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

Our New Hampshire Visit

I really do love to visit new places and see how other folks live.  Given that I’ve been following bloggers who live in the northeastern United States of America for the past couple years and that some dear friends and family members also have strong ties to that region, it was fun for me to poke around and see what I noticed.

Once we left RDC, we didn’t have a plan other than to get to the farm where we would be spending the night.  Given that Sunday was my husband’s birthday I let him decide what we’d do.  I’d already mentioned Christine’s recommendation of the local Science Center to him, since I’ve come to appreciate her unsurpassed skills as a connoisseur of all things beautiful.  Given that our boy has been asking to see animals for weeks and we’ve repeatedly opted not to visit the zoo due to busy days, he thought that spending time with animals was in order.  So we stopped at a shop and asked where we could catch glimpse of some living creatures.  And sure enough, they confirmed what we’d already heard, so up the road we went.

nhnsc sticker

My first stop was the bathroom and it was there that I formed my first impressions of the place.  I have had one other public restroom experience that comes close to the one that I had right off Squam lake and that was in the Louvre.  (Sure you have to pay to pee, but the individual rooms are cleaned after each and every usage!  I rejoined my husband in an exhilarated state, very eager to spend more money for the sheer expression of my enthusiasm.  The only thing for sale though was highly stylized toilet paper and he immediately vetoed my plea.)  What could possibly trump super clean toilets?  Compostable ones!

compostable toilet sign

Better in so many ways.  Perfectly odorless!  Respectful of nature!  Water conserving!  I could go on if I actually knew anything about compostable toilets.  But I don’t.  Someday though, I will learn.  And if there was ever a good idea worth spreading, I do believe that compostable toilets fit the bill.  Straight out of the gate, this place had earned my highest esteem.

Meanwhile, my poor husband was having a different sort of experience.  Our son has a thing for girls about four feet high, and he was love sick since we’d just said goodbye to his newest object of affection.  That coupled with the fact that it really was his nap time made for a very crabby little boy.  When we passed another girl along the path, he reached and cried out for her, “girl!!!”  And he continued to do so for the next half hour.  The first exhibit was not a live one and somehow my husband had the idea that perhaps all the exhibits were actually just examples of taxidermy.  He was ready to demand our money back right then and there but I convinced him that they wouldn’t have said “live” animals unless there really were some.  So with crying babe in arms, we pressed on.  But we went right instead of left.  We passed through what we thought was one exhibit but didn’t see any animals and I conjectured that the enclosures were so big that perhaps the animals were off sleeping, or even more likely scared away by the repeated and impassioned cry, “GIRL, GIRL, GIRL!”  After what seemed like a very long time (crying babies make every moment drag on forever don’t they?) we arrived at a pond and spent some time watching a salamander.  With the thought that perhaps the only creature we were going to see was a salamander, we continued up a trail until it became clear that we were entering the woods and leaving the well traveled path.  Lucky for us we turned around and then things started looking up.  We did see a couple more girls and they were gracious enough to entertain our boy’s whims.

We dabbled in some of the very cool exhibits.  This is where I had a bit of a revelation, because I was actually enjoying myself as I read the small snippets of information about the natural world.  I have never been one to enjoy zoos, museums, or any place that presents broad swaths of information without much depth.  I like to dig deeply into topics of interest.  But being with a kid, keeping tabs on him and having a few spare moments in between to read an interesting fact here and there gave me a new insight into why such places can be enjoyable.  It’s actually pleasant to be able to take in some interesting facts about the natural world while making sure that our kid doesn’t cause himself bodily harm while he explores the exhibits in his own way.  I do love it when I realize another little way that my life has changed for the better since becoming a mama.  And the exhibits were really fun for our boy too.  As we went from one to the other, I became more and more impressed.  And then we saw the bears.

bear photo

That was really fun.  Dare I indulge myself with how cute and cuddly they looked?  To borrow my son’s current affirmation, oh yes!  Along with other guests, we spent a good long while appreciating those bears.  I was reminded of the funny things that the bear does in this quirky and very enjoyable read as I watched the antics of the smaller bear while he sat right in front of us.  Husband and boy continued on through the exhibit at a leisurely pace.  I had become quite cold (how about that weather?!  Bless New Englanders for living in a place where Mother Nature’s most temperamental side is so often expressed!), and hungry so I beat a hasty retreat to the car.

We left Squam lake happy and had a lovely drive to Breakwind Farm just outside of Concord.  Except.  We missed an exit.  And so we had to turn around.  But the only way to do that was to cross through a toll plaza.  We had to pay to leave and we had to pay to return.  So essentially we paid one dollar to make a u turn.  Which is fine on one hand, I’m all for chipping in for such well maintained roads.  But, as our hosts at the farm pointed out, in principle it seemed a little contrary to the state motto.  Which by the way, is so catchy that it’s the only one that I actually know by heart.

Our time at the farm was brief but really enjoyable.  Patti and Rick impressed me with how sensible and thoughtful they are.  We got to hear fun stories about chickens and squirrels, and not so fun ones about other rodents.  Our boy got to sit on the tractor and then watch Rick move it around.  Their kitty cat is a sweet cuddly bundle of silken-fluff and she was happy to let our little one pet her, a rare treat since our cat back home barely tolerates such things.  While our boy napped, we stole some time to swap ideas and gain insights into the local culture.  Rick is the one who told me that the outhouse is a celebrated status symbol in their neck of the woods (just do a search on and you’ll see on your screen what any New Hampshirite sees upon entering a bookstore, according to him).  A funny idea to me, but after those compostable toilets I was really tuned into the topic.  We found them through airbnb and apparently so do many others.  It was cool to be part of the stream of international folks who stop in for a visit and catch a glimpse of the renaissance of the small organic farm.  I imagine that it is fun for them too as life on the farm is full of work and frustrations.  Having the company of friendly and enthusiastic guests must ease the daily burden of the never-ending toil that is running a small farm and learning all the while.

We enjoyed dinner at a fairly common restaurant.  Since most places are closed on Sundays, we didn’t have that many options.  It was sort of like eating at the house of distant relatives which made the experience all the more appealing since so many people who are dear to me hail from the vicinity.  But the real gem came in the form of one particular magazine from October 8, 1951.  Honestly, I do not think that I could have been happier.  Happy as in if the whole trip was for the purpose of my discovering this one thing that I’ve been dreaming of finding for years, I would have been okay with that.  Both Amanda and Christine have waxed on about thrifting no matter the circumstances and I’ve always wished that I was the sort of person who thrifts.  But I don’t manage to set enough time aside for such things to yield the results of my ambitions.  I’ve always thought that thrifting was the sort of thing that one had to do consistently to experience any measure of success.  Or perhaps it’s just a matter of having access to the right places.  Every once in a while though, I make a serious score.  Oh how I love the thrill of satisfaction that comes from acquiring a treasure with minimal outlay!  As we were being led to our table, my eye spied some shelves filled with old magazines for sale.  Once we were settled in I looked up the exact date of the issue of my desire and then the hunt was on.  The magazines were ordered by year, each one wrapped in a plastic sleeve.  It didn’t take long to find what I was seeking.  After putting $8 rolled up to fit through the hole in the honor system box, I had my catch.  Here are the pics, taken right on the floor of our home office, just to show that I’ve got the real deal right here with me.  I’m still reveling in my luck at getting to experience first hand so much of the fun that I’ve been reading about for nearly two years!

JHP and Peters, page 1

peters, page 2

peters, page 3

peters, page 4

On the morning of our last day of vacation we followed the recommendation of our hosts and headed up Mt. Kearsarge.  It was an absolutely beautiful drive.  We agreed that it would probably be bursting with fall colors in just another week, but for us the woods were still an extravaganza of lush greens.  Upon checking in at the state park gate, the very friendly park steward told us that we only had to pay if we were planning to stay (at the onset our idea was just to drive up and drive back down).  Her common sense-driven leniency mitigated any lingering sense of injustice that we may have had from our experience at the toll crossing and we were feeling pleased to visit such an all-around lovely place.  When we reached the end of the auto road, the parking lot was cloaked in fog.  As we stood there, the fog rolled off to reveal a spectacular view.  The boys became enthusiastic about hiking but I preferred to stay warm in the car and to clear my head by writing some of my thoughts down.

With that we completed our sojourn in New Hampshire.  I do hope to be back soon.  It is a truly beautiful state with friendly folks and all sorts of hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered.

Two Year Old Temper Tantrums

Our little bundle of joy is two.  And sometimes he has fits of temper.  This does not happen particularly often, actually.  Some weeks more than others.  But these temper tantrums are such a hot button for us humans.  Perhaps it was that which got me considering them and the lesson that they hold for me.  Regardless of the impetus, I believe that I may have figured a little something out for myself.

Generally as parent, I place myself in the position of the learner.  This gives me the opportunity to approach what happens with a sense of curiosity and openness rather than one of certainty and definitiveness.  Above all, it feels right to me.  In the case of temper tantrums, I’m seeing them as opportunities to learn about the flow of emotions.  Which for me is a very good thing.

In my life, I have not tended to be one to go with the flow of emotion.  I have been more the type to try my best to control emotion until it completely overtakes me like a tsunami.  While rippling waves can be soothing and sea waves can be transforming, rogue waves are downright destructive.  I’ve come to learn that it is in my best interest to cultivate rippling waves with the occasional sea waves when it comes to emotions, and leave tsunamis to the natural world.

Enter temper tantrums.  They are rather mystifying, these extreme fits.  In the case of my son, I have come to recognize these fits as particular to when he expresses upset about something that seems rather small and insignificant to me and he is inconsolable.  I take this sort of situation as my cue to sit quietly with him and give him as much comfort as he will accept.  If his upset doesn’t abate within a few minutes, I take him someplace else and offer him alternatives until he begins to calm down.  Above all, I try to give him time and space for the flow of emotion.  I try not to get in its way.  And in doing so I remind myself of the fluidity of emotions and how love is the best medicine.

The fluidity of emotions helps to explain another rather common characteristic of temper tantrums.  If emotions are like water then they build up against any sort of blockage.  And if any split in that blockage occurs, they break through with an awful lot of built up pressure.  This is why I feel most comfortable sitting with him as he cries rather than putting a lot of effort into getting him to stop crying.  Because I cannot necessarily know nor mend the source of the upset, but I can see clearly in the moment that it is flowing outward.

Recently I lost something that was special to me.  Even though what I lost was special, the level of upset that I experienced was out of proportion to what had happened.  In talking it over with my MFT, I came to realize that I was not only mourning the loss of of this special thing, but what it symbolized for me.  I had attached a lot of meaning to that special item and also to losing it.  In letting myself sit with the emotions that came up as a result of of those attachments, I was able to heal many wounds within myself.  I came to be grateful for the loss, for what it taught me about myself, and for the opportunity that it gave me to heal.

Which brings me back to my two year old.  He is such a good teacher for me.  He shows me that upset happens.  That it flows through us like a wave if we let it.  I may never know what exactly my comfort means to him, but I know now what it means to me:  an opportunity to learn more than I already know about emotions and living in the present moment.  Thank you baby!

Current YouTube Favorites

It’s sad and I’m embarrassed to admit it, but these days we spend a fair amount of time watching youtube.  I’d love to have no screens in our house but given the nature of my husband’s and my work, and the size of our home, our kid sees screens.  I’ve made peace with it.  Turns out that we have been introduced to lots of cool stuff thanks to him.  If you have a two-year old, you may want to have a look.  Or if you’re just looking for some free entertainment, that works too.

Trains.  How about that steam?  Mesmerizing.  Add the whistles and the chug chug chug and you’ve got plenty of stimulating entertainment.  Especially if you are two and into wheels.

Garbage trucks.  Who knew?  There are so many types, and so many interesting parts.  Which is why grown men really like building models and making videos demonstrating all their working parts.  I’m speculating on that last part….(speaking of adults.  It is astonishing to me how many folks get together to watch trains, construction vehicles, and cars controlled by remotes do things.  Perhaps I ought to be more astonished that I’ve logged a considerable amount of time watching these people do this via their videos on youtube.  Sleep deprivation will do that to you).

The Real thing.  But then there are the real people operating real vehicles.  Doing really cool “tricks”.

Fun and Creative.  Sometimes we stumble upon something completely by accident.  And it’s entertaining.

Unbelievable.  In a search for “orange bike” we came across an amazing Scotsman doing incredible moves (the kind that a mother fears her kid knowing how to do.)

Thoughtful and Creative.  And then there are parents who do something creative with the same old thing.  By the way, there are lots of kids playing with their garbage trucks, construction vehicles, trains and cars on youtube.  While this would seem incredibly mundane to someone who doesn’t opt to spend hours a day watching wheels go ’round and ’round, it’s actually completely engrossing for someone who does.

Adorable.  And I would feel neglectful in my role as youtube ambassador if I did not at least try to introduce my kid to the millions of videos of adorable cats that their human fans have uploaded.  Lucky for us, our kid is as entertained as us.  Here’s my personal favorite cat online, he’s got quite a library of videos.

It’s heartwarming to me to see all the cool stuff that my fellow humans felt like sharing.  Happy viewing friends!

Introducing…Everything I need to know, I learn from my kid

As I was rinsing cloth diapers for the wash, I found myself considering my posture.  This is a very common occurrence for me since I spend a fair amount of time bending over a wash basin of some kind and then noticing the sad effect such a position has on my back.

Today I felt the implications in my shoulders.  My first improving action was to retract my shoulders onto my back rather that maintaining their very forward position on my ribcage.  But this only served to remind me that my back was in a strained position.  The real solution was to bend my knees and fold my hips so that my entire torso adjusted to a better angle and level for achieving the task at hand.

For many years, I’ve wondered just what is the ideal position for lowering oneself to the desired level over a sink or other such work surface.  Within a week of taking a class with Dana Davis at TSH, I had the good fortune to observe my toddler addressing that very question.  I’ve been thinking of what I saw him do over and over again since then.  Nearly every time that I’m tasked with washing or rinsing something.  Which, as any in-home mom knows, is a very frequent occurrence.

First a little background (you know me, at least a little by now, there is always a background story).  I’ve been studying movement for around twenty years now.  And I’ve been a mom for almost two.  So for something like eighteen years I’ve been catching wind of an intriguing idea:  that the youngest among us demonstrate all sorts of interesting things about our bodies.  And for the past two, I’ve been watching carefully and truly enjoying the show.  It is amazing to watch the development of movement patterns, the nuances of position, and the pure expression of humanity that are simply a matter of course for each of us in the fist couple years of life.

For me, it has been important to be in the presence of my son consistently on a daily basis to make these observations.  I can think of it in terms of learning body language.  Just as with spoken language, immersion proves to be an important factor.  Now, having spent 2 years in the nearly constant company of a baby, I can recognize the body language of his contemporaries easily.  Whereas, before I was a mom, when I was incredibly curious about the expression of our basic movement patterns in the very young, and also often in the company of the very young, I was blind to it.  It was right there before my eyes, and yet I didn’t see it.  In the past two years I’ve very much appreciated this book for helping me to see and understand certain patterns.

In the case of working over a surface, the key to proper positioning is to use the main torso positioning mechanisms:  the legs and hips.  Rather than bending the spine at the waist and rounding the upper back forward to the detriment of the position of the ribs and the shoulders, the key is to simply fold at the knees and the hips to the move the arms to the desired level.

One day, my kid was standing on his high chair next to me at the sink.  We were having some fun with bubbles and at a certain point he was really getting into it, rather than simply observing me.  This was when he got serious with his position and did precisely what I just described.  The outward effect may look a little odd at first, or perfectly natural depending on your framework of analysis.  It looks odd because it’s not what most adults do.  But for those of us who have been diligently working at reclaiming proper use of our human body, it looks absolutely perfect.  (Sort of like some movie scene where the characters arrive at just the right moment on just the right day of the year to see some mystical truth revealed by a sunbeam – you know what I mean, right?)

So, today I was once again reminded of the very important posture lesson that my little guy granted me.  And a new category for this blog was born.  Not all the lessons are this easy or fun, for sure.  But they are lessons all the same.  And I’d argue that they are some of the most important lessons we have the opportunity to learn (second perhaps to those that we learn from our parents).  So it seems to me that the more frequently we are able to remind ourselves that we are here to learn and that our children are excellent teachers, the better primed we are to actually “get it”.  And likewise, the less likely we are to stage a dramatic protest in the face of some lesson which we are not too pleased with.  So for today it’s posture, who knows what I’ll realize about my little teacher in the days and years to come.  For certain, I am looking forward to each and every moment.  Even the ones that initially seem quite unpleasant.  I’m pretty sure that those will turn out to be the best ones…..