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Thoughtful Thursday: Dance Drama

As we enter a new season of dance, I feel compelled to write a little something about the drama that plays out after every audition season.  And believe me when I tell you that I have had to bite my tongue and sit on my hands…because I do not want to be one of “those” parents. So this is a reminder for me, and hopefully if even one parent who finds themselves getting wrapped up in their children’s activities can get a little peace of mind, then my intention with this post is fulfilled.

I see this every dance season: (mostly) mothers who are comparing notes as they receive their children’s schedules, complaining to the other mothers, asking their children why someone is in a class and they are not, going to the studio directors and asking after their children and their placement.

Number one: Your children have no idea why other dancers are the classes they are in.  Leave them alone.  Dance at it’s most primal element is an expression of emotion (joy when you are a child)…so let them revel in the joy of dancing.

Number two: When you hound the teachers, you become one of “those” moms. Do you really want to be one of “those” moms?

Number three: This is not about you. If you enrolled your children in dance classes to fulfill one of your childhood ambitions, then you are doing both of you a disservice. Children who feel pressured to do something will probably do one of two things: quit when they are ready to claim a little independence; or if they stay in it to keep you happy they may suffer the ill effects of stress: illness, injury, depression. What is this childhood ambition of yours really worth?

 

Here is the thing: if your child went through an audition process to be placed, their instructor saw them.  They see where they are today, and if you have history with the school, then likely, they have seen them the last 2-3 years.

Leave the schedule be. Even mindful teachers sometimes overlook children through the audition process, and when that happens then they will move your child into the correct placement. That is the key: THEY do it.  “They” as in the teacher, and “they” as in the child. You stay on the “cool parents” list, and your child has the joy of accomplishment as their progress is recognized and they on their own merit, get to move up to the next level.  When the child moves up on their own merit, they are not the kid whose mother got them in the class (people talk…both parents and children).  When a child does the work and gets promoted on their ability, the child knows they earned it themselves. Hence, the opportunity for a huge milestone on their journey to build self-esteem.

This is what it all comes down to in my book: either you trust your child’s instructors, or you don’t.  If you trust them, then deep down you can come to the realization that maybe your expectations for your child do not match their abilities “for now”. If you feel like the teachers are not doing their job or are not judging your child fairly, then by all means find another dance school that is a better fit for your family.

Bear in mind that “for now” doesn’t mean forever, it doesn’t mean for always…just for now.  Even though it digs at me sometimes, I have to go back to my mantra: I would rather see my child in the front line of a lower-level class, instead of pushing them up to the next level where they are relegated to the back line and lower self-esteem because they can’t quite keep up just yet.

I am not suggesting that you do not allow your child to goal-set.  Here is an idea if there is a class in which your child would like to participate, or you want them in.  Instead of appealing to the teacher to admit them, ask the teacher what the child needs to work on to be promoted to that next level. Then, if your child wants to, bring them in to the school a few minutes earlier so that they can work on those skills before classes start. I have seen other families hire some of the senior students help coach…that works, too, as long as it’s a child-led desire to do the extra classes to improve.

We have also seen our children flourish when they perform solos or small group numbers.  It allows them to receive more individualized instruction. In addition, a mindful teacher will choreograph a routine that plays to the child’s strengths while also putting in some sequences that challenge them to grow.

So trust the process, mama and papa. If you want your child to love dancing, then take them to class, feed them well, ensure they get plenty of sleep, keep them in shoes that fit, and enjoy watching them grow in the art of dancing. For grow they will, in their skills and their love for dance.

For tips on finding a good school, click HERE.

P.S. This is the cool part…when you leave your kids and their teachers alone, and you just sit on your hands and close your mouth because you trust the teachers and your trust their process…amazing things can happen.  One wish: your child becomes an amazing artist who is poetry in motion.

We had the honor of watching a very cool and collected Puma win not one, not two, but five national first place awards at the Dance Masters of America National Convention. Two for her solo, two for her duo with Night Owl, and one with her small group. She is a child who was “passed over” year after year as other children around her age were advanced. I trusted the process and stayed the course, trusting that her instructors are amazing, caring and capable people, and that they would move her when she was ready. Our beautiful, self-confident child reaped the rewards of HER hard work and dedication because SHE cared and did if from a self-drive to succeed. So very proud of her. For my part, thankful for the wisdom that comes with maturity. Because God knows that it took a lot for me to be still.

 

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Breastfeeding Beyond the Fifth

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Otter and I in 2015 – she is three years old in this picture. Image: Erin Rudd Photography

I have been going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to share this part of our breastfeeding journey most of the summer.  It is hard to talk about breastfeeding beyond the first year in our US culture, let alone past the second birthday and beyond.

Otter and I have been nursing since her birth-day in October 2011. So that is now 5 years and 10 months…and we are still going.  She tells me that we are going to be nursing until she turns seven.  I am not so sure about that. She just lost her first baby tooth, and in my mind we were going to go until this point in her development.  Most mammals nurse their young until they lose their milk teeth, otherwise known as baby teeth in humans.

Did I ever imagine I would breastfeed a child this long?

Absolutely not! Never in my wildest imaginations did I ever think it was even possible. When I heard that people nursed into a child’s seventh year, I thought NOT ME. It’s crazy, it’s gross, it’s weird…yes, I thought all those things, too.

How did we get here?

Puma and I nursed until she was 22 months old.  She weaned on her own, it was an easy process.  We cut out one feeding at a time when she was around 18 months old. I happened to get pregnant around that time and she didn’t like the way the milk was tasting anyway.  After our miscarriage, she carried on as before, nursing 2-3 times a day. Then one night, she said she wanted to go to sleep without nursing, and that was it.  A couple of weeks later, she asked to nurse again; I said no because I assumed all the milk was gone.  Come to find out, it’s possible I may have made milk for her.  As they say, hindsight is always 20/20.

Night Owl nursed until he was around 18 months old. I stopped nursing him when I got pregnant with Charger. I tried to keep nursing through the pregnancy. My OB did not support that choice, and since we had already had a miscarriage, I didn’t want to take any chances with having more contractions. I was feeling them pretty much every time we nursed…so wean we did. It broke my heart – I knew he could use the boost of extra antibodies through the winter months, and I felt like I had to choose between breastfeeding and pregnancy.

Along came Charger…he was almost two years old and still nursing when I got pregnant with Otter.  I assumed he would naturally lose interest as Puma had when the flavor of the milk changed as my pregnancy progressed. I was wrong.  I could tell he wasn’t ready to wean – I tried all the things that had worked when I weaned Night Owl: replace the sessions with play time, or other food, or snuggle time.  He would take those options, and then insist on nursing after we had finished whatever we were doing to distract him.

I was definitely having contractions when we nursed again. Two years after our first experience of trying to nurse through a pregnancy, I had met people who had been able to and not miscarry. (Thank you, La Leche League!) This time around, armed with more knowledge, I made up a mantra that I would repeat as I started nursing to remind my body that the oxytocin I was making was for nursing, not for labor. Thankfully, it worked and the cramping during nursing sessions subsided.

He was still nursing when my milk changed to colostrum.  I could tell because all of a sudden he was having newborn-like diapers. YUCK when you are pregnant and you are changing toddler amounts of seedy, yellow, mushy poops.

He did tell me once that the milk tasted salty. I asked him if he was ready to stop then, and he just said, “No,” and kept on nursing.  Then came the mad scramble on my end – how was I going to feed two children at the same time? (set boundaries and expectations) Will there be enough milk for both children? (YES) Clearly the milk was adjusting to feed the newborn…would he still want the milk after the baby was born? (YES)

Thankfully, my wonderful La Leche League leaders helped me prepare and navigate tandem nursing. One of the leaders who had tandem nursed prepared me that the milk for the baby was going to be very creamy and full of fat again, and that most older nurslings LOVE to nurse again after the newborn milk comes in. This helped me set the boundaries and expectations that worked for us…after he ignored me for two days after his sister was born, he was right back to nursing without any hesitation.

We made some great memories as a tandem nursing family – as the sweet peas got older, they had quite the time telling each other when it was each other’s turn, and sometimes they made “reservations” to nurse on a particular “side”.  Hilarious. They usually took turns – I wasn’t crazy about having them nurse at the same time. We do have some Kodak moments captured of the few times they did happen to nurse together – for that I am grateful. Any way you look at it, I now understand the term “bosom friends” in a different light. Those two children remain close to this day.

Charger ended up nursing through his fifth birthday. At that time, I felt confident that I had honored his desire to nurse. He still wanted to keep going, however, he accepted that his fifth birthday was the time to end this part of our journey. I sure did miss the added immunity boost he got from breastfeeding. He was more sick that winter than he had ever been before.  The first time he got sick, I actually did nurse him and he recovered pretty quickly. It seems like there might have been an emotional component to healing without breastfeeding. Once we reminded him that he had a very strong immune system thanks to the years of breastfeeding, he seemed to stop getting sick so often. To this day he continues to make a quicker recovery when he is sick.

If you are doing the math, Otter was almost three years old when he weaned. She was kind of happy at first – both breasts all to herself…and then she was sad when she realized she and Charger were really not going to share in breastfeeding anymore.

Two things influenced my decision to allow Otter to self-wean. After seeing the remorse Charger had at being “forced” to wean at five, I did not want to make her have an end date. I also got to see a presentation by Dr. Nils Bergman in which he taught the biology of breastfeeding across mammals. He is the one who pointed out that the majority of mammals nurse their young until they loose their milk teeth, aka “baby teeth”.  LIGHTBULB. Okay, so now I really understood that nursing a human child until their the sixth or seventh birthday made sense from an evolutionary biological level.

Is nursing an older child like nursing a newborn or a toddler? 

Not in our case. Newborns nurse around the clock.  Around 6-8 months of age, most human children develop an interest in eating what is known as “solid food”. At that point, they breastfeed first, then try the solid food, and top off with breastfeeding to make sure they have gotten enough nutrients for that meal. We never stressed about what our children ate. We love that mantra that comes from the baby-led weaning crowd, “Food before one is just for fun.”

Around the first birthday, we would naturally lose a breastfeeding session as our children went from two naps a day to one. Then you drop some sessions around meal times as they become better eaters. As they start to move more and become toddlers, the interest decreases again. Our toddlers (18+ months) would nurse upon waking in the morning and before bedtime; anything in between was incidental: tired, overstimulated, injured, etc.

Somewhere between the second and third birthday, we told the sweet peas that they could only nurse at home. I was always willing to honor our children’s need/desire to breastfeed, however I was not willing to push social norms outside our home.

We kept to this morning/evening pattern until Charger and Otter were four years old.  At four, they had to choose: nurse upon waking or nurse at bedtime. At this point, any nursing during the day was as a last resort because all other comfort methods had failed.

I noticed that Otter’s pattern changed when she was 5.5 years old. She would go 2-3 days without nursing, and then ask again. I will always tell her, you can try and see what happens.  So far, she has always gotten milk.  How long will this last? I have no idea.

Why would anyone breastfeed this long?

For us, the benefits far outweigh being an outlier on the social norms scale.  The ones we have enjoyed are the bond between mother and child, the seemingly endless enjoyment of food and willingness to eat a large variety of flavors, and the immunity boost that lasts throughout the breastfeeding relationship (and beyond in Charger’s case).

I love this image from The Alpha Parent that outlines the many benefits of breastfeeding into the toddler years:

Little boy (2-3) with bare chest, arms up, portrait

 

What does my husband think?

He supports this choice. There is no way we would have breastfed Charger as long as he was, or continue breastfeeding Otter this long, without his support. It meant he had to be mature enough not to feel jealous of the children, which he always has been, thank God. In addition, he very readily accepted that my breasts were not “his” or the children’s.  They were MY breasts, and they could be used to feed our children, and still be sexy when we had our time together.

Is the choice right for every family? My guess is probably not, even though it would be lovely if more children were fed until at least the second birthday if circumstances allowed. If it is something you are mulling around and you would like more information,  I would be happy to help if I can.  Please leave me a comment and I will do my best to answer any questions you might have.

Other blog posts I have written about our extended breastfeeding journey:

Our Journey Into Tandem Nursing May 2012 intro about our chosen path

Still Tandem Nursing August 2012 update

Tandem Nursing – Extended  July 2013 update

My Take on Toddler Nursing – Today August 2013 photojournal of “gymnurstics”…thank goodness that was only a phase!

Breastfeeding a Toddler  August 2015 Otter was four years old and my only nursling at this point

Nursing By Example: The power of peer-to-peer support

Nursing a Toddler: Benefits, and why it’s good to follow your instincts and your children’s cues

Extended Breastfeeding: the science behind why it’s beneficial

Breastfeeding & Tandem Nursing: Encouraging parents to follow the right path for their family

 

 

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Fessin’ Up

I want to take a minute to make something very clear because two people have made comments along the same thread in the same week.

My base belief is that those of us who choose to function in society are doing the best we can with what we have.  I try not to judge myself against others because the other thought I remind myself is that no one is perfect. We are all disorganized somewhere, and some are just better at hiding it than others. 

I am writing today as a reminder: When you look at someone, try not to assume that they have it all together or judge yourself for not doing enough…because unless people “fess up” like I am about to do, then they may look like they are, “doing it all”. In reality they are just getting along as best they can like everyone else.

Comment 1: “You had time to make dinner for all your kids?”
Because mama saw me at the dance studio with our little IKEA bento boxes at the studio, which our kiddos take because we hate buying fast food.

Answer: Our nannies cook. I make sandwiches and cut fruits and vegetables. When the nannies pack the boxes, there are meals in them. When I pack the boxes, there is *cold* nutritious food in them.

Comment 2: “How are you doing? Because you give, give, give and I want to make sure you are taking care of you.”
From a friend of the family we see on a weekly basis and who we interact with professionally in our birth classes. He sees what I do on social media and all the events we host/attend.

Answer: I am doing great. You know why? Because my amazing husband works his a** off for our family, and we make the choices that allow us to afford 2 **amazing** nannies that do all the cooking and the laundry, or at least 95% of it. Which frees up my brain and my time to do everything I love to do, which is give to our family by homeschooling, and to our community by teaching classes and promoting or attending events that support pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and the family.

AND AND AND all our children are out of diapers AND they are all potty trained. It’s hard to understand just how momentous that is until you see a mom up to her eyeballs in babies and toddlers (that of course she loves very much, just like I loved our children so very much when we were in that stage). “No diapers, no accidents” is such a huge new milestone I am finally embracing; instead of grieving the fact that I will never birth again.

So even though I put on a good front, I have a huge amount of support that makes it all work…pretty well on most days.  If I am tired, I get snappy; if I am sad I cry, just like every other human parent out in the world.  Since we’re doing true confessions here…sometimes it gets worse than that. I had a meltdown in a parking lot last May and I was reminded of my humanity again in February of this year.

Just like many of you, I have days when I am completely overwhelmed, and I have days when I am filled with joy…sometimes in the same day. What is amazing is that as our children grow, they are helping more and that makes it all worth it. They are starting to take ownership for their part in making our family run smoothly, and they are funny and giving and helpful. They are also putting us through growing pains again as we are approaching the teen years. I love it all and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 There is one more thing I want to add: aside from all the earthly support and help that I have, I have an awesome God.  He lights every step of my journey on a daily basis.  I have lived through dark days when I tried to run away from my faith. Then I was welcomed joyfully back and have walked with the Holy Spirit in my heart every day since then.  I am by no means perfect, however I know that I am loved. That makes it all worthwhile and so very doable.

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Wake-Up call – not prepared for dog attack

I am interrupting our fun Kitchen Science series to raise a little awareness.  I was in the horrifying position of witnessing a dog attack yesterday. It made me realize how horribly unprepared I am for that situation if it was one of our dogs or even worse, children, being attacked.

Here are the top three things I learned as I read as many articles as I could digest on the internet:

  1. DO NOT SCREAM. It is absolutely counter-intuitive however, that is the worst thing you can do. It will either agitate the dog and escalate the aggression and/or reward the dog’s predatory instinct that has been activated.
  2. Teach the humans around you to drop into a fetal position and protect their vital organs. HERE are more instructions on that strategy.
  3. If you are able to stop the attack, then get the attacking dog in a “wheelbarrow” position by pulling up on its back legs and keeping its front feet on the ground. This will cause it to become unbalanced and potentially lose focus on their prey. It also keeps you safely away from their mouth. The details of that strategy are outlined HERE.

There were many other things mentioned to stop an attack. They would only work if you were willing to punch the dog in the ears or nose, or if you were prepared with a wagon-full of dog fight deterrents. I will mention them briefly because some of these ideas might work if an attacking dog came onto your property.  These are things you would have handy: a blanket to throw over the dog and the victim, a backpack to try to shove between the attacking dog and the victim, access to a water hose to spray the dog, or if you carry a walking stick or pepper spray or mace.  This is NOT the way we take our walks. And many of the things I read emphasized NOT to put yourself between the attacker and the victim lest you become the next victim.

Here are four articles that outline the above information in more detail.  They all had valuable tips that doesn’t necessarily overlap too much.  Please take a minute to read them so that you have some ideas how to prevent or stop in attack if a dog was being aggressive towards your family or pets.

When Dog’s Attack from Cesar’s Way https://goo.gl/ml6Kir

How To Handle A Dog Attack from WikiHow https://goo.gl/DuUZB

How To Break Up A Dog Fight from Pet Friendly https://goo.gl/1OJpTP

What To Do When Your Dog Is Attacked from Pawsperous Pets https://goo.gl/enQRTi

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Kitchen Science: Water Week 2

Happy Thursday!

Here are the experiments we shared with our park play group last week…building on last week’s fun and trying on some new elements for the Sweet Peas to ponder: Sink+Float, Taking Up Space, and Melting Point.

Our inspiration for these posts is this book by Usborne Books:

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The mojority of the activities in the book can be done with things mosts of us keep around the house.

Experiment 1
Will ice float in water?
This is a great follow-up to last week’s sink and float experiment. When a Sweet Pea reasons it out, it would seem that something heavy like ice should sink…surprise!! It floats!

One interesting correlation to explain is perfectly demonstrated in the winter. If ice was heavier as a solid, bodies of water would freeze from the bottom up, effectively freezing out all life every winter.  By floating, it creates a layer of insulation for the life below, that continues to swim freely throughout the winter months.
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Experiment 2
Taking Up Space
Fill a container with water and put on the lid. Place it in the freezer and see what happens!  This experiment helps to illustrate the idea in experiment above.  Freezing water takes up more space because the molecules spread out, hence making it light enough to float in water.

As you can see in our experiment, it did not pop up the lid as much as we had hoped, it did however bump out the bottom of our container and created a very visible difference the Sweet Peas noticed right away.

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Experiment 3
Melting Ice
Prepare three containers: one with warm water, one with cool water, and one empty container.  Have your Sweet Peas guess what will happen to the ice they put into each container.

Careful with this one that the warm water isn’t too hot if they splash it onto the counter or on themselves.

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Experiment 4
Melting Without Heating – Salt
Sprinkle and ice cube with salt…compare it with a plain ice cube.  When the salt mixes with the ice, it lowers the freezing temperature. This salty ice will melt because it now requires a colder temperature to make it freeze.

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Experiment 5
Melting Without Heating – Pressure
Press a spoon into the ice.  You will see the ice melt underneath the area of pressure…if you look closely in the picture you can see the spoon-shaped divot in the ice because ice always melts when it is pressed.

Ask your sweet peas how this would affect their ability to walk on ice.  If they said it would be slippery, then they are correct! When we walk on ice, a thin layer of water forms between our shoe or boot and the patch of ice. This layer of water makes it hard for the soles of our shoe to grip the ground, so in effect Mother Nature is creating her own slip and slide!

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That is it for today’s installment of Kitchen Science.  Enjoy trying these out with your Sweet Pea at home.  Leave me a comment and let me know how it goes for you and your crew!

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Kitchen Science – Water Play I

Welcome to our new series…Kitchen Science!!

Instead of doing “preschool playdates” with our SPB students, we decided to do park playdates so that more families could feel like they were welcome to join us.  The home educator in me has a hard time offering no activity for the children to explore while they share time with us…so I started bringing kitchen science experiments to the park with us.

I am calling this series “Kitchen Science” because most of the activities we will be doing use household items, and all the exploring can be done on your kitchen counter.  Join us over the next few weeks as we share the activities we are enjoying with SPB friends of all ages!

The inspiration for all these activities is this book:

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We received it as part of the Sonlight Homeschool Curriculum that we use.

One of the first concepts we teach children about water is “sink” and “float”.  We used that vocabulary throughout all the water play.

WHICH ONE FLOATS BEST?

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This activity is to help the children explore the idea that some things are going to distribute weight differently than others.  When it’s dry, the basket would hold more things…this is what happened when we added water:

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There are lots of ways to add skills to this activity…

Level 1: Gross motor skills ~ place the glass beads in by the handful

Level 2: Fine motor skills ~ place the glass beads one-by-one into the containers

Level 3: Count the beads as they go in

Level 4: Science Journal ~ note how much each container held, and at which point it sunk to the bottom.

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We like these picture journals from Miller Pads and Paper.
The Sweet Peas can draw a picture to remind them of their experiment,
and also write notes or dictate notes to the parent.

You may have noticed the green lines on the side of the tub…we drew those to measure the starting and ending point of the food tray and the blue rectangular container.  After we emptied the water, the children could measure the difference between the change of the containers in the water.

BLUE CONTAINER

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MEAT TRAY

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Here is another variation on the theme using two metal containers.  I asked the children to guess which one would float.  Some said neither since they were both metal…they got a surprise, and also an “aha” moment when we talked about how giant ships made of metal can sail in the ocean.

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The solid container floated…the enjoyed watching the sieve gurgle bubbles and sink.
You might also fill the solid container with beads to see what it’s sinking point was.

DISTRIBUTION OF WEIGHT

Next we explored what would happen if the cargo on our “ships” was evenly distributed or one-sided.  We don’t buy plastic egg cartons so I had to improvise with a cardboard carton and some plastic wrap. For this activity we used 24 glass beads.

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For comparison on this activity, you could draw lines to measure the change in angle of the containers, and then measure the angles with a protractor after the water was drained.

AIR PRESSURE

Blowing bubbles!! This activity demonstrated what would happen if you forced air into a submerged container.  I added two glass beads to our container to better demonstrate the effect of air on an objects ability to sink or float.

We connected this experiment back to the metal containers that float. Showing how air adds buoyancy to an object, we talked about how ships and submarines use ballast to sink or float in the water.

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So those are three experiments you can do at home with household objects…I would love to hear how your Sweet Pea enjoyed them!

 

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Thoughtful Thursday: Grounding

My only solution as I see the chaos building in our world is to turn inwards. It’s extremely idealistic and somewhat irresponsible. At this point, I am operating at the level of self-preservation. I have to find and create a false sense of calm because being kind to my children is my ultimate goal. As they hear of all the unrest in the world, my need to be their comfort and their sane guide outweighs my desire to listen to the 24/7 news cycle.  Because quite frankly, it feels like a replay.

We are studying World War I with Puma and Night Owl right now. Just last night, we read about the Armenian Genocide. I don’t remember learning about this when I learned about the World Wars in school. I also don’t think we covered all the colonial connections that brought this war to epic proportions (for the time). The loss of life among the military and the civilians, the complete disregard for people of other ethnicities fighting for a few European powers, the slaughter of the 18-24 year old generation of the time, is mind-boggling.

And yet, another genocide was going to play out again within 30 years.  Registration if you held a certain heritage and/or religious belief. Internment of suspect people groups. Plus more of the above-mentioned atrocities.

Here we are, not even 100 years away from the events of World War II, hearing what I can only imagine to be a similar rhetoric. Aleppo – AGAIN. I keep asking myself, is this really happening? How can we be in that place for a potential repeat? Where is the “storming of the gates” and the insistence that we will not be victims to the whims of politicians AGAIN?

As our children learn of current events, we have a clear metric: how is this similar to what happened in 1914 and 1939? What would be a different way to approach the situation? I also add this question: What’s one small thing we can do in our corner of the world?

We have friends in active duty in the military. We have friends who are Muslims. The fact that our children are aware and cognizant that the world is entering a period of unrest makes me glad to be raising sentient humans, and at the same time sad that they are having to wrestle with these questions and wonder about the safety of our friends. Worry about our own safety as people of Mexican heritage.

I received a great suggestion from a healer: what if we focused on grounding? Being in this place, where we are now, to foster a sense of security. To that end, I have made a more concerted effort to spend time outside with our children. It has meant shifting my focus from GO-GO-GO and being a slave to my daily outline, and instead taking an intentional break during our school day to go play outside.

She also offered the suggestion of creating a family altar. It will allow each of our family members to contribute a meaningful item that represents them or something they value, and serve as a focus point for our togetherness and our blessings. As we continue to grapple with all the change we have faced as a family personally over the last twelve months, it will provide a “constant”, a sense of stability.

It is also a signal of potential: we will create the altar with the intention that things can be added as we explore the world, or removed if they no longer serve us. This is a timely representation of the phase we are in now, downsizing and releasing the physical items that maybe we thought we needed, but in the final evaluation serve us no greater purpose other than to be something to hold on to just because we might need it or we might miss it or whatever else we use to justify things occupying a space.

Those are the two small things that we are doing in our home to create a sense of peace amidst the chaos, the calm in the coming storm. Personally, I have also added meditation and affirmations back into my daily routine. I created my own little altar of sorts on my bathroom counter…not the most sacred of spaces, but it is one that I occupy every day and in that sense, it serves me because I can see it and ground myself as MOTHER every day. Life is good.

If you are feeling this call to create a sense of calm and stability for your family, what are you doing?  I would love to hear your ideas – please leave me a comment below.

P.S. One thing I am not being is complacent.  Please continue to call your local, state and national representatives and make your voice heard. Even if they don’t listen to you or represent you, do not let this be another era where the people are questioned for remaining silent or doing nothing.

Find your Senator: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

Find your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Find your local government officials: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

Read about effective lobbying as a private citizen HERE.

Image Source:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/31582586@N03/3033203245/

Monday Musings: Weeping

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/31582586@N03/3033203245/

As inauguration day approaches, my body is betraying the fear I am carrying. I wonder if I am faking it well enough in front of my children.

I watched the full video of the press conference with the President-elect on Wednesday and started weeping. I still cannot believe that this person is going to be our President. If you sympathize with me, you don’t need me to enumerate all the concerns. If you don’t agree with me, probably nothing I write is going to sway you to see things from my perspective, so I’m not going to waste my time trying to convince you that the next four years will be nothing short of interesting.

To add to my agita, I have recently felt a call to speak up for legal abortions. Yes, I believe that abortions kill babies. It makes me so sad to think of all the children that were not born. However, I cannot ever advocate for a reversal of Roe vs. Wade because I truly believe that legal abortions save women’s lives. It is hard for me to speak up about my beliefs because I am a Believer. I imagine that God had plans for those children to live or the pregnancies wouldn’t have happened. I know I am alienating good people who had no cause to dislike me up until know, and that makes me incredibly sad. And, I LOVE BIRTH. How could this topic not be difficult for me?

In short, I am a ball of emotions on an incredibly short fuse.

As I sat trying to process everything roiling around inside me this morning, I started with gratitude.  Thankful that despite the turmoil I have felt inside over the last week, Crazy Mama has stayed on vacation. While admittedly, I got a little louder than I like to be), it wasn’t yelling.  I’m chalking that noise up to ovulation and the fact that I am sad that there are no more babies for our home after seeing tons of babies at our class reunions and holiday party.

The gratitude is this: I am doing this Peaceful Mama thing the way I want to. I am filling up my reserves with affirmations every morning. When I feel myself at a boiling point, I close my eyes. I take my deep breaths. It’s not my absolute best, and still I can be thankful for where I am right now.

I am also inspired to action. What can be done? What is one small thing I can do to effect change?

Number one:
Share THIS document I put together when I had the privilege of hearing Jon Kyl speak several years ago. Daddy Bruss and I sure miss this honorable statesman.  Senator Kyl encouraged us that yes, we can make a difference when we gather up a group of friends and encourage them to light up the phones, emails, and fax machines with messages that state our position clearly and succinctly.

Number two:
Instead of saying that I support legal abortion, take the next step and research ways to decrease the need for abortion. As a dear friend suggested, it probably means providing for more services for women who would be inclined to abort due to lack of support. So on my list of things to do is to get more involved with those organizations and do my part by volunteering. If even one life is saved because a mother feels supported enough to carry her pregnancy to term, then it is one small difference for which I can be thankful.

Number three:
Take heart and courage from the brave souls in the front lines of social change – the teachers who are shaping the minds of our future for a few hours a day. While they can’t single-handedly undo any messages of hate and otherness that students are hearing at home, they can create a safe space in their classrooms and speak out with words of love instead of the words of division that we keep hearing when we turn on the news and see the state of our nation and the words of the President elect.

Fingers crossed that I will be granted permission to share some images that one of our students is going to be posting in her high school classroom (red tape: the work is a product of a peer group grant). When she shared the images and the statements of acceptance with me this morning, I started weeping again. In gratitude this time, because I know that she is not alone in feeling like this. There are other people who see people who look like me and empathize with the fear I live with daily for our children and myself, and anyone who looks “Mexican” or “Muslim” or “Gay” or “Disabled” or any “Other”. There are a cadre of teachers who GET THIS and will make their classrooms safe havens for all students, not just the ones who fit the prevailing version of “normal”.

We cannot accept the divisiveness that the President-elect campaigned on as our new normal. Today is not just a day off from school or dealing with the inconvenience that the banks are closed. On Martin Luther King Day (heck, really anytime!), I implore you to take a minute to talk to your children about Civil Rights and why we cannot allow history to repeat itself.

Here are three resources to explore:
Scholastic Lesson Plan https://goo.gl/smjYV2
The Leadership Conference https://goo.gl/U5R2Wa
PBS https://goo.gl/1WFdsd

Here’s hoping that this processing will help my stomach settle down so that I can stop running to the bathroom every hour of the day.  I am going to focus on gratitude – we are not alone. We have allies. We can find a way to bear with the next four years.

Tuesday Tips: How To Lobby Effectively

These are my notes from a presentation Jon Kyl made in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 21, 2009.  This is a great time to review all his advice again – it’s time to light up the wires!

Notes from Jon Kyl’s speech on How to Lobby Effectively – by Krystyna Robles-Bowman
You may share this post with credit back to our blog – thank you!

Always be very well prepared

It is our constitutional right to “petition” our government

Lobbying for a cause you believe in is not the same as being “A Lobbyist”

  1. Lobbying is essential for the good functioning of government

It instructs your “employees”, i.e., elected members of Congress, on your positions

Although you may disagree with them, if you treat them with respect you will get a better response

  1. Elected officials work for you, whether they act like it or not. Some are arrogant; some believe that you are their employer.

 

 

Lobbying has two phases

  1. Planning
  2. Execution

 

Goal:  Effectuate ideas through the political process

More good people will be in politics if you get involved

 

You do not have to make a campaign contribution to be heard

No soliciting/ suggestion of soliciting to your representative on public property

 

If you can get involved, it will help to get your voice heard

 

At the state level, four – five determined people can get a person elected

Best way to get your point of view represented is to get people with your viewpoint elected to office.

 

General ideas for lobbying at the federal and state levels

 

  1. Planning

What is the problem you are dealing with?

What are possible solutions?

What are your goals?  Understand EXACTLY what you want to accomplish

Do you have the right solution for the goal?

What are we really trying to achieve here?

What are likely alternatives for a solution?

 

  1. Execution – New Legislation

Decide on a campaign strategy

Make two lists: Assets/Liabilities & Opportunities/Problems

 

 

 

 

Assets                                                             Liabilities

What will it cost?                                             List the other side’s strengths & weaknesses

How will we raise the money?

Where can we get donors?

How many people do we have?

Who do we know – volunteers/media

Do we have key friends in the legislature?

How will they receive our argument?

 

Understand the lay of the land before you start the campaign

If you have an organization: Who can you use from within?  Who can you ally with?  How do you reach out to media for the outside game?

 

2a. Execution – Lobby a Bill

It’s generally easier to stop than to start a bill

 

Congressional Level                                                    State Level

When is Congressperson home?                                 Understand the rhythm of the body

Who are their key staffers?                                          -What is the schedule?

When are the staffers around?                                     -How do I get to see my rep?

Who do I talk to if I want a personal mtg?

 

For either the national or state rep:

  • Learn who to talk to – sometimes a staffer is better informed since they have specialties
  • Make friends with the assistants who run the schedules

 

Federal Level:

  • See your rep in AZ if at all possible
  • You can see a staff member – they are smart people, too
  • Will meet with people and associations from AZ in DC, but most of the time there is spent doing the business of Congress in meetings most of the day
  • Call office – make appointment with scheduler
  • Tell scheduler you are representing (cause), meet with rep for (time) about (cause), we urge a (vote) on bill (bill you are calling about)
  • Better if you meet with staff first
  • Common sense is your biggest friend when talking to office – BE NICE!
  • Staffers work hard – be nice and take the right approach
  • Be prepared – think about what you want to say in advance
  • Get to the point – assume and act as if you only had five minutes to communicate
  • Have clear reasons, be concise, don’t take more than 20 minutes of their time

 

If you have an opposite viewpoint:

  • If you have an opposite viewpoint than your rep, plan on crafting an argument that is twice as strong – you are trying to change their vote
  • Make it personal
  • Put a face on your position

If you have an opposite viewpoint (con’t):

  • Express your concerns about the bill

 

General rules for lobbying:

  • Be more prepared than the person to whom you are speaking

– Compare notes with other people involved in the issue

– Ask them what they have heard, be aware of what message is already out there

– Adjust your message accordingly

  • Think about and anticipate any objections – MAKE SURE YOU FACT CHECK
  • Be honest about the opposition, “The other side will tell you (x) – here is what we think about that…”
  • Have a very specific “Ask” – what is the outcome you are looking for

 

Always follow up

  • “How soon can we hear from you about (issue/outcome)?
  • Follow up on the answer they give you, “When can I call you about that?”
  • “Is there any other information we can provide?”

 

To lobby a member out of state:

  1. Find someone in that state who is involved in a similar organization
  2. Advocate and generate noise among all state reps – they will go to the member in question and say we can’t stand with you

 

If it’s really important to see the member:

  • The staff is trained to handle it – they will want to do it in member’s place
  • Insist on a meeting: “Well then, when can we meet them?
  • They won’t like it, so do it nicely
  • Be professional and courteous with staff

 

Alternate ways to communicate (if not in person)

  • Can be very effective
  • Keep it short, upbeat and constructive
  • Email: Great for short ideas, individually conveyed thought
  • Phone: Shows momentum and numbers. Light up the phones if it’s something important to you!
  • Fax: Quickest way to deliver a letter. Snail mail takes longer because every piece of mail has to be inspected due to possible eco-terrorist threats, i.e., anthrax.

 

Parting thought

  • Don’t lobby at social/political events. Remember that there are lots of people to visit and see when they are in their home state, be considerate of their time
  • Citizen lobbyist – different rules than registered lobbyist regarding “buying coffee” and where they can meet

 

Bottom line:  Being persuasive is pretty much all the same:  Let common sense prevail, PREPARE, STAY POSITIVE, BE CONSTRUCTIVE

Photo Credit: Tunc Tezel
https://goo.gl/OIB1Ys

Monday Musings: Living

If you have been following along the blog for a while, you know that 2016 was a huge year of shift for us.  We sold our two homes – both of which we loved – in preparation for a possible move across the country.  We also lost many family and friends as they moved on to the next journey after life.

Just when we thought we were through the woods of all this shift, another beloved mother in our circle passed away suddenly in December. I am still not clear if it was a stroke event or a heart attack – what ever it was, it was enough to invite her to move on – and she did, leaving behind a husband and four children.

I am devastated for her child that is Night Owl’s age – she was the surprise baby after their three older children had basically made them empty-nesters.  And also for her three older children that will now go through all their adult “firsts” without their mother, to say nothing of her husband who is now going to have to find his new normal as well. It is so much to process…and yet I realize that they are not alone and someone, somewhere, is holding vigil tonight for a beloved soul that will pass along before all the goodbye’s have been said.

This woman’s passing hit especially close to home since she was the same age as my beloved husband. I came home from her services and told Daddy Bruss that the first order of business in 2017 is for him to have a complete physical and catch up on any tests that he hasn’t had in a while and/or yet that are suggested for people his age.  I also realized that it’s time for me to admit that I am practically in my mid-40’s  and it’s time for me to take me own advice.

Her passing also made me recommit to my intention to Live Life Today.  There are things that are important and things that really don’t matter.  It has made me really motivated to get rid of the junk and clutter that we accumulate because There Is No Time To Waste on Small Stuff.

My new intention for our homeschool day is to only do “things” until noon, and then have lunch and go out and have experiences with our children.  I don’t know if we are going to finish our curriculum as I had planned before I had these revelations, quite frankly I don’t think I care anymore.  As long as the Sweet Peas do math, read, write, make music and dance every day I think we are going to meet the rest of any requirements on field trips.

I watched THIS TED Talk tonight and it is right on point to where I am in my life. Thankfully my revelations arrived through the course of reflection over all the grief we experienced as a family last year, and not a highly stressful experience like this speaker lived through.

Since deciding that my ultimate goal is being the best parent I am capable of being, I have not felt a huge struggle with the yelling.  I close my eyes, I take deep breaths, I remember Lisa Reinhardt’s voice guiding us “to be” at the pace of melting chocolate, and I count until I can open my eyes and answer calmly.

Quite frankly, if I die tomorrow, I have a very clear picture of what I want my children to remember, and it’s not Crazy Mama.  We all sent her on a long vacation.  I hope that the intention to be Peaceful Mama is strong enough this time to leave her there a good, long time.

Peaceful Mama has huge hopes and dreams. I want them to remember a mother who showed up for them.  I want them to remember that my deepest desire is for them is to find their passion in life and pursue it.  I want them to remember that my love for them was deeper than the oceans and I hope they will use it to soar higher than the stars, because I believe in their greatness and ability to do anything with their talents that they set their mind to achieving.  I want them to remember that I am one of their biggest fans and that they are very, very loved.

I want them to know that their father and I conceived them in love, brought them into the world in love, and that they are loved in such a way that nothing can separate them from us.  We will always strive do whatever is in our power to help them learn, grow, explore and invite them to take risks so that they can learn who they are meant to be and what their God-given gift is to use for the benefit of others.  I want them to remember that we made choices in our personal life to facilitate the pursuit of our dreams, and that creativity and helping others is an honorable pursuit.

If the way I live my life in whatever time I have left conveys this to them, then my work on this earth is complete. It’s so easy to take time for granted and put things off because There Are Things To Do.  The bottom line is that there will always be Things To Do.  The time to be in relationship is limited.

I don’t know how much time I have left, so I am doing a lot more snuggling and saying more I love you’s than I used to.  I continue to remind myself of their love languages so that they receive the love in actions as well as in words.  Much of my desire to speak more and do more as it relates to my passion for birth and breastfeeding and the childbearing year has taken a back seat to my desire to be someone they remember fondly and with love.

So now I am signing off to have a late night snuggle with none other than Night Owl.  Good night.  Wishing you all a day full of love <3