#michigantomaine: a roadtrip adventure

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a reflection on the 5th year of motherhood

“Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed.
You have not hidden it.
That is your greatest gift to me.”

~Alice Walker
Possessing the Secret of Joy

a real live boy: last four at four

Eek! I cannot believe this is my baby’s last day as a four year old! We’re counting down the hours and replaying the memories of growing up alongside this great little guy.

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Zen(x)Mas: Our Very First Family Holiday Card

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No tree. No lights.
No wrapping paper or gifts (from mom or dad, at least).
No Santa.
And, this year, no snow…

Which is, as my 4 year-old son declared to his dad this morning, the sole factor dictating whether this “quintessential” winter holiday can happen (especially for us Michigan natives): “It’s not Christmas because it’s not snowing!”

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The Zen(x)Mas Way

“Buddha Blessings + Merry Christmas!” My sister, in all her silliness, affected a sacchrine, almost-pious, and breathy tone when I answered her call this morning. (I could tell she’d been cackling to herself while rehearsing this greeting in her twisted head.) We immediately burst into laughter!

Our families know that we are staunchily against the holiday madness that often prevails in the seemingly endless weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. We’ll watch the holiday-themed movies and generate some cheer over food and drinks in the company of loved ones but make no extra effort to aggrandize the occasion. We enjoy participating in the low-key Christmas Eve dinner with my mates’ family and then spending time with mine on Christmas Day. But in the years since our son’s birth (not to forget, the multiple back-to-back births of his cousins on both sides), the holiday festivities have thankfully and decidedly been downsized. Cause ain’t nobody got time or energy for all that!

Our inter-spiritual household of three lives by and cultivates the ethic of simplicity. While my dharma practice is a cornerstone in our foundation for being, the plain truth of it is, in heart and soul, we are just not traditional when it comes to many things.

So (since we live knee-deep in Legos and other construction sets year-round) this greeting card was a perfectly awesome way of letting our more “observant” loved ones know we were thinking of them as they celebrate!

Wishing you a happy, healthy and Lego-tastic holiday and a new year full of unimaginable adventures!

[Disclaimer: Ironhide is K’s newly-adopted imaginary pet. We DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT have a dog, as several have wondered. We’re keeping life super simple that way!]

things to do when snowbound

adventures in snow + ice

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I knew I’d have to make peace with winter when I decided to move back to Michigan 10 years ago (from NYC, which in my 9-year stint as a resident, had milder weather. Hands down. The true test: my nose hairs never once sprouted icicles!) As a kid, I loved everything about it. But my intolerance for snow, bitter chill, and grey skies–sometimes from October to April–grew with each year of adulthood. Maybe it’s genetic–my Caribbean roots or my anemia!

So I chose to embrace it rather than to suffer or grumble through the inevitable teeth-chattering and shoulder-scrunching. Warmed by my childhood memories of gliding, stumbling, and laughing with family and friends as we looped around our now-defunct outdoor ice rink for hours on end, I bought ice skates and made weekly visits during the mid-day open skate. I learned to breathe and relax my arms instead of tensing all my muscles in a futile attempt to fold deeper into my goose-prickled skin. I was slowly becoming weather-resilient!

By the time I became a parent, I was committed to making sure my son would be an all-seasons kid. So as long as the temperatures don’t veer toward the danger zone, we bundle up for regular walks and romps in the snow.

Notable winter moments so far:

K got his very own shovel as a gift from his Papa! It was as much a gift for Daddy too since he no longer had to trade turns with K while clearing the walkway.

My Caribbean father, who has lived in Michigan for all but two of the nearly 40 years he’s been residing in the States, went sledding for the very first time in his life! It was a joy to watch K and his Papi make such memories…and a trip to see my dad spend hours editing the video he shot of our sledding adventure that day! #BucketList

Conversations with my wife: Interpreting motherhood

Because my mate does not blog (or engage on any social media for that matter) and would totally agree that this represents his perspective, I have to share this bit of hilarity from Snoozing On the SofaConversations with my wife: Interpreting motherhood!

On Mindful Parenting: “Discernment Versus Judging” – M. + J. Kabat-Zinn

What is called for in the cultivation of mindfulness, and in mindful parenting, rather than judging, is discernment, the ability to look deeply into something and perceive distinctions keenly and with clarity.

Discernment is the ability to see this and that, as opposed to this or that, to see the whole picture, and its fine details, to see gradations. Being discerning is an inward sign of respect for reality because we are taking note of subtleties as well as the gross outline of things, aware of complexity and mystery. There is a fairness in it, a rightness in it, because it is truer to the whole of reality…

Cover of "Everyday Blessings: The Inner W...

When we bring mindfulness and discernment to our parenting, we come to see how much we tend to judge our own children as well as ourselves as parents. We have opinions about them and who they are and how they should be, and hold them up against some standard that we have created in our minds. When we judge our children in this way, we cut ourselves off from them and us. We also cut ourselves off from ourselves by contracting and becoming rigid. By intentionally suspending judgment and cultivating discernment, we create the potential to reconnect with them.

Discernment includes seeing that even as we attempt to see our children for who they are, we cannot fully know who they are or where their lives will take them.

We can only love them, accept them, and honor the mystery of their being.

Myla + Jon Kabat-Zinn,
“Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting”

facts in fiction: novel wisdom from “the passage” by justin cronin

“A baby wasn’t an idea, as love was an idea. A baby was a fact.

It was a being with a mind and a nature, and you could feel about it any way you liked, but a baby wouldn’t care.

Just by existing, it demanded that you believe in a future: the future it would crawl in, walk in, live in.

A baby was a piece of time; it was a promise you made that the world made back to you.

A baby was the oldest deal there was, to go on living.”

tits + titillation II: the magic of mammaries + the madness of media hype over breastfeeding

I’m recycling my commentary to the Q&A with Jamie Lynne Grumet that I reblogged a few days ago along with related articles addressing the issue, including Dr. Sears’ respond to the hype.

As a mother who has instinctively practiced “natural”, “attachment,” or “connected” parenting, I applaud Jamie Lynne Grumet’s courage to appear on the cover of Time.

The image is undeniably and deliberately provocative.  And, in some ways, problematic.

Though not for the reasons that most folks will immediately think.

Along with the caption “Are You Mom Enough?” this cover adds fuel to thetyranny of comparison (to borrow the phrase that continues to resonate with me long after hearing it in Buddhist teacher Martin Aylward’s dharma talk Work, Sex, Money, Dharma.) between working and at-home mothers.

As well, it excludes from the picture the vital presence of fathers who are equally committed to this way of parenting.

Understandably, Time’s editorial choice was guided by sales as much as shining the light on the legacy of Dr. William Sears and attachment parenting.

I appreciate Jamie’s awareness of the unfortunate negativity (guilt, resentment, judgement, etc.) this will spark and can only hope that the full article will present a more complete and balanced view than its cover.

May all parents be released from suffering
the tyranny of comparison.
May all parents be inspired to be
the best nurturers, educators, and providers 
they can be
and make skillful choices that serve the well-being of their families.

Related articles:

tandem napping: magic + madness in the family bed

sharing the sweetness of breath, warmth, quiet, and rest

until the snoring begins
and blankets become tangled and hot
or hogged and coveted
and stray limbs wander into sensitive territories

leaving me the “wakeful flea” to balance hip-heavy on the inches near the edge

crowded, I roll over and out
while the two bears cuddling in the bed sigh deeply and spread wider

elsewhere,
sweatered and socked
or wrapped in a cozy,
I snuggle up in solitude and free space

tandem shoveling: the magic of tot-powered labor

MAGIC: A parent’s chore is a child’s greatest joy!

tandem shoveling
i got this, daddy!

Here, K got in on the shoveling fun started by his Papa and Daddy…and made a game of switching shovels every few moments.

MINDFULNESS:  Whenever I sweep the floors or scrub the tub, K begs to assist. I gladly pull out the extra broom so he can help clean up his cracker crumbs and give him the scrub brush and allow him to jump naked in a baking soda-coated bathtub to muscle out the bubble bath scum.

While K is demonstrating autonomy and initiative, I have the opportunity to nurture seeds of cooperation (all along chirping The Wonder Pets’ “teamwork” song) and an appreciation for taking care of his home and belongings as well as those of others.

relaxing & admiring the snowlightful view

So I say, let start ’em young!  Guiding him through a task may take a few extra minutes. But the songs, smiles, and laughter—evoked by his proud cheers of “I did it!”—truly lighten the load.

dude, where’s your dad?!

Without question, I’m my kid’s best friend right now.

“Here, Mommy!”…He insists, stuffing a car (or five) in my hand.
“Whatchu doing, Mommy?”…He inquires, looking into my eyes while sitting on my lap.
“Where are you, Mommy?”…He shouts, moments after I’ve told him I’m heading to the next room.
“Mommy-Mami-Ami-Ami-Ami-Ami!”…He chants when he needs me and no one else will do.

Even while writing this, K has wedged himself between me and the laptop—checking in now and again for cuddle time.

In these moments, I recall the word samatha  (Pali/Sanskrit for “calm-abiding“) and the practice I’ve adopted to touch that quality: stopping. breathing. looking. listening.

So I accept the cars.  I explain what I’m doing (talking to you, drinking coffee, reading a book).  I report my location.  I respond to his moment of distress as soon as it is possible and reassure him with hugs, kisses and my full attention that I am here for him.

Then from that place of calm, I can laugh and remind K that he does in fact have a father…who is often waiting nearby with arms wide open to receive him.