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Sunday, November 29, 2009

The allure of whipped cream

The pies of Thanksgiving always have me thinking about whipped cream. Yum! The whipped cream also reminds me of two great stories.

A few weeks ago my oldest son had a cold. To decrease the mucus with the cold I usually eliminate dairy from his diet for a few days. Unfortunately, the day he got sick, Dad came home with pie, ice cream, and whipped cream. He had pie, but not the toppings and was none to happy with Mama about that. I promised him I would let him have a bowl full of both ice cream and whipped cream for a treat when he was feeling better, but apparently he wasn't quite convinced I would follow through.

A couple of days later I was coming down the stairs and he came scurrying toward me from the kitchen and gave me a big hug. I didn't think too much about it, but a couple a minutes later he came back to me and told me he had to confess. Unbeknownst to me, he had been sneaking whipped cream from the container in the refrigerator when I came down the stairs. He said he didn't think I would really let him have some when he was better, so he had been sneaking big scoops of it with his hands.
He was really worried I'd be mad at him. Instead I surprised him by laughing and hugging him, then sharing with him my own story of succumbing to the allure of whipped cream.

As a little girl I had the good fortune to spend a great deal of time with my Grandma. Much of that time was also spent with my dear cousin GB. Every afternoon Grandma would take a nap for an hour or two and GB and I were supposed to rest, watch TV, or play quietly. Being curious girls we frequently found ourselves up to our eyeballs in trouble instead. Grandma had a variety of items around the house that we found quite irresistible and would frequently sneak while she was napping. The most infamous was the Cool Whip in the freezer.

GB and I loved Cool Whip and Grandma always kept a few containers in the freezer for family dinners. Once we discovered this, we made it a habit to slip into the freezer, open a container, and scrap a spoon or our fingers across the top for a little taste. We would smooth the top evenly and one time left the thinnest layer possible in the bottom of the bowl to make sure we hadn't eaten the whole thing. Somehow we fooled ourselves into believing Grandma wouldn't notice. Well, she definitely noticed!

As adults when the pies and the whipped cream came out at Thanksgiving, Grandma would tell the story of going to the freezer to get the Cool Whip and discovering the all but empty container. We tried to defend ourselves, but usually ended up laughing and confessing countless other ridiculous things we'd done while Grandma was napping. The afternoons with GB and Grandma telling that story are some of my favorite memories.

After hearing this story, my son was relieved that he was not the only one to feel the allure of whipped cream and excited that I had shared the story with him.  It was a wonderful moment of connection for the two of us. I was so proud of him for being honest with me and relieved that I had been able to handle the situation with grace and humor.

I love these moments of confident parenting when it all seems to come together. They make the frequent times of struggle much more bearable and remind me that I can be the parent I want to be, but I don't have to be perfect (and neither do my kids).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A nostalgic heart

Being one of those people to whom nostalgia comes easily, I frequently struggle with not clinging to the past. The practice of Aparigraha allows me to raise my awareness of this and to work toward being present each moment here and now. Holidays seem especially challenging for me in this practice.

As I reflect this Thanksgiving morning on all the blessings of my life, my heart is both full and saddened. I have so much for which to be thankful and yet part of me longs for those Thanksgivings of old. So many precious memories of grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, foods, afternoon naps, football games, loud rounds of cards, and most of all laughter and joy. Nothing was every perfect, but it is so sweet to soften those edges of memory by letting go of the imperfections.

And as I write, the big ah-ha moment comes...the non-clinging, aparigraha, has to do with both the good and the bad. I so often think of it only as clinging to what I want, forgetting that forgiveness and letting go of difficult times is a vital part of the practice. By not holding on to the hurt, we allow old wounds heal making room in our heart for more love and kindness.

I see this same nostalgic heart in both of my boys. It surfaces as they struggle to give away old books or toys they no longer use, pictures they drew, crafts they made, or even sticks and rocks they found on hike one day. The memories of the day and the people to whom they connect those objects create such strong attachments for them. They often feel as though they will lose that memory and connection if they no longer have the object. As I look at the objects around our house that were my grandmothers or my moms, I'm thinking it must be in our genes.

Today I am missing my grandma and the home her heart provided me.  I feel myself holding on, clinging to the desire to have it all like it was before. But as I listen to my sons chatting, watch them enjoy the Thanksgiving Day parade that my grandfather loved, smell the foods of the day beginning to simmer, I realize that like every Thanksgiving, this one too will be its own special day. It will have memories and experiences we will talk about for years to come. I just don't know yet what they'll be.

I continue to strive to be present for each moment, honoring the old memories while creating new ones. Living the practice and modeling that for my sons.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Having enough

I just read a blog by Anne at About Freelance Writing about sufficiency. Living with what we have and recognizing that what we have is enough. It is a powerful reminder for all of us. In yogic philosophy we call this practice Aparigraha.

I have been contemplating this practice a good deal over the past few weeks. Wondering if we are teaching our children what we really want them to learn in relation to having enough. We talk about it, but do we practice it?

As we approach the holiday season we are bombarded by catalogs full of fabulous treats and toys we all would enjoy but most likely don't need. Typically, the boys pour over them creating huge lists of things they want. They become overwhelmed and aparigraha is the farthest thing from their minds. This year I've taken to tossing the catalogs into recycling before they can even take a peek. It has taken the focus off all that stuff and decreased the clutter around the house. It has helped all of us stay more grounded.

The next challenge is how to move into all the holiday celebrations and maintain this practice. Stay tuned to see how we do and feel free to share any of your ideas.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Spreading the joy

My sons are participating in a choir this fall for the first time. They have always loved to sing, so we thought we'd try this out.

Every week when they leave choir practice they are grinning from ear to ear and seem like they are walking on air. There is something transforming about singing for them. I noticed this from the beginning and have mentioned it frequently to friends and family. As I was emailing the choir director today, I realized I had not mentioned it to her.

So, I shared my observations and her response floored me. She replied, "Thanks for your wonderful email - made my day!"

I'm always surprised how much those little positive reinforcements make such a big difference.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lessons from the Universe

I am known for telling other people that their illnesses are their bodies way of telling them to slow down, listen, or take a look inside. Being like most people, however, it is always easier to see these things from the outside than from the inside.

Last week I started getting sick. I kept going a bit, but did take a couple of days off of work. I thought I was getting better, so charged ahead again only to find myself worse off than I was before within a very short time. Still not quite getting it, I tried to keep up with my regular routine until the chills and fever sent me to bed...for hours.

Even though I know I should just stop, I continue to think I can do a little bit more than I am. Case in point, I'm sitting here at the computer writing when my body is telling me to take a nap before the boys get home from school.

Some lessons take longer than others to learn. The universe usually gives us lots of opportunities to practice the ones with which we are struggling. So, rather than continue on, I think I'll listen to the universe, my body, and my own advice and go take a nap. :)

What lessons does the universe keep sending your way?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Just Bee

I love the Bee Movie. It has so many awesome lessons on relationships, the environment, standing up for what's right, and unintended consequences.

We had the pleasure of watching it this evening and just being. (Pun intended!) I so often am running around the house taking care of little details or working on the computer that I forget to just sit down and be with my family.

As we were all snuggled up tonight I practiced savoring each moment of being together. Recognizing that these were magical moments together, all of us content and relaxed, enjoying a favorite movie and each other.

What was your last magical moment?

How to learn the rules of the game

Last year walking stick decided to buy himself a game of chess with his Christmas gift card. He didn't really know how to play, but set about learning through a variety of paths.

He read the rules that came with the game, though those are now long gone. Played games against his parents, who never really learned how as kids so weren't much help. Played against his little brother, which often ended in tears and arguments. Played Chess Lite on my iPhone, while waiting for swimming lessons, car repairs, and little brother's choir practice. Played endless hours of games against himself, my personal favorite. And found a few friends who would play chess at school or on play dates.

Now, eleven months later, he feels fairly proficient in his understanding of the basics of chess. He still tends to recite rules as he remembers them or, as we perceive, as they benefit him the most. Typical nine year old stuff. So when the arguments begin as he plays with his brother, he feels he is now the chess expert. What's a mom to do without the trusty rule book to employ?

I love Google! In less than a minute I've got a chess rules website with descriptions of what each piece can do, visual demonstrations, and information on a few special moves. End of argument! Next step is to teach them how to gently and compassionately remind each other of the rules. Thank goodness I'm a social worker and have years of practice at that! Teach, model, supervise, recognize, re-teach, and on we go...

Infinite Possibilities

I look at my boys everyday and wonder what amazing things they will do as they grow older. Every day I see them learn and grow and change. The possibilities for what they will become are endless. As I glanced through The Parent's Tao Te Ching I came across this section:

At birth your children are filled with possibilities.
It is not your job to limit these possibilities.
Do not say, "This and that are possible for you.
These other things are not."
They will discover on their own what is and is not possible.
It is your job to help them stay open
to the marvelous mysteries of life.


It may be interesting to ask,
"What limitation have I, unthinking, 
taken upon myself?"
It is very difficult for your child's horizons
to be greater than your own.
Do something today that pushes
against your own preconceptions.
Then take your child's hand
and gently encourage her to do the same.

How do you encourage your children to find their gifts and talents and be true to themselves?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Highs and Lows

Our meditation reading this week was, "Don't be swayed by external circumstances." Easy to say, not so easy to do.

There are so many things in our lives we cannot control and perhaps not even influence. We can be tossed about on a current of emotions if we let our center be guided be the whims of loved ones, strangers, or events across the world. On the other hand, we may appear cold-hearted if we don't respond at all to the joys and tragedies happening around us.

So how can we be responsive and keep our balance at the same time?

I remember reading an interview with the Dalai Lama. He was asked if he ever gets angry? His response was that of course he does. But rather than hold on to that anger, he said he lets it touch his heart lightly and lets it go. It is the same with every emotion and experience.

I try to practice this (emphasizing the word practice!) and to teach this to my children. As they struggle with peers, teachers, or circumstances beyond their control, it is a good lesson to keep your balance by finding your center. Experiencing and observing what arises without clinging to it. When we get swept away by the struggles or the successes in our lives, we can crash hard when things do not end up exactly as we thought they would. Things that seem positive can have unintended negative consequences. Things that seem negative may have a silver lining.

We can only be here in this moment as present as possible, observing, learning, experiencing, and moving on to the next.

Do you know where your center is? Do you know when you are grounded? How?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yoga teachers in the making

We had so much fun at our family yoga class this week. I am definitely not the only yoga teacher in the family! My boys are naturals.

Walking Stick has been coming to my Saturday morning adult classes and taught tree pose nearly verbatim to how I teach it in class. He sounded like he been teaching it for years, giving all the variations and options for extensions.

Giggle Box's expertise was helping with alignment. He was able to see the slight postural changes that could help someone improve their pose or make the adjustment I had given verbally. He is not always able to feel that in himself, but could easily see it in others.

When they were younger I was often frustrated in our family yoga classes because they would want to take over and change the directions I was giving. Before we started this session, I talked with them about this frustration. Giggle Box told me that he thought he was the teacher of the class and that is why he was always trying to take over. Too bad I didn't get it sooner, but this time we planned for them to have some leadership and it made all the difference.

It was a good lesson for me to remember that I don't always have to be the director. I've got two fabulous leaders growing before my eyes and they have a lot to teach me as well.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

By how many miles?

A sense of humor is a fabulous thing!

This evening as we drove home from hours of choir practice we were all a little slap happy. For tangential reasons I cannot recall at the moment we were trying to remember the last of the seven dwarfs. We racked our brains we began coming up with all sorts of goofy options. As we went on, the suggestions got closer and closer to that line of inappropriateness and I remarked, "You're getting close to crossing the line."

Walking Stick made one more suggestion and Giggle Box replied, "That definitely crossed the line." I agreed and then he said, "By how many miles?!!" We all burst out laughing at that little moment of literal wit.

I so enjoy laughing with my boys and finding the humor in the little things in life. When we can let go of the things we cling to, we can be present to find those moment when absurdity and humor lightens the load. Thank goodness they are here to help me with that!

What do your kids do that makes you laugh?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Can we teach insight?

Insight is an amazing gift that allows us to reflect and move forward. As a mom I often find myself trying to give my children a different perspective that will bring them the insight they need. Sometimes I think I hit the mark and other times they have no idea what I am talking about. Then, a little glimmer appears and I think maybe I'm doing something right along the way.

This evening giggle box very unexpectedly walked up to me and said, "Mama, sometimes I overreact to  walking stick." I was stunned. We've been working on these reactions for months. Talking about it, planning ahead, reflecting, role-playing...and nothing seemed to stick much. So this bit of out of the blue reflection gives me some hope that all this may be working after all.

It's a good reminder for me that we all have to get things in our own way at our own time. We can be told information over and over, but until we are ready to hear it we don't. Until it makes sense to us and is meaningful, we can't use it.

More lessons in patience for mama.