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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

10 Ways to Learn from Everyday Life (Inspired by My Life in Japan)

Welcome to the August 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Life Learners
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have talked about how they continue learning throughout life and inspire their children to do the same.
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I firmly believe that we can learn from everyday life.
Last year, I was an exchange student in Japan; I went to a Japanese school, I lived with a Japanese family, and I experienced Japanese life. I was constantly learning; everything in my life was fresh and new. I didn't have to work at all to learn new things; in everything that I did, I was learning. In some ways, people who unschool approach schooling with a similar philosophy: children are surrounded with learning opportunities, and they constantly pick things up through modeling in experience. I think that this kind of learning doesn't have to stop when you're small. When I was abroad (and was, in some ways, learning how to do life over again), I leaned a lot of ways to carry this kind of learning into adulthood, and I wanted to share some of my tips with you guys! I wrote a lot of tips (I shamelessly like to talk about myself), so, for your reading ease, I have the tip in bold at the top, and then a bolded summary at the bottom (if it's tl;dr). Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Show up/Say Yes
In Japan, one of my rules for myself was that, if I were invited to any kind of outing or activity (minus anything that would put me in a compromising position/made me uncomfortable/would be dangerous), I would say yes, even if I wanted to say no.
I was almost always game for anything in Japan; I had been dreaming of living there for so long, and I truly wanted to experience everything that I could. But sometimes, I would come home from school, exhausted from a day of translating everything that was going on around me. Someone would invite me to go and do something, and I would want to say no. Not because I didn't want to do the thing itself, but because I was worn out, and slightly overwhelmed and I just wanted to sleep. But every time, I made myself say yes.
 I did these activities and went to these places, even though I was worn out, and I am so, so glad that I did. I got to experience so many special things-- experiences that I would have missed if I had said no.
Since I came back to America, I don't use this rule all of the time, but sometimes, someone will invite me to go somewhere, and, even though I'm tired, and I don't want to go, I go. And every time, I learn new things, have new experiences, and meet new people.
Recently, my friend called. Her partner was using the car, and she needed to buy new nappies from the market. It was 10:30 at night, and I really, really didn't want to go. I was exhausted. But, I went anyway, and I got to hold her baby, and to talk to her, and to learn about her life as a new mother. If I hadn't gone, I would have missed out on all of that.
When I say "yes", I always learn something new.
Caveat: I'm a big believer in saying no when you need to, so obviously, with this rule, use your best judgement, and do what's safe for you. 
Book club -- something I may not have done if I hadn't been following my "always say yes" rule. It was one of my coolest experiences abroad. We read a book about a Japanese woman who came to live in America (Daughter of a Samurai, for anyone interested), so, my classmates interviewed me about being an American woman living in Japan (and dressed me up in kimono, because why not).
2. Utilize Free Moments
I find that, any time that I have a free moment during which I could possibly be actively learning something, I waste it messing around on the internet, or lying around and doing nothing productive. Please tell me I'm not the only one.
This happens to me on a daily basis:
"Cool! I have a free hour! I should do my Japanese flashcards. I'll just check my email first..."
*Mindlessly scrolls Tumblr for the entire hour*
"....Crap."
Although technology is super distracting (at least, to me personally), it's also full of amazing resources that can help maimize your learning during your free time.
If you're interested in making better use of your free time, there are tons of amazing resources available. YouTube videos and podcasts are great; I really like Sci Show and Crash Course, because the videos are interesting, funny, and short (and because I love John and Hank Green, so, so very much). You could throw one up on your phone while you wait for the train, while you stand in line at the grocery store, or during any time that you have a free second.
 If you're with your kids, Sci Show and Crash Couse both have super cool children's versions of their shows, which I highly recommend! Although they're for kids, I always learn something new from them.
If you're not feeling videos, or you don't want to use technology, make yourself some foreign language, science, or (insert your personal interest here) flashcards! I make my own Japanese flashcards and carry them around with me everywhere. When I have a free second, I pull the out and study them! It's super effective.
Use your free time wisely; watch a video, use flash cards, learn something new.
3. Raise Awareness
This is such a pretentious-sounding thing to say, but seriously. I find that, the more aware you are of your surroundings, and the more you take in, the more you learn.
When I was abroad, I was constantly taking in everything. I wanted to see it all, understand it all, and remember it all. Things that were totally normal to Japanese people were mind-blowing to me. Every second of the day, I was reading everything around me, looking at every building, asking to know what everything around me was. I stopped to smell every rose, quite literally.
I don't have nearly this much curiosity about my home country, but, since I've been back, I've been trying to see it with a similar curiosity. After all, there are tons of things that I don't know about my home city. Why not take the time to try and learn them?
What's in that building down the street from your house? What's the name of that river you drive over every day, or the bridge you use to do so? How about the flowers in your garden; do you know their names? I could answer all of these questions and more about my home in Japan, because I was always asking them, and yearning to know the answers.
  You can learn so much by being aware of what is around you and asking questions. 
A photo my host sister took of me getting overly excited about a gourd
Getting hype about cake (what can I say? I like food)

4. See Everything as a Learning Experience 
I had a few months in between when I came back from Japan and when I started working again when I was kind of in limbo, and, when I first came back, I (very pretentiously) decided to try and find ways to learn from "life experiences".
Sometimes, this meant actively going out and trying new things (traveling to a new city, making something, ect), but, most of the time, it meant looking at frustrating situations in my life and saying, "Well, at least this is a new life experience!"
There was a small period of time when, due to transportation issues, I had to walk about a mile and a half to work every day. This was in January, in Pennsylvania, so, it was snowy and extremely cold. But, every morning when I tied on my scarf and braced myself for the freezing weather, I forced myself to silently think, "Life experience! I never walk out in the snow, so I'll see a lot of new things today! I wonder what I'll discover." I got to find new things that I would not find normally, and experience thing that I would not have, if I hadn't had to walk. Even though this wasn't the most pleasant thing I have ever done, I can honestly look back and say that I had gained a lot of positive learning experiences from my walks to work. Sometimes, I learned how to walk back out into the snowy landscape and frantically search for the ballet flats I had planned to change into (which had fallen out of my purse on the way to work), only to come back defeated, and have to explain to the children in my preschool class why I would be spending the entire day wearing wet snowboots. Okay, maybe I don't look back at ALL of the experiences with fondness.
When you see everyday happenings as learning experiences, I genuinely think that you learn more from them. Changing a diaper? Think about how amazing you've become at changing diapers since you've had a baby. You're a master. That's knowledge that you have gained. Are you driving somewhere new today? Awesome! You're learning a new route, and seeing things that you haven't seen before. Everything in life is a learning experience, and I find that, the more I try to see it that way, the more I end up learning.

5. Actively Participate in Life 
When I attended Japanese school, the temptation to just zone out in class was so strong; trying to understand what was going on in class took a tremendous amount of energy, and it would have been way easier to zone out and let my mind wander. But I didn't. I focused, I took notes, and I actively participated in everything that was happening. Spoiler alert: I learned a lot about Japanese culture, I made a deeper connection with my classmates and teachers, and I learned a ton of Japanese! In the end, I was so glad that I forced myself to pay attention to what was going on.
It's so easy to zone out and let learning opportunities pass you by. Choose to be an active participant in you life. Drink some water, meditate, whatever it takes -- try to pay attention to the learning opportunities that are around you all of the time!  
With some classmates at school 

6. Seek out new experiences
In Japan, it was easy to find new experiences, because everything I did was new -- no seeking necessary. Even walking down the street and seeing what was around my neighborhood was fresh, exciting, and special. I reveled in the new smells, sights, and sounds. However,it can be harder to do this in your home country; you've lived there for your entire life, and you've already experienced a lot there. But there are always new things to do and try, and new experiences are learning experiences!

My friend Alissa is particularly good at finding interesting places to go with the kids for whom she nannies. They always seem to be going to a cool museum that she's discovered, a beautiful park, or a new theme park. She finds many cool places where they can go and learn together. It's awesome!
Have you ever been to Philadelphia or Chicago (insert the name of a big city near you here)? Have you been to that museum in your town? How about that foreign grocery store down the street? Go and check these places out! You can see things that you haven't seen, and you can learn in these new environments.
Channel your inner Alissa; find cool new places to explore, and soak in learning from these new environments. 
7. The internet is your friend
Again, technology is cool. Videos, podcasts, blogs, apps -- find what works for you, and use it to learn!

8. Everyone has a story -- learn from them!
I believe that one of the best ways to learn is to discover new things from people around you. Everyone around you has a story; they know things that you don't know, that have experienced things that you can only imagine, and they have a perspective on life completely different from your own. When you stop to talk to new people, you learn more about them, and about the world.
In Japan, I talked to everyone whom I met. I wanted to become fluent in Japanese while living in Japan, and I also wanted to meet and interact with as many people as possible. Talking to everyone with whom I came into contact helped me reach both of those goals, and also helped me learn a lot about Japanese culture.
Interacting with new people was a lot easier when I was living in Japan. I saw hundreds of people at school every day, and, because I was the only exchange student at my school, people thought that it was kind of glamorous to be able to talk to me (which is laughable, but true). Although it's not as easy to do this in your home country, think about how many people you come into contact with every day; store clerks, strangers in line at an event, other parents at the playground. Try striking up a conversation with one of these people! I find that, every time I make the effort to talk to a stranger (whether it's the clerk at the grocery store, a friend of my brother's, or someone new online), I benefit. I learn a new perspective, I discover something interesting about that person's life, or I gain a new friend.
If you're someone who has trouble striking up conversations like this, but who wants to become better at it, I find that it helps to be outrageously polite and friendly, and to compliment the heck out of people (people like compliments). These are basically common sense, but they work.
 Next time someone is bagging your groceries or waiting in line next to you at an event, try talking to them. You might learn something new. 

With some classmates in Japan

9. Make deeper connections
On the flip side, maybe you're not so into chatting up random strangers -- that's totally understandable. It's not everyone's thing. Although these small connections can be a cool way to learn from other people, deeper connections are a great way to do this, too. Find a few close friends, and make it your goal to become closer to these people; how much do you really know about them and their lives?
 In Japan, I always asked people questions so that they would talk to me (I have no shame and I wanted to talk to people). I wrote some questions that you can use to spark conversations with friends:
1. In what moment were you the happiest that you have ever been?
2. Which colour reminds you the most of yourself?
3. Why did you choose your children's names? Are there stories behind them?
4. Which countries have you visited? Which was your favourite, and why?
5. Did you like high school/university? What were your favourite/least favourite parts?
Or, if you're not feeling, that, you could do a fun game/app together, I like The Seven Second Challege (which would be amazingly fun for kids, as well), but there are lots of fun options.
Get to know your friends more deeply. Ask questions and enjoy their company as fully as you can.
With my most sister in Japan. I connected with her by constantly interrogating her about her life (which, bafflingly, worked, and we're now friends).

10. Take your kids!! 
You're not the only one who can learn things from everyday life! Your kids can learn right alongside you. Then, not only to you get the joy of learning something new, you also get to see your kids learning and growing with you.
A bonus eleventh tip: No pressure! Life is not a competition, in which you have to learn as much as you can. You don't have to follow my crazy setps, or anyone's crazy steps, unless you like them and they work for you. Just do the best you can, and figure out what works best for you.
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I hope that all of this helps you guys as you work on learning from everyday life! If you have any questions, please throw them in the comments!
If you want to learn more about my trip to Japan (i.e, if, for some reason, this post of pretentious ramblings really tickled your fancy and you WANT MORE), you can check out my Japan Journals! They're numbered, and they all have "Japan Journal" in the title, so, they're pretty simple to navigate.
How do you learn from everyday life? Let me know in the comments! I'm always looking for tips. 
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • The Financial Advice That Saved My Marriage — Shortly after they got married, Emily at Natural Parents Network and her husband visited a financial planner. Many of the goals and priorities they set back then are now irrelevant, but one has stuck with them through all of the employment changes, out-of-state-moves, and child bearing: allowances.
  • Lifelong Learning — Survivor at Surviving Mexico--Adventures and Disasters writes about how her family's philosophy of life-long learning has aided them.
  • Inspiring Children to be Lifelong Learners — Donna from Eco-Mothering discusses the reasons behind her family's educational choices for their daughter, including a wish list for a lifetime of learning.
  • Always Learning — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves learning, and lately she's undertaken a special project that her family has been enjoying sharing with her.
  • We're all unschoolers — Lauren at Hobo Mama embraces the joy in learning for its own sake, and wants to pass that along to her sons as she homeschools.
  • My children, my teachers Stoneageparent shares how becoming a parent has opened doors into learning for her and her family, through home education and forest school.
  • Never Stop Learning — Holly at Leaves of Lavender discusses her belief that some of the most important things she knows now are things she's learned since finishing "formal" schooling.
  • Learning is a Lifelong Adventure — Learning has changed over time for Life Breath Present, and she is more excited and interested now than ever before.
  • Facebook: The Modern Forum — Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains why Facebook is today's forum - a place where people from all walks of life can meet to discuss philosophies, debate ideas, and share information.
  • 10 Ways to Learn from Everyday Life (Inspired by my Life in Japan) — Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different offers tips she learned while living in Japan to help you learn from everyday life.

Monday, August 3, 2015

On Feeling Like You Might Kind of Suck

UGH.
So, I'm writing this out, in the hopes that I can find others who can commiserate with me, or that, somehow, if I write it out, I will feel better about the situation.
Recently, I feel like I SUCK at being a nanny, and at taking care of kids. I just feel like I majorly suck at it.
I feel like I am not patient enough with the girls. Too often, I feel like I get frustrated over something that really doesn't matter at all.
I feel like maybe I don't do a good enough job explaining things to the girls, that too often, I'm tired, and I'm focused on too many things, and my explanation is not full enough, not good enough. That, when answering tricky questions, when considering "if I explain it this way, would that be a statement that your parents would agree with/be okay with?" I lose the explanation that I really wanted to give.
When I have the girls choose an activity or craft instead of doing free play, I feel like I'm doing a bad job because I'm forcing them to do something, instead of following their lead.
When I follow their lead, I end up feeling like we aren't doing anything productive, and that we really should be doing something.
But, I KNOW that none of this is true.
I know that these thoughts come from some part of me that thinks that I am NOT good enough,
I know that I am crazy patient with the girls, that, even when I am frustrated, I never yell. That I always speak in a fairly calm and sweet voice. That my most frustrated statement is usually, "Okay, like I said before, right now I am working on something with your sister, but if you wait a minuet, I can help you with what you need, okay?" in a slightly harried voice. That, even though I sometimes slip up and say something that could have been phrased better, for the most part, I stay pretty calm. But, COULDN'T I BE DOING BETTER? Why is my voice ever harried? Why am I ever frustrated? Why can't I be a goddess-like paragon of patience and virtue?
Because no one can be. I'm working of being patient, on being loving, on being the best that I can. It's hard. No one is perfect.
I know that when it comes to activities, I'm struggling with my personal desire to keep a schedule. And honestly, this summer, I have been doing a pretty good job of veering from our general schedule, and going with what the girls want to do. Things have been a little bit hectic this summer, and we have had a lot of changes, but, as a unit, we've mostly been going with the flow, and we've had a pretty awesome summer. I should be happy with what we've done. I've let go of a lot of my personal desire for control and schedule, even though it has not always been easy for me. The girls have had tons of opportunities to explore their interests in ways that they enjoy, and we have done many, many cool and fun things this summer.
Drawing with chalk (one of our summer activities)

Celebrating Raksha Bandhan

As far as working with tricky questions, I've been doing the best that I can. The parents for whom I work are amazing, kind, and super cool people, but they use a parenting style that is drastically different from mine, and their general worldview is extremely different from mine, as well. Sometimes this is difficult, but I've been doing the best that I can, considering the circumstances.
I know these things. I know that I'm doing my best.
I love the kiddos that I watch. The are sweet, intelligent, fun, creative, and lovely kids. I am so, so lucky to be able to spend time with them. I treasure the hours that we spend together. I enjoy watching them play and grow. And I know, at least hypothetically, that I am doing a good job caring for them.

And yes, there's that nagging voice. You known the one.
The one that says, "You aren't good enough. You could be doing so much better. You sucks at taking care of kids. You're going to be a horrible mother someday. You should never even have children."
I hate that voice.
But some days, it's really, really hard to make it go away.

Monday, July 6, 2015

July 2015: I Want to be Bold and Brave and Foolish

This is my jam right now, for some reason. I'm on a Mountain Goats kick right now (John Green has been sharing one Mountain Goats per every day recently, in anticipation of the Paper Towns premiere, and it's amazing. I love this song, but I wish it were about 10 minuets longer (I'm constantly having to switch windows so that I can play it again).
And the Chicago Cubs will beat every team in the league/
And the Tampa Bay Bucks will make it all the way to January/
And I will love you again/
I will love you/
Like I used to
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Went to see Me and Earl and the Dying Girl today, and it was golden.
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Adora was talking about something about which she's really excited, and she said "the future is now," so, she officially talks like I do. Which is great.
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Adora was concerned that I would forget something today, so she told me, "Write it on your hand. You'll never remember unless you do."
...I mean, she's right about that.
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I gave Juno my Dad's old iPhone today (it's completely dead), and she held it in her hand for a while, and kept looking at it expectantly, as if somehow, someway, it was going to start working.
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Today, I gave Adora a necklace that I bought in Japan. I was kind of concerned that she might lose it, and I really like it, so I said something like, "Okay, will you be careful to keep track of it when you take it off?" She responded, "I'm never taking this thing off!"
Oh, my goodness. Day made <3
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Bold and Brave and Foolish
I am divided
Into two halves
The bold and brave
And the calculated and careful
The calculated and careful
Is much larger, much more pronounced, and much, much louder
“Being bold and brave is foolish,” it tells me
"You’re going to ruin your friendship
And end up
With your heart ripped out
And stomped on
And that girl
Is going to destroy you."
“Keep yourself safe,” it chides,
“You will hurt her, and yourself.
Only pain will come from this.”
But the bold and the brave –
It’s hopeful, and it’s imaginative,
And it says, it its still small voice,
“Take a risk! 
Think of all the good
That could come to you
If you are open, and honest,
If you share your love fully and entirely
If you tell her how you feel
Even though you are terrified.”
And although the careful part of me is loud,
The part of me that is irreparably fallen
Wants to be bold
And brave
And foolish.
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This is my current jam. Yay, representation!
Thanks, internet, ILY. 
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I had a dream today, and it was magical.
In it, Adora, Juno, and I went on some sort of adventure (one which I completely cannot recall now, of course). After the adventure, we went back to my house, and I took Juno up to the bunk beds, where we read together. She instantly fell asleep, at which point, Adora and I retreated to the downstairs, where we watched The Mindy Project with Mindy Kaling herself, somehow. It was a magical experience.
I told Adora about this, and she thinks it's hilarious.

Friday, July 3, 2015

June 2015: SCOTUS Gives Me Life, and other Amazing Happenings

This came up on my Tumblr dash in an astrology post, and I thought that it was really sweet:
CANCER: you deserve to shine as bright as you possibly can, you deserve to see the stars, and taste galaxies, and love someone who knows what that word means. you deserve so much, much more than i’ll ever be able to give. but i will give it up anyway. no more regrets. dance a lot to loud music, and sleep with your entire body and soul, take care of yourself in the most gentle way you know how. i want you to have fun. go out and do something only mildly reckless. i want you to find stories, to tell, to write, to capture, to paint, to sing half badly at the top of your lungs. you are so lovely. none of these words will ever be enough to tell you how grateful i am that you are here.
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Feeling cynical today, so:
Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love. ―Neil Gaiman
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I need to stop saying that I want to marry things/people. I'm turning into Maeby. 

People who I have said that I wanted to marry in the last 24 hours:
Dodie Clark (because duh)
The person who runs the Creepy, Abandoned Chi-Chi's blog
The guy in the "How Alt-J Makes Music" video who sits there the entire time, eating rice cakes. 
Hey, guys, holla at me. the four of us could have a beautiful life together. 
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All I really want this summer is to go to a creepy, abandoned Chi-Chi's. That's all I need. 
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I want to make a list of thing this month that are making me happy (specifically stuff with Adora and Juno) Here we go!:
Making soap with the chikadees, and them deciding to sell it and give the proceeds to charity. 
(6/13)
Cuddling with Juno and watching movies
Building forts and reading with the girls
Hiding (and finding) the Friday Box
"I wish we had that box EVERY Friday!"
Juno finding happiness after she has been disappointed
Days when Juno surprises me, and is okay with things that I thought would make her bubble over with frusteration
Days when I keep my cool, even though she is angry/crying/yelling, and help her through these moments
When Adora reads out loud to us from books
Doing pretty much ANYTHING with JC; specifically, watching Mad Max and ALL of Unbreakable last time we hung out was awesome <3 
Seeing Kristian tonight!! It's been too long, and I am so excited to see her again. 
Finishing my DIY sling! And taking about 50000 pictures in it
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Conversation with Juno today (about this video):
Juno: "The person who is married to Sara Barellis is really lucky."
Me: "I agree! Sara is so awesome and talented."
Juno: "I would totally go to the grocery store if I could meet Sara."
Me: "Me, too, it would be amazing. What if she did a concert around here, and we went, and then we get to meet her? What would you do?"
Juno: "I would scream!"
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Really well-phrased words from Tumblr (kayliemalinza.tumblr.com). 
"how can you be mad at new words, we’re so starved for ways to describe ourselves and see ourselves how are you gonna be prissy about more nuance and exploration and understanding, did y’all never go through that phase of i don’t know what i am but it’s something wrong
compulsory heterosexuality is a hell of a drug but that’s not our fault, homophobia is murder but that’s not our fault, stop blaming kids for being confused or in the closet. how do new terms and understandings do anything but help that?"
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The SCOTUS granted marriage equality in the United States today, and I am so, so happy.
Ben came to pick me up from Adora and Juno's today (I don't access the internet for personal use when I'm with the kids) and told me in the car, and I shrieked with joy and danced around (and may have shed some joyful tears). I'm honestly so happy right now. Four for you, America. You go, America.
This obviously isn't everything, and we have a long road ahead until we achieve full equality in our society, but this is a move in the right direction, and it's just really bringing out the love this week. Facebook just feels like a giant party, everyone is celebrating, and it's so great. Love is just radiating out from everywhere, and I'm honestly feeling so happy and fulfilled. Today, something that was wrong in the world was righted. Thank you, SCOTUS. Thank you.
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I was hanging with the weeacrew yesterday, and we had the following conversation:
Den: '"I went to a party last week, and there was an awkward silence, and someone said, 'every time there's an awkward silence, a gay baby is born,' and it just took me back six years, like, I hadn't heard anyone say that since middle school."
JC: "Man, there must have been a lot of awkward silences for all of us to be here in this room right now."
It was a beautiful moment.
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The week after the SCOTUS decision has been magic for me. Oh, my goodness, I have been overflowing with love and happiness. I just feel so validated and happy. And it's beel like a coming-out fest during the last week, which has been amazing, and so many people who I knew in the past have shown their support for the LGBTQ+ community, and my heart is so full. Chloe came up to me the other day and told me how happy she was about the decision (and I'm not even out to her XD But I have been celebrating very openly on FB), and that made my week. It's just been lovely.
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Quotes from the person who sat next to me at college orientation:
"I'm like a ho, expect for water."
At one point, the powerpoint read, in huge lettering, "What will YOU do at XYZ college?" They said under their breath, "Be hella gay."
"Basically all you need to know about me is that I'm a ho in every sense of the word. I'm an art ho, I'm a water ho, I'm a ho ho...ho. I'm a Christmas ho."
We wrote "Six Word Stories" about ourselves. They wrote, "I like puns, they are funny," and then ellaborated with, "See? IT'S A PUN. Because my pronouns are they, and I'M HILARIOUS."
All I can think now is "punception."

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I just learned the word "groutfit." It's when you wear a grey sweatshirt with grey sweatpants. That's your groutfit. There's a word for this. Bless modern times.
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I saw something cute in a music video today and said "Aw!", and Juno instantly asked, "What? Did you see a baby?"
She knows me too well.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Read-Aloud Book Review: Ling and Ting are Saving Our Lives

     Adora, Juno, and I love, love, LOVE to read! We spend a good amount of time reading every day, which I personally think is good for all of us. It gives Adora and Juno time to recharge, relax, and regain energy (so that they can return to being their energetic and effervescent selves for the rest of the afternoon), it allows us to learn new things and strengthen reading skills, it helps us connect out weekly themes with information and pictures (I often get books that relate to our themes), and it's a lovely time for us all to be together. I love reading, and I'm trying to pass some of that love onto them. Plus, I really, really enjoy reading out loud. And recently, the kidlets do, too! 


Our book pile. Featuring the boxed I have packed to take to uni, because I'm too lazy to crop them out. Maybe I like my pictures better raw? It's more authentic, probably. Don't judge.

     This has brought up one, little tiny issue: finding appropriate out-loud reading material for Juno. Adora always reads aloud to us from Junie B. Jones; she is amazing. She does hilarious voices for each of the characters and puts a ton of emotion into reading. You can really tell how much she loves to read! We love hearing her read, too.
 Juno, however, is a lot younger than Adora, and is less practiced at reading aloud. I love hearing her read stories, but Adora is generally not as patient with it as I am, which I understand (it's hard to be the oldest, and while she's generally very patient and understanding, this is one thing that she finds less easy to tolerate). As much as Juno longs to read us chapter books, it's a bit much for her (and a bit trying on Adora's patience), and picture books just aren't classy enough for her. We needed something in between, but I was having trouble finding that thing.

Enter Ling and Ting, my summer saviors.
Ling and Ting books are amazing, for these, and many more, reasons:
A. Ling and Ting books are short and aimed at younger children, but they are cute, and they are hilarious. The stories are at Juno's reading level, yet they easily capture Adora's attention (which isn't always easy to catch).
B. Ling and Ting books have chapters, which makes Juno feel super fancy (her basic reaction to seeing the chapters was, "Now that's classy, partner.") and accomplished, but the chapters are short, so she doesn't feel overwhelmed when attempting to finish one. Amazing. 
C. We need more diverse books in the world, and Ling and Ting are helping with that effort.w The protagonists are Chinese, and the book features stories in which they practice with chopsticks and make their own dumplings, amongst many other cool and interesting stories. I love reading books that features diverse characters with the girls, and they love these stories, so it's a win-win!
D. Grace Lin wrote the book, and she is a gift to this godforsaken world. All of her books and super diverse, super interesting, super well written, and super worth reading. 

To recap, pretty much every day, the girls and I would have a conversation along these lines:
Juno: "I want to read!"
Adora: "PLEASE don't let her read!"
And it was frustrating, because I wanted everyone to be happy, but there was no way for me to make it happen. Ling and Ting have completely eliminated this, and have SAVED OUR LIVES, I tell you. 
Also, this post is 100% not sponsored? I'm honestly just so hype about this book, man. 
What books are you and your kidlets enjoying this summer? Let me know in the comments! We could totally use recommendations.
Juno is reading and EVERYONE IS HAPPY (!!)
(Also, the lights are off. Like a movie theatre, obviously) 
PS: I was really tempted to add "by Fall Out Boy" to the end of this title, but I restrained myself.
PPS: If you didn't watch the Elmify video I linked to earlier, you're missing out, because she's amazing and a creative genius. 


Wordless Wednesday: England

I wanted to chronicle our summer through photos, but I'm off to a pretty lame start (which is to say, it's been three weeks and I haven't made any posts). But, NO MORE! I'm actually going to do this now.
We've been learning about England this week. See some of our activities here!

Juno painting her own teacup 

Adora's trifle -- yum!

Juno's trifle <3

Making our own tea blends -- complete with our own fancy tea boxes (thanks for making me look classy, Dollar Tree)

And now, a tea party! With trifle and our own special teacups

Making wire bases for flower crowns for Midsummer's Night; scroll down to see them completed 

Adding flowers


Making Fairie Circles

Flower crown in action during the building of the Fairie Circles



The fairies left us gifts!



Completed flower crowns

We love to read! 
I'm feeling lazy and I don't want to get my camera card and add what we did today, so there's what we have so far this week! We're having lots of fun exploring England, and we loved celebrating Midsummer's Night. What have you all been up to this summer? 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Letter to the Mama Whom I Will Become

Welcome to the June 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Talking to Yourself
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written letters to themselves. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
***
I love kids, but I'm not a mother yet.
 I write this blog as an AP nanny/baby sitter, but I don't yet have kids of my own. However, I excitedly anticipate the day when I will raise my own kids, and in honour of that, I wrote a letter to the mother that I will one day become.
Also, I pulled out the embarrassing middle school photos on this post. FOR YOU GUYS.
......................................
Hey you,
Wow! You made it! You're a mother.
Take a moment to just think about that.
Hold your baby in your arms. Breathe in their smell, hug them to yourself. You're here, you did it, you're a mama, and this is your baby.

Think back in time.
Remember when you were in middle school, absentmindedly daydreaming, picturing what it would be like when you could finally become a mother. You chose embarrassing names for your hypothetical children, designations that you've long forgotten. You imagined what they would look like, you pictured the kind of house in which you might live, the home that you would create with them. You dreamt of speaking to them in Japanese (some things never change) and caring for their needs.
Middle school Erin and baby 
Middle school Erin with a kiddo (and VERY pronounced braces) 

Recall as a high schooler, practicing with your ring sling, learning how to tie on your baby wrap, reading countless articles about babywearing, and pining over gorgeous rainbow wraps. You learned these skills for then, for nannying and baby sitting and caring for your friend's offspring, but as you did so, you couldn't help but imagine the future, when your carriers will hold your own babies, when you will hold your own close to your heart.
The first picture I have of myself babywearing. We've come a long way. 
Beginning at a young age, while out in public, you always notice babies. "Aw, look at the baby!" and "Check out that sweet carrier" (you're like a babywearing radar) are familiar comments from you. One day, you're at the beach with your mother, and you pass by a woman with her baby snugly cuddled in a wrap. Your mother turns to you and comments, "I know you were totally digging that lady's cool baby carrier." You were. A few days later, she comments to you, "I always notice when people are using baby carrier now, because of you!"
As a high schooler, one day, you're walking with your best friend, and you walk past a woman holding a smiling and cooing baby. After you pass her, your friend turns to you and comments, "You wanted to steal that baby, didn't you?" She knows you all too well. Later, she messages you, asking what your favourite animal is. Seconds later, she clarifies, "Other than baby humans, of course."

You do the same thing while you're living in Japan; you're always pointing out cute babies, especially if their parents are babywearing. And in Japan, their parents are ALWAYS babywearing. You do this so often that one day, your host grandmother teaches you a special word: おんぶ を します (onbu o shimasu) -- to wear one's baby on one's back.
Erin in Japan. Not pictured: any form of babywearing, or anything relevant to this blog post. I just really love talking about Japan, to be honest. 

Remember picturing yourself wearing your own kids, cosleeping, breastfeeding, caring for them. Think back to reading countless articles about homebirth and cosleeping, to learning about breastfeeding and natural living, to practicing babywearing. You have spent years and years caring for other people's children, and you have looked forward to this moment for a long time. And you made it! You did it. You're holding your own baby in your arms.
                   
                   Here are some things that I want you to know and remember:
     Your baby is yours, and you get to make decisions for them. What your Mother in law, Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles, childhood friends, or old classmates from high school think is not important. It's not their baby, it's your baby. As Steve Harvey once said, "Get your own baby. This ain't your baby." Be confident in your decisions, and in what works for you. And be your child's advocate. Fight for what is best for them. What people think about you is not important -- protecting your child and securing what is best and safest for them is.
     Motherhood is not perfect. You will be tired. You will want a break. You may be desperate for a minuet--a second, even! -- to yourself. You will be irritated sometimes. You might feel unsupported. These feelings are normal. You're not"doing it wrong". But when you are frustrated, tired, touched out, when everything seems wrong, remember back. Think about when you babywore, read, and dreamt of the future. Think about how much you've longed for this. Think about how special your kiddo is, how lucky you are to have them. Remember that these moments, even the tiring ones, are special.
     Don't be afraid to take pictures, to write, to save mementos. Capture the memories however you can. Take pictures of yourself babywearing, of partners and friends babywearing (can you tell I'm already excited at the prospect of babywearing photos?), of special moments. Of tiny toes and sleepy smiles, of your baby in special places and experiencing new things. You'll be glad that you did.
   You can do this. You are a good mother. You are patient, you are very loving, you are kind, you are giving, and you care about kids so, so much. But you're a worrier, and you're a perfectionist, and unfortunately, those two things, when mixed together, create a bitter cocktail of unnecessary regret and frustration that I feel that you might be drinking often as a new mother. You will worry that you are not enough. You might worry that you are too easily frustrated, that you are not loving in the way that your child needs you to be, that you are not adequate. But remember these things:
You are an amazing mother. An AMAZING mother!
You are perfect for your baby. You are just what they need. You are the right person to be their mother. They are lucky to have you, and you them.
You are loving. You are so, so very loving! Your child will be showered with all the love that they need and more. No need to worry.
You are such a patient person. You are usually calm in the face of chaos. It's normal to be annoyed sometimes, but even in the face of irritation, you generally stay calm and collected. Your child will thank you for this.
You are accepting and understanding. You love people for who they are. Your child will benefit from this.
You are constantly thinking about the best way to support and care for children. You care so, so very much about them.
You have so much of yourself to give to your kids. You are enough. You will always be enough.
                                          Keep calm and carry on, mama. You've got this.
                                    I'm so excited and happy for you. See you in the future, mama Erin.
...........................................................................................................................................
I wanted to add more of my babywearing practice pictures (from practicing with dolls, ect, to learn how to wrap correctly), because I just have SO. MANY. And why not, right? So, here they are:
Me wearing a buffalo. For your viewing pleasure.
                                                             

I swear, I'm happy. 
So happy! Because I finally figured out FWCC with my water wrap

DIY ring sling means hands free! 

Why yes, I DO have the same expression in all of my babywearing pictures.
.....I have dozens of reference pictures like this. I'll spare you from having to see all of them.
Also, just for fun, more pictures of middle school Erin (I keep finding them):
I look thrilled
I had the "I'm hands free and babywearing" pose down before I even knew what babywearing was (Does it concern anyone else that I look exactly the same in this picture taken six years ago as I do in the pictures that I took, like, last week? Is this why I'm always getting mistaken for a 7'th grader?) 
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*** Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Dear Me. — Meegs at A New Day writes to her decade-younger self offering a good reminder of how far she's come, and she addresses some fears she wishes future her could assuage.
  • Reflecting on Motherhood with Parental Intelligence: A Letter to Myself — Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. at Parental Intelligence writes about raising her two loving, empathic sons with Parental Intelligence and finding they have become industrious, accomplished young men with warm social relationships.
  • A Letter to MyselfThe Barefoot Mama writes to herself in the moments around the birth of her daughter.
  • A Letter to Myself — Holly at Leaves of Lavender offers a missive to herself in the past... three years in the past, to be precise, when her little one was only four months old.
  • Dear me: Nothing will go the way you've planned — Lauren at Hobo Mama gets real with her just-starting-parenting self and tells it to her straight.
  • A Letter to the Mama Whom I Will Become — Erin from And Now, for Something Completely Different writes a letter to the Mama whom she will one day be, filled with musings on the past, present, and future.
  • Dear Me of 7 Years Ago — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes to her pre-baby self telling her about the whirlwind she's about to enter called parenting.
  • Talking to My 18 Year Old SelfHannahandHorn talks to herself as she is just entering college.
  • Dear highly sensitive soulMarija Smits tells a younger version of herself that motherhood will bring unexpected benefits - one of them being the realization that she is a highly sensitive person.
  • Talking to myself: Dear Pre StoneageparentStoneageparent enlightens her pre-pregnant self about the amazing transformations life has in store for her after having two children
  • Dear Me: I love you. — Dionna at Code Name: Mama wrote herself a few little reminders to help her be at peace with who she is in the moment. That may give her the greatest chance of being at peace in the future, too.
  • My best advice to the new mama I was 8 years ago — Tat at Mum in Search shares the one thing she wishes she'd figured out earlier in a letter to her 8-years-ago self (that's when her first baby was 6 moths old).
  • A Letter to Myself — Bibi at The Conscious Doer sends a letter back in time eight years to her darkest moment post partum.
  • To me, with love — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama makes peace with her past and projects what a future her will need to hear.
  • To Myself on the Last Day — Rachael at The Variegated Life tells her panicked last-day-before-motherhood self not to worry.