About Me

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Michigan, United States
a registered yoga teacher, and a Thai/Yoga Bodywork practitioner.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Writing in real life

Nathan wrote a thank you note on Sunday, and I am contemplating my own Christmas letter/thank you's. Serendipity awaits! Here is an article on NPR this morning:


I told Nate this type of writing is used in "real life" and is something he needs to practice. Also, getting the envelope properly addressed took two tries (controlling handwriting to make it fit was the issue).

Monday, December 20, 2010

The very lows and the highs of Xmas

It's not Christmas if there's not a meltdown, and yesterday's was mine. Nate woke up griping about going to church. We are not a religious family, but once Rob started drumming for St. John's Lutheran and Center Park Methodist, we went along with him as a show of support. The pastor at Center Park is a kindred spirit, despite her designation of "Christian," so I enjoy going to listen to her talk, to make conversation with other people, and to generally be a part of something that is not work.

Nate resists because he's not a morning person nor does he willingly do anything other than what he-alone loves (like watching Dragon BallZKai or playing his DSi or building a snowfort).So when he woke up too late, complaining, and apparently out of pants, I gave up going to stay home and put him to work. In the process, I had a fit--a bona fide, three year-old, out of control fit. I broke a plate. I threw shoes. I swore. It was ugly. Then I retreated to my room and began to come out of it, rather like a drunk who sobers up and realizes the damage she has done.

I called Nate into the room and repented: "This is completely the wrong way to act...this was a temper tantrum as any little kid would have...this is not how someone with my experience and training is supposed to act." It seemed to relieve him of his own resistance, and we spent the next hour working around the house non-stop. He did everything I asked, and he even offered to help me do my Sunday office cleaning job.

The lesson for this morning was that a family does a lot for one another, and it is a rare thing when that activity is what EVERYONE wants to do. The kids come to yoga class at the gym for my sake. Dad got involved in coaching soccer for Nate's sake. I took Madelyn to horseback riding--and led the horse around a sandy, mucky corral--for her sake. We go to church so that Dad isn't going alone. Etc.The lesson for me to was in being humbled by my own anger. I should have done a handstand rather than throwing shoes. I have a lot of practice ahead of me. Being an adult is not a guarantee against losing one's temper; nor, apparently, is being a yoga teacher.

Just when the afternoon settled down and all left for the day was an evening's Christmas program, the kids ran in screaming. This was panicked screaming, not fighting-screaming or play-screaming. Our most recent adopted cat, Big Orange, was lying dead on the far side of Lover's Lane. Nathan threw himself to the floor, screaming and sobbing; Madelyn stood and wept, shaking, eyes pinched shut.

Big Orange (or, "Big O" or "Bo Cat") had come around occasionally in the summer and fall. He was big...and orange. We speculated that he was May's kittens' father as he was definitely in the area a lot and an un-neutered male. He was wild, too, not letting us get near him. About a month ago, we began to see him almost daily, eating out of May's dish. One day, he emerged from May's plastic bin shelter--the "Hidey Hole." He was settling in. I rustled up two more bins from the basement and made another "hidey hole" for May. Big Orange moved into this new shelter and came out every morning, squeezing his winter fluff and belly fat girth from the narrow circle. After many days, he stopped running away when we opened the door. Then he began to stand nearer and nearer to the person feeding him. The day before he died, his cheek touched my hand as I scooped wet food into his dish. It was either a nudge or a rub, but it was significant. May was put-off at having to defer to this big male, but we enjoyed winning his trust. I had fantasies of being able to stroke his back by spring.

Then the kids ran in, screaming. Rob and I walked across the street scooped him up. Rob carried him with a snow shovel and remarked thrice how "heavy" Big Orange was. We walked past the patio as the kids looked out. I dug a hole in the former garden (unused now as it's in too much shade). Rob laid him in, but still the hole was too short! This was a big cat. I dug out the hole another six inches and covered him in coffee-ground colored soil. Our yard is becoming a pet cemetery.

Finally, the high. We performed in the Center Park Christmas play. Rob played drums and the kids and I all had speaking parts. We sang a lot of Christmas songs and had a light meal afterward, complete with three kinds of jello--requisite eating at most any church dinner. Many people commented on how well Nathan acted his part (he was the grumpy kid who hates Christmas). Madelyn sang out better than I could have as a seven year old or as a seventeen year old. I got to dress up in a flowing skirt, ballet slippers, and  lots of make-up for my gypsy role. Considering that Halloween is my favorite holiday for approximately the same reason, it was the most fun I've had preparing for a Christmas event.

We came home to more knitting, one empty hidey-hole, and for our individual parts, a dose of humility or self-confidence.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Art for its own sake

This week, Madelyn and I did some watercolor painting at the table. Nate complimented my work and put Madelyn out because he did not comment on her work. This lead to a talk about looking to others for validation rather than doing something for the love of doing it.

Then Nate was recruited for the Christmas play at Center Park Methodist, despite his insistence that he doesn't want to be in front of people for any reason, at any time. We talked about giving back in ways OTHER than money, and that his being this character is giving back for all the snacks he consumes every Sunday morning.

Madelyn and I are learning to knit. Once I got the casting on and basic knit stitch, I just want to sit and do it. It's hypnotic. Madelyn is feeling a bit competitive about it, and she doesn't like starting over, but start over we must: we don't know enough about fixing our mistakes. We shopped for yarn this week and Nate even made a remark about wanting to try it. (I won't press it because his interests are fragile; the moment it becomes a "must do" he backs away like a wild animal from a trap.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Patience and hard truths

Sunday was a lot of sitting. During early service at Center Park Methodist, Pastor Lyne's lesson for the children was about waiting. She demonstrated by having them gather around her and then saying nothing for several seconds. The room began to feel heavy with expectation; people began to shift and giggle, wondering what she was up to. Finally she spoke, and she talked about how when one has joy, then even waiting (like waiting for Christmas) can be pleasant.

Madelyn's ballet recital was in Kalamazoo. We drove slooowly through the coming snow. It was a tough day for Nate as all the sitting goes against his urge toward continual motion. During the long wait before Madelyn's recital (we got there early, as required, and sat for an hour before the show), he squirmed and poked at his sister and generally lashed out as only one can while confined to a chair.
Looking for the "lesson" in this trial, I said, "You need to sit and wait."
"I'm booooored." he groaned. His face twisted like someone with a cramp.
"So be bored. Enjoy boredom. Think of your breath, how it feels going in and out."
My kids don't always cooperate with my yoga instructions. He whined again.
"Listen. Sometimes we have to do things that are not fun. Show your respect for this event and for the people here. This is your homeschooling today. This is your practice."

After a long drive home--me driving between 30 and 45 mph--we arrived home at dusk.

Our Friday night movie had been bumped by a Friday night yoga class, so we watched our movie Sunday: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It's not a violent movie, but it's disturbing because it is based on the historical fact of concentration camps and what they were like. The characters are fictional, though. It's about a German boy who befriends a Jewish boy who lives behind the fence of a "work camp." The German boy, Bruno, thinks it's a farm and doesn't understand what "those people" are doing over there.

I had read the book and in my research found a movie based on it (2008). Madelyn watched it all; Nathan paced around until he was given the ultimatum to either "sit down or go to your room." He missed about a quarter of the movie and came in at the end.

The ending is sad. Rob was wary about having them watch it all--he could see where it was going--but I insisted we finish. They needed to know the rest of the story. To withhold the truth it was pointing to would have been as misguided as the parents in the movie who denied telling Bruno what that "boy in the striped pajamas" was doing behind the fence. Nate reacted in anger; Madelyn was sad. But we talked about how easy it is to be cruel to other living things when you rank them as "less" than you. A lot of sitting on this Sunday, but a lot of practice and learning, too.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Madelyn and the magic of training dragons

Madelyn is on a binge. We borrowed How to Train Your Dragon (DVD) from the library and she has watched it daily. Yesterday, she watched it three times. 

I started to nag her about getting off the TV and stopped myself. Who of us has never binged? It's not great for a body, but a warning about over-doing it doesn't work that well. It's something you have to experience. I did playfully tease her about looking pale when she emerged from the basement.

What is the appeal of this movie? It's cute, certainly.  When I ask her "What's your favorite part?" she replies: "All of it." She likes the accents.  The animated characters are supposed to be Vikings and have Scottish accents. I, too, am a pushover for British Isles accents: Irish,Scottish, British. Can't blame her there. Half of Ralph Fiennes good looks come from how he speaks.
 She loves how the main dragon is more like a cat in appearance and behavior than like a reptile. "Mom, that's a May-May look," she says of the dragon's pouncing stance, referring to our outside cat, May. She's quoting lines out of context as she skips around the house, doing them over and over to get the cadence right.

It reminds me of when my sister and I hypnotized ourselves with TV after school (lots of Disney channel and Scooby Doo) and on weekends. We repeatedly watched our Dad's movies because it was something to do. It created a language between us; it set a tone for our childhoods. It wasn't a great way to spend an afternoon, but I turned out to be semi-literate after all. My sister is a gadget hound, and I think all that movie watching was the beginning of her love for technology. If the VCR or disc player didn't work, we called Becca.

The urge to nag Madelyn loosens. This is our holiday, after all. Binge away.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Nate decided Monday morning that he doesn't want to play guitar anymore. As an experiment in letting him meander, I had ceased all nagging about practicing guitar. He wanted to start it; he wanted to continue it after soccer, so I let him be.

He did not practice all week; hence, he was lousy at his songs. After much ado (yelling, unfortunately, on both sides), he announced he did not want to play guitar as it was not his "thing." It was too much sitting.

The hard part for me? Letting him quit.When you let people choose their pursuits, your own expectations come rocketing to the surface. I want him to have success, so we talked about how something worth doing is hard and requires you coming back to it again and again.

Still -- he wanted to be done.

Fine, then. He had to be the one to talk to his teacher--a man who Nate adores. That brought up another round of resistance. He didn't want to "hurt [the teacher's] feelings." I held firm. It you want to steer your life, buddy, you have to take the wheel. Call him and tell him. After an hour's deliberation, Nate called.

I am disappointed. I don't want Nate to be a quitter.

But I was a quitter. I quit piano --twice--because I hated practicing. I started gymnastics as a tall and plump thirteen year old and quit after a couple weeks because it felt humiliating to be so much bigger than my teachers. I have quit jobs that were no longer in line with my interests or convenient (most I quit tactfully; one--I just called in and never went back). To quit is to say, "This is not my path."

Some things I quit and regret, like when I gave up my dream of massage therapy school in favor of going to university because it seemed more scholarly, more the thing to do. I spent three years and 25K to "appear" smart. That's pretty stupid.

Other things I have quit:

  • My senior class trip to Florida --something we had fund raised for since sixth grade--in favor of going on a late winter backpacking trip in the Porcupine Mountains of the Upper Peninsula.   My classmates couldn't understand it: I chose snowshoes over flip flops. It was one of the top experiences of my life; I came home a different person.
  • Working at a college as a library aide and a composition teacher, on the cusp of starting graduate school. After staying home with my kids for the month of June, I realized how much I was missing by chasing a career. What was my hurry? I quit the job and backed out of grad school (saving another 25K, no doubt). This opened up time and money for six months later when yoga training became available--a path I would not have followed if immersed in work and grad school.
  • Competing with people:  their money, their status, their bodies, their talents. Competition can propel people forward, but it drives me into anxiety. I'm a working-class nobody. I rather like it. I have not lived up *nearly* to my potential. The rent is too high there.
 So even if I have to sit on my tongue and bite my hands, I am going to let go of this Q-word judgment and see what happens.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Resuming where we left off when he was 3...

When Nate turned two, he began having tantrums that frightened me. They lasted for 15, 30, 60, 90 minutes, and he was destructive. He detested being made to do what he did not want to do, and he rebelled in every way he could as a small boy of two, three, and four-- screaming, wrecking his room, etc.

I enrolled him in preschool to get a rest from this drama and to determine whether these outbursts were home-driven or just Pure Nathan. Apparently he coped well enough in school (his first teacher became a family friend and assured us he was normal). Further, I had a therapist at the St. Joseph County ISD evaluate him (he was not ADD or ADHD) and he went for several sessions with an Occupational Therapist for being so wiggly in 2nd grade. (The result? This kid needs to move to be able to think. That'll be 1500.00 dollars after insurance).

So we had experts tell us what we already knew. Nathan is a "spirited child" (There's a book, Raising Your Spirited Child that cost me two dollars at the library sale and did more to quiet my concerns than anything).

Now that he's home again, it seems we have picked up where we left off. He's armed with a better vocabulary and emerging abstract reasoning, though. I'm in for it.

Nathan and I  have argued every day this week. For instance, on the day that I had to clean a house, he was too rowdy per indoor etiquette. So, I put him to work scrubbing out a tub. He purposely did it all wrong, flinging water about, and was banned to the car. This brought up an argument on his being trustworthy-enough to follow directions as a prerequisite for staying home alone. That made him FURIOUS because he wants to stay home alone for short periods. Without all the tedious back and forth of our conversation, we eventually made up. The next day, he and his sister wouldn't keep their hands off each other, so I said they must "earn" their Friday soda pop. When I drank one of "his" sodas, he claimed insult. I claimed that having bought them, they are, in fact, my sodas. Outrage. Argument. Resolution.

It's obvious that his defiance
a. Was inherited from his mother, and
b.Was not eradicated in years of preschool and public school.

As a way to break us into this situation--being together a lot more than usual--we are not "schooling" until after New Year's. There will be housework, yes, and learning as we go, but the parent-lead pillars of math and writing will wait, as will the science and history.

I'm not sure how to teach the necessities without raising his ire at being "bossed around." Nor am I sure how well we'll get along in the process. However, better he and I learn to get along and accommodate one another than to drop him off at school and let a stranger try to manage all that piss and vinegar. If anyone's going to teach him how to cope, I trust myself  more than I trust a state-sponsored staff. It will be harder this way,  but perhaps in the long run, we'll both be better friends for it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Both kids home - 1st day

Today was the first with both kids at home and the first day to test my patience. I found a math game site for a modest subscription fee (ixl.com), so Madelyn spent some time on it. In order to "pass" a level, she had to answer a number of questions correctly. She was in her grade level, but once the questions became less obvious, she wanted to quit. Her modus operandi for quitting is to whine and squirm until the patience of the overseeing parent is destroyed. I had to leave the room a few times to keep from caving. I gave her the option to "continue and pass the level" or have to "do it all over again another day--losing all the progress" she had made.

She worked at it for an hour -- whining the whole way. She passed the section, though, learning as much about persistence as about number patterns.

Nate cleaned his room for a fresh start to a new life. We visited the bookstore, the library, Pizza Hut, and Meijer. Madelyn used her own money to buy a stuffed toy. We stood in the aisle and figured out the tax by counting by 6s -- precisely the skill she had been practicing on the website.

We all did ten minutes of free writing in the afternoon --write whatever you want, just don't stop and don't read over your work until the time is done. Madelyn continued in her writing curriculum, learning to add details to describe a noun (in this case, her "wand").