Monday, June 27, 2011

Red nails, being beautiful, and being a princess

Ari and I spent some time today at Grandma’s with my brother and his 4-year-old son, the infamous ‘primo,’ Spanish for cousin!

At one point it got quiet. You know what that means! It turns out Ari was in Grandma’s bedroom painting her nails with a red marker. When my mother told me, I decided to wait it out in part because I thought it was kind of funny that she was doing a unique original project, if you will. Also, I wanted to see how Ari was going to handle it when she got discovered.

Fast-forward a few minutes… Ari came out of the bedroom and showed me, without any prompting. I think I said something like “That’s silly. Next time, please write on paper.” She said something like “I paint my nails because I want to be a princess and be beautiful.” If you know me, you know it went downhill from there. I reminded myself to not take her words too seriously, but, frankly, they made me a bit sad. My child isn’t even four yet and she is already thinking about being a princess and being beautiful.

For me, this silly three-year-old episode went from being just that, a kid doing something impish, to me getting all sorts of thoughts about how girls are told, starting very early on, that they are princesses, that they need to dress to be beautiful, wear their hair a certain way, that they need to do their nails, makeup, you name it… Frankly, this really drives me nuts for many reasons.

I have written on here about how our child is exposed to both “girly” and “boy” things. She has fairy nightgowns but she also has Thomas and Friends pajamas. Her two birthday celebrations last year had Go Diego Go and Thomas and Friends themes because that is what she was into at the time. This year it looks like it will be Dora. Why me?! Another post for another day!

Back to my anti princess efforts! She dresses “girly” when she wants to. On other days, she leaves with nothing on her hair. She goes outside and checks out bugs, ants, and all that “boy” stuff. I try to give her opportunities to explore what she is interested in, regardless of whether the activity is stereotypically for boys or girls.

So, why am I so anti princess? I want my child to be herself, to do what she wants to do. I don’t want other girls, women or the media to heavily shape her self-worth and self-esteem. I want my daughter to know that she is beautiful because she just is, that she does not need tons of makeup, fancy nails or any of that stuff. No, I am not anti makeup or anti nails. When she is old enough, she can do all that if that is what she wants. I just feel very strongly that it is important for her to know that she does not need all that, that that is not what really matters in the end.

So, how do I get there? I tell her that she is beautiful. But I don’t want to say it constantly and, without meaning to, send the message that she is the prettiest girl ever. My instinct tells me to be low key about it, to tell her, occasionally, that she is beautiful, and not to overanalyze it. “Your hair is beautiful,” regardless of whether it is done up or if she just got out of bed.

My hope is that if we start thinking about these things when she is very young and letting her know, in different ways, that she is beautiful, regardless of what she does to her body and that there is no need to be princess-like, that she will not have the typical self-esteem struggles that teenage girls often have.

What do you think? Anything that your parents did when you were growing up that turned out to be very helpful? What do you tell your girls, if you have any? What would you tell your daughter, if you had one? Any suggestions?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Can't do it all, but that's ok!

The last day of school was last Friday, the 17th. I am getting a lot of time with Ari. I love it. But I would lie if I said having her home was not challenging. It’s not about her. It’s not that she makes my days difficult or unpleasant. She is a very pleasant child 90% of the time. It is that there is a lot I would like to do for her, for our family, and it feels like it is hard to fit it all in.

Here are some of my thoughts lately:

I love doing things with her, but I can’t keep up with the house. The kitchen is a mess!

I haven’t done anything for my business this week.

She had a delicious bowl of oatmeal and I cooked other healthy things. Spent a ton of time in the kitchen. All the pots are clean. But now I feel like I neglected her for hours. PBS parented her, not me.

Could she please nap? Or at least be quiet for 20 minutes so I can nap, please?! Could she not put up a fight about rest time?! It’s getting old! Daddy, I know you hate sleeping, but did you really have to pass on those damn genes?! Those are not the genes I was hoping she would get!

Sigh... So, what next?

I remind myself of what I often tell other moms: spend time with your kid. Enjoy your kid. Let her know, with your actions, that you are truly present. Do enough house work so that your house feels livable. But don’t focus all your energy on having a spotless house. Why? Because there are only so many hours in one day and something’s gotta give. What will it be?

I rather live in a semi-messy house and have a relatively messy kitchen because I am spending time making memories with my child. Sometimes, I get her involved in the cooking process. We do laundry together. She loves to sort clothes, to put clothes in the dryer, and she loves to deliver folded clothes to Daddy! One of her all-time favorite chores is to deliver her clean night diapers to Daddy so that he can put them in the diaper stacker. She has been enjoying doing this since before she turned two and she is almost four!

My hope and goal is that I can do a passable job at doing the stay-at-home mom boring crap, i.e., keeping up with the house, and that, when my baby is an adult, she will remember her time at home with mom as time where we did things together, not time where I was freaking out about the messy kitchen, the dirty floors, etc., etc.

When I start freaking out next week, feel free to remind me!

Oh, if your house is spotless and you get plenty of time to connect with your child, honestly, you are my hero. Feel free to send some of your energy my way!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Article: How to Be the Leader Your Child Needs

Another wonderful article from

"How do you help parents who struggle to be the leaders their children need them to be? And how do you help their children, who are less considerate/self-regulating and continually test the limits because of it?"

How can we be the leader our child needs, and deserves?

1. Remember that kids do need parents to "lead." They're new on the planet, and little, and we owe them the security of acting as the leaders in our family. Otherwise, kids keep pushing to make sure someone is "in charge" and will keep them safe.

2. Remember that leadership is about role modeling, guiding and protecting, not about dictating or punishing. (See What's Wrong with Strict Parenting?)

3. Remember that leadership includes setting empathic limits, which are essential to our child's emotional well-being. Most parents who have a hard time being leaders with their children don't understand that limits are actually good for our children -- but only if they're set with empathy. This process has nothing to do with punishment, or even discipline, as we think of it. (See What's Wrong with Permissive Parenting?)

4. Remember that children only accept our leadership because of the relationship we have with them. If they resist or defy us, it's a sign that we need to focus on connecting with them.

5. Take the time to process our own emotions about how we have experienced parents being "in charge." For instance, a parent whose own parents were authoritarian may feel strongly that she doesn't want to repeat that experience for her own children. Terrific! But this parent may get confused and think therefore she can't set limits at all. That doesn't help her children And most likely, she will end up yelling when things finally get out of hand. Kids without limits always push us to our limits.

If, instead, this parent can let herself feel all those childhood feelings of how alone she felt, how hurt, how sad .... they will no longer control her. They won't make her cringe when her child has big feelings. They won't burst out unexpectedly, in yelling. They won't keep her from empathizing with her child's point of view.

That frees her to see the value of clear limits to her children when necessary. She will calmly, empathically guide her child ("You are so mad...but I will not let you hurt me...I will keep everyone safe...") role modeling emotional regulation, without guilt and without feeling a need to punish. That's leadership.

Article: The 5 Habits You Need To Stay Connected To Your Child

I recently subscribed to this newsletter. It has quickly become one of my favorite parenting emails! I can't say it enough; it is wonderful. Check out Find her on Facebook.

I find her emails grounding. They are a constant reminder of what really matters when it comes to raising a child. It is so easy to worry about the tens of to-do's I have on any given day, to worry about whether or not Ari's clothes match, did her hair get done, etc., etc. I am learning a lot. I am learning about balance. I am constantly reminded that the sense of connection amongst our family is my #1 priority, that, if the sense of connection is not there, I have nothing. If there is no sense of connection, it feels like everything around me starts to fall apart.

I am finding myself having more conversations with my child, giving her even more hugs, and spending even more time being on my knees so I can talk to her face to face about the things that trouble her, trivial or not. She is becoming more and more interested in snuggling, saying sweet things and letting us know she loves us in different ways. I am so loving it!

Here is the latest article from


"We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth." -- Virginia Satir

We all want that closeness with our children that makes our hearts melt. But so much of what we consider normal parenting pushes our children away, and makes them more difficult.

It begins when we follow the well-meaning advice to turn away from our crying baby. This erodes our empathy for our child, because instead of following our instincts – which, naturally, tell us to respond to the needs of our little one – we harden our hearts. After that, it's much tougher to feel empathy for this struggling little person, to see things from his perspective. Our child reacts with neediness and defiance. We're exhausted with the demands of daily life, increasingly exasperated by our child's lack of cooperation. We nag, yell and punish, which just makes our child’s behavior worse. This escalates in the teenage years, when parents and children scream and fight; when children start looking for love in all the wrong places.

Like every parent in the world, we're just trying to raise good kids, and we can't even figure out where we went wrong. Over and over, I hear from parents that they wish they had understood how important it is to connect, not just correct.

Of course, parents are only human. There are days when all we can do is meet our children's most basic needs: Feed them, bathe them, keep an encouraging tone, hug them, and get them to sleep at a reasonable hour so we can do it all over again tomorrow. Given that parenting is the toughest job on earth -- and most of us do it in our spare time, after we work at another job all day -- the only way to keep a strong bond with our children is to build in daily habits of connection. What kinds of habits?

1. 12 hugs a day - Including a reconnecting hug after every separation.

2. Turn off technology when you interact with your child. - Really. Your child will remember for the rest of her life that she was important enough to her parents that they turned off their cell phones to listen to her.

3. Special time - Every day, 15 minutes with each child, separately. Alternate doing what your child wants and doing what you want, and on your days resist the urge to structure the time with activities. Instead, play therapeutic "games" to help your child with whatever issues are worrying him. (For ideas about such games, click here.)

4. Welcome emotion - Sure, it's inconvenient. But your child needs to express his emotions or they'll drive his behavior. So welcome the meltdowns, don't let the anger trigger you, and soothe the tears and fears that always hide behind the anger. Remember that you're the one he trusts enough to cry with, and breathe your way through it. Afterwards, he'll feel so much closer to you, and you'll see the difference in how he cooperates.

5. Empathy - The habit of seeing things from your child's perspective will ensure that you treat her with respect and look for win/win solutions. It will help you see the reasons for behavior that would otherwise drive you crazy. It will help you regulate your own emotions so when your buttons get pushed and you find yourself in "fight or flight," your child doesn't look so much like the enemy.

Maybe most important of all, the habit of empathy is what brings you those moments with your child that make your heart melt. We all need more of those.

May you be blessed with miracles today, large and small.
Dr. Laura

Monday, June 6, 2011

My little love is almost four, no doubt about it!

A few parents have told me that age four is very interesting and sometimes exhausting. You know what that means, right?! Developing children get smarter, become sometimes cute, sometimes not so cute, opinionated smart asses! And I say that with all the love in the world for all the soon-to-be four-year-olds in my life – mine, my friend's, my neighbor's and those of my blog readers!

I wondered what exactly these parents were talking about. Well, now I know! Ari will turn four in three months. We can tell! Most of the time I love what this transition is looking like. And then there are days…! Here is a story for you!

One night, about a month ago, I felt pretty clever! Amor Chiquito asked if she could watch an episode of Dora. I said that Dora was not a choice, but that she could watch something short, like a five-minute Youtube video. She chose this silliness:

Since that night, watching "something short" has become part of her night ritual. Saturday night, it was bedtime and she made the request. I said that we could not do it that night because Daddy needed to work on his computer and my laptop is not working. Poor Daddy has been working crazy hours. He is teaching two summer online courses and one starts today.

Pause that story. Let me vent for a minute! Ari has two weeks of school left. I don't think we can do any of the two week summer sessions this year. I am trying to launch our new business. And my eight-month-old laptop breaks. What the heck! Doesn't it know about its poor timing?!

Ok, done whining! Back to Ari!

"Mommy, we can use Daddy's little white computer."

Fair enough. Reasonable request. But his netbook takes forever to boot up. It was late. I was tired. So I said no. I said that we would sleep, get tons of energy, and watch something tomorrow. Wrong answer!

She lied down, but would not rest her head on her pillow.

She said I was not listening to her words. That Montessori stuff biting me in the butt again!

The best part! "Mommy, if you don't let me watch something short, I will stay awake. I will be sad and cry."

What? Excuse me?! I was both angry and about to burst out laughing! I could not believe my ears! Oh, by the way, she was out five minutes after that!

Now a sweet story. The other day, at bedtime, I told her that I love being her mommy. Her response: I love being your child. You are the best.

And moments like that one, readers, are the moments I treasure, the moments I try not to forget. Ari is a very sweet, loving child. We have many beautiful, memorable moments. But she is almost four and so she does have the ability to occasionally drive me batty!

Almost forgot... One cool thing about an almost-four-year-old. When her parents are distracted, she will say "you forgot to buckle me"! She rocks!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Farm Share: Week One

Anti-vegetables Puertorican me decided that I would love to get a farm share this year. Us Puertoricans are known for not eating vegetables, so this is big news for my entire family, including me! I have been working on eating healthier for years, but I have been inconsistent when it comes to veggies. I buy them. I feed them to Ari and Geeky Entrepreneur, but I always gave myself the tiniest portions!

It all changed about six weeks ago. I decided to follow the South Beach eating style. I want to be and feel healthier. I want to lose some weight. I am preparing for pregnancy. I want to model healthy habits for my little girl. I want eating healthy to be a natural thing for her.

So, all that being said, we have been eating salads for lunch almost every day. We always have veggies with dinner. We find ourselves eating very delicious meals at home or eating mostly Asian, veggie rich dishes when we eat out. I can’t believe how much I am loving it! I am finding that I have more energy. Sadly, I have noticed that when I “cheat” and eat lots of delicious foods made with refined grains I get super tired and a bit cranky. Good-bye, big white bread sandwiches!

Back to the farm share, I started noticing that I was spending a lot of time and money at the grocery store. Ari eating berries like there is no tomorrow and all of us eating tons of veggies… I was starting to feel like we would be broke soon! You have no idea how much money I spent on blueberries last month, for example!

I have noticed that, typically, organic produce tastes better to me. But a lot of the produce I like to get is not always available. I may find strawberries this week, but not next week. You get my drift.

I remembered that one of Ari’s classmates has a farm. Well, that is how Ari puts it! O has big big gardens, she says!

So, I figured what the heck… Let’s read up on it and see what happens! “O’s farm” has organic veggies, fruit and herbs. We will go get our share every Monday. It will cost us $24.77/week. Let’s do it and see how it goes!

And, so, here we are. Our first farm share!

We went for the first time last Monday. Ari and my nephew came along. They had a blast picking thyme, oregano and sage! Adorable! I forgot to take pictures. What is wrong with me?!

As for the veggies, here is what we got this week: romaine lettuce, baby arugula, baby bok choy, komatsuna, radishes, broccoli, and garlic scallions.

I hear this is the “boring” month. I can’t wait for whatever is coming next!

I feel like I will really be going up a learning curve. To be honest, some of the veggies, I didn’t even know what they were called! Never mind what to do with them! Salads, of course. But I know the possibilities are endless! So I just need to figure out what exactly the possibilities are!

Our two Boston friends have lots of experience with farm shares. You have both been very helpful. Thank you! Plenty of questions coming your way as we go forward with this new adventure!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bye bye, night diapers.

About three weeks ago we had a chat about giving up the night diaper. It was all her. She brought it up. I was not pushing for her to get rid of the night diaper. My thought has been that she is three years old. Why rush it? Why stress out about it? If she was almost five, then maybe I would feel differently.

As for Ari, she has been wanting to be done with night diapers for a while. She did not seem to be developmentally ready. She had had many night accidents. But she specifically talked about it a few weeks back. So I figured we would try. I told her that she has two choices: pee/try to pee before bed or wear a diaper. She sits on the potty every night. She pees 95% of the time. The first two weeks she only had one or two accidents. This past week has been a different story. Let’s just say that I am getting tired of washing peepee sheets! Three accidents the past five nights. One night she came to visit and I woke up soaked! That's right; my shirt was soaking wet with pee! One of those parenting things no one warns you about!

So, what is next?

Ari really wants to be done with diapers. I will honor that. I will give her more time. I will reassess in two weeks and go from there. If she is having a lot of accidents, I may talk to her about how, perhaps, her body is not ready yet, that is ok, and her body will be ready later.

The kid is really into being a big kid. Can you tell?! I wonder why we do that. I remember doing it when I was a kid. I always wanted to be older. I think I was done with that three days after I turned 18!

What do you think? What has the night diaper transition been like for your little one? Anything you might do differently next time around?

Where is the Reluctant Crunchy Mama?!

My poor blog has been so neglected! I really do mean to post two or three times a week. It just isn’t happening lately. In a way, my blog is like my baby scrapbook. So I need to get to it because Ari is doing and saying all sorts of ridiculously cute and fascinating things and I am not blogging about it.

Now that I am taking the time to do this, I am blanking out, of course! Let’s see…

I will start by saying that something that has been taking up a lot of my time is that I decided to start my own business. Yes, antientrepreneurship me, the woman who hates uncertainty with a passion. How the hell did that happen? Here is the list of reasons.

Since I was about 12, I have been thinking that my career will have something to do with helping people somehow. I thought for years that I wanted to be a counselor. Fast-forward some years and I am so not signing up for a Master’s in Social Work. Simply put, hell no! No way I am going back to school right now! I am free and I want to stay that way!

So, what other things can I do to both help people and help feed my family? Last year I explored the possibility of working in the adoption field. That did not work out so well. There is only one local adoption agency. Next?

Mediation. I have been thinking about mediation on and off for years. I feel like I have been a family mediator unofficially for over a decade now!

Mediation, to me, is very rewarding. Successful mediation sessions can be life-changing.

Mediation is one of the few fields in MA that is not heavily regulated. No master’s degree in anything necessary. None of the “you are under/overqualified” stuff.

Also, I want and need flexibility. I am a mom. I am a family woman. That is my #1 job. That baby girl… I refuse to only see her one or two hours a day. I am incredibly lucky and feel so blessed to have that choice. Since I have the choice, I choose to stay home, to pick her up at school, to see her in that environment, to talk to her teachers, to play silly games at home, pretend I am a pony, to cook with her, to see her beaming when she is playing with her neighbors or putting fingerprints on her daddy’s glasses. It would be awesome to make more money, to not have to spend over $700/month on health insurance because we are both self-employed, to, perhaps, travel more. But this is priceless.

So, here I go. Here I am, hoping that something that I love will both change lives and help pay for that Montessori tuition!

A fellow mediation trainee and I are starting a business together. We will be teaching workshops for couples and we will be doing marital and family mediation.

What is mediation? You and your partner have a conflict and are unable to find a solution. Mediation provides a setting where a third person facilitates the conversation, asks open-ended questions, and guides you so that you can better understand each other’s needs and so that, hopefully, you find a solution.

Marital mediation is a relatively new field. It is very helpful to couples who have some differences and who would like to work them out so that they can remain married.
Typically, couples attend three to six two-hour sessions, based on their needs.

I am committed to helping families improve their lives and their relationships. I am trained, will continue to attend relevant workshops and seminars, and I have plenty of personal experience resolving family issues. So I know I can do this! Wish me luck!