Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Till We Meet Again

Thank you, Grandpa, for sharing your life with us. I'll cherish the memories, your resounding laugh and the bone-crushing hugs.

October 8, 1917 - December 8, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thoughts on Gratitude

Someone once said that a woman's sigh is a pressure release...she must sigh lest she explode.

It's that time of year again. And I sigh for several reasons. The head-spinning travel schedule our family experiences each season, observing three holidays in the space of one month, a theme of remembrance and contemplation I adopt each season, simply parenting our precocious children...oh...and Sascha and I are both kind of tired.

But the primary reason I sigh today is over the "Get v. Give" nature of this season combined with an increasingly aware 4 year old. Of course, his focus is on the "get" portion of the festivities and his Christmas list has reached inordinate lengths since its commencement last spring. However, teaching him the difference between a "wish list" and a "shopping list" is another matter entirely.

If I weren't such an all-or-nothin' gal (i.e. if I didn't care so much) I probably wouldn't be as spiritually challenged here. However, some soul-searching over the past 4 months has brought to light a major theme for me and, ergo, my family.

Gratitude.

In this world of "must have it all and if I don't I must get it and nothing is ever enough" (of which 4 year olds must take the prize), I am increasingly aware of the vast importance of gratitude in our daily round and the importance of passing that awareness of "having enough" on to the children. Now, I know it's a process, not a destination so I'm trying to focus on the moments. They are few and far between.

However, sometimes the sun bursts from the clouds so quickly you are almost blinded. This morning I was filling out my Niyama chart* and came across the box for "I thought about how I want my day to be". Since I'm feeling ill today, I thought "restful" would be a good intention to set but I chose to pose the question to Ari and see what he thought.

"What kind of day would be good today, Ar? Should it be a restful day?" I asked.

"No. How about grateful?!" he suggested.

Eureka. This one was a sigh of satisfaction...and gratitude.

"I think that is fantastic, Sweetie, thank you so much!" I said trying to hold back tears.

Of course, a half hour later he was attempting to talk his way into keeping our Toys for Tots donation. The debate did not end in his favor...so another item made its way onto his Christmas list.

*The "My Niyamas" (My Habits) chart is something Ari's preschool sends home each week as part of their emotional literacy curriculum. It lists several healthy habits (sleep, intentions, healthy eating, hygiene, gratitude, exercise) throughout the day and the kids check them off as they go through their week. Ari's not really into it so I thought I'd do it for myself and hang our charts up together...I'm finding that I'm not able to check off that many boxes. Hm.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

And Another Year

Ari's Last Day Being 3

We so much wanted them to grow...so they could communicate, could understand, could stop crying, throwing tantrums, hanging on our pant legs. So we could carry less and less snacks and sippy cups and diapers in our bulging bags. We so much wanted them to grow more and more independent...so they could play alone for maybe a whole 15 minutes at once...and we could finish fixing dinner.

However.

Life has a funny way of leading you to irony.

Now, I can't help but feel a wave of melancholy as each birthday arrives...fighting the urge to push them back down those few inches to the stature they possessed a year ago.

"You mean my baby's going to be 4? Well."

Last year the surprise gift was a toddler scooter. This year it's two-wheeler with training wheels. Almost feels like next year they'll be asking for the car keys.

As I ruminated on Ally's birthday, "Slow your grow, kid. Slow your grow."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Insanity Defined

Insanity = 2 children under the age of 4 + 6 hours in the air + 4 cities + 1 gluten intolerance + 1 wedding


It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hi, Walker...

Ally has finally decided that it's time to start walking without assistance...quite possibly the only time in her life that it will be socially acceptable to walk like a drunk. Enjoy it, my dear - as will I.


video

Actually, now that I watch this video, there isn't a ton of walking going on.

But the tutu's cute.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Oy vey

It's 12:30 p.m. A supposed-to-be-napping one year old is yelling in her crib. She has 90 minutes left to nap before I need to transfer her to the car for Ari's summer camp pick-up. If she does not get her full two hours to nap, our afternoon turns from sketchy to nightmarish. During naptime, I need to finish up a tax problem with the city, quickly check and promptly (though not willingly) ignore any new email, prep afternoon snack and dinner, prep afternoon activity, straighten up tornado-ed house, check pre-vacation to-do list, shower...oh, and eat lunch.

It was in the middle of my pointless email check that I came across this:


And because I have no more time to spend on this post, I would just like to pass on a hearty THANK YOU to Dear Carolyn for her response...and I'd like to add that while we're doing everything Carolyn described we're also trying to grocery shop, meal plan, cook for challenging eaters, finagle our way through health or marital problems, keep the house clean, the laundry folded, the hair cut, the appointments made, and deal with our own lack of self worth because we look like shit, feel like shit and we "don't have a real job".

"Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?"*

*If you are not familiar with this quote then maybe you shouldn't be reading this blog.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Hand Extended

And then there's that moment when your blindly reaching hand makes contact...

The past couple weeks have been emotionally rough for me. I won't go into any more details than in the post below...though that doesn't even begin to cover it. Suffice to say, I have been slowly coming to the resolve that I need to move on. To let the chips fall where they are and allow my energy to gather and focus on "the next thing"...new people, new experiences, new acceptance that what is isn't necessarily good or bad, it simply is. It is my own mind that attaches meaning to it. And, here's the kicker, I can choose that meaning. Huh. There's something on which to meditate.

...but anyway, back to that blindly reaching hand...

I received an email this morning from a friend, Dear Gentle One, that I had almost put into that I-love-her-and-really-miss-her-but-think-we've-moved-in-different-directions part of my heart. There are so many people in that part of my heart that adding Dear Gentle One hurt a bit. But then I opened my email and found her words. And the comfort and relief of re-realizing the sameness in us...of finding like in another human being...brought me to tears. And I was so grateful for her words. She reminded me that some people will always be there, even unexpectedly, and that helped heal part of my heart. She also reminded me of my worth, and at a time when it's hard for me to find it on my own, that reminder could be life-saving. So thank you, Dear Gentle One. Though far apart, you are always in my heart.

**I'd also like to thank an old friend that sent unexpected support as well. Thank you, Valley Girl.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Keep Breathing

You keep putting yourself out there. You keep trying. You get up in the morning. Again. You reach. You extend a hand. Sometimes in hope. Sometimes in desperation.

Only to have it chopped off.

Sometimes you feel that you are just not of this world. That you just don't belong. "When do I get to go home?" you ask.

That's often how I feel. And so I just keep breathing.

Maybe I'm being melodramatic with the hand-chopping bit but there has been some disappointment lately. Losing friends to relocation...whether they relocated emotionally or physically, doesn't really matter. Health problems with the kids. My continued struggle with depression. A poorly-planned trip that will, in all probability, not happen (further alienating one relocating friend).

Keep breathing.

I'm one of those people who puts a lot of pressure on herself. To do everything; to fix the world; to be pleasing. When, in actuality, I suck. I do next to nothing. I break more than I fix. I am as flawed as they come. Depression blankets life and muffles any extra energy or conviction to accomplish. And still, I expect pleasing perfection.

There was a time several years ago that survival depended upon the "keep breathing" mantra...one minute at a time, one hour, one day...until finally it, once again, became rote and I could automatically breathe my way through an entire week. Back then, I could either be pleasing or I could grasp with both hands my final thread of sanity. I chose the latter. And, somehow, I kept breathing.

So maybe that's the trick. "Fake it till you make it, " was a favorite saying of an old friend. I detested hearing that then...and still do. But maybe that's what you need to do when you have no other option. You keep putting yourself out there. You keep trying. You get up in the morning. Again. You reach. You extend a hand. Sometimes in hope. Sometimes in desperation. And, because the alternative is not an option, you keep breathing.

Keep Breathing

The storm is coming but i don't mind.
People are dying, i close my blinds.

All that i know is i'm breathing now.

I want to change the world...instead i sleep.
I want to believe in more than you and me.

But all that i know is i'm breathing.
All i can do is keep breathing.
All we can do is keep breathing now.

All that i know is i'm breathing.
All i can do is keep breathing.
All we can do is keep breathing now.

All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing.
All we can do is keep breathing now.
Ingrid Michaelson


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

She's A Lightworker

I received an email in response to the post below. This woman guided three children through the 70s, 80s and 90s...during a time that parenthood was not valued as it is now. I'd like to share a bit of what she said.
Well said and I have no words of comment--except--the rule of doctors everywhere also applies to moms everywhere--First and foremost--DO NO HARM--that is a tall order, and usually only apparent in hindsight. Where were insights and videos like this when I needed them most to put my life into perspective? Where was the approval and the high ideals then? Would have been nice to be valued back then--by the world. But we are not supposed to care what the world thinks--
Yes, I know. Do no harm. Though, I believe it's not just apparent in hindsight. It's apparent front and center...the trick is remembering that in the absolute present...and keeping it when your temper is about to burst like that volcano you watched on PBS with your son last night ("Mommy, those hurt people, don't they?" "Yes they do, honey. Yes they do.")

I forget the Do No Harm ideal. Well. I guess "forget" isn't the right word. Rather, my temper sneaks up, stabs that ideal in the back and pins it to the wall so I can go on a half-second rampage. But that half-second is enough to do some serious damage. This morning, I yelled at my daughter. She's 12 months old. Twelve freaking months. She was crying and whining on the floor while I was simultaneously trying to cook breakfast, prepare school lunch and prep a crockpot meal for dinner. The whining had been going on all morning. It has been a month with precious little sleep for me. The milk was boiling over. And then she started in with some screeching. I lost it. And yelled. The second it was out of my mouth, I regretted it with every cell of my body and scooped her up as she started to cry. And then I started to cry. My tears lasted a good hour and a half longer than hers. Regardless of the soothing and the "I'm sorry's", the damage was already done. In haste, in anger, in lack of self-care...we hurt. The damage was already done. And that's why I spent my morning in tears.

The mother who shared that email had a lot less support than I do. From society. From her partner. From the knowledge that is building a force in this world. And I just shake my head about that lack of support AND at the fact that she did it anyway. She probably would have benefited from some of what we're learning now. About the value of love over competition; peace over war; "there's enough for all" over "gimme my share"; the importance of guiding children (not just raising - you "raise" chickens) in a way that teaches them how to use their worth to change the world.

So..."do no harm"? Impossible. Hell, we harm ourselves. How on earth can we not harm something so fragile (and yet so resilient) as a growing child. But when you start to value the job you're doing...when the world's energy starts to resonate with the worth of that job...it helps. It helps you do less harm...to yourself and to your kids. And it helps you remember your function here on Earth...what it was you were sent to do. And maybe, somewhere in the middle of all of that, dear Lightworker, you'll do some good.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thrive

"To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else."
~Emily Dickinson

...which is precisely why I've not written for six weeks. To save my five readers from a prosaic litany of the "reasons why", I'll suffice to say that we have been growing, discovering, learning, imagining, moving, creating, expending energy and renewing energy, resting and then becoming tired again. We have been living. Enough said.

When the need to write again pushes itself to the surface, like our strawberry seedlings outside, you will then hear from me. Until then, I bid you to go live life.

Go.

Thrive.



Sunday, April 25, 2010

April Twenty-five

My baby's last day of being 0...

...slow your grow, kid, slow your grow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Soul Food #1

My Morning Prayer

God, grant me the grace to get through this day well. To honor you in my actions and words. To walk gently on this earth. Gently enough to hear Spirit in my heart and follow. Allow me to hold this day sacred and acknowledge it as the gift that it is.

"I shut my eyes in order to see."
~Paul Gauguin

Monday, March 1, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Cleansing Project, Need #1: Our Kitchen, Our Food

My life will always have dirty dishes.
If this sink can become
a place of contemplation,
let me learn constancy here.
~Gunilla Norris

The kitchen.

In my meditation on the needs of this household over the past couple weeks, my attention continues to wander full circle back to the kitchen. It seems I spend approximately 70% of my waking home hours cooking in it, cleaning it or planning out the execution of our daily lives in it. This is our art gallery, our walls feathered with primary color paintings, foam art, paper cuttings of various shapes and sizes. It is also our art studio and game room; an entire cabinet dedicated to Play-Do, paints, stickers, puzzles and the like. This is Baby Food Maker Central with all the steaming, pureeing, freezing and bagging that entails. This is the room that needs to be cleaned at least three times every day. This is the meal and week-planning hub of our lives...the stacks of cookbooks, grocery lists, coupon inserts, flyers, activity notices and calendars attesting to the fact that "shit happens here"...and not in an entirely organized way. This is the room that so often hears "What the hell are we going to have for dinner?!" as I dig, hip-deep through the contents of the freezer. The room that witnesses my blind rush in the morning when I realized that, again, I failed to plan and pack school lunch the night before. The room that cringes when I sigh in frustration that, again, I procrastinated in the weekly grocery shop and now we're out of milk.

Clearly, my meal planning could benefit from a bit of an overhaul. As could the command center that is Our Kitchen.

And so last week I finally bit the bullet. I sent Sascha and the kids on a pre-planned activity with well-stocked diaper bag and sat down at the kitchen table, amidst my piles, and began the painful process of planning our food for the week. For some reason, I loathe this part of my job and I think it's because I never learned how...how to cook, how to plan meals, how to enjoy it. I never learned and it doesn't come naturally so I battle with this. And, damnit, it's time to come to terms. Gone will be the panicked mid-week mini shops after I imaginatively come up with dinner on the drive to preschool pickup. No longer will I scrape the bottom of the baby formula can and realize there is not a back-up can. I enthusiastically welcomed the idea of Organized Living.

It took me an hour and a half.

Granted, 40 minutes of that was spent griping to a friend and saging the house (nothing like clearing out the emotional debris, I say). But still, it took me that long to focus on the task at hand and knock out a menu for four people (with vastly different eating preferences) for a week. It'll get easier, it'll get easier, it'll get easier...

When I returned from the planned and organized grocery shop 90 minutes later, the house seemed fresher, more attractive and I felt a lot more calm about the coming week. Maybe smudging the house helped, maybe it was having a plan and feeling prepared in one realm of existence. Whatever the reason, "fresh" and "attractive" are welcome feelings. And I think I'll do it again this week.

Some Online Support (S.O.S.)

Raise Healthy Eaters 's Family Meal Planning Series has been a godsend. This entire blog, started by a San Diego mom struggling to feed her young, picky child, provides nutrition information, recipe ideas and emotional support for parents in similar situations. Kicks butt.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Slaying The Dragon

I was searching for reassurance this morning as I took five minutes to luxuriate in a sip of hot, fresh coffee and sit down with my Daybook of Comfort and Joy in the 10:30 a.m. silence granted by preschool and naptime. The past week has me spinning, exhausted and falling prey to the germs lurking in our dusty, cat-hairy corners. With a preschooler finally back in preschool, an infant with a nasty cough and a husband still in bed with the flu, things have been piling up and my excitement over the commencement of last week's project is quickly turning into panic as I realize my week is up soon and I have yet to accomplish A THING...aside from some extreme pessimism and self-directed frustration at my own tantrums and outbursts over the past week.

So I was searching for reassurance as I communed with Ms. Ban Breathnach, hoping to find a light for the end of my tunnel or a silver lining for my cloud.

She talked with me about dragons.
Our dragons are our fears: our day stalkers, our night sweats. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failing. Fear of starting something new and not finishing. Again. Or the real fear....the fear of succeeding...and facing the changes that will inevitably bring.
And I realized that I have some dragons. We all do, I suppose. And to just blithely trip through life without taking our dragons into account is an act of lunacy, if not downright sabotage.

And I think that's what happened to me this week. I forgot to allow for the dragon. Her name is Betsy. She's chartreuse. With a pink tail. Yes, she's sassy-looking but she's not real nice. She's made up of a considerable amount of self-contempt and impatience, which then leads to a donning of gray-tinted glasses. She doesn't finish things. She's kind of selfish, needing and desiring some "me" time and look out if she doesn't get it. Yet at the same time she puts herself and her needs in absolute last place forming a sort of passive-aggressive self-care program (or lack thereof). None of this is remotely beneficial in raising a family and running a home.

So that's Betsy. She's been there the whole time but we were never introduced until this morning. I wish I could tell you that we're now working out our differences but that's not quite the case. What we're currently doing is that wary, circular dance, glaring at each other through slitted, suspicious eyes. I supposed I'm her dragon too.

I hope I'll have something concrete to report Thursday...some tangible step forward in the Project. But considering the Life handed to us last week, I may not. And I'm going to learn how to be okay with that. Because Betsy has a lot to teach.
Women have always known how to deal with dragons hiding under beds or lurking in closets. We turn on the lights and reassure worried souls with love. We need to slay the dragons in our minds the same way.

Today, if you feel frightened or unsure about the future, pick up the double-edged sword of Light and Love. Always remember, it's not an adventure worth telling if there aren't any dragons. ~Sarah Ban Breathnach

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I love you...don't breathe on me


Our Valentines Weekend

Sascha: down
Ari: down
Ally: coming down
Wendy: and she's still up, ladies and gentlemen

Thursday, February 11, 2010

So It Begins...

Sigh.

I walk downstairs at 8am with Ari plastered to my front. Having awakened at 6am to a hungry baby, I've already been up for two hours but it took all that time to prep the bottle, empty the dishwasher, have my morning cuddle with Ally and then transfer with Sascha so I could coddle a sick Ari for over an hour. This is the second time he's been sick this month and I've learned that the difference between a good stay-home day and a bad stay-home day in his mind is morning time with Mommy. Ah, the learnings of an emotional and sensitive child.

So anyway, back to that sigh. As I walked down the stairs I came into full view of the living room carpet...and the huge pile of kitty puke in the middle of it. Sigh. Our family has become quite familiar with "Bella throw up", as Ari calls it. He even likes to help me find the extra piles in the vomit trail, all the while exclaiming "yuck, gross". According to our vet, Bella may have irritable bowel disease...ergo, the cat vomit I clean up at least three times a week. After months of this, it's getting old.

I don't dare complain too much or Sascha will start in with his old mantra of "animal shelter animal shelter animal shelter" and since I have chosen the full-term responsibility of care for these two little animal souls, I really don't want to be hearing that. So I clean up the puke. In all fairness, Sascha handles litter box detail (unbelievably) so I really have no place being irritated with his mantra.

But that early morning throw up got me to thinking...I really need to just cleanse this place. I mean a full physical cleansing...which will, in effect, make way for the spiritual and emotional cleansing this home so desperately needs. People (and cats) have been ill, spirits have been low, piles have accumulated and chaos seems to be the order of the day. It is time.

And so I invite you along on this cleansing journey. I will go through this house, room by room, space by space and need by need. Restoring order, repairing brokenness and assisting the return of health and healing. Heck, I may even sage the place.

Yes, some of it will be mundane...there's only so much excitement involved with the sorting of outgrown clothes. But some of it will be transformative, if only just for me. It's my intention that I learn something along the way, clear the debris from my soul and make spiritual space for the projects to which I'm feeling called.

So check in every week to see what we've been up to...which piles have been eradicated; which closets cleared and the discoveries made. We may even find a way to heal our vomit comet that is Bella.

"If a home doesn't make sense, nothing does."
~ Henrietta Ripperger


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Over And Over Again

It was a loud drive home from our play date today. Ally, exhausted beyond words and constipated to boot, was screaming bloody murder from her car seat. Ari, exhausted beyond words and frustrated, his sensitive ears ringing with Ally's screams, was trying to tell me something but each time I asked him to speak louder he only softened his voice. Eventually he fell apart with a strangled sob of grief and despair.

That sound stopped me in my tracks.

Because I had experienced it myself. Over and over again.

But I'm an adult with almost 35 years to my credit. He has been on this earth not even three and a half years.

"Oh, Ari. Hon. Would you like to hold my hand?" I offered from the driver's seat. "Yes!" he gasped with desperation and sobbed as our arms reached across the chasm between our seats. I never do this anymore...hold his hand while I'm driving. It's something I haven't done for two years. But I could see he was desperate for a base to hold him down from his outward spiral and, for once, I could be his rock with only compassion in my heart. That doesn't happen very often now that he's a preschooler...usually it's frustration and exasperation tinged with just a hue of compassion.

As Ari quieted down and Ally fell asleep, I started thinking about that sob. When that desperate sound has passed my own lips, it was at times when my broken spirit pooled around my feet and I believed I just couldn't take one more step...times when I would rather die than try anymore. Death, however, doesn't entertain ridiculous invitations and I know that. So I keep on breathing and eventually learn how to take one more step. Over and over again. That's the base of experience a 34 year old holds. A three year old, however, can't fathom the fact that life will go on after this most wretched moment. For him, the world really is ending...even if it's only due to a loudmouth baby sister. And so he needs a hand to hold, a rock to anchor him to the earth.

Luckily, a hand and a hug (and maybe taking a break with Curious George) are usually all he needs to pull through these moments. The hard times are when I cause his heartache...when something I did or something I said or the way I said it makes his little lips clamp shut, his face turn red and his eyes well up...trying so hard to hold it inside until it slips out in a little whimper and then a little sob. I wasn't the cause of the sadness today. But tomorrow, I might be.

We try and we try and we try but, ultimately, we fail. And we break their hearts. Over and over again. And we tuck them into bed with a kiss and then climb into our own beds and cry and then get up again in the morning and try all over again.

But their grace and unbounded love save us. And they forgive us. Over and over again.