Friday, January 29, 2010

I am proud of myself because . . .

On Tuesday night I participated in my second of seven parenting classes. I wrote about my first class here.

The second class started with an exercise in praising ourselves (which is harder than it sounds!) and what came out of it was the suggestion to start a nightly ritual of each family member saying "I'm proud of myself because . . . " I have forgotten to do it the past few nights, but tonight something sparked my memory so Eloise, Iris and I did it around the dinner table. Eloise was proud of herself that she had built something really big at school. Iris was proud that she did her work at the therapist's office even though she felt shy and I was proud that I didn't yell at all today. When I said mine Iris responded "oh that IS something to be proud of!" and you know, she was right.

Overall I'm doing soooo much better, but changing behavior isn't 100% forward moving. It's a two steps forward, one step back sort of thing, at best. I just keep reminding myself, what do I want my kids to mirror? I will literally stand there and yell "stop yelling!" and it's like, jesus, what is WRONG with me?!?! Anyways, it's getting better.

At the parenting class we have been talking about the parenting ideal of being kind and firm and how difficult it is to parent in this way. Many of us grew up in pretty authoritarian families, the "my way or the highway" approach. It produced alot of kids who may have been well-behaved, but who also wouldn't necessarily remember alot of loving moments as they grew up. The other side of that coin is parents who are completely permissive and aren't setting boundaries for their children. The goal really is, we need to set boundaries and limits, but we need to be kind and loving in the process.

We also discussed the difference between encouraging our children and praising them. Before I go more in to what that looks like, here is a really cool definition of what encouragement is and why we should strive for it:

Courage (from the Latin word cor, for heart) is the very small step you take in the direction to be more of who you truly are when it might be easier to take a step in another direction. So when you encourage someone, you are creating a space for him or her to take that step.

Isn't it amazing that we can think of parenting not just as "how do I get this kid to behave and do what I want them to do?" but rather "how can I help facilitate this person becoming his or her very best self?" I found this idea incredibly moving.

Here are some examples of encouragement vs praise:

"Tell me about it" or "What do you think?" vs "I like it"
"Thank you for helping" vs "You are such a good girl/boy!"
"What do you think/feel about that?" vs "You did it right!"

Most of the encouraging statements ask the child to look inside himself/herself for what they feel instead of projecting your ideas on to them or judging/labelling them. The goal is to inspire self-evaluation of your child and not to have them rely on the evaluation of others.

Doing this in practice is pretty difficult for me, as I suspect it is for alot of us. I absolutely find myself saying "you're doing a great job!" (or the like) to my kids. Of course, the goal isn't to never ever say these things, but to incorporate more encouraging statements and less ones that judge the behavior (even a positive judgement).

What we're learning in this class is causing most of us who are taking it to completely re-think the way we are using discipline with our children. Believe me this is no easy task! As our teacher reminds us, it is a practice. A practice every day. It's not about perfection or reaching the ultimate goal of parenting perfection, but about practicing these skills with our children.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Let's re-check in three months . . .

It wasn't until I became pregnant with Iris in the fall of 2003 that I regularly began getting my blood drawn. Of course, once you start getting the blood draws, everything that is going in your body starts getting laid out on the table and monitored. Not necessarily dealt with, but monitored.

What I discovered in both of my pregnancies was that I had low iron levels and a low platelet count. What I am continuing to find is that these levels have stayed low, despite some fairly half-assed iron supplement taking on my part. It's interesting that we don't know exactly what these things mean as far as the state of my health is concerned. Are these things causing some of my issues with fatigue and crazy menstrual cycles? Maybe, or at least, maybe is the answer I get. Also "let's re-check those levels in three months" as if waiting another three months, after having checked them a few times a year for six years hasn't produced enough of a pattern???

I am not sure how to take this information from my doctor. I really like her, I do. I think the problem more lies in the fact that we're not exactly sure what the problem is and also it's not so damn serious that we're all jumping around like crazy to fix it. It sounds like taking the "wait and see" approach is more about, well, will it magically get better? Worse? Will I suddenly get so annoyed with what is going on that I will demand we do more?

At any rate, I'm a little frustrated. I've got low iron levels. A low platelet and white blood cell count and low vitamin D levels (though probably me and everyone else in the pacific northwest is dealing with the vitamin D issue!) I do figure I owe it to myself to at least go back to the doctor and make a serious plan for supplementation to follow for the next three months before the all-powerful re-check and then see where I stand.

Anyone reading ever dealt with any of these issues? Especially the platelet issue? I can take my iron pills, I can take my vitamin D, but what can I take for a low platelet count? Clearly a question for my doctor, but thought I would ask the interwebs before I get in to my next appointment.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mirroring who, exactly?

Ever since the parenting class last Tuesday I have thought quite a bit about my daughters mirroring me-- about how they learn from what I DO and not necessarily what I SAY.

Of course, I'm far from perfect. Definitely a work in process. So when Iris busted out with this amazingness today, I had to think "who, exactly, is this child mirroring?!?" Here's what went down: Iris got upset with me over something this morning and decided a good way to get back at me was to spend some time insulting me with the line "mommy's got fat boobies". She repeated it over and over, mostly I ignored her but once we were all in the car I decided to deal with it by telling her that people don't like to be in families with other people who are being mean. It was the best I had at the time (remember: work in progress!). However, that pretty much ended the insults.

We spent about an hour in the car on our drive and then another hour sledding up on Snoqualmie Pass before Iris and I found ourselves hanging out in the back of the car enjoying a snack together. During a pause in our laughing and chatting Iris turned to me and said "I'm sorry I was saying mean things before" to which I replied "thank you for the apology" and gave her a big hug.

The rest of the afternoon I couldn't get out of my head how amazing it was that Iris came back to that moment and apologized. What I meant by not understanding who she is mirroring is that it isn't ME. You see, apologizing for things I've done to hurt other people is one of my very weakest points. I'm incredibly terrible at it.

On the drive home, after Iris had fallen asleep, I told Matt about Iris apologizing. I said "next to having a kid who never says mean things, that's about the best you can hope for!" Matt thought for a moment and responded that it isn't realistic to have a kid who never says anything mean, so actually, have a kid who comes back and apologizes, unprovoked, IS the best you can hope for.

I think he hit the nail on the head.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My first resolution check-in

I had an interesting day.

It started with me not wanting to even get out of bed. Matt had to be back at work, Iris had to be off to school and Eloise was going to be home with me. I was still sick, though definitely on the mend, but was operating at about 60%.

Everything started really going down hill when I brought Eloise to circus school. She decided she didn't want to join the class. I insisted she did. She hung tight. So did I. Fighting ensued and it was ugly, and it lasted pretty much the whole rest of the day until dinner time.

Tonight, likely not coincidentally, was the first night of the parenting seminar I am taking called "Sanity Circus". One of my Parenting Resolutions was to attend these classes and put the things I learned in to practice. Tonight's class already expanded my mind in a million ways.

There were roughly 25-30 people there, all parents/teachers from my girls' school. We started by talking about some of our parenting challenges and, surprise surprise, alot of us shared the same ones. After talking about the challenges we then focused on what our goals were for our children-- to be happy, have self-esteem, etc etc.

Our first role-playing of the night involved us all pairing off to act out being a parent with a four year old who was being dragged through the mall for three hours. After the role-play was over we were asked what feelings we had as the parent AND as the child. We spent alot of time realizing (duh) that little people have feelings and needs and thoughts, too, and that we need to consider them when plowing through life on our own agenda. That our kids aren't simply annoyances to be managed, but rather, to be considered as independent persons. Of course, we know that, intellectually, but it often isn't how we handle them when we have our own carefully mapped out agendas.

After the first role-play we did another one, modelled after an example the instructor provided. What if we gave our child a choice on our way through a shopping trip at the mall. Have them decide, do we take the stairs of the escalator? Should we go to the shoe store or the dress store first? It's one way to involve our child in our plans. Give them some power and control.

After the break the instructor asked for someone to volunteer to share a recent parenting challenge that we could work on as a group. My hand shot up so fast I didn't even think about it: I was going to share what happened at circus school today. So I went to sit by the instructor and gave a brief explanation of what happened. Then another member of the group was selected to play me and I played Eloise and she and I acted out what happened at the class. So here I am, standing int he middle of a group of parents acting like my three year old while someone else acts out one of my less-than-stellar parenting moments. People, if you know me at all, you would know I would normally rather cut off my own leg than ever do something like this, but I was desperate. I needed help. So after the re-enactment, we sit back down and the group starts brainstorming what other ways could I have dealt with the situation.

Every suggestion was perfect. Most of them centered around the idea of giving Eloise the choice of what we should do, not forcing her to join in and then forcing her to leave when she wouldn't. About giving her space and time to talk to me about what was going on, if she might have been scared or something. Asking if she wanted me to come with her to do it or just sit on the sidelines with her and be okay with that.

You know, it's sort of funny that when people were saying this it was so obvious, but in the moment all I saw was anger. I was mad at her for wasting my time and my money and OMFG WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER?!?! It was really quite ridiculous looking back. But I had no tools at the time. This list we made, I'm keeping it in my purse.

We also discussed in the class about how children mirror their parents. That they do what we DO not what we SAY. They learn by modelling. There is even scientific research that backs up why this happens. This is something you always hear, but she did a little demonstration with us that really drove the point home and we were all like "ahhhhh, yes". Along the same lines we talked about how to keep from "flipping our lid" (freaking out). Or wait. Not as much how to keep from doing it (yet) but more about why it's so important not to. About how our children learn how to keep their cool by watching US keep our cool. Our instructor gave us a cool little hand demonstration that symbolizes the brain and "flipping our lid", something I'm sure I'll remember for a loooong time.

Here's how your hand represents your brain. The knuckles, when folded down like this, represent your frontal lobe, where the reasoning and problem solving in your brain happens.

When you "flip your lid" your hand looks like this representing your brain. See what happens to the part of your brain that is involved in reasoning and problem solving? Exactly. *Poof* Gone.

So this is a long and somewhat rambling post, but I really wanted to get it out, as much to share it as to keep it where I can refer to it, because I'm sure I will.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

When nothing sounds good

Be forewarned: I'm using this space today to do absolutely nothing else but whine.

I am sick. Oh, so sick. So sick today that nothing at all sounds like a good idea. Not sleeping. Not sitting. Not watching tv or reading or anything. I've been staring at the internet trying to take my mind off of how awful I feel, but it isn't helping. I am whining in to the abyss that is twitter and facebook hoping that if I complain enough, I'll start to feel better.

I must have some kind of flu. I guess people would assume swine flu given how prevalent it is right now. I got seriously screwed, though, because most of the people I know didn't get THIS sick for THIS long. But some did. So, I complain knowing at least I've had company.

Two years ago I was very sick with the flu. I swore up and down after that I would get flu shots. I never had had one ever before in my life, but dear god, I didn't want to go through THAT ever again. I didn't ever get one, though. And this year I didn't get the swine flu vax. And now? Now I'm kicking myself and I'm pissed. I will, every year, get a god damn flu shot.

I'm so glad I have a blog that I can whine to. No one wants to hear a sick person complain but I swear to god my head is going to explode (figuratively and literally) if I don't get my misery out.

You know what else is pissing me off? Every drug I've taken hasn't even touched how awful I feel. Prescription strength ibuprofen, hydrocodone, theraflu, tons of supplements. Nothing is taking away my aches. Nothing is helping me sleep. In fact, sleep sounds like the worst thing ever right now. When I am not lying awake in bed shivering/sweating/unable to breathe through my nose I'm sort of asleep having awful messed up dreams that are freaking me out.

I'd like to run to the doctor's office but OH! It's a holiday weekend! And OH! my kids have no school tomorrow but my husband has to work! I have no idea what I will do with my girls tomorrow. I can barely talk to them right now my head hurts so bad. I'm so inward and miserable. I should probably drag my ass out and buy them some huge amazing toy that will hopefully allow them to peacefully play for the day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Andy Goldsworthy

Right now Iris's class is studying Andy Goldsworthy. Really wish I could come and sit in on her class to learn about all of the different artists they study!

If you don't know about Andy Goldsworthy's worh (I didn't before Iris told me!) then check out this video.

The class was supposed to go to Lincoln Park today to do some of their own Goldsworthy-inspired work on the beach but sadly they had to postpone. I can hardly even believe THIS is the cool stuff my kid gets to do in school! Although Iris has some pretty strong anxiety about separating from me, she does really enjoy being at school. I can see why!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Natural Parenting Carnival post: My parenting resolutions

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting resolutions!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we're writing about how we want to parent differently — or the same — in the New Year. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


This is my very first time joining in a blogging carnival. When I heard about Hobo Mama’s idea of starting a carnival about natural parenting I thought it fit right in with what I’m already doing in my daily life and blogging about on an admittedly erratic basis.

If you’re new to my blog because of this carnival, let me briefly introduce myself: I’m a mama of two girls, 3 and 5 ½. My “cred” in natural parenting comes from extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, homebirthing, baby-wearing, relatively green-living and working at being a mindful, gentle parent.

This month’s topic is Parenting Resolutions. I do consider my parenting skills a work in progress, so this is perfect for me. My children challenge me every day. I am constantly struggling to come up with creative solutions to problems and to figure out the best way to help my daughters realize their full potential. To this end, my parenting resolutions are to attend at least one parenting class and follow through the counseling sessions I’ve set up for my 5 year old. Exciting, huh?

I’ve always been a “parent from the heart” kind of mama, but the reality is, my heart doesn’t often know the answer. The reality is, I need help—I need a class. Honestly, I’d go to every class under the sun if our budget allowed for it. Specifically, what I’m planning on attending are a series of classes called Sanity Circus, which are put on by the Puget Sound Adlerian Society and is “a traveling course for parents who want more respectful, cooperative, and, yes, more joyful relationships with children.” I would say that description fits me to a “T”. Part of my resolution is not only to attend this course, but to put its ideas to work in our household.

As far as setting up counseling sessions for my five year old, I vacillate between feeling like “oh my god I’ve already ruined my child and she’s only 5!” and “wow, check out how aware and loving I am to get her help before she turns in to a total and complete nutcase!”. Most of the time I’m somewhere in between, but it’s still a difficult realization of what I’m facing. I’ve written about my 5 year old’s anxiety issues several times here on my blog, lamenting, complaining, and crying about what she is going through. Finally I reached the point where I needed outside help with her. She is too scared, too sad and too burdened for a 5 year old and, although I can relate, I can’t fix her with the tools I already have.

Starting this week she and I are going to be attending regular counseling sessions with the goal of easing her anxiety and teaching me the tools I will need to not only support her, but to ease my own anxiety, as well. Finding the counselor was my first step, now we need to attend the sessions and follow through on the work.

I look forward to looking back on 2010 as being the year I found some much-needed answers to help our family operate with more love, respect and joy.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(All the links should be active by noon on Jan. 12. Go to Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama for the most recently updated list.)

• To Yell or Not to YellThe Adventures of Lactating Girl
• It Is All About Empathy: Nurturing a Toddler's Compassion PotentialBaby Dust Diaries
• To my babies: this year…BluebirdMama
• Mindfully Loving My ChildrenBreastfeeding Moms Unite!
• January Carnival of Natural Parenting: ResolutionsCode Name: Mama
• Imperfect MotherConsider Eden
• ResolutionsCraphead (aka Mommy)
• FC Mom's Parenting Resolutions 2010FC Mom
• What’s in a Resolution?Happy Mothering
• January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting resolutionsHobo Mama
• Natural Parenting ResolutionsLittle Green Blog
• This year, I will mostly...Look Left of the Pleiades
• Parenting ResolutionsThe Mahogany Way
• I Resolve to Breastfeed In Public More Oftenmama2mama tips
• Moving to Two KidsMegna the Destroyer
• Use LoveMomopoly
• My parenting resolutionsMusings of a Milk Maker
• Talkin' 'bout My ResolutionsNavelgazing
• Parenting ResolutionsOne Starry Night
• Invitations, not resolutionsRaising My Boychick
• No more multitasking during kid timeThe Recovering Procrastinator
• I need to slow down, smell those roses AND the poopy diapersTales of a Kitchen Witch Momma
• Resolutely Parenting in 2010This Is Worthwhile

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stolen from Iris's teacher's blog

I think my very favorite part of this is that Iris (second from left) and her friend are holding hands. She gets alot of support from the other little girls in her class and it's soooo sweet.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The cough that keeps on coughing (and other Eloise updates!)

Eloise has had a cough since October. It's insane. Pretty much after the first cold of the season she coughs. And coughs. And coughs. It is mostly a nuisance, but the past few nights it has kept her from sleeping well and she has also taken to asking "when will I be done coughing?". In the day and age of swine flu, taking her anywhere with her cough feels like I need to announce to everyone around us that she's not sick! Just a lingering cough! I'm also constantly barking orders to "cough in to your arm!" which is getting old, for both of us.

I took her to the doctor last year for the same thing. Actually, she's pretty much gone to the doctor every year since birth for the same thing. Nothing ever really helps. A friend suggested that we consult an allergy specialist since her son was helped by a visit to one. I think I am going to ask about a referral because nothing we're doing is working.

Besides the cough, Eloise has been a blast lately. She settled right back in to school and her teacher is always thrilled about her silly antics and the progress she is making in using her words, not her fists. Yay!

This past week Eloise started at circus school. She loved her first class so much she threw a major fit and refused to leave. I suppose that's a good sign! Annoying, but still good. She reports that she swung on a rope swing, juggled, used the rings and wore clown make-up. Mmm Hmm.

Tonight we decided that Eloise would be a perfect member on a team with the Seattle Derby Brats. I couldn't imagine a more perfect sport for her!

Friday, January 08, 2010

New posting

Hey all--

I have been using my google account under my old email address (which is my maiden name) ever since I got married in 2008. Well, it was getting old (bah dum- bing!) because every time I wanted to post on here or post a comment through my google account on other blogs I had to log in under my old email. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, not that big of a deal, but it was getting annoying enough that I finally figured out how to fix it.

So here's the thing. This blog was started under my google account connected to my old email address. To switch it, I had to add another author to this blog, which is also me, but my current email address. Then I can go back and delete my account. At least I think so.

I wanted to let everyone know in case anything looks funny around here now. I am using the handle "mamamilkers" still, but would like to eventually change that-- as well as the name of this blog. When I chose that handle-- AND the name of this blog-- I was a mama of a young baby. The idea that I would ever NOT be nursing every again was just not even in the realm of possibility. But here I am, over five years later and a total of six years nursing, and I've no longer got kids hanging from my boobs. Yay me! But not my online persona is up in the air. Who am I now with out my milk-making super powers? We'll see!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Sleep Help!

Okay, I'm finally going to put this out there in to the great world of the interwebs, lay my sole bare, because I, and my family, need help.

The sleep situation in our family sucks.

First I'll tell you what the situation is and why it is that way, what the problem is and then I'll end with my plea for suggestions.

So, the cast of sleepers in our home is me, my husband Matt and our two daughters, Eloise (3) and Iris (5 1/2). Right now Eloise and Iris share a room but in separate twin-sized beds, I sleep in the "master" (in quotes because I use that term VERY loosely) bedroom alone in a queen sized bed and Matt sleeps on the fold out couch. In our old apartment, Eloise and I shared a queen sized bed in one room and Matt and Iris were in another-- Matt in a queen-sized bed and Iris in a twin.

Ever since Iris was born I have co-slept and breastfed. I co-slept non-stop for over five years total, some of the time with a toddler AND a newborn. I night nursed my girls welllll past their second birthdays, so that was sleep deprivation galore for over four years. Once Eloise stopped nursing at night my sleep got a little better, but she still shared a bed with me.

Matt is a snorer and a loud/restless sleeper who goes to bed late, wakes up early and gets too warm easily. We have grand illusions of some day being able to share a bed but at this point, I'm not holding out hope. For whatever reasons, I don't see either A. him being able to suddenly be a quiet/calm sleeper who likes going to bed earlier and needs a pile of blankets on him every night, or B. me turning in to a super-heavy sleeper who doesn't need eighteen blankets every night. And to point out, I get woken up by the snoring even with ear plugs in. I have even gotten woken up by it when it's across the hall between two doors when I have a noise machine on. Matt=super loud, me=woken by a butterfly fluttering it's wings. It sucks. I could go on about this for ages, but that's another post for another day.

So, that's us.

Then there is my girls. Both are total night owls by nature, though Eloise has been easier to turn in to a kid who goes to bed at a decent hour. She is on '10' allll day and really wears herself out for the most part. With the girls in their own room there are a few ways it goes down at bedtime: We put them to bed by about 7:45/8:00. We leave the room. They stay awake talking/playing/coming upstairs/etc until about 9:30 on a very good night, midnight on a very bad night, usually more in between. They get up at 7:45 every day for school. OR I put them to bed but lay with one of them to keep them "quiet". This usually results in a pretty bad screaming match between Iris and I because she refuses to be quiet, but often times Eloise will fall asleep at a decent hour, by 8:30, leaving Iris to still be awake/come upstairs/etc until she eventually falls asleep, maybe around 10:30/11:00. OR we have started having one of us (Matt so far) put Eloise to bed earlier and then Iris to bed later. After about the 4th or 5th night of this Eloise caught on and no longer goes to bed without a fight-- she wants to be able to stay up, too!

So, with the girls, either Matt and/or I spend a very time-intensive night getting them to sleep, usually with tears on someones part, or we leave them alone and get grown-up time while they stay up really, really late.

Ideally, we would have a house with four bedrooms, one for each of us. But you know what? This house was barely affordable for us. A four bedroom house anywhere near Seattle is many many years and many many dollars away for us. We could convert the playroom to a bedroom, but then our actual living area would be about 600 SF and I don't know where all of those toys would go!

To be honest, the best sleep we all ever had, collectively, was when Eloise/I were in one room and Matt/Iris in another. But you know what? I don't WANT to share a room with my kids anymore. I paid my dues. I'm DONE. Part of me feels like a whiney baby saying that, but jesus. I exist in the world of attachment parenting where bed/room-sharing is common-- but until what point? My kids are 5 and 3! There also exists a world where kids are never allowed in to the parents bed or room and tsk tsk at bed/room sharing of any sort.

By far, I am getting the best sleep in the house now. I have a room and a bed to myself, a real, comfy bed with a huge pile of warm blankets where I can read real live books before I go to sleep (for the first time in over five years!). But I'm not a completely heartless jerk-- I can recognize that it's not working as a whole. My husband hasn't had a real bed in over six months. My kids aren't getting enough sleep and are over-tired alot of the time. On the plus side, I'm probably more even-keeled then I have been in years.

So people, any suggestions? How do we fix this?