I've been wanting to get Miles a toy that would involve plenty of movement and imagination, and had been thinking about a shopping cart and some play food for months. We have a walk in pantry, which I thought could be fun for him to "put his groceries away" in.
I settled on a metal one from Costco ($27 .99 with 30 pcs of food) because it seemed like it could be passed down to a long line of little shoppers. The plastic ones at Toys R Us ($14.99) looked really cheap, the food boxes were crummy, and it would not have withstood scads of children bashing it into walls and overturning it. The casters were well-fashioned, but could be replaced if needed,-they're just like real shopping cart wheels, they spin completely around and turn sharply. (There was a metal cart at Target for $24.99, but it came with no food and the seperately sold food, though wooden, was not fun and was quite pricey). There are some great companies with wooden food sets, but I'm concerned about the use of wood as well, and many of them are made in China. At least the wooden food will last through generations-should I decide to expand our collection, I believe I'll go that route.
I didn't like that the cart was made in China (almost all children's toys are), but I sucked it up and decided to try to bring the world back into harmony (!) by recycling the packaging into something fun. I love this kitchen, but I think it is too much to spend on a toy that may not get much use in a couple of years, plus it just seems "too nice". Here's what came of my kitchen yearning and the leftover box and cardboard bits:
A crafty stove with glittery burners and opening door! This is all the proof I need that a little gorilla glue and a box holds limitless possibilities. You can't see the weird brown piece of cheap plastic steak and clump of peas in the pan, but if you could, it would bring back memories! It is for this reason that I impulsively purchased the plastic blue pan and 6 pcs of plastic food to enhance the cooking experience. I still have to attach the spinning knobs (Clever use of sports drink lids glued to butterflying brads).
It seems that "God" is often the hot topic where I work. In this small town, religion rules. B and I were pillowtalking about gnosticism, atheism, brights and other -isms last night. I told him how I was just tired of labels.
I am. Would you judge me a better person if I told you I was an "environmentalist", a "vegan", a "liberal"? I do make assumptions about someone's character when I hear their label, and I have put my own labels out so that people will make assumptions about me. When I started to eat fish, I was hesitant to lay down my vegetarian label because it felt comfy, plus I still wanted to be associated with the positive ethical assumptions one sometimes makes about vegetarians. But I had to, because it didn't fit anymore...it was a too tight sweater that had to be tossed in the donation pile no matter how I'd loved it. I fell short of its expectations and at times seeped through it's seams. It felt uncomfortable because it wasn't true.
God is no different. Most assumed definitions of God make me fidget and do little for me spiritually. Divinity, too, but I like the word better than the G-word.
Einstein referred to what amazed him as "the awe of the universe". I clutch that phrase a bit because I am so amazed by life and emotion and people and miracles-it seems to encompass so much. Some things are too complex, beautiful, and emotional to describe in language. The little things that sparkle in the spaces between what we can talk about are the places I feel divinity dwelling, like in the suppression of air beneath my baby's hand as he is placing it over mine or the gasp between my neck and earlobe of my lover's breath.
I reach for my pen or my camera and find that this disappearing and reappearing piece of lovedust has escaped through my fingers again.
My friend SJ gives the greatest hugs ever, no one can duplicate them. She makes a circle on your back with her hands, but it feels like a swirl of warm energy on your soul. Divinity.
That splithair second between a dividing embryo's cells-divinity.
Wings and wind lifting together...a fleeting pink and purple sunset...the subtle and sometimes surprising drive in each of us to act out of immense love toward another being...a sincere almost-tear floating in the corner of my girlfriend's eye...colostrum's magical antibodies...
For me, none of this magic lives in judgement of others, in the concept of a wrathful God, punishment, sin, or whatever the opposite of sin is, or in labels.
I don't know what to call it and I don't suppose it needs to be called anything at all.
That wacky Ally at Crazy Dust is at it again, sucking me into her hype.
Your Theme Song is Beautiful Day by U2
"Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away"
You see the beauty in life, especially in ordinary everyday moments.
And if you're feeling down, even that seems a little beautiful too.
What's Your Theme Song?
Today I am sending out an offering of my beautiful friend and her wisdom:
The Challenges of Parenting by Stephanie Anderson Ladd, MA, MFT
As a marriage and family therapist, it was not unusual for me to get a call from a frustrated parent wanting me to see her 4 year-old son for behavioral problems. He had recently been sent home from pre-school, first for hitting, then kicking, and on his third strike, for biting another child.
We set up an appointment and I surmised that the curious, smart little boy in front of me was taking out his anger at pre-school because his parents were operating at opposite extremes when it came to discipline. He had a new baby sister that was suddenly the star attraction and he was often caught treating her roughly when he thought no one was looking. Mom felt guilty that she didn't have enough time for him and tended to lecture him when he misbehaved and dad usually spanked him for his misdeeds. Both mom and dad used the same parenting techniques learned in their respective families and generally disagreed about the most effective way to parent their son.
The first thing I helped them understand was that their child had feelings of jealousy about being "dethroned" and needed help with these feelings as well as needing to be stopped from hurting his sister. The second issue was discussing more effective ways of discipline than lecturing or spanking. Spanking is an ineffectual mode of discipline that creates feelings of anger, helplessness, and loss of control that often backfires later when the child tries to take control of others. Lecturing doesn't work either, as children quickly tune out.
As I worked with them to learn what natural consequences might look like (see examples below), I also referred them to parenting classes at The Institute for Professional Parenting (TIPP) in Valencia, CA. Soon, these parents were on their way to trying new skills that allowed their son to express his feelings appropriately, resulting in a calmer, more secure child.
Parents at odds about how best to raise their children is not an unusual situation and was one of the impetuses for starting TIPP, a non-profit organization committed to teaching parenting skills as well as helping people heal from childhood pain and trauma. TIPP was founded by Dr. Faye Snyder, Psy. D. who has dedicated her life to understanding and teaching how personality is made, not born.
The causal theory is the basis for the 8 week Miracle Child parenting series offered five times a year in Valencia and West Los Angeles, CA. The parenting classes will soon be offered on DVD and audio CD. The next series of classes begins in Valencia on September 12, 2007.
Having taught and counseled parents for some time, I have noticed that parents ask more questions about discipline than anything else. They want to know what's too much, what's not enough, what is effective for what age and what is not.
Here are a few basic do's and don'ts of discipline:
Don't discipline in anger.
If you lose control, you appear weak to the child. It may be important to look at your own anger and determine if you are trying to get even for your own childhood and how you were parented (you may need to deal with your own anger issues first).
Do set a good example by modeling the kind of behavior you expect of your children.
Hitting children teaches them that it is okay to hit and that violence is a way to solve problems; not a message we want to send our children out into the world with. Parents need to ask themselves: Do I clean up my own mess? Do I admit when I am wrong? Do I keep my commitments? We can't expect our children to do as I say but not as I do.
Don't hit, yell at, name-call, shame, or otherwise demean your children when they misbehave. Give them a natural consequence for their behavior-one that is logical and naturally follows from the infraction.
A natural consequence for pushing another child is not being able to play with that child until he uses words instead of hurting and ammends are made. If the behavior is repeated, then the child will learn that no one wants to play with him and that his parents will not allow him to play with others until he is safe. (We also want to find out what the child is angry about and causing him to act out.) A teenager gets freedom equal to the amount of reponsibility she exhibits. If she doesn't do her homework and her grades slip, her privileges (cell phone, computer time, or other distractions), are revoked until the grades improve.
Do let your children know what you expect and set limits without guilt.
Children understand fair rules and reasonable expectations. Long explanations and lecturing imply that you don't recognize your childs ability to figure things out and learn from her mistakes. When children experience natural consequences they get the lesson and you never need say, "I told you so". (Pixie would add that this works with spouses, too-Hi Brandon!)
Don't set limits without following through with consequences.
Repeated warnings only tells a child you don't mean what you say. Weak or inconsistent limits with no consequences create a mean, inconsiderate, angry child who continually pushes the envelope. This child secretly wants to be stopped.
Do get help if what you're doing isn't working.
Children are our mirrors, their behavior is a reflection of how we are parenting them. It helps to remember that parenting is a learning process-for both children and parents.
Ongoing parenting classes are available at The Institute of Professional Parenting located at 28416 Constellation Road in Valencia, CA, for more information, call(661)-294-8477.
Stephanie Anderson is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Pine Mountain and Valencia, CA. She is available as a parenting coach by telephone appointment-call or email with inquiries: (661)-242-0719 firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie is one of my dearest friends and I want to thank her for writing this article! Without her encouragement and total faith in my ability to heal and create a healthy family, I would not be a parent today. She is pictured here with her daughter, Chloe and sweet mutt, Maggie.
Because I love Maggie so much, and because I am challenging my irrational fear of creating boring tags, I'm going to post my random facts....
I'm not into rules today and I'm not tagging anyone else. Bah!
1. I pronounce "toilet", "tolet", to the amusement of one of my friends and all of her Bay City sisters. I also have a potty mouth and sometimes choose consciously to use poor grammar if I think it will sound clever or funny.
2. I was a vegetarian for nine years and now I'm not. I do choose my animal products consciously and I think eating locally and organically is much more environmentally friendly than eating a strict non-animal diet from thousands of miles of away. Hello, chard in my backyard. Goodbye avocados from Chile in January.
3. I think and speak at the same time, making me an annoying conversationalist at times. This is how I learn my own opinions about things. I have a secret envy for people like this who think and then speak.
4. I can curl up my toes and stand on them and even take a few steps, something my parents have talked about to their friends since I was about 4.
5. I ran major production for several giant clothing companies for 11 years and never learned how to thread a needle on a sewing machine.
6. Composting and earthworms excite me. I hate to throw things away in a landfill. I also loathe cheap plastic shit.
7. It sometimes takes me over half a day to decide what I want to do with it.
8. I think figs are sexy. And Jack Johnson, too.
I've been reading through some of my old writings in an attempt to revisit where I have been and ponder where I might be going. Fall isn't here yet, but it may as well be. You wouldn't agree with me for a second if you lived in California's central valley, which goes from sunny and very hot to a bit rainy and overcast sometime about December each year. It is in my deeper self that I sense the season changing.
September, ("Don't rush me", she seems to whisper), is my new year. It's the month of my birth and without fail, I want to run out and start planting the garlic and all of the Fall seeds and make plans of how to percolate all of my ideas through winter (rather a joke here, but again, it's a metaphorical inner winter!) so they'll come busting through the soil in Spring.
I'm thinking about others right now, too. I've really had my head up my own...cloud for the past year, being entrenched in the healing process. Making room for brand spanking new mojo to come in. I'm feeling community and gardens and round table discussions about the brilliant things that can happen when we all put our hearts together. I'm thinking about women and babies and all of that wonderful, divine buzzing that comes with birth.
When I sat in a shaman's circle, we once did a cleansing journey in which we invited the forces of nature to dismember us in whatever way our imaginative subconscious could conjure in order to be taken apart completely, so that when we came back together, we'd leave behind the old ways that no longer fit and incorporate new energies that we needed to move forward with intention. Some people felt their arms and legs come off with clunks or their bones disolve. Mine occured with ants and worms that swept over me like a dark, cartoon swarm and devoured every teeny cell, reducing me to a pile of dull, grey dust. When I stood up from it, reformed, I felt freshened and ready for my new tasks. It reminds me of the same cycles that move the moon to hide and reawaken, the sun to grow dimmer, then brighter.
These are two paintings I recently finished. It has taken me about a year to complete them but I am satisfied... I began them as a diptych but they sort of became their own entities as my work has a way of doing. They are hanging together in our hall at present and I have no idea what the future has for them!
I've been calling them Mako and the Dragon: