What I Could Have Used After My Miscarriage

For 26 years I lived a very happy, very stable life. I excelled at everything I wanted to, and even did well at the things I didn’t care about. I had, and still have, wonderful friendships. I never had a bad romantic relationship or devastating breakup. Other than the early losses of grandparents and gains of little siblings who stole my mommy’s attention, I was blessed with a very emotionally stable life.

Until I was 26. When I lost my first pregnancy. When the women around me had successfully gotten pregnant and given birth or were happily expecting. My husband and I were devastated and crushed by our loss.

Emotionally, I shut down, while my husband turned to research. I didn’t reach out to anyone, but everyone knew. I heard the statistics one too many times, was told it was a good sign I could get pregnant at all, heard stories of other women who had miscarried, and was told “I’m here if you need anything.”

I dealt with it by shutting down. It probably wasn’t the smartest move, but it was what I needed. My husband is a research scientist and depends on facts. Together, we existed in a place of cold facts and logic. But it was a good thing, because we were able to conceive again right away. The product is currently snoring next to me as I type this.

While my husband was just what I needed at the time, it shrank our world down to two. Not a bad thing, but two people hurting over the same loss drastically narrows the field of vision.

Miscarriage is painfully common, but I had no idea it was until my own. No one really knew what they could do for me other than offer their own stories of struggles and hope. I can’t speak for any other woman who has experienced a miscarriage, but I know what I could have used:

A distraction.

I didn’t want people giving me statistics. I didn’t want to hear someone else’s story. I didn’t want to hear encouragement or sympathy. I didn’t want people telling me they were there for me. I didn’t want to be told to grieve or mourn, as though I needed the permission.

I could have used something to distract me from losing my child. Sure, I could have asked my husband to take me to dinner or a movie or a night out on the town. But putting that on him wouldn’t have been fair, not when he was hurting, too.

It would have been nice to watch a stupid comedy, go out for ice cream, or walk around a museum with a friend, talking about life, love, and books (because I can’t get my fill of books). Anything to get my mind off of my loss.

Perhaps people assumed they had nothing to offer, no real comfort they could give. Perhaps they felt uncomfortable because it’s not okay to talk about miscarriage. Perhaps they thought it was a private family matter they ought to stay out of.

Maybe they were waiting for me to say something, ask for something. Maybe I could have. But I was too emotionally devastated. I was too far down with my hurt. I was incapable of reaching out.

Too much of what I read about to cope with miscarriage centered on just feeling the pain. On letting the loss wash over you, of letting yourself feel the crushing grief. But I’m not the kind of person to wallow in my pain. I process grief in my own way. I don’t try to reason it out. I acknowledge it happened and it hurts, but, if I wallow, I end up drowning.

I could have used a distraction. I could have used something to take my mind off of my loss, something to remind me life is still going on and it can still be happy and fun. Something to remind me there’s still a future.

Yes, losing a child is painful and private and personal. But we women also make it known we are daughters, sisters, wives, nieces, mothers, and more. We are social creatures. If we’re able to reach out and tell others how to help us as new moms and find out tribes, then we can also break the silence around miscarriage and let people know how they can help and support us through a devastating loss.

I know what I could have used when I miscarried. What could you have used?

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Parenting with Psychology: Therapeutic Alliance and Ruptures

In psychodynamic therapy, the therapeutic alliance is what allows the psychologist and client get the therapeutic work done.

What is the therapeutic alliance?

Another term for it is working alliance and yet another is rapport. It’s the relationship the therapist and client have formed that enables the client to accept what the therapist has to offer and be able to enact change in their life. When it has been established, the client knows the therapist is there for them and trusts them. An alliance has been established where the goal is to help get the client to wherever they want to be in order to live their best possible life.

What does that have to do with motherhood and kids?

It may seem a little weird, but the therapeutic alliance is what makes parenting easy for me.

When I was working with children with autism, the first thing we had to establish was rapport. The child had to see us as someone they wanted to work with, much like a client in a therapist’s office must see the therapist as someone they want to work with, and establish an alliance. With kids, we did this by just playing with them at first. We issued very few demands, and only those we knew they could accomplish with success. Gradually, our demands became harder and more frequent, once the relationship was established.

As a mom, I have an alliance with my kids. Even though they’re my kids, I don’t feel entitled to their obedience. After all, they’re completely new to this world, but are their own persons. I need to teach them, but they need to be able to trust me first (see Parenting with Psychology: Erik Eriskon’s Stages of Development for more information). They need to know I’m going to be there for them.

My kids are more than willing to do as I say because they know I’m the bearer of fun. I spend a lot of time playing with them. I teach them through play and give demands during play. They know that if they want me to keep playing with them, they should listen.

I’m here to guide my kids to their best possible lives. They trust I have their best interests at heart. They don’t always like what I do and say, but they know that if they want fun mom they had better listen. We have a working alliance. We’re in this together.

What about ruptures?

Ruptures are when there is a break in the therapeutic alliance. Something has happened and the client has become upset and wonders if they can trust the therapist. There is distrust and dissatisfaction.

This happens in parenthood, too. As parents, we make mistakes, but our kids expect us to be perfect. Sometimes we say something, but mean something else. Sometimes we agree to something, and go back on our word. Sometimes we yell and punish for seemingly no reason. Sometimes we’re tired and nowhere near our best. It happens. We’re human. But, to our kids, it’s painful. They don’t know what they’ve done wrong. They don’t know if they can trust us in that moment, and later on.

Ruptures happen, but they can be repaired. With my kids, all it takes is letting them know they did nothing wrong. I need to admit I was wrong. My son is very quick to point out when I am wrong. He’s also quick to point out when he is wrong. I don’t want them to see me as superhuman. I want them to know I can and will let them down, but I still love them and will work my hardest to take care of them. When I’m wrong, I tell them. I explain it to them. If I upset them, I give them hugs and kisses and do my best to make it up to them. I admit my faults and let them know I still think they’re wonderful.

Of course, I know my kids will also let me down when they’re older. They will, after all, be teenagers one day. But I hope we’ve managed to cultivate trust and respect so they’ll be able to take steps to repairing our relationship.

 

I’m not the kind of mom who demands my kids listen to be simply because I’m their mother. I can’t help but see them as individuals with their own ideas and life goals. I’m here to guide, teach, and protect them, but their choices have to be their own. The best I can do is establish a trusting, respectful relationship where we can work together and have the opportunity to fix anything that goes wrong in our relationship.

Sometimes I Want to be Mean. On Purpose.

Living in the city, especially Los Angeles, can be nice. There are a ton of things to do, and I had been wanting to live closer so it would be easier to take the kids to educational and cultural places. The interesting part of LA is that it’s a large, sprawling city with an incredible number of areas and neighborhoods that are still a half hour drive from downtown. Where we live, it feels sort of like an urban suburb, if that makes any sense.

But the city is a bit more…fast paced than the suburbs, especially in comparison to the suburb I was raised in and the one we moved to the city from. And that’s putting it nicely.

There are a lot of people. And a lot of cars. And a lot of people in a lot of cars trying to get somewhere in a hurry. It might just be a leisurely shopping trip to the mall, but it’s always in a hurry. Road rage is definitely a thing here. Tailgating and cutting people off and taking the rules of the road and twisting them so they’re customized are the norm.

I hate driving in the city.

I hate walking in the city about as much.

I’ve always loved going for walks. I love taking my kids for walks. I love being able to walk my son to preschool.

But we walk through a residential area with lots of apartment buildings that have lots of cars. Cars that just go because their drivers are in a hurry. Cars that break hard when they’re surprised to see a pedestrian. Cars that double park ’cause they can, and then a car behind them veers into your lane to get around, completely ignoring the fact that you have right of way.

But back to pedestrians because that’s my focus here.

I’m a pedestrian pushing a stroller with two kids. More than that, I’m a cautious, courteous pedestrian. I always look for cars and relinquish my right of way when it’s obvious they either didn’t see me or were in too much of a hurry to even think a living soul would be walking around in a residential area in a city.

Sometimes I have to wait because the car is completely blocking the sidewalk and there’s traffic. Seriously, couldn’t they back up or maybe have checked for pedestrians?

The hazards of walking in a city?

Perhaps.

But it doesn’t stop me from wanting to be mean on purpose sometimes.

When I know a car is coming up (and the driver sees me) or has just come to a sudden halt to let me pass, I usually hurry by because I know they’re in a hurry and city dwellers are not always nice. But they’re being nice by letting me pass, so I hurry as best I can so they can be on their hurried way as quickly as possible.

But sometimes I want to be mean. I want to slow way down and stroll across the driveway. I want to glare at the driver who had to stop suddenly. I seriously just want to take my time. At a leisurely stroll that’s a whole lot slower than my usual pace.

It’s tempting, especially for the fifth time during a 12 minute walk.

I remember I have kids, though. I remember I’m their role model. If I want them to be kind, courteous, and thoughtful, then I have to be, too. I can’t just be mean on purpose. But I can teach them kindness as both a pedestrian and a driver by reminding myself to be kind and always offer a smile and wave in thanks. And hope they pick up on these little things like I learned from my parents.

But sometimes I still want to be mean. On purpose.

It’s Because I Love You That I Clean

I think it’s common knowledge that moms often feel guilty they’re not spending every waking moment caring for their kids. Many even pass on cleaning because it takes time away from the kids. My own mom has said she wishes she had spent more time playing with us instead of cleaning.

Clean or play with the kids?

Well, one solution is getting the kids to help or baby wearing. But what if they not amenable to that? Well, I guess cleaning can wait.

Except sometimes it can’t. At least, for me.

I don’t sacrifice my time with my kids just so I can clean. I don’t spend more than an hour cleaning a day. Not everything gets clean every day, but everything gets clean each week.

Sometimes my kids help. Sometimes they entertain themselves. Sometimes they just whine and ask when I’ll be done.

It used to make me sad, and remember my mom’s words.

But then I started thinking about it differently. Was I cleaning for my own satisfaction or to keep them healthy? It’s definitely the latter.

I clean the kitchen so I have a clean, mostly sanitary place to prepare food for them, food that’s properly cleaned and cooked and won’t make them sick. I ensure the counter is clean so they have a clean space to sit when we bake.

I clean the floors so outside dirt, grime, and nasty germs don’t make their way around our home, just waiting to infect my darlings. I also feel a little better when my daughter picks a crumb from the floor and shoves it in her mouth before I can say no.

I clean the bathrooms so they have a clean place to go poopy and wash their hands, so they don’t have to try to get clean where mold would get them sick.

I wash the towels, sheets, and clothes so they have clean things to use and wear, so they can be wrapped in pleasant smells.

I tidy their toys so they can better find what they’re looking for and so they have space to play and fight over toys.

I clean because I love my kids. I want to keep them safe and healthy in their own home. I won’t sacrifice whole days just so I can clean, but I will also not jeopardize their health.

So, kids, when you’re older and reading this and wondering why mommy was always cleaning, it’s because I love you.

The Weekly Question #2

Parents: Where do you keep your children’s toys?

Toys. They come with kids. Or is it, kids come with toys? Almost 5 years and, oh, about a million toys later, I’m not sure any more. All I know is they can’t seem to exist independently.

Ever since my oldest was old enough to have more than a handful of baby toys (Christmas just before he turned 6 months, apparently), we kept his toys out of the bedroom. He shared our room with us until he was almost 17 months, so fitting a multitude of toys in an already crowded bedroom wasn’t really an option. And it was always easier to keep them in the living room rather than his room, which he didn’t seem to like for a long time.

When he did move into his room, he still preferred to play in the living room, so we only moved a few toys into his room and I did my best to remember to rotate them. Except he hated it when I moved his favorite toys into his room. Inevitably, they ended up back in the living room, and I basically gave up.

Almost 5 years later, my kids still have most of their toys in the living room. But as they get older, the toys seem to be getting smaller with even more pieces to them. We also have 3 different block sets that sometimes get dumped out all at once. My feet hate me. I just know it.

My daughter will be 2 soon and we’ll be getting her ready to go into her own room, just down the hall from her brother. I’m hoping they play in the hall so they can run back and forth between their rooms for toys, but I’m not holding my breath. If that happens, all toys go into their rooms and I get a tidy-ish living space back. If not, I’ll just be here drowning in toys.

I’m torn between keeping their toys in the living room, dividing them between their rooms, or splitting them 3 ways between their rooms and the living room knowing full well they’ll all end up in the living room. In my family, I’m notoriously bad at making decisions. The joke is I would definitely hang a jury.

So I want to ask all the parents out there: what do you do?

Even if you’re not a parent, I’d still like to hear from you.

Thank you.

Becoming the Put Together Stay-At-Home Mom

Stay at home moms get a bad rap. The laundry is never done. We live in leggings. Dinner gets slapped together because the kids won’t stop screaming. The house is a war zone. Annoying children’s songs invade our sleep for an hour before the baby starts screaming and that’s why we look like death warmed over.

It isn’t pretty. I don’t blame childless women not wanting to have kids. I don’t blame blame the moms who say they would rather work.

Then along comes THE mom. The mom we aspire to, the mom we envy. The mom in clean clothes with shiny hair. The mom with fresh baked cookies and angels instead of children. The mom with the pretty house ready for visitors. The mom who has empty laundry baskets and neat and tidy dresser drawers and closets.

It’s impossible! Alien invasion!

No. She isn’t an alien or just the nanny. She’s possible.

Sure, if you never sleep.

No, really. Okay, maybe my home isn’t magazine-worthy, but I’m that put-together mom. All it took was desire, dedication, and a helpful husband. That last one is key. Without my husband’s help, my job would be much harder.

Going into motherhood, I was friends with some established moms. They were my grad school classmates. They were slightly disorganized and prioritized family, but they were dedicated and put-together. I didn’t know about the stay-at-home-mom-in-leggings stereotype. So I had an image of a put-together mom who was more or less on top of everything. It became my image of motherhood and, if my friends could do it, so could I. Desire.

Those early days are hard. Trying to navigate caring for a baby while not getting sleep is hard. I knew I just needed to be patient. In time, this squirmy baby would grow up, be able to self-entertain, want to be helpful, and would sleep through the night. I just had to keep pushing through, establish routines, and keep my goal in sight. Dedication.

My husband doesn’t expect a spotless home. He knows I have my hands full and he’s willing to lend his hands. He’ll take charge of the kids so I get a moment to breathe. He wakes with the kids so I can catch up on my sleep. He does the dishes every day and helps pick up. Most of all, he’s understanding when I can’t do everything and doesn’t expect me to be able to do everything. He recognizes the value of what I do as a stay at home mom and supports me.

I’m able to be a put-together mom every day because I have the support I need and the drive. Yet, I don’t drive myself crazy trying to be anything close to the so-called perfect mom (just the perfect mommy to my little darlings).

Get Dressed

I dress every single darn day. In clean clothes. I wear skirts and dresses and neat but comfortable shirts. It might seem like a lot of work, but I literally have one pair of leggings and zero sweat clothes. Because of what I choose to buy and keep in my drawers, I have no choice. It’s either dress neatly or run around in my undies. What helps is having a husband who will get up with the kids and feed them breakfast so I can get dressed, though, with what I have, it doesn’t take long to dress. And as a helpful bonus, I don’t wear make up. I don’t like the way it feels and it always makes me break out no matter what kind or brand it is. Besides, my daughter with just scratch it off with her claws. I mean nails. Though, when it comes to young children, what’s the difference?

Brushing Hair

I have long hair. Down just past my waist. Yes, I know I have two kids under 5. No, I don’t put it up. My kids get annoyed when I put my hair up, so it hangs loose. Sure, it gets pulled, but I like long hair, and it’s a good way to teach my kids to not pull on hair and to keep their hair brushed. My hair may be long, but it doesn’t take me long to brush it (for once it’s a hooray for the super shiny, super straight Asian hair) and I do it right after getting dressed and whenever I go out.

Taking Care of Chores

I’ll admit figuring out this one took a bit of time. Like 4 years. And it’s a perpetual work in progress. With kids literally hanging on to me for dear life and only letting daddy wear them, it took me all day just to cook. But once my youngest developed some independence, it was easier to implement a cleaning schedule. My home doesn’t get tidy all at once, but everything gets cleaned once a week or biweekly. Cleaning a relatively not that dirty home is easier and faster than letting it build up and doing it all at once. Only laundry takes more than the hour I allot. My kids help or they play by themselves, with the expectation that I play with them when I’m done. Sometimes I do it after they’ve gone to bed and my husband is doing the dishes. We clean up toys when we’re done playing with them and everything has a home. It’s helpful to have a helping husband and a schedule with room to breathe (ie, my kids are not drowning in outside activities).

The Laundry

Most moms hate laundry. I love laundry. There’s something very satisfying about folding clean clothes and filling up the drawers that makes me yearn for laundry day. I love doing laundry so much that sometimes I’ll glance around and just decide to wash something. It gets tossed in the machine and runs by itself while I drop my son off at preschool. Folding laundry with one kid on hand is easier than with two. But my laundry day is the day my son has off from school. It’s an established routine, though, and the kids have learned I play while the clothes are washing and drying and sometimes I give them hangers while I put the clothes away, so they don’t mind the time it takes me to fold. The key here, though, is being smart with my time, playing with the kids as much as possible, and establishing the routine in the first place. Loving laundry hasn’t hurt me, either. I just overdo it.

I’m a Baker

I love to bake. I’m even documenting my adventures in ratio baking. I bake an average of once a week. I bake with my kids. They sit on the counter and eat chocolate. They love baking days. Sometimes my son will ask if we can make something. I also think the mixer has a hypnotic effect. But they’ll do almost anything for chocolate. At nine in the morning, which is usually a no-no.

The Little Angels

My kids are almost 2 and almost 5. You’d think they’re holy terrors. But they’re not. Sure, my oldest will sometimes whine, but we always make sure we have toys and snacks when we’re out. I’ve been a firm, but loving disciplinarian who explains everything to my kids, so they’ve learned to listen when I demand it. They’re not allowed to bring devices when we go out so we’re able to teach them how to behave, how to comport themselves, how to ask properly for what they want, and how to entertain themselves without wrecking havoc. They’re also actually very well -behaved kids completely on their own. They’re wary of others, so they stay close to me. They like to be praised and rewarded, so they listen. They know we respect them, so will take their concerns seriously. Honestly, I just got lucky with my babies.

I’m not that perfect, polished mom, but neither do I aspire to be her. I just want to be put-together, to look nice, to have kids who also happen to be relatively well-behaved, and to have a presentable home. But I won’t kill myself to do it or sacrifice my family to get everything done. I’ve spent the better part of 5 years to get here and I’m proud of where I am.

There were a lot of days, weeks, months, and years where I was little more than a functioning zombie. My home was in tatters and I prayed my oldest wouldn’t start eating off the floor because I couldn’t remember the last time I’d even swept. I wore clean clothes, but didn’t match most of the time. I didn’t leave home very often without my husband and dinners out meant I focused more on not dropping my food on a child’s head instead of what, exactly, I was eating.

I’m not the so-called perfect mom, but I am put-together. It just took me almost 5 years to get here. As with everything, things take time, and desire.

Motherhood is Magical: Redefining The Lily Cafe

Lately, I’ve been struggling with my motherhood posts. I’ve gotten caught in wanting to both fit in with other mom bloggers even though motherhood is only one focus of The Lily Cafe and with trying to talk about the kind of mom I am, which sometimes is at odds with what other mom bloggers write about.

I adore reading mom blogs. I’ve found honesty, funny stories, encouragement, and a plethora of ideas. But the more and longer I read them, the more I feel out of place. After trying to fit in last year, I decided to focus on my mom truths and write about how I raise my kids, even if it differs from what many other moms do because maybe there’s another mom or dad out there who does things the same way I do. And I’ve found them, and it’s made me feel less alone.

But I’ve been struggling lately. I somehow went from talking about my particular style of motherhood to getting so caught up in it that I feel like I’m just earnestly writing with no real goal. Am I simply telling my story? Am I trying to tell other moms there are many ways of doing things? Am I, goodness forbid, trying to get moms to do things my way? I’ve lost sight of what I’m doing.

So, I’m changing things. I’ve taken a hard look at who I am as a person because that informs how I parent. My values are the ones I’m handing down to my kids, so they guide me. I trust my instincts and my background in psychology to help steer me. I don’t have all the answers, but I have a lot of handy tools and knowledge.

At my core, I’m a dreamer. I believe in magic. When I was a kid, I had a doll I loved so much that I used to wish on a star that she would come to life. Of course, she never did. But, even today, my heart still hopes. As an adult, I see the magic life has to offer. It’s subtle, but beautiful, and it’s something I want to pass down. I want my kids to enjoy life and see how magical it is. It’s not always easy, but there’s something beautiful about a new sunrise.

Motherhood is magical. I’m not going to lie and say it isn’t hard sometimes. But I can’t help but see how magical it is. Having kids is a great excuse to return to childhood, to recapture the dreams I once had, the joy I once experienced, the imagination that still drives me into the pages of a fantasy book. Being able to remember my childhood and the sheer fun I had makes me yearn to give the same to my kids. I want them to have fun, to explore, to get messy and creative, and develop a larger than life imagination. I want them to believe in magic, too.

That’s the kind of mom I am. I can’t write about the hard days, the tough times, the days when my kids only seem to tantrum and melt down. I can’t because I can hardly remember them. I know I discipline them in the moment, I know I have sturdy boundaries. I know what I’m doing when they misbehave. But, at the end of the day, I only remember the funny things they said and did, the giggles and bright smiles, the excitement of doing something they don’t get to do everyday, the unmatched joy on their faces as they eat a piece of chocolate.

I’m sure I can relate to just about any mom. I’m sure I’m tired and just want a break. I’m sure there are days when I just want to cry because it was that bad. I’m sure there are times when I question myself as a mom. But I just can’t remember. So, if you stumble across this blog looking for this, you’re probably not going to find it.

I’m not seeking to fit in or not fit in with other mom bloggers. I’m going to make my own place and sit happy. I’m not going to give advice, how to guides, and write about all the baby gear you do and don’t need. I’m not going to try to sell you anything but books. This is where I’m going to write about who I am as a person and mother and how that informs how I parent. I’m going to write about how I do it, how I find motherhood to be mostly a breeze, and how glorious I find parenthood to be. I don’t aim to be the mom who talks about how wonderful motherhood is in opposition to all the moms who keep it real, because this is real to me. I can’t do the nitty and gritty because I just don’t choose to see and focus on it. Besides, do you really need another mom to keep it real, to tell it how it is? I also don’t want to be that mom that people point to and say she’s sugar coating motherhood. If I talk about how wonderful motherhood is and nothing else, it’s because that’s really how motherhood is for me. I can’t say it enough: I just don’t focus on the hard parts. My brain doesn’t seem to let me.

To me, motherhood is magical. I hope you embark on this magical journey with me, but I won’t take it personally if you decide to depart the Cafe. Here’s to many wonderful adventures on this journey called parenthood!

The Lily Cafe Digest, No. 2

This year, I’m doing a 6+1 blogging schedule of 6 weeks blogging followed by a one week break. Since it’s time for another Digest, it’s also time for another blogging break. Enjoy, and thank you so much for following!

A Look Back

Mother Mondays

Most of my Monday posts over the past 6 weeks have been on the serious side. Two of them seem to go against the grain, so to speak, but, to my surprise, got more of a response than I had expected. I know the norm is for moms to immediately seek out a mom tribe, but I chose to isolate myself from other moms and I think it helped me become the confident mom I am today. I was so glad to know I wasn’t alone! I’m also not the kind of parent to put a screen in front of my kids. They have free access, but devices are not allowed out of our home.

There are a few things I have going for me that helps make motherhood relatively easy. I have a background in psychology and child development, so I’ve started a new series called Parenting with Psychology and wrote about how Erikson’s developmental stages help guide me in raising my children. I have also given my kids reasons why they can’t or have to do something. It may make me exercise my tired brain more, but they’re more likely to behave and less likely to repeat bad behaviors.

But motherhood isn’t always easy. My daughter is almost 2 and still doesn’t sleep through the night. Fortunately (?), I’m often so sleep deprived that I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Those days can be tough, but there are a few things I do to help make those days easier.

Finally, for some fun, I wrote about the tongue. Having kids really made me learn a few things. I was surprised by what I learned about the tongue, but I definitely should have known it.

Raven

I believe we’re about halfway through of what I’ve actually written. Yup, that means this is an unfinished story. I know exactly how it ends. I just have to actually write it.

Raven’s life has been shaken up recently with the lose of someone very dear to her. There are also uncertain times brewing and all the Thief Lords need to be on guard. Oh, and a daughter will never look at her father the same way again.

Chapter 7|Chapter 8|Chapter 9|Chapter 10|Chapter 11|Chapter 12

Free For All Fridays

I think I’ve been plodding along quite nicely in my ratio baking journey. I’ve really enjoyed not having to use as much brain power to bake. Ratio baking is easier on my brain, and much easier to do than using a recipe with kids around.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading lately. I may have posted only 3 reviews, all 3 books courtesy of NetGalley, but I’ve read much more than that. I’m a big fan of self-published books, but am always sad when I pick up a very promising story only to find the book was poorly edited. I read for those gems, but my heart aches when it’s not executed well.

More generally related to lifestyle, I finally got around to talking about the KonMari method and how it fits into my family’s life. Well, actually, how it doesn’t fit. I grew up with a dad who collects furniture, so I found her method appealing, but completely impractical with my family.

Book reviews: The Psychology of Zelda|The Emerald Queen|The Perfect Assassin

Looking Forward

Mother Mondays

There are many things rattling around in my head. I’m really trying to focus on the way I parent and am achingly aware of how it seems to differ from the vast majority of how other moms do it. But it’s what I do, what works for my family, and I’m happy. There are times I’d like to fit in more with mom bloggers, but I’ve never been one to follow the crowd. I’ll have another installment of Parenting with Psychology as well as how I’ve become a put-together mom. I don’t expect any of my planned posts to be popular since I tend to diverge from what so many moms actually do, but it’s what this mom does and maybe there are others.

Raven

Not much to say here. I won’t spoil anything. But, as Jennifer Zeiger commented, the fall out should be interesting. I definitely had a few arguments with some of my characters, and I think they’re much more stubborn than I am, and I’m a Taurus (I don’t actually follow astrology, but people like to note my stubbornness must come from being a Taurus)!

Free For All Fridays

I’ll of course be continuing my adventures in ratio baking and my life between the pages, though this time I’ll be focusing on what I think about cover art. And you can definitely count on more book reviews. They’re still stacking up.

Other News

I’m planning on making a few changes to the blog and it’ll probably touch on everything. I’ve already changed the logo and tagline to better reflect what I’ll be focusing on from here on out, or at least until I change my mind again. I’m notoriously indecisive. For now, I’m taking a more…magical approach and adding a few new items.

Favorite Posts from Around the Blogging Community

Mostly because I feel self-centered about writing a whole post about my own blog, but also because there are so many lovely blogs I enjoy and want to share them with you. Here are some of my favorite posts from the last 6 weeks. I do hope you check them out and give them a follow.

How to Overthrow “The Man,” According to YA Lit by The Cozied Reader: I can’t tell you how much I loved this! It’s exactly why I don’t enjoy reading YA books. She has also written similar How to Guides and I tend to think they’re very accurate. So, whether or not you enjoy reading, take a look around her site and give her a follow.

Imparting Emotions (Magicooking!) by Andrew Mowere of The Association of Merry Makers: One of three writers who run the blog, he wrote Adventus and is currently writing another book in the same world. I’m quite interested in this one as it involves food and cooking and I enjoy a good cookbook, especially a magical one. Too bad it can’t cook for me. I especially enjoyed this snippet he posted and most sincerely wish the eggs he wrote about were real.

So You Wanna Help a Mother, Do Ya? by I Didn’t Want to Be a Mother: Being a mom is tough. No mom will ever say it isn’t in some way hard, even me. Especially here in the States, we lack support. This mom gives an all too realistic look into what motherhood is like, and lets you know exactly how you can actually help a mom out. So, whether you’re a mom or know a mom, read this!

Cut the Cord by Better Than Fine: Written by a mom and Kindergarten teacher, this post really struck a chord in my heart, especially since my oldest is rapidly approaching his Kindergarten start date. She writes about the effect technology has on the kids she teaches and, frankly, it scares me. I’ve definitely cut back on suggesting my son’s tablet when he complains he has nothing to do.

Just the Way You Are by Brooke Cutler: Quite possibly one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever encountered, Brooke isn’t just a lovely mom, but also an all-around beautiful person. Her outlook on life is infectious and I can’t help but see the beauty and magic all around us. Her posts always touch my heart and make me smile and see a little more of the sparkle that life exudes.

The Voice on the Other End of the Phone by The Glorious Train Wreck Mom: This mom does something I could never, ever do. She works in customer service. You know, the people others like to belittle and scream at whenever something goes wrong. You know you do it, and she’s here to say cut it out. Just because they’re in customer service doesn’t mean they can solve all of your problems, doesn’t mean they have all the answers, doesn’t mean they have the answers you expect, and doesn’t mean they don’t deserve your utmost respect. After reading what she deals with, I definitely think customer service representatives should be saints. So, be kind.

“That Mom” vs “Bat Mom” by Early Childhood with Ms. Jane: This is one of the newest blogs I’m following and I can’t wait to read more from her. She’s been in early childhood education for years and is a fountain of wisdom. And guess what? In her eyes, if you’re really paying attention to your kids and don’t want to be that mom who goes talking to the teachers and principal, you’re already a superhero. So just do it.

Thank you so much for reading!

With much appreciation, kat

Parenting with Psychology: Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development

I spent a lot of time in psychology classes. I guess that’s what happens when you decide you want to be a psychology major and then get a higher degree in it. Though my focus was on clinical psychology with the goal of working with people with psychiatric disorders, I was more interested in children than adults. Developmental psychology was everywhere in my education. Erikson, Freud, Piaget, Vygotsky…

My favorite is Erik Erikson. He aligned with Freud, but departed from him when it came to human development. According to Erikson, we progress through 8 stages throughout our lives. Each stage spans a certain amount of time and involves a crisis that needs to be resolved and a virtue to be gained. Successful resolution of each crisis provides a building block for the next stage.

Since his stages go from infancy to old age, and since I’m obviously nowhere near old age, I’ll just be focusing on the first 4 stages.

0-18 months: Trust vs. Mistrust

18 months-3 years: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

3-5: Initiative vs. Guilt

5-13: Industry vs. Inferiority

Trust vs. Mistrust

This first stage starts as soon as a child is born and lasts until they are about 18 months old. It’s fairly simple: either the child will learn to trust their caregivers or they won’t. The virtue that is to be gained when trust is established is hope, hope that there will be someone to take care of them.

When I was in grad school, my psychodynamic psychology professor told us, “You can’t spoil a child.” At the time, we were studying Freud’s theories, but those words stayed in my head. I always knew motherhood wasn’t going to be easy. Raising a small child into a responsible, contributing member of society is not easy. Caring for a newborn who wasn’t going to sleep through the night wasn’t going to be easy. But my tiny squirmy babies needed me, were completely reliant on me to meet their every need. You can’t spoil a baby. All they have are needs.

For those first 18 months, my babies would be dependent on me to take care of their basic needs. They would either learn to trust I would take care of them or learn I was not trustworthy because I couldn’t or wouldn’t meet their needs. It wasn’t always easy, but ensuring my babies successfully resolved this conflict was important to me, especially since it’s the first. That meant I breastfed on demand, didn’t sleep train and instead responded to every cry, scheduled my days and activities around the schedule they naturally developed, soothed them when they needed it, and followed their lead. They learned to trust I was going to be there for them and know they can always turn to me when they’re hurt, fearful, uncertain, and nervous.

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

From 18 months to 3 years of age, children learn to be autonomous in their activities and develop willpower. How many parents are laughing right now? It might be a laughing matter, but there appears to be a developmental reason for why it’s called the Terrible Two’s.

According to Erikson, starting around 18 months of age, children start to learn they are able to move around in the world on their own. They discover a wide world ready for their exploration, and they want to do it on their own. They want to test their limits and see what they’re capable of. As parents, it’s easy to say they’re not ready and take control, but that strips them of their sense of independence and autonomy. Instead, they feel ashamed of wanting to do something Mom and Dad think they cannot do and doubt their own abilities and ideas.

Above all, children at this age just want to know it’s okay to be them. It’s okay to want to explore. It’s okay to want to have crazy ideas. It’s okay to do things their own way instead of the way Mom and Dad insist is right. They’re discovering new things every day and are anxious to try it out on their own. It’s often a battle of wills between child and parents. As parents, we see a tiny child who shouldn’t or can’t be capable of doing certain things, but the child wants so hard to just try.

Before becoming a mom, I had heard quite a bit about the Terrible Two’s and Three’s. I was ready. I braced myself. I was prepared to weather the battles, the tantrums, the meltdowns. Except my oldest turned 2 and was the sweetest child ever. Sure, he had his tantrums, but, when I explained why he couldn’t do something, he seemed to understand and we somehow managed to head off tantrums. It might have also helped that he had a speech delay and didn’t really talk until he was 3. We played 20 Questions a lot, but he never seemed to get frustrated. He knew we would eventually figure it out and was patient with us. He also had a terrible fear of time outs, and is still scared of punishment.

I also understood he was growing up fast and wanted to try things on his own. When it was safe, I let him. I let him explore. I let him learn and practice new skills. I encouraged him to try new things, but never forced him if he wasn’t ready, and was always ready to offer help when he became frustrated. He was always prepared to let me know if he wanted to do something on his own or if he wanted me to do it.

My daughter is at the beginning of this stage. She’s already very independent, vocal, and dramatic. I don’t know yet if she’ll display the typical signs of a Terrible Two’s child. She throws her fits, has her tantrums, but always knows a hug from Mommy makes things better. She understands when I give her reasons, just like her brother. She’s happiest when I let her do and try things on her own. I always hover over her just in case she needs me, but, as long as I don’t interfere, she’s as happy as a clam. I just have to remember to give her the same freedom as I did her brother. With two kids, sometimes I feel a little rushed to get things done, but I still have to remember she’s learning new skills and needs time. I don’t want her to be a willful child, but I do want her to have willpower.

Initiative vs. Guilt

From about 3 years to 5 years of age, children learn to take the initiative and find purpose. Otherwise they may feel like a nuisance and feel guilty and as though they can be nothing more than a follower. They know they are capable of doing things, so now they learn to become assertive and take the lead in order to accomplish things on their own. They develop purpose in their actions.

At this age, many children are in preschool. They’re developing friendships and social skills. They’re learning to be apart from their parents. If they have successfully resolved the previous conflict, they will know they have autonomy, they know they are capable, and they will be able to take the initiative. They become capable of starting their own games and are increasingly able to draw others in to their play.

My son is towards the end of this stage. He’s definitely needed more than a little push to take the initiative. His happy place is letting others take care of him and it’s been a bit of a struggle to get him to do things on his own, to develop his own ideas, and decide what he wants to do. He knows he’s capable, knows he can. He just lacks the desire. So, I give him the space to develop his own ways of entertaining himself. I let him become bored so he can find new things to do on his own. I encourage him and provide ideas, but I let him take the lead. When he says he wants to do something, I do my best to accommodate him, to show him his ideas are interesting and he should follow where they lead. He definitely has no problems with taking the lead when he’s playing with his sister. But sometimes it’s tough because she’s learning to be independent at the same time.

Industry vs. Inferiority

From ages 5 to 13, children learn to be industrious and develop a sense of competence and accomplishment. They’re capable of figuring how they stack up against their classmates. Otherwise they’ll feel inferior to their peers and incapable of performing at the same level.

At this age, children are in school. They’re learning to navigate academics and developing a social life. They spend much of their waking time learning, often away from their parents. Grades enter their lives and their progress and knowledge are tracked in a way they can follow. They know whether they are deemed to be productive or not and whether or not they are actually learning. They also have a good idea of how their peers are performing and will start to measure their abilities against those of their classmates. If they do not feel they are measuring up, they will likely develop a sense of inferiority.

Sooner than I’d like, my son will be at this stage. He will be off to Kindergarten, whether or not he’s ready to start his academic life. He’ll learn everything the curriculum has to offer and will have to do homework (though his preschool already assigns it at the end of the week, so he should be used to having it). He’ll learn to be productive every day and the value of active learning.

During this stage, my parents had my siblings and me doing workbooks every summer to keep our brains working and to help us retain what we had learned. I have every intention of doing the same with my kids. I aim to teach them to work hard, learn everything they can, and feel accomplished and competent in what they do. I can’t stop them from constantly comparing themselves to others, but I hope to ensure they are on the same level and can still feel pride in what they are able to accomplish.

 

It’s not easy being a parent, but I like to think I have Erikson’s stages as a guide. It makes it easier for me to understand my children’s behavior, reminds me to be patient and that it’s my job to help them learn based on where they are and what their abilities are, and helps me guide them towards adulthood so they stand a good chance of being successful in whatever they choose to do. Erikson might not be for everyone, but he’s definitely for me.

And if you’re like me and fall between 18 and 40 years of age, our conflict is Intimacy vs. Isolation.

The KonMari Method Won’t Work in My Household

I grew up in a cluttered house. My mom did her best to keep it tidy, but it wasn’t easy with 3 kids and a husband who collected furniture (we once had four tables and desks in the family room, not counting the coffee table). I wasn’t the tidiest kid and my closet was where a tornado lived. But, as I got older, everything started to have a particular place to live. There was still a lot of stuff, but everything had a home.

I still carry that with me. Everything has its own place, and I’m not happy when it’s been moved. Just as my husband when he moves the salt shaker 6 inches. I like to keep things tidy, and it helps everyone know where everything is. So I try my best to keep our home tidy. I find a place for everything and put them back where they belong.

I’m constantly drawn to minimalism and am interested in learning more about Marie Kondo’s method. But…I live with three pack rats. My husband stores old journal articles in multiple boxes and has textbooks from two decades ago that he’s keeping for when our kids are older. My almost 5 year old screams whenever we mention getting rid of his baby toys. My almost 2 year old has a fond attachment to trash. Kondo’s method works best when everyone is on board. I don’t think having only a quarter on board is going to cut it.

Besides, I think I’ve already decluttered my own stuff. If I get rid of anymore, I won’t have anything left.

In theory, I love the KonMari method. It sounds like a lovely way to live in a home that brings one great happiness. It’s also a fantastic way to declutter and tidy up, and ensure everyone knows where everything is. It makes for a lovely home that, in theory, is much less maintenance than a home full of clutter that has nowhere to go.

But there are also things I’ve read about it that doesn’t make me want to convince my family it’s the best thing for us. First of all, having to sit with something and contemplate whether it sparks joy just sounds time consuming. I have two kids to play with, discipline, run after, and feed all day every day. I don’t have time to sit with everything and ask it if it brings me joy. Besides, joy is more of a transient feeling for me. There are some things that will never spark joy in me. But there are a great number of things that go in and out of being joyful to me. In the summer, my Christmas decorations spark no joy, but, once December hits, I’ll be joyfully decorating and singing “Deck the Halls.” I have books that don’t spark joy until I’m in the mood to re-read them. But my biggest problem lies in everything having a home. I already do this. Ahem, I try to do this. I do this, but I’m only a quarter of this household. What’s the point of everything having a home if I’m the only one who knows it’s address? It’s exhausting to get everything home by myself every day after it’s taken a few wrong turns and wandered into something else’s home and taken up residence.

In the end, the KonMari method is appealing, but will not work with my household. I live with three pack rats. Only recently have I been able to convince my husband to give up things he’s had from before we met a decade ago (things that he hasn’t used in at least that long). Not only do these three people keep everything (and they’ll say it sparks joy), but they clean by tossing. I can never find anything because they see a space and toss something, anything, into it. And no one ever listens to my cleaning instructions. It’s exhausting to constantly clean after they’ve cleaned up. Sure, I have my kids clean up when they’re done playing and they listen, but only one of them currently understands cleaning up. The other thinks it’s a game and will dump it back out.

What I really need is a 7 letter word. S-T-O-R-A-G-E. Boxes, baskets, tin cans. At this point, I don’t really care. I just need storage for all this stuff three-quarters of my family can’t stop collecting, can’t figure out how to clean up, and won’t toss out.