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July 2011

True story: trust yourself


My picture-of-the-day today is actually a story. A true story that I want to remember for the rest of my life. A story I want my boys to remember so they know that God always has their back. So much has been written about the power of intuition.

I’m not ready to have my own show or anything, but I have a lot of these kinds of “feelings" and I’ve learned to respect them but this is one of the most obvious lessons in why that’s a good idea.

After a few week hiatus from working out at the Y, I was ready to get back on track. I was looking forward to TWO hours of kid-free time to work out and shower in peace. The boys were stoked to be able to play outside for the first time since we joined the Y. I headed up to take a 55-minute Pilates class and decided I didn’t have enough time. I opted for the EFX machine, worked out for 30 minutes. I wanted to stay and do my cool down so I could finish watching the View’s take on the Casey Anthony trial. But I knew I didn’t have time and hurried to get the boys. I needed to shower, but didn’t. I wanted to pee, but didn’t. I hurried to pick up the boys because I knew with all of my heart that I needed to leave with them immediately. As we were heading out to the van, I heard the crashing sounds of a lady driving her car through the fence where my children had just been playing. And I thanked God for mother’s intuition.

p.s. no one was hurt, except possibly the driver of the car. I suspect she was more shook up than hurt. She was also trapped in her car because she couldn’t open her door as she was wedged between the fence and the tree … As I heard the sirens approaching while I strapped the boys into their carseats, my hands were shaking but my heart was calm.

Trust yourself.

Reporter’s Notebook

- This is from a few scraps of paper I found tucked in one of my journals from shortly after I started working as a reporter covering the North Coast of Tillamook County. I don’t understand all of it, I’m sure I thought I’d remember the cryptic notes to self forever, but no. I truly loved being a reporter and even though I don’t have deadlines every day, I still ask too many questions, eavesdrop over the din of two toddlers and take notes as often as I can. The goal, for me, continues to be to understand others, and in doing so, myself.


Keeping Secrets

Being in the position of choosing what readers need to know from reading my story – until just now I didn’t get that I should read what I write from the reader’s perspective instead of the people who might clip the article.

I believe I’m a good reporter. I care about what it means – I want to be among the best – It’s fun to meet a community this way. In my third month at the Headlight-Herald things are coming full circle – it is tough to remember not to participate. I am curious to know the real work habits of other successful reporters. Successful meaning they enjoy their work most of the time and have healthy contacts – a big exercise in boundaries. In many ways the staff works independently but we are impacted by what each of us do. Integrity is the key, more so than even accuracy because the obvious attachment to accuracy is assumed. Integrity in reporters isn’t as rare as the public image machine declares – but it is essential to my understanding of success as a journalist.

K. gets the award for media mute. And I’m trying not to take it personally- because it isn’t. He didn’t return phone calls before I wrote a single story about Wheeler. It’s strange to be putting myself out there and it feels like the right path for me right now. They suggested it might which is different than saying it would.

It’s also interesting and tough to understand and just ride out the reality that one morning you’ll be thinkin’ you forgot how to write – the next you’re writing one tight lead after another – catching the beat of your own voice – and dancin’.

Thursday – 4 p.m. – check out house?

“I remember leaving the till open at closing – might as well not have the insurance company buy a new cash register too.”

You never know when a big story’s going to break, but you don’t have to be hunched over the scanner waiting for it. So often, they come to you. 

Suffering is optional

Happy Friday, friends and random haters who Google me … truth be told these last few weeks have given me an opportunity to practice being aware of my participation in my own suffering. More importantly, I’m learning to change long-standing habits (approval-seeking, sugar addiction, expecting my body to take care of me without returning the favor, over-thinking things beyond my control, etc.) It sounds like a lot, but it’s connected. And simple once I realized the root was all in my brain and how I think about a thing. I’ve known that for years. Putting it into practice on a consistent basis, especially when things don’t appear to be going well, is another thing entirely.

Let me tell you what I mean by “not going well.”

In summary: we’ve spent a small fortune on doctor’s copays, pharmacy copays and prescriptions and vet bills. We’re all on one kind of antibiotic or another and very, very slowly recovering. Matt and I both have pink eye in both eyes and have had to cancel plans we’ve been looking forward to like a camping trip at the beach and a writing day for me. It’s disappointing, but that’s life. Trying to find the gift in those disappointments is our challenge.

I think the gift is this: time for reflection and incentive to do better. Nothing like having the whole family down for the count to serve as a kick in the ass to make the changes you’ve been meaning to make.

Right before I got sick, I’d been thinking about my role in my own suffering, how I contribute to it by dwelling on things, not letting go, saying “yes” when I mean “no,” saying “no” when I’d like to say “yes!” I’d made a personal decscion about something I’d been struggling with for the last 7 months and as that was happening several friends suggested I read this book by Laura Munson: This is not the story you think it is – I’m working on a review of it to share but for now, both the book and the experience of reading it at the time in my life that I was reading it was deeply moving, and life-changing.

Another book, also recommended by a friend, called Skinny Bitch made an irreversible impact on both Matt and myself. I can’t recommend this book to anyone unless they’re ready to seriously overhaul their current lifestyle … but more on all that later.

For now – some fun Friday inspiration:

one of my favorite artists, Susan Branch recently started a blog – I love it and think some of you might, too.

A fellow writer-mama, yoga-teacher friend of mine started something called “Breathing Space” where she delivers doses of serenity and balance to your inbox. Check it out and share if it moves you.

More Love and Logic

(Here’s part 2 of perhaps 3 of the follow-up to my June Baby on Board article.)

For those of you who tune out because this Love and Logic stuff is just for parents, it does work on all kinds of people in your life. Mostly, I think, because the essence is learning to stay in control of yourself and responding instead of reacting. An essential component to the Love and Logic practice is also keeping the focus on what you are willing to do rather than targeting the negative. Just this small switch yields remarkable results.

I also need to say that as with anything, misapplying the principles of Love and Logic (or the Bible, or the Koran…) is the bastardization of the original spirit of the program, so I don’t want to hear stories about how it’s “cruel” and “unfair” and “mean” because someone heard a story somewhere about a parent who thought a reasonable “natural consequence” was actually abusive and harmful. I would hope it is obvious that is not the kind of parenting we’re aiming for here!

These ideas may not be for you and yours, but that’s another thing entirely.

One of my favorite new parenting tools is a three-dollar timer I picked up at Target. Instead of packing a wooden spoon I tucked the timer in my suitcase on a recent family trip. The entire week Sam had no spankings and zero time-outs. This is not to say there weren’t challenges along the way, but I had just enough of this Love and Logic stuff fresh on my mind, and the timer, to give me the tools I needed to practice my new mental-Jedi parenting.

That timer is in charge of time-outs (aka “head check” time), resolves sharing disputes, supervises speed cleaning contests and somehow delights my toddlers in a way I don’t quite get. All I care about is that it works.

In addition to the timer, we created a “timeout” spot where one of two things happen. Depending on the situation, and his response to it, I’ll tell Sam he can come out when he’s ready to act sweet. Or, I get the timer and when he is quiet I set it for two minutes and when it dings, I don’t lecture him about why he was in time out like I once did because I learned in the class that it’s okay to treat your kid like they’re “smarter than the family dog.” Meaning – your kid knows why they’re in there. The timeout is the punishment, save your breath and let everyone move forward as quickly as possible. If you’re not sure they know, tell them on the way to timeout: “In our family we don’t [insert offensive action here].”

One of the first things we learned was the “uh-oh” song – which was confusing to me because as far as I can tell, it’s not actually a song. I am so literal, I searched online for the actual song. I figured out that the “song” is actually the sing-songy voice you use to say “uhhh-ohh” when you see your child about to do something that’s going to cause an issue. So for me, a frequent issue, is seeing one of my boys with their arms mid-air, poised to strike the other one. “Uhh-ohh” in my sing-song voice often makes them pause and re-think their action. When it doesn’t, I take him gently (I repeat gently- dislocated joints were discussed at this point in the class), sing “uh-ohh” and lead them to our time out spot. For Sam, it’s the entry bench, for Jake it’s his play-pen cleared of toys.

{Note: I was concerned that using his playpen as a timeout spot would make it harder for me to use it when I actually needed him to play in there for a moment, turns out I didn’t need to worry. He knows the difference. It’s in how we interact with him and what is said when he goes in there that sets the tone. This is true for bedroom time as well. See below.}


Bedroom Time: This is the mother of timeouts. If Sam needs more than the few minutes of a simple timeout to regain his composure, or it’s clear to me that he needs more time to chill out—or if I need to recover from the result of his misbehavior—I take him to his room, always offering a choice. {see below} A favorite from Jennifer’s class “would you like to go on your feet or go in the air?” If he doesn’t walk himself upstairs, I pick him up and get him there. At this point there’s a series of quick choices, if he fails to chose, I pick for him – life lessons in action. “Do you want your door open or closed?” Often, at the start of this, he’s pissed enough that by his throwing a car at the door, I interpret that as needing the door closed. I let him know that he needs to be in there until he can calm down and I’m right here when he’s ready.

p.s. it would be smart of you to remove anything you can stand to have broken. Obviously, this should be a safe place for your child to be alone. And you aren’t taking a bath during this time, as much as you’re waiting nearby where he/she can’t see or hear you for the very moment they are calm so you can either start the timer for a timeout or help them move on with the day.

I know that to some people this seems just awful. For me, the thought of not teaching him that he can calm himself down, with my help if needed, is worse than making him go to his room. I know some people believe there is a path to parenting without punishments. More power to them. I am mindful of teaching my boys that having strong feelings is totally okay. Hurting themselves and others during these emotional storms is not. I needed a way to enforce some of our ground rules to keep everyone safe and sane. These are the things that are working for us. I share them only in the event that they might help someone else.

Finally, today, I’ll share one more key element of this concept: Give lots of choices. You can avoid power struggles by giving plenty of choices when things are going well, always two options each of which work for you. Here’s the part I forgot before the class: if you’re child doesn’t choose within ten seconds, you decide. Super easy ways to do this are at mealtimes: which color cup? Orange or blue? What shape do they want their sandwich? Square or triangle? When they pick circle (as Sam often does) remind them that wasn’t a choice. Square or triangle? Do they want to put on their shirt first, or pants? Whatever … it works wonders.

Perhaps one of the most important things I learned was this:

Parenting isn’t about perfection, it’s about practice. And a willingness to be uncomfortable and allow your child to deal with the consequences of their actions rather than hovering over them like a helicopter ready to rescue them the second life gets real.

Resources to learn more

- Love and Logic website

I also like their Facebook page because real parents (and trained Love and Logic teachers) help each other come up with Love and Logic solutions to every day, as well as out of the ordinary, situations.

- A local wealth of information is Jennifer Bass: or 503-554-4973. Call to schedule a group class, or to see where more are being offered.

Love and Logic

(Post one of several on this subject)

I’ve been reading parenting books since Sam was a baby in my belly. Some of you may remember this post, but my favorite was the Love and Logic book by Jim and Charles Fay.

Matt and I recently took a parenting class. He would prefer I call it something else since “parenting class” sounds court-mandated. To this I say, I only wish birthing centers popped some Love and Logic DVDs to watch during labor in addition to the dated safety movies which, while helpful, are for emergency situations rather than the practical, day-to-day tips new parents really need.

Maybe I’m not a new parent anymore, but I’ve never had a 3-year-old before. And then with my youngest, it’ll be true that I’ve never had that 3-year-old before!

I was turned on to the concept of Love and Logic when I read an example of it’s use with a teenager on Stacy Julian’s website. It made so much sense to me, and worked with my beliefs about my role as a parent, that I ordered the book targeting the toddler set immediately.

I'd been praying for an opportunity to attend a live workshop so I could troubleshoot some of the things I didn’t quite get. When the flyer came home from Sam’s school that the class was being offered for $30 with childcare included, I was stoked.

Of course, I wrote a column about it but 600 words wasn’t nearly enough to scratch the surface. So, here are a few of the things I had to leave out but still wanted to share.

Techniques I particularly love:

- State what you are willing to do:

“I serve snacks at 10 and 3.”

“I take boys who are behaving swimming.”

“I will listen when your voice is calm like mine.” (Obviously, this works best when you aren’t yelling.) Winking smile 


- Phrase things in the positive. This is not the same as not setting limits, it’s just in how you say it.
I had a chance to watch this in action on a recent visit with my parents. We had the same end-goal which was that Sam had to wait until we got to the pool to play with a beach ball. They lead with the obvious “no” and “you can’t play with that now.” This set off a negative reaction. I found it easier to state what he could do, which was: “you’re welcome to play with the ball at the pool.” And then instantly follow up with a choice “do you want to carry it to the car or should I?” He carried it to the car and had a ball at the pool.

PS Had he opted to have a fit instead, I was prepared to tell him we take boys who act nice to the pool and he was welcome to stay home and throw his fit while his brother and I had fun swimming. (Because my mom was at the house and was willing to help with this).

- Teach them how to be successful

I know that seems obvious, it’s just some of the things don’t occur to us when we’re in the middle of a tantrum. So, last night for example Sam threw an epic fit because he couldn’t go with his dad to retrieve our runaway dog. When he calmed down, I asked him if he’d like to learn some ways to deal with his anger that wouldn’t get him in trouble. He said he did.

It was important to me that he understands being angry, even showing it, is not a problem. It’s the way he handles it that matters. I think this is a lesson a lot of adults could stand to learn. Anyway … we talked at dinner about ways his dad and I deal with our anger. I gave an example where I got up, went to the couch and punched the soft cushion a few times while saying: “I am so angry! That felt so unfair!”

Sam said I looked silly. I said “probably so, but I feel better now. Wanna try it?” He did. This morning when he was mad that I wouldn’t let him eat bread out of the bag for breakfast, guess what he did?

Of course, punching cushions might not work for you, so suggest things that would work for everyone.

Tomorrow I’ll post more phrases and concepts I found especially helpful. As always, let me know what you think!