25 posts categorized "Emotions"

Dear Portland: Where do we go now?

June 02, 2017

It has been so, so hard to process last week's events in the City of Roses.  There are some who have defended the white supremacist Jeremy Joseph Christian.  We have gathered to memorialize the two men that were slain; we consider them heroes.  One of the victim's last words were: "Please tell everyone on this train that I love them."  And, the surviving victim encourages us to focus our attention on the teen women who were the subjects of the attack: "We need to remember that this is about those little girls."

Racism and hate is nothing new to Portland.  It now the time that we will acknowledge this history?  How are we to move on and grow closer after this?  Are we a community divided, whether overtly or subtly?  Are we less progressive than we thought?  

In the name of our children: how do we work to build networks of compassion and inclusion?  How do we discuss these current events with our youngest community members?  How do we insist, in the name of the generations that will be after us, that we disable networks of hate and violence?  How do we cross boundaries to strengthen the deepest threads of our community's fabric and how do we dismantle the institutional barriers that oppress us?

For me, I found some grounding in this statement from a Portland-based community organization: the road is long and journey will be difficult; we must remain steadfast in our commitment for progress and equity.

Mother's Day Reflections - 2017

May 15, 2017

Our traditions for Mother's Day continue: breakfast in bed followed by a family hike.  Toward the end of our hike yesterday afternoon, I realized that I was starting to feel antsy, the Sunday blues starting to set in: Do we have enough groceries for the week? Do we have clean clothes? What are the schedule commitments and any special arrangements that need to be made? The list goes on.  One friend commented on Saturday that she had done all the grocery shopping and laundry already so she didn't need to worry on Sunday.

Why can't we have a Mother's Day on a Saturday?  I feel like I could relax a bit more if I didn't have to start stressing about the next week on that holiday.  I think 25% of my day on Mother's Day is eroded by those Sunday worries that start to eat into my Sunday afternoon.

I'm missing the point?  Should I put the responsibility of the chores onto my kids and partner on Mother's Day Sundays and let myself go worry-free?  Well: been there, done that.  I've done it a few different ways: refuse chores for the few days before and after Mother's Day to see if they will get done for me, how and when I like them done.  This works fine: the kids fold laundry and clean the sink, and it is what it is.  But, let's face it: no one does it quite like Mom.   Also: I mind it so much less if I have the time to get the chores done and if I get oodles of love for it!

Last night, in the last moments of Mother's Day 2017, I did the dishes and scrubbed the sink.  My heart felt light.  I am happy doing the things that I do for my family, it's what I do.  I can't help it.  And, to me, the contribution they bring to my day is acknowledgement and full appreciation for all it is that I do.  Says one of my kids: "thank you so much for making us food, doing our laundry, cleaning our bathrooms and more."  (not that I do it ALL, mind you.  These kids DO have chores!) and says another "There's so much that you do for our family that goes unnoticed.... " and "P.S. We didn't pick out a gift for you, but if you want me to do a really gross chore, I'll do it!"

In the meantime, I think I might just switch our family's celebration to a Mama's Day Eve to offset a bit of that Sunday evening stress that usually accompanies the event!

"He has trouble with transitions"

May 06, 2014

When I rang the doorbell at my son's friend's house, I immediately heard his screeching from the other side of the door.  The 2-hour playdate was culminating in fits of "I don't want to go!" and "Can't I just borrow this toy?", clutching at a light saber.  Apologetically, I said to the friend's mom: "He has trouble with transitions."

Again it happens when this same friend came to our house for a playdate.  The mom rang our doorbell, and my boy's response was identical: "No, I want him to stay forever!" and "I want to go home with him."

I apologized through the squirming and I talked through the screaming: "Thank you for coming over!"  The other mom understood.  And, most other parents do.  My child is not the only one who has "trouble with transitions".  Mostly, it's leaving friends' homes or having to watch a friend leave.  Often times, to ease the transition, there is some compromise bribe: "We have to leave now, but you can have extra lights-on time in bed tonight" or "He has to leave now, but you can have a little treat."  Transitions like leaving school are never very bad, although drop-offs tend to be clingy and sensitive.

Does your child have "trouble with transitions" and what does that mean for you?  What are the ways you deal with the transitions?  I don't feel wonderful about offering the "compromises" but maybe you have other great ideas for me?

Reorganizing your dreams through a divorce

March 16, 2014

I've been quiet here, because for the past six months I've been in the throes of divorce. I think I knew even in the months leading up to the decision what I would eventually do, so for a long time beforehand I was afraid to say anything because everyone who knows me knows I wear my heart on my sleeve and everything I write.

There has been a lot of hard in this process, and it's far from done. But I think one of the worst parts has been to reorganize my dreams; for myself, for my family unit, for my boys. I've done such expansive and heedless things as write a piece on how I don't plan for divorce with my finances (I still stand behind that post); I've written extensively about what some people call "radical domesticity" and been one of the subjects of a book about it. I know I've said a dozen or a thousand times that I've chosen in the past several years to let my husband take the primary breadwinner role -- his work was intense, too, serving in the Army in Kuwait for three years -- and lead a life that's low on luxuries so I could spend time with the kids, at home, with my writing. (Really, the ultimate luxury.) I've loved how much I could shape the environment for my kids, especially my oldest, who I've unschooled for much of the past three years to help find him a place he can truly belong.

Now I have to find a way to navigate the life I want with a distinctly different set of resources.

Continue reading "Reorganizing your dreams through a divorce" »

"Mama, you never keep promises"

February 19, 2014

"Mama, you never keep promises," she says.

You know what hurts most about being a working-poor single mama of three remarkable girls who deserve to receive everything life has to offer? It's not necessarily the political or policy issues that work against me. Or even the need to defend myself while simultaneously doubting myself. It's those words.

I do keep the promise of good food, a comfy bed, a trip to the doctor when they need it. But those are non-negotiable items in the contract of motherhood: I meet their basic needs no matter what it takes. And as oft I can I give them an ice cream cone, a day at the beach, a guinea pig, even. Those are childhood entitlements, so I consider them basic needs, as well, though they have no idea how challenging it is to provide them.

But the day at an amusement park, the weekend camping, the lessons in whatever interests them or the big gift they really really want, well, those are un-kept promises, it's true. Actually, I don't promise them, I typically tell them "Someday I will make this happen for you when I can." So they want them. From me. Because I'm mama. This is the part I think is hard to understand for anyone else outside this fishbowl. It means that even the most simple things for me are left undone - a yoga class, an hour walk, a doctor visit - because they all have a concrete cost that's just too hard to justify. To me they are not fixed expenses or basic needs. Yes, I would love to focus on my art, take care of my body, take care of my heart.  Of course that makes sense to me.  But in the balancing sheet of the life and sacrifice of single motherhood, it just doesn't make sense to move dollars into your children's 'expense' column, even though they go into your 'income' column.  It just doesn't feel right.

I'm left with little emotional bandwidth to do much else as my own dreams quickly diminish in the rear-view mirror on our journey.  I make compromises to my heart that anyone looking inside might find unimaginable, but they don't see the internal accounting in my head. Yet even still, I'm left with those words, so innocently spoken as mere fact from her perspective.  I'm meeting the basics, yes, yet there's still more because you teach your kids to dream, and childhood is magic; they deserve *that* childhood entitlement even more than anything else.  Yet, it's also true too that I have been home teaching my youngest girl (and one more though he recently moved away) for months now because I just couldn't fathom sacrificing the gift of time and focus that my prior professional life stole from me with my first two.  And she just sat down and read her first book to me, at age 4, with a look on her face of having conquered the tallest mountain and an air of confidence that displayed to me *of course* she conquered the tallest mountain.  I gave her hope and knowledge.

That's how it balances out and I pray that someday all three of my girls will have the graceful gift of perspective to see this.  Someday, with any luck, my girls will know this struggle to be present for them right now is the greatest gift of all.  It sure is hard when you're raising your kids alone.  I want to be someone who keeps promises.

When we fight: Kids say the darndest things

February 04, 2014

This morning, my boy woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  He didn't want breakfast, he didn't want to get dressed, he didn't want to go to school.  He was sour, through and through.  He was wearing on his dad's patience with every "no" and refusal.  Negativity rose further to physical manifestations.  Our boy threw a dish rag at his dad.  And, to climax: "I don't want you to be my dad anymore!"

I wanted to give our boy & his dad some time to cool off.  I said to our boy, "That isn't loving or kind," which is sometimes my auto-response to negative comments or behavior.  

Kids say the darndest things, even things like "I hate you, Mama".  Many times, these statements are made in the heat of a moment; they are things they might not really mean.

Before long, and before we were heading to school, our boy went to his dad to apologize.  "I'm sorry, Dad".  And, his dad to him, "I'm sorry, too.  I was just frustrated."

No doubt these moments happen in your household, too.  How do you diffuse the situation and close the loop?  How do you make amends?

Resolutions: do you make them? what about the kids?

January 06, 2014

As I sift through the archives, I am nostalgic reading our resolutions of yesteryear.  From Sarah, "New Decade, New Resolutions" (circa 2010) featuring writing letters, having conversations, generally stopping to smell the roses.  Two years prior, we were thinking similar themes, "Mama Resolutions for 2008", including reading more and spending more quality time with the spouse.  Some years, we focus on more healthy eating as a resolution (circa 2009), or some years we talk about new resolutions as new life-long commitments.

At the moment, I am not sure.  In years past, I would take out my list of resolutions from last year, cross out the year on top and replace it with the new year date ("read book, learn new piano song, diversify fitness regimen").  I think I shouldn't even think about resolutions anymore for fear that they will continue on unfulfilled.

What about the kids?  Are you starting to talk to them about setting new goals and meeting them?  Is there a lot of resolution-talk in your household?

How to be a Proper Play-Date Host

August 02, 2013

My preschooler, now in summer session with limited daycare, is fully on the play-date circuit.  With new friends circling through the house and with him going to different friends' homes, I am noticing trends.  Little folks get possessive and territorial, it is hard to share!  This is normal, I realize, but I often run out of ways to mediate.  When we host, I let the boy know that he needs to put things away if he absolutely cannot share.  Everything else is fair game.

At his friend's house the other day, there was a squabble over a particularly shiny race car.  The host boy ran to his parent for assistance.  His parent said: "You're the host.  Let your friend play with it."  It wasn't the answer the boy was hoping to hear.

I've never used the comment: "Be a good host" with the connotation that he should let the other friend have the toy/turn.  Perhaps I'm not a good host.  What are the elements for our youngest folks, the preschool set, to be the "proper play date host"?

Insomnia, mama!

March 04, 2013

It's 2 a.m., and I'm awake. I'm so tired; I was up early this morning to the peep-peeping of a chick stuck in the floorboards (long story, all my fault, but I got her out!) and I have lots of work that I left un-worked-on, or at least, incomplete.

I almost never have insomnia. When I'm tired, I sleep, and I've been that way since college, when I was always tired. In fact, in college, I could fall asleep anywhere, even in every single three-hour British lit seminar class. A friend in my writer's group read an essay about insomnia in a recent get-together, and I felt a lot of sympathy, and badly for every time I'd wished to be the sort of person who couldn't get to sleep. (My theory: I could get more done. Her reality: insomnia is crippling.) But now, my mind's buzzing, and I've done this since "going to bed":

-- remembered about Monroe's missing library book

-- searched through a whole box of papers for said book

-- looked through the kids' whole library for missing book

-- eaten a bunch of popcorn

-- stressed about what I should do for school fundraisers; just send a donation check? Skip it altogether and donate another time?

-- worried about being on time for school tomorrow

-- worried about my kids' dental health

I'm resisting taking Melatonin myself, even though I give it to the kids to help them sleep. As I finally close my eyes and try to rest my brain, how do you deal with insomnia? Do you get it bad, or only occasionally like me? What keeps you awake?

Shootings and tragedies and parenting in the midst of it

December 14, 2012

I didn't know what to say after the Clackamas Mall shootings. We have the radio on a lot, and maybe my kids are just used to tuning out stories about gun violence -- BBC shares a story of an explosion or shooting death almost every day. My kids didn't say a word, and I felt I should say something before they went back to school because maybe other kids would be talking about it. I said it plainly. "There was a shooting, and two people died, and people are really sad and scared." They didn't ask any questions. No "why would someone do that?"

I hope this is because of fiction; because we read a lot of books with rather strong evil vs. good storylines, and watch TV shows like Dr. Who and Merlin in which people do die, we talk a lot about what motivates people to do terrible things. It's often the small things that take the most explanation, but we talk a lot about fear, fear of change, fear of difference, fear of being found out to be a fraud, fear of punishment, fear of facing one's own shortcomings, and how terrifyingly motivating that can be. How people shut themselves down to the hurt they are causing others and act protectively in terrible ways. How people want to be loved and feel connected, and when they don't they act out. How a lifetime of being hurt in some way -- physically, or being abandoned, or being treated with indignity and contempt -- can change someone into an unrecognizable mess of hurt. How they take power back any way they can.

That's the story of Lord Voldemort, and the story of Uther, and the story of many of the most violent evil characters in fiction and history. It's why I turn to fiction so often to tell my story.

I, again, don't know what to say about this latest tragedy. It's on all the radio shows and on all the Facebook statuses. I feel like I can't escape it and so my kids shouldn't either. Should I? Should I get out a guide to how to talk to your kids after a tragedy? Should I, like so many people are saying eloquently, look for the helpers? Should I do what I can myself? Should I work on this web site, whose stated goal is to help you find community? Should I work on this magazine, whose stated goal is to share the real stories of parenting so that we can all feel less alone? Should I retreat to fiction, pull up a good chapter of Harry Potter where Harry gets to exercise that power we all think we lack? Should I give kids power in my own fictional work?

I think I want to do all of that. I feel the only power I have in this is to tell stories and to help other people share theirs. I feel that the cure for violence is love and the cure for isolation is seeing another person through their history. I feel the cure for sadness is knowing you're not the only one feeling sad. I feel the way to heal from everything is to reach out and be together; not to draw in and be apart.

What do you do? Where is your power? How will you exercise it? Is there a cure?


Oh, June: The mama version of graduation anxiety

May 30, 2012

For as long as I can remember I both loved and mourned June. Every June for almost half my life meant goodbyes. Every teacher to whom you would never turn in homework again; every classmate who would graduate or move away in the summer; every community established so quickly and experienced so wholly. Each grade, from kindergarten all the way up to my second year of business school, had its own uncanny friendships and serendipitous societies and secret-keeping, had its possibilities and magic. And it had to end.

I was reminded of my memories of my junior year in high school during the Great Journal Revisiting that occurred when I performed early this month in Mortified Portland. I'd written a melancholy good-bye to my friends, the seniors, who were graduating. And I've been feeling the same way about the 11 days left of school for my kids.

This year, it's not teachers and fellow students I'll miss -- though indeed I will miss Truman's retiring teacher, Donna Zimbro, who was just what he needed. It's this time I'm having with my youngest, Monroe, who gets to hang out with me each day while his brothers are in school. He'll be in kindergarten next year, and our time together will change in character and intensity. Though I'll welcome the wide open possibility of 5.75 hours each day (!!) utterly to myself (let's do another !!!), I'm already nostalgic for this time we have. There's something irreplaceable about the time with a baby, a toddler, a preschool-aged child; I'm not ready to let go.

When his brothers come home from school on June 13, that time will have concluded, forever.

How has your relationship to the end of school changed as you have become a parent? Are you sad, or happy, or a sentimental mix? Do you mark these ends-of-eras in any special way?

Maurice Sendak: A Remembrance

May 08, 2012

I did not begin to love Maurice Sendak when I had boys, three of them, all just as wild as Max. I loved him, as most of you did, long before that. I could recite the entire text of Where the Wild Things Are even without the pictures, probably. It's like poetry; it's like Bible verses.

But there is something else. Before I had my boys, before they were very old, I did not really understand it; I felt the mother was hasty and rather too punishing. Surely: if you're going to give in and give him dinner anyway, why send him to bed? Why call him 'Wild Thing'? I shook my head.

As I grew as a parent, I had compassion not just for the boy but for the mother, too. The lucid, elegaic movie based so loosely on the book showed me that mother and tore me up even more and, I felt, explored the true nature of this parent/child relationship: imperfect (as we all are) and intense and marked with the rich internal life and tendency toward emotional overload and explosion as my own boys, and my relationships with them, are. There is that love that overwhelms and then buzzes into absolute impatience. But it is true even across the years and weeks and days and into the monstrous internal struggles or rumpuses with which our children might be rocked. It remains.

And my love will remain for this book and Maurice's true sight into a child's heart. He died today. I will miss him.

If you've written your own tribute to Sendak, please link to it in the comments or send me a note!

What do they want? A mantra for parenting and my own fool self

March 26, 2012

I spent yesterday immersed in all the loneliness and fervent belief and highly embarrassing prayers of my high school years. I had a screening for Mortified PDX -- Mortified, in case you've never heard of it, is a series of live readings of poetry, journals and other horrifying writing from one's own teen years -- and I'd spent a half-hour with the producers talking about what, exactly, I wanted as a teen? All afternoon, I sat in the basement and, later, at my dining room table, poring over journals and papers (with perforated edges thanks to our old dot-matrix printer!) and binders full of my deep thoughts and doodlings.

What did I want? I actually had an answer when they asked me at the beginning: I wanted to be popular. See, I knew I seemed popular from the outside -- I was a cheerleader, I ended up as student body president, I was involved in nearly every school organization to some capacity, I was even voted 'Most Likely to Succeed' -- but I didn't get invited to parties and I rarely had much in the way of boyfriends. I had lots of crushes and crushees and dates to the prom two years running -- but it wasn't ever because of my yearbook-worthy couplehood.

Now, I have what I want, even speaking strictly within my high school peer group (and I'm married to one of the guys I crushed on in high school); after our 20th reunion I had lots of old friends come up to me and say how much my soul-baring on my blog, on Facebook, and/or here had resonated with them; I'd become popular by, paradoxically, telling all the embarrassing, true-self-opening stuff I kept to myself in high school. Weird, but true. I'll just go ahead and quote myself from October 23, 1987, 7:51 p.m.: "There is an abundance of things that boggle my mind, including mostly eternity and the universe."

Which brings me to parenting.

Continue reading "What do they want? A mantra for parenting and my own fool self" »

Happy Thanksgiving 2011: Grateful, Despite Myself

November 24, 2011

It's been a hard Thanksgiving for me, but I think it's more attitude and expectations than actual comparative experience. This year, I have so many reasons to be grateful, from somewhat easier behavior from my oldest boy to an adorable turn my youngest has taken -- to regularly (several times a day starting the minute we wake up) tell his brothers that they're awesome, and tell me I'm pretty. "Guess what Truman? You're awesome!" -- I can't think of any better way to start a day, from any of our perspectives.

I, somewhat impulsively, cooked a large turkey today even though it was just going to be my and my three little boys; our large family Thanksgiving was last weekend, and my husband's overseas (where he got turkey dinner -- and jet skis! -- at a Kuwaiti beach resort). Due in large part to my impulsiveness and in equal parts to my odd mix of overachieverism and procrastination, the dinner wasn't really complete until almost 9; there was no starvation here, but also no lovely picturesque traditions. We did not talk about pilgrims and native peoples. We did not dress up and take family photos. We did not say what we are grateful for. I will have leftovers (this, well, this is good).

By 7 p.m. I felt mournful. By 10 p.m. I felt more like a failure. But every time I went back to look at my life and the state of my kitchen -- yes, a bit messy, but so much bounty! -- I knew that my attitude was wrong and this situation deserves a better perspective. I could sit down and force myself, grudgingly, to be grateful -- or I could wallow in my imperfect self and lack of all the things I was favoriting on Instagram. Even when reluctant, gratitude is better.

I'm grateful for the most incredible turkey recipe I found in my neatly-organized-this-summer Saveur magazine collection; for an unusually awesome collection of babysitters who really love my kids; for having really found myself in writing over the past year-and-a-half; for people who say they appreciate me; for a husband who has a job he loves, even if it takes him far away; for being blessed with children who are both beautiful and smart and who, despite everything, love me and tell me so.

And I'm incredibly grateful for you all, and especially the other mamas who founded the site. How lucky are we, really? To live here, in this great city, or to have lived here, even. It may be insane and hilarious but it's something else, isn't it? Portlandia, the great and the strange. Every day full of story.

What are you grateful for this year? Do you have to convince yourself to be grateful, or is it coming easily?

The first goodbye: drop off at "big-boy" school

September 06, 2011

I've done it twice before now (with his two older sisters), dropping off for the very first time in a larger big-kid school-type setting.  And, even since their respective "firsts" at school, I have we have had first drop-offs at other new schools, camps, classes.  I seemed to get easier with each progressive "goodbye".

But, the very first time?  It's hard.

My boy started at his new preschool today.  Until this point, he's been in small scale settings, mostly in-home care, with close family friends.  Today, he went to a place - a big (pre-)"school" - where not only he knew no one: I also knew no one.  We entered and did not know where to sign in.  We didn't know where to go: whether to go somewhere to wait for circle time or outside to play.  We didn't know where to put blankets, dipes, lunches, jackets.  And what about the papers, permission slips, authorization forms?  I realize now that they all came back with me.  We stumbled around, asked, found our way.  All the while, the boy gripped my finger so, so hard, observing everything with big quiet eyes.

I was getting impatient with this whole drop-off exercise that I hurriedly put things away, swerved through other children, many of whom seemed to be coming back to the school they left a summer, and gave a hasty goodbye instead of a firm handoff to a new caretaker.  In the back of my head, I knew it would all be fine, though I wished, wished, wished for a more fairytale send-off where there were no tears, no confusion, no sinking feelings.  On the other side of the school gate, I crouched and listened to my boy cry.  I strained to hear what his teacher was saying.  She was singing to my boy, while also guiding other children with their activity.  Indeed, this was what we signed up for.  There were no promises of one-on-one attention.  My boy became silent, and, when I peered through the gate slats, I saw him standing, watching the other children play.

I feel sad.  I felt so sad when I got home that I cried.  I did not expect this, he being my third child and all.  It was so hard.

Did you have a first "goodbye" and drop-off today?  Or, maybe it felt like one?

When Mama Cries

July 27, 2011

I had a very bad day today. I'm feeling extra vulnerable thanks to uncertainty over the future for my family -- can I survive on art alone? I'm feeling extra poor today. And my husband is on edge and somehow manages to say exactly the wrong thing at all the right times... the internet is sometimes a hard place to be all, you know, defensive and sure of oneself and stuff... I ended up entirely unsure of anything. We have a 20th reunion for our high school class coming up Friday, and I overcommitted and have a ton of responsibilities, all of which I want to get accomplished -- so everyone will have a great time, right? I spent half of the evening in tears.

Even the neighbor girl, 12, noticed -- our house is such that there's no real good place to be alone. She came up to me and put her arm around me as I sat on the front porch, hiding behind the grape vines. "Are you ok?" she asked. "Sort of," I said. Both Monroe and Truman gave me several wet sloppy cheek kisses as I, later, read them the Dueling chapter from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Everett was extra solicitous of me. I thanked them profusely.

I never know quite what to say when I dissolve in front of them. I've never been one of those people who can box their feelings up to let go later -- and anyway, our house is not the sort of place where one retreats with the vapors (if only). I just apologize and tell them why (in simple terms) I was feeling sad, and thank them for being so patient and kind.

How do you deal with the sometimes powerful emotions of being a mama around kids? Bottle up, let 'em rip, go for a run, call up your mother and tell all?

School's Out For Summer!

June 14, 2011

The countdown began a couple of weeks ago, when my six-year-old was moping about each morning, telling me, "I'm sick!" when he was only, variously, tired, cranky, or wishing he could stay home and play with his little brother. "Only 14 more days of school," I'd say, "you can make it!"

Today, with the retirement of a beloved kindergarten teacher approaching and the skittering knowledge that going back to Bridger is an impractical choice that would likely result in ill attention for my rising first-grader's rising needs -- he's been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, something that just can't be supported in a neighborhood classroom of 38 first-graders, and now that his big brother isn't going to the school, he no longer gets the "tagalong" status allowing a school bus to take him the 3.5 miles from our house -- I'm saying so long to a school community I'd really grown to love. There are too many people to whom to say goodbye.

I'm not the only one among the urbanMamas who is saying goodbye. I'll let Olivia tell her own story, but her Facebook status last night about an exchange with her graduating oldest daughter had tears in many of our eyes. There are littler goodbyes -- preschool graduations, neighborhood moves, and the like. I chatted yesterday with a life-changing therapist, one who'd worked with Everett in an unusually empathetic and knowing way. All of the mental health professionals -- all of them, except for one school psychologist assigned to each school (often on a half-time basis) -- are losing their jobs. Those with seniority will be re-assigned, maybe as school counsellors. The special ed director has decided that children's mental health shouldn't be supported by schools. (More about this later.)

It's a sparkling, celebratory time for many children, but even those like Truman who spent considerable energy trying to stay home will miss the friends and teachers they loved. A bittersweet time of release from schedules and change in environment. A hope for warm sidewalks and bare feet and ripe strawberries from the garden. The feeling is in the air and in the skips of students through the streets.

How are you feeling as school gets out? What are your happies and sads? To whom are you saying goodbye this June?

Seeking Divorce Therapist & Support Recommendations

April 13, 2011

We have had a call previously for marriage therapists, but what about divorce therapists?  Would the specialists of the former be specialists of the latter?

An urbanMama recently emailed:

My partner and I are divorcing, and I would like to find a therapist who has experience with helping divorcing/divorced women through this tremendously painful time. Would it be possible for you to post a call for suggestions in NE or SE Portland?

Also, does anyone have suggestions about support groups for divorcing/divorced women in PDX?

Longing for another child, but I already have a few!

April 12, 2011

I know many mamas have struggled to conceive.  I have been so lucky in that regard.  Our first came a complete surprise.  I know there are many families who only have one child, for environmental reasons.  Our second was planned, conceived at what felt like a "good time" for us after we talked about our "thoughts on number two".  Before we could even talk about our "thoughts on number three", we conceived.  To be sure, each of our families are different.  We make our own choices and decisions.  We have the size of a family that is right for us.

So for me, right now, I am feeling like I am pining for another.  Number Three is now a year and a half, such a delight.  I never did feel that I had the time or opportunity to experience this longing, this deep sense of want, this intense draw to become a mother to a young child, yet again.   To be sure, this feeling is the result of my joy in mothering a toddler (I just LOVE this age) as well as knowing that he is probably my last.  Yes, "probably" my last.

Have you had that yearning for a baby feeling?  Did you put it to rest?  Did you conceive or decide to adopt to address the yearning?  Or maybe time helped ease the feeling?  Or perhaps that longing still percolates, to this day?

Homeschooling for the faint of heart

February 27, 2011

Sometime between Valentine's Day and the following Friday, I decided to home school Everett. Now eight-and-a-half and having just passed his third-year special education re-evaluation (still qualifies under the eye-rolling educational diagnosis of "severe emotional disturbance"), I had been thinking (along with the teachers and administrators) all the way into January that things were getting better. Never the sort of kid to have enough good days in a row for successful extracurricular involvement, I'd signed him up for LEGO club, which he participated in through to the end commendably. We'd agreed to do "Battle of the Books," and I was the team parent, and had read the books with him. The assembly where he and his team would compete for a chance at regional tournament was coming up on the 18th.

What's more, he was generally getting along with his teacher, though he'd been through four that year; one permanent teacher who took a job elsewhere; one long-term substitute; one new permanent teacher; then the last one, the day after new-permanent-teacher took over. We all decided it would be best to move him to the older class (the only third-grader in the behavioral classrooms at Bridger, he had been the oldest in K-3 and was more appropriately served, we thought, as the youngest in 3-5). At first, things went great.

Until they didn't. One bad day turned into a week-long bus suspension (shortly after we'd gotten the paperwork done for both boys to take the bus) and then suddenly, he and a friend were suspended. On Valentine's Day, we had a re-entry meeting and, after handing out his dragon valentines, it became obvious that he wasn't emotionally ready to re-enter. Not on Wednesday, either. We missed the Battle of the Books assembly -- the one we'd been reading for since October. On Friday, the counsellor came by and I told her how I felt about this right now: that home schooling might be a better option. About the same time, Rebecca invited me to Get the Scoop on Schooling, "an Evening of Information, Inspiration, and Clarity about Educational Options for Our Children" (Monday February 28 at The Warehouse, 6:30 p.m.). I responded "yes" immediately.

After years of considering this option, and many times typing or saying to someone in the heat of emotion, "I'm THIS close to homeschooling!", the balance had tipped. I felt it was inevitable and that continuing in public school had no possible good ending.

Continue reading "Homeschooling for the faint of heart" »

The Motherhood-Project: have you participated?

February 17, 2011

It was only after I had endured a most angst-ridden adolescence that I had read "Reviving Ophelia", a collection of anecdotes of a psychologist's work with adolescent women coming of age.  Granted, as the daughter of two immigrants not fully accepting of "American ways", I didn't have the same experiences as the examples.  Still, something resonated.  When "Ophelia Speaks" came out, I was equally drawn to the stories, written by teenage girls themselves, reliving many feelings and emotions of being a young woman, in search of self, questioning and wondering, struggling and exploring (though I recall feeling the same sense of homogeneity in this book, telling myself I had to one day edit a book that would be more representative of the experiences of girls of color).

That was before I was a mother.  Now, I have a daughter named Ophelia (can you believe?), aged 10.  Roughly two years ago, we started to notice changes in our daughter's mood, behavior.  She was becoming more assertive with us, of the annoying variety, and oh-so emotional.  Tears were abundant, seemingly about mundane things.  But, it all meant the world to her.  We, as her parents, had a hard time dealing with these changes. Rebanal_women

More than anything, I want to have strong, passionate, and confident daughters.  I want them to feel comfortable in their skin, even if they are unlike the images we see on billboards or in the movies.  I want them to speak, loudly and strongly, in public, with elders, with peers, with youngers.  I want them to find their voice, know it and use it.  I want them to dance and perform, for the love of it all, with little self-consciousness.

I think we have our jobs cut out for us.  Raising conscientious and confident girls (or boys - saved for another post) is not easy.  

On thing I have heard about is the Mother-Daughter Project.  Groups of mothers and daughters have come together to support one another through the adolescent period and beyond, providing that important sense of community and sense of belonging, deepening mother-daughter relationship, while also forming strong peer relationships, all in the name of support and camaraderie during difficult times.

Have you participated in a Mother-Daughter Project group?  How have you tried to strengthen your relationship with your pre-adolescent or adolescent daughter?  What were memorable, meaningful relationships for you when you were an adolescent that you hope to replicate for your daughter?

Counseling Advice?

December 26, 2010

This should be a happy time of the year, but unfortunately tragedy can strike at any time. A reader emailed to us recently:

"A friend of the family recently lost his mother, and is having a had time dealing with the pain.  Although he has lots of support from family and friends, understandably the pain is still affecting him on a day to day basis.  It might be helpful for him to talk with a professional who can help him work through his grieving, and I was hoping the UrbanMamas community would be able to share some suggestions on counselors or therapists for him to contact."

Any suggestions?

Holiday gratitude: Where does it find *you*?

December 10, 2010

Forget Thanksgiving; it's Christmas specifically, and December and the beginning of the new year generally, where I find myself needing to focus most on my gratitude. How hard is it not to get caught up in all the wrong bits of the holiday spirit? Plenty, what with a list of cartoon-commercial gifts a mile long and twice as objectionable, sugar proferred by friends, family and strangers at every turn, always too little money compared to your needs and wants, the pressure to have a "simple" and "homemade" holiday which turns into a snafu of overcommitment, and the family togetherness-or-lack-thereof, both of which provide tearfulness and emotional extremes in equal measures.

I need to carve out pockets and tar-pits of gratitude in a time like this. I'm finding it easy, if I let it be, even though I'm finding it hard sometimes to draw in a deep breath the way I'm coaching my kids, my athletes.  Where can I find it? Here:

  • ~On the bus, on the bike~. The man in a wheelchair this morning seemed to be looking out of the corners of his eyes instead of straight ahead, but he could tell Monroe was in a funk. "Sick," I said, so he offered him a tiny Mounds bar. Monroe's eyes lit up, he smiled, he reached for the thing, he said "it's good," by way of thanks.

    And Wednesday, the sun broke through just as we reluctantly, half-sobbingly, helmet-ed and raincoat-ed up, we rode past other families offering us a smile, a wave, a hello; a grandfather and his grandson working in the yard, Truman asked if we could come back sometime, and play; a pregnant mama, surely due soon, carrying her recycling bin down the steps as we looked for surprise rainbows. Open your eyes, see, I told myself.
  • ~On Foster Boulevard, in the fifties~. It was raining hard, I was looking for the Decorette Shop, seeing signs like: 'gloves for hides,' and wondering if that was literal, could I bring in a hide? Once inside the shop near 54th, I uncovered a rich landscape of things for baking: cakes and cookies of every shape and season. I bought crystal sanding sugar, I bought cutters for reindeer, acorns, maple leafs, a train and a car, Christmas tree baubles, an unusual star. It was less than $12 for my cookie-baking riches.

Continue reading "Holiday gratitude: Where does it find *you*?" »

How to help children deal with stress

November 09, 2010

We parents are not the only ones facing stressful situations.  Our children also experience stress: stress with transitions in their households, stress at school with friendships or academic challenges, stress related to medical situations.  An urbanMama recently emailed, seeking your suggestions for stress-reducing activities for her daughter:

My six-year-old daughter is going through some tough medical issues right now. I think we’re hooked up with the right medical providers, but she is understandably stressed. So I was trying to think about what to do for a stressed-out kiddo. Good food—check. Good sleep—check. Cleared my schedule to make life less rushed for her—check. Organized her room and am making an effort to keep the house tidy—check. What else? I’d love to hear suggestions about ways to help kids relax. My only thought so far was massage, but I think I’d have to find just the right provider since otherwise it would just be one more stressful appointment with a stranger. So if anyone knows of a masseuse who works with kids, or has other ideas about techniques for reducing and coping with stress, that would be great.

Warning: mamahood could cause depression

November 08, 2010

Of late, we have all been under additional pressure, as school has ramped up (probably extracurricular activities too).  The weather might also have something to do with it; while it has still been lovely and mild, the cool air lets us know that winter is ahead.  Sometimes, though, it is just a plain hard period, regardless of season.  The tension of the day-to-day juggle can lead to feelings of intensity, symptoms of depression.  An urbanMama recently emailed, seeking your advice and suggestions: 

I have two kids in diapers, my husband and I just adopted a new work schedule two months ago. He works 4 days a week, I work the other 3 days of the week (all ten hour days) That leaves us zero time as a family. Lately I am crying constantly. My three year old asks "What's wrong Mommy?" and my 19 month old just screams his head off. I love them dearly, but this new schedule is killing us and add to that the wet windy winter weather. I am going to see my doctor tomorrow, I am going to do my best even if it IS against my nature to ask for help. I am going to start taking my fish oil, try to eat more protein, all those things I know I should be doing...if I can just stop sobbing uncontrollably for a day or two. 

So I ask of you, wise mothers of Portland a question two-fold:   Those of you who have faced depression head on...What worked for you?  And I need to laugh, I need great book suggestions re: raising kids and family, please!