Archives for September 2010

My Dreams, Myself

It’s Thursday and I’m Crafting my Life! September’s theme is relationships. Because having the right people in our corner can make all the difference. In the last few weeks I talked about sharing your dreams with the people you meet, sharing your dreams with your partner, sharing your dreams with your family and sharing your dreams with your children. This week I’m going to get all touchy-feely and talk about how your dreams affect your relationship with yourself.

Self-esteem is a loaded phrase. Self love is also a loaded phrase, and as an extra bonus it’s rife with double entendre. You know what I mean, don’t make me spell it out for you. Ahem. Anyway, in spite of the loaded-ness, we all want to feel good about ourselves. Many of us wish that we felt better about ourselves than we do. Our own self-doubts and negative self-talk can really interfere with our happiness and our self-motivation, which is no fun.

Your self-esteem issues can become even bigger when you start stepping outside your comfort zone and asking yourself what it is that you really dream of. Mine can, anyways. I start singing the old familiar tune of who do I think I am, anyway and I don’t have what it takes and I should really just be happy with what I already have. It’s my lizard brain, trying to protect me from danger. Imaginary danger, most likely, but it doesn’t know that. It’s not that smart.

But that’s only half the story. The other half of the story is that when I start dreaming and following my heart, I feel an amazing tingly feeling that lets me know I’m on to something big. Granting myself the freedom to do the things that I love, the things that I feel good about doing and the things that feed my soul is amazingly awesome. It reminds me who I am – a pretty cool person who can do a whole lot of stuff. The creative power of dreams fill me with positivity about the world, about others and about myself.

For me, there’s always this tension in dreaming. There’s the really great side where everything is possible because I rock. And there’s the not so great side where I don’t even know what I’m thinking and I’m worried that I’m being silly and irresponsible and naive. I vacillate between these poles, sometimes spending a lot of time on one side, sometimes spending a lot of time on the other. And sometimes just feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work on my plate and the fact that my toddler kept me up the last 3 nights and I have a birthday party to plan and all that jazz.

But what does this really mean? There’s always tension in life, always good and bad, always up and down. So how does dreaming really affect my relationship with myself? Is any of this really any different than the ups and downs I experienced when I was living a much more conventional life in a cubicle?

There are differences. Big ones. And here’s what it all comes down to for me. When I’m following my heart, I’m more in tune with myself. I am doing things that I choose to do. Yes, those have downsides, just like anything else. But they’re downsides I chose. They’re the compromises I make because they good in them outweighs the bad for me. And as I work through the negativity – what Havi would call the stuck – I come out of it even better-equipped to pursue my dreams. It’s not just about putting my head down and getting through something and hoping that Friday gets here soon, it’s about building a life and a self that really fits me.

Because I’m calling the shots (mostly), I feel more at home in my skin now than I have almost ever. I am forming a more authentic relationship with myself, and it’s a good thing. Not a perfect thing, of course. But good all the same. Works in progress can still be good. After all, we’re all works in progress, all of us, all the time. Awesomely imperfect and miraculous works in progress. With lizard brains and neuroses and fears and ideals. And maybe no buns of steel.

Who needs buns of steel, anyway? They’d probably just be uncomfortable to sit on. Am I right, or am I right?

How does dreaming affect your relationship with yourself or others? I’d love to hear! I’d also love it if you would play along in my link-up. Include a link to a post you’ve written anytime in the past about relationships, and dreaming, and following your heart.

Toothiness

Do you ever feel like all the big changes happen at once? Like you’re buying a house and you’re pregnant and your husband is starting a new job, WHAM! Wake up tomorrow, and your life is different.

I have often felt this way myself. Like the year I got engaged, graduated from university, got my first job, quit karate, started Girl Guides and bought my first car. Flick a switch, things have changed.

Hannah lost her first baby tooth
Hannah’s baby tooth

Right now is one of those big change times for my 5-year-old Hannah. She learned to swim, started kindergarten and started soccer all in the course of a month or so. She got the first of her 6 year molars, and her first loose tooth. First, first, first. Change, change, change. Not a preschooler anymore, now she’s a kindergartner and here is the new order of things. Of course, change is constant with children, but it does feel like this month has been more change-y than usual.

Of the various changes, the loose tooth has been the biggest deal. Not because I have some sort of weird tooth thing, but because it has merited constant, continual discussion from Hannah. She did not enjoy having a loose tooth. It freaked her out. It bled a bit sometimes, and made eating awkward. She told me she was too young to have a loose tooth, and she wanted it to stop wiggling. There was a whole lot of angst over the loose tooth.

See the missing tooth?
Hannah shows off the new gap

Finally, a couple of weeks after the first wiggle the tooth fell out. And then, blink, things changed. Suddenly Hannah had something to show for all the wiggling and the awkward eating. Her tooth is like a medal, an emblem of her accomplishment. She can’t wait to leave it for the tooth fairy, but she also doesn’t want to give it away. Right now it’s in a little container that she’s carting around to show people. Her classmates. Her grandparents. Anyone who will listen.

Suddenly, the tooth fairy is a big topic of conversation. How much will she leave? What will she do with the tooth? How does she get in the house, anyway? Sadly, I don’t have many answers. I am weak in tooth fairy lore, and a quick survey on Twitter told me that there are a lot of different answers to tooth fairy questions. Perhaps teeth are fabulously multi-purpose, so there is no single use for them. Or perhaps the tooth fairy is just very secretive.

Checking out the lost tooth
Hannah carting around her tooth in a container

Eventually, Hannah will stop carting around her lost tooth and leave it under her pillow. And then I have to decide what to do next. Do I keep the tooth, as a memento of my daughter’s childhood? Or do I toss it, because lost teeth are kind of gross? I have mixed feelings about it. I waffled in the same way over my babies’ umbilical stumps, which my husband insisted on tossing. In retrospect, I see his point. But I’m waffling again, all the same.

So, help a mama out, would you? What does the tooth fairy do with teeth? Where does she live, and how does she get in? And are you a tooth keeper, or a tooth tosser? I need answers!

PS – As you may know, I have started including a link-up with my monthly reviews. The reviews are an informal listing of a few things I learned in the past month. My August review will go live at 6am Pacific on Saturday, October 2. If you want to play along, write a post on or before October 2, come here, and link up!

Scaling the Mountain

I live at the bottom of a mountain. I do not mean this metaphorically, I mean this literally. This is the nature of my city – mountain peaks soar over it. Houses climb up the sides of these mountains – the high rent district, where there are fabulous views and possibly treacherous commutes on snow days. Where you can sometimes escape above the clouds and rain blanketing the citizens who live at lesser altitudes.

My neighbourhood in particular is located right in the spot where things transition abruptly from “not-mountain” to “mountain”. A few blocks from my house it is suddenly all very much “hill”. And Hannah’s school sits at the top. It is not that far, really, the uphill stretch. Maybe a block – but a block at a pretty impressive grade. Let me tell you that when you’re pushing a 2-year-old in a stroller (that he’s always trying to escape from) and trying to prod a 5-year-old along it feels far. Far and steep.

Twice every weekday I make the trip up that hill – once to drop Hannah off at kindergarten and once to pick her up. I always have Jacob in the stroller. And we are always in a rush. Because somehow, we are always running late by the time we get to the bottom of the hill. And as I break into a sweat 1/3 of the way up, I start cursing this twist of geography.

“If there must be a hill, why could the school not be at the bottom of it? You’re never in a rush leaving the school, but you’re always in a rush coming. If I had to walk uphill to get home I could take my time. Maybe pause for water breaks. And when I really needed to run it would be downhill and gravity would be my friend instead of my fricking mortal enemy. That’s right, gravity, you’re my enemy right now. I’m on to you. Wait, was that the bell? Crap! I hate this hill!

Only it doesn’t really sound that way in my head. It sounds more gaspy.

“Puff puff puff wheeze cough! Gah! Puff puff. I. Puff puff. Hate. Puff puff. Really. Puff Gasp! Hate. Puff. Stupid! Puff. Hill! Puff puff. Why. Puff. Can’t school. Puff puff puff. Be bottom? Cough! Bell! Puff puff. Hate bell. WHEEEEZE!”

One day on the way to school I told Hannah that the hill haunted my dreams. Which is not untrue. I’m sure it’s good for me and I’ll get the much-sought-after buns of steel from climbing it, but that freaking hill mocks me and my stroller-pushing self every time I climb it. I’m all out of breath and sweaty by the time I get to the top. I have to take a moment to recover if I need to talk to Hannah’s teacher, or else my words are all unintelligible and she gets the concerned face and employs calming techniques. It’s not a good sign when someone starts employing calming techniques on you.

Still, I probably should not have shared this tidbit with Hannah. Because now every day she asks me if we can drive to school. Really, we could. I have a car. And since she arrives in the middle of the day, there isn’t a crush of parents in the car pool lane all vying for a spot. But I committed to walking. I committed to walking because it’s better for the planet and it’s better for us. I committed to walking because I took the bus to school and of course I always wanted to be able to walk. I committed to walking to get us all outdoors and taking part in our neighbourhood. And yet, as she proposes driving I question that commitment.

So far, I’ve kept with the walking plan. But it’s early days yet – I’ve only had to walk in the rain once. Come November, I wonder if I’ll be singing a different tune. Or maybe I’ll get better at scaling that mountain and I’ll run up it blithely in my galoshes, inclement weather be damned. Probably not, though. I do very few things blithely, especially in galoshes. Although I do love to say galoshes, I don’t really like to wear them.

So, tell me. Are there any hills that haunt your dreams? Any peaks that you have had to scale that tortured you and caused you to curse your very existence? And did you ever get the much-sought-after buns of steel? Tell me, I need to know.

September’s Crafting my Life series is about relationships. On the last Thursday of the month, which just happens to be 2 days from now, I will include a link up. To participate, write a post on creativity anytime in September, or track down a post you’ve written on the subject sometime in the past, and add yourself to the list. Then read everyone else’s ideas and thoughts and be inspired! Check out the link-ups from January, February and March to get a feel for how it works.

It’s Hard to be the Little Brother

My 2-year-old Jacob is like a lot of second children. He spends his days trying to keep up with his big sister Hannah. He repeats what she says, mimics what she does and tries to insinuate himself on her play any way he can.

Because he’s her little brother, his efforts to join in with Hannah’s play are frequently successful. He’s Toto to her Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, and Chip to her Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Jacob is fairly easy-going, so usually goes along with whatever Hannah’s doing. As the mother of both of these children, I encourage them to incorporate each other into their play. Because, quite frankly, everyone wins when they entertain each other.

Hannah showing her soccer moves
Big sister Hannah in her soccer uniform – sadly, Jacob’s too young to play

Unfortunately, though, there are things that Hannah does that Jacob can’t. She goes to swimming lessons in the big pool and she’s joined a soccer team and she climbs trees and she goes to kindergarten. When I bring Jacob along to Hannah’s activities he gamely trots after her until I bar his way, and then his easy-going facade drops and he behaves like the 2-year-old he is. He is mortally offended when he is treated like a baby, kept on the sidelines, not allowed to participate.

Even more unfortunately, not everyone that Jacob encounters is as willing to play with him as his big sister. But he doesn’t know that. So when we’re at the park or on the schoolyard and a bunch of 8-year-old boys are playing soccer, he makes his way over and tries to join in. Frequently, the big kids don’t even notice him and his attempts to play along. And when they do, they either look around imploringly for someone to get this baby out of the way, or they break up the game because they can’t play around him.

Jacob making off with a soccer ball
Jacob has a ball, and now he just needs someone to play with

Sometimes I try to play with Jacob myself. I bring a ball of our own and kick it to him. He wants none of that. At Hannah’s first soccer practice he ran off with one of the balls, which was OK because there were lots extra. Then he brought that ball to every man who appeared promising to him. He was in search of a playmate, and apparently his mom was not a good option. And I can’t really blame him – my soccer is definitely sub-par. He needs a good teacher, not the woman whose lowest grades were always in gym class.

There’s really no solving the problem of Jacob wanting to join in on games that he’s not ready for. And I wouldn’t really want to solve it, anyway. I love that he’s so playful and outgoing, ready to jump in and take part in what everyone else is doing. I also know that eventually he will learn the social norms of who is “OK” to play with and he will develop enough skill to join in on more games. I also know that watching Jacob try to join in and fail bothers me far more than it bothers him. So I need to let my own issues go.

Jacob practices his soccer
With no good playmates, Jacob practices his moves on his own

Until Jacob outgrows this stage, I’ll be the mom chasing her 2-year-old off the soccer field, dragging her reluctant toddler out of the pool area and apologizing to random 9-year-olds when my son runs off with their ball in an effort to join in the game. I’m also the mom bursting with pride at her exuberant offspring, who is not even the slightest bit concerned about his own limitations or his smallness compared to all the other kids. He may be too little to climb trees, but he is hugely awesome in my book.

Has your second (or third or fourth) child struggled to keep up with their older sibling? How did you handle that? And how did your child? Tell me all about it!

Posh Play Clothes

When Hannah was around 18 months old she started expressing Opinions about her clothing. No longer content to let me choose, she discarded the outfits I carefully laid out in favour of something pinker, sparklier, frillier. The adorable green capri pants? No way. Pants in general? No way. Hannah wanted dresses and skirts and tights with glittery stars on them and lots and lots of frou frou.

I made my peace with my daughter’s love of all things girly. I decided that the important thing was that being girly was her free choice, and not something that I imposed on her. And so I stopped buying gender-neutral colours and gave in to the Pepto Bismol hue that Hannah’s closet attained. I like pink myself – it’s just a colour. No need to make it the enemy.

Hannah, soaking wet & sandy
Hannah decided to wear this outfit to the beach at age 4 1/2

Hannah may dress the part of a Disney Princess, but thankfully she doesn’t act like one. She is every bit as active and playful in her fancy Christmas dress as her more sedately-dressed peers. She climbs trees in sparkly shoes and rides her bike in velvet. She gets her best dress covered in sand and then just shrugs when it won’t come out. Hannah feels that clothes are meant to be worn – especially fancy ones.

Teeter-tottering
Different Christmas dress, same beach / playground at age 5

Every daycare and school that Hannah has attended included a note in the welcome package that stated we should send children in play clothes. The teachers didn’t want to be responsible for keeping 3-year-olds and their fancy clothes clean, and I understand that. Kids need to be able to get dirty sometimes. Early on, I actually tried to follow this rule, because heaven knows that I love a good rule. Even though I was cool with Hannah covering her fancy clothes in paint, I was worried that her teachers wouldn’t be.

Hannah climbing
Up a tree at age 5

Eventually, I gave up my efforts to dress Hannah ‘appropriately’. This kid has her own sense of style. Yes, those colours may clash to any objective adult observer. I may cringe at the brown stains on the knees of the brand-new pink pants with ruffles, or at the way that she tosses out the shirt I bought her. But this is not about me. This is about my daughter, and she is fabulous. Fabulously herself, wearing just what she chooses. Not letting it hold her back.

Really, if you think about it, maybe I could learn something from her. Fashion should be fun, right? Perhaps I should stop worrying so much about matching and worry more about what I enjoy. I’ve worn black shoes for long enough – time for some colour. We’ll see where I go from there.

What do you think? Do you embrace all things fancy, or are you all caught up on not being a fashion don’t? And what are your kids like? Tell me all about it!

Synthetic Clothing – Friend or Foe?

My father had this thing where he would only wear 100% cotton clothing. No poly-blend was allowed to touch him. At the time, as a 12-year-old, I rolled my eyes in his general direction. I was way more concerned with how fashionable an item appeared to be than what it was made out of. Somewhat ironic, really, as my definition of ‘fashionable’ included copious amounts of green mascara. Green was my signature colour, don’t you know.

Now, as an adult, I prefer to wear natural fibres myself – cotton and wool, mostly, with the occasional bit of linen thrown in. I bought some bamboo for my kids, as well, before I became convinced that bamboo is not as green as it claims to be. I like the feel of these fibres – the way that cotton breathes, the smell and warmth of wool, the crisp cool-ness of linen. And I have an idea that they are more sustainable than their synthetic cousins. But is that really true? I decided to do some digging to see what I could find.

Cotton, which is probably the most common fiber found in clothing, has a lot going for it. It’s easy to care for, it’s breathable, and because it’s a plant product it’s renewable and biodegradable. But it does have some environmental downsides. For one thing, it takes a lot of water to grow cotton. For another, according to Wikipedia cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop. Conventionally-grown cotton may also use genetically-modified seed. However, it is possible to avoid pesticides and genetically-modified crops by buying organic cotton, which is becoming more widely available.

Wool production has a significant environmental impact as well – from the medications and chemicals used on the sheep (sheep dip, anyone?) to the land cleared for grazing to the waste that sheep produce. Again, you can reduce some of the impact by opting for organic wool, but it will never be eliminated. Whenever we’re talking about harvesting a product for human use, it will affect the world in some way.

This all sounds rather gloomy. So let’s pick on two synthetic fibres now to compare – polyester and acrylic.

Originally, polyester fibre was made from coal, air, water, and petroleum. However, in recent years advancements have been made and increasing volumes of polyester are made from downcycled plastic bags. Either way, polyester is made from petroleum products, which are not renewable or biodegradable. This means that, somehow or another, that fleece blanket that I love so much is going to be around for a long, long time. And it takes a lot of energy to manufacture – about twice as much as cotton for virgin polyester, and 65% more for downcycled polyester.

Nylon is similarly problematic. It is also made from coal, and uses a variety of toxic chemicals in its manufacture. It is not bio-degradable, and there is no infrastructure for recycling (or, more likely, downcycling) it.

Environmental impacts of manufacture aside, there are other issues with synthetic fibres. They don’t breathe well, which is why women are told to wear cotton undergarments. Some people are also allergic to synthetic fibres like acrylic and nylon. Cotton, on the other hand, is hypoallergenic, although some people do find wool irritating. And some synthetic fibres, like PVC, are known to release suspected carcinogens. Plus, frankly, most synthetic fibres just don’t feel as good.

In the end, I think the most environmentally friendly choice is to buy second-hand when possible, and take care of your clothes so that they last you as long as possible. Reducing consumption pretty much always comes out ahead when we’re talking about the environment. Beyond that, I personally will choose natural fibres over synthetic fibres when I can, and opt for cotton and wool that have been produced sustainably. And when I’m done with my clothes, I’ll pass any items that still have some life in them on to my local thrift store to keep them out of the landfill.

What kind of fabrics do you prefer in your clothes? Are you more concerned with fashion, or comfort, or ease of care? And do you consider the environmental impact of your clothing choices? Please share!

I was inspired to write this post for the Green Moms Carnival, which is being hosted by the amazing Diane of Big Green Purse on the 27th. Drop by her blog then for some more thoughts on sustainable clothing choices.

Child of my Dreams

It’s Thursday and I’m Crafting my Life! September’s theme is relationships. Because having the right people in our corner can make all the difference. In the last few weeks I talked about sharing your dreams with the people you meet, sharing your dreams with your partner and sharing your dreams with your family. This week I’m talking about dreaming with your children.

Children are natural dreamers. They live in a world that is bursting with possibility. They aren’t limited by the practical considerations of adults, like bills and laundry and completing paperwork fully and on time. They have us to take care of those things for them. We make sure that the car is insured and fueled up and paid for, and then we drive them around in it. They are free to look out the window and see shapes in the clouds.

Any parent knows we can learn a lot from our children. They can inspire us and give us a whole new perspective on the world. They can teach us how to dream. When you free yourself from the confines of adulthood and look at the world through your children’s eyes, you can see a whole lot more possibility. And that possibility is actually no less real than your mortgage or your bank account balance. In fact, in many ways, it is more real.

We extend the courtesy of dreaming to children, encouraging them to play and use their imaginations and follow their passions. I think that we should extend the same courtesy to ourselves. We are no less deserving of passion simply because we are older. It’s true that we do have more to consider, but it is possible to be a dreamer and be a responsible parent, too. Dreaming and imagining aren’t irresponsible or selfish acts – they are creative acts, which contribute to the world.

Depending on what makes you tick, you may find it easy or difficult to incorporate your children into your dreaming. For example, my 5-year-old is of an age now where I can do a lot of sewing with her. But writing? Not such a kid-friendly activity. So I try to set aside time when I’ll be on my own to do my writing, and time with my kids to pursue passions that I can involve them in – gardening, exploring nature or baking. Sometimes I need more alone time than others, and I strive to balance my need to work with my children’s need for me. It’s an ongoing process, with constant adjustments. But it’s worth it.

You see, I’ve discovered that I’m a better parent when I have a creative outlet of my own. And my children benefit, too. They’re learning that everyone matters – including me. They’re seeing that it’s always OK to follow your heart, no matter your age. And I’m re-energizing myself by doing things that I enjoy, so that I’m ready to play with them and be present with them when they need me. It is a constantly evolving equation and I never get it quite right. But I believe that if I sincerely try, it will be enough.

As awesome as dreaming is, there are some limits to what you should share with your kids. For example, my husband and I like to browse real estate websites and imagine the lives we would live in the houses that we see. We have no plans to move, not at all. But when my 5-year-old sees us, she finds it upsetting. She draws pictures of the houses we’re looking at with big red Xs over them. She wants to feel secure in our home. And so we give her that – we do our real estate browsing when she’s asleep. Once again, we’re engaging in the tentative balancing act of parenting.

I hope that I am setting a good example for my children in my dreaming. I hope that I am respecting everyone and building a happy childhood. I suppose that only time will really tell. But in the meantime, I continue to believe that living with passion is a happier way to parent. And so I strive to do just that – whether I’m making dinner or walking my daughter to kindergarten or writing while my children sleep. But just now, I hear Jacob stirring, so I will shift my balance again and attend to him.

What about you? How does parenting inform your dreaming? And how does dreaming inform your parenting? Please tell me about it!

September’s Crafting my Life series is about relationships. On the last Thursday of the month, which just happens to be the 30th, I will include a link up. To participate, write a post on creativity anytime in September, or track down a post you’ve written on the subject sometime in the past, and add yourself to the list. Then read everyone else’s ideas and thoughts and be inspired! Check out the link-ups from January, February and March to get a feel for how it works.

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