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    Life Without Status Updates





    I saw this the other day on (ahem) Facebook, and it got me thinking:

     

    {Calvin & Hobbes are awesome}


    We were blessed to have a lot of time to be together as a family this summer, away from hectic schedules and routines and crowds. We were also blessed - though it may have been one of those proverbial blessings in disguise - to be in places where fast internet (or internet, at all) isn't a priority. Having a difficult time using your phone makes you use it less. Using it less makes you look up more, look around, reach out, find ways to fill the moments you'd been so used to filling with checking emails, status updates, photos, games, news, videos, posts. Sometimes you fill the moments with simply being. Listening. Observing. Living. Loving. Noticing things that have gone unnoticed at digital life speed. Looking up at the stars.

     

    {heaven is here} 


    Seeing nature and parts of our earth I'd never seen before - without the constant companion of palm-sized information diarrhea - was inspiring. Releasing. And humbling. Because… HOW? How have I gone so many years without knowing what the stars really look like - as they do on the Kansas plains. They look there, nothing like my lightpollutedbackyardpostagestamp view of the New Jersey sky. Watching my children explore the earth, dig in the sand, splash in the water, move rocks, climb trees, find wildlife – without the interruption of status updates – was simply wondrous.  It is wonderous, as well, to do these things yourself. Experiences in real life, real time.

     

    {hiking through the foothills}


    To be honest, it wasn’t easy at first. Being away from technology… initially, it's like a tugging, pulling, calling to me that doesn't subside. HOW can I be without INFORMATION? Without conversation - the typewritten kind, anyway? Without UPDATES? Weather? Pictures? News? Videos? DISTRACTIONS? But the pulling gets weaker. After a few days, I forgot to carry my phone with me a couple of times. The information and news that seemed so necessary last week, became more unnecessary, with each passing day. The immediate loses its charm. I started to forget. I began to relearn patience and observation, being present, and how to embrace boredom.

    {being present}


    I rediscovered the pleasure of reading a book: it doesn't update, doesn't change, refresh, or move forward. It stays right where I left it on the precise page I dog-eared yesterday when my children needed me. It was still there, unchanged, when I had time or desire to come back to it. Uncluttered with ads. Devoid of noise. Black text on white page. Tangible. Unmoving. There's something grounding in that. Grounding like the silence of the sunrise. Or the thinness of the air at twelve-thousand feet.

     

    {Maine at 5:58am}


     

    {Colorado at 12,310 feet}


    Being away from the stream of constant interruption gave me opportunity to really THINK about the interruption we experience every day in our digitized lives. We’re always being physically interrupted – a status check here, an email there, a text message here, a photo there. And, as such, we’re in a state of continual mental intrusion that these updates often cause – often without our full consent.  Think about this:  When is the last time you were able to log into to your favorite social media website, read something, post a reply, and walk away without giving it another thought; undeterred by how your comment might be taken – by people you may not really even know. It happens even if you don’t stop to participate in the conversation – the comments of others swirl around in your mind or you analyze the content of the story or you mull over the ensuing conversation. All about people you aren’t actually interacting with, over things that often don’t directly impact your life, all the while, an intrusion on your state of mind, your peacefulness, your presence with the people you ARE actually interacting with, and the nature within which you actually LIVE. This happens, I’ve found, without even being aware that it’s happening. You just start feeling a little off, a little down, a little distracted – not sure why. Your responses to your spouse or children or friends might be a bit short, irritated, less patient. How CAN you be patient with the weight of the internet world on your shoulders along with all your physical time demands. Then you realize… oh. It’s that blog/message board conversation/video I read/participated in/watched that has me concerned. And maybe then you can let it go. For a while. Be more present. At least until the next log in.

     

    {relaxing, without mental distraction}


    I didn’t fully recognize this happened to me, too until… the internet, and the distraction that comes with it, wasn’t there anymore. And I was left with a lot of… empty space and time in my mind. When you have space to think, without mindlessness to fill it in, you actually… start to think. And to FEEL. And to realize - perhaps most importantly - that the people I really most wanted to communicate with were right there - within touching distance of me. The things I wanted to experience were right beneath my feet. Neither of which required a computer or a phone at all.

    {siblings} 


    And yes, I recognize the irony of my writing this - at my computer. With the intention of posting it on the internet. And then using social media to disseminate it.But that, of course, is because I recognize the benefits of the digital age in which we live. I understand and appreciate the value of the internet for a variety of purposes – Information: looking up the names of the constellations, the words to a poem, a vegan recipe, how to spell something correctly, the list of awesome, immediate access is endless. Support & Community: connecting with people who have similar areas of interest and experience - particularly important when your interests may lie outside of the norm. I can't enumerate how many times I've found great support for breastfeeding, babywearing, gentle parenting online… heck, it's one of the main reasons for my writing this blog: to share my experiences with other parents who may be looking for suggestions and support on how to parent from their heart, who may not have those resources and support in their physical lives. But while I understand all of the wonders of the internet, when weighed against the wonders of just BEING with your loved ones, I have to tip the scales in the direction of real touch and interaction: more time on the floor with my kids than in front of the computer; more nature exploration than website exploration.  This realization may make me deficient in social media, but a nature and family connection deficiency is far more grave and long-lasting.


    {studying a sunflower}


    So my challenge, and one I present to you, is to aim towards taking a few more moments out of each day to look at the stars, watch the sunrise, look in your kids' eyes, and leave your computer off and your phone behind. On purpose. Live life without status updates. It will be worthwhile, I promise.

    Posted: Sep 09 2012, 18:44 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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    All Things Seem Possible in May





    The world's favorite season is the spring. 

    All things seem possible in May.

    ~Edwin Way Teale

    I've never done a monthly wrap-up post before, but because May was particularly awesome this time around, I've decided to give it a try. What blessings hath May brought? 

    I RAN ten miles (without stopping!) at the Broad Street run in Philadelphia - My longest running distance ever (so far!): 

      

    The kids completed their first season of Soccer; making me a… (wait for it…) Soccer Mom. Should I get that soccer ball sticker for my minivan yet?


    Speaking of Mom, on Mother's Day weekend, I was treated to a box of brownies, breakfast, flowers, gifts, a drive-thru zoo where the giraffes come right. Up. To. Your. Car. (I love New Jersey), an amusement park, and dinner at my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Philly. Not bad if I do say so myself:


    Many of my flowers started blooming. May is one of the most amazing months in the garden.


    I traveled to a television studio in New York City and met two blogger friends and an attachment parenting guru:


    Next up, my baby turned FIVE. Five I tell you. Unbelievable. My heart:


    Later that week, we took the kids for their very first backpacking trip - 11 miles, three days, and two nights out in the backcountry of Virginia! It was amazing and awesome (and wet and exhausting) but so wonderfully bonding as a family. It was incredibly refreshing to get so close to the earth, and back to basics (No social media! No laptop! No cellphone service!):

     

    And we concluded with a trip to Washington DC to visit the museums and Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day:

     

    It's been a spectacular month. I can't wait to see what's up next - bring it on, June!!!    

    Posted: Jun 02 2012, 10:54 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    The Things You Learn Along the Way





    In the last nearly eight years, I’d like to think I’ve learned a bit about parenting – and about myself in the process. I thought I’d share just a few of the things I’ve discovered along the way…

    All that STUFF you thought you needed (or, that everyone ELSE thought you needed) for your baby? You didn’t need it. All babies really need is milk and love. The rest is just gravy (Um, vegetarian gravy, of course. Duh.).  That said, all that stuff DOES make for a darned good yard sale down the line. 

    Patience is a virtue. It’s also incredibly hard to come by at times. You need to keep practicing it – ALL. THE. TIME. And you need to have ways to access it 24/7 - because neither kids’ feet nor their mouths stop moving until they are asleep (and even then, it’s not a guarantee), and they expect – and DESERVE – peaceful, creative responses and guidance to their (endless) questions and boundary pushing. On the upside, I’ve found my greatly developed sense of patience has extended into my relationships OUTSIDE of parenting. Win – win.

    Parenting doesn’t “get easier” as time goes by, like everyone tries to tell you when you have a new baby. Yes, baby eventually stops waking you at night (easier), but then starts getting up by himself, and learns how to unlock the gate to downstairs – silently (not easier). Toddler stop wearing diapers (easier), and then wants to use Every. Single. Public. Toilet. Everywhere. (not easier)  Preschooler, who used to be okay with “simple explanations” for where babies come from – like, “Mommies have eggs & Daddies fertilize the eggs, and Mommies’ eggs grow into babies in their wombs” (easier) – now, as a 2nd grader, would like to know: “okay, but HOW EXACTLY do Daddies fertilize the eggs???” (Um… NOT. EASIER.) It gets more complex, and more challenging as it goes along. And, continuing with potty training for a moment...

    Potty learning isn’t an instantaneous process, no matter what the books tell you. The diapers don’t suddenly get put away, and middle-of-the-night sheet changes become a distant memory; even if you used elimination communication or your kid “got it” right away. No matter what the process, it’s a long process, and you WILL hear “Mom! Can you wipe me!?!” echoing through your rooms for quite some time after the last diaper is gone. Just… don’t put the wipes away just yet.

    You are always “on”, AND it isn’t all about you. This may be the biggest change that came with parenting: realizing that life isn’t just about me anymore, or even about me and my partner (who can take care of himself). When you’re a parent, another person suddenly arrives, completely, entirely, dependent on you – for sustenance, shelter, clothing, guidance, education, discipline, entertainment, love. And when they need you, they NEED you – like NOW. When you’re sick, you’re on. When you’re tired, you’re on. When you’ve worked a whole day at the office and would love to just come home and put your feet up, you’re on. And every decision from here on out NO LONGER just involves what you (or your partner) would like to do or need – there is always another person to consider.  Which, by the way is NOTHING like owning a pet (those people who tell you having a pet is good preparation for a baby? I can’t remember the last time I had to sleep sitting up with a sick cat in my lap who has thrown up every half hour through the night and gone through every single piece of clean linen – towels, sheets, dishcloths – in the house, only to finally fall asleep and wake up with the next cat sick with the same thing, followed by being sick yourself… yeah. Pets aren’t kids.). You’re on and never off, never ever, not for the next 20 years or so (at which point, I’m told, you’re still not off – you’re just in pause mode – waiting for the phone to ring).

    People will judge you. And you will judge yourself. In the store, on the internet, in books, in magazines, your friends, your family, doctors, strangers – everyone. Everyone will have a say, an opinion, and often, a criticism. So you have to learn to take everything you hear with a grain of salt, but mostly, TRUST YOURSELF - because YOU are your child’s best advocate; you know your own child – and your own family – BEST.

    Parenting gets more fun as it goes on. Yes, this may seem to contradict what I just said about not getting easier; but it’s not. It’s just… the prize that comes with a greater challenge. As the conversations with older kids become more challenging, they also become more interesting! You don’t have to read The Hungry Caterpillar forty times anymore, you can actually read Harry Potter together – and you ALL enjoy it! You get to share and relive the movies of your childhood – Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, The Dark Crystal, E.T., with your kids. You don’t have to haul the stroller around anymore – they can WALK… AND they LIKE it! In fact, you can start back up doing the things you may have put to the side when they were born – hiking, painting, gardening – and they participate WITH you. It’s amazing fun to share your passions with your kids when they can really get into it!  And, my personal favorite fun-boost that has come with age? TRAVEL! It is SO. MUCH. FUN. Travelling and exploring with kids who are old enough to appreciate and understand where they’re going, what they’re looking at, and who don’t need to nap any longer (and who can carry their own backpacks – WIN!), is like the pinnacle of parenting. I LOVE travelling with our kids & know it will only get better and better with age!

    (Travelling with our kids - now, doesn't that look FUN!)

    Love is endless. You have boundless love for your children. It comes from somewhere so deep and bottomless, that it keeps flowing, multiplying, and surrounding all of your children – no matter how many you have. No matter how many crumbs you clean out of your keyboard, no matter how much pee on the bed or juice on the carpet you have to clean. You will love and love. It’s one of the most amazing things to me – when I feel like I’m at the bottom of my barrel – my patience low, I’m underslept, out of energy, uncreative, children bickering on and off all day, and I haven’t had a moment to myself… somewhere, the warmth of love comes over me when I look at the curl across my son’s forehead or hear my daughter reading a book to us. I can forgive myself and them – love keeps us going, builds us up, brings us closer together. Above everything, the ability to love deeply and without condition is probably the best and most lasting thing I’ve learned as a parent. All you need is love, and with kids – they take it and give it willingly. It’s amazing.

     

    So… what have YOU learned as a parent?

    Posted: May 10 2012, 12:00 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Parenting | Travel

    The Car Seat Screamer Blues





    Neither of my babies liked driving in the car. Maybe a better (read: more accurate) way to state that would be: Both of my babies hated driving in the car. We were lucky to get about ten minutes of contentedness before the full-bore screaming began. When we had only one baby, we were living up in rural Maine. The closest mall was a 45 minute drive. O_o

     

    Let’s just say we didn’t go out much in those days.

     

    If you have a baby who hates the car… well… you know how a 10 minute car ride with a screaming baby can feel like an hour. It's the car seat screamer blues. As a parent you feel helpless to do anything because you can’t move baby from her seat – which is, essentially, all she’s trying to say to you (GET. ME. OUT. NOW!) over and over increasingly louder and more urgently.  Throughout a normal day of caring for baby, you are so connected with her, then suddenly she’s placed in a situation where she’s out of your reach, and you’re out of her sight. You understand she’s communicating discomfort, and in all other instances, you’d go right to her and help her figure out how to feel better. But when she’s in a car, screaming, and you have to be somewhere, and there’s no good place to pull over, or you just pulled over ten minutes ago, and she’s screaming again, you just can’t safely help her while you’re driving. I remember it felt at times like I was leaving my baby to “cry it out”. I felt so tortured in those early months with my carseat screamers. I hated every second of so many car rides because I felt like I was DOING IT WRONG.

     

     

    I have realized over the years, that I really wasn’t doing it wrong. A crying baby in a carseat is not the same as deliberately ignoring your baby’s signals in an effort to be more “hands off” in your responsiveness as a parent or training her to self soothe. It’s simply a matter of living the kids of busy high-tech lives we are in. You have to get places in your car, and the safest way to do that is with baby strapped into a car seat in reverse. Sometimes you have to drive. And baby has to scream. It's her job to let you know she's unhappy with the situation. But when you're driving, it's your job to do so as safely as possible. You are doing the best you can do at the time.

     

    Now, while that reassurance may or may not help you feel better, I know that what did help me was feeling like I was doing something to help communicate with my screaming baby while still safely driving. Here are some of the ideas that worked for us (and baby.)…

     

    Tips for Soothing A Fussy Baby in the Car

    (and I’m using the word fussy lightly. Feel free to change that title to read: How to Help Soothe a Screaming-Like-Mad-There-HAS-To-Be-Something-Sharp-Currently-Stabbing-My-Baby- In-The-Car-Seat-For-That-Level-Of-Screaming-To-Come-From-Such-A-Tiny-Being Baby in the Car):

     

    Check the Basics. I often found myself in a situation where I had to put baby in the car seat and get out the door quickly. Sometimes I’d realize after we got on the road, and baby started ramping up the volume, that I’d forgotten to check the basics: diaper, belly, clothing. Is baby’s diaper clean & dry? Is baby’s belly recently full of milk and empty of gas? Is baby’s clothing both weather-appropriate, and not too tight once strapped in the carseat? In the middle of winter in Maine, it was a challenge to go from a warm house to negative outdoor temps, to a cold car which becomes warm, to freezing outside, to warm again. Once I got in the habit of warming up the car ahead of time and removing baby’s outer layers after getting in the car, but before getting in the car seat, things improved a bit.   

     

    Talk. Talk to your baby. I often felt like my babies were screaming in the carseat because they felt disconnected. They were used to being worn in a sling or carried around or nursed, and being put down, anchored to a non-human seat, and unable to see me, was an unnatural and unfamiliar situation. Crying was just their way of letting me know: HEY, this isn’t what I’m USED TO and I DON’T LIKE IT.  So, in order to help my baby know I heard what he was saying, I’d simply talk to him & let him know. Even if you think he can’t understand what you’re saying, or maybe doesn’t even hear you through the screaming, just talk. By keeping an even, calm, soothing, and understanding tone of voice, at the very least, you will help yourself feel better and connected to your baby. At the best, baby will hear your voice, and feel comforted, even when he can’t see or reach you.

     

    Music. Music was the most consistently successful soothing mechanism we discovered. Music soothes the savage beast, right? It was NOT, however, the type of music you’d expect, which best soothed my children: not lullabies or soft crooning.  No way. My kids liked a beat. They liked to rock out. They liked repetition. And they liked it LOUD. I encourage you to keep experimenting with different types of music until you hit on something that works. Try making mixes on your computer of different genres – you never know what will attract baby’s attention the best. But when you find that one song that works? Make an extra copy of that CD because you will wear out that one track, trust me.

     

    Air. I’m not sure if it was that my kids were HOT or if they liked the feel of the wind on their faces/bodies, or if it was the change of pressure, or just the sound of white noise, but changing up the air in the car was a relatively sure bet, at least temporarily, to change the mood in the car. It wasn’t always good for the long haul, but rolling down the windows or turning the fan on high, often paused the screaming long enough to intervene with another type of distraction (like a pacifier or silly faces from the backseat).

     

    Back Seat Company. Having a person in the backseat stationed next to the baby was often helpful – while baby was in a wakeful, alert state, even if the wakeful alertness was also accompanied by fussiness.  It should be noted that it the helpfulness of a person in the backseat was magnified if that person was NOT me. As we found when it WAS me, all baby wanted was OUT, in my arms, and nursing, not to be strapped into a car seat with me nearby, but not holding. The person next to the baby can make faces, sing, pick up dropped toys and pacifiers, even offer a bottle (note: my babies did not accept a bottle on a trip, and in retrospect I am glad, as any eating by babies in a carseat, where I can’t be immediately responsive, makes me nervous – in the event of choking or vomiting. Follow your instinct here.).

     

    Pacifier. Although neither of my children would happily or reliably take a pacifier in the car, I still kept a variety of shapes & sizes on hand in the car, in the event that something would change, and suddenly a soothie would be soothing. At the very least, it’s something “new” for baby to manipulate for a few minutes.

     

     

    Black & White. We all know babies interest’s are held by black & white. But it’s hard to find soft car-safe toys in those colors. We solved that problem by strapping a vinyl card holder to the back seat (like the kind you’d use to keep collectable cards organized in a binder). We’d swap out pictures periodically – like at every car ride – to hopefully keep baby interested. I will say that while it seemed to work wonders for short periods of time, once baby’s hand and/or feet could reach the back of the seat, it lost its functionality because the paper pictures weren’t baby-proof. The best choices we found were black and white graphic patterns (like a bullseye), and pictures of faces. Which brings me to number 7: 

     

    Mom’s Face. Tape an enlarged black & white picture of Mom on to the back seat where baby can see. While I never personally tried this, I understand the appeal! Mom is unavailable in the car while driving, and being the embodiment of comfort to baby, it would seem to make sense that a photo of Mom for baby to look at when he can’t see ACTUAL Mom might help baby stay calm. I do wonder, however, if it might have the opposite effect – continually reminding baby that Mom is nearby but out of reach. It may be worth a try.

     

    New Toys. Once baby can hold & manipulate toys, I did find that things got a bit better in the screaming department. I could quickly pass back a new toy and have a few minutes of non-screaming drive time. Unfortunately, toys can get thrown, and the most interesting toys are often too big/bulky for an infant to manipulate safely in the car seat.  Keep in mind any toy you choose should be soft and light. In the event of an accident you don’t want anything heavy or hard or with sharp edges flying through the car.

     

    Take Breaks. On long trips, it helped to understand right off the bat that we’ll have to stop a lot more often than when we didn’t have a fussy baby with us. When we acknowledged the increased travel time ahead of the trip, it made the trip more enjoyable and relaxed. It’s okay to stop (safely, well off the road) regularly and check diaper, fix a pacifier, nurse for a few minutes. Be patient, and be prepared to make your trip longer than usual. It may not help baby to stop for frequent cuddles and quick nursing sessions, but on long trips, I know it helped ME feel better about subjecting my babies to long car rides! Plus, if you’re not the only one in the car, the other passengers will appreciate the break from the screaming!

     

    If all else fails, remember my numero uno parenting mantra: THIS TOO SHALL PASS. (It may suck royally in the meantime, but eventually, this stage will pass, I promise. For us, it was right around 18 months with each of my children.)

     

    Peaceful travels.

    Posted: Jul 22 2011, 23:11 by kelly | Comments (19) RSS comment feed |
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    Wordless Wednesday: Liberty





    We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.  ~Robert J. McCracken

    For Mother's Day, we took a daytrip to Liberty State Park in New Jersey. From there, we hopped the ferry to Ellis Island, and then on to the Statue of Liberty. It had been years and years since I saw the statue up close - some long-since-filed memory from a forgettable middle school trip, I'm sure.  This time, combined with the wonder of Ellis Island and the exuberance of my children it was much more meaningful and exciting.  Our 6 year old really got into the trip - as she was able to read all the signs and descriptions in the museum on Ellis Island. Our nearly 4 year old wasn't nearly as jazzed about the museum as he was about the ferry rides and climbing all the stairs inside the statue.  There are a few things available to younger guests - phones to pick up & listen to people talk about their experiences arriving on Ellis Island, and a gift shop with wooden whirly birds for sale, as an example. But on the whole, I'd say being reading age makes this trip much more interesting for children. We also got to see, relatively close, the new Freedom Tower under construction.  While the skyline looked a bit strange, as it always does, without the World Trade Center towers standing, seeing new construction was inspiring. In all, we had a fabulous time. It was amazing to me to see all the old photographs and artifacts, and with taking a ferry to & fro, I really could imagine what it would have been like arriving in America for the very first time. Amazing. For a history of Ellis Island & the mass immigration that took place there from 1892 - 1924, visit the EllisIsland.org Some photos from our trip:


    Sign on the way to the ferries.


    My son's favorite part of the trip.


    Lady liberty from afar.


    Walking around Ellis Island - checking out some of the names inscribed on the "Immigrant Wall of Honor".


    Luggage (amazing).


    Babywearing - nearly 100 years ago! :)


    The restored great hall where immigrants were first greeted & divided into groups for health, intelligence, legal processing, and other screenings. Here's a "then & now"
    photo gallery.


    Looking out over Ellis Island - the statue is off in the background.


    A list of the food available for purchase by immigrants. CANDY! :)


    A wall of postcards illustrating the various ships that brought passengers to the USA.


    Walking outside the main building, on the way to the ferry.


    The Manhattan skyline from the ferry. Missing the World Trade Towers.


    The statue from the ferry... getting closer!


    Preservation of the old torch.


    Odd art from the museum.


    Yes, there are elevators, but we walked!


    La Liberté éclairant le monde


    Family pic! (6 year old is making faces & 3 year old is bored)

    Posted: May 12 2011, 08:28 by kelly | Comments (2) RSS comment feed |
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