The More the Merrier!

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Greetings all, from the catbird seat! For the last week, we’ve been having even more fun than we were already — more than I thought possible in some senses… And why, how, what on earth is responsible for this astounding … Continue reading

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More of the Same… Wonderfulness!

Hey All! Our week was chocked so full of goodness that I’m only getting to the Friday Family Update on Sunday! And frankly, our day today is jammed packed enough with more fun that I haven’t got long now! So without further delay…

1. Meet our friend Arnold. He’s the Leopard Moth caterpillar that’s been living in the mud room for the last several days. He’s mowed through a number of pieces of Romaine and is setting up camp under the wicker table he’s pictured on below. We think he’s going to caccoon-up any day now!
2.13.15b2. We we went to the beach on the day after some pretty good storms came through. The bay had been choppy for a few days at least (both leading up to and including the stormy weekend), and the tide was still swollen and turbid when we went. And all along the shore, where the waves had run pellmell with their wakes full of treasures dredged and forged by their own tumbling vigor, they left, well — seafoam. Miles and miles of seafoam stranded at the tide’s furthest reach wiggling oddly in the wind, or swirling and churning like steaming milk against the rocks, or sailing speedily across the shallows. We called it “beach snow” and played games avoiding it and kicking sand at it and watching it float about. I’ve never seen anything like it!2.13.15aYou can click the link there –> for a 20 second video of The Foam that Came from the Sea.

3. Great Grandma Alice was over for her biweekly visit. Natalie made lunch, and we all hung out together. Alice’s birthday was this week — her birthdate is my lucky number actually: 212 — February 12th. Natalie also ended up learning how to make lemon meringue pie and crafted a beauteous one for the birthday girl’s party, which consisted of only a half-dozen 90-something lady friends having a private lunch at Natalie’s aunt’s. It turns out, 4 out of 6 great-grammas prefer Nat’s pie to the leading brand. ;)2.13.15c 4. Finally, we made it to the Roller Palladium! We had our inaugural trip this week and immediately made plans for the next one. I even got to use my new skates!2.13.15d 5. Aunts are great.2.13.15e 6. During Grammy-time this week Xi, Echo, and Grammy had a fashion shoot. The girls picked outfits from Grammy’s clothes. 2.13.15f2.13.15g 7. And then this happened…2.13.15h We took several hours and did some Boardwalking! Though we’d agreed to go in order to join some others, it turned out to be just Xi, Echo, Natalie, and I, and we hit all the major spots for the under-twelve set. A couple ferris wheel rides, a couple cave train rides, a couple bumper-car sets, and a few others peppered in made for a perfect amount of mellow sense-overloading and pleasant laugh-rioting…

2.13.15jI think the shot above is perhaps a perfect Santa Cruz Boardwalk encapsulization (lacking only a good view of the sky glider): to the far left you can just see the beach and edge of the tide; then all the rides in between; the mountains in the distance, and the river runs along the middle right side, just under the bright green log flume. You can see it all! And that’s Natalie and Xi in front of us, too.

And the shot below is a classic one for our family. We’re missing our Bella (of course) but the girls said we couldn’t leave without taking this shot.2.13.15i

8. And last but not least, here’s the latest episode of Today Today which happened this week too!

Today we’re jumping in to hang out with some Missoula friends who arrived last night! More on that later… :)

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Be well.

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Fun in the Sun (and on Mars!)

Another week has rolled by in a speedy succession of delightful (emphasis on full) days! We’ve been busy to the max, both with work and with play. Here’s a sample of the view from here:

I’ve been out in the garden! One of my favorite parts of being in Santa Cruz this time of year is that I get a break from the Montana Winter gardening-doldrums. You can’t do a heck of a lot of playing in the dirt when the dirt is under a heap of snow… So getting a break from the break, so to speak, is always welcome. One of my current projects at the Paradise Compound is cleaning up the Clivias. The shot below is from the clutch of Clivia berries I collected during the project. Each one has 1-5 little bulbs inside ready for planting — which is just what the next phase is all about!2.6.15a We hiked a new trail in De Laveaga this week. The redwoods there are always cause for marveling, but lately we’ve been appreciating the geology more as well. On the hike captured below, we talked a lot about limestone (which is featured in this ≈5′ rock wall).2.6.15b Speaking of features, you can’t go anywhere in Santa Cruz without being followed by the ubiquitous citrus. This lovely lemon tree lives right outside our front door but never fails to visually sneak up on me. I just can’t get used to fruit in the Winter, let alone these radiant easter eggs littering the landscape.2.6.15c And when it comes to landscapes of the Santa Cruz area, none so dominates the aesthetic grandeur as where the land meets the ocean. I grew up going to the Alabama and Florida sections of the Gulf of Mexico, with its sugary, flat, Saharan coastline, water temps normally in the 70s–80s, and the sun a steady year-round blaze. In Monterey Bay, the shoreline is a jagged infinity of undulating cliffs, rocks, and tawny, coarse sand; the water is often below 60˚; and the sun regularly plays hide and seek in the fog (especially in Summer).
On this day, below, we went to New Brighton State Beach to meet up with our friends from Eco Womb — The Malsons — for some sun-setting, full-moon-rising, hangout time on the shore. Here’s a view from the tidepools of the sun going down.2.6.15f And here’s the whole crew! Meeting up with the Malsons is becoming one of my favorite parts of our seasonal Santa Cruzian time.2.6.15g One of my least favorite parts has reared its gruesome head early this year. It looks unassuming enough in the shot below, but, aaaalllllllllllll of those grey vines are just waiting for some poor hapless fool to come along and get ensnared in itches! I “found” some this week in my gardening exploits and have been ruing the proverbial day ever since. Nevertheless, I laughed outloud when I saw this sign on our hike, being in the only spot along the trail where we didn’t see any obvious sign of the oily devil weed.2.6.15hThis week, one of the funnest projects has been creating our own little show called, Today Today. Here, you can see our make-up artist, Natalie, getting Xi ready for the show.
2.6.15d Finishing touches on the make-up…2.6.15eTo check out this week’s episode when host, Fred Sharply, interviews three people who accidentally went to Mars, you can go here: http://youtu.be/vBhw7lnBLiE . We hope you enjoy the show!

And I hope you and yours are enjoying your days as much as we are!

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Be well.

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Up Around the Bend…

Aaaaaahhh… Back to the woods! We’ve been revisiting our old haunt De Laveaga Park!1.27.15 One of my favorite things about the trail we often take (and it’s indicative of other trails there too) is the numerous horseshoe bends. Walking along, we cut far into a drainage ravine and then double back out of the ravine, offering these wonderful views of our own comings and goings. It feels labyrinthine and magical and metaphorical, adding to the overall reverence we feel walking through these wise, old trees.

Another fun thing about it is that we can bring family! On this hike we had our little group, but we also brought Grammy and Aunt Em (and little Levy) with us as well.1.27.15a 1.27.15b 1.27.15cFor me, there’s nothing better than a mystical stroll through an enchanted (and enchanting) forest with family. That’ll be my Heaven. And this ^ is my Heaven on Earth!

I hope you’re finding your sweet spot(s), too, dear ones!

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Be well.

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*Made* It!!

Greetings friends, family, and followers from sunny Santa Cruz, California!

1.23.15 Ok, really, these are some of our last images from Missoula before we left. Echo got to make her last two snow people of the year, and Xi got to make her first ever solo snow person! This is how they looked in the evening glow…1.23.15a As we emptied the house of our personal items (in preparation for our departure and the arrival of our renters), Echo found new and inventive ways to enjoy the extra space; including this fort she made for herself in the coat closet.1.23.15c Once we were all packed up, we were finally ready to head out!1.23.15d First stop: Voodoo Donuts in Portland Oregon! Ok, we honestly, spent the night at, Natalie’s sister, Em’s house (even though she’d already gone ahead of us to Santa Cruz), we had a lovely fire and crashed in her cozy attic guest beds, and then woke up the next morning and hit the donut shop on our way out of town…1.23.15e By the next day, we’d arrived in Santa Cruz and were headed to the beach!1.23.15f And aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh… we made it. Back to the ocean at last!1.23.15i And, oddly enough, even after a decade of coming to the very same dog beach time after time, this was the very first that we’d noticed the amazing cliff carvings along the narrow strip of sand and surf.1.23.15g Gigantic, deep-cut sculptures of sea animals, mer-people, ancient and modern symbols and geometry, and proclamations of love and partnership decorate a few hundred yards of these soft, undulating sand-cliffs.1.23.15h Em and Levy met and came with us to the beach, where these characters played a hilarious improv game called, “The 3 Idiots”, challenging, and trying to stand up to the tide in numerous ways, but invariably running cowardly away at the last second. 1.23.15j Then, of course, we had to have our inaugural trip to Top-a-Lot!1.23.15kSo, we’re officially in Santa Cruz now. The long trip, the long packing job, and the long wait for ideal renters is over. We made it.

We’ll be here if you need us!

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Be well.

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The Proof is in the… Argument?!

Looking for EvidenceWe naturally all look at how our children are being for signs of how we’re doing as parents. We measure our methods by our successes in parenting just as much as we do in any other vital endeavor — as we’ve been taught in every institution know to humanity (except maybe government…). We monitor and gauge regularly to attempt to ascertain — as if by séance — whether or not they are “going to turn out ok”…

Well, maybe we don’t all get into it as much or as consciously as that. ;) The fact is, most of the time, most of us wind up going about our parenting lives pretty much on autopilot. And even those of us who are trying to really consider what we’re doing, and do it mindfully, must muddle through with whatever parenting programing we inherited constantly and often mysteriously pulling our emotional levers from behind the proverbial curtain. Our conscious minds have so little power over our subconscious and unconscious minds that if our parenting ideals are extremely different from our programming, we can really struggle to make change, or even stay focused on the endeavor — so powerful are the underlying consciousnesses of the human mind, that they can cause all manner of distraction and misperception in order to keep us on the pre-programmed path.

So we tend not to measure our results very often, right?

The main time we do measure them is when things aren’t going as well as we’d like. We think — “Yikes! We’d really better do something! And fast! ‘Cause this — ain’t working…”. And we flail around a bit, maybe get a book or two, ask around, get a tarot reading. Maybe we decide on a change and go for it. Maybe we decide to be more vehement with the thing(s) to which we’ve already committed — “really stick to it this time”. Either way, within a short period, we’re either no further along toward that new way of doing, or worse about it than ever. It can be tremendously challenging to affect change in our approach(es) to parenting.

Another way we sometimes measure the effect of a new method, or the tried and true ones to which we’ve (re)dedicated ourselves, is that we attribute the higher grades, or better behavior in class, or the more responsible attitude toward cleaning up, to the methodology. We point at any correlating successes to shore up our beliefs about what we’re doing.

But still not that often, right? We’re just not taught to think about it very much…

The prevailing parenting mythos asks for a blind faith in what the “experts” tell us, regardless of our experiences, our intuitions, or our own eyes. When, for example, praise and punishment fail to secure cooperation, let alone compliance, let alone conformity, or “good behavior” — we’re not taught to question the methods. No! We’re told to turn up the volume! Don’t ask if there’s something lacking in the approach, just do it more!

Well, after over 14 years of working diligently — really, every day — to reform my knee-jerk tendencies, and to calm and regulate and reprogram my sensitive limbic system, and to habitualize the practice of reaching for empathy instead of logic when things go awry for my children — I’ve come to be a little hyper-attentive to how what we do works. My partner, Natalie, and I study the effects of our chosen approach(es) to parenting our girls quite regularly. Obviously, a lot of it comes just from wanting to feel more sure that we’re safe out here in the dangerous (and reportedly “evil”) terra incognita of parenting with connection and leadership instead of with the carrot and stick. We’re reassuring ourselves that we aren’t totally f#¢≤ing our kids up with all this radical hippy voodoo touchy-feely stuff! ;)

Well, typically, we’ve been (self)trained to keep our eyes peeled for how well it’s working. Naturally… Just the other day, however, something amazing unfolded in our living room. And it wasn’t proof of how well we’ve taught our girls to “do it right” — to “get long” or to “play nicely”. It was proof of what we’ve taught them about how to handle it when things go wrong.

Here’s how Natalie put it:

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This rug is the place to be these days. Kids, cats, and Littlest Pet Shop figurines convene here for hours. Yesterday the girls were hunkered down, speaking sister language about the characters in their games – what their names are, where they live, how many babies they have. In general I tune this stuff out, it comes into my ears as “kids are content” and thus I do what all parents around the world do when their kids are happily busy, my own thing.

Parents aren’t fools. We let sleeping dogs lie, er, I mean, playing kids play.

Eventually their play changed tune and began to reach me. Their voices grew louder, higher pitched and anxious. In turn I felt my blood pressure rise. I am triggered by my children fighting. Even now, years and years down this path of parenting with empathy I still have to process my own feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and anger – called forth from sibling fighting, in order to be of any use to them as a parent.

Then I got distracted and turned away for a moment and when my attention returned I eavesdropped a little. To my utter delight they were explaining their perspectives on the situation. Each girl detailed how they came to the game with certain expectations and that now that those expectations weren’t being met things were unravelling. They took turns. They empathized, nodding heads in understanding. Basically neither was happy with the direction of the game. They didn’t reach a solution. Neither changed her mind.

They just listened.

Big sister Xi asked little sister Echo if she needed a hug. They held each other and rocked and patted backs. Giggles emerged. Then, just like that, they launched back into the game completely unattached to previous expectations, giddy and eager and open to the game going in an entirely different direction.

I didn’t even leave my chair. They didn’t even notice me snapping the photo (above).

These girls. These sisters that have fought their entire lives with tears and blood and week-long grudges, well, these sisters still fight. They are never going to agree all day, every day, and that’s fine, especially as it seems they have learned how to fight well.

Air your feelings.

Listen.

Empathize.

Touch.

Be Free.

I am so happy. I am happy for me and what this means for our daily life. I am happy to have invested years’ worth of time helping them process feelings. I am happy for the girls and what it means for them and their daily lives. And I am over-the-moon happy for the future selves of these girls – how easy they will sit in the face of emotional discomfort, how steady they will stand for the emotional discomfort of others.

May you always fight well girls.

Personally, I’m still scratching my head over it. I find their emotional intelligence, and their ability to regulate their own emotions enough to tap into such deep wells of empathy for each other at such an emotionally challenging moment nothing short of staggering. I mean, how many of us adults still struggle, or fail utterly, at this kind of delicate, often tense negotiation?! I come away from something like this thinking how absurdly fast the tables can turn — our students have suddenly transformed into the teachers, and we teachers have become the students! If only I could handle myself so well when my “expectations [aren’t] being met”!

Even now, I find myself  wondering, if we’ve succeeded in helping our children develop such prowess, as imperfect as we are in our roles as guides here — what more lies in wait for us as we continue along this path of reprogramming ourselves, of enriching our own emotional intelligence, and growing our own emotional capacity?…! What more have we to gain from our commitment to parenting with connection and leadership, and with faith in the things we’ve seen, and felt, and intuited in our heart of hearts? What other magic does our deepening empathy have in store for us?

I simply can’t wait to find out!

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Be well. And be brave on this path, my fellow pioneers! We’re getting there!

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P.S. Part of my mission in life is empowering parents like you (and me!) in doing the demanding work of turning your parenting around, teaching yourself to reach for connection instead of coercion, and learning how to lead instead of trying to control. No one should have do this work alone, and there’s no better way to ensure your success than to get support. Please don’t hesitate to reach out! I’m here to help.

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Holiday Highlights — Belated, Yes, but Beautiful!

This gallery contains 31 photos.

Greetings and Happy New Year, dear family, friends, and fellow virtual villagers! I resurfaced from our two-plus-weeks of holiday stay-cation almost a week ago, but I’ve been playing simultaneous games of catch-up and leap-frog since then, so this is the … Continue reading

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