Category Archives: Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from my Kid

Recent Thoughts on Being a Working Mom

backyard chalk doodles

backyard chalk doodles

I’ve realized in the past few months, another reason why writing has been such a salve for me in my first years of motherhood and I’m inclined to share – for myself, for others who have had or are having a similar experience, and for those who have noticed some curious tendencies in new moms.

New moms can be rather demanding of attention.  Has anybody else noticed this?  They can keep on talking beyond the standard social cues that would have previously silenced them.  They keep on writing in the same fashion.  They keep on pushing forward against obstacles that would in other circumstances be considered significant enough to alter their course.  Why?

I think that it’s because becoming a parent has the effect of simultaneously making us the most relevant person in the life of our child and the least relevant person on the broader playing field of our life.  Parents tend to disappear from the public view.  Some of us take this in stride and simply abandon whatever endeavors interested us before becoming parents.
I wish that I could be that person, because it seems like it would be a lot easier to maintain a state of grace with that approach to parenting.
Others of us keep trying, keep pushing, keep talking, keep writing.  We probably have different reasons for doing so, but I’d guess that some of it has to do with how much we’ve married our identities to our work.  Those of us who have invested a tremendous amount of our energy in our work will find it very difficult to relinquish those ties in exchange for the fulfilling intimacy that we have with our children.  We just can’t quite imagine that it will be enough for our hearts and minds, because we thrive on the sense of accomplishment that we get from our work.

What we get for trying to have all-that-and-heaven-too is a nearly constant state of trying to-do-the-impossible.  Eventually we come to accept that we are going to do pretty much everything half-baked and not really look our best in the meanwhile.  I’ve spoken to enough working moms to have a sense that this is the norm within my little sphere.

I’m learning to have compassion for myself and constantly working to strike that perfect balance between all the aspects of myself that I feel are important to my happiness.  My life is a constant work in progress.

In that practice I’m also learning to have compassion for others.  It’s easiest to have compassion for others who are having a similar experience to me and in doing so I find some portion of healing for myself and I hope for those others as well.

Please share this post if you are a working mom, or you care about one.  A little compassionate understanding goes a long way.

Now He Is Three

For the Birthday Boy

For the Birthday Boy

My lack of writing time is starting to get to me.  Recently I had the idea that perhaps I could figure out a way to keep a weekly schedule.  We’ll see, it’s busy times around here.  This past weekend we had a birthday party for our little boy who turned three yesterday.  Three seems like a rather long time – as if certain things ought to be different by now.  When following that train of thought, I’m realizing that the size of the increments by which I measure such changes determines whether I feel that my life is a continual stream of potential being realized or an ever increasing mount of challenges.  I’m opting for the first perspective and therefore am learning to measure progress in very small steps.  As is so often the case with mental exercise, the results are proving to be compounding.  The more I focus on small improvements in my life, the more small improvements I notice and pretty soon things are looking pretty good (to borrow one of my son’s favorite phrases from a couple months back).  So I’ve got my positive frame of mind going for me.

About ten days ago, my husband got sick.  A couple days later I too became very congested.  We’re both still sick and as far as I’m concerned it was pretty much the perfect set up for a perfect birthday celebration.  It put things in perspective for me.  Since three is the first year that my boy is actually enthusiastic about celebrating his birthday, I wanted to make it special.  A little over two weeks ago I asked him how he wanted to celebrate his birthday.  He replied that he wanted cake and a party and toys that would be inside presents that he opened.  When I asked what kind of cake, he said strawberry.  I love a party.  I love to plan a party.  I love baking birthday cakes.  But I usually go overboard in some respect.  I tend to be the sort of person that over works and over does.  In this case my husband’s illness and my more mild cold demanded that I keep things simple.  Sweet and simple.  This meant that our boy enjoyed just the right amount of fun.  Just the right amount of cake.  Just the right amount of presents.  Just the right amount of everything.  And so did I.  I managed to put on two lovely parties without completely running myself into the ground.

That’s my simple story.  A sweet little reminder that sometimes what seems like a curse is really a blessing.  And once we are in that frame of mind, blessings are abound.

 

Cake and Crown to his liking

Cake and Crown to his liking

“Oh! Is today Mother’s Day?!”

A perfect treat for Mama!

A perfect treat for Mama!

That’s what my husband exclaimed after hearing our childcare provider and I chat about the special days in May between Mexico and the US – his Spanish isn’t complete so it takes him a while to grasp the content of conversations when we’re not talking in English.

He thought that Mother’s Day was next weekend.  He’s not good with dates.  And all he does is work and hang out with us so he’s pretty removed from the rest of the world.  Luckily for all involved, I’d resolved to handle my own Mother’s Day celebration.  Since one of my clients had brunch instead of Pilates, I’d already been to the Farmer’s Market for some fresh produce and a plan for homemade frozen yogurt with fruit and carob syrup was in development (I’d been reminiscing about the frozen yogurt bar at the Hudson’s Marketplace last week and had a hankering).

I’ve had some “big thoughts” on being a mom lately.  But today it seems that the lesson is a simple reminder that came by way of the morning’s events.  It’s something along the lines of fulfilling the role of mother completely involves knowing how to mother ourselves.

At the grocery store I asked the cashier if he’d called his mother yet.  He had some face piercings and perhaps judging from his appearance he might not be the sort of guy who was too eager to call his mom so I was careful to pose the question with a curious rather than nagging tone – indeed I was simply interested in sharing in my sense of celebration for moms everywhere.  His response was so sweet:  that he’d called her first thing, that he’d called her yesterday too, just in case he forgot today.  And furthermore that he had the feeling that she might be of the opinion that he called her a bit too much given his age.  Just goes to show, even the folks that may look a little rough have a mom who loves them and they love her right back.

Blessings to each and every mother out there and every child who loves her!

What a Batch of Gluten Free Pancakes Taught Me

gluten free pancakes

On a recent morning my boy and I were embarking on a new phase of our life together.  Since one of our nannies has moved on we have more time together.  This is mostly fun for both of us.  But as is typical of transitions there were some challenging moments when my patience was thin and when my boy’s change in routine was frustrating for him.  It was in the midst of one such moment that my suggestion of making pancakes for breakfast was enthusiastically received.  From the onset, I thought of mashing up a banana since it was the best fruit that we had on hand and I’ve come to think that pancakes with fruit are extra special.  It wasn’t until I’d gathered nearly all the grains out of the fridge that I realized we were out of flour.  All-purpose flour, that is.  We had buckwheat flour, oat flour, almond meal, and corn flour on hand.  After a frantic moment of regrouping I realized that we had what we needed for pancakes even with that omission.

The mixing involved more of frustration on both our parts, but we got the job done.  Seeing the cakes on the griddle reminded me of a character in a since-returned library book that my son really loved, I made the mistake of mentioning it.  The immediate inaccessibility of the book initiated another meltdown.  And an idea.  We headed to the bookshelf and my son selected a book to read.  We pulled the beanbag chair into the kitchen and enjoyed another family favorite while the cakes browned to perfection.

Aside from a full belly, I came away with three good lessons:  how to make tasty gluten-free pancakes on the spot, that mashed banana makes an excellent pancake ingredient, and that taking a break to read a good book makes for perfectly cooked pancakes.  All that in 30 or so minutes.  This kid sure does pack in the lessons!

Here’s the recipe that we ended up with.  The original came from the Joy of Cooking.

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/3 cup corn flour
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1/3 cup oat flour
  • 2T coconut sugar
  • 2t baking powder
  • 1t salt
  • 1/2 baking soda
  • 1/2t cinnamon
  • a sprinkle of nutmeg

Wet ingredients:

  • 4T melted butter
  • 1 mashed banana (minus a baby bite)
  • 1 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1t vanilla extract

Heat Griddle.
Whisk dry ingredients.  Mix banana and butter.  Whisk eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Whisk banana and butter with other wet ingredients.  Combine everything.  Add fat of choice to griddle (in lieu of our usual butter, I used coconut oil with excellent results).  Using a ladle or a 1/4 measuring cup, slowly pour the batter onto the griddle coaxing it into a round shape.  Wait until the tell tale bubbles have popped before flipping your cake.  If your stove is like mine you may have to shift your cakes around to get them evenly browned.  Enjoy a good read and then enjoy your pancakes.  These were so filling that we had lots of leftovers for future breakfasts.

What We’ve Been Watching on Youtube Lately

I do believe that it’s time for another youtube share.  Yes, my kid watches youtube.  I’m slowly coming to terms with it.  Neither of my parents had a TV when I was very young.  My mom got one when I was around five but my dad held out until my stepmom grabbed the bull by the horns when I was nine.  I went to a waldorf preschool right up the street from our home.  I have been holding that life in that beautiful neighborhood with watercolors, swings, classical music, and lovely books read aloud in front of the fire ever since its conclusion.  I always thought that when I became a parent I’d recreate it.  Clearly the world is a different place than it was in the late seventies.  Computers, ipads, iphones and a big screen on our living room wall are permanent fixtures.  My husband is a techie, there’s no way out of that reality.  It was pointed out to me by a very wise person that an important part of being a parent is sharing our life with our children.  All these gadgets are part of our life, we derive all sorts of pleasures from using them.  It would be incongruous to prevent our child from having that same opportunity.  Clearly I’m working through this….

All that aside, I must admit that it’s been fun to see what my son finds when he goes searching around.  Obviously, he’s not the only one who finds cool stuff on youtube.  Here’s the latest round up.

My kid is apparently part of the majority in that he loves to watch cats, he found this himself:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CckVEvpEFCs

This one came by way of my t’ai chi chuan teacher, it’s a testament to the power of full bodymind  control:

This one came by way of the same Aunt who makes the tasty chocolate mint squares.  Another testament to full bodymind control:
http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=nr9KrqN_lIg

My husband found this one.  It is good for a creating a shift in perspective:

And here’s another one from my husband.  I took it as a valuable reminder of the ever-changing nature of reality.  Constancy with respect to anything other than change is a myth:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMByI4s-D-Y

Happy Viewing!

Rethinking Rejection

I now have experienced what I could only have imagined up until now:  the heartbreak of watching my kid be rejected.  It’s happened a few times lately, where my very friendly and engaging little boy is overjoyed to see another kid that he knows.  For every ounce of eagerness and enthusiasm that he expresses, they demonstrate the opposite; and with an air of complete disinterest, leave him smiling and eventually crying.  This leaves me incredibly sad and somewhat angry.  But my boy recovers from such setbacks quickly and with a minimum of apparent suffering.

I’m realizing that my son is offering me an opportunity here.  Now is as good a time as any to rethink rejection.  So it would seem that it’s time for a new motto:  in the face of rejection, smile and move on.

Giving Thanks for Being a Parent

I’m nearly two and a half years into being a mom.  But come to think of it, I count pregnancy, because that is when my mindset began to shift.  It’s been interesting for me to see how my thoughts about parenting in general have grown more open-ended since I’m now a parent myself.

Living with a very young person every hour of every day has taught me something about respect for others that I don’t believe I would have learned otherwise.  I have always intended to have respect for others.  But let’s be honest, it’s easy to create unrealistic expectations for people when we don’t know them too well and then be disappointed when they don’t live up to those expectations – and ultimately, that’s not very respectful.  Understanding that we each are indeed a complex combination of traits, preferences, and needs; has dramatically eased my invention of expectations with respect to other people.  I’m grateful for that.

When it comes to analyzing a relationship between two people, this need for respect is increased exponentially because now that I’m living it myself, I see how a relationship between a parent and child is a continuous and never-ending stream of moments of intimate interaction between two complicated people.  The complication factor is therefore huge.  To pick out one moment, or even a few, and arrive at some concrete conclusion about the people involved would be truly impossible.  So I don’t nearly as often as I used to and I anticipate eventually wiping that thought process off my slate completely.  I’m grateful for that too.

There are certainly aspects to the past three years that I wish had played out differently.  There is support that I would have loved to have had but did not and so I figured out my own way to create it for myself.  Honestly, those disappointments do sometimes weigh heavily on my mind when I permit.  But I’m quicker to recover from such lulls in mental vigilance, because I’ve got important work to do.  Motherhood has helped me to be more disciplined mentally.  I’m grateful for that.

Now that I’m parenting, and doing it my way.  I can see more clearly why certain things didn’t sit well with me – things from my own youth, things that I’ve witnessed.  Now I realize it’s simply a matter of preference in most cases.  I believe that this is a factor of spending more years as an adult, that we have the opportunity to see things from enough angles to really understand them.  I appreciate the insights that I have now that I’ve logged some years as a parent.  And I think that I’m building the maturity to form more respectful and compassionate conclusions.  I am so grateful for that opportunity.

Being a parent has taught me the necessity of caring for myself first.  When I have neglected myself, the results have been clear.  Aside from helping me within our little immediate family, this helps me in every other relationship that I have.  I’m more aware of where I end and others begin.  More often than not, it’s become obvious that the best I can offer is my compassionate presence.  Whether it’s somebody practicing Pilates, watching the wheels of a toy car with ear pressed to the floor, or picking out curtain rods, just bearing witness is enough (well okay, a bit of instruction with respect to concepts in the Pilates studio – but mostly I’m observing).  Anything more requires a crossing of a boundary which I simply cannot manage while staying true to myself.  If that’s not a gift of being a mom, I don’t know what is.  For me, it’s been a game-changer for which I’m grateful.

I realize that there is plenty of judgement-free interaction in this world, the sort that reflects people taking simple enjoyment in sharing company with others rather than constantly over-exercising their minds to create mini-theories about other people and their behavior.  But there is a lot of the latter and since empty barrels do indeed make a lot of noise, I’m inclined to comment on the topic.  And say that I’ve been relieved of a fair portion of my judging tendencies since becoming a parent.  For the relief that comes from setting down that heavy burden, I’m grateful.

Today I will revel in gratitude and open my heart to all the goodness that there is to receive.  I wish the same to you, dear reader.

Clearing

Recently, I enjoyed something of a revelation within my body which relates in no small part to some other shafts of light that have been making way into my life these days.  I celebrate my joy and relief by sharing them here.

With my tailbone injury comes a fair amount of tension along my spine that radiates out to the rest of my body.  I keep that tension in check with the deliberate movements that make up my regular Pilates practice.  And I get support from various practitioners to slowly whittle away at the underlying tension patterns that have a hold on me.  It would seem that I’m making headway because recently I was able to feel something entirely new and gratifying.  In sitting and nursing, I often feel discomfort across my upper back.  I’ve known for years that this is indicative of my seated posture, I’ve even known how to change my posture.  But my body was under too much load to integrate the change.  In short, the pain remained no matter what adjustments I made.  (Movement has been the saving grace, I just keep moving and that has kept much of the pain at bay.)  But on this occasion, I was able to make the appropriate change, which is to sit upon my hips rather than slumping into them.  Instantly, my upper back pain disappeared!  This brought about a sense of relief that has been years in the making.

In a completely different area of my life, I’m enjoying a whole now sense of happiness and self-empowerment.  My son is nearly two and a half years old now and he’s entering a new phase of independent play.  One of the gals who has helped us with caring for him while I work, is leaving us because she found a full-time position that better suits her needs.  For a while I was struggling with how to re-organize our childcare arrangements and it finally dawned on me that it’s time for me to have less help and more time with my boy.  I can’t exactly describe the cascading benefits of this choice that I made other than to say that it was clearly the best scenario for both of us.  I partly attribute this to having passed through a rough place in my own personal healing process that becoming a mother initiated for me.  I share this because it is my belief that parenting presents us each with opportunities for healing old and long forgotten wounds.  The experience of tending to those wounds is not fun and not commonly embraced or even acknowledged in our collective conversations, which makes the challenge of it that much more than some of us would like to bear.   But coming through to the other side, has been such a clearing that it almost makes me eager for the next challenge that will inevitably come my way.

These two experiences put together bring to my mind another idea that’s been brewing since I put Rupam’s suggestion into practice.  If I think of my body as a vessel, then it makes the most sense to fill that vessel with love and light.  In doing so I expose the feelings and emotions that the dark thoughts in the recesses of my mind have embodied within my physical form.  The more that I fill my body with love, gratitude, forgiveness, and acknowledgement of that which hasn’t best served me, the more I clear out the dark places and complete myself.  In the physical sense I have noticed a spaciousness that comes with this clearing process.  That makes room for the constant expansion that drives so much of what I do.  I applied this idea to my Pilates practice one day when I was feeling particularly stiff and sluggish.  The result was immediate:  the entirety of my body opened and released.  I was longer, lighter, and more supple instantly.

We cannot always bypass the challenges that face us.  Often the only way is through.  And I’d argue that going through, rather than over or under, affords us the best opportunities for growth and empowerment.  In the face of adversity, we can honor ourselves.  We can focus on love and light.  We can give ourselves the best possible support for making the hard journey.  And we can assure ourselves, that we will eventually arrive at a clearing.

Notes on Making Dresses at Home

I realized that this dress of mine deserves its own post.  Because it’s been a while since I took on such an ambitious project (necessity is indeed the mother of invention), and it turns out that I’ve learned a thing or two since then.

When I was learning to sew as a girl, I would often reach points of such frustration that I’d throw in the towel.  My mother would kindly pick up the pieces and help me complete the project.  When I moved to California I had a lot of time on my hands and my very own sewing machine (my graduation gift from my mom).  I began to sew all sorts of things, and I even worked as an assistant to a seamstress for a spell.  I learned a lot during that time.

By the time I reached my thirties I was most comfortable sewing without a pattern, something that I’d never thought was possible when I was a child watching the beautiful dresses that the adults around me whipped up.  (To be fair it was only my step mother’s mom who impressed upon me the great feat of sewing without a pattern, as far as I know both my step mom and my mom were more comfortable with patterns).  Regardless of how I went about a project, there was often a fair amount of cursing involved.  (I’ll never forget the day that I was working in the seamstress’s shop across from a repair man who was at work on one of her other machines.  He and I were both cursing to ourselves as we went about our tasks.  Frustration seemed to be the unifying experience for us that afternoon).  It is a wonder that I’ve sewn as long as I have, because for the majority of the project hours that I’ve logged, I’ve been in a state of frustration.  Determined, focused, frustration.  I am an intense person in the midst of a project:  the house gets very messy, I eat whatever food is most readily available, I don’t shower or brush my teeth.  It’s an ugly business making pretty things.

Getting pregnant really mellowed me out (if you don’t count the fact that I gave myself about six months of nasty wrist pain with all the sewing and crocheting that I was doing).  And now that I have my kid around while I’m sewing I’ve noticed something interesting.  Like most moms at home with kids, my time for sewing is sporadic.  This turns out to be a very good thing for me.  I end up completing projects in much more digestible chunks.  And while the frustration is still there, the moments are much briefer because I inevitably have to move on to the next thing.  Perhaps that’s why the cursing has subsided, which is a very good thing because my boy is in the repeat-everything phase of language development.

Being a mom agrees with me in so many ways.  I’m always grateful to find yet another one.  And to embrace the fact over and over again:  my beautiful boy is my teacher and I am his willing and eager pupil.  (Mostly).

Here are a couple notes on this dress in particular.
1).  I managed to do a fair job of shaping the bodice but still the overlapping side didn’t stay put.  So I’ll have to add a hook and eye for the next time out (luckily the bride had some double-sided skin tape on hand that did the job for the wedding.
2).  It was Theresa Laquey who taught me about darts and I will be forever grateful:  darts ADD volume, they don’t reduce it.
3).  I’m not sure that I should ever make clothing out of non-stretchy fabric.  It’s just so much better in so many ways.

Looking at these photos, and forgiving the fact that I felt incredibly awkward and my husband found that fairly annoying because it made me a difficult subject, I see all sorts of room for improvement in this dress, I am truly my own worst critic.  But here’s the important thing:  I made myself a pretty (enough) dress out of fabric that I had on hand.  And I danced the night away in complete comfort.  That’s a double win for a project that I only took on under duress.

I’ve got plenty of other more pressing projects than sewing ones.  But there are still many in the queue and somehow I just managed to purchase fabric for five of those tops I mentioned here a while back at, you guessed it, Piedmont Fabric.  How does that happen?  Hopefully I’ll get back behind the machine before too long, it really will be lovely to have some flattering tops in my closet.  Compared to this dress those will be a snap.

dress rear

dress bodice