Archive for the ‘AP & Self Care’ Category

Preventing and Mitigating Sibling Melt Downs

Art Credit: Siblings Without Rivalry

This past week I attended a class with one of my favorite early childhood experts, Carrie Contey. This was a class on siblings. I walked away with a deeper understanding of the unique needs of children based on their birth order, new insights on what drives sibling conflict, and several light bulb moments on better meeting my daughters’ emotional needs in general. Austin Mamas – if you haven’t taken a class with Carrie, I highly recommend her. I’ve never left a class without several valuable new insights and workable ideas to put in practice.

I’ll share the high level take-aways with you here:

* Birth Order. Firsts never forget that they were here first and don’t want you to either. They need acknowledgment and appreciation of their role as first. Forever.  Middles need to hear how special it is to be in the middle. Youngests need to know that you understand how frustrating it is to be the youngest and not get to do what olders are doing. They need ongoing empathy for this.

* We’ve got 3 parts to our brains:

  1. Human – Thinking. Learning, talking, listening, reasoning, loving, playing.
  2. Mammal – Feeling. Not listening, resisting, crying, demanding, whining, clinging.
  3. Reptile – Fearing.  Fight or Flight. Fight: kicking, biting, screaming, hitting. Flight: avoiding, running away, shutting down.

Babies consistently live in the reptile part of their brain as they cry to get their basic needs met. And as they grow from age 0 to 7, they are working on developing their human, thinking brain. When children are apart from their parents in preschool or daycare or with a nanny, they are working really hard to contain their emotions, to think, to work, to learn. And even with all this positive, wonderful growing — it’s draining and stressful. When they reunite with parents, meltdowns are common because they are letting down from working so hard to contain their emotions without Mommy or Daddy.

Food. Sleep. Love.

* Sibling rivalry is normal AND they need their parents to be the Steady Eddies in the fire to help them regulate. It’s inevitable because they likely spend more time with each other than anyone else at home. And it’s through a sibling that they learn how to resolve conflict. Once again the cry for self-care comes through loud and clear for Mothers which so many of us find so difficult to do. But it’s when you’re depleted that you are more likely to join the fire with your own reptile brain instead of provide the calming, grown-up force to diffuse it.

Three Tips on Preventing and Mitigating Meltdowns with Small Children:

  1. Fill them up with Big Attention after every separation – including sleep. Whatever that looks like for you, and take it up a notch with the level of intensity.  Rather then feeding them the heightened negative attention of “STOP THAT!” intensity, feed them with big “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!”. Big silliness. Physical games.  Your eyes and ears completely on them and bouncing back and forth between each child.  In the mornings now I’ve been trying out Carrie’s suggestion of simply saying, “I see you!” to each child and going back and forth between the two, saying it over and over again.  When they are filled with intense attention, even in just small bursts, they’re less likely to get into sibling conflict or their own individual melt-down mode which is just another way to get your intense attention. Just not as much fun for anybody.
  2. If you are a working AP Mama like me, consider making those three or four hours a day that you have with your children during your week uninterrupted by anything else.  Put all screens away so that you’re not distracted by a single text or email during your time together. Knowing that transitions are hard and that I usually come home to kids having melt downs, I’ve been looking for ways to help make this time together more pleasant since we have so little time.  The “A-Ha!” suggestion from Carrie that I’m running with: When I come home from work, I’m not worrying about getting dinner on the table or talking to my husband or our baby-sitter about anything for a good 10 minutes. I’m giving all my attention to my girls and going back and forth between them quickly to fill them up, play, hug, be silly — whatever.  I’ll let you know how it works….
  3. If a conflict between siblings is underway, don’t try to reason with them or get to the “why”.  (like I do) I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “No honey, of course you’re not poopy. Just because someone says something, doesn’t mean it’s true. We don’t talk that way to each other.”  Instead, focus on a quick redirection and come back to a mini discussion on your family’s values at another time when all is peachy.  Carrie’s fabulous redirection suggestion:  Grab their attention away from picking on their brother or sister and say, “I think you need a challenge!”  And then give them something to do that’s both mental and physical.  Do three twirls. Then count to twelve. And then hug your sister while you sing.  You get the idea….

All these ideas for melt down prevention or “work-around”, by the way, assume that you’ve covered the basic needs:  food, drink, sleep.

So what happens when everyone is short on sleep because one of your children kept everyone else up all night with her coughing and crying and you have to run an errand the next day because there’s no other option?

I can confidently say that in these cherished Mama Moments, you must simply breathe through the kicking and wailing on the floor tantrums that take place at XYZ store because the child wants something you’re not up for them having or in my recent case — something impossible. My Littlest wanted the same kind of princess underwear I was buying for my Oldest at Target — and her size was out of stock (bless her heart). Absolutely no other kind would do and the eye of her hurricane was too intense to redirect her attention to anything.

And when someone stops to look at you with a why-aren’t-you-doing-something-to-stop-your-child-from-screaming look, you simply look them back in the eye in a penetrating sort of way and flip them off.

No, I didn’t give anyone the bird. That part was pure fantasy. Maybe in my next life.

All for now. Gotta fill my cup with some sleep!

Posted in AP & Self Care, Attachment Parenting, Conflict Resolution | 2 Comments

Empty Cups and Loving Kindness

Empty cups and loving kindness. Ten years from now, if I look back at this blog, I wonder how many entries I will count during this chapter of life with small children in which I discuss the topic of my “empty cup.”

Responding with loving kindness. This is the crux of attachment parenting, right?  You look at the principles of the AP parenting philosophy and all the subjects ultimately come back to this ideal. It’s about developing and nurturing close connections between parent and child by:

  • Preparing for pregnancy, birth and parenting
  • Feeding with love and respect
  • Responding with sensitivity
  • Using nurturing touch
  • Ensuring safe sleep — both physically and emotionally
  • Providing consistent, loving care
  • Practicing positive discipline
  • Striving for balance in personal and family life.

Right now I’m finding myself annoyed by the contradicting recommendations.

For all those mothers reading this who at 18 months or 2 years are still waking up three, four…eight times a night to lovingly offer your body to your child….

For all the mothers that have gone a year or two or more without trusting anyone other than their partner to care for their child in order to get a break…..

For all the mothers that are at their wits end and are just plain worn out….

How do you continue to respond lovingly every single time to the needs of your children (and your partner or your spouse?!)

At some point, the lack of self-care sets you up to treat the people you care about most the opposite way you intended when you first gravitated toward Attachment Parenting.

In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s virtually impossible to maintain our collective AP goal of responding with loving kindness to cries, to boob grabs, to tantrums, to sibling fights, to whining requests when we continue to ignore ourselves.

I don’t know what AP looks like if we — as I’ve written in the past — focus on the last (notice it’s last??) AP tenet  THEN abide by the rest. So much of the first seven principles, for me at least, has meant sacrificing the last (me) and then — here at Year Four while I now attempt to maintain some level of this practice with a full-time job — has me in a fairly chronic state of oh-my-god-when-can-I-get-a-break pissed-off-ness which is bleeding into my family and mirrored back to me through the angry outbursts of my children.

The Loving Kindness goal must apply to everyone in the family including oneself. It’s so damn hard to figure out. But it’s just imperative to give your children the gift of modeling self-love and the gift of experiencing a mother whose state of being reflects that of someone with tempered self-sacrifice.

Mothers who carefully abide by all 8 principals and carefully tend to yourselves — I really want to hear from you and share your story here if you’re willing. Please drop me a line:

Last month I was published in a Washington DC magazine called, “Pathways“.  The article hasn’t posted on their web site yet. When it does, I’ll share it here. It’s called “Positively Grateful: Three Easy Tips for Maintaining a Loving and Positive State of Being.”  It’s based off a post on Attachment Mama that I wrote several months ago that the magazine discovered and asked to print.

The Tips:

  1. Change Your Physiology. Discover the desired emotional state that matches a physiological state and start with the latter to produce it.
  2. Check in On Your Focus and Your Beliefs. Are you focused on believing your current situation will be forever? And how does that irrational thought block opportunities?
  3. Change the Question. Be aware of inner voice doom and gloom questions like “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why can’t I figure this out?”. Negatively oriented questions produce negatively oriented answers. Catch yourself and try a new set of questions:  “How Can I Make this Fun?” or “What am I willing to do to create a new reality?”

I have – God Bless America  – started a tiny running routine again.  And this is helping.  But it’s puny and it’s not fully consistent.  YET.  Going beyond fifteen or twenty minutes and 2 times a week will be key for me. I know that running for me can put me in a zen state that is all about #1 and can bring in the benefits of #3 if I consciously move my mind in developing new mental questions while I’m moving my body.

I circled around and around all that I was frustrated about for the first 14 minutes of my mini jog the other day and then came up with a random new question that shook me out of it:

Who buys and drives bright yellow cars?  And more specifically, who buys and drives yellow corvettes?

And since I asked that question to myself the other day, and it made me smile which I don’t do nearly enough these days, I’m constantly on the look-out for non taxi cab yellow cars. The other day I made it a game for my girls on the way to school and they loved it.

One of these days maybe I’ll meet a yellow corvette driver (doubtful?) and discover the nuances of his unique personality.

Posted in AP & Self Care | No Comments

Vegan Wanna-Be Turning the Corner

There’s been some added pressure to get legit with this whole vegan thing since taking this full-time job marketing Engine 2 for Whole Foods Market.  You haven’t heard from me in a while because… well…it’s Diet Season, y’all.  The New Year, New Me thing really happens and anyone working for a health food store or a Diet business of some kind is officially buried this month.

I’ve had all kinds of mental stuff come up over the last six months that has had me resist embracing plant-based 100%. My latest trap?  I just qualified for “platinum” at work. What does this mean? Well, everyone that works at Whole Foods Market automatically gets 20% off at the store.  Then, because the company is so committed to it’s employees health, they’ve got an incentive program to earn up to a 30% discount based on your scores of biomarker tests:  nicotene, cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI are the basics.  And based on your numbers, you’ll either keep 20%, or get bronze, silver, gold, or platinum – 30%.

So, I look at my platinum score and I think — I’m not at risk. An egg here or there and fish and dairy on occasion — no big deal.  Then I started reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.  Foer is one of my all-time favorite authors. Love his fiction. And this non-fiction is mind-blowing. I’m so grossed out by factory farming after reading his book, that I find myself happily, fully plant-based. Now, if someone offers me a piece of cake made with eggs, I admit I will not turn it down. But right now, the thought of scrambled eggs and toast which used to appeal to me every weekend, sounds absolutely heinous to me.

What motivated me to avoid dairy?  T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study, an in-depth, well-documented, peer-reviewed study of the relationship between diet and disease. One of his many discoveries was that casein, the protein found in milk products, promotes cancer tumor growth.

What about calcium? How can we get what we need without dairy?

Tragic irony is at play here. Maybe some day someone will sue the dairy industry like we did with tobacco companies. Despite the highly successful ad campaign, milk does not do your body good.  Here’s the problem: the animal protein in milk increases the acidity in the bloodstream. To offset the increased acid load and even out your body’s pH levels, your body will leach calcium – a strong base – from your bones and actually do the opposite of what you intended by consuming dairy!

Did you know that countries around the world that consume the most dairy also have the highest rate of osteoporosis?

You can get all the calcium you need from sources without animal protein that contradict your body’s ability to absorb it.  Try fortified non-dairy milks and cereals and load up on your leafy greens!  Spinach, Kale, Collard Greens, Turnip Greens – all great sources of calcium.

I’m now sneaking leafy greens into my girls’ diets twice a day at least four days a week.  We do our green smoothies in the morning that they say, “tastes like candy!” because we make them with sweet frozen fruit like pineapple or peaches (plus coconut water, almond butter, vegan protein powder, etc).  And at night, we’re sneaking in a green leafy to whatever we’re making for dinner.  Curried lentils and rice with carrots, cauliflower and kale, vegan enchiladas with spinach, vegan lasagna with sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini and spinach….

And every night they lap down their fortified oat milk. So much natural sugar in this….we should really switch to unsweetened Almond Milk…but hell, I’m doing the best I can.

Anyone reading this that is proudly carnivorous — please don’t feel any judgment from me.  Whatever your personal choice is with food, go for it.  My advocacy is for Americans to eat as “plant-strong” as possible and shift from being a country that is upside with chronic disease and related health care costs to one that is healthy on all fronts.

Love to All!

Posted in AP & Self Care, Nutrition | 1 Comment

Vision Boards and the Law of Attraction

Anyone else see the “The Secret” when it came out in 2006?  I remember being quite inspired by it when we watched it just prior to my first daughter’s birth. The Big Secret is essentially that we’re all intended to have an amazing life and that we create every moment of our life with our thoughts. The film explains the Law of Attraction —  how we attract into our lives anything that we give attention to, regardless whether it’s positive or negative.

Before this movie existed and all the talk about the law of attraction took hold culturally, any number of practices and tools existed that essentially help activate drawing in that which you seek.

Vision boards are something I’ve done off and on for over ten years. They are fun and powerful manifestation tools. The idea is to take pictures you like from magazines or that you print off the web and put them in a collage on a poster board or foam core board. Ideally all the pictures bring you joy and represent your passions and desires. You can choose to add text and drawings too. I read one suggestion to include copy at the bottom, “date created (today’s date)” and “date manifested.”

It’s fun to look back on ones that I created several years ago — especially my first vision board in 1999:

This one was pure stream of consciousness. It was one of the evening exercises at a life-changing retreat I attended in Colorado called Women’s Quest. We were told to go through a stack of magazines and cut out anything that looked attractive to us and not stop to think about it.

Women’s Quest rocks by the way. I went to three retreats over the span of a few years back in my single, corporate chic days and I hold the intention of taking my girls to one when they are older. Super empowering, adventurous, and fabulously feminine.

I’m struck by two images that I see now in my old ’99 vision board that are mind-blowing to me.  The first, which may be hard to see, is a picture of African American children in choir robes.  With absolutely ZERO clue in 1999 that I would be doing this — shortly after moving to Austin in 2003, I began volunteering for a charter school for under-served children in Austin, most with African American and Latino heritage. During the 2004-2005 school year, I was the school’s volunteer choir teacher.

The second one that I’m drawn to today is the picture of the young girl with her arms outstretched in joy.  Check out this picture of my sweet Sadie:

I didn’t do another vision board until 2004. When I was ready to get married and was fantasizing about having a beautiful wedding with dark pink and orange flowers, and chocolate-colored brides maids dresses.

This was my secret vision board that I stashed under our bed when my husband and I were living together, not yet engaged.  Kinda hard to see in this tiny picture…but if you click it, I think you see something larger…and then there’s pictures from my wedding a year later in 2005.

Now. When I look back at the much fancier board that my husband and I made together for 2010, I find myself scratching my head a bit.

Some things on the board manifested quite beautifully: Travel (for almost free), Getting Published, Getting a Job. Practicing affinity and compassion.

Others – not so much.

Namely:  EXERCISE which is all over the board for crying in the drink! And the others were specific numbers around total money earned per month in 2010 which didn’t happen. That’s supposed to be my husband’s future ripped torso (close….really close) and that’s supposed to be me jogging blissfully through the woods and wearing skinny, hip clothes (not that close on either….)

I read these two quotes on The Secret’s web site tonight:

Do whatever it takes to feel good. The emotions of joy and happiness are powerful money magnets. Be happy now!

You can intend and create everything you want for the future, through the simple process of gratitude.

Which reminds me of the Gratitude journaling exercise which I fully intend to re-ignite this year.

As far as the vision board, ideally it is posted somewhere where you’ll do more than barely notice it. One person suggested having it on the ceiling above your bed.  Since we’re selling the house and have showings on a semi-regular basis, we’ve opted to keep our vision boards stashed away.

We intend to redo our boards for 2011 this month.  And as soon as we’re in another home, we’ll make them prominent again. Since we attract into our lives anything that we give attention t0 — best to have visual aids some place that draws our attention!

Posted in AP & Self Care | 4 Comments

As We Approach the Season of Gluttony

Photo Credit: The Gothamist

Isn’t it interesting that for so many of us, all bets are off on watching what we eat from late November through December?  It’s like the universal “bye time” for diets and everyone starts over in January having to set new intentions and exercise more to work off the season of excess.

I prefer to focus on setting intentions versus ever calling the way I choose to eat a “diet”.  I stopped that in college when my desire to avoid gaining weight caused entirely too much obsessive stress.  Just saying the word will put an instant stop to any change in the way I eat because I enter a mental state peppered with depriving “shoulds,” “can’ts,” and angry “screw this” thoughts.

The only way I have successfully embarked on a mostly vegan, mostly low fat, low sugar way of life is that I keep it to mostly.  And before having babies when I was hard core about it for a year, the only way I could do it is if I made it all about addition versus subtraction. It was about adding something fun and interesting to my life, versus taking away some of my greatest simple pleasures in life.  I loaded up on vegan cookbooks; I scoured the web for online recipe resources; my husband (then boyfriend) and I tried out new vegan friendly restaurants in Austin every week; and I began hosting vegan gourmet dinner parties.

And when it came to visiting family during this “hard core” chapter, it always felt pretty awkward. You quickly transition from feeling connected, to disconnected. From go-along, to get-along, to high maintenance. How can you be a courteous guest in someone else’s home and request that they prepare special food for you that is different from what they would do for themselves?  Maybe you claim a new family onset of severe allergies to meat and dairy.  This might fly with someone you’re having dinner with for the first time — but family? Probably not.

So I’ve quite peacefully determined that when I’m a dinner guest at someone else’s house — especially family — I will ask that they do not go out of their way to make anything different for us than they already had planned.  We can opt to focus on side-dishes; or we can opt to eat everything there and not worry about it.

The next time I host Thanksgiving, I intend to make it vegan — for fun.  To see what’s possible!

This year, we’re guests at my in-laws and we will fully enjoy with gratitude a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

If you’re hosting this year and looking for some healthy, plant-based recipe ideas — check out this “Think PlantStrong Thanksgiving” blog post I helped to pen for Whole Foods.  And stay tuned for more ideas on healthier treat options for the month of December.

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Posted in AP & Self Care, Nutrition | No Comments


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