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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cutting-A Mom's Perspective

Some of you may have read the post Honey Bunny wrote about her cutting at http://eyesthrougheyes.blogspot.com. If not, go there now. It's her first hand account of her cutting journey.  I'll be honest, it isn't pretty. It isn't all rainbows and butterflies. It's honest. It's raw and it's painful to read. Here is my response/tag along/follow up/other point of view to her blog.

Honey Bunny has always struggled. She has always been different. She wasn't a jock. She wasn't a "popular kid." She never had it easy in school. She never had it easy in life. Her biological father abused her. He abandoned her (thank goodness) and both of those things have left open wounds which no one can heal but herself.  It's been a long journey parenting a child with special needs which aren't seen to the outside world. No one can see her and say: "Wow. She has challenges. Let's be more gentle." Nope. They just see a girl, this week, with bright red hair, a lip piercing and probably some Sharpie tattoos all over herself. Chances are they judge her because of that. But me? I don't. I know those are signs of her surviving. Those are signs of her fight. Those are signs of her becoming healthy. You see, she is finding herself and her strength. It takes more strength to find yourself and stand out than it does to blend in. It takes more strength to stand up and say I am done with this crappy life and begin a new one. It takes more strength to risk failure than it does to risk nothing at all. And this is our journey together for the past few years....grab a tissue and be ready to cry.

Two years ago was a dark time in our lives. Hubby was unemployed. We lost our home. We lost our money. We lost our security. We were looking at moving into my parent's basement into an 11x15 room, all four of us and our dog. It was a winter of much snow. Of much darkness. Honey Bunny was battling severe depression. Every day was a struggle to just keep her alive. Education was the farthest thing from my mind. I didn't care what she learned from a book or a movie. I just wanted her alive. I prayed. I cried. I yelled. I talked to doctors. Nothing was working.

We moved into my parent's basement. That wasn't fun for anyone. She met up with an old friend who introduced her to someone new, a cutter. We talked about the cutting and I had hoped she wouldn't cut, but I knew in my heart she would start. When Honey Bunny becomes obsessed with something and starts asking questions about it, it means she's going to try it. I just had to sit back and wait.

The waiting is the worst part. Waiting for your child, or any loved one, to spiral so far down that they bottom out is like waiting for the Grim Reaper to finally get to you, after watching him approach slowly and not being able to speed up the process.  It's like death just hangs around, waiting, to see what you will do next. It was the most horrible wait. I sat in silence, waiting for her to come to me.  I sat in silence watching her sleep for hours, watching the long sleeves cover her arms, watching her isolate, watching her hide, watching her stop take care of herself, watching her not enjoy her art work, watching my child die in front of my eyes.

Understand, trying to interfere with someone who is hell bent on destructing themselves doesn't work. It only causes them to do so in private. It causes alcoholics to hide their liquor, it causes self-harm to go to even deeper depths. When someone you love is hell bent on destruction, they will find a way. I know. I did it. I kept choosing more abusive relationships until I met her father. He took the cake.I know this road and I know only Honey Bunny can bring herself out of those deep, dark woods. All I can do is stand by, always at the ready, to give her my hand and help guide her, if she'll accept it.

In August of last year, she woke me around 11pm. Hubby was in NY visiting his son. She showed me her arms. They were covered with horizontal cuts from wrist to elbow on both arms. I stayed calm. I thanked her for showing me. I held her. We cried. We got some tea. We talked. I held her as she fell asleep. I called the insurance company at 1am. I found out which hospitals were covered since we were on State due to unemployment. I couldn't take her back to the private one she was in the year before for suicidal plans. This time, it was a state funded one. Crap. Those are awful!  I cried knowing I had no choice. I couldn't keep her safe from herself. I couldn't watch her 24/7. No one can do that for a prolonged period of time.

We checked her into the hospital the next day. I thought it would only be a 72 hr thing, enough to get some safes in the house, enough to get some sleep and to have her home and in an out patient program after that. They wouldn't let me take her out! I had to leave her in a  place where she was in an alarmed room because the girls there threatened to rape her for 10 days! It was the most horrible experience in my life. I sobbed every night when I left that horrible holding pen of evil. I sat in the car, after visitation, and sobbed and sobbed. Usually for about an hour. She'd see me drive out and wave goodbye, on a good night. What she didn't see is I would park farther down and just sob. I was broken. I couldn't save my baby. I couldn't save the one person who saved me.

Fast forward a few months. She had relapses. I would freak out at first. Then, I stopped. It got to the point where every 3-6 weeks she would relapse. I couldn't keep fighting for her. I couldn't keep fighting for her life. I couldn't keep fighting and losing the rest of my family. She was destroying Boo Bear. She was destroying my marriage. She was destroying me.

One morning, a mutual friend 700 miles away Facebooked me telling me she saw pictures of Liz cutting on her Instagram account. I was horrified. She was telling the world, but not me? WTF?! I went upstairs, woke her up and insisted she show me the cuts. They weren't as bad as before, so no need for the hospital, but still, why did she continue to want to destroy herself? To this day, I still don't get it. I accept it. I don't understand it.

At that point, through tears and with much heart break, I told her that if she wanted to kill herself, I had accepted it. I know one day I will wake up and find her gone. I know that she has the power to destroy herself and those around her and I will no longer stop her.  My exact words were: "I have to live with the fact that one day I'm going to wake up and you're going to be gone. I have to live with the fear of losing you every day. And in the end, all I can tell myself is that I did my best."

I wasn't giving up on her. I was simply acknowledging that I could no longer be held prisoner by her sickness and her need to destroy herself. It was the hardest thing I have ever said. Did it set me free? Somewhat. It put down a boundary. It said: here is where you stop and I begin. But the truth is, some mornings, when her depression is still pulling her down, I still fear I will go up to wake her and she'll be dead. I fear finding a blue child under the covers because the temptation to cut became too strong and she lost her battle by making a cut too big or too deep or in the wrong direction. I still fear I am going to lose my one precious love who helped me save my life.

But, for now, I try to squelch that fear as she has been clean for 6 months on 10/26/14. I celebrate every day she choses to live and I enjoy every moment we share together. I don't waste my time arguing about mundane crap - hair color, piercings, tattoos, school work  - because I have a bigger goal in mind: keeping my daughter alive for as long as possible. I know I can't keep her here on this Earth if she doesn't want to be and I've made as much peace with that as possible. But if the only thing she has is knowing that someone is willing to fight with her, then know I will do that every moment of every day, sword in hand-ready to help her battle whatever dragon or demon or inner turmoil she has to fight..but she has to ask for my help, because if she doesn't ask for it, it won't matter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

No Strings Attached

It's Tuesday morning, my house is a mess. We were gone for 24 hours and I returned with a pulled back and complete lack of sleep. Hubby and I have different definitions of "picked up," "cleaned up," and most importantly, "put away."  Yet, there I was last night, barely able to move, laying in bed, only able to request assistance - while he sat on the couch watching TV.

I had two choices: accept the help he was giving or belittle what he wasn't doing according to my private specifications. Man, this was hard. In the past 8 years, I've had to learn how to let go. I used to be a major control freak. I cleaned my floors 2 times a day. I picked up everything, all the time, put it away. My house was spotless. And then I married Hubby. I inherited two other children instantly and was pregnant. My perfection only brought me misery. I had to learn to let go. It wasn't easy.

To this day, I truly hate dishes in the sink overnight. I hate dirty kitchens. I hate messy bathrooms. I hate laundry rooms with dirty laundry on the floor-I hate dirty laundry on any floor to be honest. But way back when, I had relationships fraught with conditions, and those began to feel like there was no rest for the weary. And I was weary.

Nowadays, I am more relaxed. Things aren't picked up? Not so much an issue, except if it is deadly for Puppy Boy if he gets into it and swallows it. Lost a Barbie and her arms? Well, that's a natural consequence to leaving it down where Puppy Boy could get to it. Lost a pair of nice shoes, Hubby? Well, perhaps next time you will remember to close the closet door behind you so Puppy Boy doesn't get into it and decide those $200 loafers are so much more tasty than his toy. Lost your collection of Sharpies, Honey Bunny? Perhaps you should have picked them up off the floor.  No longer can I stand guard against their habits than I can the weather.  They must learn for themselves.

As parent's, that's a hard one, isn't it? Allowing our children to learn for themselves, with no strings attached. They won't learn the lesson of picking up if I put a condition on it. If I say: "You didn't pick X up, so now you must be punished." All they will remember is the punishment, not the lesson of picking up X.

What is it that we want our children to learn? Is it important they learn the dates of wars? Is it important that they learn what DeMoivre's Theorem is? (I had to look this one up: The formula useful for finding powers and roots to complex numbers. I've never used it personally.) Ask yourself: "What in life truly needs to have strings attached?"  If I am honest, I can think of nothing. No relationship needs to have strings attached. No education needs to have strings attached for true learning to occur.

Webster's Dictionary defines learning as thus: "the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something "

Nowhere does it say learning is a passive action for which we dictate what someone learns nor does it say learning must be quantified by testing. Quantification of learning is attaching a string to it. When we attach strings to our relationships, they become a burden. They become a win/lose situation. One must retain power over that string in order to remain in control.

What would happen if you removed that condition? Chaos? Perhaps, at first. No one would know what to do. No one would know what is expected of them. You may see hours of MineCraft and then you hit the panic button. I see it all the time on my FB feed; parents frightened their child is spending too much time doing video games. I ask you: Would you be so upset if they spent all that time reading? Why the condition on video games?

As parents, we are so afraid of failing we attach strings to our children, adding burden to our journey. I'm not saying don't have expectations for your children. I'm saying talk WITH them about THEIR expectations. Work WITH them to help obtain THEIR goals. Mirror YOUR goals and they will learn how to achieve their own. Don't put a string on their life. It is their life. They aren't a kite to be controlled. They are a bird who needs to learn how to ride the currents and ebb and flow of life.

Relax, my dear Reader. Your babies will outgrow co-sleeping all too soon. They will begin to sleep through the night. They will learn how to read.  Trust me. My now 7 year old has never read a Bob Book, yet she is reading advanced Amerian Girl Doll books because they challenge her and interest her.

Your 10-15 year old will have their passion return. Right now, they are doing a lot of internal work. Release your grip and allow them to discover their passions. Only step in if depression or other dangers issue come into play. One day soon, they will be 16-18 and they will have already done the work most do at age 18+ to discover what it is they want to study in their "other life" and will be self-motivated to achieve their own greatness.

Although parenting doesn't stop at 18, we somehow attach the string of "you are all grown up, it's up to you now" at that age in our society. Their ability to make responsible decisions after that age will rely heavily on what seeds were planted when they were younger. You reap what you sow. It is wise to remember that. Plant what you want to grow in them early on and you will create a beautiful young adult, able to handle the many changing winds and tides of the adult world.

We are all doing the best we can in each moment. For me, last night, that meant being grateful Hubby made us hash browns and bacon for dinner and cuddled into bed with Boo Bear and I at 10pm. He doesn't normally snuggle with us. It meant letting Honey Bunny sleep because she was sick. It meant loving myself enough to let myself heal so today I could tackle the kitchen and the laundry room feeling a bit better.

Today's request for you is this: Let loose your conditional strings on yourself, your children, your spouse.  Allow your relationships to bloom as they are. Allow yourself the ability to love freely. Then, watch as you all grow together. Watch the joy, the laughter, the happiness. And when your fearful strings come back around (and they will), put them at ease. Relax again and tell them they aren't needed. This life has No Strings Attached.

















Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Monster I Was Before



The year is 2001. I'm 30 years old. Honey Bunny is 4. The divorce is over. The custody battles are still going on. Every day is a battle.  It's a battle to get her up for preschool. It's a battle to get her to eat. She defies me. She yells at me. She throws things at me. I say no to a bike while in Walmart 2 weeks before Christmas and she runs at me like a ram, head down, and cracks my ribs.

Every night, at bed, I lay with her and silently sob. She is sent to her room so often now, I wonder what the point it. Time outs are non-effective. I yell. I scream. I lose my temper-on a 4 year old. I spank her. I feel like a monster.

It's now 2005. She's in 2nd grade. The custody battles are long over. We haven't heard from her father in 4 years. But our battles, the ones where we go at each other, are still going on. I'd planned a great Halloween Party. She and I had made tons of decorations and even made the invitations by hand, burning the edges. Everything is bought for the party. She does something which makes me cancel the party. To this day, I don't remember what it was. I still feel horrible. She was 8 and I cancelled a party because of something she did related to school. What did she do? I don't know. Maybe it was she didn't complete an assignment. Maybe she failed a test. I remember her tears. I remember her shame. I remember the look on her face of horror that I cancelled her party. I remember being "the one in control" and having to do this to "teach her a lesson."  Want to know the truth? I'm not sure what lesson I taught other than I was a monster.

A few months later, something was going on before school. I don't remember what again. I was trying to get out the door. I was slicing an apple. She wasn't ready or she didn't follow my directions, something. When I close my eyes, all I see in my mind's eye is the following: A cute kitchen with red cabinets and yellow walls. My standing at the counter, cutting an apple next to the sink so I could put everything easily into it once I was done packing lunch and then...an explosion. An explosion so huge it changed my life forever. I see myself turn around, with total rage on my face, throw the steak knife in the sink in my rage, and have it bounce back out at me, tip first. It just missed my eye.

My anger had done that. My rage at not being listened to and her not following my orders had created that abusive reaction. Luckily, no one was hit by the flying knife. But in that one moment, time stopped. I knew I had lost it. I had lost my control as an adult. I had lost my control as a parent. I had lost my daughter.

Honey Bunny stood there, immobilized in fear. I ran past her, up the 4 stairs to the bathroom, looked in the mirror and said out loud: "I will NEVER be the parent he was. Today, this stops." I walked out, kneeled down and held her as we both cried. She was late for school. I was late for work. But I wasn't too late to start over again.

That day, I began my journey to Whole Life Unschooling (WLU). I didn't know it then. All I knew then is that there had to be a better way to parent other than spanking, time outs, yelling, screaming, punishing and being punitive. I read everything I could get my hands on, but all authorities told me I was doing the right thing by parenting that way. So why, then, did it feel so wrong to me?

I quit my job a month later. I refused to sleep with my boss, who offered me life long security, a beautiful house, a car and everything I could ever want and need. He claimed to love my daughter and myself. I would have taken him up on it. I could have become a well paid prostitute to support my daughter except for one thing: I was friends with his wife of 20 years. I couldn't do that to her. Instead, I quit my job and lost my rental home, my car, everything physical. I ended up in my parent's 500 square foot cottage, sleeping on a bunk bed in the main room. I got the top bunk because Honey Bunny was afraid she'd roll out. This is where I really began my journey on the road to WLU.

I met my, now, husband a few months later. We were so in love. We spent every waking moment together as a family. We were married 6 months into our relationship, and I was 4 1/2 months pregnant as we walked down the isle. This November 4th, we will celebrate 8 years together. During those 8 years, I have changed how I approach relationships and parenting. Through his love and acceptance, I have become a gentle, loving IN-RELATIONSHIP parent. I have become a WLU parent.

Now, there is no screaming. There is no yelling. There is talking with, not to. There is laughter with, not at. There is communication, not shame. There are no time outs for Boo Bear. There are no spankings. There is no need. You see, we work TOGETHER. If I am upset that she didn't follow a direction, such as putting something away before she starts something else, I simply go to her and say something like: "Hey, please remember to pick that up first. Major (our puppy) would really enjoy eating that and it could hurt him," or "I'm sure you'd like to play with that again. Major may get it and I know that will make you upset. Let's do it together."

It is a difficult thing to do, change. Hubby looked at me a few months ago and said: "You've changed. I'm so confused now. You aren't who you used to be." I agreed. I'm not. In order for us to be on the same page, he chose to step up to what I am doing because it works. He has stayed in the traditional way of parenting with his two other biological children, and those relationships are tenuous at best. One child doesn't speak to him. The other it is very strained. He sees me with Honey Bunny and Boo Bear. The one child with whom it is very strained at least he is trying to be involved with. Relationships are a two way street and this child is almost 17 and doesn't have any practice being IN relationship WITH someone. Hubby gets hurt and frustrated because he keeps trying what I'm doing and it isn't working with this child. As I said, it's a two way street. But, he keeps trying. That is the beauty of WLU. You keep trying.

You will "fail." You will fall. You will fall back into old ways when hungry. angry, lonely or tired. It happens when we are stressed. When we feel an old trigger being hit, we will revert to old ways. But remember, we are in control of how we react. We can either chose to RE-act or we can chose to re-ACT. One means repeat (re) the other gives us a chance to make a different choice (act).

Today, be conscious of where your reactions are coming from. Are they from your past? Are they from the here and now. Are you RE-acting or are you re-ACTING? Ask yourself: What type of parent do I want my children to remember? Do so before you do anything today. Folding laundry and you want your child to do it? Offer to do it together. Putting dishes away and feeling like Cinderella? Start  whistling a song or singing like Cinderella does and see if they come wondering what you are doing and ask them to help. Children don't want to be shamed. They WANT to be involved and do good. They want your love and your acceptance, even if you don't understand them or their motivation.

The best line I have ever heard, and I use often is this: "I love and accept you even though I don't understand you." I even use this with myself: "I love and accept
myself, even though I don't understand myself." That sets me free. Try it. It might just set you free too.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Gluten Free Connection to Mental Illness

Today, I'm going to venture off my usual parenting topics a bit, but not really. I'm going to talk about something near and dear to my heart: gluten free eating.

Don't roll your eyes at me. I've been doing this since the beginning of the craze and not because it's a craze, but because I discovered my body can't handle gluten (wheat, rye, barley, malt) as well as oats, corn, milk and a whole slew of other things (such as iceberg lettuce and carrots and celery).

We also discovered Honey Bunny and Boo Bear don't do well with it either. Whereas I end up the hospital due to severe stomach pains or passing out while having such bad diarrhea on the side of the road, crouched down leaning against my mini-van tire praying no one will drive by, that I can't even risk literally a crumb coming into contact with my food, Honey Bunny presents different side effects of gluten contamination and so does Boo Bear. Boo Bear gets migraines from hell.  Personally, I don't know any migraines from heaven. All migraines are from hell.  Honey Bunny, on the other hand, becomes suicidal.

Yes, you read that right, suicidal. For us, having gluten is something that must be avoided at all cost. Boo Bear will be uncomfortable with a migraine. She will cry. She will hurt. But ultimately, it will pass. She will have an upset stomach, she will poop her brains out. She'll have bloating and all those "wonderful" gastrointestinal discomforts, but it won't be the end of the world for her.

Honey Bunny and I? It's bad and when I say bad, I mean bad. For me, life stops for at least 3 weeks while it processes fully through my system. You read that sentence right, three weeks. It is extreme pain, worse than kidney stones and child birth combined (and that's saying something). For Honey Bunny, we are usually checking her into a psych ward within 72 hours of digested gluten for suicidal attempt or want to attempt.

I'm sure you're shaking your head thinking I'm nuts. Am I really? The following are taken directly from www.celiacdisease.com: (http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/CeliacNeuroSymptoms/a/Gluten-Neurological-Symptoms.htm)

 "Finally, there are some hints that conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder also may be affected by gluten intake in a few individuals."

" In fact, one study found that about one-third or more of celiacs suffer from depression, and 17% may have an anxiety disorder."

"Nearly half of those with bipolar disorder carried the celiac disease genes (i.e., the genes that predispose you to celiac disease)"


Now, you tell me, am I nuts? Major medical research is finding a connection between the brain and the gut. Major medical research is finding a connection between gluten and mental illness, NOT just gastrointestinal discomfort. Doesn't that make you stop and wonder what the hell you are eating? What are you doing to yourself and your children, your family, when you feed them that sandwich, Friday night pizza, or mac-n-cheese?


Gluten is also known to have connections to the following disorders: depression, anxiety, sleep issues, brain fog, ADHD, epilepsy, neuropathy and vertigo. It's not just bloating, gas, fatigue, anemia, joint pain, rashes and diarrhea/constipation. 


Remember those ads with the two eggs? One said: "This is your brain" and they turned on the burner and the eggs began to fry and the narrator next said: "This is your brain on drugs. Get the picture?" THAT'S how I feel about gluten. It fries our brains. Did you know NO ONE on Earth is actually able to digest gluten? Our bodies aren't made to break down the protein structure of it. 


On top of that wheat is so modified through genetic engineering it isn't even considered a plant! It changes OUR DNA in ways we can't even begin to track. Doesn't that scare you? Did you know that? Did you know they now add opiates to wheat so you want to eat more and more of it? Yes, you get addicted to the bread you are eating, to the breading on your chicken nuggets, to the pretzels and the Hot Pockets and the crackers and almost everything that has a coupon for it!


Sorry. It's something I am very passionate about. Let me calm down and talk about food for a moment. That's my true passion. I once owned a gluten-free bakery. I figured out a lot during those days. 


First: Combining my own flours was expensive. Buy pre-made mixes. They spent millions of dollars figuring them out. You don't have to.


Second: Bread batter is supposed to look like cake batter. Don't freak out. It also only needs one rise!


Third: It CAN be flavorful, delightful and exciting.


Now, onto what do we eat. I sometimes buy the processed stuff for the girls to eat, but it is expensive. Bagels are $7 for 4. Pretzels $7-$8 a bag. Those are rare and exciting when I do get them. Aldi's has come out with some decent processed stuff, but it's still processed and full of crap. I have a few websites I run and I will mention them now. Feel free to stop by and take a look.


1) www.homemadegfmeals.com 

Here, I offer classes, recipes, even concierge shopping for your first few times after you go gluten free. It's a scary world in the grocery store if you don't know where to go and what to look for. 

2) The corresponding Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/HomemadegfMeals?ref=hl

TONS of recipes there. Meal plan ideas, etc.

3)For the Vegan meals: https://www.facebook.com/6weekvegan?ref=hl
I can't do dairy, so doing vegan is just as easy as doing Paleo.

Here's the answer to what we eat: Here is last week's menu plan:
Bkfst:
Freezer Oatmeal Cups
Eggs & Sausage
Crustless Quiche w/Bacon Bits
Eggs and Avocado
Cinnamon Quinoa Bkfst Bars
Smoothies
Pancakes
Lunch:
Tuna & Salad
Grilled Cheese (Vegan for me, Cheddar for girls)
Quesadillas for the girls
Leftovers whenever
Dinner:
Sweet & Spicy Roasted Chicken Legs and Sautéed Garlic Kale
Crockpot Apple Pork Loin w/Whipped Taters and Green Beans
Grilled Steak Tacos in Bibb Lettuce & Grilled Squash
Fiery Jalepeno Buffalo Burgers w/ Sweet Potato Pancakes and Roasted Garlic Sauce (thinking of doing pancakes as the bun)
Red Bean Chili w/Salad
Leftovers

That doesn't look too bad, does it? It doesn't look like we are missing out. Oh, and as for the sandwiches you see. I bought Canyon Bakehouse Bread. The best GF bread out there. It's only $5.00 a loaf, whereas to make bread myself is over $7.00 a loaf. :)  Why make it if I can buy it for less?

Basically, my Dear Reader, begin to question what you put in your body and your family's bodies. Educate yourself to what you are truly eating. Do you remember how you made glue in school for those paper mache projects? You mixed flour with water. Guess what happens to the bread/cereal/etc. you ate does in your intestines? Yep. It makes glue....

If you are eating organic, why are you eating  wheat? If you aren't eating organic, why aren't you doing the "Dirty Dozen" (that's what I do. Eating GF can be expensive, so I pick and chose). Truth be told, my loves, I only spend $200 or less on groceries a week for our specialty diet. 

How much do you spend on groceries? How much is your health worth? 

Honey Bunny's health is worth her life to us. No more than I would allow a loaded gun in my home, than I allow gluten to step foot inside my home. She follows through with this even at friend's houses because she knows it means something horrible for her.

Our next step as a family? Removing all grains to see how that effects our family. I've been doing it slowly for a few weeks now. I'll let you know how it goes next month. The past 3 weeks have already gone well. We are down 85% on even gluten free grains. Another 15% left to go!  Wish us luck!

I ask you: Do you or someone in your family suffer from any of the symptoms above? If so, change your diet. Don't know how to or where to start. Contact me. I'm happy to help: maryherrington0401@gmail.com.  Put in your heading line: GF Blog Question.

I'm going to leave you with an action item: Go to your pantry/cabinets and read your labels. If you see anything with wheat/barley/rye/spelt/flour on it, write it down on a  list and then see how much you are serving your family. Think about it. Do your own research. Then come back, leave me a comment below. Say how you feel about what you now know. Ask me a question. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

No! Stop! Don't!


"When free and supported children are almost always happy. Not only that,  but they are responsible and capable. I have to face my own fear and worry but I consciously commit to not placing that upon them." 

This is a quote I read from a Facebook page by Quinn Eaker. He's a bit too radical for me, living completely off grid (I like my electricity and my hot showers) and completely anti-establishment (I am grateful for food assistance and unemployment benefits as I needed them last year this time after 18 months of unemployment). But, this article isn't about that. This article is about Parenting Out Of Fear.

Parenting out of fear is common. We all do it, if we are honest. Some of us more than others. It is hard to parent out of love and trust. "WHAT," You say. "I parent out of love!" Of course you do..but sometimes love is also fear.

We fear our child is going to fall off a counter in the kitchen so we tell them they can't climb on it. We fear they will burn themselves on the stove and grease, so we tell them they can't help us cook the bacon. We fear they will cut themselves with a knife, so we cut their dinner for them. We fear they will jump in the pool before they are ready to swim, so we put swimmys on their arms as they toddle around the pool. We fear they will fall off their bikes, so we tell them to slow down and be careful. We fear they will trip while running, so we make sure their shoes are tied tight and send them off, our hearts in our throat, and watch every step they make and tell them to not run.

All of the examples above are done out of love. We don't want our children to get hurt, to get burned, to cut themselves, to drown, to break a bone, to skin their knees...it's not a bad thing. We want to protect them and love them and keep them safe.

And yet.....

Are we keeping them safe by isolating them from these experiences? So what if they fall off the counter? So what if they break a bowl? So what if they cut themselves with a knife? So what if they fall into the pool? So what if they fall off their bike? So what if they trip while running? Did you not do any of the above and yet you have made it to adulthood?

Please do not hear I am saying go ahead and let your child put themselves in active danger. I am not. What I AM saying is allowing them the freedom to fail and to fall is okay. It is HARD. It is SCARY. I won't lie. When Boo Bear goes whizzing down our hill on our street at top speed on her bike my stomach is my throat and my heart in my feet. Yet, I look at her face and see the joy. I remember when I used to do that. Guess what? My brakes once failed and I got hit by a car. I still remember the woman's face when I hit the windshield. I got a concussion. I lived. I do ask she wears her helmet if she is going to go fast. I ask her to be conscious and responsible. That's all, and then I trust.

Want to know what I've seen while she is heading down our hill at who knows how many miles per hour? Her hyper awareness of any cars coming. She pulls her bike over in a controlled manner and stops on the grass. She is hyper-aware of her surroundings. She avoids the sand at the bottom of the road because we have discussed how sand can cause one's tires to stick and you will lose control of your bike. It scares the hell out of me. That happened to me once on a major road. No one had warned me of the dangers of sand.

I trust her to make the decision which is in her best interest. If it is wet out, Boo Bear tells me it isn't safe to go fast on the pavement and she doesn't. If it is cold out, she wears gloves and a helmet and pants. I don't ask her to. She is conscious and responsible.

When it comes to Honey Bunny, that trust of being conscious and responsible is different. She's 16. She knows the basics of physical safety. We work on emotional safety with her and physical safety in regards to the dating world. For Honey Bunny, she is being exposed to friends who are experimenting with drugs. That's really hard on her. She gets upset. She's worried about losing them to an accidental overdose. We had a long talk about drugs the other day because the subject came up and she was upset. A friend 700+ miles away texted her and let her know he had "graduated from weed to oxycodone." She asked me what oxycodone was and what it does to the body.

I've had enough surgeries to know what oxycodone does and I explained to her in large quantities it can suppress your respiratory system. I also told her I have had prescribed to me the following after having surgeries done: vicodin, valium, oxycodone, oxycotton, dialudid, xanax, and a range of others. Please excuse me if I have any misspellings there. I didn't take them the entire time they were prescribed because they are addictive and that frightens me. I have a family history of addiction and would rather take Tylenol or Motrin once the pain is able to be controlled with those. I've even argued with my doctor's about that.

I've never done illegal drugs, but I hung out with enough druggies to know what drugs do. So we ended up having a very honest talk about drugs. We talked about our fears, our curiosity, what I've seen by being the "trip walker" for friends who did acid and 'shrooms. I was honest about it. It wasn't pretty. I once watched a girl think she had her brain in her hand and when someone bumped into her, she dropped it and she believed it broke. She went into a coma. That was frightening.

We talked about how her psychotropic drugs she takes for her bipolar/anxiety/PTSD effect her system and how taking other drugs would interact with them and could potentially cause serious side effects, one being caught in a psychosis forever.  I asked her to be conscious and responsible with her body. I asked her to be conscious and responsible with her involvement with the friend who "graduated" to the next drug up.

I wanted to tell her to drop that friend and move on. She has another friend I don't particularly like. He feels like a caged tiger to me. There is something lurking under the surface I can't explain but doesn't feel safe. She has even shared he told her he feels like a monster inside. It triggers every Mommy Instinct I have to protect her, drag her away and tell her she isn't allowed to have contact with this boy. But, want to know what that would do? NOTHING positive.

It would cause her to lie to me. To go behind my back. To pick another person with perhaps bigger problems. Want to know how I know this? Because I did it. I lied. I went behind my parent's back. I picked bigger and "better" abusers. Why? Because no one walked the road with me. Honey Bunny and I talked frankly about this. She agreed that she would do those things and asked me why I am allowing it. My answer?

I see myself as someone who has walked that road. I know the potholes in the road and where they are. It is my responsibility to alert her of those potholes. and if she choses to drive into them, be there to help her navigate out of them while her alignment in life is off.

She countered with she sees life as a maze. I've already made it out of that section of the maze called TEENAGEHOOD and she feels safer holding my hand through it. She requested I don't stop her from falling into all the "potholes" so she can learn things herself, and I agreed. I agreed to only direct her, as best I can, around the ones which will have a lifelong effect on her (possible rape, addiction, or death). The rest, she DOES have to learn on her own, for herself and by herself. All I can be is conscious and responsible while she grows up.

It isn't easy to parent out of love and not fear. There are times I have to stop myself and ask myself: Is this request out of love or fear? If it is fear, is it a valid fear for which there is no return (death)? If the answer is no, then the girls and I work together on a solution. I tell them my fear and together we find a way to make me feel more comfortable. If the answer is yes, it is founded in the basis of fear of death, they listen to me and stop because I haven't reacted out of fear for smaller things. I save it for the biggies in life.

Asking yourself and your children to be conscious and responsible makes a huge difference in how you live your life. Today, ask yourself the following while going through your day: "Am I reacting out of fear or love? What is my fear? Is it conscious and responsible?"

Ask your child to be "conscious and responsible" when they are doing a task which makes you cringe (if need be explain what that means, depending on their age). Observe them. Be their guide, but not their master. Parent from a place of peace and love.

Be conscious and responsible within yourself. Now, go grab the day and begin the journey. It's time.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What if You've Been Told a Lie Your Entire Life?!

I ran into a friend at the library last night.  Boo Bear was in her American Doll Girl Club, learning about history in the 1800's. This particular friend has a daughter a year younger than Boo Bear and the two girls are friends. She goes to private school and is in the first grade. The Mom was in tears over the amount of homework her little girl has. I encouraged the little girl to go get her homework and we'd work on it together. Sitting there, in the chair, this very hyper little girl became sad. She was on the verge of tears as she tried to read, write and do what the worksheet wanted her to do. It broke my heart. I would take her and save the family tons of private school tuition but her Dad wants her to stay in the school where she is miserable, at age 6. She is already being beaten down by the system and isn't being encouraged to be her happy and hyper little self. My soul cries for her.

When that was over, I asked her if she'd like to come grocery shopping with us and then have dinner with us. She jumped at it. I had the best two helpers a Momma could ask for! They read my list, went running to get my items and took turns either gathering the item or if it was too heavy (bag of potatoes for example) they carried it together and took turns lowering it into the cart. One would clear the way in the cart, the other would lower it down. They did this without being asked. They worked together without being asked. It was beautiful.

Back tracking, though, the Mom and I also discussed food. Makes sense as I have a shopping list and she commented, surprised, that I have one. In their home, the husband does the shopping but doesn't ask her opinion on what they want and only buys them processed foods. She is tired after working all day and dealing with all 3 kids on her own (6, 13 and 17). I began to talk about crockpot recipes and easy recipes she could whip up in under 20 minutes, the time it takes to make a frozen pizza. She was in shock. She didn't know you could do healthy food in such a short period of time. (For those of you who don't know, I used to own a gluten-free bakery and I have a few Facebook pages dedicated to my cooking: vegan recipes because I can't do dairy, as well as my gluten free cooking and one actual URL for my GF business. Ask in the comments for the address and I'll happily leave them.)

This got me to thinking: What area of your life does not need to be the way you think it has to be?

For the Mom above, it was cooking. It doesn't have to be complicated or take a lot of time. It can be scrambled eggs with ham on top of a piece of bread with cheese on top melted under the broiler with a thing of bagged salad on the side and dressing. Wham bam. Done in 10 minutes and on the table. It's a full meal. Protein, dairy, carb and veggie. Can't get much easier than that. 

For another Mom I met yesterday at the park, it was thinking about homeschooling. We've met before a few times at Park Day. She has a 5 year old, 3 year old and newborn. She always comments at how happy Boo Bear is. She is genuinely happy. You can see it when you meet her. Everyone says that. They even say it about Honey Bunny, but she is a teen who has moods. :)  This Mom said she loves the idea of unschooling but is afraid of what people will ask her. She's afraid she won't know how to answer. She's afraid of what others will think. 

What if she didn't think she had to be afraid? What if she didn't think she had to do public school at home? I answered her the following way: 

Me:"What questions are you afraid of?"
Her: "How do you know they are learning?"
Me:"How did you know they could crawl?"
Her: "They did it."
Me: "How did you know they could walk?"
Her: "They did it."
Me: "How did you know they could talk?"
Her: "They did it."
Me: "Are you seeing a pattern here?"
Her: "YES!"
Me: "Did you help your little one learn how to walk by holding their arms up?"
Her: "Yes."
Me: "Did you help your little ones learn how to talk by talking with them?"
Her: "Yes."
Me: "Do you think this encouraging stops just because you are unschooling?"
Her: "No?"
Me: "No. I encourage my children to learn. I help them. I talk with them. I let them steer me toward what they want/need to learn."

Now, let's take this on. How will they learn? Well, this week alone (it is only Wednesday morning and both girls are still sleeping at 8:04 am) Boo Bear has done the following: 

Monday we made crustless quiche. She did all the measuring. That's math. We discussed the chemical reaction inside the oven with the egg that causes it to bind. That's science. We hung up original artwork of her sister's. That's geometry as well as learning to use a level and a ruler. She taught herself to sew while I took a bath because I was cranky. That's home ec. She wrote a short story. That's English. We discussed WWII and the geography of Europe. That's social studies. - Day covered. In there was also art and PE because she rode her bike.

Tuesday: She wanted to learn more about sewing and making patterns. She looked up a video on YouTube. I helped her with search words and how to spell. That's keyboarding. She learned how to measure her doll to make the right clothing size. She wrote it down. That's math and English in one. We picked persimmons from our tree and used my grandfather's food mill to make pulp and then made it into fruit leather, which we ate 6 hours later. That is social studies as we discussed her great grandpa and the world he lived in as well as science since we discussed how the slow process of dehydrating won't destroy the nutrients in the fruit leather. Again...a whole day of learning. She also built a fort and did Looney Tunes Phonics while in the tent, 4 lesson worth, because learning in a tent is so much more fun than on the couch. Oh, and we also went to the park for 3 hours and to the library for her American Girl Doll History Class and grocery shopping (see above). 

There is learning in everything. Today, we pick up our puppy from being neutered yesterday. We will discuss the science behind that. We are also planning on watching some documentaries on dinosaurs and writing her own fairy tale story smashing the characters and story lines together to come up with a  new one. She writes her plans out every day on a white board so she can help herself focus. Did I mention that is exercising her frontal lobe section of her brain, teaching her Executive Functioning skills? That's important. Teaching time management and planning is crucial in life. We use that every day as adults. 

As you can see, there is learning happening. It is focused on her interest in the moment. 

I used to think learning only happened in books, on worksheets and by those "in the know" because that is what I was taught. Then, I began to question that. Who knows my child better than me? No one. Who else has their best interest at heart? No one. Do the teachers care who they become as a person? I don't know. I like to say yes, but they are so over worked and over stressed they may or may not. The point is, I began to question and by questioning my thoughts, I began to see they weren't true nor were they my thoughts. 

So, Reader, for the rest of the week, ask yourself this one question: 

What in my life does not need to be the way I think it should be?

Write it down. For my friend above, it is preparing dinner. Then, write down what solutions you come up with. At the end of the week, review them. See what you can implement in your life. See how your life changes. 



Monday, October 6, 2014

Girl Power!


I was walking through Harris Teeter yesterday, picking up a few things which Aldi's doesn't carry, such as fresh herbs, when a woman asked me how I could dye my young daughter's hair such an "absurd" color.

I must have given her the "WTF" look because she seemed a bit taken off guard when I answered her the following: "My daughter is 7. I allow her to have self expression as that gives her self confidence. She believes she looks beautiful in pink hair. I happen to agree with her. She is not looking for employment at 7, nor is she looking to be homogenized into a group where her spirit will not be accepted."

The woman stood there dumbfounded. Boo Bear and I walked off, hand in hand.

As a society, we claim we want our girls to have "power" and "confidence." We run races, raise money and have TV shows which do their best to capture "Girl Power"; yet I feel we are falling short. Very short.

Girl Power, or Boy Power for that matter, does NOT come from running races or raising money or TV shows which represent strong girls as bitches or strong boys as jerks. It comes from allowing them the right to feel internally empowered and unconditionally accepted. Sit with that for a moment. What does that mean to you? What does that mean to your CHILD?

Each of my children are different. Honey Bunny, my current Peacock, gains her empowerment through her art work. She was featured in an art gallery this past Friday for it's monthly Art Crawl. She is the youngest artist they have ever featured and they solicited her after hearing me ask her opinion on some flowers I was purchasing for her sister's bedroom project (converting a loft from a "tree house" to a "fairy house"). Honey Bunny uses her hair color to express her current level of self confidence. When it is low, she returns back to her natural black hair. That is when she wants to be accepted by the status quo and does not have the wherewithal to stand out from the crowd and be strong. When she feels confident, it will be any color from the rainbow. It takes me 6 hours to strip her hair with bleach and then color it. It is truly a labor of love, as I don't enjoy doing it. I think I should go to hairdressing school if I ever want another career! I certainly will have a lot of experience!

Boo Bear feels empowered by her athletic ability. She does aerial dance on Thursday's. This past week, I began talking with a couple of the mom's there. One is your typical career woman, who was working on her laptop while her daughter was in class. We all started talking about education. This particular woman's child is in a high end private school and achieving high marks, at age 7, because to the mother's the utmost importance: how can her daughter get into college without high marks beginning in kindergarten (her words, not mine)? The other mother's daughter goes to Montessori and they considered homeschooling, but her daughter loves her school and they felt it would do her more damage to be brought home. Then there was me. Boo Bear's hair wasn't pink then. When they asked where Boo Bear went to school, I told them that she is homeschooled. This always leads to more questions. As I went on, I explained to them both that we follow our children's passions in life and they learn from those.

The first mother shook her head, said: "Obviously she's NOT in second grade and your other daughter is NOT in high school. You are doing her a disservice by not putting her in traditional school. How could you do that to your daughter? Don't you want her to achieve status?!" I simply looked at her with both eyebrows raised.

The other mother said:"Oh! You Unschool! I've heard about that. We wanted to try that. How's it working," completely ignoring the first mother.

I used the moment to speak to both of them, although the first mother had by that point tuned me out as I wasn't in the same mindset as her's. Amazing how in just one sentence I could be rejected, and to be honest, it sort of hurt. Imagine if I was a child?! That rejection would hit much harder. I felt a pang of middle-school angst and then was able to simply feel sad for this woman that she would never, in my opinion, ever feel her self being honored as she thinks she has to achieve acceptance by society to be justified in her being. My, how quickly that can change and be taken away.

I explained that how we Unschool is different for each child. Honey Bunny enjoys structure and classes and agenda. Honey Bunny is studying Oceanography, Classic American Literature, Personal Finance, Women in History, and two nutritional courses through Brigham Young University, as well as creating her portfolio for Exception for Admission into one of the nation's top craft schools here in North Carolina. Boo Bear prefers a free flowing learning style. Right now, her passion is American Girl Dolls and Barbie's so we are using that to expand upon her reading skills, math skills and history knowledge. We are studying the 1800's (1812 specifically) right now for a group meeting on Tuesday at the library.

To me, empowering my children to be who they are in the moment is important. It changes and I get that. If they want teal hair or pink hair, what do I care? If the hair makes them feel confident, then go for it. As Boo Bear was falling asleep last night, she snuggled into me and said: "Mommy, I'm so glad Daddy agreed to let me have pink hair. I feel so empowered by it! I feel like I can do anything with pink hair!"

To me, THAT is Girl Power. Girl Power is the ability to know your self, the ability to feel confident in your choices, the ability to be strong and kind to others, the ability to love yourself.  It's not being a bitch. It's being the ideal you-whether that is artist or mathematician-the power comes from within.

I see our job as parent's to help foster that kind of confidence. It is our job to lift them up. It is our job to help them up when they fall, physically, mentally and emotionally. It's our job to encourage their growth, to hold our head's up high when they want to walk the line against the status quo and exclaim loud and clear for everyone to hear, with confidence in our voices: "YES, THAT IS MY CHILD AND I AM PROUD OF THEM."


Friday, October 3, 2014

ISO Married White Female

ISO married white female, preferably one close to my size with a great fashion sense. Must like kids, dogs and cooking - all while looking impeccable.  Must know how to do laundry, cook, clean, walk dogs, talk to teens and talk to younger kids while embracing the 1950's Leave It To Beaver attitude.

Who wants this woman? Who wants the "perfect" woman? Raise your hand if you want your own wife (or clone)?  Man, I would LOVE another me around. Another me who does the household stuff. Laundry, dishes and floor cleaning is so boring and takes time out of my day which I'd rather be doing other stuff.  I'd like another me who also does the bills. I hate doing the bills. I hate working with numbers. I'd like a me who does all the mundane things and while we're at it, one who can help recharge me. That's right: I'd like to be able to plug myself in and recharge.

Raise your hand if you are burnt out? Oh, I don't see too many people being honest here. You're telling me you have it all together? You do a great job balancing life and homeschooling and marriage? Really? Well then, I want YOU as my wife! But, if you are being honest chances are you feel like you are failing in at least one area. Maybe you think you aren't a fun enough parent. Maybe you feel like your house isn't clean enough. Maybe you feel like you suck at handling the finances. Maybe you are just plain old dead tired and just want to sleep and sleep and sleep.

Reader, please do yourself a favor. Stop thinking you need to be SuperMom!  Being a "good enough" parent is truly okay. It is okay not to be Martha Stewart (trust me, I used to live down the street from her, she isn't very nice-I could hear her yelling at her staff .25 miles away). It's okay if you aren't the live entertainment act every moment of every day for your children and your spouse.  It's okay if you aren't Cesar Milan, able to walk 20 dogs at once and you struggle to get a few kids in tow across the parking lot.

Giving yourself permission to be "good enough" is important. Your children won't remember all the things you did for them: gave them a clean house, gourmet meals, brand new clothes, a perfect party. They WILL remember how you made them feel.

Did you feel burnt out? Did you feel that keeping a clean house was more important to you than being with them? Did they feel that school work took importance over who they are as a person? Did you make them guilty of burning you out?

That's what they will remember.

Take time for yourself. I know it's hard. Trust me, I know it's hard. But if you are always putting everyone else's needs above your own, you will get burnt out and resentful. You won't enjoy them anymore. You won't enjoy you anymore. I'm not talking about going on a vacation by yourself (which although that sounds glamours and wonderful at times, I'm sure I'd miss my kiddos an hour into it). I'm talking about little things: going to the bathroom by yourself, eating a cupcake all by yourself and to yourself. I'm talking about talking to some friends who get it - even if it's 1am and you are both texting because you just put the baby to bed...again..and they are suffering from insomnia.

Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for what you need. Scared of rejection? Sure. We all are. BUT-if we have authentic friends and are authentic with ourselves, they will do all they can to be that "other wife" and help you be a "good enough" parent.

Start today. Go for it. Pick up your phone. Call someone. Text someone. Tell them you need help being a "good enough" parent. Chances are, they do too.