Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Connections with China

After E's recent interest in Chinese dance and boats, I saw that there was a Chinese Autumn Moon festival at the Chinese gardens. We really wanted to see the Lion Dance, but due to some car trouble, we got there just as they finished up. We were pretty bummed out, but at least the girls did get to see the lion that stuck around after the dance. It was one of those huge two person costumes, red and fuzzy and covered in rhinestones and other sparkly things. The girl inside the head did a great job with the kids! The lion would come up to them and gently nibble at the kids clothes with its mouth which was bigger than their heads. With the kids that were braver, she'd stand up, so the lion was towering over them and shake the mane. The kids who were more hesitant got to pet the wagging tail.

They had a coloring stations set up with pictures of moon cake and tea for the kids to color. We learned that moon cake is a traditional food for the Autumn Moon and E wanted to try some. We went over to their tea house and had moon cake and tea. The tea was in a pot that had all the cranberries, tea leaves and orange peel inside and then a filter, so when it was poured out, only the tea came out. So the girls got to see how the tea was made. We explored the gardens for a few hours and they were really fascinated by the fish in the pond, the architecture and the water fall.

There was also someone dressed up in a Panda costume and both girls loved that, but especially L. For days she was talking about the "Paba Beaw!"

We went home to get D so the girls could show him everything and so I could try out their free acupuncture demonstration. When I went to sign up for the acupuncture they wouldn't let me do it because I'm pregnant though. :(

I told D about the moon cakes and what the ingredients are. He said "Oh, yah I know all the ingredients in them." How did he know that?! A video game. One of his video games is from China and one of the quests is to find all the ingredients for the moon cake. That was a cool connection!

Friday, September 24, 2010


We put our YMCA membership on hold for 3 months and just started it up again. E had been pretty close to teaching herself to swim before we stopped going, so I wondered if she would remember everything. She jumped in tonight as if she had never been away from the water! She can swim underwater and doggy paddle short distances over the water. She's also learning to tread water. L LOVES the slide and jumping off the side of the pool. She goes under and when she comes up she says "I went under! Do it AGAIN!"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chinese Dance and Dragon Boats

About a week ago, we were watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and E was really fascinated by the dragon boat that they take down the chocolate river. She's seen the movie dozens of times, but this time that just jumped out at her. "Why does it look like that? Why are they drumming? Why is it a dragon?" I told her that it was similar to boats in China and that's probably where they got the idea. I was planning on looking them up on youtube for her the next day, but forgot about it.

Then the other day, she bought herself an umbrella. She had it open and was kneeling down and spinning it in front of her and it reminded me of Chinese dance. I told her about that and when we got home I looked up Chinese dance and dragon boats. That led to fan dances and ribbon dances as well.

We found videos like these:

Dragon Boat Festival

Silkworm Chinese Dance

Korean Fan Dance

Chinese Umbrella Dance

The umbrellas all looked like parasols to me, so I explained the difference to her. Now she wants a parasol, a fan, and some ribbons too. This girl loves to dance!

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Girls

I had said a few days ago that my next blog post was going to be on how sweet my kids are instead of the constant posts about how we are working through the difficult parts of parenting. Then I wrote the yoga post! So, here's the "my kids are so awesome and I love them so much and I am constantly amazed by them" post.

I write a lot about the challenges we have had with E, but she really is a sweet, mature, kind, thoughtful child. She's very lovey and likes to hug and snuggle all the time. She plays really well with her sister (even though they have their fair share of sibling moments too!). She loves to help show her sister how to do things and she is great at coming up with games for them to play. She is pretty understanding of the fact that he sister is little and is still learning a lot of the things that E already knows. She ties to comfort L when she is sad and will bring her toys to distract her or sing her songs. E is a great friend to her friends. She plays easily with almost every kid she meets whether they are younger or older.

L has always been pretty easy going, so I don't post much about challenges with her. The last few months she has been very.... TWO! but it is so much easier for me to see it as a developmental thing instead of defiance. She is very aware of other people's feelings, especially E's. By 18 months, she could see when E was "sad and cwying" and would try to comfort her. She also plays really well with other kids.

They both do really sweet things all the time, like bring me flowers and draw me pictures and help with whatever I am doing. E randomly asks me how I'm feeling and how the baby in my tummy is doing, and L pretty much copies everything E does. They will do things like give me a neck rub if they see me hurting.

It is amazing watching them grow, seeing their personalities develop, and watching to see who they are and who they are becoming!

Sunrise Yoga

For over a week I have been getting up early and going for a walk. Not every day, but probably 5 or 6 out of the last 9 days or so. L has been an earlier riser lately (between 6:30 and 7:30), so it started with me getting up early with her. Some days I have gone with just her and a few times E woke up and went with us. On those days we walk slow, look at bugs, pick up rocks, talk a lot and enjoy the sunshine and cool air. On the days that I have gone alone, I walk faster, go further, and pray and meditate.

This morning I woke up a little before 6 and got to go out by myself. I took my yoga mat and after walking for about half an hour, I went to the park and did yoga and meditated for another half an hour. It felt so good!

Now, I am NOT normally an early riser! My usual schedule is to be in bed by 10-12 (with about once a week 1-3) and up by no earlier than 7:30. And even if I'm up by 7:30, I'm not normally alive and functional until 9. Do not ask me to be out of the house before 10.

But I have been really craving being outdoors lately. Our car has been broken down for over 2 months and it has meant that we go outside in our back yard, go for walks and to the nearby park a lot more often. I used to try to get outside once a day, but often would get so busy that I would go a few days only going outside to walk to and from the car or maybe just to do 20 minutes of work outside. I would still try to get the kids outside daily, but sometimes that meant just playing on the porch or going outside with D while I did office work. A few times a week we'd go to the park or on a hike. With the car broken down and being home LOT more, we started playing in the back yard of our apartment complex for hours at a time. Just sitting drives me nuts, which is one reason I love to hike, but since I started crocheting I have been able to do that while the kids play. And of course, with no car, we have been doing lots of walking to run errands!

Now I am craving being outside, craving the sunshine and I know it won't be long before Oregon winter settles in and the sunshine is limited. But even on cloudy days, it just feels so good to be out. I'm not making any plans to keep doing this. Plans always seem to get in the way of listening to my body. In fact, I'm a little afraid I'm going to jinx myself just by posting this. I'm going to keep doing it as long as my body is craving it. Right now, I am actually excited about tomorrow morning!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Calming the Raging Storm Part 2

A few weeks ago, I figured it out! I knew that feeling overwhelmed and disconnected were the main triggers for her to rage that way. Other things like being tired or hungry definitely exasperated it, but were never the main cause. I have struggled so much over the last few years to work on my own feelings of anger surrounding her anger. I am finally in a place where I can usually stop taking things personally and focus on helping her, instead of using all my energy to keep my cool.

One of the things that has helped me with her the most is *seeing past her behavior and recognizing the underlying needs.* I thought I understood it, but I now get it at a whole new level. I forget what she was raging over that day (again something with her sister), but as soon as she started I thought this time don't try to DO things to calm her down. She's feeling disconnected, so CONNECT. I had noticed that she never looks at me when she's raging, so as gently as I could while stopping her from going after her sister's stuff, I put my hand on the side of her face and said in a real quite voice "Look at me, E, look at me."

I don't like restraining her, but I held her like a baby on my lap, keeping her from kicking and hitting me and starting say things like "It's ok, you're ok, you're safe, I know you're overwhelmed, just sit with me, I'll just hold you, I'll cuddle you." I spoke very softly and made shushing sounds, like she was a crying infant instead of a raging 4 year old. She screamed that she wanted to go to her room, so I immediately let her go. Of course, she went straight after her sister again, which I knew she would, but I wanted her to know that I really didn't *want* to restrain her and I would let her go if I could still keep L safe. Before she got to L, I put my arms around her again, letting her know that I wouldn't let her get to L, and started gently talking to her again. I used slow, comforting words.

She has always liked back rubs and almost every night I massage her back and arms and legs before she falls asleep. So, as much as I could while restraining her, I did that and let her know that was what I was trying to do. She screamed to go to her room or go get something to eat a few times and every time I would let her go, but then get her again when she went towards her sister.

Finally, I let her go and she didn't get off my lap. She collapsed into me and started to cry and released all the stress and tension and feelings of being overwhelmed. She cuddled into me and asked me to rub her back so I did. Then we sat on the couch and snuggled for a long time.

Typing it out seems like it lasted a long time, but really it was about 5 minutes from the time she started to the point where she stopped fighting and started crying. As much as I dislike restraining her, 5 minutes was worlds better than up to half an hour of fighting, getting hurt and eventually collapsing and crying.

In the last few weeks, this has happened a few more times and the last time, she seemed relieved as soon as I picked her up. She still fought me for a minute, but it was more like needing a physical outlet instead of desperation to get away or get what she wanted.

If you've read my other posts, you know that this is a complete 180 from the way I handled any emotional outburst from her a few years ago. It's taken that long for me to heal enough to be able to figure out how to help her. From her perspective, she is probably always unsure of how I am going to react, which exasperates her fight or flight response. My reactions have gotten better and better, but I have still made plenty of recent mistakes. I think now it's more important than ever that I respond consistently in a comforting, calm and reassuring way, so I don't lose the ground I've gained with her trusting that I'm here to be the safe place during her storm. And of course, it's better if I can help her avoid getting that overwhelmed and disconnected in the first place.

Calming the Raging Storm Part 1

In June I posted the following (though I've edited it so it's not so long) on the Always Learning unschooling group.

E and L were playing in the wagon. It has a little door and E wanted it closed and her sister wanted it open so they were fighting
over it. I intervened and tried talking about ways we could solve the problem.
Set a timer? Take turns? I asked her if she had any ideas too. But she could
hardly hear my suggestions because the whole time she is trying to push me out
of the way to get to the door to close it. I am trying to keep her away from it
so the girls aren't fighting while we find a solution. She would NOT stop for
even a second to try to figure something else out. She got more and more intent
on closing the door to the point where she is pushing me, running into me,
hitting me, just fighting with everything she has to get the door.

By that point, it knew it wasn't about the door. It's about the FIGHT. She
does this every day over random things. So I quit trying to give her ideas to
solve the door problem and instead said, "Right now I need to keep you away from
you sister until you calm down." And I tried to help her calm down. But
nothing worked!

After trying to get her some water, holding her in a bear hug, seeing if she
wanted to push on my hands (helps with frustration sometimes) or throw a stuffed
animal, tried to let her have some space in her room, I finally ended up just
sitting on the floor between her and her sister with my hands out to stop her
from getting to her sister. She kept running into me and I kept pushing her
back (not hard, just away from me) because the only other option was to hold her
and restrain her. By that point I was angry and I ended up pushing her too hard
and she fell and got hurt.

Then she stopped.

I held her and comforted her while she cried and apologized for pushing her.
When she calmed down, her sister was done with the wagon and I said, "There you
go, it's your turn now!" She said, "No, I don't want to play with it."


This type of thing was happening every day for a while and even though it is not always that frequent, it is something that she has done since she was very little. She gets stuck on something and will. not. give. up. At the moment I posted that, I was feeling very much like she just likes to fight me, because the things she fights about seem so pointless to me and by the time the fight is over, she doesn't even want whatever she was fighting over anymore.

Along with other good advice (such as not taking it personally), the thing they told me that I really needed to hear was watch, pay attention, be aware, look for patterns of when she is doing this kind of thing. I already knew that she tends to get this way when she is feeling disconnected from me, but I needed that reminder.

So, I watched more and played more and connected more. And when I do that, this issue mostly just goes away. She won't do it at all for days, maybe a week. But then suddenly, without warning (or more accurately, I didn't pay attention to the warnings), I would find myself in another physical battle with her. While she is normally pretty open to reason and working together to find solutions, when she gets in this mood, I don't think she can even hear me, let alone consider what I'm saying to her. She doesn't look at me and doesn't respond except to say NO or repeat what she wants that she's fighting for. She doesn't see anything except her goal and I'm just an obstacle in her way.

I have figured out her triggers and can mostly help her avoid feeling this way. But I was still stuck on what to do when it happens. I felt like the only thing I could do was be a physical barrier until she inevitably got hurt and would calm down. (Oh and if you're reading thinking "just spank her or give her a time out," I am literally rolling on the floor laughing. She is one of those kids that if you spanked, you would have to keep doing it until you beat her unconscious, and a time out would likely result in a broken down door.)