Mom Profile- Virginia Falkner

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Half  Crunchy Mom profiles are short interviews with mamas I know who embrace the idea that mothers should unite despite our differences and complexities.

1) What makes you a Half Crunchy Mom?

I am not sure I would really call myself crunchy or even Half Crunchy. As a matter of fact, before I took the “How crunchy are you?” quiz I would have said I was NOT crunchy. But after taking the quiz, I realize I do have my moments. I breastfed for at least 6 months but was never a high milk producer so it didn’t last too long. We didn’t co-sleep (no way, I need my sleep) or use cloth diapers (the gag factor was too high), but we recycle and I even drive the recycling into town when we are on vacation which my father thinks is crazy. We have a garden in the backyard and there is nothing better than making a salad out of your own backyard, but I could never be a vegetarian let alone a vegan! I do try to cook as much from scratch as possible both from a health and cost standpoint, but time can be short some days forcing shortcuts meals or even fast food. I just try to do as much as I can without driving myself crazy with all the other responsibilities out there.

2) What are you good at as Mom?

I would say the thing I am best at as a Mom is being a kid. I love to play games, play in the snow (yes even this year), swim at the beach, do crafts, read books (I really miss reading the picture books now that my kids have grown up), plan parties (I usually go way overboard on the kids parties), go to museums, and all the other fun kid stuff. I often find myself jumping in to all the latest things my kids are doing – I’m pretty good at rainbow loom bracelets, awesome at friendship bracelets, can talk Star Wars or Pokemon or Harry Potter with any kid, love to make American Doll Girl clothes and have become quite the Lego expert (we have even made Pikachu and an AT-AT out of Legos here.) Hopefully the kids think I am fun and don’t wonder when Mom is going to grow up.

 3) What is your challenge as a Mom?

My answer might have been different when the kids were younger, but now my biggest challenge is teaching the kids all the “hard” lessons- manners at the table, pick up after yourselves, the value of money and that you have to work hard to get it, get your homework done, etc. So often I just want to take the “easy” route and let them get away with being lazy and sloppy. But then I have my cranky, tired, low patience days and realize that the demanding kids who have left Legos all over the floor and are not taking “no” for an answer to playing with the iPad are of my own creation. I need to work harder to teach them responsibility for themselves on my good days so the bad days will go a little smoother.

4) What surprised you most when you became a Mom?

The biggest shock to me was how physical it is to be a mom. When I stopped working to stay at home with the kids, I was just amazed at how physically tired I was each night. Between carrying the kids around, playing games or sports with them, heading up and down stairs for things, constantly having to pick up after people and wait on people – it is all so exhausting. Now that my kids are older, I am trying to get them to take more responsibility for themselves – but that is a constant, tiring battle on it’s own. Someday soon they will be waiting on me – right?

Virginia is mother of Katerina, 9, and Daniel, 6.

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Mom Profile- Bridgett Piacenti

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Half  Crunchy Mom profiles are short interviews with mamas I know who embrace the idea that mothers should unite despite our differences and complexities.

1) What makes you a Half Crunchy Mom?

First off, I am not a big fan of labels (which probably makes me more crunchy than not). Yet, as I muse on the term, my journey thus far as a mom may be deemed just that…half-crunchy. For starters, I received my B.A. in Marketing and Finance only to become a yoga teacher. After years of working in two corporate jobs, I was simply unfulfilled. I’ve birthed two children naturally, sans medication, in a hospital rather than at home simply because I didn’t want to clean-up the aftermath. My first child had nothing but organic, homemade baby food, whereas, when my second came along 3 ½ years later, baby food pouches had been birthed as well (one of the many baby inventions I wish I could claim). Needless to say, the baby food processor got far less use. On the feeding note, while I thoroughly enjoyed and am a huge advocate for breastfeeding, I happily ditched my nursing bra when both of my babes were done nursing just shy of their first birthday.

While I embody such passion for practicing and teaching yoga, I am also a creative mind and have a weakness for fashion; namely, vibrant (and often unreasonably priced) yoga clothing. Finally, along with continuing to teach yoga I also have aspirations to become a labor doula. As much as I adore my midwifery team and the profession itself, I don’t think I could hack the unyielding schedule.

2) What are you good at as a mom?

Confidence. I can honestly say that from the minute my first-born, Rocco, came into this world, I was certain in my role as a mother. Why? Well many variables really. For one, moments post natural childbirth I thought (and also verbalized several times to my husband), “After that really what can’t I do?” To date, the single most empowering experience that both my mind and body have endured. Secondly, being the oldest of four children in my family and having no sibling ahead of me to model. The role model I truly have is my mom, who is reason number 3. She was and still remains a remarkably compassionate and altruistic “supermom” (a bit ahead of her time) who simply did and does it ALL (including three natural childbirths). Funny enough, she too is the oldest in her family. One of the most primal things children need is security. It is my greatest hope that if I exemplify confidence in my mothering, they will feel secure as they grow in this world.

3) What is your biggest challenge as a mom?

Ironically, what I had originally thought to be what I am good at as a mom, upon reflection, emerged as my biggest challenge. I am a regimented person. While this is utilitarian where sleep training or creating a developmentally stimulating play space for my children is involved, it does hinder my ability to be spontaneous at times with them. I feel I am wonderful at encouraging them to be audacious and engage in new things, however, these affairs are often made within the framework of one of my “plans”. Luckily for us all, my husband beautifully balances this out by effortlessly weaving unpremeditated play into our days.

4) What surprised you most when you became a mom?

How much it has softened me as a person. I have always been a caring and compassionate individual, but I am not sure I knew what it meant to love with reckless abandon. When you become a mother, you truly wear you heart on your sleeve. I was a bit too tightly wound to utterly surrender and be vulnerable to a powerful emotion. Simply stated, my edge became a little less edgy.

Bridgett is a mom of Rocco, 8, and Prima, 4 1/2.

Scaredy Cat

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Fear. Unfortunately it has too much control over our lives. What if the kids get run over by a car? What if I get in a car accident and become a quadriplegic? What if I never do anything notable in my life? What if I never meet a life partner? What if I hit my head when I do a flip off the pier? Mark Twain said, “Some of the worst things in my life never happened.” This makes me smile and I realize how ridiculous it is to waste energy worrying about something that will probably never happen.

I’ve been reading about fear lately and was very relieved when this little mental trick was laid out for me.

1) Scary things are scary when you imagine them happening. You could be sitting on a beautiful beach with a cocktail, but not living in that moment or enjoying it at all because you are picturing the torn limbs from your body.
2) When you are actually in a scary situation (i.e. your car is careening towards a tree), you aren’t scared. You’re too busy for that. You are busy reacting to the situation. You are fully in that moment facing the task at hand. (Can you see I have a thing with cars?)
3) So if we just practice living in the moment and facing the tasks/people at hand (which are presumably not tumbling semi-trucks) and fully experience what is happening now, we won’t experience fear.

Do you think it works? Do you think we can live completely without fear? Hmmm…doubtful. But it’s a good goal.

Here’s another trick:

This is the worst time in the world to do it, but let’s say you’re laying in bed awake with images of carnage, missing kids, or a repossessed car. Whatever, pick your fear of the day. Now really get into it. Imagine the whole scenario and all of the details. Now imagine how you’d deal with it in all sorts of situations. Here I am, wheeling my wheelchair up to a storefront and can’t get over the threshold. Here we are putting a ramp on the front steps of our house. Here I am crawling into the bathtub.  This is where I start to imagine my new hobby of wheelchair racing in a marathon and skiing in one of those cool chair/ski contraptions. Humans are survivors, so inevitably, we’ll come around to seeing that we would find a way to handle what now feels like an impossibly scary situation. Then let it go. And go to sleep.

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(Above: Me kissing the fear of having my tank ripped off my back goodbye. My next fear lies behind me. Swimming through a wreck.)

When I was going to have a homebirth on TLC’s A Baby Story, my biggest fear wasn’t infant mortality (I had done my homework on homebirth), it was that I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain and I’d be crying out for an epidural on national t.v. My husband gave me the trick. It was he who told me I had to imagine my fear actually happening, then come to peace with that potential reality. The trick is akin to making your enemy your best friend. What’s your greatest fear? Make it your bud.

It’s also helpful to remember that everything we do is motivated by one of two forces: Fear and Love.

Going to the gym, for example. You say you’re going because you want to get in or stay in shape. However, when we break it down and keep asking “why?” you can figure out if it’s love or fear that is driving you. You say, “I want to feel good about myself and look good in my jeans.” Why?  If you keep answering, you will probably get to the point where you have to admit that you are afraid of not being loved or accepted. You may say, “I want my body to be healthy and flexible so I can have a high quality of life and live to be 100”. If you followed that line of “whys” you may end up with the answer, “…because I love myself and want to be around for my family.”

There have been several times (many times) I’ve rushed around, dragging the kids through errands, dragging them out of the park, so that I could get home and make dinner and clean up before my husband got home. I have to admit that it was motivated by a fear that if I didn’t have a hot, homemade meal ready, he’d think I was deficient in my wifely duties. Meanwhile, I’d not really heard what my kids were talking about, I passed on that anxious energy to them, and risked an accident (yes, a car accident). I know for a fact that my husband would much rather have calm kids, a calm wife, and a later meal. I’m working on it. I have to take a good look at my fear of being perceived as a “bad wife”.

When you wake up in the morning after a night of working through how you’d deal with your sister dying, choose to be here. In these dirty sheets that you should’ve washed two weeks ago. (Bad wife!) Be in that moment. Here’s one of the best benefits: When you let yourself live in the world, in each moment, and not in your head, time slows down. Your kids won’t seem to be growing up so fast. Then you’ll never have to say, “I’m afraid the kids will grow up too fast”.  Unless you’re kids are driving you crazy and you can’t wait ’til they’re out of the house. Then go ahead, start day dreaming about your trip to Florida.

Mom Profile- Hallie Palladino

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1) What makes you a Half Crunchy Mom?

Crunchy-mom was a label I was reluctant to embrace at first, preferring the more dignified designation “Natural Mother.” Then I took an online quiz called, “How crunchy are you?” and I was extremely crunchy according to their criteria. I had to admit that I am crunchy in some key ways. On the crunchy side, I’ve had two home births (inspired by Jenny Breen) and I hope that one day home birth is considered a mainstream option as it is already by many mothers in the UK. I breastfed my son for two and a half years including a few months of tandem nursing. In fact, nursing to speed up my labor during my second home birth was by far my crunchiest mothering moment! We co-sleep. We cloth diaper and I even traveled with my cloth diapers on a family vacation to Hawaii (although at the moment I am taking a break from it with my new baby since laundry was taking over my life). However, most of that is kind of more the AP side of Natural Mothering. Though I used to vaguely aspire to the homemaking part of Natural (or Crunchy) Mothering, I am not very well-versed in the domestic arts and I could be doing way more to protect the environment. So this is the way that I am totally un-crunchy. My homemaking skills begin and end in the kitchen—but since my love of cooking predates my mothering and my culinary style is most like my dad’s, I don’t associate cooking with being a mother—rather I lament that my kids prevent me from having the time to cook meals from scratch. For instance I baked bread before I became a mom and I buy a lot more shortcut food now. And although I buy organic produce, I will never be able to grow it because I have no green thumb of my own, having killed every plant I’ve ever owned. I can’t sew a button let alone knit. Though we do use all non-toxic earth friendly cleaning products, I must confess that when Cascade came out with an “Eco” product I chose not to google it for fear of finding out the “eco” was just greenwashing—I was just so happy to finally have clean glasses again. But my worst eco-sin is that I order everything on Amazon. I feel so guilty about the zillions of cardboard boxes we recycle every month.

2) What are you good at as a mom? 

I have a very close relationship with my son. We have a fun time. We snuggle and laugh. We read a lot together books and go on adventures. I’m proud that I am teaching him good manners and he even displays them sometimes when we are out in the world. I’m proud that he is learning to be compassionate and empathetic. My daughter is a happy baby, always laughing. I am good at comforting my kids and encouraging them to be bold and try new things.

3) What is your biggest challenge as a mom? 

Patience. When you have kids you have to realize that you can’t anticipate and plan for every eventuality. That still causes me stress even though I experience it every day. Also keeping to a routine with a toddler and a baby is so challenging. One is always delaying the other’s one’s nap.

4) What surprised you most when you became a mom? 

I didn’t realize how completely consuming it is to have a newborn. I was nursing every two hours around the clock for the first six months. It was incredibly intense and it all felt so permanent. If I had realized stage time is so fleeting, I would have been more relaxed. The second time is the opposite. At the park I panicked because the stroller was empty, and then I realized my baby was asleep at my breast. I was just on autopilot and I hadn’t realized I was holding her. I have to constantly remind myself to be mindful of the sweetness. I also didn’t know how much closer I would feel to my husband. He is such an amazing, hands on father. It is an amazing journey to be sharing and I feel so fortunate that I have a such an engaged partner.

Hallie is the mother of Rocco (almost three), and Serena (eight months). 

 

Kids Around The World

“Food is expensive?” my four year old asked while watching a Japanese girl shopping with her mom in what is now my new favorite parenting aid. I couldn’t believe that I had somehow missed the opportunity to communicate the expense of food at an earlier date, but clearly any mention of it had escaped her. “Look at that little one helping out!” I cried. I tried to contain my enthusiasm as we watched a two and half year old in Sweden set the table with knives, glasses and porcelin. We were watching a series called “Families of the World” that was produced by PBS in the early 90s. We’ve now watched “Families of India”, “Families of Sweden”, “Families of Thailand”, and “Families of Japan”. I’m completely hooked, and although my girls may pick My Little Pony if they had the choice, they enjoy this series and are completely engaged while watching it.

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Taking your kids to cultural events around town and having friends of different ethnicities is fantastic. My kids and I were invited by our friend/local grocer to his temple for Diwali. It was an awesome experience, but it was just a very small step in the direction of understanding a culture. This series augmented their experience. I never thought I’d give a t.v. show such an endorsement (we don’t even own a t.v.), but this series doesn’t provide kids with a passive experience. You won’t believe the quantity of questions your little ones will be throwing your way while watching a family all lay down on a mat together to sleep for the night, or watching a boy get picked up for school by a water taxi, or a girl serve her fellow classmates their lunch of fish soup, or bathe in a bucket of water, or do an hour of chores before walking to school. All of these children in this series spark questions, that start a discussion, which turns into a rich discussion, that provokes comparison, then compassion, and hopefully moves your kids another step away from ignorance.

So sometimes, just telling your kids about a topic or a concept is not enough. Telling my four-year-old about the expense of food didn’t seem to stick. When she watched another little girl shop and say, “We have to choose our food carefully because it’s very expensive,” it made more of an impression. It was another reminder to me that the old “show and tell” was necessary. I needed a little show to go with the tell. And that show is all around us, as we walk through the neighborhood, not just on PBS.

We all want our kids to be citizens of the world and be prepared to interact with every kind of person, right? I’d like my kids to look at any boy and know that he is a brother. We are all connected. I’d also like my kids to be full of gratitude, understand empathy, and have perspective. If you agree, I know this series will be a great tool to help you educate your kids. This education is a huge undertaking and can easily be forgotten while in the throes of work, homework, and after-school activities, but it’s worth the effort.

Click here http://www.familiesoftheworld.com/ to learn more about the series. I just check out the DVDs from our library, but you can buy them as well.

Mom Profile- Courtney Zielinski

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What makes you a Half Crunchy Mom?

I tend to vacillate between crunchy and more mainstream… I cloth diapered both of my kids (with my first, I used disposables when she was a newborn),  breast-fed until my daughter was one and my son was 18 months, try my best to feed them organic, whole foods and have thus far successfully kept them from soda and only on road trips do we allow fast food. On the other hand, we let them watch TV, play with the iPad, and they adore hot dogs. I sort of choose my battles as they come according to what my gut tells me is right and try to stay consistent and pretty evenly balanced (The key word here is “try” because inevitably I fail from time to time and someone will be eating a snack bag of Cheese-Its and on their fourth TV show when we’ve had a rough day and I need to get some work done).

What are you good at as a mom?

Loving. I’d say I’m a world-champion snuggler and giver of affection. In fact, I probably go overboard in this arena. I’m always making sure my kids know how much I love them and that they are great kids. They tend to roll their eyes, like “ok, Mom, we get it.” In fact, my daughter and I have a running joke where I say, “Guess what?” and she’ll answer, “I love you.”

What is your biggest challenge as a mom?

I am a pretty emotional person, so I find it really challenging to talk myself down when I’m upset or frustrated and not to raise my voice. One of my biggest goals as a parent is to teach my kids to regulate their own emotional reactions and to communicate in a calm and honest manner. It’s hard! It’s hard to keep my cool when I’m boiling on the inside, but I know it’s so important to demonstrate that to my kids because that’s exactly what I’m trying to teach them; how to communicate and honor feelings without having what amounts to a tantrum. So we do a lot of “I feel really frustrated because xyz…” or to draw an upset kid (or adult!) into a discussion, “I can see how angry you are, can we talk about it?” It’s more work than than just hollering and letting out all that energy, but in the long run, it’s really helping us with communication and validation. One of my proudest moments was last week when my daughter was mad at my son and wrote him a note that said “you hurt my feelings and I’m really mad! But I love you!”
What surprised you most when you became a mom?
Just the sheer depth of love I would feel. I had no idea.
Courtney is mother of Ava, 6, and Stellan, 3.

I Met The Leader Of A Movement

Lenore Skenazy

And I think it’s one of the most important movements of this generation. Will our kids be able to face the challenges of the world if their childhood is bubble wrapped? Isn’t it crazy that a survey reported that 70% or today’s moms played outside every day growing up while only 31% of their children do? Fewer than a third of kids are playing outside these days? What?! Lenore Skenazy’s book, Free Range Kids, systematically breaks down all of our parental fears and explains how our kids need to practice interacting with the world at a much younger age than is the norm of late. Don’t we want a generation of independent and self-reliant kids who will grow up to be confident adults who can solve problems and not look to someone else for the answer?  We need to help get these kids ready to keep this planet on track.

I just heard Lenore speak and even though she is preaching to the choir with me, I heartily enjoyed her humor, reassurances, and call to action. In the above photo she is showing us the inane baby bath water safety duck. Because putting our hand in to test the water is not a good enough gauge of safe temperature. She pointed out that the instructions on the back actually say that an adult should always test the water as well, before putting baby in. What the hell? Another safety gadget to screw with our heads and make us question our good old fashioned common sense and mother’s instinct.

Here a just a few of the many fascinating and inspiring points from her book and articles:

-If you were trying to have your kid abducted and you left them out on the corner, you’d be waiting 750,000 years for it to happen.
-Self-mastery is necessary for self-esteem. Parent assistance is not part of the equation.
-At the age of six, they can make a grilled cheese or pancakes. Our kids are more competent than we think.
-a study found that kids with over controlling parents have higher rates of depression and are less satisfied with life
-In Germany, kids are allowed to walk to the park and hang out their on their own, unsupervised, starting at the age of four. We need don’t need to hover and follow them around at the playground. Why not start leaving them there at the age of six? Is that a good American compromise?
-In other countries, parents think it’s crazy that you’d sit down and play baby games with your kids. They don’t really need us to stimulate them. They can do it just fine on their own.
-Hire the 12 or 13 year-old babysitter. Don’t worry. Not so long ago, and for the majority of time humans have been on this planet, 12 and 13 year olds already had their own babies and the species managed not to die off with this set up.

After Lenore spoke she opened up the floor to questions and comments. Of course one of the moms in audience commented on the horrible judgement she feels from other moms when making parenting decisions. Lenore said that kind of judgement comes from fear. We’re so scared of not being a “good parent”. (A whole chapter in her book speaks to this and does a great job of calming parents down.) It’s suffocating and paralyzing.  Not a good space to come from when we’re trying to parent. So come here to Half Crunchy Mom where I will not judge you if you’re a helicopter parent or a free-range parent, or a commanding parent, or a tired and cranky parent. I know you love your child and you want to do your best. That’s what we all do. I don’t think we’re evil or stupid. No. We’re just trying to do our best.

So if you see a six-year-old playing at the park alone, know that their parent is not evil, they probably just read Free Range Kids. If you see a parent at the park taking away the endlessly morphing and creativity building stick from their child, don’t judge; they are just scared and worried, and want to do their best. Let’s ask ourselves what we can learn from that mom who is different from ourselves. It’s much more productive than judging. We all have made parenting choices that would fall under the free range and helicopter category. What have you tried that is free range? How did it go?