Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Teaching Kindness

Remember that time when I wrote about how my husband and I went to San Francisco and our rental car got broken into and it was okay because we sat and thought about things to be grateful for?

Well. Apparently we should never go on vacation. I've decided when we go on vacation we either have to have vomiting kids or car trouble of some sort, because or last few vacations have gone as follows: San Diego - clutch goes out on the car on Christmas Eve; Texas - CB gets carsick in the middle of the night and vomits all over twice; San Francisco - the aforementioned car getting broken into; Tucson - CB gets some kind of horrible stomach bug and starts throwing up right as we pull up to a hotel and then throws up all night; Texas again - parts go shooting out of our engine 3 hours from our destination and our car is totally trashed.

This last one was extra special because we'd only just bought the car about six months before, we had two kids in the car, and it was the beginning of our vacation after a year of not seeing my husband's mom. We'd decided to stop for the night just three hours out because we didn't see any point in driving until 4 am, and about two miles down the road the next morning we heard a horrible knocking that rapidly turned into a loud clang and smoke.

I could write another list about all of the things I thought of to be grateful for this time around, because I was shockingly calm about the whole thing and noticed lots of reasons that we were really lucky. (My husband had a harder time getting to that point, since he'd done a TON of research before he bought the car and felt pretty mad about it going out on us, but he got there eventually.) However, what really stuck out to me was how kind people were. At least 5 cars stopped in the hour we were sitting on the side of the road on a highway that wasn't all that busy. Some of them just slowed down to ask if we needed water or snacks until the tow truck came. Some told us they would pray for us. Some offered rides and advice. One family on their way to a funeral stopped and asked if we needed anything, then CAME BACK a few minutes later because they'd noticed there was a truck stop just over the hill and thought it would be a better place to wait with two babies. They totally rearranged everything in their truck to cram us and our car seats and our essentials in, and it was so much better to wait near a bathroom in the truck stop restaurant eating spaghetti and chicken strips and coloring than it would have been to wait by the side of the road for 3 hours for my brother in law to come and get us. (And, by the way, my incredibly kind brother-in-law ended up driving 7 hours for us that day, which I'm sure is not how he was hoping to spend his Saturday.)

When we got back from Texas, my two and a half year old had a few days where she was just royally grumpy and trying, (and this after a week of mixed interactions with her cousins, some wonderful and lovely, some of which resulted in hitting and crying in pursuit of possession of the coolest toys at Grancy's house). She was having potty accidents and wasn't listening and wasn't being very nice (a friend of mine calls it re-entry sickness - that craziness kids get adjusting to normal life after vacation), and I was just at my wit's end. Her favorite thing in the whole world right now is dressing up in princess dresses, and suddenly in the middle of another uncharacteristic fit I had an inspiration. "You know sweetie, princesses are always kind and nice. If you aren't kind, I don't think you can be a princess. It's fun to dress up, but it's more important to be kind and nice to people."

This totally struck a chord with her, and over the two months that we've been home from Texas. I have occasionally taken princess dress privileges away for periods of time until she can show me that she's being kind. My husband and I talk to her about being "nice and kind" daily. Sometimes hourly. As with most things, it seems to be getting easier for her with practice. She routinely points out unkind behavior to me when she sees it in a movie or at the playground and says things like, "[Blank] is being mean! That's not very good!" When I point out to her that her behavior isn't kind she is quick to tell me, "But I am nice and kind!" and then we talk about what we can do that would be better - what would be kinder. I make a big deal about it when she shares with her little sister without being asked, when she shows she is thinking about other people, when she thanks me for the yummy dinner even though she hasn't actually tried it yet and might not.


It's easy to think about yourself. It's especially easy for a preschooler to only think about herself, because her brain just hasn't developed all the way yet and she just hasn't developed that much empathy yet, and it's easy to just ignore children's inability to be kind and assume that they'll just grow out of it - which I suppose to some extent they probably will. But the more I talk to my daughter about kindness, the more I realize that how important it is, and how effective it is even though I know some things will come better with age. She talks better and better each day. She's starting to recognize letters. She's getting stronger and more agile and more beautiful every day. But the thing that matters most to me is that she's also getting better at being kind. I can see a difference already, and she has so much time to learn to be really kind and wonderful. Maybe someday she'll be the one stopping to help someone broken down by the side of the road, reminding them that even though things are bad right now, it will be okay - because people are kind. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

In My Own Little Corner

When I was a little girl one of my favorite movies was Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinerella. The Lesley Ann Warren version, not the Brandy version (which was wonderful, but as a small child I was confused that a white king and a black queen sired an Asian son).

My favorite scene wasn't Cinderella's transformation, or the ball, or the happily ever after ending. No, I loved the scene where Cinderella, sad and dressed in rags, sang about her special corner in her home where no matter what else was going on, she could retreat to and find peace and happiness in her imagination.

Here is the clip if you aren't familiar. Go ahead and watch. I'll wait.


Wasn't it magnificent?

Guess what? Twenty years later, I too have my own little corner. Like Cinderella, I spend my days waiting on my families every need, cleaning the house, and other various homemaking tasks. Unlike Cinderella, I'm not mistreated and I don't mind it so much. The work of a mother is hard and often thankless, but I love my family and I'm happy to do it.

Every evening I retreat to my own little corner. It is actually the corner of my son's room. The lights go out and I lay my tired baby across my body and rock him to sleep while I nurse. Down the hall I can hear my husband reading stories to my daughters, or saying prayers with them. I can see into the hallway to my bookshelves.


Sometimes I'll think about the books I've been reading and how they live in my mind and change my heart. Sometimes I reflect on the day and all the things I've accomplished. It's a place where I take pride in the laundry that was folded, the meals that were prepared, the restraint I showed when my three-year-old drew on the walls, or the pride I felt to hear my five-year-old read books by herself.

I don't know why but for some reason that corner is my sacred sanctuary. I'm removed from the work, and I get to sit and enjoy the fruits of my labors. The best part about that corner, is the time I get with my sleeping son. The weight of his body, the smell of his skin...it is pure bliss. I think about all my babies, and how they slept in that room and how I rocked them to sleep. I think about a baby or babies who are waiting to come into our family someday, maybe.

I never think about the mistakes I made or the tasks I didn't get to. I never worry about the next day or the next week. I don't know why it is. I don't know why that spot in the house provides so much peace, but I love it. I almost always tear up when I'm sitting there, my heart too full with gratitude.

I hope that when I leave this stage of life where I'm rocking my babies to sleep I can find an equally peaceful and satisfying sanctuary. I worry I won't.

Do you have a little corner?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Luscious Locks: A New Mother's Irrational Views

The other day I read a blog post (that I can't find the link to, sorry) about a new mother's set of instructions for her babysitter, it was six pages long and ridiculous and neurotic and could have been written by me word for word at any time during Cooper's first year of life. It got me to thinking about all of the times that first time motherhood robbed me of all logic and reason.

Cooper took about two years to get any hair. One day my mom and I had a conversation about it-
Me: I can't believe it took Cooper two years to grow any hair!
Mom: Oh you thought he had hair like a year and a half ago. What did you used to call it?
Me: I did not!
Mom: Yes you did. Oh yeah, you called it his luscious locks.


Luscious locks you guys. And I was deadly serious.

I used to be EXTREMELY concerned with Cooper's sleep schedule. One time I started crying because I felt guilty that Josh and I had gone to see a movie at 8 p.m. and left Cooper with my mom and I was upset I had ruined Cooper's bedtime. Did I mention Cooper was like three months old and didn't really have a bedtime?

Or the time my mom offered to keep newborn Cooper for the night so Josh and I could sleep and I asked her not to make eye contact with him. I was very concerned with day and night confusion and had read some dumb thing somewhere about how babies take eye contact as a sign of daytime. Apparently I used to feed Cooper with my eyes closed...

When we moved to Washington my mom kept Cooper for three days while we drove our stuff here and unpacked. Every day I would call eight month old Cooper on the phone, not my mom, I would call to talk to Cooper. Multiple times a day. During which I would sob and tell him how much mommy loved him and not to worry we would be back together soon while Cooper sat and pushed buttons on the phone oblivious to the fact that he was talking to his mom because, you know, eight month olds can't conduct phone conversations.

Hypochondria also took advantage of my diminished reasoning skills during this time. Cooper was six months old before I went a whole month without taking him into the pediatrician. I don't remember all the diseases I thought he had but some of them were: a lazy eye (When he was a newborn no less. Don't all newborns have lazy eyes? Anyway I had the pediatrician write me a referral to see an opthamologist), asthma (I still kind of think he has asthma), scarlet fever, carbon monoxide poisoning, lead poisoning, measles, dehydration (this one included an ER trip where the ER doctor just stared at my happy, laughing baby and said, "nope."), botulism, every allergy there is, every developmental delay there is...

Also I tried to tell the pediatrician that my two month old was getting his bottom teeth. Spoiler alert: he was not.

The videos! Cooper recently found the videos on the iPhone and has been watching them when I realized that I took videos of the most mundane things! Like ten minute videos of him sleeping or a video of me reading a book to him, he not even doing anything, he's just sitting and listening to the book. Worse still, I emailed these boring videos to everyone I knew and expected everyone to be excited about them.

The hundreds of times I refused to go somewhere because Cooper was sleeping, or about to sleep, or there was the possibility of sleep on the horizon.

The time I tried to sign my one year old up for preschool.

When eating an egg gave Cooper a small rash one time and then I told everyone he was allergic to eggs and got mad at my mom for giving him a bite of a sandwich that had a minuscule amount of mayo on it and then I tried to take him to an allergist to get stuck with a million needles because I thought he had severe, life threatening food allergies.

I used to refuse to change lanes when Cooper fell asleep in the car for fear that crossing those raised bumps on the road would wake him up.

Wow. I was a mess.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gurl got SKILLZ

You'll have to excuse the title of this post. I feel like I have to counteract the geriatric nature of what I'm about to write with bad grammar and hooligan-eese.

I learned a new skill.

I've written before about the death of my grandmother late last summer, and how it broke my heart and colored my world. One of my grandma's favorite things was blankies. She wrote a blog post back in 2009 about the quilts she made each of her grandchildren. She also knitted a blankie for each of her great-grandchildren. I believe she knit seventeen in all before she passed away.  


Hannah with her blankie in 2009

Paige with her blankie in 2011

Samuel with his blankie in 2014. Granma started making Samuel's blanket before I became pregnant with him, and she kept saying, "I have a blue blankie with your name on it." she knew how badly I hoped for a son, and I think that blankie became a good luck charm. 

My brother and his wife announced her pregnancy two weeks before Granma passed away. The blankies were so precious to me, that one of my first thoughts after they announced was that their child wasn't going to be given the amazingly beautiful and precious gift. I knew that somehow I needed to learn how to knit. I would continue the tradition that she started with my own nieces and nephews.

The first thing you have to know about this project is: I don't have a crafty bone in my body. I hate/loathe/despise/abominate projects. In fact, projects is a dirty word to me. It's not in my nature, it's not anything I ever desired to learn. But I felt strongly that Granma wanted it. 

The problem was: how do I learn how to knit? There are various YouTube tutorials, and WikiHow articles, but nobody to answer the questions I had like: "Yeah, but how do I ACTUALLY do this?"

Enter: Sara.

I turned to Facebook to see if I had any talented friends who knew how to knit and would be willing to teach me. I discovered that a girl that I sort of knew in my area was extremely talented and very willing to be patient and teach me. I found a pattern that looked doable, and she told me the brand of yarn, size of the needles, and a various other materials.

Sara selflessly came to my house in two two-hour sessions one week. She taught me how to cast on, knit, purl, read a pattern, fix mistakes, and work patiently. The time passed quickly and pleasantly. As I cast the yarn onto my needles tears stung my eyes as I thought about Granma. I regretted that I hadn't asked her to teach me while she was alive. Somehow I knew she was with me, and she was pleased with the way I was trying to honor her.

For the next two months I spent every night working meticulously on a blanket for baby Jack. My hands became sore and tired, but got stronger as I persisted. It took me approximately three hundred hours, (or seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, several movies, and a season of BBC's Broadhurst...seriously, this blanket has been brought to you by grief, sentiment, and Netflix) the blanket was finally complete. Sara came over once more to teach me how to bind off and weave in the loose strands. I.was.done.

I loved creating this gift. I loved learning a new skill, I throughly enjoyed knitting and I look forward to the next  blankie for a new baby. I thought about my first nephew, imagined him wrapped up inside the soft folds, and fell in love with the boy I haven't met yet. The best part about the whole process was gaining a deeper appreciation of the beautiful baby blankets from my grandma. I felt her love and presence so acutely. I know she is watching over me. That she is proud of me. I couldn't have done it without her.
I asked my Sam to give it a test drive to make sure it wouldn't disintegrate upon use.  



Baby Jack Timothy Marsden wrapped in his auntie's love

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Five Things to Do After Work

I should really remove Apartment Therapy from my RSS subscriptions, but I haven’t yet, so I keep getting sucked in. Recently they posted their 5 things to do as soon as you are done with work for a happier evening.

They elaborate further, but essentially, their 5 things are:
  1. Put things where they belong 
  2. Check in, connect and center
  3. Cook an easy-to-make meal 
  4. Spend a little time on a hobby, habit or goal
  5. Prep for the next day
While their points are perfectly fine, they don't necessarily reflect your average person just coming off of a day's work, so I drafted my own list.

Here are my 5 things to do when you get home from work (in order of importance, mostly...):
  1. Take off your work pants and put on sweatpants. This is definitely #1. No question. Switching from "school clothes" to "play clothes" means you can handle whatever happens to come up (and in comfort!): cooking, cleaning, sitting around and watching Hulu... Anything.
  1. Breathe. You just finished a day at work where you challenged yourself, did something new, and helped people (directly or indirectly). Even if you have to do this in the car before you head inside, just breathe. You’ve already accomplished something today. Whatever else happens or does (or does not) get done, you’ve got that -- now, take a breath and go put on your sweatpants already!
(You get your choice: Faith Hill, Pearl Jam, or Michelle Branch...)

  1. Check your mailbox (not your email, but your realmail). Because sometimes there is real mail. Mail from someone you care about to tell you they are thinking of you. It’s worth checking if only for that reason. (Oh, and recycle that junk mail right away. Ugh, junk mail is the worst.)
  1. Eat some sort of food at a reasonable hour as a meal if you are hungry. Does it have to be exquisite? No. does it have to be healthy? Not necessarily. Does it have to be a "real meal?" Not unless you want it to be. Do you have to like it? No, but that usually helps.
  1. Think about someone else. This could be someone you live with (your partner, child/children, roommate); this could be someone in your family; this could be a colleague; this could be a friend you’ve not seen for a year; it could be someone you’ve only met once. Think of them, because when you’re thinking of others, that’s when true inspiration and good comes about. You could think of ways to help someone, think of something they might be interested in, something that makes them smile, something that brings them comfort. Even if you just think of one other person during your “down time,” that’s more than a lot of other people do their entire day. And thinking often turns to action, and that’s a good thing too.