a real live boy: leaping + bounding from two to three

happy 3rd birthday

to my beautiful earth day boy!

psst! play me…

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magic + madness of mud

Give a boy a garden hose…

and he’ll surely make, fling, smear, and eat mud!

I finally prepared my garden over the stretch of a week—turning the earth over (Shhh! I surprised my semi-bug-phobic self by apologizing to the displaced insect life and asking for their help in growing our garden), watering the plot, contemplating the layout and selection of plants, and interplanting flowers and herbs for the first time.  All the while, my dirt-loving-Earth-Day-born 2-year-old was giddily digging right alongside me.

By the end of the day, K was a pro with the garden hose and everything was a fair target.  Including me, of course!  I even had to negotiate time with it.  He’d reluctantly hand it over, whimpering “my hose” and half-heartedly picking up the hand shovel or cultivator until he could get the hose back in his grip.

So now he’s the official hose boy!

Days later, K waters the garden.

Tending the Earth

While at the park one afternoon, he played with two little girls who were trying to make an airplane out of candy wrappers strewn about the playground. I pointed out other scraps they could use, remarking how cool and clever it was that they were recycling garbage into art.  Suddenly, K starts hunting down trash and throwing it away!

I have no doubt that our time together in the garden cleaning up debris, tilling, weeding, planting, watering and admiring our efforts have planted in him the seeds to be a steward of this earth.

First blooms of the Snapdragons

Yesterday, I was so excited to see the first of the snapdragons flowering!

The gift of the whole universe:

the earth, the sky, the rain, and the sun…*

 …A hose, a toddler’s enthusiasm and wonder,

Our hands, our breath, our laughter, our smiles.

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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.

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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

holy mood swings: my toddler the teenager!

Let me first state that I do not subscribe to the common expectation that a toddler’s transition to the age of two will be terrible!

Even at the height of my son’s spontaneous emotional swirl-nados, I steadfastly refuse to be trapped by what I see is a trite label and myopic view in child development that doesn’t foster deep, compassionate understanding.  Yes, there will be tantrums! Frequent and at times seemingly relentless. But there are far too many magical moments (and, in general, enough madness) in parenthood to flat-out condemn this developmental phase as a requisite breath-holding, loin-girding battle of the wills.

What these natural growing pains require are deep breaths, gentle words, easy smiles, open arms, sympathetic hearts and creative minds. The magic is revealed when we greet the madness with such mindfulness and, whenever possible, humor.

Hiding out!
No, I not doing that, Mommy!

“No” and its variants are running neck-and-neck with “Mommy” as the utterance we hear most frequently.  Be it emphatic and loud, soft and sweet, plaintive or matter-of-fact, our growing list of the ways in which K expresses his resistance—er, preference—currently includes:

      • No, thank you.
      • Nope.
      • Not doing/Not going…
      • Not yet.
      • Uh-uh.
      • And, once: No way, José!  (for which I take total responsibility)

Not all of these “no” moments are cause for alarm.  Many, I must admit, are hysterical to me—and I get so tickled that I can hardly suppress my laughter!  In those laughable cases, my mate and I typically find it easy to redirect K’s attention and energy.  If his persistence cannot be ignored, we are not above negotiating with Altoids (our newest useful tool) to allay potential meltdowns and encourage cooperation from our mint-crazed kid.

But I mindfully gauge my response to each situation (namely, turning away if I’m particularly giggly) so as not to invalidate K’s feelings. When I notice that he’s beginning to struggle with his emotions, I ask whether he needs help, a hug or both.  Any of those are effective in the easiest scenarios.

Of course, we parents wouldn’t stretch and grow into our wise and skillful selves if we only had the easy.  In the toughest moments K’s alter, The No-Bot, emerges to unequivocally and inconsolably refuse all aid!

Now  comes the deep breathing…and, I give K the space to work it all out:  He’ll clomp upstairs and fling himself onto the bed, hiding under the covers whenever I check in. Or, run off to pout in a corner or shut himself in a closet or the bathroom. Yes, all of these dramatic gestures from a child on the cusp of two years old!

Even in the midst of this I remain amused and amazed by how well this child of mine knows his own mind and fearlessly expresses it.  Most important, I recognize and respect that K is a little person who doesn’t yet know what to do with all these big new feelings and ideas blooming inside.  It’s not necessary, helpful or appropriate to exhaust myself by demanding his obedience. As a connected parent, I understand that when children don’t “feel right” they have difficulty demonstrating the behavior we deem “acting right” and learning to manage feelings is a slow and gradual practice (for kids and adults alike).

This wide open perspective serves us both: K learns that he can freely and safely experience a full range of natural emotion such as frustration (the most common because he can’t do or have something), anger, discomfort, fear or confusion without punishment.  I not only foster trust and compassionate communication between us, but also exercise patience and conserve energy. I model  the calm behavior and, slowly and gradually, nurture those seeds of calm in him.

So I wait nearby, quietly assuring him that I understand and am ready to help, to hold, to hug.

Then that moment of intensity passes.  K settles into my arms.  I rock him and sing the calm down song until his breath comes smooth and steady. (Ah, the magic of songs and education-based kids’ programming that can be used as empowerment tools for parents and their little ones. Another jewel for magic + mindfulness: Anh’s Anger.)

Now I know he’s ready to listen. I replay the scenario and translate his feelings into simple words: you wanted to do this, mommy said that, you felt mad…and so on.  Sometimes, I take him to stand before the mirror so he can see how his feelings look.  I tell him that it’s okay, that he’s growing and learning, and still needs help from mommy and daddy.

I look into K’s eyes and say, “Gimme your nose!”  Giggling, we rub our noses together in an Eskimo kiss. Into this simple, loving gesture I breathe my willingness to receive all his no’s with mindfulness.  K’s transient outburst is already forgotten. Centered and at ease once more, he zips off to the next new experience. 

eat, play, learn: a montage of the magic of food + fun

this food is the gift of the whole universe:
the earth, the sky, the rain, and the sun.
–from “the six contemplations for young people”

in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Making Space

poetry in motion: [in Just-] by e.e. cummings

These two gorgeous lines (tweeted by someone in my cipher) sprang to life in the shape of my puddle-hunting, snow-munching, nature-loving son!  In them I see a beautiful meditation celebrating the transition from winter to spring.

in Just–

spring when the world is mudlicious…

…when the world is puddle-wonderful…

And, on the brink of spring in Michigan…when the world is snowlightful!

Read here in its entirety: [in Just-] by e. e. cummings: The Poetry Foundation.

squeeze + smooch: the magic of hugging meditation

“When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

My clever kid was about 15 months old when he abandoned nearly all requests to be picked up.

To him, the briefest pause was an eternity.  Of course, toddlers have no tolerance for waiting, and any effort—no matter how gentle—to introduce the concept of delayed gratification or patience is futile.  They want what they want when they want it, so GET IT TOGETHER, FOLKS!

K had quickly come to realize that I could not resist his yumminess.  Throughout the day, I would snatch him up for sniff (ah, that baby-fresh scent), squeeze and smooch!

I’m sure you can see where this is going…

Yup, K understood that whenever I was deeply engaged in an activity (usually cooking dinner) all he needed to do was stand at my feet, stretch open his arms, flap his hands and beg  for a hug!

How could I not instantly drop whatever I was doing to oblige him?  Every. Single. Time.

Nothing is more important than assuring my child that I see him, hear him, and feel his need to be connected.  But, of course, there are moments when I feel stretched to complete a time-sensitive task and cannot immediately give him my full attention.

So I talk him through it—I hear you, lovey. I know you want Mommy…this is what I’m doing now, then we’ll do X, Y and Z.  And soon as it is possible, I hug and kiss him wholeheartedly  for a few breaths and go about the task at hand.

Often that is enough.  But when it isn’t, I keep him next to me and do what parenthood demands we master (or fail miserably trying): multitask!

Other times, however, I require space and uninterrupted solitude.  In those instances, the multitasking continues.  My attention is concentrated on the activity while my heart is reaching toward him.

I acknowledge the subtle twinge of guilt and release it.  Breathing into it, I trust that he’s been properly fortified by every loving touch we exchange and that his sense of our connectedness will sustain him through the healthy, naturally-unfolding experiences of separation between parent and growing child.

But the instant my work ends, I grab K and love him up—breathing deeply as I squeeze and smooch until he’s had enough.

Learn more about the  practice of  Hugging Meditation.

hugging meditation
Image via PlumVillage.org – Art Of Mindful Living

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.

on the mindfulness in motherhood

Samatha.*

Embodied.

Senses.

Engaged.

The body, the mind, the activity.

Stopping.

The belly, the lungs, the nose.

Breathing.

The eyes, the heart. 

Looking.

The ears, the heart.  

Listening.

The opening.

Fully…of laps, of hands, of arms, of hearts.

The receiving.  The allowing.  The cradling.

The embrace.

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on the madness in motherhood

Cackling, with laughter to keep the tears at bay.

“From cool to chaos” — whirlwind-tornado-tsunami — in a split second.

MESSY

 …sticky, stinky, sloppy, smushy and sometimes…

STRANGELY GLORIOUS

 …to be freed from the insistent call to order

from shelves, drawers, closets and containers.

LIFE

…spilling

…out:

ALL VIBRANT.  LOUD.  REAL. 

Wailing

Pouting

Shrieking

Bellowing:

HERE, HERE, HERE!

NOW…NOW…NOW!

NONONONO!

And then, sighing:

OKAY? OKAY. OKAY!

YES…YES…YES.

And now:

Laughing.  Softly.  Deeply.  Easily.  Always.

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magic + madness: creepy-cool new skill

I must admit I found this finger-crossing action somewhat creepy the first time I noticed K doing it last week.  Mind you, he was locked in his high chair, wailing “Help!” and biting his arm!  I thought it was some kind of spasm (more likely he had an itch he couldn’t quite scratch), but he’s been randomly twisting up these two fingers ever since.

Verdict: New trick!

weird new skill

weird new skill

another view of the weird new skill

another view of the weird new skill

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out on a walk: tandem tumbling

tandem tumbling: view from the bottom of the hill

In between snows this past December, our tot-friendly neighborhood “sledding” hill provided the perfect soft slope for teaching K how to tuck into my arms and roll…