5/30/12

The Interview

I know that interviews are a neccessary part of the job hunting process, and the fact that I was one of ten to get an interview feels like a great accomplishment in itself.  I know that schools get lots of applications for jobs these days.  I  felt confident about what is in my head these days concerning teaching and children.  yet just as always when on the spot, I freeze, my voice barely works, and it becomes so hard to express what I know.  I think I actually got a few ideas acrossed, but it was painful.  I don't even mean painful for me, but surely it was painful for the kind faced interviewers to watch and listen while I pulled tidbits out through the bottleneck that occurs in my brain.

So here I sit and wait till the end of the week.  Am I one of the three lucky ones who will return next week to do a lesson with live children?  Will my written response before the interview, and my cover letter be enough to get me through to the next round?  My Mom said, "Just let it go."  So this is a part of that process.  Writing about it is how I let it go.  I will write one personal "redo" of a question that is at the heart of what makes me a great candidate.

Question:  "Think about your most challenging student, what did you learn from that experience, what would you do differently."

My Redo:

The hardest child for me to deal with when I was teaching repeatedly did the same things to aggravate or frustrate classmates and me throughout the year.  There was no sense that she understood  or could keep from alienating herself from the other kids in class.  There was no feeling that time out or consequences helped her to change her behaviors.  It was frustrating for me then.

What I have learned is no child wants to do poorly.  "Children will do well if they can."  (ala Ross Greene)  And I firmly believe this and with this lense it becomes easier as a teacher, as a parent, to set aside personal frustrations and dig in to helping the child with whatever underlying problem may be the real root of the issue.  With this lense, I realize that thinking a child is "willfull" or "manipulative", thinking the parenting is poor, those things do not help the child who needs to be taught skills to succeed.  Assumptions teach no one anything.  It is only when we set aside our assumptions and look deeply at the child, and the child's set of skills that we may help them learn what they need.

5/26/12

Introvert in the Classroom and Life

I love to read articles that encourage people to rethink assumptions they have about other people, children, students, each other, themselves.  I came across a great one this week, an Ed Week article by Sarah D Sparks, "Studies Illustrate Plight of Introvert".   (I have included a link on my "Parent/Teacher Read" page.)  Our world is so geared toward the loud, quick to speak, outgoing folks that we often forget the benefits of being quiet, alone, and thinking before we speak.  The article points out that teachers who are introverts are more likely to identify the quiet students as likely to have difficulty in school while acknowledging that is not necessarily due to lack of intelligence.  While outgoing teachers are more likely to assume that the quiet children are less intelligent or capable.

During my college experience, I took Latin American Civ with a proffessor who I consider to be one of the great ones.  The class was mainly discussion.  We needed to come to class prepared, books read,or movies watched, and ready to participate in discussion.  I loved the class, and I loved to listen to the ideas of others and I was always prepared, but the proffessor noticed that when he called on me to speak about something I stumbled to pull out an idea that made sense, sometimes I felt like a deer in the headlights.  On other occasions, I made important observations, gave thoughtful responses.  My written work was always well thought out.  So one afternoon, the proffessor asked me to stay after class.  He noticed that I seemed to freeze when put on the spot  and offered to refrain from "calling" on me in class, so long as I agreed to share my ideas when I was ready.  I remember feeling so great after this meeting.  I put extra effort in trying to find my way into the class conversation, relaxed by the knowledge that I wouldn't be put on the spot.  Wow!  When I reflect on this experience, I realize that teacher observed something in me that I had yet to quite understand myself.  I could never have thought to advocate for myself, because I had no idea that it was OK to be the way I was.  At twenty something years old, this was the first teacher who acknowledged my learning style and made it clear that my way  was OK

I really think this issue is an important one on it's own, and also hugely important in the bigger picture of life.  When a child is allowed to be who he or she is then won't the child will be more likely to grow into an adult path that allows for happiness and fullfillment?  Everywhere I look, books, magazines, talk shows and facebook pages, people everywhere are searching for who they really are.  People are searching for a path to their true purpose, their place.  They are ultimately looking for the true selves they were born as.  How wonderful would it be if we could begin to see each person for who he or she is and allow them to be?  Thoughtful teaching can encourage and inform children of different learning styles and challenges to advocate for themselves not only in the classroom, but also in life.  Isn't that really one of the most important lessons to learn?  There is a place for each and every one of us.

Ed Week:  Studies Illustrate Plight of Introvert, by Sarah Sparks.
The article speaks of  a book by Susan Cain.  Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.   I plan to read this soon. 

5/22/12

Moving into Summer

With summer swiftly advancing, Memorial Day almost upon us, I am thinking about the importance of striking the right balance of physical activity, mental engagement, and relaxation with my kids here at home.   I know I need to plan my summer the way I would plan ahead in teaching, but not so detailed.  I learned that those two months of summer can be a treasure, and the way to ensure at least a wee bit of relaxation for Mom, is to be active and structured.  So, I plan ahead, at least a week or two and Map out one or two destinations a week, to add a little zip to our usual routine of head to the local beach for the morning or afternoon.  Swimming and fishing are big priorities here, water play is a must even if we stay home with a sprinkler or water guns.  We like to visit the local library each week too.  But then what?  Maybe a visit to one of the grandparents, or a different park or playground is in store.  Perhaps we will visit a museum or other locale of interest.  I also fill in with videos when I can, for those rainy afternoons, or too much fun in the sun days, a new movie or an educational, or how to video. 

More and more I find myself looking for ways to provide outlets for different kinds of energy levels here at home, not just in the summer, but with three kids at home summer activity is even more crucial.  I think I am getting better at managing the big picture of too much energy.  Sometimes, when my oldest son just starts irritating the other two on an almost constant roll that inevitably results in screaching and crying, I know he just needs to do something.  We head to the lake and  that is an instant fix, swimming and fishing (mostly fishing) calms him.  But I don't always want to pack up the troops and head off to the lake, and during other times of the year that just isn't going to happen.  So I have been looking for other ways to manage the excess energy, and slothlike lulls here at home, not just as a big picture theory, but hopefully in even the little corners of life that poke us in the side and remind me I still have more to learn about promoting self regulation in my children.

I have been plucking ideas from the web for activities that can help release pent up energies, calm a child or stimulate one out of the slothlike stupor that sometimes washes in for a while.  It is funny though, because the more I read about the different strategies, the more I realize that my kids seek many of them out on their own.  The littlest one swings for hours.  The middle one flops himself on the big floor pillow.  The oldest may pick up crocheting, or carry laundry baskets down to the basement, (when it is His idea).  The boys love to use their little folding saws to cut down the saplings that seem to sprout up everywhere each spring.  But I would like to add to our array of choices for this summer, while pairing down on some of the excess clutter that has gathered over the school year.  I will create a place to once again hang our chair swing, maybe put up a hammock someplace cool, and generally try to provide some places and activities for calming and engaging the brain.  I will keep the knitting basket handy, and dig  out plenty of puzzle type games to keep on hand for individual or group play, stock up on art and whatnot supplies and hope for the best.

I found a really nice article, "Sensory Integrations and Supports for ASD", which includes some great ideas for ways to provide for the various sensory needs children may have.  I was also recently reminded of a pair of books The Out of Sync Child and The Out of Sync child has Fun which offer some good information that will help you figure out what kinds of activities could be helpful for your particular kiddos.  Keep in mind what I have said about labels in the past (they may be scary sounding)  Please note that although these resources have labels like ASD and "Out of Sync" in the titles they are good resources for any parent of any child. I also visited a site today that I was turned on to via FB, Your Therapy Source.  What I would love to find is a source for how to do lots of these ideas on the cheap, or out in nature, with minimal consumerism.  If you have any resources or ideas for safe, yet homemade or found in nature OT activities I welcome you to share. 



5/17/12

School- Choice & Fit -beginning thoughts

I spoke with a friend I hadn't seen in a while and discovered both of us have boys the same age who have struggled in school despite being very bright boys.  They wrestle with writing, struggle to make meaningful connections with other kids at school, and are active with attention and organizational difficulties.  Both of us moms have wrestled with school choices, we have considered homeschooling but that is as far as that has gone.  We live within 20 minutes or so of each other, and our kids attend schools about 10 minutes apart, yet in different districts.  Our experiences in getting our children neccessary help have been in some ways polar opposite, yet we still share some basic frustrations.

When I began this blog, I was frustrated with the amount of effort it took to get my son help within our home town elementary school. Trying to reconcile my experience with my teaching life and concern for the education of our countries children.   I was exasperated that I was constantly being stonewalled or politely ignored till I finally realized they would not do anything till I put every request or correspondence in writing, and made it clear at meetings that I was familiar with the laws.  This was not how I wanted interactions with my children's school to go.  I started off by asking for help and trying to provide what information I had that would be useful to the teachers working with my son.  I ended by insisting that my son be moved to a different school.

After talking with my friend, it is a relief to realize that she did not have to struggle to get the help her son needed at school.  Thank goodness that doesn't happen to everyone.  In her words, "They wanted to help."  There was no asking for help and being all but ignored till she "asked" in writing.  Hmm. . .his school of choice is just 10 or so minutes from the one where my family struggled.   For parents like us, school choice is good.  We are happy that we have the option to seek other options for our kids.  But we also have both experienced frustrations at meetings when we have felt like all eyes are on us looking for answers.  I know, from my experience, a feeling like you might have if you hire a plumber to fix a rusted hole in a pipe, he arrives, looks at the hole, sticks some duct tape on, and then looks at you and says, "What's next?"  Well how the heck should I know.  Find a new plumber I guess.

How many times have people said to me or I to them, "That school just isn't a good fit." or "That teacher is not a good fit."  Finding a good school choice or fit for kids like ours is not like googling "performing arts school" or some other specialty school, especially if we are not able to spend tens of thousands of dollars on one.  If we are lucky enough to find a school that is cooperative, they still may not have the knowledge to provide real help.  If the school "fits" it is still possible to run acrossed a teacher who is not a good fit.  Maybe the school and teachers are great, but the children in your child's class don't share his same interests, they don't click.  Homeschooling is another option, but puts another kind of stress on families.  Time, money, patience stretch only so far, no matter how good the intentions of the parent who didn't ever think she would consider homeschooling.  What would be the perfect fit?  What would be the perfect school for kids who struggle with lagging skills and fly with others?  I will leave that to a future post, because I am tempted to say simply, "Exemplary Teaching."  but something like educating our complex, puzzling, wild, and wonderful children couldn't be that simple, could it?  For now, goodnight.

5/15/12

Mothering

My belated homage to mothers everywhere begins here on the tail of my tenth Mother's Day as an actual Mom.  I enjoyed sitting out in the adirondack chair with green grass around my feet, sun warming my skin, and kids playing, making their own kool-aid, and randomly appearing in my lap to say "I love you." or  "Happy Mother's Day!"  It was all the more special, for the everyday trials of raising three children seemed to have taken a break for the day.  Everyone was happy and getting along for a slice of time.

As Mother's Day weekend came to a close, I began to think about what message I would like to send to Mothers everywhere.  What message can I send from my experience that every other mother who reads it can say simply, "yeah."  What message can I send that will lift mothers everywhere and bring us all together in love and support and understanding.  I have come up with three truths to remember about Mothers. 
  1. We are all different.
  2. No one of us is perfect.
  3. Mothering is hard, even when you are doing it right.
For all the roses, cards, visits, free lunches, and phone calls that were laid upon many a Mother over the weekend, Mothers have a tough row to how on any other day of the year.  As if Mothering is not enough of a challenge, Mothers are under what sometimes seems like constant scrutiny by people out in the real world.  From the man in line behind me in the store who saw I was already chasing two boys under the age of 5 while pregnant with my third and said, "Are you sure you want another one?"  To lady who reprimanded the kids for something I considered their good behavior at the library.  We are judged basically every minute we spend away from the safe sanctuary of our home.  But the absolute hardest judgement to take, the most cutting, and hurtful are the scowls, words, or grumbles of other Mothers.  Those are the judgements that hurt the most, because I feel other Mothers ought to know that making another Mother feel like she is doing it wrong is the absolute worst thing you can ever do to her.  Like kicking her in the teeth, when she falls.  Not ok.  (Perhaps that is a judgement on my part.  I will have to ponder that later.)

The fact of the matter is We are all different.  Every single one of us has our own list of experiences long or short, good or bad, happy or sad, rich or poor that we carry with us and that guide us in our parenting priorities and choices.  Some read books, some can't read, some follow example, some go by instinct alone, but I have to believe all mothers want what is best for their children within their own scope of understanding and vision of possibilities.  Perhaps if we all wore our lists of experiences on our shirts we would be more understanding, tolerant, and supportive of the other Mothers we meet in our lifetime.

I will admit, I have judged.   Haven't you?  I may not have been as friendly as I could have been to that Mother at playgroup who looked like she was on drugs, smoked out in front of the door, and talked on her cell rather than play with her child.  That is just not a part of my experience; not my choice of how to live, it would be easy for me to feel "right" and label her "wrong".  But guess what?  She had her child at playgroup, she knew her baby should play with other kids and learn to share and play. . .but I am also sure she read the wary looks and disapproval from other moms, (not to mention the alleged phone call to protective services reporting her). . .I haven't seen her at playgroup since.

 In another example, I wrote recently about a survey that showed 66% of parents believe ADHD is only the result of poor parenting.  Makes me think.  Do we as Mothers, parents, need so badly to feel good about our own job as mother that we must deny there could be any other explanation for a child's behavior problems than that the parent, or Mother is doing a terrible job?  Really?  Are we that insecure? Do we believe it?  Do we deep down think we ourselves are doing a bad job, so seeing a kid having a harder time than our kid feels like a relief? 

At playgroups and schools there are so many examples of Mothers judging Mothers it makes me sad.  First time moms judge the veteran moms for being lax, while the veteran moms judge the new moms for being overbearing.  The moms of girls judge the moms of boys for raising hellions.  (seen this for sure, but also have seen some exceptions here :)  Mothers of typically developing children judge the parents of children with invisible challenges (learning disabilities, adhd, spectrum disorders) for being too involved, advocating too adamantly, and offering explanations which are percieved as excuses. 

It is easy to sit in judgement of others when you feel right.  But the fact is everything is relative and parenting is no exception.  We are each as different and imperfect as the next.  For every Mother you judge, there is another somewhere watching, rolling her eyes or scoffing in judgement of you.  Let's just stop that!

Wouldn't it be just the most beautiful thing if every time we Mothers made eye contact with another Mother we could be guaranteed a moment of understanding. . ."Mothering is hard even when you are doing it right."  If this little blog could accomplish one thing, I would love it to be lots and lots and lots of Mothers reading this post and sharing it with all the Mothers they know, so that we may acknowledge to one another;  We are all different.  We are all imperfect.  Mothering is hard even when we are doing it right.  Let us be supportive of one another in our shared purpose of raising our children the best we know how to do.

 ** Momastery.com  is the blog where I first heard the quote, "Parenting is hard, even when you are doing it right")

5/10/12

Pushing Forward

In my last post, Rags to Riches-What Holds Some Back?, I wrote about my idea that the thing that is holding some kids back in school is genetics, particularly inherent skills or lack of skills that enable people to get things done.  This is based on my experience and reading over the last few years and is meant as sort of a meandering of the mind, because we all know there are just so very many factors involved in educating young people.  I don't mean at all to say that home life doesn't contribute to a child's ability to learn, only that I don't think it plays as big a role as many people assume.  I was particularly saddened to see that a survey of parents done by The Child Mind Institute showed "63% of parents said. . . too many children are being diagnosed with ADHD when they just have behavioral issues."  One third of the parents believe ADHD children are just a result of bad parenting.  And I believe it, because I have felt it even from some school personell.  The fact is that all stereotypes are based in truth.  There are Some kids out in the world who are behaving badly because of bad parenting, angry children who are angry because their parents do drugs or aren't there for them at the baseball games, school events, or life in general.  There are some really crappy parents.  Then there are the rest of us. . .stuck under the weight of the stereotype saying "Hey!  That is not Me!"

That is a bit of a tangent from where I planned to go tonight, but I needed to say it.

Another big part of my last post was about the acceptance that some kids just don't have certain skills that they need to succeed, and the need to find ways to teach the skills (like those listed on my page titled "Lagging Skills") or otherwise navigate them.  So my next thought right now is that one way to help a child who has lagging skills is to lessen the demand for the skill that is blocking learning, and focus on what the child CAN do.  This may sound like I am saying the exact opposite of my last post, but I look at this more as a twofold approach.

 If homework every night taxes the child to the point where she is arguing and crying about it, what is the point?  Is that work, or lack of , indicative of what she can do? or is it just punishment for not being able to do it? (ie:  Not only will I the teacher require that you do homework everynight causing you to become willfull, upset, and or discouraged, I will also take credit away from what you could do, by lowering your grade, your A is now a C or your C is now an F)  When I look at it this way it isn't as difficult (in my mind anyway) to see why some kids get angry and down on school.

For some kids, the problem isn't just homework, it is showing what they know, even in the classroom.  Maybe she is slow to contribute to discussion.  Slow processing could cause her to be unable to respond or contribute in a meaningful way on the spot, but an hour later she thinks to herself, "Drat!  Thats what I should have said!"  Slow processing speed doesn't mean cognitively slow, but a very bright child can easily be misread as shy, quiet, or even not all that smart.  There all kinds of ways really that kids don't perform well in school due not to a lack of intelligence, but a lack of ability to show what they know, I won't get into more of them right now.

The idea is to ask ourselves where are our students strong?  What can they do?  What are their gifts?  Each child has one you know, from the gift of gab, to the gift of written expression or musicality.  There may be a child who lights up a room with his pure happiness, and the master of Star Wars trivia alongside the fastest pitching arm a bookworm and the little one who dances through life.  If we provide opportunities for everychild to feel success, they will learn to navigate and understand their own abilities so they may make wise life choices that suit them well and allow them to be happy.

Not a simple task. . .How do we take these gifts that walk through our classroom door and acknowledge them and nurture them while simultaneously covering the standards and then some?  How do we use the gifts, that bring happiness and joy to our children, as a teaching advantage?  A happy brain is able to learn.  If we forget (or don't even know) what makes our children happy, we forget the key that opens the door to learning.  A stressed brain is less capable of learning.  So why do some people think that constant exposure to what is hard will make it easier?  Is that possible?  An adult brilliant writer with no hands can hire a scribe or use a Dragon Naturally Speaking program to dictate his ramblings, we wouldn't force or expect him to physically write his words.  The best advice for solving a problem that is confounding you is to walk away from it, sleep on it, do something you find relaxing, then eventually the solution comes.

There is a growing awareness among parents who I know of with children who struggle with lagging skills who are seeing they do. . . eventually . . .acquire the skills.  Sometimes not till highschool, or college and others not till their nearly 30!  And it is not for lack of intervention, modeling, or explicit teaching of the skills they need, by making lists, breaking projects down into managable lists, setting alarms for due dates on older students' phones.  So in the meantime, finding ways that our kids can feel successfull is of utmost importance.   They maximize out of school time with sports or music lessons, science camp, pottery lessons, you name it because they want their child to have opportunities to find their place in the world outside of school.  Sometimes we forget that school requires children to perform every skill well, while life only requires that we do something well enough to make a living.  Happiness however, requires what we choose to do to fit who we really are, if that occurs we can't help but do it well.



5/8/12

Rags to Riches- What Holds Some Back?

I have been in a lovely bookgroup for several months now, where I have enjoyed reading and discussing a variety of books I may not have otherwise read.  Welfare Brat, written by Mary Childers was one that lead to discussion about poverty and the questions around why some, like Mary, are able to climb out of it, while others continue the cycle.  We talked about stereotypes and the few and loud who seem to perpetuate them by announcing the ways they are working the system while the majority of recipients struggle quietly, and carry the shame and stigma.  We talked about how Mary eventually had an adult who helped her make a plan for college.  And we noted we had all heard real life stories of rags to riches, and wondered what makes this possible for some people and not others, is it having a mentor? is it something else? 

I wondered aloud if perhaps the difference for Mary was that she was born with the skills needed to succeed.  She showed us in the book repeatedly how she set goals and made plans and carried them out .  She was persistent and organized, with good impulse control and kept her end goal in sight.   Why was she the only one in her family who could do those things?  I explained how I had been coming to understand that children, often very smart children can have under the radar learning disabilities or lagging skills that hold them back from success.  If a child is smart, but has no goal oriented persistence or organization, if he is impulsive, or disorganized and loses work he already completed, he will not succeed in school without some kind of intervention, a caring teacher, parent or other advocate who can give support where lagging skills would otherwise keep him down.  This situation is often the case for children who have ADHD, Aspergers or some other spot on the Autism Spectrum to name but a few, and often runs in families.  Another group member pointed out Mary's siblings all had different father than she did, she did not share paternal DNA with any of her siblings.  Could that be it?

From a teaching perspective I found this very hopeful.  If we know that some children struggle with these skills we can help them, we can scaffold, we can teach the skill or work around them. And we know they do, because research has been done and bright lights like Ross Greene have illustrated the effects of lagging skills and how to help children who have them, in books like The Explosive Child, and Lost at School.  Right now it is in vogue for schools to have a social curriculum that teaches children explicitly how to handle certain social interaction.  Not long ago the idea of schools teaching these skills was ridiculous to many people.  Probably still seems foolish to some people, but not to me.  Social skills, actually are just one segment of the group of skills that can hold kids back in school and life. 

 I truly believe the key to school reform that we read about everywhere we turn, is a deep understanding of our childrens' strengths and challenges, and figuring out, as educators, how to work with them or around them.   Another key is not to allow low expectations or stereotypes cloud our  vision of the learner.  If teachers, even unconciosly, think a child's homelife, or parents are the block to learning, it is like saying, "There's nothing I can do about this."  We need to be concious and cautious about assumptions, and instead look for solutions to the problems and skills we have in our power to fix and teach. 

5/7/12

Nature and Learning

When I picked up my oldest from school last week some younger children were out digging into nature planting something green and leafy into little pots.  A small plot of earth nearby sprouted little rows of greens, and hills marked with little sticks held promise for the future season.  My mind wandered to a time when the art teacher where I worked combined art with gardening, and engaged the children in creating a three sisters garden and to learn about concepts like change, and growth.  I was reminded how excited children become about growing things, and digging into the dirt.  The sweetest thing about this  experience was seeing the children who lived in apartments with no back yards or plot of earth to call their own to connect with the earth and enjoy the digging, planting, watering and waiting. 

In this rural area where I now reside many schools, families and neighbors have gardens from tiny to grand.  I have pictures of my oldest son pushing a dump truck through the freshly tilled soil of our own little garden.  In my mind are more snapshots,  my middle son balancing a bucket of water, arm outstretched so as not to tip and spill, my little girl watching for worms and plucking them out of the earth where she crouches baretoed to study them closely.  I have read about the "Back to the Land" movement during the early 70's, back when I was a child and my own family was conciously separating itself from the land.  Mom grew up picking cukes in the fields, heat from the sun beating down from above and reflecting hot waves from the earth below.  For her moving from the farm life and getting an education made sense.  A sense of nature's balance, rhythm, and bounty motivate my own little family to dig in to nature and stay a while.

Now, I wonder about today's children in this technological world that we now live in.   I ponder the possibilities of an education clearly connected to nature.  What if we could connect our teaching to nature, correlate concepts in learning to the natural world?  Certainly teachers do this already to some extent, through concepts of cycles, change and growth, and I wonder how much further we could take it?  I think of the children who struggle to sit, to listen, to organize incoming inormation in classrooms everywhere.  Then picture my son, one of the strugglers, pole in hand, feet in muck, mind and body at peace.. . fishing.  He is one with the water, fish and world.  He exhibits the universal concepts of patience, persistence, and ingenuity, toward a goal.  He is amazingly and consistently optimistic even when the unpredictability of nature means the fish aren't biting. Not a dramatic display of frustration to be had. 

It seems the more the world speeds up, the more important it is to provide our children with that connection to the earth, so that they may be better equipped to find a balance between nature and technology, persistence and patience, stress and stillness.  So they will be better able and willing to adapt to change, unpredictability, and unexpected loss.  Living connected to the land brings us quality sustenance for both our bodies and our minds.  Wholesome foods feed us.  Cool breezes fill our lungs.  Running rivers remind us to slow down.  The lapping lake says linger. Ocean tides remind us we are but a small part of a vast and vivacious world. 

5/4/12

Take a breath Mama

Take a breath mama.

I began writing today about the unwelcoming school climate in our small town school that stifles our children with the unspoken message, "Keep your differences to yourselves."  Was going to write about the judgemental, misguided parents who are under the notion that a child's behaviors are always within his own power to control, and are a direct reflection of parental control and competence.  I was going to grumble about the folks who no longer feel like friends, and the person who recently reminded us we "are on your own with that kid, he's not my problem."  I was going to whine about the fact that so many people just don't "Get It".

But I won't.  I am not diving in any deeper there.  I will stop.  I will take a breath in and know that we have many great neighbors and new friends who we are getting to know in this little town.  I will acknowledge the friends who understand that raising children can be hard because it is hard, not because we are doing it wrong.  I will gulp up all the smiles and hugs and thoughtful words of concern and support friends have freely given.  I will take in the knowledge that like minded friends are near.  I will inhale the presence of understanding standing next to me.  "Breath mama."  and be greatful.

I will be greatful as I exhale the tears welling in my chest, blow out the frustration in my muscles, and expel the judgement ringing in my ears.  Let it all go. . .  Then, I will breath in again, a deep cleansing breath.  We are not alone.  Some of us do get it.  Some of us do understand, and care, and offer support to others.  "Take a breath mama."

5/2/12

Mindless or Mindfull? (10 Mindfull Minutes: Book Review)

We sit in front of the television night after night.  We google, goggle, and surf day after day.  Why?  I can recall countless people, including myself saying, "I just need to chill out, unwind, relax. . .be mindless."  Mindlessness is what? . . .Is it that place where we don't have to think?  Where the worries of the day disappear?  Where our brains can relax away from the hectic world?  I truly believe that I have confused Mindlessness and Mindfullness for a good stretch of my life.  While watching television, and surfing the net can be a mindless persuit, what our body and minds (ours and our childrens') truly need to be happy and relaxed is Mindfullness.  That is the message I take from Goldie Hawn's book, 10 Mindful Minutes.

It is an easy read.  Delightful really.  Hawn intersperses some excellent information, in easily understood language, about how the brain works in respect to stress and emotions, with lovely anectdotes depicting Mindful moments from her own life and family.  She not only teaches the reader how to be more mindful in ourselves, she also teaches us how to promote mindfulness and resilience in our children.  She illustrates through clear writing and fun and simple games.   She reminds us many times that deep, slow mindful breathing for 5 minutes twice a day, can help us relax our "guard dog" (amygdala) part of the brain and  open new paths to learning for our "wise old owl" (prefrontal cortex), and build happiness and resilience.  Just 5 minutes, twice a day, to bring us out of "reacting" to life and into being, seeing, and connecting.

I love the emphasis on connecting with nature and happiness.  If you have read Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, or Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods:  Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.  think of 10 Mindful Minutes as the instruction manual, but more fun. I daresay I will need to get my own copy of this one.  I don't want to be a library book hog!  (