on the soymilk. Also, I'm following the Fit for Life plan pretty closely, paying attention to the basic rules of food combining. (I could do a whole other post on that, and maybe at some point I will.)

Breakfasts are fairly easy- per the Fit for Life plan (and, really, according to what makes me feel my best/lightest) I eat as much raw fruit as I want until noon. This usually means a grapefruit, maybe an apple as well. This also qualifies me for the "raw til noon" label, without much work at all.

Once I fill up my pantry to the seams with wonderful, fresh, vegan food, it'll be much easier and probably pretty pain free. What I'm most worried about is stopping when I'm full- and, perhaps the biggest pain in the butt- SUGAR.

Sugar is absolutely my downfall. Absolutely positutely. I am probably what you would call addicted, at the very least a compulsive consumer. If there are three cookies, I'll eat three. If there are ten, I'll eat ten. I very often don't stop til I'm sick, even though I know that's where the whole game is headed. Gross, right?

Before you begin to tell me about how I can cure this- I've tried it. Geneen Roth, Marienne Williamson, and all of the nutritional approaches. And yes, I've tried "just stopping."

But what has worked at points- until I've strayed from the path- is good, whole, often raw vegan eating. My body instinctively loves good food. Whole foods, that is. Unprocessed, unpasteurized, fresh, clean food. And my tongue loves it too!

My tongue especially loved the raw kind-of-vegan frosting I made after lunch. Here's the recipe.

Jessica's Raw Choco-Nut Frosting


1-2 tablespoons raw organic almond butter, creamy OR chunky
1 tablespoon raw honey
1-2 tablespoons fair trade cocoa powder
1-4 teaspoons water
nutmeg or cinnamon, to taste

In a small bowl, mix almond butter, honey, cocoa powder, and spices until blended. Add a teaspoon of water and whisk, increasing amount of water until the mixture reaches desired consistancy.

This recipe is great by itself for dessert OR would make a great frosting. I liked the texture of the crunchy kind of almond butter, but for frosting, I think I'd go with creamy.


P.S: Sorry, no pictures today!! It was just not around long enough to capture on camera. Blame my taste buds, if you must.