21 December 2009

cleaning up my act

What was your New Year's resolution for 2009?

I resolved to live a more natural, green, holistic, call it whatever you want-life.  Sure, I had made some changes over the years in this direction, but I never really committed myself to it. When I was pregnant I moved towards organic, local foods. I started to research holisitic remedies to keep in my mommy-arsenal. I bought my Tom's of Maine toothpaste and deodorant. That was really it.

By 2009, I felt I finally had it together enough to simplify my life. But where to begin? It can be really overwhelming trying to make lifestyle changes. So, I started with baby steps. I didn't want this resolution to go the way of years past. My resolution became detoxifying our lives: household cleaners, personal care products, food containers, and food.

I'm proud to say that it's gone pretty well. Here's my list of accomplishments:
  • renewed CSA membership - for spring and winter shares
  • shopped less at grocery stores, bought more food locally & more organic products, bought in bulk when feasible 
  • switched to glass containers for food storage
  • planted a fire escape garden - grew basil and a tomato plant (though I only got three tomatoes)
  • consistently bought shampoo, soap, toothpaste, deodorant that was organic and/or natural for myself (still trying to find a baby wash that works for my son - so right now it's conventional, but fragrance-free)
  • switched my makeup to fragrance-free (baby steps here...)
and here's what I am most proud of...
  • i've made our household cleaners for an entire year now - kitchen & bathroom cleaners, laundry detergent, and (less successfully) dishwashing detergent
For once, I am really happy with my resolution. I won't spend New Year's Eve thinking about    why my resolution didn't work out, what I could have done differently. The key was doing it little by little. And I'll expand upon my "green" theme for this coming year as well. I'm going to focus on creating less waste and getting rid of my nemesis - the ziplock bag.

13 December 2009

unconditional parenting

I always think that everyone parents their kids the same way I do. That is, until I am confronted with a "time out."  Now even my son gives his toys "time outs." What's a mom to do?

A while back I sent an email to our "neighborhood moms" yahoo group asking if anyone else was AP'ing their kids, and if yes, would they want to get together to support each other.  I got one response.  The mom even told me I was brave for asking the group such a question.

That was two years ago, and I have definitely seen a shift in our neighborhood away from the Ferber-Brazelton-Super Nanny schools of parenting. There are women doing EC with their four-month old babes, baby-wearers here and there, and lots of extended breastfeeding. All things to be really happy about. But reading an article in the NYT a few weeks ago, I was reminded that everyone is not as progressive as I'd like to believe.

The article was on unconditional parenting, written by alfie kohn, titled to draw readers in: When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’, with a follow up on the Times' parenting blog: Punishing Children With Love. These articles are mostly excerpted from his book Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. I've read Kohn's book twice now, and am working to incorporate his principals into my parenting relationship with Diego. For those of you who haven't read his book, it's out there. Way out there. But, as a Buddhist (or some semblance of one...), I find his approach compassionate, reasoned, and respectful. It is also confronting. It is hard to challenge your long-held assumptions, accept that you might not be right, and then try things differently.

The premise of the book is that parenting based on punishments and/or rewards tells kids that we love them when they conform to our notion of how they should be. It makes perfect sense. It resonates with my own childhood. I certainly felt that my own parents' love was conditional - even though they told me it wasn't. But the old adage is right - actions do speak louder than words.  The book suggests that children should have a say in their lives, that decisions can be shared, and that there doesn't always have to be a winner.

25 November 2009


I used to hate Thanksgiving.

For the life of me, I couldn't understand why we would celebrate a fairy tale, while ignoring how the indigenous people of this land suffered at our hands.  When it was my turn to say grace at the table, I always said a prayer remembering the people we displaced, segregated, dehumanized in the name of our own "freedom." Needless to say, I was the downer at the table.

Many, many years later, I am still not crazy about this holiday. I would rather we have an Indigenous People's Day or a Harvest Celebration and just be rid of these holidays that discount the experience of those who were here first.  But, I have been able to find personal meaning in this day as I become more aware of the politics of food, and the importance of supporting local farmers. I am thankful for my local CSA and the bounty of food that we have been blessed with this past season, despite many challenges. I can celebrate the harvests of the farmers on Long Island who provided my family with fresh, organic produce over the past six months.

And there's the other part of this equation - my family. I can finally feel real thanks and appreciation for family. Growing up, my family life was challenging. So while I did love my family, we weren't close. Today, though, I have that feeling of true gratitude and unconditional love. I owe that to Diego - my sweet baby - and all of the challenges that have come along with him.

Diego has Sensory Processing Disorder, which in general makes me alternately crazy and sad. But SPD has actually given me a gift. To help Diego, I have had to slow down in a way that would not have happened with a neurotypical child. It was forced upon me. I had to slow down so he could be ok. When you can do this, and really meet your child at their level - special needs or not - it is an amazing gift, an opportunity to understand love - to truly give love to another person. However I have had to get to this place, to this bond with my child, I can honestly say that I am grateful.  And that is what I will celebrate on Thanksgiving.

22 November 2009

Zyrtec = One Crazy Kid

Yesterday, I took my son to the doctor. He has had a cold since he started back at school again in September. I have taken him now to three different doctors. All the same diagnosis. It's a cold. Well, thanks I already knew that. At least the doctor we saw yesterday told me to do something more than saline spray.  Now, I don't like medicine. I am anti-medicine most of the time.  But nothing seems to he making a difference in Diego's cold. So, now my options are antihistamines, antibiotics, or albuterol.

I decided to start with the antihistamines. (I had already given him benadryl with little to no effect.) As I stood in CVS weighing my options, I took Diego's food sensitivities into account. I chose dye-free, sugar-free zyrtec - for indoor and outdoor allergies. I figured I had all my bases covered. So, off we went to our lunch date - a mama and the light of her life.

As the day went on Diego became antsy. He was snappy, almost obnoxious. He is not a kid who answers back unless something is going on with him. I assumed it was because we hadn't been to the playground. We got through the day and I was glad for bedtime.

21 November 2009


The psychologist I spoke with this week, told me to make an appointment for my son with a pediatric neurologist. She said that the episodes of zoning out could be petit mal (absence) seizures. I’ve been up and down emotionally in handling all of his issues. Things aren’t too serious; let’s face it, it could be much worse. But since I made the neurologist appointment, all I feel like doing is crying.

I shouldn’t be surprised with all of the neurological issues in our family – adhd on both sides, depression, anxiety, tourette’s, dysgraphia – I thought I had prepared myself for the reality the Diego might have some challenges. I’m thankful it’s not more serious. But I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that this is his reality.

My beautiful, sweet, and oh so smart boy – why should he have to deal with these things?  Why can’t his body stop moving, why can’t his father pick him up for a hug, why can’t I get a picture of anything but the back of his head? Maybe it’s because we’re moving towards getting a true diagnosis for him, that I am feeling so sad for him. Sad for us. His life won’t be what I envisioned. I’m not talking about some fantasy that my kid will be the president or a famous doctor, or anything like that. I never wanted to plot out his career path. I’m talking about a life where living up to his potential isn’t a daily struggle, where he can do things that other kids get to do; have a spontaneous, whimsical day; eat pizza, be able to sit down and read a book.

I know that I'm grieving. I want him to have the world at his fingertips. Everything is just so much work. Even simple tasks. Go get your shoes. Time to go. Walk to school. I know life isn’t easy. But childhood should be. And for my beautiful boy, it is not.