Ideally Realistic Holiday Review

With three children now, still working somewhat, attempting to recover good health, attempting to somewhat keep up with a healthy diet while combating serious nursing difficulties over the past few weeks my real life has been in pretty stark contrast to my ideal life. Looking back over the Holidays makes me giggle a little. Cuz laughing at myself is a healthy, sanity saving skill I learned a while back.

Our ideal tree, the one that we created hand made ornaments for out of natural and or reusable supplies while having fun with the kids making memories as we made the ornaments was supposed to look something like the one pictured below.

PerfectChristmasTree

In real life, aka as reality our tree looked like a hobo’s collection of ornaments exploded upon it, barely snagging the branches in places and hanging in grouped clusters in others. It’s what happens when kids decorate a tree. Not to mention the bottom half the tree was adorned with everything deemed unbreakable while anything remotely breakable was assigned to the upper half. That is what happens when reality includes a tall toddler man cub loose on the premises. Reality tree also had both white lights and colored lights…mixed…which seemed like it must be breaking some cardinal tree decorating rule somewhere.  In my sleep deprived state state at the time I ended up comforting myself by making it a life metaphor for how beautiful messy, mixed up, rule breaking, lives can be. After all some of my favorite photos by favorite photographers are ones in which all the ‘rules’ are broken. Never-mind they are tastefully and strategically broken…not strung together in tangled chaos because 2/3rds of the strings of lights mysteriously refused to work this year.

Oh and what about the tree topper you may be wondering? What tree topper? That’s right. Our tree had no topper this year. Was going to get one and then never got my act together to buy one or make one.

Ourtree2013

Our kids thought it was the most beautiful tree ever. And made so many happy memories working on it. My theory is that charlie brown homely trees make kids happier than beautifully and artistically themed for optimal aesthetic pleasure trees do.

In an ideal world, we were going to make 7 different kinds of gourmet cookies in large batches, from scratch with all natural ingredients spread out over several days. Once they were all completed they would be divided up into beautifully arranged cookie gift platters and given to relatives, neighbors and friends. It was going to look something like what is pictured below.

christmascookieplatter

Reality was that one single type of cookie was made in one large batch. It took all evening with my little helpers fully engaged to bake sheets and sheets of cookies while the little ones took turns helping with the decorating icing bags and naturally dyed sugar sprinkles. That single solitary type of cookie ended up looking like this after they were decorated and left for the icing to firm up on cooling wracks…Picture taken just prior to the previously mentioned bear cub toddler helping himself to them by shoving a chair over to the area to gain access.

christmascookies2013

Returned to the kitchen to find the icing scraped off of half of them and about a third of them crumbled into a pile of crumbs. Yup. That was memory making reality. Our cookie gift baskets were stocked with Trader Joe’s cookies instead. Bless them for both having a wonderful holiday variety along with lots of gluten free options as well and fairly wholesome ingredient listings. It hurt my perfectionistic, bakers heart to the core but it got the job done.

Ideally we were going to spend the days leading up to Christmas doing all sorts of fun, Advent themed projects while carefully packing gifts for the many family members we planned to see on our long anticipated trip down to my home state of GA. It was going to be organized, neat and tidy, personalized and done on time because I had a plan.

Reality was our wee baby boy got sick. Very sick. The trip was cancelled while we waited hour by hour to see if we would have to take him to the ER. He took a drastic turn for the better the day after we were supposed to leave and we decided to go after all. We packed in a mad, slapdash manner. All order out the window. Barely grabbing enough supplies to throw together basic gifts for the family without all the personalized notes and special touches that were planned.

Almost all of the ‘ideals’ and plans my over achieving self could come up with went up in flames this year. Reality came along and tore them to bits, trompled all over them and ground them into oblivion for good measure. While nothing that came out of my holiday was Pinterest worthy…it was perfect. Beautifully sweet. Peaceful. Surrounded by loving people. My sweet little immediate family and lots of extended family from all sides. Overwhelmed by generosity to us and our kids. Delicious food. And an older generation that we may not see again earth-side meeting our youngest. Tears of happiness were shed more than once.

Granny Roberts and Doodles IMG_5791 IMG_5808 IMG_5821 IMG_5741

I wouldn’t trade one minute of what the Reality of our Christmas Holiday was for any of what my ideal plans were. Ok, I take that back. Maybe for the cookies. Those were going to be some incredible cookies. Ah well. There is always next year! =D

Hope the Holiday Reality you experienced was every bit as wonderful as the one we were blessed to have.

KidTales

Our kids are pretty hilarious. At least we think so. I don’t normally share their stories on my blog and typically they get posted in snippets on facebook. Have decided to dedicate some blog space to the funny, crazy, exasperating or amusing stuff our kids fill our lives with.

Tis only fair. They firmly believe in tattling on each other or us to the world at large. Plus one day I’ll want accessible documentation that they really did do all the things I vaguely remember them doing.

As a point of reference, Doodles is 5 goin’ on 6 and Cman is 15 months old.

Doodles is on a bathroom privacy kick. For herself of course, as parents we still don’t qualify as requiring privacy in the bathroom. Heh. She’s starting to grasp the concept of knocking first but it still evades her in times of crisis. Crisis being defined as a stubbed toe, hang nail, feedback on a meal or an announcement of how she happens to be feeling at the moment.

This afternoon she’s in the bathroom with the door shut humming a tune from Dumbo while she brushes her hair for the umpteenth time. C knocks at the door. Doodles says “Who is it?” C knocks again triggering a full on sisterly lecture: “Is it my brother Caleb??? CALEB! You know that girls need their private time! You can’t just interrupt a girl in the bathroom like that! What could you possibly need? You are wearing a diaper so if you need to pee just goahead and pee already and if you need to poop I know Mom will change you and I just played with you and right now it’s my PRIVATE TIME brushing my hair and maybe my teeth so just *leave*”

C knocks again and smooshes his nose against the crack in the door and croons “Hi dere” in a sweet baby voice.

Cman Standing at a door

Cman Standing at a door

Insert long pause from inside the inner fortress of a girls private sanctum before the response in a choked up emotional voice…

“Ohmygoodness. You just said Hi to me. That is *so sweet* of you! (opens door) Ok you can watch me brush my hair I guess.”

C with a huge grin trundles straight into the bathroom lugging his truck. He all but gave her a high five. Totally a triumphant moment for him.

The master button pusher just got played by a 15 month old. I enjoyed it for all of 30 seconds before it dawned on me that now I have *two* of them fully capable of master level button pushing.

I’m officially in trouble x2.

Learning What Not to Be

Seems like everything related to the world of being a Mom is complex, complicated, fraught with controversy at every turn and chock full of freely expressed personal opinions. Not to mention the black and white “this is universally wrong” and “these things are universally good” camps.

It can be exhausting. As if just the straight up survival of pregnancy, kids, work and life wasn’t tiring enough. It’s important though so we keep slogging through information, keep digging down to the next layer of reserves and keep searching for any small improvements over where we are.

Lately I’ve been trying to come to grips with what being a Good Mom means to me. And, subsequently, to my kids. I grew up in and run around in a lot of homeschool circles. Along with a lot of very conservative Christian crowds where the definitions and teachings of what constitutes the high and holy calling of being a wife and mother can get pretty close to 100% martyrdom with calls to lay down your life, your sleep, your right to self, and any number of other ‘selfish’ things. Conversely I’ve seen a lot of women who just flat out don’t “get” why their life priorities, bodies or anything else should have to change to accomodate children. Children should simply arrive into their lives with as little discomfort as possible, be scheduled into submission as soon as possible and life inconveniences caused by said children is to be resented to the fullest.

Either end of this spectrum has me squirming in discomfort. It seems increasingly difficult to choose my own path of what constitutes me being a good Mom to our kids. Sometimes my priorities shift on a day to day basis and other times I feel comfortable making a plan and holding the course for weeks to months at a time with only the most minor of tweaks. I am still a very long way from figuring out what I should be…but, I do feel as though I’ve gotten a lot closer to what I should not be.

Our kids need a Mom who is their Mom. As unique as they are. And, if you’ve met my kids you know that is preeeeety far down the scale from normal or average. I should not be like any other Mom who is following a life plan that reads more like a personality profile dictated by a Preacher, Teacher, Politician, Psychologist or the opinionated neighbor down the street.

I should not be guilted into a deferential facade when socializing around parents who’s parenting philosophies differ sharply from my own. Even if they freely express disparaging comments about the very parenting techniques I am choosing to use.

I should never ever be ashamed or embarrassed by our children. Motivated to work harder on problem areas? Sure. Pray they don’t catch some awful disease from the bugger they just consumed out of their nose? Absolutely. But that is a whole lot different than smarting under the shame of a child who has failed behavioral expectations by being ::shock:: a child. Even a precociously brilliant social un conformist of a child.

I should not let my world revolve around our children to the point of my entire being and identity is swallowed up by who and what they are. Or what they are eating. Or pooping. Or saying. Or wearing. Mommyhood may be what takes up the vast majority of my mental, physical reserves and time these days but it should not be what primarily defines me as a human being. My husband married a woman who was not a living incubator, doubling as a milk cow or a drill sergeant attempting to structure a daily routine and work around offspring. He deserves to see a glimpse of the pre-child woman he married every so often and amazingly enough, kids deserve to see that Mom is a whole lot more than *just* Mom. Keeping that woman with interests and conversational abilities beyond what the 2 yo managed to flush down the toilet today alive may mean cutting corners off the idealistic self imposed perfect Mom profile we all keep in the back of our minds to flog ourselves with occasionally. We all know we can’t live up to the Perfect Mom Profile and it’s very existence is merely a tool by which to torture ourselves with yet we hang onto some customized version of it anyway. I should not model self torture to our children.

I should never ever pretend to be perfect. Our kids are gonna fail. Are going to make mistakes. I’m definitely going to fail them and fail myself. A harder lesson than achieving life success is learning how to accept that life is hard. Life is messy. Life contains mistakes. Sometimes a lot of them. Personal responsibility, learning how to apologize and work to make wrongs right are far more valuable lessons than learning how to build a good image.

I should not rescue them from life. Every instinct of my mother-bear nature wants to help them up the ladder at the playground. Wants to intervene when the bully kid walks up and fires off an insult while evaluating if my kid is their next favorite target. Wants to hide them away from the ugliness that rears it’s head in even the most innocent places of the world around us. Wants to pretend that childhood is all lemondrops, rainbows, unicorns, magic and marshmallows (hfcs free of course). There is a time and place for appropriate parental involvement and presence to be made known. But our kids deserve the chance to see if they can figure out how to balance on their own before being swooped down on by RescueMom. If they can come up with a way to deal with the bully and turn them into a friend. To identify and express outrage against the injustices of this world as only the mind of a child can.

And perhaps most important of all? I should not be afraid. Of being different. Of being the same. Of failing. Of getting old. Of being tired. Of not getting enough done. Of doing too much. Of pushing too hard. Of being too lenient. Of being a Mom. Even if childrearing is by far the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It’s Ok though. One day I’ll actually go skydiving and then childrearing won’t seem scary at all.

I’m off to kiss our sleeping kids. Sweet rosy cheeks tucked away in bed with unruly blonde hair spilling all over the place. I should not allow my heart to actually burst with love and adoration as I gaze at them. On second thought, maybe I can just let that one slide. Just this once.

Image

Better than Nothing

Waaaay back when I first started blogging about traditional foods and healthier lifestyles I wrote what has been one of my most popular posts. Good, Better and Best options with our food choices. In hindsight I think it’s one of the most popular posts not because it’s well written but because people desperately need options. Compromise has become a necessity.

We are asked on a frequent basis “But if I can’t find or access xyz food what do I do?” or “If I can’t afford this or that supplement or food item?What then? What then indeed.

I don’t know about you but I prefer a world with black and white. Nice simple and easy choices. You know, like whole foods are best. Always buy whole foods. Ahhh. That seems simple! I can do that! Only buy whole foods. But then you learn about soil depletion and the effects of fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides and think oh no, whole foods aren’t good enough. They need to be all natural or ORGANIC whole foods. Taking the hit to the budget is worth it. You just tighten up elsewhere. Then you learn about the varieties of whole foods chosen and (gasp) genetically modified to withstand transportation  and decide that locally produced, heirloom variety whole foods are the way to go. As you dive deeper and deeper into the world of nutrition the lists of Thou Shalt Not Eat and Thou Shalt Not Source becomes ever longer.

Along with the Eat Nots and Source Nots there also pop up the Prepare Nots with all the different ways whole foods will actually deplete nutrient reserves when prepared improperly. It’s enough to make one want to give up on the whole thing and go get a full meal off the McDonalds Dollar Menu. Except you do vaguely remember how it sits like a rock for hours afterwards and you’d have to resort to downing one of those expensive digestive enzyme pills just to feel human again. Not to mention that article you saw float by your newsfeed a few days about about the McDonalds recall of their apple slices. And if they have to recall apples who can risk a hamburger there?? So instead you sneak a bar of chocolate and try not to think about the fact that it has sugar in it and that Fair Trade is a meaningless term so the poor people you thought were being treated fairly actually are still getting paid a pittance and the whole world of packaging and labels is just one big scam. Then you remember that according to that one MLM company nobody actually sells TRULY raw chocolate but them, everybody else is just lying.

Speaking of scams. Those darn free range eggs you scrounged up the extra money to buy?? Turns out they have soy. Oh yes. GMO Soy. Which means all the hormone free meat you go out of your way to buy might as well have had hormones because you now know how bad GMO soy feed is and how much estrogen gets dumped in the eggs. Those beautiful gorgeous orange yolked eggs. You gaze at the package feeling a little sick but most of all disappointed.

Sometimes it feels like we just can’t win for losing in the nutritious and safe food battle.

Doodlebug helping to pinch traditional Czech homemade cookies with jam for Christmas treats

Doodlebug helping to pinch traditional Czech homemade cookies with jam for Christmas treats

It would be one thing if all of this was for us. Us as in adults. But it isn’t. We are slogging through the information wars for our kids. We are sourcing for their health. For their nutrition. In my experience only as our health directly affects our children (ie nutrition in the womb) or our ability to have children do we REALLY get dead serious about the whole nutrition thing. That or a life threatening illness. That tends to do the trick too. It is impossible not to care or to walk away from what is learned and to let go of “ideals” when it involves the next generation. And the parent guilt sets in. Especially if you know now what could have saved your first or second borns a lot of health grief and you see the difference in your next child. Or if you are a parent looking back at your kids lives wishing you had known then what you know now about nutrition.

The little peach tree in the back yard where we buried our tiny Kaitlyn Anne

The little peach tree in the back yard where we buried our tiny Kaitlyn Anne

It’s a guilt laden world. And there are those on all sides who like to add to the guilt because it helps to pad their bottom line and profit margins. There are even the ones who are not guilt-mongers for baser reasons like profits but actually are deeply concerned and well meaning. I typically fall into the later category. It can be incredibly difficult to take good and life changing information about food and use it to live a freer, healthier lifestyle vs. a life of bondage to food legalities. You can’t unlearn what you know. And with knowledge comes responsibility. And with responsibility the weight of an extra burden in our already crazy lives.

There is an art to negotiation. Successful negotiations are all about knowing what is truly important to both parties and what things are optional. As you learn the list of what is crucial may rapidly change. My list looks very different today than it looked 3 years ago. In the process of negotiating the terms of life between current knowledge base, current resources, and currently available options it is important to have narrowed down what is MOST important. What things do you feel comfortable compromising on? How big of a compromise? Below is a sample of my current list. I have mine divided up into Required (the items I don’t want to compromise on) and Allow (the items I’m willing to compromise on due to budget restrictions and or availability)

  • Eggs: Free Range Required, Non GMO Soy Required. Humane Treatment required. Allow GMO Free grain. Allow non organic.
  • Beef: Grassfed Required. Antibiotic and Hormone Free Required. Humane Treatment Required. Allow to be finished on grains for up to a week before processing. Locally sourced and processed required (Locally = same state) Allow grains used to be GMO/non organic.
  • Fruit: Organic/All natural/Sustainably farmed preferred. In season preferred. Transitional crops allowed. Minimally sprayed allowed.

It has been really helpful for me to actually get what the most important things are to me written out in a systematic way. The list can be as detailed as you wish it to be. I would recommend updating it every couple of months if you are on a fast track of learning and trying to make changes for your family. At a minimum the list should be updated about once a year. It can be as basic and simple as the following.

  • No Margarine or veggie oil spreads. Only butter. No Butter with flavorings or colors added.
  • Read all labels of everything before purchasing. No MSG or HFCS.

Start somewhere. Anywhere. Despite all the nutritional information conflicts it is worth it to make your move somewhere. The worst thing you can possibly do is throw up your hands in despair over not ever being able to get it all done, it all bought and prepared “right” and just decide to do nothing at all. SOMETHING is always better than nothing. A trick I learned a while back that seems to work wonders for me is to always “one up” whatever the convenient temptation is at the moment. If it’s the difference between running to the store to buy them out of Snickers or making a homemade batch of brownies with nutritious ingredients by all means make the brownies. Then you can congratulate yourself on how healthy it is that you used raw sugar and avoided all the horrible ingredients in the average candy bar. It’s the better choice. Maybe one day life will work out to where we can all always have the best. But until then it would save a world of frustration if we could just give ourselves the freedom to do the next best thing. The freedom to compromise.

Food prepared with love, care and attention to details is the best food. Always. Even if it is GMO Sweet corn on the grill. If we lose sight of the purpose of our pursuit of good food, lose sight of our relationship with our children and the generation of kids we want to help then it renders the food battles pointless. Keep the joy in the process. Keep the kids involved. Teach them to enjoy the process of food in all it’s complexities. That it’s about ever so much more than learning how to use the presets on the microwave.

Doodlebug helping to make bread at 2 years old

Doodlebug helping to make bread at 2 years old

Some of us have, and continue to deal with serious health issues. Our luxury and margins that we can compromise with is not nearly as extensive as those who do not have very specific health issues they are treating with what I like to call “Food Therapy” or nutritional healing. When food is being used as medicine it’s a much more strict and less enjoyable proposition. But even with the strict nutritional healing protocols joy can be found in the process. Food can still be made to taste good.

My kids and I had eggs for lunch today with gorgeous deep orange yolks from free range chickens. Chickens fed Soy feed. We enjoyed every last bite. We also ate raw cheese melted on those eggs from cows fed organic feed. Soy again. We ate every late bite of that raw cheese. And we were grateful for it. Grateful to be able to have and afford raw cheese. Grateful to be able to have and afford egg yolks so obviously full of rich nutrients from chickens that had the freedom to run around and eat bugs all day. We are so grateful for our less than ideal, less than perfect lunch. It was amazing. It was a lunch rich in compromise and nutritional value.

Have you learned the art of negotiation in the food info wars? What is the compromise that bothers you most?

Got Vision?

I married a really wise man. Before we got married we talked. A lot. Long distance relationships are good like that. You are forced to fill the air time with words that would otherwise be taken up in silence or giddy chit chat just soaking in each others presence in person. Not to say those in person local relationships are inferior on the communication front (to be honest I still feel a twinge of jealousy over how easy the whole in person romantic experience must be) but I know for us the states separating us were instrumental in us having good premarital communication.

Steve and I

Steve and I

So this wise guy I was gonna marry asked a lot of questions. He wanted to know if our visions, or our goals for a future life together were compatible. If I even had a vision for the future. We made a lot of plans and outlined a lot of goals together.

7 years down the line the details of those plans and goals have changed a LOT. The core of our “vision” has remained the same however. This past week someone asked me about this crazy dream we have of developing a natural themed community-neighborhood. We have a lot of unorthodox plans and dreams. But it’s fueled by the overreaching vision and goals we had all those years ago.

We wanted to raise a healthy family in both body, minds and emotions.

We want to teach our children to be strong, to be leaders and how to serve others and the world at large with kindness.

We want to leave whatever patches of this earth that come into our possession better than we found it.

We want to encourage and help others as we are able to.

Out of these simple heart desires the driving force behind a supplement company was born. The two homes we have lived in in our marriage have housed a lot of folks at all different stages in life. We put a lot of time and effort into learning about health and how to live our lives more sustainably and responsibly. We spent a lot of time with our children. We adapt almost every area of our lives to incorporate our children.

Steve and the Doodlebug: A tiny Bee Keeper in Training

Steve and the Doodlebug: A tiny Bee Keeper in Training

We love to dream. We’ve learned that it’s Ok to dream big. We’ve learned it’s Ok to make mistakes along the way trying to learn how to make those dreams a reality. We’ve made big mistakes along the way. We’ve learned, we’ve adapted, we’ve tweaked. We’ve had to pay and are still paying for some of those mistakes. The whole process of mistakes = learning new and important lessons is something we’ve come to embrace as a part of life. The College of Life has been expensive for us and the certifications not as respected as Harvards but we are grateful for them anyway.

One of the dream-goals we are working towards right now is the purchase of a piece of property large enough that it can be subdivided and a community developed. It’s a logistical nightmare and there are probably a 100 ways we can think of right off the bat for it to easily go wrong. But we’ve learned that some of the best things in life come with a very high probability for failure. We were told when we partnered in the launch of www.beeyoutiful.com that it was a foolish idea. It was destined to fail. There were a thousand reasons NOT to start that business. We counted the cost and decided to do it anyway. It’s been a headache, it’s dominated the majority of our married lives but for every frustrated  and even tearful moment it’s taken from our lives it’s given that and more back. It’s allowed us to work together as a couple in our own home. It’s allowed our children to be more active parts of our lives. It’s been the vehicle to allow us to become physically healthier. It’s been the source and means of good to what now number in the hundreds of peoples lives. We would never have done it, never have stepped out and taken the risk of a brand new business if we had not been willing to dream, hope big and act on the vision we wanted for our family.

One thing we have learned that a dream is just a dream if it is never brought into the realm and responsibility of real life. We are working to bring our current big dreams into the realm of our reality in a lot of small ways. The first and most obvious are financial. It just makes sense to gain financial freedom so that is the front receiving the bulk of our efforts right now. The other is trying to learn as much as we can about how to properly and effectively manage a property. How one goes about doing sustainable and natural animal care and raising. How to garden efficiently and effectively. About 98% of this knowledge is purely head knowledge and hypothetical at this point in our lives. So, we are hacking away at that percentage ratio to get it much lower by the time a financial breakthrough can be obtained. We are going to get a small chicken tractor and start raising some chicks. This year if we are still on this property we are going to build a key hole garden to test it against more traditional raised beds and some of Ruth Stout’s gardening techniques. We plan on identifying and learning about the types of trees on our wooded hill. Steve is managing his bee-hive organically without the use of antibiotics and chemicals that most bee keepers use and is learning what it would take to manage multiple hives. All of this real life practical small scale knowledge will help lower our real life experience ignorance for a bigger property with bigger logistics if that ever comes to fruition. In the meantime our lives are the better for the knowledge and experience we are gaining.

Steve teaching a friend how to work the bees with the hive in our backyard

Steve teaching a friend how to work the bees with the hive in our backyard

So what is the vision for your family?  Do you have big dreams? What are you doing to make those dreams and goals a reality? Do you include your kids in the dreaming big process?

WordPower

Our eldest is a very emotional child. Very emotional. And exceedingly uninhibited in how she expresses her emotions. While part of me envies her complete freedom of expression another part cringes at her complete obliviousness to the repercussions the expression of her emotions can have on people around her. When she was very young she would throw hysterical fits and be completely overtaken by the strength of her emotions, usually negative ones. Feelings of anger, out-rage, hurt etc. Frustrations with imperfections in herself and her life would send her spiraling out of control.

As an individual who hates conflict it’s been interesting for me to observe how many individuals who have very strong self expression tend to feel a lot better after verbally exploding and venting their feelings. They are like whew! Got that off my chest! Now you know how upset I am and how awful you are so now I can be Ok with you again. Meanwhile the people around them may still feel shell shocked and traumatized by the vehemence, harshness and meanness of how the feelings were expressed.

So here is me. Someone who struggles deeply with expressing emotions as I feel them with this child who is a veritable volcano of emotions set to erupt at regular intervals. We could not be more opposite in basic personality types. I am often in awe of her strength and ability to express exactly what she feels. Her freedom of self expression is something that I want her to always have.

Thinking

Thinking

Emotions are emotions. They don’t change the facts of a situation or the rightness and wrongness of things. They are absolutely authentic and I view the right to our own feelings (and especially a child’s right to their own emotions) as one of the most basic of human freedoms. But this spewing of emotions has left me at a loss as a parent nevertheless. How do you train a child who regularly erupts with harsh and abusive words based out of how strongly she feels things without taking away her right to feel that way? How do you validate the freedom to have those emotions and the right to express that strength and level of feeling while not causing hurt and damaged relationships to others? And, the most challenging of all, if adults struggle so deeply with these concepts how on earth do you break it down for a young child? My every instinct is that if healthier communication avenues can possibly be established the younger the better. In theory young dogs are easier to teach than it is to break old dogs of bad habits. The canine example has held true of what I have experienced in my own human life as well.

This past week we had something of a breakthrough for both of us. The concept has made a big enough difference I feel like it’s worth sharing. It came out of me observing how the minute an adult is perceived to be losing control of themselves in a conversation they instantly lose the credibility they desperately need, the validation they crave. Things like crying inappropriately, raising their voice, blaming others for everything about a situation while taking no responsibility for their own actions = an instant loss of respect for whatever it is they are attempting to convey. What they are desperately trying to express, the authenticity and strength of what they are feeling gets lost in the shuffle because the vehicle or method of communication they are defaulting to actually hides the all important point of what they need expressed.

Our daughter stood before me last week with huge tears rolling down her flushed face. Her blue eyes an especially intense blue like they get when she’s thoroughly riled. Through hiccuping sobs she yelled at the top of her voice “I hate this family. I hate lunches. I hate you cooking me lunches. You are a horrible Mom…” Anybody looking at her face could see the the deep hurt plastered over it. She FELT deeply insulted, hurt and even betrayed. So hurt she felt like she had to lash out as the only way to handle the intensity of what she was feeling.

Unhappy

Unhappy

 

This scene might have been warranted if it had been over some large life event. Some horribly traumatic new household rule being imposed. Or some awful food be dictated to be eaten. The fact that all that emotion was over me frying her eggs and flipping them in a way she was not used to did not negate how deeply she felt about what was to me a very stupid and insignificant issue. Frustration rose within me. How many times did I have to correct and train her before it would CLICK with her that it is NOT Ok to verbally lash out with abusive words when she was upset and angry?? To observe her in that moment it would be easy to assume she had never been corrected or trained to behave appropriately. There was no indication that kindness to others has been a central part of all of the training she has received in her 5 years of life. When would she develop an ounce of self control and decide to exert it I wondered for the 100th time.

I sat there looking at her trying to figure out a new way to approach this old problem. She paused expectantly with lip quivering and caught her breath between sobs waiting to find out what the repercussions of her  hateful outburst would be this time. Resignedly I thought “At least she knows there will be repercussions. I guess all that training hasn’t been totally for naught” Observing her straight back, fiercely determined face, shoulders back and seeing how tall she has gotten the thought slipped through my mind “She’s so tall. So strong. She needs the truth” Deciding to allow myself to communicate the emotional vulnerability I was feeling as a result of her verbal assault I swallowed the lump that had suddenly appeared in my throat. Taking her hand I said softly “I know you are upset. I hear you yelling. I am trying to hear what you are saying. When you yell and say hateful and mean things to me though I can’t hear your important message anymore. I can’t hear what you feel. All I can see and hear is the meanness and unkindness you are showing to me. I love you. If you are upset I want to hear about it but I can’t hear the important message you have when you scream and yell. You are strong and what you feel is strong. If what you feel is strong then you don’t have to yell it. You say it with confidence and strength and the words will stand strong without yelling.”

She blinked and tried to process what I said. A fresh round of tears started down her face and she said “I don’t know how to have strong words” “Yes you do”, I replied. “If you feel it strongly then your words will be strong. Say what you need to say with strength and confidence like this!” and throwing my own shoulders back and holding my head high I said in confident clear tones “I do not like my eggs fixed that way. Can you please fix them another way?” Scrunching up her nose doubtfully she surveyed me skeptically. Shrugging she gave it a try. Shoulders back she said in loud and confident tones “Mama I hate those eggs. I want them with cheese and not Pepper.” She stopped and eyed me for a reaction the curiosity clear on her face wondering if something that simple would do the trick. “I am really sorry I messed your eggs up. I can feed these to your little brother and make you some new ones. Would that make you feel better?” Still looking somewhat skeptical she responded “I really do HATE those eggs you made” in clear bold tones. “I’m sorry you hate these eggs and I’m sorry you got so upset about the eggs” I replied. Heaving a sigh of relief she responded “Yeah, me too. Being upset over eggs is very hard.”

Since the egg episode we’ve had occasion to deal with more outbursts. She got hold of some foods this week that caused a regression into behaviors we hoped to have left behind permanently when she was two. When her outbursts are triggered by food reactions this new method has not worked at all. Nothing to date has worked except clearing it out of her system and waiting for her body to be able to normalize. However the normal episodes of outbursts have had a very positive response to the concept of strong words being able to stand strong on their own when boldly and confidently expressed. If she launches into one of her verbal assaults punctuated with volume and tears I put a finger to my lips as a visual cue and say “I can’t hear the important strong words you have to say and the strong way you feel about them. Be bold and confident in how you talk to me if you feel it is important” Occasionally I have to remind her “If what you have to say is strong enough to have tears and yelling then it’s strong enough for you to be bold and confident about” Standing at attention she clearly and assertively states her case. Without tears. Without hurled insults and hurt verbal tongue lashings. It’s been an amazing thing to see and a breakthrough for her to get more respect and more validation for her point of view than she would ever have gotten with a fit.

It is my hope that in the coming years she will continue to gain confidence and communication skills for her strong emotions and feelings. The world needs more strong women who are not afraid of their feelings. Who have the confidence to express themselves without fear. Who are sensitive enough to the wrongs in the world to react and fight to get them changed. Who can be bold in their emotions knowing they are an asset instead of a weakness. Who are wise enough to draw others to their cause and not alienate them as they communicate the intensity of the need. It is my prayer that our daughter grows to be one of these strong and fierce women. She’s been given a special passion in life, an ability to care for details that do not matter to most. It’s a gift, one that I hope she is able to embrace and not despise.

If anybody reading this has a strongly emotional child with a will power of steel please know that I have an incredible amount of respect for the work it is to train children like this. I don’t in any way mean to minimize the difficulties and challenges that come with the parenting territory of children with all sorts of personalities but intend to simply tip my hat in respect to the specific challenges that face the parents of these super strong, super sensitive, super expressive children. Be their cheerleader. Love ’em and for goodness sakes don’t try to break them. Chances are they’ll break you in the process and even if they don’t, breaking them means the world loses a powerful asset. Those wills of steel will bring positive change and strong leadership where more compliant personalities will bend.

Teach them kindness, teach them compassion. They’ll learn both the best from seeing you demonstrate patience and love to them when they least deserve it. The flip side of hyper sensitive and observant kids with build in strong sense of justice is that they are acutely aware of when they are undeserving of affirmation or appreciation. Undeserving of a hug. And undeserving of patience. As tempting as it might be to feel put upon by these little demanding individuals being plunked into our lives it’s actually quite the honor to get to parent them. At least that’s how I am choosing to feel about it. 😀 Otherwise I’d be shipping a certain child off to Siberia one of these rough days.

Self Expression

Self Expression

Summer Garden Veggie Baby-food

Carrot N Squash Squished Delight

  • 1 cup of medium to small diced garden fresh carrots
  • 2 small squash or 1 medium to large yellow (or other heirloom variety) Can substitute or add Zucchini
  • 1 Cup Bone Broth (Might need a few tablespoons extra)
  • Real Mineral Rich Sea Salt
  • Optional: Yolk of 1 Free Range Egg
  • Optional: Small pinch of freeze dried ground grass-fed liver
  • Optional: Pinch of powdered beef gelatin

Chop carrots and squash up while broth is brought to a slow simmer. Add them to the broth and bring to a boil. Stir frequently until veggies are very tender and soft. Using an immersion blender OR a food processor puree veggies and bone broth until smooth and creamy. Add extra bone broth if consistency is too thick. Add egg yolk, powdered liver and beef gelatin if desired. Add salt to taste erring on the side of lightly salting since infants tastebuds are more sensitive then adults.

Recipe can be doubled and tripled if desired. Allow to cool and then freeze in ice cub trays. Can be thawed for meals on the go later!

Special Cautions: It is very important to safely source eggs if you are going to use them with an infant. It is highly controversial giving egg yolks to an infant because traditionally they known to provoke allergic reactions. This is partly why it is so important to use ONLY free range eggs that have not been fed grains. Often times the reaction to egg yolks is not to the egg yolks themselves but to the grains (GMO soy or corn) that have been fed to the hens.

Happy Tin Tin baby!

Happy Tin Tin baby!