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Pick Your Poison: passive, assertive, or aggressive?

Due to no Internet reception where I am (again!) (does that make you wonder where in the world we’re at NOW?!) (after all this roaming around, I wish the whole wide world was wired for wi-fi!) (too bad Tesla isn’t around, I think he could have figured it out already…)

Uh, where was I?

Internet. Yes. I have none. So it’s back to iPhone typing, which I’ve established is tedious, especially when I like to blah blah blah all over my blog and say in 46 words what it should only take 5 to say.

So, this will be short. I got a hold of a sheet divided into 3 catergories: passive, assertive, aggresive. It’s what so many of you commented about on my post ‘No more Ms. Nice Gal’. Passive isn’t balanced out with aggression, but rather with assertiveness.

Any doubt that I am as passive as a wet noodle are erased when I tell you that in no instance to I leave the passive column. I must admit, I cried. Hard. It brought home just how much passivity (passiveness?) affects my life and happiness. Oprah would have called it my ‘a ha!!’ moment, but it was more like “WTF!!!”.

I am now more determined to practice doing things that are more in the assertive column. Already I am saying, “that doesn’t work for me” and “but here’s what I need…”. For example, tonight i said, “i need to eat cake for dinner, kids'” and thats what we did at a nice bakery down the street! Small steps!

This picture is taken with my iPhone, I’m not sure about the quality or size, so let me know in the comments if you can read it! If not, I’ll find a link.

I She Shix Fissiesh Shwim By A Shtarfiss.

Under the sea

There’s a particular speech issue Sassy has had since she could talk. It’s an adorable inability to pronounce the “sh” sound. So every word with “sh” in it has a simple “s” sound.

fish becomes fiss
wish becomes wiss
dish becomes diss
sure becomes ssure

Some people advised me to take her to speech therapy to fix it right away.

As an unschooler, that goes against my grain. If something isn’t a problem for her, then I’m not going to take her in to get “fixed” just because it’s a problem for someone else. Especially in the early years, when I want her to be confident and fearless and NOT worrying about saying things the ‘right’ way or the ‘wrong’ way. So, the speech therapy never happened, and for 6 years she went merrily on her way–totally unaware of the role the sound “sh” plays in words. We all cherished (or, cherissed) her word pronounciation, even if sometimes we couldn’t understand what she was saying.

This past week we got out Python Path, Word-Ending Gamewhich we haven’t played in a while.

One of the word endings was -ash. So I helped her sound it out by saying, “See this “S-H”? That makes a “shhhhh” sound. She copied the sound, which was the first time I knew she could. “When you put the ‘a’ in front of it, it says, “ash”. She repeated it. Then I said, if this didn’t have the “h” on the end, it would make the “sssssssss” sound. So when you put the ‘a’ in front of it, it says, “ass”. She repeated it, and then started laughing. “You said ‘ass!'”

Ever since then, she’s put two and two together and is starting to differentiate between the ‘s’ and ‘sh’ sound. It’s a process in flux, however, and now she sometimes assumes that everytime she says ‘s’ should actually be the ‘sh’ sound.

At the aquarium, instead of saying, “I see six fishes swim by a starfish!” she said, “I she shix fissiesh shwim by a shtarfiss!” which I found even more awesome.

Reach out

Here’s to kids, aquariums, speech impediments, celebrating childhood, and loving the unique quirks of the people around us.

Carry Your Childhood With You.

“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.” –Tom Stoppard

“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.”

I read somewhere that one of the best workouts a new mom (to, say, a 7-9 month old) can do is lay on the floor and mimic her baby’s movements. Twisting, lifting, turning, straining, balancing, and generally flailing around is great for core muscles that have been stretched and neglected in the 9 months of pregnancy.

I remember, after I had Naturalist, the first time I realized I had no core muscle strength. I think I was trying to pull myself up from laying down by doing a sit up, and I didn’t sit up. I didn’t even sit. Or go up. I continued to lay there while willing any muscle in my abs to work even a little bit.

My arm strength had improved due to hauling around baby, carrier, diaper bag, and the other 45 pounds of stuff one needs while traveling with a newborn. My leg strength was off the charts due to endless hours walking around trying to calm down the rather restless Naturalist. But my core was sadly neglected.

I don’t think this core workout stops at physical strength, and I think mimicking our kids can give us an even bigger emotional workout.

If our core muscles need exercise to remain strong, our core happiness needs a childlike wonder to keep it going.

My goal is to jump out of bed with all the enthusiasm of my 6 year old. To become involved as deeply in something I’m interested in as my 13 year old. To play as hard and as long at something as my 10 year old does at basketball.

To do this, I have to sit back and make an effort to learn how to do this from them. Mimic their way of being. Not take myself so seriously and just go ahead and take a big flying leap off a high dive, even though it scares the crap out of me. Participate in a footrace, even though I might lose. (and I did.) Focus on the one thing in front of me instead of letting my mind wander to the 3048304598 things I’m worried about. Laugh deeply. Spaz out. Get on a bike and just ride. Eat desert before dinner every once in a while. Get some ice cream from the ice cream man.

Summer brings with it endless opportunities to let our kids share with us how to bring some of that priceless childhood back into our lives.

My New BFF…A Kinder, Gentler, Bitchier Me!

It’s the 5th week of a self portrait every week for a year. 2 weeks ago I discovered boundaries, and last week I discovered I didn’t need to be nice all the time. So far, those changes have been going pretty well. The boundary thing is tricky, because when you’ve spent your life not having any and then suddenly develop some, it changes personal dynamics with lots of relationships. So does suddenly growing a backbone and standing up for the things I need in my life, (or don’t need). My new phrase is “That doesn’t work for me.” It’s a nice middle ground between “well, I guess that’s OK” and “Oh yeah? F you!”

So really, I’m not bitchier, but I am becoming more assertive, and I like it. And I think, for the first time ever, if push came to shove, I really could be kinda sorta bitchy if someone started trampling over my newly grown boundaries. So that’s a start!

All of that has led to a kind of evolution of thought. Before, I couldn’t stand time to think by myself. I liked yoga for the workout it gave my body, but not for the meditative stuff. I liked to have lots of stuff going on around me, lots of stuff in my life, lots of chaos keeping me from having to sit still for a second. I’m beginning to see why. Because I never really valued my own self, I never really was at peace inside. I never really respected my internal dialogue, but rather judged it pretty harshly. Common thoughts:

“You don’t really need that”
“Don’t be so selfish”
“Why can’t you just deal with it?”
“If you were a better person, it wouldn’t bother you so much”
“You’re supposed to be meditating, why can’t you just stop thinking?”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Stop thinking so much and just go do more important stuff.”
“it doesn’t matter, don’t let it bother you.”
“Just get over it. You are so weak!”

My own judgments betrayed me. If the inner me were a real live person, I couldn’t stand her harping and judging and meanness. I was no friend to me.

It’s like my brain was a room full of thought balloons trying to reach the ceiling, and I kept running around popping them back down with my hands. They’d always rise back up again, and I was continually forcing them down. Between the move this year, and getting rid of all the stuff that I kept around me to keep me busy, and moving around in the RV, and just general life stuff, I just couldn’t run around mentally anymore. All the thoughts and feelings just kind of rushed up and exploded like a balloon volcano.

At first, it was extremely uncomfortable to feel so much. But I started reading The Miracle of Mindfulness
(oy, you should see my book pile of stuff I’m reading all at the same time…)

There’s this quote in there:

“Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. The tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind. I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.”

and I love it. I can allow myself to think whatever feelings or wants or needs I have without judging them. They simply are. What I choose to do with them is another thing, but their initial existence simply is.

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” – James Baraz”

Sometimes even the worst of emotions, when only watched without judgment, floats away after a while. It feels marvelous. It feels kind and gentle to myself. Consequently, at the same time that I am getting a little bitchier externally, internally I am softening up.

5:52

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
— Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Library)

Be mindful, be gentle, be kind to yourself.

“Kids Are Like A Bowl of Ice Cream” Contest! and Give Away!

I am sooooo excited to welcome summer back into my life! I get a big energetic kick anytime a new season comes into town, but summer has a little extra oomph to it.

Don’t be fooled by all my beach/summerish/pool pictures I’ve been taking since moving to So. Cal. in February:

give me a sign.

Even though this may feel like an endless summer, I remember that not too long ago I was dealing with this:

simple abundance

So….welcome Summer!!!

To kick off Summer 2010, I’m holding a contest. I’ve been mulling it over ever since I declared that if my kids went to public school I’d do nothing but eat ice cream every day while they were there. And then after a poorly worded ending sentence, many of you wanted to know if I were going to pay for everyone to take a trip to Coldstone, on me. And while I can’t afford to do that, I CAN afford to get one gift certificate and send it to someone!

So here it is…the contest…

“Kids Are Like A Bowl of Ice Cream”
*************
In our overly standardized, hyperfocused on ‘normal’, one-size-fits-all society (*ahem*Ireallymeanpublicschool*ahem*) let’s celebrate how different and unique we all are by embracing our personal ice cream choices. Each of my kids creates such a different bowl of ice cream greatness that so totally reflects who they are! And that should be embraced and encouraged!

How boring would life be if we could only make our ice cream sundaes one way? With only pre-approved flavors and only predetermined topping combinations? And yet, that’s what our schools have become, and in so many ways that’s what our society has become. Summer is the perfect time to let loose and get a little crazy. Forget normal, forget safe, forget playing by the rules….go out there and let your kids (and yourself!) create something wild for your ice cream sundae.

Post your “recipe” as a comment here…each recipe gets one vote. Enter as many as you want! And then after the kids and I have tried each one personally, we’ll randomly select a name and send that person a Coldstone gift card. Or, if there’s no Coldstone, how about a Baskin Robbins one?

So, for example, here’s our recipes. We went to a yogurt shop (already, breaking the “ice cream” rules! But we’re unschoolers! That’s how we roll!) and Sassy put in mint yogurt with snickers, blueberries, gummi bears, and raspberries:

game-117

I did a mix of chocolate, mint, raspberry, and cheesecake yogurt topped with snickers, blueberries, raspberries, and dark chocolate fudge.

game-118

Voila! Two recipes, I’d then get two chances to win. And even more chances if I put down Naturalist and Golfer’s recipes, but they weren’t with us that day.

So there you go.

Fight “The Man”
who tells us normal is good
who brings us overstandardization
and scoffs at individuality,

By making your own ice cream sundae
However you want it,
And encouraging your kids to do the same,

Share the recipe here
and maybe win
a gift certificate
for more ice cream!

Yay for summer!

Happy Father’s Day!

I’m an hour past the midnight deadline to make this not belated, but the sentiment is the same….Fathers make the world go round!

There are tons of books out there on how to be a good father, hundreds and hundreds of pages of information on the subject. But it really doesn’t need to be that complicated. Just stick to the basics:

Hang out with the kids, and make sure you’re someone they want to hang out with in return!
game-112

Always offer a helping hand when needed.
game-117

Give hugs. And tickles. And your presence. Just give.
game-149

If these 3 rules can be followed, then one day a letter will be written just like this one, which Golfer wrote for Hubby:
game-124

There is nothing better in the world than to be, mainly, a great dad (in general) to your son!

(PS…Naturalist wrote her own card where she shortened “Happy Father’s Day” to “Happy F-day!” a la “Happy B-day!” I think she’s started a new Father’s Day tradition with that one.)

City Culture

Naturalist and I had our first opportunity to dive deep into big city culture this past Friday, thanks to my dad and the LA Opera!

This year they are putting on a complete performance of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle…16 hours of opera over 4 nights within a week’s time. Usually one of the 4 parts is performed within s given year for a production, it is extrememy rare for all 4 to be tackled at once!

Naturalist and I have been waiting for a year–my dad gifted us the tickets even before we knew we would be moving down here. I assumed we’d take a roadtrip to see it in LA, I could never have imagined we’d be living here by the time it came around!

It was a crazy, fantastic, surreal 2 1/2 hours, and on this father’s day eve I’d like to thank my dad for always exposing me to the best the world had to offer. Museums, history, culture, music, food–he’s spared no expense and shared his enthusiasm for each of those things with me. It’s become a big part of my life and hugely inspirational as I raise my own kids.

Thanks dad! I love you!

No More Ms. Nice Gal!

It is the fourth week of my weekly self portrait challenge. Over 80 brave women (and men!) have decided to take part in the experience and have joined the 52 Weeks of BAM! group on flickr, and it’s been truly inspiring to see everyone put themselves out there in a very literal way!

This 52 weeks project comes along at a time when I’m reevaluating a lot of internal things I’ve got going on. At the beginning of the year I cleaned house and reevaluated between what I needed and what I was wasting time/energy/storage space on…now I find myself cleaning my psyche in much the same way. It’s just as difficult going inward as it was looking outward.

Realizing I have boundary issues (as in, I don’t have any!) has led like a domino effect to another discovery. In asking myself, “why don’t you have boundaries?” “why do you find it hard to say what you want?” “why is it hard for you to say ‘no’ or ‘I don’t want to’ or ‘that’s not OK with me…'” I opened up a whole other can of worms.

The long and short of it is, I don’t do any of those things because I’m uncomfortable feeling anything but “nice”. Isn’t that what girls are all about? Sugar and spice and everything nice? “Be nice!” “play nice!” “say that nicely!” “That wasn’t very nice!!!!” I’m, like, on nice overload.

I’m so nice, I don’t want anyone else to be uncomfortable…even if making them comfortable makes me uncomfortable. Because nice girls put other people first.

I’m so nice, often my reaction to someone treating me badly is to become even MORE nice, since nice girls don’t create or engage in conflict.

I’m so nice, i often apologize when nothing is my fault, just so I can avoid feeling anything but nice.

I’m so nice, I obsess about whether people think I’m nice enough. And then will be overly nice if I think there’s a chance they don’t.

Perhaps you are beginning to understand that when I say, “I may be the nicest person you’ll ever meet!” I don’t think of it as a compliment. It makes me, in fact, a doormat. It makes me anxious and uncomfortable and unhappy in a lot of ways…but since none of those emotions are ‘nice’ I just ignore them and become even nicer.

Other indicators of ‘overniceness’…taken from the website “Anxious to Please”…

You are always longing for something (or someone).

You feel worried or fretful so often it seems normal.

You often don’t know what you want.

You’re always thinking about what you wish you had said.

You constantly second guess yourself.

You apologize frequently, or for things you are not responsible for.

You take what you’re given instead of asking for what you want.

You get preoccupied with what other people think of you.

You are frequently surprised that other people don’t reciprocate your good will.

You do favors for people with the secret hope they will reciprocate.

You are more prone to feel sorry for yourself than to take action and fix a problem.

You tend to give more than you get (you might be resentful about this).

It seems like other people get the attention or the acknowledgment.

It seems like other people get the dates (maybe your friends tell you you’re a great catch).

Your emotional state mirrors your partner’s (if your partner isn’t happy, you aren’t happy).

If, like me, you answered yes to a large number of those questions, then I invite you to join my book club and read Anxious to Please: 7 Revolutionary Practices for the Chronically Nice. So far, it’s pretty dead on accurate for my situation of overniceness. I haven’t gotten to the solution yet, but there are quite a few chapters towards the end that promise just that. I’m ready to make the change.

Other’s may not be ready for me too, though. Being nice has it’s advantages. I was the perfect schoolchild because I followed the rules to the T and never spoke out. I was the perfect employee because I sacrificed my own good for whatever the good of the job required. I was the perfect girlfriend because I always agreed with my boyfriend, even if I really didn’t agree at all. I was the perfect friend because I never made any drama or had any knock down drag out disagreements. But really, it’s not perfect at all. It’s dishonest to myself and the people around me. And it takes a heavy toll to constantly provide what other people need without being able to ask for or get the things that I need in return.

I think I’m done with being too nice. I have a full range of expressions and feelings that need to join my emotional repetoire…not just the ‘nice’ ones.

So this is me. Not being nice. This makes me uncomfortable, but also? Just a little bit happy.

4:52

…In Which I Recall My First Boyfriend and My Love For Solvang…

Bench Monday today! Not to be confused with Math Monday…I know I’ve been slacking on the Math Monday’s lately, it’s been hard to get into the groove without a creative math club around, though. Math is so much more fun doing it in large numbers. Pun totally not intended!

This bench monday is brought to you by Solvang, a cute little Danish town in the Santa Ynez Valley. I remember coming here when I was Sassy’s age–we’d always walk around the streets, eat danish food, then drive up to Hearst Castle. I have so many great memories from doing that, so it was fun to recreate the trip with my own family.

Here are the kids and I, with Hubby helpfully taking the shot:

Bench Monday::Danish Edition!

My kids really aren’t up for family group pictures anymore unless we’re standing on benches or jumping…that should make for an interesting Christmas Card this year.

Anyhoo–we stayed a night in Solvang and got up bright and early to hit a wonderful breakfast at Paula’s Pancake House It. Is. Divine.

PCHMay-29

PCHMay-34

PCHMay-41

PCHMay-39

3 pages of Danish breakfast foods on the menu..it’s hard to go wrong. My personal favorites are the thin Danish pancakes as big as my head:

PCHMay-36

They’re a little bit easier to eat if you roll them up.

PCHMay-38

Dont’ confuse Danish with Dutch…this isn’t a Dutch town. Danish is Denmark, Dutch is the Netherlands. I never really knew the difference until my first boyfriend in 4th grade. He moved from Denmark into our school in So. Cal., and caused quite a stir in our classroom when he brought his photo album for show and tell. He was sharing what his life was like in Denmark, but what we ended up learning about was the cultural differences between our two countries. Because there, for the whole class to see, was his mom bathing topless at a beach on their summer holiday. Jesper, my future first boyfriend, though nothing of it, but all the boys in the class started making catcalls and giggling. The teacher ended up putting post it notes on the “offending parts”, and that was the first time I remember feeling like my breasts were something to hide and be ashamed of. It’s one reason why things like covering up naked statues for press conferences drives me nutty. It’s the human body, people!

Back to the topic at hand…Jesper…I know 4th grade is young to be having boyfriends and such, but in So. Cal at that time things moved pretty fast for boy/girl relations. I mean, I was getting married behind the portables by the time I was in 2nd grade! Deciding not to get married but take it slow and date first was a step in the right direction, don’t you think?! Jesper looked like the lead singer for aha , not that I knew that then because aha had yet to bust out with “Take On Me”, but as soon as I saw the video I was all, “Jesper?!”

He was a great boyfriend. I remember riding on a carousel holding his hand. He gave me solid chocolate hearts that said “I Love You” on them. We would ride our bikes around San Juan Capistrano together (free range, yeah!), and I had my first taste of salmon at his house for dinner one night. He was even my first kiss! And then, at the 4th grade graduation party, a girl named Gina wearing a beret came along and danced him out of my life to Lionel Richie’s “You Are The Sun, You Are The Rain”. Once they danced to that, I was dumped and she was his new girlfriend. To this day, I’m very wary around girls in berets.

And there ends my stream of conscious story about Solvang, Denmark, food, boys, music, relationships, and celebrating the human body rather than censoring it.

I dedicate this bizarre post to Jesper…you broke my heart, but you were only 11 so I forgive you. cheers!

Are you ready to walk down another street?

3581831725_3027b45abe_o

Autobiography in Five Chapters:

1) I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2) I walk down the same street.
There is a hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

3) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately

4) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it.

5) I walk down another street.

– Excerpt from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dyingby Sogyal Rinpoche