Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Love and Logic of Raising Adults

This book review was written in response to several requests. I mention this book many times in previous posts and some folks wanted to know more. I claim no expertise in parenting (children or adults or anything in between).

Call me naive (or reckless), but the magnitude of raising children was still a mystery even as I was bringing the second one home from the hospital. I understood that my husband and I were responsible for feeding, clothing, housing, educating and loving our children. I thought I had an idea of how we would parent our children with open communication and a good amount of discipline. But before the boys even got past the diaper phase and into the opinionated, strong-willed, and separate-minded phases, I realized we were in for a lot more than supplying basic human needs. We had to set examples and model proper behavior and responses to the world around us so that our children will know how to navigate the challenges of life. We had the desire to do the job, but I was not sure we had all the skills that the job required. We definitely did not have the job experience.

As I am prone to do when I realize that I am uninformed, unskilled or uneducated in a topic, I headed to the bookstore. I read several parenting books over these past twelve plus years. Some were immediately recycled or donated. Some still sit on my shelves, picked up from time to time, good enough to keep around just in case. But one has remained where I keep all books that make it to my personal reference library:  on the lower shelf of my nightstand for quick access and frequent re-reads. Parenting with Love and Logic by Cline, Fay and Peterson sits on at the ready for my next parenting dilemma.

My husband and I reach for it after particularly tough parenting days to bolster our confidence with a late night parental pep rally. I go to L&L for the quick afternoon parenting crisis refresher session when my sons present me with yet a new parenting puzzle.

The main premise of L&L is teaching children responsibility. The authors believe in the concept so much, they made it the book's subtitle. The authors walk us through the pitfalls of doing too much for our children, sabotaging their own decision-making abilities by making every decision for them, and then expecting them to make good decisions when they are outside of our eyesight and jurisdiction. L&L warns us about mollycoddling (yes, I'm bringing that word back!) our children into irresponsible, incapable adults and helpfully gives alternatives to that fate. L&L supports a cause and consequence approach to teaching responsibility paired with building a child's self-concept of being loved, being confident in one's own age appropriate skills and being confident in making age appropriate decisions.

The best thing that L&L does for me is to help me step back from my unproductive emotions and think clearer about the situation at hand. Love is always the underlying emotion even if it presents itself as other common parenting feelings. Think about why you have fear, frustration, disappointment about your children and their behaviors. It's because you love them. So focusing on the underlying love rather than the frustration with yet another delinquent math assignment helps to temper the situation. The alternative to chiding a child over a frustrating situation or fixing the problem yourself is not merely to say "I love you; it will be okay", but to respond by offering a loving solution that the child can handle with proper guidance.

One of the most loving things you can do for your child is to arm them the tools and self-trust they need to stand confidently on their own abilities.  One of those tools might be failure on their own rather than success by our doing. This is where the cause and consequence notions of L&L kick in. Like most parents, I don't want my children to suffer or struggle. I have often felt that urge to save them from struggle and I have chosen to do many things for them to avoid their failure and consequential sorrow. Just as often, I also have chosen to do things for them that they were fully capable of doing to make it more convenient for me: less mess, done quicker so that we were out the door and on to the next thing. What I didn't realize that I was short-changing their growth opportunities in trade for a candy-coated world of convenience otherwise known as not real life. No one can learn from their missteps if they are not allowed to make them in the first place. No kid will assume personal responsibility if mom and dad come to the rescue every time.

L&L has given me a broader view of parenting. As parents, we are responsible for our child's well-being, nutrition, safety, security, mental health, transportation, socialization, education and the list goes on and on. In the face of such numerous responsibilities and in the day to day of just getting things done, we forget that the largest of all the parental responsibilities is not that we are raising children but that we are actually raising adults, more specifically raising children into responsible adults. We should be raising our children to not need us to do so much for them and the sooner the better, with age appropriateness always a consideration.

L&L provides some perspective so I can choose my battles. I used to think that as a parent, I had to control every move that my child made or else I wasn't doing my job. Now I see that the constant "my way or the highway" approach to parenting my boys only creates a neverending drip of parenting rhetoric that ultimately no one likes or heeds. That's okay if the issue isn't critical but when the stakes are high, you want your kids to listen. So the boys can choose to not wear their coats when it's forty degrees while I am toasty warm in my coat. But I won't say one word about it. Since I haven't been harping on them constantly, they hopefully haven't tuned me out completely. And when I really need them to hear me, they will listen when I talk to them about things that really matter, like not doing drugs.

I don't agree with or follow everything in L&L. It's merely a reference guide for me. Some of the techniques are too arrogant and standoffish for my parenting comfort. There are too many situations where I believe you can still apply love and logic without having such an "I told you so" undertone. Some of L&L solutions are too much Father Knows Best and not enough Sheriff Andy Taylor for my tastes. But like most books touting a method, I take what works for me and leave the rest for the rest.

L&L is really a quick read. The meat of the method is covered in just over 100 pages. The remaining 150 pages or so cover specific common parenting scenarios and the application of the L&L tools. This section, "The Pearls of L&L" is where I go to when some new parenting issue arises. There is a pearl for everyone here, regardless of your child's age or stage. There was a pearl or ten for me when my little boys were giving me fits with constant whining or temper tantrums.

There is a pearl or ten for me when my now bigger boys are making me crazy with their video game obsessions and their homework aversions.

That is why this book has stayed on my shelf: its usefulness has grown along with my children.

L&L has turned me into a sound bite spouting machine at times. As I said, L&L helps me choose my battles. I try to avoid  the "wear your coat", recurring type arguments with my kids. But I still feel the need to respond in some way. In those ground hog day moments, when I feel like we've arrived at where we've been a million times before and my kids want to go through the argumentative drama yet again, I respond with, "I love you too much to argue." Who can argue with that?

I also use that phrase when we are at an impasse and emotions (mine or theirs) are running too high. "I love you too much to argue" gives me my pass to walk away for a time and regroup. I also can say, "I'll discuss this when you are (or I am) less upset" when unproductive emotions keep us from focusing on a solution. I thank L&L for planting those common sense seeds that will sprout even in the sometimes rocky soil of parent-child interactions.

Even with L&L at my disposal, I still frequently parent old-style with emotional outbursts of parental guilt-inducing proportions and good old-fashioned "go to your room" responses to my kids. I am human and some things just bring me to that. But when I am grounded and at my parenting best, I will put on my Andy Taylor, L&L style, and make sure my Opie gets his shot at figuring out how he can fix the mess he made for himself.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Friday Fragments, Saturday Edition

Can this still be considered a Friday Fragments post if I could not get it posted until Saturday? Well that's how it had to be. If I'm breaking a blogging rule by posting this a day late, you can call it Saturday Scraps. Either way, this week was full of tiny bits of many things that all seemed to have something in common: new things with more to come. So this is sort of like a movie trailer...you'll have to wait for the full feature on most of these.

I started a new volunteer position this week. After almost eight years of my kids' primary education during which I successfully and purposely avoided the PTA Fundraising Chairman role, I felt like it was my turn. I willingly volunteered to take on that job for the 2013-2014 school year. In PTA reality, that probably means I'll have that job at least one or two more school years after that too. It could be longer since at least one of my kids will be in middle school for the next four school years. But I have recruited an incredible Co-Chair to work with me and she has several children younger than mine. Thus, her middle school career is at least double the number of years as mine. We have worked out a mutually beneficial exit strategy. She will co-chair for me this upcoming year and then when the time is right, I will co-chair for her as she takes on the lead role. I will also help her target recruit her replacement. Who knew PTA positions required such strategic thinking! This is almost as intriguing as House of Cards, minus the really scummy lack of morals.

In other PTA news, both my kids' schools held their spring Scholastic Book Fairs last week. I love the Book Fairs. I remember as a child bringing home the monthly Scholastic Books order forms and excitedly perusing the book selections. A long ago memory from my own elementary school days came to mind as I was volunteering at the Book Fair this week. I won't tell you the memory now because it needs a full post on its own. But just be warned, you never know what's cooking in the adult bestsellers...

I finished my first full yoga teacher training weekend. Seven more weekends to go. I survived sitting on the floor for an entire weekend. Actually, I survived by finally giving up any semblance of upright posture and alternately lied prone and supine. I expect that I'll have deeper and more meaningful things to say, other than my sitting and lying positions, about the YTT as it goes on. You can only hope.

Come back later for more or stop by Mrs 4444 House of Fragments...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Yoga is Like Breastfeeding and Vegas

Three hours of my 200 hour yoga teacher training (YTT) are behind me. 197 to go! The program started last night and I thought this morning before I rush off to hours 4 through 11.5, I would write down some initial observations:

  • I am really going to love this program.
  • It will really challenge me physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
  • I might hate it, at least parts of it, for brief periods.
  • To continue, I'll have to accept that and move through those periods anyway.
  • Whatever parts I hate are the parts I probably need the most.
  • I haven't been plopped down into a such an eclectic group of people with at least one common interest since I was plopped down into my breastfeeding group three days after the birth of my first son.
  • The first five observations above apply to breastfeeding as much as they do to YTT.
  • I made deep, immediate and lasting friendships in my breastfeeding group. I suspect this YTT will foster some similar bonds.
  • My 45-year-old body will either break or bloom after sitting on the floor for 200 hours. Who knew just sitting on the floor could wear you out? I exaggerate; we did more than sit but I, and my lower back, did notice the sitting time.
  • What happens in YTT, stays in YTT.
Now I'm off for more!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rest, Where Have You Been All My Life?

I am participating today in Five Minute Friday. FMF is a weekly writing prompt in which the host gives one word which nudges us wanna-be writers into a five minute, free flowing, creative word dump. The rules are: read the prompt, write whatever pops into your mind and out through your fingertips for five minutes, no edits and then link up at the host blog.

Just so you know, this, exposing my creative underbelly, is about as easy as walking into church, or school or just about anywhere else, naked.

I am going fiction on you today. And I am naked, walking to you offering up this lady's story:

It would finally come. After 93 years, one short marriage, one long one, 9 children, 33 grandchildren and too many grandchildren to count, she knows it is coming soon. She had no expectation of its arrival for the first 87 years. No one can really give it that much thought during all those busy years. There was too much to do to think about it arriving, too many people soaking your attention to think about what it would be like.
It's quieter now. He died five years ago and ever since she's been watching for the door to open and for it to glide in. A few times, she thought she heard the knob jiggle but it must have been the wind.
While she waits, she thinks about them, all of them. Some of their names she can't recall but the faces are clear, even the recent, little ones that she has only seen in pictures. She was always good with faces. 
She thinks about what she did and at once it feels like a dream. At the same time, it is so real. They are the proof, the faces. 
Playing it all back through her mind is as tiring as it was actually living it. She was, is always so tired. 
All she did was ordinary and the best she could. There is comfort in that but still she is ready for the door to swing wide and for the long awaited to arrive. Or maybe it will only open a crack and she'll slip through, silently, and finally get some rest.

By the way, today's prompt was "Rest." Now I need to get some clothes on.

Five Minute Friday

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chaos Before

The recent weather has not been the type to make you think of gardening. Despite the weather, a new friend of mine has gardening on her mind. Kelly owns a bit of untapped heaven, a modest tract of land that she calls "potential urban farm bliss." She is ready to get her hands dirty and dig into her land's possibilities.

Chaosington Farm is the formal name of the property. As it is now in its untilled and somewhat natural state, the land is beautiful - a rolling landscape dotted with various trees, bordered on the back by a meandering stream and protected on the far ends by sturdy evergreens. Plenty of room to run or stroll if you prefer.

But the owners of Chaosington Farm have different dreams for the land. This land isn't made for just walking. They see orchard trees hanging heavy with fruit for picking on the way to dipping your toes in the stream. They see rows of farmstand vegetables, ready for harvest. They see bushes mounded with berries to be picked by the handfuls from your lazy spot in the pool. They see towering, fragrant herb spirals, spilling over with secret ingredients of gourmet dinners and craft herbal teas.

After walking the property and listening to the descriptions of what will be, I could see these things too.

Dreams will become real in short order. Plans have been drawn, landscapers have been booked, earth moving equipment has been rented. And the Chaos Before will soon transform into actual urban farm bliss.

I'll be watching the process and taking Chaos After pictures too. And anticipating some of those farmstand veggies!

For more information on Chaosington Farm, visit the Kelly at Way Past Fabulous. where you will also find great tips on living thrifty, homeschooling, crafts and more.

Monday, March 11, 2013

How Martha Continues to Disappoint

I told you recently about how Martha let me down. She switched up the way my favorite magazine, Everyday Food, is distributed. Now Everyday Food is not a stand alone monthly magazine but merely a five times a year supplement to her Living magazine. At last report, I had only received my Living magazine without the EDF supplement. Since then, I have received the first supplement and when I saw this in the mail, I was excited! EDF was back!

I ripped open the heavy plastic wrap and pulled out EDF immediately. And immediately, I knew something was wrong. EDF was still its perfectly proportioned height and width, but the depth was way off from my expectations. Instead of the familiar, sturdy 3/8 inch deep magazine I was accustomed to, the new EDF was so thin it was unmeasurable with my ruler. The units needed to measure aren't reflected on my ruler. I guess we are looking at 1/32 of an inch here. Maybe 1/16. That's the supplement on the left. It's there, I promise.

My mother always said, "Don't judge a book (or magazine in this case) by its cover" so at this point, the good person in me is still hoping that Martha is able to do some...

...and I optimistically opened up EDF. "It's what inside that's important", said my mother's voice inside my head. But apparently, my mother (and her voice) hadn't received their EDF supplement yet, (which she is receiving due to the gift subscription of EDF that I gave her many years ago because I loved EDF so much that I wanted to spread the joy and wonder to those I love the most). If she had received her supplement already, my mother, her voice and I would all know that Martha and her new EDF supplement were about to disappoint.

The depth of EDF, literally which I have already mentioned, and figuratively, was gone. The EDF supplement was 32 pages of which 10 were advertisements. There were 18 pages of actual recipes and the balance was lovely full page pictures of delicious foods. I'm not going to compare the number of pages, actual recipes and advertisements in the old EDF, but why do we have to have advertisements in the supplement? I am sure that the advertising dollars charged to be included in the supplement have paid for the next 37 installments. Good fiscal planning resulting in poor customer satisfaction on Martha's part.

I guess by changing the format of EDF, Martha was hoping to make a good thing...

...but I'm not happy with the change. Conveniently enough, I just received an email from one of Martha's minions. He asked me to complete a survey and share my opinions about Martha Stewart Living and its content.  Of course, I would love to complete a survey! Survey Monkey, here I come.

But first I have to do a few things. Martha gently reminded me (in the Martha's Month column of Living) that I have to plan the openings of my pools. You should too. Summer will be here before we know it!

Before completing the survey, I must purchase supplies for gold leafing our Easter eggs this year. Every year, since the dawn of modern egg decorating we have used Paas, American's favorite egg dye. But Martha's probably right that gold leaf is better if you want your kids to have fun decorating eggs.

I am a bit late on a few of Martha's other helpful hints for March.  But these are easy to tackle and then I can focus on completing that survey.

Martha wisely cautions us to quickly open our beehives on the 2nd of March. Once I get beehives, I will be sure to mark my calendar for this activity. Until then, with similar concern for Martha, I wisely caution her to quickly and carefully open my Survey Monkey results. Just like the cautious beekeeper she is, Martha will be fine. I am sure she has some very wise and useful tips for handling bee stings and harsh criticism.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday Schooled - Boy Scouts and First Responders

The 53rd Annual Frederick County Boy Scout First Aid Meet was held last night. Over 150 Boy Scouts from the area participated in this event in which Scouts are tested on their knowledge and skills of basic and not so basic First Aid.

A large group of regional medical and emergency professionals volunteered their time to test and judge the Scouts' skills. The team of charity-minded volunteers included doctors, nurses, EMTs, military personnel and other highly trained individuals. This is a very worthwhile endeavor for so many people to commit their entire Saturday night to support the Scouts.

The Scouts, grouped in patrols of about five, were presented with various First Aid emergency scenarios and were tested on accuracy and depth of knowledge. Each patrol has a "victim" and the remaining Scouts in the patrol demonstrate the First Aid necessary to assist their victim.

Thankfully this scene is staged but many of the situations that the Scouts were tested on could be very real: a victim trapped under a snow-ladened collapsed roof, an adult chaperone having a heart attack, a friend with a glass shard stuck in his hand. Any of those could happen any day of the week. Just hope if something like that happens to you that a Boy Scout is near by. Anyone will know to call 911, but a Boy Scout can usually do what is needed before emergency personnel can arrive. Thanks to Scout training and events like the First Meet, that Boy Scout will likely be your first responder.

I am happy I have two first responders in my house.
Unknown Mami

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Fragments, Original and Unbranded

In direct protest to the recent weather (actual and completely off the mark forecasts), I am officially inviting spring to get its blooming arse here. This invitation is in the form of my spring wreath being hung on the front door. There is no reason why spring can't show up now.

I made this beauty a few years ago and shared the secret here on my blog. In the past, it has worked like a good luck charm, getting spring to show up. Amazingly, I just read the forecast after hanging my wreath and our forecast is for temps near the 60s this weekend. If your forecast isn't that good, maybe you should head to craft store and make one for your front door.

We are going out tonight for the second installment of SBE. That's our new way to spend one on one time with each of our kids. We missed our February date due to busy schedules and illnesses. But we are back on track and everyone is looking forward to it. My husband and I were not sure if the kids would latch on to this idea but they are the ones who have been reminding us to get back on track. Which proves that they have not gotten too old to want to spend time with us. Those days may be coming.

I heard a snide little term this week which I suspect is directed at lots of bloggers out there: "branded online content repurposers". It was in tweet criticizing unoriginal online material and those who fill their sites with other people's stuff. I won't name the tweeter ('cuz that would be doing exactly what this person is being critical of). Anyway, I like the term because you do see a lot of that on the web. But it doesn't bother me. I have no brand and I rarely repurpose others' stuff. I just repurpose my own...like the two links above that you should click on. Ahem.

Speaking of brands, what do you think of my new header and background? I don't love it but it is at least something new. I had the same old one for a long time and was getting tired of seeing it. I know I'm no graphic artist. My husband says it is too harsh and the image doesn't relate to anything. I can't disagree.  But he still loves me and my blog. Tell me what you think if you have any thoughts. You can't hurt my feelings. Really, would love to know.

This post brought to you by Tempo and Speed, your blog of choice for original, non-branded, and sometimes hard to understand content. Choose Tempo and Speed like the other 44 followers have.

Is that content repurposing? If so, please forgive.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Yogini in the Making

I practice yoga several times a week and have done so consistently for some time now. Before consistency set in, I practiced yoga sporadically since being introduced to it many years ago. My path to yoga is a fragmented one leading me to call myself a yogini in the making.

In the modern sense, a yogini is a female practitioner of yoga. That could be any girl with a mat and a penchant for all things Athleta. In one ancient sense, yogini refers the sacred feminine force which has the ability to redeem in situations of utmost distress (among some other really handy powers) . I suspect I am somewhere in between.

In the making means I am working on it, learning more about yoga.  Yoga is a path that begins the first time you step on your mat. How long you stay at the beginning and how far you follow the path is up to you. There's no hurry in yoga. And where the path leads is another option strictly up to you.

I am taking a further step and this one leads down a 200-hour yoga teacher training path. My official training starts next week, meeting monthly from March to October for full weekends of yoga practice and teachings. The program application asked why I am interested in pursuing this training. This is part of my response:
I am pursuing this teacher training as a gift to myself and to my family. I am a stay-at-home mom, extreme volunteer and part-time photographer. I give my time and talents to others willingly but do a better job of that when I first have taken care of myself. I am a better wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend when I taken time to ground myself.
So Happy Yoga to my family, friends and me! My training is a gift to us all!

Without realizing it, I was referring to the ancient sense of yogini. Utmost distress can show up from time to time while being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. It sure is handy to have some redeeming abilities in these situations.

Yoga offers one such item for your yogini toolkit:  pranayama, the focus, control and use of breath. The theories on the benefits of breath control are varied and you could read endlessly about it. But the basic idea for starters is to just remember to do it...

You may not be able to twist yourself into that complex yoga pose, but 5 out of 5 yoginis agree, a yoga practice is a success if you focus on your breath, regardless of your postures. (Actually, none of the 5 yoginis would label a practice "a success". A practice just is. But for the purposes of this example, they went with it.)

That reminder is helpful off the mat as well as on it.  In moments of stress or high emotion, we are told to "take a deep breath." In the face of unreasonable expectations, we are warned to not "hold your breath." And in periods of extremes, we are reminded to "take time to catch your breath." These are all reminders to return to normal, even breathing when our respiratory systems, and everything else connected to it, have run amok. In those moments, call upon your inner yogini. Once breath is restored, all manner of wonderful things can happen like reason and clarity and truth...on the mat and off.

Friday, March 1, 2013


All desires to the contrary, I was ordinary. The makings of extraordinary were there: redheaded to start, big green eyes, surprisingly petite, only daughter in a house of boys, parents telling me how special I am. But even with such unique parts, ordinary I was. Ordinary showed up in my grades, my absence among the cheerleaders, my clarinet playing, my public school education. It was exactly what was needed. And no more.

Inside I railed. I was supposed to be extraordinary. I could have been Annie for Heaven's sake! It was only a bus ride to the city and they would see me and KNOW. That girl's extraordinary.

But Broadway never knew what the partners in the firm came to know.

Ordinary is what I am thankful to be. Hot coffee in my Niagara Falls mug, sitting next to my husband before the kids and sun come up. Thinking about the grocery list and heart worm meds. Planning our next mountain trip, hoping spring will come soon. Marveling as the daffodil shoots defy the season and stretch up to the persistent grey skies. They know the sun will come out...

This post is part of Five Minute Friday