“Thank you Mommy”

“Ooh, hi Mommy! Shower good?” my youngest asked as I walked out of the bathroom.

“It was good, thank you baby,” I replied.

Our two kids are so different in how they approach the world. In a 2 and 1/2 year old person, we can already see how they are becoming their own in the world. And how the parts of their personality stick out in ways much different than their sister.

When our oldest was little, getting her to say please was a real task. Even today, she only uses it if she’s not getting what she wants in the moment. Or if she’s been asked to say it. You may have feelings about this, I certainly do. But we came to realize some important things about our kids, namely that they are not tiny versions of us. My partner and I are very good at being good. This simply means that we are polite, let others go first, sacrifice ourselves often, and we follow nearly all of the social rules. It’s bred into us and it’s also important to us in developing relationships. But this is how we do that. Not everyone does.

Our oldest is in this world to ram her way through it. And with purpose and intention. She doesn’t mean to hurt anyone along the way, but she does sometimes. Instead of teaching her politeness and to hold back, we’re teaching her to look back and to make sure everyone is all right. Empathy and sympathy for the experience of others.

You might think that with very little pleases and thank yous, she might be a bit of a wild child, troublemaker even. She is, at times, but always with purpose. But she’s also incredibly caring. She tells people what to do, not just because she enjoys the art of management, but because she really wants others to get it right, or have the same experience as her. She wants others to feel what she feels. And she wants them to win and feel proud too. She’s going to be the best friend her friends will ever have.

Our littlest approaches life a bit differently. They are determined, precise, and tend to like some sense of order. But only in the sense of the world being set up in the way that works for them. They give my partner their hat when its not on his head, because they see Dad as wearing their hat more often than not. So the hat must need to be on his head.

They also love the response of us being pleased with them. They quickly attached themselves to the art of language and repeat what we say much of the time. For weeks, they spent many parts of the day saying “thank you mommy” or “sorry mommy.” They are navigating the social cues in the world, while my daughter is setting them.

This little human is finding their way, behind the fire that is their sister. And they are making their own path. I think it’s time to write about them more often.

Black Lives Matter

She’s been having trouble sleeping. There is a lot to worry about these days. And it’s all taking form in the minutes after she lays down to sleep. I know this all too well.

The other night, she came out and said she was scared. We asked her what she was scared of. And she told us the protest she went to, and specifically the police…

Back in May and June, local protests were planned everywhere. Most were too far to go for us, as I only had a limited window of time for our two-year-old. But then, one was planned nearby during their nap. It was organized by some local high school kids, in collaboration with a local advocacy group. It was a protest march from their school into the next neighboring city. I asked my oldest if she wanted to go.

She said yes, but I told her it could only work if we put some safety measures into place. Here is what I told her.

“You have to hold my hand the whole time. If I say run, you run with me, not questions asked. If we get separated, find another protestor and ask them to call me. We will put your Dad’s cell phone number in your shoe in case I get taken away. Or a person can’t reach me. The police are not your friends this day, do not go to them. Go to another person walking and ask for help. The police may look different than you’re used to. They may be wearing special outfits that are all black. They may wear helmets or facemasks. And you may see their guns. There also may be people there who disagree with us. They may also have guns or yell things at us. Do not look at them, ever. Always stay with me and look at me.”

She was in.

The day before we made some signs and planned out the schedule. The morning of, she dressed in all black. We slipped both mine and her Dad’s phone numbers into her shoe. For back-up, we wrote her Dad’s in sharpie on her leg under her pants. Dad was on call and had his phone handy in case anyone called. He knew to answer all calls and he knew that I might call if I needed someone to witness something.

We packed our masks, some water, our signs, and headed out. There were hundreds of people. She was nervous, worrying about her mask and feeling like her sign was too heavy. But she liked seeing some of the other kids, pets, and lots of people.

“Where are the police?” she asked.

I pointed to the top of the hill. They had minor riot gear on, just vests, dark clothes and walkies.

After some speakers, we started to walk. I kept her towards the back and on the outside of the group so we could step out if we needed too. She clung to my hand, and walked carefully. We switched our signs a couple of times to change it up. One said “Black Lives Matter” in her handwriting. The other said “Say Their Names” and we listed so many people who were murdered by police.

We had to get back for my youngest, so we couldn’t do the whole protest walk. When we reached our stopping point, she decided she wanted to support the rest of the protestors. On the side of the road, she held up her sign with unwavering intention, straight-faced yet waving at people and cars. Many honked and gave her a thumbs up. When the last car pulled up, a person in a car across the street slowed down and called her a terrorist. I told her it was time to go and explained that this person was angry with our message. She knew why this person disagreed with her, as we had talked about it so many times before.

In further protest, she held the signs out of our car window the whole ride home. She then marched inside, grabbed some tape and put them on our front door. Days later, she made more, and then even more. We have to keep making more as the days go by, in order to ensure we say all of their names. That we make a statement to our community that we won’t forget. And that these people who were murdered matter.

On the day of the protest, there was little police activity. Except to handle traffic. It was that day that she realized that they always carry guns. That at every moment they are in uniform, they can kill whomever they want.

This was her nightmare. This was what makes her scared. To not feel safe from a group who she has been told repeatedly in her white schools that they are there to protect her, help her, take care of her.

My partner reminded her that night that police can be helpful. But it really depends on who asks for help, or who they are interacting with.

She experiences her privilege as a white person every second of her life. This was her first really hard glimpse into what it feels like to not feel safe in her community, by those that are advertised to protect and serve. This is her nightmare, and she knows that for her it’s short-lived. And that for people of color in this country, for the Black folx she has and is making signs for, this is their everyday. Their nightmare does not go away.

Blueberries and bees

The other day, I was stung by a bee. My parents were in town and we decided to take a trip to a farm to pick some peaches. When we got there, we learned that the peaches had been picked clean and needed to ripen. But there were still blueberries for the “die hard” pickers. So off we went to work, filling our stomachs along the way.

My oldest took charge, collecting everyone’s berries and helping us see where to pick next. My youngest was picking green unripen berries and eating them. I was in the bushes, looking for the hidden ones. My mom was all the way up the row, leaving us behind. My dad was lagging back, finding every last berry. We were all in our element, needless to say.

Then, I reached in and felt the sting. I looked at my wrist and saw the yellowjacket struggling to get its stinger loose from my body. It succeeded and flew away swiftly.

“Ouch, I just got stung by a bee,” I said.

Grabbing my arm, I thought two things. First, I apologized (out loud mind you) to the bee for disturbing them. And second, that this didn’t hurt nearly as much as I remember it.

“What happened?” I heard her say.

…Let’s go back a bit.

“Tell me about the times you were stung by a bee?” she’d asked me before bed. This was a regular ask. She wanted to learn this story in detail. So, I’d tell her about all 5-6. Sometimes, I’d remember them all, other times I’d forget one or two. She wanted to know what happened and how it happened. She was always like this. When our dog died when she was 3, she wanted to know all of the details of his death. She even asked me to show her pictures of cancer in dogs and where in his body it was. We learned early that it’s important for her to know what’s coming when we can offer that. We used to practice going to the dentist over and over before her visits. We’d share all about whatever our plans were for the day so she knew what was coming next. At first, we did it for our own benefit. We just didn’t want all of the questions and hoped for no complaining along the way. But soon we learned that this was a necessary step to her comfort. To her existence. She doesn’t always need this, as she also loves adventure. But she does not like surprises and especially ones that involve pain…

“I was stung by a bee,” I answered.

“Go get Grandma now,” she said all seriously. “Go get her, go now,” she insisted.

“I’m ok,” I said.

“No, Grandma is right there,” she said as she pointed. She was worried for me and was looking for an expert adult. I was no longer that since I was the one hurt.

I looked at her and calmly said, “I’m ok baby, it already feels better.”

“Can I see it?” she asked.

I showed her the two tiny, dark red dots on top of my wrist.

“What does it feel like?” she asked.

“Exactly what it’s called, a sting. Almost like getting a shot. It hurts when it happens but then it starts to feel better.”

She looked satisfied. I also felt grateful. This was a learning moment for her. To see that a sting wasn’t so scary, you could live through it, and that she would be all right. I feel gratitude, to share a lived experience with her, and even for that little bugger who was protecting its berries.

She skipped ahead and caught up with my mom.

“Mommy got stung by a bee,” she announced all knowingly.

She was back in her element.

Intuitive eating…post #2

I’ve been in the dark. And I’ll admit that writing, sharing has been hard lately.

Not only has the world turned dark, and cold, but so has my body. When I took on the healing process to find my intuitive eater, I was told that emotions might arise. And they have erupted.

There is an interesting thing that our bodies do when they experience emotional and psychological pain and we don’t process it. Our bodies manifest it. Into our bones, our muscles, our nerves.

My body, like so many, holds all sorts of trauma. Over the years, the layers have built up, some so deep I have forgotten all about them. I’m in pain alot. A sore back from an old injury horseback riding. A twisted hip that won’t let go since cradling the growing life of my first born 7 years ago. The achy feet from an imablance in posture, cracky shoulders from a back that tries so hard, a weak wrist from picking up my kids over and over and over.

When first learning about non-restrictive eating in The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner, I read that it is time to feel. “Feel what?” is all I thought. She instills a practice of body attention everyday. Taking five minutes to notice what you feel in your body and to look at it, study it, notice it. Not fix it, never to fix it, but to simply feel it.

In the Intuitive Eating workbook, there is an activity where you sit quietly and try to feel your heartbeat within you. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this is the first time I consciously felt it inside of me. I now do it often, it is actually quite grouding to remember that this muscle keeps on pumping no matter what’s happening around it.

I’ve also learned that I emotionally eat at times. Food helps me to feel better when I’m frustrated, sad, or even bored. This is not an uncommon practice, and not necessarily even a bad one. But I’ve noticed it and worked to find other ways to self-care in these moments.

I mention all this, because when you stop to feel your body, listen to what it’s saying, and you take away a numbing comfort, you start to feel.

And these feelings have been erupting out of me. I am in a lot of physical pain as this body screams at me what I have silenced for so long. I am exhausted, all the way to the point that the thought of movement feels overwhelming most of the time. My body needs rest, rest for all of the missed moments of rest. My body needs rest, for all of the pain it needs to heal. My body needs tender care and love, warmth, massage, showers, essential oils, all that I can offer it as it heals.

And my heart has been healing. These past two months have been an overdrive of emotions. I have remembered and felt through trauma, and I’m talking little things I have beaten myself up over for decades.

So I haven’t been writing.

I have been parenting. And my kids are brilliant. I haven’t had the best words to share with them why my emotions are so up and down, but I have had the love and care to apologize when I need to, to explain when I feel frustrated before I act, and to ask for moments by myself.

Returning to intuitive eating is so hard. I so often want to walk away. But I remember that I am untangling knots from decades of diet culture, centuries of generational trauma, and years of painful dieting I have inflicted on myself.

I can say many things about why I’m still in, but here are a few.

  • My daughter eats with more confidence than I have ever seen, trying new things and communicating about her fullness and needs.
  • I am letting go of the need to have zero waste with all food.
  • Food is becoming nourishment instead of comfort.
  • Dinner time is a place of deep and loving inquisitions instead of food battles.
  • I love this body more now than I ever have, and it’s a body I have feared for so much of my life.*
  • This body, although working through so much, is startimg to feel like home.

Until I write again…

*I need to acknowledge something here. I have always been afraid of gaining too much weight and I am now in the body that I used to fear. And this is still a straight-sized, highly privileged body. I can’t say this without also saying that this journey is a constant unpacking of my fatphobia towards myself and this world. When we, or I, fear a body for myself that is still not like the body of so many others, we marginalize those bodies. Both in this world and in our minds. The love I am working on for my own body is a love inclusive of all bodies no matter what size. I am releasing the fear of all body sizes as I embrace my own. I am standing in the belief that all bodies are worthy of love, praise, admiration, care, joy, and humanity. I invite you to do the same.

So many questions…

When I was teaching sex ed, I worked with parents on how to talk with their kids when hard questions came up. The answer is always to answer matter of factly with truth and honesty. Then wait. Kids will ask a follow up if they don’t understand or ask nothing more if their curiosity is satisfied. What you don’t want to happen is that they don’t ask another question because you have either just stretched the truth or shut down their question entirely. Kids know, and then they won’t ask again.

I work really hard to instill this with my kids, answering away as the questions come up. I want to share a series of questions from the other night, a seven minute drive home from a gas station…just so you know you’re not alone.

“Why don’t we celebrate Kwanzaa or Hanukkah?”

“Can we celebrate them?”

“Do we know anyone who does celebrate them?”

“Who?”

“Why can’t we celebrate Kwanzaa, again?”

“Why do we celebrate Christmas, again?”

“What is Christian?”

“What is Daddy?”

“What are you?”

“Well then what am I?”

“I have a question not about Christmas…how do people decide who is going to change their last name when they get married?”

“Do you have to have a last name?”

“What about if a boy marries a boy?”

“Or a girl marries a girl?”

“Why can’t brothers and sisters get married again?”

“What does it mean that babies have differences when they are born?”

“How does that happen?”

“Then who am I going to marry?”

“One more…can a person have a baby and not be married?”

Cue dinner a few minutes later…

“I think I should be a scientist because I really like to ask questions, huh Mom?”

Halloween candy

First read this article by Virginia Sole-Smith. “How to stay sane about Halloween candy.”

I’ll admit, I was anxious about this Halloween. How was I going to handle the candy this year with two kids, and with one who is only a toddler?

Last year, my oldest, then 5, got so much candy. And she was sooo into it. She asked for it, all the time. We limited it to a piece or two, allowing only a couple on Halloween night. She just kept asking. And I kept worrying. After about a week, I saw that a friend offered a toy in place of all but a few pieces of candy. Her kid bought into it, so I considered it too, another spin on the switch witch.

I offered for her to keep 12 pieces and to exchange the rest for a toy at Target. She thought about it and said yes. So, I watched her count out the ones she wanted, methodically trying to pick her favorites and those she deemed the best. Then, I took away the rest. Ate many myself, saved some for my partner, and tossed the rest.

She picked out a Barbie…switch witch or not, agh, I should have let her keep the candy.

“Mommy, you don’t like Barbie. Why not?” she likes to ask.

I still haven’t been able to eloquently describe the issues of body size, racism, fatphobia, sexism in way that she understands yet. But, we keep talking and she keeps liking Barbie and it’s all okay.

Fast forward to this year as I wanted to do better. I read Virginia Sole-Smith’s article, all while I am re-learning intuitive eating. So, we went with her advice. Trick or treating was last night for us. We got home, it was after bedtime for both. The one year old ate three pieces of candy. Yes, I let them. She ate probably 10-12 pieces. We could see she wanted more but negotiated bedtime instead and said she could have as much as she wants the next day too.

And that was it. Nothing else happened.

They both went to bed rather uneventfully and slept well. She woke up, she got ready for school. No tummy aches, wild energy, or tantrums. It was bliss.

And just as importantly, my intuitive eating was loud and proud as I did not sneak candy or pine for theirs. My daughter shared one piece and I felt done on this day. Fulfilled for the night. Because I am working hard to remind myself that candy is no longer a restriction, or an evil temptation that makes itself only available several times a year during the holidays.

Folx, read her article, try it. And if you read this the day after or several days after and you restricted, you can still decide otherwise. That’s the best part of parenting to me. Learning to show how I changed my mind and to say why. Try this if you need some words…

“After you went to bed, I thought about it some more. And I want you to have whatever candy you want today. It’s your candy and Halloween is a fun holiday. Let’s do it together. Show you me what you’ve got. What are your favorites? How does that one taste?…”

And read Virginia Sole-Smith’s article. Follow her on Instagram. The writing she does has been so helpful and so affirming. And to see my two kids find their own intuitive eater…or maybe I should say to see myself finally give space for their intuitive eater to show up…is bliss as a parent. Food is uncomplicated and we just enjoy it as part of our day. Battles have ceased. It’s so so worth it.

A short story on the beginning of humans

We were in the car and somehow the topic of birth came up. She started to ask me questions about scenarios and birth.

“What would happen if someone gave birth in their house? In their car? In a parking lot? In the ocean? In outer space?”

She got stuck on my answer about having a baby in space. I tried to explain that it wasn’t the best idea to have a baby in space because we didn’t know what would happen. Then, after a moment of her pondering, she threw me a tough one.

“How did the first person be born? I mean I know how babies are born, but how did the first person get born?”

I love parenting, and answering questions. But this moment, I was like “WTF? Parenting, let alone life, does not prep you for these types of questions.”

I did my best, told her about the big bang and also introduced Adam and Eve, sharing that people believed different things. She wanted to know more about the big bang. I gave it a shot…

“A long, long time ago, there was an explosion that resulted in a microscopic organism coming to earth…”

“A what?”

“Like a tiny bug or virus. It then made more of itself. And eventually made better versions of itself to survive. These new versions eventually became the plants, animals, and humans we see today.”

“Ok, but how do you know?” she asked.

“It’s a theory,” I said, “our best guess based on all of the evidence we have in front of us. No one was alive then so we can’t be all the way sure.”

She took a few moments…

“Ok, but what’s the real truth?”

“That’s all I’ve got,” I told her.

Here’s what I learned – When you teach your kid about evolution, like most conspiracy theorists, she wil doubt you. Maybe for the first time, and certainly not for the last time.

Intuitive eating…post #1 of many

“What would you like for snack?” I asked.

“Gummies,” she responds.

Every. Time.

“AGUA!” shouts my youngest.

This is my house, currently. As I embark on intuitive eating, a quest to rid my life of diet culture and to embrace this squishy, perfect body of mine, I am considering how our house can move in this direction. I have been reading work by Ellyn Satter, check out the Ellyn Satter Institute here, and have been learning how to allow my kids to have more choices in their food. Basically, it teaches that I am in charge of the what, when and where. And that they are in charge of the how much and whether to eat what we provide.

The institute has been very helpful in showing me how to organize meals and what to consider in offering them. For snacks, you are suppose to start with us making choices and eventually over time, our oldest can choose what she wants for snacks. Hence, the gummies. But we’re not quite there yet so gummies are available in limited amounts. I am trusting that eventually they will lose their shine, once she gets her fill.

As for agua, I taught the toddler some words in French and Spanish as I want them to know early on that there is more than one language in this country and world, and to normalize that this is true. Like so many kids, they choose one word and say is constantly. Agua is the winning word in this house. Anything liquid is called agua. And their recent taste of juice has resulted in emphatic requests for “AGUA!” whenever I open the fridge.

We were warned that kids get addicted to juice (and apparently gummies), but I am holding tight to Ellyn Satter’s words that this too will pass. And that addiction to food is not actually a thing.

I haven’t explored all of this too deeply, but have read the impact of intuitive eating for kids and I’m sold. Basically, it’s all I hope for both of them in this world of food and culture. I am seeking it for myself, and this freedom for all of us.

More to come on this I’m sure. In the meantime, check it out. You can learn about how to handle picky eaters, kids that refuse fruits and/or vegetables, snacking, etc. It’s both super helpful and also so much relief in learning the normalcy of your kids’ eating. And it provides the insight for a world of food and eating that may actually be free of shame and diet culture.

Do I look pretty?

“Do I look pretty?” she asked.

“You always look pretty,” I responded. “And that dress is pretty too.”

I had a realization this morning, these come all too often anymore. As I navigate healing and existing in this world, I continue to unravel the layers of how I live differently than I say and love.

It started about a year ago, when she’d ask if she looked pretty. I knew in that moment that I wanted her to know that clothes or what’s on your body doesn’t make you pretty. I could see this stumbling into the future as attractiveness, worthiness being linked to how she looks in clothes. A sneaky not so hidden bit of diet culture, fatphobia, sexism, racism, all tied up in there. So I made a point to respond to her and acknowledge her own beauty as a normal everyday. She spoke the above words a few more times and each time, I responded with precision that she was always beautiful, pretty, cute.

However, recently, I realized that despite these efforts and as much as I was speaking out loud, my social conditioning had not yet transformed. She picked out some new clothes and my head was screaming that she looked so adorable in these new pieces. One, a blue dress sprinkled with pineapples, not only looked perfect on her but also reminded me of good pineapple memories in childhood and beyond. I heard my head say, “you look so cute today.” I caught myself, with confusion and frustration of how tightly this society holds me, and changed the message to what I really wanted to mean.

“That dress is so cute,” I said to her.

I keep thinking that if I change my mindset to not link her body to the clothes and instead comment on the clothes as their own piece, it will separate the attachment to self. Maybe undo a tiny bit of the “isms” associated with women in clothing. Really to do this for me too. So she can see it’s possible.

Because today, I am struggling as I need to shift my wardrobe. As I delve into intuitive eating, my body is changing. It will continue to change. And the challenge is to first accept that this will happen, and also to accept that I will need to change clothes as these changes occur. I feel stuck as I still link my own clothes to self-loathing, attraction, sexiness, worthiness.

“You look terrible in this. What are you thinking? This makes you look fat.* You look horrible today. What did I eat to cause this body? I need to exercise. No treats today…” and on and on and on.

This morning I remembered the pineapple dress. It came to me like a gift, a reminder that I can live differently. I said to myself, “Your clothes do not define you. You define you. Clothes simply adorn the beautiful being that never changes even when your body might.”

Thank goodness for that cute pineapple dress.

*I want to acknowledge that this statement is fatphobic. And, it’s what I am still working on and feels important to leave it and be honest. Our criticism of our bodies – thin fat, straight fat, small fat, or otherwise non fat bodies in this ways is fatphobic. Simply put, if we can’t see ourselves as acceptable, we can’t possible see others who are fat as such. I’m working hard to understand this and to unpack my own fatphobia.  

Rock ‘n Roll

Six years old had been an amazing ride. I am watching this little person start to sense and understand empathy. I am watching her start to see impact and feel guilt about impact she doesn’t intend. I am starting to see her consider her options, make choices and be a little less implusive. She is also learning to love out loud telling us how she feels more often than not.

And her personality is beaming.

Last year, her teacher told us that they thought she might be president one day. But that they weren’t sure if she’d be voted in, or if she’d just take it.

“That about sums up our lives parenting her,” I jokingly responded.

In her birth chart, she is an Aries sun and moon. This is a set up for someone who is powerful, leaderful, and impactful in this world. This with her Libra rising sign also creates the impression of serving the people, justice, equity, fairness. We see this in her, so many moments of every day.

Two days ago, she decided to write a rock song. I was an audience member and had to participate. On cue, I had to give examples of things that I didn’t think I could do, but I did anyway.

So she sings, and points to me.

“Birth!” I shout.

She laughs, and says “no, not that, something else.”

Momentarily miffed (if only she knew), I told her “climb a mountain.” She proceeded to sing how she climbed a mountain all the way to the top even though she didn’t want to, and was brave.

She pointed to me again.

“Swam a big relay race,” I exclaimed.

She sang about how she was nervous and scared and didn’t think she could do it, but then she won “FFFIIIRRRSSSTTT PLACE!”

Then came the ending of this song…

“There were things I didn’t really want to do, but I did them anyway. Because I always do what I want to do. I ALWAYS DO WHAT I WANT TO DOOOOO!”

This is my life people. She does what she wants to do. And is learning to love, laugh, live, play along the way. Whether or not she runs the world or runs her home or runs nothing at all, she will always do what she wants to do. And I am so grateful she is here in this life with me.