Thursday, April 30, 2015

(Week 1) - I *May* Be Grateful

In an effort to foster more gratitude, kindness, mindfulness and thus contentment, I am trying to incorporate a daily family conversation of such nature. In case you think this is beautiful and poetic and enlightened, you ought to know that I had to put a reminder in my iPhone. How 21st century Buddha of me.

Today I feel grateful for ...

My amazing neighborhood/neighbors. My heart feels happy seeing our neighbor kids playing all together in the street and various driveways/bikes/scooters/hoses. 

That everything went swimmingly with the Bean's dental fillings this morning. 

My husband's good mood, productive grading day, and kindness with me in my perpetual funk. 

The sunshine. Seriously, amazeballs, as the Bean would say. 

Waking up (at nearly 9, no less), to Francie saying cheerfully, "good morning my sunshine."

Going for a solo walk through Gabriel Park in the sun. 

Funny friends - a night at the Hubbards. 

Can I say I'm grateful for sunshine three days in a row? Because I am. And how about long walks alone in the sunshine? Same thing. So grateful. 

Eating yummy breakfast with my dad, husband and daughter in Hillsfake. Going to the farmers market. Having my dad plan and cook for us every Wednesday. 

Watching the Bean get more brave and learn to ride her scoot bike. 

A husband making a hard decision.

A new pair of contacts. Min even still wearing them at 9 at night. 

The second night of no TV. Alex is finishing up a class, so we've committed to no tv at least Monday's and Tuesday's. 

The patience to wait out the Bean's bedtime tantrum and feel live and compassion for her emotional learning curve. 

Alex allowing me to skip the dinner I made in order to use the elliptical and watch "Secrets and Lies."

Access to a wonderful therapist for only $10/session. 

Leftover chili and cornbread. Mama didn't feel like cookin'. 

It's my Friday!

I enjoyed all my patients at work. And my late afternoon latte. 

A good "mama day" with cuddles, play time, a hair cut, visit to daddy, and biking with the neighbors. 

The Bean's first big girl haircut - an adorable bob that reminds me of Scout. 

Crockpots. Because I felt proud that I made an easy least dinner.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

(37 months) - 3 years + 1 month

I contemplated stopping with the monthly photos and updates. I was stymied on a new theme for the next year, and frankly I'm never happy with how the 12 photos never have the same lighting. And then I remember that I wanted to do it to her 18th birthday. And if we don't have another kid, I want to make sure to archive the hell out of her childhood. So that white number "3" will be a constant, as may be the year + month text courtesy of the "A Beautiful Mess" app. And for a few words about the Bean this month ...

"I love you to Argentina and back."
Calm my body stickers. 
Sparkly blue flip flops. 
Watched a whole movie - in chunks - The Fox and the Hound. 
Wakes daily before 6 to eat breakfast with her daddy. 
Showers with mama. 
Reading her first chapter book with me, Ivy and Bean. 
Sleeps alone and isn't night-waking. 
(Finally) started riding her scoot bike. Wisely insists on a helmet. 
Likes school days, Beebee Days, Mama Days, and Flamly Days. 
"Watch this. Watch me."
Talks with her arms. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015


"Happy birthday mama!" she says with a sweet kiss. "Can I have some of your cake?"

While this was a perfectly delicious way to start my day, I still managed to roll over and get out of bed on the wrong side. I greeted 33 with a serious badditude, despite good health, time with my adorable family, and a new espresso machine.

Maybe it's because first thing in the morning, over a homemade latte (thanks, babe!), I was inspired to download an app to age myself. 


I was so NOT psyched on the future of my face. Particularly in the jowl area. I'm barely psyched on the present of my face. Seriously, word to the wise, when you are feeling old and a little bit fallen apart, don't try to make light of it by actually peeking into your future, when you really will be old. My sense of humor was not impressed. Nor was my husband. But I did get a laugh out of doing the same to the rest of the family.

Alex doesn't look so hot himself, but at least he's still got a full head of that fabulous hair ...

My dad barely looked any different. It was like the app said, "you're already old and wrinkly, sir, our program cannot compute."

And then there was the Bean. Holy shit I laughed hard. She looks somewhat Benjamin Button-esque, or like a 95 year old hobbit. And I love how she was able to pull off the straight face required for the aging process program to work correctly. I might have looked at this photo a few times in the past week, just for a giggle.

Needless to say, I was suuuuuuuuuper crabby all of my day o' birth. And because it was "my day," I felt entitled to wallow in it, not even bothering to attempt to perk myself up. For starter's, there was that photo. And then we had to hurry and prep for our neighborhood garage sale. In the rain. Garage sales aren't really very fun anyway - there's something kinda sad about trying to sell your used shit from the cracks in your driveway for a few extra bucks. I skipped out on most of the sale by taking the Bean to dance class (even that couldn't boost my spirits) and catering a Grand Central lunch to my husband and father. We called it quits on the sale early, because nobody was having any real fun, and because my badditude wasn't helping anyone out. And then I ran into a patient/veteran. For the first time ever. At my garage sale. AT MY HOUSE. I do NOT like when my worlds collide. Yet after he recognized and acknowledged me, I found myself babbling at him and his girlfriend like we were old homies. Afterwards I was so anxious and uncomfortable because, like I said, I do not approve of seeing people out of context, or being seen out of context.

Alex and my dad kept offering to take me out to a birthday dinner, but I just whined like a pre-teen before finally deciding that Little Big Burger and Salt & Straw might just hit the spot. As would an early bedtime for the Bean and a movie of my choice on the couch (sidenote: we rented "Short Term 12" via iTunes, and it was a fabulous movie that both Alex and I enjoyed). All of which were humored, and we snapped a few cute photos - where my toothy smile is misleading - to document the start of 33.

In terms of gifts, Alex surprised me with a cheapo espresso maker, and the Bean got me candy (her choice, she knows me well). Dad spoiled me with some cash, to pay off the new vacuum I already bought. On his credit card, because did I mention ours was declined? So essentially I just need to give the money right back to him (writing on To-Do list). Earlier in the week I treated myself to checking off a Bucket List item. I visited with a psychic medium. That's right, I said it, I paid someone $160 of my hard earned dollas to talk to dead people and/or see my future. Suffice it to say, I left the appointment poorer and somewhat disappointed. But the fact that I had high hopes at all speaks to the fragile mental space I appear to be in these days.

I met with Suzi Caffreys, a "psychic medium," with Southworth Intuitive Consulting Services, last Thursday. I've always been pretty curious about all things "spiritual," "psychic," "intuitive," with promises of telling me about myself and my future. My interest in the idea of a "medium" was piqued back when that show, Medium, was popular. It was based on a woman named Allison Dubois, a writer and medium, who claims to have helped solve criminal cases by communicating with dead people. I'm not interested in solving any crimes, I just wanted to talk to my mom, or have her talk to me.

I went to the psychic medium not expecting but kind of hoping for a miracle. What I got was a warm and overweight brunette woman in a flowing green top and black stretch pants. I didn't have any well-defined expectations for the appointment, per se, but I sort of assumed it would look a little bit like therapy, where she asked me why I was there, and what I was hoping to find. None of that. She welcomed me into her office - in a medium-sized office building in Beaverton - decorated with spiritual knickknacks and pictures of cats.

I sat down on the loveseat directly across from her chair, placing my purse at my feet. She promptly asked me to move my bag to the side, because I knew what was in it and she didn't. And because it looked like an "activity bag." She closed her eyes and started gesturing with her arms to either side of me on the couch, telling me that to my left was my matriarchal side, with the patriarchal side to my right. I willed her to focus on my left side, invite my mom to come sit next to me or something. Needless to say she started "hearing from" the paternal side of my family. She asked me whether someone had passed while another was born. The closest I could think of was Granny, my dad's mom, who died a few months before Francine was born. "Kind of," I said. "I guess so." She went on to explain the significance and beauty of this transition, one family member in, the other out, and relayed that my grandmother felt very at peace and non-conflicted about the whole thing. "Yeah, yeah, great okay, moving along," I thought to myself. My grandma died at the ripe old age of 90-something, and her death was uncomplicated. I loved her and all, but am not overly concerned about what she has to say from the grave. I said "Got it," as instructed by Suzi once I "received the message" and was ready to move on.

She then described something vague about my recent "dullness." That I was in need of a "sharpening," to "play," and to be able to "read others" again. There was some talk of heeding warnings "not to expand." She described elements concerning finances and disagreement and family. She said it's not her job to interpret the messages, that part is my duty, but that she was being told to explain to me that things are good just the way they are now.  She had a somewhat awkward giggle, and tried to explain to me how she was being told that I didn't want advice, that I wanted help, physical help, and that I like to do things my own way. That I don't need cheerleaders. She was strongly told that I need physical, not emotional, help. The whole thing last an hour, and I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to hug her or shake her hand or make another appointment with her after leaving. I wasn't clear on what the whole process was supposed to look like.

All in all, I still don't know what to make of the whole thing, thus I'm making very little of it. I don't regret spending the money, because I did something I've been wanting to do, but I'll chalk it up to just another thing I just can't find myself believing in. Yet I still hold a small glimmer of hope that all the pieces will align themselves and "everything will make sense," in a psychic kind of way.

(Just Pics) - Fun With Four Franzkes

The Franzkes, now a family of four, were in Portland this week and we finally got to meet Baby Joesphine! We missed our Spring Break visit with them due to the Bean and the Hubs illnesses, so were grateful they had a PDX trip planned this month anyway. Gus and Francie played beautifully together, and I got a few good infant snuggles in. Needless to say, we are bummed we don't live closer.

AJ, Alex, and Josephine at Burgerville. That's right, we "ate out" there.

Francie and Gus at April Hill Park.

Giggles all around.

Alex needs a womb.

Loved reminiscing about when my Bean was this small.

She also needs a womb. Here's hoping there's no teen pregnancy in her future; that girl LOVES her some babies.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stitchin for New Babes

There seems to have been a bit of a recent influx of new people to this world. Three friends had new baby girls all within one week, and I felt inspired to stitch a little something to welcome the bundles with their names. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Toddlers & Tantrums

Last night, in the throes of a nightly pre-bed tantrum ritual, my Bean piercingly cry-screamed, "BUT I DO WANT A CALM-MY-BODY STICKER!" You can't make this stuff up. Oh, the dramatic irony. On the plus side, the comment made her daddy and me laugh, when usually we are trying our damnedest to manage our own physiological stress responses to the Bean's extreme emotional dysregulation.

For example, there was this tantrum from a week ago at bedtime. Her outbursts are typically comprised of "I waaaaaaaants," and "noooooooo's," and eventually mellow out into a sad little love sesh, as implied at the end of the video:

I first started a post about tantrums more than 9 months ago, when the Bean was an actual toddler. She has since grown from the proverbial "terrible two" into a full-blown "threenager," and the tantrums have only increased in both intensity and frequency. If my memory serves, her meltdowns reached "tantrum" classification a few months following her second birthday. I explicitly recall a trip to the Safeway in Kings Beach (Tahoe) to quickly buy concentrated chai tea mix, when she wanted to play with something in one of the aisles, and - how dare I - continued to our intended destination rather than stop and play, where she then screamed in my face, hit me, and decomposed into a slobbery mess, leaving me embarrassed in her wake. I first felt inspired to write something then. My initial post was all, "if you think other people are staring at you when your child melts down, they are; I like to watch the drama unfold from the corner of my eye, not because I'm judging the caregiver, but because I'm looking for wisdom in others' actions, hoping for tips and tricks to try to better manage my own offspring." Flash forward nearly a year and I feel only older but not wiser.

Just the other day our next-door neighbor, who is about 20 weeks pregnant with her first baby, said, "I heard Francie the other night. Was everything okay?" I racked my brain, scanning the Rolodex of the last several nights, nothing in particular standing out. "Oh, no, that's just what evenings and bedtimes sound like at our house these days. When someone is tired, the last thing she wants to do is sleep. She'd rather muster all her remaining energy to erupt in our faces like a tiny Mt. St. Helens."

According to Wiki, a temper tantrum is defined as "an emotional outbreak ... typically characterized by stubborness, crying, screaming, defiance, angry ranting, a resistance to attempts at pacification, and in some cases, hitting." According to the Mayo Clinic, temper tantrums "are a totally normal part of growing up." They are related to frustration and an inability to either understand or express feelings. According to my personal favorite pediatrician, Dr. Sears, some children are more prone to thrown tantrums than others. Children who might be described as sensitive, persistent, determined, high maintenance, creative, and strong-willed. He says that these kiddos have a harder time "achieving equilibrium, an inner emotional balance that helps people bounce back from life's many setbacks and regain composure." Dr. Sears goes on to explain, much to my comfort, that the very traits that make these nuggets more prone to tantrums can also be very beneficial to intellectual and social development, but that the parents' job is to channel these energies into happier endings.

Cognitively, I know tantrums are no big deal. That they don't necessarily signal any kind of pathology. I'd even consider myself a decently calm, cool, and collected parent when the Bean throws down in public. No, I don't always do the "right" thing, in that my inclination is to "fix" the problem, that I am probably too verbal when trying to comfort her, and sometimes I sharply tell her "pull yourself together" and give her a tight hug.

The other week, for example, the Bean had a gale-force tantrum at the Athleta store downtown. From zero to 60 in less than two seconds. I'm not even sure what spurred it all - the red-faced screaming, laying on the floor with her back arched, legs kicking in the air and heels smashing into the wooden floor. I first tried to comfort her, to ask what was wrong. Then I tried to draw her attention to the fact that we were in public, in a store with other people who probably weren't interested in hearing her primal screams. I tried to pick her up, but her posturing made her feel 75+ pounds and like a slippery eel. I was eventually able to scoop her up and deliver her to Alex to bring her outside for some fresh air. But the screaming continued. I could still hear her from the checkout line. My blood pressure was through the roof, my pulse accelerated, and I felt like maybe I needed a nap too. Intellectually, I kept my shit together. But physiologically, my body kept the score, at least for a minute.

Family lore says that I threw tantrums well into my double-digits (the Hubs might argue that I threw temper tantrums until I started Zoloft). Alex, too, while not prone to the tantrums of toddlers, has his fair share of emotional dysregulation. As adults, we might get called "hot-headed," or "passionate," or in possession of "a strong personality." But these are not necessarily personality traits we like to see in our otherwise sweet little Bean. So technically, tantrums are a totally normal part of development. It's just a matter of frequency, duration, age, behavior, and recovery. We are keeping our fingers crossed that these outbursts are nothing more or less than any other toddler/preschooler out there, and that our feelings about our own emotional control issues shadow our perception of the Bean's current behaviors.

To her credit, the Bean has some pretty decent developing "calm your body" skills that, when primed, she can pull out of the hat and recover in no time. These include deep breaths, "taking a lap" (walking the loop through our kitchen), asking for help or hugs, alone time in her bed, and saying "I feel angry/frustrated" or "I need attention!"

Experts say that eliminating tantrums is unlikely, but there are some strategies for prevention:
- Food, water, potty, and sleep: make sure these things have been attended to
- Consistency: kids, like all people, thrive on routine and when they know what to expect; also, when setting limits/boundaries, it's important to employ them uniformly
- Encourage talking: "words before action;" kiddos understand far more than they are able to express, so it's our job to help put feelings to words
- Distract: also known as "redirect," try a new activity, change locations, or anything else that helps shift gear (snacks, singing together, and looking at pictures nearly always works at my house)
- Offer choices: help provide a sense of control with appropriate choices, "Would you like to eat an apple or banana?" "Do you want to brush your teeth before or after your bath?"
- Plan ahead/Avoid: think about places, people, and situations that are known to trigger tantrums; as in, steer clear of the candy aisle at the grocery store, don't walk past the dog unless you have time to pet him, bring the stroller to the zoo, come with snacks, etc.
- Praise: use your energies and your efforts to reinforce the positive rather than the negative behaviors; compliment freely when sharing, following directions, being patient, making a good choice

And, my personal touch, when all else fails make a sticker chart. The behaviorist in me is all about using positive reinforcement to shape behavior. Although I fear she will learn to be only extrinsically motivated, in addition to stickers (or marbles or pennies) we always talk about how it feels. How does your body feel after you took those big breaths? How did your body feel when you took a lap? How did your mind feel when you were really upset and crying and screaming? Doesn't it feel nice to practice calming our bodies? Don't we feel better when we get to say what we really mean rather than just melting down?!?

Other tantrum videos I've collected over the year ...

Baby tiger? Or, my daughter, throwing a fit at the PDX airport ...

Overtired at bedtime on vacation ...

 Being told "no" at the coffee shop ...

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