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September Month in Review

October 1, 2009

It’s time for my month in review post! In which I talk about whatever I want, whether it has anything to do with the rest of this blog or not, and then try and shape it into the lovely format created by Mon at Holistic Mama. This one got a bit long, as usual. And I won’t be able to be online that much in coming days (egads!) so might be a bit slow responding to comments…

A thought…

The kids are settled into their new schools, and all my fears about it seem to have been of my own making. I wasn’t worried too much about the twins, at their cute little Montessori preschool, although they are in separate rooms this year, and I hesitated a bit on that (the Director recommended it so I decided to give it a try.) They do not seem to have noticed, and just look at me like ‘huh?’ when I ask if they miss each other. It’s only three hours out of their day, 30 minutes of which is spent together on the playground, so I probably overestimated the trauma on that one.

I do admit to harboring bigger fears re: public kindergarten for my eldest. My thoughts on education, still pretty undeveloped but shaped by some of the beliefs on consciousness I write about here, are not very mainstream, and the way we mass educate children as a culture seems to me at best uninspiring and at worst abusive. I have gravitated towards several bloggers that write some about homeschooling (including Mama-Om, Holistic Mama, Dark Side of the Broom, and occasionally Quest for Balance) and may consider it someday. But for now, the logistical reality is, school is my childcare, and I need it to work.

Fortunately, my visions of my daughter slaving away at a little desk dutifully copying the alphabet a hundred times over have not come to fruition. She does as much singing and art as writing, and she loves it. And I love her teacher, which reminded me of something I should have already known, considering the fact that my mother, stepfather, and aunt were all public school teachers: Most teachers go into it because they truly love kids and want to help them. Unfortunately, too many of them just have the deck stacked against them. Like many in our neighboring school district, LA County, where elementary school class sizes have gotten as high as 40, and high school classes up to 55. Can you imagine??

So all my kids are happy right now, and I am grateful. As any parent can tell you, you can’t focus on a thing if you think you’re kids are unhappy where they are. So I’m free to focus. Haven’t entirely decided on what yet, but I’m getting there…

A sound…

A conversation I overheard (ok, eavesdropped on) between some other moms at my daughter’s dance class. I have read many times about how kids are over-medicated these days, especially for things like ADD and ADHD, but I didn’t personally know anyone who had done so (or at least, not anyone who was willing to discuss it.) But a conversation about one of the drugs for ADHD – I can’t remember which one – broke out in the parent’s waiting room, and it turned out 3 of the girls were on this drug. That’s 3 out of 8 in the dance class.

I was really stunned, especially at the casualness of the conversation. It was clear this was just what they had been told to do by someone, I guess a doctor, and didn’t really think there were alternatives. And I do recognize that drugs might be necessary and helpful at times, but what really shocked me about this conversation was the symptoms they described. “Lack of focus”, “impulsiveness” and “inability to complete tasks” – these are 4-6 year olds for crying out loud, aren’t they all like that?? And the sign the drug was working, according to one mom? Her daughter cleaned up all her toys in her room unsupervised when asked, a task “she would never have been able to complete” before the drugs. Geez, I’d love it if my kids would pick up all their toys when asked too, but I’m not going to drug them for it!! (Plus, in my case, it would be highly hypocritical, considering my somewhat relaxed housekeeping standards:-)

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. I generally have a policy of not judging other parent’s choices, within certain parameters. And these were educated, caring parents, as far as I can tell. They just really thought this was what they were supposed to do. And I recognize that these same symptoms in older children might signal a real problem that requires addressing. But can’t we give 4-6 year olds a little time and space to be unfocused, impulsive and messy? Or, let me rephrase that – how about curious, energetic and creative??

A taste…

Movie theater popcorn…We went to the movies as a family for the very first time – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The kids did great, staying in their seats the entire time, and devouring an astonishing amount of popcorn. The movie wasn’t bad, although I didn’t like it as much as some critics seem to. At least it was different, and didn’t feature any pining princesses or orphaned baby animals.

An image…

From another movie (DVD this time) – High School Musical! Really! “We’re all in this together…”  I finally saw it, and I have to say, I would watch it again. I’m very into feel-good, entirely un-ironic, escapism (why not?) and this definitely fits the bill (well maybe it’s a little ironic…)

I also liked the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring Keanu Reeves, which I think was universally panned by critics. I haven’t seen the original, and am not a hardcore sci-fi fan that follows all the various authors. But I do generally like sci-fi, because it’s where we, as a culture, most directly project our fears and hope for the future. And of course, this is very apocalyptic, and Keanu gets to play a messiah-type alien. I know he is often criticized for being too wooden, but I think he has a wonderful soulfulness to him, and this is his third messiah, if you count Neo (Matrix Trilogy) and the Buddha (Little Buddha). Not everyone can pull that off.

A scent…

Lattes. Which I’m trying to wean myself off of. And so everywhere I go I smell them.

A word…

Well, it’s a name really – Alfie Kohn, author of several books on unconditional parenting, i.e. parenting not based on reward and punishment. He came up three times in the last 2 weeks! First with a friend who has 5 year-old triplets, and then in blog posts at Taking the Lid off the Sun and Dark Side of the Broom. Strangely, in the comments of both I found myself expounding the limitations of his approach, when in fact, I actually like a lot of his ideas. But I guess overall, my philosophy on two themes of this blog – parenting and spirituality – is pretty much the same: It all depends. It all depends on the person, the child, the age, the phase, the strengths, the weaknesses. In both, spirituality and parenting, different philosophies and practices work for different scenarios and people at different times. I know it sounds very non-committal and cliche of me, but that really is my take.

A touch…

My soft, fuzzy slippers, which it is getting cool enough to wear again…

A gift for me…

Books! My life is always filled with them, but I am focusing on them in a new way. I am going to try and participate in Mon’s new Book Club Mamas. I have also finally gotten an Amazon store up, with books I recommend in many different categories, all roughly corresponding in topic to this blog. And I’ve gotten my shop up at BellaOnline, featuring the books I have reviewed there.

Also, I added a new children’s book to my Spiritual Books for Young Children list: Moody Cow Meditates, by Kerry Lee Maclean. It’s about a young boy/cow who has a very bad day, and ends up very angry. His grandfather helps teach him a ‘mind-jar’ meditation technique to settle him down. It’s a great book to get kids talking about anger, and for introducing meditation. And it passed my own ‘kid test’ – all three of mine loved it. Although we almost didn’t get past the page where moody cow has a bike accident (“Did he bleed?” “Is that blood?” “Where is the blood?” “Ooh, look at the blood!” “He should get a bandaid!” Don’t worry, it’s not as gory as it sounds.)

A post you may have missed…
Here’s some posts from other bloggers that I liked this month:

The Secret is Out by the author of Momma Zen, Karen Maezen Miller

God is Play-doh by Jay at Porsidan

A Monk, Bowing, and Palms Coming Together by Nadia at Happy Lotus

What is Love Really by Lance at Jungle of Life

And be sure to check out Jan Lundy’s new blog for women, Awakened Living!

(And of course, if you missed any of my posts this month, I wrote about Love, Peace, and Science, and then talked with Akemi Gaines about Akashic Records.)

Namaste-

15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2009 7:05 pm

    Hi Lisa,

    Thank you so much for mentioning me in this post and you are so right about the medicating.

    Recently, I was having a conversation with someone that it seems like everyone would rather take a pill than work on the issue at hand. I know you were talking at ADD but the same is true of depression.

    Usually depression (the mild kind) can lead to great insights and inner work. It did for me and so often I see that people would rather take Prozac than do inner work.

    We live in interesting times.

    Namaste to you! 🙂

  2. October 1, 2009 7:27 pm

    Hi Lisa,
    So good to hear school is working out well for everyone (parents and kids!). One of the reasons we chose to live where we do is that the school system is considered one of the best in the state. Of course, that’s all relative – compared to what. Still, it did provide a level of assurance – one which we’ve been very pleased with.

    Kids and drugs…hmmm…I’m of the belief that they should be a last effort – especially when there isn’t some physical pain associated with it. Although, I can’t say what it’s like to have walked in those other family’s shoes, or what the consequences of no drugs would be…

    Enjoy the fuzzy slippers!

    And thanks so much for the link!

    Have a fantastic weekend!!

  3. October 1, 2009 9:09 pm

    Can I be unfocused, impulsive and messy, too?
    Hey let’s start a club of undrugged adults who are unfocused, impulsive and messy!

    I love the way you do the monthly review, focusing on the senses.

  4. October 1, 2009 10:08 pm

    Thanks for mentioning me, Lisa!

    Re: kids and medications. I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t really like taking or giving medications at all, unless as lance pointed out) there’s severe pain involved. I think too many people (especially parents) are afraid of feelings. Either their own (depression, like Nadia observed), or their children (with ADHD, etc.) There’s just too big a push to hide our feelings, or cover them up. To me, it’s kinda like sweeping things under the carpet, hoping they will go away if ignored or medicated to death.

    Of course, if a person really needs medications, I think they should have them, but too often, I believe they are used to escape true feelings.

  5. October 2, 2009 3:34 am

    Hi Lisa.
    Education, hmm I can understand you reservations.
    I am reading Helen Keller and in that book she makes some great statements about her own education and how greatful she is for being allowed to savor her writers first before having them dissected and explained by her college lecturers.
    After her education she enjoyed returning to her books in her previous unschooled way.
    However as long as kids can enjoy themselves at home at least there is some real learning going on in real time.

  6. October 2, 2009 8:39 am

    lmao of at the blood questions. I feel I can hear you ‘patiently’ answering – no sweetie, he’ll live….

    You’ve reminded me about my own Amazon store, sitting neglected.

    Anyway, not enough space here for the inevitable medication rant. Hubby & I talk a lot about this issue. Of people acceoting what they’re told, even when it comes to their own children. I have a post on this coming because I’ve recently read about a new vax in UK.

    Kids are usually more resilient than we give them credit for. Twins are all so differet. I nannied twins who weren’t paticularly close. But have witnessed another pair totally lose it at the slightest separation.
    And “free to focus”. !! Oh my. How delicious!

  7. mommymystic permalink*
    October 2, 2009 3:08 pm

    Hi all, I thought the medication mini-rant would hit some nerves.
    Nadia/Jay you both mentioned depression and an aversion to working with difficult emotions in our culture, and I couldn’t agree more. This is why I write about ‘shadows’ so much, and the value of our working with them, which sometimes comes off as too focused on the ‘darkness’ in us, but I think I end up doing this just as a way of counterbalancing this trend. I do think that ‘mild’ depression especially, if handled correctly, is an opportunity. Whatever has triggered it is usually some sort of disillusionment or loss, and that means we are being shown something we thought we had to have for our happiness, and the loss of it offers an opportunity to dig deeper and find the source of true happiness. Of course, that’s a process, and I recognize that in the acute phases some people may need some help, including pharamaceuticals, but that’s not usually how they are used. In fact, in this same conversaion that I overheard, it turned out one of the women’s teenage sons was on an anti-depressant, and another’s 19 year old nephew had been – for 6 years. I just hope they were getting some sort of counseling also, but there was no mention of that.
    Lance – I know what you mean about not judging unless you’ve walked in that parent’s shoes. In this case, I think I am more upset with our culture and the doctors involved. It just seemed like these kids were too young to already be at the ‘last resort’ of drugs. And that the symptoms were not severe enough – they didn’t seem to be a danger to themselves or others…
    Akemi – I think we definitely need a club of undrugged, unfocused, impulsive, messy adults! Based on the biographies I’ve read, we’d be in very good company – Einstein, Michelangelo, etc…..
    Wilma – That’s interesting about Helen Keller, that does touch on the issue for me. That school right now is so based on memorization and test-taking, instead of thinking and exploring. And that this learning style is only best for certain kids, so others suffer and are labelled. Of course in kindergarten this doesn’t seem to be so much the case, there is more leeway, but I am nervous about older grades…

  8. mommymystic permalink*
    October 2, 2009 3:15 pm

    Mon – Yes, my kids are very fixated on which ‘boo-boos’ need band-aids and which don’t…there’s usually a group analysis of each little scratch and of course any sign of blood is a major event…
    Vaxes are looming big in my mind right now too, as it’s expected that the swine flu vacine is going to be recommended for kids in California, although not enforced…as for people accepting what they’ve been told, I have been thinking of this alot in terms of the Western cultural orientation around ‘experts’. There’s an expert for everything. Including ‘spirituality’, of course, and it’s problematic….
    Kids are very resilient and adaptable, I have been learning this over and over…often when I am worried about my kids, they just adapt and it’s no big deal…

  9. October 4, 2009 12:20 am

    Hi there, vaccinations are a really hot topic here at the moment and the pressure to do it is getting stronger and stronger. Gone are the days when you could send in a letter of conscientious objection to the school you were part of, now it is “vaccinate or don’t come!”. Lucky I too am reading the Alfie Kohn books AND have a classical homoeopath for a hubby…both of which extend my circle of choices.
    Very nice to read you, thanks for sharing.

  10. October 4, 2009 5:30 pm

    Lisa,
    You know I always love your month in review. This one was especially touching. I am a fierce mama when it comes to medicating our kids. All 3 of my children were officially diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. One was on the high end, one on the low end, one in the middle. I fought to not have them medicated, to work through things holistically, behaviorally, spiritually. Today they are 19-27 and well! No meds. One is even at the Univ. of Mich, a very rigorous school academically.

    It takes patience and perseverance to advocate for our children. You are just beginning, and I am so glad that you are conscious, well-read, and passionately in love with your kids. They will be fine, but you will always have to be vigilant with them when it comes to their education. Believe me, even teachers have their own pitfalls. (I was one, I know…)

    Good thing you are Buddhist-leaning and a meditation teacher. What better “occupation” then to be calm, clear and wise! xxoo

  11. October 4, 2009 5:31 pm

    p.s. I will also add ditto on the vaccination front. If I had known then what I know now about that, I would not have vaccinated my kids. 🙂 Oy….It is tough being a parent today. Blessings to all who are navigating this quagmire with little ones at heart.

  12. October 5, 2009 9:44 am

    So much here I want to take my time over, (have to put my girl to bed right now), so I think I shall have to come back and respond to more of it later. But just for now, I’ll say that I completely understand that school is your child care and that you need to work. I have had, and have been having all of these thoughts myself lately. It’s a real dilemma, as I can’t find a school close by that we are happy with.
    I’m so glad that your children are happy and it must be a great relief and reassurance to be happy with the teacher, and seeing your daughter thriving…

  13. mommymystic permalink*
    October 5, 2009 4:23 pm

    Globalmamas- I’ve ended up ‘middle of the road’ on vaccinations myself. My pediatrician offers a slow and minimal schedule, that delays the vaccinations that have caused the most concern (MMR for example), but that does meet the minimum requirements for public school entry by 5 years old (the standard vaccine schedule, here in CA anyway, actually includes many vaccines that are NOT required for school, which I think many people don’t realize.) And after researching it, that is where I ended up. But I am not planning to do any flu vaccines, and do hope that there is a lot more research into all the vaccines and possible problems. And I do use some holistic methods to boost my kid’s immunity (and my own) also. Thanks for coming by, and good luck with your blogging, I will come by yours this week too…

    Jan – Have you written about your experiences with your children? I think that would be of interest to SO many people, especially since you had three with different ‘grades’ of diagnosis, and because they are all grown now. I admire you so much for going against the grain and finding your own way without medicine. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, especially 15-20 years ago when there was even less discussion about the dangers I think. And I take your point re: advocating for our kids, I see the necessity of that already, even with a good teacher.

    DW – I know you have been through these schooling dilemmas yourself. It has actually become a new source of guilt for me – that I am NOT homeschooling my kids! Which some people would consider kind of nuts, but there you go. By many women’s standards I have the absolute best situation, part-time work from home, part-time stay at home mom. So I think it just shows that motherhood can generate guilt no matter what:-) We will see how it all goes. I think temperament wise so far, my eldest is actually my most driven and outgoing, so she is perhaps the best suited for a public school setting. I am not so sure about my twins, especially my younger daughter. But she is only 3, so we will see – I don’t want to ‘label’ her either.

  14. October 6, 2009 2:33 pm

    “Most teachers go into it because they really love kids…” I think that’s true – at least I can speak to the elementary level. With 23 years in the public elementary schools, I felt that the overall competence and caring levels were very high. Given how low the pay is relative to other professions, it had to be love!

    Unfortunately there’s a pattern in a lot of urban areas. The working conditions in the inner city schools are so bad that young teachers go there first just because it’s easiest to get hired there – and leave for the suburbs as soon as they start to gain some experience. So the neediest kids end up with the least experienced teachers and high stsff turnover.

  15. mommymystic permalink*
    October 6, 2009 4:58 pm

    Paul – yes, and that’s exactly the story of the teacher my daughter has. She was in an urban ‘at-risk’ school in San Diego for 4 years, and really wanted to stay there, but just got so burnt out and exhausted that once she had her own child, she just didn’t feel she could stay there. She is a great teacher, it is a shame (although I’m lucky she moved, because my daughter has her.) She was constantly short of supplies and resources, her class was too big to manage well, and the basic needs of the children were often not met, such as a decent breakfast etc., so she ended up supplementing with her own meager income (literally bringing in food for them.) And most of the parents did work full-time, in low-paying warehouse or service industry jobs with shifting hours, so were not available to volunteer in the classroom or participate much (or weren’t interested, although she said that wasn’t usually the problem.)

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