Monday, June 24, 2013

mind the gap: sometimes i yell.

When I held my newborn child in my arms for the first time, especially after his traumatic birth, I wouldn't have believed you if you told me that I would ever want to yell at him.  Yell at him?!? How could I ever yell at this tiny, helpless babe?  How could I even consider yelling at him?  How could I ever even feel frustrated by him?   

It happened.  I can't remember the first time but I could name at least six or seven from today.  That urge to yell.  Sometimes its just that, just an urge that I can subdue with the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, gentleness and faithfulness that should be flowing through me daily (right?!).  Sometimes I have to pull out my secret weapon, SELF-CONTROL, to woman-handle that yell back where it belongs.  In those moments you might be able to hear me grind my teeth, not smiling but not exactly frowning.  Probably just staring.

And sometimes I yell. That's right, sometimes I yell at my child.  He's almost three.  If you have a strong-willed child, or maybe any child, you'll know what I mean.  I am absolutely in love with him and he also does things that make me cray-zay, and not in a fun way.  I really thought I was a nice person until I had two toddlers not going to sleep on a red-eye flight across Canada.

Sometimes I impress myself with my ability to choose patience and kindness, or at least muster up a few ounces of shut my mouth control.
And sometimes I just yell.

I don't want to yell at my children.  It's not fun for anyone.  It makes them change what they are doing because they are scared.  I send them into fight or flight mode which is not helpful in actually learning any kind of lesson.  And it makes me feel bad afterward.  It's not the parent I want to be.

I've been reading Brene Brown's "Daring Greatly" for the past few months and this afternoon I had a few minutes to read a chapter called "Mind the Gap".  Brene, a researcher on shame and vulnerability, was writing about what happens when the culture that we aspire to foster in our family doesn't line up with our actual practices.  When this happens routinely, or there is a gap between what we teach our children and what we actually model to them, disengagement occurs.  And the last thing I want, from my toddlers or my teenagers, is disengagement.

So how do we "mind the gap" between the values that we aspire to and the values that we actually practice in the day to day?  I don't want there to be yelling in our house and I'm trying to teach my children to speak kindly to people, but right now I do occasionally yell.  I believe that I can see my yelling instinct be transformed but it is going to take some time.  In the meantime?  I apologize.

Rather than let shame cover me over and fill my mind with lies that I'm a terrible mother and my children are going to run from me as soon as they can, I acknowledge my mistake to myself.  Brene describes the difference between shame and guilt as believing you are a terrible person and believing that you did something wrong.  When we become resilient to shame we are able to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes and move forward.  I've decided to really tune into my thoughts immediately after I make a poor choice and make sure I reject any thoughts that are shaming.

And then I simply tell my children (usually my son) that I'm sorry for yelling.  I shouldn't have yelled, it's not a nice way to talk to people and would he forgive me.  He always does, it's such a beautiful thing.  "Tuddle, mama" and he cuddles me to that sweet reconciled place.  I'm learning the healing power of grace and forgiveness, even from my two year old and he's learning the importance of apology, that even moms and dads make mistakes and have room to grow.

Brene writes:
Mind the gap is a daring strategy.  We have to pay attention to the space between where we're actually standing and where we want to be.  More importantly, we have to practice the values that we're holding out as important in our culture.  Minding the gap requires both an embrace of our own vulnerability and cultivation of shame resilience -- we're going to be called upon to show up as leaders and parents and educators in new and uncomfortable ways.  We don't have to be perfect, just engaged and committed to aligning values with action.
As a recovering perfectionist, these are liberating words.  I don't have to be perfect to be doing a good (even great) job as a parent.  I just need to mind the gap.

This is a great post by The Orange Rhino: 12 Steps to Stop Yelling at Your Kids

Is yelling a struggle for you?  Has anything helped you to yell less as a parent?  As always I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

links that make me go 'mmmm'

7 Cheap and Awesome Items to Add to Your Toddlers Toy Shelf: Becoming Peculiar
  I've tried a few of these and they are a hit in our house!  My 17 month old loves shoving the pom poms in the glass jar.  Also, she loves throwing the glass jar, but we are working on that.

Mislabeling the Word of God: Yaholo Hoyt for Red Letter Christians
  Do we idolize  the Bible over 'the WORD' himself? (Jesus)

from the heart: how letting go allows me to truly live: Michaela Evanow
  My dear friend keeps blowing me away and breaking my heart with her honesty about the path she is on with her baby girl.  

deeper dignified dialogue: kathy escobar
  How can we engage more deeply with people with whom we have big differences?  Kathy has a few posts on this topic.

Exodus International to Shut Down:
  This is big news any way you slice it.

picture blurry because: madly rocking out

If your son asks you to buy a $1 electric guitar pillow at a thrift store, BUY IT FOR HIM!!  Even if you think there are better toys, like a cool train engine or something wooden.  Because he will play it endlessly, with a real pick.

In the southern hemisphere we survived the longest night of the year last night, so now our sun will stay with us a bit longer each day and nothing can stop it.  That makes me happy just thinking about it.  Hope you have a great weekend, wherever you are.

What have you been writing about or reading these days?  I would love to hear!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

when we buy art, we know we are home

It's been a full week here, in the best sense, drinking deeply from our community and being refreshed as our roots sink down a little further.  Sharing meals with friends who could be family, my dad's famous pizza dough recipe making bellies full while children wrestle and run wild.  (Our downstairs neighbour asked if we are training for the Olympics, a twinkle in his eye.  Gracious, he is, knowing our son since he was just learning to belly crawl.)

We also experimented with a Thai style curry with eggplant and brussel sprouts - I suspected I shouldn't have tried a new recipe (because: brussel sprouts) with dinner guests but they gobbled it up grateful, maybe to humour me but I'll never know.

There were friends stopping in on rainy days and long walks in our neighbourhood, sun warming winter skin.  We knock on neighbour doors with strawberries in hand, talk of Ramadan preparation and sadly they are moving home soon, we share zataar on Lebanese bread, always a favorite.

Another friend stopped by with her kids, the older is almost four and still nurses and in her home culture that's pretty common.  We commiserated together because they seem to need more than we want to give, but isn't that often the way of parenting?  It's good to have a space to complain about your choices, because even when you feel they are the best choices for your family, it can still be hard, isn't that true?  We watched our nurslings take turns rocking out on a little guitar.

And last Saturday morning was the monthly artists gathering on our street, so we walked up there, the four of us.  A young man in too small over-alls sang with his guitar case open and baristas brought coffees to people I've never seen before sitting in the grass.  It's nice to see people coming to our street for hot drinks and art rather than sex and alcohol.  I saw a large painting and liked it, calling my husband over and he did as well.  It was about 60% off the original price, by a local artist who pays cheap rent for a small studio two blocks up from us and we said we'll take it, we didn't even think about it.

When we moved into our very first place, after about six months of newlywed house-sitting I cried when we needed to buy things, because I'm like that.  I don't like spending money frivolously and when my husband mentioned that we would need to look for a refrigerator I was on edge:  "I'm pretty sure we can get by without a 'frigerator!"  But of course we bought one, second-hand and a washing machine as well and we were given beds and dressers and we made other purchases to complete our tiny apartment, a baby already hanging curtains in my growing belly.  It was hard for me, not even sure how long we would stay there and can't we just keep a few boxes packed up for a quick escape?

Three and a half years later, over two years into our second apartment together and we finally bought some art for our gray, windowless walls.  Maybe they're trees whose roots go deep into fertile soil, faces turned to the bluest Australian sky.  Or maybe, as a friend imagined, it's our local smokestacks reborn, turning into the green-brown strong of life, a prophetic piece reminding us that even massive towers of poisoned metal will one day be made new.  Either way we are happy to have some art on our wall and in our family, a frivolous purchase maybe, but more important than I know.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

links that make me go 'mmmmmm'.

 Here's a few posts that I read this week and probably forwarded along to my husband or a friend.  I'm going to try to get in the habit of doing this more regularly.  It's Saturday morning here, the sun is shining on our new winter. We're in the middle of turning our second bedroom into a bit of a playroom and packing away summer clothes for long pants, hoodies and scarves.  Hope you have a great weekend wherever you are!

10 Decisions You Can Make to Change the World - Jim Wallis @ Sojourners (Be encouraged and inspiried!!)

The Peril of Complacent Ambiguity - Jess in Process  (This is a brave, grieving mama's understanding of why terrible things happen in the world.)

Tougher Than Lion Taming: When Your Child Hits Your Other Child - Aha! Parenting (A great gentle parenting resource ... not that my children would ever hit each other ... *cough*)

Kids on the Block - Craig Greenfield writing @ DL Mayfield's blog (For when you worry that your neighbourhood will negatively affect your kids ...)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Path of Least Resistance (or, 16 months of Tandem Nursing)

One of the most frequent searches that draws people to my blog is related to tandem nursing.  Sometimes it's "what is it like to tandem nurse" or "fed up with tandem nursing" or "tandem nursing older children".  For those of you interested in our family's journey with two nurselings (and I know that's not everyone who reads my blog and that's okay) I thought I'd share where we are at these days.  I wrote about how things were going at 4 months and then at 10 months and somehow six more months of life has happened and here we are again.  16 months of tandem nursing.  (Almost 17 now as I started this post awhile ago ... )

I wrote in a post on my word for the year, "capacity", that I'm planning to wean my older child (currently 34 months, aka 2 3/4) by the end of the year.  Hopefully.  When Saf was first born my plan was to nurse him until at least 18 months but maybe to 2, since that's what the World Health Organization recommends at minimum.  But the thought of nursing a running, shouting toddler freaked me out quite a bit.  I could handle a new baby I thought, but a boy speaking complete sentences?  That seemed pretty weird.  But as many parents who have gone before can testify, just as that baby grew and developed so did our nursing relationship.  It's been lots of things:  easy, bonding, annoying, tiresome, aggravating, special, healing, reconciling - but it's never been weird.

We finally  night-weaned Saf for real, for real and I am very pleased to share that for the past two months he has slept really, really well.  He is still parented to sleep each night by his dad who lays next to him in bed and tells him a story that becomes a story-song, which becomes a song and then some kind of hypnotizing hum (I'm guessing).  That routine takes anywhere from 5-30 minutes depending on how tired he is but my husband is sooo happy to no longer be bouncing/rocking/dancing our 35 pound son to sleep.  He will probably complain of his bad back everyday for the rest of his life anyway.  Sometimes I didn't think it was possible, but we now have a great sleeper who still shares a bed with us, but with rarely a wake up.  If you're a parent approaching sleep gently, be encouraged.  It may not be the quickest or most efficient road but you can get there.  It took us a long time, but a few good nights of sleep can erase years of rough ones pretty quickly.  [A slight update: we've been back from two months abroad for about a week and he has been somewhat wakeful but we are hoping it's an adjustment period.  Very, very hoping.  Please, God.  Amen.]

We've been in four countries in the past four months and just returned from SE Asia.  Transition is hard on toddlers generally and we have a sensitive one.  He's also a bit wild, so that is a noisy combination if not handled with care.  Like, you will feel ringing in at least one ear.  Nursing him when he asks nicely has been a very easy way to help him feel secure with all of the transition we've had recently.  I do set limits though and I've found that if he is very upset and demanding "nai-nai" then it's extremely aggravating for me to nurse him.  I have to wait until he can calm down and take a few deep breaths, or sometimes I'll just find another way to help him settle (holding him in my arms while walking around and singing usually works).  I also usually keep our nursing sessions fairly short, probably less than two minutes usually.  I almost always end the session before he wants to be done.  I would have thought by this age he would become bored and finish on his own, but no.  Almost never.  So he typically still nurses 4-6 times a day but it's for very short amounts of time and it's usually all that he needs to re-set himself and get on with life feeling safer.  I asked him once what my milk tastes like and he said, "It tastes like honey.  And peanut butter.  And vegemite!".  What a great combination.  No wonder he doesn't want to stop.

My younger nurseling, Jubee, is almost 17 months.  She probably gets half of her calories from table food and half from breast milk these days, although she is known to still go back to only milk for the day if no food inspires her palate.  She's a healthy size, about 24 pounds, a little bulldozer who can tackle boys and snatch toys with the best of them.  She still nurses 3-6 times a night, more if she is teething, but her night-waking has always been only momentary (nothing like my son who would wake for hours until we eliminated dairy from his diet).  She probably nurses at least 12 times a day.  That only seems like a lot to me some of the time.  Sometimes people, not knowing that I still nurse Saf, will ask me when I'm going wean her.  It has hardly even crossed my mind. 

When people see how close my kids are in age (17 months apart) they often ask if Saf is jealous of Jubee.  It's actually the opposite - Jubee is quite jealous of Saf, especially when he is having milk.  She often will start crying when she sees him nursing, or if she hears him asking me she'll run and jump in my lap and start asking for nai-nai too.  I rarely nurse them simultaneously anymore (although when I do they almost can't drink because they are smiling at each other so much).  I always count to ten with Saf when I'm ending the nursing session and recently Jubee started to come over if he is nursing and say "2 .... 2 .... 2....".   When I do start to count him down she will immediately stop crying and do the most triumphant smile.  Hilarious.  She's almost always the priority when it comes to milk and they both seem okay with that.

I have a week every month where I feel very sensitive and touched out and aggravated when nursing my older child.  I'm pretty sure it's hormonal and I have to trust it will pass (and it does) but it's a tough few days to get through.  It's pretty much severe PMS.  A friend just told me to try magnesium supplements and my husband was already googling to find out the maximum dose I can take as if he has some kind of vested interest in it. 

My good friend had to instantly wean her 13 month old daughter when she was admitted to the hospital recently.  Her story brought me to tears and made me so grateful for the opportunity I have to nurse my children with such ease.  As hard as it is sometimes I want to treasure this as long as I can knowing that there are many moms who have planned and dreamed to nurse and not been able to, or have had to stop nursing suddenly. 

It's still the good/hard that it was when I started but the good is heavier than my children are, at least most of the time.

If you're a tandem nursing mom, what has your experience been like?  If you're a nursing mom have you struggled with extreme mood swings and found anything that has helped?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

a small life update, just in case you were wondering.

We are back home now after spending two months in SE Asia, entering Australia as residents for the first time.  I have things to write about our time away which I'll  do soon.  We didn't have much internet acess in the last few weeks we were gone, hence the lack of posts and if you are a FB friend you'll notice we were pretty quiet there too.  I can't lie, it was surprisingly nice not to have eternal access to the world-wide web.  I only missed it a little bit.

It's quiet in our neighbourhood, with winter setting her sights on us and the sun clocking out early.  It's a funny thing to go from so many people all around, because of house-sharing with four kids under 3 and the crowded spaces of an Asian city, to a neighbourhood that's virtually deserted by 5pm, unless you are in a bar or looking for a sexually exploited woman.  We miss having a bustling night market  a street over, where many evenings afforded us a one dollar smoothie or bubble tea.  It's good to have my kids back in car seats when we are driving but I miss the togetherness of crazy traffic, with all the people going somewhere in a culture where relationship matters more than anything else.  It feels a bit lonely, a whole apartment to ourselves and dark, empty streets.

my boys, no seatbelts.

Our first night home, when we realized we suddenly had to start cooking food again (after eating most meals in very, very cheap restaurants for two months) I took Saf up the street to the little Macedonian grocery store, where the owner and her husband have kept watch for 40 years.  I always wonder if people will remember us when we've been gone a couple of months.  They do.  They asked about our trip, remarked on my son's growth and showed me pictures of their first grandchild, seven months old now.  I picked up the milk and veggies we needed, also a can of beans and said we would see them again soon.  Our next door neighbours were very excited to see us and to hear we didn't have plans to leave again anytime soon.  "You're true, blue Aussies now!  We just have to work on yer accents!"  It's a good thing to be known.

Every time I've arrived home, wherever that place is, it's much relief with a touch of sadness, always, every time. 

My kids will turn 17 and 34 months soon.  Jubee will be half of Saf's age, for the only time in their life.  Is that interesting?  She'll also be the age that Saf was when she was born and that is crazy to me as she seems like such a bay-bay and he already was a big brother, learning to be independent from me while still needing me so much.

I've really enjoyed thrift store shopping since being back.  I've scored some pretty cool stuff, including "Winnie The Pooh:  The Complete Collection of Stories and Poems" for $6.  Also red boots and red shoes for Jubee that are beyond adorable.  My kids live in generous, high quality hand-me downs and gifts from people so I very rarely buy them anything, not even second hand.  I was happy to find that my daughter actually needed shoes for this winter and that I got to treasure hunt in four second-hand shops for them.

I've been reading a couple of books lately, "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown, on vulnerability and shame.  Also "An Altar in the World" by Barbara Brown Taylor which is wandering and beautifully written, on the practices of life that make up our daily grind but are an invitation into the holy.  I'm not quite finished with both but highly recommend them.  My husband also read a book, his first in a good long while, "Naked Spirituality" by Brian Mclaren.  I think it took him about a year to finish, but he loves it and would read me large chunks of it, so I almost feel like I read it to.  Chris wants it to be the next on my list.

Chris got us a vegetarian cookbook app - Green Kitchen - because we ate way, way too much meat while we were traveling and my husband likes to swing to opposing extremes.  We are no longer buying meat, apparently.  Tonight we had a vegetarian chili with dark chocolate.  That sounds yummy and strange, because it is.  Both kids gobbled it up and there wasn't even MSG in it.

I'm hoping to put my roots down in this writing space a bit deeper, I want to be more willing to hit "publish" and less obsessed with feeling extremely proud of everything I write.  I just want to write more.  I'm also trying to get Chris to guest post on here sometime.  That boy won my heart with his writing but he acts like two crazy toddlers and a demanding wife doesn't leave him with much time to create.  Hmph.  He says he doesn't want to share the blog with me but I'm hoping he will at least become a regular contributor.  We'll see.

Here's to getting the grease flowing on the old blog again.  Cheers.