My Marriage’s Perpetual Lifesaver

I’m realizing now that this is the first time I’ve decided to write a post about my marriage, such a huge facet of my life! Truth be told, I’ve come to feel like talking about my marriage could, and probably would, bite me in the ass. There have been many times when I opened up to friends and family about my relationship, just to have them tell everyone else I know. On a few occasions, it got back to my husband, which embarrassed him deeply.

Obviously, facebook would like to have you believe that all of your friends have perfect marriages, but no one’s marriage is perfect at all. Of course the reason for this is that no one is perfect, and a marriage is made up of two people that are in constant flux, making mistakes, and trying to meet all of their goals and the expectations put upon them. With kids and careers in the mix, it’s easy to treat your other half as just another detail. Sometimes you mess up by forgetting a promise you made, other times you may say something that is completely unforgivable.

The main thing you absolutely need to work out any fuck up, no matter how big, is a common goal. If the identified common goal (a healthy marriage) is the major game plan, all the little details that make up an argument such as what was said, what was done, who was right and who was wrong are just minor things.

My husband and I actually started counseling when we were engaged and have been in counseling on and off ever since. I highly recommend it. Though we’ve only been married for 3 years, we’ve been friends and lovers for 7 years and have had our fair share of blowouts and pettiness. We’ve had public screaming fights, minor squabbles in the car, days upon days of begrudgingly ignoring each other. The one thing that has saved us each and every time has been something that I first saw when my parents went to counseling as a very young girl.

The counselor recommended to my mom and dad that they take turns holding the remote control to the TV with the rule that anyone who was holding the remote had total license to talk about how they felt. No one else was allowed to talk or interrupt them while they were holding the remote, and they were allowed to hold it as long as they wanted to. Even though my parents ended up getting divorced, this one silly tool made such an impression upon me that as an adult, when my counselor asked me to describe what the positive things my parent’s marriage taught me were or recall a time when they weren’t fighting, this was the one and only thing I could remember.

Though my husband initially laughed at the idea, by god it worked miracles! So pretty much every time my husband and I get into a fight, we use this method. I’m not going to lie, it takes a goddamn long time to do, and often you have to wait until both people have calmed down, but it is so much better to express the anger, the sadness, the regret, the misunderstandings, this way then to keep it inside or try to talk it out in little bits and pieces. It also models for our daughter what it looks like to work out a disagreement peacefully rather than hold it in and act subtly rude to one another.

This isn’t a new idea, many cultures have used some sort of Talking Stick to deal with major decisions among a group of people. Not only is the Talking Stick symbolic of a person’s personal power in a conversation, it reminds everyone to stay focused on what is being said rather than to focus their attention on coming up with a rebuttal to what is being said. I honestly believe that there is no more perfect method than the Talking Stick. Even now that my husband is deployed, and most of our communication is done through text, the principle of the Talking Stick has rescued us from nasty fights. All you have to do is type up an email and ask the other person to imagine that you are holding the Talking Stick, and then get everything out. It is best of course, to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For instance it is much more productive to say “I was offended when…” rather than to say “You offended me when…”

This makes the conversation less accusatory and more expressive, which makes the other person more understanding and less defensive.

The major thing to remember about marriage that is so easy to forget in the heat of an argument, is it is a collaboration and not a competition. Even if you were to win every fight, it would not be a true win because the other person would lose. The real win comes from compromise or collaboration. When both people can identify what they want in the situation, then it becomes a matter that’s as simple as identifying a way to meet those needs that both can agree to.

Breaking the habit of being passive aggressive, name calling, shouting, blaming and volatile is the hardest part. Like anything else in life, this method takes practice. The more my husband and I have done this, the easier and less awkward it has become for us to do. Each time I remember to use it, I grow more and more capable and prepared to use it next time we need it.

I hope that this method helps you in your relationship or marriage, and if you have any other tools that work wonders for you I’d love to hear about them!

Advertisements

New YouTube Channel for Interactive Songs

Since my husband has been deployed, it’s been really tough to do it all on my own. I have so much respect for single moms that do it 24/7, as well as moms who have husbands that leave continuously over their entire career.

To be honest, with the Rheumatoid Arthritis I’m not handling it very well physically or emotionally. Some days it seems like I might not make it through all of the things that need to get done. So today I decided that SiSi and I should have a project of our own that we could look forward to- a special activity we could do together that doesn’t cost any money and isn’t too hard to do for me with my physical condition. Something both of us love is singing together. I’ve always loved singing but thought I had a terrible voice. The moment I found out I was pregnant, however, I started singing to SiSi when she was but the size of an avocado pit and haven’t stopped since.

Lately, she’s not only been singing with me, but singing little verses of songs on her own, too. So I asked her today if she would like to record a video of us singing together. The recording process was a little rocky, as I had to figure out what I was doing, but I’m actually pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to make. When I asked her what she wanted to sing, she immediately started signing Wheels on the Bus, so that was that. I just recorded us singing as many verses of it as we could think of then edited it down to the best ones using iMovie. She’s napping right now but I can’t wait to show her the finished product when she wakes up.

I hope this will become a fun ritual for us, and maybe even a a fun ritual for our friends and followers of this blog to sing with their little ones. Click here to check it out and let me know what you think!

Edit: As an 8 months follow up, SiSi stopped wanting to make a video every week, but there are almost a dozen archived on the channel for you and your little ones to enjoy!

Chalk Battles & Other Offenses

It was not very long ago when children wore little adult clothes and were expected to act like little adults (or rather act as if they didn’t exist) in an adult world. Cultural expectations obviously play a huge part in the way children are expected to behave. It’s easy to tell when you’re doing something that is a cultural outlier. You can feel eyes on you like you can feel a slow mounting chill in the wintertime, but when you dare to look up and glance around all eyes quickly avert. There is a lot of judgment out there. This little video says it best- without saying anything at all, surprisingly!

chalk

As harshly as parents are judged in this society, children are judged just the same. A well meaning aunt will ask about how far along she is on potty training. Grandparents will ask my daughter to sing the alphabet song on Skype. Strangers will comment on how well behaved she is, or ignore us completely when she isn’t. All of these little innocent and minor realities of toddler life forms the current of social pressure to which most all children begin to feel they must succumb.

As dark a picture as this may paint, I do see those small shimmers of real childhood emerge, moments when a child is acting more like the human mammal that they are than the prettily packaged set of rote skills and “cuteness” of a Huggies model. Today when the kiddos and I were outside on a hot afternoon, there was a bit of a spat over sitting in the wagon. It seemed there wasn’t enough foot room at the floor of the wagon for four toddler feet to occupy simultaneously. As you would expect, many an accusation and a high pitched whine was traded. After a while, my older toddler decided to put his feet up and so that they hung over the sides of the wagon. This idea delighted both children, and they carried on making up stories and entertaining half-conversations with one another. Somehow, as time went on a piece of chalk was acquired by all three toddlers. First they began chalking upon the wagon, but at one point my daughter shoved the chalk into the older toddler’s face.

“Owww!” was the natural response. I wanted to immediately intervene and proclaim a positive but limiting phrase from my discipline repertoire (chalk is for using on the sidewalk, not on faces), but something told me to wait. Happily, the waiting did pay off, as the offended toddler began to giggle and chalk my daughter right back. What ensued was about a half an hour of chalking on one another, lots of giggles and exclamations of surprise. The wildness in which they “assaulted” one another reminded me of lion cubs wresting and nipping at one another, getting ready to hunt down prey. It made me think of a time when I was in grade school, probably in 3rd grade, back when I was a complete and utter tomboy. My buddies and I all came up with this nonsensical game in which we stood in a circle and quickly stepped on one another’s feet before hopping back into place. Some kind of silly, quick footed version of wack-a-mole. My father used to come to school to help out once a week (THE BEST Dad!), and when he came I proudly demonstrated our idiotically enthralling made-up game. Immediately I was put in my place. “You’re gonna break your toes!” he protested.

Back to sitting on the bench or waiting in line for tether ball I guess….

Which brings me back to my train of thought. Sometimes we just have to give up on putting on the charade that we are all sophisticated humans, with intelligent tools made for very specific, quantifiable, understandable things and just be the impulsive, creative, social mammals that we are. ALL mammals play amongst themselves when they are young. This play often looks like fighting or aggression, but it is obvious that it is a frisky sport in which the fun is in the play, for no purpose other than the fun itself. The strait-laced, “use toys as they are intended, no talking in the halls, no running indoors” attitude toward children is stifling to them, and it is debilitatingly exhausting to enforce for us. If they cannot have the opportunity to truly play with one another the way nature intended when they are young, then when?

Why Waldorf Works, but Uncschooling Wins

If you look Waldorf up on Pinterest, you will see some Leighton Miester photos from the set of Gossip Girl, but you’ll see bright, maple full sun drenched photos of happy, peaceful playrooms and children playing with wooden toys and many a brightly colored rainbow of play silks can be spotted. These photos will bring about images of organic apple picking and the sounds of acoustic guitars and the giggles of small children.

 

The Waldorf world is much like the Hobbit world of Tolkien, because in Waldorf, early childhood is all about fantasy. There is a strong belief that children are more in tune with the magic realm because their souls are just recently cast onto the planet in their earthly bodies. This is also the reason why free play is at the foundation of a Waldorf early childhood, while academics are saved for when children are older. I can’t begin to list all the facets of Waldorf that are wonderful. So many Waldorf principles could save the future of humanity if all children were given the chance to experience them.

nature.jpg

When the term “real work” comes up in Waldorf, they’re not talking about a salaried job with benefits. They’re talking about old world, back to basics necessities like weaving, carving, cooking, gardening. It seems crazy to me that our society has become so far removed from these basic tasks that make it possible to live. Bringing it back to the origins is such a simple, but vastly important factor in a Waldorf education.

Staying with the same teacher throughout the grade school years is also a great idea. This person becomes a real stand by in your child’s life, not just a passing figure there to fill the bucket with the prescribed body of knowledge and move on to the next group of empty buckets. They build trust, form a bond, and begin to understand one another. Consistency allows a young child to feel secure so that they can mentally and emotionally move on to higher learning. There is also the ever presence of natural materials in a Waldorf school. Natural materials, such as wood, silk, wool and beeswax are so prevalent because Steiner believed that things from nature emitted a higher, more complex vibrational frequency- as if they carried the soul of the living thing from which they came.IMG_0318

There is also the added environmentally friendly factor of having things that last, and also things that are not going to sit there for eons in perfect neon splendor in a landfill. Also, if you have any kind of aesthetic sense, these items are extremely beautiful. No grades, other than a lovingly written report at the end of the year, is a breath of fresh air. Children are seen as whole, individual, unique people, and therefore are not to be measured with the same yardstick.

The spiritual aspect, though one of the things about Waldorf that I absolutely adore, is also what makes me cringe a little. Though Waldorf claims to love and celebrate all religions, Anthroposophy (Steiner’s founded system of religious belief) does play a part in a Waldorf education. I know this first hand, as I once took a job as an after school teacher at a Waldorf school where I was given some books about Waldorf education to prepare me for the position. One of the books spoke extensively about Lucifer the light bearer as a positive figure, among many other Christian constructs.

Many of the holidays celebrated are also Christian in nature. I don’t have anything against Christians per se, but my experience with the religion is not an amazing one. Christianity, however pure people may believe it to be, was responsible for horrendous atrocities throughout time (mind bogglingly, a local Christian university’s sports teams are the Crusaders). There is also a strong belief in angels, and that every child has a guardian angel that watches over them. While this is also not a big deal, my father in law told me a story about his experience with Waldorf school when his son was in Kindergarten. He came to pick him up from school one day, and couldn’t find him. When he asked his teacher where he was, she said nonchalantly that he was on the roof laying shingles. This is where the guardian angel idea can go too far, as there have been many accounts of children left unsupervised, or rather, left supervised by their guardian angels.

Despite all this, I’d still jump at the chance to send my daughter to a Waldorf school, if only it weren’t so expensive and elusive. If you’re lucky enough to have a Waldorf school near you, you still may not be able to send your child there due to the price tag. If you have a job as a professor or a high level administrator, the tuition won’t be a problem, but if you’re a working class family such as we are (try living on lower enlisted military pay for a while and get back to me), the expense would cause a huge strain on the family. There are always Waldorf charter schools, which are free due to their ties with the school system, but they often have waitlists that are more than a mile long.

The next logical conclusion is Waldorf homeschooling, but even with that, why not just graduate to the even more child-centered, child-lead idea of unschooling? While Waldorf has lots of guidelines (no plastic, no commercial toys or clothes, no technology in the early grades, specific sequence of curriculum), with unschooling you can follow your child’s lead and let them blossom using the types of materials and mediums they see fit (Legos, anyone?). That is why, for now, I will take all the wonderful ideas found in Waldorf education and leave behind all of the stuff that doesn’t work for my family.

Parenting Without Fear

I’m a child care provider, but I’m not just a child care provider, I’m a play based child care provider. Which makes me even more fired up about this (as you can tell from the title) than the average progressive-parenting talking head. A big part of that exasperation comes from the fact that if the worries and fears  that parents express to me were a bonus to my paycheck I’d be wealthier than Warren Buffet. Here are a few recent gems:

“If they don’t use flashcards, how will they know their animal sounds?”

“She gets her numbers, but I can’t seem to get her to start at number one.”

“He has no interest in puzzles, and I’m afraid he won’t know how to do puzzles unless I encourage him and show him how.”

These are all well-meaning parents who want their children to succeed. They want to make sure they’re doing all they can for them so that they can develop at the best rate possible. The problem is… the more parents try to control their child’s development, the less able the child is to develop naturally as they were meant to do. The more parents prod and poke toward “mastering a skill”, the more insecure and dependent the child becomes. This goes for all children- newborns to college students.

I know this concept is completely foreign and might seem borderline neglectful to some. Painting outside today, one of my most proactive daycare parents asked me if I’ve worked with my daughter on her colors. When I asked what she meant she said, “you know, like sat down and taught her what they were.”

I don’t want to blame this amazing mom for this naïve idea. Most all of us were indoctrinated with this classroom concept of the heroic teacher summoning the students to their seats so that they could distribute necessary information, as a nurse gives the proper dosage of medication to his patients. Breaking free from this paradigm was the beginning of me finding my calling in life.

So, the truth is I’ve never sat down and “taught” Sierra anything. I’ve never tried to explain anything to her unless she specifically asks me about it.

How did she learn Red, Pink, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple?

 

I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. Yes, maybe it’s because we sing songs, we read books, I ask her what color shirt she wants to wear that day. We might see a butterfly and I might exclaim, “What a beautiful orange butterfly!” But maybe it’s not. And that’s ok.

Sometimes she will say an orange object is red. That doesn’t bother me. I don’t keep a checklist of all the things she says and does perfectly. There is no such thing as a perfect body of knowledge. She is not a computer that I download software to. She’s a whole being, a universe unto herself. She has her own will and her own soul. The knowledge she gets, she acquires through her own senses, with her own methods, from real life experiences. These rich, real-world experiences are so much more meaning-FULL than flimsy pieces of cardstock with cartoon images and bold print. The truth: If you want your child to “be smart,” you are being simple.

What I want, and what I wish, is for children to be themselves. Let them fall behind. Let them jump ahead. Let them experience you caring for them, caring about them. All a child needs to grow healthy, strong and happy is plenty of fresh air, as much freedom as is practical and safe, good nutritious food, and stable, loving caregivers who are there to take care of them in the ways they cannot themselves.

Framed by my bedside is a photograph of a mother lovingly embracing her child. Written over it is the following quote:

“I honor the dignity and integrity of my child with my attention, warmth and regard.”

Lisa A. McCrohan

Remember that at the most basic level- all you need to do to do an AWESOME job as a mom or dad is take care of their basic needs, and acknowledge their feelings. You will make mistakes, and so will they. Learn to let them go. Just feel the weight of expectation lifting off your shoulders, and know that you are lifting it off their shoulders as well.

Turn Trash into Treasure Using Craigslist

Craigslist is an awesome ally to have in your quest to A) minimalize and B) gain wealth, two things that will increase your happiness for years to come. I also love it because it saves junk that would have gone into a landfill, or may have ended up being passed over at a thrift store, making a roundabout route to floating in the crystal blue ocean next to Free Willy. I’ve been using Craigslist so much lately  (and for a long time before that for that matter), that I’ve realized I made a lot of shitty decisions that ultimately screwed me out of cash and/or free time. On the other hand, I’ve also made a substantial chunk of change using it ($100 just in the past week!). So I’m going to give you some of my Craigslist tips so that you can sell your shit and get rich too. By the way, several of these tips can also be used on EBay, though I recommend only selling higher dollar (worth over $20) and smaller items on Ebay due to the shipping costs.

1. Post a descriptive title. When people search for items, they don’t always use the same wording that pops into your head. Sometimes people search for more broad categories as well, or they could do the opposite and search for a very specific brand. It’s best to cover all your bases.

-Don’t: “Honda Fit”

-Do: “Silver 2008 Honda Fit SE 4 cyl. Compact Hatchback with Manual Transmission, Low Miles and Clean Title”. You get the idea!

2. Act like you are a salesman when you are writing your description. Not only are you selling people on buying your old crap, you are letting them know that the item was appreciated and taken care of by you. It also lets them know that you are an enthusiastic seller and will be polite and responsive to them. If you’re not sure of what to say about the item, you can always google it and just use the item description you find!

-Don’t: Old jacket. Worn once. Text if interested.

-Do: I decided to part with my beautiful size M amber brown Michael Kors Trench coat with silk lining purchased at the Michael Kors boutique in Las Vegas. I received a similar one for my birthday and want it to go to someone who can use it! It is completely waterproof and comes from a smoke and pet free home. I will respond to all emails by the end of the day. Asking $40 but will accept lower offers after 5 days. Thank you for looking 🙂

3. Often people make the mistake of pricing an item too high and get discouraged and end up donating it. Don’t be daunted! Remember that anything used is only worth half of what it was new unless it’s a rare or very, very expensive item. Often it’s worth even less. The goal here isn’t to get back what you paid, but to recoup just some of your loss. If you are a craigslist buyer you can really luck out and sell the item you purchased on craigslist for the same price! No loss at all! Remember, it’s not about how much the item is worth but how much people are willing to pay for it. Do a craigslist search of your own to see what similar items are going for. Sometimes it’s not that you priced it too high but there’s just not anyone looking for that particular item at that time. Don’t be afraid to repost the ad, going down $5 in price each time.

-Do: Price items at half or less of the new price, going down or saying “Or best offer” if need be.

-Don’t: Overthink it. Remove your emotions from the equation and go into it with the fail-proof idea that you’re exchanging your unwanted crap for CASH!

4. Now this is arguably the most important part. Try and post lots of pictures if you can (think different angles, show all parts, show the original box if you have it, include a photo of the item new from the manufacturer). First, make sure the item is clean and presentable. Try to “showcase” the item by using natural light and photographing it against a neutral background. If other things get in the photo, crop them out. If the item is damaged don’t try to hide it but be honest about it and take photos of the blemishes as well. Just make sure to make the best picture the first one.

-Don’t: Post anything without a picture or with unclear pictures.

-Do: Clean the item first, and make it stand out.

4. You’d think the work is over after you publish your ad, but it’s not! Next you will need to field inquiries. If you’re lucky you’ll instantly get a great buyer that offers to come buy it, shows up on time and pays you what you ask. Sometimes buyers want to meet you in a public place. I always make sure I need to go the location anyway, such as the grocery store so that it’s not a waste of time if they flake. If I’m meeting them, I make sure to get their number so I can communicate where to find me. If they’re coming over to pick it up, I always give them my number and ask them to text me when they’re leaving before sending the address. This ensures you’re not waiting around for nothing.

-Do: Respond to the first interested person. Even if they offer you less, let them know you will get back to them if you can’t sell it for your asking price.

-Don’t: Give your address until they’re ready to pick up/on their way.

A lot of folks are leery of strangers off of craigslist, but I’ve never had a bad experience. In fact, I’ve made friends with some people over shared interest alone!

I hope this empowers you to empty the dusty attic out and do some posting. Let us know how it goes!