Friday, October 31, 2014

a long post after a long absence {respectful parenting introspective two}

You can tell how swamped I am by how long I'm absent from the blog.  It's not from lack of things to write about or lack of desire to get here -- I've got plenty of both -- it's just... no chance to.  Taking care of the littles requires most of my time and energy and recent photo gigs (the editing and album and slideshow and dvd making and envelope printing and whatnot) have occupied the little I have left over which is normally dedicated to writing and sorting through my personal photographs.  So here we are.

I've got lots simmering in the little old brain but let's begin with a few notes on things that have been helping lately.

I've just finished reading two books by Janet Lansbury and I totally recommend them both.  Her respectful parenting philosophies resonate so strongly with me, partially because I've seen the effects of disrespectful discipline first hand (and second hand).  Some of what Janet talks about I find that I already do naturally and easily; other points have really made me think and changed specifically the way I do things.

Let me offer a few recent examples of how truly respectful parenting is helping things sail more smoothly around here lately.

Let's start with me, because that's always a good place to start when looking for solutions, right?  So: I'm a fun loving lady, and I like to see my kids doing what makes them happy, and I don't like to yell or be a naysayer... which has led me to be a bit of a permissive parent in some areas.  Not in the sense of: sure, have cookies for breakfast! run into the street! punch each other in the face!  But more like: what do you guys want to do next? sure, jump on the couches! don't want to get dressed yet? fine! another project? ok!

There are a couple of ways that boundaries and limits come into play here.  The first is this: I, like everyone, have my limits.  Although I might have more patience with my kiddos than many do, my patience does run out.  I'm realizing the importance of recognizing my triggers -- like hour three of the complete Star Wars saga score (nothing against John Williams... that is some awesome music, we rocked some of it in band way back when and I respect the boys' appreciation for it, but it gets intense and things get hectic around here) -- and the need to set a limit before we get near those triggers.  Like: we are turning this music off and moving on to a table activity before I am pulled over to the dark side.  Key there: before.  Before I'm too harried to calmly handle the likely aftermath of putting the soundtrack and adventure of the day on pause.

I'm learning that although not matters of life and death, these grey-area limits are just as important to hold firm for the kids' sanity as well as mine.  Sometimes it's almost funny how blatantly the littles can beg for a boundary.  The other night I was cooking dinner and Owen was hanging around at my feet, tired and hungry.  He started messing in one of the cupboards, opening the door and looking like he wanted to climb.  My response to his choice of activity was at first very vague, something like: O, I don't really want you-- well if you're going to hide in there do not step on the white rack...  And of course, he immediately goes to step on the white rack.  Not because he was being bad or even defiant but because I was sending mixed signals and what he needed was a clear message.  And fortunately I was aware enough to realize that was what was going on.  Rather than getting annoyed --Owen, I just told you not to step on the white rack!-- I put down what I was doing and bent down to him.  I see you're trying to step on the white rack; I won't let you do that.  I'll help you out of there and we are going to close up the cupboard.  You may draw at the table until dinner if you like.  In this case, there wasn't even a murmur of a complaint.  I chuckled aloud at how clearly he asked for a limit and breathed a sigh of relief when I held one firm for him.  Had he been a little more tired or hungry or feeling some bigger feelings, things might have gone down a little less pleasantly, but that would have been okay too.

We've had some whiny times with Bob in recent months that were seriously baffling me.  Lots of moping, complaining, being generally disagreeable for every reason or no reason.  It's occurred to me as I've taken a close look at my methods that I had found ways of tiptoeing around some of his issues -- giving in on things or just automatically doing them his way, because I was thinking that they didn't really matter or to encourage his autonomy, like the whole thing about getting changed out of pajamas for example.  The problem with this approach is that avoiding the big explosion, which seems like the plus side, is really the minus side because it allows all those feelings behind the minutia to sit and simmer inside, rather than being let out where they belong.  So while I might feel like I'm helping our day go easier by giving in when Bob refuses to get dressed or only wants plain cereal for breakfast, it may be that he just needs me to hold firm and insist, and lovingly help get him to the task if necessary, and hug him while he wails and maybe just say, You REALLY want to keep your pajamas on.  You wish you would wear them ALL THE TIME.  And then, after he's had a good cry and gotten all those icky feelings out, he'll proceed with getting dressed, and we can move on with our day free from all the simmering sadness.

Halloween I've found brings up lots of feelings -- being able to choose whatever you want to be but having to decide on just one thing? big stuff! -- and it's important to let those feelings be ok, and let them flow.  We had a little breakdown at Grandma's over the weekend when Bob saw some costumes in a sale flyer and wanted to buy one.  That we wouldn't be buying one was a tough blow and while I could have snapped, You already picked a different costume.  That's how it goes, now get over it and quit crying! You're being selfish! that wouldn't have helped one bit.  It would have shamed him, told him, You're bad for feeling this way, for wishing you could change your mind.  No, he needed me to take him to a quiet place where we could be alone, and let him cry, and tell him, I know, it's really hard to choose just one thing to dress up as for Halloween!  I wish I had a magic wand and I could just POOF you into any character you wanted to be.  I have some sad feelings about Halloween sometimes, too.  It was a beautiful little heart to heart we shared in the back room.  We both shed some tears, we hugged, I dried his eyes.  We connected.  In those difficult, emotional, sometimes-wish-we-could-skip-over-them times -- those are when real connections are formed.

Food for thought, eh?  I'll be back with more, promise.

And... because a return post isn't a return post without a buttload of photos, here you go.  (From Tuesday, a much lovelier day than the past two have been.)

Happy Halloween!

Monday, September 29, 2014

roasted roots

This post is inspired by: one part depression for the end of summer, one part lament over the dwindling produce in our garden... (We do have some transplanted beets still growing, but only two carrots remain uneaten; the basil is still going but I think I almost killed it pinching some leaves off with my fingernails last week; the tomatoes we just weren't able to keep up with and wasted a bunch; the brussels sprouts are still maturing and although one stalk is twice the size of the others I'm hoping they'll all come along and it'll be a merry christmas, ribbon-tied sprout stalks for all!) ... oh, and one part a delicious non-recipe that's scrumptious for summer or fall.

This is what we've been eating, on nights when it's not basil pesto, at least once a week since the beets and carrots came in.  I call it roasted roots but often include green beans/kale/chicken as well.

Here are my directions...

-- Preheat your oven to 350 or 400 degrees or somewhere in there, depending on how hungry everyone is.
-- Wash and scrub your veggies til they're nice and clean.
-- Chop your carrots into thin slices and toss them onto a baking sheet or casserole dish.
-- Peel your beets, then chop into thin slices and add to the carrots.
-- Do up any other veggies you have (take the ends off green beans and chop in half, rip kale into bite sized pieces) and add them to the pan.
-- Chop up a handful of fresh basil and add that too.
-- Cut up your raw meat, if you want this to be a whole meal rather than a side dish, into chunks and toss those on the pan with the veggies.
-- Drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top; Sprinkle on some salt, pepper, and rosemary (or whatever other herbs you like); Stir it all up.
-- Bake for about 20-25 minutes, give or take, for nice crunchy veggies and cooked meat.

(We also call this dish pink chicken because the beet juice turns the chicken a lovely bright pink.  Which, by the way, does not make my pink-loving son want to eat it.  No matter how many times I serve beets, the boys will not eat them.  About carrots they are completely fickle; one day they love carrots and the next day they hate carrots and always have.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

camping in september

Another weekend, another camping trip.  This one had its highs and lows, for sure, but in the end it was a beautiful respite from the everyday tasks of being home.  No kitchen to clean, no photos to process, no toy explosions, no tv, no mouse traps.  Instead: fields, flowers, fishing, fires, (seeing how long I can go with the f sounds), friends, farms, food, (so many good f things in life!), fireworks, firearms, ok I'll stop.  There was lots of great non-f stuff too.

I only need one toy: my camera.  I always bring a journal but rarely have the chance to write.  Photography is a little easier I suppose because it consists of moments and that's all I usually have; it's hard to complete a thought in my journal before an interruption arises: Is this a poison berry?  I smell poop on Owen!  Is she hungry?  I need something to EAT.  Will you go fishing with me?  Look at this spider web!  I want to be with MOM.  And it's all good; I'm not complaining; being needed by my tiny kiddos is my favorite.  It just means that my life now is more conducive to snapping observations into photos than unraveling thoughts into words.

Maisy had some trouble settling in on Friday night.  She's at this wonderful age of four and a half months where she's just taking it all in, all the time.  New places can be vastly entertaining; she'll lay and look around and talk about what she's seeing for a long time.  But at night new places can be a little challenging because babies certainly crave what they know for sleep.  Thus, what excites curiosity in the day causes anxiety in the dark.  And so Maisy was up part of the night screaming -- absolutely screaming like she never has in her life -- mad and completely unwilling to settle down in the tent.  And so I was up at some crazy middle of the night hour, and luckily the guys were still around the fire, because I sure needed the moral support and the warmth.  Eventually we did get some rest, but morning came all too soon and there was some general grumpiness in the camp and a moment of, "I should have stayed home!"  No worries, though: we regrouped and I got some coffee in me and we proceeded to enjoy the rest of the weekend.  Maisy did much better the second night, after having had a full day to settle into our temporary abode.

That being the low, the high for me was found in some slow simple moments which made -- which always make -- the trip worthwhile.  Lying in the grass in the woods with my littles, looking up at the trees and telling each other what we notice.  Me: "I notice the sound that the leaves make when the wind blows."  Bob: "I notice how they're moving."  Owen: "I notice that I love trail mix and m&mies!"  And then our quiet time together turns altogether silly with lots of kisses and hug tackles.  Later on after a day of clouds the sun finally came out just as it was about to set and we got to catch a little golden light.  I watched Bob fish for a while... He's really good at casting now and uses the bait he likes -- huge rubber worms -- and doesn't care that it's the wrong kind; "I just like flinging it out and reeling it in; I don't mind if I don't catch anything."  Then I took a little walk with Owen and watched him run and pick flowers in the pretty light, and I even set up one self-timer portrait, which turned out lovely.  (Owen loves to kiss.)  Everything was peaceful and beautiful and my soul was so very happy to be living that little snippet of life.  Later still, after snuggling the boys and watching them drift off to sleep in their tent beds, I sat by the fire with Maisy on my lap snuggled in a blanket and sucking her thumb and I watched as her gaze shifted from the dancing flames to my face and back, again and again, newly enthralled -- both of us -- by how awesome it all was.

Also awesome and included in the photos: a sunset drive through New York farmland, tent sleepers and morning snuggles, blueberry walnut chocolate chip zucchini muffins, some cute little fairy/caterpillar houses we built, the red swing, a new vine swing, many little pretty things picked and unpicked, Owen warming his belly by the fire, walkie talkies, the view!, boys asleep on the drive home.

I am not quite ready for fall (I never am), but happy beautiful September anyway.
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