Category Archives: parenting

The Meditation Path

365 days ago I started meditating. Truthfully, 365 days ago my therapist made me start meditating. She challenged me to do it twice a week. And I did it because I couldn’t NOT do a challenge. But it wasn’t pretty. I would put it off until the two days before I saw her. I begrudgingly took my meditative position on the floor with much sighing and fidgeting. But only after vacuuming, rearranging the pillows on the couch, doing dishes, brushing the cat and doing every other conceivable thing to procrastinate. Then I would meditate. For ten whole, excruciatingly long minutes. I would cross it off my to-do list with borderline violence, the pen pushing so hard on the paper it left a hole. I practically saluted my therapist when I reported I had indeed meditated two whole times in a single week — Mission complete, ma’am!

Basically I look like this. Except in my living room. In a bathrobe. And sometimes lying down.

Basically I look like this. Except in my living room. In a bathrobe. And sometimes lying down.

Then my therapist told me to meditate three times a week. I sighed. I rolled my eyes. I slumped down on my therapist’s couch. But then something happened. Somehow I began meditating more than three times a week. It’s possible that it had something to do with discovering Insight Timer, an meditation app. Not only does Insight Timer offer lots of guided meditations ranging in time from two minutes to one hour, it also keeps track of your stats.  It tells me how many days in a row I have meditated, my cumulative total session time, and (wait for it …) it has bar graphs! EEEEE!!! (And no, I’m not getting paid tow rite this post.)

Oooh! A Bar Graph!!! Ahhhh!

Oooh! A Bar Graph!!! Ahhhh!

I KNOW – IT’S AWESOME. Especially for a slightly competitive person  who might possibly thrive on PR’s and milestones. I know some of you are probably thinking, “But meditation shouldn’t be a competitive sport. The Buddha wouldn’t approve!” Fair point. But here’s the thing, I’m no longer doing it to beat last week’s minutes or to get to the next milestone of consecutive days. At least not primarily. I do it because it’s a daily habit. If a little competition with myself helps me cultivate a healthy habit, well . . . bring it on!

You’re probably wondering how meditation transformed my life. Have I miraculously  stopped yelling at my kid? Am I soaking up every moment of every day in a state of perpetual bliss? Am I more patient and loving with my spouse? The answers are no, no, and no.

I still yell, although I am slower to anger and much more aware of when I am about to lose it.  I have a deeper understanding that not every moment is meant to be soaked up and loved. Some of our life involves waiting patiently for change, seeking solace in the impermanence of every moment — good or bad. AND THIS IS OKAY. I asked Demetri if he thought I was more patient since I began meditating and he looked at me blankly, paused for about 20 seconds and said, “You started meditating?” He then became very busy with his glass of wine. I took that as a ‘no’. But I am on the path of being more patient and loving with myself. And that, my friends, is no small task. A year ago I couldn’t even find the path, but now I’m on it. I AM ON THE PATH. Or at least I’m on a path. Semantics.


Don’t Kill Your Television (At Least Until After the 3rd Blizzard)

Here in Boston we’re staring down snow day number five out of the last 10 days of school. It hasn’t been called yet, but as we’re expecting another foot of snow I’d say things are looking good/bad (depending on if you’re a six year old or the parent of a six year old.) Not that we haven’t had our glorious snow day moments of sledding, snowperson building, hot chocolate sipping, couch cuddling, crafting, and cooking. We have. But we’ve also had tantrums, crying, whining, door slamming, and, once, a chair throwing. Oh, and shoveling, snow blowing, de-icing, roof leaking, and pre-storm grocery shopping. We all feel a little cooped up. A smidgen of cabin fever. The teeniest bit of, you know, INSANITY.

Thankfully, I have a plan.

Last week, between snow storms, I had coffee with a friend. When I asked how she and her family had managed during the two feet of snow and two days of no school, she said, “Yeah, Jillian watched five hours of TV straight.” I waited for the hurried apology that usually follows such a confession. The and-oh-my-god-I-feel-so-bad-about-it or the and-I’m-such-a-terrible-parent-and-person. But instead, my friend just said,  “I got my work done and no one yelled.” And she didn’t even whisper the part about five hours of TV. SHE IS THE MOST BRILLIANT AND AWESOMEST FRIEND EVER.

I have felt bad about TV for years. YEARS. I worry that I let Zoey watch too much. That her brain is rotting out of her head and it’s all my fault. That all this excessive TV watching proves I’m not a good enough parent.  And so I make her turn off the TV even when I’m fatigued, in pain, and frankly, have no business interacting with another living thing. Then I yell. Sometime she cries. And things are worse. And I curse myself for not doing what I know I need to do, which is use the TV to my advantage.

Lately, I’m getting better at reasoning with myself. It’s only PBS Kids. It’s not like it’s FOX news. Or porn. I try and remember that sometimes TV can keep the peace in the house. It can give us all the extra down time we need to get through the day successfully.

So that’s my big snow day plan: TV.  We will play in the snow (meaning I will watch Zoey from the living room window as she frolics about). Zoey will drink hot chocolate with fresh and buoyant  little marshmallows (Points for me! I remembered to buy marshmallows so now we can throw out the stale ones left over from 4th of July!). We will yet again make some kind of craft involving pipe cleaners, ribbon, glue, glitter, and the last remaining shreds of my patience. We will watch TV. For as long as necessary. And instead of feeling guilt ridden and ashamed, I will feel smug and joyful. Because that’s what snow days are all about. Bring it on, third blizzard of 2015! Bring. It. On.


A New Set of Wheels

Over the weekend I was pushed around in a wheelchair. In a very busy store full of not-so-jolly holiday shoppers. By Zoey. That’s right, my six year-old pushed me around in a wheelchair. The kid can corner like nobody’s business. Yes, we might have taken out an entire rack of bras, a cardboard cutout of Princess Elsa, and a bin of fleece blankets that were, frankly, piled way too high. But no one was hurt, not even Elsa. It’s possible we also dented the back of a metal shelf, but it’s the back, who cares. Zoey abandoned me only once, thoughtfully parking me in front of a Ghirardelli chocolate display and saying, “Here, you look at your dreams — I have to go look at those princess watches.”

(pause for wheelchair selfie!)

The reason I was in a wheelchair is this: 15 months ago I got plantar fasciitis in both feet after I spent a weekend walking around in flip flops. Except, of course, it wasn’t normal plantar fasciitis. “Normal” being the kind that responds to physical therapy and/or cortisone shots. In fact, those things made it worse. Way worse. Like I-had-to-crawl-around-the-house-on-my-hands-and-knees worse. So then doctors started saying maybe it wasn’t really plantar fasciitis. It was more plantar fasciitis-y and maybe it was fibromyalgia presenting in a new way. (This is what doctors generally say to me when they don’t know what’s going on or how to help. Sometimes it is fibro and sometimes it’s something else — like strep or a torn lateral meniscus.) They doctors started saying things like I would “just have to live with it” — live with this foot pain that prevented me from walking more than a short block.

This pissed me off. Fortunately this anger propelled me head first into finding a cure. “I’ll show those know-it-all doctors,” I thought. “I will find a way to get better and then I WILL RUB IT IN THEIR SMUG DOCTOR FACES!!” So I made my way to an acupuncturist who did make me better. For a while. For a blissful 4 weeks. Now my left foot is worse than before. It’s a throbbing painful mess. And I’m worried that maybe I will just have to live with it because acupuncture isn’t working this time. I’m scared I will have to live with a limited ability to walk.

Clearly people have figured out to live with way worse situations. I get that. But I have always loved my feet. Not the way they look (although if I’m being honest, my feet have been described as “long and beautiful”), but I love my feet for what they do. I love walking. Walking in my neighborhood. Walking along the Charles river. Walking to get tea with a friend. I am over the moon about running. I L-O-V-E to run. I have always loved to run. I remember sprinting across the bright green of a soccer field in third grade and thinking about what a joy it was — the sun on my face, my lungs bursting, my feet pushing off the grass and then flying through the air. I felt the same in high school and college. And even a few years ago when I very slowly ran a half marathon, I ran with the deep thrill of loving each step. Through some miracle, I never took running for granted. I still dream about running, my feet moving slowing up and down while I sleep.

Now I can’t run. Or even walk very far. It’s painful just to walk the short distances through my house. It hurts to stand. But, wow, do I have a new appreciation for standing. We stand when we cook, when we shower, when we wait to pick up our kids from school. We stand when we talk to other people, when we put away groceries, when we move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. We stand all the freaking time. I am able to stand, but only for a short time, and always with pain.

Hence the wheelchair. I can stand. I can walk. And I’m sure I could run if it meant saving Zoey from an oncoming semi-truck. But I’m not like I was. I’m world has become even smaller because of this new physical limitation and I’m a smidgen angry about it. Once in a while, late at night, my heart feels broken open and raw because of the things I can’t do. Not to be overly dramatic or anything.

But here’s what I can do that I couldn’t do before: I can race around the gleaming floors of a store, my daughter pushing me too fast and taking the corners too hard. She is giggling, high and sweet, her head at the same level as my ear. I can hear her breathing fast and deep. I can imagine the feel of her fluttering heartbeat in in the palm of my hand. This is a new adventure. For both of us. And there’s nothing to do but laugh when an entire rack of triple-D bras come cascading down on our heads. There’s nothing to do but laugh, take the next corner even faster, and aim to take down the entire display of Disney princesses.

“Onward ho!”


A Happy Life (warning: sentimental)

Last night I put Zoey to bed. We read some Harry Potter and then we sat in the dark listening to “The Rainbow Connection” by Sarah McLachlan. I sat in rocking chair while Zoey was curled like a comma under her fleece blanket on the bottom bunk. Her blue nightlight glowed softly in the corner and her dolls were perfectly arranged on the floor next to her bed. Zoey gripped two lovies in the crook of her arm – a pink owl and a slouchy panda bear. I looked around Zoey’s room. On the top bunk sat a large purple and pink unicorn, a witch’s hat, and Zoey’s soccer uniform (which she lays out every Monday for the following Saturday). From the walls hung one of her finger paintings,  a picture of Mickey Mouse, and over the windows, two yellow and pink curtains I sewed for her. A mobile of our solar system spun lazily over our heads, all the planets in shadow. On the floor were various books, an old magazine with a picture of an arctic fox on the cover, and a pair of crumpled footie pajamas that hadn’t yet made it to the hamper. I rocked softly and wished with all my might for Zoey to have a happy life. A life in which she finds her place. A life in which she loves and is loved by others. A life that feels cozy and safe and wholly her own.

I sat there rocking and wondered what it is that my precious daughter will remember. Will she remember how we sat side by side for three hours, each making a holiday wreath? How our shoulders bumped as I reached to glue down a piece of yarn for her? Will she remember dancing in the kitchen to “Proud Mary”? And how we sat on the living room floor together – me combing out the short fluffy fur on her stuffed animals and her affixing brightly colored and fiercely knotted ribbons? Will she remember my apple pie and how I always make a little crust heart with her initials to put on top?

Or will she remember how often before dinner all the little frustrations get to me – everything magnified by fibromyalgia pain? Will she remember how I was snappish and couldn’t be pleased? Will she remember Demetri and I exchanging words in the too bright light of the hallway – the exact tone in which we hurled feeling at each other about something so small that it shouldn’t have been given voice in the first place?

Or maybe she’ll remember it all. Maybe she’ll remember the shadows and the light. Maybe growing up here will leave a few tender places, small little bruises on her heart. Maybe growing up here will help her blossom like the first thick, strong flower of spring.

When I get right down to it, I don’t wish for my daughter to go to Harvard or for her to be famous or rich. I wish for her to have inquisitiveness and strength. I wish for her to have enough. To laugh easily. To love and be loved. And I wish for her to always want to come home.

apple picking

Hey you! You’re Doing It Wrong (Again)!

Okay, so this came up in my Facebook feed this morning:
Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 7.37.34 AM


Let’s look at the tag line, shall we?
“In a brain scan, relational pain–that caused by isolation during punishment–can look the same as physical abuse. Is alone in the corner the best place for your child?”

First of all, I’m not buying that a) having my child sit on the stairs (or in the corner) for 2 minutes with me two feet away qualifies as “isolation” and b) that a time out is the same as beating a child with my fists. Can we all just agree that equating sitting in the corner for a few minutes with physical abuse is . . . crazy? It minimizes the experience of physical abuse, a real and horrible experience for too many kids. And it piles on the guilt to any parent who ever put a child in time out. Which is just about every parent I know, myself included.

I hate this kind of thing. I hate it when people — especially other parents and “professionals” — use fear and guilt to sell their product.Doctors, therapists, and researchers are always telling us there’s a better way. Give it time and then they’ll tell us this better way is actually detrimental, all the while pointing the finger at us. I’m over the whole trend of telling parents we are doing it wrong: We’re feeding our kids the wrong foods. We’re not putting them to bed wrong. We’re giving the wrong consequences.  And the worst one: the way we are loving and connecting with our child is wrong.

Whatever we do seems to be labeled as “not enough” or “wrong” by someone because it’s not their way and/or it’s not giving 100% of ourselves 100% of the time. Maybe we checked Twitter on the 12th round of Candy Land. Or possibly we dared to put ourselves before our child — “No, Mommy can’t have a tea party with you right now. Mommy needs to take a nap because she has a headache.” We have committed the cardinal sin: we were not present for our child. We are bad people and harmful parents. There are books and blogs that tell us so.

These books and blogs try to sell us a quick fix, an easy way to be a “good” parent: Have a sleep schedule! Put down your laptop! Give hugs instead of time outs! I want to tell these people that parenting is scary and lonely and that there is no one answer. Parenting can’t be judged in one moment or with one approach, otherwise we would all fail. Parenting is a layering of moments over years, not one afternoon. I want to tell these people that in each moment, we are doing the best we can with what we have at the time. It’s not always perfect or pretty, and sometimes it’s not even “good”. But we go on to the next minute, the next day, the next year.  We keep doing. And what I want these people to see, to really see, is that we’re doing a damn good job.

And then I wan’t them to give us chocolate and fall to their knees with apologies for the pain, guilt, and divisiveness they have caused. I suppose we can let up to go work on their new book, “You Are Awesome and You’re Doing Everything Right”.

A Letter to Parents of White Kids with Straight Hair

Dear Parents of White Kids with Straight Hair,

Let me ask you this: How many times was your child’s appearance negatively commented on after she/he left the house today? This week? This month? The answer for my daughter is three. Three times today in the first five minutes.

My kid has hair that is not like your kid’s hair. My kid has hair that is curly and big and awesome. That is not to say that your child’s hair is not also awesome. It is. Your child is told her hair is awesome because she sees it on magazine covers, on news anchors, on Barbie dolls.  She is constantly given the message that her hair is good and pretty and normal. But here’s the thing. My kid is not told these same things. My kid is told her hair is big and weird and ugly. My daughter gets the negative messages from the same places your child gets the positive ones – TV, magazines, the internet. And also from somewhere else — from you and your child.

I know you don’t mean to. I know you have good intentions. I get it. Most of your kids have never seen someone with hair like my daughter’s. It’s different. It maybe seems a little wild. It maybe seems a little shocking. This is what I want you and your child to know:

  • Coming up to my child with a slight sneer and saying, “Why does your hair look like THAT?” is not okay
  • Coming up to my daughter and touching/grabbing/stroking her hair, even out of genuine curiosity, is not okay
  • Telling my daughter “Your hair is weird/ugly/gross” is not okay
  • Asking my daughter, “Why is your hair so big?” is not okay
  • Exclaiming to my child, “OH MY GOD! LOOK AT YOUR HAIR! I bet your mom has quite a hard time combing it!” is not okay
  • Voicing your opinion about her hair is not necessary

I know your kid (heck, even you!) might be curious. But please know that there is a fine line between curiosity and intrusiveness. There is a fine line between observation and making someone feel “other”. And please know there is a huge fat freaking line between inquisitiveness and personal space. Don’t cross it. Teach your kids not to cross it.

Which brings me to another point. TEACH YOUR KIDS. It is not my job, and it is most certainly not my daughter’s job, to teach your child how to interact with someone who looks different than he/she does. It is your job to teach your child how to ask questions with kindness, how to be respectfully curious, and how to make all kids feel welcome. Please, do not just stand there smiling tightly and avoiding eye contact while your child insults my daughter. Don’t wait for me to step in. This is it! This is a teaching moment! Yay! As parents we live for teaching moments! But please remember it’s your teaching moment.

Look, I know it’s hard. I know it may feel uncomfortable or embarrassing or just plain weird to talk to your kids about big hair and skin color and differences. And that’s why I will help you, support you, engage with you, and probably even learn from you. We’re in this together after all. But do not expect me to do it for you.

And you know how I said it’s your teaching moment? Well, I guess it’s mine too. Except I’m teaching my daughter something different. I’m teaching her how to deal with rude comments that poke at the essence of who she is what she looks like. I’m teaching her how to respond to things that make her feel like she does not belong, that she’s not normal. I’m helping her find ways to stop people from touching her body without permission.

That’s right — touching her body without permission. Please, please, please understand this. It is most definitely your job to teach your kid NOT to touch my child’s hair. It is never okay. It is not okay when you tell me, “Oh, but her hair is just so inviting!” It is not okay when you tell me, “But her hair is just so beautiful!” It is not okay when you tell me, “Oh, who wouldn’t want to touch her hair!” It. Is. Never. Okay. Teach your child now. Teach it before it happens. Because when it happens it is happening to my daughter. And my daughter is not a lesson to be learned.

If you have questions, ask me. Email me. Call me. I really do want to talk to you. I want to help you understand. Just one thing though, please think about when/how you do it. What are you teaching my daughter about her hair when you say in front of her, “Well, thank GOD my child doesn’t have hair like THAT. I just don’t have the patience.”

I really need you guys to have my back on this. And I need you to teach your kids. I’d really like my amazing, wonderful, beautiful daughter to be able to get to her classroom, the soccer field, the grocery store without hair harassment.

With so much love,

Who WOULDN’T Want to Hire Me?

So, the other day I saw a job posting for this little PT gig that sounded interesting. I wouldn’t be saving the world personally, but I would be helping someone who was. “What the heck,” I thought. “I’ve got nothing to lose! I’ll just apply!” I began updating my resume for the first time in seven years and quickly realized I did have something to lose. Several things, in fact. Primarily my dignity and self-worth. But I forged ahead and finished the damn thing. It wasn’t exactly impressive. I felt it was lacking a little . . . depth. Contrary to popular opinion of SAHM’s, I had not been at home eating bon-bons. (Well, okay. I did it once — something about irony and social commentary on the unappreciated roles of mothers.) The point is, I have been doing stuff for the last 6 years. Lots of stuff. Stuff that not every person can do well. The point is: I HAVE SKILLS. Skills that I am sure will translate to the business world, you know, in some way. So, behold! My true resume!

Computer Skills:

  • Ability to Facebook while cooking dinner and overseeing general safety of other employees
  • Created multi-tab, 18 column spreadsheet ranking all area preschools across various categories
  • Extensive knowledge of internet resources (Huffington Post, Allrecipes, Twitter, Pinterest and various  blogs)
  • Blogging

Leadership Skills

  • Proven track record of readying all employees to leave the house on time, with clothes on (teeth may or may not be brushed)
  • Development of employee social and emotional improvement through motivational speaking, counting, and imprisonment time outs
  • Created, authorized, and implemented impressive demonstrations of  parental power on a regular basis to get employees to bend to my will make good choices

Multitasking Skills:

  • Puh-leese. NEXT QUESTION.

Organizational Skills:

  • Oversaw the health, education, sociability, athletic achievement, and scheduling all of employees all while carrying on conversations about American Girl doll accessories and/or the three-banded armadillo
  • Kept track of bathroom habits of youngest employee, including frequency, content, and clean-up
  • 6+ year history of never letting any employee run out of clean underwear
  • Ability to locate swimming goggles, the skirt with the butterflies on it, and “that necklace with the thing hanging from it” at any time
  • Successful planning and implementation of 6 hot dinners, 5 packed lunches, and 5 healthy breakfasts on a weekly basis

Communication Skills:

  • Effective use of the Laser-Beam-Stare-of-Doom to achieve general compliance, workplace stability, and prevention of all hell breaking loose
  • Proven track record in explaining death, the force of gravity, proper table manners, and how a baby is made in a non-threatening and non-shaming manner
  • Limited profanity while combing out Kaya’s %&#((* American Girl doll hair
  • Excellent “interested face” while hearing about the made-up and extensive rules to the self-explanatory game of  “Throw the Ball in The Laundry Basket” for 187th time
  • Ability to summarize entire days and/or existential theories in 140 characters or less

Diplomacy Skills:

  • Bribed Motivated employees using candy and spare change to maintain workplace harmony and productivity
  • Moderated a variety of intense negotiations, including (but not limited to) the importance of wearing pants, why we don’t stick boogers on the wall, and the commencement of bath time
  • Superior culinary convincing skills, i.e., the “onion” in the stew is really just a potato and is therefor edible by all employees
  • able to administer the correct dosage of unflavored liquid medication without physical injury to any party

Other Things I Can Do LIKE A BOSS:

  • Lip-sync to ’80’s  pop ballads while using various household items as the microphone
  • Wicked good car dancing and kitchen dancing routines
  • Recite dialogue from “Frozen”
  • Make the World’s Best Granola Ever and the Bestest Apple Pie in All the Land
  • Wield a glue gun with limited burn damage to people or things
  • Read any book with “the voices”
  • Can catch throw up in bare hands and wipe dirty butts but, frankly, looking to advance beyond this particular job requirement

What are your special parenting skills?

I tried to figure out where this pic originally came from so I could give credit, but when I clicked on the link my computer blocked me saying it would lead to nudity. So then I tried even harder but my computer's a prude.

I tried to figure out where this pic originally came from so I could give credit, but when I clicked on the link my computer blocked me saying it would lead to nudity. So then I tried even harder but my computer’s a prude.