Beautiful Lessons of 2012

I love the Leonie Dawson Create Your Year Workbooks. One of the questions asks you to think about the lessons you’ve learned in 2012. Here are mine:

  • Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional (a lesson from 2011 that I’ve kept learning!).
  • I work best with a glass of water, a mug of tea, a meal just eaten or a snack at hand, and a timer. It also helps to have a list.
  • My fears and anxieties are my responsibility.
  • I feel better when I don’t judge my feelings, and instead accept them and forgive myself.
  • Look for God in the details of everyday life
  • Pay attention to how feelings feel in my body
  • The Holy Spirit is the Universe that everyone talks to, and vice versa.
  • Problems are a normal part of life, and worthy challenges to be met.
  • Manifesting = discernment
  • Intelligence is malleable — I can get better at something by trying at it!
  • I can define success for myself.
  • I spend money is an (usually) ill-guided attempt to be prepared.
  • I should take control by making decisions to influence outcomes.
  • Relationships are about interdependence.
  • Committing to something meaningful is important.

Shame and the Mommy Silo

Important Background Information: My daughter loves to wipes surfaces. She likes to wipe down the whiteboard, getting rid of all the

Industrious, this one.

marks. She likes to wipe tables,

pretending to clean up. She likes to do this with boogie wipes, disposable baby wipes, and if she has to, a tissue or other dry cloth.

The story: My daughter had pooped. I put the changing pad on the floor so she could have some agency, at 20 months, in the changing process. I wiped her, and put on a clean diaper.  I got her dressed for bed. I went to wash my hands. She still had some time before bed, so I let her play by herself, not worrying about where she was.

The next thing I know, my daughter is wiping surfaces. I didn’t give her a wipe, so I go to investigate, and find that she has taken a wipe out of the diaper I had stupidly left on the floor. I had made a parenting mistake in my haste to wash my hands. Oops. So I take the old wipe away, wash her hands, give her a clean wipe, and wash my hands. I’m a little concerned, because I can’t find the diaper where I left it, but it doesn’t bother me — it’ll turn up. I post on Facebook about it because I feel it’s right to be honest and vulnerable about the mistakes that you make when you’re parenting, especially when you tend to share the stories that you find inspiring and beautiful, like I do. (And sometimes you complain. It’s a continuum and balance.)

All the comments were about how disgusted they are. Someone sticks their tongue out at me, someone says they puked a little in their mouth, another that it was TMI. And I felt shame. I was ashamed that I had been absent minded, that my daughter had some something unintentionally disgusting. Shame is silencing.

I deleted the post. And then I got mad. I ranted to my friend (and cousin) Scroogy. She reassured me. And then I wrote this post.

All parents make mistakes. But we don’t talk about them. We don’t talk about them because we’re afraid that our mistakes will make us unfit parents.  If we’re honest about

them with other people, we’re being vulnerable — and the people who commented did not respect my vulnerability.

The Moral: Shame and fear put us into silos where we feel all alone as mothers and caregivers. We constantly worry that we’re not good enough. I feel a sense of responsibility to share my experiences so that people don’t feel that they’re alone, but it is so hard. It is so hard when people who are supposed to be your family and friends, your supporters and cheerleaders, decide that your reality is too much for them.

I’m saying no to that.

I’m going to tell you about my depression, in all of its darkness and worry and anxiety and fear.

I’m going to tell you about my mistakes, in all of their grossness and pain and horror.

And I’m going to tell you about the beautiful things in life, and the ones that make me proud.

Because you know what? My daughter picked up her diaper off the floor and threw it away. That’s why I couldn’t find it, and that’s how she found the wipe — she was cleaning up after herself. I am damn proud of that, even if the pride is wrapped up in the embarrassment of a yucky thing she did.

I am going to keep telling my vulnerabilities, so other people out there don’t feel so alone. I hope you do too.

Current Bedtime Stories at Our House

Cover of "Goodnight Moon"

Cover of Goodnight Moon

Currently our bedtime rotation is Hello Washington DC!, The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! and I Love You Through and Through. Same three books every night over and over because that’s comforting and it helps her know what happens next.

“DC,” as Rocketship calls the first book, is great because it has lots of objects she can identify. She points out Obama (a racial ambiguous presidential figure standing on the White House Balcony), eggs (on the White House lawn), flowers (cherry blossoms), books (Library of Congress), boots and train (there’s a page about riding the metro when it rains), ball and kite (on the national mall), and various animals (at the national zoo). It’s fun, because when she’s older, we’ll get to tell her that she actually visited all of those places!

We love the Pigeon books, and I love that this one is a really simple concept she seems to understand — that if you want something, you should ask for it. If your friend wants something, you should share it. And she laughs when the pigeon says, “Hubba-what?” when he realizes the duckling is sharing his cookie (SPOILERS.)

And I Love You Through and Through is a bedtime story because of the line, “I love you when you’re angry.” I bought it when I bought her her big girl bedding, because I knew she would get angry at us for doing a modified cry-it-out with her. We loved her through that transition, even though it was hard for all involved.

However, if I had to read one story for bedtime each night forever and ever, I think it would be Goodnight Moon. I just love the sense of calm and peace it gave me as a child, and I hope it would do also for my daughter. (The copy in our house was actually gifted to me as a Big Sister gift in 1989.)

How a bedsharing mama and dada ended up ferberizing

Rocketship started school the first week in September, the same as mommy (i.e., me). She entered a Montessori Toddler classroom, her first time being cared for in an institutional setting for more than an hour and a half (though, I’m not sure that the church nursery really counts as “institutional”).

The first week was great — the teachers told me how much they loved having her in class, loved her personality. The second and third weeks, she came down with a cold, and ran a fever on and off, becoming sluggish and not quite herself. The fourth week, she cried every nap time. And that Wednesday, the last day of school for the week, we were told that Rocketship cried so long and so hard that she woke up the other children. They didn’t mind that Rocketship wasn’t sleeping, though they wanted her to, but it was a problem that she was keeping 8 other children from having their nap.

Rocketship was sent home with a note. I called it a kind, positive riot act, which told us that for our daughter to get the most out of her classroom community, she would need to learn to be more independent. That would mean that mom and dad would have to change their behaviors. We would have to carry her less, and have her sleep by herself.

I sprang into action. Right after receiving the note, Rocketship and I went shopping for her big girl bed. I let her pick out sheets and a blanket and a pillow for her big girl bed. I helped her pick out big girl pjs. I helped her pick out a special big girl bedtime book. And we moved the Montessori floor bed (that she has never slept on, but played on often) out of the nursery to master bedroom we had all been sharing since she was born.

My partner and I knew that Rocketship was probably ready for this, and had been talking about it. But we weren’t ready. We liked having her in our bed, our little snuggle bug. We liked her relying on us for comfort, and her being with us. But now that had to change.

That night, we did the bedtime routine, with the addition of three stories (including the new special big girl bedtime book) and nursing with the lights on. I laid her down, and tucked her in, and walked out of the room. The door was left open, but we had a baby gate on the door so she couldn’t run out to us. And she cried. We did “gradual extinction” — I went in after 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes until she fell asleep without us. An hour later, she fell asleep leaning against the baby gate, and I led her to her bed, where she slept through the night.

I was sad after she fell asleep. She did it all by herself, as a big girl, even if it was hard and we had to help her.

A couple of people have asked me how it felt to have a teacher tell us to change our parenting techniques, and I have to say that I was resistant at first. One of the first notes home that hinted at a problem asked us to pick her up less when she was whining — which I was indignant about doing. “Why would I want to not respond to my child’s communications?!” I asked. So I didn’t do anything different.

But, when it became clear that Rocketship’s behaviors were affecting other children, I sprang into action, even though the same advice was offered. Why?

Because one of our family values is responsibility. This is a reference to the story by Harlan Ellison called Paladin of the Lost Hour. We view responsibility — cleaning up after ourselves, behaving correctly according to the situation — as a bridge to respect. That’s how we can respect ourselves and others, by being responsible.

Rocketship needs to act responsibly at school — she needs to behave correctly. And as her parents, we need to help her do that. And in that sense, the note home from the teacher wasn’t about changing our parenting techniques so much as reminding us about our values.

Magpie Mind

I am a magpie when it comes to projects.

Today, I would have to admit that I am in the middle of:

  • Reorganizing my kitchen, so that the pantry is more easily accessible (hoping to minimize food waste)
  • Considering making a Halloween Costume for myself, so that I can be a mommy octopus to my baby octopus (which I also made, but it is finished!)
  • I’m in the middle of the Mondo Beyondo e-course
  • Planning to turn our front closet into a mini-mudroom with benches and hooks so that we have a better place to put our stuff
  • Grad School (I always discount this as a project)
  • A tradition book, so that we don’t have to reinvent the holidays every year

And actually, I am probably in the middle of more, but I would have to REMEMBER them at the moment.

This is something that actually always bothered me about myself. I thought myself a failure because I couldn’t concentrate on something for an extended period of time. Did I have no commitment? No follow through?

Here are some things that have helped me:

  • Work for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes (from UfyH). These are referred to in short hand as 20-10s. It makes it easier for me to resist checking tumblr or twitter during the work period, if I know I have a time scheduled for it later.
  • Having a list of the most important projects, so I can pick and choose what is most important at any given moment, and maybe even get ahead with some of them.
  • Having permission to dream and collect ideas. Pinterest is perfect for this for me — I’m gathering inspiration for the mini mudroom as well as all the holidays for the tradition book as well as for potty training, which I know will have to begin soonish.
  • Having all the supplies for the project all in one place, so I could pick it up, work on it, then put it down and away for a few days in a nice, safe spot. This worked for Rocketship’s Halloween costume, and it’s working for the tradition book too.

Something that I used to think of as a weakness — having lots of things going on at once, seemingly without focus — is turning out to be a strength for me. I’m really enjoying doing things, and having an interesting variety.

What do you guys do to make sure that you get what you want done?

 

That One Piece of Paper: Step 6

 

Step five is all about where I would want to live and work. That particular question is one that needs to be answered as a family, and in order to give us more time to do the exercise, I decided to skip ahead to something that was easy to finish.

Step six is all about your place in the world. It’s about why you’re here. It’s everything existential boiled down into a simple ranking exercise. The question posed says, “What goals or purposes would you most enjoy setting your energies to?”

The book makes an interesting point that we all have our own talents, gifts, and skills. However, it’s a different question as to what we want to accomplish with those skills. Do you use your powers for good? Or evil? (Of course, that’s a matter of perspective.) The book says, “[Your Skills] can be made to serve any goal or value you choose.”

What values do you have in your life? What do you want “the broad outcome of your life” to be? “What kind of footprint do you want to leave on this Earth, after your journey is done?”

The author lists nine, which I think is a pretty complete list:

  • Mind. When you are gone, do you want there to be more knowledge, truth, or clarity in the world, because you were here? If so, knowledge, truth, or clarity concerning what, in particular?
  • Body. Do you want there to be more fitness? Less physical suffering (i.e. more feeding of the hungry, more clothing of the poor, etc.)? What particular issue concerning the human body do you want to work on?
  • Eyes and other senses. Do you want there to be more beauty in the world? What kind of beauty?
  • Heart. Do you want there to be more love and compassion in the world?
  • The Will or Conscience. When you are gone, do you want there to be more morality, more justice, more righteousness, more honesty in the world, because you were here?
  • The Human Spirit. Do you want there to be more spirituality in the world, more love for the human family in all its diversity?
  • Entertainment. Do you want to be part of lightening people’s loads, giving perspective, more laughter, and joy? What kind of entertainment?
  • Possessions. Is the often false love of possessions your  major concern?
  • The Earth. Is the planet on which we stand your major concern? When you are gone, do you want there to be more protection of this fragile planet?

The process to sort them is the same that was used in the working conditions exercise — again, since the chart CLEARLY says copyrighted on it, I’m not going to show the chart or explain the process. But this is how my list turned out:

  1. Will/Conscience. I want there to be more justice. More righting of wrongs — there is no reason why someone should be hungry when there is enough.
  2. Heart. I want there to be more love, compassion, and acceptance. I think this really goes hand-in-hand with justice above.
  3. The Earth. I am convinced that climate change has already occurred, is occurring, and will continue to occur. I think that we are definitely past peak oil. We need to learn to adapt, and pull back. This is important.
  4. Mind. I want there to be more truth, knowledge, and clarity. This goes with my analytical side.
  5. Spirit. I want there to be more love for the human family. I care less about people worshiping God, and more about people doing the first two things on the list.
  6. Entertainment. I want there to be laughter and joy.
  7. Eyes/Senses. Beauty is important, sure.
  8. Possessions. I want people to be simpler (it’s one of my style statement words), and content with enough, but I dont’ think it’s a major concern.
  9. Body. While I care for suffering to end, I think the real task is justice. And while I think caring for our bodies is important, it’s not the broad goal of my life.

The instructions say to put your top three, in your own words, in a way that makes sense to you on your flower. Here’s mine.

 

That One Piece of Paper: Step 4

Step 4 is called, “What Level (Of Responsibility) do you Most enjoy working at, and at what salary?”

The instructions say:

Salary is something you must think out ahead of time, when you’re contemplating your ideal job or career. Level goes hand in hand with salary, of course.

1. The first question here is at what level you would like to work, in your ideal job? Level is a matter of how much responsibility you want, in an organization:

  • Boss or CEO (This may mean you’ll have to form your own business)
  • Manager or someone under the boss who carries out orders
  • The head of a team
  • A member of a team of equal
  • One who works in tandem with one other partner
  • One who works alone, either as an employee or as a consultant to an organization, or as a one-person business

Enter a two- or three-word summary of your answer, on the Level of Responsibility and Salary petal of your Flower Diagram.

This is easy. Having already noted that working by myself or with one other (occasionally) was miserable enough to end up on my working conditions list, the bottom two options are out. My summary on my flower will be: Manager, team leader, and/or a member of a team of equals.

However, salary is harder.

2. The second question here is what salary would you like to be aiming for?

Here you have to think in terms of minimum or maximum. Minimum is what you would need to make, if you were just barely “getting by.” And you need to know this before you go in for a job interview with anyone (or before you form your own business, and need to know how much profit you must make, just to survive).

Maximum could be any astronomical figure you can think of, but it is more useful here to put down the salary you realistically think you could make, with your present competency and experience, were you working for a real, but generous boss. (If this maximum figure is still depressingly low, then put down the salary you would like to be making five years from now.)

Make out a detailed outline of your estimated expenses now, listing what you need monthly […].

I could type you the list from the book, but that seems a little boring to me, and in my opinion, it wasn’t very complete. I like the list I found here after a little Google digging: Free Sample Monthly Budget Template. I wouldn’t download anything from that site, but I like the list.

I pulled out our YNAB4 budget, I asked Tim to pull out his pay stub, and I opened up our electronic bill pay and accounts to figure out how much we’ve been spending in each category, and filled out my spread sheet.

(Apologies with not sharing the numbers, but I am sensitive to potential comparisons.)

 

Next steps:

Multiply the total amount you need each month by 12, to get the yearly figure. Divide the yearly figure by 2000, and you will be reasonably near the minimum hourly wage that you need. […]

Parenthetically, you may want to prepare two different versions of the above budget: one with the expense you’d ideally like to make, and the other a minimum budget, which will give you what you are looking for, here: the floor, below which you simply cannot go.

My income from this career will be the second income in my family. We live comfortably on my partner’s income, and don’t have any interest in having more stuff, or “increasing” our standard of living (though, my knowledge of economics says that is inevitable). Having a small child, we’re going to incur the expense of child care when I work, which is my major concern with salary. And, it would be nice to lower our debt load, and save for emergencies, vacations, and retirement.

I need to work for personal security reasons — Working now will make sure that I have a good retirement income, either from savings or social security. Working is important, in case of the contingency that my husband dies, because entering the job market is difficult, especially after a long break. Also, knowing these numbers is critically important to valuing my own work. I deserve a salary for skilled, educated and qualified workers.

I decided, using math, and considering above, that my contribution salary would need to be approximately $40,000 per year at the low end. Using a little bit of research (on salary.com and cbsalary.com), I found that the upper quartile of people with “Program Assistant” jobs (which is a title I could have) is probably about $75,000.

[Aside: This is so privileged! I’m talking about making four to seven times the poverty level for one person ON TOP of the salary of my partner. Not only is it a privilege to know how much money you’re going to make in a year (i.e. not have to fight for hours), this is before/including benefits like paid vacation and insurance. We so need to put policies in place for the women who cannot make this choice between staying home and working, because working is an economic necessity.]

Finally, the book talks about an optional exercise in which you think about other rewards, besides money, that you hope for — nontangibles that can’t be converted to cash. These include: Adventure, popularity, intellectual stimulations from the other workers there, a chance to be creative, etc.

Adventure is one of my family values, so I’m going to add that to my flower. Intellectual stimulation from the other workers sounds like a nice benefit. And a chance to help others is important to me.
Now my flower looks like this:image